By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Anyone wearing a mask or disguising the face is known as a masquerade. Many women today have turned into masquerades by painting their faces in divergent colours, putting artificial long eyelashes, attaching artificial hairs and wearing strange dresses. Their finger and foot nails are artificially longer than normal and are painted in different colours. Some of these women after making up look not just like masquerades but like ghosts. As I was driving few days ago, I thought I was seeing a vision. The figure I saw looked like mammy water. She was walking majestically and femininely. She was swinging her waist in a zigzag form.
Coming closer, I couldn't discern whether she was a human being, a masquerade or a ghost. I didn't take chances at all. I stopped my car abruptly and began the prayer of exorcism. Immediately I said, “I exorcize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” she fell down and started foaming at the mouth. Her fake eyelashes, fake finger nails and foot nails fell off. Her artificial hair was looking for a way of escape but couldn't due to its bond with her natural hair. I sprinkled Holy Water all over her body. Then I asked her, “Are you a masquerade or a ghost?” She replied with trembling, “I am a disguised feminine human being. God fashioned me in my mother's womb. In my foolishness, I now refashioned myself in order to correct God's mistakes. By so doing I turned myself into a fierce masquerade. I have learned my lesson. Please let me go.” I commanded her, “Go, but do not mask yourself again. God made no mistake when he fashioned you in your mother's womb.”
God created some men and women human beings. But by re-creating themselves they have metamorphosed into masquerades. If you were naturally black but now yellow, then you are a masquerade. If you were yellow by birth but now black or red in colour, then you are equally a masquerade. By bleaching out your God-given colour you become a masquerade. Some ladies' faces are yellow while their legs, hands and other parts of the body appear black or mixed coloured. They can be classified as multi-coloured masquerades. The late musician and thriller, Michael Jackson, was born an elegant black man. He was not proud of his colour. He underwent series of plastic surgery and turned into a yellow ugly masquerade. He couldn't maintain it for long. He died prematurely as a masquerade. All those who undergo fashionable plastic surgery in any form are no more human beings but masquerades. Fashion is good. However it has a limit. Anyone who goes beyond the limit is a masquerade.
It was on Easter Wednesday that I visited a town where I pastured the flock of God as a young priest. It was still Easter festive mood. People of different categories and vehicle movements were moving up and down. The town in question is notorious for masquerading before, during and after Easter celebration. I was surprised for not seeing any masquerade. It was unbelievable. Since there is no smoke without fire, I made an enquiry why masquerades were absent. What I was told shocked me to the bone marrow. The ears need not hear it. An abomination was committed. Two weeks before Easter, an evil masquerade in the town snatched a purse containing huge sum of money from a wealthy woman going about her business. The evil masquerade after the snatching scaled over a nearby high wall and disappeared into oblivion. Luckily, some young men were around the scene of the abomination. They could recognize the footprint of the evil masquerade. Hence the town's authority began to trace his whereabout. Fortunately, the man behind the masquerade was caught in a beer parlour feasting his friends. He was given the 'akpucative' beating of his life, was handcuffed and led away to the police station. Also he was led into the ant's hole where the evil masquerade was captured as an exhibit.
As a result of the theft by the evil masquerade, the town's union banned the appearance of masquerades for twelve years to come. The abomination must be cleansed in both the town and in the land of the spirits. In addition, the town's union commanded the vigilante group to shoot at sight any masquerade that dares to breach the ban. It happened that a masquerade from a neighbouring town was ignorant of the ban and he set foot into the town in question. The vigilante boys cocked their guns and were about to shoot him. The man behind the masquerade screamed, unmasked himself and surrendered. He swore to be ignorant of the ban. Out of mercy, he was given twenty four lashes of the cane. His mask was there and then burned into ashes. He thanked the heavens for saving his life. Since then he has sworn never to mask himself for life.
Masquerades in Igbo tradition are believed to be the spirits of the dead in those old days. They stood for justice and were used to settle disputes between human beings. By then the masquerades' judgment was final. They spoke in esoteric language, which was interpreted by initiated men. Today masquerades have sold their dignity by stealing, extorting and raping. If a masquerade can steal, what can normal human beings do? Even it was reported somewhere that two masquerades abducted a girl and raped her in a forest. Should such immoral masquerades not be burnt alive, thereby dying a second time?
In many towns today, masquerades extort money from motorists and innocent passersby. Often those who refuse to offer anything are beaten mercilessly. Some drivers have had their windscreens or glasses broken by evil masquerades. It happened that one day an evil masquerade met a drunk driver who fought one of the masquerades for breaking the side mirror of his car. Both fought fiercely. The driver carried the masquerade high and hit his head hard on tarred road. I didn't know that masquerades have blood. So, blood started gushing out from the masquerade's head. Sympathizers rushed the wounded masquerade to a nearby private hospital. The doctor on duty refused to treat him on the ground that he cares for human beings and not masquerades. How can it be said that a masquerade is on admission? Thus the wounded masquerade was rushed to a general hospital. But before the doctor could be reached, the masquerade died. It was unbelievable. So a masquerade can die? It was a second death. It became the talk of the town for many years. I think evil masquerades will not escape God's judgment. There are many evil masquerades in hell. Good masquerades may go to heaven.
The police should arrest any masquerade that misbehaves by extorting money, stealing and raping. They ought to be imprisoned without trial. Who will bail a masquerade: human beings or spirits? Some time ago, an evil masquerade was arrested by the police and thrown behind the bar. As the DPO was cross examining him, the masquerade out of fear polluted the air. The DPO out of annoyance shouted, “What a nonsensical nonsense is this? Air pollution? This is offence number two. I will show you pepper today!” The evil masquerade broke into tears when the DPO ordered for kerosene and matches to set him on fire. He unmasked himself. The man behind it pleaded, “Sir, I am sorry. Please confiscate my masquerade and set me free.” The DPO replied, “You and your masquerade must remain behind the bar for three days without food.”
The government should as a matter of urgency, ban all masquerades from parading along motor ways. In festive times, they cause traffic jam and constitute nuisance to the public. In some towns, some of the masquerades have been run over by motorists. And they died a second death. All masquerading should be restricted to village squares. Also the masquerades should bear tags and numbers. They should also be registered by town unions. By so doing, anyone of them who misbehaves can easily be disciplined.
On a more serious note, there are national evil masquerades parading about in all the states of the federation. They are the bloody Fulani herdsmen, who mask themselves with cows and armed to the teeth. They have sent thousands of innocent Nigerians to their untimely graves. The Presidency has refused to name them terrorists. Indeed they are the second terrorists after Boko Haram. In the past, the Fulani herdsmen reared their cattle with sticks only. Later, they added knives. Now they have graduated in carrying Ak-47 and other dangerous ammunitions. With these weapons, they shifted from pasturing their cows to attacking innocent farmers and villagers here and there. The cows become their masks. They have become army of occupation. They shoot the occupants of the villages dead and set their houses on fire. It is high time the Presidency confined the herdsmen and their cows in ranches. That is the modern method of rearing cows.
Another set of evil masquerades are the kidnappers. They are armed to the teeth. They mask themselves with ransom running in thousands, millions and billions. Often they mask themselves in military or police uniforms in order to easily reach their victims, especially those plying on the highways. They flag down the vehicles of unsuspecting victims on transit. The innocent travelers stop, thinking they are real law enforcements agents; not knowing that they are evil masquerades. Often they collect the ransom and equally kill their victims. Many have gone. God save us!