Tuesday, September 18, 2018 5:16 pm
By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju
Dateline October 1971. We had a big cockerel with beautiful hues of plumes as in the picture below. When a cockerel who has come of age crows, my people describe the sound as transcending the heavens and earth. So it was for our cockerel. Its comb was fire red and nicely crested on its head. The wattles were delicate red, concealing healthy capillaries attesting to the cockerel’s impressive pedigree. Everyone marveled at its beauty.
My grandfather had spent that dusty harmattan day in late October of 1971 curing his tobacco. After all the work, he kept the tobacco leaves on the rafter. Moments later, I saw this prized cockerel chasing after an older one in a bid to secure the hen, both of them wanted. Minutes before then, it was engrossed in the usual mating dance, spreading its wings, sometimes at an acute angle letting it sctrach the ground in a territorial mark of strength, agility and beauty. In the twinkle of an eye, while on the chase, he perched on the rafter and the cured tobacco leaves came tumbling down. Many of the tobacco leaves fell on “ojúùtò” (sewer). In anger, my grandfather recruited us to catch the cockerel. We did! Methodically, he plucked the remiges(feathers that are used to fly) and retrices (tail feathers used for balancing). That was how the beautiful Àkùkọ became an ogolonto.
The prized cockerel was stripped of all its pride. It could no longer fly. There was nothing left to pin a hen down in the mating ritual. Other than its height, comb and wattles, it looked like a hen. The beautiful plumes where gone! It looked like a cross between vulture and a hornbill. It looked horrible.
From that day onwards, I knew if I overstep my bounds, my feathers could be mercilessly plucked or clipped. I have seen men and women whose “feathers” have been plucked. Your feathers could be plucked anywhere in the world, if you offend the hierarchy. If you do anyhow, your feathers will be plucked anyhow, to teach you sense and sensibility.
If you are beautiful, knowledgeable, artful, smart, suave, intelligent etc… Do not perch on somebody’s basket of tobacco leaves and upturn or scatter it. If you do, you will become an Ògòlònto. God who gave you beautiful plumes, gave others the ability to remove them. Be careful. May Ayé not do me o! Mo bẹ̀rù àgbà!