Cross River is always on my mind. Her people are unique, her culture is rich, and her admirers are many. In much of our history, we have often been taken for-granted, and some have called us names. Our people are loyal followers. Sometimes we follow without questions.
In some cases, we align with specific political beliefs, sometime like a religion. Our follower-ship may even be misconstrued as a people bewitched, Yet In all, as a people, we remain very unique.
With natural resources that if properly harnessed we can be the food basket of the nation, from palms, to cocoa, to rubber plantations, to yam cassava, from corn and pineapples to vegetables, the aggregate of our agricultural products are even more than the economies of some independent countries, yet, poverty is still a common place, one wonders why we remain in need amidst this many resources, In all, as a people, we are like diamond on the rough.
Politicians on several occasions have attempted to exploit our ethnic heterogeneity for political advantage. They have attempted to pitch zone against zone, village against village, clans against clan, In all, as a people, we remain very unique
We have been a democracy for long, but ruled as an autocracy. Our leaders chose our counselors, Council Chairmen and even our Representatives. Our people trust their leaders even with their fundamental rights as elections, in suppression and betrayals and even in abuse of office, some of our people follow without question.
Not all our people are laid back. We have produced great social critics and great political activists. Our social critics have been called names, and our political critics have been termed crazy. The beauty of society is not homogeneity but heterogeneity, for in these social complexity we find strength.
We were formally called South Eastern state together with Akwa Ibom. We were later called Cross River state, and when Nigeria became 36 states, we remained Cross River State, cheated on state creation, yet the people remain resolute.
As a writer, over the years, I have had the opportunity to interact with most of my people, from the rich to the poor, from the high to the low, from the educated to the half baked, in many occasions, I am confronted with some great intellectuals from among my people, again, I sometime come across crass ignorance, which I learn to ignore, yet, as a people, we remain unique.
Cross River on my mind, with Calabar, often referred to as Canaan city, from the creeks in Bakassi to the mountains of Obudu, from skolombo kids to Peregrino kids, from local villagers to city celebrities, we are all defined by our mother tongue, the Efik, the Ejagham, Ekoi, Bekwara and Ishibori, we are Cross River, a unique specie spread across the Oban mountains.
Cross River always on my mind. Some call us timid, but in our timidity we have produced some of the brightest minds in Nigeria, from Margaret Ekpo to Dan Archibong, from Kanu Agabi to Ojong Matthew from Okoi Arikpo to Okoi Obuli, from Edet Obeten to Chief Murphy and from Chief Uti Jedy Agba to Chief Ndoma Egba. It is in our timidity that we marvel humanity.
Cross River always on my mind. We are always the first. We initiated Tinapa, today copied nationwide, we initiated Carnival, today copied nationwide, Cross River my Cross River, the cradle of civilization, slavery and freedom for the twin born.
In relating to my people on social media, I have met the intelligent ones and the passive, I have met the curious and the funny, I have met the arrogant and the reasonable, I have met the unteachable who knows it all, and the wise willing to learn.
Too many at times, I meet my people, my clans men and women, some old enough to recollect, some too young to remember, they call me “Omalor” , These are people we share a common heritage and a common language, though today transformed to the mannerisms of western culture and civilizations, I always remember my roots, the creeks, the streams, the rivers we swim as kids. I remember the forest we farm in search for survival, the true face of Africa and the heterogeneity of our local dialects. Cross River always on my mind.
Over the years, though in distant lands far away from home, my greatest contribution to my people is knowledge. I received it freely, so I give it back freely. I have learnt not to dwell on the perceived weakness of my people, rather I build on their strengths. I have tried to build my logic on issues, rather than persons. I have criticized the high and mighty when they go wrong, I have applauded good work when necessary.In all, I am glad to say, in all humility, Cross River is always on my mind.
Princewill Odidi writes from Atlanta USA. (email@example.com)
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