The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) brought me to the far Eastern part of Nigeria and I have been accommodated by the very welcoming and accommodating ‘ABIANS’ (a pet name indigenes of Abia state call themselves), cool right? It has been a journey of mixed feelings so far and after a bit of the initial cultural shock, I have been able to gradually integrate myself slowly upgrading my Igbo language vocabulary to include two, yes TWO more word. Progress, I tell you and those words are ego ole which means “How much” and yem change which means “Can I have my change please?”
So far, the highlights of my stay here has been the Ekpe festival of my host community “AMAWOM OBORO” in the IKWUANO local Government Area of Abia state, the EKPE festival was held on the 15th day of January, 2018 which happened to be a Monday but as early as 6.30pm the Sunday before, some youths and children began an awareness patrol by hitting locally made drums and metal cans while dancing happily to the several self-created songs they sang, I found the dance to the viral ‘One corner’ song particularly amusing then I went inside to attend to other pressing matters while looking forward excitedly to the next day.
The day broke and after going through my morning ritual, I went outside to meet everybody making preparations as they were taking some alcoholic beverages which included both the locally made and the refined variety. “This is going to be one badass festival”, I said to myself then went back inside, at almost 12pm, I started hearing several sounds of fire-crackers exploding from every corner of the neighborhood.
While I waited for the festival proper, I decided to do a bit of research on the EKPE festival…you know, curious cat paradigm? Luckily for me, my landlady’s daughter named Ugochi was quite knowledgeable and offered to help me with a short insight into what the EKPE festival was all about the she began, “the EKPE festival is very important to the people of AMAWOM OBORO as it usually gives an insight or foretells what the rest of the year is going to be like”, now at the peak of my curious cat mode, I asked, HOW? Then she continued “The EKPE is a masquerade that appears once a year and is required to chop off the head of a fully grown goat just once…you read that right, just ONCE! And if done successfully would signal a blissful and highly prosperous year for the community however if the Ekpe fails to do so,the community was in for a year of full blown wahala”.
When it was almost 5pm, Ugochi signaled to me that it was time to check if EKPE was going to predict bloom or doom. I gave Ugochi an excuse that I had things to sort out so I won’t be going with her…I wasn’t scared , I promise😂😂😂so she went and a few minutes later, some corper friends who lived in the area came in to visit and barely 30 minutes later there were gunshots in the air continuously for about 10 minutes and a prolonged noise of jubilation. The humorous moment was when my Landlady, a thorough catholic woman shouted Haaalellluyaaah and started dancing. We were shocked and laughed at the irony.
I was finally urged by my fellow corpers to go outside to see what was happening and on getting to the town central, it was indeed one hell of a carnival going on and I was still a bit scared things could become messy and violent when a youth smashed a bottle of beer on the road. My fear was quickly evacuated as an elderly man slapped the young boy and ordered him to pick up the broken pieces. I couldn’t bear the site for long so I said my goodbyes to my friends and went back to my lounge however I continued to hear the shouts of Ekpe bu l’ewu which apparently means EKPE has killed the goat…
Written by: Temitope Oriowo.
Follow him on ig @Orimoney Temitope.