2016 IgboFest Program
Igbo Orthography and Standard Dialect: Work in Progress
The purpose of this article is to bring to the awareness of our children, friends and well-wishers in attendance at IgboFest2016 that “Igbo” is the legitimate word and spelling representing our name, not “Ibo”. In addition, the article also addresses the lack of consensus on a common Igbo dialect, which remains work in progress presently.
I will begin with a narrative about Igbo. The word Igbo is used in three senses to refer to the collective name of our ethnic group, the language we speak, and our ancestral home. The majority of the estimated 18 to 24 million Igbo live in their native land in Southeastern Nigeria.
Thirty-six characters make up the Igbo alphabet. The “gb” in the spelling of “Igbo” is among the nine of twenty-eight consonants in Igbo alphabet known as blends or diagraphs. The remaining eight characters are vowels. The Igbo alphabet is mostly written in English, which is the lingua franca of Nigeria—a former colony of Britain.
The speculation is that the Europeans in colonial Nigeria could not make the “gb” sound, so they removed the “g” in “Igbo” to create the word “Ibo” to supplant the indigenous name, its spelling, and pronunciation. Given that Homo sapiens can and do learn, I find the explanation that the Europeans could not make the “gb” sound not very convincing.
This presumptuous act of changing an autochthonous word or name smacks of European ethnocentrism—that subjective sense of superior power and culture in common display in erstwhile Third World European colonies. For developing Igbo language orthography and the claim that Europeans could not make the sounds of some of the Igbo diagraphs, European missionaries and the colonial administration changed “Egbu” to “Ebu,” “Enugwu” to “Enugu,” “Agbani” to “Abani,” “Ikokwu” to “Ikoku,” “Chukwu,” to “Chuku,” “Okwu,” to “Oku,” “Okonkwo” to “Okonko,” etc. Fortunately, these Europeanized versions of Igbo words are generally ignored and seldom used by most Igbo people.
This Eurocentric proclivity is to blame for complicity in causing disruption and polarization among the Igbo through unsolicited and incessant intervention in the cultural affairs of the colonized. The Europeans—on their own, without being asked—initiated the project to standardize the Igbo language. The missionaries and colonial officials wielded so much power that they practically did whatever they wished to do.
The Igbo have numerous dialects long in existence before the advent of European colonialism. Some Igbo dialects include the Idemili dialect, Onitsha, Bende, Isuiikwuato, Owerri, Nkwerre, Ngwa, Umuahia, Onitsha, Abriba, Arochukwu, Awka, Nsukka, Abba, Ohafia, Mbaise, Ika, Wawa, Nnewi, Ukwa/Ndoki, Okigwe, Ikwerre, Ezii, Okposi, etc. These dialects, which differ from one another by accent or orthography, can be mastered easily by any Igbo native who shows sincere interest. An Igbo man or woman can almost always tell the area of Igboland another is from by the accent of the speaker. That is why I dismiss the notion of unintelligibility of some Igbo dialects Professor Ernest Nneji Emenyonu writes frequently as the same divisive expression colonialists and European missionaries used to introduce the novel sense of dialectal superiority in Igboland. The various Igbo dialects were spoken with pride and none was considered inferior or superior to the other by their speakers. Precolonial Igbo indigenes from different and far away clans and villages traveled and traded with each other, and even intermarried with hardly any dialectal encumbrances.
European colonialists and Missionaries introduced the notion of Igbo dialect unintelligibility, especially in situations where an Igbo man or woman spoke or wrote in a dialect other than the “Central Igbo” orthography proposed by Dr. Ida Caroline Ward. Further discussion of Central Igbo is taken up in another section.
Early in the 20th century, Archdeacon Thomas John Dennis, a Sussex, England native, and a member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), actualized the relocation of the Igbo Language Studies headquarters from Onitsha to Ebu (Egbu). The suggestion to relocate came from Lasly Probyn, the Acting High Commissioner in Calabar, who encouraged the CMS in 1904 to initiate missionary work in Egbu, Owerri, where he claimed “the purest form of Igbo was spoken, while the people were more intelligent than the average Igbo” (Bersselaar, 1998, p.116). Doubtful of the Commissioner’s linguistic observations, Archdeacon Dennis concluded after his own visit to Egbu that “the Ibo people of Owerri speak as pure a form of the language as any in the country” (Bersselaar, 1998, p. 116).
It is proper here to note that Igbo dialects in their entirety add to the richness of the language and constitute one of the most important cultural distinctions among the different Igbo clans and villages. This notwithstanding, upon their arrival as far back as 1841, some of the European Christian missionaries, working in concert with colonial government officials, saw developing Igbo language orthography and vocabulary as their divine mandate. Of paramount importance to them was the translation of the Bible and other religious reading materials into Igbo language for proselytization and conversion of the natives to Christianity. The difficulty of this task was in deciding which orthography would be acceptable to all the competing Igbo dialects. The first attempt to confront this challenge came with the development and use of Isuama Igbo, from 1766 to 1900 (Oraka, 1983).
Isuama was spoken by emancipated slaves and their offspring in Sierra Leone, but not anywhere in Igboland. The language was incomprehensible to the native Igbo who referred to it as pidgin or broken Igbo, and rejected it when Samuel Crowther and John Christopher Taylor of the CMS translated the Bible, hymns, and prayer books into Isuama dialect (Igboanusi, 2006; Azuonye, 2002). The endeavor failed and was abandoned because Igbo natives launched a protracted resistance to the mission’s pressure to relinquish their different dialects to embrace Isuama dialect they did not understand. Translation into Onitsha dialects became the favored alternative at this time. According to Bersselaar (1998), Archdeacon Dennis and his Igbo assistants accomplished the first translation of the entire Bible in Onitsha dialect in 1906. However, it is claimed the arrival of the Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) in 1885 (Oraka, 1983) and its eventual adoption of popular Onitsha area dialect that triggered the CMS complete abandonment of Isuama Igbo and its replacement with Union Igbo (Igboanusi, 2006).
According to Oraka (1983), the era of Union Igbo lasted from 1900 to 1929. Archdeacon Dennis was said to have imposed his idea of Union Igbo at a conference convened in Asaba on August 14, 1905 (Igboanusi, 2006). Union Igbo was a hybrid of the dialects of Bonny, Unwana (Afikpo), Arochukwu, Owerri, and Onitsha. Dennis used the resulting dialect to translate and publish the Union Bible in 1913, followed later by the translation of hymn books and prayer books. In the end Union Igbo was intensely criticized and eventually rejected for being artificial, difficult to understand, and bearing no resemblance to anything in existence. As Union Igbo fell into disfavor, Central Igbo came in vogue and lasted from 1929 to 1961 (Oraka, 1983).
Central Igbo, a combination of what was described as core Igbo dialects of Owerri and Umuahia –suffused with Ohuhu dialect—was proposed by Ida Caroline Ward, a native of Yorkshire, England, in 1939 (Bersselaar, 1939; Oraka, 1983). Explaining why she proposed Owerri area Igbo for Igbo orthography and standard dialect, Ward cited its densely populated nature and the centrality of the location. However, a look at the map of Igboland area refutes the claim of centrality. Like Union Igbo, Central Igbo was an amalgam and something unnatural. A preference for Onitsha Igbo was expressed in numerous instances. As Bersselaar (1998) wrote, “Although Onitsha Igbo appeared to be in an excellent position to become the dominant dialect, Ward noted that the dialect was not accepted in the Owerri area and failed to gain influence there” (p. 128). There were some District Officers who claimed the natural speakers of Central Igbo, unlike the Onitsha area Igbo speakers, were not very literate, which could in consequence limit their ability to proliferate the literature of the standard dialect. Some individuals argued in favor of Central Igbo “as means of checking the educational advantage of the Onitsha Igbo over the others, which had precluded the Onitsha Igbo and the non-Onitsha Igbo meeting on equal terms” (Bersselaar, 1998, p. 132). Several meetings and conferences aimed at reaching a compromise and to resolve the issue failed, as Onitsha Igbo and Owerri Igbo speakers argued theirs should be the standard dialect. This author recalls the era of “township” Igbo, an epoch all Igbo in most cities communicated in Onitsha area Igbo dialect. Newspapers weighed in on the issue. The West African Pilot took the position that Ida Ward was an outsider and couldn’t decide for the Igbo about their language. “Dr. Ward,” the paper wrote, “is only an interested student of the Ibo language and not an Ibo, and for that reason, her book should serve rather in an advisory than authoritative capacity in all matters affecting the Ibo language” (Bersselaar, 1998, p. 131). The Daily Times wrote in support of Central Igbo as the standard dialect (Bersselaar, 1998).
Supposedly crafted to win general approval, Central Igbo did not fare very well as it was barraged with uncompromising opposition by Onitsha area Igbo speakers and some of the religious denominations. The Society for the Promotion of Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC), founded by Frederick Chidozie Ogbalu, strongly criticized Central Igbo, stating that it was “an attempt to impose the white man’s will” (Oraka, 1983, p. 41) on Igbo culture. Central Igbo, like others before it, was not generally accepted for lack of consensus.
The seemingly endemic controversies, criticisms, and conflicts associated with Igbo orthography did not vanish with Nigeria independence on October 1, 1960, when both the colonists and European missionaries departed, leaving the responsibility of forging a consensus on Igbo orthography and a compromise Igbo language to Igbo linguists, scholars, writers, teachers, etc. Be that as it may, subsequent orthographies by Igbo indigenes were guided by orthographies of both European Christian missionaries and the Onwu Orthography Committee.
Following the official Onwu orthography of 1961, SPILC set up a Standardization Committee to work on making Central Igbo more inclusive of diverse Igbo dialects. At the end of its work the Committee recommended Standard Igbo orthography, which was approved in 1973. Standard Igbo involved not only the cross-pollination of Central Igbo with words from other Igbo dialects, but also the appropriation of foreign words dubbed loan words. Several workshops involving a myriad of Igbo stakeholders were set up with focus on the coinage of technical or specialized terms or neologisms. These new words or expressions were intended to enable the teaching, writing, and discussion of technology, science, engineering, computer science, architecture, arts, etc. in Igbo. The availability of these neologisms was to enhance Standard Igbo and raise it to the level of Igbo metalanguage—aka Okaasusu Igbo, in Igbo language. Metalanguage is a technical term denoting a body of coinages in Igbo language, in this case, needed to express contemporary concepts in various professional areas (Ajunwa, 2008).
Although Standard Igbo was lauded as a remarkable achievement, it was not without controversies and criticisms. Critics proffered the values of letting people speak and write in their different dialects. As Azuonye (2002) wrote, “Any standardization movement that does not allow for dialectal diversity is a recipe for language starvation and ultimate death” (p. 50). Azuonye (2002) further observed that “In the environment of scholarly obsession with literary standards and metalanguage instruments, Igbo is rapidly losing the idioms that are the soul of the language” (pp. 52-53). In agreeing with Chinua Achebe, Azuonye (2002) wrote that if modern Igbo writers write in their customary dialects as their oral traditional counterparts do, they can preserve the idiomatic nuances and their deep structure features of the language in a way that is glaringly impossible through the so-called literary standard Igbo. To illustrate this point, Achebe gave his speech titled Echi di Ime, Taa bu Gboo (literally, Tomorrow is Pregnant, Today is Early Enough) in Idemili dialect on September 4, 1999, at the fourth annual Odenigbo lecture in Owerri. In this speech he “passionately denounced Standard Igbo and its ancestors as colonial and conservative impositions on the rich range of Igbo dialects” (nigerianwiki.com). All this is to say that Owerri and Umuahia dialects still dominated the so-called Standard Igbo orthography. However, in his dissention Emenyonu (2001) opined that standardization is not tantamount to the demise of sectional dialects, and argued that “The spoken language need not be identified as synonymous with the written standard.” (p.17). This explains why Professor Ernest Nneji Emenyonu praised Ogbalu and described Standard Igbo as “seemingly the ultimate solution,” and implying that it was well received “until 1978 when Chinua Achebe hurled the first ‘salvo’ challenging its linguistic legitimacy and socio-cultural authenticity” (Emenyonu, 2001, p. 3).
From the foregoing, it is saying the obvious that the development of Igbo orthography and standard dialect has been surfeit with controversies and criticisms, lending credence to its status as work in progress. In that sense, Standard Igbo is an ongoing project with room for further development and improvement as evinced with the aforementioned neologisms meant to elevate it to the level of Igbo Metalanguage. And so, Standard Igbo or Igbo Metalanguage will undergo further incremental changes until a consensus is achieved among Igbo natives with their many dialects. This is the unfortunate process we inherited from the rivalry between the RCM and CMS especially, that factionalized Igbo natives and causing what Emenyonu (2001) called “fratricidal acrimonious controversies.”
We thank you for coming to Umunne Cultural Association of Minnesota 23rd annual IgboFest to experience our culture and heritage. Relax and enjoy the exciting performances in display, and have a safe journey back home.
Dr. Anthony I. Akubue, Editor, IgboFest 2016 Program Book Articles and Professor of Environmental and Technological Studies, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota
Ajunwa, E. (2008, January). Generating a corpus-based metalanguage: The Igbo language example.Translation Journal, 12(1). Retrieved from http://translationjournal.net/43metalanguage.htm.
Azuonye, C. (2002). Igbo as an endangered language. African StudiesFaculty Publication Series. Paper 17. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.umb.edu/africana_faculty_pubs/17.
Emenyonu, E. N. (2011). Achebe and the problematics of writing in indigenous languages. Retrieved from http://www.kimntespace.com/kp_emenyonu.html.
Igboanyusi, H. (2006, December). Agents of progress or problem-makers?: Missionary activities in the development of the Igbo language. African Studies Monographs, 27(4), pp. 157-168.
Oraka, L. N. (1983). The foundation of Igbo studies. Onitsha: University Publishing Company.
Van den Bersselaar, D. (1998). In search of Igbo identity: Language, culture and politics in Nigeria, 1900-1966, Druk: Universiteitsdrukkerij leideen.
Igbo Race and ‘Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo’ Title Holders: Then and Now.
IGBO TRADITIONAL SOCIETY AND BELIEFS:
Igbo race is one of the most densely populated ethnic groups in Nigeria. The origin of Igbo race is not fully known because they believe strongly in oral tradition. As a result of this method of information preservation and dissemination, not much has been written on the origin of Igbo race. The few written reports available were extrapolated from oral traditions obtained from interviews of elderly statesmen. Several theories have been put forward to suggest the origin of Igbo race, including but not limited to a lost tribe of Israel, Nri, Igbo-land centered, Orlu /Awka, Idah and Benin versions. On the lost tribe of Israel version, this belief may have arisen from the similarities that exist between the duo (Igbo race and Jewish State) in terms of their customs, their belief in hard work, their resilience in pursuit of life endeavors, and their well-known migratory tendencies. In both races abandonment of dead kinsmen or fallen comrades in a foreign land or in a battle field is regarded as an abomination. Similarly both races have suffered severe discriminations from their neighbors as well as some forms of genocide, as can be depicted by the Biafra-Nigerian civil war. Because of the migratory tendencies among the Igbo race, there is a saying in the region that states that in any habitable land in the universe where you cannot find an Igbo person residing such a place is branded a curse land. The Igbo race equally believe that they are the center of the universe and that the modern humans originated from Igbo land. That is why today in Igboland if there are multitudes of people so numerous to be counted, it is often times referred to as “Igbo bu Igbo” which means different versions of the Igbo race. This conception among the Igbo is buttressed by the fact that the most widely accepted model of the origin of human species is the ‘Out of Africa” theory, which strongly supports the African origin of modern humans. Who knows whether the said African location where human have been thought to have first originated was somewhere in Igboland? However, this notion is subject to vigorous debate and scientific proofs among scholars for validation.
From time immemorial Igbo race is known to be deeply religious. The religiosity of Igbo race is manifested in their deep respect for sacredness, which existed even before the arrival of the early missionaries. This belief in sacredness, which is rooted in Igbo traditional religion, has made the early missionaries to have a negative attitude towards Igbo culture. As a result of this belief, these early missionaries had very serious problems reconciling Igbo Traditional Religion with the newly introduced gospel message of Jesus Christ.
IGBO DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
Traditional Kingship is a very old and important institution in Igboland. Those who occupy this kingship positions are referred to as His Royal Highnesses (Ezes). Traditional kingship in Igbo race has not changed very much since inception except for some minor influences from Christianity and Western civilization. Compared to the two other major ethnic groups in Nigeria (Yoruba and Hausa), where kingship is transferable (inheritable) from father to son in most part, in Igboland kingship is limited to a particular kindred where every member who is in a good standing is a possible candidate for the position at stake, including the reigning king’s offspring. This pattern of kingship inheritance in Igbo race had created some misconceptions in the minds of early Missionaries and Colonialists. As a result of these misconceptions and what existed in Hausa and Yoruba tribes, these early European settlers were inclined to label Igbo race as a kingless race (AKA: Igbo Enwe- Eze).
In terms of governance, Igbo race is made up of wards or kindred, which are the smallest independent entity endowed with ability for self-determination in the region, apart from families. A ward or kindred composed of related groups of families is referred to as Umunna. A group of kindred or Umunna make up a village. Umunna, as an entity of governance in Igbo race consists of Ndi Ichie, Village elders, Chief priests, Diviners (Ndi Afa), Age grades and Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo tittle holders. A group of villages make up a town or community. The head of a community or town is referred to as his Royal Highness (Eze). Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo form the cabinet of His Royal Highness. His Royal Highness with the Ndi Okpo Ofo installs Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo. An indigenous democratic system of government is very popular in Igbo race in which all the people (Umunna) are involved in decision making and is typically depicted by the popular adage in Igbo race that states that “Umunna bu Ike,” which means “communal strength”. The decisions made by the Umunna cannot be taken for granted because it is not without very severe consequences for non–compliance.
NDI NZE AND NDI OZO INSTITUTIONS AND CANDIDATES QUALITIES:
Before the advent of the Europeans and subsequent exposure to Christianity, the Igbo were noted for strong ties to their customs and traditions. Top on the list of these popular ways of life are the institutions of Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title holders. Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo tittle holders’ institutions, which are as old as the Igbo culture itself, are the main subjects of this write-up. The line between Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title holders is very thin because one individual can have one and or both titles. Both Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title institutions are among the most important social organizations in Igbo land. These two institutions are normally established solely for the men folks, and females are not allowed to partake in these titles. Becoming a member of these institutions is regarded as one of the highest honors an Igbo man can be bestowed with. By the nature of the honor bestowed on them in traditional Igbo society, Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo are expected to be symbols of love, peace, justice as well as the custodians of Igbo culture. On the same token they are expected to be fearless and tell the truth at all times. Candidates for these titles are usually men with outstanding characters. They are usually wealthy as depicted by the endless rows of yam in their barns, and are in control of many wives, and children.
As a result of the wisdom associated with their elevated positions, they play significant roles in the lives of their subjects. To qualify for this elevated position, the candidate must be an Igbo indigene in good standing. The candidates must equally continue to be in good standing to be worthy of retaining this highly elevated position. Unlike chieftaincy titles that can be influenced by the potential candidates (highest bidders), the candidates for Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo cannot influence their selections and the recommendation for their selections is the onus of their kindred. Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo candidates who are not recommended and supported by their kindred are usually denied installation. Similarly, while it is possible for one to be installed a chieftaincy title outside one’s community, a candidate for the title of Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo can only be installed in his community. Just like it is not possible to install an Eze from another community for different community. Likewise it is not possible to install Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo from one kindred for the other. Taking Nze and Ozo titles are not meant for the chicken hearted. The title takings are extremely expensive and are estimated to cost between US $25,000 -$30,000 cumulatively. These titles are normally taken when the candidate is a full-fledged man and cannot be taken when the father of the candidate is still alive in most communities.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF NDI NZE AND NDI OZO:
Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo constitute the Eze’s cabinet or Eze-in-council. While Ndi Nze are involved in legislative functions, Ndi Ozo are involved with priestly functions. Both Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo are kingmakers responsible for installing a new Eze (King). During installation of an Eze, while Ndi Nze are responsible for the installation of the new Eze during the ceremony, Ndi Ozo, on the other hand, in conjunction with Ndi Okpo Ofo (chief Whip) are responsible for the administration of the oath of office on the newly installed Eze as is normally done during a priestly ordination in Christian churches by the bishop. That is why the head of Ndi Ozo (Isi Ozo) is referred to as the chief priest. Members of these highly reserved institutions are endowed with legislative, executive and judicial powers in communities where they govern. They work with His royal highnesses and elders in the communities to achieve these noble goals. These conventional laws are made to guide the lives of the people in the community they govern with His Royal Highness. In addition, they are responsible for the review and maintenance of law and order, as well as stabilizing the Igbo culture in the region before the advent of Christianity.
BENEFITS ACRUABLE TO MEMBERSHIP OF NDI NZE AND NDI OZO:
Right from inception Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title holders have been respected for their accomplishments and these recognitions continue to follow them till this day. In recognition of these accomplishments these title holders are usually accorded other honors such as being seated in the front rows or at special locations during community gatherings and church services. Their opinions are widely sorted after in their community they are full of wisdom and experience.
Even at death these title holders are given special treatments that are not available to none title holders. As a mark of respect the formal announcement of the passing on of a titled person would normally be concealed from people until the appropriate time. At the right time the news of their deaths are normally announced by the chief priest or the Onye isi Ozo (the highest title holder). On the day their death would be announced all the title holders would assemble in the house (Obi) of the deceased title holder to discuss the burial arrangements. The first son of the deceased title member would present kola nuts to the titleholders and this is usually followed by the entrance of the highest titleholder (Onye isi Ozo) into the room where the deceased member is lying in state. The highest titleholder member will receive a white fowl from the eldest son of the deceased member which he would hover round the dead member’s head and this will herald other burial ceremonies. The white fowl is killed and the blood used to wash the eyes of the dead title member. This very ritual is believed in the olden days to assist the dead title member to overcome all impending dangers that may be lurking on his journey to the land of the dead. As usual there is no crying of any kind when a titled person expires. Giving a dead titled member a befitting burial is not negotiable. They have the privilege also to be buried in sitting positions. This position is thought to put them in a vantage position to watch over their families as an ancestor living among them. Also, in the olden days title holders are normally buried with two slaves. These slaves, it is believed, would serve them in the land of the dead as personal servants. In the past many heads rolled during burial ceremony of the titled persons. No wonder the passing of a titled person in Igbo land in the past normally conjured a lot of fear in the community. Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title holders are normally buried in the evenings/nights and usually on an Eke Ukwu market days, unlike the case of ordinary persons without titles. Goats are normally slaughtered before the grave can be dug. They are buried in their backyards called Ufo. The reason alluded to the evening /night burial time was that it would usher him to sleep faster because of the quietness of the night. Second, the vertical burial or sitting positions will help them be watchful over their families compared to the horizontal positions. This outdated believe that the dead title holder would be watching over their family members from their elevated positions in the land of the dead is no longer accepted as truth these days.
In addition, as a pat on their backs for their elevated achievements in life, the burials of deceased title holders are usually associated with a lot of funfairs through performances of different dances and masquerades. Cows, goats and fowls, just name them, are slaughtered to mark their burial rites. The number of the animals slaughtered will depend on the wealth of the departed title men. During the burial the other titled members will sing burial songs (referred as Uri Egbe) indicating that the dead titled persons have gone to Ufo (land of their ancestors). These full burial rites when accorded to the dead titled persons will ensure that they occupy higher positions among their dead ancestors. In Igbo nation Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo cannot be buried without a red hat and with their full regalia. Immediately after the burial of titled persons their wives and children would have their hair shaved. Their wives are prohibited from going to markets for an extended period of time of about two to three calendar months. This is closely followed by another ritual called “Ankle tread” cutting, which will indicate the separation of the dead titled person from other living title members. This ritual is the final confirmation that the titled holder is now finally late and this is normally performed on Eke Ukwu market day usually four days after his expiration.
Immediately after burial they are normally saluted with four, eight, twelve, and sixteen gun shots respectively, to honor their final departure from their kinsmen to the land of the dead. Even after the burial, other ceremonies normally continue depending on the type of title and wealth of the dead titled person. Groups of people would be meeting to accord the dead titled person his rights which could spread for several months. The first wife of the dead titled person would be instructed to be crying each morning on the grave of their late husband for about two markets weeks, and this is the only time that crying is permitted for the deceased title member. There is usually a second burial ceremony one year after the initial burial. This second burial is not compromised for any reason as this will rub the departed titled man a place among the dead ancestors. Failure to perform this ceremony of second burial will cause the deceased titled persons to visit their families with vengeance, which may result in very serious calamities.
MODERNIZED NZE AND OZO TITLES IN IGBO LAND
Reading these Igbo customs and rituals associated with Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title institutions can be very scary. They are not tenable today, thanks to the influence of Christianity. With the advent of Christianity in Igboland, some of the customs and rituals attached to Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title taking were questioned by Christian Church leaders. These unanswered questions have warranted the subjection of the institutions of Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo to very serious scrutiny by the Christian authorities because most of the rituals associated with these institutions were at odds with Christian faith. Christian missionaries were of the opinion that embracing these rituals and being a good practicing Christian are not compatible. As a good way to start, some of the Igbo traditional rituals and taboos associated with Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo were integrated into Christianity. These integrations made these newly converted Christians to embrace and accept Christianity with open arms. As time went by these missionaries started to persuade the newly converted Christians to forsake those taboos and rituals because they were rooted in paganism. These taboos and rituals include but not limited to human slavery, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, polygamy, second burial, and maltreatment of widows, as well as vertical position interments of deceased title holders.
As a result of these Christian influences on these antiquated Igbo customs, the modern day Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo institutions are now reformed and are devoid of any form of paganism. The best part is that these renowned institutions no longer incorporate those taboos and rituals that are associated with paganism. They used to be very common in Igbo culture before the arrival of the missionaries and were observed to be at odds with the practice of Christianity, so they were, therefore, discontinued. Modern-day Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo are now good Christians who practice their faith both in words and actions. Because of the influence of Christianity on Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo, institutions of these titled holders have been placed in vantage positions to serve as leaders in both local churches and Igbo communities. As a result of these influences, these men of honor now prefer to devote their God-given strength, knowledge and resources to the benefit of people in their domain as well as all humanity. These taboos and rituals that were practiced in Igbo tribes in days gone by are now not in vogue but are only mentioned for historic interests and probably as a way of painting a perfect picture of how the present day Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo title institutions that are highly respected have evolved with time.
HAPPY 2016 IGBO FEST.
By Dr. Eugene Nwaokorie. References not included due to space.
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