In Togo, Nigerian masquerades thrill audience as late Igbo leader goes home in style


Chief Eme Chukwu 1952-2012

Maurice Archibong
3-time winner, travel & tourism reporter of the year
[email protected] 08056180050

But, for the transition and attendant loss of the person involved; it would seem that countless Nigerians in Togo and the many indigenes of the host country that watched in utter fascination as masquerades thrilled the audience no end, last Saturday, November 10; wished such outing could hold everyday.

Welcome to Lome, where several representatives of beings from the spirit world prowled this earth during the symbolic funeral ceremony for Chief Eme Chukwu, who until his death on September 11, was Chairman of Igbo Union Togo. A scion of the late Mazi Chukwu Lekwauwa Family of Umuokpo, Amankalu Alayi; Chief Eme Chukwu alias Power, who was born on August 10, 1952; also held the traditional title of Onje mba enwe iro.

Preceding last Saturday’s symbolic burial at his residence on Rue de l’Ocam, Lome; there was a Wake for the late Chief Chukwu at Eglise Evangelique Presbyterienne du Togo (Togo’s Evangelical Presbyterian Church) in Afevime, Aniko Palako on Friday, November 9. However, the burial proper will take place at the late chief’s country home in Alayi, Abia State; on December 22.

On November 14, the remains of Chief Chukwu left the CHU Tokoin (University Teaching Hospital) Mortuary in Lome for Nigeria, preparatory to the interment, which will be followed by Thanksgiving Service at Wesley Methodist Church, Amakalu, Alayi. Apart from the famous Abam traditional war dance troupe, there were at least three other cultural ensembles, which included a masquerade clothed in Esighi like Ekpe but put on a leash akin to Nnaabo.

Yes, Ekpe and Nnaabo are typical Efik masquerades but the Efik people of Cross River share a lot, ancestrally and culturally with the Igbos, especially of Arochukwu, and those from Old Bende (Abiriba, Alayi, Ohafia), as well as other clans commonly called Cross River Igbos. Aside the appearances of representational spirits (aka Ojuju Calabar), the traditional dress of some member of the malefolk, which threw up Ukara and Usobo also echoed the propinquity between the Efik of Cross River and Igbos of Abia State, in particular.

Chief Chukwu’s funeral was attended by people from all the Igbo-speaking states. While one could attribute this to the fact that he was Chairman of Igbo Union in Togo, it is also worth noting that; although the late Chief Chukwu hailed from Alayi in Abia, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s envoy to Togo, Ambassador Matthew Sunday Adoli, graced the occasion with his presence. In the same vein, Yoruba-born President of Nigerian Community Togo, Alhaji Idriss Gbadamosi, who resides in Kpalime, travelled more than two hours down to Lome to pay his respect to the departed Igbo Union Chairman.

Alhaji Gbadamosi was accompanied to the event by numerous Nigerians from various other ethnic groups. Despite his famed genial disposition, Amb Adoli is still a diplomat to the core, and he demonstrated this through the conduct, that he is a stickler for protocol by being neither the first to arrive nor the last to depart. Ostensibly too, throughout the ambassador’s presence all exuberance was kept in check. However, as soon as HE left; the drums boomed louder and native smokescreen derived from burning palm-nuts filled the air as some traditional performers virtually set the venue on fire.

Wow! From Ambassador Adoli, Alhaji Gbadamosi and other dignitaries, down to the cultural repertoire that livened up the space last Saturday; each one made everybody proud to be a Nigerian. Believe. According to Dr. Godwin Elendu, a businessman, writer and scholar; “The late Chief Eme Chukwu would indeed be missed, because he was not only a competent Chairman of Igbo Union Togo but also an embodiment of discipline and fairness to every human being, irrespective of religion, tribe or nationality”. We say QED to this apt and incontrovertible epitaph.

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