It does not recognize anyone whether old or young… It is believed to come from a strange forest in Adazi-Nnukwu called OFFIA ONYEKULUM (onyekulum forest) where no one ever goes to do anything, not even to pick-up a firewood.
It’s aura can never be overemphasized as people from various communities travel to Adazi to see it whenever it is announced that it will come out. Again, many indigenes travel home (even from abroad) during Adazi-Nnukwu mass-return just to witness this particular masquerade.
It is not a ceremonial masquerade so it may not be popular. It is not accompanied by any human or music group but it comes with family (father, mother, and children) and they all have weird names they call themselves. They don’t come with any music yet their vibes can make a whole community go gaga.
Apart from coming out only at mass returns, it can also be seen at burial of a great chief who lived a worthy life and died at an age of “Celebration of Life”.
Some mystics about ONYEKULUM is that it wears grass all-over its body… It does not carry cutlass as regular masquerades but thick woods with which it throws at the people irrespective of age, gender or social status. Ab initio, it was believed that if its wood touches one, that person is likely going to die. In fact, many were said have died as a result of encounter with ONYEKULUM. It is a masquerade that does not obey protocol but only palm-fronds (ọmu) can limit its passage.
Once it is announced that ONYEKULUM masquerades is on the way, the atmosphere changes… Those who do not believe begins to run away, other masquerades also escape from the arena. Ọmu is tied to major places where people can take refuge. A strange wind is noticed and people often run through various exits because it can come from any of the entrances, sometimes from multiple ways and often determined by the direction of the wind.
At everytime ONYEKULUM is to make appearances, it must come a previous night to tie what is called the ODAKOLO (made of grasses and some strange extracts from the river because the bush where it is believed to exist lies within a river). That night, there is often an unusual feeling because no body would like to meet it on the road so people often go to bed early. It does not only tie the ODAKOLO but uses some chants to traumatize the entire neighborhood. It does not like lights thus, some often put off their lights otherwise, it rains abuses.
ONYEKULUM of Adazi-Nnukwu before now does not appear on pictures… One of the offenses people commit to it is the use of camera flashlights especially when it goes to take the ODAKOLO. These camera lights are used on it because the people does not wish it should take the ODAKOLO which signifies its exit so once the lights angers it, it returns to the chase which is fun. Those who took photos confessed they saw nothing but grasses… Things likely to happen where it appears are broken glasses, broken chairs and felled canopies, so pack-up the seats properly. It’s exit marks the end of the event as the stubborn crowd follows it (against all warnings) because they are curious to know its home but eventually, it disappears at a particular cross-road.
ONYEKULUM remains the only masquerade in Adazi-Nnukwu that can publicly beat a man to unconsciousness, or death… Yet, the people have vehemently resisted every attempt by religious men to abolish it.
ONYEKULUM, Nnukwu mmanwu na Adazi-Nnukwu.
Compiled By Charles Ifeanyi Obi