On Monday 2nd October, 2017, O-E’la Obor Eleme, the apex social cultural organization of Eleme People worldwide, held a stakeholders’ meeting at the Eleme Civic Center, Ogale wherein the Eleme Culture and Tradition Committee was appointed.

Constitution of the Eleme Culture and Tradition Committee

The Committee was constituted as follows:

  1. High Chief Osaro M. Ollorwi                                     –           Chairman
  2. Rev. Canon Ransom G. O. Ngoke, JP                        –           Secretary
  3. Chief Obarijima Osaronu                                            –           Member
  4. Chief Evang. Jonathan Lekwa                               –           Member
  5. Rev. Samuel O. Nwafor                                            –           Member
  6. Mr Nwafor John                                                        –           Member
  7. Chief Mrs Martha       Egbe                                      –           Member
  8. Mr Sampson Onungwe Eppie                                  –           Member
  9. Evang. Obele Nwoke Samuel                                   –           Member
  10. Evang. Sunday Anasemi Obele                                –           Member
  11. Chief Mrs Roseline E. Ngobe                                    –           Member
  12. Rev. Prof. Raphael Ngochindo                                 –           Member

Term of Reference

The terms of reference of the Committee include the following:

  1. To identify the causes of the neglect and abuse of Eleme culture and tradition and consequent social decay.
  2. To draw up modalities for social reorientation and cultural revival.
  3. To harmonise and streamline the functions, powers and jurisdictions of traditional leadership institutions in Eleme.
  4. To make recommendations in the light of its findings in order to turn Eleme around to take her place in the comity of culturally endowed ethnic nationalities.

Consequently, the Committee swung into action. The deliberation and consultation were elaborate and far reaching.


The Committee observes that culture is a society’s shared and socially transmitted ideas, values and perceptions, which are used to make sense of experience and generate behaviour and are reflected in that behaviour.

In view of the above, the Eleme Culture and Tradition Committee make the following findings.

  1. The Committee notes that the major causes of social decay in Eleme is the neglect of Eleme Culture and tradition.
  2. The Committee observes that Eleme Language, the medium through which Eleme Culture is to be upheld, preserved, communicated and transmitted from one generation to another is at the verge of extinction.
  3. The Committee detects that rapid industrialisation and modernization have painfully tore Eleme people from established cultural values.
  4. The Committee identifies that the loss of virtually all the good in our heritage, the rape of Eleme culture, and promotion of cultural dislocation in Eleme is responsible for the basterdization of our traditional institutions and the visible abuse of the process of selection, installation and dethronement of Traditional Rulers in Eleme.
  5. Finally, the Committee ascertains that Eleme traditional marriage process, sports, recreation activities, social cohesion and values that once sustain and promote love, unity and cooperation among Eleme people have come under persistent attacks by both our surrounding neighbours and stranger elements in our midst who are bent on making us to lose touch with our identity and indigenous Eleme system of thoughts and values.


Culture as a society’s shared and socially transmitted ideas, values and perceptions can be observed through language, ancestral origin, occupation, marriage, social classes, burials, music, nutrition, gender bias, and other factors. Because culture is shared and transmitted through learning and helps shape behaviours and beliefs, we make bold to recommend the following as way forward for E;leme:

1.     Eleme Language

  1. The Eleme Local Government Council should through appropriate legislation put up a framework to encourage the development of Eleme Language; and make it compulsory for our children by firmly adopting it as a medium of instruction throughout the Pre-Primary, Primary and Junior Secondary Schools in Eleme.
  2. Parents should be encouraged to speak and teach their children Eleme Language.
  3. Eleme Local Government Council, O-E’la Obor Eleme, Corporate Organizations and Wealthy Individuals in Eleme to organize and/or sponsor debates, essay competitions in Eleme Language as well as donate trophies and prizes for competition in Eleme Traditional Sports.
  4. Eleme Language to be adopted and enforced as medium of communication in all gatherings of Eleme people such as meetings, marriage ceremonies, chieftaincy ceremonies, burials and so on. The Eleme Legislative Assembly should be encouraged to adopt Eleme Language as official language for transaction of business at the floor of the house.
  5. The Eleme Language Center should be encouraged and empowered financially to write and publish books in Eleme Language, train both teachers and learners of Eleme Language and develop the language in keeping with changing times.
  6. The Committee rejects the suggestion of adopting the Latin Alphabets for writing Eleme Language and recommends the continuous use of the Eleme Orthography which has been approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria and gazetted.

2.     Sport

Sport is a strong unifying factor and builder of both the human mind and body. Eleme culture recognises the importance of sport and promotes several sports to unite the people, establish love and cooperation amongst the people. Eleme sports also test endurance and sustain healthy body. The Committee notes that there is urgent need to resuscitate the following dying traditional sports:

  1. Aken – This is an outdoor sport for men. The Committee recommends the introduction of female version and suggest the introduction of prizes to replace killing of goat and other rituals.
  2. Ngoro – This is an indoor sport for men.
  3. Ngo – This is both indoor and outdoor sport for men and women.
  4. Katanka – This is an outdoor sport for able bodied men. The Committee recommends the introduction of women version in terms of competition for prizes.

3.     Recreation

In addition to the above sporting activities, the Eleme culture recognises and promotes the following recreational events among others:

  1. Eloi – Stories and songs are instrumental in retaining languages and culture. Folktales and stories are usually told in the evening to entertain adults and children alike.
  2. Owu – Masks and masquerades are important elements of culture.
  3. Ogbo – Adults and Youths should be encouraged to form cultural groups (drama, dance, musical troupes, etc.) to entertain. They can also make a living by so doing.
  4. Ogbo Nja, etc.

4.     Ogbo Nja

The Committee observes the lack of love, unity and cooperation among Eleme people and recommends the restoration of Ogbo Nja Festival to promote brotherly love, unity, cooperation and relationship among Eleme people. Ogbo Nja can be celebrated as part of Christmas or New Year activities on 25th and 26th December or as part of the Eleme Cultural Week Celebration in October.

5.     Eje

The Committee notes that Eleme dance such as Eje Ekpete, Eje Piopiopioo, Eje Alikirija, Eje Agala, Ngelem, Tamkpe Eje, etc. teaches social patterns and values, and help people work, mature, praise, or criticise while celebrating festivals, funerals, competing, reciting history, proverbs and poetry.

6.     Eleme Cultural Week

The Committee recommends Eleme Cultural Week to be held annually in the third week of October where communities and individuals can compete for various prizes in sports like Aken, Katanka, Ngoro, Ngo, O’ū Okãi, Ofe Mbo Eta ei among others. The Committee also recommends Debate and Essay Competitions in Eleme Language to be included in the weeklong competition. The Committee further recommend the creation of a body to be known as Eleme Kultural Organization (EKO) to champion the rebirth of all aspects of Eleme Culture.

7.     Economic Empowerment/Wealth Transfer

The Committee notes that Eleme Culture has an established process of economic empowerment and wealth transfer known as Ndele which has hitherto transformed the lives of many families and recommends its revival as an attainment for social recognition and status conferment among our female folks. By this, no one can assume the title of Emere Owa overnight without being formally confer with it, after due process and especially meeting the minimum requirements.

8.     Traditional Rulers

The Committee observes that one of the institutions that have been subjected to abuse in Eleme is the traditional institution. It is disheartening to point out that Traditional Rulers are selected, installed and dethroned frequently without regard to the custom and tradition of Eleme people. Worse still, those prohibited from taking chieftaincy titles do so with severe consequences for the people and land of Eleme.

  • Offices of Oneh Nkiken Eleme and Oneh Nkporon Eleme 


    1. Those to be selected and appointed into these offices must be vast in Eleme culture and tradition, literate with good background and must be members of Ogbo Nkporon Eleme in good standing.
    2. The Committee discovers that the reverend offices of Oneh Nkiken Eleme and Oneh Nkporon Eleme are non-existence or dormant and therefore recommends that these offices, which are vital for the effective functioning of Ogbo Nkporon Eleme be constituted and made functional by Ogbo Nkporon Eleme.
    3. The Committee also recommends the same arrangement for Nchia and Odido Districts of Eleme.
    4. Ebubu and Onne Clans should also consider having functional Oneh Nkiken Ebubu and Oneh Nkporon Ebubu as well as Oneh Nkiken Onne and Oneh Nkporon Onne.

9.     Qualification for Selection and Installation of Traditional Ruler

The Committee recommends that the person to be selected and installed as   Traditional Ruler must have the following qualifications:

  1. Must possess a minimum of WASC or its equivalent.
  2. Must demonstrate relevant knowledge of the custom and tradition of Eleme people.
  3. Must be a Member of Ogbo Nkporon of the Community, Clan, District or Eleme.
  4. Must not be somebody found guilty by Ogbo Nkporon for witchcraft.
  5. Must not be somebody who had been convicted for felony.
  6. Must not be somebody found guilty by competent court or Ogbo Nkporon for stealing or misappropriation of public fund and had been properly dethroned or expelled by the appropriate Council of Chiefs.
  7. Must not be someone who had been found guilty by Ogbo Nkporon for betrayal of the people of Eleme or any part thereof.

10.Dethronement of Traditional Ruler

The Committee finds that in all communities and clans of Eleme if the Traditional Ruler commits an offence, he is suspended from office and his function delegated to Oneh Nkiken (Land Priest and Traditional Prime Minister). The Traditional Ruler is then tried and if found guilty, a fine is imposed on him. He is expected to pay the fine within a time limit, normally three to four months. Once the fine is paid, the Traditional Ruler is reinstated; failure to comply leads to deposition.

The Committee notes that the following offences are viewed seriously in Eleme and can lead to deposition of a Traditional Ruler without suspension.

  1. Witchcraft
  2. Stealing
  3. Murder

The Committee also observes that these crimes are heinous in nature and can warrant the dethronement of a Traditional Ruler where he has been found guilty by a court of law or Ogbo Nkporon on appeal.


The Committee discovers that the marriage tradition of Eleme people had   been grossly abused and is in total disarray with foreign traditions and behaviours infiltrating every aspects of the system making it difficult for our boys and girls to marry as at when due; our boys inability to marry in Eleme and rising sexual immorality are also traceable to high cost of marriage.

The Committee condemns in strong terms an emerging practice of monetizing Ofe Mbo Eta ei and accompanying drinks and stresses that Ofe Mbo Eta ei is very significant in Eleme marriage culture as it symbolises the beginning of a life-long relationship between two families; the official union of a man and the woman; and importantly, breaking of covenant, a disconnection with the bride’s family and a connection with the husband’s family – her new home. Such goat is killed in the bride’s ancestral shrine to placate or pacify her ancestors and with the drink offer libations and prayers for freedom from problems, barrenness or mishap in her new home, especially in procreation and good fortune and therefore forbidden to be monetized.

The Committee concludes that the Eleme People recognises etaale ekpii oja 4 manilas, equivalent of N100.00k, a she-goat, one big tripod-stand pot of palm wine known as mmi oso ofooro , another one jar of palm wine called akpirikpa mmi nsi opee, a bottle of gin (kaikai) and a token of 1,340 manilas for first daughter and 1,200 manilas for others, equivalent of Thirty-Three Thousand Five Hundred Naira (N33,500.00k) and Thirty Thousand Naira (N30,000.00k) respectively, as pre-requisite for contracting marriage in Eleme.

The Committee therefore observes that the waste known as modern Oja Onu (mutual feeding which has been wrongly construed as “Buying of Mouth”), financial imposition on goat (no matter its size) and unnecessary fines associated with Ofe Mbo Eta ei as well as expensive bride price which are strange to Eleme be eliminated to make our marriage affordable and pocket-friendly.

The Committee recommends that Ogbo Nkporon Eleme, O-E’la Obor Eleme    and Churches in Eleme work out modalities to regulate the cost of marriage in Eleme; delete wasteful activities like elaborate Oja Onu involving setting of canopies, sharing of wrappers to hundreds of people, bridal trains and dance, and cumbersome procedure that increase costs from the system.

Still on marriage, the Committee further recommends for consideration the possibility of Ochu Owa ceremony proceeding Ofe Mbo Eta ei in the evening of the same day to reduce expenses.


We, Members of the Eleme Culture and Tradition Committee wish to express our profound gratitude to the People of Eleme for finding us worthy to serve in the Eleme Culture and Tradition Committee and assure our willingness to be of further service for the peace and development of Eleme should we be called upon to serve again.


High Chief Osaro Ollorwi


Rev. Canon Ransom G. O. Ngoke, JP




Do Eleme People Celebrate Criminals?



The general opinion among the various security agencies in Eleme is that Eleme People Celebrate Criminals. Is this perception true? What is/are the rationale behind such conclusion? Are the people culpable in the on-going criminalities in the area? I have written, lectured and consulted severally on the Eleme people’s apathy towards on-going crime and fear of crime in the area. Some of the factors militating against the masses direct participation in fighting crimes include:

  1. Fear of retribution,
  2. Fear of invasion by adversary,
  3. Culture of loyalty,
  4. Respect for cultists’ commitment,
  5. Focus on personal needs,
  6. Inadequate laws,
  7. Police attitude,
  8. Politicians’ roles,
  9. Government commitment to cultists and their course, and.
  10. Gender Cold War.

The Eleme social system is interposed with lots of roadblocks and checkpoints to regulate behaviours, control crimes and punish criminals. Among the various controls system are such institutions that everyone would want to belong in the society. They include:

  1. Marriage Institution
  2. Leadership Institution
  3. Institutions of Crime Control
  4. Traditional Courts


Every Eleme person, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, young or old, religious or non-religious is a member of one of these institutions in the society. How do these institutions ensure that Eleme people do not celebrate criminals?



In his book, The People of Eleme (1988), Chief O. O. Ngofa observed that “Marriage is a natural sequence of growth and progress. So long as a man is not married, he continues in a second class status in the society. He never ties the full fathom of cloth, irrespective of his stature. He is not allowed to join other men during consultation”. In this statement are the strict limitations imposed on those yet to be admitted into the Marriage Institution.


In Eleme, marriage is regarded not only as a liberator and a status, but also confirms that the person concerned has acceptable character and background. He can be trusted in any affair and is regarded as a responsible person.


Eleme culture cherished marriage between Eleme and Eleme. The rationale behind this is to ensure that thorough background check and investigation are conducted at least to determine that the marriage is not contracted with someone with criminal history, health challenges, fertility problems, among other important issues.


Abraham was quite aware of the forgoing when he told his trusted servant not to take a wife for his son Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanite among whom he resides, “but to go to my country and to my kindred to take a wife for my son Isaac”. Like the Israelites, the Elemes do not just jump into marriage. They carryout extensive background checks and screening before considering contracting marriage. The Elemes know that marriage creates families; and the family is the basic unit of society. The Elemes believe that if the family decays the society smells, therefore are very mindful of whom they tie the nuptial knot with.


There are many Eleme people today, who no matter how rich or popular they are cannot marry in Eleme when full background check/screening is conducted as is tradition, so they hide under the cover of “one people” or “one Nigeria” or “one world”.


The Eleme culture frowns at crimes and condemn criminals, it rejects them and refuses them admission into leadership positions in the society. For someone to be appointed or elected into any traditional leadership position in Eleme, the person must be free from any accusation of stealing, murder, and witchcraft. He must be married and be adjudged to be good and has contributed to the defence, projection and development of the community.


Another prove that the people of Eleme do not celebrate criminals is the existence of well-defined traditional institutions of crime control and punishment. These institutions are explained in the table below.


Institutions of Community Policing and Crime Control

All towns and villages 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. Every Eleme man and woman, boy and girl belongs to one or more of these groups. The groups are:

1. Oku O’tor Family group made up of smaller units agreeing with kindred lines. Settles minor disputes between members of the same family.
2. Oku O’e Extended family which owns a hall and maintains one shrine, known as Nsi Eji Settles disputes between members of the same family in matters of assault, stealing, boundaries, inheritance, adultery, witchcraft, invocation of juju, and other forms of misdemeanour.
3. 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.
4. Egbara Eta Uninitiated adult men below Oku Ekpo They promote communal work, security, control social decay, and perform traditional entertainment such as: wrestling, dancing, and singing.
5. Mba Eta Organization of Women selected on age and representative basis Regulates the activities of women; ensures high morality and discipline among women.
6. Eji These are Ancestral Spirits – that is, spirits of all who have lived and died. They are known as Oku Eji and dwell in a separate spiritual kingdom known as Eta Eji. 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 Oku Eji.
7. Ejor These are deities or gods such as Ejilee, Onura, Ebaajor, Mbie, Ejamaaejor Ogbenwata, Ndorwa, Osarobinmkpa and others. They are known as Oku Ejor and dwell in a separate spiritual kingdom known as Eta Ejor. They are believed to be somehow senior and superior to Oku Eji. 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.


8. Oku Eta The Traditional Ruler (Oneh Eh Eta) and his elders (Oku Ekpo) They constitute Owe Ebo Ete 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.
9. Oku Nkporon Group of Initiated men with the Highest Judicial Powers and Authority. They constitute Owe Nkporon 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.
10. Oku Nyoa Oku Nyoa are group of initiated elders led by One Nkiken (Land Priest/Traditional Prime Minister). Nkiken (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. One Nkiken (Land Priest and Leader of Oku Nyoa) 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 Oku Nkporon; receives and performs the duties of Oneh Eh Eta if One Eh Eta is 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.


The existence of these groups helps to solve the problems of crime and criminality in the society. They help maintain law and order. They control behavior in society. They are the pivots upon which the community revolves. They solve social decay and render communal services. These institutions maintain the center of gravity in all aspects of human relations and dealings. But, are these institutions still relevant in the modern Eleme? Why are they not as active as they used to be? How comes the modern legal system is bent on reducing their powers and rendering them moribund? Will the society be better for it, if these institutions are revitalized, empowered and encouraged to participate actively in community policing? Your answers, comments, observations, suggestions and updates are very necessary.

Traditional Court

There are three authoritative government functions in Eleme – rulemaking, rule application, and rule adjudication. These are the three old functions of separation of power in Eleme except that an effort has been made to free them from their overtures – rulemaking rather than ‘legislation’, rule application rather than ‘executive’ and rule adjudication rather than the ‘judiciary’.


The traditional political system of Eleme has been stressed by no differential and diffused character of political and social structure. It would be noticed that the Chieftaincy in Eleme fulfil at one and the same time the rulemaking, rule application and rule adjudication functions and specialization is not consciously related to the idea of fulfilling roles at all.


The process of rulemaking 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 “Oku Otor” i.e. people of the same family. Each Oku Otor has “Ekpone” (head of the Oku Otor), who is the source of authority for all others. No member of the Oku Otor can take decision or perform any act without consulting Ekpone.


The Ekpone posse 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 Oku Otor level we have the next kin group – the lineage or extended family called Oku Oɂe. The head of the Oku Oɂe is known as “Ekpone Oɂe” – a very important figure in the community who holds the title of “One Nsi Oɂe”, a symbol of authority of the ancestors, which is very important and mystical in Eleme traditional political system. The One Nsi Oɂe who must be an initiated member of “Oku Nyoa” is seen as the intermediary between the Oku Oɂe and the ancestors. He is the fountain of authority in the community. He serves the “Oɂe” shrine (“Nsi Eji Oɂe), assisted by the next older person who is being prepared to succeed him at the appropriate time.


In Eleme, 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 One Nsi Oɂe. He is usually the priest of “Nsi Eji Oɂe”. He makes laws, he also adjudicates.


Rulemaking function is also performed by adult male members of the clan in a general assembly called “O’elabo of the Clan”. The O’elabo is made up of the Oneh Eh Eta (the chief), and the elders (Oku Ekpo) collectively referred to as Oku Nkporon, the Egbaraeta, leaders of thought and representatives from each village and community.


The procedure for rulemaking at the caln level is democratic, but the final decisions taken depend on the elders when they retire 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 Oku Nkporon (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 Oku Nkporon also performs the functions of executing and adjudicating the laws they have helped to enact. The output structures are also multi-functional. Other structures such as Oku Omu (age grades), Egbara Eta (uninitiated men), Mba Eta (organization of women selected on age and representative basis), also perform rulemaking, rule application and rule adjudication functions.


All these structures and functional roles of the political system condition have influenced the political thought of the Eleme 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 rulemaking 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 performs 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 Eleme 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 on one hand and the lopsided Nigerian Constitution on the other hand.


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 Eleme believed strongly in extended family system and African socialism.


The growth of the Eleme traditional legal system has been slow and steady. All towns and villages in Eleme 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 Eleme. There were age grades to which all males belong called Oku Omu. The family group made up of smaller units agreeing with kindred lines called Oku Otor; and the extended family, which owned a hall and maintained a shrine known as Oku Oɂe.


The hierarchy of the community was made up of the chief (Oneh Eh Eta) and the elders (Oku Ekpo) called Oku Eta, and another group of initiated men who have the highest rulemaking, rule application and rule adjudication status called Oku Nkporon. 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 (Oku Omu) relating to assault, defamation of character, issue of threat, invocation of juju and minor matrimonial cases were dealt with by Oku Omu. 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 misdemeanour were settled by Oku Oɂe. 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 Oku Eta.


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 town hall. These are “Owe Ebo Ete” and “Owe Nkporon”. Both courts operate at the community level, sub-clan level, and at the clan level. Whenever Oku Eta sits as a court it is called Owe Ebo Ete (Owe Ebo Etate). Owe Ebo Ete 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 Owe Ebo Ete or to the highest court called Owe Nkporon.


Since the traditional legal system in Eleme 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 ones right, to be cleared of accusation, to recover property or to obtain a public declaration.


Suing before the Owe Ebo Ete 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, One Nkporon (spokesman of the community), and elders would constitute the Owe Ebo Ete 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 Owe Ebo Ete court or to appeal against the judgment.


Owe Nkporon Court

Owe Nkporon is the highest court in Eleme. The clan head (Oneh Eh Eta) presides over its sitting and members are drawn from the rank of Oku Nkporon who have completed all the processes of “Oba Nkporon”, and are therefore entitled to join in the court’s routine consultation called “Ola”. The processes of getting the Owe Ebo Ete and Owe Nkporon courts to sit are the same but Owe Nkporon is more expensive than Owe Ebo Ete and its decisions are final.


Owe Nkporon can hear a fresh case brought before it as well as appeals coming from Owe Ebo Ete or lower levels; however, Owe Nkporon 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. Although some persons have tried to brand these processes devilish and fetish; the law has also proscribed and labelled same as heathenish and we are aware paying heavily for it in terms of rising crimes and criminality.


The powers of the community are also limited by the fact that they cannot confiscate any of the property of unresponsive ones since that is against the law. Banishment and public ridicule is also having less effect as people can easily run out of their community and in fact, the whole Eleme, to the nearby urban center where they can easily make new friends and get on with a life devoid of those cultural constraints.


The use of Ogbe to protect one’s life and properties, elicit the truth from an offender and ensure confidence has also 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”.


Ogbe was once an important instrument of investigation. The invocation of investigative juju as a practice of the people has come to stay despite the onslaught of Christianity, civilization, and modern judiciary but, the efficacy of ogbe has faded considerably.


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 instil 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, and things are falling apart, crimes and fear of crimes everywhere. Perhaps the Religious and National Values Curriculum now introduced into our Schools would do the magic, in the next ten to twenty years, as we pursue the goals of harmonising such key values as honesty, regard and concern for the interest of others, justice, discipline, right attitude to work, courage and national consciousness.



Conclusively, it is wrong to opine that Eleme people celebrate criminals. The system speaks for itself and the people proud themselves as honest, hardworking, industrious and progressives. You can never see Eleme person escorting a criminal to or from court, or celebrating a criminal at any event.

The average Eleme person may appear to be weak and fearful but always own up to his integrity. He hates corruption and avoids violence. He believes in honesty and self-discipline. The Eleme culture encourages Eleme people to stay at home, work hard and make a respectable living at home. Perhaps, this accounts for why majority of Eleme people do not travel very far and long. Criminals are not needed, nor are they tolerated or celebrating in Eleme society. The Eleme tradition hates criminals and has a way of isolating them so that they do not corrupt others in the society. There is nowhere in the Eleme tradition that celebrates criminals, or considers criminals as heroes or role models. The Eleme people see criminals as evil and pandemics; and isolate and keep them away from society.

Besides, the average Eleme person knows that Elemeland has a way of rewarding good and punishing evil. Instances abound where a whole family has been destroyed and the compound abandoned due to heinous crime committed by one of its members. A close look will reveal to you that no public fund looter in Eleme has gone unpunished. Eleme do not celebrate criminals; rather it ensures that the criminal and beneficiaries of crime are punished to deter others and sanitize the society.

What we are experiencing in Eleme today is as a result of the loss of values in the Nigerian society. The unfolding events in which the future of Nigerian youths is being used by politicians should call for the concern of all.



Osaro Ollorwi – 08036694027


Amnesty in Eleme Tradition


Ollorwi Osaro

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

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


Why Amnesty?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Receives Amnesty in Eleme Tradition?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Process of Managing Amnesty in Eleme Tradition

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

1.     Acceptance of Wrongdoing

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

2.     Identification of Offender and Victim Relatives

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

3.     Negotiation

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


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


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


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


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

4.     Ajija Ritual

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

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

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

5.     Purification Rituals

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

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

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

6.     Administration of Oath/Swearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing Modern and Traditional Amnesties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


  3. +234 (0) 8036694027




What is title? What purpose does a title serve? Do we have indigenous titles as a people? If yes, who award these titles and on who? What are the criteria for the bestowment of these titles? What are the expectations of the awarding authorities and people of Eleme in conferring these titles on the individual? Have these expectations been realized? These are some of the questions that this paper will attempt to answer.

What Is Title?

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English International Student’s Edition (2010) defines title as “a word in front of a person’s name to show their rank or profession…, a name that describes a job….” The Webster’s Universal Dictionary & Thesaurus by Geddes & Grosset (2005) refers to title as the “name of a book, play, piece of music, work of art, etc.; the heading of a section of a book; a name denoting nobility or rank or office held, or attached to a personal name; (law) that which gives a legal right (to possession). These definitions convey what title is supposed to mean.


But, for simplicity sake, and for our purpose, title could be defined as a prefix or suffix added to someone’s name. It also signifies veneration, an official position within a social organization, or traditional attainment, a professional or academic qualification.

What Purpose Does A Title Serve?

Titles are used for various reasons, such as to show aristocratic status or one’s role in community, government, a religious organization, or security service. Titles enhance prestige and credibility of the title holder. They command confidence, bestow respect and good titles are known to open doors? Titles are also used to describe a person’s extra ordinary ability and capability to perform certain task. Examples are the titles Ɔnε Edūdūu (a renowned warrior) and Ɔnε Edūdūu ÀkT (a renowned wrestler).

System of Awarding Titles in Eleme                        

The system for the awarding of titles in Eleme is arduous and based on strict criteria including proven hard-work, mentoring, peer review, etc. In yam titles, for instance, the peer review extends from the local (community, town, or village) to national (clan) and, in the case of Obo Title, to Eleme (international) reputation. The processes of awarding titles are discussed below.

Types of Titles in Eleme

There are several titles in Eleme. Some of these titles are hereditary while others are conferred.

However, we shall limit our discussion to the following titles:


  1. Traditional Titles
  2. Yam Titles
  3. Honorific Titles
  4. Historical/Hereditary Titles

Traditional Titles

These are royal or noble titles. In Eleme, royal and noble titles (except the title of Ɔnε NkīkTε) are not hereditary. They are conferred on an individual that merit it through the rigorous process of nomination, selection, initiation and public coronation in which the aspirant must meet the minimum requirements of every stage or be disqualified at any point in the process. All Eleme towns and villages enjoy one basic social structure as regards traditional office titles. These titles include Ɔnε NkīkTε (which is hereditary and more of a historical title than traditional title), Ɔnε Ԑε Ԑta, Ɔnε Nkpᴐrᴐ (Traditional Spokesman/Publicist), Ɔnε Ebo Ԑgbara Ԑta, Ɔwa Ԑε Ԑta, Ԑmεrε Ɔwa, Ԑmεrε Ngwe, etc. It is pertinent to point out here that each of the communities, towns and villages of Eleme enjoy a confederal relationship with one another.


Title of Ɔnε Ԑε

According to the report of the Chieftaincy Committee appointed by Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme, “all the communities, towns, and villages are to be known as Ԑta and their rulers be addressed as Ɔnε Ԑε Ԑta”. At the clan level, the Clan Head is to be called Ɔnε Ԑε …. Clan. At the Nchia and Odido levels, the rulers are tobe addressed as Ɔnε Ԑε Nchia and Ɔnε Ԑε Odido respectively. At the apex of the hierarchy is the King of Eleme known and addressed as Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme.  

Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme

At the apex of the traditional chieftaincy hierarchy of Eleme is the King of Elemeland called Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme. The appellation, Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme is an identifier that specifies the office or position of the King of Eleme.  The phrase is used to convey respect to the office holder and to recognize his rulership and lordship over Elemeland. The Stool of Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme is a First Class Stool recognized by the Rivers State Government. The present occupant of the Stool is HRM King Dr. Samuel Oluka Ejire, JP, Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme X.


The assembly of the Ɔnε Ԑε and Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ at any level constitutes ƆmS also called Owe Ebo Ete (lower court) or Owe Nkpᴐrᴐ (higher court) and adjudicates in disputes between two or more persons or between two families or villages concerning land tenure, divorce, custody of children, stealing, boundaries, inheritance, adultery, witchcraft, invocation of juju, defamation of character, rape, elopement, and so on.

Ɔnε Ԑε Nchia and Ɔnε Ԑε Odido

Immediately below the Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme are the two district heads of Nchia and Odido known as Ɔnε Ԑε Nchia and Ɔnε Ԑε Odido respectively. The office of Ɔnε Ԑε Nchia and Ɔnε Ԑε Odido are Second Class Stools recognized by the Rivers State Government. The present occupants of these Stools are HRH Dr. Philip O. Obele and HRH Obariwite Nchimaonwi in that order.

Ɔnε Ԑε Ԑta

This is a title granted to a Traditional Ruler, following his nomination, selection, initiation and public coronation as Paramount Ruler of his village, town, or community. The title also identifies and conveys respect to the Traditional Ruler and recognizes his leadership position in the society.


The nomination, selection, initiation, and installation of a traditional ruler in Eleme are the responsibility of Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ of the community, clan, or kingdom, and the choice is not restricted to the circle of Ɔnε Ԑε Ԑta alone. Commenting on who is qualified for the office and title of Ɔnε Ԑε, Chief O. O. Ngofa (2006) said, “Any member of Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ with proper standing, whose personal merit, ability, background and past performances sufficiently portray him as a good leader, may be selected and installed. His character and training in customary matters are more seriously considered than mere oratory or wealth”.

Standardization of Process of Selecting Ɔnε Ԑε

It is on record that several efforts have been marshaled towards the standardization of the process of selecting Ɔnε Ԑε at different levels of Eleme society. On 27th August, 2001, Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme under the leadership of His Royal Majesty King Ngei A. O. Ngei (JP), Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme (IX) constituted an 11 man committee under the Chairmanship of Chief (Hon) J. D. Osaronu (JP) charged with the responsibility of drawing up modalities for the selection of Ɔnε Ԑε and to define the powers and jurisdictions of the various Councils of Chiefs and Elders in Eleme.


According to the unsigned report of the Chieftaincy Committee submitted on 5th October, 2001, which turned out to create more problems than it was intended to solve, on the death or dethronement of an incumbent, a regent is to be appointed, normally, the Ɔnε NkikTε. After a period of interregnum, the Ɔnε NkikTε will summon a meeting of Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ and request for the selection of a new Ɔnε Ԑε after due consultation with all sections of the community leadership.


The said report also affirmed that while the venue and process of installation of Ɔnε Ԑε differs slightly from clan to clan, the Ɔnε Ԑε can only be disposed on the proven offences of witchcraft, stealing and murder. “These crimes are heinous in nature and can warrant the removal of Ɔnε Ԑε… where he has been found guilty by a court of law or Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ or appeal”, the report emphasized.


Modalities for Selection of Ɔnε Ԑε

The report listed the minimum qualifications to be met by all candidates aspiring to be Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme, which, invariably are also applicable to all other traditional rulers’ titles.

a.       The candidate must possess minimum qualification of WASC or its equivalent provided that where the Ɔnε Ԑε has only the minimum qualification, then in the selection of the Chairman, a higher educational qualification shall be a prerequisite.

b.      He must be a member of Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme.

c.       He must not be somebody who had been convicted of felony.

d.      He must not be somebody who had been found guilty of witchcraft.

e.       He must not be somebody who had been found guilty by competent court or Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ for stealing, misappropriation of public funds and breach of trust.

f.       He must not be somebody who had been found guilty of betrayal of the whole of Eleme or any part thereof by Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ.

g.      He must not be a slave, that is, a person whose father is not indigenous to Eleme.


Other conditions worth mentioning include:

  1. The candidate must have broad support of his community, town, village or kingdom as the case may be.
  2. He must not be under 21 years of age.
  3. He must be ordinarily resident within the area of his community, town, or village.
  4. He must not have been sentenced by a court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria or any other part of the Commonwealth to death or imprisonment for term exceeding six months, if he has be so convicted and sentenced, has received a free pardon.
  5. He must not be a full-time public servant.
  6. He must not be of unsound mind or adjudged to be a lunatic.
  7. He must not be an un-discharged bankrupt.

2. Yam Titles

Yam titles are honorific titles. They are phrase used to convey respect to the recipient of a yam title and to recognize him for completing all the aspects of the Obo Title’s ceremonies and is awarded the title of Ԑmεrε Ngwe. These qualifications/titles are Áchu, Obo, Ͻbԑrԑ-Obo, Ͻtaa-Obo, Áchu-Ete and Ewo-Áchu-Ñsi. Each title/qualification involves a number of stakes of 21 yams each as shown below including specified ceremonial processes that are very expensive but honorable.

  1. Áchu –                 200 Stakes of 21 Yams Each.
  2. Obo –                    400 Stakes of 21 Yams Each.
  3. Ͻbԑrԑ-Obo –          800 Stakes of 21 Yams Each.
  4. Ͻtaa-Obo –            1200 Stakes of 21 Yams Each.
  5. Áchu -Ete –           1600 Stakes of 21 Yams Each.
  6. Ewo-Áchu-Ñsi –   2000 Stakes of 21 Yams Each with the barns arranged in 20 rectangular    


Writing on the significance of yam titles among the people of Eleme Chief O. O. Ngofa, Ԑmεrε Ngwe 1 said, “Any person who holds the obo title as a result of having completed all the aspects of the title ceremonies is customarily honored with the title of Ԑmεrε Ngwe”, emphasis is mine.


It very difficult for the present generation of Eleme men to aspire for yam titles because of the stringent requirements attach to it.  For instance, only yams cultivated by the aspiring farmer are acceptable requisite for conferment of appropriate yam titles/qualifications in Eleme. In other words, yams purchased from the market are illegitimate and unfit for presentation for the attainment of yam titles. I need not mention names, but recent attempts by few individuals to use yams procured from the market for the Obo title ceremony have met with swift resistance and rejections. Besides, most communities in Eleme have demolished their ancient ekpo (hill) from their Ԑgbεrε OɁe (town square) where the ojīi ekpo (hill climbing) ritual that crowns the ceremonial conferment of yam titles is usually performed. The acquisition of land for industrialization coupled with oil and gas exploration and production activities have joined forces to rob Eleme of arable farmland; and pollution from their activities that are discharged into the air, creeks, and farmlands are also posing greater threats to nutrition and longevity, making farming a senseless venture in Eleme.


Yam Titles of Áchu, Obo, Ͻbԑrԑ-Obo, Ͻtaa-Obo, Áchu-Ete and Ewo-Áchu-Ñsi are ancient-standalone qualifications/titles and they do not derive their names from the number of stakes of yams but a totality of all the requirements which an aspirant must meet before being adjudged qualified both in farming and character for the conferment.

3. Honorific Titles

These are identifiers that specify the office or position held by someone in the community. They include but not limited to: Ɔnε Ebo Ԑgbara Ԑta, Ɔwa Ԑε Ԑta, and Ԑmεrε Ɔwa.

Ɔnε Ebo Ԑgbara Ԑta

This title refer to the leader of the uninitiated adult men below Oku Ekpo but higher than Asama. He assists the elders in implementing their decisions; promote communal work, ensure security, control social decay and direct performance of traditional entertainment such as wrestling, dancing and singing.

Ɔwa Ԑε Ԑta

Ɔwa Ԑε Ԑta is the leader of Mbá Ԑta, organization of women selected on age and representative basis.  She regulates activities of women in the community, ensures high morality and discipline among women. She is the conscience of the community’s women.

Ԑmεrε Ɔwa

The Eleme custom does not provide for a woman becoming a traditional ruler in the sense that she is part of the mainstream of community’s administration. It is still an abomination for a woman to join traditional rulers, chiefs and elders during consultation called ᴐla or in any manner while exercising their traditional functions of Ɔnε Ԑε Ԑta or Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ, under any guise.


However, Eleme is gender sensitive when it comes to conferment of titles. Hence there is customary provision for women who considered themselves fit and wealthy enough to aspire to achieve a prestigious title of Ԑmεrε Ɔwa. In the far past, the process of conferment of this very highly regarded title involves the buying of many slaves by the woman, the display of appropriate numbers and quality of yams and ability to feast all the invitees.

Presently, it entails the transfer of wealth to another person with the approval and participation of the entire community. This ceremony is known as Otora Ndele. It is a deliberate action to enrich another person and the custom is to carefully select such a beneficiary who may be a daughter, junior sister or niece to the person wishing to take the title. The Eleme tradition does not regard the acquisition of University degrees, ownership of motor vehicles, or chains of businesses by women as sufficient evidence of wealth to warrant the conferment of the Ԑmεrε Ɔwa title. The aspiring woman must be fit in character, liberal, philanthropic, and generous enough to handover parts of her wealth to another person to be adjudged qualify for the prestigious honour of Ԑmεrε Ɔwa.  

It takes a number of years to prepare for this title and during this period, all necessary consultation must be made, crops planted on a large scare and all the relevant materials procured.


Ndele is never carried to a widow, divorcee, spinster or a woman who is not currently married to a man. It is the leading women in the community who inspects all the materials that are usually laid out in a room; and only celebrant’s relations and friends, members of her age-grade and well wishers that carry the materials.


Importantly, the list of materials to be assembled to qualify for Ndele is almost endless as new and very expensive items are being introduced continually in line with changing times. They usually include different varieties of yams, cocoyam, one plantain sucker, sugarcane, beans, pepper, pumpkin, very big dried fish, salt, palm oil, one basin of garri, a she-goat; various sizes of aluminum pots, plates, trays, basins, tripods, mortal and pestle, cups, sieve, cutlery, axe, kettle, matchet, trunk boxes, bicycles or motor cycle, trinkets, mirror, gas cooker and cylinder, sewing machine, etc. Apart from the bicycle or motor cycle that may be rolled along with the entourage, every other item must be carried by a woman while they sang to the recipient’s house.

Edūdūu Ɔnε

The title Edūdūu Ɔnε or Ɔnε Edūdūu (ÀkT) is confer on wrestlers who have thrown an opponent from another community, town, village or clan and perform all the necessary ceremonies, especially during the OɁε AɁo Esū festival; or a known warrior who have meritoriously defended the community against external aggressions. It is a symbol of respect and recognition of might and prowess.

Historical/Hereditary Titles

These are titles used to show somebody’s hereditary position in the community or family. Examples are the titles of Ɔnε NkīkTε (Land Priest), Osaro (first son), Ollor (second son), Osila (first daughter), Onua (second daughter), etc. Worthy of explanation is the title of Ɔnε NkīkTε.

Ɔnε NkīkTε

Ɔnε NkīkTε is the traditional Prime Minister/Land Priest and Leader of the Oku Nyᴐa. He exercises both spiritual and administrative powers. He performs the Ɔlᴐ Ajija ritual for cleansing of the land as a result of desecration arising from the following:

  1. Unmarried girl pregnancy sin,
  2. Suicide, and
  3. Sex in the farm.

The Ɔnε NkikTε is also responsible for the Ɔwara Ԑkpaa Osila (first daughter) ritual. He appoints and installs Ɔnε Ԑε on active advice of Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ; receives and performs the duties of Ɔnε Ԑε if the incumbent is found guilty of gross misconduct, is insane, or upon the demise of an incumbent until a successor is appointed and installed according to tradition. He ensures that things are done in accordance with custom and tradition. He commands the respect of the gods. He serves NkīkTε, the deity that directly relates to the foundation of the community, town, village or clan and its protection. The position of Ɔnε NkīkTε is hereditary and it is confined to the lineage or family of the original founder of the community, town, village or clan.


The Office of Ɔnε NkīkTε Eleme and Ɔnε Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme

Although, the title/office of Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme is a recent development (Chief O. O. Ngofa, 2006); it is rather unfortunately that there is no recognized office of Ɔnε NkīkTε Eleme (Traditional Prime Minister/Land Priest of Eleme) and there is no Ɔnε Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme (Traditional Spokesman/Publicist of Eleme). The ad hac arrangements during selection and installation of Ɔnε Ԑε Eleme and Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ consultation tells how we deliberately rape and manipulate tradition and then anger our ancestors. Regrettably, ancestors (Oku Ejī) are spirits and like every other spirits, they don’t forgive.


Although, our culture and tradition permeates the existence of these titles/offices at all levels of Eleme social political hierarchy, the operators of the system deliberately play-down on the offices at the national (Eleme) level. The existence of these offices and their functionality at the local (community, town and village) and state (clan) levels notwithstanding, something need to be done to create and sustain the title/office of Ɔnε NkīkTε Eleme and Ɔnε Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme. The absent of these offices/titles at the Eleme level arises, perhaps, from several factors including the following:

  1. Contentions surrounding the original settlement of the founder of Eleme. Is it Ebubu, Ogale, Agbonchia or Alesa as is being postulated by several schools of thought?
  2. Fear of crowning a known/popular Prime Minister who will exercise the true powers of Ɔnε NkīkTε Eleme or Ɔnε Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme.
  3. Deliberate creation of vacuum for political manipulations and promotion of corruption.
  4. Abuse of the system/principles of check and balance which the offices of Ɔnε NkīkTε Eleme and Ɔnε Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme intend to guarantee.

Methods of Acquiring Titles in Eleme

From the foregoing it is clear that there are several ways of acquiring titles in Eleme. Some of these are:

  1. When the man is nominated, selected, initiated and installed as Ɔnε Ԑε of his community, town, village, clan, or kingdom and the title of Ɔnε Ԑε is bestowed on him.
  2. When a man is admitted and initiated into the membership of Oku Nkpᴐrᴐ and the title of Ԑmεrε is conferred on him.
  3. When a man meets all the requirements for the conferment of Obo Yam Title and he is honoured with the title of Ԑmεrε Ngwe. 
  4. When a woman completes the ceremonial process of Otora Ndele and she is conferred with the prestigious title of Ԑmεrε Ɔwa.
  5. When a man is born into the lineage or family of the original founder of the community, town, village or clan and inherits the title of Ɔnε NkīkTε.
  6. By privilege of birth. When a man or woman is born as a first or second child and he/she inherits the title of Osaro (first son), Ollor (second son) or, Osila (first daughter), Onua (second daughter) respectively.

Expectations of Titles Awarding Authorities of Eleme  

In addition to the above titles Chiefs in Council have devised ways of conferring various titles on individuals and organizations, though political. These titles range from Nsấ Nsebo, Okuma Nnyε, Akaraba, Egeta Ade, to Àkpa  Nsā, and Era; all in an attempt to attract attention, elicit support and commitment to the development of Elemeland. But, have will achieve this simple aim over the years? Your answer is as good as mine. A walk around Eleme will trigger up the anger in you as you see the backwardness of Eleme people in spite of the resources God bestowed on the land and the way and manner she is being raped. The poverty in Elemeland is a living one, the misappropriation of her resources have reached an alarming proportion. The lack of basic infrastructure brings to the fore what have been happening to the billions that comes into Eleme from the federal allocations and internally generated revenue (IGR) monthly and annually. What purpose are these titles serving then?

The aim of this section is not to condemn titles’ awarding authorities in Eleme or criticize the recipients but, to review how we have fared so far. My studies have revealed that the more the number of indigenous and foreign title holders increases in Eleme, the more backward Elemeland drifts. These titles serve the selfish and greedy purposes of the bearers only with no recourse to the society. They negatively bestowed on many holders the demonic influence to mobilize our children as thugs and empower them to terrorize, kill and destroy lives and properties. It is unfortunate. Title without commiserate positive developmental impact on the community is valueless, dysfunctional and retrogressive; and therefore calls for a rethink and proper prior examination if future intending recipients of any title in Eleme.

Importantly, it is time for the people of Eleme to sit down to look again at the positive impact of the true title of Ԑmεrε Ɔwa and promote same among men. The wisdom of women is demonstrated in the beauty and progressive nature of their title. Let us keep pride aside and learn from the womenfolk whose title is conferred only on those who are adjudged fit in character, who are philanthropic and generous and who wholeheartedly enrich another. This is what I called Human Capital Development in Action. It is a clear empowerment of the next generation.

Let me also caution here against the abuse of the title “Ԑmεrε Ɔwa”. I have witness some of us referring to the wives of politicians and wealthy individuals as Ԑmεrε Ɔwa. This is an outright abuse of the title; it is an impersonation that tradition frowns at. If you have been doing that ignorantly though, please stop!

The women title of Ԑmεrε Ɔwa over the year has been tight to human capital development in all its ramifications. In the far past, it was the purchase of many slaves which radically increased the populations of Eleme. Presently, it involves the multiplication of riches and propagation of wealth. What are our men doing with all their many titles, both foreign and indigenous? Keep your answer and soberly reflect on it.

The Future of Eleme

The action of this generation will either reduce or increase the chance of future generation to blossom. You are conferred with the title to lift you high, make you acceptable and famous. You are lifted so that others through you can be lifted. You were not elected, appointed or employed into that office for your own sake alone. You are there with a divine mandate of fruitfulness and multiplication. God and the people of Eleme expect you to plant others and nurture them; to harness and manage your position for the benefit of Elemeland and Eleme people; to spread your wealth to others coming after you. Violating this divine injunction is not only tantamount to wickedness, but increases the chance that others will suffer.

Every negative attitude or act of selfishness on your part reduces the chance that those coming behind you will come up outstanding in life. A leader in whatever capacity that is oblivious of the fact that he is just mere custodian of the people’s resources but goes ahead to selfishly mismanage or squander it reduces the chance that his subject will live to their fullest as intended by God except God intervenes.

Do you still marvel why many children are suffering in Eleme and have become destitute today? Do you still wonder why crime rate and level of insecurity are alarming in present day Eleme? Are you still surprised why many people in Eleme are living below standard now? Somebody or a group of people or a leader occupying certain influential position on behalf of Eleme has failed in his statutory and traditional responsibilities. It is rather unfortunate because he is narrowing the chance that others will make it. Consequently, he will neither have rest in his lifetime, nor in his grave. Examples abound around us!


Eleme is at a turning point of her nationhood. The future of Eleme is not fixed to a destination. It is rather a place or something we create by the choices we make and actions we take NOW. We will not be judged by what we say, not by what we think, but by what we do. It is only action that changes an impression; provokes development; creates history and sets a record. Eleme is at a turning point of her 500 years of nationhood. Therefore, action is needed now to change our perception of titles and make things happen. Action is the best device for this change. It is action that informs change and brings about visible development. Taking action or step to correct past wrongs and set new standards is the only way to make our titles functional and productive; keep our thinking fresh, challenged and informed. Leadership must be assessed by actions not by rhetoric. Titles must be made to serve its useful purposes!

I hail you all! Thank you for your audience and rapt attention.


A. S.  Hornby (ed.)          “Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English International Student’s Edition”, New 8th Edition, London, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Chief Obo Osaro Ngofa  “Eleme Traditions” Rescue Publications, Ogale Eleme, 2004.

Chief Obo Osaro Ngofa “The Complete History of Eleme” Freedom Press, Ibadan, 2006.

Geddes & Grosset (ed.) “Webster’s Universal Dictionary & Thesaurus”, Geddes & Grosset, David Dale House New Lanark, Scotland, UK, 2005.

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

Ollorwi Osaro “Community Policing & Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues & Perspectives” Nigerian Institute of Security Press, Port Harcourt, 2009.

Osaronu, J. D.   “Report of Chieftaincy Committee Appointed by Nkpᴐrᴐ Eleme” Eleme Civic Centre, Ogale, Eleme, 5th October, 2001