The business of cannon shots, popularly called ‘egbe ala’ or ‘nkpor na-ala’ in Igbo land, is generally seen as masculine. The thundering blasts emanating from them can be deafening and frightening. The preparations, from gunpowder to the blasting, are also dreaded.
Hence, when a young widow, Mrs Offorma, Luisa Nneka, from Nkporogwu, Ibenda, Obollo-Eke, Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, told THE WHISTLER that she can compete with any male cannon shot experts anywhere in the world, this reporter was taken aback, and then decided to probe her claims.
She said she took over her husband’s ‘egbe ala’ business out of frustration following his death. Nneka added that she ‘is comfortably training her seven children both in secondary and higher institutions’ from the business.
Hear her, “I learnt ‘egbe ala’ or ‘nkpo na-ala’ career from my late husband. While he was alive, I had always assisted him in preparing the powder and even loading the cannons.
“When he died, with the attendant hardship, I took up the business. It was easy for me because I was abreast of his numerous customers.
“We buy chemicals from market and do the preparations to the standards that everybody likes. My children also know the business, including my female ones.
“Because ours is always of standards, we have contracts daily. Nowadays, because of many activities such as burials and offala festivals, we are always busy.
“From this profession, we sustain our family needs. I have trained most of my children up to secondary school level, and some in higher institutions. Some are about to gain admission. It is not contraband. It is legal.”
Nneka said she needs more deals, especially government assignments. In her words, “I want to be covering government functions because more shots would be required. Each shot costs N500, so if I am given thousands of slots to shoot, my standard of living will improve. I am a widow but break even. I thank our people for always trusting our services.”
Although the career is lucrative, Nneka said it has risk factors. Quoting her, “Preparing the ingredients isn’t easy. Also, during the blast, the cannon can take off the ground, instead of penetrating the ground. This is however not common. We are always careful pertaining to where we place them to avoid havocs. Then, one must run as fast as possible during the lighting.
“Again, before, we were buying a bag of the substance used in preparing the powder for N9, 000, but today it is N45, 000. This increased the price for each shot from N250 to N500 or more.”