Since the idea of organizing an oroko world conference came into existence in the circle of Oroko Cultural Association – USA, until when it was agreed that it is a project worth perusing during an executive meeting in Maryland, some years ago, I have being pondering on how this august occasion for our ethnic group will be organized to make a positive imprint in the hearts and soul of our people culturally, socially, politically, economically, historically, artistically, medically, etc and help to preserving our rich heritage for the generations to come as well as fostering our political landscape for a better tomorrow..
Why organize a World Conference? The prime reason for calling for an Oroko World Conference is to bring the various clans of the oroko ethnic group together, rekindle the spirit of unity in us, revisit our past, while crafting a road map for the future, so that we can start to speak with one voice for the betterment of the region that is so blessed with natural resources which generates funds for the development of other parts of the triangle called Cameroon, while our region which God Almighty has bestowed with these natural resources is left in ruins, impoverishment and miseries.
It will also be a forum to showcase our history, rich culture, cuisines, medicines, etc and try to preserve them in digital and hard copy forms, so that generation after generation can tell the oroko story in its entirety, rather than the oral hand downs that change from one person and generations to another.
History: It is high time we document our history so that the generation yet to be come will know where their lineage originated and how their great grand parents came about the villages they now occupy. It will be a wonderful accomplishment if the Oroko Story can be published for the conference and the unborn generation.
This project will entail a lot of contacts but we can surely achieve it if we bring our human and financial resources together and charge those with the know how to carry it out.
We are blessed to still have some old and active oroko people in our respective villages who can be outstanding sources of material for writing our history. Pa Daniel Moteh of Dikome and people of his age range in other villages, will willingly be happy to be part of The Oroko Story. Let us get our facts straight now that we are blessed to have some of our old parents around.
There are many collectables laying in our region that we need to preserve and start a depository for the generation to come, so that they will able to know that ‘mbonde’ (drinking cup) which is made from glass or plastic today was made from wood and coconut shell, that plates and bowls were of calabash, while pots were of clay and other items that deserved to be preserved for tomorrow.
Fishing is one of the main occupations of our people. The materials and techniques used to make the net ( Mbonja) before the modern fishing net came into existence should be documented and preserved.
Languages: The Oroko languages are almost becoming endangered. Only a few people can speak any of the languages without mixing it with either English of French. A Sentence such as “Osa ru wi nwna respect at all,” or ‘nja ru wi problem na weh, ‘ or ‘ na ba police, na ba gerdame, na court clark, ba ma bora surround the whole village,‘ are some panache which are common in the oroko languages today. Language endangerment is common within the villages along the major roads. Ekondo-titi which is the biggest Oroko native town is being polluted by the French language today after the English language has left her toll on the native languages there. While most parents from the Far Eastern region of the world adhered to their culture and tradition where ever they are found and strive to hand it down to their kids, who speak their native language and excel in school, most oroko parents who are privileged to be overseas with their children speak little or no oroko language to their children, under the pretext the children will get confused while learning English at school.
Thanks to our American missionary friends who are working hard in collaboration with our people to standardize the writable and readable version of the oroko language. This will go a long way to help preserve our languages, must especially part of culture that may not make any sense in the English expression.
Culture: The many rich cultures of our ethnic group are ebbing very fast. Today more than ever, you can hear the booming of the music of the Nigerian Agatha Moses in all wake keeping of oroko people who are called to glory both in the homeland and overseas as if we do not have songs for such occasions.
When I first listened to the Mapoka music, ( Ivory coast Music) I immediately told my friends that the beats are like those of Njoki and Merenge music of our region.
The traditional oroko music is outstanding and appealing to dancing. It will be a big break through for the international music market, if it can be well refined and arranged. We just have to encourage the oroko sons and daughters who are into music to work harder. As we all enjoy and dance to the alien music, our creativity to producing music of our culture ebbs and if something is not done to change the tides, we may end up having no music of our culture.
The Ekpe society which the oroko people initiated the people of Manyu division into, is so popular in the circles of the Manyu people both at home abroad. Although the genesis of Ekpe in Cameroon can be traced to the orokos, we are almost losing this rich aspect of our culture, which is full of discipline, respect of hierarchy and democracy.
Tradition: As the old generation of our ethnic group pass away, so too our tradition either diminishes, changes or dies off. Today only few oroko women go through the fattening room tradition or rubbed calm wood powder when they are blessed with a baby. Today more than ever Oroko children bare meaningless western names. I am yet to meet two people in the west who bare names such as Itoe, Sakwe, Nanje, etc. We prefer to eat rice and stew rather than ekpang or mekere na donga.
Our traditional method of embalming which gives the corpse its natural look has been abandoned for that of the west, which gives a total disfiguration to the corpse.
The many traditional dances of oroko are no longer traditional because most often oroko people dance to the taped music, thereby eliminating art of creative singing and drum playing for the new generation. The oroko world conference should be a forum where all the traditional dances of the oroko ethnic groups should be traditionally presented so that they can be digitally documented and preserved for the unborn generation.
Medicine: Before the advent of the western medicine, the oroko people were treating people using traditional medicines handed down from one generation to another. Today most of the medicines have been ignored, or were not handed over the old generation or considered to be primitive, whereas some of the western medicines are made using the same medicinal plants that our people used for treatment.
There are some gossips around that the natives of Kurop National Park know some medicinal plants that will instantly cure and seal a fresh wound. If it is true, then oroko people have a break through in the instant stitching and healing of people operated upon. I think it is high time oroko doctors with orthodox medical training go back to their roots and research on some of the traditional medicines our people have being using to cure infertility, impotence, jaundice, etc, for centuries and see how they can be improved upon and document them.
Supper Natural Powers: It is a commonly known panache that oroko people can transform into elephants, crocodiles, pigs, etc, which I have no problem with if it is not for destruction. Can’t we enhance these powers to be productive to our people and region?
I grew up hearing about rain makers in orokoland. If we still have these rain makers, I bet you we can make millions of dollars a year in America by invoking the rain to fall and put off bush fires which are seasonal and consumes billions of dollars from the government coffers annually.
We can arrange to bring one good rain-maker or better still all rain makers in our region can put their powers together and send a person to come and make some fast dollars for our region; that can help to construct an oroko ring road.
It is an old chaffer that when the company which was constructing the earth road from Ekondotiti to Mundamba in Ndian division got to Illor river and they were at a fix because they did not have the possibility of crossing the river with their heavy equipment. Confronted with such a dilemma, an elderly villager walks in and assured them that he will help them with the crossing of the equipment at mid night. At mid night he asked them to drive across the Illor river and they were able to move all their equipment to the other side of the river. Few days later the elderly man died after taking a heroic and an outstanding miraculous move to help develop his region. If this is a true story, is there any person in that village who still embodies such powers today? What are we doing to preserve such powers for the future?
Land and Natural Resources: The wanton and abusive selling of land by orokos to non orokos is out of place and detrimental to the future generation of orokos, It is high time elites from our region start educating the people with regards to the ramifications which comes with the sale of land.
The legal minds of oroko should form a legal organization to help educate our people on leasing their land to who ever wants put it into use. The legal papers for such transactions should be prepared and saved by association.
For decades, the natural resources bestowed on our region have been despoiled at the detriment to our people. Timber, crude oil, medicinal plants, etc have left our region with our people benefiting little or nothing from them. A workshop to talk about our resources, development of our region and education of our representatives in the national assembly on fight for our rights should be part of conference.
Politics/Economics: The longest serving oroko parliamentarian was Honorable Nwalipenja. Today our representatives to the National Assembly are changed every five years. With such a pace of change, they cannot effect changes for our people. The conference should look into the problem of constant changing of our representatives. The conference should formulate ways for our representatives to operate offices in their respective consistencies, so that those they represent can know where to lay their complains, suggestions and view. Our representatives should try to create a working relationship with those in the Diaspora for it is one of the powerful constituency of the oroko region that can be of influence for a better tomorrow.
Politics without economic backing is suicidal. As our politicians go on politicking, they should not forget that although we have much resources in our region we are not in charge of the business life of our region. Except we take control of the economy of our region, the development of our region will be at the mercy of those who have bought and occupied our land.
Fighting to send out or banish alien land owners from our region cannot be part of any solution. Engaging these people in every development project in our villages or towns where they operate will create a participatory spirit in them and they will always want to work with the locals.
Actualizing OWC: For this lofty idea of the first ever Oroko World Conference to be a reality that will go a long way making a change for good in our people and region, we have plan in unity and trust.
If I had the final say I would have suggested that, the OWC project be given about five years for its implementation. With the five year span we have to creatively raise fund and put the all logistics together, that will lead to the possible realization of a good conference. We can only make this dream come true if we are selflessly, put all hands on deck, respect the ability of and persons who volunteers to be part of the team and working tirelessly to educate our people on the importance of such a conference and creating the committees charge with carrying out the assorted logistics.
By: Edimo M. Andrew