If You Missed The Part 2, Read It Here
Nwanyi Burunnu’s first child—my father, Monday Amadi Onyechere—grew up to be a very bright boy. He could read and write even before he started school. He was a very respectful and determined boy. Many people in the town admired and adored him, and believed that one day he would become a very successful man. Unfortunately, when my father reached school age, his mother could not afford to send him to school. Although she still made her cakes, the proceeds weren’t adequate enough to take care of her children’s needs and pay my father’s school fees. According to Nwanyi Burunnu, Onyechere remained committed to her, but could not help her due to the enormous responsibility of raising dozens of children, as well as meeting the needs of half a dozen wives. Therefore, at a very tender age, my father decided to leave Owerri Nkworji in search of better prospects. He told his mother that he wanted to live with his half-brother, the first son of his father’s first wife, who was a teacher in Owerri-Nta Town, so he could attend school there. His mother had no choice but to let him go.
Owerri-Nta was a lot more developed than Owerri Nkworji. It had somewhat more modern facilities like palm processing plants and a modern market. It also had good roads, primary schools, clinics, and so on. When he arrived in town, my father located his half-brother, Godfrey, and explained the difficulties the family was facing at home, and his desire to be educated and perhaps be in a position to help his mother and siblings. Godfrey sympathized with him and agreed to enroll him in school.
My father happily started primary school the next academic year. He was smart, outspoken, yet respectful to all. He quickly became very popular and was adored and admired by students and teachers alike. He always came first in his class and was exceptionally good at mathematics. He did so well that he was given double promotions (allowed to skip grades), advancing to primary six (sixth grade) within a short period of time. The school authorities asked him to teach mathematics to the lower classes, but he politely declined because he did not want to offend his half-brother, who might interpret this as competition.
My father never stopped thinking about his mother and siblings. He was eager to finish school and get a better paying job so he could begin sending money back home. As he became more desperate to earn money, my father started tutoring classes for struggling students, accepting small fees. When Godfrey got wind of this, he became jealous and started treating my father badly. With time Godfrey’s relationship with my father deteriorated. Godfrey humiliated him at every opportunity until my father could no longer take it. It became clear to my father that things were never going to get better, and he was no longer willing to tolerate the continuous, unwarranted assault and abuse.
My father decided to quit school, leave Godfrey’s house, and try to fend for himself. Luckily for him, it was already the end of semester of his final year in primary school. He traveled to Enugu, where he joined up with other “hustlers”—young boys who usually help transit drivers load their vehicles for a fee.
Enugu was a densely populated city. My father established a rapport with some boys and gradually learned how to survive on his own. His friends told him of a motor park where he could find work as a bus conductor and, luckily, my father was given a job. He carried out his duties with zeal and enthusiasm, knowing what was at stake for him and his family. Sadly, he was not able to make enough money in his new job to make ends meet. He worried about his future and what would become of his family if he could not support them financially. ***Dad, left (bus Conductor).jpg*** (Dad (left) as bus Conductor)
As he struggled with this problem, my father began to lose focus and took a bad turn. He began to associate with hoodlums and people of questionable character who got him into smoking marijuana and other less than honorable activities. Despite his new lifestyle, he managed to cling to his job, and worked as a conductor for several years.
Eventually, fortune smiled on my father, or so he thought. He met another bus owner, Moses, who owned a mechanic shop on the main street. Moses took a keen interest in my father and promised to help him.
A few days later, Moses purchased a bus and was looking for a reliable person to drive it. Coincidentally, he ran into my father again and asked him if he knew how to drive a bus. My father had secretly learned to drive by practicing with his current driver’s bus at night without the driver’s knowledge, and had obtained a driver’s license a few months earlier. My father enthusiastically exclaimed that he could drive, and was given the job. He could hardly suppress the tears of joy running down his face as he went to pick up the new bus the next morning. He was convinced that things would change for the better, and he would now be able to support his mother and siblings with the money he would be making as a driver.
However, things did not improve as my father had anticipated. The bad economic situation besieging the country at the time was also felt heavily in Enugu. Prices of commodities rose dramatically and the cost of living was unbearably high. Even though, as a driver, my father was earning more than double what he had been making as a conductor, he still slept in his bus, as he could not afford to rent a place. He became discouraged and dejected, and would often cry himself to sleep at night.
One day, while driving through one of his routes, a passenger on board his bus—whom he would come to know as Ibu—narrated an incredible story. The story was almost too good to be true. Some of the passengers seemed to believe him, while others discounted it as crazy talk, but my father listened keenly. Ibu noticed my father’s interest, and waited until everyone got off the bus before he approached my father. Ibu then went deep into the philosophy of existentiality, karma, destiny, and secret societies, as well as magic powers that could bring wealth and prosperity. My father was intrigued and wanted to know more. The fantasy of having the power to change his fortunes was intensely alluring. Ibu concluded by telling him that he could become rich if he joined their secret society. He gave my father his address and encouraged him to come see him when he was ready to join.
As time went by and the city’s economic situation did not get better, my father started to imagine all the good things he could do and get for himself and his family if he became rich and prosperous. He decided to look for Ibu.
He located him in a remote part of Enugu, a very sparsely populated neighborhood with beautifully fenced compounds. When my father arrived, Ibu was sitting in a lotus position under a tree in front of his house. He welcomed my father and asked him to come into the house and join him for lunch. Afterward they went back to sit under the tree and had some local wine to wash down the meal. My father told Ibu that he was ready to join the secret society so he could become rich and powerful. He was told to go home and return in a week.
Seven days passed, and my father returned to Ibu’s house. Ibu asked him to follow him into what appeared to be a secret room in the house. Inside the room, Ibu chanted some incantations for a while and, all of a sudden, both men were transported to a completely different location. My father found himself flying across a big river and then breezing through what looked like an evil forest, but his determination to get wealth and power robbed him of whatever fear he might otherwise have felt. Finally, they landed in a big auditorium-type house. Seated in that auditorium, to my father’s surprise, were mostly prominent and well-respected men and women, including businessmen, Igwes, ministers, and witch doctors. My father was introduced to all the members and then the initiation began.
My father was ordered to drink a cup of human blood, after which he was taken to a cemetery to sleep with the spirits of the dead for a night. While at the cemetery, at about 3 a.m., he saw flame-like figures hovering around him and heard hoarse voices from the figures muttering some gibberish. After a while, a dragon-like figure appeared, carrying a human skull with blood in it, and a fresh human heart. The figure ordered him to bathe with the blood from the skull and eat the heart. My father obeyed. The dragon figure disappeared and my father found himself at the feet of the chief priest of the society. He was asked to reveal his desires; what he wanted out of life. He told the chief priest and the members, without fear or hesitation, that all he wanted was to become wealthy and powerful. He was instantly granted special spiritual powers. My father would later say that he knew he had gotten the powers because of the overpowering cloud of smoke that descended upon him after the chief priest’s proclamation. He was happy and felt that he had, indeed, become a new person.
Yet things did not turn out as my father had expected. Two weeks after his initiation into the secret society, he became aggressive and abusive. His marijuana habit worsened and his physical appearance changed as he let his hair and beard grow wild. His close friends did not understand why he had changed, and tried to help him, but he humiliated some of them and they kept away from him.
After more than a year, my father still did not become rich, but he continued to attend the secret society meetings. He did have some measure of spiritual power that enabled him to predict certain future events, but he could not make himself rich. Starting to feel homesick and miss his family, he decided to return home to Owerri Nkworji.
He arrived in the evening. His brothers and sisters did not recognize him until he asked about their mother. They were surprised at his appearance—the overgrown beard and hair, and his all-around unkempt look. When his mother returned home that night, she was taken aback, too, but she welcomed him wholeheartedly.
The next morning Nwanyi Burunnu asked my father where he had been living all the years he’d been away and what he had been doing. He gave vague, snappy responses to her—and to everyone else who asked—and eventually, no one dared ask anymore. He no longer respected elders and was aggressive and abusive toward everyone. He openly smoked marijuana and would beat up anyone who tried to talk to him about his smoking and his behavior. Everyone became increasingly afraid of him.
With his mystical powers, my father was able to do amazing things. He had a room to himself in his father’s compound, and his door was always left open, but he could tell when someone had gone into his room, even in his absence. He told people exactly when they were going to die. He could tell pregnant women the gender of their children, and whether or not the child would be stillborn. He could predict the future of newborn babies. But one of the most amazing things he did was to sleep for several days, without waking up, in his open room. While asleep, my father attended the meetings of his secret society. People marveled at this and became even more afraid of him.
According to my father, the god of the secret society was a gigantic monster with eyes that could pierce through any object. He could see things happening anywhere in the world, and when he spoke, sparks of fire emanated from his mouth and nose. The monster carried a rod in his hand that looked like a cobra, sat on a throne made of gold, and was guarded by two fierce lions on his right and a dragon with seven heads on his left. His servants were positioned all around him and did whatever he commanded. Whenever there was an impromptu meeting, the monster would dispatch his servants to go and inform all society members. During meetings all members wore black gowns, red hats, and no shoes. In the center of the meeting hall there was always a human skull filled with human blood, and all members would dip a special cup into it and drink from it, symbolizing their commitment to the society. Each member was also required to sacrifice a beloved relative at a designated time during their membership in the society. This had to be done even if a member were to abandon the society at some point. It was a sworn oath that each member had taken and was bound by.
Months later, my father, having fully accepted that although he had some spiritual powers, his financial situation had not improved as he had been promised—which was his primary reason for joining the secret society—decided he wanted to become a trader. Completely broke, without prospects, and still unable to cater to his family, he felt it was time to take matters into his own hands. He asked his mother for a piece of land that Onyechere had given her, saying that he wanted to plant crops and sell them to raise funds to start his trade. She agreed to let him use the land. My father was able to till and plant vast areas of land in a few hours all by himself. Despite his unkempt appearance, he was a very strong man, tall and muscular. He was built like a warrior, just like his father, and he had also inherited his bravery. My father worked hard on his farm, and when it was harvest time, he harvested the crops, sold them, and made a lot of money.
He also decided it was time to get married, even though he had pledged at the secret society that he would not get married or have children. If he broke the oath and went ahead to have children, they would all die before reaching adult age.
My father concluded that he would escape this by becoming a Christian, and thus began his quest for true Christian religion.
To Be Continued…