I remember one time when I was brought home by my teacher after I had been caught beating a smaller child who had dared to challenge me.
To me, it had been simple- I was big, he was small, I was strong, he was weak, so I was right and he was wrong. Hence the beating.
After my mom had given me a stern talking to, my grandfather pulled me aside.
“Ahmed- Why did you do what you did?” he asked, a hint of disappointment poking through the poker face he otherwise had on.
“I’m stronger and bigger than him Grandpa. He shouldn’t have asked me to prove what I was saying.”
“Hmmm. Don’t you know that where your strength ends, another person’s strength begins?” he looked at me for a while and then sighed heavily.
“You remind me of Ijapa. (Yoruba term for tortoise.) Once, long ago… When animals could talk and lizards were few. Ijapa acquired a status as alagbara oko (strong man of the farmlands.) having successfully beaten everyone who dared to pass the farmlands.
He was feared and avoided, and enjoyed himself immensely until one day he heard of someone who was known as alagbara ilu (strong man of the village.)
Annoyed that there was still another strong man, he went off to challenge him.
After several turns, having crossed seven roads and seven streams, he came to the house of the alagbara ilu and met the wife outside roasting corn.
“Where’s your husband?” he roared, his eyes red and every part of him shaking badly. He was really angry.
The wife apologised on behalf of her husband and informed Ijapa that her husband was fast asleep. However to wake him up, he had to be hit by a pestle seven times because he was too strong to feel the tap of ordinary human hands.
Ijapa mused a bit and decided to wake him up. After all, after being hit several times by a pestle he would surely be weak, wouldn’t he?
And so, after receiving directions to his room, Ijapa set to hitting the sleeping man with gusto.
After seven hits, the man yawned and stood up. He stretched and walked outside. A few paces away from the house and in full view of the shocked Ijapa, alagbara ilu wrapped his hands around an entire iroko tree and uprooted it, the way a child would pull a stick from wet clay.
When Ijapa asked what he intended to use it for? Alagbara ilu casually replied that he intended to use it as a chewing stick. At this, Ijapa ran off as hard as he could and never once looked back till he was safely home.”
Grandpa looked at me for a long moment. Then he spoke once more.
“Ahmed. No matter how strong you become, never maltreat others. Because there would surely be someone stronger than you.”
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