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How Arrogance Led To Fall Of Famous Igbo Masquerade ~By Anayo Nwosu

The whole crowd at the old Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium Enugu was amazed at the ingenuity of Odum cultural group in creating a lion masquerade known as Odum.

The masquerade was a perfect lion in colour, shape and entire design.

There was no clearly distinctive difference between the lion or Odum masquerade and the lion in the Eastern Nigerian Zoological Garden in Enugu.

It hopped, jumped, gnarled and yawned. But this one could dance admirably.

Odum masquerade had a chain on its waist held by a well built up “dimkpa” or strong young macho man who was seen to be having difficulty in preventing the Odum masquerade from wreaking havoc.

There was another masquerade in the group called Dinta or hunter who was armed with a Dane gun.

Dinta would be acting as if it was looking for the Odum or the lion in the crowd but and would most times pick race of his life to the amusement of the crowd as he was being pursued by Odum the lion.

Children amongst the crowd would be running away; some crying in the fear of the lion masquerade. Women too ran as they did to all other masquerades.

But, the men and the elderly knew that the Odum masquerade was adorned by a petite and agile young man selected amongst members of the masquerade group and trained to mimic the heroics of a lion.

Bare chested, hefty and fierce looking men each wielding double-edged swords, move around with the Odum masquerade and would push, shove and remove human obstacles on the way of the advancing Odum.

The combined activities of the Odum masquerade, the Dinta or hunter, the high octane music drummers and the rugged looking followers who also sing war songs as intoned by a lead singer made the entire group looked beautiful and fearsome.

Not all other masquerade groups were happy as Odum stole the show at the masquerades festival at Enugu.

Odum cultural group was also declared winners at other masquerades festivals that held in Umuahia, Owerri and Abakaliki to the envy of much older masquerade groups.

A date had just been fixed for the Anambra masquerades festival but Odum or lion masquerade had another idea.

Through its secretary, Odum group wrote to the embarrassed Anambra organizers that it should be allowed to be that last masquerade to perform giving their group’s rising status.

That was wrong but the masquerades festival organization committee was in dilemma as many people including foreign tourists would be attending to watch the famous Odum perform.

Odum masquerade group’s request was leaked to the press and other masquerade groups in Igbo land saw the request as an affront.

It was an age-long practice in Igbo land that the right to perform last or to be the last masquerade to enter an arena was a privilege to Ijele known as the king of the masquerades.

Not waiting to be embarrassed during the Awka festival, five native doctors and owners of various masquerades from Nnobi, Nando, Oghe, Enugwu-Ezike and Ozu-Item decided to nip this Odum embarrassment in the bud.

The native doctors had it on good authority that Odum masquerade was billed to perform at the funeral of Ichie Omenuko at Ukpor town.

Under the concerted juju influence of five native doctors, the members of the Odum masquerade started fighting themselves two minutes upon entering the arena at Omenuko’s compound.

It was a tragedy as the fight between the members of the hitherto beautiful masquerade group led to the tearing of the mask of the revered Odum or lion masquerade itself.

The crowd including women, children and uninitiated were to learn that it was actually a human being, a common man, that was inside the Odum masquerade.

And they could recognize who the man behind the masquerade was.

Every other person in Igbo land except the initiated was meant to believe that masquerades were adorned by the spirits of the ancestors.

That was how Nnamdi, the man behind the latest raving Odum masquerade in Igbo land, was demystified.

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