OGBONA THE ENIGMA By Dr. John Odior Anaweokhai


By Dr. John Odior Anaweokhai

It is not uncommon to identify a particular tribe with certain characteristics that range from the sublime to the infinitesimal and from the endearing to the despicable. Some people are known to be unforgiving while to others, craftiness, mendacity, and unreliability are their stock in trade. The Ogbona man is not exceptional. On a general note, Ogbona people are known to be high-headed, stubborn, self-will, independent-minded, self-opinionated, highly temperamental but hardworking, honest, humble, frank, bold, courageous, and daring. These innate characteristics, to a great extent, define who we are as a people, what we stand for, how we see ourselves, and how we are seen by the outside world. These noble characters have all through the ages bred suspicions and animosity between us and our next-door neighbors. Of all the virtues, self-assertiveness and independent-mindedness seem to be the major source of acrimony between us and others.

No matter the seriousness and precariousness of the issue at hand, the Ogbona man will simply tell you AMHUE MA MIE, Nothing will happen. I remember what happened in 1989 soon after the Ogbona/Imiava war at Ayogwiri when I went on a visit. The Issue came up and I unconsciously told them NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. How that thought crossed my mind and found expression in such an audacious manner, beats my imagination till tomorrow. My host and her friends looked at each other with mouths agape and dilated pupils more out of shock than surprise. They asked me if had also been bitten by the bug and if nothing would happen. According to them, all the Ogbona people they had discussed the issue with gave them similar answers and I just laughed. Through to type, at the end of the day, despite the gang-up and the likes, nothing much happened

This does not make it easy to deconstruct the Ogbona man with the ease of the methodology of precise science neither is it an easy ride to explain away the complexity of an entity who fears God and loves his neighbor but with the penchant to fight a cause, even at the expense of his life, to a logical conclusion, with the leeway of the liberal art. He has a voice that refuses to be muffled while articulating his views. He hates crime, dishonesty, and cheating. He believes in the dignity of labour and never begs for handouts from anyone. He believes in the unfathomable capacity of the jungle to meet his and his family’s physiological needs and as such, he wakes up before dawn to explore the limitless potential of the jungle. He understands and cherishes the importance of education, consequently, he will not hesitate a hoot to brave the thorns and bear the stings of life to educate his children. He is independent-minded with no trace of a groupthink mentality. His self-assertive nature, most times, brings him into conflict with others who mistake his independent-mindedness for arrogance. His love for his community knows no bounds and he is stubbornly uncompromising with his love for his kinsman and community. Whenever the independence of another object or being threatens to endanger his independence or that of his brother and community, the canine instincts in him are usually unceremoniously brought to the fore.

I strongly believe the Ekperi people and the Imiava people ignorantly mistook these entrancingly endowed characteristics for weakness, of course, at their peril.

Political leadership positions in Ogbona are not bought with money or influence. It is always a collective decision of the sage who after a thorough scrutiny of the character disposition of the personalities involved and with honesty as the guiding principle, choose a leader to be their eyes and protect their interest. This singular act does not in any way confer lordship status on such a beneficiary. He remains a trustee of the people, perhaps, a mere servant who is fortunate to stand in the gap for them and he is never spared whenever he derails.

The billion-dollar question is what makes the Ogbona man tick and the envy of his neighbor? An exegetical evaluation of the Ogbonan without recourse to his root, is as futile as striving for excellence in calculus without the basic knowledge of algebra.

Ogbona, according to oral tradition was the last son of his parents, Eramha Anwu and Uwuomhai Alukoko. It is generally believed that upon arrival from Benin with his extended family members, Anwu stayed briefly in Uzairue before migrating finally with his immediate family to UTUAGBABOR, Fugar, the present-day headquarters of Etsako Central Local Government Area, circa the 13th century. Anwu had four boys, namely, Unone, Arua, Uralo and Imhakhena. Imhakhena was the last child and as such, he enjoyed the exclusive love and care conventionally showered on the baby of the house. Moreover, his mother’s affection for him was beyond measure. She loved his company more than the rest.

Very early in life, Ogbona exhibited traces of greatness and independent-mindedness, and very quickly too, he distinguished himself as a farmer/hunter of great prominence, all to the admiration of his parents, especially the mother. The other brothers were loafers who lived off of his farming and hunting prowess. Initially, Imhakhena restricted his expeditions to his immediate environment but later spread his tentacles far beyond Fugar. Most times, he would remain in the jungle for days, a happening that constantly gave the mother great cause for concern. At a point, he started staying for weeks but always came back home into the warm embrace of his mother with enough bush meat. Anytime he was questioned, he would repeatedly say UGBO UNUA. While UGBO means FARM, UNUA means LONG in Bini language and he soon became known as OGBONA.

Ogbona was not bothered by his brothers’ laziness as he could well put up with their excesses and he did everything humanly possible to ensure the family lived together in peace and harmony. One fateful evening having sapped his energy on farming and hunting activities, he came home famished, and to his utter disappointment, his portion of food, UKPEKO was eaten. Instantly, he felt enough was enough and furiously stormed out of the compound and headed straight to his newfound home up north.

In one of his earlier adventures, Ogbona found a tree that provided him shield and succor. The tree was quite homely but there was this problem of water. He needed water for his hygiene and chores and he decided to go further north and as fate would have it, he soon found a small stream which was later christened AVIEDAH. Though he had once contemplated relocating permanently into the cool and protective cover of the big tree, ORE’OKHIYIE, he feared the emotional trauma it would unleash on his mother. Fortunately or otherwise, the UKPEKO saga was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Uwuomhai Alukoko and the rest erroneously believed Ogbona’s desertion was just one of his numerous long journeys away from home but when days and weeks snowballed into months, they knew there was an issue of immense proportion at hand. Fortunately, Ogbona had made a path, a tiny road with which he could be traced and he was traced to his new home. Initially, they only came to visit with their mother but later, the mother decided to relocate permanently to stay with her beloved son, and needless to say, the other children could not stand it. It was a fragrant display and crass confirmation of their long-held notion that their mother had a softer spot for Ogbona than the rest. With this coupled with the fact the other brothers had to fend for themselves in the absence of their breadwinner, the battle line was drawn. The matter became quickly less decided upon the demise of Uwuomhai Alokoko, contrary to custom and tradition, Ogbona buried his mother in his new home with her symbol of authority and womanhood, UME. This was considered sacrilegious, an offense of no mean significance, and with dire consequences. All entreaties by his three brothers to talk him into bringing their mother’s corpse home for burial fell on his deaf ears. Ogbona was as defiant and uncompromising as ever.

Ogbona was a man of means and vision. A self-made man with a difference. A man who had the burning desire to leave his footprints in the sand of time. A courageous and audacious young man who understood very early that life would never willingly thrust upon anyone his deserved dues without a fight. He was never influenced by the pervasive sense of laziness around him neither did he become malleable by his position in the family. He realized that though age is respected, achievement and courage are revered. He was an industrious fearless young man who confronted lions, conquered bears, subdued beasts, and tamed other wild ravenous animals in the jungle in his quest to leave the world a better place than he met it.

Still, wondering why the Ogbona man is just who he is?

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