THE CIVILIZATION OF NKALAHA PEOPLE by Onyeji Nnaji
Borrowing from the rich oral tradition of Nkalaha people, ink and paper are not enough to fully inculcate to the minds of this contemporary society the civilization of this people, Nkalaha, since the pre-colonial days till date. The Europeans had contacts with this part of Igboland in the early twentieth century, but the civilization of the inhabitants of the community dates from their pre-colonial days. Nkalaha is a highly civilized community which had been conditioned by law and order which have since time immemorial promoted self-dependence and share struggle among individuals in the community.
The Whiteman’s definition of civilization bothers on two concepts: development and organized society. The former is generally conceptual; development is perceivable. Whatever form of improvement in the society which is perceived by the inhabitants of such society to promote the development of human nature can, in this concept, be referred to as civilization. The development of human kind in the manner of the western life can best be described as western civilization. Therefore, the former is also a form of civilization provided it was channeled towards human development removed from the primitive lifestyle of the early man. On the second phase of the definition, Nkalaha has ever had an organized social structure comprising people of various stages who are subordinate and bind together by the law which also had patterned Nkalaha society. The civilization of Nkalaha is seen in various ways.
Just as was the situation all over African communities, Nkalaha also had her own system of education. The system of education operative in Nkalaha cannot be conclusively said to be oral dependent. For all I know, my grandmother actually did book keeping (recording). The only unorganized form of Nkalaha education is that it was not a chalk-and-board concentrated system of education. As I may define organized education, it is that form of education that has time, defined place, composed of a teacher or team of teachers and their students. Nkalaha education has all these features.
Organized? Yes, organized. My memory has not run oblivious of the usual participatory lectures we received under the tutelage of our eminent lecturers as a child. Those days, as I can recall vividly, each night is always a night of lectures under the stewardship of our teachers. Each night, our minds had been prepared and willingly ready to go for lectures as immediate as our dinner were over. This is the most prominent factor emphasized in Peters (1979) on what should be the necessary ingredient of education. From experience, I know that no one had ever been persuaded or compelled to attend school each night. We all enjoyed the education because we have willingly submitted ourselves to it.
In our gatherings under our lecturer or team of lecturers, we have been taught so many things sometimes, at a time. Our lecturers comprised teachers of History, Literature (who many a time had taught us philosophy, psychology and sociology) and teachers of Technology and Sciences. In Technology we were told that the blacksmith manufactures guns and many other metals. Of course, we had visited the blacksmith and found that it was an industry comprising more than one worker. During our excursions, we were vividly told that the history of blacksmith was traced to Ebia village. It was said that a man from Ebia took an iron one day and smacked it until it flattened. People around the vicinity, in astonishment, called him “Awuzu” (the father of pragmatic art). Till date Ebia is still called Awuzu.
Our science is purely natural; it is best described as nature science. Here we learn herbs; how to grow crops and their rightful uses. For instant, there are plants we knew that understand human language. We had a plant whose leaves had helped us each time we suspected we could be beaten up over an act by our parents. We fold the leaf and speak to it of what we wouldn’t want our parents to say or do, and it would happen just the way we said it. Another is a miraculous plant we called Ógòlógò. Ógòlógò has magical conjurers which only the children voice commands. This is on the aspect of sciences.
The subject which had enjoyed favourable audience and powerful ovation is literature. This may be because it was participatory. Literature involved everybody; the teacher as well as the learner in its discussion. I can remember how we usually gather together under the guide of a lecturer during each moonlight night. Here, we were taught folktales, wise sayings, rhyme words and history. Folktales have been too interesting to the students. It bothered on several themes which are dully morally commending. The characters are animals, human beings and spirits. Any of the tales that involve human beings had bothered on morality and recompense of both good and evil doings. These had taught us the better ways to behave in order not to incur the curse of the nature. Animals are designed to carry and exhibit several characterizations.
We feel happy identifying with our hero which had always been the tortoise. Tortoise is a skillful and tactful character. He is a cunning character who had used his god-given wisdom to acquire wealth and survive hardship among other animal characters. Some of these include how he was able to handle the condition of borrowing between him and Mr. Pig, how he survived through the help of mother squirrel who lived in the sky with her relatives when hunger besieged the animal kingdom. We did not reckon with him only in his cunning characters. There are some titles where he played a role that appears to pre-warn us of the dangers in letting out our mind dream so easily to others. A good example of these is the story of Ogugu and the pregnant woman in Oye Nkpu. Ogugu says that any time there is a riot in Oye nkpu; he will kill the pregnant woman. Eventually, on the day of riot, tortoise killed a pregnant woman, but because Ogugu had said so earlier, he was apprehended. Through this form of education our rich oral tradition has survived the flux of time.
The teacher is not prerogative absolutist. He, sometimes, allows students to tell stories. Along the line, if anyone makes a mistake, he corrects the person in love. At the end of each tale, we have been asked to express what we learnt from the story. We also tell which character we like and our reasons for doing so. History classes hold at the village playground during winter. At this period, we received lectures before going to the farm. The playground is always filled with men; young and old. There, fire is set for attendants to warm their cold body. Little children go to nearby bushes to fetch dry palm fronds. One of the elders takes the lead each morning. He scavenges history of different kinds. Sometimes it is politics or the deeds of the gods in the past. Sometimes also the person teaching for the day goes into the community’s history. Days like this grant the younger generation the ample opportunity to get acquainted with the history of his people. This aspect of education makes the learner creative faster. Our recording books during each lecture period are our minds and brain.
Our parents have ways of keeping their own record. Their walls served as their chalk board while art colours served as chalk. Colours as ufie, Odo, Nzu and so on were used. Each colour stroked on the wall has a definite record it signifies. When it stroked on the walls, they are constantly reminded who showed them the kind help and when the person did so. Standing upon these concrete facts, it is apparent that we did not learn about education for the first time simply because we encountered the colonial masters. No, we have our own educational system, organized in the most viable form to promote our culture and tradition.
Apart from Onojah Epic adopted by Onyeji Nnaji in 2003, there are over hundred poems that inks have never adopted. Nkalaha generally has poetic production as a common lifestyle. Various lifestyle of the community has poems composed for them. The community has war songs, work songs, lullaby, masquerade songs, festival songs, harvest songs, ritual songs and dirges. All these poems were composed to meet various situations and activities in the community. Nkalaha has been generally in flux of the existence of oral artists since her inception. In the modern period, the roles of these oral artists were shifted to some masquerades. Popular among these masquerades are “Egbebo” and “Awuru.”
Poetry marks the essence of one of the festivals celebrated in the community. Ama-na-nkwa festival celebrated yearly was founded upon poetic rendition. It is the festival that brings together all the poems (dance) composed in the community every year in a same spirit of competition. Before the advent of the colonial masters, various villages organized themselves together. Each village organizes a dance waiting for the day of the festival to participate in the festival. Before the day of the festival, each village gets herself ready. As soon as the day is up they are fully prepared to render it on the community’s central playground called Ufuegbu. It was these inter village competition that gave rise to the popular dance that survives today. These include: Odabaru, Une, Okpokoro, Igba, Edensha, Ode, Nwa ngbego and others.
In the modern setting, as Ama-na-nkwa festival began to lose credence among the inhabitants, some other dance began to sprout out. The new generation dance, as I may call it, attached acrobatic display to itself. The most popular among this dance is “Agbaga dance” as it is called. This dance was founded in the 1980s by a group of scholars led by Ebe Ezea, popularly called Mr. Joseph Eze from Ndiaguogba. This dance gained wider audience among the community members and beyond. It had won several cultural dance competitions in the Local Government Area through its acrobatic display. Agbaga dance was dedicated to Obodo-Ato community primary school, the founders’ Alma MAttah.
Another dance that sprung suddenly and died so fast is Ikponkiti. It was founded by Nkechi Ominyi, a daughter of chief Ominyi of Obeagu community. Nkechi, together with her sisters, lived in Amaezegba with their divorced mother. She grew up in Amaezegba where she founded this dance. Ikponkiti, as the balled had always mentioned during performances, is “egwu mami water” (song of marine spirit). The dance only reigned within Nkalaha, it was not known beyond the community like Agbaga dance. Another and the last was founded by Chidi Ogbu from Amegu, popularly called Chidi nwa Akugbo. His father, James was an ex-police officer. James was used to the slogan, “akugbuo nwa ewu amaru eka nwe,” soon he became known to it that his people (Amegu) began to call him Akugbo.
The dance had some acrobatic display performed by the founder’s younger brother, Molow. Molow was also called Atu, by many. Chidi acquired the technique and skills he used to improve the new dance from Agbaga dance. He led Agbaga dance for two years as a teacher in Oboto-Ato. He dedicated the dance to Union Primary school Amegu, but indirectly he made merchandise of it. The new dance had won a competition in the Local government.
The invention of acrobatic display in the modern dance made the dance look too modern. But acrobatic display in performance had lasted for decade before the advent of the new dance. Edensha, for instance, made excessive use of acrobatic display. The artistes, during performances, did several displays. Popular among this is “a walk with hands while legs are raised towards the sky.” Other dancing groups also had some other things which might be termed as the style peculiar to their performances.
CULTURE AND TRADITION
Culture and tradition are two concepts which had been dully misconstrued by many religious fanatics in the community, especially in the aftermath of the religious crisis in the year 2002. Although the terms are related, they possess, each, features which may critically be defended to be the base of their differences. Culture, according to a social scientist; Simmel (1971: 6), is referred to as the “Cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history.” Now, the objectification of the agency of external form of the people’s history and the cultivation of this history into the individuals in the community are two ways channel culture passes to be credible. Culture is inbuilt but tradition is acquired. Agencies of external objects form the layman’s definition of culture as people’s way of life. Nkalaha has many external forms objectified and cultivated into the inhabitants.
Nkalaha has a set of behaviour, mode of conduct, dressing, activities and greetings which are sometimes peculiar to them and many a time similar to those of the communities in the neighbourhood. All these formed the bases of Nkalaha culture. In Nkalaha, it is our culture for the younger ones to stand up for the older persons to sit down. And while older people are discussing, children do not interfere. We do not wait for an elder to greet the younger ones. In her mode of dressing, Nkalaha has different dressing for different cultural display. Elders wear differently from young men. In the pre-colonial era, Nkalaha dressed in “Ekwerekwe,” designed of Akwete woven wool. Mature men tied it round about their body with a cross-over part above (behind) the shoulder. Young men above puberty - tie it around their waist and ran it downward - crossing from front to their buttocks. Grown up women tied it around their waist and a little covering on their breast.
Culture is a form of civilization of a particular people, race or nation which may be peculiar to them or not. The base of Nkalaha civilization is loyalty and subordination: according honour to whom honour is due. Nkalaha culture aimed at developing individuals from character moulding stage to maturity. It interprets how a man and a woman should behave or conduct his or herself in the home. Nkalaha oral tradition anchors itself on hunting lifestyle. They fish, hunt animals and set traps. This single activity – hunting – forms the demonstration (hands movement) seen during cultural dance. Tradition differs a little from these.
Now, tradition may be seen as a normal practice and conduct of a people. These practices may be the process through which such people pass their custom, belief system and history from one generation to another. Nkalaha has so many practices that aimed at sustaining her history, belief and customs. These practices are seen in her festivals, ritual, masquerading and so on. Festivals form the calendar month recognized by the community. Her week days are Orie, Afor, Nkwo and Eke. The completion of these four market days makes a week. Seven Orie market days make a month. The first month in Nkalaha calendar is marked with new yam festival. It continues until Onwa-Esato that marks the end of the year. The inhabitants check and knew their time through the crow of cocks, Okwa (bush fowl) and the different sizes of their shadow.
Ritual is a general practice of people in the community. They make incantations to their gods who, in many cases, are replicas of their dead fathers. Nkalaha believes in reincarnation. They also believe that their ancestors are around them. This is the more reason why elders throw pieces of food to the ground, muttering some words, before eating. They also believe that, to say the truth over any matter, one has to stand on the ground barefooted. The inhabitants also believed in the existence of the Almighty God, whom they refer to as Chileke or Chiufu (God the creator, or God Almighty). On the contrary, they believed that this Chiufu can only be approached through their worship of the things they see (things naturally made; trees, stones and water) which are replicas of the presence of nature and, of course, the Almighty which cannot be seen. And since the worship of these natural instincts and their reverence for them can make them pious and avoid evil, it was without recourse that such was the true worship of the Almighty who embodies the cosmos. The belief which the inhabitants have over spirits, gods and the nearness of their ancestors are tied around their myths, religion and masquerading. And they have guarded this with every jealousy. It was the provocation of this jealousy that caused the rile experienced in the community in 2002. It is the juxtaposition of their culture and tradition that gave rise to the taboos in the community. The same forms the community’s custom.
Stages of growth in the community are justified by the level of attainment of the inhabitants in the fulfilment of traditional rights. Maturity, on the other hand, is justified by one’s ability to bear pains. Men, in like manner with the rest communities in Africa, are trained to accept and embrace pains. First, in their growth after infancy, they are made to pass through the process of initiation. In Nkalaha, initiations are in stages depending on the age of the initiate. Each year a particular age grade gets initiated into one stage of societal life or the other. The first stage of initiation in Nkalaha is “Oma Nkpume.” This grants the child the right to belong to Nkpume masquerade cult. This stage of initiation is done with beating by the masquerade. During the process the person is made to dance on the playground. After this particular initiation the initiate ceases from being an ogboduru (see Nnaji 2007). He, after this action, ceases from sleeping in his mother’s room as it is feared that he may tell the mother the content of the masquerade. His company and peers changes from those who are ogboduru to those who have been initiated. The same people he sleeps with.
The second stage is “Oma Omebe.” This also qualifies the initiate to belong to Omebe masquerade cult. This stage succeeds the first initiation with just a year or two. After this stage the person is qualified to attain any further level of life as the society may stipulate for him.
The next stage, after Omebe initiation is marriage. Now, the essence of the pains inflicted on him and his ability to take them is to justify whether he can keep a family of his own or not. By this it means he can defend his family at any time, against any attack. Before marriage, forms of growth and development or stages of life are also checked by the number of heaps the person makes each day while cultivating. For a full-fledged man in the society, he is expected to complete 100 heaps a day. This aspect is however used to assess his strength. When he begins to make such number of heaps per day, the next line of thought will be to look for him a wife. Marriage then marks another stage of life, growth and development. At this point he is made to pass through the rigorous process involved in marriage, which many a time is not very palatable. Marriage (courtship) in the traditional Nkalaha society lasts for more than a year.
Satisfying marital processes prepares the person for the next confrontation of becoming a complete man in Nkalaha society. The next level is Obu Ulo. This is in the form of taking a title, but it has no title attached to it. Instead, it justifies the person that he is mature enough to take any title. This is different from Oshi Ji. The latter can be done by anyone who feels he has grown enough yams and wants to belong to the group of people called Igube ji. On the day of this title taking, the person feeds the entire population that is traditionally permitted to attend the programme with yam only. Apart from these and other titles not mentioned in this history, Akam masquerade also is included in the required thing that a complete man in the society is expected to participate in. Initiation into Akam cult marks the peak of the initiation ever an Nkalaha man engages himself in.
In the same light, women are not left out in these forms of cultural moulding. They too have series of patterning to go through as unto the males’ formal initiations. The female child born in Nkalaha begins from when she is still very young to receive her moulding. Her breeding begins with the directions on how to sit down and how not to sit. Female children are taught a particular way of seating down different from their male counterparts. They are also taught the better ways to talk. They are not allowed to use vulgar words. All the same, male children are instructed and checked against scatology, but this is of no amount compared to the level of restriction posed on female children. It was the duty of midwives to police children against scatology and discourteous words.
The civilization of the girl child in Nkalaha society occurs in stages. As the child grows, she is met with serious kinds of patterning. On or before the age of six, she is taught how to wash plates. Getting mature from this, she faces another facet of the socialization. This time she is confronted with the challenges of cooking. She is kept under the tutelage of her mother and elder sisters from whom she learns how to cook various dishes. All these are organized milieu for preparing the girl child for advantageous family living, as a mother, in the future. Every arrangement is designed and put into practice for the real positioning of the girl child.
At maturity, the girl is seen already equipped with the required skills for managing a home. As part of her marital processes, the girl is at a time kept in confinement for more than a month. This system is, in Nkalaha dialect, referred to as “Ono l’ Uhvu.” This is usually a fattening period for the girl child and a time when she is given utmost attention from her parents. The period is declared opened with “Okpa Nri.” From then on, she is entertained with pounded yam and chicken until the day she ends her confinement. She is not allowed to do anything. And to make sure that this dream is achieved, she is attached with a boy and a girl who would serve every errand purpose she may have. She is allowed to stay inside until the day she moves to her husband’s house. Only girls who are discovered to have had teenage pregnancy are not given the grant to this care giving.
Few days before she leaves to her husband’s home, she is allowed to visit friends and relatives. This opportunity is designed for people to see her before she leaves the parents finally. Usually people give money to her as a means of showing appreciation for how much she has improved in health while in her confined period. This visitation continues until the day draws closer for her to leave her parents. This visiting period is called “Uyi Uhvu.” Until the day she leaves, she is not allowed to do anything skillful.
On the day she leaves for her husband’s house, the girl is made to appear before her father – first thing in the morning so that her father would see her first before other people in the neighbourhood – for his last blessing. He pronounces blessings upon her as she kneels before him. She appears naked with a little covering around her waist and around her breast. The constituent of the covering around her waist are beads. After this early morning blessing, she leaves her biological home in the evening of that same day. This aspect of the marital process takes place only on the Nkwor market day.
This aspect of life for the girl child does not end with her days with the parents, it continues as the girl moves to her matrimonial home. This time it is her parents-in-law who takes up the duty. For seven Orie market days, she does not go to farm or take part in any skilful activity. All she is expected to do is to go to the stream and fetch water for her mother-in-law or an elderly woman in the neighbourhood according to her wishes. Good types among the females try to restrain their mothers-in-law from cooking. She begins to assert her position as a woman in a home and manage her own home after she has been celebrated.
The celebration of the new wife is called “Okpo Efu.” On this day the mother-in-law will procure three stones and set for her. Upon these stones she is expected to make her first cooking and continue on it as her cooking position. That day, they will make merriment, after that day she becomes a woman to manage her own home in her own way. Nkalaha custom is in these conditions seen reinforcing and promoting the building of individuals in the most viable way of equipping the adherents with skills required of him until he/she is grown to handle his or her own affairs. These are some of the ways which culture and tradition aid in engraving a systematic life style in the individuals through the series of dutiful undertakings of the agencies that composed the world of an Nkalaha man.
The relationship between the custom and the people’s belief is that it is the gods themselves who check against any traditional offender. Every taboo is punished by the gods. Some costly items may be stated for the offender to provide. But all the items are used to appease the gods. Mainly, it is Alu goddess that attacks people that commit taboos.
In Nkalaha, it is a taboo for a girl who is not married to be impregnated. When this happens it attracts the cleansing of the land. It is also a taboo in Nkalaha for a married woman to sleep in another man’s house in the night. This, however, is subject to some excuses. It is not a taboo if her husband had earlier permitted her to do so. On a similar notion, a couple is not supposed to make love with each other while they have their cooking pot still on fire. Doing this attracts the anger of Alu goddess. Again, it is a taboo for anybody, male or female, to make love with another outside a roof. It doesn’t matter where it takes place, whether within or outside the community. Such deeds attract the cleansing of Alu goddess or punishable with sickness and death. The duty of Alu goddess is to police the inhabitants against every evil deed within and outside the community and to make sure that they live descent life.
NKALAHA POLITICAL STRUCTURE IN THE PRE COLONIAL ERA
Since the pre colonial days, Nkalaha has been dominantly democratic. As the definition implies, it is in Nkalaha that democracy actually means the government of the people by the people and for the people. By this it may not be sceptical to say that Nkalaha had practiced a decentralized system of government in her pre colonial days. This, perhaps, necessitated the nonconformity experienced by the proxy chiefs (men who served as the Whitman's eye on the inhabitants) in the advent of the colonial masters. The political condition and governance of the inhabitants involved everybody. This practice takes the form of family dialogue. Some features that exist among group family discussion hold also in the circular body of the community’s gathering.
The governing body of Nkalaha politics is made up of collection of elders who are holders of different titles. These elders or body of elders preside over matters during discussions. The strata range from the elders to the floor members, down to the nonpartisan group. This group is made up of youths whose opinions are irrelevant to the matter being discussed. During deliberations on the village playground, the elders are usually present. The interest of the oldest man in the community among the eldest (the titled edeoga) are represented if they are not in the gathering. The gathering of the entire community holds usually at Obobochi.
Topics are always thrown to the floor for deliberations. Here, everyone, legible enough to participate, makes his contributions. At the end of the discussion the elders conclude the deliberation and decide which of the suggestions should be taken. Whatever conclusion drawn here holds supreme over the topic discussed.
To belong to the body of elders, one has to pass through several processes. Among these processes are stages of live attainment and title taking. To become an elder one has to eat years first. But this does not qualify him to appear in every traditional politics. To take part in these traditional politics, the main qualification is title taking. Nkalaha has so many of these titles. Some of these include Body of elders (Edeoga), Onorovu, Obulechi, Ochiaya. The people that make up the body of elders are:
Ugbo (the traditional eldest, called Onyidzi Ngburu, eldest in staff particularly from Umuodumu).
Edeoga I (the priest of Ebe Edziragu).
Edeoga II (one who took Edeoga title; the oldest man in Umuobeye).
Edeoga III (the eldest in age).
Edeoga iv (Eze-Aja, usually from Amegu. This was included at the aftermath of Eha-Amufu war).
Edeoga Eleawo (from Umuele Amaezegba).
Edeoga (from Ufu-Achi, Amaokwe).
Ndu Uzu (blacksmith).
Apart from these set of people, others are, however, very important in the political setting and decision making; but the body of elders draw conclusion over matters.
Each community has a particular village authorized to take these titles. In Umulesha, Edeoga I, Ugbo and Onorovu belong to Umuonoja. Apart from these, any other person can take edeoga title in Umuobeye, but it cannot be any of the two mentioned. Onorovu originally belonged to the descendants of Omaba, in Umuonoja. Omaba is survived today by the family line of Uzu nwa Ega and Ebe Alu. According to oral sources, Odo nwa Ayom was an elder in Umuomaba when the onorovu left the linage. His son, Ayom Odo was unable to feed him in his old days. He was rather taken care of by his only daughter married to a man in Umuaja. It came to pass that the woman gave birth to a child and named him after Odo nwa Ayom. When he was told, he regretted that he had nothing to offer the child the day his first tooth was celebrated. He asked his daughter to go back home and return in the midday. She did as was instructed. When she came, the man gave her his Odu-Atu as a present to his namesake. When men came back from their farms, in the afternoon, the story was told. Immediately every man set out and they made straight for the Odu-Atu. This event took place during the time when Ebe nwa Ebe (the father of Eze Oko) was the priest of Ebe goddess. A period, at the decay part of the mediaeval era, around 1890s.
Umuonoja saw it as a challenge, so they fought to reclaim it. When Umuebeoko discoveed that Umuaja was about being overpowered, they too joined in the fight. That day, the rest Umulesha came to settle the matter. At the end it was concluded that the child should be allowed with the Odu-Atu since it was a gift to him. That settled it that day. That is the very Onorovu title shared between Umuebeoko and Umuaja till date. In Amaokwe, the people authorized to take the title is Umu-Oji; Ufu Achi. In Amegu, the right was the reserve of Umuoruta, but they had a misplaced priority. The rest of the children of Eke lived in the farm and strove to protect what they had personally, while Ewa lived at home with their father. When Eke was about to give up the ghost, he gave the Odu-Atu to Ewa. In Amaezegba, it was the entitlement of Umuele as the direct descendants of Ele (the eldest son of Awo). Ele was the last to take the title in his linage. Now, it happened that Ele was infected with Small pox (Edzi nwa Ataa). His people stayed away from him for fear of being infected. He was attended to by Ode. At the end of his days he gave the Odu-Atu to Ode and instructed him to hold it until anyone from him desired to take the title. Then he said that because he was thus neglected, any man from his linage who shall take this title will be infected with a bigger element. Therefore, it happened that anyone who becomes an elder in Umuele goes blind till today. For this reason the title has remained with the people of Umuode.
The political atmosphere began to take a new dimension after the days of the colonial masters. Governance changed from the more decentralized democratic system to a new form of democracy- which is dependent on the leaders than more on the masses- now centralized. The Whiteman began to involve the inhabitants in their day to day activities through taxation enforced by the proxy chief. The inhabitants, like those of other villages around, were mobilized to assist the Whiteman build roads. Every morning, new set of people were mobilized. One knows that it is his turn to join the work force if he finds a stone at his door post in the morning. Messengers were sent each night to deposit a stone at the door post of everyone that was needed to work the next day.
The last chief in the record of chieftaincy in Nkalaha is Chief Thomson Ebe from Umuele Amaezegba. Before him had existed other chiefs which were not elected. Four of his predecessors were appointees of the Whiteman’s government. These include Chief Onwe Ogbunze from Umu-chiokworega in Ebia, Chief Ogbu Aleke in Umuebeoko, chief Agbo nwa Ega in Umuomechime and Chief Ngele Enwa from Umuogaragba. Chief Ngele Enwa died in 1961. Chief Okwor nwa Onuma of Umueze, Obulegu, Amaezegba was coroneted as the first elected chief. At his days, he was the leader of the council of chiefs – Igwe ngburugburu – of the entire Igbo-Asa communities. Okwor won the chieftaincy election over Uvu Nwa Ega (who contested in place of Chief Harrison) and reigned for more than 30 years. He was a philosopher, a psychologist and a genealogist. He had a court in his palace where he administered his judgment with the members of his cabinet beside him.
Chief Okwor was feared and respected. His judgment, which had depended on the trace of parentage, was perfect, correct and upright until when his cabinet members became influenced by men who bribed them to win their favour, then corruption set in. Chief Okwor was survived by Prince Augustine, Mr. George Okwor, Barr. Jonathan nwa Onuma, and other children. Prince Augustine was a former chairman of Ishielu Local Government Area in the old Anambra State and a board member of the prestigious Niger Cement company PLC. Barr. Jonathan was a former speaker of old Enugu State House of Assembly (1993) and later works in Ebonyi State Judiciary (Ministry of Justics) as a practicing lawyer. After Okwor, another election was conducted, in November 2009 comprising Prince Augustine, Chief Harrison, Mr. Ekpe Orinya, Mr. Michael Ominyi and Mr. Thompson Ebe as contestants. Thompson won the election which was conducted in an open ballot system at Obodo-Ato Community Primary School Nkalaha.
The introduction of chief also introduces another governing body in Nkalaha governance. The governing bodies and duties, at this time, became divided into two. One has a western structure, comprising the chief and the members of his cabinet, while the other may be called gerontocracy, theocracy or the mixture of the two. The former received government subsidies while the latter did not. And while the former was weak in traditional matters, the latter was strong. These two bodies compose the governing body in Nkalaha.
Nkalaha is generally game stars. Sports and games are the normal life of the inhabitants. Greater number of the festivals celebrated in the community is closely tied to sports. Some of the games organized alongside some of the festivals are wrestling and hunting games during New yam and Aju-Ede festivals respectively. Every year, wrestling is organized to test the strength of the inhabitants. According to the record adapted in Nnaji (2003), wrestling match always take place a day after new yam festivals.
New yam festival holds on Afor market day. After this day, the following day is usually a wrestling match. After this day – usually Nkwor market day – another wrestling match holds on the succeeding Orie market day. While the market is filled, Ngbereke (Xylophone) is organized at a corner of the market square. Here the wrestling match takes place. As soon as Ngbereke begins, wrestlers begin to appear from all angles. The duty of Ngbereke is to call wrestlers from every corner to the venue of the wrestling. The arrival of any legend is indicated by a change of sound as the person moves in to dance. People qualified to take part in this dance are those who have spilled blood during wars or those who had participated in wrestling in the previous time. As they dance, they point to the direction where their deeds of valour were done.
Ngbereke knows every hero and legendary wrestlers by their names. So, as the person dances and points to the direction of his adventure, Ngbereke approbates. It calls them by their names. Many who had tried to claim victors when they were not had been disproved by people around who knew them. The wrestling is done by age. People of lower age grouping come first, and gradually it turns to the turn of the older ones. It is always advised that one should wrestle with his mate. Exceptional case, however, abides. And this is only for those who had wrestled their age mates in the previous time and won them all. History did not record many who may have attained this height in the wrestling contest. The only person whom history has covered, having attained such height, is Ekpe Egbara from Umuagu in Umulesha. Traditional history revealed that he won his age mates all over the community. Apart from this exception, wrestling has ever been between people of the same age bracket challenging one another. These have been the procedure since inception.
Unlike the era of wrestling match, football has taken the position today. Since 1997, with the introduction of Unity Cup by Ephraim Ogbu (a Lagos based business man), wrestling became swallowed drastically. Today, men only dance Ngbereke; they do not wrestle one another. Unity Cup was founded by Ephraim Ogbo of Umuele Amaezegba alongside the contribution of Vincent Ogbu. The initiative for the launching of this trophy was articulated by the men mentioned above as business men, based in Lagos. The main purpose for this, according to Vincent Ogbu, is primarily to:
(I) Reunite Nkalaha population through football.
(Ii) Bring home, boys who had stayed away for a long time without visiting home.
(Iii) Develop skills through football talent hunt and others.
To ward off every possible controversy, the structure of the competition was designed to involve people from various parts of the country (players from various villages in the community organise themselves into teams to play in favour of the part of the country where they are based for their businesses or other purposes), rather than the more controversial involvement of villages clashing against the other. Through this structure, people from different villages are organized to play in pursuit of one goal; the trophy. This attempt promoted the peace proposed by the organizers. Ephraim sponsored this trophy from the time it began; nevertheless expectations hold that with the passage of time, people with key into the progress the trophy initiates by involving themselves in the competition monetarily. The opening match for this competition at inception was between “The Young Stars of Lagos” and “Nnewi Football Club.” In 2009 the mantle of leadership shifted from Vincent Ogbu to Chimaroke Eze.
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