Mazi Kiwe left Nnewi in 1927 with his maternal uncle to Port Harcourt to learn carpentry.
He served his master for seven good years before he was “settled” or freed to start his own workshop.
Igwe Ocha was renamed Port Harcourt by the colonial government.
It was the main port for export of slaves and palm produce.
Many warriors in the hinterlands had their human barns or warehouses at Igwe Ocha where they would keep human beings kidnapped from their towns in the mainland and gradually be selling them into slavery to the Europeans.
The big slave merchants had empowered buying agents who had gangs of strong men moving round the towns to kidnap able-bodied men and women for onward movement to Igwe Ocha for sales.
Some unfortunate slavery victims were beaten to submission while many died as they resisted being captured.
Relatives were known to have conspired to sell their fellow siblings into slavery in other to inherit the victims’ wives or land; or out of sheer jealousy or envy.
On that fateful evening, Mazi Kiwe greeted Pa Douglas Lookman as usual and steadied his attention on his chisel as he worked on chairs he must deliver to a client the next day.
His customer was a temperamental type who had paid upfront for the funiture delivery.
“Pa Douglas, I’m so busy as you can see and cannot play drought now, I have an urgent delivery of a pair of chairs to make tomorrow morning” Kiwe told his older friend.
But Douglas didn’t come to play drought that evening.
He had found Kiwe very trustworthy enough to tell him his well guarded secret.
He left to return the next day.
“Kiwe my son”, Pa Douglas began, “I have observed you for some years now and have come to trust you”. Kiwe was confused as he had never seen his old friend in such a sober mood.
“I could tell from your accent that you are from Otolo Nnewi” Kiwe was shocked by such allusion as they had never discussed his village before this time.
Kiwe was particularly surprised because everybody in the yard knew that Pa Douglas hated Igbo people.
Pa Douglas openly would rain invectives on Igbo race on slightest provocation hence making most Igbo co-tenants to avoid him.
“I know you are shocked by my statement, don’t be because my mother was from Otolo and I can tell all the dialects in Nnewi”, he continued.
“Who are you Pa Douglas?” Kiwe charged. “I will never listen to you until you reveal your real identity, perhaps you are okara madu okara muo or superhuman”.
“Is Dim Ohachie still alive?” Kiwe’s skin instantly grew goose pimples.
Every Nnewi youth was rattled upon hearing that name. The hearing of the of name “Dim Ohachi” could make a sleeping man wake up and scale a fence for safety.
“Dim Ohachie was my uncle, he sold me into slavery; I’m from Okpuno Nnewichi Nnewi”, Pa Douglas said and started crying.
“Why didn’t you go back when slavery was abolished by the colonial government? You can go back now” Kiwe advised.
“I can never go back to Nnewi; he will kill me if he hears that I returned; not after acquiring my father’s land, palm trees and breadfruits.
“Besides, Dim Ohachie was onyemuo na afu uzo or a living evil spirit who has turned grasses and roots into his messengers.
“How else can I explain the method he used to capture me and sold me into slavery?
“I can vividly recall that he sent for me and I arrived at his house but what happened thereafter and how I ended up at Igwe Ocha, I could not remember till date.
“I was not the only one he sold from our village; after the ban on slavery and our eventual freedom, some settled in Ikwerre while I decided to live in Okirika.
“My real name is Anaka and my dead father’s name is Nwokekeke. I had to change my names to Douglas Lookman to break away from my past.
“So my son, you can see why many of us were betrayed and sold by our relations from our various Igbo towns hate you and the children of our wicked relations.
“I have related my story to my children and have urged them to avenge my humiliation because an injury to one is an injury to all”, Pa Douglas ended with a heart full of vengeance.
Until the whole Igbo people in the hinterlands openly and genuinely apologize to our brothers in Ikwerre, Obiakpor, Okirika, Port Harcourt and to those inhabiting the creeks of Rivers state, their hatred and inclination to have a pound of flesh on Igbos in the main land shall never abate.
Their ancestors told them of the atrocities perpetrated against them by their relations who sold them off into slavery in the most callous way.
The heartless seizure of Igbo landed properties by Rivers people during and after Biafran war as “abandoned properties” was in retaliation of the injustice suffered by their ancestors.
The mindless taking of the abandoned properties belonging to the Igbo’s was considered a tit for tat for loss of land in the Igbo mainland by their forefathers to the greedy relatives and slave merchants.
The Igbo leaders shouldn’t gloss over the injustices of the past.
Apology needs to be tendered.
Who knows? Some of our brothers, upon genuine appeasement, might be touched to return the seized properties of their fellow Biafrans.
With a genuine reconciliation, Rumuokoro and other Igbo cities corrupted with “R” prefix by post-civil war government of Rivers state may be changed to their Igbo identity.
Truth be told, our forefathers were very very mean to our brothers.
By Anayo M. Nwosu
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