Kingship Title in Igbo Land
Kingship Title in Igbo land refers to the leadership style that is peculiar to the Igbos who live in the Eastern part of Nigeria. The title is referred to various towns across Igbo land as Igwe, Eze, and Obi.
For instance, we have
- Igwe of Orlu
- Eze of Urualla
- Eze of Umudioka ancient Kingdom
- Obi of Onitsha
and so on.
The Origin of Kingship Title in Igbo Land
The Origin of Kingship Title in Igbo land has been a subject of inquiry among many young Igbos all across Nigeria especially in the Eastern Nigeria where the Igbos reside. There have been debates on this. Let's set the record straight as we hear from notable elders and igbo sons.
The Origin of Kingship in Igbo land according to Mazi Festus Ejiogu
One of the most striking revelations concerning the Origin of Kingship Title in Igbo land was opined by a great Igbo son and elder by name Mazi Nduawuike Festus Ejiogu' known as Dee Boss. He wrote this during a recent discussion about this topic at a forum of great minds known as BPS Osina 92. He opined the following:
- Let me reveal to us the main very reason why the leprous man hates the Igbo man up till tomorrow. That will give you more clue to navigate the fact that Igbo land had no kings, igwes, ezes or whatever rubbish as we know it today.
- When the white man came to Nigeria, through Badagary, they met Yoruba kings (Obas) and through these obas they were able to get hold of Yoruba territories by bribing these obas with immaterial gifts like hot drinks and the likes and deceived them into submitting to their supremacy over them (the Yoruba race).
- From there they sailed down to the creeks of Bonny, the riverine areas of Biafra land. Over there though, there were some kingdoms such as the Opobo kingdom, Itshekiri kingdom, Ijaw kingdom, as well as Benin kingdom etc. But these kings resisted them and whatever they stood for to be imposed in their lands (kingdoms). But thank God, at least they had audience with them. Only just being stubborn they thought. Hence the need to revisit them.
- But, to their greatest dismay, when they came to Igbo land, there was no king, eze, igwe or whatever to welcome them. Absolutely no one. Worse still, there was no one person anyone could point at as the leader of the people. Even when they were directed to the compound of oldest man in any village, this man would not allow them to say anything until other elders arrived.
- As the Igbos are used to say; agwo otu onye huru wu eke. And this made it very very difficult for them to be able to penetrate them against their people. As another Igbo adage has it that; adighi agbaji ukwu aziza agbaji mana odiri otu otu, okwe mgbajisi. On this premise therefore, they hated the Igbo people till this very day for that their democratic nature.
- And when they then came to the north, they found out that the people not only had kings (emirs), but that they could not do anything outside what their emirs said. So, they found them as a very loyal, useful and willing tools to achieve their mission. Hence the origin of the problem of Nigeria till this day, haven amalgamated them after their conquest of all.
- Think of it, you heard about the dethronement of Aalafin of Oyo of the famous Oyo empire by the whites, Oba of Lagos, Oba of Benin, King Jaja of Opobo, Nana of Itshekiri etc. Have you ever heard of the dethronement of any king in Igbo land? There were no kings in Igbo land to dethrone. So, what they now did was to engage them in wars, town by town, village by village, clan by clan, until they conquered them all. But the Aro people were a very hard nut for them to crack. Though they later also fell to the supremacy of their weaponry.
- I think by this last submission, you maybe able to understand better that kingship was never original to Igbo race but rather alien. We were ruled by Council of Elders and the Umuadas (Umuokpu).
- But never forget, after their conquest of Igbo land bit by bit as mentioned above, they then started installing what they termed warrant chiefs over those clans, villages and towns. Who through them now, they indirectly lorded it over those Igbo villages, towns and clans as the case may be.
- These warrant chiefs great great grand children metamorphosed into today's modern day kings, igwes and ezes as the case may be since the stools of those warrant chiefs of those days were made permanent stools by their white masters. Hence, the origin of kingship, ezeship or igweship in Igbo land.
Mazi Nduawuike Festus Ejiogu, (Dee Boss)
Mazi Nduawuike Festus Ejiogu offered more tenable facts about the Kingship title in Igbo land as follows:
Religion and Education
Actually there were three soldiery groups that invaded our land - the Igbo land. The first two groups came with paper bearing the head of the Queen of England as object (means) of buying and selling that negated our traditional barter system of trade or trade by barter.
They deceived us by showing us this their Queen's paper (money) but obviously hidden in their pockets were guns and other phony instruments of destruction/destabilization by which they later conquered, destabilized and destroyed every fabric of our existence as a people. While the last group whom we later knew as missionaries came with another form of paper in a voluminous compendium which we equally came to understand later as the bible.
But, let no one be deceived, as all three groups came but for one and same intent - conquering us for their selfish desires and establishment of colour cum racial supremacy over us. So to me, both objects (money and bible) dangled before our eyes at the initial stages of the coming of the three groups of people were all instruments of deceit as was proved later by shear turn of events embellished in the war of conquest which they waged against us.
So, my admonition is that none should be deceived by the cheap rhetorics of the man of leprous for bringing us religion and education. For to me, those two were products of miscarriage of pregnancy which was easy conquest ride but of which road seemed too rough. Hence the birth or introduction of the later (religion/education) into the battle field (strategy).
Religion and education came into play in this project of the white man's conquer them all in Igbo land and by extension the entirety of Africa because; first and foremost, you should understand that the leprous people (white men) as many of you prefer to call them, came primarily, initially though for one major purpose - trade (commerce).
But one thing along the line, led to another. Thereby leading to the others viz; leadership (government); Religion (mode of worship) and Education (acquisition of knowledge). All in their own style though, not that they weren't in existence in this our clime before they came.
As earlier said, the one major reason of the leprous man's invasion of our land was for commercial purposes through slave trade. The lack of human capacities (manpower) to work in their existing plantations and emerging industries as well as where to offload such industrial finished products from their countries led them into the West African coasts in general and Igbo land in particular.
But owing to the cumbersome nature of dealing with the Igbo people in their democratic political set up known as the Council of Elders where every member of the group must be present to air his opinion before any major decision was taken. This included but not limited to such as selling their own kit and kin to these strange and leprous people, they then decided to introduce their own system of government and imposed it on the natives.
Though by proxies known as warrant chiefs. But this was never to be without fierce resistance and battle that took the lives of many of the natives, while many others were exiled out of their home lands too.
Haven fought and conquered the political institution of the native Igbo land, it wasn't still not an uhuru for the white men. For as the war over the dismemberment of the Igbo political establishment raged, the white men realized they were not only fighting the personalities of this political institution per say, but even more powerful forces beyond their comprehension and imagination.
These forces were no other than the idols and shrines that littered every nook and cranny of the Igbo landscape which in no smaller ways played major roles in wounding the white men's ego against the conquest of Igbo land far more lengthier than they expected to win the war. Hence they concluded that there was still more wars to fight before total and complete annihilation of the land and its people.
And since the gods who dwelleth in the idols and shrines were not humans to be fought with bare hands and ammunitions, and that they could not make any inroads into achieving their desired goals amongst the natives without first desecrating those idols and shrines, they deviced a strategy of deceit against the people.
And so by this, the natives themselves would on their own volition after cajoling and coercing them would agree to destroy those idols and by their own hands. But again, haven now deceived them (natives) into agreeing to do away with those artifacts and idols, they rather again demanded the hand over of such items of worship of the natives to them (leprous man) for safekeeping in museums for posterity sake. This was because they were fascinatingly afraid to venture into the shrines themselves to remove those objects of worship because the powers inherent in them.
So they cajoled the natives unto removing those items by themselves and handed over to them, as by so doing they felt immune from the wrath of the gods against intruding into their dwelling places.
After perfecting this plan of their therefore, they invited the third group of their soldiers in the guise of missionaries who would do the job perfectly well. The mission of this group of soldiers was to coerce and cajole the natives into believing that their own form of religion as was practiced and still practiced today by a very few was evil and should be discarded.
Well, I'm yet to come to terms with complete agreement to this except on the grounds of those items of Igbo religious practices. But as for the immediacy with which prayers are answered here, I do believe it comes from the cleanness and purity of intentions and relationship of the offerer with his God and humanity. But that could be a topic for another day.
Meanwhile, at the back of their minds (mercantile and political groups), they saw enormous powerful potencies in these same artifacts, idols and shrines that when transferred to their countries would enhance their scientific and technological advancements in geometric proportions. Reasons why African (nay Igbo) artifacts/idols dot the European museums till this day. However, in return, they handed our forefathers a milder or better put, a feminine instrument of worship as against the manly, fearful and fierce instruments we were known for before they came.
Their introduction of the present educational system as we have it today is as a result of the new form of religion they introduced to us that has to do with reading and writing. Although they found it difficult to communicate with the natives when they came since their tongue differs from ours. But yet they managed to manoeuvre through sign language both in commercial and political activities.
But it was obviously far more difficult to do in teaching the people the new religion without educating them in their own letters. Hence the introduction of neo education system, especially as the major and most important object in teaching this religion is the Bible, a compendium of writings and prophecies of different individuals of different times and age as we were made to know and believe.
The above scenarios I believe stood out as some of the reasons that led to the introduction of the religious and educational systems of the leprous man into Africa and Igbo land in particular.
Nduawuike Festus Ejiogu concludes by saying I believe its high time we started writing our stories than relying on stories told of us by those who invaded us at night time and conquered us.
Compilation by Hilary Umeoka