Is the Ban of Ekpo in Aro Loading?

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The human memory is rather short. On the 31st of December, 2009, Arochukwu was thrown into turmoil. All the preparations for the  crossover into the new year which Umu Aro relish, were put into  jeopardy. Aro streets, usually a beehive of activities and enjoying a  carnival-like atmosphere to usher in the new year, were completely  deserted. Rather than relaxing to enjoy the numerous parties that  normally heralded the new year, many people hurriedly left the town.  

What was wrong? An Ekpo masquerade had killed somebody. To make  matters worse, it was no ordinary person. The elite of Arochukwu and their friends went into overdrive on damage control. In spite of their  best efforts, some persons including an Eze Ogo spent nearly a month  in police custody. Promising careers were damaged. It was by God’s  mercy that uncommon understanding was laid in the heart of the  aggrieved institution and Aro was not reduced to rubbles. 

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Eze Aro in conjunction with Nzuko  Arochukwu, banned Ekpo masquerade in Arochukwu. For more than  three years, Ekpo remained banned. During the period of ban, all kinds  of pressure was brought to bear on the Monarchy and Nzuko Aro.  Many claimed that it had robbed our festivities of the vitality and  excitement associated with Ekpo. They alleged that the churches have  captured the Aro institutions and were using them to destroy Aro  culture. Ekpo exponents promised to be of good behavior and to avoid  any form of trouble if the ban was lifted.  

Before the ban was lifted, a Code of Conduct was signed on 31st December, 2012 between Nzuko Aro, Eze Ekpo and Ndi Eze Ogo to  avoid misconduct by Ekpo masquerades.  

The Ekpo Code of Conduct provides that:  

1. Eze Ogo shall approve before any Ekpo can perform.

2. Each village shall have Eze Ekpo, assisted by 1st and 2nd Vice  who shall act in his capacity in his absence or  incapacitation.  

3. Eze Ekpo shall maintain a register of all members initiated  into Ekpo.  

4. Eze Ekpo shall submit the list of all performers and their  details to Eze Ogo before any outing.  

5. Eze Ekpo shall ensure the following:  

• That roads are not barricaded during any Ekpo  performance.  

• That the performers do not carry any weapon before,  during and after any performance. 

• That the performers do not take drugs or alcohol or  any substance that is capable of influencing their  actions. 

• That Ekpo performance shall start at 8:30 a.m. and  end at 4:30 p.m. 

Regrettably, in the recent past, Ekpo performers now obey the code  of conduct in breach. The ugly practices that resulted in serious  problems in the past are again in full display. During the 2019  festivities most Ekpo masquerades and their followers were kitted like  they were going to war. They were armed with well sharpened  machetes, clubs, broken and virgin bottles of assorted hot drinks as  well as fire balls. One did not require any ‘special eye’ to know that the masquerades and their troupes were under heavy influence of  intoxicants. 

It became common for Ekpo to barricade the roads and climb exotic  cars. Not less than six cars had their windscreens smashed by  masquerades or their followers. The police and soldiers had to be  invited to settle some of the fights that had ensued as a result.  Masquerade displays continued deep into the night with attendant  risks to public safety. The situation was so bad that the leadership of Nzuko Aro had to move from one village to another to get the Eze  Ogos to call the masquerades to order.  

The apprehension of the average Aro man or woman is so high that  the issue dominated discussion at the meeting of the Central  Executive Committee of Nzuko Aro held in Abakiliki on the 13th of  March this year. The meeting resolved that from Easter 2020, any  village that wished to embark on masquerade displays must first  obtain the permission of the Eze Ogo and the president general of the  village. The Eze Ekpo of the village, the Eze Ogo and president general  of such village would be held responsible for any infractions  committed by the Ekpo masquerade. In other words, the Eze Ekpo, Eze  Ogo and president general of each village must ensure that the  masquerades obey the code of conduct. They must not block the  roads, jump on vehicles, carry dangerous weapons, consume  dangerous substances or operate after 5 p.m. The meeting mandated  Nzuko Arochukwu and the monarchy to ban Ekpo if the infractions  continued.  

Ekpo masquerade is one of the defining cultural practices of the Aro. Whether it is the rugged carvings of the face of the masquerade, the  muscular bodies covered with charcoal or the assumptions that  masquerades come from the spirit world, Ekpo is a major attraction  for the young and old.  

Nzuko Aro is therefore committed to sustaining the social, entertainment and commercial values of Ekpo masquerade displays  but on the condition that they are peaceful. People travel to Cross  River and other states in the country; and as far as Brazil to watch  carnivals and other cultural displays with no threat to personal safety.  We must not forget how close we came to self destroying our beloved  Arochukwu because of Ekpo in 2009. 

We hope that the organizers of Ekpo masquerades in Aro would heed  these warnings otherwise the ban of Ekpo is loading!

About author

Anicho Okoro

Anicho Sunny Okoro, is a political scientist,political administrator, outstanding journalist and community development catalyst. An alumnus of Abia State University where he studied Government and Public Administration, he also has training in Law and Mass Communication. The focus of his post-graduate studies is Conflict Management. For more than two decades, he served in the Imo/Abia Broadcasting Services, winning several awards and playing key roles in information management of Abia State as Press Secretary. He has also served Nigeria at the Presidency and member of several Federal Boards. He is currently the Publicity Secretary General of Nzuko Aro worldwide. Anicho is a recipient of several awards for community service including Ezinwa Obinkita.

1 comment

  1. Mazi Elvis Nwakanmma 3 November, 2020 at 01:11 Reply

    Thanks so much for taking your time to help in making our lovely town a safe place for all, ekpo if well managed it’s an interesting and entertaining outfit that makes our children and grandchildren to visit our Arochukwu kingdom, if the rules giving to them should be adhered to, that Will be great,

    Keep your good work going and God bless you

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