An Appraisal of Aku Normative Values
“True Aku has a pattern, rule or standard but the truth of it is relative to the valuating authority or individual and the parameters used in assessing such values”. (Amadi, 2005, p. 20). In The Platform, Vol. 1 No 1, 2005, a development-oriented magazine of Club 13, Aku, Igbo-Etiti LGA of Enugu State, Dan Chima Amadi, a senior lecturer at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State appraised Aku normative values. He also discussed about “whipping culture and traditions into line”. How do we achieve this? Please see details in the link below.
AN APPRAISAL OF AKU NORMATIVE VALUES
By Dan Chima Amadi
THROUGHOUT Africa, and indeed much of the world, the inability to distinguish
between cultural practices and core religion is the major contributory factor in societal crisis. Closely related to them are the quests for power, greed, mischief inherent in the nature of man and desire to even up human wrong. It is in the nature
and style of leaders to interpret personal worldview, as community worldview, thereby hiding their personal individual ambition. Values can be either objective or subjective. It is objective when societal standards are used while it is subjective if the individual brings in his personal opinion. In 1871, Charles Dudley Warner had argued in “Sixteenth Week” My Summer in a Garden that “There is no such thing as absolute value in this world. You can only estimate what a thing is worth to you”. It is perhaps for this reason that I want to take a modest opinion in assessing Aku normative values. True Aku has a pattern, rule or standard but the truth of it is relative to the valuating authority or individual and the parameters used in assessing such values.
In defining the world culture, anthropologists have included religion as part of culture. And culture is the sum total of a people’s way of life, including their history, education, language, religion, government, etc. A religion takes root in a new land if it displays material and inquisitional superiority. For instance, Mohammed the founder of Islam overran the Arab world for this simple reason. His followers took spills of war as they pillaged cities one after another. The ranks swelled and conquest became inevitable. Similarly, the jihad succeeded in most Northern states of Nigeria because of the above reasons. Religion in other words can be an interventionist faith and as Karl Marx said, the opium of the masses. Opium in the sense that once a believer is convinced, his commitment is total. In many parts of religion, like circumcision among the Jews, some aspects of cultures are interpreted as religious practices. A religion that flies out of its shores therefore carries with it cultural tenets of its milieu of extraction. The preponderance of culture and religion and the inability to discern one form from the other is the root cause of crises in most societies. Ordinarily, culture would have held sway if only one religion exists, but the assault of many confessions tear the world’s sensibilities. This is because these religions do not only carry strict or laid down rules and the culture of their indigenous societies, they are encouraged or sometimes forced as incontrovertible truths.
And in every society, culture and religion exist, the herald of a superior religion is prima facie interpreted ‘as assault, corruption and so sometimes fiercely resisted.
Religion occupies a central place in Aku normative values.
Through it an Aku man brings in his culture which he adores with a passion. Like in most African societies, the attachment to a Supreme being Chukwu, Ezechite-oke and lesser deities, Egwunshi is pronounced and contemporaneous. Respect is apportioned in line with the status of the deity described or addressed.
In Aku, the Odo cult, an exclusive male interventionist authority, the symbol of the
communion between the living and the dead is revered and worshipped. In Igba Masks: The Oneness of Ritual and Theatre, Prof. Ossie Enekwe rightly observes that an available evidence indicates that Igbo masks played, and still play, significant roles in the religious sphere. In many Igbo communities, especiallythose that belong to the Odo and Omabe traditions, masks are centres of activity. Gifts and prayers are offered to specific masks by suppliants requesting blessings, such as good health, long life, numerous children and good harvest. The earnestness of such gifts and prayers will be obvious to any objective observer. When masks represent idols or deities, they become really very powerful and are, therefore worshipped and consulted as oracles. In that case, they have shrines, which are serviced by priests on a regular basis.” In taking this message home, Odo Achi and Ovuruzo of Aku readily come to mind. Not only are they powerful and worshipped, they have regular priests that service them and they have shrines where they are consulted as oracles.
Culture occupies a unique place in Aku society and it emphasizes hard work. But the Aku culture is sometimes amphibious ambivalent dross, a plebian haze that is manifestly tilted in favour of the male. For instance, adultery is permitted under certain conditions among males and females, among the women to allow them bear
children during marital crises or when the man is impotent, and in concubinage, for the men. But the gravity and punishment for adultery do not carry the same weight even when fostered. Under a husband’s roof, adultery for the woman is a cardinal evil, next only to murder. Of the two great human evils, adultery for the woman and giving poison, in the case of both male and female are the unpardonable evils. The former can be mitigated by propitiation, while the later is rewarded with banishment and ostracism.
Adultery for the woman is unthinkable while still living with her husband. On the other hand, an adulterer can receive a red carpet reception if she left with or without her husband’s consent but comes home with a child or even children. The husband must accept such children and when he refuses, must be prevailed upon to accept them by relatives. The word bastard does not exist in Aku society. A child is a gift and blessing that must be accepted by all and sundry and given equal rights if delivered within marriage and love in concubinage. Thus, separation might occur but never allowed to vitiate Aku thought on child status.
Furthermore, if a man is a proven case of impotency, the woman can be left to go and bear children and protect her husband’s compound from coming to extinction. While the woman must appease the earth goddess, by strangling a chick before being re-admitted into her husband’s home, the man suffers no such humiliation if he commits adultery. The fun is that the man can participate in this drama of cheating the gods. A girl child who takes in is quickly, secretly and forcibly driven into wedlock.
When no suitor is immediately available, the girl child can even be married to a dead relative. In this case, the marriage is to “Ojiloshi”. Aku people do not call this licensed prostitution. It is a benevolent move to protect a threatened compound from coming to extinction. Offspring from this marriage are entitled to all rights as if they were begotten by the true biological father recently or long dead.
The female genitalia II symbolic as well as a point of regular reference. The Aku woman knows it’s potencyand the magic it holds in seducing the man. At village meetings, among both sexes, reference to the female genitalia and sex could be a common exercise, depending on the speaker and mood of the occasion. Women at gossip refer to it to show surprise and men as lewd affirmative or derogatory joke. It is like the American approach to gutter language to draw in excreta and sex into almost every human utterance and action. Yet, it cannot be said to be disease of every member of the community; decent men and women live above it, refrain from degenerating into the mire.
The industry of the Aku woman is unsurpassed, she is a symbol of hard work and virtue. Husbands rarely doubt the fidelity of their wives and this gives the Aku woman the unlimited drive to explore and conquer, Success is a cherished word’ and the community celebrates it. The Aku man would have chided Hamlet for impertinence in Shakespeare’s play when he says in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark “Frailty, thy name is woman”, Hamlet is angry that his Uncle Claudius kills his father and marries his mother. And his father’s ghost tells him. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.’ (Act 1 scene v). The Aku man does not foresee a serpent stinging his woman. She is far too busy to think of illegality.
It is not without cause that Aku people emphasize their bigness and potentiality. In 1934, the British Anthropologist, J. Barmby put the population of Aku at 7281 while he gave that of the surrounding villages as Ukehe (4978), Onyoho (371), Ochima (205), Ikolo (318), Ohebe (949), Umuna (422), Ngalakpu (Ekwegbe) (351), Umunko (1040) and Idoha (328). Presently, it has six wards out of the 20 in Igbo Etiti Local Government Area where the above villages occupy. Aku is among the most educated communities in Southern Nigeria and its citizens are breaking even in almost all fields.
Privately, an Aku man or woman is a highly individualized being, Outside the village, however, they are more gregarious, accommodating everyone from their village. The community’s motto: “Aha Nna Anyi ka Anyi ji Aga” holds much meaning for them there. The Aku man is quick at learning and is fat at jettisoning obsolete ideas. The poet who said “Be not the first to try the new, nor the last to lay the old aside” perhaps had Aku people in mind. Little wonder the aphorism is confirmed by the indigenes. Help an Aku man to lift his luggage to his head and he
leaves in a throttle. He learns quickly and does not forget too quickly. It is perhaps for this reason that the people are very critical of each other and exert themselves to hamstring those that try to escape the traditional hegemony.
A few weeks ago, the Odo masquerade bowed its exit and retreated to the world of spirits from whence it came. For the seven months it reigned, the people of Aku had certain gory tales to tell. With the symbol of authority exceeding bounds, it is much difficult to forget. There were stories of the Odo using knife on humans and breaking the homes of a few who broke the cult secrets. In a funny case, a benignOdo threw a key to maiden. What could be the reason? Could it be that she could use it to open the spirit world? The writer was an eyewitness at Eke Aku where an Odo forced a girl to pull off a pair of trousers in full view of a cheering and hailing crowd. At this stage one wonders under what law the Odo was operating: human, divine or spirit? The Odo is by its very nature a higher masquerade and a spirit that cannot degenerate to the level of Obiagu masquerades. A spirit that eats in public calls for total human condemnation and abhorrence. Any cultural activities that flagrantly go against the law of the state and God ought to be revisited and abolished. We cannot be slaves to deities we made.
Be that as it may, a case can be made for culture and tradition. There is enthusiasm in cultural activities because they are accompanied by intoxicants.
Religious activities emphasize sober reflection, piety and the hereafter. During Christmas, Easter or any other similarly celebration, however, the level of participation of the youth increases as goodies are made available. While religion talks about things unseen, and this is clearly unaccepted to today’s youths who are the protagonists and movers of culture and tradition, cultural activities permit more by allowing the individual to exercise. Therein lies the urge to make a distinction between fore play and the main act. We should make our interpretation with reality to today’s world. Christianity has come to stay and the state and its apparatus will always whip culture and traditions into line.