DevelopmentOf Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association.
According to Henderson: 490, “By 1900 there were some two hundred A holders of the eze title in Asaba roughly the same as the number of ozo men in Onitsha” (Spencer (1901), The History of Asaba and its Kings). When men like Nnanyelugo, as he was before he became the Odu of Onitsha in 1956, Chief Isaac Aniegboka Mbanefo, became members of the prestigious Agbalanze Society (which he joined when he was 23 years old) in January 1921 , very few
indigenes in that age bracket could boast that achievement. It is therefore instructive to quote his thoughts and nostalgia on the developments in Onitsha Agbalanze Cultural Association way back in 1990 and 69 years after he was initiated into the prestigious Agbalanze Cultural Association of Onitsha: “Ozo has undergone signiﬁcant changes from what obtained when we were young. At that time the entire initiation process could be completed with less than N500. Men like Odukwe Adazie, Akosa Akunne, Asika Ezennia and other skillful dancers came to the dance only in skirts, mbinukwu, to display to the fullest their physique and their dancing ability.
In the 1920s, there were not too many young initiates in the Agbalanze. lnitiations were strictly clan or kindred affairs. The result was that two or more initiation dances could be held the same day at the same hour. My own induction dance took place simultaneously with that of Akunwata James Odiari of Odojele Ufesi Ilo (across the village square). As recently as 1954, that of my brother, Mr. Justice Akunwata Alex Mbanefo. took place in Odojele on the same day and at the same time that of [Akunne] Edibos Okoloji Ojiba was taking place at Ogbeozala. Today only the spiritual aspects of the initiation are strictly kindred affairs. Invitations are sent to all initiates throughout Onitsha to attend the social aspects – the induction dances. As many as 250 members jam the dance arena”. These developments and many more constitute the dynamics of the Agbalanze Cultural Association overtime.
[Cited from the Foreword written by HRH Igwe Aflred Achebe on our featured book ‘Origin & Developments’]
Ozo has a pivotal place in the traditional spirituality of Onitsha people. It also confers respect and social standing on its initiates. It is an essential stepping stone to higher service in the community, such as membership of the traditional ruling council (Ndichie or red cap chiefs) and, ultimately, the monarchy.
Nevertheless, certain modem trends in the evolution of Ozo Onitsha and the Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association give cause for concern:
- Issue of ‘Itiwa Ozo’:
According to the recent findings, there are some thirty-seven Agbalanze Ozo kindred units in Onitsha Kingdom, which comprises only six administrative zones (Oba Isi) and nine original kindred groups (Ebo Itenani). This recent phenomenon of splintering respective Ozo kindred units (Itiwa Ozo) has raised several fundamental questions regarding the institution of Ozo in the kingdom.
- Distinction between “Mmuo” and “Ozo”
Many do not have clear understanding of the distinction between “Mmuo” (ancestral descent) and “Ozo”;
- The Proper authority or authorities that may sanction or sanctify Itiwa Ozo, should that become necessary;
- The spiritual perfection of the “Mmuo ” of the respective splinter groups; and
- The standardization of tariffs for the now motley assemblage of Ozo kindred units in the kingdom.
At the last count, there are 37 Agbalanze Ozo kindred units in Onitsha. Most of these units arose from cleavages in existing Ozo kindred units. Aware of the threat that the rampant splits of Ozo kindred units had posed to its unity;
- The Association unequivocally outlawed ‘Itiwa Ozo’ by any sub-kindred unit or group. Itiwa Ozo is literally the splitting of an Ozo Kindred unit. In principle, Agbalanze Onitsha may, according to it’s constitution, allow Itiwa Ozo if and only if it involves ‘Okwu Muo’. It has been ascertained that Itiwa Ozo is the prerogative of Ime-Obi even when there are some lapses that unwittingly gave the impression that Agbalanze Onitsha was on top of this issue three decades ago. Ime-Obi currently has adopted a robust stance on Itiwa Ozo.
The Constitution is however vague on how such matters would arise. 5Prior to this constitutional provision, some kindred groups split on such ﬂimsy grounds as the collection of double Ozo takings in the Ozo initiation by a bona ﬁde Ozo titled man of the enlarged kindred group.
- Peculiar Case & Proffered Solution
One case in point was that of Nwakibie Egbuniwe Amechi. Story has it that during one Ozo ceremony, Odoje Ubene, the matrilineal village of Nwakibie where in addition he was initiated into the Ozo society as well as in his village Ogbolieke, strongly protested continued payment of double share of Ozo proceeds to Nwakibie because of double initiation. The protest continued to gain strength and was on the verge of breaking the once strong unit into two separate units. Unfortunately, during the course of trying to ﬁnd
an acceptable solution to the problem, Nwakibie died. As the story teller alleged, Nwakibie died and his death ﬁnally settled the matter.
From then, Eke and Ubene started doing their Ozo ceremonies separately and from here it could be inferred that the death of Nwakibie was instrumental to the splitting/ breaking of the Ogbolieke and Odoje Ubene joint Ozo title taking. Stories of this nature were
replete in many cases of itiwa ozo in ancient times in Onitsha.
The Ozo kindred units that are currently recognised by Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association include:
- Daike Anyo, Isiokwe I, Isiokwe II, Iyiawu, Mgbelekeke, Obikporo.
- Odoje Ndugbe, Odoje Odumegwugbuagwu I (Iwegbu), Odoje Odurnegwugbuagwu II (Olieh), Odoje Odumegwugbuagwu III (lzuora), Odoje Odumegwugbuagwu IV (Obumse), Odoje Ubene (Umu Ojiede),
- Ogbeabu (Group I), Ogbeabu (Group II), Ogbeabu (Group III),
- Ogbembubu Onije Odili, Ogbembubu Umu Uzoechima,
- Ogbeodogwu I (Ojidoko), Ogbeodogwu II (Okakwu), Ogbeodogwu (III),
- Umu Tasia, Ogbeotu, Ogbeozoma,
- Ogbolieke Group I, Ogbolieke Group II (Umu Nwanne), Ogbolieke Group III (Umu Inwagwe)
- Ogboli Olosi, Oreze (Emodi), Ubulu, Umuase (Ogbo, Ogbaba, Okwulinye, Ukwa, Ndugbe),
- Umudei Group I, Umudei Group II (Osololi), Umudei Group III,
- Orezeabo Ibisi, Umuezearoli United, Orezeobi Ogbendida, Umuikem, Umuonogbo and Umuobiudogwu.
It is instructive to note that this motley is unwieldy for a town with only Oba Isi, six administrative zones. Going forward, We must be bold to reconstitute the splinters back to the original groups.
Code of Ethics
The Ozo titled person who is the member of the Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association is a priest in the traditional religion of Onitsha Ado n’Idu . His priestly values and activities are enshrined in purity. This has been our time tested ethos. Click to view our code of ethics
Aims & Objectives of AOCA
Onitsha town operates the monarchical system of government. Every constitution of the Ancient and Prestigious Agbalanze Onitsha Cultural Association asserts in its aims and objectives . Click to view