—-Ogbaniko l’ubi ubi k’ago, Ogbaniko l’ogba ogba k’ago
I was nominated and requested to be a columnist for the blurb designed, hosted, and promoted by the Project Igala group as it looks forward to a renewed and reenergized engagement through structural and forward looking advancement of the Igala cause and realities.
I have decided to name my column Ogbanago—“I focus upon looking forward.” Forward movements are always progressive march whose spading rhythms are often episodic and even unparalleled in the annals of time.
Forward focusing is like a driver of a vehicle. The driver in driving forward tries to secure him/herself, his /her passenger, vehicle, and other road users and even by-standers from harm through diligent driving and proactive decisions. But in doing so, it is not always possible except to keep looking back through the rear-view-mirror that keeps him alert to his past and behind and side views even as he moves forward. Therefore, in the decision toward looking forward (Ogbanago) one must initiate a rear-view-mirror perspective (backward) (Ubinago) to one’s existential motions.
Therefore, the decision to name this column, Ogbanago is motivated by similar instincts that as the Igala put the future into focus, they need to engage retrospection and history. History is progressive yet steeped in the conditions and lessons that the past brings into focus. No doubt, we cannot be a forward moving people, if we do not make sense of our historical past, the cultural initiatives and heritages, and the existential legacies they invoke.
As a people and a nation, the Igala have a rich history, but also a very burdensome and checkered past that incorporates and mutually embrace good and bad times, progress and temporal dislocations, excitable forays of individuals, and the greed and selfishness of certain individuals that have had consequences for our Igala existence.
In this column, I intend to awake our consciousness and consciences to many of the in-roads we have collectively made as a people, to encourage our present drives toward achieving much more. Yet, I will draw attention to a robust repertoire of some of the discouraging and even offensive contexts that have drawn us back.
In doing this, I will reflect solidly on the historical facts, and will be ethically true as best as possible in minimizing certain subjective biases, even though these cannot be fully filtered from any social, historical, and subjective discourses. Our subjectivities is also the basis of our collective subjectivities that forms the bases for any resounding objectivity as much as this can be fathomed and excised from our collective consciousness as filtered through memories, space, and time.
Therefore, as we think about this, I want to highlight and pinpoint something that arouses my interest from the little insect the Igala calls Ogbaniko. Ogbaniko is a little arched back insect that typically likes moving in reverse direction. As primary school kids, this insect used to excite our passion and we go looking for it. Once one is found we try to place it on the cement flour and clap our hands, singing and v for the Ogbaniko to either move in reverse direction, or in forward direction according to our command as if the Ogbaniko actually hears what it is we are talking and in what language. Yet, sometimes the Ogbaniko follow our commands and we are happy, and at other times, it doesn’t and we are disappointed. In singing and clapping hands that “Ogbaniko l’ubi l’ubi ka go, Ogbaniko l’ogba l’ogba ka go,” we feel we have certain commanding control. Yet, the Ogbaniko seemingly follows its own internal dynamics and processing instincts to do what it feels like doing.
As much as we at times feel, we have control of time and event processes, one thing is clear that social events and historical conditions are not always perfect, and they even at times in spite of our best intentions and controlling antics follow their own instinctual internal dynamics outside and beyond of our immediate control. Therefore, as much as the historical past can give us certain contexts and references, human society—including Igala society and historical processes—are not so easily controlled to our tastes and bidding.
Hence, as much as we reference history, we must always remember that the human and social complexities will also have a way of its own selective determination of historical underwriting and reshaping without altogether being conscious of our vuvuzelizing uproars and upbeat excitements. However, the best we can do is to not be passive observers of our history and its flow, but active participants in shaping it as best as we can. That is our human capability to act and imprint our legacies and perspectives as individuals, as a group, and as a nation upon the landmark of our times and map the contours of our historical present boldly.
That stated, as we begin this initiative, I am excited for the great things that we hope will occur, and the historical possibilities that all our individual and collective actions will bind into huge significance for transforming our land, our people, our Igala ethnic nation, and that we are a blessing to Nigeria and the universe we inhabit. We must decide not to throw up our hands in the air and always intone the impossible and the obvious obstacles that we have hardened within our minds as impermeable and unresolvable, as if as humans we lack imagination and capabilities.
We, Igala, young and old, males and females, from all the corners of our land, can never be content with “never” or “impossible.” We must always consider that we are a people who can break the ice, navigate every hard terrains, and negotiate the landscapes of our every situations with the determinations toward sidelining the odious and the terribly difficult. The journey has begun and with the motion of a lap, we are traveling zillion miles to our destination of hope and transformed excellence, without abandoning the trip midway.
True, we acknowledge that they have and will remain some hurdles—enormous and inconsequential- on our ways but huddling together we will traverse every obstacles with a positive attitude. Therefore, it is time for us to count our blessings of the past, rather than engage in complaints and a blame game; celebrating what each generation have accomplished given their situations, and refusing to renege as we surge forward to conquer more territories of opportunities and resourceful hopefulness. Will all come together, though it is our hope, it is never possible. Some will refuse to bind and work and walk with us. But, with the few we can keep moving, and others will join us on the way.
Let us remember the story of the animal race, where the Lions boasted that it will be the fastest in the race with the hare. The hare knew that it will not be able to compete with the lion, but had a game plan. The hare planned with each hare en route to join the race in the front, so that even though the initial hare that began the race is tired and behind, the lion was always visualizing that the hare was always in its front. The hare, in deed won the race, though we can question the hare’s sincerity but at least we must give it credit for having a master plan regarding how to win and present a positive face far and above the more powerful and energetic lion. Of course, the lion, could equally thought of such plan, but it did not and so in the eyes of the onlookers lost the race that enormously hurt its pride.
All said and done, we can assert that memory is actually a dangerous thing—at one end remembering profoundly the flush of events, and at the other end effusively erasing, and refusing to remember or recall the past or events. When we refuse to remember, leaking out the reservoir of cherished times and events, as if it never happens, we risk losing something so dear, just like death with all the pains and regrets that it arouses.
Until, next time, so long. In my next column, I hope to reflect on the phenomenon of the “Egwu Abdu” that dominated the landscape of Ayangba’s night-life in the 1970s and well into the early 1980s, where I was born, went to elementary school and had a joyful childhood. Many no longer remember this spectacular Ayangba phenomenon. Yes, the Egwu Abdu, memory is now vastly dissipated and almost depleted from the Ayangba collective mindset. Such memories gone have raced through time, and almost mainly erased, so much that only possibly just a few now remembers.
Timing is everything and on the wings of its passage we are, interestingly it defines our conditions. If we refuse to remember then everything dies in time, forgotten and decayed, but if we preference to remember something lives that we can greatly relish, cherish, and celebrate.
But if we do not remember the recent past, then what happens to us in the short space of time that we live and die, our memories within a limited period will be heaped into irrelevance, sidelined and burnt in the incinerator of evolving time-space. We cannot afford that. We cannot simply mark time through this universe, something about us and what we have done or attempted to do, must matter and be somewhat registered in the memories of our land and time.
(*Rev. Fr. Attah Anthony Agbali is a Catholic priest for Idah diocese and resides in the great Hoosier state of Indiana, USA. He has advanced degrees in Anthropology and Sociologist, and did graduate coursework in Public Policy Analyst and Administrator. He has vast academic publications and public commentaries. He is an expert in Igala culture, society, and history. A Social critic, his far ranging interests is broad, diverse, and versatile. He is equally a Philosopher, Theologian, Communications and Media Producer/Analyst, and Healthcare professional who enjoys preaching, teaching, poetry composition, reading and prolific writing. He also loves tennis, photography and audio-visual productions, horticulture, car repairs and home renovations/fixing).
(Column by Rev. Fr. Attah Anthony Agbali)*