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As told by Ọ̀gẹ̀dẹ̀ ń bàjẹ́

They say in igba abalaiye one morning, when the dews were on the bushes and the sun was hardly risen from its slumber, Iwofa Alaba hurried off along the bush path to his farm for the day’s alloted labour. As the path was difficult and the way was long, he stopped halfway under a tree close by the path and leaned against it to rest. It was a kolanut tree. Looking up, he espied a wonderful sight: a dessicated human corpse sitting in the tree, looking for all the world like it was about to talk.

“Ha!” Iwofa Alaba exclaimed. “Oku gbigbe l’ori obi!”

Amazingly the cadaver responded in a guttural rasp. “Iwofa Alaba!”

“Iwofa Alaba! Kii se gbogbo ohun ti oju ba ri l’enu ‘nso o!”
Laughing merrily at this bizarre incident, Iwofa Alaba went his way well entertained.

And so it happened that the next morning, passing the same way, stopping under the same tree, Iwofa Alaba looked up and saw the dried up dead body in the the same tree branch and in the same attitude.

Again he exclaimed: “Oku gbigbe l’ori obi! Se daadaa l’e ji? S’ara nle o?”

Again the cadaver replied: “Iwofa Alaba! Kii se gbogbo ohun ti oju ba ri l’enu n so o!”

And so it was that every morning when Iwofa Alaba passed by the kolanut tree and stopped to rest, he would merrily call out his greeting to the corpse in the tree, and the mummified corpse would reply with his customary warning: “Iwofa Alaba! Kii se gbogbo ohun ti oju ba ri l’enu n so o!”

Well a day! Iwofa Alaba decided he could keep his secret no longer, and approached his master Alaba with the fantastic story of the dried up corpse in the kolanut tree. “Swear to God!” Alaba demanded of his serf, his eyes round as saucers. “It’s the truth” Iwofa Alaba insisted.

Alaba stroked his moustache thoughtfully then decided such a portentous occurence was a matter that concerned the whole town collectively. So he headed to
the Palace with his eager Iwofa in tow, and had him relate what he had told him to the Oba and his astonished court.

A corpse in a kolanut tree? That could hold conversations with the living even after the sun had baked it drier than a stock fish? This had to be seen to be believed. Kia mosa, Kabiyesi adjourned all other business for the evening and the following day and set Iwofa Alaba an appointment to lead the village worthies to the Kolanut tree the next morning at his usual time to find out from the dry corpse what it wanted.

The next morning, Iwofa Alaba, dressed in his party clothes and exulting in the hopes of going viral, marched at the head of a procession of chiefs and onlookers, Kabiyesi included, up the arduous Bush path to the kolanut tree. Stopping underneath and adopting his most impressive manner, he cupped his hands to his mouth and called up:

“Oku gbigbe l’ori obi!”

There was dead silence.

Nervously, iwofa Alaba tried again:

“Oku gbigbe l’ori obi! E kaaro o! Se daadaa le ji?”

Still silence. Everywhere was as quiet as a graveyard. Iwofa Alaba recalled, with a cold shiver running up his spine, that Kabiyesi was a notoriously short-tempered man. Tremulously his voice reached into the branches of the tree again:

“Oku gbigbe l’ori obiiii! Ma ma d’oju ti mi. Emi ma ni mo n ke si o, emi Iwofa Alaba ti mo ke si o l’ana ti o si dahun, ti mo ki o ni’jeta ti o je mi. Emi naa tun re ti mo n ki o loni. Oku gbigbe l’ori obiiii!”

All protestations and supplications were in vain. The mummified corpse of the kolanut tree answered not a peep. Rather understandably, Kabiyesi came to the conclusion that Iwofa Alaba was a trifling talebearer who had brought the village out on a wild goose chase. Vexed at the thought of being taken for a fool by such a riff-raff, he ordered his executioner to take off Iwofa Alaba’s head.

Fiam! Abenilori’s cutlass caught Iwofa Alaba’s vertebra at the nape of the neck and sent his head flying through the air. The gasping villagers cleared a space as the head whizzed in an arc and then bounced on the ground. On the third bounce of the head the dried-up corpse on the Kolanut tree swung down from the branches above and landed among the crowd.

“S-so” stammered the king. “Iwofa Alaba spoke true after all.”

“Yes he spoke true” said Oku-gbigbe-l’ori-obi. “And every day he saw me here and called out his impertinent greetings to me, I never failed to warn him: ‘Kii se gbogbo ohun ti oju ba ri l’enu n so.’ He failed to heed the warning and this is the result. ”

And thus the tale of Iwofa Alaba ended, and no remembrance of him remains but the warning he failed to heed: “Not all that the eyes have chanced to see, is the mouth at liberty to reveal.



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