Friday, March 23, 2018



By Anayo M. Nwosu
It was about the second week of November 1907 when the town crier announced that the attention of the adult men and women of the entire Ọkpụnọ Otolo Nnewi community was required at Obi Ezechukwu; that some whitemen needed to address them and to also distribute some gifts to the members of the community.
It was an Orie market day hence many people were in attendance. The meeting conveners must have been advised not to fix the meeting on Nkwo or Eke market days. Nobody would have attended as Ọkpụnọ people didn't play with those two market days.
Reverend Moonlight was very courteous in his gait and was too condescending for a whiteman as he tried to shake the hands of all the titled men in attendance. He could tell the titled men by their red caps adorned with one feather or more depending on their ranks.
The whiteman's interpreter, a fellow Igbo man from Opobo, thrilled the audience with his eloquent interpretation of Rev Moonlight's speech. The natives wondered how long it took him to learn, interpret and speak the whiteman's tongue.
Rev. Moonlight started by telling his audience that he and his organisation were not part of the colonial government; that he came to introduce them to a superior being who created the world and who all human beings must worship. He told them how God sent his only son into the world to save mankind.
After ten minutes, the whiteman paused and asked his assistants to start the distribution of clothes, combs, mirrors, shoes and wrappers. They started from the titled men then to the women and the youths. The visitors ensured that majority of the people in attendance got one item or the other.
The gifts enlivened his audience especially those that got mirrors. For the first time, they could see themselves more clearly, much more than they ever saw themselves as a reflection from Ụbụ stream or from a pool of rain water. Also, the elderly who got wrappers tied them there and then as it was the height of the harmattan season.
When Rev. Moonlight recommenced his message, he had before him a happy audience but he chose the wrong topic.
He decided to tell his audience about 10 Commandments of his God.
All went well until he got to the 6th Commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
"You should not have sexual intercourse with any other woman besides your wife", the whiteman explained to the disapproval of the adult males present.
"Dunu Ụmụagbala, ị na anụkwọ ife nwoke anyarị a na-ekwugheri?" meaning "did you hear the nonsense oozing out of the mouth of that albino", Nzeribe Ámáoké asked his friend.
The 6th Commandment didn't factor in the age long practice of Iko or Agịlị in Igbo land whereby a married woman was expected to have a married male friend known as her Ọyị, Iko or Agịlị.
The female Ọyị or Agịlị had the right to visit her friend at his home without the man's wife raising any eyebrows.
However, male Ọyị, Iko or Agịlị were not encouraged to visit theirs in their husbands' houses. But, no man killed his wife for having a sexual relationship with her Ọyị or Iko.
But the husband must approve of his wife's choice of Ọyị, Iko or Agịlị even as some women might decide not to have any Agịlị or Ọyị expecially the proud, frigid or contented type. But, it was very rare to see a man without an iko or agịlị except "ndị ume ngwụ" or men who ordinarily couldn't do long distance races.

Whenever a man went to market to buy clothes for his wife, he wouldn't fail to buy some for his Agịlị.
The Ọyị, Agịlị or Iko system ensured that no woman became barren because of the inability of her husband to impregnate her. This was in line with Nnewi adage that "onye egbe ya nyụrụ ọkụ e nyere ya aka" meaning "someone would have to help another man whose gun has failed to discharge bullets".
At that time, no greetings or pleasantries was complete without asking a man about his "ezi na ụlọ". Ezi represents the man's Agịlị while Ụlọ represents his immediate household.
Therefore, the elderly men could read the mischief on the face of the Opobo man, the whiteman's interpreter as he kept on shouting "akwana iko ma ọbụ agịlị", "ayịna ọyị"! All meaning, "don't commit adultery"
The interpreter knew quite well that the happiness brought about by material gifts distributed by Rev. Moonlight would soon disappear with the criminality the 6th Commandment would bring to the people's long-term sweet cultural practice of Iko or Agịlị.
During the question and answer session, Dunu Amaoke had the last word, "Rev. Moonlight, I'm glad to hear you say that your God answers prayers. Please ask him and his son to modify the 6th Commandment for us to cover only the unauthorised access to a woman's honeypot without paying bride price or without the husband's consent which in our land is also a taboo. We call it "ije ohi ọtụ" and it is not tolerated.", he paused as he adjusted the feather on his cap.
"I so request because ọkwa mba na-achị na olu na olu", meaning that "because we are different tribes or races, we are bound to have different cultures and shout in different tones", Dunu Amaoke ended to a high sounding applause from all adults present.
By Anayo Nwosu

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