July 23, 2019

A Prayer To Ngene

By Okey Ndibe

He washed his hand in an earthen ewer, then selected a kolanut from a wooden bowl. He shifted in his chair. His gaze focused on the statue. The nut cradled in his fingers, he began to make invocations, fluidly moving from ritual language to proverbial statement.

Ngene, you’re the hand of splendour, the hand of riches! You’re the breast that suckles the baby! Crab’s head that baffles the world! Ngene, you said you prefer scrambling to sharing. It’s that scrambling that we have started already. When it comes to talk, any man can boast that he is the equal of another. It’s in the test of strength that we know the man of valour from the weakling. Ngene, you’re the one who swallows the thing that swallowed an elephant. You’re the one who pried the game from the lion’s jaws. The majesty of the lion and the majesty of the man of wealth are of a kind. You’re the lion that guards the hearth. The lion may be alive or it may be dead, but may no man pull its tail. Do we scold a lion to its face? We throw words at a lion asleep in its lair; when the lion awakens, his slanderer must fall silent. The brave man goes to war, but the coward owns the story. A brave warrior is saluted twice, once in life and once in death. Ngene, you’re the chief warrior among deities. The hunter may be brave, but can he bare his eyes to the porcupine’s quills?

Excerpted from Foreign Gods Inc., by Okey Ndibe, first published by Sho Press Inc., New York in 2014 and published by Bookcraft, Ibadan in 2017.

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