ISSUES & PERSPECTIVES
Community Policing & Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues & Perspectives
First Edition January, 2013
© Osaro Ollorwi, 2013
NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF SECURITY
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Rivers State, Nigeria
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Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Crime in Pre-Colonial Nigerian Societies
Chapter Three: Secret Societies as an Instrument of Crime Control
Chapter Four: Traditional Religion in Community Policing and Crime Control
Chapter Five: Supernatural Devices
Chapter Six: Law and Justice
Chapter Seven: Influence of Modern Legal System
Appendix A: Institutions of Community Policing & Crime Control in Pre-colonial Eleme
Appendix B: The Clan Head and Chiefs of the Thirty-One Communities of Ebubu Clan Interviewed in the Course of Collecting Information for this Book
Appendix C: Treaty with the Chiefs of Ebubu
Appendix D: Treaty with the Chiefs of Mbolli
Appendix E: Bibliography
This book, Community Policing and Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues and Perspectives, is designed to enable readers to identify, critically analyze and reasonably discuss the prevailing ideas and major assumptions of dominant paradigms or approach in the study of historical traditional community policing and sociological crime control in Eleme as a people in the formal Eastern region and today South-South geopolitical flank of Nigeria.
It seeks to give students and the general readers the ability and opportunity to situate the dominant paradigms within the contexts of the major developments and circumstances under which these paradigms enrich.
Modern anthropological analysis takes as its point of departure the events and developments which follow social transformations shaped by it. Traditional community policing, as many social analysts have come to agree, provided the gate way to the modern period. The political, economic, social and cultural effects and influences of these developments have brought about far-reaching consequences for all societies nationwide.
There are many textbooks, which deal with the issues raised in this work, but Dr. Ollorwi has the advantage of reorganizing the major themes, ideas, and events into a synthesized, coherent and readily recognizable form. The book is written in simple language. In an attempt to overcome the tyranny of received ideas, the author provides a reasonable assumption and makes far reaching practical postulations in the emerging science of community policing.
I am pleased to recommend the book, “Community Policing and Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues and Perspectives” to all who wish to contribute to the solution of the problems of crimes and fear of crimes in a society composed of many nationalities. Every library should keep this book on its shelves as a valuable reference book.
Chief Kamalo, Okanje B.
Faculty of Sciences
University of Port Harcourt
Today, cherished values are threatened and utter disregard for legitimate and lawful sense of possession is elevated. Culture conflict, protective anonymity which neutralizes law enforcement agencies, heterogeneity, strong feeling of relative deprivation and socio-economic frustration has changed the face and complexion of crime. Dexterity and sophistication in criminal practices are constantly displayed and reenacted by criminals.
This situation is brought about by the advent of “Western Civilization” as loopholes have been created with the provision of modern legal system for manipulation by criminals to free themselves of the very crime which they have committed wherever the victims or aggrieved parties cannot prove their cases beyond reasonable doubt. This was not the case in pre-colonial Nigerian traditional societies.
In contemporary Nigerian society, the modern legal system adopted in the whole of the Federation has affected all the component parts of the Nigerian society to the extent that wherever and whenever customary rules, native laws or regulations conflict with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation, the latter takes precedence. Moreover, any violation by any society to enforce its custom that conflict with the modern legal provision will be regarded and viewed as an act capable of sabotaging government efforts.
A greater number of people now alive in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world were not living long ago to witness what obtained actually in the different societies by way of customs and methods whereby deviants were brought under control. This book therefore offers a window for the present and future generations to appreciate the efforts of our forefathers in policing the communities and controlling crimes before the advent of the modern criminal justice system.
This is an age of cultural revival, an age when Africans more than ever before, are ready to identify themselves with the heritage of their forefathers. The way and manner our forefathers police the community and control crimes is part of our cultural heritage that is beckoning for revival. There is a growing contention by people in many quarters that our culture should be reviewed in its entirety. Others wish the useful parts to be reviewed while discarding those that would brand us as ‘uncivilized’ and ‘barbaric’.
Apart from adding to human knowledge, it is hoped that this book will present the first documentary evidence concerning community policing and regulation of crime in pre-colonial and early Eleme country; I also wish to show with this book the attitude of the people of Eleme to the modern legal system. Do they feel that their former methods were better? Or, have they found the present system best suited for dealing with crime and criminals? In this direction, the book attempts to compare and contrast the pre-colonial and modern methods of community policing and crime control so that readers and natives may judge for themselves if the pre-colonial methods of community policing and crime control were better than the modern system or vice-versa so as to forge the way forward in our fight against all kinds and types of anti-social activities and their perpetrators.
I hope that this book will be useful especially as the present local government reforms have given power of crime control to community leaders and clan heads by making them liable to punishment if they knowingly allow any criminal activities go unpunished in their locality. With their own perception of the modern legal system, we can predict what type of advice they can give to the police in the local government police committees or their likely reaction to police activities in their area of authority.
The typical Ebubu dialect was used where it is necessary to use the direct words of the people and the English alphabets were used to write Eleme words.
This book could not have been written without the cooperation and assistance of knowledgeable people who shared their experiences with me, especially as much has not been written on the subject and most of the documentary evidence and records found were written by biased missionaries and colonial administrators.
The successful completion of this book therefore gives me the opportunity to acknowledge the immense help I received from the following people who are quite knowledgeable and well versed with all the traditional and pre-colonial activities – whether legal, social, political, economic, and cultural institutions which obtained in pre-literate Eleme country. This is because some of them were born at the material time, and a number of them were either active participants or keen observers in one form of institutions or the other. No doubt, I leaned heavily on their information by way of oral, real, circumstantial or documentary evidence to enable me write this book.
Thus, I am grateful to the Oneh Eh Eleme X (King of Eleme), His Royal Majesty King (Dr.) Samuel Oluka Ejire (JP), an enlightened, renowned, and reputable man well verse in traditional norms, mores, customs, law and justice. My interviews with him enable me to gather facts with which I could write about the role of traditional courts and politics in crime control. His Royal Highness Emere Obariwite Nchimaowi, the Oneh Eh Odido and His Royal Highness (Dr.) Emere Philip O. Obele (JP), Oneh Eh Nchia showed a lot of interest in what I was doing and were ever prepared to discuss any matter which I placed before them. His Royal Highness Emere Emmanuel O. Bebe, Oneh Eh Ebubu, His Royal Highness Emere Emperor J. D. Nkpe, Oneh Eh Alesa, His Royal Highness Emere Bebe Okpabi, Oneh Eh Ogale were very helpful to me in all the inquiries directed to them. His Royal Highness Emere Obo Ngofa showed a lot of genuine interest in the work and gave authoritative answers to my questions.
I must acknowledge Chief Goya Ollor, Oneh Eh Eta Alueken who gave me detailed facts on the role of traditional religion in pre-colonial community policing and crime control with particular reference to “Obari Ebubu”, the traditional god worshipped by the Ebubu people. I had to interview Chief Ngoronwi Osaro-Katty, Executive Adviser, Odido Council of Chiefs and Elders up to five times on various issues and at one hundred and twenty-eight (128) years, he showed remarkable memory. His accounts of the “Kpripke Cult”, “Nkiken” fraternity and “Egbara eta” in community policing and crime control were most revealing. I am grateful for his contributions.
Chief Johnson Ejile Gburuke, the Onenkiken (Land Priest of Ebubu Clan) who gave me detailed facts about the origin of Eleme people deserves my thanks. Chief Ejile Laaka deserves my gratitude for giving me all the facts which enabled me complete the section on haruspication (Ejor) under the chapter on supernatural devices in community policing and crime control. I thank all the community heads of the thirty-one (31) communities that make up Ebubu clan who were also interviewed. Apart from community heads, leaders of some cults such as Kpripke, Ogbe, Ejor and Nkiken – that are connected with crime control who were as well interviewed for information deserved my appreciation.
Although the oral interviews and questionnaires technique yielded much more facts and aided me in gathering relevant materials that strengthened the reliability of the information obtained for this book, the participant observation method was also used. As the Oneh Eh Eta Aluebo in Ebubu clan and an initiated member of Okunkporon, I have watched most of the traditional practices with regard to community policing and crime control take place, and also have participated in them, from where their role in crime control were investigated. I have also drawn from my past experiences and activities in the traditional institutions. Besides, I am an indigene of Ebubu clan and have lived in a transitory period where traditional methods of controlling crime are fast being strangled by Western legal system.
Lastly, though not by any means the least, I must acknowledge the authors and publishers of the books, journals and magazines which I consulted in the process of writing this book. These are shown in the bibliography. Also, are all those who cooperatively filled and returned the administered questionnaires or allowed themselves to be interviewed in order to elicit information for this book. I crave your usual cooperation for others who may need your help in future.
10: 01: 2013
Chapter 1: Introduction
Without doubt, Nigeria as a large heterogeneous and multi-tribal-linguistic nation is the biggest country in black Africa. Nigeria’s diversity in land mass, size, language, tradition, and culture makes it nationhood quite unique, distinct, and different from what prevails in other countries around the world. To a large extent, these variables though complex have wittingly or unwittingly contributed in no small measure to the dynamic, ruggedness, persistence and undying spirit often associated with Nigeria and by extension its citizens.
From the pre-colonial days to early years of our independence, Nigerians despite differences in tribe, tradition, culture, and language related perfectly with one another. The survival and development of the Nigerian nation was paramount in the minds of our leaders during this period. Ethnicity, tribalism, and marginalization – though in practice – were often played down, relegated to the background and indeed were never allowed to endanger the fabric of Nigeria. As a result of this, there was free movement of people from one part of the country to another without fear of molestation and attack. Crime wave, destruction, killings and other societal evils were not common.
However, the emergence of the military into Nigeria’s polity in 1966 changed the tide of events in the country. Due to its obvious ineptitude and selfish desire to perpetrate its constituency in government, the Nigerian military have often exploited these features to hold on to power for many years. Successive military governments have always resorted to the ethnic, tribal, and linguistic differences to cause ill feelings, mistrust and disaffection amongst Nigerians. Citizens irrespective of status, intellect and background lived in perpetual fear, suspicious of control by others and insecurity of lives and properties.
Terms such as catchments area, quota system, state of origin, disadvantaged state, and so on were fallouts and products of ethnic polarity propagated by the military and their civilian-political collaborators. This in many ways slowed down and affected the growth and development of the country. This has led to various ethnic, tribal and religious crises in the past. Civil disturbances and reprisal actions in Kaduna, Kano, Warri, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Aba, Enugu, Ibadan, and others were orchestrated by ethnic and religious instinct. Regrettable, the pockets of skirmishes and strife have culminated in massive looting, destruction of lives and property, and greatly affected the socio-economic advancement of Nigeria.
Having weathered the storm of abrasive and obnoxious military rulership, with our glorious return to democracy it is expected that Nigeria will go back to the golden past where peace, love, unity, and amity reigned.
The existence of peace, harmony and co-existence amongst citizens of any society is paramount to sustainable growth and development of such country. Conscious efforts aimed at bridging gaps of ethnicity and tribalism will propel the political, social, and economic transformation of the country. It is against this backdrop that despite the present administration’s avowed determination to promote peaceful co-existence, unity and development, report of civil disturbances in parts of the country gives serious concern.
Since entrenchment of democratic rule in May 1999 the country has been faced with divergent ethno-tribal and religious problems in Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Oshogbo, Onitsha, Lagos, Warri, Bayelsa, and Port Harcourt. The Boko Haram insurgence in northern Nigeria is as devastating as it is destructive in terms of loss of human lives and valuable properties. No doubt these skirmishes have slowed down the pace of development programmes initiated and executed by all levels of government in the country. Valuable time, resources and energy are dissipated towards resolving and reconciling different parties and groups involved in such uprising.
Rather than being despaired and discouraged by these crises the successive democratic governments within limited opportunities available have been able to record major achievements in some sectors of the economy. Through dynamic and aggressive strategies, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is coming back to life with power generation rising from 1,000 megawatts in 1999 to 4,240 megawatts in 2012. It is also on record that on August 12, 2001 Nigeria joined the GSM market which has improved telecommunication services in Nigeria.
Conscious and steady successes are being recorded in road construction, improved health services, rehabilitation and reconstruction of educational facilities and employment of youths in various ministries, agencies, and parastatals. The amnesty granted the Niger Delta militants and rehabilitation of repentant militants is a milestone.
The promotion and propagation of improved inter-ethnic harmony in the country cannot be over-emphasized. The existence of peace, unity and camaraderie amongst various ethnic groups will quicken the realization of every developmental initiative of the government. Peaceful co-existence amongst all Nigerian will not only promote growth, it will also have multiplier effect on investment opportunities. Businessmen, industrialists, and manufacturers will be encouraged to establish viable enterprises in any part of the country without fear or attack, reprisal and destruction. Also, this will give positive signals to the international community and foreign investors who may wish to do business in the country.
Though it must be noted that the realization and sustainability of ethnic harmony requires the positive contribution and participation of all Nigerians both in the micro- and macro-levels; government officials, politicians, the military and paramilitary, legislators, businessmen and women, technocrats, traditional rulers, opinion leaders, students and every other group of persons have roles to play in the pursuance of harmony in Nigeria. The National Youth Service Corps should be reorganized to achieve national cohesion and integration; inter-ethnic marriage and social activities should be promoted to weld the various groups that constitute Nigeria together in harmonious co-existence.
Time has changed everything both culturally, socially, economically, politically, legally and otherwise. But we are lucky to witness the present day Constitution and legal provisions which bind us together. Since what is bad in one society might be very much appreciated in another society, and what is profane in one society might be sacred in another, indeed a relative phenomenon, I have therefore confined myself to those activities, practices, laws, regulations, customs, and techniques which obtained in pre-colonial Eleme Country of which I am an indigene, so that readers and natives may judge for themselves if the pre-colonial methods of community policing and crime control were better than the modern system or vice versa.
Location of Eleme
Eleme is located about 21 kilometers Southeast of Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State in Nigeria. The location is called Eleme, the people are Eleme and the language is Eleme. The territory is bounded by Elelenwo in the Evo district of Ikwerre to the West, Oyigbo and some Ndoki towns South of Imo River to the North, Okrika and the Creeks of the Bonny River to the South, and Tai district of Ogoni to the East. Eleme was granted political autonomy when the Federal Government of Nigeria under late General Sani Abacha created Eleme Local Government Area on 4th December, 1996.
It must be emphasized here that Eleme is not the same as Ikwerre, Ndoki, Okrika, or Ogoni who are our immediate neighbours. Eleme is one of Nigeria’s 250 Ethnic Nationalities and is made up of two districts – Odido and Nchia, ten federating clans namely: Ebubu, Alesa, Agbonchia, Ogale, Alode, Aleto, Onne, Eteo, Akpajo and Ekporo, and one hundred and eleven communities and several villages. Among about four hundred (400) languages recorded in the book “Studies in Nigerian Languages” Eleme feature at No. 96. Eleme is distinctively shown as “one of the twenty major ethnic groups in Eastern Nigerian with its language, culture, and social order quite different and distinguished from those of their immediate neighbours”.
Climate and Vegetation of Eleme
The inland part of Rivers State within which Eleme is located is broadly categorized as consisting of tropical rainforest. Hence, the climate is that of constant heat and high humidity. Rainfall is heavy and lengthy and dry season is short. The dry months which starts in late November and ends in March is characterized by dry air, great sunshine and climaxed with the arrival of the harmattan, which in some years start about December.
The harmattan is highly welcome in Eleme despite its attendant health hazards. For example, it dries and chills the body especially the lips crack. Most people suffer from catarrh due to inhalation of dust and dry air. Even then, failure of the harmattan to come is often attributed to the anger of the gods of farming. It helps to render the bush penetrable by killing some of the annual undergrowths, and when the bush is cleared for planting, it dries the materials for consumption by fire.
The vegetation which is expected to be that of a typical tropical rainforest with its tall trees and thick undergrowths has been greatly modified by the intensity of clearing and burning for farming, oil exploration and production activities and the forceful acquisition of no less than 30,000 hectares of arable lands and waterfronts hitherto used for farming and fishing by the multinational oil and gas companies and the Federal Government of Nigeria since 1950s.
Traces of forests are only found along the Riverbanks where raffia palms and oil palms abound, and areas reserved for either ancestral worship or “Ejor”.
Eleme in the age under consideration existed as an autonomous entity exercising her own authority without reference to any higher power. As Dr. Percy Amaury Talbot put it:
“Practically, the whole of the country East of the Niger was until recent times covered with dense forest and the population composed of people living independent, unconsolidated and usually small groups subject to no central government”.
Eleme is made up of two districts called Odido and Nchia, which are grouped into ten clans namely: Ebubu, Alesa, Agbonchia, Ogale, Alode, Aleto, Onne, Eteo, Akpajo and Ekporo, and these are further arranged into one hundred and eleven communities and villages known as “Eta”. Its Council of Chiefs consisted of the “Oneh Eh Eta” (Chief), “Onenkiken” (Traditional Prime Minister/Land Priest), “Onenkporon” (Spokesman of the Community), and “Okunkporon” (initiated elders). As the chief custodian of the customs and tradition of the people of Eleme in his community and the closest authority to the people, the Oneh Eh Eta in council has original jurisdiction in intra-community disputes. Case could only be taken further if the Chief-in-Council collectively called “Okunkporon Eta” for the community found the case beyond their power, or one of the parties appealed against their decision. The separate communities have for their central government the Okunkporon presided over by the Oneh Eh Eta.
The traditional ruler of each clan is called “Oneh Eh” of his clan and he is the head of the Council of Chiefs and Elders known as Okunkporon of the clan. Next in status are the two districts heads known as “Oneh Eh Odido” and “Oneh Eh Nchia” respectively. At the apex of the traditional chieftaincy hierarchy is the King of Eleme Land called Oneh Eh Eleme.
In summary, each clan in Eleme is made up of several villages and settlements that have evolved one from the other and have existed within one territorial bond over the years.
Origin of Eleme People
Legend has it that the people of Eleme descended from the Cross Rivers region during the early part of the 15th century. In his proposal about the origin of the people of Eleme, P. A. Talbot said:
“Investigations showed that they form the eastern most sections of the Semi-Bantu people, whose main habitat is the Cross Rivers Region, and they have been classified in ‘The Peoples of Southern Nigeria’ as belonging to the Ibibio group”.
Talbot is of the view that the Semi-Bantu almost certainly and the Bantu probably originated in Eastern Nigeria. This opinion confines the origin of the people of Eleme to the core habitat of the Semi-Bantu where we find the Ekois, Ibibios, Efiks, Annangs, Ibinos, Ogonis, and the Munshi of Northern Nigeria. It is believed that over population forced the people of Eleme to migrate from the Cross Rivers Region through Ibibio and Ndoki territories to where they could get land and settles; hence they fought their way through whenever they met with obstacles of any form until they came to this place now called Eleme today.
The migrant who founded the territory known today as Eleme was originally called (‘Î BÙ BÚ written IBUBU and meaning: to Throw, to Grab or Scramble for and Beget or Overpower – qualities for which he was known) and latter referred to as Ebubu (originally E BÙ BÚ translated: He Scrambled for and Overpowered or He Grabbed and Begot) and then recently as Eleme (that is, Who Wins). This term EBÙBÚ expresses the prowess and characteristics of the hero that founded the area called Eleme today. He arrived the territory known as Eleme today through a track that later came to be referred to as “Ogbere Mgbor” (that is, road to Mgbor. Mgbor meaning “far distant land”, probably implying where Eleme migrated from) or “Agborgbor Mgbor” (implying, Mgbor Highway) and settled at the present day Ebubu, a place named after him. Ebubu was then the gateway into Eleme. Captain James Fosbery and his entourage came to Eleme on April 19th 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.
It is believed that Ibubu who is now generally referred to as Eleme lived and died at Ebubu and was buried at a spot where “Obari Ebubu” shrine is presently located. But, before his demise, he had succeeded in inculcating his adventurous spirit into his children. Hence, they continued in the campaign of territorial expansion started by their father thus extending the frontier of Ebubu to 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. The frequent disagreement between Aleto and Ogale resulting to bloodshed and loss of lives on the western boundary perhaps led to the exchange of settlement between the two brothers to allow peace to reign. Love for expansion, increase in population, search for independency and arable land to support increasing agricultural and trading activities led to the establishment of all the other federating clans of Eleme namely: Ogale, Alesa, Agbonchia, Alode, Aleto, Akpajo, Eteo, Onne and Ekporo. The names Eleme (Who Wins), Odido (You Ordered), and Nchia (I Countered) are recent inventions and assumed identity intended to put to rest the controversy surrounding the origin of the people of Eleme. But far from it, there is limit to how long the truth can be suppressed. The tide of migration and civilization never follow the same direction.
The people of Eleme (Ibubu), Ibibio, and Igoni (Ogoni) shared the same origin. Chief O. O.Ngofa observed that the long period of socialization and cultural homogeneity among the various peoples that lived in the Cross Rivers Region provides explanation for definite traces that are common to Eleme, Ibibio, and Ogoni peoples of the present day. He went further to explain that these traces are identified in such things as carving of masks, mirror handles, ladles, mortars, pestles, doors, ceremonial stools, and drums as well as artifacts for shrines. He maintained that:
“These are also evidenced in the weaving of mats, baskets, bags, cradles, and ceremonial headgears. The most important connections are the affinities in ancestral worship and operations of secret societies”.
Research has proved that despite several centuries that have passed since the great migration that moved Eleme, Ibibio, Ogoni and other people out of the Cross Rivers Region and settled in their respective present locations, there are existing links or similarities in language that still bind Eleme, Ibibio, and Ogoni together. Examples of these similarities, though with slight dialectical difference, occur in the three languages as illustrated in Table 1.1.
Table 1.1: Related Words in Eleme, Ibibio, and Ogoni
S/NO ENGLISH ELEME IBIBIO OGONI
1 God Obari Abasi Bari
2. Father Ate Ete Te
3. Mother Aka Eka Ka
4. Wife Owa Anwan Wa
5. Head Ebo Ibot Akobe
6. Hand Obo Ubok Ba
7. Eye Aden Enyen Den
8. Ear Oton Utog Ton
9. Food Nja Udia Zia
10. Water Mmu Mmong Maa
11. Myself Ami Ami Ndalo
12. Leopard Nkpee Ekpe Kpee
Source: Adopted from ‘Eleme Traditions’ by Chief O. O. Ngofa
The territory of Eleme became a British Protectorate following two separate treaties signed on April 19th and 20th 1898 between the Kings and Chiefs of Ebubu and Mbolli with the representatives of the British Monarch – Captain James Fosbery. Since then, Eleme has become part of the following administrative permutations.
Table 1.2: Political Administration of Eleme
S/NO YEAR POLITICAL ADMINISTRATION
1. 1898 – 1928 Degema District in Owerri Province
2. 1928 – 1936 Ahoada District in Owerri Province
3. 1937 – 1946 Opobo District in Calabar Province
4. 1946 – 1959 Ogoni Division in Port Harcourt Province
5. 1959 – 1966 Eleme County Council in Port Harcourt Province
6. 1970 – 1973 Bori Local Government
7. 1973 – 1979 Tai/Eleme Division
8. 1979 – 1989 Okrika/Tai/Eleme Local Government
9. Dec. 1989 – 1991 Gokhana/ Okrika/Tai/Eleme Local Government Area
10. Sept.1991– 1996 Tai/Eleme Local Government
11. Dec. 1996 – ? Eleme Local Government
With the creation of Eleme Local Government, Eleme has maintained the ten ancient federating clans as wards namely: Ebubu, Alesa, Agbonchia, Ogale, Alode, Aleto, Onne, Eteo, Akpajo and Ekporo. Ebubu, the traditional settlement of Eleme is made up of thirty-one (31) autonomous communities, comprising four (4) federating sub-clans and twenty-seven (27) villages and several settlements. The sub-clans are Egbalor, Ejamah, Agbeta, and Obolo while the communities are: Aluebo, Alueken, Egbereta, Obinieta, I-A-Ete, Mbumaeta, Nnornorwaeta, Okenwikoro,Ebarangor, Etaosaro, Obiban, Alejor, Egbara, Alukere, Ochani, Okpako, Ekpanporoeo, Konwi, Alumba, Okaale, Agborgbor Mba,Obiniagbeta, Biriko, Oboetoo, Obiniobolo, Ekengba, and Daabor.
Main Features of Economy of Eleme
It should be noted however that Eleme is purely a Niger Delta community in Rivers State of Nigeria therefore, the main features of her economy is not quite different from that of other Niger Delta communities. Notwithstanding, nature has been so liberal to Eleme with vast expanse of arable lands of good alluvial soil with high fertility profile and optimum climate for extensive agricultural practices.
The Eleme main food crop is yam (Esaa). This is supplemented with Cassava (Ojaku); Cocoyam (Etoh), Vegetables, e.g., fluted pumpkin (Nsogu), Pepper (Okofe), Plantain and Banana (Obino) – all of which are grown for family use only and not for sale outside the community. Within Eleme or neighbouring communities these are battered for family needs.
The raffia palm has economic, social, and religious uses and because of these utility, every lineage (O-e), owns at least one raffia palm swamp. Individuals plant them in their compounds (Akpata) and guard them jealously. Without palm wine, no marriage could be concluded, no social function and no festival could be successful, nor could the dead be buried and the ancestors (Okuejin), gods and deities (Okuejor) be appeased, since it is used as a medium for appeasing them. Its leaf is used for roofing-mat (Okanyi), its frond (Okokoo) is used for building houses (Otoo), fence (Mkpon) and rack (Mkpasa); its raffia (Eswel) is woven into bag, basket, hat, etc.; its ribs (Olankon) is used for fish trap (Nkantan), and the peelings of the ribs (Saw) is used for decorating masquerade. Despite its many uses, the raffia palm remains a tree crop used internally.
Another tree crop in the area is the oil palm (Ajo). Like the raffia palm it grows mainly in the rainforest belt of the inland part of Rivers State and less in the mangrove swamps that borders the coast. Like the raffia palm it has many uses. The frond (Olaajo) is used for building fence (Mkpon), and rack for the storage of farm crops. The ribs are used for making broom, the oil from both the fruit and the kennel is used for food and medicine and for lighting the house, the fiber as firewood and kennel shell as manure.
The Eleme tradition is silent on whether or not the Eleme had over tapped wine from their oil palms. Because of its many uses the oil palm in Eleme is owned by the entire community and not by lineage as is the farmland itself. Since the community has the oil palm, chiefs in some Eleme communities are able to give out hundreds of acres of palms on lease for a year or more to raise money for the community. Individual members of the community – male and female – also harvest the oil palm freely except that on the spot leased or that belong to “Kpripke” Secret Society. But unlike the food crops, the products of raffia palm produce(palm oil and palm kennel) had been exported to European countries since the eighteenth century, the Okrikas acting as middlemen.
Although palm produce was in great demand in Europe during the last quarter of the nineteenth century the price paid for palm produce then was very small compared with the labour involved. The people who really profited from the Eleme palm produce trade were the Okrikas who purchased the produce from the Eleme in the interior, especially Ebubu, at a very low price and sold it to the European buyers on the coast at a higher price.
Acting as middlemen between the Eleme producers in the interior and the European purchasers on the coast, the Okrika traders became quite rich and were naturally unwilling to give up such lucrative business. To control the Eleme economically, the Okrikas established their colonies in such places as Ikpokiri, Ele, Owu-Ogono, Ekerekana, and Kalio-Ama – all of which lie on the coast of the Eleme country. This exploitative domination was captured by J. G. Mackenzie in his Intelligence Report on Eleme in 1932 thus:
“The Eleme have been more in touch, through trade, with the Okrikas which did not stop the latter from exploiting them, also from hindering the spread of Christianity and education in the area for fear that it could bring their supremacy to an end”.
Since the Eleme received very little for their labour, they did not trouble themselves to improve either quantities or quality of their palm produce. The trees grew in their wild state, and new ones were never planted. Also, since the oil palms are owned by the community, there was no use planting new trees and caring for them regularly. Thus, the Eleme palm produce are usually poor in quality. Only raffia palm is cultivated because after bearing its fruit or completing producing its wine, it dies. To replace it, the seeds must be replanted again, especially if it has produced a lot of wine. Again, palm wine is used for home consumption.
This chapter examined, though briefly, the Nigerian nation, and gave the geographical location of Eleme, its climate and vegetation. Here, the total number of communities making up the whole Eleme Local Government Area was mentioned and that constituting Ebubu clan was also identified. The origin of Eleme and its political administration were traced. From the main features of economy discussed, one can see clearly the main food crops of Eleme together with other supplementary food items. The main source of wine, the different uses of the raffia palm, and the main economic trees and the trading partners of the Okrikas were discussed.
Chapter 2: Crime in Pre-Colonial Nigerian Society
Nature of Crime
Crime is not a modern phenomenon, nor was it restricted to areas of “civilization” and greater differentiation in the past. Both what the Sociologists and Anthropologists choose to call literate and pre-literate societies experienced this painful and unfortunate malady called crime.
Of course, it would be unjust to say no more than that, for crime in pre-colonial and the so-called civilized societies differed greatly both in type, content and extent. Crime in pre-colonial societies was mostly crime against property such as theft, and crime against the individual person such as assault, rape, adultery, murder and witchcraft. Secretly invoking the spirits of ancestors or a particular “Ogbe” (juju), against an individual was equally regarded as crime among pre-colonial folks.
On the other hand, in “civilized” societies, murder, theft of all types, white-collar crime such as fraud, knowingly approving false claims, racketeering, armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of predatory crimes were and are still common.
The extent to which there was crime in pre-literate societies of say Africa cannot be fully evaluated without any aspect of imagination, speculation, and consequently, exaggeration. However, it is certain that the rate at which crime has escalated today has no real parallel in any particular society of which we have chosen from the outset to designate as pre-colonial.
Reasons for Less Crime in Pre-colonial Societies
There were many reasons for less crime in pre-colonial Nigerian societies. Life in the society was such that less chance existed for individual deviation. Members were interested in one another as persons. They confided hopes, fears and shared experiences, gossiped together and filled the needs for intimate human companionship. In sum, there was intimacy, sympathy and a comfortable sharing of many interests and activities.
But, these were not all; norms were enforced with impunity and individual fears of the forces of nature and of the gods, were not small in coercing individuals into conformity. This is the type of societies that Stanislas Spero Adotevi described as “Happy and just societies, with no problems and without malice”.
Crime Control in Folks Society
Writing about crime control in societies under similar cultural setting Laura Bohannan stated that the maintenance of peace and order within a folk society “is not the function of a system or of a structural integration of systems, but the compound result of the roles and values of various persons and institutions”. Ours is a look into how the “various persons and institutions” have been responsible for community policing and crime control in the various societies.
He observed that among the Tiv, power to deal with witchcraft whose manifestation on the bewitched were illness, bad luck, bareness and death were with the hands of the elders in the gerontocracy. A man bewitched looks for his enemy; someone known to possess “tsav” hence someone influential, whom he has offended, wronged or given cause for envy. He then summons the elders to remedy the situation. This remedy consists of a wholly secular arbitration of the reasons for his bewitchment, the ceremonial reparation of the damage it has already done to health or luck and a ritual reconciliation between himself, the elders and all possible witches.
Thus through the mediation, the elders exercise a restraining control not only on the trouble makers who disturb the community and its elders but also on the wealthy and influential members of the community who found the association of witchcraft with all manifestations of good and evil in man and in the world.
According to E. E. Evans-Pritchard, among the Azande witches who have been detected to have bewitched their victims to death are brought before a Prince’s Poison Oracle who then authorizes vengeance or indemnity. If his victim is ill and is not seriously injured, he is asked to reverse his action and save the life of the victim.
David Tait discussed at length, crime control among the segmented society of Konkomba. According to him, theft and cases of homicide were dealt with by the elders and whatever decisions were made had the backing of the clan head. Although homicides were quite uncommon, Tait described an attempt by Nnekwe who wanted to kill his agnate at a market place and says that, “he was punished by ostracism”.
Theft was controlled by the use of a Kaka shrine. At the shrine were trees in which lived swarms of bees which were believed to sting an unconfessed thief to death. If a thief confessed, he would buy a guinea fowl to be sacrificed on the shrine. This is much more like the ordeal of “Chu” in Ochani community of Ebubu clan.
The place of diviners in community policing and traditional crime detection is of importance. Since “finger-prints technique” of detecting crime, Police Dogs, CIDs and so on were absent, a system of detecting hidden criminals rested on the supernatural with diviners as their mediums.
Among the Azande, diviners were employed to detect witches and sorcerers who lurked under the incognito of spiritualism to destroy lives and cause havoc.
The Efiks administered “esere” bean, the seed of “physostigma venemosum”, to persons suspected of witchcraft. According to P. A. Talbot, if it caused death it indicated crime, if vomiting without death, innocence.
Charles K. Meek in his Ibo law described a number of ways in which the traditional Ibo of Nsukka area of Nigeria used to deal with her criminals. Among others, he mentioned the supernatural powers of Ale Cult who in fact acted as “the unseen president of the community” with powers to punish homicide, kidnapping, poisoning, stealing farm products, adultery, etc. This is reminiscent to the activity of “Ogbe” in Eleme which we are yet to deal with.
Other methods of community policing and treating criminals in pre-colonial Ibo land as revealed by the same author ranged from killing and selling into slavery to heavy compensation and fines. A murderer was forced to suicide by hanging himself.
On their part Daryll Forde and P.A. Talbot noted that among the Ibibio and Annang peoples of southern Nigeria “Mbiam” is used to detect and control crime.
Describing the powers of Ogbe to detect and control crime among the Eleme people, Chief O. O. Ngofa narrated thus:
“If a farmer stores his yams in the barn and a thief goes there in the night to steal some, the owner may upon discovering it, invoke a powerful deity (Ogbe) to kill the thief. This is believed to happen, as the thief will surely be killed in unusual circumstances”.
The influence of juju (Ogbe) among the Eleme people was presented in a letter reference number 682/62 of 24th November 1947 by S. Holland, Acting District Officer in charge of Ogoni Division who reported that the people of Eleme fear and respect juju (Ogbe). He observed that Ogbe is “a part of the people’s lives – a large and fearful part”. It is this “fear and respect” that forms the vital ingredients for community policing and crime control in pre-colonial Eleme and have helped to maintain the statusquo as I have seen in action in several communities and villages in and around Eleme.
This chapter dealt with crime generally and to prove that crime is not a modern phenomenon nor was it restricted to areas of civilization alone. Both the literate and pre-literate societies experienced this unpalatable malady. However, crimes in literate societies differ in type, content, and extent. Certain crimes like theft, secretly invoking the spirit of ancestors or a particular ‘Ogbe’ (juju) against the individual were rampant in pre-colonial societies. These are all very common today, including such crimes as racketeering, kidnapping, advanced fee fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution and child slavery which were unknown in pre-colonial societies.
This chapter revealed that crime escalation today has no real parallel in any pre-colonial society because in the latter, less chance existed for individual deviation. Members of the society were interested in one another and confided hopes and shared experiences. Norms were enforced with impunity and individual fears of the forces of nature were not small in coercing them to conform.
Attempts were made to summarize the views of those who have written about crime control and community policing in societies under similar cultural setting and their position carefully analyzed. Whereas in pre-colonial times there were no “finger prints techniques”, police dogs and CIDs to detect crime; detecting hidden criminals rested on diviners. Among the Azande, diviners were employed to detect witches and sorcerers who lurked under the cloak of spiritualism to destroy lives and cause havoc; just as diviners were also used in Eleme to detect similar and more crimes.
Chapter 3: Secret Societies as an Instrument of Crime Control
Definition of Secret Society
Secret societies of various types are found in all human societies. Julius Gould and William L. Kolb define secret society thus:
“This term denotes a form of association for which secrecy tends to be an end in itself and in which secret rituals such as passwords, signs, symbols and medicines as well as materials, paraphernalia form a large part of the society’s raison d’être and gain psychological significance through being concealed”.
Chief N. U. Akpan, in an address to the USAID seminar on “The Role of Secret Societies in Ibibio Land” at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka on 11th February, 1966 referring to secret societies said:
“It is true that secret societies are exclusive, exactly in the same way as any club is exclusive to non-members or the ineligible. Their tools, emblems, signs, tokens and methods are secret to (that is, hidden from) unauthorized persons. But they are in actual fact no less than exclusive cultural societies or clubs with specific functions, powers, duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges reserved to members”.
For our purpose, secret societies mean exclusive cultural societies with specific functions, powers, duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges reserved to members but whose roles formed an integral part of life of the Eleme country in pre-literate days. Secret societies are not peculiar to Eleme people alone; they exist in different forms in almost all human societies. They were common phenomenon in West Africa in pre-colonial days. Among the Yorubas we have the Ogboni, Egungun, etc. Among the Igbos, we have the Maw, Awzaw. Among the Ibibios, we have the Ekpo, Ekpe, Idiong, Akata, Ekong, and among the Elemes we have Kpripke, Ejen, Ogbe, Ejor, Owu, and Nkiken to mention few.
Roles of Secret Societies
In the then Eastern Nigeria, the area referred to by Anthropologists as stateless Society; the secret societies formed the only cement which bound the communities together. The secret society was the only phenomenon which cut across family and village boundaries; hence native authority in this part of the country was based on the secret societies as the chiefs had no other way of enforcing obedience.
In the area now known as Eleme, nothing was more characteristic of the culture of the area than the phenomenon of its secret societies. Some of these secret societies could rightly be called religious cults as they were characterized by much ritual in accordance with the indigenous religion.
Their “sacredness” arises primarily from restrictions of membership. This perhaps is one reason for their unpopularity with various interests in the societies in which they operate. Though this is essentially a pioneer work, for no other book has been published so far, as far as the role of secret societies in pre-colonial method of crime control in Eleme country is concerned. Despite this limitation, many people have written something either in favour or in condemnation of the role of secret societies in simple cultures.
The following authors and their contributions in respect of secret societies in simple cultures prior to the advent of colonialism are worthy of note.
Julius Gould and William L. Kolb maintained that secret societies constitute an integral part of the social systems of simple cultures in which they are found. Here, they give a good example of the Poro of Sierra Leone and Liberia, which according to them provides tribal education, supervise political and economic affairs, regulate sexual conduct and operate social services ranging from “medical treatment” to forms of entertainment and recreation. These functions are replica of those performed by “Egbaraeta” in Eleme.
Geoffrey I. Nwaka is of the opinion that the secret societies collectively played an important role in the social and political organizations of their communities in pre-colonial days. Nwaka said that the Ekpe society, for instance, formed the basis of local government. It performed executive and judicial functions in the areas it operated, and through the agency of its members punishments were administered to offenders, customs enforced and the authority of the elders upheld. Ekpe laws to some extent regulated the lives of most members of the community in such matters as the cleaning of town streets, collection of debts, and other measures of public benefit.
On most important issues, public opinion was influenced and mobilized through secret societies, and ideas of loyalty to each other and discipline were inculcated and social cohesion maintained.
Dr. Percy Amaury Talbot had much to say about the role of secret societies in the then Southern Nigeria; in referring to the secret societies which performed political functions, he pointed out that secret societies formed was not only a means by which the chiefs and the upper class carried on the administration, but also a check on the tyranny of the rulers, and to a certain extent, a bond between the most diverse and hostile tribes, since members could apply to lodges in other countries for redress of wrongs, and even in times of war a certain amount of communication was kept.
The Eleme people saw their secret societies prior to the arrival of the British, particularly the “Ogbe” as the most powerful means of lessening and checking crime and its drastic measures against offenders did cause crimes like witchcraft, murder, stealing and so on to be a scarcity.
The functions of the secret societies expressed by the above authors are almost exactly the functions performed by the secret societies in pre-literate Eleme country as discussed below.
The Kpripke Society arose in response to some felt need. This felt need was how to control the people and maintain peace and order in the society; enforce the laws and secure obedience. Hence, the Kpripke Society was used in maintaining law and order in the society and membership was restricted to responsible adult male only. The Kpripke Society was meant to perform important moral, judicial, and social functions.
Qualification for Admission
Kpripke was a society of noblemen and admission into it depended on a number of factors, amongst which were the following:
1. Nobility of birth
2. General comportment
3. Good behaviour
5. Ability to keep secrets
Thieves and criminals were not admitted. Women and children were also excluded. It was believed that if any initiate divulge the secrets of the society, such an initiate would die within a short space of time. So, to avoid such death and the giving off of the Kpripke secrets which were jealously guarded, flippant fellows were never welcomed or initiated into the society.
To qualify for initiation into the society, having met the above criteria, one had to pay the following initiation prices, which included:
1. A huge dog (Ngbao Etaale aden)
2. One bottle of native gin (Kaikai)
3. One large pot of palm wine
4. Ten (A-o) Naira (N10.00k)
5. Four (4) rackets each of the following local fish:
A bowl of crayfish (Esoro-obani)
On the day of initiation, the initiate had to entertain the members of the society with food and assorted drinks. This used to be a very happy day for the members of the society as well as the initiate, his family and friends for being found worthy to be admitted into the “Noble Kpripke Society” as one of the chiefs put it.
Season of Operation
The seasons of operation of the secret society in Ebubu clan were so arranged that their operations could not disturb the economic activities and movement of people. It operated mainly on either Ochu or Obon, the traditional market/resting day of the people and in the evening when people would have returned from their chores, taken their bath, eaten, and relaxing; and “Nnani”, the Sun god, had gone to bed, to avoid the awful sight or evil deeds of mankind”, as one of the chiefs quipped, the sounds of Kpripke drum known as “Ogolo” would be heard rendering. They would parade the community singing and dancing. And this was enough for parents and guardians to assemble their children and wards and question them about involvement in any deviant behaviour or criminal act in the community. It was believed that Kpripke’s Ogolo is never played for fun but to communicate events or occurrences of interest to all and sundry, or that demand urgent attention of everybody in the community. It could be an external threat to the corporate existence of the community; or commission of a crime; or perpetration of an act that threatened inter-personal relationship or desecrates the land.
Whatever crime or misdemeanor was committed in secret, but to the knowledge of just one member of the Kpripke society was sufficient to be made known to all the villagers and the entire clan. In some cases, members of Kpripke society did not acquire information about a particular incident directly but such information got to them through gossips and rumours as if all gossips and rumours were always reliable. If questioned, they would hastily remark that in every rumour there are always some elements of truth. This notwithstanding, the belief of the people in the clan, however was that Kpripke gets information through mysterious means. That no matter how secret the scene of crime or manner of commission, “Kpripke” will know everything in detail about it. This belief even though not true, helped greatly to restrain people from committing crime.
Kpripke also acquires information about happenings in the society through partners who were at enmity with each other. For the purpose of ensuring that your enemy is ridiculed and exposed publicly to the knowledge of all members of the society, you can put his activities under surveillance and any violation from the acceptable norms of the society would be hastily reported to a member of the Kpripke cult for onward exposure throughout the clan.
It was an absolute abomination for a girl to get pregnant outside wedlock and more abhorrent for a girl to commit abortion in the clan. Immediately, the news of a pregnant but unmarried girl got to Kpripke cult, they would play their Ogolo drum to summon a meeting at the residence of their grand commander popularly called “Onebo Kpripke” to conclude elaborate arrangements necessary for total exposure of the culprit in the whole clan. Since Ebubu clan has thirty-one (31) communities, and the communities have Kpripke cult, it was necessary that on the occurrence of such forbidden act, it should be exposed immediately and widely. As earlier pointed out, the rendering of Ogolo by Kpripke cult in the community informed of a serious happening. Besides, to disseminate information to reach the other communities immediately, one member in the community where the offence was committed would be sent to the different communities with the details of the incident. A message would be sent to the neighbouring communities to participate in the “Operation Exposed Immorality”. The communities so requested would respond to the invitation with their representatives for active participation.
It must be noted however that during this operation, all the members would be dressed in black and heavily armed in case of any possible attack. The attack could come from relatives of the culprit or from the culprit directly. It could even come from his near and distant friends or relatives. It is always advisable that the affected person does not dare attempt to confront them, because before they start, they must ensure that they station themselves in completely all the strategic positions where they can spot easily any intruder and/or attacker. And they do not hesitate dealing ruthlessly and mercilessly with such deviants.
In the Kpripke cult, one has good solo, duet, trio, or quartet singers who start enumerating the secrets while others would chorus in unison. All of them cover their mouth with cellophane papers while singing or talking. This helps to bring out a high distinctive sonorous and special sound. They would keep on telling people, “We are Members of Kpripke Cult”. (Ebai be Oku Ogbo Kpripke). They would parade all the streets in the community and enter compounds of respectable individuals to disclose the trend of events as they had happened but which were not known by all. On each entry, the owner of the compound is expected to show appreciation for the information revealed by giving some free gifts to them of either cash or drinks.
In their chanting, they would call the girl who got pregnant outside wedlock by name and ask her parents to handover her to them. They would wear her necklace made of snail shells and she would be taken to the house of the man who impregnated her. So much insulting language greets her as a large entourage of women and children booed her all along. They would announce the restriction of her movement. She would be forbidden from going to the farm and to the stream to fetch water. These restrictions would remain in force until “Ajija” rituals are performed to cleanse the land.
In the case of a girl who committed abortion, a very grievous and heinous crime, when they got to the family of the culprit, they would also call the girl who committed abortion by name and tell her that both God and the law of nature disapprove her action. That she has desecrated the land and invited the wrath of the ancestors and the gods, especially, “Nkiken”, the earth-spirit and mother superior that provides sustenance for humans, beasts, and plants, the giver of children and protector of motherhood. That no man should marry her again because all the children that God bless her with had been destroyed.
In the case of theft, they would arrest the culprit, parade him around the community and finally arrive at the town square (Ogbereoe), carrying the object stolen, if found. They would scourge him and force him to sit on plantain stem, naked. So sited, in the full view of all – young and old, men, women, and children – they would inform the culprit that his ancestors are completely ashamed of his act and enjoin him to refrain from it. That his ancestors say he should return what he stole (here, they would name the object stolen specifically) to the rightful owner. That his ancestors say it is high time he started struggling honestly as a man because the days of miracles when manna fell from heaven above upon the earth for the sons of men to have their fill are no more with us; and that these are the days of toil and sweat, indeed for everyone to survive.
The culprit would sit on the plantain stem until the stolen object is returned to the rightful owner, and the following fine paid in full to the Kpripke cult:
One jar of palm wine
Two bottles of local gin
One racket of ‘Awala’
One racket of ‘Oyoron’
Twenty (Achu) Naira
If for any reason, the family, relatives or friends of the culprit could not pay the fine in full immediately to secure his freedom, he would be taken to the house of the grand commander of Kpripke cult where he would remain until payment is made in full
Apart from public disgrace of the culprit and by extension the culprit’s family and relations and payment of the fine or pledging of farmland and oil palms to the Kpripke cult, marriage into and from the family of a known thief was extremely difficult for fear of producing more thieves in the community.
In the case of elopement, they would call on the woman to return to the parent or husband. If adultery, they would request the man to marry his own wife or keep to his wife while the woman would be ordered to be contented with her husband. In case of fornication, they would urge the youths to stop for it is an exclusive privilege of the married ones.
Another important function of Kpripke was that it acted as an agent of social control. By social control here is meant the process or method by which an individual is induced to conform to the norms of the community. G. Theodorson and A. Theodorson regard social control as any 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.
Kpripke, by revealing anti-social behaviour of individuals such as illicit association of the sexes, premature pregnancy of girls, stealing and so on to public ridicule, compels people to conform to the norms of the society. Thus, Kpripke acted as agent of social control. As a result of the role of Kpripke, all the anti-social activities enumerated above have virtually become a rare occurrence as married women were not given the opportunity of experiencing sex with other men and vice versa.
Traditional Music in Crime Control
Traditional music has been identified as an important instrument of community policing and crime control in pre-colonial Eleme. The cultural music associated with community policing and crime control include:
Kukunene was an ancient play that was used by Kpripke cult. It was played only at midnight and only members of the cult participated. A lot of secrecy was associated with it but it gingered the members of Kpripke cult into action. It was played mostly during their meetings and initiations.
Esomba was a musical group. Its membership was confined to married women and widows. The group consisted of two efficient singers and a concerted membership. Their instruments were “Egbe”, “Ekere”, and “Nsisaa”. Their songs related to matrimonial problems and their solutions. They also used their songs to exposed immorality and control social behaviour among women folks.
Esokeaebie was rendered by a designated singer and was concerned with revealing whatever offence that was committed in secret. Because Esokeaebie in pre-colonial Eleme 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”.
Secret societies, with respect to this book, are exclusive cultural societies or clubs with specific functions, powers, duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges reserved to members but whose role formed an integral part of the life of people of Eleme country. The various forms of secret societies found in West Africa were enumerated to show that secret societies were not peculiar to Eleme people alone and the reasons for their secrecy identified. The Kpripke cult was exhaustively discussed thereby revealing certain important facts such as its origin, qualification for admission, season of operation, functions – whether social, economic, political, legal or cultural. It helped to maintain law and order in the society. It also helped to make the people discipline and dedicated to the progress and welfare of the community.
This chapter showed that there was nothing devilish or inhuman about ancient secret societies as their role was beneficial to the community. Their drastic laws helped to make crime such as witchcraft, murder, stealing, adultery and kidnapping scarce and thus restored moral equilibrium in the society.
Chapter 4: 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.
Chapter 5: Supernatural Devices
The Role of “Ogbe” in Pre-colonial Crime Control
One of the most prominent instruments of crime control in Eleme was and still to some extent is Ogbe. Ogbe featured conspicuously both in the political and social spheres to maintain calm. Although because of the high status of Ogbe in the society, anything could be used to serve as Ogbe. There were the definite Ogbe found in different forms and nature housed at some strategic locations in Eleme. It could be a bottle, wood, tree, pot, knife, or anthill; its nature notwithstanding, its power was unique.
Ogbe could be collectively owned by the whole community such as “Nkiken” (the Earth spirit) and “Nnani” (the Sun god) owned by the community; or personally owned. They have their individual names. Some of the Ogbe found in Eleme are: Owiri, Ndorwa, Nchoo, Mbie, Ejamaejor, Kaliko, and Ejile located in Ebubu clan; Onura located in Alesa clan; Ebaajor located in Ogale clan; Ogbewata located in Akpajo clan; Osarobimkpa located in Alode clan; etc. Ndorwa has existed in practically every clan in Eleme. Ejile is historically known to have moved from Ogale to Ekporo, Eteo, Onne, Alode and now at Ebubu.
Ogbe could be transferred from one village to another by purchasing a part of it; such were always very active. They were introduced into the community on the grounds of self and property protection, and of course, it was prestigious to have one. Each Ogbe selects one person to act as Priest (Oneowara Ekpaaogbe) and may be man or woman depending on the gender of the Ogbe or just its preference. Some Ogbe have chosen their priests from a particular family continuously like Onura in Alesa, Okaalor in Aleto, Osarobimkpa in Alode and Owiri, Ejamaejor and Nchoo in Ebubu. Others picked their priests at random such as Ndorwa and Ejile. Any priest chosen by Ogbe was bound to serve the Ogbe. Those who fought against the service of Ogbe have always failed because the subject was usually selected and conditioned over a period of time to become receptive to the Ogbe, unknown to the person. Several unusual things would happen to the person until the Ogbe takes possession of him and makes him to sit for consultation. There and then the Ogbe would announce its name, prescribe how its shrine should be decorated and issue orders regarding discipline to be maintained by the priest.
Every Ogbe was accorded the highest respect; it had a special person to take care of it and only through this its servant could it be approached. The priest knew the technicalities in his approach and every approach was made with a sort of language peculiar to only the priest, always very poetic incantations. Saliva, a necessary ingredient of every ritual act, was systematically introduced in this incantation. The Master/Servant relationship between the Ogbe and the priest was a very delicate one. The priest had to fully know his job and very conscious of the job since any negligence could cost him his life. It was his responsibility to house the Ogbe or he paid for leaving it naked (“Echama ntite Ogbe”); he guarded against leakages or paid for allowing it to be soaked by rain (“Enaako Akara akun Ogbe”).
Some Ogbe had their days, commonly “Obon” (a market day of the people) and could only be visited on this day. Others do not have any special visiting days. The priest dare not pass before the particular Ogbe on other days for any business along that direction. If he does, he took another path behind the Ogbe. The wrath of Ogbe was always very terrible and no person would want it to occur. It was appeased by continues minor sacrifices at its normal stage. But when angered, the rituals needed to appease it were always great depending on the power of the Ogbe.
In case of stealing, it was believed that where Ogbe has killed a thief, he who invoked the Ogbe has an expensive ritual to perform to thank the Ogbe for acting as directed. The family of the thief also had to appease the Ogbe through series of related rituals known as “Owaraobor”, “Okpariofa”, and “Oka-ekara-o”. Except all these were done in full, a spiritual debt was left behind in that family.
The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences edited by David L. Sills affirmed that: “Rites are formal acts not technically related to immediate purpose but believed to have intrinsic validity. They are always symbolic in character and are usually closely related with myths and dogmas which explain and help to validate their symbolism.”
Ogbe had the power to end or spare life; it recommended the immediate removal of its priest in case of inefficiency. So great was the fear of Ogbe that they were rather called by the name of where their shrines or priest were located. Chief O. O. Ngofa declared that because of the reverence that believers have for them, Ogbe were not called by their names as such pronouncement may inadvertently result in an invocation. He observed that “Onura which is located in Alesa, the reference is Onwialesa. Ejile is presently located at Ebubu and so is referred to as Onwiebubu. Ogbewata is located at Akpajo and is also referred to as Onwiakpajo”. Ebaajor is located at Ogale and is referred to as Onwiogale.
Ownership of some Ogbe was not transferable from father to son whereas ownership of others was transferable; and it was the obligation of the son to take good care of the prestigious heritage or it might mean the end of the family lineage. If a son took possession of Ogbe but could not meet its demands, then the Ogbe which had the power to return to its former owner, its origin, or move to another village, will claim its rites which might involve partial or complete but gradual extermination of the family (“Ogbe alo-on”), and after that remain dormant, and it is said to have gone back to the owners. It could be willingly returned to the owners with series of sacrifices. In such case, the sendoff rituals were always sumptuous; some necessary items were black sheep, white and black goats, white cock, yams, etc. These would be put in many local baskets and be taken to a prescribed location where the sendoff rituals would be performed and the sendoff was done (“Ochure Ogbe”).
Items found in Ogbe shrine were heads of wild animals, dogs, sheep, goat and even human skulls, the shell of tortoise and cowries, carved wood and so on. The Ogbe owned by the community (e.g. Nkiken) was always found near the village square (Ogbere-oe). It was surrounded by very huge trees providing shade and was equally terrifying. It was sufficiently decorated and white feathers were very regular features of the environment.
No item was to be removed from Ogbe shrine (“Nsiogbe”). A story was told of the priest of Ogbe who paid dearly for his office and this showed the delicate coexistence. It was said that the wife of the priest of Ogbe owed certain woman some amount of money. For a long time she was unable to pay. One day, the priest had to close his eyes to what the society forbids. He took the cowries in the shrine which were just enough to pay the debt and used them to clear the debt with the woman. The woman who never knew used the money in buying condiments for the soup she was preparing for her son. The son fell sick a day after feeding on the soup. Tracing the cause of sickness in the native way (through a diviner), it was found out that the anger of Ogbe was responsible for the illness. The young man was said to have participated in the wealth which Ogbe had been robbed. He died in the sickness and the priest who took the cowries got swollen and latter died.
Such was the power of Ogbe. With such fear, such unlimited influence, the great impact on the people, Ogbe commanded the highest regard and respect; while serving as a simple obedient servant, its mastering rights were unquestionable.
Functions of Ogbe
Girded by such powers and virtues, Ogbe found a chief seat and functioned efficiently in the governmental machinery of that age. It was an effective instrument for the negotiation of peace and enforcement of order in the community. It was the last court for the settlement of cases beyond the wits of men. Ogbe was a very efficient tool for the enforcement of law. The effecting of well-deduced policies has been one of the greatest impediments to the success of our present government but in the primitive society the chief would always have Ogbe for the backing of his policies. After a decision to enact a law has been made, the chief in consultation with Okunkporon would approach the priest of “Nkiken” (“Onenkiken”) who would offer the appropriate rites with his beautiful incantations, to appease the Earth Spirit, and then allow the chief to make his statement who before making the official statement calls the spirits of the ancestors into the presence by pouring libations.
In the presence of “Okunyoa”, “Egbaraeta” and “Kpripke cult”, the chief would plead with the ancestors, (especially the past chiefs and notable elders, calling them by name, one after the other, in their order of seniority), to back the new law and to punish any person who acted against the law. The belief that the dead chiefs and notable elders were unseen-partners in enforcing the laws and administering punishment also re-enforced obedience. Certain beliefs or secret societies were effective instruments of power and rule in pre-colonial Eleme. Such held many in subjection and rendered authority absolute.
Many cases were settled by swearing on a particular Ogbe. When an individual denied an accusation, he was always confronted with the question, “Odede Ogbe seh?” That is, “Will you swear?” His response determined the next action. The individuals involved in cases would swear to defend their innocence in words directed by the priest of the particular Ogbe who had already performed the necessary rites. The likely words were: “I am being accused of … (state the matter). If I am guilty of committing it whether by day or by night, let (state name of the Ogbe) take my life; but if not spare it.
Ogbe had certain duration of time to act; it could be weeks, months or a year after which time if the suspected guilty person did not die or meet with adversity, then his innocence would be declared. His accuser would take him to the priest and all necessary sacrifices would be made to free him from the tie with the Ogbe.
The second method of swearing was by taking the accused person to the shrine of the particular Ogbe. There and then the priest would be told briefly the matter in dispute and who among them was to take the oath. A fee was usually paid by the complainant and the priest would remind the accused person of the danger in swearing before the Ogbe for the thing that one is guilty of. Sometimes the accused person might decline to swear and be pronounced guilty. But where the accused person readily and willingly succumbed to swearing, the priest would administer the oath in accordance with the relevant procedure of that Ogbe.
In case the Ogbe was sworn in guilt, the person might later, for the anticipated wrath of Ogbe condescend to accept his guilt. He would meet the priest and the other party and admit his guilt. Then they would approach the Ogbe and there the priest would intercede and plead for clemency, and all the necessary rites of revocation would be performed.
If the accused person refused to regret the guilt, then he would suffer sickness and perhaps death. Sickness that caused the swelling of the limbs, small-pox, etc. were usually attributed to Ogbe, and the remedial measures were to contact and appease the particular Ogbe by sacrifice.
Ogbe settled cases of people who were accused of theft. They swore to ascertain their innocence. Parties claiming ownership to property, say land, the person who claimed always swore on Ogbe to declare his clear conscience. If one was suspected as a traitor, mostly during wartime, he was very likely to be sold into slavery; he could only defend his freedom if he could establish his innocence, and this he could only do by swearing on Ogbe. He would contact some elders and confess his innocence to them. He would then be taken to the chief where he would declare his willingness to swear on the most active Ogbe, and after swearing, his freedom would be guaranteed.
P. A. Talbot declared that: “No supernatural influence need be called in to explain the effect which the invocation of juju undoubted has on a guilty person. The power of thought would seem sufficient to account for, at any rate, most of the consequences”.
The fear of Ogbe extended to any situation that would lead to it. Thus, one started fearing those aspects, which could involve Ogbe until the fear of such particular aspects was definitely established in their minds. This sort of culture aided in establishing an honest and law abiding society. Ogbe was employed as a source of protection for self, family, property, and even community. In this other phase, the technicality of its application varied from that discussed in the last paragraphs. The technical names used differentiate them. For example, “Ode Ogbe”, (this involves swearing the Ogbe to defend accusation), “Oka Ogbe” (this refers to application of Ogbe to safeguard the future), “Ole Ogbe ru enu” (this means the application of Ogbe to protect property against theft, damage or abuse), and “Odela Ogbe” (which connotes the solicitation of Ogbe to guarantee chastity and/or confidentiality).
If one suspected any threat to his life or evil plans made against him or his family, he might buy Ogbe and invoke, and might pledge his security with the words, “Whoever is doing this (name the issue) to me, whether one or more persons, should be killed by (name the Ogbe), and that it should use one of the victims relatives to wipe its hands”. When the person who wanted his life or fortune destroyed knew that he had visited the shrine of a particular Ogbe, reported to the priest and offered the required sacrifice of drinks to expedite action of the Ogbe, he would definitely avoid him. A family which had Ogbe was feared.
The owner of a property, suspecting that unknown persons might steal or damage or abuse it invokes any Ogbe of his choice to protect it. He might place a symbolic material of that Ogbe either around or on top of that property and any person who tampered with that property incurred the wrath of the Ogbe. The symbolic materials of some of the Ogbe include:
Ejile – pieces of “Ngbor” (the rope used by oil palm cutters), thatches or peelings of sugarcane placed on or around the property.
Onura – pieces of black cloth placed on or tied around the property.
Ndorwa – leaves of a climbing plant called “Nkii”
Nchoo – leaves of a plant called “Owaro” and “Nkii”.
If a person’s property was stolen or damaged in his absence or some evil action taken against his interest, Ogbe had a role. The owner would invoke Ogbe to kill the unknown criminal and to use one of his relatives to wipe its hands. Ogbe was requested, after killing the criminal, to use one of his relatives to wipe its hands so as to avert the boomerang effect of the invocation because the perpetrator of the crime complained against was unknown.
Ogbe was a soldier for solidarity of friendship and a guarantor for security of life. The two parties establishing friendship, to strengthen bond and inter-reliance would swear on Ogbe that one would not plan or support plan for ills against the other. In some cases, blood was used as the Ogbe. Blood is a very powerful Ogbe and one swearing on it had to search his conscience thoroughly and is prepared to keep his oath to the last bit as any infringement would be very disastrous.
In the whole village, Ogbe could be used to protect the members and to promote interdependency by the chief taking the Ogbe to the village square and declaring “One re eyan eporonu wena awiyaye, Ogbe afeh”; (meaning, if anyone willfully plans any havoc on another, Ogbe kill him), and the entire people present would respond, “Aaye”, (meaning, so it be).
Ogbe was used to prevent a wife from quitting her husband’s house; to prevent her from going to another man; and stop her from buying witchcraft medicine. Ogbe was also used to effect the keeping of secrets. It was employed in getting rid of social misfits e.g., in witchcraft, a suspect was asked to swear on a particular Ogbe and to drink ogbe’s water (wa mmu Ogbe) or match Ogbe’s mud (jaa ogba ogbe) which was believed to have a killing effect on a witch. An innocent man would vomit but a witch would not vomit; the dose was administered by a priest of Ogbe.
The unique power of Ogbe was felt and its divine judgment established so that people relied so much on its worth and doubted not its effect. Thus, with this assurance of security, intermingling was very normal and life in Eleme was that of cooperation and mutual co-existence.
Apart from Ogbe, there were other much related elements worshipped and regarded as Ogbe with much ritual. There was Nkiken, the Earth Spirit or Mother goddess that the people believed provides sustenance for all living and non-living things. It was established by the founder of the community, its priests were chosen only from the descendants of this founder. Its shrine was called “Nsinkiken”. Nkiken commanded much influence in the daily life of the people. Contacts were only made through a particular agent called “Onenkiken” and attempting any other man to approach it would bring disaster. Sacrifices were made to Nkiken before farming and any poor harvest was attributed to the anger of the god. Sacrifices were made before going to war; and they went to war with a positive mind of winning after the satisfactory appeasement of Nkiken. So undisputed were the might of Nkiken that the psychological effect was that on many occasions they won.
This added strength and courage to the warriors who became emboldened and were ready to fight at anytime. Thus, they were able to maintain their political boundary and uphold their prestige, which we enjoy today. Nkiken like Ogbe also had the power of life and death. It was not an individual god but the only deity that directly related to the foundation of the community and its protection.
Onenkiken (the Priest of Nkiken) was not just a docile priest waiting to be consulted for his oracle or be entranced and revealed information. He regulated the psyche of the community by ensuring that things were done in accordance with the customs and traditions. He exercised certain powers over all the gods in the community and commanded their respect. In the governmental level, he preformed both spiritual and administrative functions. He led the group of initiated elders with spiritual powers called “Okunyoa”. He executed the tradition that prevented unmarried but pregnant girls from further desecrating the farms and streams known as “Ajija”. He checked any person known to have stolen from performing the “Aachu” yam title ceremony without making the relevant restitution and cleansing sacrifices.
In times of war, Onenkiken would not desert the community except everything else had been destroyed. He ensured that lepers, lunatics, epileptics and persons who committed suicide were not given decent burial and certainly at obscure places, to protect the land that had passed from generation to generation.
Onenkiken was responsible for the appointment and installation of the chief (Oneh Eh Eta) on the active advise of “Okunkporon”. He ordered the suspension of the chief if he had been found guilty of gross misconduct and also re-installed him after paying the necessary fines. Upon the demise of the chief, the Onenkiken retrieved and performed his functions until a successor was appointed and installed.
He conducted the traditional ceremony called “Obansiejin”, and with the chief in consultation announced the commencement of the annual cultural festival known as “Agbaesun”. A festival known as “Agbankiken” was celebrated annually on Ochu within the second week of March in honour of Nkiken and to mark the beginning of the planting season. Five days thereafter, precisely on the next Ochu another related ceremony called “Agbaetenchi” was marked, again to inform all and sundry of the commencement of the year’s farming season. Although only the initiated elders (Okunkporon and Okunyoa) were involved in both festivals, it was used to communicate the beginning of a farming season, which resulted in both the young and old participating actively in farm work.
In the hierarchical order of supremacy, in the period under consideration, the people of Eleme believed that God who created everything and known as Obari was Supreme. Next was Nkiken, the earth spirit that sustains everything and to whom everything must return. The belief that forests, farms, rivers, houses, and markets were guarded by spirits; that ancestral spirits were watching every of their action and utterances prevailed amongst the people. They endeavoured, in this life, to create conditions which would make them live in another life. And so, they were more circumspect and deliberate in all their doings. Witchcraft, stealing, murder, adultery were detected quickly by oracles. This system of living in the presence of the unseen endured in the area and it affected morality positively.
Supplementary to the great works of Ogbe in the life of the Eleme people were certain social norms that placed morality at high pedestal. Incest taboo was highly respected. An offence against it was an offence against the ancestors normally referred to as “Okuejin”, and payment was made by much sacrifice or with life. This actually affected both sexes but more conspicuous in the female. If sacrifices were not made, strange illnesses, followed by death, were the fate suffered by defaulters. These were always true in the case of any involvement, for the people who so much believed in the ancestral link and powers. Much thinking affects health and paves a gateway to death.
Sexual involvements were games played behind the doors and only a game at night and not the present day exposition of our generation. It was a very serious offence to indulge in sex in the daytime and unfortunate indulgers had to pay a price to appease Nkiken. It was not the payment of the price that caused much fear but the conscience that you have infringed in the don’ts of the ancestors which could be abominable to the family though sacrifices were made. A married woman who had sexual dealings with another man may miscarry or die in the process of delivery as a punishment from Nkiken. With all the restrictions and fears, moral standards were very high. That was a decent society; a happy and just society, with no problems and without malice.
Divination or Haruspication (Ejor)
The more powerful society such as the Ejor played more sinister role than the divination of secrets for which it was known. Ejor probably had some gifted diviners, possibly with occult powers. For the people of pre-literate Eleme country, nonetheless, the Ejor was a sacred institution, a native scientific profession of too ancient an origin and like necromancy and crystal gazing, is a branch of spiritualism. Prior to the arrival of the British, the Ejor was our most powerful means of lessening and checking crime like witchcraft, murder, stealing, false witness and so on to be a scarcity.
Ejor was responsible for forecasting the state of affairs in the society. It was a powerful cult responsible for investigation and detection of crimes in the society. For example, if a woman committed adultery, which was a taboo in the society and denied, she would be taken to Oneowara Ekpaaejor (the priest of Ejor) to reveal the truth. If a person poisoned or killed someone, it was through Ejor that such a person was exposed. Once exposed, he or she would be handed over to the appropriate authority (usually, Kpripke Society) for prosecution and punishment. All these functionaries existed in the society to help the chiefs exercise their legitimate authority in maintaining law and order in their domains.
The beliefs inculcated in the minds of the people of Eleme had been so great that despite the penetration of Christianity into the area for over a century, the belief in the supernatural powers of “Okuejin” (ancestral spirits), “Ogbe”, and “Ejor” is still prevailing. Right now, if anything necessitating doubts happens to an Eleme man, he would resort to his forefathers’ way of doing things, which, of course, includes the belief in ancestral spirit and how it could be appeased. If he does not think in that line, someone else or a relative would remind him of it. In many cases, an Eleme man relies heavily on his forefathers’ way of worship.
In pre-colonial Eleme, there were many reasons which necessitated resorting to this medium (Ejor) in order to ascertain the actual cause of such occurrence. Apart from cases of poison, murder and witchcraft earlier mentioned, others include sickness which cause was unknown, death which cause was unknown. If anything, for example, money was stolen or misplaced, it became necessary to find out whether it was a person, ghost, or devil that was responsible. For a person who stole or destroyed anything and denied, the likely avenue apart from Ogbe earlier discussed, was to find out through this medium. Some Ejor were so powerful that they raised the dead, controlled weather, and healed all forms of diseases and caused people or things to become instantly invisible.
The Oneowara Ekpaaejor was usually consulted for his oracle. So entranced, he revealed secret information. During wars some Ejor were known to provide information of intelligence standard. His incantations beggar the imagination of an ordinary man. At the end, he does not hesitate pinpointing responsibility on a person, one thing or the other, and demands certain sacrificial requirements necessary for him to offer and placate the god or deity. If it were a person involved in any misdeed, such individual would thereafter be handed over to the relevant arm of the existing secret societies to deal with or be taken as slave by the Ejor until redeemed. Ejor were celebrated annually and mystical and spiritual musical groups like Mkpagoni, Esomba, and Ogolo featured prominently at such events known as “Agbaejor”. Both Ogbe and Ejor fraternities do celebrate “Agbaejor”. In most cases, the same god or deity played the role of Ogbe and Ejor simultaneously and the same person doubled as the priest of Ogbe and Ejor. This infusion and the dual roles of the priests made it difficult for a casual observer to differentiate between Ogbe and Ejor cults, except on very close examination.
In pre-colonial Eleme, the usual charge on those who consult this medium of information was one manila together with one bottle of local gin. But now, it seems as though the Ejor practitioners are suffering from “naira-mania” as they charge any amount ranging from one thousand Naira (N1, 000.00) and over depending on the gravity of the seeker’s complaint. Thus seen, the role played by Ejor in crime control in pre-colonial Eleme cannot be overemphasized. The supernatural courts of Ogbe and Ejor cults decided more cases and imposed higher fines than other groups in the traditional legal system; and such fines were paid with minimum delay for fear of the unseen hands of the god or deity.
Today, it is still very difficult to believe that a person had died a natural death. The prevailing mode of life about the cause of death is usually connected with Ogbe or witchcraft. Once a person dies, a young aspiring person, the cause of death, even in accident, is usually superstitiously connected with ghost, Ogbe or witchcraft, which uses the power of ghost to achieve its nefarious aims. The result of post mortem examination in our society nowadays is still accepted with mixed feelings. This belief, which our forefathers wittingly integrated into their form of government, helped keep the society more orderly than what we may be experiencing today. The greatest reliability had been the idea of credibility in the immediate rewards, both good and evil. The mistake that Christian missionaries made was their failure to take into account the immediate rewards of our forefathers’ beliefs.
This chapter examined supernatural devices in community policing and crime control. The role of Ogbe (juju) and Ejor (haruspication) were shown. Some of the various Ogbe found in Eleme and their natures were mentioned. Various uses of Ogbe by individuals and community were discussed in greater detail. Ogbe seemed to be the greatest and most important instrument of crime control in pre-colonial Eleme country.
Ejor was regarded as a native scientific profession of too ancient an origin and was thus taken as a branch of spiritualism. It was responsible for forecasting the state of affairs in the society. Thus, it was directly responsible for investigation and detection of crime in the society and handing over the culprit to the appropriate arms of the community organization for disciplinary measures. Cases of unknown cause of sickness, poison, and witchcraft were some of the crimes that the Ejor cult was meant to ascertain the cause and pinpoint responsibility. Thus, the fear and revealing nature of this medium of crime control made people conform greatly. The ingredients used by diviners and what they charged those who required their services have been stated.
Chapter 6: Law and Justice
Traditional Courts and Politics in Crime Control
Law is one aspect of the system of crime/social control, which is an implicit part of every culture. Hoebel E. Adamson stated that, “Social control consists of all those practices engaged in by the members of a society to reward and encourage culturally approved behaviour and to, penalize and discourage culturally disapproved behaviour”.
Law is a part of the norm selection and norm maintaining system relied upon by each society in itself and organization. Law is more than custom and less than social control. Like custom, it consists of elements of regularity; that which is normally done and that which is expected to be done. Law sustains predictability in behaviour. Laws like custom, is sanctioned. Some deviations from social norms are usually allowed in most areas of behaviour in most societies. Yet, in many societies, Adamson observed that “deviation beyond the limits of permissible leeway in certain designated areas of behaviour is negatively sanctioned by confiscation of economic goods or by the application of physical coercion”.
Economic sanctions are classed as damages or fines, depending upon who has legal authority and to whom the penalty is paid. In private law, they are damages; in public law, they are fines.
The difference between public and private law depends upon who has the authority to initiate legal proceedings and impose the sanctions. This is an element of officialdom. Dr. M. O. Ene said, “The legal official is a person or group of persons who has the socially recognized privileges – right of action against another person in accordance with the rules of due process of law.”
In most systems of primitive law, the wronged or his kinship group is vested with privilege right of initiating a legal action and carrying it to completion by punishing the wrong-doer. This is called private law, but it has the backing of general social approval.
On the other hand, if the legal action must be initiated by a headman, a chief or a chief’s representative (i.e., a government official), the offence is a crime and the whole process is in the area of public law. In both private and public law, however, the element of societal concern is of major concern.
In the words of Ene, law is “a social norm whose violation will probably evoke a formal procedural response initiated by an individual or a group processing the socially recognized privilege right of determining guilt and of imposing economic or physical sanctions upon the wrong-doer”.
General Functions of Law
Law has four major functions. These are:
1. To identify acceptable lines of behaviour for inclusion in the culture and penalize contradictory behaviour, so as to maintain at least minimal integration between the activities of individuals and groups within the society.
2. To allocate authority and to determined who may legitimately apply force to maintain the legal norms.
3. To settle trouble, cases, as they arise.
4. To redefine relationship as the condition of life change, so as to help keep the culture adaptable.
The modern realistic study of primitive law systems is based upon the analysis of actual cases of dispute and conflict. Law is what people do, not what they say they do. Cases may be settled through negotiation between the disputants. This process may involve the use of a go-between or mediator. It may call for an arbitrator. Or, it may be put in the hands of a judge or judges.
In Eleme, where most of the interactions are face to face, the problem of evidence does not raise many difficulties. When the facts are not known, however, or the claims of the aggrieved are denied by the defendant, recourse is usually to the supernatural process by means of divination, conditional curse, or ordeal.
Before discussing the traditional courts which existed in pre-colonial Eleme, it is important that we examine synoptically the political cultures of the Eleme country because it is them that influence the structure and political thought of the people, for without this, we might run the risk of approaching the subject matter in an unjustified manner.
Almond Gabriel A. and James S. Coleman attempt to construct a scheme for the methodical comparison of political systems by adopting concepts borrowed from the fields of Sociology and Anthropology. In this way, they believe, the major political system which existed in the world today can be classified according to a common set of categories. They therefore, distinguished four major features of political system.
1. All political systems have political structures (i.e., legitimate pattern of interaction).
2. The same general functions are performed in all political system though with different frequencies and by different kinds of structures and in different ‘styles’.
3. All political structures, no matter how specialized are multi-functional, though in different degrees in different systems.
4. All political systems are ‘mixed’ in the cultural sense, containing elements both of modern (rational) and primitive (traditional) cultures and structures, though in varying degrees.
These are political and they include:
I. Political Socialization and Recruitment
II. Interest Articulation
III. Interest Aggregation
IV. Political Communication
These are governmental and they include:
i. Rule Making
ii. Rule Application
iii. Rule Adjudication
It is under the output functions (government) which we will discuss the traditional courts in Eleme. However, every polity has a political culture. A political culture is the specific political orientations of the people as manifested in their attitudes towards political systems and its various parts and to the role of the individuals in the system. That is:
1. Political culture involves the knowledge of and belief about political system, its roles, their incumbents, its inputs and outputs.
2. It also involves effective elements of feeling about the roles, their incumbents and the inputs and outputs of the system
3. It furthermore involves evaluation elements of judgment and opinion about the cognitive element.
Functions of Law in Pre-colonial Ebubu
Again let us examine how this function was executed in pre-colonial Ebubu clan as what was obtainable in the clan was applicable throughout Eleme.
Ebubu is an autonomous clan. It has its autonomous political system with its traditional political culture, which is seen to be mixed – parochial – subject participant. There were some members of the community who were parochial to the whole functioning of the system. The outcasts, for example, had no cognizance of the process of the government as they were banned from the society. There were some like the youths (Asama) and women who had subject culture and were oriented towards the output, thus willing to implement the decisions taken by others. Others were oriented to the system as a whole and played rational activist roles in the polity. In this group were the advisers to the elders and members of the secret societies.
The people in that pre-colonial era had their norms and shared values. Certain laws were made and once any law was passed, nobody had the right to question its validity. Such law was often associated with tradition, belief and customs of the people. For example, once the Okunkporon (the chief and the initiated elders) passed a law condemning a criminal, there was no amnesty, pardon or appeal.
The pattern of authority in the political system in the traditional outlook showed male dominance and the women accepted the dominance as a part of their culture. Slaves and aliens were not allowed to take part in the traditional politics of the community. It was only the “Onwi nsisa” (i.e. the free-born) who had the right to participate in political affairs of the clan.
The general functioning of the system as described above then prompted one to ask the question: How were people socialized and recruited into their political roles and oriented? And, how was political information communicated in the clan?
Political socialization is the process, mediated through various agencies of society by which an individual learns political relevant attitudinal dispositions and behaviour patterns. In Ebubu clan, the agencies that perform the function include such environmental categories as the family, age group, and work group, women and men organizations, the secret societies, schools, churches and so on. Children were made by their parents to know that stealing is an offence, that murder is bad, that elders are to be respected, and that adultery is an act forbidden by the society. They were also made to know and feel the penalties associated with these offences. The secret societies taught their members how to keep secret. Other enumerated agencies performed more and similar functions.
Political recruitment into kingship was culturally dualistic. It was affected both by ascription and achievement criteria but the achievement criterion was less explicitly and generally applied. A chief was selected because of his place in a lineage. He could only be removed for ‘poor performance’ according to the sacred norms. The chief was surrounded with charisma, myth, and mysticism. It was on the basis of myths that the chief was able to hold the people together.
Interest articulation begins where socialization ends. It is concerned with “the formulation and expression of interests, claims and demands for political action”. It is therefore the very agencies that socialize the people in Ebubu clan that are responsible for articulating the interest of the people.
As H. V. Wiseman pointed out, interest aggregation is achieved either by formulation of general policies in which the interest have been articulated which may be combined, accommodated and compromised or by the recruitment of political personnel who are more or less committed to a particular pattern of policy.
In Ebubu clan as already stated, the political culture of the people is a mixed one; actors fulfill a combination of many functions. There are therefore no specialized political roles. In effect, it is the age grades (Okuomu), the secret societies (Kpripke, Ogbe, Ejor, Nkiken, etc), Mbaeta, Egbaraeta, Okunkporon, Okunyoa and so on that also perform functions of interest aggregation. The selected few who work hand in hand with the chief and sit with him are also major interest aggregation structure.
There is no specialized communication system in Ebubu clan. Political communication is effected by the geographical configuration of the clan which is small in size, and settlement is clustered. The structures that perform the functions of socialization, interest articulation and interest aggregation also act as political communicators. However, there are Town-criers, the drummers, the chief’s messengers and other errand persons. The Town-criers simply go round the community informing people of what is happening and what they are requested to do. Face-to-face communication is also made. The people can talk to elders and lay their complaints or consult with them on political matters.
There are three authoritative government functions in Ebubu clan – rule making, rule application, and rule adjudication. There are the three old functions of separation of power in Ebubu clan except that an effort has been made to free them from their overtures – rule making rather than ‘legislation’, rule application rather than ‘executive’ and rule adjudication rather than the ‘judiciary’.
The traditional political system of Ebubu clan has been stressed by no differential and diffused character of political and social structure. It would be noticed that the Chieftaincy in the community fulfill at one and the same time the rule making, rule application and rule adjudication functions and specialization is not consciously related to the idea of fulfilling roles at all.
The process of rule making is direct and democratic. At the clan level, representatives are sent from the sub-clans to take part in a clan meeting. The sub-clan is divided into communities and villages, and the communities are further divided in lineages and sub-lineages. The lineage is again divided into what is called “Okuotor” i.e. people of the same family. Each Okuotor has “Ekpone” (head of the Okuotor), who is the source of authority for all others. No member of the Okuotor can take decision or perform any act without consulting Ekpone. The Ekpone posses law, he executes the law and passes judgment on those who disobey his order. He offers sacrifices to the gods and liaisons the family with the ancestors. Any matrimonial disputes or quarrels are mediated by him. In return, he is accorded respect, obedience and honour by members of the family and others outside the family depending, of course, on the charisma and will power of the Ekpone to hold together his subjects.
Above the Okuotor level we have the next kin group – the lineage or extended family called Okuoe. The head of the Okuoe is known as “Ekpone-oe” – a very important figure in the community who holds the title of “Onensin-oe”, a symbol of authority of the ancestors, which is very important and mystical in Eleme traditional political system. The Onensin-oe who must be an initiated member of “Okunyoa” is seen as the intermediary between the Okuoe and the ancestors. He is the fountain of authority in the community. He serves the “Oe” shrine (“Nsiejin-oe), assisted by the next older person who is being prepared to succeed him at the appropriate time. In Ebubu clan, wisdom is associated with age and it is commonly believed that the oldest man is wiser, is closer to the ancestors, and is respected by them. And so, the oldest man is usually the Onensin-oe. He is usually the priest of “Nsiejin-oe”. He makes laws, he also adjudicates.
Rule making function is also performed by adult male members of the clan in a general assembly called “O’elabo Ebubu”. The O’elabo Ebubu is made up of the Oneh Eh Eta (the chief), and the elders (Okuekpo) collectively referred to as Okunkporon, the Egbaraeta, leaders of thought and representatives from each village and community.
The procedure for rule making at the O’elabo Ebubu is democratic, but the final decisions taken depends on the elders when they retired to a “tete-a-tete” meeting known as “Ola”. The “Ola” group finalizes all discussions made in the meeting and decides on decisions to be adopted. The Ola group consists of Okunkporon (group of initiated men with the highest power and authority and made up of representatives from each community). Matters often discussed in such assemblies ranges from land disputes, imposition of levies, to war, peace or defense.
The Okunkporon also perform the functions of executing and adjudicating the laws they have helped to enact. The output structures are also multi-functional. Other structures such as Okuomu (age grades), Egbaraeta (uninitiated men), Mbaeta (organization of women selected on age and representative basis), secret societies like Kpripke, Ejor, Ejin and Nkiken fraternities, also perform rule making, rule application and rule adjudication functions.
All these structures and functional roles of the political system condition have influenced the political thought of the Ebubu people. It should be seen clearly therefore, that the traditional court referred to is not a particular permanent building but interplay of several forces – political, social, cultural and otherwise for the highest good of the people.
There had been the belief in the mystical powers of the chiefs. People respected the chief (Oneh Eh Eta) because of his power to make libation and sacrifices to ancestors and as a result, they have better harvest. It was through myths that the chief was able to hold his people together. It was only the chief who can call on the gods to punish or not to punish evildoer in the clan; apart from him, no other person can do it. The importance of the myth was that it helped in the effectiveness of rule making and rule adjudication.
The chief was an essential element in the system. The community was held together not only by economic and social links – such as living and farming together – but by spiritual and religious links, as already discussed. There was a strong religious element in the Chieftaincy; the chief was the link between the living people and the spirit of their ancestors; and he preformed many duties such as making sacrifices and libations which were essentially those of a priest. Similar conceptions are found in other parts of the world. The Kings of England, for instance were thought to have magical or miraculous powers of healing a certain disease by touch, and as late as the reign of Queen Anne (1702 – 1714), people were regularly brought to be cured by the touch of the royal hand.
Since the chief in Ebubu and his people were linked in this spiritual way, it was difficult to fit strangers into the system. This may be one reason why strangers tended to live in settlements of their own outside the town or village. This personal link between the chief and the people was distorted by the new legal system introduced by the European invaders.
The system developed among the people different idea and thought about wealth, power and authority. Wealth to them was not accumulation of wealth in the form of commercial or industrial capitals. If wealth was accumulated, it took the form of consumption of goods and amenities. Wealth to them was meant to be used for the benefit of all and the support of additional development; hence the people of Ebubu believed strongly in extended family system and African socialism.
The growth of the Ebubu traditional legal system has been slow and steady. All towns and villages in Ebubu have the same basic structure that encourages the existence of agreeable human groups with specific socio-political functions. We have seen that these groups helped in maintaining peace, order, and stability in pre-literate Ebubu. They were age grades to which all males belong called Okuomu. The family group made up of smaller units agreeing with kindred lines called Okuotor; and the extended family, which owned a hall and maintained a shrine known as Okuoe.
The hierarchy of the community was made up of the chief (Oneh Eh Eta) and the elders (Okuekpo) called Okueta, and another group of initiated men who have the highest rule making, rule application and rule adjudication status called Okunkporon. By this arrangement, all imaginable situations were speedily dealt with by the appropriate group, thereby sustaining peace and order in the whole clan.
Disputes between people of the same age group (Okuomu) relating to assault, defamation of character, issue of threat, invocation of juju and minor matrimonial cases were dealt with by Okuomu. Disputes between members of the same family in matters of stealing, assault, defamation of character, issue of threat, invocation of juju, adultery, boundaries, inheritance, witchcraft, and other forms of misdemeanor were settled by Okuoe. The aggrieved member may sue the other party or the elders may in the circumstances intervene directly.
Disputes between two or more persons or between two families concerning divorce, land tenure, custody of children, rape, stealing, assault, defamation of character, issue of threat, invocation of juju, adultery, boundaries, inheritance, witchcraft, elopement and so on were settled by Okueta.
Owe Ebo Ete (Oweboete) Court
Apart from the above arrangements for settling of cases and disputes, the system also recognized two traditional courts which sit in the chief’s palace or in the disputants’ community. These are “Oweboete” and “Owenkporon”. Both courts operate at the community level, sub-clan level, and at the clan level. Whenever Okueta sit as a court it is called Oweboete. Oweboete is presided over by the chief (Oneh Eh Eta) while the elders constitute its membership. Its decisions on matters brought before it is final and binding, but an unsatisfied party reserves the right to appeal to a higher level Oweboete or to the highest court called Owenkporon.
Since the traditional legal system in Ebubu clan does not differentiate between criminal and civil cases, each matter is taken on its merit and as it affects the co-existence of the parties concerned as well as the larger community. The remedies sought are generally declaration of title, compensation or restoration. That is, to establish once right, to be cleared of accusation, to recover property or to obtain a public declaration.
Suing before the Oweboete court involved the aggrieved person going to the Oneh Eh Eta (chief) and complaining. He would state his claims and relief sought as well as the possibility of calling witnesses. He has to pay the prescribed fees and he would be advised on the materials for other related processes. The chief would try to dissuade the complainant from suing with money but if he refused, he would be asked to sue with the prescribed fees and ordered to appear on a date convenient to the chief depending on the nature of the case. He may however, agree with the date or meet the chief to adjust the date after explaining his reasons.
On the appointed date, the chief, Onenkporon (spokesman of the community), and elders would constitute the Oweboete court. Both parties would state their cases and call witnesses. Members of the court might ask questions to elucidate the points in dispute. The disputants would be allowed to cross examine each other and the witnesses would also be questioned to clarify issues. Thereafter, the court would rise for consultation and on their return, the verdict would be given. The party at fault would be seriously reprimanded and asked to pay appropriate fine. The guilty party may choose to obey the judgment of Oweboete court or to appeal against the judgment.
Owe Nkporon (Owenkporon) Court
Owenkporon is the highest court in Ebubu clan. The clan head (Oneh Eh Ebubu) presided over its sitting and members are drawn from the rank of Okunkporon who have completed all the processes of “Obankporon”, and are therefore entitled to join in the court’s routine consultation called “Ola”. The processes of getting the Oweboete and Owenkporon courts to sit are the same but Owenkporon is more expensive than Oweboete and its decisions are final.
Owenkporon can hear a fresh case brought before it as well as appeals coming from Oweboete or lower levels; however, Owenkporon cannot be delayed unduly by any of the parties in a dispute. Once proper information has been communicated to the parties regarding the date of hearing, venue, and time, the court would proceed to hear the disputants, collect evidence, cross examine the parties and witnesses, visit to locus (where applicable), and give its verdict, even though the other party failed to put in appearance. Where a case is taken on appeal from the community level to the clan level or to a higher level court, it is the practice of the court to request for evidence that related the ruling of the lower court. This is the simplest and cheapest way of obtaining justice in the shortest possible time.
This chapter dealt with the role of traditional courts/politics in crime control. The definition of law was attempted in the context of crime control in pre-literate Eleme country. The traditional politics was elaborated under two major headings namely input functions and output functions. How Oweboete and Owenkporon Courts were used to maintain law and order in the community and the traditional method for enforcing judgments of these courts were also examined.
Chapter 7: Influence of Modern Legal System
It does not take a comparative study of community policing and crime control in pre-colonial era and the modern way of keeping law and order in the society to determine the extent to which the later has replaced the former. Nor does it require knowledge of Sociology as an academic discipline or Theology to understand the extent to which modern religion – Christianity and Islam – has damaged the traditional African religion. Its effect is well known and it is expressed in all aspects of our culture. But here, the influence on pre-colonial community policing and crime control needs elaboration.
But, before showing how the modern legal system and religion have influenced the authority of the elders and Eleme cultural institutions, let us reflect briefly on the major methods of pre-colonial community policing and crime control already dealt with.
Secret societies such as Kpripke – the exposer of deviants has been dealt with. Its efforts in crime control are seen in its role in capitalizing on information provided by the victims and at times the information of its secret agents. Once the deviant was exposed, he felt obliged to submit to the elders’ authority by undergoing the necessary rituals to cleanse the society of evil forces destined to plague the society because of his action. The god more often appeased is Nkiken – the major clan’s cult and the ancestors of the offender’s lineage.
Of course, a number of cases existed where allegations by Kpripke were denied by the suspects. Under such a situation, the suspect was never forced to perform the necessary sacrifices, although cases of where people admitted to have done something they never did (because of brutal investigation measures) were not uncommon. The elders subjected such a person to an oath administered in the town square (or before a particular Ogbe) among a sizable number of the villagers. Such an individual is expected to die within a specified period (usually one calendar year) if he took the oath under false claims.
Secret societies were mostly responsible for the negotiation that led to the settlement of misunderstanding among members, while community elders at the community councils settled other forms of disputes. The belief in the continued presence of the ancestors of each family as well as the existence of such fraternities like Ogbe, Ejor, Ejin, Nkiken that are endowed with supernatural powers tended to regulate the behaviour of the people. People readily made confessions when interrogated on issues for which they had some knowledge or participated. They know that society will reject them if the matter went to the level of appearing before Ogbe or swearing in its name.
Most of the methods, if not all, outlined above are no longer effective. The expansion of Christianity of “certain coloration” within Eleme has severely eroded some of the regulatory efficiency of the people’s culture. In its calculated efforts to alienate the youths from their root and neutralize the culture of the people, the church provided them alternative social group that shelter them, and prohibited the use of Ogbe among them. Organized opposition by the churches has therefore limited their use. It is only in very serious cases such as theft, witchcraft and murder that even the church elders submit to them in order to avoid scandal. Such cultural festivals as:
“Agba Esa” – ceremonial conferment of graded traditional yam titles of Aachu, Obo, Obereobo, Otaaobo, Achuete, and Ewoachunsin. These degrees conferred on recipient certain rights, privileges and honours, and were recognized throughout the Eleme country;
“Agba Esun” – new yam festival; and
“Ogbo Nja – 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 made new friends and ate happily and freely from community to community; and where women in their best and newest dresses sang, danced and rejoiced for being hardworking, healthy and sensible enough to sustain the growth of their children throughout the year;
has been branded devilish and fetish by the Western Civilizations.
Other forms of traditional religious methods of community policing and crime controls are proscribed by law and labeled as heathenish by some uninformed Christians, thus giving credence to those criminals who would wish to avoid being caught through such measures.
Banishment and public ridicule is having less effect as people can easily run out of their community and in fact, the whole clan, to the nearby urban center where they can easily make new friends and get on with a life devoid of those cultural constraints.
The community now depends on fines and fees as the only means of community policing and crime control. Even with this, their powers are limited by the fact that they cannot confiscate any of the property of unresponsive ones since that is against the law.
In Eleme, the use of Ogbe to protect one’s life and properties, elicit the truth from an offender and ensure confidence has come under the harmer of the modern judiciary. However, as Chief O. O. Ngofa noted:
“Inspite of the fact that modern judiciary frowns on the invocation of what they call ‘harmful juju’ the practice of invoking the local deities is on the increase in Eleme, irrespective of the rather high fees and protracted sacrifices that are associated with its invocation and revocation”.
In pre-literate and pre-colonial Eleme, Ogbe was an important instrument of investigation and invocation of investigative juju is the practice of the people that has come to stay despite the onslaught of Christianity and modern judiciary on the practice.
The result of the concerted dislodgement of the culture and tradition of the people of Eleme is a crash of the value system as against an upsurge of anti-social activities such as increasing levels of violence, robbery, murder, kidnapping, fraud, vandalism, cultism, adulteration, impersonation, immorality of all kinds and types and several other forms of malpractices and crimes. The church is complaining; its instruments of modern socialization have failed to instill discipline and morality in the people. The school is at crossroads, confused and stranded; it is either its storehouse of modern socialization materials has been exhausted or the operators have lost focus. The government is worried; its modern legal system has failed to inculcate fear and check increasing anti-social activities. The society is no longer at ease, it is drifting, things are falling apart, crimes and fear of crimes everywhere, and soon, the center cannot hold except drastic measures are taken now.
Yet, we must also notice that there are people now, who are still tradition conscious and who would not mind submitting to tradition wherever custom demands. This group is a link and a foundation to build on in our efforts to police the community and control crimes. The frontier of investigation should be extended to include where the suspect or accused hail from so as to subject him to the traditional crime detection and investigative processes. This will ensure:
1. That timely confession is obtained.
2. That the innocent is granted freedom as soon as possible.
3. That only the guilty is convicted.
4. That the prisons are decongested.
5. That the society is rid of criminals.
6. Law-abiding citizens go about their legitimate businesses without crime or fear of crime.
The government owns it a duty to encourage the reformation and rehabilitation of all the institutions of traditional courts and politics as they affect community policing and crime control the same way the traditional herbal medicine was done, especially now that community leaders and clan heads are liable to punishment if they knowingly allow any criminal activities go unpunished in their locality. Supernatural devices such as Ogbe and Ejor should be considered in crime detection or establishing guilt or innocence of an accused or a suspect.
The purpose of this chapter was to give an overview of the entire theme raised in the preceding chapters and the consequent influence of modern legal system and religion. It revealed that most of the cherished pre-colonial traditional methods of policing the community and controlling crimes in Eleme have either been discarded, destroyed, modified, condemned, rejected or polluted with the advent of Western Civilization. People nursed the illusion that everything “Western” and/or every act of the “Whiteman” is standard.
The need to encourage the reformation and rehabilitation of these “secret societies”, reviving and sustaining the traditional courts and politics as they affect community policing and crime control were discussed. Also, recourse should be made to supernatural devices such as Ogbe and Ejor in detecting crime or establishing guilt or innocence of an accused or a suspect. The stability provided by these methods in our society cannot be captured by Western institutions like the church, school, and the law court. Also, Christianity must recognize in them not as foes, but as
allies in the struggle to get rid of vices and crimes, and achieve social morality in our society.
APPENDIX A: INSTITUTIONS OF COMMUNITY POLICING &
CRIME CONTROL IN PRE-COLONIAL ELEME
All communities in Eleme have the same basic social structure that encourages the existence of agreeable human groups with specific social functions. These groups are responsible for policing the communities – maintaining peace and stability.
A. TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS
The traditional institutions, description and functions are:
Oku Otor: Family group made up of smaller units agreeing with kindred lines. Their functions include settling of minor disputes between members of the same family.
Oku Oe: Extended family which owns a hall and maintains one shrine. They settle disputes between members of the same family in matters of assault, stealing, boundaries, inheritance, adultery, witchcraft, invocation of juju, and other forms of misdemeanor.
Oku Omu: Age grade to which all males belong. Settles disputes between people of the same age group resulting to assault, slander, issue of threat, invocation of juju, and other matrimonial cases.
Egbara Eta: Uninitiated adult men below Okuekpo but higher than Asama. They assist the elders implement their decisions; promote communal work, security, control social decay, and perform traditional entertainment such as: wrestling, dancing, and singing.
Mba Eta: Organization of Women selected on age and representative basis. Regulates the activities of women; ensures high morality and discipline among women.
Oku Eta: The Chief (Oneh-Eh-Eta) and his elders (Oku Ekpo). They constitute Oweboete court and adjudicate in disputes between two or more persons or between two families concerning land tenure, divorce, custody of children, stealing, boundaries, inheritance, adultery, witchcraft, invocation of juju, defamation of character, rape, elopement, and so on.
Oku Nkporon: Group of Initiated men with the highest judicial powers and authority. They constitute Owenkporon court and adjudicate in more serious matters requiring urgent or detailed investigation such as murder, witchcraft, inheritance, land tenure, divorce, custody of children, stealing, boundaries, adultery, right of burial, invocation of juju, rape, and so on at the appropriate levels of the society.
Okunyoa: Okunyoa are group of initiated elders led by Onenkiken (traditional Prim Minister/Land Priest). Nkiken (Mother goddess or Earth-Spirit) is the only Deity that directly relates to the foundation of a community or village and its protection. It is the mother that sustains all living things and receives all of them back to its stomach. The position is hereditary and it is confined to the lineage or family of the original founder of the community. Onenkiken (Traditional Prime Minister/Land Priest and Leader of Okunyoa) exercises spiritual and administrative powers. He performs Ajija ritual for cleansing of Pregnant but unmarried girls and Owaraekpaa Osila (first daughter ritual). He appoints and installs Oneh Eh Eta on the active advice of Okunkporon; receives and performs the duties of Oneh Eh Eta if found guilty of gross misconduct or upon demise of an incumbent until a successor is appointed and installed. He ensures that things are done in accordance with custom and tradition. He commands the respect of the gods in the community.
B. SUPERNATURAL DEVICES/INSTITUTIONS & SECRET SOCIETIES
Below are the description and functions of supernatural devices, institutions, and secret societies involved in community policing and crime control in pre-colonial Eleme:
Ejin: These are ancestral spirits – that is, spirits of all who have lived and died. They are known as Okuejin and dwell in a separate spiritual kingdom known as Etaejin. They exercise spiritual power and authority and are believed to be ever watchful, powerful and able to help or punish any person. They communicate through dreams and their feelings merely conjectured. They administer divine justice by blessing the good and punishing the bad. And since they cannot be seen or heard, there is always no appeal against the decisions of Okuejin.
Ejor: These are deities or gods such as Ejilee, Onura, Ebaajor, Mbie, Ejamaaejor Ogbenwata, Ndorwa, Osarobinmkpa and others. They are known as Okuejor and dwell in a separate spiritual kingdom known as Etaejor. They are believed to be somehow senior and superior to Okuejin. They act as agents to Obari (God). They communicate directly through the human consciousness of the priest or medium. In this way they reveal secrets, prescribe remedies or answer questions put to them, and administer divine justice. They have the power of life and dead. Thus, can kill the guilty or spare the life of the innocent.
Ogbe: These are supernatural devices such as Ogbenwata, Ejilee, Onura, Ebaajor, Ndorwa Nkiken, Nnani, etc. they can be owned individual or by the community. They exercise both political and social powers to maintain calm. They have power to end or spare life. Ogbe are the most effective instruments of investigation, crime detection and dispute resolution. They are soldiers of solidarity of friendship and guarantors for security of life and property. They are traditional courts of last resort.
Kpripke: Secret society of noblemen. They are exposers of deviants and revealers of anti-social behaviour of individuals irrespective of social status. They administer punishment as directed by the elders and assist the elders in executing their decisions. They are agents of social control and political cohesion.
Eso Okea Ebie: This is a musical rendition by a designated singer, sometimes accompanied with “Ekere”, sometimes not. It is used to expose immorality and to reveal whatever crime that was committed in secret by individual or family lineage whether the culprit is living or dead. It is an agent of social control.
APPENDIX B: THE CLAN HEAD AND CHIEFS OF THE THIRTY-ONE COMMUNITIES OF EBUBU CLAN INTERVIEWED IN THE COURSE OF COLLECTING INFORMATION FOR THIS BOOK
1. Ebubu HRH Emere Emmanuel O. Bebe Clan Head
2. Egbalor HRH Emere Obariwite Nchimaonwi Sub-Clan Head
3. Ejamah HRH Emere Isaac O. Abgara Sub-Clan Head
4. Agbeta HRH Emere Columbus Okazu Sub-Clan Head
5. Obolo HRH Emere Ignatius O. Satoo Sub-Clan Head
6. Aluebo Emere Osaro Ollorwi Community Head
7. Alueken Emere Goya Ollor Community Head
8. Egbereta Emere Sampson Ejire Community Head
9. Obinieta Emere B. D. Kamalo Community Head
10. I-A-Eta Emere Monday Ogosu Community Head
11. Mbumaeta Emere Micah Ngbonwi Community Head
12. Nnornorwaeta Chief Innocent Ogbara Caretaker
13. Okenwikoro Chief Friday Mboo Caretaker
14. Ebarangor Emere Monday Gomba Caretaker
15. Etaosaro Emere James Nkine Caretaker
16. Obiban Emere Victor Obari Community Head
17. Alejor Emere B. E. Ollornwi Community Head
18. Egbara Emere William Amadi Community Head
19. Alukere Emere Emmanuel Oluji Community Head
20. Ochani Emere Johnson Kote Community Head
21. Okpako Emere Sunday Jike Caretaker
22. Konwi Emere S. N. Osaro Community Head
23. Ekpanporoeo Emere Meshach Amadi Community Head
24. Alumba Emere Obari Teeh Community Head
25. Okaale Emere Williams Chindo Community Head
26. Agborgbor Mbor Emere Fortune Okwa Chujor Community Head
27. Obiniagbeta Emere Loveday Oluka Community Head
28. Biriko Emere Owen Awiyakele Community Head
29. Oboetoo Emere Nenyi Okola Okazu Community Head
30. Obiniobolo Emere Dickson Gomba Obari Community Head
31. Ekengba Emere Douglas Dabor Community Head
32. Daabor Chief Ododo Ndo Caretaker
APPENDIX C: TREATY WITH THE CHIEFS OF EBUBU
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, EMPRESS OF INDIA, in compliance with the request of the chiefs and people of Ebubu hereby undertakes to extend to them and to the territory under their authority and jurisdiction, Her gracious favour and protection.
The chiefs of Ebubu agree and promise to refrain entering into any correspondence, agreement or Treaty with any Foreign Nation or Power except with the knowledge and sanction of Her Britannic Majesty’s Government.
It is agreed that full and exclusive jurisdiction, civil and criminal, over British subjects and their property in the territory of Ebubu is reserved to Her Britannic Majesty, to be exercised by such Consular or other officers as Her Majesty shall appoint for that purpose.
The same jurisdiction is likewise reserved to Her Majesty in the said territory of Ebubu over foreign subjects enjoying British protection, who shall be deemed to be included in the expression “British Subject” throughout this Treaty.
All disputes between the chiefs of Ebubu or between them and British or foreign traders, or between the aforesaid Chiefs and neighbouring tribes, which cannot be settled amicably between the two parties shall be submitted to the British Consular or other officers appointed by Her Britannic Majesty to exercise jurisdiction in Ebubu territories for arbitration and decision, or for arrangement.
The Chiefs of Ebubu hereby engage to assist the British Consular and other officers in the execution of such duties as may be assigned to them; and further, to act upon their advice in matters relating to the administration of justice, the development of the resources of the country, the interests of commerce, or in any other matter in relation to peace, order, and good government, and the general progress of civilization.
The subjects and citizens of all countries may freely carry on trade in every part of the territories of the Chiefs parties hereto, and may have houses and factories therein.
All ministers of the Christian religion shall be permitted to reside and exercise their calling within the territories of the aforesaid Chiefs, who hereby guarantee to them full protection.
All forms of religious worship and religious ordinances maybe exercised within the territories of the aforesaid Chiefs, and no hindrance shall be offered thereto.
The Chiefs of Ebubu hereby engaged not to practice cannibalism or human sacrifice in any form.
If any vessel should be wrecked within the Ebubu territories, the Chiefs will give them all the assistance in their power, will secure them from plunder, and also recover and deliver to the owners or agents all the property which can be saved.
If there are no such owners or agents on the spot, then the said property shall be delivered to the British Consul or other officer.
The Chiefs further engage to do all in their power to protect the persons and property of the officers, crew and others on board such wrecked vessels.
All claims for salvage dues in such cases shall if disputed, be offered to the British Consular or other officer for arbitration and decision.
The Treaty shall come into operation, so far as may be practicable, from the date of its signature.
Done in Quadruplicate at Ebubu this 19th day of April, 1898.
King Eto……….. his X mark On behalf of H. B. M’s Commissioner & Consul General,
Chief Nyhi…….his X mark Niger Coast Protectorate
Chief Oluji…….his X mark
Chief Nwafo I…. his X mark
Chief Ngoye…..his X mark
Chief Nwafo II…his X mark (Sgd.)? Fosbery
Chief Eka……..his X mark …………………
Chief O-o……..his X mark Acting Vice Consul
Chief Kawi……his X mark Central Division
S(Sgd.)? Acting District Commissioner
APPENDIX D: TREATY WITH THE CHIEFS OF MBOLLI
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, EMPRESS OF INDIA, in compliance with the request of the chiefs and people of Mbolli hereby undertakes to extend to them and to the territory under their authority and jurisdiction, Her gracious favour and protection.
The chiefs of Mbolli agree and promise to refrain entering into any correspondence, agreement or Treaty with any Foreign Nation or Power except with the knowledge and sanction of Her Britannic Majesty’s Government.
It is agreed that full and exclusive jurisdiction, civil and criminal, over British subjects and their property in the territory of Mbolli is reserved to Her Britannic Majesty, to be exercised by such Consular or other officers as Her Majesty shall appoint for that purpose.
The same jurisdiction is likewise reserved to Her Majesty in the said territory of Mbolli over foreign subjects enjoying British protection, who shall be deemed to be included in the expression “British Subject” throughout this Treaty.
All disputes between the chiefs of Mbolli or between them and British or foreign traders, or between the aforesaid Chiefs and neighbouring tribes, which cannot be settled amicably between the two parties shall be submitted to the British Consular or other officers appointed by Her Britannic Majesty to exercise jurisdiction in Mbolli territories for arbitration and decision, or for arrangement.
The Chiefs of Mbolli hereby engage to assist the British Consular and other officers in the execution of such duties as may be assigned to them; and further, to act upon their advice in matters relating to the administration of justice, the development of the resources of the country, the interests of commerce, or in any other matter in relation to peace, order, and good government, and the general progress of civilization.
The subjects and citizens of all countries may freely carry on trade in every part of the territories of the Chiefs parties hereto, and may have houses and factories therein.
All ministers of the Christian religion shall be permitted to reside and exercise their calling within the territories of the aforesaid Chiefs, who hereby guarantee to them full protection.
All forms of religious worship and religious ordinances maybe exercised within the territories of the aforesaid Chiefs, and no hindrance shall be offered thereto.
The Chiefs of Mbolli hereby engaged not to practice cannibalism or human sacrifice in any form.
If any vessel should be wrecked within the Mbolli territories, the Chiefs will give them all the assistance in their power, will secure them from plunder, and also recover and deliver to the owners or agents all the property which can be saved.
If there are no such owners or agents on the spot, then the said property shall be delivered to the British Consul or other officer.
The Chiefs further engage to do all in their power to protect the persons and property of the officers, crew and others on board such wrecked vessels.
All claims for salvage dues in such cases shall if disputed, be offered to the British Consular or other officer for arbitration and decision.
The Treaty shall come into operation, so far as may be practicable, from the date of its signature.
Done in Quadruplicate at Mbolli Market Place this 20th day of April, 1898.
King Jike……….. his X mark On behalf of H. B. M’s Commissioner & Consul General,
Chief Saka… ……his X mark Niger Coast Protectorate
King Egwegwi….his X mark
Chief Obunike.….his X mark
King Okpabi……his X mark Acting Vice Consul
Chief Ngochno….his X mark Central Division
King Ogolungwi…his X mark (Sgd) ? Searle
Chief Ngodo……. his X mark Witness.
King Uluka…… his X mark (Sgd)? E. A. Hart
Chief Oluka……..his X mark Interpreter.
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APPENDIX F: GLOSSARY
Arrest The process of taking and restraining a person from his liberty of free movement so that he shall be available to answer to an alleged offence or crime.
Community A group of people in an ecological area defined by common belief, norms, values and interpersonal bonds.
Confession The acknowledgement by a person accused of a crime that he is guilty of that crime and committed every element of the offence; must exclude any reasonable doubt about the possibility of innocence.
Crime The commission of any act that is prohibited or the omission of any act that is required by the customs and traditions of a community or a penal code of an organized political state.
Crime control The anticipation, recognition, analysis of a crime risk, and the initiation of some action to remove or reduce it.
Cross-examination The questioning of disputants or witnesses who were initially called by the opposing party.
Detect The process of examining crimes and catching criminals.
Diviner The person that foretells the future or discovers hidden facts or knowledge by supernatural means; intuitive perception.
Evidence Anything that tends logically to prove or disprove a fact at issue in a case or controversy.
Homicide The killing of a human being by another human being.
Informant (Agent) A person who regularly provides information to a particular investigator or person in return for some personal motive such as rivalry or self-aggrandizement, or money or to obtain freedom or reduced sentence.
Investigation The process of establishing that a crime was committed, identifying and apprehending the suspect, recovering stolen property if any, and assisting in the prosecution of the person charged with the crime.
Judgment The decision of a court or a judge.
Legal system Comprises of all organizational and operational measures, which implement the legal policies, guidelines, programmes, and processes of a community.
Lineage The succession series of families that somebody is descended from. The direct descent from an ancestor.
Misdemeanor An action that is bad or unacceptable, but not very serious.
Murder The killing of any human being by another with malice afterthought.
Oath A formal promise to do something or a formal statement or attestation that something is true.
Plaintiff A person that was allegedly wronged and that files the lawsuit or makes a formal complaint against somebody in a court of law or traditional court.
Postmortem (Autopsy) The medical examination of a body to determine the time of and cause of death; required in all cases of violent or suspicious death.
Proof The combination of all evidence in determining the guilty or innocence of a person accused of a crime.
Rape The crime of having sexual relations with a person against her or his will; with a person who is unconscious or under the influence of alcohol; or with someone who is insane, feeble-minded or under the age of consent.
Robbery The crime of taking and carrying away personal property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its use, by means of force, fear, or threat of force.
Security The process of developing and implementing policies, strategies, operational plans and actions geared towards guaranteeing the protection of lives, materials and non-material resources including information and reputation. Security is the responsibility of all in the society.
Sex offences Crimes related to sexual activity e.g. rape, adultery prostitution, etc.
Surveillance The secretive and continuous observation of persons, places, and things to obtain information concerning the activities and identity of individuals.
Suspect A person who is seen as possibly being guilty of the crime under investigation.
Tradition A belief, custom or way of doing something that has existed for a long time among a particular group of people in a defined ecological area; a set of these beliefs or customs.
Traditional The beliefs, customs, practices or way of life of a particular group of people, that are handed down from generation to generation and that have not changed for a long time; following older methods and ideas rather than modern or different ones.
Victim A person or organization that has suffered injury or loss as the result of a crime.
White-collar crime Any illegal act committed by concealment or guile rather than physical means, to obtain money or property, avoid payment or loss of money or property, or obtains business or personal advantage.
Witness A person who has first knowledge regarding some aspect of the crime.
About the Author
Osaro Ollorwi, PhD, is Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Security; a Registered Security Consultant and Professional Trainer. He is a renowned speaker and guest lecturer who have recorded numerous radio and television appearances including “The Globe in 60 Minutes”. He has ten books to his credit and has published over a hundred articles and professional papers in pre-eminent Journals and associations dedicated to improving public safety and security. He is publisher of Security Magazine.
Elected to more than a dozen offices in national and regional professional associations, Dr. Ollorwi has served as President of the Security Consultants Association of Nigeria and National Membership Chairman, International Association for Impact Assessment Nigeria (IAIANig), and Coordinator Criminology, Security Management and Loss Prevention Programmes of the University of Port Harcourt in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Industrial Security. He is an active consultant and executive educator, and specializes in helping executive teams to develop and activate their firm’s security and loss prevention plans.
Dr. Ollorwi began his security career in 1980 he is currently Council Member, Nigerian Corps of Commissionaires and Member Chartered Institute of Commerce of Nigeria. He is a strong advocate of zero crime tolerance and believes that there should be no loss. His advocacy is in public safety and security.
About the Book
This book, Community Policing and Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues and Perspectives, examines the pre-colonial methods of community policing and crime control. It is designed to awaken Africans’ interest, curiosity and enthusiasm about indigenous African policing system that hitherto checked crime and solved social decay. Its distinctive feature is its attempt to anchor community policing on psychological principles and processes. It allows the readers to judge if the pre-colonial methods of community policing and crime control were better than the modern system or vice-versa so as to forge the way forward in our fight against all kinds and types of anti-social activities and their perpetrators.