Palm wine taping requires a sharp knife, gourds and good climbing rope. At a time there was no bicycle. Tapping of palm wine has no business with a bicycle. Both are relationally strange fellows. In local idiom a bicycle is iron horse. It is a phenomenon. You may wonder. But that is it – Anyiya Igwe, at that time.
Palm tress are well known to this region. It is a natural plant, aboriginal to the forest belt of the mid west, Niger basin.It lured Europeans. The palm and its produce earn all sorts of names. Great merchants are made out its produce. Its gains ushered the road to colonization. The name – Oil Rivers Protectorate cannot easily be forgotten even in this season of spurious history.
Spurious history is a foe. It is unnerving as it shares a wall with official history
It is the kind of history seen on social media today. A contraption. A combine made possible by a motley sea of Internet trollers empowered to sprout falsehood. They give it out in doses for the mentally and physically malnourished.These critters are wily, sometimes blatant and energized by cash in spewing propaganda and ignorance. The effervescence of their stuff gets the unwary wobble.These poorly organized snippets with pseudo names hardly make any debut in hard copy or online books. They quickly fade into oblivion with their falsehood while claiming to be authentic history. In old language they are a fence!
Official history often is cooked and offered to buyers made thirsty by years of eclipse of history and distortion of ingredients that make history whole. In an effort to write history, spooky agents who never abide by canons are thrilled to add, deploy large erasers to delete for gain and to attain injurious goal of their masters!
On the other hand, the word iron is not altogether strange in this location as its precursor bronze is huge in ancestral catalogues. Ethnographic survey in the twentieth century attests to this fact.But the contraption of irons into a horse is strange. It is stranger as this unnatural horse can move its rider and things. It is something to observe.
Do not be tempted to think or look at a bicycle with the eyes of today. Time wears the mind of its perception. Years past had worn out bicycle lustre. Its glory has suffered in the hands of tech breakthroughs. Automation whittle down bicycle from its top rating. Yet, there is a bailiff in town saying survival comes from the use of a bicycle – Anyiya-igwe. It is said to be a new health transformative device for 21st century. Perceptive nations are chanting and charting the tracks in addition to none gas automobile.
History seems to be comfortable with topsy-turvy agenda. Yet some think it goes cyclically, landing always at what looks like an old chapter, a déjà vu once in a while.
At bicycle advent here, it is a wonder. A wonder to all. Recall, early District Officers could not ride one on their entry to some lands. District officers are simply carried on hammock as ‘beast of burden’. This is a reversal of what some colonial apologists penned. Locals are thought to be “the burden of the empire”. On the contrary, the D.O. and his men are a burden to those carrying them. For the locals, new administrative laws are injurious to the norms and culture of the people. It is a burden for the people. The idea of the burden of empire ought to be reversed as out of tune with truth especially for these men and women who suffered the weight of imposition of a new social formation.
Imposition of a ‘social formation’ is a word our teacher D.J. will not trade in for anything. It seems that after many years, the understanding of social formation gets clearer. By the day the poignancy of the word is made full. Ignorance, folly, and hypocrisy of the past are now a broken vase baring the all.
Now, enter the new stage. As new occupations and roads ascend to the order of the day, bicycles shared something of the nouveau. In the emerging relationship bicycle become common yet uncommon to all. Before arrival of cars, to own a bicycle was a big deal. It was the days of Long-John. At this time, White Horse Raleigh bicycles have not made their triumphant entry. Yet, few owners of bicycle are known in the village. When one is seen with a bicycle, it is either one is in the big league or one had loaned a bicycle. For a palm wine tapper to own a bicycle was a big stuff.
But there is an incident. The palm wine tapper is on top of a palm tree and enjoying a panoramic view of scenes and parts of his world. Then, he sees a local unknown to be of substance ridding a bicycle. The tapper bellowed for the rider to stop. Like hands in a kinetic, the tapper threw his climbing rope swiftly down to the lower step of the climb with dexterity as if one had seen a snake on top of a palm tree. Like a hawk, he swooped on the bicycle rider.
The rider also in a jubilant mood showing off something new stopped. Both of them in a jiffy were together in banters. After a while the owner of the bicycle paused. In Mazi’s catchphrase, the tapper paused, the bicycle rider paused and everything around them paused. The rider leaves after the pause.
Then come a time for reflection. This is a longer pause for the palm winer tapper. Reflection moves to envy, anger and self blame. He wonders after years why he remains socially stagnant but every day he moves swiftly on Palm tress without anything to show for it. After a while, he consoled himself to carry on. After all, life is not always for the swift. Some think otherwise and merely tag this state a sedation. But it works more than a moment of introspection. It is beyond the mental. Please, keep away skeptics of contrary views that debase his spiritual consolation.
Like movies indentation, “Three months later” quickly passed. The new bicycle owner is arrested by “the Kings Police”(Feds police) as opposed to Kotuma also known as (Police Afifia Oka). It is alleged, he stole the bicycle. The news went round the village like a telegram containing untoward news but read in the night of those days.
Night always carry mankind’s burden. It uses sleep and isolation. It tampers pains on a solo note.
Many in the village use available means to circulate the news. Village stream is a rendezvous for young women. What happens in their chatter when there is hot news like this is obvious. It is a fact without gender intonation. Court houses (Ogwa) where lineal folks meet casually and seriously is another outlet for diffusion of hot news. Satirical notes implying on the incident are freely given to drive home a point. The stolen bicycle is now in every mind and lip. But everybody speaks with care not be implicated in the additions and minuses.
While still in handcuffs and detention the kingpin continues to plead his innocence. Suddenly by a combination of dereliction of duty and unknown factors, the accused escapes in handcuffs. He runs to the village bush in a bid not to be caught. According to tales, home is a safer place because he could get assistance to break off the handcuff. Besides, home is likely place to get food without being exposed. But before getting to this significant point he has to unchain himself. The Kings handcuffs should be broken. Then, he can spend the day and night in the bush in a kind of freedom! But, who will assist him, bell the cat?
It is the palm wine tapper. Every occupation has its hazard. This hazard derives from his movements in the morning, afternoon, night and on palm trees. He sees more than every one. It is claimed he has the ‘eyes of gods’ whenever he is on top of palm trees. Nobody engaging in evil in the bush escapes him. He is their friend and foe.
In handcuffs he approached the tapper to break it off. Who wants freedom more than a criminal who thinks that a criminal act is really a way to freedom? Is it this mind that leads to jail breaks? Perhaps, this is a question for jurisprudential purists.
The Palm wine tapper obliged as the man in handcuffs is a relation. Everything is well until the the day Feds police who are around the village as disguised traders unsealed the mystery. The bicycle man is caught. Accomplice is caught – the man who broke the Kings handcuffs. The Palm wine tapper is the man. Both are taken away, tried and sentenced to various jail terms. On the anniversary of his return, the tapper’s wife gives birth to a baby boy. He names him – “Relatives are Thorns”- source of discomfort.
He learns his lesson, perhaps, other lesson.