All roads led to Malabor Square, for a date with palm wine club members. From various quarters, students dressed in traditional and weird attires swooped on the University of Calabar (UNICAL).
Most of them were decked in white and green Agbada with different shades of traditional caps to match. They were members of Kegites Club performing their ritual of coronation of new Chiefes is and initiation of new members.
The venue was decorated with some cultural object such as palm fronds, calabashes, palm wine wooden keg, local mats, horse-tail and other traditional ornaments. The coronation and initiation of new entrants, it was gathered, was geared towards preserving the cultural heritage of Kegites Club and also serves as an opportunity for the members of the club to showcase the rich African tradition and culture.
The students from various faculties and well wishers watched with keen interest the cultural display of the club.
They danced around to the scintillating rhythms of the African talking drum. The female folks shook their waist to the rhythmical sound of traditional musical instrument. It was a sight to behold; one could mistakenly take the scene as another Palm Sunday due to the littered palm fronds on the ground.
The Methuselah and Achival Chiefesis, an aged dictum used to describe a Chieftancy holders who have been coronated for over twenty and seven years respectively were draped in unique regalia that differentiate them from other Chiefesis, comradium(members) and comragoats(non members).
Comradium,as they were fondly called, can easily be identified by their mode of dress, exchange of pleasantries and their language. Their regalia were specially made of Apron and Capito (cap/hat) in green and white colour that depicts the cultural heritage of the club.
Before the coronation of the new Chiefesis, there was a mild drama where the out-going Chief-O played a role of a pregnant woman who was critically in labour. This according to Kegites portrays their dogmatic believe that Chief are born not made. He was kept in a labour room (shrine) in a company of Methusaleh and Achival Chiefesis to assist him for safe delivery.
According to the pregnant Chief-O, “I must give birth to my successor who must be in final year of study with an average CGPA of 3.0 and must be crowned on the day of his birth”.
The new A.B Chief-O was stripped half naked, drenched in palm wine, fed with alligator pepper, kolanut, bitter kola, salt and palm oil that are served in a beautifully decorated calabashes, it was learnt.
After then, he was draped in white wrapper and was instructed to walk like a four- footed animal to where other chiefesis are waiting to receive him. When he got there, each of the Chiefesis scooped palm wine from the keg and splashed it on his head which runs down his spinal cord.
The next stage was when the female members were called upon to mop him with a white towel before the officiating Chiefesis prayed for him.
Adorned in Agbada with a horse-tail, the Methuselah Chief handed him over an ancient calabash that represents a symbol of power and authority.
High point of the event was the initiation of new members, who were ushered into a shrine made of palm fronds. Some of the fronds were strapped at their back while other firmly held theirs in their mouth. They were paraded round the campus before the Chiefesis and non kongosis with the club anthem that goes thus:
Imbibe imbibe in majesty
Holy water (palm wine) is good for me
Holy water from kegite tree
That makes us happy everyday
This was recited by the newly initiated members with palm wine given to them to drink.
When our curious reporter probed the purported rumour on campus that some cult members hide under the umbrella of Kegites to perpetuate evil and other nefarious and clandestine activities on campus, the out-going Chief-O and also the former President of Faculty of Education, Obetem Lucky dispelled the rumour. He said the group promotes peace, unity and encourages African culture.
He later decried the presence of cultist among the club members, saying their activities in the society were responsible for the bad image of the club. He warned the old and new members that anybody caught in the web of cultism will be expelled from the club.
One of the Methuselah Chiefesis, Chief Offiong, said that the club was founded in 1962 by some traditionalists who were bonafide students of University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). Among them were Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Balogu, Prof. Olusegun Adeshina and among others who were later crowned as the first Chiefesis.
When asked why the club was named Kegites, Chief Offiong said that in 1986 when the club was experiencing crisis due to its national identity and misconception by the public, the name was changed from palm wine drunkard club to Kegites Club International in the reign of Chief Anthony Uzodima Ogidi of University of Ife campus. The objective of the club is to promote African culture which colonial masters believed was inferior to western culture, Offiong added.
A staunch member of the club, Godwin Abang said that the Kegites Club forbids kidnapping, cultism, lack of respect for elders and among other vices that does not portray African culture. What we see today, our youth embrace these vices because they have abandoned the cultural beliefs bequeathed to them by their ancestors.
Kegites Club propagates love and unity among the Chiefesis, Senior fellows, Life Senior fellows, Patrons and Matrons of the club. We are loving people, Godwin added.
He further noted that the rationale behind the event was to promote unity among the students and to take members back to their African culture adding that our culture as Africans is losing values after contact with the western culture.
He stated also that the essence of the gathering is to revitalize the African culture, coronate our new Chiefesis and initiate our new members. He attributed the success organization of the event to efforts of their members.
One of the newly initiated members, Maurice Bassey, explained why he joined the club saying, “I joined the club because of their mode of dressing, their social activities which comprises gyration with palm wine which one can use to enliven frantic academic activities, their slogan and best of it all the unity.
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