New Eze Nri speaks on killing of Osu, twins, dwarfs, hunchback, spiritual implications of beating a woman.
Tears, blood, rising insecurity, unknown gunmen, kidnapping for ransom, sit-at-home, cultism etc., have become the order of the day in the once acclaimed most peaceful region of Nigeria, the South-East.
Many people from the region are no longer finding it funny because apart from sending hundreds of youths to their early grave, the economy is grinding to a halt, poverty escalating and as a popular adage says, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop so when young, vibrant people are forced to sit-at-home every Monday and recently, for five days at a stretch, the devil will definitely give them something to do which will worsen the situation in the region. This is giving the leaders sleepless nights.
One such leader is the traditional ruler of the ancient Nri Kingdom in Aniocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, His Majesty, Eze Nri Ikenna Onyeso.
Nri, said to be the ancestral home of the Igbos, has been in existence as far back as the 9th Century. In this chat with Saturday Vanguard in his palace, the monarch touched on various issues including Osu caste system, killing of twins, wife battering, the evil aspect of colonialism etc., saying that things will continue to go wrong until the land is cleansed of all the abominations and Igbos go back to the good aspects of their traditions destroyed by colonialism and so-called civilisation.
I am thinking about what is happening today in Igbo land and the cause. We lost track of educating our children to know the implication of killing an Igbo. You will never get away with it. In Igbo land, there is what is called iko mmee ie atonement after a murder has been committed. If you inadvertently kill somebody, there must be cleansing so that the spirit of the dead person, who we believe will reincarnate, will calm down before coming back to the world because his/her life was taken suddenly. You uprooted the person before the time appointed by his maker.
Some towns have done it. They brought out their ofo and made pronouncements that whosoever does so and so evil, such as kill, that so and so will happen to the person. The ofo signifies truth, purity, justice, authority, power and supremacy. Dealing with the ofo means one must tell the truth because lying would mean death. The ofo is usually kept on top of an ogilisi leaf (Newbouldia laevis), regarded as a holy plant. It can never be kept on bare floor.
If the ofo falls from its tree, just like a ripe mango fruit may fall, if a man picks it up and uses it as ofo, it won’t be effective. For it to be very effective, the man would call a very young male or female virgin, give him/her some little money like N100, to pick it from the ground and hand it over to him. The boy/girl represents purity.
Some towns are yet to make these pronouncements but it must be done. Look at what is happening today in Igbo land! Everything has become commonplace, including killings.
Beside the throne is a couch where the king sits to deliver judgment. If he sits on this couch, you expect nothing but truth and justice. On the left and right of the throne are 24 chairs, 12 on the left and 12 on the right for the Eze Nri cabinet made up of the heads of the Nze (High Chiefs) of every kindred. We have six villages and under the six villages, there are kindred so their representatives are 24 altogether. They are called Oru Nze na Ino (24 high chiefs.) They are the decision-makers in the kingdom. The late Ikemba Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu came here to collect the Ofo before the Nigerian civil war from Eze Nri Tabansi Udene who reigned from 1937 to 1987.
My father, Eze Nri Obidiegwu Onyeso, Ènweleána II, was installed in 1988 till the present because in this kingdom, kings don’t die, they go on a journey so he left in 2017 and I took over.
As representatives of the kindred, once a month, they all come to the palace and we meet to deliberate on issues; they then go back to their Umunna (kindred) to relay any decision taken. If the umunna have any issue with the decision, the high chiefs will bring it back to the palace for further deliberation.
Democracy in Nri
I always tell people that democracy started in Nri Kingdom because in Nri, we have rotational kingship among three villages in Agu-Ukwu Nri. The entire Nri has six villages in all.
For people that brought up the issue of seniority leaving the substance (referring to the controversy over who is the senior between Aguleri and Nri), it’s very clear that Nri is the head of Igbo. We are the ones that have the right to do certain things like ikpu alu (cleansing of the land after an abomination has been committed), you can’t go to any other place to do that and it will work.
A revolution is going on now; things are coming back to normal. We got distracted with the big book called the Bible and while we were distracted, the colonialists stole from us.
Nri was supposed to have the first Catholic Church in this area but it was finally built in Adazi in 1913 or 1914 because when the missionaries came and told the people that they came with the word of God; about the man who died and resurrected after three days, the Nri people they met said they knew the person. The missionaries said ‘no,’ that there was no way they could have known the man because they were the first missionaries to come to the town. The indigenes insisted they knew the person they were talking about, Obalike, the Eze Nri (King of Nri Kingdom from 1889 to 1936.) Nri paid dearly for that.
Citadel of Satan
The missionaries said they needed to see the Eze Nri so they were taken to his palace. The missionaries said to him: “We heard you are half-man and half-spirit,” and Obalike said yes because for you to be an Eze Nri, you must go through seven procedures and one of them is being buried for three days, so the villagers were not wrong to say they knew the person. The missionaries then named Nri the Citadel of Satan.
After many years of research by both white and African anthropologists that came here, they now saw that the people were right.
Charged to court
Eze Nri Obalike was dragged to court, it is documented. To me, he was lured out of his comfort zone so that something could be taken from him. Eze Nri doesn’t travel outside his territory or cross the river but they made him to cross the river because they took him from Nri to a court in Awka. In the court, he was interrogated to see if he would commit perjury. As a king, he must not lie, so when he was asked to denounce the statement that he is half-spirit and half-man, he asked them if that was what they wanted him to say and they said yes. He said to them: “I agree with whatever you say.” The irony of it is that when the king got up to leave, his cup was missing.
The cup is now in the British Museum. An anthropologist came here in 2019/2020 to do a research. He was showing me photographs; I saw the photograph of the cup placed in a bullet-proof show glass in the British Museum, just like a lot of our deities that they carted away. They use red oil to stimulate these deities. Now, ask yourself, why are they using red oil? These are the things they preached against which they are supposed to have thrown away or destroyed but instead, they put them in their ships and took them to Britain. Unfortunately, the Igbos have not come together to demand for the return of the things that were stolen from them. We have been asking but we need different pressure groups to show interest.
So in my honest opinion, these are what we should be talking about. He asked me what the cup looked like, he didn’t know I knew about it. When you look at the cup, it looks like a replica of what people call the Holy Grail. That cup is not a regular cup; it’s made of special material.
Who is the real Osu?
In 2019, I did something about the Osu caste system. My goodness, we should stop that rubbish! Because of fear, many of the traditional rulers could not follow through, I was left alone. We don’t have Osu in Nri but it was in Nri that it was cancelled because the Osu caste system was a manipulation by some people manipulated by the British.
How does it work? Let me give you an example; if you see a very large compound that you covet, you simply tell the owner that the white men are coming for him. The owner of the big compound may have up to 10 wives and 50 children so he takes his wives and children to the shrine for refuge so that they won’t be captured and sold into slavery, they are then labelled Osu, children of the deity. So when they run away, leaving the vast compound, you will inherit the compound.
Again, in those days when slave traders raided communities to capture people to sell into slavery, once people saw them coming, some ran into the shrine for refuge so once they came out, they were labelled Osu.
A Nollywood actor, documentarian and author, Mr Joseph Okechukwu, came here in respect of the Osu caste system and the need to abolish it. To his greatest surprise, some of the traditional rulers who had agreed with him started drawing back. How can you be a traditional ruler and refuse to speak up? Who are you scared of? If you are killed in the course of speaking up for what is right, you go, it’s more honourable.
So what we did was to re-enact what was already in existence and Nri had to do it. No other person could have done it. I told them that nobody should raise the Osu issue ever again because nobody created another as Osu so has no right to call anyone an Osu.
The funny thing is that the so-called Osus are the greats in society. They are often the most educated and doing extremely well. They were the ones that supported Okechukwu. There was a girl that was supposed to commit suicide the same day this was abolished. A guy courted her for eight years and when it was time to get married to her, he said his people said she was an Osu. So it took him eight years to find out.
The girl couldn’t handle it but after that program, a confession was made and to me, if nothing was ever fulfilling, it was the fact that the girl didn’t commit suicide again. She already bought a sniper, she saw no reason to live. Not everyone understands that they don’t belong to themselves, that they are brought here for a reason so no one has the right to take his/her life.
Killing of twins/dwarfs/hunchback
The killing of twins never happened in Nri so once a pregnant woman realises that she has more than two feet kicking in her womb, she is brought to Nri and when she puts to bed, she takes one with her and leaves the rest behind, otherwise, the babies would be killed as they are seen as abominable creatures.
You can imagine the trauma. Also, it was in Nri that those with hunch back came to hide to avoid being killed for ritual purposes. Dwarfs were also killed and that was why they were called Nwa-akanri or Nwa-akanshi among the Delta Igbo because many of them ran to Nri for protection. We have 201 communities spreading as far as Igala land.
In Nri, when a man comes to marry a woman, we don’t sell our daughters, rather, we hand them over to whosoever they have chosen to get married to. During the payment of the bride price, which we call Ika akilika, we may tell you that the lady you want to take away has been trained in school and well brought up so you will pay us N10m. Of course it’s all tradition, no one pays up to that. For instance, if they pay N10,000, we take N5,000 and return N5,000 to them. Many people are always surprised at this. Till today, Nri is the cheapest when it comes to marriage. They will give us N1,000 from the N5,000 returned to them. We tell them that the N1,000 is what we call Ego Otiti Okpili, literally, the man has paid for us to come and beat him up if he beats our sister.
The man has officially approved to be beaten if he beats our sister/daughter in the presence of many witnesses. We assign a young man to take charge so that if any problem comes up between the couple, he will report to us. So it’s an established culture, you don’t beat a woman. Sometimes you see a whole family invade their in-law’s home and beat up the man. The police may arrest them but if the matter is taken to a customary court, the case is very clear; after all, the man paid Ego Otiti Okpili. If your wife offends you and you can no longer tolerate her, you and your people will go to her family to return the N5,000 the bride’s family gave to you when you paid the bride price and once that is done, the marriage is nullified.
There are spiritual implications of beating a woman. In as much as it is the man that paid the bride price and married the woman, spiritually, it is the woman that blesses and guides the home so if you are beating that spirit that is supposed to bring light to the home, that home is usually dark spiritually.
Power of women
They talk about gender equality and women liberation. In Igbo land, women are very powerful. A man may not fear a fellow man but they fear women, especially the Umu Ada/Umu Okpu. If you offend them, you are in trouble. There was a time my father had an issue with them, he had to apologise as they demanded, even as the king. The women are among decision-makers here. Although a woman cannot enter the obi, but she can pick up the nzu (white native chalk) and pray just as the man. Lately, there has been a misconception about women in Igbo land, something went wrong somewhere. I have been empowering women for the past 12 years, starting from my local government. Some men, instead of helping the young women who go to them for help, prefer to take their innocence. They think they are wise but they will definitely pay for their wickedness one way or the other and when that happens, they will be wondering what’s going on with them.
Who told our young men that human beings can be used for money ritual? This is simply stealing of human organ but they make it look like money ritual. These people are criminals. They simply kidnap people, kill them, take their organs, put them in coolers with ice and sell.
So many abominable things are going on. We have done a lot of cleansing. A man came here some years ago seeking a cure for his son who became suddenly crippled. He went to so many places seeking solution without success. Someone told him to come to Nri. He did and he was sent to one of the oldest men alive then. The old man told him to go home and ask his son to confess what he has done and he will walk again. He went home and asked his son to confess and the son said he had sex with his sister. As soon as he said that, he began to walk. They came back here for ikpu alu.
Respect for Igbos
I was born in the US and I know how the Igbos are respected there. They know about us, they know what we have done and what we can do. They know we are so blessed because I had a lecturer from Trinidad who taught us African-American Studies. It wasn’t part of my prerequisite but I added it because I was interested. They talked about the Igbos a lot. He was saying something one day and I asked them whether they knew a tribe that survived a civil war and recovered under one year? They said it was impossible.
They talked about South Sudan and other countries that had gone through wars, I said it is the Igbos. This pushed them into researching about the Igbos. They came up with some crazy stuff, they couldn’t believe it. So since then, they began to see me in another light. Igbos are super blessed; it’s not because I am Igbo. We use every little opportunity given to us and create something big out of it.
Unfortunately, we have lost touch of what is going on as a people. Some will buy water-logged land, sand-fill it before putting up a building. The amount of money used to sand-fill the land can be used to build industries here in the South-East and employ people.
Many of us don’t understand a lot of things. When the sit-at-home started, I was so unhappy because we didn’t even understand the economic impact on the region. The US Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday was a holiday too as well as Monday called Cyber Monday. Any day they are on holidays, they know how much they lose and we have done this sit-at-home consistently that it has become part of us.
When Gov. Chukwuma Soludo came in, he asked people to disregard the sit-at-home order and go about their businesses; that was good but did he make arrangements to protect them? The IPOB that started it said they have cancelled it but unfortunately, criminals have hijacked it. That is always the case; the intentions may have been good but along the line, criminals infiltrate. We start something and before you know it, there is infiltration. We are our own problem.
Let me use myself as an example. As soon as I came back, some people saw me as a little child. It’s not about age, it’s something due me. The crazy thing about Nri is that if I run away and refuse to become the Eze Nri, I might become mentally ill so I took everything in my stride. They went as far as taking me to court.
The implication of cheating somebody out of what is rightfully his is that if he places a curse on you, it will come to pass.
Like something out of Psalm 24: 3 – 4 of the Bible where King David said: ”Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”
Eze Nri said: “In Nri, we have the Obu Umunna or Ezumezi Mmuo housing all the deities of the land. Now, around September, every Ozo title holder is supposed to go on a spiritual retreat in Onu Ebo. Only clean people go to Onu Ebo…people who do not lie, who do not bear false witness, cheat, or plot evil against others.
If you are not clean and you enter the Onu Ebo, you will never make it back. Unlike before, we no longer have an influx of people there, only a few go there now and before you go, you fast in your obi/house, you cook your food by yourself when you are breaking the fast, you prepare yourself for two Igbo weeks which is eight days before you go. In the Onu Ebo, you are given a chair to sit and all you do is pray for yourself and your family. This is usually done before the new yam festival.
Back to basics
What is happening now is that the Christians are coming after years of manipulating our young ones, to tell us that there was something they were doing in the olden days that they abandoned so they should go back to them. Many customs/cultural practices are not diabolic. As the wise saying goes, you don’t throw away the baby with the bath water so Igbo customs and traditions cannot all be thrown away as evil. As someone rightly said, if Nigerian politicians are made to swear by Amadioha or Ogun before getting into office, all the stealing and killing will stop. They feel the Christian God is too merciful and easily forgives.
There are many things that the Igbos do that are not diabolic. There were some evil practices in the olden days like killing somebody. No, you can’t try it here. We don’t kill people. If you kill, you leave the town and go on exile (igba oso ochu) for seven good years and after seven years, you return to the town and they get you a woman to marry and you will have a child in the dead person’s name. Those who refuse to do it don’t get it together ever again.
Message to Igbos
We must go back to our roots and understand that what others will do and go Scot-free, we cannot do it and go free. We have a saying that whatever evil you do now and fail to remedy, in your next life, you will face it because there is reincarnation. We have living witnesses. There is this girl that kept dying and reincarnating and at a point, she was partially burnt and when she reincarnated again, she had burn marks. Yes, we understand what happened to us, we understand that we were brainwashed, that a lot of things happened to us that a normal tribe can never recover from, but we have to find a way to get over it and reprogram ourselves.
We also need to apologise because there are black people waiting for us in other parts of the world, they need an explanation of how our great, great grandfathers sold them into slavery. We must do these first before any other thing.