THOUGHTS ON UDU HISTORY AND CULTURAL PRACTICES: A REVIEW

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By Austin Emaduku

PROTOCOLS
Let me begin by thanking the author, Chief Eddy Ono-Sorhue, for this rare honour and privilege to stand before a distinguished audience such as this to deliver a review of his new book, THOUGHTS ON UDU HISTORY AND CULTURAL PRACTICES. It is always going to be a great honour for anyone, no matter his pedigree, to be requested to write a review to a book written by a great mind and towering personality like Chief Eddy Ono-Sorhue. The privilege is therefore almost overwhelming as the task is daunting. It is like being asked to put on the over sized shoes and gears of war of Ovo the mythical giant and dreaded war hero of Udu history. But the mystic drums having been sounded and with Igbokwa calling out to Erharen Oba its brother deity of war, the pulsating sound of the African drum quickens my spirit as I hear the warriors sing:
Eee vwurie vwurie
Eee vwurie vwurie
Asasa vwurie krosa
Igbokwa vwurie vwurie
Eee vwurie vwurie
Asasa vwurie krosa
Omo r ofovwi vwurie vwurie
Eee vwurie vwurie
Asasa vwurie krosa

Having poured libations on my feet, I feel fortified to commence with the task at hand.
Chief Eddy Ono-Sorhue, as I have had cause to state elsewhere, is a living repository of Udu history. THOUGHTS ON UDU HISTORY AND CULTURAL PRACTICES is the third book by the author, who had already shown himself by his earlier works and by his life to be a man of awesome memory with a knack for meticulous record keeping. He is therefore eminently qualified to author a book on the subject matter of Udu history and culture.
As the title THOUGHTS ON UDU HISTORY AND CULTURAL PRACTICES suggests, the book deals with the history and culture of the Udu people. The approach of the author in this work is to collate the different versions and views from different commentators on Udu history and to present them raw. The book is therefore a compendium of all known strands of Udu history. The advantage of this approach is that the book affords the reader the whole view and the academic minded researcher, ample materials to apply tools of historical analyses from which to deduce conclusion. In this regard, the title of the book THOUGHTS ON UDU HISTORY AND CULTURAL PRACTICES is somewhat misleading as what we have here are not thoughts of the author or anyone on the history and cultural practices of the Udu people but a warehouse of the different versions of Udu history and culture as gleaned from earlier written works and mostly oral narration by those versed in the subject. The author himself acknowledged this fact in the introductory chapter when he said of his approach: We are deviating from the conventional style of analyzing the views of those approached for commentary on the Udu story. We are presenting the views of each commentator for future references so that the reader could form his opinion on any subject matter relating to Udu past and cultural practices.
Considerable efforts and sacrifice are evident to have gone into sourcing material for this book. The author must therefore be commended for the enormous time and intellect deployed.
Without explicitly saying it, the book sets a revivalist tone for the rejuvenation of the cultural practices of the Udu people, for it is impossible not to be gripped with nostalgia for our colourful festivals and rich cultural practices of the past.
Written in simple easy to read prose, the book, which I have chosen to call the encyclopedia of Udu history and culture is divided into nine chapters.
Chapter 1 deals with the introductory aspect of the book. It introduces the Udu people to the reader. It talks about population, size and location. It also deals with the historical factors for migration thereby setting the tone for the history of how Udu people migrated to their present location narrated later in the book. This chapter also introduces the authors approach to the work.
Chapter 2 is basically gleaned from Bishop Nathan Madeyis doctoral thesis on Udu history. The chapter brings to the fore aspects of Udu history that are not hitherto known to many. For example the chapter reveals with starling evidence that a kingship system existed in Udu about 500 years ago. That the first Monarch in Udu was Oleku who obtained his crown from the Oba of Benin and became known as Omoku I. He was said to have reigned between 1795 and 1860. The author say the reign of Omoku I which was short lived to misunderstanding with the Oba of Benin was the first Dynasty in Udu. The second Dynasty came by way of warrant Chiefs appointed by the British colonial government.
Chapter 3 aptly titled Sketches of Udu history contains various oral accounts of how certain villages of Udu were established and the origin of their names. We learnt in this chapter for example, how the name of Ubogo community derived from an episode which played out when some hunters from Bini came to Emadadja to hunt for game. You will see the details in the book. We also learnt here that the Udu villages of Obubu and Ekrota were founded by Ijaw elements. The long standing historical ties between the Ijaws and the Udu people through migration and inter tribal marriages that are evident in Udu cultural life is depicted in the narration in this chapter.
Chapter 4 is more or less a continuation of the narration of Udu history but this time told by much younger men. Like in the other chapters the narrators also gave conflicting views in some instances. Two common threads however run through all the narration. They are the place of Udu the mother of the Udu people after whom the kingdom was named and Ovo the giant warrior. We are also told about some cultural practices of Udu in this chapter.
Chapter 5 is titled Aspects of Udu Traditional Practices. The major traditional practices are named and the ceremonies and rituals associated with them described. Anyone interested in learning about these cultural practices and their significance should read this chapter.
Chapter 6 deals with the ancient and modern enterprises of the Udu people. The Udu people are an industrious people and their traditional mode of sustenance such as farming, hunting, tapping and fishing are described in this chapter as well as the incursion of modern enterprises and social relationship amongst the people today.
Chapter 7 is on the traditional religious beliefs of the Udu people. How the people conceive of their maker and approach him through worship, direct or indirect. The chapter examines these beliefs and practices and draws similarities and contrasts with what obtains in other religions of the world.
Chapter 8 deals with the social aspect of life and family relationships such as type of marriage, divorce as well as courtship in our traditional setting. The Udu’s traditionally practice polygamy. The existence of social societies as Ebo, Ade, Igbun and their roles are described in this chapter.
Chapter 9 offers concluding remarks on the entire book.

Comments: This book is about history and culture. But the aspect on culture actually kept me thinking and instigated the questions with which I shall conclude. Culture has been defined as the defining feature of a persons identity seen through its observable aspects such as food, clothing, celebrations, religion and language. As Marcus Garvey said, a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. But knowledge of culture itself is not enough for the existence of culture because culture is a way of life and can only exist in practice. Can we say that we have culture by merely recording and reading about it in the pages of books? If culture is a peoples unique identity, with observable features such as religion, clothing, celebrations and language, can a people without these be said to have any identity? Language is said to be fundamental to cultural identity because it is intrinsic to the expression of culture. So I ask again, when we think, in what language do we think?
I make no recommendations other than that this book is a must have for all Udu sons and daughters particularly students of history and culture. I leave you to ponder the questions raised in this review as you read through Chief Eddy Ono-Sorhues book, THOUGHTS ON UDU HISTORY AND CULURAL PRACTICES.

Austin Emaduku, MNIM, FHNR
4/5/19

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