Usukaloyi: The Spirit of Revolution

by Gerald Eze

Usukaloyi is A Spirit
The Spirit of Revolution
It fears no one
It dares everyone
Only the upright can stand Usukaloyi
Ogbodu na nko nko

No face leads this protest
Yet we march on the green land
Drenched in our blood and sweat
Led by the Spirit,
Faceless and Fearless
Invisible and Invisible
Faceless and Fearless
Invisible and Invisible

“Clearly self-creating is actualized by our hopes, our ideals, our images, and all sorts of imagined constructs that we may hold from time to time in the forefront of our attention. These “models” function consciously as well as unconsciously; they are shown in fantasy as well as in overt behavior. The summary terms for this process are symbols and myths.” (Rollo May)

This is not the first time the people are rising to Injustice, but this is a once in a lifetime experience. Usukaloyi is the name of a spirit manifest in Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State. This spirit manifest appears once in a lifetime. It is not a regular spirit manifest and there are lots of rituals done before it appears. When it is not out, there is a long expectation for it to appear the next time it will. It carries on it, dead animals and as such the stench of this spirit manifest is very strong. It is accompanied by brave men who can stand it since it sometimes turns to chase them. Each once in a lifetime outing of Usukaloyi is enough story for the next time it will appear. This spirit manifest bears a lot of symbolisms for this struggle. There are dead bodies in the streets, causing Nigeria to stench! These dead bodies were once alive and fearful, and all of a sudden in October 2020, became fearless and committed to freedom. This is where I get convinced that the Usukaloyi metaphor is apt to describe the 2020 agitations with the following hashtags: #endsars, #endpolicebrutality, #endbadgovernance, to mention but a few.

“When a culture is caught in the profound convulsions of a transitional period, the individuals in the society understandably suffer spiritual and emotional upheaval; and finding that the accepted mores and ways of thought no longer yield security, they tend either to sink into dogmatism and conformism giving up awareness, or are forced to strive for a heightened self-consciousness by which to become aware of their existence with new conviction and on new bases” (Rollo May: discovery of being). I was told of this great spirit manifest Usukaloyi, just like the next generation will be told of this struggle. We owe the culture reinterpretations so that the myths, symbols, and real life happenings in our culture (especially, those that are of symbolic importance) can become part of our daily realities. Reconstructing the symbolisms of the African cultures as reinterpreted to fit into new realities is as important as keeping the rituals like our ancestors did. If I would say, it is even more important because our ancestors created these myths to suit their realities and therefore we should interpret our ancient cultural heritage into the ongoing mission to redefine Nigeria. Sorosoke is a Yoruba word but today it is capable of expressing the feelings of Nigerians. We need them to grow within. If we fail to creatively utilize our culture for our social, economic, intellectual developments, we grow away and such growth will lead to crisis of identity. We are Africans and we have to be Africans. In being Africans we have to creatively reinterpret our myths so as to evolve.

Nigeria has not seen a thing like this. There has been protests but this one is unique. It will have an end but the creative artist, photographers, musicians, writers, poets, etc., are charged with the duty of preserving the symbolisms of this struggle so that it becomes our way of life. We do not need to wait for millions of lives to waste again before justice is given the people. Just like Usukaloyi appears in a lifetime, we have a story to tell the next generation already. This story is not just worded stories but particularly it is the life we begin to live from now. It is important therefore that we sing this period, paint this period, breathe this period, recreate it in drama, dance this period, until we find something more dignifying than this. Therefore, it is a growth in phases. Once life returns to normal (where normal does not mean the backwardness we were experiencing before but the new normal; a working society), we should live everyday preparing for another season of reckoning both at the conscious and unconscious levels.

The only technical advice I may give to Nigeria leaders is that to try to suppress this struggle is to fuel it. An idea whose time has come will find its way. Life threatening situations make one decisive and focused. There appears only one choice that the young Nigerians have chosen and that choice is to live. A bullet will only pierce the skin but it will not take “the life the people have recently gained” away from them. Therefore, to threaten the protesters is to sharpen their focus and to strengthen their resolve. You own the bullet, not their lives. “Na one die we go die, if we die we die” (Aisha Yesufu). The resilience the youths have demonstrated is unprecedented. And I can only imagine that they are possessed by a fearless spirit which I choose to call Usukaloyi.

Do not understand this as an ethnic fight or a battle to dethrone anybody in power. That will be a petty and shallow reasoning. This is the spirit of the race being created by resilient young people. They did not bring it upon themselves, the times have brought it on them. There is no room for your supposed intervention once you try to stop the agitation. Intervene or not the spirit will possess. I may help you with insights from the following thoughts as shared by Rollo May in his book, the courage to create: “The archaic period in ancient Greece was the time of emergence and vital growth fraught with distress that resulted from the chaos of expanding outer and inner limits. The Greeks were experiencing the anxiety of new possibilities-psychologically, politically, aesthetically, and spiritually. These new possibilities, and the anxiety that always accompanies such challenges, were forced upon them whether they wished it or not.” Can you read that? It was forced upon them whether they wished it or not? This is why I like to employ the Usukaloyi metaphor because this spirit came upon the people, they did not stumble into it.

Rollo May continues thus: “The city-states were struggling in anarchy, tyrant following tyrant (a term used in Greek does not have the usual destructive connotation it carries in English.) The upsurging leaders tried to weld the new power into some order. New forms of governing the city-states, new laws and new interpretations of the gods were emergin, all of which gave the individual new psychological powers. In such a period of change and growth, emergence is often experienced by the individual as emergency with all its attendant stress. Into this ferment came the symbol of Apollo and his shrine at Delphi and the rich myths on which they were based.”

I will conclude by presenting the political leaders and people in government with the following lines from the late Black American musician and cosmic philosopher, Sun Ra: “You got to face the music. You got to face the cosmos song. What do you do when you know that you know, that you know that you’re wrong?” It appears that for once, the people are happy and the political leaders are jittery. Even as we mourn all those killed in this protest, we are happy that we made our voices ring loud and clear. Once again: Usukaloyi is a spirit, the spirit of revolution, it fears no one, it dares everyone, only the upright can stand Usukaloyi. I ask, can you kill a Spirit?

“Die na die and na only one die we get and anyhow wey that die wan happen na so that die go be” (Aisha Yesufu). That is the sound of a fearless spirit that has become an icon for the struggle to be free in Nigeria.

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