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Atani the distrustfull
By C.I.D. Oguagha
Atani is an exotic, leaner species of the osa (or squirrel), kindred to Uze and Ululu. Apart from being a diminutive individual he is facially very ugly. Despite this, Atani is famous throughout the animal world. However, his fame is very unusual, since he is not known for a talent or any particular achievement. Indeed, he is a perfect example of individuals who gain renown through attitude rather than talent.

Why would anyone have noticed, let alone celebrate, this creature alongside traditional achievers? Rare stars like Abuke, who is one of that world's greatest combatants; Eneke, who is the best in flying; and Tortoise, the craftiest animal that has ever lived. Nothing of the sort could be ascribed to Atani, yet he exudes a great deal of mystique.

His popularity may well be due to his distrustful attitude. It was this suspicious nature that once pushed him to throw out his hapless wife for a foolish reason.

After one long rainy season, during which the weather had been perfect for farming, all the animals, including females and kids, farmed until they nearly dropped with fatigue. The holidays arrived at last, and everybody was eager to become either a host or a guest. The animal world was once again more concerned with festivities than with the drudgery of work.

In Atanis village, preparations were in full swing to launch their ijele (mighty) masquerade at the village quadrangle. Their cousins Squirrel, Uze, and Ululu were all invited to the ceremony.

Atanis sons, who had come of age, were initiated into the esoteric custom of dancing in masquerades as a symbol of manhood. To prepare for their performance, his wife virtually took two days off to plait her hair and have her body decorated with beautiful uli designs.

Atani never said it to anyone, but he began to believe his wife had become a flirt. His wife had always been highly vain. Attention was to her was like water to a fish. Unfortunately, her husband had no time for that nonsense.

As she chatted with her friends and told her husband about how she would dance with him and spray him with money, Atani cut her short by demanding some of her money while he was sober, and not after.

When the festival day finally arrived, the village quadrangle was filled to capacity. At the stroke of noon, the ijele masquerade emerged from its makeshift tent located at a far end of the arena. It was like a moving house, full of grace, pomp and color.

Three times the ijele came out to dance, to the delight of the crowd. When the masquerade made its final return into its tent, the members of the age grade came out to the center of the arena to dance and celebrate their successful outing.

Atani was there, but hardly could be singled out. All atanis look very much alike, and that was the root of his wifes troubles. She jumped into the middle of the dancing age grade and began to spray money to and dance with someone she thought was her husband.

It was a haunting blunder. When Atani saw what his wife was doing, he stormed out of the area, and headed straight home. Once he got home he proceeded to throw out all his wife's belongings. It was their friends who told her to go home. She ran back home crying, but it was too late. Her things were on the street and Atani could not be appeased.

Friends, relatives, crying sons and neighbors pleaded with Atani to forgive his wife's mistake and take her back. He refused vehemently. However, after a while he ruled that she must return to her father's house at least for a while.