By Dennis Agbo
ENUGU- OZO title holders in Igboland have resolved to restore the role, functionality and relevance of Ozo traditional system as it was practised in the ancient Igbo society.
The reason, they said, was because the sense of values inculcated by the orthodox tradition has become even more relevant in the present Igbo society where westernisation has almost eroded the native culture needed to groom the young ones for Igbo leadership and maintenance of the sanctity of Igbo society.
The resolution was part of reason why the Ozo title holders from different parts of Igbo land met recently at the auditorium of the College of Medicine, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Park Lane, Enugu.
Ozo is a title given to men of impeccable character in any Igbo community, based on demonstration of their strengths of character, leadership traits, verifiable wealth and truthful disposition of the title holders.
The Ozo title holders maintain peace between self, God and the ancestors. They exhibit capacity for endurance, good judgment, honesty, abhor crime and work hard in pursuit of private and public endeavours.
Organisers of Nzuko Ozo Ndigbo summit chose the right venue, a school premises where young people were converged among the highly revered title holders and the values of the Ozo system explained to them.
There were also performances of Igbo tradition, particularly the Igbo traditional dances such as Igede and other forms of revered Igbo title holders.
Among the Ozo title holders at the summit included the chairman of Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Igwe Amb. Lawrence Agubuzu; representative of the Obi of Onitisha and the traditional prime minister of Onitsha ancient community; the Eze Nri (cradle of Igbo origin), Prince Chukwuemeka Onyesoh; HRH Igwe Chris Ogakwu of Udi; Dr. Ferdinand Anikwe of Centre for Black Civilization Arts and Culture, CBCAC, High Chief Christian Akpata, among others.
The Igbo culture custodians said they were worried about the dwindling fortunes, practice and relevance of Ozo system in Igboland where in the present time each community is on its own with little or no network between Ndiozo in different communities. It also noted that unlike the council of traditional rulers, there was no council of Ndiozo and decried that with such state of affairs, the noble character originally associated with Igbo identity, authenticity and relevence in Nigeria provided by Ozo traditional institution suffer severe setbacks.
Nzuko Ozo Ndigbo therefore set for itself the task of repositioning the Ozo institution to make it relevant, responsible and functional accross Igboland. It said it will henceforth unify and network with Ndiozo in every Igbo community; inculcate and propagate the attributes and qualities of Ozo tittle holders with a view to developing new generation of Ndigbo with strong noble characters to positively change the value system and world view of Ndigbo.
The union also pledged to document and provide the intellectual base and future direction of the Ozo institution in Igboland and engage in practice necessary to promote Igbo culture and unity as well as Nigeria’s greatness.
Chairman of the organising committee and secretary of the body, Prof. Ike Oluka said “the summit is in line with our goal and very apt at the moment and time, as the nation prepares to select leaders to lead Nigeria out of the woods.
“Our focus is to interrogate the structure, roles and relevance of the Ozo system with a view to reposition it for effectiveness and functionality. It is our hope that at the end of the day, we will be able to address some of the problems of Ozo system and possibly have answers to those questions relating to the roles and relevance of Ozo system in 21st Century Ndigbo.”
High Chief Christian Akpata (Alunanso Ogwugwu) of Akama-Oghe said the summit was a testimony that the Igbo were truely united given the attendance and representation of major Igbo custodians.
He said that Igbo tradition existed before its adultration, adding that with such unity of purpose, the Igbo marginalisation has become a past phenomenon. “Once Ndigbo have become united in this manner, every other thing they wished in Nigeria will henceforth be accorded to them.
“As you saw, the Ozo dance steps are epitome of real tradition because I was told by my father that one dare not slay an Ozo title holder else calamity will befall his family because an Ozo title holder is an upright and sincere person. I am therefore begging all Ozo title holders in Igboland not to engage in double standards.”