The “long” expression below is an echo of how I feel about roots and family values….totally loved it and obtained the permission to repost. Thanks Ugo.forgive any edits u might notice..I tried to add a little of me 🙂
Maya Angelou said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.Now to scratch that itch
After two hours in traffic I drove closer to the Niger Bridge *Ijeuru totally loves the Niger Bridge too*, I took a few minutes to appreciate the welcoming sight of the Niger bridge and magnificence of engineering.
The traffic was caused by an ongoing road construction at the peak of the holidays. I wondered when our government would get it right, but that wasn’t what i wanted to think about *at least not today* . There was this excitement in me that eroded the stress of the traffic, Obowo (my home town) on my mind. I looked around at all the travelers. People in family cars, in public transport, some sweating in non-air-conditioned cars. ‘’ Ndi Igbo’’ heading home for Christmas.
I wondered why all the hustle to travel home under these conditions, then I remembered what a lot of non- Igbos say. ‘’Igbos travel home every December to show off money, cars and their acquisition over the year’’. Hmm…what nonsense, what a lame thing to think.
Why do Igbos travel home every December?
Igbos travel home every December to reunite with family, it is a time to rebuild our family bond and ties. We set dates for weddings and most celebrations during the Christmas period because we want our families to be there. We believe in family and even as well travelled as we are, we always have it at the back of our minds that wherever you go home is best. We break the kola-nut at every occasion and share it to remind us that even as the kola-nut has its various parts but is still one, so shall our unity be.
I got so lost in my thoughts, excitement and’ ‘’ Igboness’’ that I was doing almost 170km/h. I slowed down, looked in the rear view mirror and saw my nephew sleeping with a smile on his face. He is probably dreaming of home I thought to myself.
I drove pass the sign that says ‘’welcome to Obowo’’ with a sculpture of two hands holding the globe and I remembered the movie ‘’Scarface’’ and Tony Montana’s ‘’the world is yours’’ fountain. I said to myself ‘’Obowo is mine’’ HAHAHA!. Getting close to the Nwokes’ compound, a childlike smile played on my face. Some of my little cousins who had spotted us ran after the car excited. A quick flash of all I expected ran through my mind, seeing all my extended family from various parts of the world, family weddings, family morning devotions, cross-over family prayers, playing with family like a kid again.
As I got down from the car I could smell the ‘’aroma’’ of akpu and suspected egusi soup would be present. I hugged my lovely mum; my siblings who had gotten home earlier came out, uncles, aunties, cousins, nephews nieces. There was so much hugging and love as I could hear the sound of Flavour’s Ada playing in the distance (I suspected someone was getting married). That moment I knew there was no other place in the world I rather be. IGBO KWENU! It was so easy to settle in at home after all the love, hugs, akpu and oha soup (i was wrong about the egusi suspicion). I lay in bed exhausted trying to catch some sleep but I could hear some of my relatives chatting and laughing down stairs in the compound. I unsuccessfully tried to make out what they were talking about as i drifted off to sleep, but i was almost certain i heard them connect my name “Ugo” and the word “marriage”. Maybe my mind was playing games on me.I woke up at about 6.00 am thinking “oh my God i have to get up to prepare for work”. When i realized where I was I remembered the song “there will be joy in the morning”. I lay back and appreciated the serenity; I could hear the sound of the birds, inhale the fresh eastern harmattan air and hear the sound it made as it caressed the leaves of the palm trees. It all harmonized into a sweet lullaby and i slept off again. After the morning devotion I stood at the balcony and noticed a squirrel jump from one “ube” tree (Google it) to the other. It would pluck the “ube”, bite on it, throw it away then jump on another tree and do the same thing all over. I remembered what some of my cousins would tell us as kids before running off to pick the “ube” to eat. “This is the sweetest “ube” you can get, the ones tasted by the squirrels, they are called “ube opa”.”You should try them”.It was my brother Chinenye’s wedding that morning and we were all getting ready, I heard someone shouting my name. I came out and saw two of my cousins and age mates, Ejike and Mishack laughing. “Otile”, one of them called me (I cannot possibly explain in any civil manner what that means here) “so you think you will come home and not come and greet your age mates”? I laughed and went to meet my fellow “otiles”, we hugged and gave one another playful jabs.You see in Igbo land we appreciate, identify and fraternize with our age mates, this is a culture that dates back to the creation of the Igbo word itself, it helps you know what is expected of you at any age and moving forward with your peers. In Obowo and some very few parts of Imo state we take it a step further. The “Iwa Akwa” celebration which literally means dorning of clothes is celebrated every three (3) years. It is a time when a certain age grade is recognized as “coming of age” or seen as becoming men. On that day every male child that belongs to the age grade will come out to the town hall with a very long “akwa’’ (wrapper) tied to his waist and the remaining part of the wrapper systematically placed on your head. A ‘’mma’’ (machete) tied round your waist and a whistle. Need I say how glamorous and colourful it is?Every of these items has its significance, the wrapper signifies that you have come of age thereby covering your nakedness. The machete signifies ‘’oru aka,’’(enterprise) that you are now man enough to fend for and defend your own family. The whistle shows that you are now qualified to come out when there is a call for communal service, you can now call or be called upon. In the earlier days a rifle can also be carried which shows defence and integrity. On that worthy day we come out feeling like Spartans, I almost shouted Aru! Aru! On my day…smiles. We all converge to the town hall where all the chiefs, elders, pastors and the whole town are present. The elders advice and bless the freshmen and the pastors pray for them. After that we all go to the market square where we dance through a part designed with bamboo sticks with bands playing and people spraying money on the celebrants. Small wonder we love to travel home.My brother’s wedding was a huge success and I got to see people I had not seen in ages. A particular thing happened that day and it got me thinking about ‘’Ndi Igbo’’ and our ways. My younger brother was born a left hand person and in Igbo land and most parts of Nigeria it is considered rude or improper to give or receive something with the left hand. When he was about to cut the wedding cake with his wife he brought forth his left then quickly switched to his right hand. The Igbo people raise a child to do what is right and proper. If you are born a left hander you will be ‘’corrected’’ to use your right and in most cases it becomes an advantage because you become ambidextrous.In recent times a lot of people don’t pay attention to raising their kids in the name of civilisation. This to a large extent is breaking the main fabric of the Igbo race. “Umu Igbo” can no longer speak Igbo, it’s even more painful that you raise a child in Nigeria and he can’t speak the mother tongue.I was born and raised in Plateau State, I have lived most of my life there, had most of my education there. My nanny as a child ‘’mama Dung’’ even gave me a native Plateau name, she called me ‘’Jang”. Irrespective of all this, my parents ensured we spoke the Igbo language and travelled home often to understand our roots. Now I speak Igbo and Hausa fluently. Plateau State is another place I call home, a wonderful people, peace loving, easy going and accommodating. Whenever I travel to Plateau State, as I ascend the plateau the greenery the rocks the cool fresh air are a welcoming embrace for me. I grew up drinking the water of Plateau and I wouldn’t have had it any other way, to my Plateau people I say ‘’mafeng” (thank you).As much as I love and appreciate my Igbo heritage, I am also a Plateau man. The blend of the two has made me realise how great we can be as a united country, I appreciate what unity in diversity means. I hope my children grow up to appreciate my ‘’Igbo-ness” my Plateau side and ultimately being Nigerian.
-Ugo Nwoke Edimondu