Beauty, as the cliché goes, is in the eye of the beholder. There is no debate about that but from the same philosophical root comes the idea that meaning is what the consensus says it is. And the consensus ever since is that Regina Eche-Fali is a beauty. That is not just the physical beauty that is obvious about her but the sort of beauty the legendary Joe Akatu and his ‘Alime’ band imagine in the “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje” they sang about, “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje” simply meaning young girls from Igbano Nmaje, a small part of Otukpo town in present day Benue State but the signifier of the London attached to Otukpo to suggest its cosmopolitanism. As such, “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje” does not just refer to young, giggling girls but resourceful, forward looking, probably over-confident overcomers in seizing opportunities the world has to offer.
Thus, although Regina Eche-Fali is not an Otukpo but an Adoka girl, she evokes the “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje”. 20 years ago, she was already a star broadcaster, one of those whose delivery of the news made listeners of Radio Benue wait for their prime time bulletin at 5 pm daily. She was to move to Abuja subsequently, the third of the Made-in-Makurdi broadcasters to do so. As far as it can be recalled, the first was Eugenia Abu who moved from NTA, Makurdi to the headquarters in Abuja. Mrs Maria Odeh was to follow to the headquarters of the FRCN and then Regina Fali. There might be one or two others who did so too that have escaped the memory immediately.
As at today, Fali’s movement to Abuja has turned out to be just a stage to somewhere. This is in the sense that it was from Abuja she moved to the United States a few years ago. Imagining the “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje” in the United States. The United States means a whole lot of different things to different people. A very young son of a former Nigerian Minister for Foreign Affairs who was being restrained from overstretching his love for the swimming pool in New York some two decades ago protested innocently why he should be so restrained ‘in the land of freedom’. All the diplomats restraining him could not but allow him swim himself to the full because they found the lad’s logic too powerful for a counter-narrative. For some other people, the US may mean something very different from freedom.
Intervention can report that the “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje” is doing well in the states, a claim that finds demonstration even in just her richer religious life today. Yesterday, she was a year older and found time even in the chaotic world of COVID-19 to put a subdued birthday. Intervention is happy for her for not just a career transition from journalism but also a locational transition. Living and working in the United States for someone who was born and had worked in Nigeria must be a very rich experience from which the world may benefit by way of a rich auto biography in the end.
The message is: don’t underestimate “Ikpapananya nmi Igbano Nmaje” metaphor as a universal idiom for Idoma women who have to act out that imaginary along with the Idoma idea of the good woman bundled into the name Ene. But, above all, it reminds us of the invaluable repository of Idoma cultural resources the late Joe Akatu was and still is, through his ‘Alime’.