By Henry Akubuiro
In Igarra, northern Edo State, Kukuruku hills evoke, among others, innocence and protection. They are an idyllic and natural fortress where, in the past, indigenes ran for protection against neighbouring and colonial invaders. Cock-a-doodle-do from the hills resonated in wartime and peacetime. Today, the echoes have become a more pleasant hymn.
Onize Edith Aiyede is an Igarra writer from Edo who hasn’t lost touch with the land of her birth, though she lives and works faraway Lagos. The beauty, ethos and culture of communal living around the famous Kurukuru hills have inspired her to pen an autobiographical piece, Kukuruku Girl: Tales of My Childhood, which was presented recently at Freedom Park, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Kukuruku Girl… takes a backward glance to the author’s years of innocence, steeped in mischief and rascally inquisition into the vast canvas of life. Aiyede holds a Diploma in Estate Management from Rufus Giwa, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Nexford University, Washington DC, USA. But writing has been a fascination for her.
“I’ve always wanted to write and publish. I wanted to write something that people could relate to. Even though I’m a realtor, there is that innate desire to do this,” she said at Freedom Park.
She is one of many Nigerian writers inspired by Chimamanda’s exploits, as well as those of the Achebes and the Soyinkas before her, who have brought the world to their doorsteps by brilliantly depicting their environments and culture.
Though the Igarra ethnic group constitute just a tiny fragment of the Edo population in Akoko Edo local council, its uniqueness can’t be wished away.
The author told the audience during the public presentation: “I had lots of experiences growing up at the foot of Kukuruku hills. I have read so many books and read about people telling their stories, I saw that there’s something unique about where I am from that no one has ever told tales about.
“It should be us, because we know it best. We lived it. We experienced it, and, more than anything, it is our truth. So this book is my truth. It is the truth of every girl who grew up in that community. The truth of every person that has a childhood and has survived.”
Like Camara Laye’s African Child, Aiyede has, in Kukuruku Girl…., recreated her formative years in the Igarra community with a close proximity to the famous Kukuruku hills, thus, providing inexpensive materials for researchers writing on Nigerian ethnic groups on the fringe. Little wonder, she wished: “May our stories find their places in history.”
It didn’t take her ages to write the book once she hit on the idea. She started writing the book in 2019 and it came out of print this year after completing her MBA programme. Though Kukuruku Girl is her first published book, she had hitherto written a collection of short stories, which was yet to be published.
The novelty of her narrative has been acknowledged by readers and commentators. “In an age of fast-eroding self-identity,” says the publisher, “it is hoped that this body of work will bring memories of some pieces of your childhood, community and heritage, memories that will draw you into an experience beyond the author’s life as a Kukuruku girl.”
In his validating the offering, the author of Law is an Ass, Niran Adedokun, says, “Edith Aiyede achieves the dual purpose of telling a personal odyssey and proudly marketing her Igarra community and Etuno dialect to the otherwise uninformed. Although personal, it tells the vivid relatable story of many Nigerian children and pricks at the conscience of everyone saddled with their care. With simple, yet captivating language and the imagery they create, Ms. Aiyede delivers an impactful debut, which is precursor to more revolutionary efforts from the author and a definite pride for her Etuno people.”
For Babatunde Ajobo, Editor-in-Chief of Socialgist.com, “This amazing body of work is an emotional roller-coaster encapsulating the joys and sorrows of growing up in a serene and picturesque small Nigerian town. The bravery and sheer honesty of the author is easily translated to the reader.”
Aiyede is a member of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers.