EHI OBU NKPA
by Professor Frederick O. Okechukwu Nwosu
Neighboring communities have antagonized five different communities in their area for quite a while. Incessant mob action is brought to their doorsteps and their sons and daughters have been abducted in broad day light indiscriminately. They received confidential information revealing that all five communities were brothers from the same parents before they became communities. They scheduled a reunion at the homestead of one of the five. A day before the reunion, a meeting was held with representatives of the five communities in attendance.
Five Ambassadors have been attending an All-night consultation going on in Mbaraikoro planning the days event.
Each community - Mbaraikoro, Mbaraugba, Umuobu, Okpuafor and
Umuokoro will converge at their respective village centres (Mbaraukwu) to wait for their Ambassador who will return from the all-night Consultation Assembly with The Five Elders held at Mbaraikoro that night preceding Ehi Obu Nkpa.
As soon as the Ambassadors arrive at their respective village centers, they use a town-crier to brief The People on whatever decisions agreed upon that must be relayed. Everybody will then get back to his respective house, shower, eat, and come back to the community centre (Mbaraukwu), dressed in the agreed combination for the year. Some individuals may not be able to go to Mbaraikoro for the event. Some individuals might even be indisposed due to health reasons. Some individuals will not be able to go because they will look after the homestead, cook and prepare for the return of those who attend the event.
Procession leaves immediately for Ahia Afor. Accredited guards nominated will take over in each village, e.g. at the Elders and Ambassadors Session, each ambassador gives the names of some men in their respective villages who are regarded as reliable. Those reliable men will be posted to the villages other than theirs, thereby providing a number of additional guards in each village - one from the each of the other villages. Police security will also be deployed to assist those local security guards.
The Procession will be singing native/folk songs in praise of the brotherhood of Ndi Obu Nkpa (Those folk songs will be provided to the communities ahead of time to learn and familiarize themselves). Each individual who is able to bring a tuber of yam will do so by bringing the yam during the procession. When the procession contingents arrive at Ahia Afor, they will see a heap or yams that will represent the main occupation of Ndi Obu Nkpa. Each individual who has a yam will go and drop his yam where the heap is. There will be about 2500 yams in the heap.
Five gun (cannon) salute by each of the Five villages in order of seniority:
i.e. total of 25 gunshots.
The Five Elders march out individually in ascending order of age of the individual village he represents. He is led out in crowd made up of people of his own village, i.e. Umuokoro Elder enters the rostrum first and sits down. Okpuafor follows. Each time the Elder(s) already seated notice the next Elder at close range coming in to ascend throne they stand. The one who just arrived will sit first. The one who arrives first will sit last. The last to come up becomes the first to sit. Umuobu follows. Mbaraugba follows. Mbaraikoro comes last. Each village will sing her own song while marching in this specific activity.
Following immediately after are Elders of other Ovom villages - with their personal aides (Personal Assistants) - filing past Obu Nkpa Elders and presenting their gifts to each Obu Nkpa Elder. The visiting Elders and their Aides mount on a rostrum on one side and occupy their seats. Their Aidess positions on the rostrum will be either on the left or right flank of the Elders that they are assisting.
The Nkwa Obu Nkpa Group, made up of members drawn and screened from the Five villages takes the dais in the centre of the field. They play briefly mainly Kperembu, Ikoro and Ese music.
In descending order of age, the Obu Nkpa Elders rise, pour libation and say incantations one after the other. Mbaraikoro Elder begins this particular activity. When Umuokoro Elder ends his own process, Mbaraikoro Elder mounts the dais again, takes over, and does the grand finale.
On the arrival of Obu Nkpa villages from their respective homesteads, they go and occupy marked columns that have already been individually assigned to their villages. Each village has a small palm-frond house where their individual masquerades have been undergoing briefings. These masquerades will come out from their various columns, and create commotion by arriving the centre of the arena, go near the Elders, run round all palm-frond houses (greeting other villages), and run back to the Nkwa Obu Nkpa group in the centre of the field. They will dance there briefly, and all five of them will dance gracefully towards a distant make-shift high house, prepared with George clothing material at the extreme end of the field where the "ancestral spirit'' fraternal masquerade has been awaiting release.
When they get there, they roam around the make-shift house on every angle of the House. The Mbaraikoro guard among the total of five palm-frond house guards will very respectfully usher them in. A 20-year old virgin has been sitting shyly all morning 5 yards from the door to this make-shift house. A designated individual goes occasionally to check on her to make sure that she is okay. This 20-year old 'virgin' (dressed in beads throughout) has to enter the high house and stay just Five minutes. During this period (5 mins.), Nkwa Obu Nkpa Group will play high-crescendo music. Everyone will dance ecstatically.
As soon as virgin emerges out of the make-shift house, dancers disperse. All teenage girls in the arena will rush to the centre of the field and squat around the Nkwa Obu Nkpa Group because the virgin is heading towards the center of the field. When she arrives the centre of the field, she will go round trying to touch all of those teenagers (giving them the blessing of the ancestor) with smiles on her face. She will thereafter leave for the rostrum to attend to the Elders all day. Everywhere must be quiet while she walks to the Elders with all humility. As soon as she gets there, these teenagers leave the Nkwa Obu Nkpa Group arena and retreat to a particular corner of the field designated for them. At this time, the Five Ambassadors will start arranging how the entire people will commence the general joint-procession in this order:
1. Under-13 boys and girls ![if>
2. Under-20 boys and girls (13-19) ![if>
3. Single female adults ![if>
4. Single male adults ![if>
5. Mothers and Wives ![if>
6. Obu Nkpa daughters (Umuokpu) married elsewhere ![if>
7. Fathers and Husbands ![if>
As soon as it remains only the Nkwa Obu Nkpa Group on the field, music begins to again at high pitch. A 25-year old male, dressed like a warrior, emerges from nowhere, demonstrates agility, and makes straight for the detached house, enters it instantly. Unknown to anybody, they eat in the detached house before coming out. The warrior re-emerges, followed by the ancestral spirit masquerade. The five masquerades emerge from their locations and cause the atmosphere to go agog, and it will be dance and gyration galore. Sooner or later (either after about thirty minutes or at a time of the clock determinable based on what time of the day it is already) the music session is completed. By this time, the five guards have long joined the crowd, and immediately, the ancestral spirit masquerade and the other masquerades join the Elders on the rostrum.
By this time, the Ambassadors have concluded arranging the general joint-procession. The procession will go in the pre-arranged order, and it is after the Elders have dined together (five plates of food brought to them by the respective wives of the Five Elders, one plate after the other. The five masquerades are not left out in the feast. They are duly entertained and fed in the detached house where the 'ancestral spirit' stayed.
After the general procession, the entire people go back each person to their appropriate village column. After reformation, the Elders in ascending order of age make their brief speeches, say incantations, and pour libation. After this, the various Obu Nkpa villages present their women's dances (one village after another, and just a piece of dance music each).
The entire people will, in single file, march past the rostrum to view a model of the Nnanna Obu's homestead (Okpulo) on display - showing the houses of the five sons (now five villages). When viewers get to the model on display, the written story of the Okpulo and its five houses homesteads Obi will be given to individuals who can read. The ancestral spirit masquerade will go to Mbaraikoro in company of the Elders, their personal aides, the Five Ambassadors, the virgin girl and the Mbaraikoro women, as well as the five masquerades.
Uniforms and Dress Codes: Each village ensures that it does not prescribe a costly clothing material. The dress must be both admirable and affordable.
After all have filed past the model compound, each person goes back to his village's column until they are all reunited. They start dancing home through the rostrum singing and waving goodbye to the Five Elders and leaving the arena for their various homesteads. At the rostrum during this last round, the five masquerades will not dance past, but go over to the back of the Elders so as to go to Mbaraikoro with them. Personal Aides to the Elders will lead the procession to Mbaraikoro. In the Elders' group will be their wives, the Five Ambassadors and their wives, the warrior, the virgin girl, the Elders' aides, the guests (Elders of other 14 Ovom villages), the five guards, the Nkwa Obu Nkpa Group, and the Mbaraikoro contingent, all who choose to be on the trail of the Grand Elder's homeward journey. All roads lead to the home of the Elder who is the village head of Mbaraikoro for dinner and final dispersal of his contingent to their respective places. Cost of this dinner is borne by the entire Obu Nkpa.
The five warriors were mandated to go to all the antagonizing communities and bring people, dead or alive, to be detained in captivity in any of the Obu Nkpa homesteads. After the reunion, the five warriors started their operation. Within 13 days, 13 able-bodied men had been brought back, one from each of the surrounding 13 villages, and detained in captivity in Obu Nkpa. Negotiations lasted 13 days until the last captive was released. Obu Nkpa became the hero of the entire region.
Professor Fred Okechukwu Nwosu