By Wordshot Amaechi Ugwele
In my town Ohodo there are many myths. One of such is about the masquerade, “Ekpe d’Obleg,” (Ekpe from Obleg’). The masquerade was taunted by its promoters then as not just a beautiful masterpiece, they told our people it was the most beautiful thing anyone would ever behold in life when it eventually came out to perform.
When pressed further to describe it, they simply told people they could not since there was nothing yet in existence to be compared with the masquerade.
All my people could do was wait for Ekpe d’Obleg’. And to make matters worse, the people of Obleg’ went into an apparent frenzy, raising a lot of din and dust, in their hype preparatory for the day this unique masquerade would make it’s much-awaited grand public showing.
And the most curious thing about it all was that before then, Obleg’ people never had any masquerade worth a second look. Although they were good in having musical and dance groups for casual merrymaking, all their attempts at having any grand masquerade of note always ended in awful failures.
Whenever Ohodo celebrated Iri Ji, Onwa Asaa or any of such, Obleg’ came with the most miserably costumed and poorly crafted masks that neither looked arresting nor danced artfully. People taunted them to know the end, which they tried to mitigate with their noisy and chaotic processions. They were naturally witty and wisecracking tricksters that had a reposte for any taunt or fun poked at them on account of the notorious shabbiness of their masquerades that could not stand anywhere near the majesty of Agalaba (Ijele) others parts of the town had and proudly displayed. The Otielechi, that is, Otimkpu of these masquerades dusted the best of anything Obleg’ had in every occasion.
Then, Obleg’ suddenly announced they were bringing out Ekpe. The name was foreign and full of mystique. And so, the noise they made about it was unprecedented. They promoted and marketed it in campaigns that would shame modern propagandists.
The other parts of Ohodo didn’t know when they began to cower in fear, that Ekpe was coming to dethrone their own masquerades, even when they never saw any evidence of preparations, as they neither retreated to any forest nor fenced off any compound in Obleg’, for secret rehearsals.
However, whenever anyone asked Obleg’ people when their masquerade was coming out, they would launch into distracting and evasive diatribes, saying people should just wait for them, that Ekpe was coming. When people’s interest began to wane, Obleg’ would just raise a sudden loud uproar in a remote outpost of their part of town. When people asked, the would say “Ekpe was coming!”.
As people raced towards that particular direction, the noise would erupt from another part altogether! And “Ekpe was coming!” rented the air everywhere.
You know as every trick would always expire one day, the people got wary of these duplicity and thereafter dubbed Ekpe the phantom masquerade of Obleg’ that got further away as the noise of its presence got closer! “Ekpe d’Obleg’. A s,’ ‘naa ha!’ ‘Naa ha!’ Ó kpùz gde!”, meaning, “Ekpe d’Obleg’. If they say ‘here it comes!’ ‘Here it comes!’ It gets further away!” People also came to use it to mock narcissists’ who had a high opinion of their appearance, hence such were often told they sure looked better than Ekpe d’Obleg’, the phantom beauty of a masquerade no one ever saw.
Till this day, no one, in living memory, either from Obleg’ or the rest of Ohodo, ever saw the masquerade. In fact, it eventually came to be that people were surer of its non-existence than otherwise, and have come to therefore associate the whole venture as the very height of the well-known Obleg’s duplicitous trickery.
In projecting and mongering the presence of a masquerade they knew they neither had the capacity to bring out to face the rest of Ohodo in a showdown, nor actually had, Ekpe came to become the first known case of, and indeed the birth of propaganda in Ohodo. Our people were so taken in by the hoopla that it worked for a while in compelling the whole town to go into a prolonged expectation for its appearance. However, time finally demystified and rendered it a sham it was. So, Ndi Enugu should not allow themselves to be distracted from this Ekpe they are now telling us “is coming” from somewhere in Enugu. They are usually what they are, trickery of some desperate people.