Maelstrom of Fate
by Tubal Cain
…...The reasonable man adapts himself to the world : The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—–George Bernard Shaw
It was a sunny October afternoon. Mr. Anafi and the wife Ebele had once again succeeded in obtaining their annual leave within the same period. They had lined-up a holiday trip just like the previous year. Both were shipping officers with the Nigerian Ports Authority in Calabar.
The trip to the popular Qua Water-falls Resort in Obudu, north of Nigerian Cross River State was long awaited but well planned for. Their three kids were left with the maternal grandmother before they set out for the journey. Using the newly acquired Volkswagen Passat Wagon, they were already approaching the serene atmosphere of the plateau on the crest of Oban Hills when the vehicle skidded off the road. It was as a result of a flat tyre. Mr. Anafi manoeuvred the swerving car down the steep hillside, it had already crossed the lower ramp of the road and was sliding further. The vehicle was out of control falling off side-ways. It landed with a loud bang wedged between a large rock boulder and a tree. It was wedged on the edge of a very steep cliff. Mr. Anafi trying to open the car door fell dropping further down the steep hillside. He was out of sight as that side of the hill was a thick jungle completely covered by the trees of the luxuriant rainforest. Mrs. Anafi was unconscious. The damaged car was sighted by the security staff of the resort about an hour later. Mrs. Anafi along with the damaged car was rescued and taken to the hospital complex on the plateau.
A villager Egbe and his younger brother Arikpo were returning from their farm through a bush path when they saw the lying form of a man. His legs were sprawled across the middle of the path bleeding. On close examination, they discovered he was breathing but unconscious. Waiting, they surveyed the area trying to find out what happened to him. The top of the cliff was not visible due to the cluster of tree leaves. Broken branches and twigs littered around him suggesting he had fallen from the top of the cliff. The villagers discussed briefly arriving at a decision to take the unconscious stranger home for treatment.
With the aid of a cutlass, they selected, cutting off some tree branches. They removed the bark carefully from the cut-branches weaving them into long ropes with which they prepared a wooden stretcher using the now stripped wooden branches. They used part of the tree-barks as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. They prepared splints supporting the broken right limb, before lifting the stranger placing him on the stretcher. Raising the stretcher shoulder-high, they continued on their way home. The village was a long way off. They crossed two shallow rivers on foot and continued till they got to the third river where they had left their boat.
Mr. Anafi opened his eyes looking round about him, he mumbled inaudibly. He saw he was lying inside a boat within a wide river. He attempted to sit up but his strength failed him. He felt a terrible pain below his right knee. His head rested on a mass of dirty fishing net. He had a terrible headache. Still muttering inaudibly, he fell into a deep slumber snoring noisily.
Mr. Anafi woke-up feeling drowsy the following morning. Though the pain on his right leg persisted, the headache was less. He got-up sitting on the mat on which he saw himself. He saw he was on the floor in a room within a mud-thatched house and strained to rest his back on the wall beside the mat unsuccessfully. He tried to get-up but the pain from the right leg prevented him. He felt the cold morning breeze blowing in through the only open window within the room. Carefully, he studied the room, which was empty except for the mat. He noticed the dirty tourniquet and wooden pieces strapped to his right leg and wondered where and how he broke his limb. He remembered the trip and the accident while wondering where the wife was.
Apprehensive, he tried to get up once again but failed. He laid back screaming loudly. He waited to see if anyone would respond but no one came. Feeling weak, tired and hungry, he waited for over four hours before someone entered the room opening the door slowly. The fellow who entered the room fitted the description of what is usually referred to as ‘peasant’ in the cities. The bald toothless fellow dressed in a dirty brown cotton robe was grinning at him from the door post. It was Egbe, one of the men that had brought him from the spot of the accident.
“Where is my wife?” Mr. Anafi asked. The fellow was silent, still grinning. “Take me to the Hospital please” Mr. Anafi requested persuasively.
The fellow just stood there smiling till Mr. Anafi started screaming once again. It was obvious that Egbe, the villager could not understand Anafi’s language. The villager raised both hands up, so Anafi stopped screaming.
Mr Anafi’s wife, Ebele woke up in the resort’s hospital the following morning. She had plaster of Paris around her left wrist. She felt pain from her right knee and noticed it was wrapped with bandages and plaster.
She called out for a nurse and one responded promptly. She requested to know what happened asking for the whereabouts of the husband. The nurse appeared to be confused. She informed her that the Doctor on duty would be in a better position to answer her questions saying she just resumed at that moment. The Doctor entered the room greeting Mrs. Anafi. He told her she was involved in an accident while handing over the Blood-pressure apparatus in his hand to the nurse. The Doctor then explained how the vehicle and herself were discovered and brought to the hospital. Upon her enquiry, he explained that the husband was yet to be found even as he was speaking.
Alarmed, Mrs. Anafi got out of the bed holding her forehead. She staggered slowly towards the window crying. She then asked the Doctor if she could be discharged immediately. Mrs. Anafi left the hospital to make a formal report about her missing husband at the police post within the resort accompanied by the Doctor. A search party was organized by the police though she was asked to report back the following day. The search was fruitless. An advert with a photograph declaring Mr. Anafi missing was placed in a National Newspaper after a few days.
Back at the remote Yakkur village, days passed. Several effort made by Mr. Anafi to make the villagers comprehend his demand using hand signals failed. He wanted them to take him to the hospital and desperately needed to know the whereabouts of his wife. Daily, the two villagers with their wives and kids just gathered for a few hours in a semi-circle within the room watching him making hand signals. They found it amusing and were continuously laughing. He occasionally spoke in English moving his hands about trying to explain what he wanted, but the villagers not understanding him continued laughing thinking he was crazy.
Mr. Anafi usually got infuriated and resorted to screaming incessantly till he fell back into deep sleep. On waking-up one morning, he saw Arikpo sitting on the floor near the foot end of the mat. There were two covered earthenware bowls and a calabash of water beside the mat. Mr. Anafi signaled asking for a chewing stick, which Arikpo produced from his dirty pocket. He gargled with the water from the calabash after which he began to eat the meal of boiled yam along with the fried-frog-stew which they continued to serve him using the earthenware bowls every morning. Mr. Anafi soon lost count of the days, weeks and even months that followed the accident. He was trapped in that remote village.
Daily, he crawled out for a bath after which he would join the two villagers Egbe and Arikpo outside in front of the mud-thatched house, which constituted their family house. He observed carefully how they extracted raffia threads from palm fronds and how straw mats, raffia bags, baskets, raffia jackets, shoes and straw roofing sheets were crafted using palm fronds and bamboo pieces. These items were usually sold in the neighbouring village. He practiced with them and was soon as good as the villagers in making them. On days that the villagers went to the farm, he remained behind and would single handedly make bundles of roofing sheets, mats and raffia bags designed into various patterns. His skill and enthusiasm fascinated the villagers. They nicknamed him ‘Ntufam’ meaning ‘the expected one’ in the local dialect as a result of his skills.
One evening, an acquaintance of Mr. Anafi’s host that was travelling further into the hinterlands stopped over to pass the night with them. A short fellow with a hunch-back along with his wife and two kids. One of the kids sang a familiar tune in English language to Mr. Anafi’s surprise. He called on the boy, a twelve year old telling him to act as an interpreter between himself and his hosts. He explained that he wished to visit a hospital for proper medical attention and find out about the welfare of his wife and kids saying he had a family and a job. He requested that he should be taken back to where he was found to enable him go home and take care of his family.
He asked the boy for writing materials of which the boy obliged. The boy gave him a pencil with two dirty sheets of paper. He sat down and wrote a lengthy note which he gave to the boy. He instructed him to give it to anyone out-there whenever he returned to Calabar where the boy claimed to have schooled once.
In response to his request, the villager Egbe speaking through the boy intimated him of the fact that he will treat his wounds as well as the broken limb. He told him he was a herbalist, that ailing people visited him from all parts of the village saying he uses herbs to cure them. He told him that the mangrove forests of Yakkur with its luxuriant vegetation harboured as many herbs as there were human ailments, boasting that his late father could cure all forms of diseases with herbs. He explained to him that he once lived and worked in the city of Calabar saying he came home to take over the healing trade from his aging father after he lost his job in Calabar. His father had died shortly after his arrival from Calabar. Egbe used the opportunity to advise Anafi to forget about the city and his family saying he believed that they were fine. He gave him the proposition that he should be grateful and more diligent in discharging his duties as a partner in the weaving business saying that the mats, roofing sheets and raffia bags they were making together was fetching them lots of money. He promised to build a hut complete with a yam barn, pen for chicken and goat house for him. In addition, Arikpo promised to marry a young beautiful wife from the neighbouring village for Anafi if he cooperated with them. He persuaded that there was nothing left for him in the city.
Alarmed at the strange proposition, Anafi tried to escape the day after the visitors left. He crawled into the thick bushes beside the house, his hosts traced him through the prints left by his limbs and brought him back to the house that evening. Anafi refused to eat or weave mats for some weeks after this incident. Instead he went about the surrounding bushes looking for and eating wild fruits. This brought a lot of discomfort to his hosts who had to abandon all possible engagements to follow him ensuring he did not escape. They starved him for a while till he submitted and started weaving along with them. A few cotton robes were made for him. Anafi had no idea where they obtained the cotton materials from.
Anafi’s leg healed with time, he was taught how to fish and hunt wild antelopes using bow and arrow but not let out of sight.
A hut was made for him opposite theirs in such a way that both the front and back exits could be watched from theirs. He had to go along with them to the farm as well as the market. Years passed and Anafi feeling like a captive kept trying but could not escape.
Back in Calabar, Anafi’s wife Ebele fell in love with and remarried after waiting for six years without hearing from or seeing the husband. It was believed that Mr Anafi was dead. The children were growing and in school.
In Yakkur village, an incident occurred one morning that completely ruined Anafi’s hope of escape. Two women visited the villager Egbe and his brother Arikpo. It was Arikpo that first saw them. They were outside the house weaving as usual when the visitors came. Arikpo introduced the younger woman as Eko saying she was Egbe’s first daughter. Anafi could now hear and speak their language fluently. It was Eko that first recognized Anafi calling him by his baptismal name of Raphael. Everyone present including Anafi was shocked by the revelations that followed Eko’s visit. Anafi was depressed and generally infuriated by the turn of events. He tried to run away but was caught immediately. Eko related the story that it was Anafi that was responsible for the pregnancy, for which her father Egbe was thrown out of his job back in Calabar seventeen years earlier. The revelation was overwhelming for Anafi just like Egbe. The villagers claimed they always knew there was a familiarity about Anafi’s face and countenance which they could not pin point. Egbe claimed he felt he knew him somehow remotely but could not ascertain where or how they met earlier. Eko had continued that the child from the illicit affair was given away to a childless couple back in the city of Calabar. She told them that the villager Egbe was a gardener in Raphael Anafi’s father’s compound years back, that Raphael was then a student in the University. While on holiday, they had an affair which resulted in Eko’s pregnancy. News of the pregnancy however came-out after Raphael had returned to school. The elder Anafi had then refused to accept responsibility for the pregnancy in an effort to protect Raphael. Instead, Egbe was dismissed and ejected from the accommodation in the boys-quarters where he lived with his family.
On recovering from the initial shock of the discovery, Egbe had on the impulse of the recollection tried to attack Anafi. Arikpo and the women had intervened pleading on Anafi’s behalf. Emissaries were sent to placate Egbe. Anafi kept going to Egbe on his knees begging for his forgiveness after accepting the responsibility for Eko’s earlier pregnancy and Egbe’s family troubles that followed it in Calabar. He agreed he would marry Eko before Egbe could forgive him.
A traditional marriage ceremony was arranged. The whole village celebrated sacrificing to the goddess ‘okoi’. They believed it was the wooden deity that achieved the feat of sanctioning Anafi bringing him back to take the punishment of his earlier indiscretions and enable him face his responsibility as Eko‘s husband. Arikpo made a long speech at the marriage ceremony saying that Anafi was destined to marry Eko. He concluded that his fate and that of other members of his family was decided by the village goddess.
Raphael Anafi prayed secretly weeks after the marriage asking God to forgive his trespasses and set him free from his captors.
The last plane crash that took place in Cross River State occurred around Yakkur village. It was precisely on the 29th of September. Part of Anafi’s village hut was damaged by the fire that gutted the aircraft. The aircraft belonging to a private airline had developed engine problem shortly after taking off from Calabar Airport. It practically dropped on Anafi’s hut. Luckily, Anafi and the villagers had gone to the farm that morning.
Anafi had entered into a discussion with members of a rescue team that came to salvage the wreck of the Aircraft and its crew telling them of his predicament. They agreed to help him. Unable to prevent Anafi’s interaction with the rescue team, some of whom were armed, the villagers Egbe and Arikpo suspecting that Anafi was planning to follow the members of the rescue team decided to negotiate with him. They begged asking him to be their ruler, to facilitate the possibility of their communicating with the Government in the cities for more development. Mr. Anafi accepted the proposition after due consideration. He agreed on the condition that they allow him and his new wife to return to live in Calabar and only visit them occasionally.
He was crowned Chief Ntufam Anafi 1 of Yakkur village in a very colourful ceremony in which the neighbouring villages attended before he left for Calabar with Eko and members of the rescue team.
Anafi was regarded as a ghost on reaching Calabar. His former acquaintances and even relatives ran away on his arrival. No one wanted to associate with or listen to him.
His first wife collapsed on sighting him. She pleaded that he should keep away from her and the kids. She is still working with the Nigerian Ports Authority while the new husband lectures at the University of Calabar.
Ntufam Anafi believes the villagers were right about his fate. He now owns the largest frozen foods store in the heart of the city of Calabar.
Through Chief Anafi, the Cross River State Government is developing Yakkur village. The village now boasts of two primary schools, three hospitals, a secondary school and one commercial bank.