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Blood Contract.. Chapter Nine

By Biolaephesus60 @biolaephesus
Thought I should share with you excerpts from my novel BLOOD CONTRACT. Check IFWG and others for the book. Would love to have your feedback
Chapter Nine
The room was hot, including the tempers of the men gathered there. They were chiefs and all were talking at once about their frustrations. It was negotiation time. Ken had come to ask the terms for the release of the hostage in their custody. First they had played dumb and said they were not aware they had a hostage but were holding a traditional trial of one who had breached the norms. The Egbesu code demanded that you do not betray your kin. Apparently, the person they were holding had done that. It was alleged that he had sold communal land to an oil prospector.
There was also mourning amongst the people. Diepreye had been popular and Ken had expected that the meeting would be postponed. But he was here at their summons and now they didn’t really want to negotiate. He sensed they wanted a scapegoat. He was one of them and they were feeling frustrated and angry.
Some young men were sitting on a long bench. The conversation was animated. Torjor was also part of the discussion and he was particularly angry. Torjor gave a slow contemptuous look around and wondered why everybody seemed to be hesitating taking the only viable option that would make the world sit up and listen. He was sore after the death of Diepreye and demanded to know what the chiefs thought they were doing failing to convince the government to ask the oil men to leave their territory.
Torjor was almost violent as he screamed out that the youths had decided there was going to be no more crocodile deaths. Some of the youths had expressed the view that Diepreye had been used for ritual purposes because people too often disappeared at the crocodile cove, which they now called Johnson’s Creek.
Ken murmured that he had not heard of violence paying off. There was silence as they all turned to look at him. He moved away from the window from where he had been and gave all of them a slow look. There was a gentle smile on his face and he spoke in a soft voice. “I grew up here; I know about hunger, I am still hungry myself. Let’s look at things this way, for twelve years Isaac Adaka Boro carried this burden. One of my uncles died with him so it is personal.
“Nobody is going to call me woman here, because I am a soldier too. Ken Saro Wiwa read and wrote so many books, he went to the United Nations. He talked to everybody important about what was happening to us here in the creeks, I mean the man my dad named me after. Egbesu strengthened his hand and the world got to know about him, we all felt that was why the Federal Government sat up and listened…”
Torjor interrupted him; almost beside himself with anger. “You mean after they put a rope around his neck and hung him and eight others?” He bitterly laughed and pointed at them in a sweeping gesture of contempt. “You all have a prize; it is easy, those idiots come here, build a one bedroom shack they call a community hospital, it has cost them only three million naira; they go to the press, invite the National Television network, and the National dailies, they spend about ten times the amount of the cost of the hospital on the publicity, then give you, the chiefs, the supposed elders and custodians of our wealth a miserly ten thousand naira each into your accounts, and you nod and accept their mistakes. They spill oil; the chiefs keep quiet; why? It is easy; they don’t fish anymore, so they don’t know what we are going through. They are not educated, so they don’t know we can’t get jobs, that the jobs they give us when we go to the cities, are jobs meant for houseboys, gardeners and such stuff! Why are we here just talking?”
There was a murmur of angry voices, Torjor looked round at the faces and smiled.
Ken tensed knowing this was going to be dicey. He sensed that Torjor was deliberately trying to whip the people up. He raised his hands “Listen please, I believe there are nine different ways to kill a cat.”
“We are not talking about cats,” Torjor spat.
Ken looked at Torjor, shook his head and continued as if he had not heard the interruption. “We are losing the war if you have not noticed. Those who are supposed to be on our side are worried at our preference for violence; when you name your child, you do not advertise the name until you have told the owner of the name.
“This is our custom, how we do things. We are warriors by nature but on matters that are right and we do it the right way. When a child has a big head, we know how to sew the cap; the history of other countries has shown that violence has not won out. I have been to some of these countries and I know. We have a right to demand for our rights but not through violence.”
Torjor laughed. “Ken has tasted white women, eaten white food and he has gone soft. I hear he has married a white woman so who is he to talk now?”
Ken turned Torjor with a smile. “Whatever I have done, I have not started a local refinery and stolen money from the populace I am supposed to serve.”
There was shocked silence as all eyes turned to Torjor.
They stared at each other, clear implacable enemies from that very moment. Ken was holding his anger with difficulty. I could wring his neck, he thought to himself, but smiled at the chiefs.
Torjor reacted by attempting to rush Ken, who nimbly stepped aside, just as Senator sailed in unannounced. He had been watching the conversation from the window.
“Well, my people, I am here, risking Federal bullets, making sure that our resources are adequately spread. Anyone who is found guilty of sabotaging the efforts of our people will have to explain it to me.”
He turned and gave Torjor a keen look before returning to address the meeting. Senator was swathed in jewelry around his neck and gold rings on every finger.
The chiefs smiled and everybody started fawning on him. Senator went around distributing brown envelopes while a young man came in carrying sacks of neatly packaged rice which he dropped by the side of each of the chiefs. Ken watched in amusement.
Senator came to him and opened his eyes wide in amazement, then opened his arms in embrace.
Ken side stepped away, neatly smiling.
Senator stuck the smile on. “It is my favorite nephew, isn’t it?” he asked with an expansive smile, then turned around to the chiefs and continued. “We all should do everything Ken says. He is an important man from his company and they reluctantly released him to help with the negotiations here. I hear he was supposed to be actually on his way to England when our request got to his bosses.”
Ken stared at Senator the way a snake would stare at a chalk drawing on the ground, as his mind raced, why is Senator saying all this? He remembered that Tonbra said that she suspected the same piece of newspaper cutting in Ediseme’s bag was probably in Senator’s house. What was the real link?
Senator had finished speaking and turned to give him one unreadable glance then left the long room. The chiefs were busy counting the money in the envelopes and for a while there was no conversation. Ken felt sick. This was something more than a simple hostage taking. He was uneasy at Senator’s show of power.
His village was not always like this. What had happened to them? He headed to the door just as Torjor went to the car. Ken saw Torjor hold an animated discussion with Senator, then stomp off in anger. The car moved off as well.
He returned to the room and the elders said they were tired, but would make arrangements for another meeting soon, as they needed to conclude their negotiations before they could accept any further terms from Ken. One by one they left the long room holding their wrappers and top hat in one hand.
Ken decided he needed a walk around the village. He wanted to get a perspective on what was going on. Nobody seemed to care much about the hostage and apart from that first disastrous outing, he had heard very little from anyone. He also had not seen any sign of Jite. He went to Ediseme’s knowing he would be able to pick up some gossip.

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