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One major aspect of Ibusa tradition that urgently calls for reform is that which has to do with the Obi/Eze title, yet the Ibusa has marched on for long with the traditional institution. That the Eze/society should be efficiently reformed to meet up with today’s world is indisputable. The Obi/Eze title as practiced in Ibusa has become inelegant only ineluctably meant for the aged who appear to have abandoned active lifestyle with preference for spending their years in Ibusa. This very aspect of our culture must be given due cogitation to it to become much more relevant to present happenings and uphold better societal values which the people of Ibusa must reap from.
It is difficult to look into this society because it deals with culture that has so remained longer than anyone can imagine, but when we remember that it is also traditional to reform customs, cultures and traditions since they are meant for man and not the other way round, then we must race to carry this out to bring about improvements in our society. Again, we must note that until this traditional institution is given due consideration, the Obi/Eze title or society as we know it today may be on its way to extinction because the number of Obis in Ibusa is gradually getting fewer day by day. If we make a statistical record of the number of people taking up the title in the Ibusa society, we will definitely discover to our amazement that this has drearily reduced over the time and has continuously been so for some time now compared with Mkpalor and Mgbankpisi. This tradition needs to attract the priority of Ibusa Community Development Union and other relevant authorities in the town.
The enigmatic requirements, huge financial cost of taking up the title, almost unattainable, overwhelming cost and demands of funeral arrangements and immobility nature of these title holders in this modern time have all negatively combined to drawing the institution to near extinction from our society so that if nothing is done as to make it at par with modern dictates, we may just be seeing the very last set of Eze chieftaincy holders in the ten Quarters of Ibusa. I am greatly concerned about this development because our culture must be preserved yet reformed to make add relevance to it.
A lot of factors in addition to those discussed earlier in this write-up are combining to discourage our people from taking up this title, for one, it should no longer be entirely left for the aged if it is well reformed. Many of the conditions requiring a candidate to take up the title should be re-addressed and made to become more liberal and welcoming, in the long run it should rather be used to development the Ibusa community rather than reserved as it presently appears. In today’s world communities hold tenaciously to development as a necessary tool to making institutions more relevant, just as societal values are tied to development, development thus becomes the prioritized need of a community. The Obi/Eze title should not be an exemption. The thought of becoming an Eze should never be a frightening instrument but a welcoming one which aimed at gallantly improving our society.
The holders of this title should be transformed to energetic and dynamic personalities having the capability to hugely make social contributions towards the development of our Ibusa. The fruits of the realizations of this title cannot be gainfully garnered if the taboo placed on the mobility of Obis/Ezes for instance is not removed. There are many Obis/Ezes in Ibusa today who were once dynamic politicians and technocrats, scholars and achievers in different walks of life but have been traditionally subjected to inactivity never made to travel out of the town.
That one cannot become an Obi if his father is still alive should be looked into as well, our forefathers may have had reasons for making it so, backed with strong arguments but today, it is a different world from what was viewed centuries past. One therefore will not be expected to murder his father simply because he is aspiring to become an Obi, similarly, one’s father will not be expected to take his life because he wishes that his son becomes an Obi. Today’s societal order has changed all of that, it will be wonderful if an Ibusa Obi contests and wins gubernatorial or presidential race in our country, thus successfully becoming “His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, yet he is an Ibusa Eze, traditionally dressed as one.
Yesteryears, Asaba policy makers sat down and beautiful came up with the idea Asagba institution, which they have sold out to the Ibusa and other communities alike, and it is working for the Asaba community, today we can also sit down and think the way forward on how we can move on politically and culturally. Ladies and Gentlemen, May I state that Ibusa can become the vanguard of change of the Obi/Eze title and society.
When a man vying for the Obi/Eze title must do so with his wife who must give serious consideration to this, which may sometimes be welcomed by utmost refusal from her because of the difficult and unattainable conditions attached to the title, and the man is denied the title, then our society has become instrumental to the separation or divorce of the couples. A man who is desperate to actualize this ambition without the consent of his wife is left with two options, continue to live the woman and forget about the title or separate/divorce the woman, and hurriedly take up another woman whom he must announce to the Obi/Eze makers and successfully become an Obi/Eze.
The dress code of the female-Obis/Ezes must also be looked into so that they can traditionally dress moderately without having to expose the upper parts of their bodies to the blazing sun by putting on sleeveless dresses. This is another reason the fear of becoming an Obi is like the fear of starting a journey to the unknown world whereas, it should give joy especially when people willingly compete for it. Or Obis should also become leaders who should carry theof the representation of the town to other communities, countries and beyond.
Conducting the funeral of Obi has also become worrisomely expensive to bear by families of deceased Obis, thus another major reason; no one initially welcomes the idea of his parents taking up the traditional title, granted that it is interesting but huge cost which accompanies it gives takes away the shine in it.
As we move towards finding lasting peace to the challenges of internal strife in Ibusa, we should also set on motion the reform of some of our cultures and traditions to lead us to good and exemplary social lifestyles. Ibusa is our heritage and destiny, the earlier we realize this, the better for us all. Many communities have successfully achieved this with collective commitments, I have therefore not demanded for much if I request that the Obi/Eze society of ibusa be reformed for better societal results.
By Emeka Esogbue
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