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- 1 Origin and history
- 2 Ada Invasion
- 3 Aboh Invasion
- 4 Ani Anam
- 5 Anam Title ceremony
- 6 Oba Title
- 7 Ichi Muo
- 8 Government
- 9 Music
- 10 Religion
- 11 Birth ceremony
- 12 Marriage
- 13 Inezi Ceremony
- 14 Divorce
- 15 Burial System
- 16 Umueze Anam Festivals and Celebrations
- 17 Age grade system
- 18 References
Origin and history
It is said that Umueze Anam was founded by one hunter from Amadioba Nteje known as Nwavor in the 17th century. As a hunter, he used to hunt for game around the Omambala River when he found a peaceful peninsula across the river and settled there. Nwavor was accused of having a hand in the death of his archrival a kinsman of his and in other to free himself from the accusation decided to leave Nteje and settle at Odah. He first arrived at a place called Odah Anam where he found a lot of wildlife and fertile land for agricultural purposes. After settling for about a week he went back and brought his wife and brother Udora who was a farmer and fisherman to settle in the area. They were first to settle at Odah before other settlers like Mmiata, Oroma, Umuoba, Umuikwu and Iyiora to make up Anam in order of arrival. These initial settlers make up what is called Anam Nkpu Isaa (Seven nodes of Anam). Anam is a corrupt form of Anagba which means coming together of diverse people who have agreed to be united and leave in peace (Anam means Unity).
The people of Anam being republican in nature do not have monarchical leadership there was no king, they have parliamentary system where the elders in council presides over the affairs of the people with the head of the council being the eldest man in the land (diokpala) determining who the eldest man became difficult until a situation came up when there was no fire to light up the settlement, and since there was no means of knowing who is the oldest person among them, decided that whoever would be brave enough to fetch fire from the slave camp at Odene-Nneyi would be crowned the diokpala. Nobody took that bold step, but the Great Nwavor, who went and brought fire from the camp for his brothers to use, was then crowned Diokpala (Eze-Anam). When Nwavor and his descendants further moved down to Aboh area (Area currently called Aboegbu and Miata Anam)and settled there until the early 19th Century when other Anam community fled Odah as a result of invasion of the area by Abor slave warriors, Umueze Anam took the bold step of returning to Odah to protect other Anam communities from further attacks.
Descendants of Nwavor
Nwavor married two wives, who gave birth to three sons; the first wife had Agha and Eze while the second had Ezumezu, hence the saying that Eze na Agha ovu isi anu. Agha was the eldest followed by Ezumezu and lastly Eze. Agha gave birth to Obialunozor and Ukoli, Ezumezu had Nsibe, Ibichi and Ezime, while Eze had Aneke and Ebendu 
The Edda people from Ohafia who were slave merchants raided many parts of Igbo land taking some people captive and selling them to slave traders.They came to Onwumbala area and to Anam. Penetrating Anam people was not so easy for them as they were not good swimmers and cannot navigate through the river efficiently. Their attacks became so intense that Anam people decided to engage them in a battle. Anam people mobilized their youths who came out with several weapons and clubs hidden at the bank of the River, and lured the ada warriors to come and capture slaves they happily entered the boat and midway in the river the youths brought out their clubs and pelted them with stones and since they were not good swimmers they got drowned in the river and perished. This loss became so much that they withdrew from the area and never came back hence the saying Ada si Anam "kwali ive nye mili".
After the Edda (Arochukwu) people came the Aboh Slave hunters, unlike the Ada people Aboh warriors are good sea pirates and can maneuver the Omambala River effectively. Their attack was so much on Anam people as a result so many persons were taken into slavery, they make use of the canon and den guns given to them by their Portuguese slave masters.When Anam people could no longer bear these attacks they consulted a diviner who told them that they can only defeat Aboh warriors led by Enebeli the Prince of Aboh with the aid of a charm to be prepared by him. He told them that the consequence of the charm is that the bearer of that charm must die and the charm will cause confusion when thrown into the Aboh Camp. The problem became who will carry the char, when no one volunteered again Iwo Odionwu a great son of Umueze Anam from Ebendu clan volunteered to carryout the task and hisbrother Amah Amakeme from the same umuebendu volunteered to accompany his brother such that if he is killed he will ensure that the head of his brother returns homewhile Obalichi from Umuoba anam lead Anam warriors to the fight. Eventually they succeeded and defeated Aboh warriors and killed Prince Enebeli of Aboh.
Anamites started stealing, killing and coveting people's wives. This was attributed to the infiltration of Anam by strangers, and prompted the elders of the town to make a covenant to put a stop to these evils. This again demanded a sacrifice; Odionwu, a descendant of Eze Nwavor, volunteered. The covenant is as follows:
- That if you don't commit evil, evil will not befall you;
- No Anam man shall kill his fellow Anam man;
- No Anam man shall steal his brother's belongings;
- No Anam man shall unlawfully sleep with his brother's wife;
- No Anam man shall disobey his elders.
Umueze Anam, being the eldest man, was given custody of the symbol of authority of Ani Anam, while Agha was given the Abuke Anam deity, and Eze was given Ani Anam.
Anam Title ceremony
Umueze Anam celebrates achievements as in other parts of Igboland. Apart from kingship, Oba title-taking is a culmination of one's achievement in Umueze Anam. Titles are awarded for:
- Gaining of a position of authority and honour in the town;
- Provision of funds for his maintenance in his old age;
- Entitlement to have a say in the town councils;
- Immunity from assault or arrest in his own or any other friendly town;
- Exemption from manual labour;
- Authority to wear certain special regalia and insignia;
- Certain privileges sometimes accorded to his wife;
- Asserting oneself as a freeborn of the community.
Ogbuevi (Oba) title-taking in Umueze Anam is a long process of three distinct segments, Ijoku, Asammuo, and Ime Oba, which are performed sequentially. Before the title of Ogbuevi is conferred on anybody of Umueze lineage, the candidate is required to have successfully gone through the process of performing the special Oba Umueze ritual. Oral tradition holds that the first citizen of Umueze Anam to take the Ogbuevi title was Ogbuevi Dielie Mezie of Iweze Ogboru Eze. He was followed by Ogbuevi Agbogu Nwabude of Ezum Iyile Eze. Oba was the ceremony for the highest title in Anam. Before one will take the Oba title he is expected to perform the lesser titles such as Ijoku, Asamuo, and finally the Oba title.
Before the Nigerian Civil War, Christians (Catholics) were unable to take the Ozo title because the rituals were perceived to be against their faith. This problem was looked into by the Commission set up by the Archbishop of Onitsha, Francis A. Arinze (later a cardinal). A solution was found as expressed below as the official Archdiocesan position immediately after the war in 1970:
That the religious ceremonies traditionally connected with title-taking are hereby recognized as non-essential to the title itself. Therefore, the titled man who takes the title without these ceremonies must be regarded as fully titled, and in no way inferior to his counterparts who performed the ceremonies together with pagan religious observances.
That everything connected with pagan religion which is in any way contrary to the Christian faith is hereby removed for all members, Christians or non-Christians, who want to be initiated into the title society. Therefore, there will be no consultation of fortune-tellers, no pagan sacrifices, no visitation of a pagan shrine, nor worship of the spirits or ancestors, no marks of office which are indissolubly bound up with pagan religion, etc.
That the members of the title society, both Christians and non-Christians, may attend the funeral rites of a deceased member, but the title society will not perform pagan religious ceremonies of any shape or form.
That all the formalities of title-taking, which are not against Christian beliefs and practices, may be preserved when Christians take titles. These include the payment of the stipulated sum or other goods, division of these things in the traditional way, feasting, dancing, etc. Sometimes, modification will be necessary. This applies, for example, to dress, dance, and some aspects of the outing function and widowhood ceremonies, if they offend against the Christian moral code.
That the titled Christian assumes all the purely social insignia of his office, such as ankle cords, red cap, eagle feather, elephant tusk, etc. He also acquires all the social rights and privileges which are accorded to titled men according to tradition.
1. Ijoku Title:- Ijoku is the first to be taken, this qualifies him to answer the title name Uduezuo. Ijoku means the washing of the early morning hands. Which is to say that it was the first step leading to Oba title.This stage involves 300 tubers of yam (ji ommi) presented in October with 200 pieces of kolanut, tobacco, wine, money and a she goat (Ewu Ijoku).
2. Ekwu Title:- This is the second stage, it costs 209 tubers of yam, 500 kolanuts, wine, money a he goat (Nkpi ekwu), and smoked fishes (Ukpobu).
3. Asammuo Title:- This is the next in rank, it costs 290 tubers of yam, drinks, a pan of kolanuts, big she goat, ram and some money. The candidate after this stage is conferred with the title of Ogbuebunu.
4. Oba Title:- This is the final stage,Oba is the highest title in Anam, its a big Traditional ceremony that takes place before the conferment of the highest title of Ogbuevi to any Anam man. It involved a lot of merry making and for that reason a prospective initiate had to be well prepared before embarking on the Oba title. Oba involves 400 tubers of yam a cow or cash equivalent of the two items and presentation of ego nsunani Oba. Oba title is not for all comers in Anam, the candidate must be a good citizen and a free born, he must be an adult who must be able to keep to the rules pertaining to the title. One person could Take as many title as possible but must be conferred with one only. The number of Oba taken determines the number of shares one receives during sharing of items provided to ndi Oba. Omume Oba includes examination tests and rituals to prepare and make the candidate worthy of the title before he is conferred with it. The traditional symbol of authority (ofo) is stamped on the recipient chest. Oba title involves a lot of entertainment as guests usually attend the celebration from other villages that make up Anam.
After 28 days of indoors, the celebrant is called seven times after which he will perform the oba rituals and blessed with the ofor. A day preceding the final day he is rubbed with uye and he dances the uvio music. Finally he performs the Ichi mmuo rituals and he is adorn with the red cap with eagle feathers and he picks a name for himself. He dances round the village with his wife.
Ichi muo title taking involves 12 hours ritual undergone by a candidate waiting to be conferred with Ogbuevi title after the completion of the initial formalities. The crucial aspect of the ceremony is usually performed at night and witnessed by title holders, family members and friends of the candidate. It was undergone by the candidate while his wife is asked to leave the premises only to come back after the title has been conferred on the husband. The candidate is made to take some vows that he would live above board that is he would not steal, commit adultery, lie, leak official secrets or conspire with others to do wrong things starting from the date he took the title. In other to be free from his previous sins he is made to go into hiding known as Izo mmuo (hiding from the spirit of ancestors) in other to purge himself of his wrongdoings. He is made to be half naked and his body robbed with uye (mud) for hours until its time to call him out in a ceremony known as Oku Oba ( a call for the candidate, purported to have been made by the ancestors). All these actions were believed to be enough penance for the candidate for his wrongdoings. The solitary confinement was to enable him reflect on his past, repent and resolve to make changes as from that date so as to be accepted by the ancestors. The mud was to show how dirty he was as a result of his sins. It makes the candidate to anxiously wait for the time he would be called out for cleansing. The call is made seven times but the candidate will answer only once, that is the last call. Failure to answer will be an offence which could be suspension from receiving the title (Idako n'oba) till another time. After tanswering the seventh call the candidate emerges from his confinement and presents himself for the stamping of the ofo on his chest. He receives oche mgbo ( three legged stool), an iron staff (Alo) and a head gear (ege). The offering and receiving of items were done within nge Oba a cane fence tied on four poles of 3metres square. Its only the titled men stays within the nge when the ritual is going on any uninitiated who enters the nge ekotego okwu ndi Oba and is imposed of a fine by ndi Oba. At the end of the presentation the candidate takes his bath and prepares for the outing the next day. Entertainment is presented to his guests on this day. The next day is the outing ceremony, during this day the New Ogbuevi in the company of the old ones adorn themselves with the expensive clothing called otachi and danced round in circle to the uvio music. The dance is known as Egwu ogbugbe. They blew their elephant tusks (oke) they salute the others with their nza (horse tail). At this stage the friends, family members and well wishers appreciate them by spraying money. It is at this point that the celebrant is permitted to put on the red cap and ege appended with eagle feathers. The Ogbuevi wears beads, ona worn on his legs and a rope worn on the anklets to show that he is now a titled man. Before he is allowed to wear these Regalia's the Ogbuevi is made to pay a fine to atune to the number of times he may have worn red caps in the past before he became an Ogbuevi. The Ogbuevi is also giving azizo oji (a wood carving) that he places on the wall at the entrance to his house. This azizo oji shows that the owner of the house is an Ogbuevi. The wall is also decorated with different colours ranging from blue, white red or yellow that painting is e signature of the Ogbuevi and the number of decoration tells us the number of Oba in that house.
Ogbuevi is not expected to eat cassava or garri as such belittles him. He is expected to eat pounded yam hence the saying that "Duru meli Oba na eli nliji nke he emero Oba na eli mpicha". Ogbuevi does not eat food prepared by a woman who is undergoing her menstrual cycle such women are not allowed to enter his obi this was the reason why they marry more than one wife. He is not expected to lie or deliberately takes sides in judgement. He is expected to be transparent in his actions and judgements. He is expected to be outspoken and straight forward. As custodian of culture he is expected to interpret them correctly and ensure enforcement of the traditional laws and edicts.
Otu Okpukpu (Iyom)
Most prominent among women's social organizations in Umueze Anam is the Nde Okpukpu (Odu) Society. It is as ancient as the Oba institution which provides a pedestal on which the dignity of womanhood is elevated. A member at all times wears large ivory bangles on her hands and legs as a distinctive mark of nobility. After the initiation ceremony known as Isi Nli Okpukpu, the initiate is addressed as Iyom.
The Governance of Umueze Anam Community rests on the shoulders of the council of elders (Irukpo and Izummuo). The chairman of the council of elders is the Diokpala who is regarded as the paramount ruler of the town (Igwe).
The council of elders performs both judicial and legislative functions; they consist of men who are from the age of seventy years and above who have taken the oba and asammuo title and therefore cannot lie or mislead the community.
Next in the hierarchy are the Okpokolo (from 60 years to 70 years), who enforce the laws made by the Irukpo and Izummuo; they determine the dates for the festivals of the community, and they are in charge of the masquerades and the cultural heritage of the community. During time of war they are in charge of recruitment of able-bodied men and prepare them for war. They lead the able-bodied men to prosecute the war. They are in charge of the oba title; they determine the requirements for the Oba title ceremony, as well as who is qualified for the title.
Next after Okpokolo are the Owanuno (55 years to 60 years); they are the errand boys of the council of elders; they are responsible for sharing proceeds from ponds festivals, title taking and burials for the elders; they are in charge of the Owakwa masquerade. They are in charge of town crying and mobilization of the community for an important event.
The Otuasa group (50 years to 55 years) are in charge of the community lands, ponds and other economic ventures of the town; they collect rents and royalties for the community and remit same to the council of elders.
Isikolobia (40 years to 45 years) are the soul of the community. Their job is to mobilize the youths for work when the need arises such as clearing of bush paths, stream paths, digging of graves, and other works. They are also in charge of security of the village under the supervision of the Izummuo, and during war lead the able-bodied men to prosecute war.
Mmeghe Ruling Age Grade are in charge of the town's developmental projects such as provision of basic infrastructure such as roads, school, and water. With the exception of the Elders council (Irukpo), every other group's tenure is four years.
Kingship in Umueze Anam was a product of colonization by the British Imperialists who imposed warrant chiefs on the community. The first king in Umueze Anam was Igwe John Eziolise of Ebendu who reigned from 1974 to 1978 after which Igwe John Emeka of Ezumezu took over and reigned from 1978 to 2003. Igwe John Ikebudu of Aneke reigned from 2004 to 2009 though his reign was riddled with crises.
Territorially, Umueze Anam is segmented into six in a cluster of mixed families: Odah, Isi-Araka, Ndi-Osita, Ama-Orji, Ilo, and Isigom. For electoral purposes, there are two wards: Ward 1 (Ilo-Odah i.e. Agha and Aneke) and Ward 2 (Ilo-Isigom i.e. Ezumezu and Ebendu).
The main advantage of this unique arrangement is that it guarantees enduring good neighbourliness as social tensions in a cluster cannot easily be transported to another cluster (when vengeance is lurking) for fear of harming a relation in there. It is a known fact that the neighbouring community, Onitsha, surreptitiously copied this culture, but the glamour was not properly assimilated and diffused there.
Anam people were lovers of music. In fact, there was almost no function in Anam without one type of music or another. Music featured prominently at festivities and events such as childbirth, marriage, title taking as well as funeral ceremonies.
From these, developed the huge business of the type of music that is known today all over Anam. The most popular musician in Umueze Anam is Sunday Mozie, a.k.a. 'Ugegbe Anam', a prolific (Egwu-Ekpili) recording artist and frequent live performer who skillfully blends Anam cultural rhythms with modern musical instrumentation.
Umueze Anam is predominantly traditional belief. They strongly believe in their Supreme Being called Chukwuobiama who sends guardian angels known as chukwuoke to each individual for protection. They commune with the saints known as the ancestors who intercede on their behalf to God. They believe in reincarnation, witchcraft, divination, and masquerading as the spirit of the dead.
In order to attract favour from God, each family establishes a family altar (Okposi) where sacrifices are made and libation is poured to the ancestors, chukwuoke and Chukwuobiama. The traditional belief system is similar to Christianity, hence the embracing of Catholicism when Europeans came.
On the birth of a child in Umueze Anam, the family ceases from any form of work and feasts for twelve days after which the child is circumcised if male. Also, offering is made to the Ijeoku, ancestors of the family responsible for the gift of a child. It is the duty of the diokpala in the family to name the child.
Umueze Anam sees marriage as a happy life for couples to enjoy together. It is also for procreation, carrying out economic activities together and joint ownership of wealth and investments. In Anam, marriage is very important to the survival of families. Anam are predominantly farmers and therefore sees marriage as getting a helper that will assist in farming and raising up children. This reason accounts to why we marry very early and marry more than one wife. The marriage ceremony is in four stages.
Obanwa could be done at the early stage. When a girl is born especially to a friendly family the father of the prospective suitor goes to the family of the girl and deposits five kobo (sisi) and the girl shall be deemed to have been betrothed to the young boy. Both of them grow up to see themselves as husband and wife. Obanwa symbolizes betrothal and is the first thing that is done after introduction. Presently five Naira, two cartons of beer, one schnapps and packets of cigarette is presented even though it varies from family to villages. The sisi is very symbolic in the marriage such that at the point of divorce it is this five Naira that is returned to the man irrespective of what is paid as bride price.
Oliyi is what is presented ndi uno to tell the ancestors that their daughter has been married out. The requirements varies from kindred to kindred. For my kindred Oliyi is five thousand Naira, two cartons of beer, one schnapps, packets of cigarette and tobacco. Irrespective of where the marriage was contracted these requirements must be sent down home to the kindred and shall be kept at the eldest man of the kindred's Obi until such a time the elders share this at the general meeting. Once this is accepted the marriage has been endorsed by the ancestors.
The next is payment of bride price this is the prerogative of the father of the bride. After the payment of the bride price isikolobia, Umuada, inyemu ndi uno and umuagbo is settled the requirements vary from kindred to kindred.Itu oyi Nwa is when the bride price is paid the mother of the bride accompanied by her nwunyedis dances and makes a joyful noise to inform the neighborhood that the daughter has been given out in marriage.
Ndunege Nwunye is the next in line, two young boys are asked to accompany the bride to the husband's home after sent forth is organized for the friends and well wishers. The parents of the bride provides items ranging from cooking utensils, clothing's, sewing machines etc. This will enable the bride to take off effectively in the management of her new home. These items are displayed on the eve of the sendforth.For a lady married by an Anam man, Nnatanwunye rite is done. The age grade of the groom assembles to receive their new wife. It is usually a colorful event. The bride is expected to perform itu ava, and dance kengedege Igba timu obu. Gifts and cash is showered on the bride and groom. Entertainment is provided and at about 12am the bride and the groom are escorted to their room to consummate their marriage while the age grade members continues with the merriment till dawn. The two young boys that saw the bride off to her grooms house comes back with aka ewu and some Olu oku (Goat upper limb and chicken laps) this is the most thrilling aspect as a young boy I used to fight with my cousin Onyekwelu over who takes up this duty of seeing our sisters off. This is because we are lavishly treated that you never wish to come back home. There is also an important ritual usually performed when the new bride enters a man's house for the first time, it is called ivili akwo (moulden of clay stove). It is symbolic because the grooms family gets a virtuous woman married to the grooms family who is adjudged to be of an exemplary wife, a role model to come and perform this task. This WO!an takes the new bride in and reveals to her the secret of marital success, tells her of the dos and donts of marriage as it affects the family. The bride is expected to see this woman as her role model and confidant. This akwo symbolizes the place of the bride in the family, every married woman in Anam must have an akwo hence the saying that our family is "Akwo ito" meaning that the family has three mothers married to one man. When the woman dies another ritual is performed it is known as ire akwo (breaking of the akwo) this is performed by a daughter in law who related very well with the woman while alive and has found favor in her.
INEZI promotes Industriousness, good cooking skills and handiwork which are very good qualities for sustaining marriage. It is expected that young maidens who have these qualities attached to their beauty are attracted to their suitors who ask for their hands in marriage. Their costumes are made up of natural cosmetics like uye, nzu, uli,which are used to adorn their body with beautiful marks. They wore beads known as Olokpo on top of their nja which they wear on their waist. Their legs are adorned with anklets called akpulu-ulu. Their hair do is usually is I mbute (wigs). These attire drive men crazy. The last four days were marked with a lot of celebrations, parents came to town with plenty of foods and drinks to entertain family members, friends in-laws who came to celebrate with their daughters. The isi ikolobia helps with fetching fire woods and pounding of yams and fufu. During the opu ive ezi (outing rite), all the maidens assembled themselves at Ilo for beauty parade. Having dressed to kill, they danced and demonstrated and showed their beauty especially to the eligible bachelors. Every participants were involved except those who had married and gone to their husbands already within the period of long ceremony. It should be noted that some young men on having chosen some young girls to marry do not wait for them to finish the year long ceremony, for fear that men more handsome and richer than them would snatch them away. They rushed to finish everything and their heart throbs away before it become too late. In this regard such girls were made to have mock ezi known as iti udu before going to their husbands. For that reason, they were not required to come back and participate in the final ceremony. The young maidens during the parade carry udu (a small pot) which they beat as they parade with songs. This ceremony is known as ibi aka n'udu or iti udu. While the already married maidens parades while carrying chewing stick in their mouth the free maidens and not betrothed don't carry chewing stick. Therefore, chewing stick is a symbol to show that she is not free for suitors. This is fantastic and fascinating worth a colourful sight to behold. During the parade the most beautiful girl was noted and cheered but not giving any award except that she will have more suitors. After the ceremony the married maidens goes back to their husbands while those yet to be married wait for their time. It is important to note that its only the wayward girls never gets married months after the ceremony and during the ada masquerade such girls are usually sang with ( Nma enwerodi na Nma ekilisi ada). This waiting period is very critical and tempting for parents and it is their onus to guide against their daughter having illicit affair so that they won't get pregnant during that period and therefore lose their chance of getting a better suitor. Girls with such misadventure are married off to old men who might probably be looking children. This is a humiliation to both parents and family members (this is another pointer that INEZI does not promote promiscuity nor illicit affair as insinuated). The beautiful maidens wear skimpy dresses that reveal their pointed breasts which suggests they are virgins those breasts dangles as they dances and sets their admirers on fire. It is also believed that ibi aka n'udu is a symbol of virginity as those who are not virgins are not allowed to pass through that rite. It was also said that ezi ceremony helps young men who were not thinking of marriage to start thinking in that direction.
Another part of marriage is divorce. In Anam, divorce is badly tolerated except for marital unfaithfulness and witchcraft allegation. If a man decides to divorce the wife such a person is expected to throw away the woman cooking utensils such as pots, stove etc. it will mean that the man has sworn not to marry again (inwu Iyi) at this point the woman will no longer be permitted to go into the man's house and will be taken home by her people. At this point the woman lives in her fathers house or rent a house (Obinkiti). The parents is expected to return the sisi to the husbands family but this is not done until she gets married again. The reason for this is because our tradition does not allow a woman to bear children in her fathers house. Such children do not bear the surname of their mother, our culture has it that all the children born by the woman while she was divorced belongs to the husband. This reason makes most men not to allow their wives to stay so long outside his home simply because they may not be able to tolerate children not fathered by them. This also contributes to the reason why divorce is not rampant in Anam too. In Umueze Anam a woman married to an Umueze Anam man and divorced cannot be married by another Umueze Anam man, unless he has married to another person outside the town and divorced. This is also a check to ensure that secret lovers do not instigate their lover to divorce their husband and get married to them. When the divorcee gets married to another man, the family of the former husband is notified and the sisi refunded back to them. This severed the ties the woman had with the man. When a man reconciles with the husband and returns to the man's house she is not expected to enter the mans unless a ritual is performed to exonerate her from the adulterous practices indulged in the past. This is usually done by Umuada.
Iwanya Oji N'iyi
Iwanya Oji n'inyi is a very simple ceremony for the cleansing of the woman who separated from the husband for sometime and has returned to the husband.It is assumed that within the period of their separation,she must have played around with men, unlike a married woman.The idea is to save the husband from the guilt of an adulterous wife by eating food prepared by her/ili nli oraakwu which may lead to his death.Ignoring the ceremony is like a man noticing and ignoring the adulterous life of his wife,for whatever reason,at the risk of his life,good health,progress in life or even the life of his children.Thus whether the wife leaves the matrimonial home on her own/is Isibe die gbapu/igbari die,or sent out of the house by the husband,through inwu iyi nwunye/just calling the nearest member of the village(onumbi)that its member must be called on notice while swearing in the name of a popular alusi/shrine that he will never marry that woman again,the estranged wife can never enter the house again without being cleansed through iwanya oji n'iyi.Should the man decide to ignore it,he will be ready to bear the consequences of the wife's oraakwu.The iwanya oji n'inyi is a very simple ceremony involving the right elder around using a kola nut to pronounce guilt and forgiveness on the woman at the same time,in the name of the appropriate alusi/shrine,before breaking the kola nut but for the couple to take.It is a very short reconciliatory ceremony performed at the corridor in the presence of a few witnesses for the wife to reunite physically with the husband or in spirit if he has just died and the wife has come to perform the necessary rites/rituals. It is different from iti igba mgbaata for a former wife and children supposedly born in the second marriage, as may have been assumed earlier by a contributor.
Nkuchi nwanyi is a social phenomenon in which thé family of the dead man meets with the man's wife after the final burial rites/iputa ito or iputa isaa and presents a male member of the family younger than the deceased to inherit the man's widow to avoid the woman remaining a widow forever with her children not having anybody to take care of them as a father. The new husband may be the woman's step son or her brother in law or any other member of the family deemed fit for the task. He may be younger or older than the woman because there is no rule regarding the age of the man or woman, but he must be younger than the late husband. The widow is free to accept the person presented or reject him. Should the remarriage take place the woman becomes the bonafide wife of the man and any child she bears after nine months bears the new husband's name. A widow has the option of nkuchi or remain her husband's widow and be having children for him wherever she is or get married to a man of her choice. Nkuchi was designed to ensure that widows do not flirt around and drag the name of the family to the mud and also it helps the family to ensure that children fathered by people of questionable character are not being born to the family. It is in itself a good practice and not against Christianity and most importantly the widow's consent is obtained. Why people condemn it is because there are allegations of connivance to kill a man in other for both secret lovers to marry in the name of Nkuchi (though not witnessed in Anam) and also force union of two incompatible persons which often results in the man insisting on marrying his own wife (Nwunye Chi) which leads to polygamy and ill fighting in the family.
In Umueze Anam death is seen as returning to the land of the ancestors,a person could only journey to the land of the ancestors if he led a good life while on earth he will be accepted by the ancestors and becomes the guardian and intercessors before God (Chukwu Obiama) for their people, but if the person led a bad life he is banished to abyss and will be crushed. For a deceased to have a smooth passage to the land of the ancestors a befitting burial ceremony. it is the belief that the deceased not properly buried will remain a wanderer and become an evil spirit tormenting people and manifesting in all forms. In Umueze Anam when a child dies it signifies a bad omen. It is either the child is an ogbanje or killed by witches, the child is buried that day without any ceremony or ritual. The child is not buried at home but in the bush so that such spirit will not reincarnate again to tomment the parent. If the child is buried is suspected to be an ogbanje the corpse will be given a mark so that when he or she comes again he can easily be identified and treated with caution and disdain. For the death of a youth who is not married it is said that na okpali avala, which means that the death is untimely. The entire community will be calm since it is a taboo to hear that a youth died in some cases the age grade and family member will consult a diviner to know the cause of the death since according to the belief of the community such deaths is often caused by witches, oracle or evil deeds of either the parents, ancestors or the person in question. The notion is that if the death is not natural anybody participating in such may incur the wrath of the gods. If the cause is not natural the gods are appeased before the person can be buried and if it is caused by an oracle the corpse is either bailed from the oracle or returned to the oracle. During the burial the age grade assembles to perform the burial (igba okwa). The age grades during this burial exudes high degree of rage and bitterness during the igba okwa they will break anything that is kept along their part. They will patrol with blue powder and will pour it on any youth that did not join them in the mourning. There will engage in wrestling (ITU nyajili) and no weakling comes out during this period because such a person will be thrown on the floor. Every member of the age grade and any other youth shall contribute a token called utu mmanya this is necessary because the bereaved family is not expected to be burdened by the age grade. The family shall provide a goat known as ewu ikpo this will be used for onya is I ceremony. Onya is I ceremony is when the members of the age grades gather and people who are very friendly or known to the deceased shall come one after the other to eulogize the dead. They will come to testify on their encounter with the dead either as a friend or even a for or that they entangled in a wrestling bout. Onya isi is usually a solemn affair and at the end the bereaved family will confer and decide who is more closer to the dead that will kill the goat. When the person kills the goat, he is giving a knife to cut the goat and he will parade the town with the goat head to the admiration of the community he is expected to provide one carton of beer for the burial of his friend (itu uni). The mourning period for youths and persons not up to the age of okpokolo is 12 days (Izu ito). Burial of a woman married to an Anam man is not so complex. The children or family members is expected to notify the family of the deceased woman (ndi ikwu nneve) through a ritual called igbaje icho they are expected to present to the family a big metal pan or bowl, a paddle (eku), a metal cup (this signifies the return of the woman's cooking utensils presented to her by her parents). When this is done the woman's family will then prepare to attend the burial of the woman with their masquerade, or kindred igba, and with items for itu uni. If the woman's paternal home is close, the corpse may be taken to their house for final visit before burial. Umuotu will be notified of the burial of their colleague and they will come and perform the oni ozu and ire akwo. Umuada will also come and perform their own oni ozu while the inyemu ndi uno will perform the ritual of ire akwo. For family that is buoyant they will use a cow to perform the ire akwo and oni ozu but for those not buoyant ogu Akpa ego into (4000) will be paid to represent the cow. Ire akwo ceremony is performed by one of the daughters inlaw of the women who took care of the woman very well. This ceremony is usually done on the 12th day of the burial (Izu ito). There is also a ceremony called Ike omaba for the deceased this is usually done for those that took the iyom title (ive okpu). One of the daughter or daughter inlaw of the deceased will tie wrapper with special knotches and with an appe (hand fan) dances round the village with her fellow woman singing songs that eulogizes the deceased while sympathizers spray them money. For every other person who is neither an Oba title holder or among Okpokolo age grade there are not much attachment to their burial. Their burial activities end after Izu ito but for an Oba title holder who has performed the ichi Muo ceremony and has attained the age of okpokolo the burial extends up to izu isa (28 days). When an elderly man who is an Oba title holder dies, the first thing that is done is the idapu ozu, this includes what is called ote kpim kpim. The family of the deceased is expected to go house to house of his fellow elders and Oba title holders to notify them that the Ogbuevi has joined his ancestors and he is about to be laid in state. The Oba title holders shall first come to inspect the corpse to know if he is properly kept and dressed in his regalia. After this the ukolo is brought and played in a sound that will notify the entire village that a great man has joined his ancestors. The next is itupu okwa izizi (oso nkodo nkodo). The immediate family members are expected to adorn themselves with the regalia of the deceased such as otachi, okpu Mme, ooke, nza, etc. while the ada carries the ubom that is beaten by her. Such men according to our culture is usually buried in the night except for Christians whose corpse will be taken to the church to be prayed for. Burial in Anam is usually done in the night, and the ceremony continues in the evening with the age grades of the children and other extended family members supporting their bereaved colleagues with their music. The reason for this burial at night is because our people being predominantly farmers usually use the day to do their farm works and gathers during the night to continue with leisure it is not peculiar with burials alone. The bereaved family members entertains his age grade with drinks and food. A foul is killed in the early morning around 5am and it is called Okuku nlavochi and subsequently with ewu okwa the next evening. If he invites the entire Anam Mkpu isa he will kill seven fouls as oku nlavo chi and one cow as Ewu okwa. Recently people no longer use Okuku for nlavo chi but ewu. The age grade musicians entertains the age grade throughout the night after the ito onu token is presented. The members of the age grade contributes tokens to the bereaved as a means of cushioning his expenses. This contributions depends on how popular the person is and also if he does same for people as the list of benefactors are recorded. The next day, the in-laws, well wishers and friends come for itu uni, they will come with a piece of cloth, drinks, goat, cow and money depending on the person's capabilities. Some in-laws will come with dance groups or even masquerade. Ndi Nna Oche will come with their music and masquerade and when they are going they will be given a goat, ram or cow depending on relationships and capability of the bereaved family. This will continue until the next morning when ewu nsekute will be killed to mark the end of the first burial. The funeral room and the bed is left with the clothes, regalias and other precious ornaments of the deceased kept daily until after izu ito or izu isa as the case may be. For a woman who is an item her Ookpu (ivory) is displayed and for titled men his Ooke (elephant tusk) is kept and it is blown by the eldest son. During the lying in state of the deceased, when the corpse is laid, the wife or wives will be paraded to cry for the deceased that night they will be eulogizing the deceased as they sit beside the corpse faning it with a hand fan until it is buried. The same is done by the husband if the deceased is a woman. After the corpse is buried the spouses are made to sit on a mat in the funeral room everyday till izu ito and Izu isa is completed. During that period while the deceased are laid in state the wife puts on her best clothes and ornaments as it was when they wedded but the next day the spouses puts on nkilika okala (rag) during this period of nkilika okala he or she is not expected to talk to anyone their only duties is to come out before anybody wakes to cry in the morning after that crying he or she is given water to wash the face and goes inside. This is so because it is believed that the deceased spirit has not sojourned to the land of ancestors. This continues till after Izu ito for deceased woman or a man who has not attained the age of okpokolo and Izu is a for titled elderly man. After the isa oni ozu ritual will be performed to send the ancestors to the land of the dead before the wife will then start wearing agbo (white cloth) she can start talking to people but will not go out till after six months before she will then change the clothing to black and mourn for another one year. The period of mourning in Anam before was 18months until recently it was reduced to six months and the wearing of black removed. During the period of her wearing black, she is free to move about and talk to people but cannot see any man. After the burial ceremony, every morning and evening the first daughter (Ada) is expected to dress in her father's chieftaincy regalia and with ubom, which she will beat round the town eulogizing the father and notifying the village of the death of the father till a day before Izu ito and Izu isa as the case may be. When she gets to the frontage of any elder she while greet the person in the name of the late father and if she does it well people will be giving her money (ego ubom). She represents her late father every time she does that and on returning she will place the ubom in front of their house and puts the regalia and red cap on the ubom. That ubom standing outside represents the late father who is still believed to be hovering round the house. For a titled man during the izu ito, the first son shall be painted with uye wearing Ogoro and red cap with feather and oche mgbo on his armpit, he will be going round the titled men's house greeting them and they in return gives him money and drinks this rite is called ite uye after that during the izu isa the kindred parades the town with their communal drum while the children dressed on their fathers regalia dances as they parade this rite is called ipu ive isa. It is after this rite that the funeral room is dismantled. It is the custom of the land that the eldest son and daughter stays at home throughout the mourning period without going anywhere while the others are expected to provide them with all the support and feeding they needed. If they cannot as a result of their work, somebody will volunteer to stay on their behalf while they are expected to pay a fine and provide the person staying with the drinks and food needed to carry him and the strangers that will be coming throughout that period. Another rite of importance is the Ooni ozu, as an Ogbuevi, the children is expected to present to ndi Oba a live cow that will be shared by them and some money for snuff. If the family could not afford a cow, they will pay Ogwu akpego (4000) in place of the cow. The next is ikwabi ozu rite, this rite is done so that the spirit of the deceased can sojourn to the land of the ancestors. The age grade of the deceased gathers, with the closest family relative of the deceased among the age grade being in charge of the ceremony. An okposi is provided, the first rite is the olokpu azu, smoked sizeable fishes are provided with red oil and salt, this will be used to invoke the spirit of the dead on the okposi, the remainder of the fish is used to prepare very thick ogbono soup that is shared among all present. After this one Ikenga ewu is killed and the blood spilled over the okposi and it is used to prepare nsala soup, after invocation and appeasing of the spirit of the deceased to setforth his journey and join the good ancestors to intercede for them, the okposi is pushed outside with leg by the Celebrant (igbapu okposi n'lo), which means that he has accepted the sacrifice and has departed. This rite releases the wife of the man from the deceased so that she can start communication with others except for sexual intercourse. The spouse of the bereaved is expected not to shave or comb her hair until the period of mourning is over this is a sign to any man who makes advances to steer clear of the woman. After the period of mourning she is expected to shave her hair and burn her mourning cloths. When mourning is over the children of the deceased shares the belongings of their father including the pieces of clothes brought during itu uni. Also during that time they decide on who will kuchie the woman hence the popular saying that "nwanyi si ana akpa nkata aru eji ke ive diee si tinye kwe maka onye ya ekuchi ya" It is supposed to be the responsibility of the uncle to kuchie the deceased wife or the first born son if the woman is her step mother. The burial rite for the eldest man in the community (Diokpala) is similar to that of the titled men but the slight difference is that when the diokpala dies, the corpse is hidden for three native years (about 2years) the burial is the responsibility of the entire community all the age grade will have their stand bring their music and prepare their dishes. The first thing in the morning of the burial is the ada masquerade performance, the night will be the akpali masquerade by 12am and subsequently the odumodu masquerade. After the burial and mourning of the deceased, the next to the eldest man will perform the ikpoche eziobi rite so that he can ascend the throne. Odumodu masquerade performs for elders who are a member of irukpo age grade as well.
Umueze Anam Festivals and Celebrations
Umueze Anam has two major festivals that is celebrated annually and they are Nzire Ani and Otite Anam festivals.
Nzire Ani or Nzide Ani festival is a festival celebrated by Anam people. The Name Nzire Ani means the coming down of Ani Anam deity from on top of Nkpu (Anthill) were it is kept during the flooding season. It marks the beginning of a new native year. It can be regarded as a pagan festival because it has the foundation from Ani Anam deity. Before we can understand the festival let's first of all treat Ani Anam deity. Ani Anam is best regarded as a covenant rather than an Oracle. During the early settlement of Anam people there was a lot of crime such as adultery, killing of a fellow Anamite, stealing, covetousness, betrayal etc. This resulted from the heterogeneity of Anam communities so the elders decided to have a bond that will bind all together and promote security and mutual trust. On that fateful day the elders gathered at Odah and made a covenant, that no Anamite shall kill a fellow Anamite, No Anamite shall covet another's property or wife, No Anamite shall betray his brother, No Anamite shall bear false witness against the other. This is why the invocation of the deity starts with Ani Anam akodi onye eme ive ma ive emie what it means is that the convenient goes after the guilty and not the just. The covenant is synonymous to the ten commandment. Anam being a flood prone area is usually being submerged in water during the rainy season, this flood destroys their houses, crops, livestock and something kills their children. During this season children and valuable artifacts are kept on the nkpu and okpulukpu (platforms) built in the house above water level. The people during this period prays to their ancestors for protection and safe keeping. The Ani Anam deity is also kept on this platform as well. When the flood receded, the chief priest announces a date for the Ani deity to return to its abode and it is marked with pomp and pageantry, the people gives offering of Thanksgiving to their chi for protecting them from destruction. Another aspect of the festival is the marking of the victory over the Adah and Aboh warriors. Anam people during the 18th century were usually invaded by the Adah warriors who usually come to the area for slave poaching, one day our people summoned the courage to fight back and on this fateful day the assembled all able bodied men, youths and children at Odah to await for the boat of this slave hunters, when they came the Anamites started pelting them with stones such that their boats capsized and they drowned in water, this marked the end of their exploits in the area. This victory over Adah warriors boosted the morale of ndi Anam that it is usually celebrated every year so that the story shall be told to generations unborn. This victory is also marked during the Nzire Ani festival. The third aspect of this festival is the dedication of the new year and the new planting season to God and the ancestors. This festival is used by the elders to appease the gods for a bountiful harvest in the new planting season. It is after this festival that farmers go back to their farms to cultivate. This festival was usually being celebrated in October but it was moved to the last eke day before the Christmas Day to accommodate people who may be coming home during the Christmas holiday and to ensure wider participation. The festival also reminds ndi Anam of their victory against the Aboh people. Ndi Aboh became a thorn in the flesh of Ndi Anam using ugbondu (canon shots) given to them by the Portuguese collaborators. The casualties became much that ndi Anam decided to consult a diviner to know what could be done to stop the invaders. The diviners told them that a charm shall be prepared, the charm shall be taken into the boat of the Aboh warriors but the person that will carry the charm must be killed by the warriors but the charm will cause confusion such that Anam warriors will slaughter all the Aboh invaders. The charm was prepared and the problem became who shall carry the charm no one accepted until one young man called Iwoegbune from Umuodionwu in Umuebendu quarters of Umueze Anam volunteered to carry the charm, this heroic volunteering thrown the town into joy such that his cousin Amah from Umuamekeme in Umuebendu quarters volunteered to ensure that his brother head returns home once killed while Obalichi from Umuoba led the warriors to fight the Aboh warriors led by the Aboh Prince. The plan was carried out perfectly such that the charm was taken by Iwo to the Aboh camp, he was killed as foretold his brother Amah fought and brought back the head of the hero while the warriors led by the great fighter Obalichi slaughtered all the Aboh warriors including the prince and freed Anam people in their slave camp some returned to Anam while others who could not return settled at Umunankwo in present-day Ogbaru. Prof Alex Asigbo you may correct if am wrong. This festival tells this story too. The celebration of this festival starts a month to the actual date of the celebration with the Otiekwe Adah, this a masquerade that moves round the village with a wooden gong to announce to the people that the festival is at hand. This is symbolic because it signifies the way the warriors that defeated Adah people were mobilized. The Otiekwe Adah moves round the villages every night with the chant "egwue egwue Otiekwe busa nkonko" It is usually called mmanwu anwulu. The eve of the Nzire Ani is usually eventful, it is the last day of Otiekwe masquerade performance and the dreadful Akpali masquerade. Akpali masquerade is the spirit that controls the water current (turbulence) when this masquerade performs at night and in the morning boats are docked ashore even at the village square, earthen pots kept carelessly are broken by this wave. The Akpali masquerades abhors light and breaks every light placed on their path. It is only the initiates that comes out at night to be a part of the masquerade procession while Izummuo (Otummuo) age grades regulates their activities . The Nzire Ani day is a very eventful day it starts at dawn with the procession of Adah masquerade. The Adah masquerade is led by odogwu Ada that goes with Oji and is led by Okpokolo age grade. The procession terminates at Odah bank of the Onwambala river where the masquerade pelts stones into the river to signify the defeat of the Adah people. After this is done, the next is the mobilization of the youths for ijo Nzire Ani, this Ijo is used to mock those who may have engaged in any immoral and evil acts. This is done to discourage people from carrying out evil plots. After the Ijo Nzire Ani, the elders converge at the eldest man's house to join him as he pours libations to the ancestors and prays for Gods's blessings, favour and protection on our people and for fruitful planting season. Otimkpala masquerade appears at this point with a whip and symbolically whips the eldest man on his leg this gives the otimkpala masquerades the powers to whip everybody that comes their way. The Otimkpala masquerades performs side by side with the libations and offer of Thanksgiving to their gods by the elders. At about 4pm the strong and brave youths appears at the village square with canes to wrestle With the spirits (okpa ege). The masquerades with their cane whips the men while the men dodges with their own stick and when a masquerade is thrown it goes out of the scene, same with the men the last man standing wins the contest in Umueze Anam this part is the one we enjoy the most and the likes of Jaja Chukwuemeka Nwanegbo, Isaac Emeka, Chuks Agu, Francis Ndife comes to mind. While the wrestling is going on, the Owakwa masquerade gets ready to perform. The Owakwa masquerade comes out with bravery and supernatural powers. The masquerade goes about with a live fowl tied on the head at the back, the opotiyi masquerade is expected to appear and cut off this fowl but the Owakwa will not allow it so both of them engages in hide and seek game while the opotiyi marshals out its plan to take the fowl, the Owakwa will be pursuing him with a big stick if the opotiyi fails to cut off the fowl, the Owakwa goes with it, but if he succeeds the opotiyi goes with it. At the sunset when the Owakwa finishes his performance, the about of eneooo takes over the airwaves and at this point the women and children goes to bed because the greatest of the masquerade (Odumodu) is getting ready to come out. At this point it is the time for ochiagba Odumodu and I enjoy this part a lot it is only the initiates comes out at this point. The Odumodu has so many powers and manipulations, one of this is that it duplicates itself such that one can be at one end of the town and the other at the other end. It has ibobo such that you cannot run faster than the masquerade. This masquerade remains powerless until it pays homage to the Ani Anam deity and the eldest man it is when it goes to the bearer of Ani Anam that he takes the cane and his powers restored to him. This masquerade performs all night long and in at dawn it goes home walking like a boneless wanderer hence the saying that " kero nke inaga ka Odumodu chi voru".
The Meaning of Otite
This five-letter-word "Otite" in Anam is the synonym for "Iwa ji" ceremony elsewhere in Igboland which is popularly referred to as "The New Yam Festival". The origin of Otite in Anam is as ancient as the evolution or fusion of the entity called Anam town or clan as some people may choose to call it. It is a yearly festival celebrated simultaneously in all the eight villages of Anam namely: Iyiorah, Mmiata, Oroma-Etiti, Umudora, Umuenwelum, Umueze, Umuikwu and Umuoba (i.e. going by the alphabetical order listing of all the villages in order to respect their status of equality literarily, as it were). Until about two decades ago, when Okpokolo" Anam, the Executive Arm of the Council of Elders mandatorily fixed the last Sunday Eke market day in the month of August, (the sixth month -onwa isii- in our local chronological time) that falls on Eke day, as the date for the yearly Otite Anam Festival, it was formerly celebrated on any chosen Eke day in August. In fact, it is only Otite of all the festivals in Anam that has a fixed date which is not affected by the vagaries of weather or season.
What is being celebrated?
It is an incontrovertible fact that Anam people are the greatest producers of big yam tubers throughout south-eastern Nigeria. Whether it is Onitsha yam, Otuocha yam, Okoti yam, Ochuche-Umuodu or Ani-Eze yam, the producers of about 80% of these yams (to be very modest) are Anam people. Therefore, just as farming is the chief occupation of Anam people, the chief product of our people's occupation is the Yam. Otite Anam Festival consequently, is the celebration of the chief product of our people's occupation. Today, all communities in Igboland celebrate the new yam festival yearly, beginning from the same month of August. But the irony of the new yam festival elsewhere in Igboland is that all the other communities visit the markets in all the places mentioned above to buy either Onitsha yam, Otuocha yam, Okoti yam or Ochuche-Umuodu yam to celebrate their new yam festivals. While Anam people celebrate with the yam harvested from their farmland and they thank their God for giving them a bountiful harvest.
The Mode of Celebrating Otite Anam
Because farming is the main occupation of the people, our fathers used Otite Festival day to offer sacrifices to their ancestors thanking them for the bumper harvest of the year or, in the year of scanty harvest, sued for the reversal of the harsh year in the following years ahead. The sacrifice used to be in form of offering kola nuts, food and drinks to their ancestors ilo mmo imploring them to intercede for them through their deities (gods) to the Almighty God (Chi-Ukwu). It is an ancient practice that during the Otite Anam, the community through the elders and ruling age grades pays homage to the eldest man in the town (diokpala) with the first fruits (ivenru). The community will present him with best of fishes or presently goats and even cow. With this he prays and sacrifice to the God on behalf of the community in Thanksgiving and prays for a better season ahead. He is the first to offer sacrifice in the land before any other person.
On Otite day, pure and unadulterated pounded yam with ove-mmanu, agbonor or egwusi soups thickly garnished with dried fish would be prepared by every family in the village. No matter how impoverished any family was, Otite day used to be a day of plenty as far as winning and dinning were concerned. At that time, fish was abundant in our waters and fishes like aja, usolo, alila, egbili, okwo, etc., would richly adorn every pot of soup. In today's world of shallow waters in and around Anam, which scenario has accounted for the extinction of many fish species, fish is now very scarce during Otite Festival and its use has almost given way to fowl and goat meat on Otite day.
Since the inception of Otite Festival up till today, Otite Festival day, has been a day of giving gifts and alms to the less-privileged, the infirm, widows and the aged. Today, no matter wherever any married daughter of an Anam man is, it has become a sacred obligation for such a daughter to send to her father and mother (whoever is still alive) mainly, four tubers of yam, fish or (money in lieu of fish) and drinks at least a day, before Otite Festival day. Some well-to-do daughters even buy goats in addition to yams and drinks as well as some items like clothes, bed and beddings, etc., and send to their parents during Otite Festival. Otite Anam Festival therefore, is a very great festival in Anam as it accords recognition and honour to the main product of our people's occupation of farming – the Yam.
How Otite Festival is Celebrated
In the morning of Otite day, it is the oldest man in each village of Anam called "Diokpala" that kick-starts the festival. He does so by inviting the Members of the Council of Elders to his house. He thereafter, starts off with bringing down his omo-oku usually from a high elevation in his house like igbara in olden days but now table, and commences igo-ovo (Otite prayers) with kola nuts, local gin and nzu (the white chalk with which the ogbuevis adorn their eyes). He also brings eight to ten biggest yams from the stock presented to him by his sons, relations and villagers as nruu together with fish or goat as the case may be, and places them in front of his omo oku. He prays and thanks our ancestors for the bountiful harvest of the instant year, or if the reverse (poor harvest) is the case, sues for the reversal of the bad omen in the years ahead. After this, the alo mmo commences. In the olden days, the house of the Diokpala paraded a very sizeable stock of yams and fish he received as nruu during the period of Otite. As the preparation of the alo-mmo meal is in progress, the Diokpala shares out some dried fish from the stock presented to him as homage (nruu) by his villagers to members of the Council of Elders present. The dried fish shared out is eaten with red oil prepared for that purpose, while dinking the local gin until the real alo-mmo meal is ready. After the Diokpala's alo-mmo, other members of the Council of Elders follow suit and the festival commences in earnest. In those olden days, homages were paid to the Diokpala by his villagers during Otite Festival. In fact, all heads of big fishes like: aja, usolo, alila, egbili, eevi, okwo and even ekwum, belonged to him if killed by any of his villagers.
The roasting of the new yam as is the vogue elsewhere in Igboland during the new yam festival is alien to Anam culture and does not form part of Otite Festival mode. During ikpa unwu, a mini cultural ceremony performed by the Diokpala in the presence of members of the Council of Elders with the stock of old yams (ji okpoo) remaining unconsumed, about a month before Otite Festival, the end of the previous year's farming products especially yams, is signaled. After ikpa unwu ceremony, the Diokpala could begin to eat the new products of the instant year's farming season like new yam, corn etc. The new yam could then be used to offer sacrifices to idols, and anybody wishing to roast the new yam is free to do so. At this period the old yam (ji okpoo) could hardly get dawn if cooked.
In the late afternoon of Otite day, mgba otite (local wrestling competition) was organized for teenagers between the ages of 15–20 years as sports and entertainment. This aspect of Otite programme is no longer in vogue due mainly, to the fact that members of these age brackets are now students who view the art of coming out bare-bodied in public to engage in wrestling as primitive. Whether that view is correct or not, the truth of the matter is that age-grade wrestling used to be part of Otite highlights, which form part of the culture and heritage of Anam people.
Before the outbreak of the Nigeria Civil War (1967–70) there used to be a customary type of marriage in Anam called nwunye o-oba. By this method, a father could betroth the daughter of his friend or of any person whose family possessed good character traits for his son. The girls so betrothed could be in their infancies or in their teens. Such betrothed girls when they reached the age of ten and above, started visiting the homes of their future husbands during Otite in what Anam people called ije oku. Before a betrothed girl visited the home of her future husband at Otite, he (the future husband) would send two boys from his family to bring his future wife in what was called izute-oku. Then oku lasted for four days starting from Otite day. On arriving the home of the betrothed girl whether within the same village or at any other village in Anam, one of the two errand boys sent by the future husband of the betrothed girl as proxy, would hold a pestle (akosi) which he turned up-side-down hitting the reverse side on the ground as they marched along in the village of the betrothed girl and in their own village on arrival. The significance of the pestle was to assure the parents of the betrothed girl and other villagers that the future husband of the girl was capable of feeding his future wife and to fend for all her needs. As the trio marched on, the boy holding the pestle and hitting same on the ground would be in front with the betrothed girl following him closely while the second boy carrying the girl's box of cosmetics and clothes kept the rear. Within the four-day period of oku the betrothed girl would be lavishly entertained with unadulterated pounded yam served with soups – nsala, ove-mmanu, agbonor or egwusi- richly garnished with fresh or dried fish. It must be pointed out here succinctly, that the future husband of the betrothed girl was mandatorily prevented from sleeping with his future wife whether she was mature or not, let alone having sexual intercourse with her until they were formally joined in marriage after the girl's onine ezi ceremony.
In the year of ine ezi ceremony of a betrothed girl, she attended the last Oku referred to as oku nchebi at the home of her future husband. It was at this last oku that the future husband of a betrothed girl spent lavishly on his future wife both materially and in kind. In that same year, the future husband in company of one or two of his friends or family members offered one full-day free job at the farm of his future father or mother-in-law as the case may be. Also, while departing from oku nchebi, the betrothed girl was given many gifts. First, her box would be loaded with clothes, soaps and cosmetics. Other family members of her future husband (males and females alike) would each, be offering her money for soap, with some contributing dried fish – all to impress her parents that their future in-law and his family members would be able to take good care of their daughter when finally joined in marriage formally. All these would not prevent anu kwa yim (I will not marry you) from occurring, if it must.
However, marriages by betrothals are no longer in vogue in Anam in view of the perils associated with this type of marriage. One of such perils was that many of the girls betrothed in their infancy or early teens grew up to develop dislike for their future husbands or vice versa. When such a thing happened, the future husbands who had spent fortunes to fend and provide for their wives to- be, were at the losing ends. Such a development meant that all fishes, clothes, yams, and free jobs given out, not only by the future husbands alone, but also, by their family members to impress their future in-laws, had gone down the drains. At such instances, the only option available to the men engaged in betrothals was payment of dowry by the eventual husbands of the girls (and scarcely men) who adopted the slogan anu kwa yim (I will not marry you). But such dowries calculated customarily in monetary terms were so infinitesimal to compare with what the short-changed husbands and their family members actually expended both materially and in kind, to win the hands of their betrothed wives. So, it was the men who lost out eventually in all such cases and that scenario was responsible mainly, why that type of cultural marriage waned into insignificance in Anam today.
Significance of Otite Festival in the lives of Anam people
Otite Anam Festival ranks next only to Nzireani amongst all the festivals in Anam. This is because while Nzireani is the commemoration of the ancient origin of Anam town or clan, and celebrating the recession of the flood water that forced our ancestors to live on bamboo decks in their thatched houses from the end of September – early November each year, Otite Festival is the celebration of the product of our people's occupation, Farming - which sustained them after the fusion of the different people that teamed up at Odah to form Anam Ogbe.
Secondly, the period of Otite Festival is the only period in the year when Anam people boycott working in their farms for four consecutive days in honour of the pride of the ancient tradition of our forefathers. This point is now so widespread that yam traders who patronize markets in the abovementioned places where Anam people sell their yams, stock-pile yams in other to forestall scarcity during the four-day period of Otite Anam, before the festival starts.
Thirdly, Anam people use the period of Otite Festival to assess the success or failure of their hard yearly toil at the farms. As a result, all their major financial projects and commitments are scheduled after the harvest period which starts before Otite Festival. Any wonder then that one often hears the following statements from their creditors mainly from Nteje and Umueri: " O’ kwa unu etechewo Otite unu avu nini? Kwuo m ugwo m". Indeed, Otite Anam occupies a prominent position in the lives of Anam people as well as being the pride of the product of what Anam people know how to do best – Farming.
In Umueze Anam Otite Mba is celebrated a month before Otite Anam reason and why is not clear to me. Some school of thought said that one Mba Nwinya who was a renowned farmer and harvests yam quite early ahead of others and for this reason will celebrate his otite to enable him eat the fruit of his labour as at then it is not honorable to eat yam if otite has not been celebrated. This is practice later was popularized and celebrated in Umueze Anam the Mba family holds this tradition till date.
Age grade system
Umueze Anam practices Republican method of governance in which power is devolved to age grades. Each age grades consists of people within three years age bracket.
At the age of fourteen, all young males within this age bracket (3 years) come together in groups to form the age grade system. During this period maturity is tested through wrestling and anybody defeated will not join the group.
After four years of Ikpoko ogbo, the age group at 18 years is initiated into the masquerade system. On the day of initiation during the Nzire Ani festival, the courage and endurance of the group is tested through whipping by anyanchu cain on their legs. They are exposed to the egwegeregwe awala masquerade which dances at the village square kindred by kindred.
At the age of forty, all male adults of this age grade are initiated into adulthood through this ceremony. Prior to this ceremony it is expected that all of them must have married and the first to marry is celebrated as the father of the age grade (Nna Iru). After this celebration they are cleansed through shaving of their youthful hairs before taking up Isikolobia. As Isikolobia they are responsible for the organization and supervision of the youths to undertake specific jobs assigned to the youths such as vigilante services, clearing of village square, pathways, streams,fetching of firewood,digging of graves etc.
After the headship of Isikolobia, the age grade graduates to Otu asa, outasa is responsible for collection of royalties and rents acruing from ponds, lakes, rivers, land and farm settlements and submit the accruals to Izumuo.
These are age grades that has no responsibility, it is a period of rest before taking up higher responsibilities.
This is the age grade that oversees the development activities of the town. They are responsible for imposition of developmental levies.
This is the age grade that enforces fines and penalties and are in charge of the mobilization of the youths in times of war.
They are in charge of title taking, festivals and enforcement of punishment for masquerade offenders.
They in conjunction with irukpo governs and legislate over the affairs of the community. They enforce laws,mobilizes the youths and collect all fines and punishments as determined by the elders council.
They are the paramount rulers of the town, they legislates and adjudicates over the affairs of the community. They holds the judicial powers and their decision is final. The chairman of this group is the Diokpala who is the paramount ruler of the town.
|Name||Years of birth||Remarks|
|Ekwuemenenu||1844–1846||Diokpala Iwoba Chialor|
|Ekwuemenani||1847–1849||Chive Nwego, Onuorah Nwattah|
|Egbeaguenu||1850–1852||Nwavia Okoye, Okechu Alevune|
|Egbeaguani||1853–1855||Ikebudu Okoye, Akpeh Mmeze|
|Umuezenu||1856–1858||Diokpala Udoba Nwattah|
|Umuezeani||1857–1859||Udekwe Okoye, Akpeh Udemgba|
|Achalugoani||1872–1874||Obiano Okafor, Igbeke Nwabudu|
|Nnakwaogwuenu||1875–1877||Igwe Obugo Eziolise, Akpeh Ikebudu, Nnaluo Mmeze|
|Adaenu||1881–1883||Onyekwe Nwinya, Oguguo Ikem|
|Achaluba||1887–1889||Morba Nwinya, Iwunor Nnenu|
|Akpalienu||1890–1892||Diokpala Nnekwe Ateli, Ameke Ikebudu|
|Etiweli||1905–1907||Played vital roles in the development of the community|
|Ochusa||1917–1919||John C. Emeka|
|Ajandu||1936–1938||Prof. Augustine Eboatu, Adeh Emeka, Solomon Nnekwe|
|Ayanya||1939–1941||Igbanugo Army Dennis, Prof. (Dr.) Ekemezie Emeka|
|Nchalaba||1942–1945||Udenze Iwunor, Joe Ameke, Dr. Augustine Ebeatu|
|Oselogwu||1946–1948||Obiora Eziolise, Prof. John Ezike, Emma Obiano|
|Echikulu||1949–1951||Igwe John Ikebudu, James Obiano|
|Agunakwa||1952–1954||Boniface Chuma Emeka, Lawyer Mmeze, Ekwenze Obadiegwu,|
|Nkiliko||1955–1957||Chinwoba Ameke, Ikechukwu Nzegwu, Jude Emeka, Linus Eziolise|
|Ovuobi||1958–1960||John Emeka, Joe Mighty, Mike Dibor, Okah Nweze|
|Ikenga||1961–1963||Dr. Emma Ude Akpeh, Prince Chinedu Emeka, Ekemezie Udealor, Dr. Paul Emeka, Mike Obagha, Ambrose Eziolise, Vincent Anijah, Obiemeka Ikebudu|
|Udoka||1964–1966||Hon. Emma Okoye, Obalim Udoba, Osita Ikebudu|
|Akwuluoto||1967–1969||Dr. Jaja Nwanegbo, Nzedigwe Alligator, Edwin Charlie|
|Kpaike||1970–1972||Chinweze Ekwealor, Innocent Anselem, Ikem Onyeka|
|Ogwuebigo||1973–1975||Chukwuemeka Odogbom Nneke, Annie Okonkwo, Udenze Chaba Oloye|
|Igwebuike||1976–1978||Aloy Ekwenze, Udeogala Obono|
|Oganiru||1979–1981||Sunday Akpeh Mozie, Azuka Oramulu, Aloy Anakpulu|
|Mmekoka||1982–1984||Chinedu Udekwe, Paul Obiorah, Edochie Anakpulu|
|Soludo||1985–1987||Nnaluo Okah Oramulu, Igbanugo Benard|
|Ifeadigo||1988–1990||Friday Opodo, Amandi Theo Clement, Emeka Okah Oramulu.|
- Anam 17Th-20th Century by Joe Ameke 1998
- Oral account by Chief Peter Nwanegbo 2010
- Anam People's Website
- Joe Ameke, Anam 17th–20th Century, 1998