Traditional Religion in Community Policing and Crime Control
It is necessary to begin this discussion by examining what religion means be it traditional, primitive, modern or of any form, for without this, we would run a risk of giving the name to a system of ideas and practices which has nothing at all religious about it, or else of leaving to one side many religious facts without perceiving their true nature.
From the time of Amos, the first among the Writing Prophets of Israel up to the present many Theologians have been having different opinions as to what should be the proper meaning of religion. The ideas, however, by which the attempt to define religion is often made is that of divinity. Religion, says M. Reille:
“Is the determination of human life by the sentiment of a bond uniting the human mind to that mysterious mind whose domination of the world and itself it recognizes, and to whom it delights in feeling itself united”.
Another idea which generally passed as characteristics of all that is religious is that of the Supernatural. By this is understood all sorts of things which surpass the limits of one’s knowledge, of the incomprehensibility. Thus, religion would be a sort of speculation upon all that which evaded science or distinct thought in general. Hebert Spenser pointed out that:
“Religion diametrically opposed in their overt dogmas, are perfectly at one in the tacit convictions of all which surrounds it, is a mystery calling for explanation”.
He thus makes them consist essentially in the belief in the omnipresence of something which is inscrutable.
In the same manner, Max Muller opined that religion is “a struggle to conceive the inconceivable, to utter the unutterable, a longing after the infinite”.
The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English on the other side of the religion mirror, defines religion as a “belief in the existence of a supernatural ruling power, the creator and controller of the universe, who has given to man a spiritual nature which continues to exist after the death of the body”.
These definitions set aside, let us examine in a brief span of time the permanent elements which constitute that which is permanent and human in religion, and too, the objective contents of the ideas which are expressed when one speaks of religion in general.
At the roots of all judgments therefore, and as a conclusive definition of what religion is and what functions it fulfils, what elements it is made up, and from what causes it results, we simply summarize in the words of Joseph Ward Swain that, “religion is a unified system of belief and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say things set apart and forbidden – beliefs, and practices which unite into one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them”.
Traditional religion as the name would tell us is a type of religion of a particular community in a circumscribed geographical locality, which makes profession of adhering to certain beliefs and maintaining the right relationships with the ancestors, gods and other unseen powers through complex systems of ritual observances. It is expressed in laws and customs hallowed by time and myths as being essential for the wellbeing not just of individual, but of the whole community.
The essential point about this religion is that it is not so much a matter of personal beliefs as a culture of the whole community. This type of religion, according to J. F. Ade-Ajayi, manifests, “the content of goodwill and fear that kept the family as a unit and the village as a distinctive community”
There were beliefs of course, about the organic philosophy of the community, the proper relationships between them and man, the living and the dead, good and bad fortune, and so on. But there was really no theology in the sense of dogmatic tenets. Traditional religion is an attitude of mind, a way of explaining the world, a way of life expressed in laws, customs hallowed by time and myths.
Eleme Traditional Religion Prior to Introduction of Christianity
The people of Eleme were animists prior to the advent of Christianity, worshipping spirits but acknowledging a Supreme Creator and Governor Known as “Obari Jimajima”. This exalted being was too remote to be concerned with human affairs. It was inconceivable that he should reveal himself to man, yet behind their worship lay a deep longing after him. He rules, they believe, over the physical universe, other supernatural entities of lesser status and mankind. He is very gigantic, invisible to human eyes and lives alone in a very big compound deep in the sky from where he occasionally emerges to go about the earth.
The spirits were different. They were initially connected with every event of life and believed to have power to send good fortune or calamity. They were easily offended and must be continually placated with yam, eggs, fowl or goat offered in shallow dishes at the base of an ancient tree in the village clearings or at crossroads or at river banks etc. In times of sickness, the only known remedies were charms and juju concoctions of medicine men; and human sacrifice was not known.
The closely-knit community was governed by purely traditional institutions namely, “Okunkporon”, largely assisted by “Egbaraeta” “Mbaeta” and “Kpripke” society. Nobody had any idea about Christ and His doctrine so as to be styled a Christian. The only religion known was worshipping of spirits (Ejor) who acted as intermediary between Obari and mankind and were considered as his helpers or messengers rather than as deities in their own right. They performed specific task for the deity and inhabit shrines (Nsiejor) where prayers and sacrifices were offered. These they deliver to Obari who sends power (“Ekpikpi”) to achieve the desired end if the suppliants merit it.
Shrines are usually individual trees or grooves but they also take the forms of a piece of sharpened ironwood (“Okwaa”) fixed into the floor, rocks, anthills, bushes and pools sanctified as a shrine. Some are established by individuals to serve individuals, family members, patri-lineages, villages, village groups and secret societies. In the shrine serving a social or political unit, the leader of that unit acts as Priest and alone may pray and sacrifice there on behalf of those in his group. They held the view that every human being has a soul (Okikoi), which inhabits the body and is immortal.
The mental bases of the worship of the dead ancestors have been given many origins. But the most accepted one yet is the “Dream Theory”. This theory says that as dead relatives are seen in dreams, they are said to have an existence somewhere from where they deal either favourably or otherwise with their relations depending on their relationship with them in the spirit world. According to H. Asbteon, in Lesotho, “The livings are actually afraid of the dead, and if they find themselves dreaming of their kinsmen and friends or brooding over their death, they resort to various rites to stop it”.
In the pre-literate societies, gods and spirits are thought of as belonging to the particular society and symbolize its unity. Dead ancestors are always important among the spirits and they belief in their power thus reinforces lineage or other kinship system; they belief on the spirits beneficent influences or malevolent intentions. In the service of the communal gods, people find a pledge of security in the present and of prosperity in the future. Ade-Ajayi explained that, the Yorubas believed that by worshipping departed spirits, they are in turn safeguarding their own future.
Ancestral worship is both an elaboration and an abstraction of ghost cult. As an elaboration, it is best seen among the Bantu tribe of Africa. Every lineage and clan has its distinct ancestral deities, who are gods to their descendants but who are ignored by the members of the other kinship groups.
Periodic elaborate feasts and sacrifices on behalf of the ancestral gods are characteristics of the Western Sudan. In Eleme, such ceremonies were held every year, with litanies, dancing, wrestling, hunting, offering of food and libation of liquors, and sacrifice of animals.
Activities of Ancestors in Eleme
The ancestors were believed to have survived death and to be living in a spiritual world called “Etaejin”, but still, taking a lively interest in the affairs of their families. Beliefs in the future world varied. It may be thought of as subterranean, like Hades, or celestial like Heaven, or in the East, where many Africa peoples think their ancestors originated and which is also the land of sunrise. Yet the departed ones were not far away, and they were believed to be watching over the families like “cloud of witnesses”. Everything that concerns the family, its health and fertility were of interest to the ancestors, since they were its elders and will also seek rebirth into the same family.
The family land is their property, and they must be consulted when land is let out to other people. Among the Tallensi, said M. J. Fortes, “people who are farming land that has been inherited down the generations are constantly being reminded of their ancestors by the graves that they see everyday”.
There is no doubt that Africans fear their dead in many ways. African life was not that of carefree ‘belles savages’ until the Whiteman came with his upsetting ideas and ways of life. He noted that: “The Tallensi of Northern Ghana are said to wage a never ceasing struggle with their ancestors by means of sacrifices. But the ancestors are unpredictable. It is their power to injure and their sudden attacks on routine wellbeing that make men aware of them rather than their beneficent guardianship”
By their attacks and interventions men came to obey the ancestors, and so the social order was maintained. The animals, which represent the ancestors as totems were those that were most like them in their aggressiveness, restlessness, and ubiquity. Particularly, were the ‘teeth bearers’, the carnivores, and apt symbols of the fierceness and vitality of the ancestors.
Any evil may be attributed to the ancestors. Drought and famine were referred to them, for these affects the crops which were their concern as growing on their land. Thunder and lightening may be referred to the anger of the forefathers.
More especially were sickness and death thought to be due at times to the ancestors. They may be annoyed at the neglect of their descendants, and special diseases such as insomnia, epilepsy or paralysis were put down to them. The ghost of some unsettled dead person may enter a human being on earth and weaken him. Cure would be brought about by sending the ghost away through a rite or medicine. Ghosts were equally thought to be the spirits that have not received proper burial, and who were wandering about between this world and the next.
Childlessness, one of the greatest curses to an African, may be ascribed to the anger of the ancestors. But, normally the fathers should be interested in the growth of their own clan, not only from a proprietary interest, but because childlessness blocks the channel of reincarnation. So bareness was put down rather to the account of witches or to some inscrutable god.
The ancestors were prayed to by the childless, and many a woman prayed like Rachel, “give me children or I die”. This desire to multiply and replenish the earth was one of the root reasons for polygamy, and it ensured the perpetuation of the race in times of mortality.
The ancestors were believed to fertilize the earth and promote the growth of crops. They received offerings when the land was dug, and when the crops were harvested. No man may eat of the fruits before the ancestors and elders have partaken of the first fruits. In Eleme, the ancestors were first presented early harvest before people started eating yams. The festival called “Agbaesun” was celebrated to express gratitude to the ancestors and to the living elders. The sacrifice known as “Otebenu” was offered annually, usually in October, in the belief that the ancestors who have transformed to spirits upon their death were still very much around, seeing everything they were doing and trying on their part to guide and protect them; and who labored to cut the virgin forest and gradually reduced them to farm lands desired the first fruits. The sacrificial offering usually consists of one cradle (now basin) of good yams, drink, fish, fowl, or goat and other condiments.
Similarly, in time of drought they were called upon as having more influence with the powers-that-be than have lesser mortals. They may give a shower or bumper harvest.
The ancestors were also thought to be able to help hunters find meat and to protect them in the bush. And when a hunter killed an animal such as antelope, leopard, lion, boar or the likes, it was believed to be a special gift from the ancestors.
The ancestors were also thought to be able to help people in times of war, and were invoked before battles. In particular were the ancestors believed to have acquired special knowledge in the afterworld? They were consulted as Oracles, and Medium pass on their messages to those who consult them. In dreams, ancestors spoke to men, and the interpretations given by mediums indicated the will of the forefathers. They gave new medicines and revealed new forms of treatment to native doctors and medicine men.
E. G. Paninder shares the view that the dead may be glimpsed at in a dream, and that merely indicates their continued interest in their sons. But, if they appear angry or pleased, then action must be taken accordingly. Sacrifices of drinks, fowls, or animals are made to turn away the forefather’s anger, and if his grave has been neglected, then the wayward son takes care to repair the damage. Pains are taken to soothe the departed spirit by enjoining it to sleep peacefully. If this is not done, the ancestor may smite some members of the family with a sickness that proves fatal and leads that member to join him in the world beyond.
There is still the belief that extra-marital sexual affairs are punished by the ancestors and not until they are appeased, the deviant fails to put to birth when the time comes.
During the popular cultural festival of “Agbaesun”, any adult male in Eleme who did not offer a cock or goat and drinks (depending on the status of the person) as sacrifice (Otebenu) to his ancestors was alleged to have written an application for disastrous wrath.
Sexual intercourse in the farm was believed to be punished with bareness, childlessness, or incurable illness by the ancestors and not until “Ajija” ritual was done, the desecrated farmland cleansed, and the ancestor appeased, the culprits would not be cured.
In order to bring back to wholesome anybody poisoned, sacrificial offerings were demanded by native doctors for the appeasement of the ancestors, to agree to take sides and see to his early recovery.
The relative lack of centralized coercive secular power in traditional African cultures leaves to the gods and ancestral spirits the important sanctions for correct behaviour. It is not that gods announce moral rules, rather they support the moral principles traditionally taught by the ancestors with whom they tend to be closely connected. So if a man fails to carry out binding obligations to his kin, his immorality may be corrected by illness, interpreted as divine retribution, more than by other social and mere secular pressures. When the relations between the kin form the fabric of local community, this idea of the retributive justice of the gods is a powerful sanction for approved behaviour. Similarly, when comparative and general poverty make for great local interdependence, the belief that the generous man has the blessing of the gods encourages mutual economic support which is actually essential for communal survival.
At the individual psychological level, too, religious action gives the reassurance of being able to deal symbolically with suffering, and misfortune, of being able to define truth that men need to know for their own wellbeing, and of making direct contact, often through spirit possession, with supernatural forces believed to affect human health and happiness.
“Obari Ebubu Cult”
If one were to speak of African Religions in the plural, one main distinction would be between those people who worship nature gods and those who do not. Over the greater part of pagan Africa, one passes almost directly from a belief in a Supreme Being to faith in ancestral spirits. Some of the most advanced and sophisticated people, however, interpose nature and new gods between God and the ancestors.
There are spirits of mountains and forests, of pools and streams, of trees and other local objects. Animals, birds, fishes are all believed to have spirits and that is why they are seen in dreams. But the ancestral cult has appeared all-important. The nature spirits have little apparent worship paid to them. Yet, even where there is no temple or general worship of the spirit of the earth (Nkiken) or of the sun (Nnanai) men may still hold them in great awe, and believe that their power is great. It is in West Africa, in which Ebubu Clan is first, a Lilliputian portion, however, that we find fully developed polytheism. Here are Pan Theory of nature gods, with their temples and priests.
In Ebubu clan, the god worshipped by the people is known as “Obari Ebubu”. Obari Ebubu is given a befitting resting place inside a shrine built on the spot where, it is believed, the founder of Eleme was buried. A visitor to Ebubu clan would not find it difficult to locate the shrine of Obari Ebubu because it is situated along the major road at Kilometer 23 along Old Port Harcourt – Bori road. The term “Obari Ebubu” means “the god of Ebubu”. It is the principal shrine of Ebubu clan.
Obari Ebubu in Crime Control
This was the principal shrine worshipped by the entire Ebubu people in the pre-colonial age. It was alleged to supersede all other deities and consequently, all other lesser beings were purported to have taken orders from Obari Ebubu. In short, the people believed that there was no other bigger or more powerful god apart from Obari Ebubu. The people often addressed it as the “protector of life”, “the fountain of hope”, the defender of the people”, “the people’s medicine”, etc.
Victories in wars were attributed to the good luck and strength bestowed on the warriors by Obari Ebubu. Hence, we are told that a night before warriors in the entire clan were to depart for any battlefield, they all had to sleep inside the shrine of Obari Ebubu with their weapons. Their belief was to ensure that they received the blessings of Obari Ebubu. Any warrior who had sexual dealings with any woman during the last seven days preceding the battle was warned to stay away for he constituted an embodiment of bad luck, which otherwise, would spell defeat for them. It was considered an utter abomination for a man to have sex at this time with a woman under menses. Such a person was not even expected to go near the shrine.
The wealth of the people, prosperity in trade and bumper harvest were regarded as blessings showered on them by Obari Ebubu. But cases of epidemic, famine, and flood were held to be punishment from the gods. A childless woman looked up to Obari Ebubu for child blessing. She was held to have offended Obari Ebubu by one way or the other. The only remedy was for her to provide all the sacrificial requirements as enumerated by the Chief Priest for use in placating this great god and begging for forgiveness and mercy on her barren womb.
In cases of quarrel, potential warfare, or boundary dispute between communities, the chief priest of Obari Ebubu would send palm frond to the disputants to stop further hostile and unpleasant developments until amicable solution could be achieved. He would add that “Obari Ebubu was not happy with them and warns them to stop in order to free themselves from disastrous repercussions”. Obari Ebubu speaks all imaginable languages, and was so feared and respected that one dare not question its decisions.
Cases abound where people found suitable for public offices usually refused such appointments. And if there was no immediate substitute, the person originally appointed would be forced or threatened to accept the office. Again, this will be implemented by sending him palm frond purported to come from Obari Ebubu. Left with no alternative, he would be forced to accept perfunctorily. The four palm trees representing the four sub-clans of Ebubu are still standing in front of Obari Ebubu shrine.
“Agba Obari Ebubu”
“Agba Obari Ebubu” (Obari Ebubu festival) is celebrated annually usually in the first or second week of July. Ebubu people eagerly look forward to the festival of Obari Ebubu. The colourful ceremony attracts people from all the towns and villages that constitute Ebubu clan and beyond. It features wrestling, special masquerades display, hunting expedition and sacrificial offerings. It lasts for two days. Such cultural musical groups like Mkpaegoni and Esomba add colour to the festival.
The following items were contributed annually by the four sub-clans that constituted Ebubu clan for the Agba obariebubu festival as sacrificial offerings to the great deity.
a. One huge he-goat (Okrimbo)
b. Four bunches of plantain
c. Four cocks
d. Four native eggs
e. Four “Awala”
f. Four bowls of crayfish (Esorobani)
g. Four native kolanuts
h. Four leaves of tobacco
i. Four alligator pepper
j. Four “Owaro”
k. Four white cam-wood or white-chalk (Ndeh)
l. Four head ties
m. Four anthills
The festival begins on the local weekday called Mma. There is usually singing, drumming and dancing, especially by various women groups. There is also the display of special masquerades and wrestling contest in the evening.
On the final day of the ceremony, hunters go on a special trip in the morning and every animal killed is taken to the shrine where all are shared.
The festival’s powerful climax is the procession of the priest of Obari Ebubu and Okunyoa to the shrine. As the great gong (“Ogela”) is sounded to signal the presence of the great deity, only the priest of Obari Ebubu whose body is crisscrossed and dotted all over with emulsion paint and Okunyoa enter the enclosure at the shrine while the rest people stay outside. The priest prays for the people while those who made promises the previous year would come to fulfill their promises. Then, the priest and the Okunyoa would emerge from the enclosure and engage in ritual dance seven times round the shrine singing songs:
God of the five days, come:
Eat your food and drink your wine.
The giver of old age, rejoice with us
The giver of long life, sing with us
He who has immortality, dance with us
He who is not corrupt, celebrate with us
He who has time of blessing, come
Come, eat your food and drink your wine
Rejoice and bless us! Bless us! Bless us!
The goat would be sacrificed plus the other sacrificial materials brought. The special firewood called “Otitoi” was used to make fire for the cooking. Eating, drinking, singing, and dancing continued until the sun god goes to sleep. Then the people leave for their homes in full hope that Obari Ebubu has heard their supplications and the coming year will be peaceful and prosperous for them.
Thus, Obari Ebubu represents to the worshippers, the idea of ritual and ethical purity. It is forced on the worshippers of Obari Ebubu that they must be upright and truthful. They are expected to be clean in their hearts and behaviour like water drawn early in the morning from a spring that has not been previously disturbed. As a result of his creative power, he has the power to make his worshippers great, to prosper them by making them increase and multiply them.
The festival of Obari Ebubu is performed by Ebubu people to thank the Obari Ebubu and the spiritual beings or deities who are believed that have blessed and protected them. It is also a period to solicit for the gods to prevent any disaster that may have happened. The traditional offerings make it possible for people to associate with one another. During the festival, people come out in their best. They have a sense of oneness and the attitude of the mind is that of sincerity. The feeling generated is that the ancestors are uniquely united with the living and that the “invisible and the visible world co-exist for the benefit of man who is at their centre.”
In addition, the festival is important for the spiritual value of the people. People seize such occasion to solicit blessings from God, deities and ancestors. It also affords them the opportunity for the renewal of covenant; and the link between human beings and the spiritual beings is renewed and strengthened.
Through prayers, sacrifices, offerings and sacred meals, people encounter the spiritual being and there is communion and communication between them and the spirit. Every worshipper has the sense of participation and feels that he is in the presence of the divine God. In the end, he obtains spiritual satisfaction and feels that his problems are solved and his prayers answered.
Through songs and vigorous dances, people usually have ecstatic experiences and they may deliver messages from the gods. The songs convey the faith of the worshippers, their belief in and about the deity, their assurances and hopes with reference to the hereafter. Further, songs enhance emotional and physical participation in an act of worship and that is why thy often lead to ecstatic experiences and possession by the deity.
Table 4. 1: Chief Priests of “Obari Ebubu”
S/NO PRIEST PERIOD FAMILY
1. Chief Ekaa Osaro Eseije ? Eseiji
2. Chief Osaro Ekaa ? Eseiji
3. Chief Ollornugwe Osaro Ekaa ? Eseiji
4. Chief Goya Ollornugwe 1876 – 1911 Eseiji
5. Chief Okolaejor Ollornugwe 1912 – 1949 Eseiji
6. Chief Ollorwi Obari 1950 – 1992 Eseiji
7. Chief Elewa Goya Ollor 1993 – 1995 Eseiji
8. Chief Goya Ollor 1996 – ? Eseiji
“Akara” (the Rain god) had its origin in Egbalor Ebubu and is related to the Ejalawa family. Its shrine called “Nsi-akara” is located inside a forest which derived its name from this god and is known as the forest of Akara (“Agbaara Akara”); that is, the forest where the rain god resides.
There was a woman from Ejalawa family in Egbalor Ebubu named Emereowa Lale Osaro Ekiye, who was a Priestess of Ndorwa. She became very wealthy that she bought two slaves for her burial as was the custom at that time. Unknown to her, the slaves were from the home of rain referred to as “Eta Akara”. She grew old and died. The family met and concluded arrangements to bury her with her slaves.
During the burial, the two slaves were brought. The first one was killed and the head threw into the grave. The other slave could not believe what he saw. Frightened, the young man shouted for help, promising to give the family what they would live to cherish from generation to generation. The boldness with which the slave-boy spoke made the crowd that had gathered for the burial to become worried and apprehensive.
Meanwhile, the sky had turned dark, the wind was blowing violently, and it was about to rain. Soon, the rains came down. Everyone there ran into the available houses and sheds. The burial was disrupted.
It was then the slave-boy announced that he was responsible for the rains. He told them that he has the power to command rain to fall and to stop at will. And to their surprise he ordered the rain to stop and it obeyed him. Later, he directed the rain to fall few meters away and it did.
Everyone there was terrified for what has happened and the elders ordered the release of the slave-boy. He then demand for a place to build the shrine of Akara and was given. He planted three sticks of the tree called “Otitoi”, made some incantations, libated and offered sacrifices and then consecrated the shrine. He gave Akara (rain) to the family in exchange for his life. Since then, the Ejalawa family has produced renowned rain doctors like Oluka Onugwe, O-o Oluka, Danwi Oluka, Onugwe Ekiye, Okoroma Osaro Ekiye, Torchi Okoroma Osaro Ekiye and Obari Dabor; and any rain doctor elsewhere in Eleme is said to have traces to Ejalawa family in Egbalor.
Akara in Crime Control
Ebubu wrestling contests have witnessed quite a lot of violence arising from disputed results. Prompt actions have always been taken either to fine or suspend the erring community or order a repeat of a disputed wrestling match. Many people have been maimed as a result of riots that followed wrestling contests. The year 1902 witnessed one of the most violet reactions when Ejamah hosted the contest that year at Egbara town square. Ejamah people attacked Egbalor people and several people were injured and looting and arson perpetrated. The violence created panic and insecurity.
Ebubu chiefs met and decided that whenever absolutely necessary Akara be employed as an instrument of peace and tranquility in the face of a foreseen violence during annual wrestling match. For Akara to be a determining factor to bring a disputed wrestling match to a close, the chiefs offered sacrifice of libation and kolanut.
Since then, wherever and whenever wrestling contest appeared to lead to violence rain was summoned to intervene and disperse the wrestlers, spectators and “Egelege” drummers. Hence, the Eleme person would say “Kukuna aken ejunwe okala, Akara ador” (meaning, instead of wrestling contest to bring dispute, let rain fall).
Another important function of Akara was that it was used in securing obedience. The name Akara was revered and feared, and was thus used to obtain implicit obedience from everybody particularly recalcitrant children, women and men. In Egbalor Ebubu, it was as if the mere mention of Akara was enough invitation to rain to come down with its accompanying dark sky, thunder, lightning and floods – manifestations which often frightened children. And so, Akara was used to frighten a stubborn child or children and make them very sober and obedient. A little child who refused to stop crying when appealed to either by the mother or the baby-nurse often stopped crying immediately the mother or the baby-nurse said, “Akara ka jue! Akara ka jue!!” (Literally translated, “Rain is coming! Rain is coming!!”). The child would stop crying and run into the house or to a nearby adult.
During the annual festival of Akara, teenagers of both sexes used to be very obedient for fear of an elderly person asking Akara to beat him/her, as if Akara was a human being or a masquerade. But, it was used to obtain discipline and secure obedience. Thus, the traditional role of the society was to see that there was loyalty, respect, implicit obedience for the elders, peace and tranquility in the clan and that both young and old were disciplined people.
Agba Akara (Akara festival) was celebrated yearly in the third or fourth week of the month of July and featured Mkpaa Egoni and Eso mba musical groups.
The purpose of this chapter was to consider the role of traditional religion in community policing and crime control. Attempts were made at a general definition or explanation of what religion generally means as expressed by various writers such as Joseph Ward Swain who opined that religion referred to a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things. Traditional religion referred to a type of religion of a particular community in a circumscribed geographical location which makes profession of adhering to certain beliefs and maintaining the right relationships with the ancestors, gods, deities, and other unseen powers through a complex system of ritual observances. J. F. Ade-Ajayi described this as the content of goodwill and fear that kept the family as a unit and the village as a distinctive community. Furthermore, in this chapter, the Eleme traditional religion and their views prior to the introduction of Christianity were discussed.
Many activities in Eleme were attributed to the ancestors hence their worship. The people believed among other things that the departed ancestral spirits were not far away but were watching over the families and the entire community thereby taking responsibilities on matters like health, fertility, drought, famine, ability to win or loose wars, and punishment for those who engaged in extra-marital affairs. Violations were always appeased by continuous placation with sacrificial offerings.
The people held that the power of “Obari Ebubu” cult was supreme. Its dos and don’ts were enumerated. Its location and its numerous roles in crime control were discussed. The impact of this cult on the people and how it compelled people to become law-abiding citizens for fear of the possible wrath that might descend on deviants have been dealt with.
Excerpt from the book, “Community Policing and Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues and Perspectives”.