Once upon a time, a female crocodile settled on the bank of a river. One evening, as she was strolling, she chanced upon some eggs lying in a nest, partially covered. Her jaw dropped as she marveled at their freckled beauty, wishing they were her own eggs.
When she got home and mentioned her adventure, seeking someone who could help her to decorate her eggs, she was directed to Mr. Tortoise.
Thanking the neighbours for their advice, she hurried to Mr. Tortoise’s house. When they were face to face, she addressed him, saying:
“Mr. Tortoise, I was told you know how to decorate eggs very well.”
“Oh, my fair lady, no one in these parts know how to do it like me. Of all the works of my hand, egg-decoration is my favourite, particularly the eggs of a ‘super-croco’ like you,” boasted the tortoise, bringing a smile to the crocodile’s lips. Then, he continued: “Look, Madam, by the time I complete decorating your eggs, “k’ù f’ẹgẹ wẹ doye w’ẹ́ kpa chákáá,” you will not recognize them again.”
“Oh, how nice of you. I didn’t know we had a talented genius around here.” she responded ecstatically.
“Actually, I live across the river. I just came to visit a friend here. But I can do your work before I depart.”
“Oh, am I not lucky that you are here at the time I need help?” asked the crocodile rhetorically.
“But there are some conditions that you must meet before I start work on your eggs.”
“Whatever conditions you give, I will comply. Go on, state them; I am all ears,” the crocodile said reassuringly.
“First, you will assemble the following items for me: a pitcher of palm-oil (úlíì-ekpo), powdered pepper (ákpọkọ-èfùlù), salt (ómu) and a shard (ànadè); that is, half a broken clay-pot,” listed Mr. Tortoise, as the crocodile listened with rapt attention.
“Secondly, the job will take me nine days. During this period, you are barred from my work-place until I am done and gone.”
“Yes, I promise,” replied the crocodile unsuspectingly.
“Finally, you will arrange a reliable, stand-by means of transportation for me, so that as soon as I finish my work, I will vamoose,” said the tortoise.
“In that case, I will detail Ábáji-ọ̀wálà, the fast Monitor-lizard, to swim you across the river,” she suggested but the tortoise objected.
“No, no, no, no. I will not have that reckless, over-speeding monster crash me into some rock in the middle of the river; I that cannot swim. Or do you want to kill me before my time?” Mr. Tortoise argued.
“No, no, no. Mr. Tortoise. Why do you talk like this? Okay, let Ábáji-ùjetí take you; but I warn you, he is hard of hearing,” the crocodile pointed out.
“In fact, I don’t mind that. I prefer the deafness of a careful driver to the stupidity of a fast, drunken driver,” argued the tortoise,” and they both laughed.
That, indeed, settled their negotiation; and, the next day, Mr. Tortoise went to work in a lonely room. First, he made an open fire and placed the shard on top of it, pouring some palm-oil in it. Meanwhile, he broke an eggs and spiced it with salt and pepper, as the oil was heating up. Then, he poured the egg into the heated oil, producing a loud, hissing sound. That was how, one by one, the cunning tortoise feasted on the crocodile’s eggs, clearing everyone of the ten that were handed to him.
When he had eaten and cleaned his mouth, he jumped onto the back of his parked vehicle, the Transporter, holding firmly to his sides and they commenced their voyage across the river.
No sooner had they commenced their journey than the crocodile, suspecting foul play, ran to the Tortoise’s ‘work-place,’ only to find broken shells of her precious eggs littering the floor around a still-active fire-place. Livid with rage, she began to shout at the top of her voice, trying to halt the movement of the Deaf Monitor-lizard.
Mr. Tortoise, who was actually hearing her loud voice booming from the shore, refused to heed her plea and kept silent. The Monitor-lizard, in spite of his deafness, could hear his name and her cry of anguish “sounding from afar,” Then, he asked: “What is Madam trying to tell me that she is calling my name?”
The Tortoise replied, lying that she was warning them of a threatening storm and was advising that he, the Transporter, increase his speed.
Actually, Mrs. Crocodile was singing a pathetic song, the lyrics of which are:
Fọ̀ọ́ téeté dedè egíníja,
Fọ̀ọ́ yẹ́yẹ̀ dedè ọ̀nyẹ̀
Todú ẹgẹ ọ̀nyẹ̀ k’ọ̀nyẹ̀ ch’ejúmomi
Todú ẹgẹ ọ̀nyẹ̀ k’ọ̀nyẹ̀ ch’ọ́gbàchẹ̀chẹẹẹ.
Ẹ̀jẹ́ i kpa mọ, Ẹ̀jẹ́ i lè-oo”
When, translated, it means:
Slow down and wait for the Refreshing Fruit.
Slow down and wait for the Crocodile.
The crocodile’s eggs that made me pine for pity;
The crocodile’s eggs that made me crave for compassion;
The Tortoise broke and drank them all;
Then, the Tortoise left.”
Urging the Transporter to increase his speed, the Tortoise warned that if he didn’t, the rainstorm and, indeed, the potential torrential downpour would meet them on the river.” And the Transporter obeyed, cutting furiously through the mass of water until they finally berthed at the other side of the river.
As soon as he alighted from the back of the Transporter, Mr. Tortoise scampered into hiding. But it was not long before he was shamefully fished out from under the bed in a neighbour’s hut. The Crocodile, in utmost fury, threw him high into the air and he came down hard against a stone boulder, smashing his shell to smithereens. It was Áyíbo-ọyà-Ẹ̀jẹ́, his wife, that gathered the bits and pieces of the shells, gluing them together into a scraggy whole. When King Àtínálọ found that he had survived the crash, he sent for him; and when he came, he was convicted; and the king ordered that he be impaled. “Kú ma m’ú du nyọ́kpá,” as the Igala say.
Lessons to Take-away
1. Do not divulge your plan to someone you hardly know, to the extent that you even entrust your most treasured possession to him.
2. Evil is usually repaid with evil; hence, when an evil person sows the wind, he/she will surely reap the whirlwind.
(Source and Refresher: Mr. Pita Alifa).