Pericoma Okoye (born on 1948, died at 69) was a Nigerian traditionalist and cultural musician popular throughout the Igbo land for his style of music, practice, and strong belief in the Igbo people’s traditional religion.
He rose to fame after he released a song detailing an incident he had with illegal tax collectors (agbero boys) at Upper Iweka, Onitsha, Anambra State. Even though he’s late, Pericoma recently gained another level of recognition after Speed Darlington, a US-based Nigerian singer, revealed him to be his father.
Pericoma Okoye is an Imo State Native
He was born in 1948 in Imo State in the eastern part of Nigeria, a region predominantly occupied by Igbo people. His exact date of birth is not known, but we know he originally hails from Arondizuogu. Nothing is known about his education.
Meanwhile, according to Pericoma’s biographical movie titled Lion of Africa, while playing as a child in the forest with his peers, Pericoma mysteriously disappeared and was unable to be found for many years. He later reappeared out of the forest as a teenager who possessed various magical and supernatural abilities.
How Old was Pericoma Okoye when he Died?
Sadly, Pericoma Okoye died on Thursday, 16th February 2017, in a hospital in Okigwe, Imo State, after a brief illness. He died at the age of 69. Until his death, Pericoma was the prime minister of his community, Arondizuogu in Imo State.
Although he possessed magical powers, he reportedly did not use them for harmful purposes. He was renowned for abhorring evil and promoting the sanctity of human life. He preached and lived a life of purity, love for humanity, and peaceful coexistence.
Pericoma Okoye Famous Career as a Traditionalist and Singer
In his lifetime, Pericoma Okoye practiced the African traditional religion. He was a prominent cultural ambassador, an embodiment of the Igbo language, and a walking library of Igbo history. His songs are full of staunch Igbo proverbs and native wisdom. Some scholars described his songs as folk singing whose meaning can only be understood by those who are very wise.
He used his songs which are mostly spiritual and philosophical, to promote ancient Igbo traditions and cultural values of respect for elders, hospitality, hard work, honesty, the sanctity of life, and transparency. His style of music is best described as an oral rendition of the culture, tradition, and proverbs of the Igbo people.
He told didactic stories through his songs, just like Mike Ejeagha, who is well known for his “akuko-negwu” (narrative music). What’s more, Pericoma was unapologetically a core traditionist who carried on tenaciously all the ways and traditions of his forefathers. He held notable roles in the development of the Ikeji festival.
Regardless, Pericoma acknowledged the existence of God. A line in one of his popular songs read “Chineke nke usuu ndi agha, Alpha na Omega ndi m ji anya isi, ha bu ato n’ime otu nke di ngozi” (God of hosts, Alpha and Omega in whom I make a boast, the three-in-one God). Some of his popular songs include Isi na udoh ga-adi, Ikeji Izuogu, High Tension, Igatakwuteya Aja, Obodo Aghoka, Izu Ka Mma Na Nne Ji, etc.
In recognition of his commitment and contribution to the preservation and growth of the Igbo language and culture, Mbari Literary Society, Owerri conferred on him the Distinguished Achievement Award in July 2010.
In addition to music, Pericoma is also an actor. He subsequently in life ventured briefly into Nollywood. He featured in the movie titled Lion of Africa alongside veteran actor Pete Edochie. The movie, which has two parts, was a biography of his early life and his sorcery-related activities.
Pericoma Gained Public Recognition Following the Famous Event at Upper Iweka, Onitsha
It is worthy to note that Pericoma had been an object of wonder in his lifetime. He was said to have exercised several feats which totally defied the laws of physics and portrayed his legendary mystical powers. For one, there are tales of how he would till the ground in a broad daylight, plant a banana sucker, watch it grow there and then, and bear fruit that would ripen in the instant.
Also, there are stories about his stunts at the annual Ikeji festival of his hometown in Ideato. However, the most popular story of his demonstration of magical powers was an encounter he had at the then notorious Upper Iweka Onitsha with illegal tax collectors (agberos). On a fateful day, while traveling to Onitsha and reaching Upper Iweka, Pericoma was waylaid by unlawful tax collectors who did not know who he was.
They inquired about his tax receipts, but Pericoma totally ignored them. Getting irritated at his silence, one of the agberos lifted him up, placed him on his shoulders, and headed to their kangaroo office. Strangely, Pericoma still did not utter a word nor complain. On their way, he suddenly became extremely heavy that the agbero carrying him wanted to put him down, but he couldn’t. For many hours, they begged him to come down, but he refused.
After many pleas, he insisted that the gods must be appeased before he would come down. Not only that, he reportedly made several requests which included a certain amount of money. After all his requests were completely provided, Pericoma majestically came down from the guy’s shoulder. This incident brought about the popular saying “Pericoma na-anyi ajo aro” and is also said to have put an end to the threats of tax collectors at Upper Iweka.
Did Pericoma Okoye Have Other Children Besides Speed Darlington?
Pericoma Okoye was married and had children, but there is no information about who his wife is or the identities of his children. However, in 2017, after his death, Speed Darlington, a US-based controversial singer thrilled his fans after he revealed that he is the son of the late traditional singer. Speed was birthed from a relationship Pericoma had with Theresa Onuroah, an Igbo highlife musician, before she got married to her husband.
According to Speed Darlington, he hated Pericoma while he was alive because of his mystical powers and for killing those who offended him. But, he said to be missing him now that he is dead. “I HATED him & I kinda miss him indirectly now that he’s gone…” he wrote on Instagram. Pericoma reportedly has other children who are all grown up, but there is no public information about them.