By Baba Galleh Jallow
Imam Sukuro sat and waited. He was very nervous and did not quite know what to do or say to Nyinya when she walks back that way. He knew that was the only way out of the compound and so he was not worried that she might use another exit. And so he patiently waited, thinking. He still could not understand why Afang Wolemu would want to trick him with an old woman and not his real daughter Nyinya, whom he just saw with his own eyes passing by. Afang Wolemu and his family must be playing games with him and he was determined to get to the bottom of this whole affair. He would let Afang Wolemu know who he, Imam Sukuro was! Several moments later Nyinya and her friend Sima emerged from the bungbaa and walked towards the compound gate near where Imam Sukuro sat. As they passed him by Imam Sukuro called out to his granddaughter.
“Eh Sima. Was it not Nyinya I saw going in to see you?”
“Yes grandpa; we are going out and coming back soon,” Sima replied as the girls walked past him.
“But where is Nyinya? And where are you headed with that boy? Who is he?” the imam asked.
“Which boy grandpa?” Sima loudly called back. “Is this not Nyinya? Your eyes are no longer good!”
“Nyinya? What Nyinya?” Imam Sukuro queried as the two girls laughed and walked out of the compound and out of his sight. Confused, the imam called out to one of his disciples. He would send him to go look inside the compound for Nyinya and come let him know where she was. He would then know what to do. As for today’s children like Sima, they would not be blessed! Walking past your grandpa with a boy and going God knows where! And laughing at your elder!
Imam Sukuro’s decision to withdraw his marriage proposal to Nyinya immediately became the main topic of gossip in Tonya Kunda. Everyone spoke about it and held their mouths or quietly exclaimed how strange it was. A marriage was a big occasion that everyone in the village knew about as soon as it was proposed. When a man expressed an interest in marrying a woman, word was immediately out and spread like wildfire in the village. The level of excitement was determined by whether the proposal was accepted or not. In Imam Sukuro’s case it was known that the proposal was accepted and that he had in fact given Afang Wolemu a whole cow which the imam said was not in fact part of the dowry! This was all the more remarkable for the villagers because though wealthy, Imam Sukuro was known for being very stingy! Material generosity was one topic the imam never preached about because as far as he was concerned, what you owned you owned and you don’t have to share it with anybody! It was because of his renowned reluctance to part with his property that some people said Imam Sukuro broke the marriage off simply because he could not bear to part with a whole cow. He had given sheep and goats before to his in-laws. But a whole cow? No, that’s not Imam Sukuro! Some people joked that Imam Sukuro would rather part with his hand than with a cow!
There were also those who heard the rather strange narrative from the elders who witnessed both Imam Sukuro’s encounter with Alkatan and Nyinya, and how the imam threw a tantrum at Afang Wolemu’s compound on the day the marriage was supposed to be tied. When they heard how Imam Sukuro insisted that Nyinya was in fact an old lady, the people of Tonya Kunda began to speculate that the imam had lost his mind. They started watching him with wary eyes and the less careful among them even tried to make fun of the imam by asking him unusual questions. Questions like eh imam, when is the bride coming? Ah imam, is it true that you are no longer marrying Afang Wolemu’s daughter? While he managed to laugh some of these questions off, some greatly angered Imam Sukuro and caused a rant which further raised doubts about the imam’s sanity in the minds of the villagers. Imam Sukuro particularly disliked being asked whether he thought Nyinya would go to hell!
“It’s Afang Wolemu who will go to hell!” he always loudly responded. “He is a cheat and hypocrite who does not keep his word! He did not tell the truth when he showed me an old woman and said that was his daughter! Why won’t I just take my cola nuts and my cow and throw Wolemu and all of them in the grass? I gave him a whole cow and he tried to cheat me! Does he think I have no head?!”
Sometimes people would walk up to him and say, “Eh Imam, I heard it was Alkatan who spoiled your marriage to Afang Wolemu’s daughter? Eh, he did not do well.” This question particularly interested Imam Sukuro because it confirmed what was in his own mind; his own real knowledge about this whole affair. Whether it was in the beginning or the end, or in the dark or the light, he knew it was none other than Alkatan who spoiled his marriage and the imam was determined to deal with him. No, he would not take him to Kiyanka the Alkalo. He would enter a qalwa for him and he would take him to someone much bigger than Kiyanka!
And so it was that one day two weeks later, Alkatan was seated on his sheepskin outside his hut when a man came and greeted him, and said he was looking for a man called Alkatan. Alkatan informed the man that he was the one he sought.
“Oh you are Alkatan,” the man said. “Chief Hulibot sent me to tell you to go answer to him immediately. At his compound in Nyabiti Kunda.”
“Eh, Chief Hulibot said I should go answer to him?” Alkatan asked. “Is it peace? Do you know why the chief wants me to go answer to him?”
“Ah,” the man replied. “The chief himself did not tell me but I know one imam from here in Tonya Kunda went there to lodge a complaint against you. I was there when he told the chief that you intentionally spoiled his marriage. He said he wants the chief to banish you from the land.”
“Aha,” Alkatan said. “Go tell the chief that you have delivered his message to me. Tell him I cannot come immediately but I will be there before the sun gets hot tomorrow.”
The man left as Alkatan stroke his beard and mused at the folly of the imam and the chief. He had heard a lot of things about Kiyanka’s uncle Chief Hulibot of Nyabiti Kunda. So Imam Sukuro wants to involve the chief, huh? So the chief wants to get involved, huh? Aha. Well, he would go see the chief tomorrow and then they would see what happens.