I know that many of my friends will cringe upon reading this revelation. Does it matter? I need not pretend. What for? Native doctors known as "dibias" and their medicine were part and parcel of my people's existence even before the arrival of whiteman and his brand of medicine. My favourite dibia was Late Dr. Nwakobe of Umuanuka Otolo Nnewi. Dibias are also called "Ogbuebunu" literally meaning "ram slayer". Ogbuebunu Nwakobe was a pole taller than Nsofor of Umuicheke Otolo and Madubuobi my neighbour. While the last two mixed their practice with "aja aghugho" or "iku nsi" meaning "shelling out evil missiles", Nwakobe was a focused physician curing both man-made and natural ailments. Dr. Nwakobe was in the same mold as Dr. Anizor of Odida Nnewichi who was a specialist native orthopaedic surgeon also called a "bonesetter". Growing up in my village in the early 70s, consultation of native doctors or dibias for medicare was normal. Nwakobe was the best and greatest dibia in the whole of Otolo Nnewi up till his death few years ago. He practiced ethical medicine. As a child, I would always be sent by elders in our compound to go buy preparations for treatment of malaria, hepatitis, migraine and cough from Nwakobe's place. Nwakobe was the best doctor for gas gangrene otherwise known as 'enyiule'. Patients came from far towns in Imo, Abia and Enugu states. He also had accommodation or wards for resident patients. It was to Nwakobe's expertise that my elder sister owes the use of her legs. She had unfortunately stepped on an enyiule trap set for someone else, Dr. Nwakobe would later reveal. The evil bullet to afflict someone with enyiule was openly sold cheaply at Afor market in Nnobi, a neighbouring town. I loved visiting Dr Nwakobe as a teenager as I learnt a lot from the great man who was always ready to answer my questions that ranged from innocent to ridiculous about the source of his medical knowledge and prowess. During one of my visits to Ogbuebunu Nwokobe's hospital (yes, hospital), I asked him to tell me how he got to know the preparation that cured diseases; whether he attended any herbal medical school. The man laughed at the inquisitive small boy. But he didn't want to leave me nonplussed. The revered dibia was impressed with my bravado and inquisitive spirit. Perhaps he guessed that I would one day pay a tribute to him on Facebook. "Nwa Obiukwu" meaning "the son of Obiukwu", Dr. Nwakobe started. "The question you just asked me is older than you; not even your dead father would dare ask me such a question". He then muttered "egwu adighizi umuazi kitaa n'anya" meaning "that children of nowadays don't have fear for anything anymore". "Nnanyi, please answer me, I want to know", I persisted, pretending not to have noticed his facial admonition that I should stop. Nwakobe drew a breath, looked me intently in the eyes, nodded his head as if an invisible master countered his decision not to answer me. He then started the story of his life. "My son, nobody but the spirits teach me the effective drug or preparation for any disease", the great Nwakobe started. "Though my father practised this trade but I never planned to tow his line" I was told. "As a child, I took to christianity just like my age mates as we enrolled into primary school at Akwunweke. "My baptismal name is Augustine and I still attend masses on Sundays", my host said with pride. "Upon the death of my father, I was instructed by unseen people or voices to return home to replace him, to cure people", Nwakobe said with a forlorn face. "Nobody, not even my father taught me any panacea or remedy be it plant, leaves, roots or mixture to cure any ailments", he emphasized. "I received dictations or directives from invisibles voices on which drugs to administer to patients as no two ailments are the same. "Some of ailments are man-made afflictions while others are natural", I was told. "I would always consult the invisibles to reveal antidotes or medications to neutralise man-made sicknesses. "I promptly receive responses as long as I don't contravene the don'ts" he remarked. "Sometimes, I would find myself in the bush at night. As I passed, plants and grasses would be announcing to me their uses and the illnesses they cure. "Even though I'm told the cause and the person behind the afflictions of my patients, I refrain from naming the culprits, even under serious pressure, but focus on neutralizing the potency of their juju and curing their victims. "You should also know that every dibia who can cure illnesses can also afflict or prepare sickness affliction charms; it is a choice. But I choose the path of honour, that is, to heal. "My son, it is a gift and an assignment from our ancestors given only to the chosen who is required to abstain from prescribed power-diminishing acts which I can't tell you now", my host concluded. Nobody has ever doubted the potency of Nwakobe's medications. In his time, drug resistant malaria parasite was unheard of. "Ogwu iba Nwakobe" meaning "Nwakobe's malarial drug" was the only cure for malaria we knew. Till he died, Nwakobe didn't taint his name unlike my mother's cousin, Dr. Ezennaya who started well but later transformed into an enabler or provider of evil bullets instead of a healer his father was. Nwakobe was never accused of jazzing or afflicting anyone with spiritual missiles or illness. He used his God given gift to heal and not to curse or cause harm. My readers need to know that it was also customary for great dibias to have masquerades. A dibia could have an Okanga, Ijele, Odogwu, Nwansi, Ajofia, Ebuebu or Ogbungwu. The popularity of a masquerade is determined by how fast or effective it can shell out "nsi" or "evil bullets"; or how it could earthen or neutralize potent evil darts. Nwakobe named his masquerade, Onede. The Onede masquerade was never blamed for being the first to project evil missiles at another masquerade. It maintained great restraint even under provocation by other troublesome masquerades owned by other dibias. But, Onede would dispense a mild dizziness or "aju" to incorrigible youthful masquerades after several warnings conveyed in songs. It is worth noting that Onede was enamored with a potent "obialu egbu m gbuo onwe ya" meaning "spiritual boomerang" or "back to sender" in double measures. I was so much a fan of Onede that I would often escape from school on a week day to follow the masquerade to burial ceremonies or to our traditional ruler's yearly Ofala festival. I had longed to be like Nwakobe but I don't know how I lost track. Perhaps, I was not called to that office. As I was growing older and was being contaminated by western education, my orientation towards Nwakobe and all that he represented started drifting until I became completely alienated. Something must have been responsible for that. Yes I remember. I was debriefed or brainwashed by a reverend gentleman to believe that Nwakobe and other native doctors were agents of Satan. But, how come both pagans and Christians in my village depended on Nwokobe for cure for ailments the orthodox doctors couldn't handle or treat? It remains a puzzle to me till date why some title holding members of the church would visit Dr. Nwakobe for cure of their ailments in the night. But, Nwakobe understood. Story by Anayo Nwosu.