Book title: Ebulue
Publishers: Prestige Books
Page Count: 175
Where I Got It: From Prestige Books, Lagos
Reviewer: Ponmile Orija
A verse of the Nigerian National Anthem reads “the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain…” The composer of the anthem may have had other things in mind while writing this, but one thing is certain, every man has an iota of patriotism in him and no one likes to see their hero go uncelebrated.
The book Ebulue, to the average eye, is an autobiography of an Igbo man, Raphael Ozoekwe Udeze, written by his child to celebrate his life with his wife Veronica Udeze as well as their love which has stood the test of time. Ebulue also shines light into the transformation of a human being: as he starts as a small child and member of a community, his thirst for education, how he found love, how he built his business empire out of sheer grit. This light also shows how love conquers wide chasms like lack of western education, and how it continues through the decades of their marriage. However the book Ebulue is more than this. Ebulue makes an effort to shed more light on the past pain, losses, struggles and challenges the Igbo people faced decades ago during the Nigerian Civil War. Asides being the effort of a son to immortalise his parents, it is also a narrative of their time during the war.
The book is an interesting expose on the Igbo culture for a non-Igbo like me, it is also full of insights on how life was in the 30s though to the present day. It is like having a conversation with an older couple from another ethnic group, I realised how little I knew and how much I had to learn. While reading it, I learned more about the communal nature of the traditional Igbo society, of the way the weakest in the society were not abandoned but carried as part of the society. I learned of how the Igbo people value traditional titles and the different ceremonies that accompany them. I learned of the Nkadiokas, their craft and their role in the traditional Igbo society. I learned of ichi, the traditional marks and its significance in the Igbo society. I learned about the ways Christianity clashed with these traditional values and the efforts of people like the eponymous character in the book, Ebulue, to sustain the traditional values of his people. Reading about the Nkadioka Festival and how it is re-awakening the love of culture in Neni, it became obvious that there is more that our cultural heritage can teach us as a people, that we are losing so much by abandoning it.
If you are interested in a story of how a person transcends beyond being just a member of a society to being a communal figure, then you should read Ebulue. If you are interested in a story of how a couple, who by today’s standards may be incompatible, have lived and continue to live together for over five decades, then you should read Ebulue. If you are interested in the story of how love can conquer not just individual differences but cultural differences, then you should read Ebulue. Asides the beauty of the personal narratives, Ebulue is dotted with proverbial sayings in the right proportion and pictures that show how a couple have grown together in love.
Indeed, with Ebulue, the labours of our heroes past will not be in vain, as the labours are recorded for posterity and younger Nigerians can read and learn.