Society and Culture

Dominant ideas in Igbo religious philosophy -Chp 4

The relevance of the foregoing Igbo perception of their world to the emotional and psychological levels of the traditional life of the Igbo is of great significance to the argument of this paper. This is because in the daily life of the Igbo, their values and attitudes which they aspire to and exhibit are the direct off-shoot of their dominant religious and philosophical ideas. These ideas include:


Igbo world is principally anthropocentric. It is for this understanding the Igbo say Ndụ bụ isi (life first). Because of the heavy accent which the traditional Igbo place on human life, they go to any length in order to preserve it. As a matter of fact the traditional Igbo attitude to the divinities and ancestors appears on many occasions to be primarily manipulative, as the Igboman moves from shrine to shrine for definite material satisfaction bordering on life, off-spring and health. Igbo traditional prayers {Igọ ọfọ) and sacrifices to the deities are mainly petitionary for the welfare of man. Even when sacrifices are made to malevolent spirits, the only reason for doing so is to ward them off from causing harm. Igbo constantly resort to divination, traditional medicine, magic, the use of protective charms or amulets and initiation into secret cults in order to cope with the uncertainties of life, for protection and progress. Childlessness was considered a threat to life among the Igbo as it hits the very root of that traditional primary value, life.

Thus Igbo traditional religion provides for the people a viable system by which they seek to explain, to predict, and to control all space and time event for the preservation of life. In traditional Igbo society, human life was considered sacred. That it cannot be taken away with impunity. Suicide is considered a most abominable crime against the human society and so any person guilty of suicide is denied formal burial. In most cases when human beings were killed (twin killing and human sacrifice) the traditional Igbo saw such as a fulfillment of convinced religious obligation and for the good of the land. For them, sacrifice was different from killing a fellow human being, for which life must go for life. Nevertheless, the Igbo respect life more than any other ethnic group in Nigeria, because the Igbo respect life, kolanut breaking will always remain for them a celebration of life. Emenanjo (2001) lent emphasis on the great respect the Igbo have for life when he said that in the philosophy of Igbo knowledge the: rural Igbo had very great respect for Ndụ because it comes from God. It is greater than money or wealth. It cannot be foundered by a blacksmith. All things are only useful if they have life.

Let me remind you that it was not a mere coincidence when under the Igbo war commander Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, Biafra (the Igbo) fought a thirty months gruesome war from 1967 to 1970 to preserve the life of the Igbo people. Let me remind you that it was not mere accident when the great Zik of Africa along with other notable Igbo leaders (Dr. Ojike, Dr. Mbadiwe, Dr. Okpara, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, etc) of blessed memory unanimously agreed that “To Restore the Dignity of Man” was to be the motto of the first indigenous University, the University of Nigeria. That motto represents the finest formulation of the finest Igbo minds, the collective affirmation of Igbo faith in the worth and dignity of man. It remains for the Igbo a vision; a mission and a commitment

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