If you grew up in a traditional Nigerian setting like me, you will have experienced that families normally start their Sunday mornings with a church service. Be it in the village or town, it is always lovely to see the family units walking or driving down to church after the hard weeks work.
On this particular day, as I drove my family to a place of worship, I noticed at the first bus stop some folks I did not think were on their way to church. I wasn’t sure why I thought that way but it could be because of the way they were dressed. I did not want to do any “busy body” that morning, so I neglected the scene and continued my journey. On getting to another road junction, I saw some refuse disposal guys carting away the refuse on the major “Ada George” road in Port Harcourt. Not wanting to cause any trouble that morning, my “forgiving” spirit quickly made excuse for these ones doing a good work for the society. I excused them immediately in my mind, consoling myself that these ones will go for “Uka Mgbede”
Uka Mgbede is the Christian church service held in the evenings. The phrase resonates with catholics who may not be able to attend their church service in the morning. It comes in handy when you work morning shifts for example. Hence you may not be able to make it to church in the morning or for some other reasons beyond your control. So I was not out of my way when I declared “Uka Mgbede” for the guys doing the refuse disposal job. After all, it was an essential duty and that early morning was the best time given the low traffic on the road.
I could not in all honesty accept “Uka Mgbede” for the third group of people I saw that Sunday. I met this group in the church compound itself! As I entered the compound, I met these ones selling items that had nothing to do with church. On enquiry, they “blabbed” excuses that sounded like they were destined for “Uka Mgbede”. This time around, our innocent “Uka Mgbede” connots another meaning; an excuse for dodging the regular Sunday church service. This type of “Uka Mgbede” is not the type we were brought up with. This one is usually fronted by youths or even elderly people “dapugoro na okwukwe” (fallen out of the Christian faith). They front this excuse when asked whether they will not go to church as they refuse to dress up when others in the house are dressing up. They front it knowing that most times no one will check later in the evening to confirm that they made up the days sacramental obligation. However, some parents are sharper than them and in those cases, no cheating or dodging will happen. At least they must leave or be seen to leave the house on that Sunday evening. The checks may not be perfect though since the parents will not follow them to church or call the reverend father to confirm attendance of their ward but generally dressing up and leaving for “Uka Mgbede” suggests the person respects the tradition and can be given the benefits of doubt.
And if you have listened to that Onyeka Onwenu’s song “Iye Ogogo”, you would have probably had a feeling of “Uka Mgbede”. I believe that when she sang “Ka anyi je na nke bishop na five akuona” (a line in the song that translates “let’s go to the bishops house because it’s 5 O’clock”) she was talking about “Uka Mgbede” or she had “Uka Mgbede” in mind.
And for those families that have the tradition of eating rice (and stew) on Sunday afternoons, fronting “Uka mgbede” confers a qualification for that delicacy alongside other family members that attended morning service. This action may turn out to be obtaining by tricks aka “419” if that person fails to fulfil that obligation as anticipated in “Uka mgbede”.
But “Uka Mgbede” can be nice. Walking in the cool of the evening as you tag along an elderly one to the church or while coming back was a leisure to behold. There was no terror or fear of anything untoward happening as you make your way to church. In those days, I remember walking like that from one “Uka Mgbede” to my grandma’s place at Nnewi street in Odapku area in Onitsha. I don’t know what it was, but I know that grandma’s brought a lot of memory and goodies. As starters, I was sure of her Sunday rice with this special aroma no one can replicate. Then you top it up with a bottle of malt and possibly an egg. I was less than five years old then but I can remember the image around that visit and other circumstances around visiting grandma. That was when “Uka Mgbede” was “Uka Mgbede”
Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com
Wednesday 7th August 201