(i) Paying homage to the elders, idioma or diokpa of Idumu.
This was done in many ways:-
a. Through the reserving of the dreg of palmwine to the most elderly man. Whenever people or the descendants of a kindred, ebon gather to drink palmwine, the dreg (the last cup of the calabash of a palmwine) is reserved as a tribute and loyalty to the idioma or diokpa.
b. Offering of meat Ohuhu: It was the tradition that whenever any adult of Ika man killed any of the following animals, bush pig, ezi, antelope, mgbadan, deer, ele, etc, in his trap in the bush or with his gun, some portions of the meat would be offered to the idioma or diokpa and the people of his Idumu (See Chapter Four for details on Ohuhu).
(ii) Communal labour orun ogbe: The ancestors of the Ikaland helped themselves through communal effort. They built houses for their kinsmen with mud walls and roofed them with mgbodo (igbodo), and worked in their farms without any payment except for the entertainment given to them by the person they helped (See Chapter Fourteen for details in Communal build of ulo ejan.)
(iii) Nowadays, the Ika people find it difficult to carry out such civic duties which were carried out by the age-grades. For example, a particular age-group is charged with weeding and sweeping the major streets of the village, market squares, playgrounds and lanes in the villages, especially during festival periods. They weeded farm and stream roads when the needs arose and performed a lot of other duties. Communal labour is a big problem now facing the Ika people at home. This has to do with manpower shortage. The youths drift to urban and industrial towns in the country and abroad to look for employment in ministries, industries, firms, etc.
(iv) Wrestling contests during some festivals: In the years past, and on such days, the elders and the youths in a village would assemble at the square or playground for the wrestling contest for the year. Nowadays, the youths of Ika do not attach any importance to this important aspect of Ika culture. It is only the small boys that wrestle in their respective villages, if at all.
(v) Native dance: In the days of the Ika ancestors, new native dances were released regularly by the native musicians. They introduced different tunes of music which they teach the youths. There are various types of music for entertainment on different occasions and nights. Agbara was Ika’s famous music for entertainment on happy evenings or Eken days. Other native dances are Ojerima, Okangan, Kokoma, egu ogbugba, egu ofufe, etc. At present, no new native music is being released by Ika musicians and the old ones are fading away. The Ika elders, who danced them, are so old now that they cannot teach them to the modern Ika youths. The modern sophisticated orchestras have taken the places of the Ika native music. The dangerous aspect of this phenomenon is that modern instruments are no substitutes for ancient and customary musical instruments of the Ika people. As the youths neglect these native music, such music may die away with the elders who danced them. Ekpere trumpet and drumming of the Ika musical instruments cannot be left out. The case of ekpere is most disturbing. Ekpere which gives melody to all Ika native music is rapidly passing away. The modern youths of Ika are not prepared to learn ekpere trumpet. Many drummers of Ika musical instruments are also “passing” away without replacements.
Most traditional rulers seem to have abandoned their traditional roles and responsibilities in Ika polity. Some of them have become Christians while others are neither Christians nor pagans. Many of them pay little attention to the maintenance of sacred places, traditional rules and sanctuaries, which were the mainstay of the purity and holiness of the palaces. Many traditional rulers have restructured and equipped their palaces in modern ways; and yet, many of them have destroyed, or abandoned their ancestral ways of sanctifying their palaces. All in all, it is becoming very apparent that the Ika traditional culture is shrinking with the emergence of new generation of the Ika people.
However, the view is still held that despite the presence of religious organizations and educational enlightenments in Ika nation, the average Ika indigene is obsessed with superstitious beliefs. While many Ika people may wish to be regarded as connected with one or the other of the fashionable Churches in Ikaland, many are, at heart, still having regard for their indigenous beliefs. It is now becoming clear to the most optimistic Christian evangelists that the problems of the Churches in Ika today is the divided loyalty of most of their followers between Christianity with the Western culture and the Traditional Religion on the other hand. It is well known that in strict personal matters relating to the passage and crises of life, most Ika people may regard the Traditional Religion as a final succour. In hospitals and maternity homes, for instance, people who are on admission, and have declared themselves Christians, and indeed are practising Christians, have medicines prepared in traditional ways smuggled in simply because, psychosocially at least, that is more effective, in that it is a consecrated medicine with the touch of a divine healer in contrast with some mere “coloured water” or pills. In matters concerning providence and general well-being therefore, most Ika people still look upon their own religion or herbal medicine as a way out.
Magical practices still take place throughout Ikaland. They are often times applied to meet new circumstances. For example, many young native doctors specializing in the preparation of magical objects of all kinds abound in Ika. New magical objects and preparations are imported from the communities around Ika culture. Some carry amulets which they claim have magical powers around their necks, waists and arms, for protection against evils or evil spirits. Many also consult diviners in secret. There are of course, education and the Churches to give positive enlightenment and combat magic practices, but it will take time before there is a decline of superstition in Ikaland.
Beliefs in gods may linger on as ancestral worship persists. Many Ika people still believe in the spirits of the forests, those of streams and other areas, even if they do not worship them. The ancestors may habe their cults transmuted, but the belief in the nearness of the dead is very strong with the people of Ika community culture. The large and ornated tombs, the long obituaries and the popular memorial services and masses testify to this. Christians may still name their children baba-abia, Abiamuwe, Uwerihun etc, which means “my father has returned to earth”, “I have come back to earth”, “there are other lives ahead”. All these are strongly inclined to traditional beliefs. If there is a death in the family, for instance, Christians cut their hair like the other members of the family do. What all these portray is that we are still living in both worlds of the Christians and that of hate non-Christians. By all these beliefs and practices, Ika Christians seem very close to their cultural root than they are to Christianity.
The study of the new Churches reveals that they seek to incorporate elements of indigenous religion into the formal Christian religion. Their mode of worship is very traditional. For example, traditional musical instruments are now used, and their songs are at times, very similar to those used in the shrines of Ika local deities. Some of the new Churches have prophets and apostles who are reputed to have the power of traditional medicine-men. They heal the sick, define the causes of misfortunes and prescribe remedies that are not very different from those normally prescribed by the Ika traditional medicine-men. But at the same time, they read the Bible and pray through Jesus Christ. Although the adherents of these new Churches appear generally devoted, they are still not as devoted as the practitioners of the Traditional Religion in Ika nation. Indeed, in times of real life crisis, most of the members resort to the traditional faith in secret. This situation may continue in Ika for a long time to come.
Witchcraft belief and magic flourish as ever in Ika community culture. For example, in most cases, the educated ones even attribute to witchcraft their failure at work, their failure to have children, or seek magical protection against diseases. They may use new types of medicine but of magical kind. Many have recourse to the medicine-men and to the European trained doctors. A medicine-man serves as a link between the villagers and their ancestors, he may interpret a patient’s sickness or nightmares as due to an angry ancestor who has been neglected, and demand that money be sent home to make offerings.
In all the villages and towns in Ika community culture, the ancient religion is still practised by many people. Some people have become largely Christians while many others have nearly rejected it. Also, many men and women out of sheer carelessness and laziness have joined Churches and Sects if only they would be freed from being subjected to traditional trials and sanctions. And the majority of these crusaders of the new Churches are women who cannot find husbands, or wives suffering from infertility. Yet, others are those who have found no jobs. Even in the villages, and among those who have accepted the new religion, there is a great substratum of traditional beliefs which must never be left out of Ika community culture. These are the ancient ideas which constantly reappear in Christian societies in Ika. They are not only the spiritual Churches that are currently trying to weld traditional concepts with the imported religion in Ika community culture. For instance, the Catholic Church which, for sometime banned the second burial ceremonies and the taking of titles by her members has partially revoked the ban with a justifiable conviction that such practices are parts of people’s culture.
For many people in Ika, Christianity is quite superficial and has no real answer to life’s personal difficulties nor deep-rooted influence on the people’s moral problems. Those people that have affinity with the community’s Traditional Religion in the past, or on beliefs in the phenomena like reincarnation, witches and wizards, clandestine forces, spiritual world, ancestors, deities, spirits, etc, may continue to be shaky. For instance, if such people are threatened by insecurity, death, disease, famine, etc, they may quickly fall back on their indigenous religion for succour. This apparent situation may continue to make some people in Ika to deal only superficially with Christianity while yet, many people may be taken off of Christianity by the ‘evil and unhealthy practices’ of some members of the Churches and Sects.
It is not enough to embrace a faith that is active once a week, either on Sundays or Fridays while during the rest days in the week, nothing is done. It is not enough to embrace a faith which is locked up six days, and opened only once or twice a week. Unless Christianity fully occupies the whole person as much as, if not more than the Traditional Religion does in Ika community culture, most converts to these faiths will continue to revert to their old belief and practices, for perhaps six days a week and certainly in times of emergency and crisis.
In an attempt to restore the soul of the Ika cultural beliefs, the traditional foundation of a ritual has gradually been introduced into all the gatherings, be it civil or traditional in nature. Such a ritual always proceeds the Christian prayers, that is, the ‘traditional breaking of kola nuts’. This ceremony is always performed in a traditional setting. Kola nuts are presented and broken in the traditional manner with the avowed purpose of helping the Ika people to pray to their God/gods through the dialect which the kola nut understands. “Kola nut does not understand any other language but vernacular.” Libations are poured with drinks, and the prescribed details of the foundation of the ritual are carried out. This is often accompanied by poetic affirmations of justice and fair play, and invocation of the gods of the Ikaland to enforce the traditional concepts. Kola nuts and drinks are shared in the traditional way as a form of communion.
“Our recommendation, therefore, is that all the Ibos, Christians as well as non-Christians, acknowledge those links with our patrilneal ancestors in the pouring of libation and in the giving of kola nuts.” (Prof. (Rev.) Ilogu Edmund).
To be continued…