By Tony Nwaezeigwe
“Go-di-di-go-go-di-go. Di-go-go-di-go. It was the ekwe talking to the clan. One of the things every man learned was the language of the hollowed-cut-out instrument. Diim! Diim! Diim! boomed the cannon at intervals. The first cock had not crowed, and Umuofia was still swallowed up in sleep and silence when the ekwe began to talk, and the cannon shattered the silence. Men stirred on their bamboo beds and listened anxiously. Somebody was dead. The cannon seemed to rend the sky. Di-go-go-di-go-di-di-go-go floated in the message-laden night air. The faint and distant wailing of women settled like a sediment of sorrow on the earth.”
That was the Great Chinua Achebe giving a graphic rendition of the exit of one the great men of Umuofia—Ogbuefi Ezeudu, remembered by Okonkwo for one golden advice: “That boy calls you father. Bear no hand in his death.”
Today the ekwe sounds in like manner, while the cannons await their commission, but this time not for Ogbuefi Ezeudu. The ekwe sounds for a man of similar status within the time and space of our modern society—the demise of a great man, an illustrious son, a man of unqualified patriotic spirit, of unequalled irredentism, and tested principle in traditional leadership—the death of Obi (Senator) Nosike Ikpo—the noble son of Odafe Ede Ogu, of Isu Mba Ogu, and of Anioma irredentism.
Your death Obi (Senator) Noske Ikpo came as a great shock to me. It came as a shock not because you did not live up to the traditional ripe age worthy of celebration, but largely because those of us who know you very well and fully understand what your life stood for in our Great town—Igbuzo-Isu Mbaogu know what we stand to lose by your exit, the vacuum of which will be difficult to fill for some time to come.
I had prayed and thought I would come back and meet you alive and continue to reap from your rich storehouse of our time-tested and time-honoured traditional value system. But alas! The Great and Painful Death—Onwu! The Onwu a ma Dike! The Onwu di njo! The Onwu a ma Eze! The Onye ka Onwu! The Onwu bu Uya! The Onwu e gbuzia! Has decided!
I could remember one of the many close private interactive sessions I had with you. That was immediately after the death of Diokpa and Clan Head of Ibusa, His Majesty Obi Stephen Okonma-Olokpa. During that session you painfully narrated to me how painful Obi Okonma’s death was to you because of its adverse consequences on the progress already made towards the restoration of the dignity of our customs and tradition which the institution of Obuzo led by Obi Prof Louis Chelunor Nwoboshi had undermined. I could remember telling you to calm down and allow me to handle the situation as the Odogwu of Ibusa and, with the implicit confidence you had in me you gave me the blessing to go ahead and do whatever I could to avert any abnormal situation that might arise from Obi Okonma’s successor—Onowu Nwaezeapu of Ogboli Quarters who at time was a stooge to the Obuzo.
In line with my promise, I took the first action by using my position as the Odogwu of Ibusa to stop the Ogboli delegation led by Onu-Diokpa Ogboli Onowu Elueme from performing the traditional burial ritual of Itu-Uni which could have conferred direct legitimacy of succession on Onowu Nwaezeapu, until he had paid all the fines imposed on him by Izu-Ani Igbuzo for aligning with Obuzo and his refusal to annul the fifty thousand naira fine imposed on Obi Vincent Okonkwo by Ogboli Quarters as instructed by Obuzo.
And when the Obuzo of Ibusa Obi Prof Louis Chelunor Nwoboshi threw all traditional cautions over-board and crowned Onowu Nwaezeapu Diokpa-Isi Nka of Ibusa against our customs and tradition, for never in our customs and history did a son crown his father king, I proceeded to the Customary Court, Ibusa all at my own expenses challenging Onowu Nwaezeapu’s legitimacy as Diokpa of Ibusa. I remember telling you Obi Senator Nosike Ikpo that the Ancestors of our land have always been with me in all my struggles and indeed they have remained so till date and for that reason you should put every imagination of failure aside.
The first sign of ancestral unction came when the Customary Court Bailiff detailed to serve Onowu Nwaezeapu the Court Summons was assaulted by his kinsmen. The first huddle before them soon became how to palliate the Court officials. And then as the Court proceedings began, our Deified Ancestors, of which you are now a part struck with unimaginable force in a manner that befuddled the children of Onowu Nwaezeapu and weirdly diffused whatever strong faith they had had in Catholicism.
Onowu Nwaezeapu was visited severally during the night by our Great Benevolent Ancestors who stopped him from sleeping until he had provided them their drink and kola-nut offertory in accordance with his role as the oldest man of our Clan. His children thought it was a mere demand for mundane wine and gin and resorted to gathering assorted drinks and kola-nuts around their father’s bed-space. Yet the ancestral demand persisted. It was at that point that his eldest son living in Benin City decided to act quickly and began to make frantic contacts to return to base. Through your contact—our own Obi (Senator) Nosike Ikpo—your mother being of Ogboli extraction, Onowu Nwaezeapu got reconnected to Izu-Igbuzo, paid his fines and was subsequently allowed to perform the Itu-Uni burial rituals and thereafter was proclaimed Diokpa of Ibusa.
The next private session that proved your implicit confidence in me was when the rebel members of my mother’s kinsmen—the Ikwelle-Igbuzo royal warrior family approached you to compel me to release the Ikenga-Oha to them in order to legitimatize the position of the present impostor-Ikwelle of Ibusa, and after giving you a rundown of the history of the succession to the Ikwelle-Igbuzo chieftaincy title and why the rightful occupant of the throne is Ikwelle Paul Onochie you unequivocally agreed with me.
This was you—Obi (Senator) Nosike Ikpo in your true traditional political space, always stooping low to conquer. As you sit-still in dignity in your traditional royal status in preparation for your final journey from mother-earth to the land of great beyond; the land of our living Great Ancestors with an unctuous transformation to ancestral heirloom, I celebrate you as a Hero with every pride of a patriotic citizen of Isu-Mbaogu.
The last of the traditional political Titans of his time with indelible marks of patriotism in sentiment, sincerity in sacrifice, objectivity in principle, dignity in carriage and intrepidity in action. You just created a vacuum which will be difficult to fill for a long time to come.
Taking a short historical promenade of the history of our great town I tend to wonder how ecstatic your arrival at the land of our ancestors would be to those who together laboured with you to enshrine positive footprints on our land.
The likes of Obi (Hon) Vincent Obieke, Obi Stephen Okonma-Olokpa, Obi Elege, Obi Okwuiwe, Obi Nwanze Nwaobi, Obi Ayiba, Obi Ugboenu, Chief Lawrence N. Ashikodi—Aka Okwute Otaba, Obi (Prof) Patrick Chike Onwuachi—Oza Ji Ani, Dr.(Chief) John Asikabulu Anaza–Owelle, Chief Willy Ukadike Ikolodo—Uwolo extraordinary, Chief Patrick C. Okolie—Ochubadike Dike Osha, Osha adu Nwaokuku Ogwu and Bialonwu Okonta—Ibusa Pathfinder, among many sung and unsung departed heroes of our land.
Extend our salutations to them. Ubosi onye kwa mmadu ka okwa onwea—the day a person mourns the death of another is the day he mourns his death, so said our popular traditional saying. We look forward to joining you at the appropriate time; although hard to state yet inevitable.
You attained the pinnacle of our traditional political space without any social dent or opprobrium. You were an Ogbuu-Igbuzo, the Eze-Ogbuu-Igbuzo—the mark of the pinnacle of the warrior instinct of our Great land. Your dignity of Eze title surpasses that of some Bishops of our modern-day Churches. You rose through the ranks as a patriotic citizen of Ibusa sprouting from a strikingly humble background. You lived nearly all your life-time at Ibusa your ancestral hometown sacrificing all your energies and intelligence to the service of your people without engaging on primitive accumulation of riches.
Your home-base success-story is the reason I admire such Ibusa patriots as Mr. Emma Utomi—Odafe Way and Sir Arch. Vincent Okonwanji—two young men their success stories cannot be told without their hometown Ibusa after their higher education. You were not a rich man, yet no one could describe you as a poor man. You were not an Ogalanya-Ngada as our people would describe a rich man in scalar terms, but an Odashi—a contented man with direction and wisdom in vector terms.
In contemporary political terms you were a hero, a leader, and strategist. An Awoist to the core; you quite early understood what Chief Obafemi Awolowo stood for in this nation called Nigeria. You stood firmly by your Awoist principles under the Action Group (AG) in the First Republic. You returned to Awoism in the Second Republic as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the platform of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN); although you slightly damaged your Awoist credentials when you allowed the Fulani-led NPN Bandwagon effect to sweep you along, only to be timely saved by the timely exit of NPN.
You were not just a politician, but one with a difference. You were a Sower. Like in the case of the Parable of Our Lord Jesus Christ, you sowed your political seeds on a fertile soil. Today your seeds represent Senator Peter Nwoboshi whom you groomed right from political infancy, and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who sprouted from Chief Iwerebor—one of your key political seeds in Ika. The people of Ika will not forget so quickly that the present College of Education, Agbor, which Governor Okowa is about to upgrade to a University was sited at Agbor by Governor Ambrose Alli at your instance in appreciation of the massive support of Ika people to your election as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1979.
I had had occasions to disagree with you on matters of principles, even to the high-point of dragging you with other notable elders of our Great town such as Obi Hon. Vincent Ngadiolu Obieke, among others, to the High Court of Justice for attempting to deviate from the very traditional norms you swore to preserve and protect. Yet we always came at the end of the whole matters to accept one fact: Mmanya mmanya na-asu n’agbe—all said and done, we all stood for one common objective: the collective progress of our Great town Igbuzo.
I could remember when at the final stage of my father’s second traditional burial ceremony in 1996 I unexpectedly ran of funds; that was during the time our Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on a seven-month strike without salary. I looked around to see the people I could approach for urgent financial support without the backlash of mockery that same afternoon when the Aguba Traditional Dance Troupe was billed to lead me to the Ashia-Eke for final outing, I turned to you and Obi Vincent Obieke—two of my supposed traditional political foes in our town. Without asking any question both you and Obi Vincent Obieke handed me enough amount of money to proceed with the burial ceremony without hitches. If I am a professional historian trained to remember the past of human activities how then would I not remember the history of how you positively affected my life and the wider life of our people?
I could remember our last discussion over the progress of our town when you lamented the situation where you offer traditional burial greetings to every Okanga War Dance burial troupe of Ogboli Quarters—your mother’s birthplace but when you die the same Ogboli Quarters will not have the same opportunity to pay similar traditional respect to your Umuodafe Okanga War Dance troupe in your honour because of an age-long feud that stopped Umuodafe from passing through Ogboli Quarters with Okanga. I promised you that I will work to remedy the situation by building wide consultations with Obi Vincent Okonkwo of Ogboli Quarters before formally presenting the matter to Izu-Ani Igbuzo for deliberation and possible solution.
Unfortunately I could not commence the action before my present exile and now you are no more. I only hope and pray that the matter should be revisited in your death to crown your glorious transformation, for it will be a great disservice on the part of Ogboli people not to welcome your Okanga on your mother’s ancestral home street, when the same Ogboli people will come to dance with your royal coffin on your final day.
I regret that I will not be there to lead the traditional Ina Ebunu n’Akpu warrior rituals by the Otu Ogbuu Warrior Society as the Odogwu of Ibusa. Be that as it may, your history will remain indelible in the minds of the present generation of our people and generations yet unborn. You were a symbol of dignity in our tradition. Okei enwe ji! Okei enwe ji! Okei enwe ji! Okei enwe ji ahu a di ekea oku. A man without tubers of yam often looks dull. So you often said and accepted as your honorific salutation. Obi Igwe! Obi Igwe! Obi Igwe! Ogbuu! Ogbuu! Ogbuu! Akika di mma ya liei.