Friday, 20 January 2017

This Child shall stay home, By Bayo Ogunmupe


       Literally her name Uloakonwa translates to: 'There must always be a child at home'. this si the first name of the mother of this biographer, Callistus Chinedu Iwuozo. This book is the story of a widow and her faith in God which guided her and her children through the storms of life. Iwuozo dedicates the book to the protagonist, her mother. He remembers her mother as the kindest and most generous spirit he ever knew. Iwuozo compares her to the Biblical widow of Zarephat who gave out her last hope, only to attract the favour and blessing of Jehovah in return.
       This book is a panegyric of the author's mother and his wife Chinyere Julie, written while the author was in the Police Academy in Kano undergoing the 18 month police cadet course between February 2005 and August 2006. The manuscript was written in Kano, only to be edited in Lagos. The forward to the book was written by the Deputy Inspector general of Police Hillary Opara to show how influential Iwuozo is in the Nigeria Police Force. In his assessment, DIG Opara urged the reader to unwind their stress and discover the beauty of African society as they read this book and pass it to their friends.
       In the prologue, Iwuozo says his mother's name "There must always be a child in the home', guided their family after his own marriage; hoping for children to signify God's blessing. Iwuozo relates that his mother was born in Igboland before the colonialists came here. According to him, the Igbo nation was one homogenous group before the white man came with his culture, education and religion. The author believes that the white man brought partition, the divide and rule ideology to Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
       Uloakonwa has 210 pages, sixteen chapters and the epilogue which chronicles the culture of his homestead Afikpo, the civil war and its consequences. The first five chapters of the book relates the the story of Agbooda Uwandu. Born into the royal family of Uwandu Anyadike, Agbooda lived at the onset of colonialism. During her time the family was the centre of communal government. The family head was the leader and individual family groups constituted hamlets, villages and kindred groups. Uwandu the grand father of the author was a warrant chief of the colonial administration of his time. As such, he became a prominent leader of his people. Agbooda therefore grew up as a princess of the royal house of Uwandu in Idem Ogwa.
       At that time skills acquisition, folklore, hand crafts,sculpture, commerce, wood  carving, weaving, black smithing, pottery, herbalism and agriculture were the mode of education. Agbooda embraced trading in salt as a teenager. She thus became popular in the town. Therefore Agbooda's popularity, industry and beauty attracted the attention of the brave and charming son of Ahaba Orodo, a soldier who had enlisted in the service of the colonial regiment at the time. The marriage of Lolo Agbooda to Ahaba Orodo was highly celebrated and brought Ogwa and Orodo people together as kindred groups.
      Eze Uwandu became a famous financier in Igboland. His wealth and fame were so great that he married many wives and acquired many slaves from various communities across the Igbo country. He was involved in commerce between the hinterland and the coast. His slaves carried his produce to the coast for sale. His network of commerce goes as far as the Niger Delta region. Agbooda's siblings Eke and Ciprel enlisted into the colonial regiment that participated in the first and second world wars. The Uwandu family grew into a dynasty of men of wealth and influence.
       After Onuwa's marriage to Agbooda, the stallion of the Uwandu family, she took the title of Lolo Aku, thereafter she grew in fame and riches. Her material possessions rubbed off on her equally successful husband. It was common in polygamous families for women to control and manage her own estates which become the inheritance of their own children. But her last hope of raising a son, Okebata died one sunny afternoon, causing uproar in the community.
        Indeed, this story has been embellished with oral tradition of the Igbo people. Stories told by parents which Iwuozo put together in order to make the biography of his mother alluring. With the way things are going incest has to be redefined to accommodate obvious lapses and deviations necessitated by urbanization, migration and dearth of family ties. This book's setting, thinking,nomenclature are African. Therefore, this is an authentic delineation of the Nigerian reality, coming as it is from a law enforcement officer. Any lapses found should be ameliorated in its second edition. The concern of the author is that a woman who gave her all to the family  must be celebrated. This is an essential reading for lovers of culture, members of Nigeria Nostalgia group and the African Memory Initiative. This is a compelling rendering of African culture and tradition. It s a journal of the record of events during and after our colonial experience.

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