A post by Ekene Okoye today took me, and many others, down some nostalgic lanes. It reminded me of an incident on one of those Easter Mondays. We were very young, innocent and hapless.

Easter in Enugu then was known for its masquerades, ogene, oji and drama at Obiagu Rd. It was fun and colourful. Infact the masquerades usually starts parading like 5 days to d-day, mainly at night.

We the youngsters sometimes get our fair share of ‘iti mmonwu’! On this particular Easter Monday , we borrowed an ‘aji busu’ from Chigbo Okeke (of O.C Gravel) through late Chekwube Okeke, his younger brother.

Chekwube decided I should wear the masquerade, a first for me. Chekwube, Okey, Nonso and Emmy Dokpu joined the train. And we hit the road. The aim, like that of all the masquerades then, was to extort some money from the obliging public. And scare a lot more others. Chai!

We started the masked ‘begging’ and chasing of people, mainly young girls. Naturally, some adults obliged us with money. And I had incredible fun chasing girls and young women, who ran for dear life! I became a local terror inside that masquerade within a few minutes. I never knew life was so much fun behind a raffia masque.

We traversed Peter Okoye Street, hit Isuochi Street junction, turned left heading through Isuochi to Adelabu Street. Causing minor havocs. Nothing serious. While looking out for serious guys with serious masquerade, who could beat the hell out of us. And collect our ‘aji busu’, a fairly common event then.

It was here that I met my first test as an Enugu masquerade. As we were turning into Adelabu street, there was a sudden pandemonium! People were running from all directions. Initially we thought our temporary notoriety had preceded us. But in a moment we saw the real cause: NNUKWU MMANWU!! The big masquerade of a dreaded group called Rocky Barber was coming up! Oh, Jesus. Who put me in this aji busu’ o?!

As I turned to look for my group, I discovered they were already in full flight. J-E-S-U-S! Who sent me o? I turned and ran for dear, sweet life. But as I ran, the people and crowd in front of me ran even faster, with their screams getting more and more hysterical. As they screamed more, I ran even faster. And they screamed even louder! I thought their screams were a reminder of how imminent the danger behind me was.

As they ran inside a big super store by Isuochi/Adelabu junction, I also ran inside the super store. They ran behind the counter. And I followed. But they ran screaming through a backdoor to probably a room or passage. And I was running to barge through same door, for safety. It was then the owner barred the door and sternly queried me, “bia, does a masquerade run from a masquerade?

Then I realised that the initial flight was from Rocky Barber. But all the subsequent screams and flights were people running from me, a masquerade. And in my trepidation, I had totally forgotten I was still a Masquerade!

Cutting the story, I hid in the super store until Ndi Rocky Barber finished their majestic stroll through Isuochi Street. And I quickly fled home. Removed the aji busu’. And bid iti mmonwu goodbye, till further notice.

Happy Easter Folks.

My name is Olisa Akukwe.
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