THE SIGNIFICANCE OF “OFO” IN IGBO TRADITION” Ejim Ofo!” “Ofo kam ji!””Onye ji Ofo g’ana!” etc are common sayings of our people! What really is OFO? Ofo simply is Symbol of Truth or Truth per se. It is the Igbo terminology for the Cross of Truth! Our link to SOURCE of all powers! As much as the Ofo can be made into an object, it is emphasized that it should be carried WITHIN the bearer! The bearer of the Ofo, materially (as in a carved or moulded object) or spiritually, is one who has vowed to uphold Truth at all times, to be guided by it and to live it! To a traditional religious believer operating with people of the same belief, the Ofo could be a carved object made in an image related to a deity every subject or follower of the holder would believe and respect or honour! It could be a flute designed with images or simply a stick of high quality, durable wood designed with certain image(s) of honour! It could be a rod! A Christian leader can have his/her Ofo symbolically in the form of his/her Bible specially packaged to be respected and honoured. Such a Bible must appear unique for necessary reverence. It could be a Cross or Rosary. Whichever physical form it takes it must be packaged such that some reverence is attached to it by any beholder! However, the very important and common Ofo is the spiritual undertaking or vow to embrace Truth! It is man’s link to his creator – to Truth! The Ofo is more of an Oat of Office than Staff of Office. Yes it could be an evidence of authority and so staff of Office, but it is more of a vow of commitment to the duties of the office than a claim of power in the office! An Ofo can be held by any leader – man or woman! No one is bound to a particular physical ofo even though it is more acceptable and respectable when handed over by a predecessor. Hence, a Christian Adaisi may not inherit physical symbols of rods or sticks of predecessors but could make her own symbol which she must obtain conviction of her subjects in its efficacy as link to SOURCE of Power! “Ejim Ofo aga” means that I am guided and protected by Truth and I fear no evil! It doesn’t matter if you have the Ofo in the bag, in your palms, hanging on your neck, placed on the table or just in your heart!”Igo OFO” and “Isu OFO””Igo OFO:”Igo OFO” is Invocation of Truth. It is appeal to the source of strength, power, authority and wherewithal! A request for blessing from on high. It is simply “Prayer” Among the Igbos, “igo OFO” is executed commonly by the Diokpa (eldest person) in the gathering. It could however be done by someone considered to be spiritually endowed by virtue of his/her investiture e.g a Priest/Priestess/Pastor, a Chief, a representative of a People or high authority! Any person chosen for “igo OFO”is considered an authority to link the human spirits gathered to the source(s) of power or blessings of the people being interceded for desire. Commonly a man does the “igo OFO”. But sometimes a woman does it especially in a gathering of women. Yet a woman considered spiritually endowed or of high virtue can be chosen to lead the prayer – the “igo OFO”! Significance of KOLANUTS in Igo Ofo.”Oji ka wa ji ekwe ise!” It is with kolanuts that prayers are said. It is with kolanuts that we say Amen.”Igo OFO”Igo ofo is done often with kolanuts. “Native kolanuts” are preferred to the “Hausa kolanuts”. Origin of the use of kolanuts has not been identified, but it has long been adapted in the tradition of Ogwashi-Uku people and ndi Igbo generally as a requirement to appeal and appease the gods and Almighty God.”Isu OFO””Isu OFO” is exercise of authority or affirmation of a decision as guided by the Source of Power. The person that performs the “Isu OFO” simply says “As I/we have said, so it shall be! Whoever violates reaps of what he has sown!” He does it often by hitting the floor or table or alter (ukpo) with the OFO or related symbol just like the Leader of the House after a major resolution.Isu OFO is dreaded among the Igbos as it is often considered as an invocation of the gods to deal as severely with a violator. Hence, when something is stolen, the Diokpa could warn of “Isu OFO” or “Isu MMO” or “Ibu onu”.The OFO and the NZE! Amongst the Igbos of Ogwashi-Uku, NZE Is a collection of Ofos of late Diokpas of a particular family. A person does not own an NZE but as the Diokpa of the family he is the custodian of the NZE of the family. Hence, we have NZE Agidiase not NZE Diokpa Agidiase. Only descendants of a particular person are bound by the NZE. A total stranger (without paternal or maternal relationship to the founding father) cannot be a Diokpa and custodian of the NZE therefore.NZE is related to age leadership structure and not chieftaincy leadership structure. Hence, every Chief goes with his OFO! A new Chief provides his own OFO or inherits a predecessor by understanding. But the OFO of a late Diokpa is added to the NZE along with the OFO of past Diokpas and handed over to the succeeding Diokpa.A strong warning goes on abuse of Diokpa leadership. Any person who knowingly assumes Diokpa position above persons older than him is likely to suffer early death by the NZE.”Ejim OFO” or “Ofo kam ji!” means “I hold unto Truth! I have God with me! I am protected by God’s Powers! I am guided by the authority, the Powers given to me! I shall fear no evil!””Onye ji OFO ga ana!” means that “One with God is safe! One that holds unto Truth must be free!””OFO kam ji, oku wa gunya nwata n’aka adi ahugbue!” This can be interpreted to mean that “Unto Truth I hold, In God I trust, fire handed over to a child by an elder does not burn him!” Any time one in position of authority or one assigned to a duty confronts some challenges he can invoke his authority by the statement. He rebuilds self-confidence and courage and is bound to succeed. The words of our elders are words of wisdom. The wise one hears and gets wiser!
Elue Adigwe; Educationists, Banker and Community Development Enthusiast with interest in Tradition, Literary works and Historical Research.