By Uche Nworah, Ph.D
An aspect of Igbo culture that is dying gradually is that of not according titled men their rights at social functions or during personal visits.
Traditionally, if you invite a titled man to your function, or home, before he eats, you must fulfil an important rights. This goes by different names in many Igbo communities. Some call it ‘Ịkpọ Ngu’. In my home town Enugwu-Ụkwụ, we call it ‘Ina Nni’.
This mark of honour and respect requires presenting the titled man with a tuber of yam, or two, and a chicken. Where the native chicken is not available, the agric chicken can serve also. Where neither yam and chicken are available, this could be monetised too.
This reciprocal traditional practice was captured in this Igbo proverb, ‘Ogalanya jelu mba anụ jụlụ akpa, ọkwa ndi ọna enye nye lụ ya’.
In picture 1, Nze Willie Nwokoye, Ibobo Amawbia presented a live chicken and tuber of yam to me when i visited him at his Amawbia home during the Christmas season in 2020.
In the second picture, another true son of the soil, Fred Chukwuelobe, Ichie Obiekunie na Adazi did the same when i attended his wife’s birthday celebration in Lagos sometime in 2022.
Also, titled men should not be served food in an open place where people will see them eating. Where there is no private place for a titled man to eat, he may decide to go hungry. However, if he must eat, he must first remove his ‘okpu mmemme’ (red cap). In that case, it would be the individual eating, not the titled man.
Finally, you do not present a titled man kolanuts at a function without ‘clothing’ it. Else, it will be regarded that the kolanut is ‘naked’. Kolanuts should be presented alongside token cash. Some Igbo communities do not subscribe to this. The titled man thus presented with the kolanut and accompanying token cash as a mark of honour and respect is at liberty to share the cash with people around him. This promotes conviviality.
It is encouraged that titled men once presented with ‘ego ọji’ should share with some of the people present, for according to an Igbo proverb, ‘Ife afatalu na eze adirọ eju afọ’.
There is no expected minimum or maximum ‘ego ọjị’. These two Igbo proverbs serve as guides; ‘Ka ọra na ewetara onwe ya’, and ‘Nnụkwụ azụ kpata nnụkwụ nkụ, obele azụ kpata obele azụ’.
Igbo Mma Mma Nụ Oh!