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The Human Like Monkey Tonga
the memorable monkey, Tonga
Tonga is a typical monkey of the West African specie, believed to have migrated from its original habitat at a nearby forest close to Benin, in the middle belt region of Nigeria, West Africa, during the Nigerian civil war in 1968. Tonga loved peace and unity, so he found this lasting peace some thousand miles away from his original habitat in a middle belt forest, in Nigeria.
Through history, I learnt that Tonga arrived Eziama, his new found home with a host of other monkeys, believed to be his family members. May be Tonga’s migration journey from middle belt to Eziama, in the south-eastern part of Nigeria, took him month or even years, but Tonga did arrived successfully to his new peaceful settlement at Eziama.
He truly loved his new home, and he proved this to everyone. According to my grandmother, Tonga helped many people in Eziama village during the Nigeria civil war. He would travel very far to neighboring forests and gather fruits, which he normally brought to some villagers in Eziama, especially one Mr. Njoku, whom he loved most. May be because he was a hunter and as well, a palm wine taper. And he always kept a portion of his tapped wine, which he would share together with Tonga in an evening drink outing. Tonga reciprocated this love by bringing him fruits from the forests. And any fruit that he brought for him, he would taste it in his presence, to assure him it was not poisonous (a trait he learned from The people of Eziama village).
I also learnt that Tonga attended local village gatherings, and joined the villagers in mourning for any deceased kinsman, especially during the civil war period when people died almost every hour. These long-lasting war and killings of Eziama youths, worried Tonga, so Tonga became and informant to the villagers, and informed them through several signs like, throwing stones at villagers’ house roofs or by whistling. Tonga was truly of great help to the Eziama people during and after the long-lasting civil war in Nigeria.
He also showed his dynamism towards new developments as a way of adapting to human culture and traditions. During the civil war, most villagers at Eziama, worshipped idol while few worshipped the true God. So Tonga joined the majority because he believed in democracy and majority carries the vote.
He also joined these idol worshippers during their ritual rites and sacrifices to their gods, and sometimes offered his own sacrifice by submitting fruits to the shrines’ chief priest. Tonga did almost everything that humans did, except communicating his feelings and opinion through speech, a true proof that he is a monkey indeed.
Proving his ability to adapt to abide by the laws of the Eziama village, Tonga changed his religion to Christianity, by attending local mass services at the village’s Catholic Church, when the entire village decided to wipe away idol worshipping by destroying all their shrines. Tonga also participated in this crucial activity, by helping the villagers to throw into fire, some idol images that seemed to be left out during the destruction activity.
Tonga is now a born again, he now worships with the Catholics, and he started wearing chaplets. Though, some missionary reverend fathers complained, but he insisted on wearing chaplets.
He never missed any mass service, no matter the situation, he would make sure he attended mass. But reverend fathers refused to baptize him or to confirm him, so he would be able to receive holy communions- a right Tonga never enjoyed, and he always showed his grief by shading tears whenever others are going for communion, o poor monkey, Tonga.
The villagers loved Tonga, so they wanted his lineage to continue when Tonga lost his three siblings in a disease outbreak in 1991. So they went and captured three monkeys from a far away forest and brought them to Eziama to see if Tonga would love their company, but Tonga was angry at this gesture.
Tonga continued to throw stones at these monkeys, he always did this to show his anger or as a way of passing a vital message to the villagers.
When the villagers observed this, some said Tonga was trying to befriend them, by testing their tempers, while others said Tonga was jealous of having any other monkey to live with him in Eziama, and this was the truth. Tonga poisoned the three monkeys with a banana. My Njoku caught Tonga throwing banana fruit into the monkeys’ cage, and Tonga saw him too.
Before Mr. Njoku would arrive home, Tonga was already waiting in his home, with a full bunch of fruit (which he knew Mr. Njoku loved the most). The moment he saw Njoku approaching, he rushed and jumped into his body and held him very close, using his wide palms to cover Njoku’s mouth, and then he jumped down immediately and gave Njoku the fruits he was carrying. Shortly, the shocking news struck the village, the newly brought monkeys, have just died at once, with some bananas in their hands, at this point, Mr. Njoku realized that Tonga was the one responsible for the monkeys’ death, and probably, his siblings’ death too. So he bribed Njoku not to open up.
Tonga was truly a memorable monkey that ever lived, though his life was not documented visually due to unavailability of visual equipment as at the time of his existence at the Eziama village, but his memories will ever live, as the village authority named a kindred after Tonga.
I saw Tonga first in 1996 and I fell in love with him, though my grandmother claimed that I knew Tonga earlier before this date, back in 1989 when she personally took me to Tonga, though I was unable to recollect, because I was still tender at that period. The few times I saw Tonga (during my Easter vacations0, he was a human-like monkey, having over 65% human character and behaviors. He observed every moods and celebrations as well.
Tonga joined in masquerade dance, during Eziama village’s new yam festivals. He also mourned when people are mourning, and rejoiced with them, when they are having good times. He was truly a passionate monkey with wisdom.
Tonga’s untimely death shocked the villagers, including neighboring communities, and they did gave him a befitting burial ceremony which they were able to afford at that time. Masquerades, women and children performed one cultural display or the other, just to pay tribute to a well-lived monkey called Tonga.
He died in a motor accident, while trying to cross a newly constructed pave road, connecting Eziama and Obolo. The lorry driver that killed Tonga never stopped (may be he knew what he would have passed through in the hands of the villagers), so he ran away.
People that first saw Tonga’s body immediately after the accident, shed tears with him, as he showed his pains of leaving the Earth, by the drops of tears that dripped down from his shut-eyes. He left the world in a drift, abandoning his entire beloved and fans within and outside Eziama community.
Calculating from the date Tonga arrived Eziama with his family members, he lived thirty year on Earth, but it was a life well spent, considering his status as a monkey. Never will there be a replacement like Tonga.
In his memories, I wrote this poem to be red on his burial day in the year 2000
How hard to tell
The pains I felt on
The day I heard the news
That Tonga was dead.
Never gave me a sign
Neither did you proved to be sick
But you drift away.
Why is life so cruel?
Chasing you everywhere you go
Just to lay a hand
A harmful hand on you.
Though you are gone
Your memories will continue to live
Not only in me
But to every one that knew you
And even those that only heard of you.
You have no replacement
So passionate and gentle
Observing good and bad
Truly you have challenged other monkeys
Though they can’t be like you.
To us all in Eziama
We see you as one of us
We value you as a human
And that is why we will
Always refer you as a “he”
Because you showed your
Braveness just like a man
Tonga rest in peace!