by Prezi, Isaac Enetimi
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Faculty of Social Science Niger Delta University
This study is concerned with Christian religion and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs with particular reference to religion, marriage, deaths and burials socioeconomic livelihood, crafts, festivals, and rites of passage using selected communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area. The study reviewed different literatures as related to the study and also used the globalization and diffusion theories to give explanation to the phenomenon under study. The study adopted the Historical and exploratory research design and three communities were purposively selected with thirty (30) persons as the sample size to represent the entire Ekeremor L.G.A. However, the study used in-depth interview schedule to elicit information from respondents as a primary source of data collection and using textbooks, journals, internet etc. as the secondary source. And the findings of the study were presented, analyzed and discussed using the qualitative content analysis method. From the findings, the study came to a conclusion that Christian religion has greatly contributed to the loss of Ijaw traditions and customs. Nevertheless, there are still some traditions and customs existing irrespective of the influence of Christianity due to some factors such as the people’s strong belief, their local ties and the richness of some of the Ijaw traditions and customs. And lastly recommendations were made to preserve the traditions and customs of Ijaw people as well as to exist side-by-side with Christian Religion. Some of such recommendations as the inclusion of Ijaw Language in the School Curriculum and creation of tourist centers. The implications of the results and suggestion for further studies were made.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Christian religion is the world largest religion. It is a monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role Jesus as Saviour .(Farlex Clipart, 2003-2012). A religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Most forms of Christianity hold that Jesus is the Son of God and is the second person of the Trinity through whom humans may attain redemption from sin. (Collins 2003). The religion, Christianity, has widely spread to every part of the world, and this spread has gone into the fabric of the traditions and customs of many society where it is embraced or accepted.
Religion plays a very significant role in the lives of people all over the world. Before the emergence and acceptance of the major religious practices of Christianity, which emphasizes a rather direct relationship with God, natural phenomena and man’s activities on earth were purely guided by beliefs in supernatural beings as manifestations of natural’s mightiness. (Woyengidinikpete G.Y. 2006).
The people of Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State (Ijaw) were therefore originally traditionalist. Nevertheless, the concept and acceptance of God as the creator had never been in doubt in any of the sub-religions. This is why every Izon dialect has a specific name for God. Thus, they worshipped God through many deities, signifying various aspects of life. There are deities for survival, good health, productivity, fertility, farming, fishing, thunder, war and many more. The most conspicuous and universally accepted ‘god of war’ is the “Egbesu” that is still widely practiced though Christianity had almost eradicated this practice. (Ibid).
The spiritual culture of the Izon can be traced back to the ancient city of Annu or Onnu. This city was a major theological centre of ancient Egypt and ancient Africa, and even the ancient world. It was also one of the main intellectual centres that was the foundation of ancient African spiritual culture. Annu was a centralized cultivation of the creative attributes or aspects of the Supreme Being in the form of Tem the Almighty creator, his female counterpart Temeta, the supreme intelligence, ‘Atum’ and his energy/power aspects known as ‘Ra’. In modern Izon, these terms have survived in the form of Teme-owei or Temuno (Tem) Tamara (Temeta) Aduma (Atum) and Urau (Ra) just because of the advent of Christianity in the area. (Ibid). Christianity holds the belief that God is a man and not a woman as recorded in Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image….” Hence, Christianity has influenced the traditions and customs of Ijaw ranging from their mode of dressing, birth and naming, Adulthood initiation-male and female circumcision, marriage, music and dance-Egele, sports, deaths and burials etc.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The Niger Delta (Ijaw) was one of the areas in the West Africa sub-region where Christianity was successfully planted with relative ease. Christianity is gradually overtaking and replacing traditional religions and cultural practices with about 60 percent of the population practicing Christianity many just do not bother about religious worships and other traditional practices. Other forms of religion such as Islam, Buddhism, etc. are practically non-existence among the indigenous Izons. (Woyengidinikpete G.Y. 2006).
The spread of Christianity met with very little resistance, apparently because the British who brought the Bible also brought an economic agenda. It was however, not a smooth sail for missionaries who had to contend with traditional rites and practices which indigenes could not easily discard, such as human sacrifice to deities and the killing of twins. The missionaries sought the assistance of traditional rulers who wielded enormous power and influence and commanded respect from their subjects thus, the rapid growth of Christianity in Nigeria and specially in Ijaw has made the problem of loss of Ijaw traditions and customs much more demanding than ever from the view of religion and theology. Christianity has wielded great influence among the Ijaws in general and the people of Ekeremor L.G.A of Bayelsa State. In fact, it is said that the population of Christians overrides any other religion. The influence of this world religion has however diminished the respect given to ancient religious and cultural practices. This influence has caused certain customs and beliefs to be discarded or modified. Christian activities which affected the destruction of twins, cannibalism and other obnoxious religious practices deserve praise and commendation.
However, it is undeniable that Christians have played negative cultural role in their religious zeal. For instance, Christian missionaries seemed to assume that African’s (Ijaw) world was created by an imperfect god. The Ijaw personality would have been debilitated and emptied had the churches gone to disallow the use of Ijaw names for baptism. The continuous insistence on the use of European names for baptism by the Ijaws would be ruinous. The young generation of Ijaw prefer the English names and language to the Ijaw names and language. Children do not even speak the Ijaw language at home and even most bayelsan parents prefer using the English Language or pidgin to speak with their children at home. The world religion, Christianity has actually influenced and contributed to the loss of certain traditions and customs of Ijaw which were cherished. (Ogbu U.K, 1978).
Hence, the prestige, value and honour of the Ijaw culture have been tempered, as Christianity became the most cherished religion. The young generation do not know or know little about the actual Ijaw culture (traditions and customs) because it was not transmitted to them. There were certain traditional practices such as festivals, rituals and cultural gatherings, which were a unifying force among the Ijaw people but now they have been discarded. Therefore, this research or study is embarked on for the purpose of these problems.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1. To examine the pre-Christian traditions and customs of Ijaw people
2. To investigate how has the advent of Christianity affected the traditions and customs of Ijaw people
3. To examine the forces that have ensured the survival of the Ijaw traditions and customs irrespective of the influence of Christianity.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What are the pre-Christian traditions and customs of Ijaw people?
2. How has the Advent of Christianity affected the traditions and customs of Ijaw People?
3. What are the forces that have ensured the survival of the Ijaw traditions and customs irrespective of the influence of Christianity?
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The gradual and spontaneous disappearance or loss of most of the Ijaw traditions and customs (culture) that were much cherished vehemently calls for a research of this nature. Therefore, the significance of this study is to provide historical and ethno-graphical account of the traditions and customs of Ijaw from pre-Christianity era to present. One of it is to provide an insight into the changes that have occurred in Ijaw traditions and customs because of Christianity. The study also has both theoretical and practical significance. Thus, theoretically, this study shall immensely contribute to the existing knowledge in this area for students and researchers who may have interest in this aspect of socio-cultural development inquiry and maintenance of Ijaw traditions and customs (culture).
On the other hand, practically, the findings of this research will be of great importance to Ijaw people and nation for the maintenance, preservation and continuity of the traditions and customs (culture) from generation to generation so that the unity and common values, norms, and beliefs of the people will not totally fade away or be discarded for the nation to be forgotten of its cultural prestige.
Finally, this research in partial shall fulfil the requirement for the award of the degree Bachelor of Science(B.sc) in the Department of sociology, Niger Delta University.
1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The delimitation or boundary (Scope) of this study is limited to the confines of selected communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Therefore, data are to be collected from this part of the state (Ijaw) via individual in-depth interviews, structured interviews, focus groups, written records and oral histories and observation. This study will clearly focus on Christian religion and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs.
1.5 ORGANIZATION OF STUDY
This study is organized in five chapters, chapter one provides an overview of the necessary background or context for the research problem. Chapter two presents the literature review and theoretical framework; chapter three treats the methodology and methods used in gathering data, while chapter four presents data presentation and analysis. The last chapter, five, focuses on the conclusion and recommendation made on the study.
1.6 CONCEPTUAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Christian Religion: Christian religion or Christianity is a religion that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the belief that he is the son of God.
Ijaw: Ijaw (also known by the sub-groups “Ijo” or “Izon”) are a collection of peoples indigenous mostly to the forest regions of the Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States within the Niger Delta in Nigeria.
Traditions: These are the parts of culture that are passed from person to person or generation to generation in a group or society.
Customs: these are the socially accepted ways in which people do things together in personal contacts.
Customs and Tradition: This refers to the customs or accepted social behaviour of a particular group of people. It is the traditional practices and moral values of a particular society or group of people.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE/THEORETICAL FRAME WORK
There is so much written on the history, customs and traditions (culture) of the Niger Delta (Ijaw) particularly, the Eastern section by historian and social scientist that have researched into the general history of the sub-region. Apart from that, other scholars have also written in relation to this topic-Christian religion and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs. Thus, in this chapter their various works on this is worthy of appraisal.
2.1 A BRIEF TRADITIONAL ORIGIN OF IJAW
Written history about the origin of the of the people is scanty. Reliance is more on oral history. One documented version on the origin of Izon by S.K Owonaru is that Ijo was the first son of Oduduwa, the ancestral founder of the Yoruba in western Nigeria. Extra-ordinary strength, virility, and stubbornness led to his being exiled from the kingdom about 600 BC. Ijo was however directed to take charge of the estuary of the river Niger where little was known then. He would only return to Ile-efe upon the death of his father to inherit the throne. Unfortunately, Ijo could not be traced after Oduduwa’s death because he was already in the difficult and nearly inaccessible creeks of the Niger Delta. (Woyengidinikpete G.Y. 2006).
The term Ijaw is the Anglicized version of Ijo a variation of (Ijor or Ojo, the ancestor who gave the Izon people their name. Other modern variations include Izon (Ijon) and (Izon (Ujoin) meaning the same thing-other names referring to Izon people are Uzo (at Benin), the original ancestral name Oru (in Ijaw and Ibo and) and Kumoni (in Ijaw). These were applicable through the Niger Delta and its environs and are noted by early British visitors. (Alagoa E. J. 1964).
The original collective names for the ancestors of the Ijos were “Kumoni” and “Oru”, survivals of the ancient terms of the ancient Nile valley civilization of Khem or Kemetu (ancient Egypt) and Kush (ancient Sudan). The Kumoni-oru derived from via Ife, while the Oru derived from ancient Sudan. Now the earliest ancestors of the Ijos, the “Orus” or “Tobu-otu” migrated from the lake chad aquatic civilization of Daima region (C5000-2000 BCE). Their settlement in the delta was from the earliest of times. Unfortunately not much is known about this period, only that traditionally it is said that these early ancestors “dropped from the sky” (i.e. to say the Orus were of divine origin), and were devotees of spiritual culture that made much use of the waters (hence the mermaid and water people legends “Beni-otu). They were later to be joined by other ancestors “Kumoni-orus” from about 400 CE, and 650 CE (AD), who, after settling first in the Nupe and Borgu regions, then the Ile-ife region, moved to the Benin region then eventually settled and launched expeditions into the Niger Delta, where they came across remote settlements of the Orus, whom they termed “ancient people”. But because they were also ultimately Oru, from the beginning they established communities as one people. The Ijos were known by two names of Kumoni or Oru up till the time of the 19th century. European visitors noted the name Oru as a distinct term for Ijaw. Likewise the compilers of the Izon/English dictionary noted that “to speak Kumoni is to speak pure Izon language” . The term Ijo (Ijaw) or Izon evolved as the name of the whole ethnic nationality through time, even though as a personal name derived from one ancestor who was known as Ujo, represents the time when the Ijos evolved as a distinct separate people from their neighbours. (Owonaru S.K, opcit, P118).
The origin of the Ijos has lots of different opinions, some anthropologists say from East Africa. Some say they are from a district around Nupe Province in Northern Nigeria and some say that the Ijos came from Benin. In general the Ijos themselves believe that they came from Benin and in fact most of their traditional stories and folklores refer to Benin. If we should assume the belief that the Ijos came from Benin according to the natives it might be that the Ijos left Benin far earlier than any other tribe from Benin (Neiketien P.B, 1941).
2.2 CONCEPTUAL MMEANING OF RELIGION AND CHRISTIAN RELIGION (CHRISTIANITY)
Man, the Social Animal, is also a religious or spiritual being. Religion is a major concern of man. It is one of the earliest and the deepest interest of the human beings. Religion is universally permanent, pervasive and perennial interests of man. Man not only, has biological, economic and social needs, but also, what is known as a religious need. He has religious quest which makes him to become restless even beyond the satisfaction of his basic physical needs. Hence the biblical is saying, man cannot live by bread alone. It is also said that man from the earliest times has been incurably religious. (Shanka Rao C.N. 2012).
Religion is not a phenomenon of recent emergence. Its beginning is unknown. It is dateless. Some artifacts and evidences of the burial practices of Neanderthal man indicate that human being was a religious creature long before history began. The institution of religion is universal it is found in all the societies, past and present. Religious beliefs and practices are, however, far from being uniform. Laws, Customs, conventions and fashions, etc. are not only means of social control. Overriding than all, are religion and morality which formulate and shape all of them. They are not only the most influential forces of social control, but also the most effective guides of human behaviour. The social life of man in addition to its economic, political, philosophical, scientific and other aspects, has also the religious aspect. Not only religion has been in existence from the beginning but also it has been exerting a tremendous influence upon other institutions. Religion dogmas have influenced and conditioned economic endeavours, political movements, property dealings, educational tasks, ideological fervours scientific inventions and artistic developments. Religion, which is based on the cultural needs of men, has added new dimension to human life and human development. (Ibid).
Religion revolves round man’s faith in the supernatural forces. Religion is a concrete experience which is associated with emotions, especially with fear, awe, or reverence. Many societies have a wide range of institutions connected with religion and a body of special officials, with forms of worship, ceremonies, sacred objects, tithes, pilgrimages, and the like. Further, the world religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – are really centres of elaborate cultural systems that have dominated ‘whole’ societies for centuries (Shanka Rao C.N.2012).
Religious beliefs of one sort or another are present in every known society, but their variety seems to be endless. Any definition of religion must encompass this variety. However, it is difficult to produce a definition broad enough to do so without incorporating phenomena that are not normally adopted in tacking this issue those that rely upon functional definitions and those use substantive definition.
One way of defining religion is to see it in terms of functions it performs for society or individuals. An example of this approach is provided by Yinger, who defined religion as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of life. (Ibid).
By number of adherents, Christianity is the major world religion of today. Christianity 2billion; Roman Catholicism 1.1 billion, Protestantism 360 million, Eastern Orthodoxy 220 million, Anglican: 84 million and others: 280 million (adherents.com, updated 2005).
Other approaches are based upon substantive definition, that is, they are with the content of religion rather than its function or purpose (Ibid).
For example, Durkheim defined it as: A unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things… beliefs and practices which unite into a single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them (Ekpenyong , 2003)
However, most sociologists would agree that religion refers to shared patterns of beliefs and behaviours that in some way relate people to the supernatural (Ekpenyong, 2003). Moreover, having considered the meaning of religion let us turn to the conceptual meaning Christian religion (Christianity) as considered by scholars.
CHRISTIAN RELIGION (CHRISTIANITY) A CONCEPTUAL MEANING
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The God of Christianity is a supreme being, his word is the ultimate truth, his power is omnipotent. Its followers worship him and praise him and live by his commandments. (Haralambos &Holborn, 2004)
Many Judaic views were taken over and incorporated as part of Christianity. Jesus was an orthodox Jew and Christianity began as a sect of Judaism, though it is not clear that Jesus wished to found a distinctive religion. His disciples came to think of him as the Messiah-a Hebrew word meaning ‘The anointed’ the Greek term for which was ‘Christ’- awaited by the Jews. Paul, a Greek Speaking Roman citizen, was a major initiation of the speed to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership. In the Greek Septuagint, Christo was used to translate the Hebrew (Masiah, Messiah), meaning (one who is) anointed’. In other European languages, equivalent words to Christian are likewise derived from the Greek, such as Chretien in French and Cristiano in Spanish. (Bickerman 1949 p.145).
Christianity is a religion based on the life, teachings, death by crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament. Although Christians are monotheistic, the one God is thought, by most Christians to exist in three divine persons, called the trinity. Most Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God and the Messiah of the Jews as prophesied in the old Testament (or Hebrew Bible). According to other traditions, however, Jesus is thought to be a human messiah that instructs his followers to worship God alone. (http:/ien.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity).
THE TERM CHRISTIAN
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The term “Christian” derives from the Koine Greek word Chris (Xploxog) a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term Meshiah. Etymotigically, the Greek word Xpiosavoc (christianos) meaning “follower of Christ”, comes from XpioTOc (christos), meaning “Anointed one”, which an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering with the ultimate problem of human life’ (quoted in Hamiton 1995) (Haralambos & Holborn 2004).
2.3 A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN IJAW LAND
Several reasons were advanced as motives behind Europeans’ interest and subsequent incursion into Africa. These reasons included among others, political and strategic factors, the psychological and cultural factors. In all these, the cultural factors were most closely related to this discourse.
In the pre-colonial period, especially during the period of European imperialism, many Christian adherents and adventurers desired to spread Christianity to other parts of the world as an advancement of European/Christian civilization to others. During the 19th century, Christian missionaries were keen to spreading Christianity, and also “encouraged” philanthropists and humanitarians who wanted to abolish unchristian customs in past of Africa. In west Africa, the church missionary society founded in 1799 in England, which was the evangelical arm of the church of England (Anglican communion)made its inroad to many parts, using Sierra Leon as a base and outreach station. The arrow-head that spearheaded the work of the CMS in this region was an Oshogbo-Yoruba Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
The biography of Samuel A. Crowther was closely associated with the inhuman slave trade in the west coast of Africa. Crowther was captured and sold as a slave to European slave merchants. However, by the dint of Luck, he was “recaptured” by the British naval anti-slave squadron and sent to Sierra Leone. This opened a new chapter in the life of Crowther. He went through various educational and theological training before becoming a clergy in the Anglican Church. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, apart from being very religious was also dedicated, committed and vibrant in his evangelical mission. He became the first African Bishop to pastor the region of the Niger Delta. It was the CMS of England under the aegis of Bishop Samuel Crowther that the first Christian mission was established in Bonny in 1865 in the Niger Delta. It is necessary to note that the first Christian mission established its first station at Akassa but faded away due to demographic factors. (Ama-ogbari O.C.C. 2014)
Bishop Samuel A. Crowther was instrumental to the establishment of the Twon-Brass station. On September 29, 1867 the Bishop and his son, Dandeson were traveling in a boat from Ida after their deliverance from the hand of chief Abokkho and met king Josiah Constantine Ockiya, Amanyanabo of Nembe at a point near Akassa. King Ockiya was said to have appealed to the Bishop in these words “God-man the troy way you been to tell at Bonny come put for my country” (quoted in Eke-Spiff, 1990). This was an open invitation to establish a Christian mission in his town. The Bishop accepted and set in motion returned and met Ockiya and his chiefs at Twon where he concluded agreement with them. The chiefs contribute £200 being one third of the amount required for the project. A site was provided at the river bank and cleared, and the second station in the Niger Delta and first in the central Niger Delta was established at Twon Brass on the 25th of August 1868. The school was on adjunct of the church was established on the same day. Seventy persons attended the opening service and seventeen students were enrolled at the school J.R Dewing and S.B. prided, the resident at Akassa came to Twon-Brass alternatively to supervise the work fortnightly. Later, Thomas Johnson was appointed as permanent superintendent. Rev. Thomas Johnson served the Brass mission for about sixteen years and died on the 14th of April 1884, and was buried in the mission yard at Twon-Brass. (Eke-Spiff, 1990).
The church was thus planted at Twon-Brass initially, the church building was constructed with bamboo pole and thatch roof. Later a wooden structure was erected, covered with galvanized sheets. The building was dedicated by Bishop Crowther on the 21st of October, 1869. A mission house was also erected, part of which served as classroom for the pupils. In 1875 it became necessary to expand the church and in 1877 the enlarged chapel was dedicated and the same “saint Barnabas” was officially ascribed to the church. (Ama-ogbari, 2007). In 1886 the church imported a prefabricated iron church from England which was fitted and dedicated on the 10th of October, 1886. This mission at its inception was confined to Twon, but was extended to Nembe and its environs, which were for a long time noted as the most successful mission in the Niger Delta.
In 1879 shortly before his death king Ockiya destroyed his traditional images, sent away his numerous wives but one and was baptized as Josiah Constantine. However, William Fredrick Koko who became king in 1889 publicly renounced his former Christian faith at his coronation. In 1895, at about the time of the raid on the Royal Niger Company depot at Akassa. Brass chiefs explained that changes in their religious stand as follow: “some years ago the Christians have now gone back to fetishism, among these king Koko, the reason for this being that they had lost faith in the white man’s God, who had allowed them to be oppressed and their trades, their only means of livelihood to be taken away from them without just cause or reason (quoted in Isichei 1983).
Beside the establishment of Christianity at Nembe, the church missionary society sipped to Okpoam where a church was founded and in 1921 got to Egwema-Amoagbo in cape Formosa Island. In 1922 the church missionary society opened a station at Egwema and from there gradually spread to the other towns and villages on cape Formosa Island and Akassa (Ama-Ogbari 2014).
THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY OUTSIDE TWON BRASS
As Christianity spread to many Nembe speaking areas, the Ogbia and Ijaw areas were also evangelized. Twon-Brass Christians who were itinerant traders carried the word of God long. These traders built places of worship in their host communities and worshipped, abstaining from any form of manual labour on service days. Although the Nembe Christians traders invited their Ogbia and Ijaw customers to join these worships, their lost hardly obliged. However, from 1910 the acceptability of Christianity in these areas was not in doubt. The spontaneous spread and acceptance of the Christian religion in the Ogbia area was fantastic and overwhelming. In the Kolo Creek area it was Amos Ojoko-a Nembe trader who pioneered missionary activities. Rev. D.O Ockiya when informed that Ogbia had accepted Christianity visited the towns of Okoroba, Idema, Opumatubu and later the towns in Kolo creek and Anyama in 1911. Much later Christianity also penetrated to places such as Saka Kugbo, towns and vilalges in Epie creek such as Opolo, Okutukutu, Agudama, Biogbolo, etc. and also Okordia, Zarama and Besani in the Taylor creek region.
In the Ijaw area of the lower central Delta, Christianity started gaining ground around from 1912 when Rev. S.S Williams, the pastor in charge of the Twon-Brass station occasionally went on missionary duties at Ekowe, which had Rev. James Claud Ikalamo (them a layman) as its superintended. The rapid establishment and growth of many stations in this area made a team of missionaries comprised of D.E. Spiff, George F. Sambo and others to constantly visit this area for evangelism. As a result of the rapid increase in the churches and the enthusiasm exhibited by the converts, it was authorized to have its parish church council (P.C.C) meetings which were supervised by the Brass District. This situation remained until it was merged with the upper Central Niger-Delta Ijaw C.M.S to form a district of its own. The headquarters was sited at Kaiama and Rev. G.I. Amangala became its first superintended. The Rev. H Proctor and J.C.R Wilson were the European missionaries that evangelized in the upper Ijaw region from their base at Brass. Kaiama was its headquarters while Patani served as the Headquarters overseeing the Isoko District. In 1904 the Revds. H. Proctor and T.C.R Wilson were the European missionaries that evangelized in the upper Ijaw region from their base at Brass. Kaiama was its Headquarters while Patani served as the Headquarters overseeing the Isoko District. In 1904 the Revds. H. Proctor and T.C.R Wilson left Brass and finally settled at Patani and Kaiama respectively. (Ama-ogbari, 2014).
Christianity spread to the Ekeremor Local Government axis through the missionary works of Revd. H. Proctor, in 1904. The seed was sown in the area known as Isampou about the year 1914 by David Kudowei Ekiye, who was fishing at Angalabiri and kaiama Towns at that time. When he brought the gospel to Isampou, the people were neck-deep in darkness because of some of their idolatrous cultures/traditions, such as the killing of twins masquerade festivals, and sacrifices to unknown spirit/deities and gods just to mention but a few. This act affected the spread of the gospel tremendously but because the man Pa David Kudowei Ekiye was zealous, strong and spiritually grounded, despite all the difficulties and odds, he said, “we must conquer our motherland, for this is where God has placed us either by divine intervention or selection by our ancestors. We are not going to run away; we must stay here and turn this place to a paradise”. According to Adere (Oral interview, 2013) “Pa David Kudowei Ekiye had a big heart like Paul in the Bible in his time, hence he could, despite all the cultural odds, make such an impact of establishing a church filled with men of big hearth”. His first message was accompanied with miraculous signs, such as healing a man who had been sick for five (5) years among others. This move brought about many to receive the new Christian faith and this was how Christianity came into Isampou. (A documentary of the history of St. Luke’s Anglican Church Isampou)
The initial administration of the church started from Kaiama District from 1914 to 1967, under various headships such as Rev Buseri, Revd. Amangala & Revd. Apah, as recorded in the church preachers’ Book. For reasons perhaps due to political affinity, the church left kaiama District for Patani District in Benin Diocese from 1968-1979.
The church (St. Luke’s Anglican Church Isampou) was the first church in the Bolou Turu (the Ekeremor axis). Evang. Cornelius Adam Igbudu with his team of crusaders (Anglican Adams Preaching society) (A.A.P.S) visited the church and his evangelism made the church to get converts on daily basis in 1970-1978. The church in turn went out for Evangelism in neigboring vilages and beyond and new church stations were opened which include: the church in Tuomo 1973 Aleibiri 1974, Obirigbene 1978, Ekeremor 1979, Ojobo 1988, Peretorugbene 1989, Toru-Ndoro 1992, etc. this was how Christianity spread in the area and now it is dominating in the whole of Ijaw Land (A documentary, history of St. Luke’s Anglican Church Isampou 2014)
2.4 THE IMPACT OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION ON IJAW CULTURE
There has been various ways Christianity has impacted on the cultural practices of Ijaw people. The advent of Christianity in parts of Africa (Ijaw), there has been huge changes in the amount of superstition. Traditional, animist religion saw humans as being subject to whims of local gods. People saw phenomena such as weather, disease and human fate as subject to the whims of various gods. There were many taboos intended to influence such superstitious beliefs. Under these pagan beliefs such activities as drunkenness, sexual immorality, sexual abuse and violence were rampant. Africa today, (particularly the Ijaw of Bayelsa State which 95%(percent) are Christians) is moving away from these superstitions. Under the influence of Christianity, education, personal responsibility, personal morality and individual freedom are all improving. Of course, the picture is not all rosy. Africa, and specially Nigeria (Ijaw) is subject to many problems, including corruption, greed, continued sexual immorality and violence. Christianity has clearly not completely taken hold in Africa of Course, it has not in Europe or North America as well. (John O. 2008).
“Christianity is responsible for the way our society is organized and for the way we currently live so extensive is the Christian contribution to our laws our economics, our politics, our arts, our calendars, our holidays, had our moral and cultural priorities (practices) that historian J.M Robberts writes in Triumph of the West, ‘We could none of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, dead, and buried and then rise again’. (from the book what’s so Great about Christianity by Dinesh D’souza).
However, it is true that the traditional religious practices of the African (Ijaw) are anthropocentric in the sense that all the religious practices invariably point to one objective, namely, human life and its preservation. Prayers and sacrifices offered to the gods and the ancestors all have one end in view, namely, the welfare of man ( Ezeanya S.N.1976). However, it was not until the advent of Christianity and its interaction with the native culture that the extended family system took on macro-dimensions. All human beings, irrespective of race or ethnic origin, are seen and accepted as members of this extended family, that is, as children of God and hence members of one family. In other words, man is now given his value simply because he is man, and is not discriminated against because he hails from a different area. Some aspects of African culture have been civilized by wholesome interaction with Christian values, which have had a purificatory effect. It is due to Christianity that today twin babies are no longer destroyed, that their mothers are no longer tabooed and ostracized, that the practice of local slave trade, child-kidnapping and human sacrifices have been dropped, and that the frequent local community feuds and bloody clashes have been immensely reduced or, in some localities, even totally abandoned. (Canon E.I 1982).
Religious intolerance is more manifest in the dealings of Christianity with such aspects of Ijaw culture as marriage. Almost all the Christian churches have refused to recognize polygamy within the Ijaw context. Others refuse interdenominational marriages involving their members. The Ijaws regard polygamy as a healthy institution, which issues respect for husbands and love for wives, assures social security, and checks flirting or prostitution. The insistence of Christianity on monogamy is an arbitrary imposition without adequate consideration of the raison d’etre of the traditional institution of polygamy, which sustains the extended family patterns and assures continuity, the bedrock of the traditional ancestral worship. Hence, the introduction of the white wedding by the church, has added more expenses on the already expensive marriage the Ijaw people have. (Canon E.I 1982).
The Ijaw practice is to bury an elderly person soon after death with preliminary ceremonies; after a year or more the second burial takes place with more vigorous and detailed ceremonies (Tibisin or Tumor). It is the second burial which helps the spirit of the departed individual to join and rest happily with the ancestors in the land of the ancestral bliss. Without it the spirit of the living of the departed hovers about in the air and may harm its kindred living members. But once the second burial is performed, the spirit of the departed assumes his place in the land of ancestral ecstasy where he can plead affectively with the gods for the well-being of the members of his family. And again female circumcision now derogatorily called ‘female genital mutilation in izon land is being gradually discouraged. And also some masquerade festivals in most communities in izon land has been discarded all due to the teaching of Christian values by the church in the area. The tremendous impacts of Christian religion on Ijaw culture have been crystal clear. Ignorance and superstition have been put to flight after contact with Christianity. (Woyengidinikpete G.Y. 2006).
2.5 SOME CULTURAL/RELIGIOUS PRACTICES BEFORE THE ADVENT OF CHRISTIANITY IN IZON LAND
Residents of Bayelsa State (Ijaw) spin fascinating tales about under water towns and celebrate their watery environment by staging regattas, fishing festivals, and masquerades that bring fantastic aquatic being of life. Their art and rituals reflects the Niger Delta’s fascinating history as well as its unique riverine landscape. Reports of warfare and piracy feature prominently in both local histories and the accounts of early European visitors to the region. Images of spirit wearing top hats and wielding weapons recalls a time when clan war gods conferred titles on proud warriors; other types of spirit emblems including bronze bells, tableware, and plastic doll-recall the recall’s long involvement with foreign and domestic trade.
Although numerous traditions have been abandoned or altered as the population has become increasingly Christian, Bayelsa State has many vital art forms, as well as a rich artistic heritage. The following account focuses on the arts of the central Ijo and their immediate western Ijo neighbours. The Nembe Ijo have similar forms and practices, although their masking societies correspond more closely to those of the Kalabari, an Eastern Ijo group in neighbouring Rivers State. The arts of other peoples living in the region have yet to be documented, but promise to be as richly varied as those of the Ijo. (Martha G. Anderson cited in E.Y. Alagoa 1999).
According to traditional Ijo beliefs, human beings originate as disembodied spirits, or teme in the realm of the creator, Wonyinghi (‘Our mother’), and return there after dying. While awaiting birth, people often establish relationships with nature Spirits (Oru, or Orumo ‘the spirits’), who may later wish to join them on earth. Before leaving the spirit world, each person seals an agreement with wonyinghi that not only determines the course of their lives, but even specifies the way they will die.
Wonyinghi has little to do with daily affairs, yet appears to be more responsive to human appeals than other African creator deities. Some communities perform festivals in her honour. In addition, diviners sometimes address problems attributed to an unfortunate destiny by performing a ritual called Zibe bari in an attempt to revoke the original birth agreement and replace it with a more favourable one. Wonyinghi lives so far from off in the sky that no one knows what she looks like, so shrines like the one at Lobia in Bassan Ibe sometimes represent her with a type of staff and stool combination that can also serve for other spirits. Songs portray her as an old woman dressed in white, a colour associated with purity, wealth, and the spirit world. (E.J. Alagoa, 1999).
NATURE SPIRITS (BUSH & WATER SPIRITS)
Most people loose contact with the spirit world and must consult diviners in order to learn why they are experiencing problems like infertility, ill health, or bad fortune. Diviners whose nature contacts enable them to ‘see’ into the spirit world, may attribute problems to other agents, including ancestors and witches, but most rituals focus on nature spirits, most shrines are devoted to them, and virtually all carvings depict them. The ijo even claim to have acquired masquerades, dances and funerary rites from this anti-social, but creative beings.
The contrasting appearance and behaviour of two types of nature spirits reflect differences in the way the ijo perceive their respective realms: both can kill people for trespassing on their territory or resisting their demands, but water spirits(Bini oru) tend to be playful and beneficent in comparison to the volatile and malicious bush spirits(Bou oru) who roam the forest. Water spirits who have assumed human form tend to be beautifully, fair skinned beings with long flowering hairs, bush spirits tend to be grotesquely ugly, deformed or handicapped creatures, with very dark skin and messy hair. The two even specialise in the benefits they offer: people sometimes approach water spirits to ask for children and money, they consult bush spirits to ask for protection and for help, especially in water and wrestling competitions. Like many of their neighbours, the ijo associate water spirits with ‘imported’ manufactured items as well as with things that are bright and shining, the conception on of water spirits as wealthy foreigners may as well predate overseas trade, for the ijo envision under water towns where articles lost in the rivers accumulates making water spirits immensely wealthy. They believe that these largely benevolent beings can bestow children and ensure financial success, particularly in fishing and trading.
Major water spirits seldom designate carved figures as their emblems, though a few choose to materialise as masquerade headpieces. Even prominent spirits like Bini Kurukuru, who is worshiped in several locations in the region, many require only a cloth curtain or a divination ladder as shrine furnishings. Adumu(Omumu or Azuma), who is manifestation of python, is an exception. Though his shines depict him as a water spirit, he also has a bush or land aspects, which may explain his preference for figure carvings, people now describe Adumu as the patron of traders, but his original role seems have been as patron of fisher man(E.J. Alagoa 1999).
IJO MASKING TRADITION
The ijo credit water spirits with introduction of masquerades. Spirits may approach people while they fish or travel by chance order them to perform masquerades, then return in dreams to teach them songs and dance steps. A story was recorded in Olodiama recalls the Kalabari legend of Ekineba, because it includes an addiction:
A man known as kpenghada, (who) was fishing in the Cameroons, wasn’t seen for seven days when he reappeared, he told the people who had been looking for him that he was taking by water spirits, who taught him how to dance a masquerade. He returned to Ondewari, where he called the elders together to inform them of the water peoples ultimatum that he must perform the masquerade or he dies. They carved the mask out of wood and he performed the (Ofurumo or shark) play, just as we are performing it now. Alternatively, people claim that their ancestors observed water spirits performing on water banks, stole their masks and drums, then return to their villages to stage the plays there.
MASQUERADES AND THE IJO CULTURE
Symbolism relating to warfare and violence pervades masquerades. Though most maskers only play at being blood thirsty spirits, they carry weapons and spend a good deal of their time chasing spectators. Headpieces often represent predatory fish, menacing reptiles, and composite ‘water monsters’ they have names like fanu pele (fence cutter), angala pele (mangrove cutter), pelekere-biye guru (when it cuts it is happy), bighebighe pele (‘cut without inquiring’) etc. which reinforce the idea that they are ready to attack anyone who gets in their way. Their drum tittles, like those of ijo warriors communicate qualities like strength, vindictiveness, and invisibility. For example, Eleke, the most powerful mask in the region is praised as Toni Seighe seighe bite; the cloth that does not fade; his son is called Indikoribo siko korighe, ‘you cannot catch a fish by the fin’, the slave bears the tittle of Omini loloa seibi, ‘a slaves vexation knows no limit’. Though highly entertaining, these performances communicate messages about socially acceptable behaviour. (E.J. Alagoa 1999).
Performers draw on a variety of dramatic devices to portray water spirits as unruly beings under the precarious control of drummers, dance demonstrators, and attendants. Each performance incorporates certain songs, dance steps and tableaux, but allows for a great deal of improvisation.
Many communities stage dry season fishing in connection with sacred lakes. Traditionally, these take place at intervals of three or seven years and include offerings at shrines, as well as drum calls to warn spirits living inside lakes to leave, so that none will be killed. Although the event no longer seems to involve much ritual importance, residents of Osiama in oyakiri still perform a festival for lake Adigbe, it begins with a masquerade that averts evil by harnessing the power of a voracious tiger fish that once devastated the lake.
Traditionally, ijo clans where united primarily by war Gods who required annual festivals. Although most have been abandoned, some groups have continued to maintain shrines. In the late seventies, a festival held at Olobiri in honour of Egbesu, the war god of Kolokuma, featured masquerades and a ceremonial war canoe reminiscent of the immense craft that once piled the Nun. An annual festival held nearby at Odi which is also in Kolokuma, celebrates a modern battle; killing of wild buffalo threatened the town several years ago. The Ogori Ba Uge, or buffalo killing festival, observed the same year included the deployment of a raffia mask to purify the town, a performance by a group of total maskers, gun power salutes and a dance barge with reggae music provided by a local band. In 1991, notice which appeared in Lagos newspapers to announce that year’s festival, promised visitors a ‘love boat-like’ atmosphere. (E.J. Alagoa 1999).
BIRTH AND NAMING
The arrival of a new born baby is usually an occasion for celebration, especially a male child. The reason for the greater appreciation of the male child is that he would inherit the family’s estate and maintain the family name while the girl would be married out and that would occasion the loss of the family line-age. A newly delivered woman is attended to by neighbours and relatives, for at least two market weeks (8 days) or until she is strong enough to resume her normal routine. The baby after being washed, is immediately sprayed with a concentrated native gin. Concentrated gin is in fact ethanol, which is a cleansing agent and steriliser. Some none lzons naively interpret the action of spraying the baby as initiation to the art of drinking. Births of baby’s are celebrated with cola nuts, alligator pepper, palm oil and native gin (Uru or Ogogoro). (Woyengidinikpete G.Y. 2006).
ADULT-HOOD INITIATION (MALE&FEMALE)
Male adult-hood initiations are conducted when a young man carves a canoe, taps palm wine or cuts the natural palm fruits. In some cases it could be on the performance of an independent fishing that he becomes a financial member of the community and he’s then entitled to all benefits thereof, female adult-hood begins when she is circumcised. (Ibid).
Circumcision is an ancient practice of the Izons, which has continued till date. Traditionally, both males and females are circumcised at the appropriate age. Male circumcision is carried out between 8yrs and 6/7 years of age. There are not many ceremonies attached. However, the ceremony for female circumcision is more elaborate. Like in many other parts of Africa, female circumcision is a Tradition as it is a way of life in Izon land. It is a rite of passage for the female which denotes maturity and often. The first step to being accepted into the institution of marriage, uncircumcised women where indeed regarded as incomplete and ridiculed.
In the early days, circumcision was done 3 to 4 months into a lady’s first pregnancy, normally after marriage. It is the responsibility of the girl’s parents to circumcise their daughter for the husband. The circumcised girl is called ‘Ayoro’, for the period of the circumcision ceremony. The ceremony is the climax that marks the pride of her parents, which symbolise two things; that the girl has been well nurtured and that she is not barren. These notions where quite appreciable because a girl was not expected to break her virginity before marriage. Thus the first pregnancy is a proof that the girl had not premaritally defiled herself sexually, which otherwise might be suspected to cause infertility. It was generally unacceptable to circumcise the junior daughter in the family before her senior. If it became inevitable to circumcise the junior, then all those senior to her would be circumcised together. In some instances, the ceremony would involve girls of the same in the entire community and is usually an elaborate one with cultural splendour. (Woyengidinikpetegy,2006).
Marriage is held sacred, honoured and highly consummated in Izon land. Polygamy is the normal Izon marriage practice. However, Christianity and harsh economic realities of the contemporary world are forcing young men to be married to single wives but extra marital relationships are still a common practice that is not frowned at. Marriage ceremonies varies according to the system of marriage but must be performed, before a wife is taken away from her parents. Basically there are three categorised systems of marriage, these are:
1.BERE: Bere which can be translated to mean big-dowry-system is the form of marriage where fathers have full claim over their children. Dowries ranging from £12(twelve pound sterling) to £15(fifteen pound sterling) are paid and rich men are determined in the dark days by the number of slaves he bought. Most parents consider this system of marriage as a relic of slave trade and do not feel disposed to give their daughters by this system of marriage except under stress of financial difficulties. Another reason for parents reluctance is because the remains of a daughter married under this system are not returned to their parents homes, which is avoided by most parents. In the past, before women that are married under big-dowry-system would be taken away to their husbands, some special ceremonies such as the staging of wrestling matches, firing of guns and carrying of the girl on shoulder bridges where performed. These antiquated ceremonies are no longer performed nowadays.
2.OPU-IKIYA: Opu-ikiya, which can be translated to mean ‘‘greater friendship’’ is a system of marriage where the male issue belongs to the husband and the female to the wife and her people. Dowries from £15(fifteen pound sterling) to £30(thirty pound sterling) are paid in this form of marriage which is becoming obsolete and fast dying out in Izon land.
3.KALA-IKIYA: Kala-ikiya which has now taken a simple from, Ikiya could be translated to mean ‘‘lesser friendship’’ but translated by court authorities to mean ‘‘small-dowry-system’’ is the most popular from all marriage on account of its lesser financial implication on the youths. Dowries ranging from £12(twelve pound sterling) to £15(fifteen pound sterling) are paid. All issues from this system of marriage belongs to the wife and her people; yet young men of the present age prefer this form of marriage and contract it more than any other form. As children of the present age are not inclined to leave their father’s land for their mother’s.
Although bride price now varies from family to family, according to the social status of the-bride groom or bride, the traditional amounts of 36 to 80; 15 to 30 and 13 pound sterling are still symbolised in many marriages. Then the man may add any money on top. However, in case of divorce, the man is entitled to only the traditional fixed amount.
Marriage is done traditionally, at the home of the bride, this may be followed by a Christian wedding, either form of marriage is sufficient for societal recognition but the traditional one is more prevalent because most natives may not afford the cost of the Christian wedding which is often more expensive (woyingidinikpete G.Y. 2006).
2.6 THEORETICAL FRAME WORK
According to Charles (2005) a theory is an abstraction, a mental product arising from an attempt to find a solution to a problem. Theory suggests alternative ways to solve a particular problem of interest to a research it develops ideas that allows a scientist to explain events. These events may be social, mechanical, electrical or even mathematical.
Whatever the problem may be, a theory is a product of the issue at stake and the solution thereof. It seeks to ask questions and find answers to them.
Two theories would be used for this study; these are globalization theories and diffusion.
2.7 GLOBALIZATION THEORY
Globalization is a theory whose aim includes the interpretation of the current events of the international sphere in terms of development, economic conditions, social scenarios, and political and cultural influences. (Mortimore M. 1992) .
Globalization has been described as “the process of increasing interconnectedness between societies such that events in one part of the world more and more have effects on people and societies faraway”. (Baylis & Smith 2001:8). Also George & Mcgraw (2007) see globalization as the spread of worldwide practices, relations, consciousness, and organization of social life. Similarly Al-Rodhan,
et al (2006) defined it as thus, “Globalization is the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture.
Globalization theory emerged as the result of real world concerns with the dramatic transformations of globalization as well as a reaction against the earlier perspective of modernization theory. Globalization can be analyzed culturally, economically, and politically. Across each of these foci, theorists have divided over whether globalization results in homogenization or heterogenization. Some cultural theorists see globalization producing homogeneity as a consequence of cultural imperialism. Others see it as producing distinctive local forms. Among economic theorists, some assert that globalization produces homogeneity as a result of the spread of the market economy with the aid of international organizations such as the IMF. Others focus on the heterogeneity of local markets and the existence of flexible specialization (globalization). Some political/institutional perspective focus on the growth of single model of governance around the world. Others assert that globalization has resulted in intense nationalist retrenchment. (George & Mcgraw, 2007).
This theory explains the problem of Christian religion and the loss of Ijaw traditions and customs in that Christianity as an element of the European culture came to Ijaw land through the process of globalization. Christianity is seen as an interchange of culture. The emergence of Christianity in Ijaw land is seen as cultural globalization. Cultural globalization refers to the transmission of ideas, meanings and values around the world in such a way as to extend and intensity social relations. (James P.2006). the fundamental premise of globalization is that an increasing degree of integration among societies plays a crucial role in most types of social and economic change (Klein, P. and Voisin 1985). As the Europeans brought Christianity to Ijaw land, with their teachings they transmitted ideas (the ideas and belief that there is only one God) meanings (the Bible is the word of God and the word of God is Jesus Christ the son of God) and values (monogamous marriage, the bible, wedding ring etc.) to Ijaw people which greatly influenced them to the loss of most of their traditions and customs. The Religious movements were among the earliest cultural element. To globalize, being spread by force, migration, evangelists, imperialists and Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and more recently sects as Mormonism, which have taken root and influenced endemic cultures in places far from their origins. (MC Alister E. 2005).
2.8 THE THEORY OF DIFUSSION (DIFFUSIONISM)
Diffusionism as an anthropological school of thought, was an attempt to understand the nature of culture in terms of the origin of culture traits and their spread from one society to another. Versions of diffusionist thought included the conviction that all cultures originated form one culture centre (heliocentric diffusion); the more reasonable view that culture centers (culture circles); and finally the notion that each society in influenced by others but that the process of diffusion is both contingent and arbitrary (Winthrop 1991:82)
Diffusion may be simply defined as the spread of a cultural item from its place of origin to other places (Titiev 1958:446). A more expanded definition depicts diffusion as the process by which discrete culture traits are transferred from one society to another, through migration, trade, war, or other contact. (Winthrop 1991:82).
This school of thought proposed that civilization spread from one culture to another, because humans are basically conservative and lack inventiveness. (Winthrop 1991:83). An extreme example of this theory was the idea proposed by English scholar Grafton Elliot Smith. He considered Egypt as the Primary source for many other ancient civilizations. (Smith 1931: 393– 394).This form of diffusionism is known as heliocentric diffusionism. (Spencer 199i6:608). A wider concept, explaining the diffusion of culture traits, was formulated by Leo Frobenius, through the inspiration of his teacher, Freidrich Ratzel. This version is called “culture circles” or Kulturkreise (Harris 1968:382-383). An even more expanded version of diffusionism was proposed in the United States, where diffutionist ideas culminated in the concept of ‘‘culture areas’’. A.L Kroeber and Clark Wissler with the main proponents of this version (ibid) culture circles German and Austrian diffusionists argued that there were a number of culture centers, rather than just one, in the ancient world. Culture traits diffused due to migration of individuals from one culture to another. (Winthrop 1991:83).
The anthropological theory, diffusionism has offered deep explanation to the causes of loss of Ijaw traditions and customs, that culture traits are transferred form one society to another through migration or other contact. Using this theory to explain this problem, Christianity and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs is adequate and detailed as the Christian missionaries came in contact with the Ijaws their culture traits diffused to Ijaw land. Such culture traits include their marriage (Wedding), monogamy. Before this contact the typical Ijaw man believed in polygamous marriage; he sees it as also being wealthy. Also the Ijaw belief system changed from polytheism to monotheism. This contact influenced every part of Ijaw people and land as its culture trait diffused or was transferred to the Ijaw. As their culture became part of the Ijaw people, most of Ijaw traditions and customs lost their values. This lost is mostly because of their (western) education as culture is acquired by learning. As they taught the Ijaws their culture; the Ijaws inculcated their way of life thus led to rapid demise and alteration of their culture.
In summary, the chapter examined the various opinions and views of scholars in relation to this study. It also considered two theories that explained the research topic which are globalization and diffusion theories.
Every research work uses methods through which data or information are gathered. Therefore, this Chapter presents the methods used in relevant data collection for the study .
3.1 RESEARCH DESIGN
The nature of this study is qualitative. The study seeks to establish the nature of the Ijaw traditions and customs prior to the advent of Christianity and how Christianity has affected these traditions and customs of Ijaw people. Due to the nature of the research, the historical and exploratory research design is adopted by the study.
3.2 STUDY AREA
This study was conducted in selected communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. Ekeremor is one of the eight (8) Local Government Areas in Bayelsa State. It borders Delta State and has a coastline of approximately 60km on the Bight of Bonny. Its headquarters are in the town of Ekeremor in the North east of the area. It has an area of 1,810 km and population of 270, 257 at the 2006 census. The postal code of the area is 561.
Ekeremor L.G.A is home to members of the Ekeremor clan of the Ijaw ethic group. According to the 2006 census of Nigeria, it has a population of 53% male and 47% female.
3.3 STUDY POPULATION
The study population also known as research population is general a large collection of individuals or objects (elements) that is the main focus of the scientific enquiry. This study focuses on selected communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. There are Thirty-Two (32) towns and villages (Communities) in Ekeremor L.G.A. They include:
1. Adagbabiri 2. Ageighe 3. Aleibiri 4. Amabulour 5. Amanagbene 6. Angalawei-gbene 7. Ayama 8. Ayamassa 9. Bown-Adagbabari 10. Ebikekeme-gbene 11. Eduwini 12. Egbema-Angalabiri 13. Ekeremor 14. Feremo-ama 15. Foutoru-gbene 16. Isampou 17. Isreal O-zion 18. Kunu 19. Lalagbene 20. Toru-Ndoro 21. Norgbene 22. Obrigbene 23. Ogbogbene 24. Ogbosuwari 25. Oporoma 26. Oyiakiri 27. Peretoru-gbene 28. Tamogbene 29. Tamugbene 30. Tarakiri 31. Tietiegbene 32. Toru-Foutorugbene
The above listed communities made up the target population which is the entire population in which the researcher is interested in generalizing the conclusions. But out of the 32 communities, 3 were selected as the accessible population to which the researcher can apply the conclusion of the study.
3.4 SAMPLE SIZE
The sample size was drawn entirely to represent Ekeremor Local Government Area as a whole. Out of the 32 Communities, three (3) Communities and Ten (10) Persons from each community making it thirty (30) persons were purposively selected as the sample size of the entire population. The three communities include; Aleibiri, Ekeremor and Isampou.
3.5 SAMPLING TECHNIQUES
There are various types of sampling techniques but due to the nature of this study, the researcher used the purposive sampling method as the sampling technique. Purposive sampling is one which involves the use of those specific cases which possess the specific characteristics to be studied.
Hence, the researcher carefully observed the various communities in Ekeremor L.G.A and purposively selected three (3) communities out of 32 communities. The three (3) communities which were selected are seen to be possessing the specific characteristics to be studied, that is, they have highly lost some of their traditions and customs due to the advent of Christian religion in the areas. From the three (3) communities, ten persons each were purposively selected to make a sample size of thirty (30) persons. These persons were selected as thus: From each community. The Amana-owei (king), four chiefs, two women leaders, the youth leader, two religious leaders (a pastor and a deity priest) were selected. These persons are seen as the custodians of the traditions and customs of the communities.
In this research, data were collected through in depth interview using the Key Informant Interview (KII) method and observation as primary sources of data collection. The researcher used the tape-recorder to record the responses of the respondents in the interview. Then the secondary source of data collection was through text books, journals, documentations, and the internet which references are shown in the references.
3.7 METHODS OF DATA ANALYSIS
This study adopted the content analysis method. This is due to the nature of the work as a qualitative research. Qualitative context analyses are restricted to a categorizing of the context of what participants say and to counting the use of certain terms within an interview or across participants as a means of relaying their importance. Analyses are based on the context of the responses of the respondents that is construction of meaning is based on what the respondents have said.
3:8 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
There were several problems encountered by the researcher in the cause of carrying out this study. The study was conducted in three selected communities in Ekeremor local government area which required observation and in depth interviews. The researcher was faced by the following major challenges;
1. Shortage of finance in the cause of traveling and getting materials.
2. The duration was very short to effectively conduct the study.
3. The poor transportation, communication and difficult nature of the terrain. This was a major challenge. The researcher travelled through land and river to get to these communities. So, the journey to these communities each of the time was tiresome and stressful seeing that there is no road linking these communities in Ekelga and the State Capital Yenagoa. Another problem was the undeveloped nature of these communities for instance there is no light (electricity) no good water, no network etc.
4. Difficult and lack of materials (text books). The cause of finding materials (text books) was a stressful and abortive as books (literatures) related to the topic are scarce
5. Lastly, the repugnant nature of the respondents (key interview informants) and their lackadaisical attitude were major limitations or problems encountered in the cause of the study.
PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
This chapter presents the analysis and discussion of findings. Analysis and discussion of findings is based on the responses of the respondents concerning the research questions with the view of realizing the research objectives. The study considered specific areas of Ijaw traditions and customs and how these areas had been affected with the advent of Christianity. These areas include, religion, marriage, deaths and burials, socioeconomic livelihood, crafts, festivals and rites of passage.
The analysis and discussion of findings will be based on the research objectives as stated in chapter one.
4.2 THE PRE-CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS OF IJAW PEOPLE
Research Objective 1. To examine the pre-Christian traditions and customs of Ijaw people
Research Question 1: What are the pre-Christian traditions and customs of Ijaw people?
The Ijaws are unique people with a unique way of life. Before the penetration of Christianity in the area, the people had exhibited a patterned behavior which was either passed down to them or was introduced by them. This patterned behavior was expressed via their beliefs (religion), marriage, deaths and burials, socio-economic livelihood, festival and rites of passage.
According to Woyengidinikpete G.Y. (2006) in his book “Bayelsa the Glory of all Lands At 10” ‘Religion is a key element in a peoples culture and it plays a very vital role in the lives of a people”. Prior to Christianity the whole of Ijaw people were idol worshippers. They believed in “Egbesu” (god of war). As Woyengidinikpete puts “The most conspicuous and universally accepted ‘god of war’ is the Egbesu which is still widely practiced”. They believed in God but they did not believed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the only medium they had between them and the supreme creator God, is the ‘Egbesu’. And that is why in any clan, all the citizens of that clan believed in that Egbesu. Because it was the medium between them and God, they believed that the Egbesu responds to them and gives them strength and power for war and protection.
The Ijaw people believed in the Holy Trinity, but they viewed it from different perspective. According to Chief Sierraleone Justin (one of the chiefs in Aleibiri Town) “In my thesis (1983) ‘The concept of Trinity in Egbeni Clan before the advent of Christianity’, I asserted that instead of God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit; they had God the Father, The Egbesu and Themselves”.
The Egbesu was the medium between God and man. Although, the Egbesu was their medium to reach the supreme God, the people passed through a human agent (a Priest) in the worship of God through the Egbesu. According to Prof. Alagoa (1999) in his book ‘The Land and People of Bayelsa State’ “ The People call God Wonyinghi. Wonyinghi has little to do with daily affairs, yet appears to be more responsive to human appeals than other African creator deities. Some communities perform festival in her honor because the Ijaws see the supreme creator God as a woman”. And that is why they used such names as ‘Woyinghi (Our mother) Tamarau (the woman who created us) Tamuno (creator) Ayibarau (she who begets and kills) and so on.
However, in every clan, they have their clan god which is the Egbesu. In Tarakiri clan, they have the Tarakiri Egbesu, in Oyiakiri clan they have the Ogbosuwari Egbesu and in Oporoma clan they have the Ekeremor Egbesu. And other deities worshiped include; ‘Odoudunou’, ‘Agalaba’, ‘Oweikinighan’, ‘Amanau’ in Isampou, ‘Amasighan Oru’, ‘Odisigbeghan’ in Aleibiri and the ‘Ekeremor Egbesu’ in Ekeremor.
It is this belief on the Egbesu as the second person in the trinity that has made some hardened traditional religiousists still not believe in Jesus Christ. According to Chief Sierraleone J. (Aleibiri chief) “Up till now in the Tarakiri area people like Oya-otu (the Ebenanaowei of tarakiri clan) if you pray, by the time you call Jesus he will cover his head because he does not believe in him, but by the time you call God the father he will uncover his head and pray with you”.
And also, the Ijaw people believed and worshipped water spirits and bush spirits. The worship of these deities particularly the Egbesu is done by singing, dancing, pouring of libations, drumming and rituals. The worship entails particularly the ‘talking drum’. According to chief Justin of Aleibiri “the vitality of the talking drum in the service of the Egbesu or traditional religion cannot be overemphasized”. This is because, it is the talking drum that talks to the human beings and the gods as well. And it goes with such title (Kile) that the people bear. Even in war, it is the ‘talking drum’ that determines the where about of your group. And they do not shout nor talk with the mouth as to know where their group is located.
Before Christianity, Ijaw people had and still have some things which they believed to have a mystical or ritual relationship with them. They see these things as important symbols of unity among them. Some of these totems are objects, plants or animals. They see them as sacred things which deserves respect and reverence. Thus, it is a taboo to use any of these objects or plants or eat any of these animals which is generally seen as sacred. It is a taboo to eat python among the Nembes. And in tuomo clan, people do not eat the Iguana (Abeidi). Also in Oyiairi and Tarakiri, it is a taboo for them to eat the Crocodile (Egere) and the Turtle (Beni-owei) respectively. And also in Tarakiri clan, it is forbidden for a man/woman from Tarakiri clan to have blood covenant with another man/woman from the clan by cutting part of the finger to leak each other’s blood. In some places, it is forbidden to roof a house with iron sheets as in Ogbosuwari in Oyiakiri clan. This is because, it is forbidden by the gods. They only use thatches made with raffia palm. In Aleibiri according to Chief Justin, it is forbidden to put into fire the tool you have sat on that is used in the house for siting. There are also forbidden trees which are seen sacred. Such trees like the Kunu, the Elei (trees used for carving). Because they are either used for carving one thing or the other in the shrines or it has some aids during the time. All these things are symbols of the Egbesu and anything forbidden in a clan is through the Egbesu which is the clan god. And that is why the type of food the people eat never contravene that which was forbidden by the god.
DEATHS AND BURIALS
According to Woyengidinikpete G.Y. (2006) in his book ‘Bayelsa the glory of all lands at 10’ “Death is deeply felt and mourned but highly honoured and celebrated for those who deserve it.” Weeping signals the demise of someone in a family or town while firing of three guns or four guns respectively, signals the death of a male adult or female adult. According to Chief Zaukumor Bennedict Chief of Aleibiri Community and Chief Felix E.P. of Isampou Community, there was always oracle consultation with the dead by means of bamboo ladder to prove the deceased’s possession or otherwise of witchcraft. Proof of dispossession of witchcraft is acclaimed with cheers and gun shot while the proof of possession of witchcraft results in an ignominious burial. This is either throwing the deceased into the river or dumping the corpse in the forbidden bush (Seibou).
There was the belief among the Ijaw people that the dead of a man/woman is not complete until 24hours. And for people to wait till the 24 hours, there used to be an organized drumming and playing which is called ‘Ogbodein’ (Traditional Wake-keep). However, instead of an individual to stay with the corpse to wait for the 24 hours, there used to be an organized way for ever body coming together to watch whether the deceased will rise up again. The process was that, when it is midnight it is then believed that it is a true death. When it is confirmed like that, there is a special drum bitten for the corpse to dance. By this time nobody moves, nor crosses the arena. Everybody will stay quite. The drum will be calling the name and the title (kile) of the deceased and start biting believing that the dead is now dancing. According to Ezekiel Oyaotu the Ebenanaowei Tarakiri clan of Isampou Community (a deity priest) “In Isampou, when a man who belongs to the Owudugba fraternity dies, they will make the corpse to dance. The man who made the corpse to dance in that fraternity was Egogo Prezi. This practice of the dead dancing made the colonial soldiers in the community afraid. They expressed their fear by saying that ‘these people can make even a dead person to dance”.
They used the weaved traditional ropes from the raffia palm to make the dead to dance as the traditional drum is played. When the title of the deceased is called by the drum, the dead will respond by nodding its head, believing that the is dancing. Thereafter, the first born will dance. Immediately after the dance of the first born, it becomes a normal ground for everybody to dance. And in the morning the corpse must be buried. For a man according to Chief Ogulasugha of Ekeremor Community, after three days, it is believed that is a final death and after four days for a woman. Then every born of the deceased must shave their hairs in respect of signifying that their father or mother died. Shaving itself ascertains the number of children of the deceased. This is part of a wealthy culture-how many children does he or she born.
Ways or forms of burials vary according to the status of the deceased and to the nature of death. Priests are buried in Separate cemeteries consecrated to them and are accorded the highest burial ceremonies. Slaves were buried at cemeteries set apart for them while children of certain ages are buried at children cemeteries. People who die of violent deaths other than of deceased with its attendant causes are buried in Separate cemeteries in bare bodies, without being caged into coffin or other coverings, proven wizards and witches, people who die with sores on their bodies, those who die of small pox or other skin diseases, the lunatics as well as children who die before teething were formerly thrown into the water or dump in the forbidden or evil forest.
In Ijaw land marriage is held sacred and honoured. Polygamy is the usual Ijaw marriage practice before the advent of Christianity. According to chief Sierraleone J. of Aleibiri “Among the Ijaws Polygamy (Marrying more than one wife) is seen as wealth” Before now, marriage did not go in the streets. First of all, a man who has interest in a girl, must have to go to the parents of the girl and request their hand in marriage of their daughter. And when the parent’s content is given, a day is fixed for the payment of the pride price. This is done in the girl parent’s home after a formal invitation to all the members of the family. It is the tradition of Ijaw that a girl does not only marry the man but the whole family of the man. And in some cases, a girl will be forcefully given to a man for marriage by her parents, may be, either because the man is wealthy, influential, powerful or well behaved in the community.
According to Chief Felix of Isampou, “Prior to Christianity in Ijaw Land, before marriage circumcision must take place in the male or female”. Female circumcision is a ceremony where all the daughters in a family come together to be circumcised. People who come together to witness will throw money for the girls for successful circumcision. After the circumcision, girl child is now seen as a mature woman. Without circumcision a woman would not be allowed to be buried in the normal cemetery.
Furthermore, it is the belief among Ijaw people that after payment of a woman’s pride price it is still their culture that you only pay for the flesh and the living and that the dead must be returned to the owners. According to chief Sierraleone of Aleibiri’ “Whether a woman died young or died as old as Methuselah, her corpse must be brought back home to be buried or her bones to be interment”.
Woyengidinikpete in his work Puts “In view of the high Premium placed on the institution of marriage, it constitutes a serious crime for one to sin with the wife another man. Sin in this case constitute making passes, such as sexual harassment, intercourse etc. such crimes used to lead to internecine wars and payment of heavy damages. In the past, when committal of such was noticed the aggrieved husband and his relatives immediately caused damages to their property and charge to the adulterers as additional fine for the infringement. However, while the adulterous man pays his fine immediately in cash, the offending woman’s fine is added to her pride price”.
The main occupation of Ijaw people was farming and fishing. People were content with their living mainly or fishing, tapping and farming. These were engaged mainly by one to feed himself and the family; although little of farm roduce was used for sale. Even trading too was based on the barter system. In Izonland farming was mostly done by women. According Evang. M.E. Adere “The man will sit at home playing draft while the woman (wife)goes to the farm to work; when she comes back, he will go home and eat”.
Although few men were engaged in tapping of the raffia palm and cutting of palm fruits, the women did the fishing and farming predominantly. The people were sustained and survived by these activities. Essentially, a man who owns lands, pounds or lakes is already recognized as a rich/wealthy person. And marriage was highly influenced by the ownership of these things. People would want to marry where there is land, pound or lake. If a man does not have these things, they feel that the woman cannot be fed. Before Christianity, the typical Ijaw man was either a canoe carver, a tapper or a fisher man because then there was no formal education. According to Chief Justin (A chief in Aleibiri) “The first time school came here was 1940. So up-till 1940 there was no person who had left primary school. Then you know what type of life the people was living.
So you must own a land, pounds, lakes so that when you marry their daughter, she can farm on the lands and go to the pounds to fish. So any man who do not have these things, it is assumed that the person is not surviving well”.
Then the structure of the buildings was mud building and thatch roof, bamboos and thatch roof or build with thatches with thatch roof. There was no block building and even in the building, the type of woods used did not contravene the laws of the Egbesu (the clan god).
Handicrafts, though not produced in Commercial quantity are to be found in various forms in Ijaw land. Wooden plates, dishes and soup-spoons are neatly carved and used in many homes. Sculpture carving in the form of dolls, statues, masks and other idol-images were excellently done and they constitute the greatest works of antiquity of the tribe. According to Mrs. Gas Purisuodo (a woman leader of Aleibiri Community) “Cane baskets and mats of various kind were manufactured by the womenfolk”. The women also weaved fishing traps such as the ‘Okou’(cray fish strap) ‘Egogo’ (trap for big fishes) ‘Etinye’, ‘Toru Egogo’ all these were weaved with collection of palm produce for fishing. They also weaved ‘Simidi’ ‘Enga’ instruments weaved for climbing palm trees either to tap palm wine or cut palm fruits. Then the men were engaged in canoe carving, paddles, axe handles etc.
The craft of canoe-carving was done in a fairly large scale. According to Woyendidirikpete in his work as cited earlier “the Izons do not build their canoes with pieces of planks but manufacture them from logs of wood. Small canoes are made out of small trees and large ones are made from large trees. Small trees are felled with axes while large trees are felled by fire. The required hollows in small canoes are chopped out with axes while those in large canoes are produced with the aid of fire. When sufficient hollows and logs are dressed into forms, and are either dragged by a group of men or fritted during the floods to towns”. These carved canoes enabled the people to go for fishing, traveling to neighbouring villages or for trading.
As rightly observed and written by Woyengidinikpete “Most Ijaw festivals originated from celebrating acts of gallantry or victory in battle, marking the death of priests or celebrating the worship of idols and spirits of dead ancestors. Even festivals that mark fishing or farming are often accompanied with appeasement of deities that are believed to be the spiritual custodians responsible for the preservation and fertility of the ground as lakes”. There were many festivals in different places in Ijaw land almost all year round before the advent of Christianity.
a. THE AMASIGHAN OWU FESTIVAL AND THE OWEIBENIBIRI OGELE OF OPUDUNOU IN ALEIBIRI: the Amasighan Owu Festival is a festival of masquerades. Every year around December January the whole community will gather and start this masquerade for seven days. Before the festival starts, according to Chief Zaukkumor and Chief Sierraleone in Aleibiri community, all tappers, canoe carvers, fisher-men/women and those away from home will come back to town and stay at home for the seven days for the celebration. A sculpture is made of the deity (Amasighan) and some body would be masked with it to move round the community to pursue people. When the masked person (Owu) gets hold of someone, it will put a little wound (mark) on the person to show that, the masquerade (Owu) is brave. Thereafter, the masquerade dances for everybody to view. But before the festival begins, according Chief Sierraleone, the deity priest with some other worshippers go to the shrine for some rituals and libations.
Then the ‘Oweibenibiri Ogele of Opudunou in Aleibiri is celebrated by only the adult males (men festival). During this celebration all the adult males go the lake called ‘Opudunou (meaning big lake) and bath the water for another year. The people believed that every year they have survived and preserved by the help of the Opudunou (a deity). In the lake there was a Crocodile which they believed that is the Opudunou in physical form. So people swim in the lake during the festival allowed themselves to be carried by the crocodile. According to chief Zaukumor B. Eserubo “People fetch the water from the lake and bring it home for healing of diseases”. And according to the king of Aleibiri, Chief Simon Ebebi, “This festival is exclusive for only the men before they go to the lake, all the men will assemble and have a procession to the lake and after swimming and dancing will have the procession back home in the evening”.
b. THE MASQUERADE FESTIVAL OF ISAMPOU: the people of Isampou had no specific name for their masquerade festival. This is because they have many deities as masquerade. But the three Head masquerades include, Amanau as the head masquerade, Agalaba as the second and Daghanwou. According to Oya-otu Ezekiel (Juju priest of Isampou) before the festival starts in any year, seven days before it, the chief priest and other members of the fraternity will go to the shrine of all these deities in the lake for rituals and libations. The festival is celebrated within one market day interval (a period of seven days). A day to the festival in the night all the members involved in the masquerade having stripped themselves naked will have a procession across the community from one end to the other at midnight. And is restricted to men only. During this time no room is allowed to light candle or lamp. There is maximum darkness in the town and no cry of a baby is allowed. Then the following morning, the festival will begin with drumming and dancing. However, after some decades, it changed to pursuing, flogging and the use of cutlass on people alongside with drumming and dancing of the masquerades at the community shrine. Then second to the last day which is the sixth day of the festival, the shark masquerade would be presented. They called this masquerade ‘Oki’. It has father, mother and son (Oki-dau, Okiyin and Okitubo). On this day both the masquerades and people are dressed in white upon white. According to chief Felix E. Prezi “ sometimes the celebration will be extended to another seven days if the head masquerade (Amanau) presented on the last day do not hit the locust bean rattles (Owu-Ekpiri) that are strapped around its ankles with cutlass”.
c. THE ASI-OGE IN EKEREMOR: this festival is seen as the most fulfilling among the people of Ekeremor. The ‘Asi’ (Horse) is a sculpture carved, though it is only, the head which is carved, the rest parts is covered with clothes. A man will put on the Asi and dances while others will be watching the dance steps of the masquerade with intensive drumming. This celebration is usually done in the festive period which is December. According to chief Wilfred O. when the time of the festival approaches every citizen of Ekeremor whether in the fishing camps, all tappers, people away from the community either in urban areas or neighbouring villages will come home for the celebration. It is usually celebrated in an interval of one market day (seven days).
Other festivals may also include the Amasighan love boat of Aleibiri, and the Tarakiri egbesu war boat of Isampou.
RITES OF PASSAGE
The first right of passage in Ijaw land is the celebration of the new birth of baby. Then the circumcision of both the male and female child. According to chief Sierraleone of Aleibiri community the circumcision of the female child was necessary determinant for marriage. If the girl must marry, then she must be circumcised. After this, the Ijaw people had what is called ‘Peisi-gbolu or Peisi-anda’. This means that the senior and junior is not easily known by age especially two people from different communities therefore, a person’s age grade (group) is determined by this Peisi-gbolu or Peisi-anda (age grade fight). what was done before now is that when once a person comes to a community and start to move with the people he thinks are his age grade. At a required time the boys will tell the person, that you are not of our age, if you are of our age then you have to fight one of us. An individual must have to face this fight to known whether he belongs to that particular age grade. After the fight if the he was not difeated then that group becomes his group.
4.3 THE ADVENT OF CHRISTIANITY AND IJAW TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS
Research Objective 2: to investigate how has the advent of Christianity affected the traditions and customs of Ijaw people.
Research Question 2: How has the advent of Christianity affected the traditions and customs of Ijaw people?
This study was conducted in three selected communities inn Ekelga. And in all these communities, Christianity has greatly impacted on the traditions and customs of the people. According to Evan M.E Adere a religious leader in Isampou community, the penetration of Christianity in these communities could be traced back to 1914. The two dominant denominations (churches) that invaded the area were the CMS (Christ missionary society) the now Anglican Church and the catholic church. Then from the 1960’s other churches like the cherubim and seraphim, the Jehovah’s witness and other indigenous churches emerged. The CMS church first came to Isampou and catholic church came to Aeibirii, hence, CMS dominated the Tarakiri area while the catholic church dominated the Oyiakiri area. Thus, these churches preached against most of the traditions and customs of the people. Evang. M.E Adere said “These churches were determined to convince the people to accept their new religion despite many of the dangers they faced.
4.3.1 IMPACT OF CHRISTIANITY ON THE TRADITIONAL RELIGION.
As Christianity dominated in the areas, majority of the people were converted to Christianity. Similarly as Woyenngidinikpete(2006) in his work as cited earlier in this chapter asserts “Christianity is gradually overtaking traditional religion, with about 60 percent of the population practicing Christianity. This study was done in 2006, but now the percent of the Ijaw population practicing Christianity is more than just 60 percent. Today about 95% of the Ijaw population are Christians” (oral interview with Chief Sierraleone Justine in Aleibiri). Therefore, the belief on the clan god which was the Egbesu ended. The people do no longer see the Egbesu as the medium between God and them. According to Prof. Alagoa (1999), “Numerous traditions of Ijaw people have been abandoned or altered as the population has become ‘increasingly’ Christians”.
Hence, those things that were seen as sacred are no longer seen as such and the respect and reverence that was given to them had been retrieved back. The people do no longer have respect for them. Those forbidden things are not forbidden by the people. For example the people of Tarakiri Clan now eat the Turtle, and also the people of Oyiakin clan now eat the crocodile as well as the Tuomo clan eats the Iguana. They believe that the blood of Jesus has power over them. The spread of Christianity in Ijaw land has greatly influenced the traditional religion in such that it is only few persons that are still practicing the belief of the egbesu in the shrine. Woyengidinikpete (ibid) asserts that ‘Even the ‘Supreme’ Egbesu is being Christianized as ‘Egbesu church’ but still performing the same traditional modes of worship’. In fact in Isampou community there is no longer a shrine left as a community shrine –although in Aleiiri and Ekeremor there are still shrines but not as seen as community shrines.
4.3.2 IMPACT OF CHRISTIANITY ON MARRIAGE
The typical Ijaw man believe in polygamy, accepts and sees it as part of wealth. But churches preached against polygamy and introduced monogamy as the accepted type of marriage by God. Prior to Christianity there was force marriage-a situation whereby a girl will be given out in marriage to a man against her wish because her parents see the man as influential or well behaved. According to chief Bride Albert (Ekeremor chief) “Procreation is seen as the vital aim of marriage life God is held paramount in Izon. With these objectives, parents did, in the past, freely gave their daughters in marriage to young men of appealing stature to produce children with the same genetic built. Daughters are withdrawn from their husbands homes with refund of the pride price if the married couple fail to make babies within three years of the marriage” in other cases, some girls were sold out by their parents (Fe-ere). According to chief Justin (A chief in Aleibiri) “Some girls lost their lives in the process of getting married against their wish”. But with the advent of Christianity, these are less pronounced, if not totally stopped in Ijaw land. Now people marry with their free will to whom they like. In a marriage whether there are children or not husband and wife still stay together because Christianity preaches against divorce or separation. Today, now, every girl want to be wedded on the alter. This has made marriage so demanding and expensive. Similarly as Woyengidinikpete asserts in his book as cited earlier “However, Christianity and harsh economic realities of the contemporary world are forcing young men to be married to single wives but extra marital relationships are still a common practice that is not frowned at”.
However, this pressure of Christianity and harsh economic realities as asserted by Wotengidinikpete’ has resulted to late marriages and sometimes causing late child bearing or bareness cases. The practice of monogamy according to Chief Justin, has divided some families-the father wants his son to marry more than one wife; while the son as a Christian wants to marry only one wife. A case the researcher encountered at Isampou community. The father has three wives and wanted his first son to marry at least two wives, but the son refused and married only one wife because he is a committed/devoted Christian. As such there is a continuous misunderstanding between the father and the son for going against his (the father’s) wish.
Before now, when a woman commits adultery, it is believed that she will suffer from one problem or the other until she confesses to her husband and as well as the husband will confess to his wife for having an affair outside. They believed that the deities which see the secret acts will compel them to confess. Therefore in as much as there no such confession, the husband and wife see themselves as faithful couples. But now such things no longer happen as the Christianity preaches that judgment belongs to God and sinners shall be punished on the last day.
4.3.3 IMPACT OF CHRISTINANITY ON DEATHS AND BURIALS
Christina religion has also greatly impacted on this area of Ijaw people. The practice of mourning of the dead has been minimized as Christianity teaches people that those who die in Christ will be in heaven enjoying till eternity. According to chief Afesuku Odubo (chief in Ekeremor) “Although people still mourn the dead but not as before where the dead would be mourned for weeks or sometime up to a year”. The practice of waiting for 24 hours to see whether the deceased will come back to life has been discarded. And also, everybody is given equal burial rights when they die. The practice of consulting with the dead to find the cause of death or to know whether the deceased was with witchcraft spirit, is no longer practiced with the advent of Christianity.
Then on burials, people who die of violent deaths, people who die with sores on their bodies, the lunatics, and women who die during delivery are no longer thrown into the water or dump in the forbidden forest. Also children who die before teething are no longer thrown into water but are now buried at sand bank or the slopes of banks of river at high floods. Although, in some place, people who die untimely death are still buried in the seibou (bad/evil forest) but most places it is no more practiced. And also, Christianity has wiped out that rich culture of making the corpse to dance in Ijaw land.
4.3.4 IMPACT OF CHRISTIANITY ON THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC LIVELIHOOD
Although Christianity has not greatly influence this aspect of Ijaw people, it has very little influence on it. According to chief Sierraleone Justine, “it is modernization and westernization that have greatly influenced this aspects”. Majority of the people still engage in fishing and farming, though tapping is less now. The people do no longer believe in fertility of their land and more catch on fishing as made possible by the gods. The structure of the houses (buildings) has greatly changed. The living standard of the people is now modernized. Pepe Clark in his poem “the Night Rain” asserted, the night rain is the old system of housing whereby when the rain falls, the soldier ants will gather and line-up and move around the house. He was actually writing about the pattern of houses in this areas. When it rains, the waters will be dropping from the thatch roof and spread around the house like the ‘line-up of soldier ants’. (oral interview with chief S. Justine in Aleibiri). The structure of the building changed as result of the teachings of Christianity for them to overlook and discard that belief of roofing house with iron sheets and block buildings as taboos.
4.3.5 IMPACT OF CHRISTIANITY ON THE CRAFTS
The only area Christianity has impacted on the craft practices of Ijaw people is that, they do no longer carve idols and masquerades. But they still carve canoe, and other art works. According to Woyengidikpete Y.G. in his book as cited earlier affirmed that the women folk still engage in weaving of mats, cane baskets and the different traps for fishing. Although this is less compared to the past, because formal education is now dominating. And now, most of the girls have started attending schools. Therefore, the acquisition of this skill of weaving by the younger generation is very less. Also, some women have been employed as cleaners in school, hospitals/clinics and local government.
4.3.6 IMPACT OF CHRISTIANITY ON THE FESTIVALS
The emergence of Christianity in Ijaw land over the time has influenced the festivals of Ijaw people. This influence has made most Ijaw festivals to be discarded. According to prof. Alagoa (1999) in his book “The Land and People of Bayelsa State” “Christianity has wiped out some of the Ijaw Festivals”. The masquerade festivals that existed in the study communities have lost their values. In fact in Isampou, their masquerade festival was totally discarded in 2007. This was made possible by the community chairman at the time Mr. Golden Garuwa who is a member of the St. Luke’s Anglican Church. Even though, after his tenure the motion was raised to start back the festival, it was abortive because of the level of Christianity in the community. While in Aleibiri community, the Amasinghan Owu festival is still celebrated. But according to Chief Zaukumo B. Eserubo “The Amasinghan Owu festival is now Christianized and as such, they have stopped the performance of rituals before it begins. And it is usually celebrated during the Christmas Period”. But at the time this study was carried out it has been two years, it has not been celebrated. This is also in the case of the Asi-oge in Ekeremor. But other festivals apart from these are no more observed by the people.
4.3.7 IMPACT OF CHRISTIANITY ON THE RITES OF PASSAGE
With the advent of Christianity, female circumcision has stopped automatically. The age grade fightss is no more in existence. Before this time according to Evang. Samuel Belemu (a religious leader in Isampou) it was forbidden for an Ijaw woman to marry an Ohrobo man. There was no inter-marriage between the Ijaws and other tribes. But now they can marry from any tribe. Christianity has made this inter-marriage possible.
Despite the positive impact of Christianity on Ijaw traditions and customs, it has also negatively impacted on them. According to Chief Sierraleone Justine “The height of brotherhood is highly destroyed. The reason is that, prior to Christianity, because of the one belief in one god it brought about the name “Clan”. If it were in this time, they would not have gotten clan”. This belief and service of one clan god fraternized the people. For example the Aleibiri man sees Lalagbene man as his brother because they are of one clan. But Christianity has broken that brotherhood because everybody belongs to different denominations. As some usually say ‘we are of C.M.S, we are of Catholic Church, we are of Jehovah’s witness and others say we are of white garment churches. They have differences both in their services and worships and these differences have toured them apart. This same problem was addressed by Paul the Apostle in the Bible “for it hath been declared unto me of you, may brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that everyone you saith, l am of Paul, and 1 of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?… 1 Corinthians 1:11-13.
With the researcher’s oral interview with Chief Sierraleone Justine (a chief of Aleibiri town) he said “I refer you back to Things Fall Apart’. Chinua Chebe was writing things fall apart at the time of the coming of Christianity. Now that the single clan god is no longer recognized, the Aleibiri man belongs to Catholic, the Isampou man belongs to C.M.S and the Lalagbene man belongs to Cherubim and Seraphim. There is no force of unity, really, things fall apart!”.
4.4 IJAW TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS IN CONTEMPORARY TIME
Research Objective 3: to examine the forces that have ensured the survival of the Ijaw traditions and customs irrespective of the influence of Christianity.
Research Question 3: what are the forces that have ensured the survival of the Ijaw traditions and customs irrespective of the influence of Christianity?
Christian Religion has not totally wiped out the traditions and customs of Ijaw people. Although numerous traditions and customs have been abandoned or altered as the population has become increasingly Christian. Bayelsa State (Ijaw) has many vital art forms as well as a rich artistic heritage (Martha G.A in Prof. Alagoa 1999). Despite the great influence of Christianity, there are still those who believe in the Egbesu and see it as the source of their protection and preservation. According to Chief Sierraleone Justine “this is due to their strong belief on the Egbesu. They believe that they are still surviving by help and power of the Egbesu. While some have made a long lasting covenant with these gods”. Although, majority of the Ijaw population are now Christians, there are those who still practice traditional religion because of their love for it.
Today, people still forbid things because they are not helpful to them. Prior to Christianity according to Chief Wilfred S. Ogulasugha of Ekeremor, “it is believed that when some eats emunu (a black fish with spots) the person will get those poses people get through leprosy. It may not be leprosy as such, but because it is believed that those poses are from eating a wrong thing, and when once poses appear in a person, he or she refrains himself/herself from eating that wrong thing”. In essence, today, people still forbid or refrain from eating some things because they believe that they will contact disease by eating them.
According to Chief Sierraleone of Aleibiri, “the clan tradition is still held back by the people due to its uniting force”. For that, there is still that strong belief that Tarakiri, Oyiakiri and oporoma are clans. And that is why, if Isampou is doing something with Ayamasa man, there is still that relationship of people from one clan. Therefore this relationship has also influenced the political grouping with a method for example, the Lalagbene man would want to support Aleibiri man who is contesting a position with Isampou an and the Ayamassa man supporting the later because they are of one clan.
Another force or factor responsive for the survival of Ijaw traditions and customs in spite of the influence of Christianity is the fact that, these traditions and customs have some local ties among the people. According to chief Felix E. Prezi “These local ties have made the Ijaws to hold back firmly those of their traditions & customs that are most profitable to them”. In the same vein as chief Bridi Albert said “ those that are profitable are still held back but those that are not profitable have been abandoned”. According to chief Sierraleone Justine “this is why prof. Iwe in his book “Christianity, culture and colonialism in Africa said cultural lags are removed, but those which are good are retained. This he referred to as “favourablier Amplianda”. It is a Latin word which means that anything thing that is favourable is amplified. This is to say that the traditions and customs which are not diabolic or cannibalistic which are favourable to humanity are amplified. In other words, the rich traditions and customs are held back and improve upon. For example Izon traditional justice administration is entirely based on truth, sincerity and righteousness of each individual even before the advent of Christianity. According to Woyengidinikpete (2006) in his book “Bayelsa State the Glory of all lands at 10” “the laws are all the basic natural laws, generally in line with the Bible Ten commandments, Except that God was regarded as so supreme and sacred that he had to be approached through messengers”. The basic natural Laws which were unwritten include:
– You shall not work on the Sabbath day (Eken or market day)
The market days were set aside for the worship of deities and major sacrifices.
– Honour your parents and elders
– You shall not commit murder of a fellow Izon man
– You shall not commit adultery
– You shall not steal
– You shall not bear false testimony against another person
– You shall not fornicate
– You shall love your neighbour (fellow Izon man) as yourself.
Indeed, for these laws, all social and economic projects were communally executed even in marriage the Ijaw people encouraged paying of pride-price or fulfilling the traditional obligations before sex. Thus, Christianity came only to improve on these aspects of the traditions and customs of Ijaw people.
4.5 DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
The findings of this study were gathered with the researcher going out to the field to interview respondents using the key Informant interview method with the aid of the tape recorder. And also from relevant literatures.
Based on the responses of the respondents seen as the custodians of the traditions and customs of the people, the researcher found out that Christian religion has greatly impacted on the Ijaw traditional religion by preaching against the service of other gods apart from the supreme God in heaven. Majority of the Ijaw population are Christians now as also asserted by Prof. Alagoa (1999) in his book “The Land and People of Bayelsa State. In spite of this strong influence of Christianity on the fine traditional religion there are still those who practice it and believe in the worship of the Egbesu and other gods. According to chief Sierraleone Justine this is due to their strong belief on the Egbesu as the clan god.
The new religion, Christianity has also impacted on the Ijaw marriage practice. Ijaw people see polygamy as part of wealth but with the advent of Christianity, monogamy was introduced to them. Today, the Ijaw people believe and practice monogamy so firmly. According to Woyengidinikpete (2006) “this also due to the harsh economic realities of the contemporary world”.
On deaths and burials, Christian religion has impacted in such a way that people do not mourn the dead for weeks or years as was done prior to its advent. All people are given same burial right irrespective of the type of death. That is people are not thrown away or dump in evil forest. But it is found out the some communities still practice this although is not pronounced.
Christianity has also greatly impacted on the socioeconomic livelihood, crafts, festivals and the right of passage of Ijaw people. As Dinesh D’souza in his book “what is great about Christianity” asserts “ Christianity is responsible for the way our society is organized and for the way we currently live. It has impacted greatly on our laws, our economics, our politics, our arts, our calendars, our holiday, our moral and cultural practices”
The research found out that Christianity made only little impact on the socio-economic livelihoods of Ijaw people; as the people do no longer see the gods as responsible for the fertility of their lands (farms) and their wealth. According to chief Sierraleone Justine, this aspect of Ijaw People is greatly influenced by modernization and Westernization.
On craft and festivals, Christianity contributed to the demise of some craft practices in festivals. The practice of carving deities has been abandoned by the people predominantly due to the predominance of Christians. And most festivals are also abandoned. But according to prof Alagoa and Wonyengidinikpete in their literature as cited earlier assert that (Ijaw people still have a rich culture of craft practices and festivals due to the vitality and uniqueness of such practices.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION, IMPLICATION OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
This chapter focuses and deals with the summary, conclusion, implication of findings and the possible recommendations for the preservation of Ijaw traditions and customs and for policy makers.
5.1 SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
The main concern of this study focuses on Christian religion and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs particularly among the Ijaws in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The specific objectives of the study include examining the pre-Christian traditions and customs of Ijaw people, how with the advent of Christianity affected these traditions and customs and their survival in spite of this influence.
To place the study within the appropriate perspective, various works of different scholars in the area were considered. Also the globalization and diffusion theories were used to give explanations on the research topic.
This study adopted the historical and exploratory research design and the population consisted of selected communities in Ekeremor L.G.A. Since the study was based on selected communities, it was meaningful to apply the purposive sampling techniques. The study made use of a sample size of thirty (30) respondents from three communities purposively. However, in-depth interview schedule was used to elicit information from respondents as primary source of data and the secondary source as textbooks, journals, interment etc.
The findings of this study were presented, analyzed and discussed using the qualitative context analysis method.
From the findings, the study found out that, the advent of Christianity in Ijaw land particularly in the Ekeremor L.G.A can be traced back to 1914. And prior to Christianity there were some rich traditions and customs of the people. But with the advent of Christianity most of the people’s traditions and customs entirely have lost their values and worth, some have been Christianized while some have been totally abandoned due to the mainly Christian population. But in spite of this influence, there are still existing traditions and customs of the people due to their vitality and uniqueness as found out in the cause of this study.
This study examined Christian religion and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs using three selected communities in Ekeremor L.G.A. of Bayelsa State. This study is a qualitative research work. However having carried out this work through careful observation, in-depth interview using the key information interview (KII) method and with the review of relevant different literatures, the researcher concludes that Christian religion has greatly impacted and contributed to the loss of Ijaw traditions and customs. Although, other factors like colonialism, modernization/westernization, urbanization and others can also be held responsible for the loss of the traditions and customs of Ijaw people. This influence of Christianity has both positive and negative impact on the people and their culture.
On the contrary, what is passed down by preceding generation to a succeeding generation is cherished, valued and worth preserving. As such there are still some rich traditions and customs of Ijaw people despite the influence of Christianity. This is also affirmed by Prof. E.J. Alagoa (1999) in his book ‘the Land and people of Bayelsa State’ who asserts that “although numerous traditions have been abandoned or altered as the population has become increasingly Christian Bayelsa State (Ijaw) has many vital art forms, as well as a rich artistic heritage”. The Ijaws have not totally lost all their cultures to Christianity.
Finally, the researcher sees Christian religion as a ‘wild fire’ penetrating in Ijaw land. Therefore, different measures of strategies should be employed to preserve the traditions and customs of the people irrespective of the continuous influence of Christianity.
5.3 IMPLICATION OF FINDINGS
The researcher embarked on this study after witnessing the loss of some unifying and vital Ijaw traditions and customs due to Christianity and its influence. The researcher sees it as a need or necessity to preserve the traditions and custom of Ijaw people. Therefore, the implication is that, if different measures of strategies are not taken to preserve the Ijaw people’s traditions and customs they would be entirely wiped out with the influences of Christianity and other factors as found out. But, if we preserve our Ijaw traditions and customs, it would serve as:
i. TOURISM: preserving our art culture and other aspects of the culture for tourism can provided direct jobs for the community (Ijaw people) such as tour guides or hotel housekeeping, indirect. Visitors expenditure generate income for the Local community and can lead to the alleviation of poverty. Tourism can bring about a real sense of pride and identity to communities. By showcasing distinct characteristics of the Ijaw people’s ways of life, history and culture, tourism can encourage the preservation of traditions and customs which are at risk of and so on.
ii. SOCIAL CONTROL: preserving the Ijaw traditions and customs can also serve as a medium or mechanism for social control. For serving as a mechanism for social control, it will regulate individual and behaviour in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the use of society and ijaw people as a social/cultural group. As we preserve our traditions, succeeding individuals can internalize the values of our society. As thus, it can reduce immoral behaviour and crime in society.
iii. SOCIAL INTEGRATION: it can also serves as a tool for social integration. The traditions and customs of Ijaw people were integrating tools among the people before Christianity. The Ijaw man sees his fellow Ijaw man as a brother. But now Christianity has widened this relationship. But if we preserve our traditions and customs, it would continuous to serve as a tools for social integration.
After a careful research and review of various literatures, the researcher considers the following recommendations as necessary to help the government and policy makers to achieve a successful preservation of Ijaw traditions and customs irrespective of the influence of Christianity.
i. PROMOTION OF IJAW LANGUAGE: the Ijaw language should be greatly encouraged. The language of a people is a means or mechanism for preserving and passing down their culture from generation to generation. If the Ijaw language is promoted in the curriculum of the nursery, primary, secondary and even tertiary schools, it will go a long way in preserving our language as well as promoting our traditions and customs. And also different measures should be taken to restrict the use of the English language in the homes. This could be done using the media and other cultural orientating programmes to encourage parents and guardians to avoid and discourage the use of the English language with children at homes.
ii. PROVISION OF SUPPORTS/ASSISTANCE: The ministry of culture and Tourism and local Government authorities in Bayelsa state should give an adequate support to various cultural festivals and practices that are still existing and also embrace any plan to promote our culture.
iii. CREATION TOURIST CENTRES: The Bayesla state government should try as possible to create tourist centers in the state so as to preserve our traditions and customs that are at risk of.
iv. ORGANIZATION OF CULTURAL PERFORMANCES: The state government should also organize a yearly or once in every two years cultural performance day. Were all different communities in the state would be given the chance to present their cultural performances. In doing this we shall greatly promote our culture.
5.5 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDIES
The researcher carried out this study after carefully observing Christianity as one of the major causes of the loss of Ijaw traditions and customs. The study was conducted to suggest ways Christian religion and Ijaw traditions and customs could exist side by side. As thus the researcher finds it necessary to suggest the followings.
1. Studies should be conducted on modernization, urbanization and loss of Ijaw traditions and customs.
2. Works should be done on how to preserve the Ijaw culture extensively
3. Studies should be done on preaching in favour of the richness of Ijaw culture.
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