AUTHOR: Effa Imoh Okim
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2015
REVIEWER: DAN AMOR
Every traditional setting or what we now know as ethnic nationality in Nigeria had thriving traditions of literature and way of life before it came in contact with European or Arabic influence. Presently, most of these traditions, like the traditional societies that created them, have atrophied or degenerated. This lamentable state of cultural alienation is a consequence of the conquest of Nigeria by British colonialism in collaboration with the Christian and Islamic religions. The resultant devaluation of indigenous cultures and the imposition of colonial ideological hegemony took over a hundred years to accomplish.
Part of this programme of cultural disorientation is the creation of an educated elite which is credited with the
inauguration of a written tradition of literature whic colonialist criticism erroneously takes as the genesis of literature in Nigeria. But every traditional African society, including the Okuni or Olulumo people of the South
eastern tributary of the Lower Niger had oral literature prior to the invasion of our territory by the white man.
Paradoxically, Effa Imoh Okim, an Olulumo Prince who has enjoyed the benefit of Western education, has attempted to document the literature, tradition and culture of his people in this tiny book of about 136 pages. Like the proverbial dry meat, the small book is full of facts on the history, culture and tradition of the Okuni people of Cross River State.
Okuni or the Olulumo people are part of the Ekois, a variant of the Semi- Bantu people who migrated from Central Africa in the 13th century to the interior coast of West Africa when the region was said to be void. But it is generally believed that the Okuni people once resided at a place called Onughi with their other Yakurr brothers. Their migration from there to their present location, according to an account by Elphinstone Dayrell (1910), was necessitated by the sudden discovery that some were in the act of exhuming the remains of their dead people for consumption. The Olulumo people currently live on a 128 square kilometre of land fourteen kilometres west of Ikom on the left bank of the Cross River. According to the book, the typical occupation of the Okuni people is farming, which includes hunting and fishing.
Like a typical African society, the Olulumo people have certain rules and regulations which form the standard
morality passed on from generation to generation. Some of these rules and regulations include: (a). Not exhibiting
open annoyance to the extent of invoking the name of the Most High God. (b). Not rejecting food when angry. (c). Not passing human excrement in any stream. (d). Not having sexual affairs in the forest. (e). Not excreting on top of a fallen palm tree or anthill. (f). Any Olulumo hunter who killed Ekpe (Lion or Leopard ), Eyip ( Alligator) and Eche
(Boa or Python) must take same in full to the Okim Rodes Palace.
The book is segmented into five unequal but distinctive parts, each dealing with the socio-political and cultural
inclinations of the Okuni people. Chapter One captures the brief history of the Olulumo people: their location, religion(s), economic activities, farming, market structure, fishing, hunting, Nkani Era and Abele Iwa, Ogogoro (illicit gin) production, palm wine (Echat) and their contact with the white man. Chapter Two deals with the cultural history of the people, chieftaincy institutions, coronation of Chiefs, the folk lore of the people, kefin kogbor, the Mgbe Society Institution, Nchim, the Age Grade system, etcetera.
Chapter Three encapsulates the moral code of the people which includes: sustaining ethical values as panacea for
community crisis, mirror episode/ saga, etcetera. Chapter Four which dwells so much on the people’s language and
literature, documents Olulumo words, sentences, and their English equivalents; common terms and usages, nouns,vocabularies, times, numbering and counting. It also records proverbs, wise sayings, adages, and their meanings including sentences. Chapter Five immortalizes prominent sons and daughters of Okuni both home and abroad, draws conclusions with references/ bibliography. The book is therefore a highly successful scholarly venture by an Okuni son of the soil.
Flowing from the above, Effa Imoh Okim, in this book challenges us to understand first the history of specific
localities, groups and communities as a departure point for the comprehensive understanding of the comparative African history, tradition and culture.
Okuni Legacy is recommended on the basis of its significance to the Nigerian literary tradition. My pruning of its
content makes the case for my remark above and attempts a critical explication of its salient features. Although I
have tried in this review not to delve into comprehensive critical description, including information on plot, character, setting, motifs and themes, structure, language, voice, and moral, social or aesthetic vision, my candid opinion is that despite his academic background as an Estate Surveyor/Valuer and criminologist, the author maintains his thematic focus from start to finish. Again, Effa Imoh Okim should be commended for his clear farsightedness, eclectic language and vintage prose. Critical theories and cultural generalizations have been kept at bay in this work.
However, the work is related to the author’s canon, history and culture. Like Achebe’s legendary Things Fall Apart, Okuni Legacy is not just a legacy for the Olulumo people but also for the entire black race whose tradition was grossly abused by foreign invaders and their religions. It is a remarkable effort.
Amor is an Abuja-based literary critic and journalist.
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