An Interview With Ezeani Okonkwo who is the Akajiofo to Adu deity in Umuoba, this interview gave me great insights into the true tenets of Igbo Spiritual beliefs system and practices “Odinaani Igbo”, which has been demonized by early Christian missionaries and has adversely affected our general perception towards Odinaani and its practitioners.
First and foremost, we need to understand that every human culture has its identity, way of life, diverse language, mode of dressing, religion, or some sort of spirituality, etc. As indigenous people, our own process of reaching the divine, ought to be different especially to outsiders, its various degrees also ought to make sense to practitioners or individuals who had devoted their time and resources to understanding the intricate aspects of these beliefs and see them as an indigenous way of connecting to the Divine.
Looking at the structure of the Igbo people before colonialism, we had an already structured democratic society that thrived and functioned as an orgasm without being under the authority of one individual or being under a monarchical structure rather our society thrived under the leadership of a spiritual leader “Ezeani.
-Also note, the existence of monarchy in Onitsha is a result of cultural diffusion.
The way of life of the Igbo people was already tailored to suit our individual and communal needs which helped our society to function as a single organism, and our spirituality allowed us to maintain an absolute relationship with a supreme being we refer to as Chukwuokike(Abiama) who we interact with by communicating with the divine essence known as Chi which resides within these other spiritual forces.
When I asked further questions on the acknowledgment of God through deities, Ezeani Okonkwo assured me that we Igbos knew God before the Western definition of who and what God is. We believe that everything created by God has an element of God and through them, we can make our supplications. Unfortunately, we live a life of ignorance and fear as a result of colonialism and miseducation and this became the architect and footstool of our spiritual downfall.
He differentiated Odinaani from Omenaala, as the customs, laws, and social behavior of any given Igbo community which is often practiced differently in other communities while Odinaani comprises of the traditional religious and spiritual practices of any Igbo community. According to Ezeani, the concept of Odinaala its meaning, and practices are shrouded in mysteries upon mysteries, therefore, the total understanding of this concept is nearly impossible to comprehend especially to individuals he referred to as ofeke which meant the “Non-Dibia”.
He explains the concept of Chi and Onye-Uwa as the most important and complex aspect of Igbo spirituality, he also asserted that even most spiritualists cannot authoritatively define what Chi is, he also pointed out that most communities regard these two concepts as one, and the same, therefore every ritual process of interacting with them are also intertwined. He said that the “Chi” is one of those mysteries that take root in Odinaala, you cannot limit what the Chi is and you can expand the concept of Chi to your ancestral forces known as Ndi-Ichie and your parents, he also expands this to the Igbo phenomenon of an individual’s point/element of origin “Ebe mmadu siri wee bia uwa” etc. Ultimately he asserted that a person’s reincarnate is also the person’s Chi (Oke Chi) which you cannot do without (Onye buru chi ya uzo ogba gbuo onwe ya na oso). With this in mind he quickly reminded us of the mysteries in Odinaala, which cannot be easily understood until you have gotten to a certain level of awareness before you can fully understand the mysteries shrouded in Odinaala.
Ezeani also talked about the misconceptions surrounding Odinaala which were spread by the early missionaries ultimately resulting in the death of our religious practices or Odinaala as a way of life. The belief that we Igbos were idol worshippers with evil ritual practices such as human sacrifice etc, is a lie made manifest by the ignorant missionaries. In his words “Chukwu na Ajana na aso atiti(God and mother earth despise evil and evil-doers)”.And so admonishes every Odinaala adherent to keep his or her heart and clean and away from anything evil as evil begets evil no matter how long it may last. He also said that any practice that moves away from the dictates of Chukwuokike is not accommodated in Odinaala and such a person isn’t practicing Odinaala but something more sinister.
He said that this is the age of Aquarius (Uga-Chi), we Igbos have existed long enough in deceit and ignorant but we have the opportunity now to research and get our facts right about Igbo spirituality and what it truly represents which is holiness and uprightness. Odinaala bu uzo ndu, the ways of our forefathers bring us in unity with nature, everything that was created and ordained by God is sacred and through them, we can communicate to God and he would answer us.
Ezeani also talked about Alusi and its role in the Igbo justice system. He gave the etymological meaning of the word Alusi as Alu=Kwusi (Let the abomination stop). He was of the opinion that Alusi isn’t a human construct, rather it was created by Chukwuokike and agreed upon by the community to serve justice to the guilty and vindicate the innocent.
This interview lasted for more than three hours with great insights on what Igbo spirituality is eliminating the lies we have been indoctrinated with, it opened our minds to what Odinaala is and what it isn’t. We concluded with a simple fact that just like every religion Odinaala doesn’t support evil or evil doers and that the way to enlightenment, success, and long life is strongly focused on sacrifice, good deeds, and libation.
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