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“ỌFỌ”: A RITUAL SYMBOL IN IGBO CULTURAL LIFE

“ỌFỌ”: A RITUAL SYMBOL IN IGBO CULTURAL LIFE
-by Uche J. Ndubueze

Meaning of “Ọfọ”.
Basically Ọfọ has two definitions. These are “Ọfọ as a tree and Ọfọ” as a symbol of Spirituality.
“Ọfọ” as a tree is botanically known as Detarium Senegalense. Talbot (1969:138) says that “Ọfọ is a tree that is held in great reverence in ibo community”. The Ọfọ tree is called “ukwu Ọfọ”. “Ọfọ” as a symbol of spirituality is a sacred staff of authority and an emblem that links Chukwu Okike (the creator of all) and man, the dead and the living and the unborn. Also, Talbot (1969:138) describe “Ọfọ” as god of justice and truth. He infers that the god of justice and truth resides in the Ọfọ tree”. Douglas describes, “Ọfọ” as a club-like wooden staff always made from a Detarium Senegalense tree.
Some respondents said that, “Ọfọ” is not peculiar to Igbo traditional belief system alone. It is believed that it exists in other cultures outside Igbo culture.
Meek (1937:107) sees “Ọfọ” as, “…The Ibo means of transmitting holy orders by prayers or ịgọ Ọfọ (blessing) and Talbot (1969:138), understands “Ọfọ” as, “The messenger and interpreter, who bears all prayers to the gods, Jujus and other planes.” By prayers, the living tells “Ọfọ” what they want and “Ọfọ” interprets by telling them what the ancestors want from them.
Ejizu (1986:122), emphasizes that, “It was Chukwu himself who gave “Ọfọ” to mankind to serve as a medium, and to signify God’s truth among men.” A respondent was of the opinion that, “Ọfọ” bụ Chineke. Onye ọbuna ga-eji Ọfọ ga na-ekwu eziokwu”, meaning, Ọfọ is god and whoever that will hold Ọfọ must be a truthful person. But according to Arazu (2005:132) “Ofo is not a god, but a medium to make contact with the ancestors and other benevolent spirits.”

Origin of “Ọfọ”
Jeffery (1956:227) claims that “Ọfọ” came to Igbo land through Ụmụnri, an alien aristocratic group that overran the native tribes of the Igbo area.” On the same note, Jeffery (1956:226) and Onwuejeogwu (1981:36) clearly associate the symbol with the Nri cultural missionary activity in traditional Igbo land.
Onwuejeogwu (1981:40) confirms that ‘Ọfọ’ is from Nri. He states that:
The Ọfọ Eze-Nri knows as Ọfọ Nri Menri is reckoned to have been inherented by Ifiku anim(the first decendant) from Eri, the mythical ancestor. This particular “Ọfọ” is the highest in Nri. He further notes that amongst those Igbo people who were under the direct influence of Nri hegemony, the belief was held (and is still held by many) that the “Ọfọ” and Alo of Nri, held by Eze Nri were the supreme ones. The power of all “Ọfọ” and Alo in northern Igbo land is believed to have been derived from those of Nri. Igbo men who still come to Nri to obtain their “Ọfọ” and Alo.

Onwuejeogwu (1981:36) and Jeffery, (1956:226) claim that Ọfọ is from Nri. Narrowing this to Neni, there are several accounts of how “Ọfọ” came to be. The accounts of its origin were as old as man. According to a respondent, the origin of “Ọfọ” in Neni could be traced back to when God created the world. He said that “Ọfọ” came into existence when God created all other trees.
He said, “God positioned two “Ọfọ” trees in Neni, one at Ụmueze which they normally call “Ofe oye”, the second one is situated at Umuabani which is mkpọnanọ. He made one to know that “Ọfọ” cannot be more than two in a town. The study finds out that “Ọfọ” is not more than two in Neni.

4.1 Research Question III
Types of “Ọfọ” in Neni
In Neni, there are many types of “Ọfọ”. These are personal “Ọfọ” (“Ọfọ nkiti”), lineage “Ọfọ” (“Ọfọ umunna”) community Ọfọ, (“Ọfọ” obodo”), titular “Ọfọ” (“Ọfọ echichi”) and professional “Ọfọ” (“Ọfọ” dibịa”).
In consonance with this, Anizoba (2002:12) classifies Ọfọ thus: Ọfọ ezinaụlọ (family Ọfọ), Ọfọ dibịa, (cult priest Ofo), “Ọfọ” echichi (titular “Ofo”) and “Ọfọ” Ụmụọkpụ( daughters association).

a. Personal Ọfọ.
In Igbo land it is widely believed that every male (even members of the osu caste) could posses personal “Ọfọ” ritual stick. This type of “Ọfọ” does not have any design on it. According to Ejizu (1986:142) “…the personal “Ọfọ” is believed to establish the link between its owner and the spirit world.” In Neni it is believed that “Ọfọ” is truth and righteousness.
In some areas of Igbo land personal Ọfọ has different names. In the North-Western and South-subculture areas it is called “Ọfọ” Okolo”, “Ọfọ Ụwa” and or “Ọfọ mgboto”. In Neni, personal “Ọfọ” is called “Ọfọ” Okolo. According to a respondent, before a man can possess this type of “Ọfọ”, he will go to the person responsible for giving the “Ọfọ” and tell him that he want to have his own personal “Ọfọ”. The person in-charge will now go and investigate him and his family to know whether the person is worthy to hold the “Ọfọ”. This is necessary because “Ọfọ” is a sacred symbol. According to Mbonu (1947:28) “Ọfọ” represents truth, righteousness, law and authority among the Igbo.” Anybody that will possess “Ọfọ” must be a righteous person. Armed robbers, law breakers and so on cannot possess “Ọfọ” because it will kill them.
A man that always commits adultery does not possess “Ọfọ”. This is one of the major reasons why the elders among the Igbo normally investigate one before giving “Ọfọ” to one. With regards to this, Ejizu (1986:112) notes that, “Ọfọ” bụ eziokwu na Ịkwụba aka ọtọ” (“Ọfọ” is truth and righteousness) and since “Ọfọ” is truth and righteousness, it is also the revealer of the sacred.

b. Lineage/Family “Ọfọ”
This is the Ọfọ collectively owned by a kindred and could as well be called kinship “Ọfọ”. Here, the authority lies on the eldest son of the kin. Everyone looks on to him for order and as such respect is dully given to him. Meek (1937:107) states that “… at any general meeting of the entire group, the various holders of family “Ọfọ” lay them down on the ground in strict order of seniority.” The senior ‘okpara’ is the ritual head of the group, and as such at all the public meetings, he is the first to lay his “Ọfọ” on the ground. He is the first to receive a share of all sacrificial foods, gifts or fees. He is the direct representative of the group before the ancestors.
Ejizu (1986:126), lists names of lineage Ọfọ in Igbo land, thus: “Ọfọ okpara”, “Ọfọ mbichiriama” and “Ọfọ Ụmụnna.” However, in Neni, there are many families and the oldest legitimate son of each family has the right to hold lineage “Ọfọ” rather personal “Ọfọ” which every grown up male has to hold to any meeting. On the other hand, some of the respondents reported that, they have lineage Ọfọ though not in existence again because of Christianity.
The oldest in the lineage uses the lineage Ọfọ in guiding the family. This “Ọfọ” is normally in his custody. Lineage meetings are held in the man’s house because the “Ọfọ” dwells there. Again, it is believed that the eldest man communes with the ancestors. The lineage “Ọfọ” is the staff of office of the eldest man. Family “Ọfọ” is not bought, it is hereditary. At the death of the family head who was the holder of the family “Ọfọ”, the next in rank takes over. Nobody can possess “Ọfọ” in the life time of his elder. Furthermore, this type of “Ọfọ” is inherited and kept by the eldest surviving male member of the family, or as the case may be, the eldest son of the family that has the primacy of honor in the community. This implies that whoever will posses “Ọfọ” must be the eldest, whether rich or poor.
The family “Ọfọ” is never bestowed or receive in foreign land; one must come to Neni before he takes over the “Ọfọ”. However a respondent said that it may not be the eldest in the family that posses the family “Ọfọ” but the person (son) living in the ancestral home (obi).This work agrees with the respondent because according to investigated report, a respondent’s father is not the eldest in the family but he is the one heading the family.

c. Titular “Ọfọ”
There are numerous titles in Neni for the celebration of wealth and social differentiation. A good number of these titles in most parts of traditional Igbo land particularly the high esteemed ọzọ title, are associated with “Ọfọ” symbol.
“Ọfọ”, in this case, stands for the symbol of authority and truth, which the different titles are supposed to embody. Okonkwo (1974:154) says “Onye ọbụla ga-echi ozo, a ga-enye ya “Ọfọ”, “Ọfọ” a bụ iji gwa ya na bido mgbe ahụ gawa na ọ ga na-eme ezi omume, na ọ ga-eji “Ọfọ” wee na-emesa mmadụ ibe ya ezi omume. Otu ahụ kwa ka ọ dị onye na-echi eze.” Here, Okonkwo tried to explain that, these titles are synonymous with sincerity and as such whoever is entrusted with them must be sincere any time anywhere hence the symbol of truth given them. On the other hand, Ejizu (1986:86) explains that, “The names of particular titular “Ọfọ” types derived in most cases from the name of the title itself such as Ọfọ ọzọ ugo, Ọfọ ọzọ-Eziana, Ọfọ-Ezika, Ọfọ Dunu.” In Nnewi they are, Ọfọ ọzọ Edo, Ọfọ Ezeana, Ọfọ Dim, Ọfọ Ukiwi (for the Igwe alone)and Ọfọ Ataka.
In Neni, there are many names for ozo title. These names ranging from the lowest to the highest are: “Ọfọ” ọzọ Ozala,ofo ozo okpala, ofo ozo Eyisi and “Ọfọ ọzọ Ezeani”. It is only those in Ezeani that have the right to take ọzọ ozala,ozo okpara, and ozo Eyisi titles. This is because ọzọ Ezeani is like the oldest son in the family and is the highest among the ọzọ.

d. Professional “Ọfọ”
Practitioners of certain prominent trades and crafts among the traditional Igbo – possess “Ọfọ” symbol as their medium of communication between them and their spirit patrons. The “Ọfọ” they possess however in practice signifies sincerity in their profession. For example, the medicine men, diviners, rain makers, blacksmiths, teeth-filers and other religious personnel make use of “Ọfọ” in Neni.
In Neni, Umudioka people are only those that have “Ọfọ” Mmanka, which they now call it “Ọfọ nkadioka”. Mmanka means mma m ji eme nka .The knife which I use for creativity. They use this knife and “Ọfọ” during cicatration (Igbuichi) teeth filling (iwa eze) and (itu mbubu) decoration on the tommy.

e. Ọfọ Ụmụọkpụ
It is believed that Women do not possess “Ọfọ” among the different groups of traditional Igbo in their husband’s house. This is so because as they left their paternal families to live with other men with whom they had no relation, they are foreigners in that new home. They therefore have no right to hold “Ọfọ” except diviners.
However, Mbonu (1974:28) says that, “Ọfọ” is more commonly used by men; married women possess and make some limited use of “Ọfọ” stick. These “Ọfọ” are usually small in size.” It is not true because the type of “Ọfọ” in which women do posses is their kitchen knife.
It has to be clear that these “Ọfọ” type in Neni, which women hold, are not symbols of authority over the male folk. Such has something to do with the women’s profession.
In Neni, one of the respondent reported that Ụmụọkpụ do not have any “Ọfọ”. Another of the respondent also said that women make use of “Ọfọ” in Neni but the only thing is that only few of them make use of “Ọfọ” in this contemporary age. The researcher aggress that women make limited use of “Ọfọ” then men. This is because the researcher has seen an old woman making use of “Ọfọ”. But the type of “Ọfọ”they usually use is kitchen knife (mma ekwu) or small part of “Ọfọ” without having received any sacrifice on it.

f. Community “Ọfọ”
In Neni, community “Ọfọ” is personified. In this case, a person becomes an “Ọfọ” for Neni community. When such person joins his ancestors the next eldest man becomes the “Ọfọ” for Neni people. The eldest hold it because he is seen as being close to the ancestors. His word in any matter is final. In Neni, it is called “Ọfọ jikoro ndi obodo Community “Ọfọ”. The holder must be consulted before any war is embarked on by Neni people.

4.2 Functions of “Ọfọ”
“Ọfọ” plays a vital role and functions in the life of Igbo people. Such functions in which presence of “Ọfọ”means a lot to the Igbo people are prayers, ritual sacrifices, contact with spirit patrons, magical-religious uses, naming ceremony, sealing of covenant, decision making, settlement of disputes and oath taking.
Ilogu, (1974:18), outlines the uses of “Ọfọ” thus,
“Ọfọ” is used for swearing in all grave cases; it is used by an ọzọ to attest solemnly to the gravity or truthfulness of what he says. The lineage “Ọfọ” is used in all important meetings of the group. Ala priest use “Ọfọ” to remove the evil effects in all public worship, prohibitions are made with “Ọfọ” - “Ọfọ” is used to enforce all unpleasant decisions of the elders and diviners in the practices of their trade use “Ọfọ”.

However, it has been observed that, the uses of Ọfọ in Igbo land are same at Neni. Here are the outlines of the uses:-
Prayers, Ritual sacrifices, Contact with spirit patrons, Magical-religious uses, Naming ceremony, Sealing of covenant, Decision making, Settlement of disputes and Oath-taking.
Whatever Neni man does or is about to do in his life, he seeks guidance from their ancestors through prayers. Normally in the morning, grown-up males of the family lineage join the elders in the traditional morning prayer (ịgọ Ọfọ ụtụtụ). They participate in the ritual in a number of ways.
Women hardly join this ritual activity that begins the day for the traditional Igbo family, (Ejizu, 1986:80). This is the reason why Erin (2006:9) says, “Igbo society is a man’s domain, and hence discrimination among men and women despite the fact that “Ọfọ” serves as a bond of unity among the people.” On the other hand, Ejizu (1986:80) says:
Each morning at dawn the heads of families and other elders take hold of their “Ọfọ” and ring small brass bell to call Chukwu’s attention to their prayers. Having prayed for protection during the day for themselves and their families, they chew some kola and spit upon their “Ọfọ” saying: “Ọfọ” of the Lord, creator of everything, carry all that I am praying now to Chukwu.

This is their morning prayer as said by one of the respondents in Neni:-
Chukwu Okike
Anyanwụ na Agbala
Nwoke oghologho anya
Nalụ anyị ọjị taa
Translation: - Chukwu the creator
Sun and God
The man with big eyes
Eat kolanut

Okpoko nna anyị welu ọjị taa
Ndị mmụọ dị be anyị
Ichie ukwu, Ichie nta,
Ome mma na mma,
Anyị ekelee unu,
Maka odudu na nchekwaba unu.
Welunu ọji taa
Translation:- Our father Okpoko eat kola nut
All spirits in our land
Great and small ancestors
Good is for the good
We great you
For your protection
Eat kola nut

Anyị na-akpọkukwanụ unu taa.
Ka unu chekwaba anyị
Ka anyị jee lọta nke ọma
Isee!...
Translation:- We are calling upon you today
To guide us
Let us go and come back in peace
Isee!...
“Isee”! is equivalent to “Amen”.

i. Ritual sacrifices
Neni people always perform some sacrifices in order to get something in return from the ancestors. In most cases, sacrifices are offered with of “Ọfọ” whether the sacrifice is performed to the household deities, by the priests, family head or any other person authorized by custom to officiate in the act of worship. In any event, word uttered before the shrine are thought to reach the god through the instrument of “Ọfọ”. Nevertheless, the symbol is usually deposited in front of the shrine of the deity.
There are different types of rituals performed by the people of Neni. They include:- “personal rituals, agricultural ritual, health rituals, house stead rituals and professional rituals. This shows that the life of Neni people is full of sacrifices. They perform sacrifices before embarking on any journey for safe journey. This type of sacrifice is usually done with personal “Ọfọ”.
In Neni, it is only the head and cult priest that have the right to perform the sacrifices. According to a respondent (Chief Priest), before farming, the chief priest will perform some sacrifices that have to do with the earth, to appease the earth goddess to help their crops to grow very well, to guide the crops from insects and animal not to destroy what they have planted.
During the sacrifices, the chief priest often say such prayers as:-
Ala,
Were ọji taa.
Ndị Ichie be anyị,
Ma nke ukwu ma nke nta.
Anyị na-akpọzu unu taa.
N’aja nke anyị na-achụrụ unu taa,
Ka unu gee anyị ntị n’ihe anyị ji maka ya akpọlite unu.
Werukwanu ọjị taa.

Translation:- Earth goddess,
Take kola nut.
Our ancestors,
Both big and small,
We are calling all of you today,
Because of the sacrifice we are performing,
For you to listen to us.
Take kola nut.

Anyị na-egbunyere unu ọkụkọ a.
Maka ihe nke anyị gaje ịkọ.
Anyị na-arịọ nchekwaba unu,
Ka unu chekwaara ihe akụkụ anyị nke ọma.
Ka ọ mee nke ọma.
Wepurunu anyị ihe na-atakasị nri,
Itakasiri anyi ihe anyi tinyere n’ala.
Werekwanu ọjị a taa.

Translation: - We are killing this fowl,
Because of what we are about to plant.
We are asking for your protection.
So that our plants will grow well.
Remove anything that will destroy our crops for us.
Take kola nut.

Anyị na-ekwe unu nkwa,
Na unu chekwaba anyị,
Anyị ga-abịa keele unu.
Ala, wetara anyị ihe ọma, Isee!
Translation:- We are promising that
If you protect our crops for us
We will come and give you thanks
Earth, bring good things to us
Isee!
The earth goddess is in charge of procreation. That is why Neni people use to perform some sacrifices so that it will continue giving them food.
ii Contact with spirit patrons
Ritual specialists and professionals like diviners and traditional medicine men invariably make use of their professional “Ọfọ” symbol to establish contact with their spiritual sources of power. Other itinerant ritual experts acknowledge in many parts of traditional Igbo land, were the Awka and Umudioka medicine men. Ejizu (1986:620) says, “They always make use of “Ọfọ” in the practice of these crafts.” Iweadighi (2008:89) also says that, “In all parts of Igbo land, diviners used the “Ọfọ” to ascertain the messages which are relayed to them in the divining act through the Afa seeds (mkpụrụ afa).”
In another development, Umeasiegbu (2008:18), states that;
“Igbo diviners and priests – those empowered with “Ọfọ” the symbol of authority, truth and justice – interpret the wishes of the spirits who bless and favour devotees as well as punish social offenders and those who unwittingly infringe their privileges”.
In Neni, Umudioka people normally use “Ọfọ” mmanka during cicatration (Igbuichi).A respondent from isi mmanka said that they make use of “Ọfọ” because “Ọfọ” is truth, in the sense that, “Ogbuichi” will not take bribe from anybody to kill his client. Again, they believe that the spirit of ancestors is present in “Ọfọ”.

iii Magico-religious uses
All types of “Ọfọ” symbols could be used to bring about certain negative effects. This is the case when the holder of the symbol pronounces some curse on his enemies with the symbol in his hand. Ejizu (1986:62) lists the types of Ọfọ in this category that are dangerous thus:
The “Ọfọ” atụ” in Enguwu Ukwu; “Ọfọ anunuebe” in Nnewi; “oke Ọfọ” in Ideato and “Ọfọ mụọọ” held by some dangerous masquerades. It is strongly believed among the traditional Igbo that disaster and doom always attended the use of this class of “Ọfọ” once the owners adhere to all the magico-ritual observance.
In Neni, the type of “Ọfọ” that are being used by some of the masquerades are “oji”. It is used especially when their opponents try to intimidate them or try to pin their own masquerade down. Other people also use their “oji” to defend themselves from such charm which any of their opponents may cast on them.

iv Naming ceremony
The first initiation ritual that a normal Neni child undergoes in the traditional society is the naming ceremony. Part of the joyful event is the presentation of the baby at the ancestral shrine in the kindred obi. The lineage head whose prerogative it is to give the child a name performs the duty in front of the ancestral shrine with the “Ọfọ” symbol. Two or more names may be given, the first almost invariably taking the form “Nwa” in the combination with the name of the day on which the child was born, example “Nwaeke” i.e. Nweke. The second name is suggested by the display of some characteristic trait, or some resemblance to a deceased member of the family. Ilona (2007:13) explains that “…sometimes divination is done to determine if the child is a reincarnate of a relation.” Basden (1982:60) also support Ilona, “The Ibo believes that all children are reincarnations of beings that have already passed through a lifetime in this world.”
He also gives the prayers said on the day of naming ceremony as follows:
a. Ndị be anyị
Anyị ga-adịnụ oo
Isee
Makana ndụ bụ isi
Ndụ nwoke
Ndụ nwaanyị
Isee
Ndụ bụ agụụ
Ọ na-agụ onye
Ọ na-agụkwa ibe ya.
Isee
Translation:- Our people
May we all live long
Isee
Life is first
Both men and women
Isee
Everyone hungers after life

b. Ihe ọma mee
Ihe ọjọọ emela
Chukwu eze ụwa tụ ụwa
Were ọji taa
Ekele ka anyị ji
Jidekwa arịrịọ
Ọmụmụ bụ isi ọkụ
Mmadụ bụ ụba
Nye anyị ọmụmụ nwoke
Omụmụ nwaanyị
Anyị ga-amụ ka ndị mbụ
Mụọ ka ndị abụọ
Ndị ichie
Taanụ ọjị
Mụọ na mụọ
Ndị a fụlụ anya
Taanụ ọjị
Onye dị
Ibe ya dị
Translation:- May good things prevail
God ruler of the world in the eternity
We come with thanksgiving as well as our request.
Off-spring is primary
Human beings are the greatest wealth,
We follow the steps of our forebears,
Ancestors eat kola,
All grades of spirits,
Seen and unseen
Eat kola,
Live and let live.

c. Nwunye m ndụ gị
A tụ ọ a mụọ
A mụọ e jide
Ụkwụ akpọ n’ije
Kalatata ka ewu na-amụ
Otu otu ka ị ga-amụ mụjuo ụnọ

Translation:- You my wife you shall prosper in your delivery
Animals produce in number,
But one at a time.
The prayers for the naming a child provides further insight into the Neni philosophy of life, especially the benefits of begetting many children. Both sexes are considered important in off-spring. Nevertheless, human beings should not deliver like animals in twos or threes. Twin birth was an abomination among the Igbo. Basden (1982:57) affirms that, “…it has been ordained by single births in contradiction to animals; for a woman to bear more than one child at a birth is to degrade humanity to the level of the brute creation, and for a woman to imitate animals in this respect fills the Ibo with unspeakable disgust.”

v. Oath Taking
In Neni, people do take oath with “Ọfọ”. This corroborates what Ilona (2007:29) says, “This practice is normally invoked in the settlement of disputes and it is normally done before the deity of the clan.” Green (1964:71) also says “…Ọfọ is used in swearing one’s innocence and other forms of oath.” He emphasizes that, “Ọfọ” is a guardian of the moral code.” He is trying to say that, with “Ọfọ”, one cannot lie. On the other hand, Ejizu (1986:64) says that “…in many parts of Igbo land,…ikpo “Ọfọ” or “ire Ọfọ” is the greatest form of oath… all the “Ọfọ” are piled together for the person taking the oath to carry.” When this is done, certain ritual and incantations are rendered”. “Ọfọ” is truth and good judgment. So by holding it, the person knowing the implications of it will say nothing but the truth to avoid any bad thing if his hands are not clean. In Neni one can attest for his innocence in the presence of oye deity holding “Ọfọ”.

vi. Settlement of disputes
Another common use of “Ọfọ” symbol in Neni is in settling of various disputes ranging from family quarrels to such serious dispute like ownership of land. In addition, a case bordering on stealing of yam from another person’s yam barn is sometimes settled by making the accused to swear by “Ọfọ dibia” as found among Ita practitioners of Ikem people of Omambala (Anedo, 2007:58). On the other hand, Ejizu (1982:64) comments, “This particular use of “Ọfọ” stemmed from the belief in “Ọfọ” as one of the highest guarantors of truth.”
In Neni No one may litter falsehood before “Ọfọ” without calamity. Calamity here might be death, chicken pox or swollen belly. The use of “Ọfọ” in all such circumstances of decision-making is that, it stands for the real owners of the land. Neni people believe that “onye kpaburu ani ani akpaburu ya” meaning that whoever that steals or claim somebody’s land, the land will kill the person.

vii. Decision making
“Ọfọ” is used in resolving important issues affecting family, kindred and or lineage as it represents the authority of the ancestors. That is why Meek (1937:107), says:
“Ọfọ“ is well recognized and at any general meeting of the group, the various holders of the family “Ọfọ” lay them down on the indent ground in strict order of that seniority. The senior okpara is the ritual head of the group, and, as such, at all public meetings he is the first to lay his “Ọfọ” on the ground and the first to receive share of all sacrificial foods, gifts, fines, or fees. He is the direct representative of the group before the ancestors.

The presence of “Ọfọ” in any Igbo gathering is as good as presence of ancestors.” Ejizu (1986:63) admits that… “Ọfọ” is used to seal all important decisions or family, kindred and lineage members which are aimed at fostering the peace and harmony of the community.” Ejizu (1982:123) goes further to say that,
Traditional priests, elders and senior titled men generally assemble on local market days, in some public square, (Aladimma, Ama or Mbara), to discuss issues affecting the village or groups. Such a body is in effect, the governing assembly of the corporate group. In all such meetings, the elders use “Ọfọ” to reach decisions.

Using “Ọfọ” in decision making stands for the authority of the ancestors, the custodians of the land. The ritual act of striking the “Ọfọ” on the ground is understood in two broad ways. It signifies the desire of the elders to call the attention of the ancestors who are residing beneath the ground to witness the important decisions of their living representative, and it expressed the recognition of the place of Ala, the earth goddess in the affairs of Neni.
Neni people use “Ọfọ” to make decision on important issues. In effect, without “Ọfọ” no issues or conclusion can be made in such gathering. They believe that without it people might refuse to do what they ask them to do.

Viii Sealing of covenants
There are several events on covenant sealing (Igba ndụ) among the Neni people, between individuals or group. Some of these covenant relationships particularly in the southern sub-culture area are enacted with the aid of the lineage “Ọfọ”. Ilona (2007:29) acknowledges that “…people, who want to go into business with each other, take vow before the deity of the clan not to do anything to harm each other.” He further states that a corrupt version of the tradition was seen in “Ogwugwu Okija saga. Ejizu (1986:63) says, “Traditional marriage covenant is properly sealed in most area by the use of the family “Ọfọ” and the pronouncement of the ritual blessing by the family elder on the young spouses.”
Other views of “Ọfọ” in Neni.
1a. Personal names
They use it as personal name, on idioms and wise saying
Okonkwo (1974:154) says “Ọtụtụ aha ndi Igbo na-aba ụmụ ha na-ezipụta ihe “Ọfọ” bụụrụ ha. Some of the names Igbo people answers shows what “Ọfọ” means to them
Personal names Meaning
1. Ọfọ Truth.
2. Ọfọamaka Ọfọ is very good.
3. Ọfọbuike Ọfọ is my strength.
4. Ọfọchebe May Ọfọ protect.
5. Ọfọdeme Ọfọ thank you.
6. Ọfọdile Ọfọ is effective.
7. Ọfọdike Ọfọ is powerful.
8. Ọfọdum Ọfọ lead me.
9. Ọfọedu Ọfọ come to my aid.
10. Ọfọegbu Ọfọ did not kill me.
11. Ọfọjee May Ọfọ avenge for me.
12. Ọfọjekwu Ọfọ will adjudicate
13. Ọfọaka Ọfọ is superior
14. Ọfọkadibia Ọfọ is greater than medicine man
15. Ọfọkaja Ọfọ is greater than sacrifice
16. Ọfọkansị Ọfọ is greater than poison
17. Ọfolee Let Ọfọ effect the desired aim
18. Ọfọma Ọfọ knows the right thing
19. Obijiofo The lineage that holds the ọfọ
20. Oguejiofo The fight that is fought with
a right cause
21. Nrijiofo Nri is the rightful holder ofọ
22. Nnajiọfọ The father possess the ọfọ
23. Nwọfọ The son of ọfọ

These personal names deriving from the “Ọfọ” concept are at the same time personal affirmations of faith in the symbol. Their full traditional names are discovered in the context of individual historical experience which gave birth to them.
1b. Idiomatic uses of “Ọfọ” which the igbo people say with
ọfọ are as follows:
1. Ọfọ bụ ntị mmụọ Ọfọ is the ear of the spirits.
2. Ọfọ na eziokwu yị Ọfọ goes with truth.
3. Ọfọ ekwena Ọfọ do not allow this event.
4. Ọfọ rikalia o bukalia The more ọfọ receives gift
the fatter it becomes.
5. Ọfọ ma onye ji ya Ọfọ knows the rightful holder.
6. Ọfọ ka idide ji awa ala The earth warm breaks
through the ground with ọfọ.
7. Ejimọfọ ka ogwụ Being on the side of ọfọ is
more effective than hoping n any charm.
8. Ejiiri m gị ọfọ My hands are innocent on
the matter.
9. Ọfọ anaghi egbu n’ efu Ọfọ does not kill- without a
just causes.
10. Iji kwe ọfọ Have you truth on your side.
11. Onye melu ife ka ọfọ na-atu “Ọfọ” indicates the guilty.
12. O ji ọfọ ga-ana The man on the side of truth
Will go safe.
13. Okwu eji Ọọfọ n’elu chukwu The word spoken with the
“Ọfọ” reaches God.

REFERENCES
Adamson, H.C. (1985). Cultural Anthropology: Understanding
Ourselves and others. London: McGraw Hill.

Anedo, A.O (2007). “Afa” (Divination): The Mouth Piece of the
Unseen. Doctoral Thesis, Department of African and Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Anizoba, O.M. (2002). Ancestral Presence in African Religion:
The Igbo Perspective. In C.C Agbodike, (Ed), Unizik Journal of Arts and Humanities (VIV,5). Pg 83-84.

Arazu, R.C. (2005), Our Religion – Past and Present. Awka: Martin – Kings.

Basden, G.T. (1921). Among the Ibos of Nigeria. London: Frankcass.

Douglas, B. (2000). Murder at Montpelief: Igbo Africans in Virginia.
http: //books. Google.com/books. Retrieved 20th January, 2011.

Ejizu, C. (1986). “Ofo”: Ritual Symbol in Igbo Cultural Life. Enugu:
Fourth Dimension.

Iheanyichukwu, D. (1991). African study Monograph: The Igbo
Novel and the Literary Communication of Igbo Culture. http://Jambo.africa. Kyotu – u.ac.jp/…/ Iheanyichukwu ./. 20 Duruoha. Retrieved 16th January 2011.

Ilogu, E.C (1974). Christianity and Igbo Culture. New York: Nok.

Ilona, R. (2007). The Igbos: Jews in Africa. Abuja: Remyilona/counselor.

Iweadighi, S. (2000). Towards an Igbo Anthropology. www.iweadighi.com/uploads/media/Towards - an - Igbo – anthropology. Retrieved. 16th February 2011.

Leuzinger, E. (1960). Africa: The Art of the Negro People: New York: Crown.

Lieber, J.W. (1971). Human Ecology and Education Series. Ibadan: Occasional

Mbiti, J.S. (1975). Introduction to African Religion. London: Heninemann.

Meek, C.K. (1937). Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe, London:
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Nwachukwu, E.O. (2003). “Rythms of Igbo Spiritism: A Reflection of Some
Igbo Music and Dances Associated with the Belief in Spirits”. In C.B Nze, (Ed), Ogirisi,: A new Journal of African Studies. (vi,8) Pg160. Anambra: Lumos.

Nworgu, B.G. (1991). Educational Research: Basic Issues and Methodology.
Enugu: University Trust.

Okonkwo, M.N. (1974). A Complete Course in Igbo Grammer. Nigeria:
Macmillian

Okodo, I. (2003). “Kolanut: The Igbo Multidimensional Symbolism”.
In C.B. Nze, (Ed), Ogirisi: A New Journal of African Studies vi, 8 p 176. Anambra: Lumos.

Onwuejeogwu. M. A (1981). An Igbo Civilization, Nri Kingdom and
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Talbot, P.A. (1932). The People of Southern Nigeria. London: Frankcass.

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