‘Iri-Ama” Law enactment and enforcement in the Abiriba Kingdom.

Discussion in 'Igbo Culture' started by izu, Jul 14, 2016.

  1. Izu

    Izu Admin Staff Member

    The Abiriba Kingdom from authenticated data dates back to at least the 15th century and has existed as a well organised City-State with all paraphernalia of government and governance. The authority of governance is invested on the Enachioken (The King) who is assisted by a council called Ikwukwuma who have both Judicial and Legislative powers.
    The Enachioken –In –Council has over the centuries used the Uke (Age Grade System) as the instrument of government and law enforcement in Abiriba. The Enachioken –In –Council is constituted of the Enachioken, the Ezes of the three main communities in Abiriba, namely Eze Amaogudu, Eze Agboji, Eze Ihungwu (Ameke) as well as representatives of various villages and specific institutions that have relevance to the royal order and system. All representatives are expected to be distinguished and knowledgeable men of proven integrity who can maintain the customs and practice of the Abiriba Kingdom at all times without fear or favour.

    Four years to their traditional Uche (retirement) celebrations, the oldest active age grade becomes the “Uke-ji-agbala” which literarily means, “the age grade that holds the Kingdom”. This age grade is so recognized at the colorful ‘Iri-Ama’ festival, literarily meaning the feast at the square, which is held in July in the Greco-Roman calendar. During the Iri-Ama festival, the Enachioken admits the Uke –Uche into this elevated and responsible status which entrusts the members of that age grade with the responsibility of seeing to it that the laws and customs of the Kingdom are kept for the peace and prosperity of the land (law enforcement). In the event of crisis, it is the Uke-ji-agbala (Uche age grade) who in consultation with the Ikwukwuma (Enachioken –In-Council) that mobilizes the other active age grades and other resources available to see to the successful resolution of the crisis.

    During the Iri-Ama, the Enachioken appears at the main square (Ama-uku), to pronounce edicts that govern the kingdom for the next one year accompanied by a colourful entourage, led by the war leader of Abiriba from Ezi Ndi-Ironkwa (The Ndi-Ironkwa compound) which is the seat of ARUAGHA, the war shrine of the Abiriba people. Ndi-Ironkwa also harbours the big stone, Omumu ARUAGHA, where Abiriba warriors sharpened their mpam (sword) for war in the ancient times.
    The war leader bears his mpam (sword) and the Ofo-Agha in dignity as he pilots the royal entourage into the oval stone rostrum (Nkuma) at the Ama-uku square. At this time, the square is filled with gaily dressed citizens of the city state and other well -wishers, led by the Uke-ji –agbala. The Uke –igwa mang (warrior age grade) who bear the brunt of the kingdoms defence and war campaigns also come to lend support and grace the occasion.

    The Enachioken (King) moves from Agboezi (royal compound) in majestic splendor, accompanied by Umuokwuru, that is the kindred royal families of Amelunta and Agboha, bringing along the OTISI Abiriba, the patron god of Abiriba, which the Abiriba ancestors carried along with them thought their migration and which still remains today, the symbol of unity and rightful rule in Abiriba. It is always in the custody of the Abiriba ruling dynasty and unifies all Abiriba people.
    The holder of the OTISI both in the past and present is believed not to do evil to anyone, or else he would be severely punished and eventually die a horrible death. The holder is duty bound to be upright and do justice to all.
    The Enachioken is covered by a beautifully decorated georgi canopy with royal insignias. Two young men in the royal entourage carry two paddles depicting the paddling across the tributaries of the Cross-River at Usukpam (Urukpam) by the ancestors of the Abiriba people. There is also a small insignia of a wooden canoe in the entourage.
    As soon as the Enachioken’s entourage steps unto the oval stone rostrum (Nkuma) at the Ama-uku square, the entourage from the Umu e’chuku kindred from Amaogudu led by the Eze Amaogudu surface between Amamba village and Ndi-Onwuka Ameke and joins the Enachioken’s entourage bearing the OTISI Umu e’chuku (the other half of the OTISI Abiriba). Meanwhile the delegation from Ihuezi Ihungwu ( the Ameke royal compound) wait at their square and face the main square (Ama-Uku) for the celebration with their Ofo which is referred to a Ofo eje mba, that is the Ofo that does not travel.
    The Enachioken and other Ezes come to the festival bare bodied with their chest, face and both arms smeared with white chalk, they wear white cloths around their waist and wear no shoes. In the olden days, it was raffia loin cloth that they wore before the advent of cotton.

    The Enachioken and the Ezes are the only people in Abiriba culture, that wear white loin cloth and for this ceremonial occasion only. On their heads are white plaited crowns (Ntunya) containing cowries, leopard teeth and claws as well as eagle feathers. The Enachioken and Ezes carry broomsticks which signify strength in unity. The war leader from Ndi Ironkwa then takes his position at the right side of the Enachioken (King) with his two edged blade sword (mpam) as chief body guard and keeper of the peace at the palace.
    The crowd watches in admiration, after wrestling matches by the greatest wrestlers in the kingdom have taken place at the square, the war leader bearing his sword (mpam) and Ofo-Agha will shout O-osh! O-osh! And the noise in the crowd subsides immediately and the Enachioken then shouts, Unu che-e! Unu che-e! That is you all pay attention. When there is perfect silence, he proclaims loudly enough to the hearing of the crowd, the first edict and calls on the Uke-ji-agbala, to come forth and collect the fresh palm tree frond, a symbol of message of authority. The leader of the Uke-ji-agbala moves forward and collects this frond indicating acceptance of the responsibility to carry out the Kings decree. This is followed by great ovation from the crowds.

    The wrestling recommences and the King and entourage watch from the rostrum (Nkuma). One of the adulatory encomiums for the Enachioken is “Ono e’ Nkuma ebe O-osh!, meaning the man who shouts O-osh! from the stone rostrum. Subsequent edicts are pronounced intermittently by the Enachioken and each is followed by throwing out palm-fronds which is picked up by another member of the Uke-ji-agbala. This symolises that the age grade is now in charge of maintaining law and order in the city-state according to laid out customs and traditions of Abiriba and as decreed by the Enachioken- in- Council.

    Words by Nazo Anya
    Video credit: Nwokoma Thomas Izuchukwu
    Credits The African Community Life by Kalu O. Uche PhD Ebiriba Enuda, The Legendary March to History by M.E Obasi PhD,
  2. Izu

    Izu Admin Staff Member

    The Video from Facebook

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