Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


Short Story

by Rosaline Nwagboso

The traditional ruler of Aladike. Chief Wadibia, was much loved by his subjects. He was a fine orator and a man of principles. Above all he was noted for his bravery and courage. These attributes earned the chief the respect of the ten titled men who were his advisers; for in Aladike, the land of warriors, bravery and courage was everything

But there was one thom in Chief Wadibia's flesh. It was Nze Ntiele, one of the chief's advisers. Only he, of the ten titled men, showed Chief Wadibla disrespect. Not once, Not twice. But all the time.

The history of the quarrel between Chief Wadibia and Nze Ntiele went back a long way. Indeed, they had both inherited their enmity at birth. For their fathers had been feuding long before they were born.

According to legend, Ntiele's father had challenged Chief Wadibia's father to a fight over a young girl. The latter won and the girl later became Chief Wadibia's mother. Ntiele's father felt so humiliated that he vowed never to make peace with Wadibia's father. The enmity between the two men heightened day by day until it reached a point where they avoided each other like the plague. Matters took a turn for the worse then the reigning chief died without an heir and Wadibia's father was proclaimed chief of Aladike.

The enmity between the two men continued and was later passed on to their children-Chiet Wadibia and Nas Neale who, as events proved, were only too pleased to oblige their forebears And so Nze Ntiele did not show up when his rival was crowned chief - something considered a serious offence by the title men of Aladike. Ntiele was fully penalised. Not only that but he was isolated by other titled men.

The ostracism was to last for seven years during which Ntiele was not to interact with any titled family of the village As a results Ntiele had to go to a distant village to marry.

Meanwhile Chife Wadibia had married the most beautiful girl in Aladike at a very colourful ceremony at which the villagers danced and ate and drank. Unfortunately the chief's wife did not bear him a child the following year as everyone had expected. He then came under pressure to marry another wife who would give him a son to succeed him. But the chief so loved his wife that he refused to be persuaded by the people. He insisted that he had married the woman of his choice and that when the gods were willing he would get a child.

The chief advisers were stunned.

"She must have bewitched him," one of them said.

"This sort of thing has never happened before," said another.

"Bewitched" soon became the pet word in Aladike. Everywhere people were whispering: "Bewitched! Our beloved chief has been bewitched."

"Our chief's wife," said one women as she was returning from the market one day with a friend, "must be a witch"


"True word," said the second woman. "I have had a glimpse of her, and there is nothing to compare her beauty with. They say you can't even look her in the face because her face glitters. Have you ever seen her legs?"

"She is not real," the first one said. She is a mermaid. So our medicine man said. But don't tell anyone."

And so, on an on, went the gossip.

Meanwhile Nze Ntiele, the chief's arch enemy, had had a son and he went about boasting how he was going to send his son to school when he was old enough

“Now we know where the answer lies”, said the oldest man in the village. “Ntiele is the man responsible for the Chief's misfortune. He must have used witchcraft to cast a spell over the chief so he couldn’t father a child.

“I hear he has a live in witch doctor" said another old man

"That Ntiele is a wicked man."

This new angle was snatched up like a hot cake. Before the day was out it had spread all over the village and neighbouring ones that Ntiele and his witch-doctor were responsible for the Chief's problem. It was even said that Ntiele had cast such a spell over Chief Wadibia that the chief could no longer see reason. It was the spell, everyone agreed, that had made the chief refuse to marry another wife even when his poorest subjects had at least two wives

The word "bewitched" returned to every lip once again, except that this time the emphasis was on Nze Ntiele

"Bewitched" everyone said on their way to the farm, while fishing, and in their market stalls. The village seemed drunk on that word

Three years passed and Chief Wadibia still had no child. His subjects lost all hope. They stopped worrying and began to mind their own business But the following year Adamma, the Chief's wife, became pregnant. The story spread like wildfire.

"I knew the Chief would do something," said one old man to another.

"You see, my friend, he has shown that devil Ntiele who is the boss."

Unfortunately, however, Adamma died shortly after childbirth. The whole village was deeply moved. They mourned for her like they had never done before. They declared seven market days for mourning The Chief on his part, threw all care to the dogs and cried like no man had ever done before in Aladike

At the same time everyone was raining abuse at Nze Ntiele. They even burned down his house. In the end Nze Ntiele had to run away from the village.

Adamma's daughter was named after her mother. She was growing up fast and was full of life. She was placed under the care of her grandmother. Chief Wadibia was very pleased with his daughter. He went everywhere with her. He made to give her the best of life. He promised to send her to school.

As the years rolled the chief began to forget his misfortune. He became cheerful once more except when members of his court who were close to him began to nudge him about taking another wife; then a sad shadow would fall over his face. He would shake his head gently and remind them that he was still mourning. But his advisers were not fooled. For they knew that their chief had no intention of ever marrying again. And indeed many years later chief Wadibia had still not married.

But that was the least of his people's problems at that time. Their main worry was starvation. Many of them were dying of it everyday. The harvest that year and in the three previous years had been very poor.


One Eke day Chief Wadibia summoned his people. At the final sound of the gong, the villagers began to assemble at the village square.

The Chief, dressed in his full regalia, stood up and addressed them.

"My people," he said, "we have been having very poor harvests in the past few years. Deaths from starvation are occurring everyday. We cannot let this continue. Therefore I am asking all our medicine men to find out how we can appease the gods."

"No," shouted a young voice in the rear of the square. "The gods are not responsible."

All eyes turned in the direction of the voice. The speaker emerged and edged his way through the crowd and stood before the chief.

"Who are you, young man?" Chief Wadibia asked.

"Samuel Ntiele. I want you to know that it is about time we lived up to the standard of other villagers. What is responsible for your poor harvest is lack of fertilizer."

"Fertilizer?" echoed everyone.

"Yes," the young man said. "It is called fertilizer and it is sprinkled all over the land and it improves production."

An old man stepped forward. "Are you the son of Ntiele?" he asked.

"Yes," replied the young man.

"Is this another trick of your father's?"

"Leave my father out of this. I have come to help. But if you don't want it, I'll leave."

"Listen, my child, we shall continue to do things the way our forefathers taught us. We are not going to let a brat like you even address us let alone take your advice to sprinkle your er - er whatever you call it on our sacred land. We have had enough of your father and his witchcraft."

The crowd shouted their approval.

Samuel left and returned to his college a few days later. The year that followed that incident was not better than the previous ones. The people of Aladike came to accept the situation as a curse from the gods.


Adamma, meanwhile, had finished her final year in college but did not come home as usual. Her father was very much alarmed and sent people to search for her. The search party looked for her everywhere but did not find her. Then one day as her father was worrying and worrying, she appeared, but not in her usual high spirit. First she was all full of tears for causing her father such heartache. Then she confessed to her father that she had married Nze Ntiele's son, Samuel.

Chief Wadibia sank in his chair as she finished her story. When he recovered from his shock, he quietly went into his inner room and later emerged with a long sharp cutlass. With this he headed towards Nze Ntiele's house in the neighbouring village. He shouted Ntiele's name as he went. But to the amazement of passersby, Ntiele also had his cutlass and was calling Chief Wadibia's name and hot footing towards Aladike.

The two enemies met in a footpath halfway between Aladike and Ntiele's adopted village. By the time the elders of the village of Aladike got to the scene it was too late.

"Bewitched" said an elder as he stopped down to look at the two bodies lying in pools of blood.

talking drums 1983-10-03 Hunger is a desperate reality for Ghana's 14 million people