Even though I was too young to make sense of it, the image of that New Year’s Eve remains ever vivid in my brain. I mean, it is not every day that you run to the backyard to get a ball that you accidently kicked over the fence, just to run into your grandad standing in the forest and muttering words into the ‘blank space’. I was shocked to the bone. He was standing over what looked like a parcel bound by palm fronds. There were tubers of yam, and that cockerel that terrorized me and my cousins was struggling to break free from the bondage.
As soon as grandad made eye-contact with me, I ran away without getting my ball. I went straight to my dad to tell him what had happened. He first scolded me for going to the backyard despite stern warnings not to go beyond the walls of the compound. He told me that grandad would be really pissed at me because I had disturbed his prayer. What kind of prayer is that? In the bush? Something is wrong somewhere.
Later that evening, grandad called me to his Obi. I was shell-shocked and shaking in my boots. My mind was made up that he was going to shout and possibly beat me. But to my surprise, he offered me a kolanut and told me to sit down. He asked me what I saw. I wanted to lie but I knew better than to do that. I always felt the oldies in my family had a knack for detecting when someone was lying. So, I told him everything and apologized just like my father had taught me. Grandad then told me to pull up a stool.
He told me that he was praying to his Chi for a good year ahead and thanking him for the outgoing year. He explained that his Chi was the same as the one in my dad’s church apart from the fact that they lived in different houses. You have to offer something to him in exchange for a good harvest and overall success during the following year. I asked him why he had to sacrifice his only living cockerel instead of any of the hen. He explained that the gift you offer to your Chi must be ‘painful’ and meaningful to you.
Coincidentally, the sermon at the service that day had been about the woman that gave all she had. The importance of sacrifices. The pastors call it ‘sowing of seeds’ and make reference to Cain and Abel. The businessmen claim that if you invest your time and effort then you will reap the seed in the form of money. The teachers try to convince us that if you invest in developing your brain, you will get good grades and good jobs subsequently. The Bible claims that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. Plants have to die so that others will grow and multiply in order to sustain the ever-important circle (cycle) of life. In order words, to get what you want, something has to give.
Sometimes when I see an athlete underperform, I fall into the trap of calling them ‘useless’ or ‘trash’ not considering the amount of effort they have put in themselves to get to where they are. Hard work might not always payoff but there is satisfaction in knowing that you have done all you could: that you have sacrificed your last cockerel and are now leaving everything to fate. This is why whenever something doesn’t work out as you thought it would, you look back and wish you had done more or that you had read those pages I skipped.
As I left the Obi, I took a bite off the kolanut and realized I had just sacrificed my taste buds.