Igbo culture: Symbolic use of the ‘Ofo’ a staff of authority

Obinwannem News Igbo culture: Symbolic use of the 'Ofo' a staff of authority

The ofo is a stick of authority carried by selected Igbo leaders – notably patrilineage priests, kings, onyishi, and some masqueraders — that signifies power, the right to command, administrative settings and/or the conferment of leadership and power bestowed by the gods.It is typically six to seven inches long and made of wood or bronze or brass.

The Ofo stick is passed down from father to 1st born son. Ofo Nna endows the authority on the 1st born son as the leader & inheritor of the immediate patriarchal power of a nuclear lineage.

The Ofo Ndi Iche is the bigger Ofo which is handed to the Di Opara/Di Okpala/Di Okpa (Oldest surviving male son) of a larger descent group of the Umunna.
Along with other elders of the clan who are the leaders of each family (Onumara/Ezi/Ama) he regulates the authority of the particular clan.

The Ofo endows him with the authority of the ancestors. Each clan has such a man, and with other clan heads they govern the land as a council. When they gather, they do what is called, Iha Ofo (They line their ofo sticks on the ground according to the clan groupings).
In Igbo, “Ofo ha Otu” i.e. every Ofo is equal to the other, and collectively, they constitute the union of the people as a town. So, the ofo is a symbolic staff of authority.

“Igo Ofo” is a ritual normally carried out on every Orie – the day of the ancestors; #Igbo day of rest and celebration of our ancestral links.

That day, every holder of the Ofo, makes offerings of wine & Kolanut to the great God Chineke and to the departed ancestral spirits of the land. They invoke God and the ancestors to make the land fruitful & equally prosperous for all; Banyere Nwoke, Banyere Nwanyi.

They ask for continuous fertility to help preserve and populate the land with children and with animals, which collectively are called; “Aku n’Uba”. They call for a balance in nature; “Ndu mmiri na Ndu Azu“.

They ask for forgiveness for any inadvertent infractions against the earth our mother, and the Great being at the realm beyond the skies.

Every man who has an Ofo must make these offerings we call “Igọ ọfọ” on this day in their own homesteads. This includes every male who has established his “Ihu Chi”. With the advent of Christianity, Igo Oji (Blessing of Kola nuts) is more widely practiced.

There are other types of Ofo such as; Ofo Nze and Ofo Dibia which compels ‘native doctors’ to adhere to Iwu Dibia (Code of Ethics). Photo: Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh (Nri Ènweleána II) during the 1017th Igu Aro Festival.

Lolo ijeoma Njoku Obinwannem News Writer/ Sept 11, 2022

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