Dominant ideas in Igbo religious philosophy -Chp 4

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Truth as Igbo principle of life

Truth is a noble value in all human culture including the Igbo. Though an important religious and philosophical idea, it has received little attention from scholars. Nze C., (1994.4) has rightly suggested two Igbo words descriptive of truth: eziokwu and ezigbo. Eziokwu is used to represent utterances while ezigbo is used ontologically or materially for substance and entity to mean good, true or genuine. Damian Opata (1998:73-80) in addition referred to the Igbo expressions for truth: ihe mere eme meaning ‘what really happened.’ The Igbo words signifying falsehood or untruth or lie are, okwu asi and asi

In Igbo community onye okwu asi or onye asi are used judgmentally for someone who cannot be trusted, believed or relied upon. Other related Igbo words are used, for instance asiri or onye ogba asiri refer to gossip, rumour mongering or someone who goes about spreading rumours saying what is true or untrue. Such a person is dangerous and that is why Mike Ejeagha’s minstrel maintains that asiri brings misunderstanding among friends and causes instability in family. Chidi Osuagwu’s study on truth in Igbo land is very illuminating. He points out that the Igbo word for truth is ezi. Ezi means correct, order, positive, proper rectitude, genuine, upright or valid. When ezi is used to qualify okwu which is Igbo word for ‘word’ or statement then the word eziokwu becomes what is valid, positive, genuine and truthful. Truth is paramount in Igbo life. Ezi is from the root word zi. From this root, Igbo language generates such words like izi, to show, imezi, to rectify, to correct; ikozi, to explain correctly, to teach; igbazi, to strengthen, ihazi, to arrange, to organize idozi, to order, to arrange, idazi, to fall into place, igozi, to bless, iduzi, to lead aright, ikwazi, to mend, to arrange properly; this word-study is significant and it is deliberately done to emphasize that in Igbo ‘truth’ is order.

In Igbo igha means to scatter. This word links up all chaotic processes as the Igbo see it. Such include aghara, commotion, disorder. Agha means ‘war’, ighasa, to scatter, to spread out; ghaghagha, chaotically bad and igha, to scatter, spread, to lie; onyeaghara, troublemaker, madman. Thus igha means ‘to lie’. To lie in Igbo mind is to cause a thought scattering, a mental disorder. From the above it can be deduced that falsehood is disorder; a disorientation. The traditional Igbo pictured falsehood as simulated disorder, disarray or chaos- generating expression. A liar in Igbo is basically a chaos – generator. Just like eziokwu is okwu dabara adaba, ordered train of thought, falsehood is okwu nadabaghi adaba — a disordered thought. Thus the Igbo picture of ezi is the ordered, the truth, whereas ‘ugha’ is falsehood. In an ugha system only guesses can be made, while the order in an ezi system allows for prediction. Truth is synonymous with order hence its predictability. Falsehood is disorder, amplifying unpredictability. For the Igbo, the notion of truth is so central and important that there are a number of ways in which it is characterized. Among the Igbo it is said:

Eziokwu dika ehihie (efifie). Truth is like noonday

This stresses the fact that truth is self-evident and there is nothing anybody can do to destroy it. That is why the Igbo say:

Anaghị eli eziokwu n’ala -Truth cannot be buried in the ground

This asserts the indestructible character of truth. You cannot suppress it even though the Igbo also say:

Eziokwu na’elu ilu- Truth is bitter.

All traditional societies have a strong moral orientation in their conception of truth. Truth sustains relationships with God, the deities and their fellow men. Truth is paramount in Igbo life and they believe it is what gives life to any society. Traditional Igbo society is built on truth and the basis of this is trust which is primarily dependent on the ability of the individual members to tell the truth to one another. It is the basis of our faith in God and in people. Truth is the foundation of any Igbo community. The greater the tendency to lie in a society, the greater will be the social disorder which no doubt increases the tendency to lie. Thus I share Osuagwu’s insight when he said that:

“A truth – telling society would be a highly ordered society.” “A better ordering of society would enhance the tendency of its members to tell the truth.”
The Igbo use the ọfọ symbol to designate truth and justice as a principle of life. The Igbo say:
Ọfọ ka ide ji awa ala -Truth and justice are the content of life
Oji ọfọ anaghị atọ n’ije- The man of truth is never stranded in a journey

In these sayings, the Igbo are emphasizing the centrality of truth in human relationship, organization and morality. This is further made obvious in the Igbo saying:

Ezi okwu bụ ndụ- Truth is life
The philosophy of the Igbo founding fathers of the University of Nigeria shows that in order to restore the dignity of man and protect life you must seek the truth, teach the truth and preserve the truth.
The commitment to Truth is a fundamental Igbo philosophy without which there would be neither regard nor respect for human life and dignity.

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