Archive for January 2019

Isuofia and the fun called Igbo mass return

January 16, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

It has become an annual ritual. And it occurs between mid-December and early January of every year. Ndigbo find in it a veritable platform to relax, mingle and commune with both the living and the dead. Some call it mass return. I call it return of fun.   

During this period, Ndigbo troop to their ancestral homes from different parts of the country and beyond. They come back to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Some wish to be part of the ofala festival of their traditional rulers. Some want to consummate their marriages; or to witness such consummation by close relatives. For some others, it is house warming or raising of funds for community projects. Momentarily, they forget the stress called life in the cities.

This year, the conviviality was particularly infectious at Isuofia community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. At the general convention of the town on January 3, 2019, a few indigenes raised millions of naira within a few minutes. It was the launch of the new unity constitution of the town. A prominent son of the community and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, initiated the move.

The excitement at Isuofia is understandable. For over 20 years, the community was in crisis. The head village, Umueze, sought in vain to have an autonomous community status. But later last year, the six villages that make up the town threw away their differences and reconciled with one another. They decided to chart a new course and the town is happier for it.

For the first time for over 20 years, the traditional ruler of Isuofia, Igwe (Col.) C.A.O. Muoghalu (Retd), inaugurated the new members of the Igwe-in-Council also known as Ndi Ichie selected from the six villages of the town. The ceremony, which took place on January 4, 2019, showcased Igbo culture at its best.

Igwe Muoghalu explains it better: “Ndi Ichie occupy a very high place in Igbo cosmology. They are esteemed individuals held in high regard. Without any doubt, the catalogue of responsibilities attached to Ichie title stands the title holder out as a stellar performer. He owes the obligations of protecting/promoting the culture and traditions of the people from abuse and extinction, especially now that the culture and tradition of Igbo are threatened by renewed religious incursions with westernisation – all of which confront the pride of Igbo culture.”

These Ichies distinguish themselves with traditional red caps which symbolise prominence, authority and power in Igbo culture. They are to assist the monarch in serving the community in the area of making and enforcing customary laws.

Across Igbo land, there appears to be a burning desire to revive dying Igbo culture and tradition. Take masquerade performances for instance. In time past, and in many Igbo communities, people feared masqueraders. Nobody dared contravene their rules or touch any economic tree dedicated to them. They were a good source of entertainment at social functions and burial ceremonies. But because of some fetish and illegal practices associated with them, some communities banned them.

Today, many people no more fear masqueraders. Unlike before, women and children now stay close to the arena where they perform without qualms. These city women and children have failed to realise that it is a taboo for non-initiates to see or watch these ‘spirit beings’.

Nevertheless, people now initiate creative ways of using these masked ones for business. For instance, pub operators in such Anambra communities as Isuofia, Umuona, and Nanka invite Achikwu masqueraders to perform within their business premises during festive seasons. They make huge sales from the crowd such performances attract.

Some other communities engender bonding in different other ways. Aguleri and Umueri, for instance, tried to further cement their common bond broken during their past communal warfare. The traditional ruler of Umueri, Igwe Izuchukwu Emeka Okebo II performed his 2nd Ovala festival on December 29, 2018. It attracted the cream of the two Anambra communities who now see one another as brothers.

There was also the maiden edition of Oyi Cultural Day celebration. Cultural groups from Ogbunike, Nteje, Umunya, Awkuzu and Nkwele, all in Anambra, showcased their unique dance steps and traditional folk songs. Anambra State Ministry of Culture, Tourism, Diaspora Affairs and Indigenous Artworks also organised a food and art exhibition in Awka. There was plenty of palm wine as the ministry promised to help the palm wine tappers move to the next level (not Buhari’s version) in their business.

One interesting aspect of this Igbo reunion is that you get a lot of entertaining news about Biafra. My kinsman, Romanus Nduka, argued vehemently that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu was back in the country. His major evidence was that he heard Kanu’s interview on radio. For another kinsman, Chijioke Orabuche, Kanu is indestructible. Israel, he said, gave him two aircraft and solid security and would never allow any harm to come his way.  

The festive mood turns to another level from the second week of January with burial ceremonies. As it is now, any Igbo man who is still in the village is most likely attending one burial or the other. And no matter what, most Igbo will never allow the corpse of their loved ones to be buried outside Igbo land. One Ogbonnaya Ejefobi (43) from Akulu-Isuofia died late last year in South America. His relatives had no money. But they were able to raise over N3million from friends and well wishers to bring back the corpse. The young man was buried last Friday in his ancestral home.

In all, life is a mixture of happiness and sadness; illusion and reality. As such, payment of school fees adds some spoiler to the full enjoyment of the season. Some parents who over-enjoyed themselves later realise that the effect of a vigorous dance is felt mostly around the waist.

Similarly, the effect of selling your conscience to politicians for just N10,000 is felt all over the body. In February, we will go to the polls to choose between the status quo and change; between hunger and prosperity; and between security and mass killings perpetrated in some parts of the country. My prayer is that Nigerians, in Igbo mass return style, should move to the polling booths on the Election Day to vote. The future of the country is at stake. And we must all join hands to make the country better for our children.

Re: Xenophobia is worse in Nigeria

Dear Casmir, God bless you for all your good write-ups. Xenophobia is worse in Nigeria than in South Africa. It’s well pronounced here and in different dimensions. Listen, out of the 15 service chiefs, only two from the south. Check the number of police commissioners, over 80% from the north. Check the statistics of military and paramilitary organization personnel, over 80% of them are from the north. Enslaving and depriving other regions is xenophobic. Southerners should wake up from slumber and resist xenophobia in Nigeria with bravery in words and in action. We need fair and just nation that belongs to all.

Hofnar Okon, +2348084195516

Your article, “Xenophobia is worse in Nigeria”, is historical. Igbo nation has suffered xenophobia in the hands of their fellow Southern Nigeria more than they suffered from northerners. Zik suffered it personally when Yoruba people in his party, NCNC, crossed-carpeted to Action Group in order to deny him Premiership of Western Region. Igbo house owners in Rivers State suffered xenophobia soon after the civil war when their houses were seized in the name of abandoned property. Igbo are very accommodating because the 1st Mayor of Enugu was Hausa man and a Moslem for that matter.

Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644

Really, what is happening in South Africa over the killings of Nigerians is very unfortunate and painful but why not our govt call the govt of South Africa to order to stop killings of Nigerians over there against the ugly killings and looting of Nigerian businesses. But still there in Nigeria, people are being killed every day because of one thing or the other, yet we are unable to find constant solution of the killings. Our security agencies must be up and doing to end the killings so that the country can move forward.

Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Nigerian soldiers are grumbling and unwilling to fight because their senior officers due to retire are not allowed to retire. The same may apply in other paramilitary organizations if the senior officers are not retired.

ACP Chukwu Ibo (Retd.) 08080484851

First published in The Sun of Monday, January 14, 2019.

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Before Mbaka’s 2019 Prophetic Stones

January 2, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo used this phrase “prophetic stones” in January 2009. In an advertorial titled “The power of the prophetic stone,” Ashimolowo urged Nigerians to join him in his church and be the first to be launched into favour, breakthrough and excellence that year. Those who would join him in his church, he promised, would be the first to break all barriers and break new grounds in 2009.

Tomorrow is another New Year. Different predictions will fly around this season. And, as a deeply religious nation, we will listen with rapt attention. In his now infamous Adoration encounter with former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka threatened to throw some “prophetic stones” today, December 31, 2018. Mbaka, as you know, is the spiritual director of Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria (AMEN). Peter Obi is the vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Recall that the ministry had its bazaar recently. Mbaka made spirited attempts to force Obi to announce his donation like some other politicians who were there. Obi refused to make an open pledge. It was then Mbaka opened the mouth with which he eats yam and cocoyam to say that the way Obi and Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, were going, they might fail at the presidential election coming up in February 2019. He also said he would release his prophecies at his crossover mass today. I don’t need to bore you with the other details of the story you already know.

This same Mbaka had earlier reportedly warned President Muhammadu Buhari against his second term bid. Delivering his New Year message earlier this year, Mbaka reportedly said that captive Nigerians would be speedily rescued. He urged Mr. President to wake up and sit up.

“God said you are toying with the privilege given to you. There is no time. Nigerians are dying in your hand; people are not happy with your system. Change or you will be changed,” he noted.

So, what will Mbaka tell Mr. President in his cross-over predictions this night?

Unarguably, Nigeria boasts of sundry prophets and seers. Prior to the return of civilian rule in 1999, for instance, one Rev. Chinecherem Oliwe was sure to be the next civilian President of Nigeria. The man called himself the founder of the Great Mustard Seed Church in Oyigbo, Rivers State. And he had claimed that God spoke to him and assured him that he was the only person ordained to redeem the country. Twenty years after, Oliwe, perhaps, is still waiting on the Lord to fulfill his promise to him.

There is another prophet called Primate Babatunde Elijah Ayodele. He is the founder of Inri Evangelical Spiritual Church, Lagos. He always makes New Year predictions and some Nigerians regard him as the Nostradamus of our time.

Some media reports had credited him with many prophecies that came to pass. For instance, they say he predicted that the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, would be sacked; and that came to pass.

But this same primate made some predictions in December 2007, which went off the mark. In his prediction reported in the Nigerian Tribune on December 25, 2007, Ayodele said the then Senate President, David Mark, might be impeached in 2008. Mark was never impeached.

In his 2018 prophecies, Ayodele allegedly said the presidential candidate of the PDP would be imposed and not democratically elected after their presidential primary. We are witnesses to how smoothly the PDP presidential primary went.

On his part, Primate E.O. Akeju of New Holy Messiah Church in Ilasamaja, Lagos, said, “I foresee Atiku Abubakar becoming next president of his country but there are strong forces behind his plan. God revealed to me that Atiku’s regime will bring peace and harmony to the nation, unlike what we are presently experiencing … Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will also retain the Lagos seat without any opposition.” How come Ambode didn’t make it, Primate Akeju?

Also, the founder of the Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministries International, Abuja, Prophet Emmanuel Omale, reportedly said that Lt. General T.Y. Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, would be used to restore peace to the North such that Nigerians would be very happy and proud of him in 2018. After he leaves office, he will be highly celebrated as a war hero.

“The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, should pray against set-up and betrayals that will bring disgrace to his hard work,” he further asserted. You see what I mean? Perhaps, he is right, considering the IGP’s recent transmission, transmission abracadabra!

The general overseer of the Christ Apostolic Deliverance Evangelic Ministry, Mowe, Ogun State, Apostle S.S. Aderigigbe, in his own prediction for 2018, reportedly said one senator each from the South-East, South-West and North would die this year. The cleric also predicted that a governor from the South-East part of the country and a former President of Nigeria would die in 2018 and that there would be surplus food and money in 2018. He urged Nigerians to pray against sudden death of four northern governors in 2018. Wonderful!

There are many other fake prophecies that I do not have to bore you here with. For making intelligent guesses, some Nigerians have risen to fame and fortune. And since ours is a deeply religious-cum- spiritual country, we believe anything purported to be divine. If the predictions did not come true, it must be that God intervened to stop the calamity that was predicted. If the visions come true, the soothsayer is celebrated as a wonderful man of God.

I see in all these predictions some comic relief for the stress called life in Nigeria. It is worthy to note that I have also made some predictions that came to pass (see The New Year soothsayers, Sunday Punch, January 6, 2008.)

As individuals and as a nation, let us resolve to collectively throw stones at our misfortunes, ignorance and gullibility. Let us set goals for ourselves and engage in practical ways to achieve those goals. Let us stop this grand delusion called predictions.

On this note, I wish to share an interesting piece a Nigerian lawyer, Firsts Baba Isa, reportedly wrote recently after a visit to South Korea:

“We are teaching our children to worship God while other countries are teaching their children to be gods. We teach our children to pray for smart phones and cars, while they teach theirs to invent smart phones and cars. Then our children become adults who go to church to thank God for smart phones and cars purchased from other countries whose children have become adults who invent cars and smart phones. That’s why they don’t need our God because, without them, our God can’t bless us. It is the cars and smart phones they invent that we give testimony and thank our God for in our churches. Then we go about boasting that it was pastor’s prayers and anointing that gave us these stuff.

“They are teaching their kids coding and programming in well-equipped schools while we are teaching our kids how to prophecy and speak in tongues in well-equipped churches.

“As we teach our children how to worship God, let us also teach them how to become gods – creators of solution.”

Happy New Year!

*****

Re: Blame game and bleak Christmas

I wouldn’t want to believe that officials and major stakeholders in the Anambra State government are becoming jittery on the possibility of Mr Peter Obi becoming the next Vice President of Nigeria. I thought the state government should have officially come up with a statement distancing itself from the purported endorsement of Buhari by one of its own. One needs to look at the direction of the pendulum on the 2019 election.

– Eddy Idigo, Aguleri, +2348033038099

GREETINGS Casmir. In all honesty, an Atiku/Peter Obi government will usher in an African Renaissance. I don’t want to expatiate. I am apolitical and frank. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

– Anonymous, +2348144814248

TRUTH of the matter is that all our Nigerian politicians are birds of the same feather because our Constitution allows some ugly things to happen without checks in our system. We must amend our Constitution now, if we want to move Nigeria forward. If our vote doesn’t count in 2019, we will still continue to elect ne’er-do-well politicians and they will still take Nigeria for a ride.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

DEAR Casmir, Buhari’s company APC and their managers don’t have the knowledge to uplift Nigeria in her present woes; all their plans and policies are doomed and have failed. Every sane Nigerian shouldn’t expect good things from the APC govt. because there are no men of good ideas in their midst. Thanks for educating Nigerians. You are highly esteemed.

– Eze Chima Cletus, Lagos, +2348180188168

THANK you for your write-up, “Blame game and bleak Christmas”. You have all the facts; we masses are blind to the truth. It is only a man with psychological sickness that would not see a difference and embrace change. Buhari should rest and let the strong have the power. Any man that queues to vote Buhari is illiterate, politically blind, geographically confused, too religiously biased, and socially corrupt.

– Hon. Ezeugo Forgive, Lagos, 08097041426

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, December 31, 2018.