Dr. Dili Ojukwu
In the days of yore, there were really no serious or dangerous gangs as we know them today.
What was prevalent were groups of masquerades like Okwomma, or the smaller ones like Agaba, Oji-onu, Chankorodi, Ulaga, Atumma and Ogba-Mgbada, and a host of others. These were predominantly populated by young boys.
(Of course, the girls had their own groups too. But let’s leave that for another moonlit night).
Every year, immediately after the Christmas and New Year festivities, rumours and speculations would dominate the airwaves, schools, play grounds and even after church homebound journeys, as to which of the big groups fighting for supremacy would dominate the theatre of the absurd called Obiagu Road.
In those days, apart from the regular and well-organised Ogui Nike Senior Men, there were some awe-inspiring groups led by the likes of Ayaaya, Egbo and a host of others.
Whenever such groups met each other on any stretch of road, the spectators were in for a treat or threat, depending on their level of maturity and agility, or even how vantage and safe their locations were.
Our elders used to confuse us the youngsters with some ambiguous idiomatic and proverbial expressions that sometimes could have a multiplicity of interpretations.
When you dared ask: what is the meaning of what you have just told me? The elder, depending on his level of sobriety or disdain for ignoramuses, could tell you that doing so would mean that the dowry paid for your mother’s marriage was a waste. Or some other uncomplimentary outbursts.
However, sometimes a warning of an elder, if properly interpreted and implemented, could save face, or more importantly, lives.
On one bright Easter Sunday morning, members of the main group in Ogui Nike, THE SENIOR BOYS as we called them then, gathered in the compound of their chairman and spiritual leader. They wanted to go out and entertain Easter celebrants on Obiagu Road, and even elsewhere in Enugu.
This was impromptu. The man took a cursory look at the faces of his troupe members one after another. He took a deep breath and then announced to them with some fiat and arrogance that their masquerade would not go out that day! There were murmurings, initially muted, but gradually rising to crescendo. The collective opinion was a defiant and blunt rejection of the stand of the leader of the group.
The man tried to persuade his group members to forgo going out that day, but his words fell on deaf ears. He reluctantly bulged, stood up and asked them to go and satiate their appetite.
Preparations were quickly made, including bringing out the kindred spirit from the ground where it sojourned. As soon as the masquerade surfaced, the group songsters started summoning the gods with their esoteric hymns. Soon after, they left.
The Ogui Nike Senior Okwomma group, due largely to the proximity of Obiagu Road to their enclave, enjoyed a near totalitarian dominance of the Coal City circus.
Sometimes, their superiority attracted respect from their competitors. At other times, envy, and blatant opposition.
On this day, they combed the whole length and breadth of Obiagu Road a good number of times. There were no challengers of note on the horizon.
They were about to retire after a successful marauding of their territory unchallenged when word came to them that there was a group somewhere in Moorhouse Street in Ogui Township. They raced to see who the challengers were. It was there that confusion took a centre stage.
As the two groups, with their war chants, masquerades and front-runners got closer to each other, the frontrunner of Ogui group pounced the earth with his oji. The metal rod with jangling bells broke into two! That was the first signal that the Amuri group was not a group of boys, but men!
Fight broke out. Beer bottles and stones were flying helter-skelter. People were being flogged with sticks, ox-tail whips, and tree branches. Indeed, anything was an instant instrument of war.
Amidst the commotion, chaos and confusion, one Amuri group member ran to a small room containing a bucket. Dipped his two palms into the bucket and splashed the contents on the faces and uniforms of the advancing Ogui men.
Either as an index of the potency of the charms of the Amuri group, or the level of hunger dealing with their opponents, some members of the Ogui group started licking the stains on their shirts.
In one second, the whiff of the putrid matter hit the nostrils of the Ogui group members. That was when it dawned on them that they had been fed with human dung!
By the time they regained whatever remained of their consciousness, the Amuri group had vanished into thin air!
Dr. Dili Ojukwu wrote from The United Kingdom