Journey to Afikpo (Ebonyi State, Nigeria) : Day 2.

Day 2 — 20.08.2011

There is a smell that I have only perceived in Afikpo – in Amuro (where Uncle Otu’s house is) and in Mgbom (where my Dad’s house is). It emanates from smoke, I believe, and elsewhere it might have been disgusting. I am not alone in this assertion; my elder brother has corroborated it several times. If this holds out to be true, and I mean as an anthropological detail, it would seem that Afikpo is unique and without doubt a city that must come to the light. And which must be written about.

There are other claims I boldly make. Such as the christianization of this town. I was awakened, at various points last night, by the continued chants of ‘fire.’ (Permit my memory; I heard other words which I now forget). While walking to get my food and provisions yesterday, an entourage of Christians passed by, bringing with them the message (via loudspeakers and handbills) of a coming crusade. I was given a handbill, which I read disenchantedly and rather quickly, and I noticed that a baby’s photo was arranged as part of the speakers. I was curious and when I looked closely, I found that an ‘interdenominational’ church meeting was being staged in the baby’s honour – the baby was going to church.

As one enters Afikpo, there is a large signpost on a hill: a message from Afikpo Christian Fellowship (ACF), welcoming one to Afikpo. I recall that my Dad was amongst the founders of the ACF, which now has branches across Nigeria – at least I know of groups in Afikpo, Onitsha and Gwagwalada. But I also know that there was a recent fracas, which details are beyond me, and I have not heard my Dad speak of the ACF in a long while.

It is, then, conceivable that Christianity in Afikpo is as consciously practiced as in every other Ibo town – and who knows if this is not a counter-argument for folks who think a town is either Islamized or secularized. Everybody seems to be asking what moral this proclaimed religiosity evinces, since violence and immorality is yet on the rise. I am keen to think that it is not a question of vice and virtue. Perhaps we should begin to look at other things – such as the political and socio-cultural correctness being a Christian presupposes. One is never too sure of how advantageous it is to profess being a Christian.

Another claim I make is rather difficult to defend. I left the house few minutes after 6.00am since a shop with a generating set was open and I needed to charge my laptop (which I fondly refer to as Lisa – the famous Mona Lisa serves as a covering for my laptop, one of those adhesive stick-ons used aesthetically and protectively). While working with Lisa, a man comes and requests to see the shop-owner. The shop is the business quarters of, I think, a cameraman, where he edits the videos he captures. The shop-owner has just stepped out, the man is told. He is not speaking our dialect, but the central Ibo language.

It is either of two things: he is not from Afikpo (or Ehugbo, as we refer to it), or he is from Afikpo and has been heavily influenced by an inter-Ibo identity. Whichever of these presuppositions is correct, I am wont to believe that Afikpo, as every Ibo town, has welcomed fluidity in her language, and therefore, her culture (Isn’t language intended on one level as the voice of culture, and on another level as a means of communication?)

I am constantly in the lookout for how this claim comes out more solidly, especially since I will be here for another nine days.

First published in daily instalments on www.sarabamag.com between 19 — 29 August 2011
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© Emmanuel Iduma, 2011