READ! What Ibusa Council of Chiefs Say about African Tradition

*A procession of Ibusa chiefs and citizens
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By Austin Nwaobi 

Most young Africans living in Africa today consider African cultural existence as fetish, adopting the Whiteman’s way of life without any form of discernment.

This conclusion was drawn from the observance of an annual traditional festival in which the people of Umueze Quarter in Ibusa, Delta State, relived their ancestral ordinances regarding faith in God and love for one another. Before Christianity, Islam or any other religion emerged, Africans believed in the existence of a deity (god) that superintendents over the affairs of man. God in Nigerian dialect is called “Chukwu” or “Chi”, among the Ibos, “Oluwa”, by the Yorubas, Allah in Hausa, just to mention few.

God was indigenous to the Blackman before the Whitman came. History has it that during the pre-colonial era, the culture–lifestyle in Africa precipitated love for one’s neighbour. Those days, doors are left open without any fear of attack or robbery; there was precept of care for the life and property of others.

Today, it seems the influence of colonisation made Africans to throw away their value system. It appears that Africans are battling with an identity crisis; apparently suffering from cultural imperialism to the extent that majority no longer speak their mother tongue without the infusion of English language even in unofficial meetings.

Nevertheless, only custodians of indigenous traditional history can educate the curious minds on matters that relates to a people’s way of life.

In an exclusive interview with Augustine Nwaobi, Ibusa Council of Chiefs frowned at the wrong notions undermining the African culture. They spoke extensively about the symbolism of cultural festivals observed every August.

Speaking in a manner that exhumed the Aristotelian  saying that: We need a culture that supports the conditions under which self-love and friendship flourish, High Chief, Daddy Okeleke said that Ulor festival has nothing to do with fetishism.

He noted that Caucasians had over the years daubed African tradition in bad light in order to sell their own doctrine to Africans. He however, urged sub-saharans to be wise.

According to the Mgboko of Ibusa Kingdom, the annual festival was born out of the need for the people of Umueze to collectively thank God for His benevolence towards mankind.

His words, “Ulor festival is a festival that we celebrate every year and it is always in August. It signifies thanksgiving to God for keeping us alive, for good harvest, for keeping our children anywhere they are, we thank God for protecting us and we ask Him to keep us till next year.

“So it’s all about gratitude to God for the good things that He has done in our lives.  It is a time when Umueze sons and daughters celebrate the goodness of God; anyone whose father, mother or grandma is from Umueze is expected to participate in this festival.

“People from other Quarters are at liberty to join us but it is primarily for sons and daughters of Umueze; Umuadafe and Ogbeowelle Quarters celebrate Iwu”, he said.

Another conventional Chief popularly known as Bolingo added that,  “people come from different parts of the world to celebrate this annually. Sons and daughters come from United States of America, UK,  Europe and other foreign countries yearly to celebrate with us here, this year’s activities is slightly different because of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Unlike religion that encourages proselytes to congregate in halls, traditional worship uses festival to fellowship in supplication to God. Traditional festivals are done in selected community centres known as Ogwa.

Speaking further on the traditional festival of Ulor, the most elderly, Diokpa Umueze, M. Emishie ably represented by Onowu Nwabudike said that Ulor festival dates to time immemorial.

“Our forefathers did it and we are doing it wholeheartedly because it’s our tradition. Ulor means that the earth would stabilise for us; this can be translated to blessing on every side, in our lives, homes, workplaces and communities.

“By partaking in Ulor we say no to the plans of Satan, we declare that satanic manipulations would not come near us and our children’s children”.

After Ulor festival the people of Umueze embraces a feast called Ifejioku. Sources from the families visited in the cause of documenting this narrative revealed that the feast of Ifejioku was instituted for the sake bridging the gap between the rich and the poor in the society;  to ensure that the wealthy persons share their possessions with the necessituos households.

In Umueze, Ifejioku feast is to the traditionalists what Christmas is to Christians: A time to celebrate the love of God towards humanity.  During this season, brethren unite irrespective of social stratification, visiting one another; wining and dining. Everybody experiences abundance.

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Throwing more light on the ordinances of Ifejioku Onowu Oyedimmanaazu Ogbolu, revealed that the feast draws strength from the sincerity of genealogical  ancestry.

In one of the families, he said, “What is happening here is that the Umuobiazu family union, Umuokpolo in Umuisagba Quarters, Ibusa, Delta State have assembled to observe the traditional rite of Ifejioku. Today,  we are led by Onowu F.S Mose, the Diokpa Umuobiokpolo family. We are currently in the family house of Obi Unwuhafo Udeze whom Onowu Ifechukwude Udeze has taken after as a result of his father’s death.

“Onowu Ifechukwude Udeze has provided everything required by tradition: the drinks,  kola nut,  tobacco and food to be consumed by the entire Umuobiezu family.

“So today we are celebrating the Ifejioku festival which signifies thanksgiving. We are thanksgiving the God of harvest for providing a good deed of  harvest for us. The cutlass, hoe, digger, etc used in cultivation are brought before our deity as we thank him for good harvest”, Ogbolu explained.

The titled man, without mincing words bemoaned the prevalence of Western culture among African youths of nowadays, attributing it to lack of knowledge.

He said, “to be candid with you, one of the reasons why young ones have refused to embrace African traditional religion is that most of them lack knowledge. Secondly,  they are misled by the advent of Christianity.

“Before Christianity came, our forefathers have been existing, they had their own way of life and lived perfectly but the emergence of Christianity, I will say has done more harm as our young ones are quick to embrace the Whiteman’s religion more than what their father believed.

“For me as a traditionalist, I believe in what my father told me and likewise way of life because my father lived a very good life: he stood for the truth, which is most important to me. My father was an ardent believer of his father’s tradition which was passed unto him and he passed to me.

“Another thing is that my father had sincerity of purpose. He made me to know that my existence in life cannot be complete without touching another person’s life. This means that my smile cannot be complete without the next person smiling with me, so I am always enthusiastic about my father’s tradition because it has gone a long way in teaching communality—communal living in all its ramifications.

“If I have one naira today and my brother have nothing, I have not had anything. If I have one naira my brother must have fifty kobo from what I have gotten, at the end both of us will come to appreciate God for His goodness”, he added toutly.

Similarly, Nkewuka Ogbolu adviced African youths to know that tradition existed before religion, adding that Africans who are practicing the Whiteman’s religion are motivated by the doctrine that God forgives every sin.

He noted that African tradition had instant divine punishment against those who stole, rape, embezzled or did anything that falls short of the moral standards approved by the deity whereas the new age religion preaches forgiveness of sin.

In his family house,  he said, “tradition exist before; if we are following the ways that we learnt from our fathers, we will not have some of the societal ills bedeviling the world today.

“In the past courtesy of African tradition people lived longer and healthier because they used herbs for every ailment but today it’s no longer the case. I want the youths to know that we are not whites. We have tradition, African man is a traditional man.

“Children of nowadays want to do whatever they like and hide under the doctrine that says God will forgive. They are embracing religion because the African tradition does not harbour misdemeanor”, he explained.

Ifejioku lasted till September with wrestling and traditional music bands entertaining the people. The wrestling context asides entertaining was meant to build and test the stamina of the contestants who were mostly male.

The non contesting males at the background joined the female folks to cheer up the contenders by singing,  clapping and sometimes boasting that a particular candidate will win.

But, no contender loses as everyone who vied is seen by the panel as a prizewinner considering their courage to attempt a brawl.

Therein lies the lesson of tradition: whether one wins or loses a fight, the whole essence of Ulor and Ifejioku are driven by an intrinsic love for God demonstrated in man’s kindness to his neighbour. Nothing more.

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