Written by Okopi Jonathan (Oyi Ejila k’ Ugboju)
In Idoma just like any other African tradition all have the belief in existence of two worlds.
In Idoma world view Owoicho (Generic God) is transcendental, that’s all excelling Supreme being. He is always looked upon as OWONOFIYE or OWODUDU, that’s almighty and Omniscient. But since He is too physically removed from the physical world, just like other beliefs: Hebrew, Greek etc there is need for intermediary. It is now the Chief priest or the OCHE who act as the intermediary between mankind and the supreme God, Owoicho as the Oche is the ruler of the community.
In many Idoma cultures, the Oche is also the chief priest of Idoma religious cults and in some circumstances Oche is different from the chief priest. However the Idoma traditional religion consisted of three essential elements as follows :
– Owoicho (The supreme God)
– Aje (The outstanding Earth)
– Alekwu (Ancestral Spirit)
The Owoicho As discussed so far, The Owoicho existed in the spiritual real outside the physical earth, as explained in the Book of Erim 1981.
Aje: The Aje is so important to the Idoma religious belief that Each kindred group established on Earth shrine within its OJIRA (gathering) and in most cases the chief priest of the Aje is the Oche. In this Capacity he is referred to as the ADALEKWU (father of the dead). In Idoma belief, the dead members of the kindred were paradoxically alive. In other words, death did not remove the dead from the kindred membership. The Oche remain in his priestly role, and the vital link between the Alekwu and the Aleche (the Dead and the living)
Alekwu: The Idoma person and mind speculated on many of these and other sundry issues of life and human existence with long history of the employment of some of these philosophical under standard of life and practices handed over from one generation to another through oral tradition. A classical example of the Idoma traditional religion in the life hereafter could be seen in belief in Alekwu, the ancestral spirits.
When an Idoma person dies after living a morally sound life, died at ripened age and has been giving a complete funeral rites, he or she transmigrates and joins the communion of ancestors owing to the belief that ancestors are the closest to the living out of all spiritual realities in which the supreme being Owoicho can be reached. The Alekwu ancestors are known as the living dead because of the physical cessation of life and the continuation of life in the sprit realm. With this we can come to conclusion that Idoma people believed in the immortality of the soul as the Greek philosopher Socrates.
I can boldly classify Alekwu into
Alekwu Iho* ( not applicable to ancient tradition but modern religion)
The Alekwu Oche is what was just discussed, the soul or spirit of the person that survived and carry on after the death of the person either on this Earth or in the spiritual realm.
Alekwu Aje: Some modern scholars tried to class this as the God of Idoma, but it is not. The God of Idoma from the Onset is Owoicho, there was never conflict between Alekwu Aje and Owoicho until the coming of modern religion. I see Alekwu Aje as a sacred Earth custodian seen as ancestral spirit and link between mankind and the dead, with feast of annual remembrance where traditional religious practitioners commune and makes sacrifices in worship of their ancestors across the land.
Inspire of westernization, the celebration at the beginning of February or March in places like Adoka, Ugboju and Otukpi while in places like Orokam, Otukpa and Owukpa stretches to July and August.
The Alekwu maintain ethics, justice, peace, respect and dignity for each other, but with the advent of Christianity and Islam many are fast these days to accuse of decay of the Alekwu proclivity on foreign cultures.
But this practice are still relatively intact in Owukpa, Orokam and Otukpa districts.
One of the beauty of the Alekwu impact on Idoma people is the naturally believed to have power to protect, reward and punish sons and daughters of the land who goes contrary to the moral, norms, culture or traditions already laid down. For instance, a woman automatically comes under the oaths of Alekwu when she marries a man of Idoma origin. The spirit overseas women and keeps a tab on their fidelity. Alekwu chastises unfaithful woman by causing unexplained circumstances to work against members of the offending family. Also a male of Idoma extraction who for example commits incest, would likewise incur the wrath of Alekwu, except he confesses, and performs certain rites to pacify the spirits. In same cases of unfaithfulness, the chastisement fell on the wife until she confess and if the husband is aware of the unfaithfulness and attempted to conceal the act, he automatically becomes the victim, and if no ritual rites is carried out with confession can eventually lead to sudden death. (ONE HAS TO BE CAREFUL, MANY ARE GONE THROUGH THIS ACT).
Also in a case the husband is innocent, the first born son became the victim. Absent of confession from the wife and mother of the son, the son dies, in most cases seven days warning.
Alekwu Affia : This represent the soul of the ancestral spirit in physical form as man or masquerade also known as Ekwu. It is also a funeral ritual representation of the dead during which the spirit of one’s deceased parents is appeased by preparing a special masquerade, which represent the reincarnated deceased person. It comes up when necessary and it stays three days. Alekwu Affia, Eyanokwu, Ogrinya, Aka,Ewunokwu masquerades appear united in the night. It also appear during the death of Oche and districts heads and act as an anchor to escort them to the land of the death (Ekwu bu Inu and Ekwu bu Eche). One of the long tradition of Ekwu (Alekwu Affia) is narration of Idoma history, poems, folklore and genealogies in form of chants. Most of these chants has no definite dialects, some even comes in Igala and ancient Akpoto tongues. We have maintained our lineage through Alekwu chants and will continue to consult it in conformity with our history.
(Image source: Google )