We were blessed with the most beautiful sun in Ayedade village, only a blind person would doubt that. Ayedade was seated on the peak of Gini hill, where she stood tall, overlooking the four other villages situated in different corners, at the bottom of the hill. It was not an unusual sight to see clusters of people on the slope that led to the village, watching the sun as it rose from its nest and returned home. We revered our sun and often claimed that Eledumare, the highest God, dwells in Ayedade, if not, how would a village have such a sun that almost pushed the sky to fall at its feet to eulogise its glory, while cotton boll-like suns graced other villages.
Sadly, our sun was subjected to constant denial of its beauty through many baseless facts by hungry scholars whose large, standing ears were the only things that stopped their abetiaja caps from swallowing their heads. One time, a young man with thick bushy hair claimed to have travelled the whole world and gathered wisdom in a certain pot, so he kept drumming it to our ears that we were wrong to say suns, that the sun was just one. Oba Lapade instructed the guards to tie him to a seat in the middle of the market and commanded the villagers to take turns in slapping his cheeks until they were satisfied. Many of the villagers didn’t slap him more than once-his cheeks were too bony. Those who slapped him told us who didn’t that it seemed like they were hitting a plank of wood as their palms connected with his cheeks. When it seemed that he had learnt his lesson, Oba Lapade asked the guards to untie him and drag him back to the palace, where we were all standing to know the fate that would befall him
“Young man, how many suns are there in the world?”
“Not one, not two,” he replied, fidgeting.
Oba Lapade turned to us. “If there is only one sun, why does Ibiripo’s sun look like it was dipped in aro? Why does the sun in Aje look like it plays in muddy water? Our sun is different.”
“Yes!” We all exclaimed. After a series of warnings, Oba Lapade let the young man go.
Those were good times when we had the strength to fight about things like a sun and had the mouths to beat an enemy down. The bad times later strolled by one year and the sun lost its beauty in our sight. Hunger made it so. The pale coral rays that softly caressed the mud walls of each hut became too strong for our hunger-weakened eyes. The sun became one of the least important things that bothered us as a famine, which didn’t warn us before descending on us like the way an angry mother pounces on her unsuspecting child, began to intensify. That year was the first of many worsts. Throughout that year, Ayoo, the festival of plenty, where we would feed other villages for a whole day in each moon, didn’t hold. Who would have thought that Ayedade, the village of the glorious sun, where gold and food flowed would lack so much that her children will feed on crumbs?
That sudden change in fortune was a mystery to us, one which tried its very best to stay that way. Some of the villagers even argued that if our previous king hadn’t joined his ancestors so soon, things wouldn’t have gone south for us. Oba Lapade was a man of wisdom. He was well-skilled in the art of making money and lavishing it. During his reign, each of his seventy-three wives had a horse to herself. Although his record was tainted with little stains of murder, wife-snatching, and money laundering, he was the type of king who made sure everyone was fed until their bellies could take no more.
His successor was his son. For a man who looked so less like his father and most of the men in his lineage, we thought he would be different from all the kings who had ever reigned in Ayedade. He had records of saving a dame in danger on her way to the stream and a few events of instilling discipline in drunkards who drink with their heads.
Few months into Oba Adesipe’s reign as the king of Ayedade, hardship and all sorts of insecurity began to hit Ayedade. Thieves would sneak into houses in broad daylight, when it is certain that the occupants of that house would either be in the market or farm. The villagers couldn’t go to the stream or their farms without fearing that they would be attacked by unknown men. People began to murmur amongst themselves that his leading bowl must have contained pepper–the hot, scathing type that makes your eyes and nose pour oceans while you fan your burning tongue like an adulterer who has fallen into the deadly trap of mágùn.
In Ayedade, we had two processes of installing a king. First, the kingmakers would check each of Ifa’s chosen candidates’ records, any candidate whose good deeds were greater than his bad deeds would make it to the second stage, where each of them would be made to pick one of three small leading bowls, blindfolded. The honey in each bowl symbolized abundant bliss, water stood for peace, while pepper was a sign of impending doom and hardship if the person who picks it ever gets to ascend the throne. The kingmakers were believed to never tell lies, let alone do something as grievous as installing a wrong candidate on the throne, but, whose mouth would speak the truth after tasting the sealing coolness of immaculate cowries?
All the farms in the village bore no fruit that year. The token that the farmers borrowed yearly from the palace’s treasury for manure and new, sophisticated tools wasn’t released to them the previous year. We prayed to the gods fervently for bountiful yields. The king joined villagers occasionally to pray on every shrine’s praying ground. The month after he gifted new horses to his chiefs and also commanded they would be receiving monthly allowances to purchase new caps, he spent a month in the shrine, crying so hard to Eledumare that even we pitied him. A fortnight after that, he spent the whole night praying and dedicating the white elephant he had just bought to Eledumare. Even our priests lacked nothing. We squeezed our dry pockets to the last to pay our homage to Eledumare through them.
We did not know if we had lost favour in the sight of Eledumare. All our prayers seemed to fall on the impenetrable part of His being. We bought food on credit from the neighbouring villages until they refused to sell to us again. We continued to try solving the puzzle of our mystery until one week, which happened to be the beginning of the year.
The first night of the moon which signified the beginning of a new year was the time of prophecies and revelations. The priest of each shrine would assemble their worshippers and reveal the messages that each god had brought from Eledumare. They would also speak into the life of Ayedade. Although unfulfilled prophecies were as uncountable as beach sand, we still believed whatever came out of our priests’ mouths.
We were quietly making our beds in the early hours of the evening when the town-crier beat his gong to summon us to the palace square to listen to ‘good news’. Everyone abandoned what they were doing and scampered to the palace where we met our chief priest who was seated beside the king.
“People of Ayedade!” The chief priest’s voice boomed behind his mask of cowries and sea shells’ strings when we were all settled.
“Baba!” Everyone answered in unison.
“I will not be saying much because we all know that a mouth that blabs will surely befriend lies,” everyone nodded in agreement. “The year is new and many gods have brought forth all their prophecies yesterday, am I wrong?”
“No, Baba,” we responded.
“Thank you, my people. As you all know, I have not been around for a while. Do you know where I went?” He asked again. Some people began to grumble. Baba was fond of asking questions that were either rhetorical or one you have no answers to.
“No, Baba,” we responded.
“Hmmm,” he drew in a deep breath and chuckled. “I went to the house of Eledumare–”
He was cut off by the gasps of horror from people. To be in the house of Eledumare meant you were either a god or dead. He raised his hands for silence.
“Yes, I went there. It was difficult but I did it, for you, for us.” He paused and continued. “Now, listen to what Eledumare told me about the famine that has made rags off our lives. He said that we will soon bask in plenty and celebrate Ayoo again–”
He was interrupted again by loud cheers.
“Listen and don’t act like little fools,” he cried. Everywhere went silent. When he was sure that the people were attentive, he went on. “For all these to happen, we have to see a blue sun, one as blue as the sky on a brilliant day.”
“A blue sun? What is that?” Questions and mumbles broke out from the crowd again.
“Do not fret, Eledumare made me understand that that sun is special and He cherishes it like a son. It once appeared in a faraway land a long time ago and he is sending it again, just to save us. All we have to do is to be on the lookout and also start preparing, so we can start farming immediately it appears, goodbye.”
The chief priest said his farewell and sauntered out of the palace, while we also ran back to our homes, jubilating and thanking our gods and Eledumare. That evening, our hope was rekindled and we’ve kept it alive for the blue sun since then. Did they not say, he who waits for the crab to fall asleep will spend an eternity at the bank of the river?