My book “The Crying Ghost” will revive the Africanism in us – Emmanuel Nicholas

Special Assistant to Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno on Media, Emmanuel Nicholas Okokon, has written a thriller novel titled “The Crying Ghost”. The novel set in Nung Oku Uruan, Uruan local government area, is an African traditional story that explores themes such as resilience, African mysticism, and the power of the human spirit. In this interview with TheMail Newspaper, Okokon shares the inspiration behind his new 375 page book, the Uruan tradition retold and the message he hopes readers will take away from this intriguing novel. With its rich African mysticism and metaphysics, the book is set to make a significant contribution to the Uruan tradition and people.

Congratulations on your new book, the Crying Ghost. Can we meet the man behind this literary piece?

My name is Emmanuel Nicholas Okokon. I come from Nung Oku Uruan and was born on December 25, 1972. I come from a humble background; my father was one of the first persons to travel abroad where he studied in Dallas, Texas, and worked with the Central Bank until he retired. My mother retired also as a school teacher and is still alive at 87 years old. I am married to Uduak Emmanuel Nicholas and we have six children – three boys and three girls.

I am currently a Special Assistant to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno, on Media. I have been a consultant to the government of Senator Godswill Akpabio and was a Special Assistant to former Governor Udom Emmanuel twice.

I studied for OND in mechanical engineering but dropped out and started again with an LLB in Law. I have an ML.B (Masters in Law, Legislative Drafting) and I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Law.

As a politician, what inspired you to write book and what message do you hope to convey with this book?

Being a politician is a profession, but first and foremost, I am an artist. I started my life as a musician, and educationally, I am a law graduate currently pursuing my Ph.D. in law.

I have been writing, so writing is part of me. Politics is just a platform to project my desire to serve my people. I am a professional in politics, and I have been inspired to write this book based on a dream I had in Primary 4. First, while I was in Primary 4, I had a dream, very long dream. I was told a story in my dream about a young woman called Mmayen and this dream inspired this book.

What is the plot of the story?

The Crying Ghost is about the story of a young woman, Mmayen who was about 12 years old when she got pregnant for a man. Because they were not formally, legally or traditionally married, the man in a bid to get rid of the pregnancy, gave her some leaves to take. She lost the baby and her life in the process.

In the history of Nung Oku Uruan where the story is situated, it was a taboo to commit an abortion and people that died during abortion were not allowed to be buried where the freeborn were buried. There was a forest where people who committed crime, abominable things were buried and this lady was buried in that cemetery in the forest.

So, a voice kept crying. People heard her voice. She was crying for weeks and people wondered what the problem was.

Nobody saw her, but her voice was heard all over the village, crying to be re-buried, calling on the king of the village, Okon Edet Okon to re-bury her. She cried bitterly that the people, the ghosts, the ancestors in the forest, I mean the people that committed abominable things and were buried did not allow her soul to rest in the premises. And that she was not allowed to associate with the freeborn who did not commit any abomination. So she cried and asked for mercy for a long period of time.

In a bid to get her spirit to rest, Mmayen kidnapped the physical body of the prince of the land, suspending him in the air.  Nobody in the village could bring down the prince because the lady was holding on to him until she was re-buried.

The people went to the priestess of Ekpenyong and asked what could be done to save the prince and that it was against their law. There, the priestess told them what the spirit directed them to do. The rituals were done and she was re-buried among the free-born who did not commit any crime before they died. So it is a story of resilience. It’s a story of not giving up. It’s a story that a spirit decided to hold the living to ransom.

Apart from the character, Mmayen, are there other characters in the book that contributed to the richness of the story?

Yes, apart from the Mmayen character in the book, the book also talks about another person like Okon Edet Okon, though mostly fiction. But the story as I was told, Okon Edet Okon was the first Nsom. He was first the Nsom of Uruan. He was later made the Clan Head of Mosongo-Ibonda. Before now, Uruan people have been making kings but they always die within two weeks.

The two market days of Fiong Aran would not meet the king because the process of their emergence was not good enough to be accepted by Atakpo.

So, Okon Edet Okon was qualified because to become Nsom, you must not have any blood guilt in your hand. You must be a man whose mother and father are/were from Uruan and you must not have any spirit of witchcraft in you.

When Fiong Aran comes and he is to be enthroned, he will be taken to the shrine of Atakpo in the waters. They would sacrifice three cows, white cows without any blemish or any spot of other colours, basket of eggs, a basket filled with local drinks would be put in the water, and the person who is to later become the Nsom would be thrown into the water.

He would spend seven days in the water. If they return on the next day of Fiong Aran, it shows that Atakpo has accepted the person and he’s the person chosen to be the Nsom of Uruan. Okon Edet Okon was the first person that was chosen to be the Nsom of Uruan by Atakpo. He was returned to the bank of the river.

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Upon his return, there was display of Ekpe Nkanda, and all sorts of Uruan traditional dances. Also, before now, the community faced plethora of problems. There was high mortality rate in children who died in their numbers and the villagers had no idea what the cause was.

They later found out that the killing was caused by an impostor goddess called Sudani who killed the children and imposed himself as Atakpo. All this happened because the people did not know who their god was at the time. One day the goddess of Atakpo revealed herself to the people that she was their goddess. The people revolted and pulled down the shrine of Sudani, and putting an end to his tyrannical lifestyle. There are several other characters in the book that has given depth and richness to the story.

The title, “The Crying Ghost is quite intriguing”. What genre is the book, and how do you think the readers would receive this book?

The book is purely an African traditional story, told in African way with all the ritualism that is involved in Africa. In other words, a lot of our children do not know much about their background especially those raised in the city. They have no knowledge of where they come from and the tradition of their place. So, the book in a way would teach and preserve the history of Uruan, how it was formed and what should not be done as an Uruan child. As a wife of Uruan, what you should or shouldn’t do. It is an embodiment of a lot of things. So the story is to revive the Africanism in us. Anybody that reads the story will be abreast of our traditions, and will have broad knowledge of what it entails.

What’s has been the feedback so far from those who have been privy to read or review it?

The reviews have been excellent. The book is published on Amazon. The foreword was written by Professor Effiong Johnson who advised we work directly with Amazon. We wrote to Amazon and they asked us to send copies of the book which we did and they gave us time for the release. Amazon has also indicated interest to produce the story as a movie because it’s very intriguing and full of African mysticism and metaphysics.

Writing a book such as this requires lot of work and time, how long did it take you to write this book?

It has taken me over 15 years to put this together. Everything put together has not been a day’s job. I have gone through processes from the cradle of the book. I started writing the book when I was in secondary school, abandoned it and went to pursue my law degree. I picked up the book again and began writing from one stage to another. I’ve been doing my best to ensure I can tell the story the way I was told and have done my research. On this project, I worked with Professor Effiong Johnson, late Professor Francis Etim and Charles Etim Ette who read the book with me. We also met with Professor Wole Soyinka who wrote a second foreword of the book. Prof. Soyinka told me clearly that for a very long time, he has not seen a book written with all amount of Africanness in it like ‘The Crying Ghost’.

What’s next for you as an author? Are you working on any new project or there’s a sequel to the Crying Ghost?

I have a lot of books I am working on. I currently have three that I’m writing. One is at the final stage and it’s called “The Power Play” and I have another one, “Ekpo Ndem Uweme”.

How do you think your book would contribute to literature in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and probably beyond?

Well to be very candid to you, I don’t like to blow my whistle or trumpet. I would allow people to read, testify and judge me by my works.

What do you think is the most important lesson or message readers can draw from your book?

That will be the spirit of resilience. The most important message in this book is that you achieve anything you wish to achieve if you are determined. You can change the history of your people if you are determined to change it.  You can break any covenant against your life if you’re determined. And also to the Nsom of Uruan, it shows it’s good to be clean and free of any form of iniquity.

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