■ Why Enugwu-Agidi Ozo titleholder must live in affluence, keep money for burial
From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Across the length and breadth of Igboland, Ozo title is a major symbol of prominence. The title-taking event is typically organized with an abundance of yam, meat, wine and other staple foods, all of which symbolize prosperity in the Igbo culture.
A close observation of the Ozo title-taking ceremony across the states of the South-East geo-political zone gives one an opportunity to see the slight variations in the ways the several communities organize and manage the auspicious event.
Igbo culture is not a straitjacket one that is made up of meaningless rituals.
The Igbo believe in customizing and personalizing their culture. That explains the variations seen in the ways the several communities handle their Ozo title-taking event.
Typically, for an Igbo man to become an Ozo titleholder, he must be wealthy. This gave rise to the Igbo saying that “Ichi ozo bu maka ndi ogadagidi,” meaning that taking the Ozo title is an affair for the high and mighty.
Daily Sun was at Enugwu-Agidi community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State recently to witness the Ozo title taking ceremony of four brothers.
Though the Ozo title taking is such a money-consuming ceremony, the Nwakwo brothers: Olisaemeka Nwankwo, Ugochukwu Nwankwo, Tochukwu Nwankwo and Chukwuma Nwankwo, did not only host the entire community, but Chukwuma upped the ante when he also initiated his three little sons into the clique, bringing the number to seven.
It was a day the people of Enugwu-Agidi community will not forget in a hurry even as the newly initiated Ozo title holders said they have no regrets doing that since “they have arrived and also did what their late father once did.”
At the compound of the Nwankwos, festivities were at a high pitch with dancers, musicians and other entertainers thrilling the audience even as the Ozo titleholders were busy enjoying their entitlements.
As the ceremony got underway, Ozo Fred Onubogu in a chat gave an insight on steps an aspirant for the Ozo title has to take before joining the exclusive league:
“I am an Nze na Ozo title holder too, and what we are doing here is spectacular because it is not easy for one family to produce seven Ozo title holders in one day. The bill is more than N8 million. Before they are initiated, each one of them must deposit N1 million in the bank, into the Ozo title holder’s account. This is for security reasons in case of any eventuality because if an Ozo man happens to die, you don’t have to go and start borrowing money. We don’t suffer to give the last respect for a departed Ozo member in Enugwu – Agidi because the budget has been taken care of while the person was alive. Planning it in this form saves a lot of high blood pressure for the family members of the departed Ozo man.
“Before you step out to be an Ozo man in our place; you have to be prepared financially and otherwise. In our town, an Ozo man doesn’t enter bike or tricycle because you must be in affluence. For those who want to belong, the first step is to host the group we call asaa mbu (the first seven), the person will host this group, fete them with abundant eating and drinking, including slaughtering of animals. Then the person will host the asaa nabo (the second seven) with their requirements too. After this, the asaa nabo will then inform the minor Ozo group of the aspirant’s intention and they will be hosted again by the aspirant. After this, the aspirant will meet the table officers and settle them one by one, then the floor members also till the final day of the coronation.
“On the day, different groups will be invited, including the Uhie dance. All the Ozo title holders go home with a tuber of yam and a fowl at the expense of the new entrant while cows will be slaughtered among other heavy feasting and merriment.”
Ozo Dr Chukwuma Nwankwo who took the title names of Ozo Ezeanawalimo, Ozo Omechaluofumbosi, Ozo Ochiagha, Ozo Ituludegwu, Ozo Akalaka, said that he took the title because his late father toed the same path and he has looked at it critically and discovered that there is no evil in it.
He said that Ozo title holders are community builders working for the progress of the community.
He said that any rich person who musters courage to take the Ozo title has taken the leap of greatness since it would open the doors and take the person to a higher level of financial status:
“This is simply a manifestation that we are rich people. No poor man joins the Ozo titleholders. The community had earlier recognized us as philanthropists, who assist the downtrodden, pay their school fees and others. I only pray that God will continue to keep us alive to keep helping others.”
The head of the Ozo titleholders in Enugwu-Agidi, Chief Chidi Okekenta, said the Ozo title taking in the community was a cultural practice that should be promoted.
He said that Jesus Christ during His life on earth for 33 years was a man of culture too, who dressed like the Jews, spoke the Hebrew Language like them and not English.
He pointed out also that Jesus was circumcised like his kith and kin, saying that in the same manner; every man should be part of his birthplace culture.
He noted that the Ozo title being a sacred affair in Igboland is regulated by several traditional rules and customs.
For instance, a man will never be titled an Ozo, no matter how many million times his wealth can feed the community, if his father is still alive and has not taken the title himself:
“Another instance is when a man is a convicted murderer or thief, the Ozo title is denied him. It is forbidden that strangers hold the Ozo title irrespective of their contributions to the development of the community they find themselves in Igboland. More so, the obsequies trailing the death of an Ozo title holder is performed in an especially sacred way.
“An Ozo title holder is easily identified by the beads around his ankle and the ankles of his first wife, and also the eagle feather fixated on his red cap.”
One of the wellwishers who graced the ceremony, Sir Peter Okala, former governorship candidate of National Conscience Party (NCP) in Anambra State while congratulating the Nwankwo family for their new status urged Ndigbo to promote their cultural heritage and foster more brotherly love and togetherness.