Sunday, August 26, 2018
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Harrisburg, PA, USA

t is often said that Nigerians don’t always give their national heroes the reverence they deserve – their footballers, their actors/actresses, their leaders. But last night, here in Chicago Illinois, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians, gave a national icon the reverence he deserved.

The night was far gone when Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe, alias 4:30, was ushered into the hall with pomp and pageantry. The venue was the Levy Senior Center in Evanston Illinois. He was being honored by Nigerians for the many years he entertained Nigerians starting in 1983 to 1993 in his epic drama/comedic show then called “The Masquerade”.

Chief Zebrudaya, whose real name is Chief Chika Okpala, dressed in a sleeveless Igbo chieftaincy garb with a red stove pipe-like design, strutted into the hall, dancing to a tune that sounded familiar, rolling along a suitcase with more than a dozen entourage dancing behind him.

True to self, his caste reenacted two scenes, reminiscent of his Masquerade show before the final curtain call at midnight. As I listened and soaked in the self-made grammar he was unleashing, I could not help but remember that this man made our collective nights in Nigeria for many years, lightening tense days and putting unbridled smiles on the faces of many. The original cast of the “Masquerade were Zebrudaya Okoroigwe alias 4:30 ndem – the star of the show, Jegede Shokoya, Akpino, Clarus Mgbojikwe, Gringori Akabogu, Ramota – Jegeda’s wife, Ovularia – Zebrudaya’s wife. On a sad note, Chief Zebrudaya mentioned the fact that more than three quarters of his original cast have passed on to the great beyond. As he put it, “they are death die”. I say, may their jolly good souls rest in peace. Posterity will always remember them as the people that made Nigeria the pleasure it was to live in, in those days.

Earlier in the evening, we had gathered at the Vee Vees restaurant where my wife and I got to meet some of my brother- Nnamdi’s friends. Some I have met before, others we just met for the first time. I also got to see Emeka Ukachukwu and his wife – great and beautiful couple as well as Yinka and Adanna Okoro. They were all magnanimous and gracious and made the visit to Chicago one we will remember for many years to come.

At VeeVees restaurant

Cast introduction

Chief Zebrudaya dances into the hall

Dancing to the tune of a familar music

Zebrudaya addresses the audience

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War