Once upon a time, during a period of great famine, tortoise followed his father-in-law to his farm at dawn. His father -in-law, being an industrious man had managed to keep his farm alive despite the famine. Having taking tortoise round the famine, he decided it was time for them to embark on their homeward journey. They had not worked more than a mile from the farm when tortoise suddenly declared that he forgot his snuffbox at the farm. He asked his father-in-law to keep going while he runs back to fetch it.
Knowing the tortoise for who is – a lazy and cunny soul- his father-in-law sensed that he had plans to do mischief on his farm. He therefore decided to return to the farm in order to see what tortoise was up to. True to his instinct, he met the trickster at work. Brother tortoise was busy uprooting tubers of yam. In fact, he had already plucked a basket full of oranges that he hid in a corner of the farm. The dog cannot but return to its vomit, he thought. He couldn’t come to understand how one man can be so greedy even after his needs have been met.
As tortoise was engrossed in his shady business, he was oblivious of the presence of his father-in-law. So walking on his toes, with a rope in his hand, his father-in-law moved towards him and in one deft movement pounced on him. Tortoise, who never anticipated the move, was caught off-guard. Before he could say Jack Robinson, he had already been tied . All through that short scuffle, he still didn’t know who the predator was. Such was the agility and precision at which his father-in-law carried out his mission of apprehension.
Upon the realisation of who his captor was, tortoise gave up the struggle and resulted to pleading for mercy. He began to tell his in-law how that the power from his father’s house was responsible for his actions; how he was still under the spell Gbogun the palm wine tapper cast on him the day he stole from him. The old crook never took responsibility for his crime
All of tortoise’s entreaties fell on his in-law’s deaf ears. He had had enough of his mischiefs. Just the other day, he had been made to pay for a debt tortoise owed the village head, having stood as his guarantor. He was still yet to recover from the loss he suffered when tortoise burnt down half his yam barn due to his epic carelessness. No longer would tortoise go scot free, he resolved.
Determined to make a public example of him, he dragged him to a tree that was closest to the common footpath and tied him to it such that everyone that passed by could see and mock him. He thereafter abandoned him and re-embarked on his homeward journey.
Just as his in-law wanted it, people, who on their way to their various farms, saw tortoise tied up were surprised at the sight. They asked him what he did to have deserved such a demeaning punishment and he replied accordingly. That serves you right, they all said. You’ll learn to be responsible and stop constituting a nuisance. They however hoped that his in-law would not leave him there for long and continued their journey.
It was therefore very annoying and unbelievable when the same set of people who saw him tied up in the morning met him in the same condition on their way back home in the evening. Do you mean your in-law hasn’t released you since morning, they asked him? No, he hasn’t was the response that came from an exhausted Tortoise. The response got these passers-by furious at tortoise father-in-law. Thank God man isn’t God, our lives would have been miserable. How else does he want you to pay for your crime? If he could treat his in-law this badly, then his heart must be made of steel. That man is just an unforgiving soul… These and more were the ways they expressed their displeasure at his in-law’s conduct.
So it happened that the passers-by mocked tortoise on their way to the farm and heavily berated his in-law on their way back home. Alo ni tahun, abo ni tana e (although the selfish [tortoise] gets reprimanded at dawn, his in-law gets his share of the blame at dusk).
Image credit: Wikipedia