Fr, Okelu chuks wrote
“SOCIAL STUDIES – Three basic human needs: food, clothing and shelter. Obodo choro idi ndu, nye ndi nke ya olu ma nweta agamnihu ga-etinye atumatu imeputa ihe ndia na nhazi usoro agumakwukwo ya. Mana mgbe i na-eri nri e bubatara na mba onyeocha, uwe na akpukpo ukwu i yi n’ahu nke ha, akurungwa e ji alu uno nke ha, O di egwu. Kowazienu ihe bu mmadu igba ohu.”
And I Chukwuemeka wrote,
Fr, I am glad you raised this issue, the answer to this problem I think is not farfetched, but the problem I think is in the question thus, “Are we ready to face the monster?”
In trying to answer questions pertaining to these issues of societal degeneration, Fr Okoye Anthony wrote thus “The ultimate source of our problem is the grossly defective worldview. Our worldview is foreign to the world reality. This accounts for wrong beliefs, the wrong context of thinking, wrong understanding, wrong decisions, wrong action and the wrong world of our Socio-cultural realities.” For me though the answer is valid, in my academic exposure and life experience so far, I have decided to focus my limited time and energy on my people, the Igbo people, therefore, I will like to add my own contribution with focus on Ndigbo just as you presented your case in Igbo.
When you raised the issue of Food, clothes and shelter, which is unarguably the 3 basic necessities of man, I will like to bring to our notice that just 100 years ago; our forefathers produced these things for themselves with little or no help from the outside world and not just that they produced it for survival sake, our products was one of the best products in the world.
In food, our forefathers produced quality food for their consumption and for sale in the market, “Among the Igbo of the pre-colonial period, the land was communally owned” (G.T Basden, Among the Ibos,1923, pp97). There was no private or individual land ownership. This meant that prior to or at the beginning of a farming season, the elders of the kindred decided on the land they were to farm. Thus, on an appointed day, members of the kindred trooped to the land so chosen, and each member of this community received a portion of land for farming. Even women and able-bodied boys of a given age received a portion of land for their farming. Food production is both a man’s as well as a woman’s duty in Ani Igbo. While the husband had large quantities of yam to plant, planting of cocoyam, cassava, cowpea, aerial yam, local beans (Azima or odudu), fluted pumpkin and maize among others were perceived as tasks for the womenfolk. “The variety and size of crops available to the woman would determine the nature and character of the welfare of her family. By engaging in the production of a variety of crops, the woman not only averted the incidence of over-dependence on yam crop by the family members but equally ensured the availability of a well-balanced diet made up of tuber and vegetable crops rich in protein, vitamin and other nutrients. Besides, it tended to enhance the economic capacity of the woman. A woman producer of non-yam crops enjoyed the benefit of making the bounteous harvest of some or particular crop at regular intervals. This simply meant that her family enjoyed a variety of foodstuffs regularly and had enough of the surplus for sale to make money to run other affairs of the family.” (Joseph C. Chukwu (Ph.D), Role of Women in the Growth of the Traditional Igbo Economy, Vol.10, 2015)
In Clothing, our forefathers produced one of the best quality fabrics in the world, they produced Akwaete, Ajima, etc, “The finished article is used for caps and loincloths, and on the western side of the Niger shawls are made by sewing strips with blue or brown. The colours are fast and do not fade easily, either by washing or by the action of the sun. In this respect, they surpass English dyes, particularly the blue.” (Among the Ibos, GT Basden, 1923, pp 179). The massive production of cotton (Owu) as raw materials for the weaving of Ajima textile apparels was long established in the socio-economic and cultural foundation of Igbo people. The fragments of textile recovered from the Igbo Ukwu Archaeological site (Radio-carbon – dated to the 9th century AD) give some idea of textile weaving technology among the Igbo (Afigbo, 1985 p. 7). It is safe to assume that centuries of experimentation and adjustment must have passed before the sophisticated level revealed by the weave of the Igbo Ukwu textile was attained. As a result of insights gained from the Igbo Ukwu excavation, it can now be assumed that textile industry in Igbo culture is much older than the period which witnessed the rise of centralized state systems among the Edo and Igala. Also as a result of insights gained from the more extensive and scientific exploration of oral tradition, it is now established that cloth-weaving was more widely practised in Igboland than the scanty colonial records on the matter wrongly suggest ((Afigbo, 1985 p. 12). The dyeing process for example in Aku Igbo etiti LGA, The Aku craftsmen and women the weavers have a wide variety of domestic sources of dye. The dyeing process in Aku involves the use of dye pots by Aku women. The materials and tools used are pestle and mortar, leaves and barks of many plants and trees which include sap of old physic nut tree (Jatropha curcas) as well as “Alu” leaves (Lonchocarpus cyenesuens).
In Shelter, our forefathers built houses which solve the shelter problems of the Igbo man. “The traditional Igbo society was both theophorous and communal. These two traditional indices of the Igbo society namely, the religious and communal life traits were always expressed and represented in the building architectural designs of every Igbo society.” (Traditional Igbo Building Architecture: An Historical Perspective, Joseph .C. Chukwu (Ph.D) Vol.34, 2015). “The arts and crafts of the Ibo manifest themselves first in his house, the ideas and tastes of both husband and wife are indicated by the care bestowed in the building…. of the house.” (G.T. Basden, Among the Ibos, 1983, p. 165 – 177). The task of mud-puddling in the pre-colonial era demanded the services of family labour force. This involved the man, his wife or wives and grown-up children (A.G. Hopkins, p. 21). He could also make use of the labour from the extended family members. Besides, as a communal society, anybody that demanded the services and assistance of the kindred or even entire village members received it, even though he should be prepared to provide food and wine to the workers during the day and evening at the end of the work. (A.I. Okpoko and L.C. Ekechukwu, “Nigerian Traditional Architecture: An Overview of settlement layouts and House Types”, p. 125.).
Moreover, our forefathers’ indigenous smith technology is quite ingenious and one of the best in the world. Long before the advent of colonial administration, indigenous technology especially blacksmithing was a flourishing profession among Ndigbo. The significance and influence of this industry were pronounced within and outside the community. Through this indigenous technology, the people developed various means with which their socio-economic, as well as military needs, were met. “Instances of indigenous technology abound in Igboland in pre-colonial and colonial times. In Nkwerre, blacksmithing was a remarkable indigenous technology in Igboland. Employing this ingenuity, the people had been able to satisfy their basic necessities. They produced all sorts of agricultural and hunting implements for economic, social, political and military purposes. Thus, they gained for themselves the appellation, Nkwerre, Opia Egbe (Nkwerre, the gun manufacturer).” (Osuala, Uzoma Samuel, Colonialism and the Disintegration of Indigenous Technology in Igboland: A Case Study of Blacksmithing in Nkwerre, Vol 3, 2012). It is to this inventiveness that J. Cook, the Assistant District Officer at Orlu Province remarked: ‘that the people of Nkwerri (sic) practising the art of blacksmithing could make flint guns, provided they obtained a piece of gas pipe for the barrel and could convert flintlocks to percussion locks. (N.A.E., CSE 1/85/4149, Report on Nkwerre Town, Okigwe Division, 1931, p.6.). We also have Uzu Oka which is known for their ingenuity in Smith technology. The products of our forefather smiths varied as the occasions demanded and according to the needs of the people. Quite early in history, our smiths embarked on the production of ola (rings), pots, armlets and staff which was a symbol of authority for ozo title holders. The Smiths became proficient with improved skill. As the smith became proficient, the master smith left rudimentary smiting to apprentices. At this time, the master smith devoted much attention to producing agricultural tools such as ogu (hoes), ube and mbazu-igwe (for making mounds and digging trenches). Other tools were Ikeagwu-agadi (tools used for weeding), nkwukwuogu (digging sticks) and mma (machetes) for clearing paths. The use of the tools helped to increase food production such as yam, vegetable, maize and cocoyam.
Our ancestors were also very good in Pottery (Gloria Chuku, Igbo women and Economic Transformation in southeastern Nigeria, 1900 – 1960, 2005 p. 60), mat and basket making, Salt production (A.E Afigbo, Ropes of Sand, p.133.) etc.
Our Dibia (Dibia Afa, Dibia Aja, Dibia Ogwu, Dibia Oje na mmuo) explored our indigenous natural science and metaphysics to invent medicine for our physical, mental and spiritual health purpose, consequently, our forefathers lived a long, decent and prosperous life; no destitute, no prostitute, no beggar…
But unfortunately look at what happened to us today. The great Igbo nation now pathetically depends on the outside world for virtually everything. Do you know why? Now here comes the hard truth we are so afraid to face: THE WHITE MAN CAME! Whatever he came with into Igbo land no matter how you try to paint it did more disaster than good to Ani Igbo. Let’s look at some instances…
The Igbo man is a very religious man and that is a strength and not a weakness, whatever he has achieved has its foundation in Omenana which is beyond the perception of many today to be just the tradition of the Igbo people is the ethnoreligious culture of the Igbo nation. Omenana is holistic and complete, in it lies the whole solution to the problems of the Igbo man, it is in Omenana that the Igbo man built his society, produced his food, his cloth, his shelter, his science, his technology and advanced his own civilization. To the Igbo man, there was no distinction between the secular and the religious, the colonial agents and colonialists cleverly noticed this, that the Igbo man was, (and still is) obsessively religious, so they set to work to entice and convert them to their own way of life, “Their first strategy, preaching about the superiority of their own religion, and the vicarious sacrifice, did not impress the Igbos, because central in Igbo theology is the belief that ‘ife onye metalu, oburu na isi ya’ (what you sow, you reap). Having failed to convince the Igbos that they had been in error from time immemorial, they took a decision to ensnare the youths by providing schools, which produced graduates who gained employment in the colonial structure. And to pacify and ensnare the adults by opening hospitals, which gave cures to some new diseases. Also, the economic model that Western imperialism introduced was alluring to some ambitious Igbos. These moves yielded dividends after many years. In time the once-‐‐rejected tales of the Europeans began to be accepted, even if not understood, and the false claim that every Igbo ritual object stood for a false god began to be accepted among the urban elite. That is why an Igbo could call the ofo a god.” (Remy Ilona, The Igbos And Israel: An Inter-Cultural Study Of The Largest Jewish Diaspora 2014, pp 78).
“Colonialism in Igboland came with some absolute realities. First, it came with the principles of individualism, abolishing the age-long practice of communalism in Igboland. Through the agency of Christianity, it dealt a serious blow to traditional religion… As a result, the traditional architecture of the village public place (ama) was disfigured. In so many communities, the normal hut, the public rest house which housed the big wooden drum was phased out. Also phased out was the defence wall constructed by the head of a family or kindred round his family or kindred house. That was not because the Igbo desired it that way, but simply because the white man was against such practices.” (Joseph .C. Chukwu (Ph.D), Traditional Igbo Building Architecture: An Historical Perspective, Vol.34, 2015).
Having conquered the entire Igboland through the punitive expedition, colonialism was imposed on the people by force. Consequently, the colonizing power decided to foist on the people coercive administrative policies intended to extract their obedience and submission in all ramifications (J. Ihonvbere and T. Falola, ‘Introduction: Colonialism and Exploitation’1987, pp.19-31). Expedient measures were taken to stunt existing indigenous industries and the skills associated with them (O.N. Njoku, Economic History of Nigeria: 19th & 20th Centuries, 2001, p.167.). Walter called this situation technological arrest or stagnation (W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 1977, pp. 119-126.). The presence of the European trading firms and the missionaries impacted negatively on the indigenous technology. In the late 19th century, the European trading firms oscillated between the coastal peripheries and the hinterlands. However, in the first half of the 20th century, they penetrated firmly into the interior. As they moved in, the European firms had hoped to eliminate the services of the local industries, thereby, ensuring that their goods and products replaced and dominated the hinterland market. This was made possible by the lending principles of the colonial banking policies. Prior to this period, the colonial administration had demonetized the local currency. (W. Ofonagoro, Trade and Imperialism)
Christian missionary ideology and activities, aided sometimes overtly and at other times supported by the colonial administration, added to the problems confronted by smiting industry. The missionaries came to Igboland with a fixed preconception of the superiority of their religion over that of the local people. Indigenous Igbo religion was from the missionaries’ perspective, pagan, and paganism, they assumed pervaded every aspect of the people’s lives, work as well as leisure. The Christian missionaries assumed that it was their responsibility to rescue the allegedly benighted Igbo from the depth of depravity to which they imagined, they had sunk (U.S. Osuala, Missionary Activities in Nkwerre LGA, Imo State, 1913-1960, 2006). Hence, the Nkwerre and other smithing communities had this to contend with. In the interest of their souls, Christians practising blacksmithing were urged by their mentors to renounce the indigenous religions and rituals aspects of the production processes. Items produced under the traditional ritualized system were considered to be tenanted by the devil. Apprentices who were Christians were also warned not to participate in the annual celebration of the smiths and the ritual and religious ceremonies of ima otutu (the passing-out or graduation of an apprentice) (O.N. Njoku, ‘Colonialism and the Decline of the Traditional Metal Industry of the Igbo, 1992, p.60.). The teaching of the Christian missionaries condemned this act. Yet, it was during the ima otutu and smiths’ annual celebrations that the smiths reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the ethics of the profession. But all these were condemned and considered paganism by the Christian missionaries. Its negative impact on blacksmithing and metal industry was unimaginable. The fact remains that to detach indigenous ironworking process from its cultural milieu was, as it were, to cut off the umbilical cord binding mother to her unborn baby.
With all due respect, having gone through some research which I have presented few here (I could continue writing but for the limited time and space), I strongly think that A Return to Omenana is the road to Solution for the Igbo man. No matter how displeasing this may sound, The day the Igbo man left Omenana, was the day he lost everything and if the Igbo man does not return back to Omenana and start evolving and advancing his own civilization from there, in the next 100 years we will not just be talking about food, cloth and shelter but also of SAVAGERY.
Written by Chukwuemeka Obinwugo