It is the simplest thing in the world to assume Sub-Saharan Africans were illiterate and uncivilised before the coming of the White man. Such is well-embraced by the African – if you are well educated. Empire Day celebrated throughout the Commonwealth colonies reminded Nigerians that the King or Queen of England liberated them from bondage. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, one of the best-loved works of Western literature describes the African as a savage and languageless, communicating with grunts like apes. The Father of Modern Social Anthropology, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, swore that Africans had no institutions until the White man arrived – Africans had no marriages, kingdoms, trade, hierarchies, architecture, alphabet, medicines etc. of their own. All these facts are false but very rarely challenged by African scholars. Literacy and education did exist in South-Eastern Nigeria, for a millennium before colonisation. Let us talk about Nsibidi.
Igbe is neither my personal nor family religion, but I lived in Urhoboland, where it originated and is still practised, long enough to observe the faith with considerable detachment. I have also seen its practice in the United Kingdom. It is an Urhobo religion but may not be exclusively so. In this brief article, I intend to look at the more gnostic and historical perspective of Igbe than its practices.
Igbe in the Urhobo language means “Dance” or “Joy.” Igbe worship is also an act of gratitude to God for life itself and consists of celebratory devotion. The “Gnosis of the Igbe” is a vocation in which the revelation of the knowledge of the divine occurs to male and female practitioners of the religion provided they have a pure heart and mind. The white attire and headwear of the Igbe followers in worship symbolise stainless purity which is reflected inwardly. The spark of the divine often awakens in the fervent celebration of God; this is why dance and song accompanied by drumming are indispensable. Music has the facility to stir the innermost emotions in people.
After reading Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco a few years back, the unusual happened. I developed a keen yearning to rediscover a dormant space in my mind for the appreciation of illustrated stories and cartoons. I remembered the political cartoons of Josey Ajiboye and Omoba (Dotun Gboyega) and the entertainment illustrations of Morak Oguntade and some others. The illustrations of these men were as political and useful as the illustrations of Joe Sacco, hence the yearnings. Josey Ajiboye was a pioneer and grandmaster in the print media industry. The depth and influence of the work of these illustrators are incalculable as was elaborated in The Role of Editorial Cartoons in the Democratisation Process in Nigeria by Ganiyu Jimoh.
There was a time in the ’60s and ’70s when several jazz musicians of repute had to visit Brazil for a new spark of inspiration. It was almost a “rite of passage” for many jazz musicians. Classics like ‘Song for My Father’ by Horace Silver; ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ by George Duke; ‘Jive Samba’ by Cannonball Adderley Sextet; ‘Sidewinder’ by Lee Morgan; ‘Big Band Bossa Nova’ by Quincy Jones were born of rips and sounds of trips to and sounds of Brazil. These are a few of the Jazz Giants that had made their most successful albums through the Brazilian inspiration. Grover Washington Jr, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Bob James, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Kenny Dorham and many others also had big lifts in their music by way of the Brazilian inspiration. The most Yoruba-influenced jazz group is apparently the Art Ensemble of Chicago (see picture above).
There is an old African tale in former times used as a universal allegory. There was once a flourishing pond with an environ full of animals and provided enough for all their needs. Strife was minimal. A Monitor Lizard in the pond had a big reputation for perpetrating wickedness, slander and treachery against other animals that inhabited the environs of the pond. The pain of others was his chief daily joy. His stripes, complexion, eyes and movements made him look both alien and wretched – perhaps the source of his deformed personality. Lying by raising reasonable doubt or obfuscating facts was the essential deception he used to harm and ruin others for no good reason at all. He also had gotten many animals severely punished and banished from the pond despite their innocence. Above all, he was a master flatterer who could easily get former victims to support him and his many schemes. Alas, the animals that lived by the pond accepted the Monitor Lizard’s evil ways as inevitable possibly because they dreaded him. Then a day of reckoning emerged.
In the Summer of 2015, I met and briefly befriended an interesting and pretty British-Nigerian lady in London for a couple of months. She was a focused intellectual type and an ardent seeker of knowledge. She was introverted and I extraverted. For some inexplicable reason, there were many popular and unusual topics we debated for hours. Unexpectedly, in September 2015 she announced to me she had gotten a scholarship to study for a PhD in the USA and promised she was going to miss me. I was flattered. That was the last I saw of her and her company. Despite having spent so many hours talking with her about a variety of topics, we never exchanged surnames. It was a sincere Platonic relationship we had.
What is Col Sambo Dasuki doing locked up in detention indefinitely without trial at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari? What happened to court trials in Nigeria which are sending other politicians guilty of corruption to jail? Supporters of President Buhari [regardless of party affiliation] would naively (the vast majority) or insincerely (very few) have people believe that Col Dasuki’s detention is evidence of a strong anti-corruption ethos under the present government. The truth is that it is one of the most histrionic acts of corruption of the Buhari Presidency courtesy nepotism. Dasuki is in detention for his very own safety at the fawning kindness of the President. If anyone can accurately evaluate the most likely politician that would be assassinated in Nigeria on any given day of the year, it will be Dasuki by a very wide margin and it is unlikely he would survive unprotected. But why? An informant in military intelligence tells us. Continue reading
At the moment the Urhobo nation is both essentially saviourless and leaderless, forget the ethnic bosses. Chiefs Mukoro Mowoe, Michael Ibru, David Ejoor, Great Ogboru, and James Ibori have all been arguably seen as saviours of the Urhobo nation. However, only the legacies of Mowoe and Ibru remain as genuine saviours unperturbed and Mowoe the singular unobstructed unifying leader of Western, Central and Eastern [Isoko] Urhobo. This is shocking considering that Mowoe, the foremost Urhobo nationalist and first president-general of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), died 70 years ago. This no disrespect to (Urhobo Progress Union) UPU and its host of influential leaders. The Urhobo people have produced many illustrious sons and daughters in many endeavours of life, some even rivalling in achievement the five named saviours. One may wonder what it is that distinguishes these five men as saviours to Urhobos but not necessarily leaders? Continue reading
As ridiculous as it may sound, if Anioma were to be granted a State today, the new capital of Delta State would be either Koko (Itsekiriland) or Bomadi (Ijawland) or even Oleh (Isokoland). However, some Urhobos are crying for a [reinstated] “voice” in federal politics at the 90-day suspension of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta: APC) from the upper house of the National Assembly but they cannot even handle themselves well politically within Delta State. Is this not the time for the Urhobo nation to look inwards and sort its cohesion challenges out?
Fejiro Oliver of Secret Reporters recently wrote about his utter disillusionment with the Urhobos (his full heritage) and his embrace of the Anioma people. He cited his betrayal by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as the reason for his chosen ethnic preference. He was poached by Omo-Agege from NTA to be a staff writer with Urhobo Vanguard newspaper set up to assist Omo-Agege in his gubernatorial ambitions. When Fejiro was kidnapped in Niger State for investigative journalism in 2014, Omo-Agege and the entire Urhobo nation turned their backs on him giving mostly unbecoming excuses. Continue reading