Friday, 22 April 2016

Need to Preserving the Dying Igbo Customs and Values

Comrade Okechukwu Onuegbu
By Okechukwu Onuegbu

Culture is a term used by social scientists in describing a way of life of a particular society. These include but not limited to a society’s arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, inventions, language, technology, and values, which produces similar behaviour and thought among most people in the society.

In the medieval era, Igbos of South East Nigeria, to be precise, were identified by their certain coronations and celebrations such as breaking of kolanut, ozo, Ichie, Ichi, language, title-taking, burial, marriage ceremonies, among others.

However, from era of imperialism and pre-colonisation to this contemporary era, there have been major shifts, several changes and loss in these cultural practices of the Igbos owing to factors like colonisation, neo-colonisation, western civilisation, etc. which has led to their acculturations.

The fleeting existence of their culture, already stark, shows very slim chance of surviving the ferocious erosion of modernity, yet little or no effort is being made by the people to forestall the progressive decline.

This is why Igbo language, coronation, title-taking, burial and marriage ceremonies, breaking of kola nuts to the least of these customs and values have lost the touch of tradition, and currently in acute struggle against eroding influences that appear decided to lay them waste. Nobody is sure where the development is headed, but it certainly does not lead to any cultural flourish.

Modern Igbos, so to speak, have shown very little respect, if not outright disdain, for their customs and values, to the extent that many are no longer comfortable identifying with them. They have equally found themselves discriminated against on account of their interest in propagating some of these traditions, wrongly dismissed by some culture-shy individuals as fetish.

As a result, few of the custodians of the culture are available today, even as those around are not particularly willing to vouchsafe information on some aspects of the culture when approached.

Similarly, the younger generation of Igbos take great joy in being overly cosmopolitan and are unimpressed with the idea of going through “the mill” to sustain a dying culture. This is why among them, you can easily find a people very eager to assimilate the culture of other people and show it off with a lot of swagger. No other ethnic grouping does it.

For instance, of the three widely spoken Nigerian languages (Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba), only Igbo language fails to command interest, even among its owners. Hardly is the language spoken, even in official gathering of Igbos, and when spoken, is inflected with modals or mixture of these other languages.

Worst still is the violation of the much revered monarch or Igweship/Eze title institution. Most a time, the people and/or government commit lots of atrocities and impunities like killings, maiming, kidnapping, etc in attempt to crown or install traditional ruler (s), and President Generals.

Also, the sudden craze for titles, and in particular, the coveting of Eze Igbo title by arrivistes in various states outside Igbo land has further dwindled the authority of an otherwise elevated kingship institution. Hence, we have Eze Ndi Igbo Sambisa forest, Eze Ndi Igbo Sokoto, etc.  

Consequent upon this, competing influences have seized the lapses to make unfair inroad into the Igbo society. These include increase in kidnapping, stealing, robbery, sycophancy, assassinations, touts (agbero), and other elements of idleness reverberating the Igbo land. It is now difficult to draw the line because the time-honored traditions of the people are treated with levity, just as values that define their spiritual essence are reasonably scorned.

Therefore, there is urgent need for all Igbos—the government and the governed to rise up and take their destiny into their hands by reviving their dying culture and tradition. This could yield the desired result when, in the words of Plutarch, the Greek philosopher, they become more sensible of what is done against culture than against nature.



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