The Regent

Ateleni Ajegunle was a shy, short and putrid-mouthed man who baulked only at his father’s presence. Unlike Adaje, Ateleni lacked tact and religion. It had been three years since father left for Gbogan without a word. Thankfully, Ilape was gone too. Ateleni had appointed Asumo Lakai, Ademola’s fifteenth son, a child, as vice-regent; a gesture that had not only been deemed an insult but had also been overlooked merely because Adaje would soon be dead and the Ajegunles would be made to pay for their foolishness. So the other families thought.

Onireke fared slightly better under Ateleni. He had lowered taxes, appointed more commoners to positions across the chiefdom and proceeded to forge alliances with them to guarantee some kind of safety. The rumour mill was rife with tales of insurrection in Onireke though it had never once occurred. Ateleni had also now married his thirty-second wife since becoming regent in order to entrench himself given his fears and pall in character.  What audacity power had bestowed on shy Ateleni. From childhood, he had been bashful around women. Even as regent, Ateleni could hardly start a conversion with his sisters let alone a girl from outside the palace. He had now fathered forty-six children between his wives and six concubines.

The crop in the last three years had also been very good. Though Ateleni would have no share in the veneration of Osun at council meetings, he somewhat agreed that the good fortune of Onireke had helped secure his position and that of his family in the midst of ‘the hyenas’ as he was wont to call the other ruling houses.

One wet afternoon at the start of the rainy season, a frantic young lad came running toward the palace. He seemed very distraught, from the report of the palace guard who brought the news to Ateleni as he fooled around with some of his wives in the harem.

‘My lord, there is a young lad from Akinogun’s quarters asking to speak with you alone.’

‘Adire, can’t you see I am with my wives? Tell the lad I will have words with him at first light tomorrow. Get him something to eat and somewhere to sleep. With the way the weather is turning out I doubt if I will have time for anyone else today.’ Ateleni said absent-mindedly, lost in the midst of female giggles behind the veil from where he spoke.



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