My Trip to Ihiagwa Town in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria

My Trip to Ihiagwa Town in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria

Julia Pearce

April 2004 – I hardly know where to begin. It was a very interesting trip. The purpose of this trip was to provide medical treatment and supplies to the people or Owerri, Nigeria. We went to three villages over ten days. The main diseases were malaria and typhoid fever, along with undiagnosed HIV, and hepatitis. The reason these diseases go undiagnosed is due to lack of an available laboratory facility to perform the necessary tests to confirm the gut feeling. We also treated many people with malnutrition, especially children. A child would come into the clinic and look age nine or ten by my American eyes. However, he or she would be fourteen or fifteen years of age. We gave out plenty of multivitamins. The people of Tybee sent me with lots of stuff from their home medicine cabinets. Vitamins were included. The people of Owerri thank you. We treated skin blisters, hernias, internal heat, vertigo and diarrhea.

Also there was a need for eye glasses of all strengths. The people were very warm and grateful. They appreciated our efforts.

The accommodations were very different. All the females in our group stayed with the Eze-elect (King), Nze James Muruako, and Lolo (Queen) of Ihiagwa in their palace. The palace was on a large plot of ground, surrounded by a seven foot wall with barbwire placed on top of the wall. The gate to enter the grounds was huge with elaborate ornate ironwork. Inside the grounds were Mango, Pawpaw (papaya) and Cashew fruit trees, beautiful bushes and plants. There were lizards chasing each other like the squirrels do at home. The male lizards have red heads and long tails with a red band twisted around the end. The lizards head bobs up and down. It looked like the lizard knew he was at the palace and his proper role was to bow and show respect.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Nze (Sir) Muruako and his Lolo. They then said something I think I will never forget. With his arms open in his traditional dress with head cap, he said, “Welcome to your ancestral home, feel free to enjoy. Welcome home!” I felt my eyes water.

The palace has marble floors and stairs. The palace guards carried our luggage down a long hallway dimly lit due to the generator being the only source of electricity, at the time. We followed the guards up the stairs, passed several closed doors with beautiful carvings on them. The doors appeared to me to be museum worthy. We were led into two large rooms each with a large bed, ceiling fan and balcony. There were adjoining doors to each room. The guards placed our luggage into the rooms and left.

I ran to the balcony, I wanted to see whatever was our there. The balcony was cement with thick iron bars. The view was of a cassava field. Palm trees with large diameters and school children working in the fields. Earlene, one of the nurses filmed the school children at work. There we were, six women from various backgrounds and disciplines in a foreign country.

Oguguo! Oguguo! Oguguo!!!! The first morning at dawn, I hear this cry throughout the palace. I rise, dress and hurry downstairs to the palace grounds. I open the large ornate gate that leads to the village. The gateman is still asleep in the guard lair. Outside the gate the village was awash with daily activities. A lady was walking with a pile of wood on top of her head. Her gracefulness and her head load

were one. I greeted her saying, “Oguguo!” She looked at me like I was insane. Next I saw a man going about his morning activities and again I said, “Oguguo!” the man looked at me with a puzzled expression and kept on walking. When I returned to the palace, I told Nze, “I said good morning to the people of the village and they did not return the greeting.” “And how did you say good morning Julia?” asked Nze Muruako. “I said, Oguguo!” I replied. Nze Muruako smiled and said, “Oguguo is the name of our Engineer who turns on the generator every morning.”

The first evening at the palace, I was sitting on the patio with the Lolo. She asked me, “Do you have any issues?” I am both shocked and excited by the question. I’m thinking, “This is a wonderful thing – a “psychiatric Queen”

who wishes to discuss my issues.” My mind began racing, “Which issues should I speak of first … being 43 years old without my masters degree, how I’ve lost weight, how I’ve got these sagging breasts … ?” It took me so long to respond that the Lolo asked me another question. “What are the names of your issues?” I thought, “This is deeeeeep. I’ve never considered naming my issues. What a wonderful idea! Name your issues and place them in a file on your computer. Check on your progress with your issues.” While my mind was exploring all the possibilities the interpreter had observed my lack of response and kindly told me, “’issues” mean children.”

This experience taught me a lot about myself, and also showed me the kindness and generosity that is greatly present on this land.

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The Ihiagwa autonomous community

The town Ihiagwa Autonomous community is organized into eight villages namely; Iriamogu village, Ibuzo village, Nnkaramochie village, Umuezeawula village, Aku/Umuokwo village, Mboke village, Umuelem village and Umuchima village. Ihiagwa is also home to the Federal University of Technology Ihiagwa, Owerri.


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