Ozo Title Taking in Igboland - All You Need To Know

Ozo Title Taking of Ndigbo on account of NRI custom.

Nri is the originator and bestower of Ozo in Igbo
land. Eri, the progenitor of Nri bigoted the Ozo title
to his son Nri, who in turn bestowed the title to
Ndigbo. Ozo title is a very rigorous exercise, which
culminates in the holder becoming Ichi Ukwu. For
an aspirant to take the Ozo title, he has to undergo
stringent processes: views and saying, carrying the
ring of truth. He wishes to be regarded as a
dispenser of justice without any fear or favor,
irrespective of who is involved. The oath taking by
the titleholders is to ensure that they live a good
and upright lives in the service of humanity. There
is nothing fetish or satanic as fanatics are inclined
to believe. It is open to all male indigens of Nri
with good reputation. Not bankrupt in character,
who came to wealth through robbery, not criminal
or ex-convict. Title taking in a sense is an
invitation to the people to come and share in one’s
wealth through lavish feasting entertainment.

 


OZO TITLE TAKING


The Ozo title institution is the most important
feature of our social and cultural life in the Igbo
socio-cultural setting. This phenomenon has been
with us since the first Nri; Nri men introduced it to
Ndigbo. Every title holder is referred to as Nze,
that is person who has dedicated himself to what is
good and to avoid what is evil by virtue of his title,
which distinguished him from the ordinary
member of his community. Before taking the title,
the aspirant must do the following:


(a). He must have joined an age grade.
(b). He must be married, and have child or
children.
(C). Perform the Imachi Ritual


Having done these, the aspirant can now start the
process by taking the minor titles such as:


1. Nlinwamadu Title: This permits him to take one of
his Ozo names. He is now empowered to speak in
the palace of Eze Nri, if he is the only one with that
title in his age grade, he will be their spokesman at
any gathering in the community. He is now
entitled to carry (Akpa Nwefii), which will always
house his Ofo. With this title he can attend and
collect his shares whenever some one is taking
Nlinwamadu title in his Ogwe Muo unit, in Nri.


2. The aspirant can proceed by taking other minor
titles in his Umunna. To let his Umunna know that
he is in the process of taking the Ozo title. He will
also meet the requirements of Umuada, Inyom Di.
He will feast his Umunna to their requirements. He
will also feast Okolo/Okolobia.


3. The aspirant having completed his Umunna
requirements will feast his village by giving them
their requirements.


4. The aspirant will now move his Ogwe Muo unit.
There are two Ogwe Muo unit in Nri for easy
administration. On application to his Ogwe Muo
unit of his intention to take Ozo title, the Ogwe
Muo unit, which of course is made up of Nze na
Ozo titled men, whom the aspirant intends to join
will then refer his application to the screening
committee. This process is very important for they
must know who wants to associate with them, the
nobles, in the society. The report of the committee
will determine the fate of the aspirant, vis-avis
becoming Nze Na Ozo title man in the society.


What the screening committee will be looking for
among other things are:
(a). Criminal records, if any
(b). How he made his wealth
(c). If he is an ex-convict
(d). If he had performed the Imachi Ritual
(e). If he lives in his own house
(f). If the father of the aspirant is alive and what is
his reaction. Nri tradition forbids son(s) to take the
Ozo title before their father or elder brother. If the
father or any of his older brother(s) have not taken
the Ozo title, the aspirant must first and foremost
fund the Ozo title for them before he can embark
on his own. If the report of the screening
committee is positive, the aspirant can now
proceed further: he can now perform the Igba-Ego-
Ozo.

His Ogwe Muo unit will then give him the list
of requirements for the purpose of title taking.
1. He will start with Igba-Ego-Ozo
2. Ifeka-Ofo-Ozo
3. Idoo Mua
4. Ima Nza
5. Ala Mmuo
6. Ikpata –Ofo
7. Ebute Anulu. Etc
8. On Uka Eke, he performs the Izu Afia Ozo
9. Immediately after, he pays homage to Eze Nri, the
custodian of Ozo title in Igbo land.
10. Registration with Nze na Ozo title men association
follows. He is now a full Nze titled man with Atali
(spun wool) on his ankle, a red cap on his head
and Nku Apkuko. He is now Ichie Ukwu. Only
death or defilement can stop him from being Nze
Na Ozo.
11. Upon death, the Nze Na Ozo titled man joins his
ancestors without his title. His Ozo title shall be
disconnected from him. This is done by cutting the
Atali Ozo. His title ends in this world. When he gets
to the world beyond, he can take all the title he
may wish. He remains Ichie Ukwu in his ancestral
home and Umunna.


His male children will share the dividends of his
title such as Ofo Ozo. They may sell or use them in
taking or acquiring their own Ozo title. Ozo title is
like stock exchange, one can borrow using his Ofo
shares as collateral/security. The process is well
defined.

image
Procession of Ndi Nze n'Ozo

 

Another account by an Uga Indigene,

wish to offer some insights into the Ozo title topic as I know it. I am from Uga, not too far from Orlu. I will speculate that the Orlu culture is not too different from our culture in Uga. I was at Chief Maduako’s residence in Urualla las December for a palm-wine carrying event, and I observed some of the cultural similarities between their culture and ours. I must still qualify my view by saying that there are slight differences in the modalities of Ozo title-taking from town to town. 

First, please know that there is no difference between Nze and Ozo other than a person who has an Ozo title is called an “Nze”, just as a person who has a PhD is referred to as a “Doctor”. Generally, with some few exceptions, there are three ways to acquire an Ozo title in my town. 

The first is through Original Initiation Rite which could include -“Iza Ozo ozuza” (regarded as the most elaborate of protocols and celebrations for attaining an Ozo title before one can become an Nze. One must be of a certain class of citizen to qualify for Ozo title because certain class of citizens in Igbo land(for reasons that I do not want to discuss) are precluded from acquiring Ozo title. The Original initiation process is the most expensive and most difficult way of acquiring an Ozo title, and it is also the most rigorous. This is probably the approach you have been exploring in your town.

The second method is through inheritance. Just as in buying shares in a company and being entitled to receive dividends, Ozo title holders also receive dividends from time to time in the form of assignable Ozo title. These dividends are called “Nwa Ozo”. The recipients can then transfer the Nwa Ozo to their sons, brothers, or other relatives, and in this case, we call those types of Ozo titles as “Ozo nwelu nna” meaning that the holder inherited it from his father or relative and did not go through the rigorous process. Still, these titles have no lesser value other than in the order of seniority, they are bound to be junior to those who acquired Ozo titles before them. Note that if my father’s Ozo title is ahead of your father’s Ozo title, my father’s inherited Ozo title (Nwa Ozo nnam) which is given to me will be senior to your Ozo title which your father received as a dividend and gave to you. It is a bit complicated but they keep track of all of this. 

The third way of acquiring Ozo title is to buy Nwa Ozo from an Ozo dividend recipient. This is because an Ozo title recipient can sell his Ozo title dividends to certain APPROVED and VETTED people and receive cash for such sale of Nwa Ozo. People have been known to do this in order to raise money for their children’s education or to build a house or pay dowry in order to marry for their sons. This is not done frequently as most people tended to preserve these dividend Ozo titles for their sons and grandsons. Note that Ozo title is for men only. Any one who buys Nwa Ozo is still required to perform an abbreviated initiation protocol, including “Izu ahia Ozo” meaning attending a public market to announce and celebrate his initiation. These are generally the three most popular ways of acquiring Ozo titles. In my town. There are three classes of Ozo title which include Iddi, Ume, and Ebili classes. Each class has a head but the most senior of all is Iddi class. The Ozo title is not a chieftaincy title. Members must meet and abide by very rigorous standards which formed the basis of morality in the community. There are other requirements which even as an Ozo titled man, I respect but do not understand. An example is that an Ozo titled man does not eat snail which is reserved for women. Similarly, women were forbidden from eating chicken and eggs. These rules are slowly going away. Until my dad’s passing last year he never ate snail. I also do not eat snail. My dad lived in the village and he used to muse that Ozo titled men who live in townships break the snail law by eating snail after they had given it a Christian of “congo meat”. I and my Ozo titled siblings do not eat congo meat till today. We do our best to adhere to the morality rules for Ozo titled men. As you pointed out, those rules are similar to the religious rules or public laws such as tell the truth, do not lie, avid hear-say(difficult to do in this forum). One such important rule is that an Ozo titled man (an Nze) should avoid “ebie ebighaa” meaning that no Nze should rule on a case or matter and subsequently reverse himself. This rule is very important for two reasons:
First, the Ozo titled people were regarded in the community as the most honest people who held the final appeal position in matters related to disputes in the community. As a result, if they were in the position where they acted as Supreme Court Judges, as with the decision of Supreme Court, the decision of these Ozo titled men also had to be final and not subject to appeal.

Secondly, the rule against reversing oneself is intended to avoid bribing members. For one to reverse himself. It is reasoned that he would have received an inducement to do so. This does not mean that people who have cases pending before Ndi Nze should not seek private help and counseling from Ozo titled people. In deed, one is advised to seek out an Ozo titled man and pay him (Igo ngo equivalent to hiring an attorney) to guide and represent him in a case pending before Ndi Nze. The Ozo titled advisor is not accepting bribe to rule either way – just like a lawyer does not accept a bribe to represent his client. Instead, the Ozo titled advisor would only be coaching the defendant or plaintiff on how best to present his case before Ndi Nze who are charged with hearing and ruling on the matter before them.

For the above reasons, the “Ebie ebighaa” rule is one of the most important rules for Ozo titled men.

Before I conclude, let me emphasize that the above is only a summary of what happens in my town. The protocol in other towns might be different. There are also recent changes in the initiation protocol. For example, the swearing in process have been modified to allow Christians, especially Catholics to acquire Ozo title. Previously, the swearing in process was said to contain certain rites reserved for pagan worshipers. 

I hope this is helpful. Also, remember the old Igbo saying that “ikpe adighi ama nwa Nze ebe nna ya no na ogbo okwu”, and “Afu Nze ebie okwu”. The earlier implies that no one can be found guilty in a court where his father is a judge such as an Nze. All of this attest to the historical power and clout of Nze or Ozo titled people in administering peace and justice in Igbo land. ciannamichelleblog

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