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Rites of Passage for an Agbalanze(cited from our Featured book - 'Origin & Developments of Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Assoc. by Chinyelugo Osita Anionwu

The rites, obligations and financial implications of the Ozo title have experienced varying fortunes since the pre-colonial times. When the economy was rural, agricultural and subsistent, farm produce provided the yardstick for measurement of wealth and surplus. According to Orakwue:14, “generally after the harvest or during famine season, a wealthy farmer usually brings out some of the surplus products of his farm to his family to divide instead of retaining them in his barns for nothing”. These are divided by the people accordingly, the value of which would be credited to the benefits of the farmer as a kind of investment against the shares of other prospective members of the family. After this, the fanner is then regarded as an honourable member of his family and a wealthy person in the community. He had not much religious duties to perform as the Okpala of the family but was however entitled to certain rights and privileges in honour of his new rank and position in the family. A wealthy‘ farmer invested his surplus farm produce over several years in Ozo. He paid part of his initiation fee each good year in yam tubers, maize cobs and pods of okpodudu (locust bean).

Over time, the expectations of many concerned indigenes and prospective initiates were met when there was some standardization of the fees across ozo kindreds and quarters. This notwithstanding, some families or kindred groups who were more liberal showed some desire to have more of their kinsmen within the fold of the Ozo title. Hence their tariffs were relatively lower than those of others.

The Process of Purification: Becoming a Servant of Nze - Agbalanze

OZO ONITSHA AT KINDRED GROUP LEVELS:

It is the kindred group that projects the individual prospective initiate into the Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association. The later development can only arise after the kindred group must have performed to their satisfaction all the necessary and sufficient conditions prescribed for a successful acceptance of the initiate.

Herein lies the significant role of the kindred group led by the Diokpa in conducting and concluding the spiritual rites associated with initiation into Ozo title. In ancient times, Ozo title was not taken by any man other than the one upon whom the office of Diokpa devolved. This imperative compelled entire families in certain climes to rally round and collect the money for the expenses to actualize this necessity in their kindred groups.

According to Henderson: 252, “the primary process of purification is called attaining [title] “Ichi Oz0”. The process of attaining Ozo The Rites of Passage for an Agbalanze entails continual tests and transformations of a man’s relations with his ancestors and with the spirits of his patrilineage”. The rites of passage involve the performance of many religious rituals both to the patrilineage family and that of the mother of the initiate. Today in Onitsha a male can aspire to become an Ozo initiate within his own patrilineage or within that of his mother for whatever reason. This truism attests to the saying that, “Oso chuba onye onaa ikwu nnei”, literally translated, in the event of confusion or flight, the nwadiani can always have sanctuary in his matrilineal abode.

The Processes

Ozo is a spiritual undertaking that can only be perfected with the muo and related paraphemalia of the respective kindred group that have a common ancestry. On the other hand, Agbalanze Cultural Association of Onitsha is the social element of the Ozo institution and only becomes involved following the spiritual anointing and perfection by the kindred group.

The prospective initiate, having lost his father (whether titled or not) by death and the second burial rites consummated, has to bring back the “spirit” into the house so that his father might receive his annual share of sacrifice from…

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After Inyedo Muo, the prospective candidate begins a series of consultations (Igba Okonti) with his relations. This begins with Nkata Usokwu – discussions with his maternal brothers, then….

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When the value of money as a medium of exchange and store of value was not realised, such farm produce as yam, maize, okpodudu (locust bean) and other vegetables were used to take the Ozo title. These were evaluated according to the tariff for Ozo title taking. The arbitrariness of the Ozo title members in assessing the value of these farm produce stock requirements as against cash requirements eventually made way for the use of …

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At about 11:00pm, the procession of the Agbalanze kindred group of the initiate led by the Diokpa enters the arena with the initiate accompanied by the prepubertal Okwachi carrying girl and the drummer…

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This can also be referred to as Egwu Efifie. It is the public dance as it is open to all and sundry. According to Orakwue: 89, streams  of invitees including relatives and well-wishers thronged the residence of the new Ozo titled person and there would be great rejoicing and feasting…

Why not get our featured book – ‘Origin & Developments’ of the Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association and get first-class & complete details on ‘ozo onitsha title taking’. Grab your copy here

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The featured book titled ‘Origin & Developments – Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association’ is a major contribution to the growing body of published materials on, and documentation of, the life of the people of Onitsha Ado N’ldu. It calls for-further research and understanding which will enable the present generation to effectively strengthen and re-position our Ozo institution and Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association for the future. I welcome this book and commend it to a worldwide readership of both Onitsha indigenes and everyone interested in indigenous cultures and traditions.

His Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, CFR, mni
Obi of Onitsha
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Proxies may represent Ozo initiates if at the time the consideration is attempted the following extenuating circumstances come into play:

  • If an infant is being initiated;
  • If the initiate is unavoidably absent from home;
  • If the initiate is invalidated because of old age or a disabling
    illness, or
  • If after Ibu Ego, the prospective initiate dies and it is deemed necessary and mandatory to complete the ceremonies, in which case, a proxy will take the osissi in what is usually described as Ichi Osissi and bring the process to a logical conclusion.

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