Title: Omezue, The Complete Achiever
Chapterization: Thirty Six (36) Chapters with an Epilogue and Historical Notes
Pagination: 432 pages
Author: Ugo Agada-Uyah
Publishers: Universe Inc., Bloomington, USA
Reviewer: Professor Egwu U. Egwu, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki
The title of this novel is, OMEZUE: The Complete Achiever; and it expresses the aspirations of all male adults of the Uwa City State of the 1850’s who were of course all initiated into the Egbele Ogo Cult of the Uwa Ancestors. Unfortunately, the achievement of the OMEZUE title was for the very few, probably one percent of the male society then in the 1850s or before. Essa Okaomie in the novel is one of these chosen few. But it was not without sweat, fight and blood. He suffered to take the little. Like Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okaomie, the hero of this novel is the embodiment of Uwa statesmanship; Upright, honest, a brave warrior; the spokesman of the Essa Age Grade of Otutu village and the Deputy Spokesman of the General Uwa Supreme Council of Elders. Okaomie in his 70s belonged to the Legislative, Administrative and Judiciary arm of Uwa government. He was tall with a big nose like Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. In Uwa City State, there were Age Grades such as:
- Horii – The Eaters; the members are in their 90s and above and eat what others give them. Horri Eleri was a member;
- Onikara; The Advisory Age Grade had members in the 80s up to 99 years. Onikara Isiego the Chief Priest was a member;
- The Essa Age Grade, of course, where the Hero belonged. They are in an age range 55 to 79. This is the Legislative Age Grade;
- The Eto Age Grade is the Executive Arm of Government in Uwa. Members are in their 40s and 50s.
- Take an oath of allegiance at Ogo Okpoota
- Never enslave Uwa children and youths
- Belong to an Uwa matrilineage (Ikwu) Group
- Belong to an Uwa patrilineage (Umunna) Group
- Get initiated into the spirit world of Uwa via the Egbele Ogo Cult.
The major Village Groups of Uwa are Ebe, Otutu, Enwu Ozara and Wowo and 25 other smaller ones.
Okoro Okonta is another charismatic figure in the novel. He belonged to the Ako Kingdom and had come to Uwa to seek for permission to settle. But his coming had cast an evil forbidding over the entire village when his presence was announced to the elders in the Ancestral Obu; by the spokesman of the Eto Age Grade of Otutu Village, Agu. They had gone on surveillance, when they saw Slave boats on the Cross- River. Thereafter Okoro appeared:
“We saw the two strange boats the fishermen reported this morning anchored off our shores in deep waters. A third has joined with white men on the deck of each boat” (p. xiv).
The atmosphere of fear and uncertainty created by the arrival of both Okoro and the Boats is captured by a dirge at the opening of the book, part of which reads:
“The Skies were overcast
The storms cloud gathered
waves of death overshadow the land
Torrents of destruction assailed it
The novel has a galaxy of great ladies, such as Nne Ugo, the matriarch of Agu’s family, Okaomie’s mother; She is a dignified matriarch who knew her place in Society and also, that in a male dominated Society of the 1850s she did not need to enquire about state matters. There is also Nne Omaga, Isiogo’s mother, and the best friend of Nne Ugo. They held their conversations with deep experience, knowledge and silence.
The Chapter Presentations
Chapter 1: Here Okoro of the Ako Kingdom arrived Uwa City State to establish his sphere of influence for his village. This move would hence forth make Okoro and the Ako Kingdom to have the exclusive right to deal with Uwa people commercially, and religiously, on behalf of the Eze of Ako Kingdom, the Priest King. Okoro, who was later to play fortuitous roles in the novel, is presented as a highly titled Ako Chief; he wore Ukara Cloth, had red cap; a staff and was a member of the dreaded Ekpe Society of the Ako Secret Society. He was a proud aristocrat from the most powerful kingdom in Igbo land of the 1850s. With the arrival of Okoro, and the presence of the Slave merchant ships at the shore of Uwa, the three most hated things in Igbo land of the 1800s namely a Slave merchant ship a shrine Envoy and an emissary of the Priest King of the Aka Kingdom – were now present in Uwa. The stage for the history of the latter half of the 19th Century was now set, about to unfold in a quaint, remote village called Uwa City State in the novel.
Chapter 2: Agu of the Eto Executive Age Grade, Okaomie’s younger brother escorts Okoro from the bush near the River, into the Village of Otutu, the nearest of the villages that make up the Uwa City State. It was a rough country, with fear of slave dealers, kidnappers and inter-tribal wars that raised slaves for the white man. But, now Okoro had come to settle at Uwa…. for good?
Upon hearing that Okoro had come to settle at Uwa, Okaomie queried ominously; “A predator has just stalked into our midst? …coming after 4 days of the arrival of the Slave boats” (p.19).
Okoro had come to settle in order to secure Uwa City State for a monopolistic trade in Slaves that gave the Ako Kingdom their wealth between 1750 and 1900. The Ako people were the brains behind all the head buntings, slave raids and kidnappings that happened in Igbo land during the slave trade era. They invited the hooting of the OWL in broad day light, wherever they go. Okaomie being the spokesman of his village age grade had to confront Okoro first in the Obu. This encounter shows a display of bravery, diplomacy, tact, shrewdness and probing skills:
“Okaomie exuded confidence and a great strength that poured from him like an unfailing stream… with his intelligent eyes… he was diplomatic and wore the marks of a natural leader and warrior” (p.21).
But Okoro, the Ako man carried his immunity and arrogance around him; he displayed their characteristics of shrewdness, craft and cunning. Both in that first encounter were savvy. In Uwa culture, strangers were welcome at all times, provided they remained law abiding.
Chapter 3: This Chapter begins with contrast conceptions in semantic differentials as three young female friends, Ugo, Elem, and Ogeri, are introduced. Elem was betrothed to Okpani, Ugo favoured Ohuu and Ogeri favoured Agu – in a City State that had relationships based on the matri- and patri-lineage systems.
Chapter 4: Okoro’s plans to settle in Uwa are discussed democratically in the Obu-Ogo of Otutu Village, his first port of all. The Horri (Eaters), Onikara (Advisory), Essa (Legislative) and the Eto (Executive) Age Grades had to meet to take decisions before referring the matter to the General Ogo Assembly of Uwa land. Meanwhile, the implications of Okoro’s presence in Uwa is advertised and made known to all stake holders and elders: “there is a relationship between the two people; the white man and the Ako Kingdom; one supplies the guns and the other supplies the slaves” (p. 34). Okoro’s presence in Uwa means that the City State shall now be a slave route to the sea ports where the white man’s merchant ships were parked.
Following Ogo Democracy, oratory and pristine evocations, a decision was made to take the matter of Okoro’s presence and request to the entire Uwa Elders. The verdict was simple; let Okoro settled or he shall unleash the Ogbuisi warriors, slave raiders, kidnappers or head hunters on the entire people of Uwa. The decision to allow Okoro settle in Uwa was taken after many considerations, as would be expected: “Because of the great Oracle of the Aka Kingdom, the most powerful, most consulted and most dreaded oracle in the whole Igbo land located in the pristine most impenetrable sacred groves of Aka Kingdom” p.38. Conditionalities were attached to the permission for Okoro to settle in Uwa, namely that he must:
Chapter 5: Before the Ogo-Okpoota episode, the Otutu elders had to brief Okoro on their resolutions and Okaomie’s encounter with Okoro in this chapter was diplomacy and chivalry per excellence. After all, Uwa was founded by an Ako son. But while Ako is a theocratic State with a Priest King, Uwa has a Democratic socio – political system, governed by AGE GRADES. Uwa is a republican state and the decisions of the collective age grades are final in Uwa land. In this wise, the attempt by Okoro to impose the rigid hierarchical kingship and Amadi Social stratification system of Ako, on Uwa, failed. As noted earlier Okoro accepted all conditionalities, including joining the Ogo Cult, around which the centre of an Uwa man’s universe revolves. Indeed, in the Uwa of the 1850s and until recently, the Ogo defined the Uwa man’s identity, raison d’être and sumon – bonum.
Chapter 6: Okoro had accepted to join Okaomie’s Ikwu, but decided to belong to the Ebe Umunna, ostensibly because Isiali the founder of Ebe came originally from Isi village in Ako. Okoro is from Isi village of Ako Kingdom. Essa Isiali, a powerful but charismatic leader was the spokesman of Ebe Village, the opposite of Okaomie in Otutu Village. Spectacularly, as Okoro announced his membership of Okaomie’s Ikwu; Mkpi (he Goat) disgracefully showed his resentfulness because he hated Okaomie. Okoro tackled Mkpi from the onset and hated him for hating Okaomie. Okoro was Okaomie by Ikwu; they were maternal brothers. Okoro had chosen Okaomie’s Ikwu because of his honesty and despite a horrible curse burden placed on the UGO NTA maternal family that barred their men from taking the OMEZUE TITLE, however qualified or wealthy.
Chapter 7: Okoro is inducted into the Essa Age grade of Ebe, his new Umunna or Umudi, and seven days (Orie day) after Okoro arrived at Uwa Elders gathered at Ogo Okpoota to enact the peace covenant with Okoro, with a woman priestess presiding. That all done, Okoro the Slave Merchant was off to Oru to attend a SLAVE FAIR, a big market where slaves were bought and sold. But before he departed Omezue Mmeriole of Ebe and Essa Olugu of Wowo had human wares (slaves) to sell to Okoro. Mmeriole sold Ohuu of Ugo Nta Ikwu; and Essa Olughu of Wowo sold Eni also of Okoro’s Ikwu, to him. Okoro did not know the boys were of his Ikwu, at
this point. Later on, he will find out.
This starts with a slave elegy or dirge part of which goes as follows:
“First, the fruits of her womb were ripped from her men, women in their primes of life, Twenty million or more… Carted away to build other civilisation she that was mother of many was mother of none….”
Chapter 8: Okoro is off to the Oru Slave fair with slaves from Uwa. From there in the dead of the night Okoro and his two innocent slaves moved past Amasiri junction. But while Okoro was off to the slave fair, Okaomie in the farm witnessed the Eclipse of the sun, there was total darkness at noonday – and for a Community of 1850’s, that was a sure bad omen.
Chapter 9: On the road to Oru very thick forests and vast savannah lands held sway with their mysterious secrets. It was survival of the fittest, as slave convoys and their owners moved with Ogbuisi warriors, to protect them and their wares from lions or kidnappers. Mazi Okoro caught up with Mazi Okonkwo and his troops as they headed towards Oru to meet Mazi Eleagu. There were three major slave fairs in Igbo land in those days, namely Oru, Uzo and Abam; and Ako owned all; and slave trade was the main basis of their economy. On the way Nature was at war with the slave merchants in the form of baboons. Okoro was wounded but the baboons were stopped and the journey to Oru continued. Ohuu had saved Okoro from the hands of death. But there were more Omens and Nature’s fight back. Essa Olugu who sold a son of Uwa as a slave was ripped open by a crocodile, the “god” of war – Ekwetani; Essa Olugu was the priest. Abomination. Tufia; abajokwaghim.
Chapter 10: At Ebe Omezue Mmeriole, another seller of an Uwa son was crushed by a branch of the very tree that protected him and his village. A great calamity: The sacred tree had committed murder. Omezue was engaged in an evil dance with death: “Tufia, it can’t be – an Omezue, a member of the Uwa sacred nobility class to die like that. It is not possible. It is sacrilege” (p.116). Unnatural happenings; but most of all; to Okpara, Omerioles son, the sacred tree had bequeathed a felon death to his noble father. Mkpi was Mmeriole’s junior brother; Okpara’s uncle. The wretched death had denied Mmeriole the call of the IKORO Drum to announce his passing away. And with the three successive abnormalities, a state of emergency was declared at Uwa, forth with. The Great Spirit on High, together with Uwa’s three major deities – Ekwetani Ibe, the sacred tree and the bee goddess were angry. Diviners were to be consulted forthwith.
Chapter 11: At Oru, Okoro is critically ill; at the point of death. But Ohuu, a descendant of Amuro bone setters, knew about herbs. He who like the slave boy Joseph of the Bible, had saved Okoro from the baboons, saved his life again with herbs. And for saving Okoro’s life twice, he adopts Ohuu and Eni as his sons and heirs, having no sons of his own.
Chapter 12: Divination was carried out as recommended by the Elders. The priests of Uwas gods – of Ekwetani, Nkpurukem and Mgbasi and Eto Age graders left early for Ibii to consult Nwoke Kaibie, the Diviner. He revealed to them that Omezue Mmeriole and Essa Olugu had indulged in slave trade. The same verdict came from the delegation to Amasiri; the two dead men were not innocent. Hear Isiego at Ogo Okpoota:
“Uwa the diviners… accused the two men of selling Uwa sons into slavery. They warned that if Uwa elders did not desist from such atrocities, there will be a blood bath…”
At this meeting, Mkpi, Omezue Mmeriole’s brother taunted Essa Okaomie that he could never take the Omezue title in Uwa land. But Okaomie made a personal vow: “As for the Omume Title, I will take it or die in the attempt…” (p.149). Chaos, sacrilege, indecorum and confusion were the words of Mr. Mkpi at Ogo Okpoota. The Devil had taken over the land of the idols. As for the tree that killed Omezue Mmeriole, it was to be appeased and ceremoniously hewed down
and disposed of. The world of the 1850s!
Chapter 13: Okaomie and his team went back to Otutu with deep pain and anger. He must take the Omume title: “Agu my brother, I will take that title or die in the attempt… I will not rest until I have lifted that curse – that stain from our family history and honour” (p.160). But why the curse on the family, his son queried? “It is said that your great-great, grandfather, Okaomie the Third, the most famed warrior in Uwa killed a young girl on his way to Ako to obtain the oracular permission to take the Omume Title” (p.161).
Only a maiden could dance the ceremonial Aja dance and Ibina Ukpabi was angry and laid a curse on the family. But, this time, it will work. Okoro shall escort me to Ako; the Oracle shall yield. Okaomie was a true warrior, from a long line of warriors – the first Uwa has ever produced. He wore on him always, the air of unconscious dignity. The hostility between Mkpi and Okaomie was legendry. Everyone in Uwa knew about it from their child hood, when Okaomie messed him up in a wrestling combat. Since then Mkpi has been sulking and clawing. But now, more dangerously Mkpi is nursing the hatred of Okoro, now Essa Okaomie’s ally, to his fatal detriment. Time shall tell. His brother warns him”
“Mkpi, everybody seems to have observed the hostility growing between the two of you. Hmm, be careful, or else you will pay dearly for it. Nobody tangles with an Ako man and comes out unscratched…” (p.166).
Mkpi is reminded that he had advised Omezue Mmeriole to sell Ohuu to Okoro and now, he Omezue had paid with his life. Soon the alarm Horns were blasting away in all villages – the two young men of Uwa were now declared missing from their homes.
Chapter 14: Okoro and his troop arrived at Uwa on Eke day, the main market and heads for the Ozo Essa, the apex judgement seat of Uwa – Uwa’s Supreme Court. Essa Okoro as now known, was of Nde Isiali in Ebe Village of Uwa, and was entitled to attend the meeting. Okoro was now haggard and emaciated, from the wounds and the journeys. Okoro joined his age mates as debate on the missing boys raged on. Okoro’s presence settled all that as he revealed that he bought the slave boys from Mmeriole and Olugu; i.e. Ohuu and Eni. Okoro warned the elders not to interfere with the slave ships or the routes and vowed to protect Uwa. In the safe custody of Okaomie’s home in Otutu he quickly narrated the early morning encounter with Mkpi at Ogo Okpoota and his vow to take the OMUME TITLE or die. He solicited Okoro’s help in the matter. Okoro agrees.
Chapter 15: One month has passed and Okoro escorts Okaomie to Ako for the permission to take the title. Okoro was his arrogant self again, shrewd, crafty and cunning, full of confidence. Okaomie and his six member team, all wore red caps with eagle feathers in them, as highly Igbo titled men would. That was for protection. They took the EBUNWANA Route (p.181) to Ako Kingdom. In those days of Ibina Ukpabi: “All aspirants to the Omume title must go physically to the scared shrine of the Oracle of the Ako Kingdom to obtain approval” (p.18l).
On the way the activities of slave raiders were prominent as a present danger. It was horrendous carnage, mayhem, all the way. They concluded that slave trade was an odious business; it was evil; and ruthless. Slave raids vanished villages completely from the face of the earth; it was inhuman. But many times, men preferred to die rather than be enslaved by fellow man. Besides the slave trade was soon coming to an end. Where they are no buyers there shall be no sellers. In a militarized environment, those who were cowards had no place of respect in society of the braves. Beyond bravery fear ruled the land. Meanwhile, as Okaomie, Okoro and the team were trudging through uncharted terrains of rocky cliffs, gorges, mountains and valleys to get to Ako, the Nkpuruken LION was on the prowl, visiting Okaomie’s compound. Of course the lion’s visit was connected with Okaomie’s quest for Omume title.
Chapter 16: Now at Nkporo, the pilgrims had a close shave with Ogbu isi warriors but there were not scratched. In these parts heroes were worshiped because they constituted the privileged ruling class. Even women were tempted to kill and be treated as braves. As for Ako people, they were no braves, no warriors, but consummate traders and diplomats. They survived by entering into covenants with the neighbours:
“Ako traders provided Ogbuisi warriors legitimate wars to acquire human heads/while Ako traders loot the property of their victims and take captives to sell into slavery. It was a symbiotic relationship” (p.209).
Ako people are as cunning as a tortoise and as dangerous as a snake. Finally they arrive Ako, but fully realized that “there is no route to Ako that is easy.” The final stage of their journey into Ako provides enough suspense, twists and turns, waiting for the readers. Ako Kingdom was the most powerful in Igbo land of the 1850s. WELCOME to AKO, HOME OF THE Long Juju Oracle.
Chapter 17: To the visitors Ako presented a facade of a society at peace with itself and its neighbours; a Society of affluence, of culture and social stratification. Like expected, Ako was the home to Ekpe Society. The Palace of Eze Ako the priest King of Ako Kingdom was something out of this world – in the eyes of the Uwa visitors. But Okaomie had other concerns; he was not interested in “evil created wealth, an empire built on human misery” (p.221). Oracular consultations were expensive and the Akos made money out of it. Supplicants came from all over Igbo land, and there were 18 villages in Ako where they waited, spending hard earned money until it was their turn.
Chapter 18: Eight days and the team is yet to be summoned to the Oracle! What an agonizing wait, for Godot! Besides the Oracle was a conduit for piping slaves into the white man’s slave boats. Thousands that went into the “Dreaded Dark Presence of the Oracle” never made it back (p.227). The Ako Oracle was a mystery. Finally Okoro led the team to see the Oracle. There they were, at the entrance to the CAVE the gate into the temple complex of the Ako Oracle; the Gate of No Return. The tale is charming, only braves can dare to go through this ordeal. From there they passed by the Tunnel of Disappearance through the Hill of Rags – where those found guilty by the Oracle never came back a life. ‘Whenever the Oracle had taken a person, the water turned RED! That was in 1850s. Now we know better, particularly since 1902.
From there, appeared the way to the throne of Judgement … the Ako people! Okoro finally led Okaomie to the Dreaded Dark presence of the Ako Oracle. The idol called… Okaomie (p.235) and addressed him. Okoro pleaded, and the oracle retorted… the Omume title was … “Mystical – mysterious, magical and supernatural in Uwa Society (p.236). The Question is why go to Ako to take the permission to ascend the title, apiece of human deceptive contraption of the old Aro Vantage? Okoro pleads on. The verdict: “Bring a nubile maiden to exorcise the crime or
take the title and die (p.237). “Okoro’s appeal was so powerful he nearly brought an oracular curse on his own head.” But who is the Oracle? A human being? It was time to go home. Victory is assured. Okoro arranged 150 professional Ogbuisi warriors to escort them home.
Chapter 19: The hunter is now the hunted at last. Okaomie was away for 12 good days. They got home complete; and with a positive verdict. What a journey, Stories, stories, stories, were exchanged. Few men lived in wealth but the majority lived in fear and squalor. The slave trade had made life worthless. Disappearances – blood money. Mkpi was implicated. Everyone was cautious. “If you cannot catch Aka, do, apprehend Okposi” (p.283). Back home Okaomie made arrangement to take the title: NEVER AGAIN shall any man insult him or any member of his family. The intricacies and complexities of family decisions are woven like a tapestry on a canvas. It is simply marvellous to read.
Chapter 20: Fear and disappearances continue as slave raiders and collaborators catch victims to the slave ships.
Chapter 21: Fear and dis-ease overshadow the entire Uwa Clan. Solutions must be found, the
Elders decide. Slave Trade may soon end – that is, 1865 etc. – but unscrupulous merchants were still cashing in; in connivance with equally devilish Uwa people; such as Mkpi. Essa Okoro vows to fish out the culprits, even if it costs him his life.
Chapter 22: After 8 market weeks Okaomie returned from Ako, preparations are underway to take his title. Omezue Nkume is now the only surviving title holder from Ebe. His consent is law in the matter. He greets Nkume:
“Omezue, the complete achiever Orji the tallest tree in the forest Ikoro the drum of heroes we greet you oo” (p.2l3).
Omezue Nkume gave his consent alright and other pieces of security advisories:
“Whoever completes the title stops to live in fear of men … (p.2l8).
Taking the Omezue Title is war, and the price for carelessness is death. The Ogo initiates shall be living at the exposed village for 9 months of the entire ceremony! And kidnappers were everywhere. Besides there were the corporeal and spiritual aspects to complete the cosmic cycle, then the Ikpem masquerades and the grand finale. After this, it will take another several years before another cycle of Ogo initiation.
Chapter 23: Several lunar months after Okaomies initiation into the Omezue title hood, Uwa martial music hummed – Maa cried. He was entering into the crucial stage of his initiation: The entire body was covered in camwood – Uhie – for strength, purity and sanctity. His cloth was white, with red cap carrying 2 eagle feathers. He carried a bell on his right hand and on the left, his horse tail. He was heavily armed; so also his attendants – with charms! A devilish ordeal! The INITIATION begins. And from Otutu’s Obu, Iga Ogo begins – no going back – it is a journey into satanisation and Satanism (p.288). It is all about John 10:10a – Satan and destruction of human life. The journey to darkness!
Chapter 24: This is IGA OGO proper – a Journey in the dark through all the 5 major villages that make up Uwa. It went off very well, despite Mkpi’s shenanigans. Even the Bees and Lion of Mkpurukem were joined in the war, in favour of Okaomie.
Chapter 25: The Bees are at it again, to protect the young initiates.
Chapter 26: The young initiates come out as masquerades. Another stage of the Omezue initiation gone – Eight more market weeks to go – i.e. 32 days.
Chapter 27: Nightmares – Okaomie – the Omezue dreams of 2 of his daughters sold off as slaves by Mkpi. But they is task ahead as he is still to dance round all 26 villages of Uwa, answering the calls of Ikoro, and be home before sun set.
Chapter 28: This is Grand Finale day: Three groups must dance namely the Okaomie Group, then the female Aja Group, then the Ikpem group. It is finaI IGA-OGO DAY.
Chapter 29: Omezue Okaomie, the war and social heroe of his people was out in the squares of 26 villages of Uwa. He is “Omezue, the complete Achiever” (p.336). He was clothed in royalty, radiance and nobility with Ukara, Kpom kpom, Ivory bangles, red cap with eagle feathers. He was a dazzle to behold. Ululation filled the air as he executed the intricate dance steps reserved for the Omezues. A triumphant dance of fulfilment indeed! It was a celebration of life.
Chapter 30: Women too; Girls, all danced intricate steps reserved for this occasion. So many songs, so many dances, for a season. It is thrilling. The Okaomie family celebrated their wealth, to the envy of all. The girls danced the taunting mischievous, seductive dance steps of Uwa the World. Finally, the kpem danced; simultaneously in all the 26 villages of Uwa. Gruesome, gruelling but fantabulous. Omezue Okaomie is indeed a true hero; he chooses to die rather than sacrifice any of his daughters to the Oracle. Indeed, Omezue Okaomie is a true hero, a war and a social hero.
Chapter 31: This was the last of the 26 villages, the Ebe Village home of Mkpi, the arch-enemy of Omezue Okaomie. So far so well; the Omezue, the girls Aja dance, and the Ikpems.
Chapter 32: Going back to Otutu Village from Ebe, the last of the 26 villages, the women came under attack from Mkpi’s frustrated people. The attackers targeted the maidens; as potential slaves for the white man. Finally in the melee Ugo and Elem are abducted. And a search party went after the raiders immediately. Mkpi had hired mercenaries to abduct the girls.
Chapter 33: The abductors and their 2 wares, the girls Elem and Uro, were headed down the River to meet the White Slave traders. Mkpi has over stretched his luck; just may have. The abducters and their 2 wares, the girls Elem and Uro, were headed down the River to meet the White Slave traders. Mkpi has over stretched his luck; just may have.
Chapter 34: Okoro Okonta comes to the rescue. He and his Ogbuisi warriors had all along been in the bush waiting for Mkpi’s men Now they were in Okoro’s net. Ugo and Elem are free! Suddenly the hunter became the hunted; the slave dealers became slave. Okaomie’s evil dreams were reversed. Okpara and his group had become slaves; 12 able bodied sons of Uwa, Mkpis people, were sold. The Slave boats with their human cargoes were reminiscent of Alex Harley’s Roots. Retributive handed justice was meted out to Mkpi and his people.
Chapter 35: Meanwhile at Omezue Okaomie’s house, there was cry and anguish over Ugo and
Elem. Agu too had not come back from the pursuit of Mkpi’s people. Okaomie was now a full-fledged OMEZUE. But in the anguish, Nne Ugo and Nne Omaga consoled him. He had done all that should have been done. He vowed to avenge, but Nne Ugo, his mother, stopped him. “Do not go anywhere. At least let us wait until Agu gets back. We have all our lives to avenge” (p.379).
Chapter 36: Tragic Comedy. At day break, Okoro emerged with the two rescued girls. What is going on, Agu queried, as tears flowed freely down his checks? Okoro replied: “You remember I promised the supreme Council of Elders to expose whoever was behind the disappearances at Uwa? I investigated and discovered that Mkpi and his relatives were the ones… (p.382).
Okoro had his own private wars to fight against Mkpi and Mkpi had no choice. Slave trade was coming to an end, but… “Uke every other City State in /gbo land, this cruel trade has robbed us of the best of our children, who have been banished to unknown fates in white man’s land” (p.387).
My Impressions of the Novel
I find this novel quite refreshing and atimes explosive. It is ingenuous; with carefully woven plots, acts and Scenes. The music of its prose is rhapsodizing and the several poems there in are quite tantalizing and stimulating. I like the sensual appeals of its imagery and the realm of its character portrayals is legendary. Okaomie the Moral Hero simply stands out with his family at OTUTU, and Okoro the Slave Trader who like Milton’s SATAN presents a poignant but metaphoric picture. Mkpi (the He goat) is rubbished with a heap load of morals for the younger generation. In fact the Author’s mastery of a full range of intensities is marvellous and awesome.
Though a young-old Artist, the Author, Ugo Agada Uya exerts an influence only found in older writers like Achebe or Adichie. The Author of the novel exhibits a fervid emotional style with copious cascading torrents of the sophisticated language of literature. Great and marvellous plots and themes with elegant prose of a seasoned English Graduate of those good old days, are encountered throughout the novel.
The novel is written with marvellous psychological insights into the minds of the Ages. The style is a times of brilliant irony of twists and turns. Mkpi who plotted to become a hero, and the predator, suddenly turned around to be the victim, the captive, and the shamefully defeated. Such juxtapositions, metonyms and transferred meanings are styles of sophisticated writers. There are several plots of mystical transportations and vivid imaginations; even holistic interpretations of events. Like Okaomie’s seventh and last journey to the AKO Oracle to obtain permission to take the title; or Okaomie’s final outing at the Ogo Ebe; the jungle journeys in bush paths; the TOTEMS like the LIONS; the BABOONS; THE BEES; THE CROCODILES, the TREES; – all have their roles. Very awesome!
Using cultural innuendos the drama of UWA historical existence has been and indeed can be refashioned. Yet there are traces of brilliant irony, the collusion of tragedies and comedies as well as clarity. Omezue Okaomie apparently lost two daughters to slave raiders (Mkpi’s relations) during the outing at Ogo Ebe. Emissaries are sent after them, but what are we served in the end? A plate of the two girls who are rescued and Mkpi’s relatives who turn out to become slaves!
The story of HAMAN in ESTHER of the HOLY BIBLE is repeated several times over for our conviction, edification and comfort. What we sow, we reap. At all times let us have clean Hands, pure Hearts and clear Heads. Are there any evocative atmospheres of the real past? Plenty. The nights of the wars of the long knives during Ogo Initiation; Enyi Man carrying the BIG OMEZUE POT; the arduous task of visiting all the SHRINES of UWA (EHUGBO) in order to become an Omezue; the tapestry of weaving 36 chapter’s into a book!
As a woman, does she possess any real grasp of the chronological past of UWA; And the single page of Uwa history she has torn out and made into a novel? A wonderful writer must have profundity, wit; elevation of the mind; a grave and temperate irony. Anyone who reads this book and closes his or her eyes must be transported into the atmosphere of great and my tical evocation and concatenation. A powerful imagery of the past must overwhelm any reader of
this novel; I bet you.
But there are other concerns. Chinua Achebe in “Things Fall Apart” writes about the tragedies of his people, the OGIDI PEOPLE of Anambra State, at the time Colonialism met them and there was darkness at noon day. Does the Author of OMEZUE know the place she is writing about? Well, UGO AGADA; Ada Omezue Ehugbo should answer that question. A good historiographic writing of this nature must reflect vast reading, capacious memory; the clear understanding of the mechanics of the Society mirrored in a novel as well as the mental characters of the past generations.
But, after the OITENBERGS who should be interested in Uwa history anymore? Nze Raphael Aja has been. Onikara Agwo has been. But Ottenberg compiled the history of the 1950s, 1960s and partial eclipses of the 1970s. No more. Otten berg like the AKO people- Okoro people, had joined a matrilineage family group as well as a patrilineage (umudi) group; in addition to an age grade – ESSA DIKE; the legislative and judiciary wings of UWA Government and Society.
Okoro had joined an Ikwu of the Okaomie’s in OTUTO Village but went to EBE, to choose Umudi from the home of the Isiali, descendants of (Ako People). At the background of all this is a heap of history – 4 – 5 thousand years since 3000 BC; of the EGUS, NKALUS, AJA IBEREKWUS and so on.
In the end this novel as a research document and result in historiography, has introduced a new ideology which is the AKORIZATION of the UWA WORLD. To appreciate this book we all, the readers must acquire the capacity to migrate, translate and transport into distant foreign woe be gone and lost MINDS of our ancient ancestors.
This is a novel that will always take a pride of place in Afikpo or Igbo literature and history. It comes of the best styles of the Romans, Cicero, Lucreatus, Julius Caesar or the British Burns, Heine or Grants’ Ulysses. Indeed it could mature in significance to the twins epics of Greek Homer – Iliad or Odyssey. It matches in its form the temperance of Taciturn and Gibbon; authors that wrote about temperate and grave ironies of life. Thucydides had given the world a narrative in heroism when he described just a single day in the long Peloponnesian War, that gave the world a hint into Greek life and history. But just as the Great Greece collapsed before the arms of Macedon, so did UWA – state collapse before the combined arms of Mbakara and Ako Slave traders.
UGO is a HOMO NARRANS; and her novel is a successful attempt at migration into the distant and great minds of the 1800s. I am sure that there is a possible historical counterpart to this fictitious UWA CLAN and his citizens who in real life may aspire to take the OMEZUE title. Like Achilles in Homer’s Iliad, the folly of anger and lack of self control is obvious in the behaviour and actions of MKPI; or in the behaviour of the Omezue who was devoured by crocodiles and the Essa who was killed by a tree branch that was supposed to protect him. And certainly the fall of UWA is like the fall of TROY.
The Hero: The Novel’s Parting Gift
Okaomie of Otutu Village descends from a line of heroes and warriors. But like General Naaman of the Bible, he had a blemish. He could not take the Omezue title and was taunted at all turns by his arch rival and age mate, Essa Mkpi from Ebe Village. Eventually, he Okaomie undertook seven (7) epic journeys to Ako to obtain permission from the ORACLES in order to take the Omezue title, which he needed even if he died after taking it.
Mortal man must always look forward to his ending. And no man can be called happy until the day he carries his happiness down to his grave in peace. Okaomie got his Omezue title. I suppose that he carried his peace and happiness to his grave; though the novel does not let us know that. In fact the taste of this novel is in its reading. And reading means, buying several copies, even for your friends. You will never regret it.
*****Professor Egwu U. Egwu, is a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.