by Daniel Nkado
When Chibuzo won a scholarship to study in the UK, his parents were their happiest. When he returned, years after, with a foreign degree, a glossy appointment letter and an official car, Mama and Papa Chibuzo danced like there was no tomorrow.
But days later, following the visit of an uncle, tragedy struck. Papa Chibuzo died in the night. He’d suddenly developed a vicious cough and soon frothed over at the mouth.
What came next? Blood and death! Chibuzo was devastated.
But amidst her tears, Mama Chibuzo kept on at one sentence: ‘I know who killed my husband!’
‘It was his brother that visited,’ the distraught woman said.
‘He’d put the charm in his snuffbox.’
After many years in the UK, there were many things Chibuzo no longer believed in. African charm was one of them.
‘You must believe me,’ his mother continued. ‘I see your uncle every evening at Dibia Okonta’s place. He is a bad man. He had given him the charm to kill my husband.’
Still, Chibuzo found these claims hard to swallow.
‘It could have just been haemoptysis induced by pneumonia, Mama,’ he tried to explain.
Mama Chibuzo shrugged her son off. ‘I am telling you it is charm. He’d put it in his snuffbox that evening he came. I know.’
That night Chibuzo remained awake, thinking. The next evening, he walked into Dibia Okonta’s place. The lanky native doctor received him well. He smiled more to clients that came with a car.
Inside his small consulting room, littered with carved wood gods and goddesses, Chibuzo told him his mission in a low whisper.
‘There is someone I desperately need to get rid of, Eze-dibia,’ he began. ‘He won’t allow my business grow so I want him gone.’
Dibia Okonta’s dirty and holed dentition showed in a bragging laugh. ‘My son, is that all?’
‘That is nothing, my son,’ the dibia said. He picked a twin gong from his corner, struck it a few times and dropped back.
He turned back to Chibuzo. ‘Ogwugwu-Nka has heard your plea, my son. And he said he will oblige you.’
‘Thank you, Papa.’
Rising a little and reaching into the goat-skin bag hanging on the wall, Dibia Okonta brought out a small bottle.
He handed it to Chibuzo. ‘Only a small quantity is needed,’ he told him.
Chibuzo nodded, accepting the charm.
‘You can put it in his food or drink. Better even if inhaled.’
‘So, I can just put it in his snuffbox?’ Chibuzo asked.
The dibia’s eyes became wider. ‘Oh, he snuffs? Excellent! Just a little quantity is needed!’
Chibuzo nodded. ‘Thank you, Eze-dibia.’
‘Don’t thank me, Ogwugwu-Nka is the one you should thank!’
With this Chibuzo dipped into his pocket and removed a thick wad of Naira notes. Exactly how car-driving clients paid, the dibia was every inch impressed. Outside, in his car, Chibuzo checked the bottle. It contained a white powder.
Back to the city, he sent it to the lab for testing. When the results returned, he was shocked. The white powder was ricin, a highly toxic protein that infects cells, blocking their ability to synthesize their own protein. Whether injected, ingested or inhaled, organ failure is bound to happen in the nearest possible hours. Victims suffer a miserable, agonizing death.
A highly unpleasant way to be poisoned! So how did the uneducated native doctor in a bush village come by such a substance? Ricin is gotten from castor beans after all; the same seeds village women use in making ogiri!