The most important values which the Igbo race upholds and stands for, at all times, is the truth; honesty, justice, and uprightness. Anytime these values are tampered with, calamities, even sickness or death might result.
The Igbo people pay so much attention to truth and honesty; therefore, whenever the duo are in conflict with an issue, a man might be required to swear before an oracle. It is a well known fact that the oracle kills the guilty; either at the spot, or after some days, months, years. I might release a treatise on the subject of taking oaths and the oracles, subsequently. Momentarily, we shall lay emphasis on the ‘Ọfọ’
The Ọfọ is a five to six inches staff that stands for the truth, honesty; most importantly, justice. It is not just any stick, it is made from detarium elastica and varies greatly in size depending on who is wielding it and the institution it represents.
Ọfọ is believed to be a symbol of authority, like the mace in a legislative house. Its appearance is respected just as you would respect the modern day legislative mace. Whatever one prays for, holding the Ọfọ and stamping it to the ground, is believed to be established. Like the gravel in the hands of the chief judge or the leader of the legislative house, so is the Ọfọ in the hands of its holder.
Not everyone can hold the Ọfọ. The owner, or the bearer of the Ọfọ must ensure uprightness, honesty, without blames. They must uphold justice at all times and be sure to speak the truth concerning anything that require their opinion. Ọfọ is defiled, and becomes ineffective if its bearer does not possess these values alongside.
Ofo does not go alone, the Ogu is his worthy companion, thus, the two are inseparable, that’s why you hear about ‘ofo na ogu” people rarely mentions the ofo without adding ogu to it.
Ogu, like the ofo, stands for innocence, it is represented also with a shorter stick tied with palm leaves to represent peace and innocence, it is less deadly than the ofo and it is unleashed first before the ofo. The ogu is like a warning, telling you that the ofo will be unleashed anytime if the problem is not settled, the ogu offers a hand of Peace but the ofo comes in when every attempt at peace has failed, this shows the socio cultural functions of the ofo in settling disputes in the society.
The first born male of every family is the bearer of the family’s ofo. His duty is to protect the family and pray for them with the Ọfọ, and if there is any dispute, he settles it amicably.
It will be very important to note that the does not come out only in the times of serious trouble but it is used in general everyday prayers depending on the choice of the bearer.
Every community in Igboland has the community ofo, this ofo is used to pray for the community and it is mostly placed at the oldest man’s house, to show he’s the first born of the community, during crises or wars the community ofo is unleashed , prayed with and stamped to the ground after such prayers to establish what has already being said.
In the ancient times, the Igbo people uses the ofo to choose their leaders, it is believed that the community ofo can never stay in the hands of an irresponsible man or the wrong man, so, during this process the men are required to pick the ofo one after the other and the wrong person has never succeded in lifting the ofo. The size of the community ofo is quite different from the normal family ofo. The community ofo is bigger in size because of the many people it is serving.
A woman can never be the bearer of an Ọfọ, this is not just a law, as no one knows when it was made, but the Igbo women automatically knows their place in the society and does not go beyond it. Whenever the ofo appears or is unleashed it appeals to the people that it is time to say the truth even if the parties has being lying all along, such is the power of the ofo.
Ọfọ is like the staff of office, and its bearers are respected as much as the Ọfọ is values.
In towns like Alor in Anambra state, the king is the “Aka ji ofor Alor” the hand that bears the ofo of Alor.
It is also worthwhile to know, the general Ọfọ of Igboland is at the palace of Gad in Agulueri, Anambra State, which is believed to the head of Igbo towns.
The Ọfọ is still very much in use today; although civilization, Christianity, and colonization has taken heavy tolls on it. The people practicing the Igbo traditional religion uses the ofo and believes so much in it’s efficacy.
Ifesinachi Nnabugwu reporting, Obinwannem News