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EMERGENCY CRIES AND SIGNIFICANCE

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In the olden Esan custom every member of the community, as has been seen, was like a finger of the hand, it gripped or loosened with the other fingers of the hand. One man’s concern was every villager’s matter. Death of one man in a quarter meant mourning and abstention from work or market by all Members of the village.

A call for help was answered by the whole able-bodied community. These calls were often peculiar to a particular district and only members of that area knew the significance. When such a call came the whole village acted with a uncanny understanding which would leave a stranger bewildered. This element of secret understanding was of vital significance for it enable the community to escape from an over-whelming enemy or repel an attacker, without the stranger knowing that the sounds being emitted connoted specific sentences for which there were specific group reactions. These cries were our own form of talking drum as it were.

There were some of these group calls that were universal in Esan and some were peculiar to some districts.

(i) GENERAL CALL OF ALERTNESS OR EMERGENCY:
The cry was OKHOKHO-OGO-O! Sometimes al! the ‘KH’ were replaced with ‘G’ throughout. On hearing this sound all must stop and listen for the specific cries that would follow. This cry is in Esan described generally as O GBE EGOGO URULUA (He has opened the bell of the voice). Irresponsible use of it was punished with a goat slaughtered against the alarmist.

(¡¡) FIRE:OKHOKHO - OGO –O IRU
On hearing this last part of the alarm every grown up male snatched his cutlass and must make for the direction from which the cries were coming a fire must he put out
(iii) DANGER: EKHE HKE EKE – E

(iv)THIEVES! UGU - KHU -GU- U! OR EGE-KHE-GE - E
The more excitable criers added GHE OYI! (It is a thief). On hearing this cry all males must answer it and one answered it at once not by making for the direction from which the cries were coming but by snatching a sharp matchet or heavy cudgel and making a cut-through to the nearest road from the direction of the cries. Thus in a matter of minutes al! Possible roads to the site where the thief was seen were guarded. The reason for this is that the thief’s first reaction to an alarm is to put as much distance as possible between himself and the man raising the hue and cry! On hearing this cry therefore everybody knew that a thief was about the neighbourhood of the crier and since it was every good citizen’s duty to help catch a thief the surest way was to make a bee-line for alt the roads leading away from the alarmist an attempt to block the marauder’s exit! Hence the correct way to answer this call was to go AWAY rather than TO the man crying.

(v) SUDDEN DEATH: OGOGO - KHOGO -O! HE-ERE! HEEHE
This cry summoned everyone to the spot from which the cry came,

(vi) SHOCKING BAD NEWS: OGOGO-KHOGO - O! HEU! HEU! and in Ekpoma area this alarm was heightened with OSE EWE – E
On hearing this cry everybody made for the vicinity to demand what the news was about and to sympathize with the crier.

(vii) SEVERE FIGHT: 000GO - KHOGO - O! EA GBO NE EGBE -A
This summoned all the he-men of the village to the spot to prevent the fighters from committing manslaughters
(viii) WIFE BEING BEATEN AT NIGHT! OGOGO OKHO - O!
All relatives had to go and save an unyielding woman at the hands of an irate husband.
(ix) WAR: OGOGO - KHOGO O  OKHONLEN RELE and in some places the word OKHONLEN (war) was never mentioned but people knew from the peculiar cry  that  they must put a safe distance between themselves and the alarmist. Yet another cry was ARAN - RAN - RAN – AN  It needed urgent and imperative response from everybody.
(x) CALLING ALL EDION: OKHISEMENKHONLEN O
This cry was ignored by the Igene and Egbonughelo hut in a twinkle of an eye, wizened old men were seen tottering along from all directions of the village to the Okoughele or to the Odionwele’s house: maybe there was some goat flesh to be shared.

(xi) CALLING THE HE-MEN OF THE VILLAGE: OBOIGBAOTO- O
On hearing this cry which might be given without actually pronouncing the words, ah those above 60, if not already taking a long pull from their Obodo, reached for that pipe of peace, asked a small boy to load and light it, reclined on their beds and between puffs, ejaculated reminiscences “when the world WAS the world” Meantime all the strong men of the village from thirty upward leapt like frogs to the village square

(xii) CALLI NG THE SCA VENGERS OF THE VILLAGE: OKHISE - OBOMENRIA O!
Knowing that theirs was to toil for the betterment of the village, each Egbonughele snatched his working clothes and armed with a matchet, made for the direction of the cry.

(xiii) CALL FOR WORK: U - KU - GHU!

(xiv) CALL FOR REJOICING: UKU - GHUGHU OR OKO - GHOGHO!
All friends of the family in the neighbourhood of the cry, went armed with chalk or prepared for an orgy of revelry or uninhibited debauchery.

(xv) SUMMONING MEN FOR THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD:
EGEGE - KHE - EGE - E! Which in words is ODEDE SO OTQLI DIA O! (A body has fallen)

(xvi) CALLING EACH OTHER IN THE BUSH: U KU GHU? Which in words is U VAE? (Have you come?)

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