Traditional institutions are as ubiquitous as it is pervasive among political scientists particularly those who have written not only on the internal dynamics of pre-colonial African societies but also on the political transformations of these societies as they attempt to move away from traditionality to modernity.
1. The Traditional Ruler or the Eze
The traditional ruler or ‘Eze’ is an institution that has existed in Ibo societies even in antiquity and one does not need to bend backward over to prove this. The Eze is the titular head of his autonomous community. The ‘Eze’ is also the chief security officer of his domain. The Eze is the chief mobilizer of his people towards the goal of community development. The Eze is expected to be above board by maintaining the highest order of equity and fairness.
2. The Role of the Age Grades and Social Clubs in Community Development
The age-grade system is a very important institution in the social, economic, and public fabric of the Ibo society. The function of the age-grades in Iboland was in the area of maintenance of law and order. The age grades acted as the local police.
3. The Umuada and Community Development; The Case of Umuada Umuduruojiaku
This is a very important organ of government in Iboland which has also contributed immensely to development in the various Ibo communities. The Umuada is collectively of the daughters of the community who are married to either men in the same community or other community if inter kindred marriage is allowed by local customs. The Umuada streamline certain cultural practices and mete out negative sanctions where the established ethos or more of the communities are breached.
4. The Nze N’Ozo titleholders and Community Development
The Nze n’Ozos constitutes a very important organ of Ibo community administration. The holders of this title are the embodiment of truthfulness as they are not expected to break any compromise on things associated with the sanctity of the land. They are therefore vented able instruments in the hands of an Eze as they lend the most trustworthy support in the traditional ruler’s efforts to govern the community.
5. The Onye Isi Ala
The Onye isi ala was the intermediary between the community and its ancestors. In spite of the incidence of Christianity, these institutions persist till date. It was (and still is) the function of the Onye Isi Ala to consult these deities and appease them when and if certain taboos offensive to the gods have been visited on the land. This way, the Onye Isi Ala contributes to community development by assisting the Eze in the maintenance of sanity in the society.
6. The Community Women Meeting and August Mass Return
The community Women August Meeting is a veritable instrument for both community governance and development. It must be stated that these women meetings which are organized in vertical formation have their crescendo in the general meeting of the entire women of the Autonomous Community. The community women meeting has metamorphosed into an institution of monumental importance in the annals of Ibo societies.
7. The Indirect or Representative Democracy of the Village Square; Ogbako Umunna
Democracy was said to have started among the ancient Greek city-states. Indeed representative democracy is said to have started in the Polis of Athens and in antiquity. The Ibos may never have used the term democracy or representative democracy but it is undeniable that what they practiced at the village square was representative democracy. In the olden days, it was customary for the first sons of each family to meet at the village square, debate, and take important decisions. Indeed the meeting of the Dioparas performed the legislative functions of the community. Issues were thoroughly debated after which decisions are taken by a simple majority of visiting.
In seeking to conclude this foray into the examination of Igbo traditional institutions that have played a role in the community development of the people in Iboland, one can only say that development is an ongoing process that never ends. Development should not be linear and must not be tied to a particular mindset which could have been the result of a particular historical experience that is not related to the exigencies of the contemporary times.
However, Igbo traditional institutions have played a very remarkable role in the development of communities in Igboland. Apparently, every institution has its own function and role as well as limits in every Igbo traditional activity. It is pertinent to highlight that traditional institutions serve as checks and balances among themselves to avoid excessive use of authority.