THE PEOPLE OF EBUBU IN HISTORY

THE PEOPLE OF EBUBU IN HISTORY

AN  INVITED PAPER PRESENTED BY HIGH CHIEF OSARO OLLORWI ON THE OCCASION OF CULTURAL FIESTA AT LEADERS’ FOUNDATION SCHOOLS, EBUBU ON THURSDAY (MMA) 8TH DECEMBER, 2016

The idea of setting one day aside for the recognition and appreciation of cultural diversity is a noble one and a contribution to understanding and co-existence. These days when the wave of division is blowing people off their feet, this innovation will definitely provide the needed opportunity for students from different tribes and homes to live together and appreciate the extent of cultural diversity and the need to live and let others live.

In treating the topic, The People of Ebubu in History, I shall be focusing on the origin of the people, their identity, traditional administration, education and culture

Founding of Ebubu

In many ways, Ebubu is perhaps the most ancient and interesting of the kingdoms that emerged in Eleme. For one thing, not only was it the earliest, or at least among the earliest to emerge, but at the peak of its power, it was the largest in area, population and culturally the most advanced.

Though we are not certain of the date for the founding of Ebubu, it appears that it began to emerge in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, somewhere between 1389 and 1430.

Legend has it that the people of Ebubu descended from the Cross Rivers region during the latter part of the fourteenth century. The immigrant who founded Ebubu was named Ibubu. He migrated with a band of farmers and hunters from their main habitat which is the Cross Rivers region in Eastern Nigeria through Ibibio and Ndoki territories to where they could get fertile land and settle; hence they fought their way through whenever they met with obstacles of any form until they came to this place, which was named after their leader – Ibubu.

These set of emigrants developed and multiplied as their journey progressed, and spread to where sections of them founded the kingdoms of Ebubu and Nchia.  It was from Ebubu that the various families began to move out to establish kingdoms of Onne, Eteo and Ekporo. Others went further and founded Abua, Odual, Andoni, Ogoni, Abuloma and a few other places.

That Ebubu was the original home of the founders of present day Eleme is borne out not only by the traditional accounts of all the Eleme kingdoms, but also by the fact that most of the Elemes to this day regard Ebubu as their holy city and the revered cradle of their civilization.

The hero who founded the present day Eleme was known as Ibubu pronounced Ebubu. He came into the territory generically called “Eleme” today through a track that latter came to be referred to as “Ogbere Mgbor” or “Agborgbor Mgbor” and settled.

Ebubu was originally the gateway into Eleme. Captain James Fosbery and his entourage came into Eleme on April 19, 1898 through this track-road and entered into Treaty with the King and Chiefs of Ebubu on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland Empress of India.

At the peak of its power, the frontiers of Ebubu extended as far as Mmu-miri (Imo River) in the northern axis, Okoroma in Ogoni in the eastern border, Mmu Ngololo in the southern border and Elelenwo in Evo Kingdom in the western border. King Nsole Ebulu and King Etoo Ekeada were the last of Ebubu Kings who presided over the vast Ebubu Empire. When Eleme Urban Council was created by the Rivers State Government in 1980 Ebubu was made the headquarters.

The Rivers State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Honourable Barrister Isaac Kamalu,   is also of the opinion that “Ebubu is the star of Eleme”. According to Kamalo, “Ebubu is the ancient city of Eleme. From inception, Ebubu has continued to provide home, shelter and refuge to all Eleme. It is the home of comfort to all the people of Eleme”.

Ebubu was never conquered by the British. Rather, Ebubu negotiated with the colonial powers on its own terms and conditions. When, the white man came to Ebubu, he met a developed city state under a powerful leader known as King Etoo Ekeada and excellent administrative machinery he couldn’t alter. No doubt, Ebubu remains the light and hope of Eleme. When it is hard for Eleme, Ebubu provides the lead, the solution and the victory.

Traditional Leadership

Ebubu traditional leadership is best described as a loose confederation with little or no central control as each confederating unit maintains its political, economic, social and military autonomy. This loose arrangement accounts for the collapse of the entire system at the slightest provocation. Ebubu had no political, ethnic or cultural unity. The Kingdom was made up of people who arrives the kingdom at different times, with diverse backgrounds, perceptions and expectations; and the Kings of Ebubu failed to weld them into a true united entity. Different peoples such as Egbalor, Ejamah, Agbeta, and Obolo each with its own distinctive culture, god, and needs owed allegiance to the Oneh Eh Ebubu but are left under their own traditional rulers and were only expected to contribute contingents or levies to the Oneh Eh Ebubu’s army in times of war. These clans, Egbalor, Ejamah, Agbeta and Obolo are further divided into thirty-two (32) communities and their people maintained their autonomy in all spheres. This situation do not only weakened and frustrated the central authority but give excessive powers to the federating units who dictate what happens in the Kingdom. The traditional leadership of Odido resides in Ebubu.

According to Chief O. O. Ngofa, Egbalor was the first community to emerge in Ebubu. In his words, “The Egbalor village is by local protocol the first community in Ebubu. It was both the seat of traditional, political and economic powers of Ebubu. Egbere Solote, the eldest son of Ebubu inherited Egbalor from his late father as his own settlement and pursued his father expansionist stance by extending the borderlines of Egbalor to Mmu-miri (Imo River) and Koroma in Ogoni. His direct descendants are known as Eseiji family in Egbalor.

He also observed that Ejamah was established by emigrate named Osaro Ewa of Egbara and was later joined by Olumaa Abasi from Ejialejor. Agbeta, he pointed out was created by Ollor Egbere Eseeji, another warrior-son of Egbere Solote. Obolo, he posited was created by Olungwe Ejiala and Kote Mbiewa both from Egbalor.

Table Showing Traditional Rulers of Ebubu 1812 – 2016

S/NO NAME TENURE VILLAGE OF ORIGIN
1. King Osaro Ekaa 1812 – 1846 Egbalor
2. King Nsole Ebulu 1846 – 1872 Egbalor
3. King Etoo Ekeada 1872 – 1907 Agbeta
4. King Osarollor Ochii 1907 – 1931 Agbeta
5. King Olungwe Ekiye 1931 – 1935 Egbalor
6. King Amakiri Olaka 1935 – 1966 Agbeta
7. King Goya Chinwi 1966 – 1967 Egbalor
8. King Godfrey O. Nnah 1967 – 1969 Ejamah
9. King Nelson O. Chinwi 1969 – 1986 Egbalor
10. King Friday K. O. Nwafor 1986 – 1991 Ejamah
11. King Nelson O. Chinwi 1991 – 2002 Egbalor
12. King Emmanuel O. Bebe 2003 – ? Agbeta

Education

Christianity was the forerunner of western education in all communities of the Niger Delta region, including Ebubu. Christianity came into Ebubu in 1913. A year later, with the help of John Kalio, James Awala Obe, Isaiah Eppie and few others a Church was opened in a hall in Egbalor. By 1916, a mud-Thatched Church was built through communal labour where Ebubu converts worshipped God. In 1919, St. Bartholomew (NDP) Church was established at its present location under the leadership of U. A. J. Koko. Since then, Christianity has continued to expand and spread in Ebubu. The introduction of Christianity into Ebubu in 1913 gave rise to the establishment of the first primary school in Ebubu in 1946.  The first secondary school was established in Ebubu in 1998.

 

Language

The language spoken in Ebubu is known as Eleme Language. It retains the vocabulary inherited from Ibibio which was its parent language. Eleme is not a dialect but a language with identifiable characteristics in Nchia (Mbolli) and Odido (Ebubu) dialects. Though this gap is closing rapidly because of greater communication and refinement, those who are very conversant know the difference. Its distinctiveness is borne of the fact that the language is not spoken by any of her neighbours.

The use of Eleme as a spoken language in indigenous homes is declining very fast. This is compounded by the rate of urbanization which has brought a high percentage of strangers from diverse language areas into regular communication; and English Language has become the common way of expression.

Religion

The traditional religion in Ebubu is ancestral worship and this has its value system in promoting good ethics and community life. But since the year 1913 when Ebubu embraced Christianity many changes have occurred that have eroded the traditional religion. This is to be expected because of increased level of communication and socialization. There is at present, sufficient latitude for operation of the primary religions of Christianity, Islam, etc. in Ebubu.

Ebubu Ethnic Nationality

When the British Colonial Government represented by Captain James Fosbery entered Eleme territory on April 19, 1898, he camped at Ebubu. Captain Fosbery and his entourage met two distinct ethnic groups in Eleme. These are Ebubu and Mbolli. They entered into separate Treaties with the Colonial Administration on the 19th and 20th of April, 1898. Let it be pointed out here that Nchia and Odido are synonymous with Mbolli and Ebubu. Mbolli is also synonymous with Eleme. “It follows therefore that what is today known as Eleme encompassed the Nchia towns”.

The 20th April, 1898 Treaty spelt out the component parts of Mbolli as Allissa (now Alesa), Agbonsi (now Agbonchia), Orgali (now Ogale), Alodi (now Alode), and Alito (now Aleto).  On the other hand, the Treaty with Ebubu entered into on 19th April, 1898, shows a homogeneous and coherent ethnic unit. Ebubu occupies an enviable position in Odido which can be compared to that of Rumigbo in Apara Clan of Rebisi or Ogale in Mbolli now Nchia or Eleme.

Mbolli, Nchia or Eleme and Ebubu are two separate entities unified loosely by similarity in dialects. Similarities in dialects are also found between Ebubu, Nchia, Gokhana and Ibibio. The name ELEME is an administrative grouping.

The important officials of the Kingdom were the following:

  1. Oneh Eh Eta was the title of the King.
  2. Oneh Nkiken was the Traditional Prime Minister, the direct descendant of the Founder of Ebubu and conscience of the community. He took charge of traditional functions; and in the absence of the King, performs administrative duties.
  3. Oneh Nkporon was the Spokesman and Mouth-piece of the Kingdom.

These officials perform traditional, socio-political and other functions through a powerful community based organization (CBO) known as Oku Nkpͻrͻ or Ogbo Nkpͻrͻ.

Contribution to National Economy

Oil exploration started in Ebubu in 1956. Ebubu is host to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and currently has fifty-two (52) oil wells, two (2) oil fields, one (1) flow station and one (1) booster station. Ebubu is also host to Daewoo Nigeria Limited, a Koran Company and several other oil and gas services companies spread across the area. The famous Rivers State School-To-Land and Panyan Returnees Camp are all located in Ebubu. Ebubu is also host to both Nigeria Custom Service Barracks and Nigeria Police Force Barracks

Culture

In discussing CULTURE I will endeavor to look at Eleme in its totality. This is because the name Eleme is today loosely adopted to encompass all the territories called Eleme. It is on this premises that Eleme and Ebubu (rightly or wrongly) is described as “one of the twenty major ethnic groups in Eastern Nigeria with its language, culture, and social order quite different and distinguished from those of their immediate neighbours”. The primary aim of today’s event– the Leaders Foundation School’s Cultural Fiesta, according to the organizer is, “To showcase our different cultures thereby promoting the Africa Culture”.

What is culture? Culture in its simplest form  is “a society’s shared and socially transmitted ideas, values and perceptions, which are used to make sense of experience and generate behavior and are reflected in that behavior”.

 

Guy Feuer, Emeritus Professor at Paris V-René Descartes observed that “Culture is a fundamental element of collective identities and of the often indelible imprint which they leave on individual identities”

 

The UNESCO in its “Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity” of 2 November, 2001 and the “Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” of 20 October, 2005 linked cultural diversity and human rights in many ways including the protection and promotion of cultural diversity involving ensuring of freedom of expression, information, and communication; as well as the right for individuals to choose their modes of cultural expression (Convention Article 2, & 1). Article 7 of the Declaration considers cultural heritage as a source of creativity, while Article 9 demands that cultural policies should play a determining role in this creativity.

Declaration, Article 11 also reaffirms the importance of the link between culture and development by providing that the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity are the hallmark of sustainable human development.

Therefore, the protection and promotion of cultural diversity must form part of the policies of all Schools in Nigeria from Nursery to Tertiary. It is on this ground that we all should thank the management of Leaders’ Foundation School for promoting cultural diversity; and by extension stimulating peace, unity, freedom, creativity and above all, sustainable human development. Culture is an indispensable tool for formation, communication, protection, promotion, and regulation of Behaviours.

The behavior of Eleme indigenes groomed within the locality is regulated by the belief in the continued presence of the ancestors of each family as well as existence of deities endowed with supernatural powers. The average Eleme person will readily made confession when interrogated on issues for which he/she had knowledge or participation to avoid society’s rejection if the matter goes to the level of swearing before a deity or in its name.

Components of Culture

For our purpose, let us define components of culture as those agents or means of shared and socially transmitted ideas, values and perceptions that bind a defined set of people, which are the matrix in which future developments are anchored and depending on the relative level of attachment, a person grows to become a product of the regulatory forces of his native culture. They are those things that differentiate and distinguished one set of people from another. That is how the Ogoni differ from Eleme, Hausa from Ibo, Yoruba from Fulani, etc.  These component factors include Occupation, Food, Pattern of Dressing, Folktales and Stories, Arts and Crafts, Music, Dance, Musical Instruments, Traditional Festivals, Mask and Masquerades, Marriage, Greetings, Etc.

Occupation

The major occupation among Ebubu people is farming and hunting. The people also engage in minor fishing and trading.

Food

Eleme main food crop is yam (Esaa). This is supplemented with Cassava (Ojaku), which can be made into Nja Gari (Garri), Nja Ojaku (Foofoo/Loiloi), Pipini ojaku (Tapioka, slice cassava), mbiri (grinded cassava flavoured with ripe plantain, a sort of moimoi but richer and costly than ordinary moimoi), Cocoyam (Edente (Etoo Eleme), Etoo Akara, Echuru, Etoo Mmi – these can be cooked and eaten as obaa etoo or be pounded with enough palm oil and eaten with looloo mbalo as nja etoo).

Plantain (Obinͻͻ) can be eaten fried or boiled. It can also be pounded into omu or be grinded and mixed with cassava, fired and eaten as Pankek).  Three-leave yam (Ochu are of two varieties: Ochu Eleme and Joebi), Vegetable e.g., fluted pumpkin (Nsogũ), Pepper (Okofe), – all of which are grown for family use only and not for sale outside the community.

In other words, the staple foods that are customarily eaten by Eleme people are yams, cassava, cocoyam, plantain, three-leave yam, etc. The manner in which these foods are prepared and served makes the difference. Eleme yams are of different species and each has its particular use. They include: Ngwe, yᴐᴐ, kԑlԑmԑ, Chindonya, Dᴐkara, Mkpányi, Aka-Mkpányi, Okikaenu, etc. they are served sliced (Obaa Esaa) or pounded into eyarayara nja esaa or ͻtãrã nja esaa and eaten with the appropriate soup.

Other notable Eleme yams are Eburaale and Kᴐrᴐkᴐtᴐ, which are cultivated mainly by women and are mostly prepared into Esuri (yam pourage) and eaten.

There are three types of soup with cultural values in Eleme. These are Looloo Mbalo, Ebͻri Mbalo, and Ͻkwͻi Nsogũ. Each type of soup requires particular types of fish to go with, and they are meant for different occasions.

Looloo Mbalo is usually cooked with njijoii (snapper), nda (shynose), obui (catfish), ekoko (skate), ͻmεε (barracuda), and ekokoabura (shark) among other ingredients. Looloo mbalo is mostly served with nja esaa (pounded yam).

Ebͻri Mbalo is Eleme soup thickened with adε-mkpͻͻ (cowpea). It is known generally as native soup and may be prepared with dried fish and/or meat along other necessary condiments.

Ͻkwͻi Nsogũ entails the preparation of enough fresh pumpkin leaves, boiled and carefully grinded in mortal. The ingredients include mgboro, esͻrͻ ͻbani, dried meat, and one of the following types of fish – nda, ekoko, obui, eboakpina or ekokoabura. This type of soup is preferred during rainy season when fresh pumpkin leaves are abundant.

The ideal Eleme housewife knows the temperament of her husband and selects the type of soup she offers him to sustain and promote his love and good health.

Eleme Traditional Dressing

Eleme culture regulates the type and manner of dressing that suits different occasions. That accounts for the prescription of different dressings for both sexes at any given occasion and this promotes decency and morality among the people of Eleme. Eleme culture forbids a man dressing like a woman; while a woman must not dress like a man.

A spinster, except during a group customary ceremony, is not expected to tie two wrappers round her waist at the same time. O’ura Osuãa is the preserve of married women only. A widow who remains unmarried is precluded from tying her wrapper to reach down lower than her knees.

A bachelor in the process of marrying is expected to tie his wrapper in the manner called Ojibi Osuãa and this must not be knotted on the right side of his waist.

For members of the Chieftaincy Cadre and related title holders an outfit of Jumper, hat and walking stick with appropriate loincloth is the requirement.  But a titled chief must always tie Njiri, whether plain or designed.

Folktales and Story Telling

Stories and songs are instrumental in retaining languages and culture. Eleme folktales are particularly entertaining as they usually include a song with which the listener joins in. Stories are usually told in the evening to entertain adults and children alike. In addition to original songs, there is a rich culture for original composition of hymns – written and performed.

Arts and Crafts

Eleme people were once efficient craftsmen and women who produced mortals, pestles, drums, facemasks and masquerades, ladles, combs, chairs, boxes, among others. To meet their needs the Eleme people also produce clay pots, weave baskets, mats, etc. Painting is done mainly as a body decoration during festivals like wrestling, marriage, and ekpete dance.

Music

Traditional music in Eleme was developed out of the desire to transmit information. Singing and drumming were also developed for different types of occasions and ceremonies. Music is also essential parts of the Eleme culture.

Eleme cultural music includes:

  1. Mkpaa Ekoro
  2. Mkpaa Egͻni
  3. Egelege
  4. Ogolo
  5. Ngelenge
  6. Esͻ Mba
  7. Esͻ Akε
  8. Esͻ Ngwe
  9. Esͻ Okea Ebiε
  10. Kukunεnε
  11. Ebͻni
  12. Ogolo Ejԑ
  13. Ogolo Akԑ
  14. Kprikpԑ

 

Ø  Mkpaa Ekoro – This is a dance music in which men demonstrate their bravery and/or affluence. It is as old as Eleme.

Ø  Mpkaa Egͻni – It dates back to 1840 and remains a major talking drum of Eleme. Expert drummers use it to sing praises, encourage skills and bravery. Mkpaa Egͻni is the premier drum that is entirely indigenous to Eleme. It is customarily used for chieftaincy installation ceremonies and for yam title ceremonies. The burial of any traditional title holder is incomplete without mkpaa egͻni.

Ø  Egelege– This is a talking drum whose drummers are versatile and is used to convey a lot of information that remains people of the past thus gingers them into wrestling or warns about the consequences of an individual’s intended actions. Wrestling is the most popular sport in Eleme and egelege remains the special music for wrestling.

Ø  Ogolo– This is a local xylophone played as major dance music during celebrations. There are three major drummers, each handling 4, 7, or 3 of the wooden instruments. There are other drummers that handle the Ogũ, Okpo, and Ekere.

Ø  Ngelenge– Ngelenge has similar setting like Ogolo. The distinguishing feature between Ogolo, Ngelenge and other forms of Eleme traditional music is that while the songs related to Ogolo and Ngelenge are rendered entirely through drumming, the songs associated with Egelege, Esͻ Mba, Esͻ Ngwe, and Esͻ OkeaEbiε are rendered by designated singers.

Ø  Esͻ Mba – Esͻ mba is a musical group whose membership is confined to married women and widows. There are always Esͻ Mba groups in every Eleme clan or town and the group consists of two efficient singers and a concerted membership. Their instruments are “Egbe”, “Ekere”, and “Nsisaa”. Their songs related to matrimonial problems and their solutions and are inspiring. Esͻ mba is also used to exposed immorality and control social behaviour among women folks.

Ø  Esͻ Okea εbiε – Esͻ okeaεbiε is rendered by a designated singer and is concerned with revealing whatever offence that was committed in secret. Because Esͻ Okeaεbiε convened a lot of information concerning evil deeds or deviant behaviours of individuals and families, it acted as, “social or cultural means by which systematic and relatively consistent restrains are imposed upon individual behaviour and by which people are motivated to adhere to traditions and patterns of behaviour that are important to the smooth functioning of a group or society”.

Ø  Esͻ Akε – This consists of songs specially designed to encourage wrestlers. There is the lead singer and another person who sings an undertone to support him as well as maintaining the Ekere that provides the rhythm.

Ø  Esͻ Ngwe – This is another set of songs that relate to farming of yams and/or agriculture and the glory of acquiring the highly esteemed Eleme Yam Titles of Aachu, Obo, Obεrε Obo, Otaa Obo, and Achuete. Esͻ Ngwe is known to have given much encouragement to individuals who ordinarily were not inclined to taking any of these titles, as it made them reflect on their ancestors and proceed to taking two or more Yam Titles.

Ø  Kukunεnε, Ebͻniand Ogolo Ejԑ – These are ancient music played by warriors or secret cults in Eleme. They can be played at any time or day especially during emergency or community threat; or at midnight and only members of the cults concern participates. A lot of secrecy is associated with them but they ginger their members into action. They are played mostly during funeral ceremonies of members or during their meetings or initiations.

Ø  Esᴐ Eduduu, Kprikpԑ and Ogolo Akԑ – These are music of warriors, community defenders (Oku Ejԑ) and wrestling champions.

Dance

Eleme Dance refers to the dance of Eleme people. Eleme  dances teaches social patterns and values; and help people work, mature, praise, or criticize members of the community while celebrating festivals and funerals, competing, reciting history, proverbs, and poetry as well as to encounter the gods.

Musical Instrument

Eleme musical instruments include: musical pot, gong, flute, horn, wooden drum, split wooden drum, egbe, nsisaa, okpo, ogu, ogela, ekere, and so on which produce sounds by hitting, shaking, beating, blowing in the air, and rubbing them against another.

Few Eleme dances worthy of mention include:

  1. Eje Ekpete – This is a common dance among the Eleme women folks.
  2. Eje piopiopioo – It is the girls that dance piopiopioo. The style is exciting, percussive footwork danced bear footed at a particular temple on whistle, fiddle or mouth music. That is beating ones heels, toes, and feet in as many ways as possible and imaginable, keeping time with the rhythms of the music in reel and jig time.
  3. Eje Alikirijã – There are many styles of alikirijã dance that can be demonstrated. The style has never been prescribed, except dancing steps neat and close to the floor. Many alikirijã dancers have their own individual style and steps they like to do to particular tunes.
  4. Eje Agala– Dance for the boys and girls.
  5. Eje Mbᴐkᴐ/Ngelem – Wedding dance for new brides.
  6. Tamkpe Eje – Dance for both male and female irrespective of age.
  7. Okeri Eje This is the most popular dance step in Eleme. It is waist dance that is performed by both men and women. Okeri Eje dance step has been perfected in Eleme that both men and women use it to dance all types of music.
  8. Eje Echῑi Osila This is first daughter dance. In Eleme, every first daughter is entitled to this dance (as of right), and it is the only dance in which the dancer’s legs never touches the ground. The new bride, who must be first daughter, is usually dressed in a mountain of expensive cloths arranged in concentric circles round her waist. She will put on her legs/ankles heavy bracelets (abarachwa), heavy coral beads round her neck and both wrists, together with a ceremonial staff with white handkerchief tied on top of it. She also wears short skirt with her body exposed, carried on the shoulder of an able bodied young man, and she dances the ngelem music to and from the market, hailed all along by jubilating crowd of admirals.

Let it be stated here that Eleme traditional music and dance and accompanying activities are now on the decline because the generation of expert singers, drummers, wrestlers, and so on has given way to another generation of footballers, disco dancers and cultural alienators.

Traditional Festivals

Eleme traditional festivals include:

Agba Esaa– This is the ceremonial conferment of graded traditional yam titles of Aachu, Obo, Obere Obo, Otaa Obo, Achuete, and Ewoachunsin. These degrees conferred on recipient certain rights, privileges and honours, and are recognized throughout the Eleme country.

Agba Esun –Agba Esun (or New Yam Festival) is celebrated to express gratitude to the ancestors and to the living elders. The sacrifice known as “Ↄtԑbԑ Enu” is offered annually, usually in October, in the belief that the ancestors who have transformed to spirits upon their death are still very much around, seeing everything they are 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.

Ogbo Nja– This is a cultural festival for children and new brides where parents, husbands, mothers-in-law, and fathers-in-law present gifts to their children, new brides and relatives; where children make new friends and eat happily and freely from community to community; and where women in their best and newest dresses sing, dance and rejoice for being hardworking, healthy and sensible enough to sustain the growth of their children throughout the year.

Ogbo nja is celebrated between the 13th and 20th of July annually depending on the position of the moon and traditional weekday known as Ͻkͻͻ. Ogbo nja festival is celebrated for two consecutive days. Day one known as Ͻkͻͻ Ͻbibai Etoo is for women while the next day called Mma Agba Okundo is for men.

Agba Nkikεε – This festival is celebrated annually on Ochu within the second week of March in honour of Nkikεε, the Earth goddess, and to mark the beginning of the planting season. Five days thereafter, precisely on the next Ochu another related ceremony called “Agba Etenchi” is marked, again to inform all and sundry of the commencement of the year’s farming season. Although only the initiated elders (Oku Nkpͻrͻ and Oku Nyoa) are involved in both festivals, it is used to communicate the beginning of a farming season, which resulted in both the young and old participating actively in farm work.

Obira Asã – This is lovers’ festival or celebration day; a sort of Valentine Day. It is also the final day for wrestling competitions across Eleme.

Ͻla Mba – This is Eleme’s wedding festival day. It was previously celebrated once a year, in June.

Other festivals worthy of mention are: Agba Mba, Agba Okundo, Oɂe Akε, and Agba Obibai Etoo.

Masks and Masquerades

Masks and masquerades are important elements of culture. In Eleme masks and masquerades are generally called Owu. Most owu are named after their bearers. However, there are few outstanding masks and masquerades in Eleme viz:

  1. Ebᴐni
  2. Ete Okolaa
  3. Nkͻnkͻ
  4. Ogolo Kurukuru
  5. Akparaloloo
  6. Dededede Ebiri

Marriage

Marriage is a highly respected institution in Eleme culture. The Eleme culture recognizes marriage as a union between man and woman in holy matrimony. To the people of Eleme, marriage is not only the coming together of man and woman in holy matrimony but, also a union of two families and two people for mutual benefits.

 

All mature females are expected to marry and live with their husbands. Children of such marriages belong to their father and have no substantial rights with their grandfather. The nuclear family which a man raises is subordinate to the larger family unit called Oku Ͻtͻ, which he belongs.

 

The Eleme culture promotes polygamy and encourages intra Eleme marriage. An Eleme man is expected to marry Eleme woman as first wife and is then free to marry from any other tribe or ethnic nationality. Because the culture frowns at Eleme man marrying first wife from outside, it accords no marriage recognition to those who do so, and they are exempted from participating in several cultural activities including taking of yam titles, admission into Ogbo Nkpᴐrᴐ and conferment of traditional chieftaincy titles. This once cherished tradition has been bastardized. Do not ask me how and why because we all know it.

Greetings

Greetings remain an important aspect of culture. Greeting is regarded as a sign of good behavior. It is expected that children greet their parents, teachers, and elders whenever and anywhere they see them. Eleme has no special way and manner of greeting. Although, the mode of greetings in Eleme has changed over the years, perhaps proving that culture is dynamic, this has been highly influenced by the English Language and tailored in that direction of our colonial masters. To my mind, Ade Ageta (Good Morning), Nnyimԑ Eɂera (Good Afternoon) and Mmuji Abã(Good Evening) are acceptable manner of greeting which should be adopted by all in keeping with changing times.

Conclusion

We have demonstrated that Eleme was founded by a warrior named Ibubu, now Ebubu; and that Ebubu is the ancient capital city of the territory known today as Eleme. It is also clear that Eleme has a rich cultural heritage and that Eleme people are known by their dressing, language, behavior pattern and have music and dances for various occasions and festivals.

Finally, I am grateful to the Proprietor and Management Staff of Leaders Foundation Schools for providing this opportunity for interaction, and the students for actualizing this occasion. I thank all the special guests for appreciating the necessity of shelving all personal engagements in favour of this occasion. I thank the general audience for listening to my views about the Ebubu People in History.

References:

Gutkind, P & Waterman, P., (ed) “A Science of Social Control”, in African Social Studies, London: Heinemann, 1977

Guy Feuer on The Convention on Cultural Diversity in African Geopolitics Identity and African Identities, no27 July – September 2007.

Jennings, J. D. &AdansonHoebel, (ed) “Readings in Anthropology”, New York:   McGraw Hill, 1972.

Ngofa, O. O., “Eleme Tradition,” Rescue Publications, Ogale-Eleme, 1994.

Osaro Ollorwi, “Community Policing & Crime Prevention in Pre-Colonial Eleme Issues& Perspectives” Port Harcourt, 2009

Osaro Ollorwi,   www.ollorwi.com.ng

 

Ottenberg, Simon & Phoebe, (ed) “Cultures & Societies of Africa”, New York: Random House, 1969

 

 

Chief Osaro Ollorwi

08036694027

 

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AMNESTY IN ELEME TRADITON

Amnesty in Eleme Tradition

By

Ollorwi Osaro

In discussing Amnesty in Eleme Tradition it is wise we attempt to explore the basic idea(s) underlying amnesty. Whether and why Eleme tradition makes provision(s) for amnesty? What are the types of amnesty provided for in the Eleme tradition? Who is qualified for amnesty under the Eleme tradition? Who institutes or grants amnesty under the Eleme tradition? And how is such amnesty managed?

Amnesty is a pardon extended by an authority to a group or class of persons for offenses against the society. It is the act of a sovereign power officially forgiving certain classes of persons who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted. Amnesty includes more than pardon, it eliminates all legal or traditional remembrance of an offense. True amnesty entails pardoning past violations without changing the laws violated.

 

Why Amnesty?

An amnesty may be extended when the authority decides that bringing citizens into compliance with a law is more important than punishing them for past offenses. Amnesty after a war helps end a conflict and unite a people. While laws against treason, sedition, desecration and sacrileges, etc. are retained to discourage future criminalities, it makes sense to forgive past offenders, after the enemy no longer exists.

Amnesty can also be used to get people to turn in contraband or weapons, as in the case of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Rivers State Amnesty Programme of His Excellency Chief Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (CON) where cultists and other criminals were encouraged to turn-in their weapons in exchange for amnesty.

There are several advantages of using amnesty in the society. They include:

  1. Avoiding expensive prosecutions (especially when massive numbers of violators are involved);
  2. Prompting violators to come forward who might otherwise have eluded authorities; and
  3. Promoting reconciliation between offenders, victims’ relations and the society.

To achieve the above objectives there are certain obligations required of the parties to an amnesty programme such as:

  • Willingness and readiness of the beneficiaries to surrender their arms,
  • Readiness to unconditionally renounce militancy, cultism, etc. as the case might be,
  • Express endorsement of an undertaking to this effect by the beneficiaries.

 

In return, the authority is expected to pledge its commitment to institute programmes to assist the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant offenders.

Are these processes or requirements part of Eleme Traditional Amnesty programme? The answer is NO.

The Eleme Traditional Amnesty is the way and manner in which a pardon or forgiveness extended by the traditional authority to a person or group of persons for offenses against the community is managed based on the culture and traditional of the people.

The traditional amnesty programme is not designed to enrich offenders, repentant criminals or cultists with cash rewards or property possession. Instead, it institutes forgiveness, builds the bridge of peace and provides responsible communal rehabilitation that integrates offenders back into society.

The Eleme Traditional Amnesty from inception lacks the capacity to institute the process for the beneficiaries to willingly surrender their weapons. Instead, the weapons of crime are left with the offender who voluntarily, chooses on his/her own volition, to surrender it to the community leadership, discard it or keeps it for future use.

Secondly, the tradition did not put in place a framework for the beneficiaries to sign any formal undertaking. Rather, the entire community acts as witness to the amnesty and ensures its implementation.

Fortunately, the above shortcomings are properly handled by the well-defined process of readiness of the offender to unconditionally renounce bloodshed, militancy, cultism, etc. as the case might be.

Who Receives Amnesty in Eleme Tradition?

In Eleme tradition amnesty is usually granted to someone who has committed a heinous offence deserving of death or banishment from the community but for which the Oku Nkporon (traditional leadership council) led by the Oneh Eh Eta decides to pardon after the performance of an elaborate sacrifice by the Oneh Nkiken (the Traditional Prime Minister) to free the offender from possible repercussions, cleanse the land and reintegrate him into society. They include someone who murderers an indigene, kill in war, during hunting expedition, etc.

Murderer

An example of such offence is murder of an indigene. If an indigene is kill for whatever reason, unless a royal pardon (amnesty) is granted the murderer will remain in exile for life. It is an abomination for a murderer to return to the community when all the processes of traditional amnesty have not been concluded.

Killing in war also requires the same sacrifice to wash blood from the offender’s eyes and prevent him from further killings at the slightest provocation.

It is equally believed that if this ritual is not performed and the necessary sacrifice offered, the land will remain desecrated, the blood of the victim will continue to hunt the offender and he will eventually kill again.

Similarly, in Eleme, murder of indigene is known to plug the community into additional bloodshed thus desecrating the land except purification rituals are performed to cleanse the land and free the perpetrator from the wrath of “revengers of blood”.

The Eleme Tradition recognized blood as a curse when wantonly shed, unless duly expiated. The two prominent revengers of blood identified by Eleme culture are Almighty God, who is believed must require human blood from anyone who viciously spills it.

The second is the nearest relatives of the deceased who must be pacified or appeased to avoid more bloodshed in the community.

It is also a general believe in Eleme that even soldiers who participate in war and people who defend their community during conflicts with another community must be subjected to this process to enable them live normal life and free themselves from the “Revenger of Blood”.

Process of Managing Amnesty in Eleme Tradition

The process of managing amnesty in Eleme tradition is time consuming, painful and costly. The steps involved include: acceptance of wrongdoing by the offender, identification of offender and relatives, identification of victims and relatives, negotiation, administering of oaths/swearing, sacrifice of peace offering/purification rites and reintegration of the offender into the community.

1.     Acceptance of Wrongdoing

The offender is required to show remorse and formerly and publicly accept responsibility for his actions.

2.     Identification of Offender and Victim Relatives

The traditional leadership must properly identify the victim’s nearest relatives who must be contacted and involved in the negotiation process. Amnesty in Eleme is not an arbitrary announcement by the traditional leadership. It entails painstaking negation involving the offender’s relatives, the victim’s relatives and the community to achieve a lasting solution. In fact, it is the offender and his/her relatives that appeal for amnesty and not the other way round.

3.     Negotiation

This involves bringing the parties to the negotiating table. Narrating how the people of Eteo managed traditional amnesty in November, 2016, the Paramount Ruler of Eteo, HRH Emere Emmanuel Tekara Akobe said, “when it became necessary that the cultists were tired of killing themselves and needed to turn a new leaf, we the chiefs, initiated the process of amnesty for them”, he explained.

 

It could be recalled that on the night of Saturday October 15, 2016 suspected members of a cult group raided Eteo community in Eleme, killing scores of people, including a pregnant woman. The incident which saw a whole family wiped out turned the community into a ghost town as residents deserted the community to seek refuge in the nearby towns and villages.

 

“Through those who were in contact with them, we set into motion a process of influencing them to see reasons and then established more direct communication with a view to helping us resolve the cult violence in Eteo by reaching an agreement”, he pointed out.

 

“This communication ignited the process of discovering mutual interest; it created a suitable environment for working together towards lasting peace in Eteo”, he continued.

 

“In the process we identified several options for resolving disagreement between groups of people and placed values on them, but settled for the Traditional Method, a system that was widely used by our ancestors and it worked for them effectively”, Akobe said.

4.     Ajija Ritual

Ajija is a term that generally refers to any sacrifice which gives the offender a chance to confess and expiate his/her guilt; cleanse the land, and placate and win back the friendship and approval of the gods, the nearest relatives of the victim and the society. Ajija is the symbol of the intercession of the community’s Traditional Prime Minister accompanying and making efficacious the prayer of the people. As direct descendant of the founder of the community, his words are law and highly honoured by all citizens, including human beings, spirit beings, deities and the ancestors that he represents.

Ajija is the core of all Eleme Traditional Amnesty programmes. If it is absent or ignored for whatever reason, it means that the whole amnesty programme is mere jamboree and of no effect both physically and spiritually. It also leaves the revengers of blood (God and the nearest relatives of the deceased) with no other alternative than to revenge the wanton bloodshed at the appropriate place and time, and under suitable circumstance. Ignoring Ajija definitely brings about more bloodshed in the offenders family and in the community sooner or later. The history of blood seeking revenge and troubling the land abounds everywhere.

There are many types of Ajija in Eleme tradition. Few among are Pregnancy Ajija, Sexual Ajija, Murder Ajija, Killing Ajija, etc. Ofu Mmi Adε is unique in its character. All these types of Ajija have their peculiar versions of Ojuri Ajija Rituals and Ͻlͻ Ajija Sacrifices, which are beyond the scope of this essay.

5.     Purification Rituals

Apart from the expiatory ritual which gives the offender a chance to confess and expiate his guilt and propitiatory sacrifice which are made to win back the friendship and approval of the gods, the nearest relatives of the deceased and the society a purification sacrifice must be made to cleanse the land, especially the scene of the murder, sexual offence, etc. This Ajija is known as Peace Offering. It is offered to cleanse the land .This is the ritual observances whereby Eleme person is formally absolved from the taint of uncleanness; especially those connected with blood that was wantonly shed.

It also include making of a sacrificial atonement to cleanse the shed blood from eyes of the perpetrator to appease the number one revenger of blood – God, who must require of all BLOOD, and avert a curse from falling upon those who wantonly shed blood and the land.

Because blood is the mysterious sacredness which belongs to life, it becomes a curse when wantonly shed. Once shed, it torments the offender, the land and leads to more bloodshed. It is to prevent this scenario that the sacrifice known as Ofu Mmi Adε is also performed before the offender is allowed to return to the community to live normal life.

6.     Administration of Oath/Swearing

Once the relevant Ajija sacrifices have been offered, the next stage is swearing in the name of a Deity by the parties involved. This step involves the procurement of the Deity, offering of necessary sacrifices at the Town-Square in the presence of the entire community on an appointed day and time and publicly swearing.

The swearing in the name of a known deity at the town-square, at the agreed day and time blows off the offender’s cover and brings him/her face-to-face with the relatives of the deceased. Although risky, it helps to consolidate the amnesty or forgiveness processes which were initiated some weeks or months ago and to pacify aggrieved bereaved relatives.

It reassures the deceased relatives that the traditional leadership is concerned about the dead and has taken necessary steps according to our tradition to pacify the deceased’s spirit, appeal to them for forgiveness and cleanse the desecrated land.

It encourages the revengers of blood to truly and totally forgive the offender and let the ancestors tamper justice with mercy.

It builds trust, credibility, and reciprocation; promotes understanding, and deals with the issues rather than persons.

It ensures commitment by all parties to its implementation and maintenance, publicizing it accordingly.

Where swearing in the name of a deity is frowned at due to the compromising and manipulative tendencies of the elders, Eleme Tradition favours “Nkpͻrͻ Eta”, which is the symbol of sovereignty, power, peace, unity and justice as instrument of swearing. Many families and linage in Eleme have been extinct, destroyed or devastated for swearing Nkpͻrͻ falsely.

Swearing provides the framework for implementation of the purification and reintegration rituals, which is the final level of traditional amnesty programme.

Comparing Modern and Traditional Amnesties

Both traditional and modern amnesties aim to officially forgive certain classes of persons who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted. In the past both the traditional and modern leaderships have demonstrated the political will to manage amnesty but lack the socio-economic frameworks and resources to ensure its proper implementation, monitoring and controls needed for it success. These shortcomings are responsible for the failure of all conceived amnesties in recent times.

The traditional amnesty lacks the important ingredients of a well-defined amnesty programme which are Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of the offenders into normal life. Although, it tries to demobilize and reintegrate the offenders, it lack formal approach and there is no explicit procedure and institution for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

The traditional leadership is just peace makers and has little or no stake in the amnesty programme. They buy nothing into it and buy nothing out of it.

It also lacks the institution(s) to properly coordinate, fund and promote concerted development strategy for the community with the aim of addressing underdevelopment as a major driver of instability in the community.

In the case of cultism, the traditional system lacks the strategy to disarm cultists as there are no frameworks in place in which available arms and ammunition can be retrieved from the cultists thereby reducing the volume of arms in circulation and for re-armament.

The traditional institution lacks the capacity to make provisions for skill development, training, job placement and employment for the beneficiaries of the traditional amnesty programme. This shortcoming makes it possible for the repentant cultists and criminals to return to life of crimes worse than they were before the amnesty.

No provision for nonviolence transformational training tailored to extinguish the belief of the cultists in violence or provide them a more powerful alternative – nonviolence activities.

There are also no follow up with cordon and search operation in the area and as well as any legislative framework to sanction the possession of arms by anyone particularly members of the groups who were disarmed.

Because the deity is the ultimate arbitrator here, groups and individuals in the community are prevented from participating in mopping up arms cache in their communities.

The disarmed cultists and their leaders are similarly not compelled to sign any legally binding undertaking never to conduct an act of insurgency against the state or be found bearing arms in the community. The oath they took is mere pronouncement to cease fire, which in most cases are short-lived and breakable as the deities are known today to lose their efficacy due to the growing influence of Christianity and Western Education.

Unfortunately though, and with the exception of bonds swore to by the cultists, most of these steps were not initiated as a follow up to the disarmament of the groups in Eleme.

The aim of demobilization is to disband the armed group by breaking down its command structure and dispersing the members thereby making remobilization difficult if not impossible. The Traditional Amnesty programme lacks the ability to achieve this objective. The various threats coming from the commanders of the rival former armed groups and the ease with which they converge in Ebubu and sack the city are evident indications that the command structures still remain intact and members can easily be mobilised.

We noted in Eteo, Ebubu, Alesa and other Eleme communities that communications with the cultists are done through their commanders. This arrangement reinforced pre-existing loyalties and command relationship which fostered dependency on their commanders. It makes remobilization easy, fast and cheap.

The absence of a well-defined reintegration system is a serious setback to the entire process of traditional amnesty. After demobilization (sic) what become of these ex-cultists? This question, the traditional system makes no provisions, thus worsening the security situation after a short while.

These cultists depend on guns and other weapons for their livelihood. When the guns are not collected from them what does the system expect them to do next? What alternatives does the system give to them to encourage them turn their back on the guns? Perhaps, this is the main reason why they were not requested to return their arms because it has nothing to give to them as alternative means of livelihood? Besides, the cultists are reluctant to return their weapons for fear of being stripped of everything and given nothing in return – no empowerment programmes, no development projects, nothing in sight, no hope to live for.

Importantly, swearing in the name of a Deity or invocation of Juju is no longer in vogue. In the time past, this option worked effectively due to the prevailing belief and attachment to worship of deities and ancestral spirits. Today, everybody claims to be Christian or Muslim but wicked than the devil in all ramifications.

Secondly, the system is full of flaws and subject to several manipulations by compromising-community leaders who are known to invoke juju round the community in the day and go behind to revoke same in the night due to their complicity in the whole episode.

These are also some of the factors that make it impossible for the restoring of peace, safety and security in the community using the instrumentalities of Eleme Traditional Amnesty Programme.

Amnesties in Nigeria have always failed not because of absence of political-will on the part of the government but the authorities inability to categorize amnesties, identify all parties to a particular amnesty, and encourage them to play their respective roles actively. The non-incorporation of the traditional aspects of offering the appropriate sacrifices to obtain pardon for the offender, restoring and reintegrating the offender of blood into the community, and cleansing the land as part of the amnesty process by the government leaves wide room for reoccurrence of violence and bloodbath at the slightest incitement. The Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Britons, Russians, Germans, Israelis, and so on honour their culture above every other thing. Their culture is their teacher! If government is too busy to remember that aspect or too scared to dabble into it, what are our traditional institutions doing? What are the family elders doing to rescue their children?

Conclusion

Africa is a continent of cultures. Nigeria prides itself as giant of Africa because of its wide cultural diversity. What makes a people thick and unique is their culture. All cultures have a way and manner of dealing with nasty bloodshed. Different cultures define different ways of offering pardon, restoring and reintegrating an offender of blood into the community, and cleansing the land. These issues and the processes involved are usually not for public consumption but the peace, stability and security that are obtained therefrom benefits all.

Therefore, elders (African Elders) of the various families and communities whose children were granted amnesty in the past or recently should as a matter of importance do the needful to save our children and communities from further bloodshed. Blood is not water, blood is not wine. Blood is life. The potency of blood is incomparable. Blood sees, hears, speaks, acts, and have the powers to fight back except properly placated. Blood is God in man. No one ever sheds blood and goes scot-free.

If those who spilled blood and are living normal life, or walking freely on the streets, tell you what they pass through to be so free you will do everything humanly possible to avoid bloodshed. Let us do something to help the government to reclaim all our children from the devil!

References:

  1. Bryan A. Gardner (ed.). 2009. Blacks Law Dictionary (9th ed.). St. Paul, MN: West
  2. Ollorwi Osaro (2012). Community Policing and Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues & Perspectives, Nigerian Institute of Security, Port Harcourt
  3. Ollorwi Osaro (2016) http://www.ollorwi.com.ng Addressing Insecurity in Eleme a Memorandum Submitted to CTC Chairman of Eleme Local Government, Hon. Johnson O. Nwogu.

Contacts:

  1. ollorwiosaro@gmail.com
  2. www.ollorwi.com.ng
  3. +234 (0) 8036694027