The Seeds of Ndinum’s Deeds: A Short Story

Ette Ndinum left his hometown at Ikot Nsinung in  Efik land to visit his friend, Ette Una Ifiok, at Obio Idim in Ibibio land. This story happened a long time ago before the men with long noses appeared in our backyard. At that time, people valued friendship, and visitors were treated like kings by their hosts. 

At his friend’s house, Ette Ndinum lacked nothing. He was given a spacious room to stay. Ette Una Ifiok ordered each of his seven sons to hunt for meat every day of the week assigned them to be used in preparing Ette Ndinum’s meals. Ette Ndinum’s water pot was replenished daily and so was his wine keg. There were also servants to clean his room and helped him in accomplishing any task. Ette Una Ifiok’s wife impressed Ette Ndinum with her culinary skills. Indeed, the visitor was home away from home. 

Every evening, the family would gather outside to share their experiences during the day. Later, immediately after their dinner, the children were told imaginative stories with moral lessons. Ette Ndinum always told stories of how strict he was with the discipline of his children back home. He complained to Ette Una Ifiok about Ette Una Ifiok’s children’s shortcomings; how they didn’t wake up early enough like his children back home. According to Ette Ndinum, Una Ifiok’s children were lazy. They were not brave enough to go into the deepest parts of the forest to hunt great games. 

Ndinum complained that Una Ifiok’s daughters didn’t leave for the stream early enough and that they usually returned hours later. He compared them to his daughters whom he praised for excelling in the art of domestic work owing to his strictness and harsh disciplinary measures. He urged Ette Una Ifiok to use a heavier stick in instilling discipline in his daughters. He showed Una Ifiok the kind of stick he used and even designed one for Una Ifiok. 

One day, Ette Una Ifiok used this stick on one of his daughters and it broke her right arm. She never used the arm again. The cane had splintered and one of the pieces had logged in her left eye. She lost the eye in four weeks. Her beauty was disfigured and all her suitors ran away. She later committed suicide. 

When he threatened to beat the second daughter, she ran away to a distant village to live with her maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, while alone on the road, she was captured by strangers who were looking for human sacrifice as part of the burial rites of their dead king. 

That was how Ette Una Ifiok lost his two daughters. But still he didn’t have sense to know the source of his problem. Ette Una Ifiok believed still in the disciplinary measures of Ette Ndinum who urged Ette Una Ifiok to continue in his high-handed disciplinary measures towards his children. According to him, ‘Strong iron is made with great heat’. 

Ette Una Ifiok’s wife cried for her daughters and pleaded in vain. Her husband would not listen to her. Neighbours came around to advise Una Ifiok to revert to his sane disciplinary measures that had shown him to be a loving and caring father, not a  monster or an evil masquerade. But Una Ifiok would only listen to his friend, Ndinum, who filled Una Ifiok’s ears with tales of his sons’ extraordinary feats back home. ‘You know my first son, Ndidep, is the champion wrestler in our clan. He beat all the best wrestlers in the twelve villages that make up the clan to clinch the title,’  he bragged to Ette Una Ifiok. ‘How did he manage to become that? The answer is I never spared him. In fact, I never spared any of my children.’

Ette Ndinum went on to regale Una Ifiok’s ears with hyperbolic tales of how he used to make his sons walk through fire. How he made them swim unaided in Bekwang River in Efik land. How he used to make them roll in the mud to make them strong. He once made them to stare at the hot afternoon sun as punishment for not returning home on time from clearing the farm. 

Ette Una Ifiok listened with interest, wondering when his children would be like his friend’s children. He believed that if his children were weak, people would think that he was weak too. So Ette Una Ifiok began training his seven sons with this fear at the back of his mind. Of course, there were consequences. One of the sons drowned in the sea during excessive training exercise. Another was suffocated in a fire during a drill directed by Ndinum. He was unconscious for days before passing away. 

Ndinum, in all this, advised Una Ifiok to be brave. Brave people are not moved by any calamity, he said. Weak men cry like babies over little losses. He was sure Una Ifiok wasn’t a weakling and wasn’t going to give in easily because of the loss of two sons and two daughters in the course of training them. 

Again, Una Ifiok’s wife, Mmatim, bewailed the demise of her two sons and recalled the loss of her two daughters through epic sobs and lyrical dirges. Neighbours and the other villagers urged Ette Una Ifiok to send his evil friend and visitor away because his stay had only succeeded in destroying his household. But all these sane words fell on deadened ears. It was as if Ndinum had bewitched his friend. 

One night, a rat was heard running in the roof of the mud-and-thatch compound. It generated such a din that it kept the entire Una Ifiok household awake for hours. All attempts to locate, catch and kill the daring rodent proved abortive until Ndinum suggested that the rat provided an opportunity for a drill. He suggested that the roof of the house be set on fire 🔥 and that Una Ifiok’s remaining five sons should be locked inside until they brought out the rat dead or alive. They would then quench the fire and replace the roof the following morning to the admiration of villagers. 

Ette Una Ifiok bought this idea from his loving friend and visitor. He quickly evacuated the house of himself, his wife and Ndinum. Then he locked in his five sons and ordered them to get the troublesome rat 🐀 and quench the fire before it got to the properties. 

To cut the long story short, Una Ifiok’s five young sons were suffocated in the fire. They all died. Una Ifiok waited for hours without seeing any of his sons while the fire razed down the entire building. By the time the neighbours were allowed to intervene, it was too late. Una Ifiok lost everything. His wife slumped and died in shock of her husband’s inanity and its tragic outcomes.

By morning, Ette Ndinum was nowhere to be found. He had run back to his village in Ikot Nsinung in Efik land, where he lived the rest of his life enduring the insult of his wife and children who had made life hell for him before he ran to Ette Una Ifiok in Ibibio land. 

What are the moral lessons in this story?

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