The year has come and almost gone and every child is in their happiest mode, hopping about and hoping that the year would not come to an end because they, the children could be allured to plentiful in terms of food and other gifted items. Parents are busy working hard to mark the end of the year with great satisfaction for their children and also for themselves. It is a glorious cycle of events that human beings have come to be well acquainted with. Happy Christmas and Iselogbe to everyone (Guawuenyen).
This year is not different from the previous years in terms of the number of days, weeks, months that make up the year. Every year, from beginning to the end, we experience different festivities. The Idi Kabir of the Muslim faith has come and gone and during this time there was enough and plentiful to eat in celebration of Allah (God). It is now the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and also, the time the Edos celebrate the creation of mankind by God with Igue Festival. What a coincidence that the Christmas and Igue are celebrated almost the same time of the year! The Edos celebrate the Igue by appeasing the indomitable mysterious head, harbouring the most characteristic features of the human race: the mouth, the brain, medulla oblongata, cerebellum, cerebrum, the tongue, the teeth, saliva, the nostrils, nose, eyes, hairs, and also the gateway or passage food taken into the body, and where we take in the oxygen and breathe out the carbon dioxide = Life of Human Beings. All these mysteries to the glory of God and may God’s name be praised at all times (Amen). Remember the Bible says God made man in his own image. The Edos believe every human being represents the image of God and therefore worthy of worshiping and celebration, hence the appeasement of the head to celebrate the creation of mankind by God (Guawuenyen).
During the time of Christmas and Igue there is plentiful to eat, those celebrating Igue will bring out the best flock of animal that they have reserved or bought for the occasion and use it to appease the head (Head a guiding spirit of God) and in the process they mark the lintel of the house and door with the blood of the animal slaughtered so that the angel of God coming that night will recognise them and bless them accordingly. The next day they would cleanse the land from evil spirits, and anyone causing evil, havoc, and destruction in the land is cursed and handed over to God for retribution and punishment. The cleansing of the land normally starts from the holy site of God (Holy Aruosa in Benin City). The festival is a spectre of intrigue and interest at the Omo N’ Oba, Nedo Uku Akpolokpolo’s palace and people come from near and far places to witness history in the making year after year. The villages, towns and cities glow in delight and joy and hardly anyone is sad on Igue day. God is merciful, children are happy and God the Udazi is glorified by everyone and there is a period of affability by all, no enmity, just like the water.
Significantly and uniquely to Igue festival is the Ewere leaf otherwise known as the leaf of Jesus Christ, with red and white spittle. Traditional oral genre says the white represents the sweat of Jesus Christ and the red the blood that splattered on the leaf when our Lord Jesus Christ was being crucified. That leaf has convinced me and many like me that the Igue is a glorification of the existence of Jesus Christ, and creation of mankind by God. Some so called religion ‘Mr everything biblical’ may laugh and scorn at this but I am sure the great majority of those that really harbour the lord Jesus Christ at heart will be rational enough to see the reality of this assertion.
A day after the night of Igue everyone who cares, especially the youths as the first cock crows would take a fire glowing wood stump, run with the wood and converge near the evil’s forest of their respective villages, towns and cities to throw the burning wooden fire into the evil forest and in the process placing a curse on any one causing any evil in their community. They would in turn rush to the sacred place where the special Ewere’ or Jesus’ leaves grow. They would pluck from the Jesus’ leaf and they would then rush home with a joyful song and prayer. They would go to their respective homes to share the joy of that leaf with their parents and other people in their households before taking to the street to continue sharing the leaf of our lord Jesus Christ with any other members of the society. (I have explained Igue: “in Celebrating the Edo heritage” before, so I will not detail it here). I have touched on Igue functionalities because I am passionate about my peoples’ love for Almighty God (Osanobua) and also very much concerned about the level of societal participation at Igue and Christmas celebration. I do not think there is another race  anywhere that recognises the leaf of Jesus Christ as a mark for celebration and also the marking of the lintel of the house with animal blood that was used for Igue feast as commanded by God to his people, with the exception of the Israelis, who till date celebrate the feast of Passover with the marking of the lintel of their houses with the animal blood that was used for sacrifice on the day so that the Angel of God when coming that night will recognise them and spare them.
I cannot take my head and mind off the verse in the bible that asks the Israelis to bring out their best flock for sacrifice for the feast of Passover and to mark their houses’ lintel with the animal’s blood so that God would recognise them and spare them. The Edos are Israelites who migrated from Egypt when God ordered Moses to take the Israelis out of Egypt to the promise land. It took the Israelites over forty years to get to the promise land. Many had died during the epic journey, some rebelled after so many years in the desert and wilderness, and left for different places, hence the Falasha Jews in Ethiopia, Edos in Nigeria and possibly many other tribes. Most of the deities in Edo land are borrowed ones, Olokun is the authentic one which they ascribe as the Chief Angel of God, hence when they mention God’s name at a critical time they would sometimes mention the name Olokun. They believe he was there when God made man. Again as the bible says; God says: “let us make man in our own image”. Therefore God was not alone when he created man/woman. This delectable festival is what some people have in gargantuan fashion labelled variously therefore not worthy of celebration. May God almighty forgive such people in their delusionary mind?  But almost everyone, be it a child, an adult or the aged, looks out to when the Christmas and Igue will be celebrated. This is certainly true if you are a Christian and have not been deluded by dogma and in philosophical heresy surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ and if you are an Edo person and have not been adulterated in culture and religious dogmatism. The mirage of rejection is not only ascribed to the great Igue festival but Christmas celebration. Some Christians of all faiths do not believe in Christmas arguing the inevitable disputable birth of Jesus Christ’s date as an excuse for abstinence and at times saying every day is God’s celebration, while the psyche misfortune Edo person and non-Edo, argues the Igue festival appeases not God but deity. They are right in their own logical thinking and as such free to partake or not in the celebration of either the Igue or Christmas. Both Christmas and Igue I must say is my preserve and one which I cherish very much.
Regrettably, those that stand to point fingers at the great Igue festival might be deluding in false dreams, a dream that seemed lost or misplaced for ever, and an optical illusion, which has possibly blighted their minds. The heretical paradigm is one of double standards which the discourse between Ngugi’s “Decolonising the Mind” and Chinua Achebe’s “Realism” could not solve. When both writers were asked about their use of the English Language instead of writing in their own mothers’ tongue, the more nationalistic philosopher, the educationally gifted, no nonsense Ngugi Wa Thiongo enthusiastically answered with all grit and might that he had decided to write only in his mother’s tongue. To him it was an admission of guilt that he had been colonised, not only in terms of national economic frontier but his soul, the mother’s tongue had been taken away from him. The only possible way he thought he could free himself from the yoke of ethnographical imperialism was by liberating his tongue also!  This admittance of guilt, Teddy Themba Daka, of the “Zambia Heritage” in his poetic writing, decries as ‘a careless outburst’ by Ngugi.  He went on to say Ngugi “walks on sinking sand”. He completed his walloping of this great African writer by saying Ngugi appears to have a personal vendetta against the language that feeds him. While I sympathise with Themba’s outrage I honestly believe Ngugi is a pragmatist who talks not from the hutches of reality. His decision was not based on economic consideration, it might be tough, hard, but he lives to fight for total freedom, a war which he thinks he can win, he lingers on and lives forever preserving his culture, heritage and human dignity. The erring Themba, SOAS alumni with little or no contribution to the existence of mankind either in Africa or elsewhere is a man who lives for today because of what tomorrow could bring, and also could be a pessimist or Euphemist that tries to avoid trouble or problems when confronted by the might of the so called “superior” being. However, Themba’s castigation of Ngugi is scripted in myopic invaluable despair of an Anglo-Saxon delusion, which I think would not earn him any credit either by the people he pretends to represent or in his home land therefore his cantankerous outburst should be seen as a picaresque soap opera of no consequences or value to Ngugi or people like me.
But to the more experienced, rational thinker and possibly profit driven Chinua Achebe, he was ready to admit “there was no getting away from the English language as a means of writing- A bitter pill though it may be, it is a gift which I have been given and I am going to use it”. For Achebe it was not alright to write in English, when he has his own language, but for sure if you are going to reach the world, which Igbo language cannot do you will be compelled to write in the English language, and of course it would have been rather difficult to explain, chemistry, physics or engine combustion, talk less of world audience genre in Igbo language when Igbo is only spoken in an enclave of Nigerian society. Think of the lost in lucre derivation if Achebe used only Igbo! But he is being rational and truthful, even though an unfortunate situation, he would use both Igbo and English, they are gifts which he must ascribe to. The Igue festival and the Christmas are gifts which I have been given, the Igue: by nature, and by the virtue of my ancestors and by the fact that I am an Edo, Bini speaking man, my culture, my heritage, my identity, and my soul; while Christmas is a gift to me by the colonial ogre, has become also my soul mate by the fact that I have studied the Bible since I was a seven year old boy, growing and having my elementary education in my dungeon but wonderful and beautiful village of Oluku, near Benin City. I cherish the gift of nature and I have also come to accept and cherish the one I am forced with, both are glorification to the Lord Almighty. This day and age, Christianity is no longer for those who are fortunate and privileged to have Western education, it is for everybody. There is no house in Edo land that has not been touched by Christianity. Some people delightfully may call this “emancipation of the lost sheep” but the Bible says we should render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is for God. It is a bit diabolical that we tend to over react to frivolous circumstances and ferment problems for ourselves when there is none. The scornful remarks which some xenophobic people hold against anyone that celebrates Igue festival is a little short of heretical behaviour usually associated with Boko Haram fanaticism which has not only blighted Nigeria’s image but has divided the nation on religious lines. I was fortunate enough not too long ago to attend one of the oldest churches of the world in one of the cold countries and was so delighted to hear the Priest preached about different festivals, cultures and values during the Xmas period of different countries across the globe and I was most excited and captivated when he mentioned the great Igue festival in Nigeria. The rest is history as I will not bother to go into it here. I am a celebrant of Igue festival and an ardent Christian; in fact I am an assistant Pastor for now, far away in Nigeria where I have spent most of my life. Why cannot we for once accept realities of life and stop believing we know everything when we in fact are way behind the world in everything we do in life? One thing is certain both Igue and Christmas celebration are synonymous in value and respect for God; they are being celebrated almost in the same vein and on the same day. They are not rivals, in fact they complement one another, though they scramble for space and time which the delectable and affable Omo n’ Oba recognises and wisely solves the issue by shifting the traditional Christmas (Igue) date to allow Christmas and Igue to be celebrated on a different date and also to allow a full participation of all religion faiths of both God’s festivals. Therefore where there is discord let there be harmony, where there is despair let there be hope, where there is conflict let there be settlement, where there is disagreement let there be unity, where there is misunderstanding let there be understanding, and where there is hatred let there be love in Jesus name (Amen) Guahueyen.

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