Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Before the Whiteman came to Africa with the Christian religion, the Igbo deployed different methods of settling disputes, ending rifts and adjudicating on various knotty issues.
Even complicated matters that may involve the police, arrests and prosecution in courts were traditionally handled through summoning and invocation of some deities to settle the matter and ensure justice.
Globalisation, digital age and even churches, despite their influences, could not whittle down the impact of using traditional mediums as those who believe in their potency and efficacy still resort to such when needed.
Such was the scenario recently at Umunya community in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra state when the people of the area converged on a sacred ground in the community to invoke the gods of the land. The consecrated with oath taking for a permanent truce in the community.
Daily Sun gathered that the sacred land in Umunya was not a regular meeting square, but their ‘holy of holies’ where serious issues are deliberated
The community had witnessed some degrees of turmoil and unrest from the activities of certain indigenes that were up in arms against the traditional ruler, Igwe Kris Onyekwuluje, over allegations of land grabbing and highhandedness.
The height of the crisis was a recent protest against the traditional ruler; at the Government House, Awka by some women at the instance of those after the monarch, then a counter protest in favour of the traditional ruler.
Igwe Onyekwuluje who felt that the attackers had bitten more than they can chew decided to go spiritual traditionally by invoking the gods of the land so that all can come out and determine their innocence or otherwise.
Regardless of the fact that the ceremony held on the community market day, the entire arena was filled to the brim with different age groups from the community, market women and government officials.
The community’s chief priest who stormed the venue with an Ojii-rattling staff, (symbol of authority of a deity with mystical power) mandated that all respondents must remove their shoes before giving testimonies, warning that anyone who testified falsely would die after seven days.
Surprisingly, the Igwe’s accusers absconded from the meeting. Opportunities were given for people to express their views. Those who spoke bare footed exonerated the traditional ruler from the crisis. People attributed their absence to the fact that the implications of the rituals were obvious to them.
Speaking at the occasion, Governor Willie Obiano, who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Traditional Institutions and Community Matters, Mr Benjamin Umerah, noted that his administration had mapped out avenues, for communities to key into his developmental strides.
He advised the people of Umunya community to fashion out measures that would promote unity and peace among them.
The Governor stressed that his administration would continue providing enabling factors that would ensure healthy living and welfare of the people.
He urged them to embrace the health insurance scheme, charging wealthy people in the community to sponsor the indigent and widows who could not afford to enrol, as such would promote unity and peace.
Umerah said: “Without peace, your community can not attain development. You already have a highly respected king in the person of Igwe Kris Onyekwuluje, and in my estimation he has been doing well, and the Governor, Chief Willie Obiano regards him highly.
“It would only be good for you to support your king to continue to discharge his duties creditably instead of distracting him with protests and accusations.”
On his part, Igwe Onyekwuluje said the momentous peace talk was initiated to resolve rifts and embrace peace, for the development of the community.
The traditional ruler recalled that the Oji-ana age grade (an association of oldest people in the community) had no constitutional right to litigate on community issues, but due to the honesty of its former leadership, he delegated them with such function: “This privilege was abused when the suspected acting leadership took over and started challenging the authority of the traditional ruler. It was due to this that some miscreants in the community started accusing the traditional ruler of intimidation, forceful possession of their lands, among others”.
Two of the Oji-ana members, Mr Geoffrey Abachinam and Chief Reuben Jephat dissociated the age grade from the purported petition; in fact, they said that the “Oji-ana never wrote any petition, and such petition was not in agreement with the members of the age grade.”
They said the age grade was known for truth and that Igwe Kris Onyekwuluje had been on the right track.
To accentuate their position, Chief Jephat moved a motion for the community to remain peaceful and to ostracise anyone who would cause trouble in the community which was seconded by Nze Emma Nweke.
With that the elders of the community, led by the chief priest of Oji-ana, threatened to banish anyone who would cause trouble in the community henceforth.
The ceremony came to a close as Igwe Onyekwuluje finally pardoned his detractors and accusers, while calling on the gods of the land to go after whoever that would tarnish the image of his throne, after the day’s resolution.