Towards The Igbo Renaissance
The first newspaper I read as a boy was called The Renaissance published in Enugu. I later learned it was once known as the Biafran Sun. And while I continued to read my favorite title every day a copy was delivered to our home, it was renamed Daily Star.
A vernacular title called Ogene soon followed. Today, however, you can hardly find any paper that resembles Ogene.
As I now wonder what has happened to the “Jews” of Africa, I remember that the tonic Ndigbo needed is in the title of the first newspaper I read in the early 1970s. Together with their kith and kin of the South-South, Ndigbo has taken a stand this year through their votes. But there’s still a problem.
Where would an outsider find the Igbo leader today? Not any of the five state governors. Not a senator.
Not a first-class chief. Not even an elder statesman of Igbo extraction.
But it’s not totally true that Ndigbo knows no king.
Although there were fewer human kings in the days of yore, there were masquerades, speaking in their guttural voices, in Igbo-land to provide leadership.
Generations of Igbo people will forever remain grateful to Chinua Achebe for telling the story of pre-colonial Igbo-land through Things Fall Apart. As he shows in the evergreen novel, the masquerades in Igbo-land – egwugwu or mmanwu – are regarded as the ancestors from beyond whose advice cannot be ignored.
Their voices are unlike human voices, but they speak the truth at all times. Perhaps it’s because masquerades have been abandoned that Ndigbo now acts and talk individually.
Were it in the good old days, egwugwu would, for instance, have been able to state the position of Ndigbo in the current affairs of the country. However, how the d**d ancestors transform into egwugwu is what I don’t know and cannot describe today!
I’ve heard leaders of other parts of the country say they have been seeking “a handshake across the Niger” but don’t know Igbo leaders with whom they can strike a deal.
Of course, they can’t converse with weird masquerades! With traditional religionists vanishing in Igbo-land, the custodians of eternal wisdom (mmanwu) are hardly heard these days. Even