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Coronation: When Culture Goes To Church

Coronation: When Culture Goes To Church


Times are changing very fast and culture, they say, is dynamic. A free society, they also say, needs cultural innovations, socio-political virtues, high moral capital and sound value system for progress and sustainable development, especially at the grassroots.

Today in Africa, not only has the dawn of the new decade greeted the world with an apparently overdue outrage and demand for change via increasing revolutions, particularly in the North-East. At the same time, in the South-Western part of the continent, the traditional institutions are on trials.
Have we got news for you? On the eve of this year, precisely at about 2pm on Friday, 31st December, 2010, history was remade in Igbo land, eastern Nigeria, when the people of Eziawa autonomous community, a small, neglected town in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State, eastern Nigeria, set a make-or break agenda for the rest of Igbo land when they did away with alleged “fetish” traditional rites and rituals customarily performed as due process for the official initiation and coronation of new traditional rulers generally known as “Ezes” (Kings), and headed rather for the Church. And just in a matter of 8 weeks or so, precisely on the 31st December, this year, Eziawans will roll out their drums to mark the 1st anniversary of the CHANGE they opted for.
Call it “revival”, call it “rude awakening”; call it “abomination”, call it “cultural rebellion”; but truth is: when African culture resorts to Christianity for a new direction,that leaves traditions and customs with little or no options. And for Eziawans and their king makers, it was a strategic and deliberate consensus to change the status quo and reinvent their community and society in the context of divine leadership, prosperity and  sustainable development of the area famous  for its ecological disasters and socio-economic deprivations for many decades.

The people of Eziawa are very religious, and the decision to hand the land over to Christianity was not a bolt from the blues to their immediate neighbours judging from the antecedents of the Eziawa Town Union (ETU), the administrative/executive arm of government in the autonomous community, who  had years ago enshrined in the Constitution of Eziawa autonomous community the new and deliberate motto of the community, reading “EZIAWA FOR CHRIST”, and which is today a household slogan and cliché with which the people are known by their immediate neighbours, albeit this does not answer the question of  whether this rebranding efforts are gradually translating to a new communal culture, intra-community understanding, love, peace and moral capital development in the relatively quiet and peaceful land.
The last Eze of Eziawa, late Eze Dominic Iloanya, (the Ezeafurukwe 1 of Eziawa) was a knight of the St. Anthony Catholic Church, Eziawa. A staunch Catholic, late Eze Iloanya was very famous for his devotion to Church life, meekness, policy of collective opinion, peaceful reign and religious tolerance.  His then Traditional Prime Minister, Chief Joseph Umunnakwe Nzegwu, a successful and well-travelled business man and a philanthropist, who is till date a radical member of the St. Mark’s Anglican Communion, the second largest Church in Eziawa, was unianimously chosen by the people to succeed the late Eze Iloanya. And from day one, the Eze Iruoma 1 of Eziawa drew his battle lines with audacious faith and impudence…
Little wonder then as the people rolled out their drums in ecstasy on the eve of 2011 and besieged the premises and pews of the St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Ubaha village, some tongues wagged and many questions fleeted through the minds and mouths of both skeptics and strangers alike. “Isn’t this a taboo? Taking the customs and tradition of the land into the Church? What has Church got to do with Ezeship and“omenala” Eziawa? Will the gods not be mad at this? Are you sure this Eze will last? This is unAfrican, it’s against the custom and tradition…” and many more contrary views.
At the same time, another school of thought was agog with joy. As one respondent put it, “This is the best thing to ever happen to this community. Now we can make progress because the righteous is in power. Not that the late Eze was not righteous but this present Eze, Eze J.U. Nzegwu- the Iruoma 1 of Eziawa- is an evangelist himself, a very enlightened and very successful man….”.
Pro or con, one thing is certain here: when culture goes to Church, pundits argue that the rebranding efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria originally aimed at changing the morality and value systems of Nigerians and the deteriorating global misconception and perception about the country, is directly or otherwise assuming new dimensions and wider frontiers – the least of which are the last age revival, cultural innovations and soft revolution.
 As Eziawa’s new traditional leadership sets an agenda, for Nd’Igbo and, in general, all African traditional conservatives, at a time so much dialoguing, financial and intellectual investments are going into advocacies to reclaim the so-called African identity and heritage, promoting cultural diversity and preserving some core African customs and traditions said to be grossly eroded by Western civilization may be as good as building castles in the air. In a global sense, can traditions really get BORN AGAIN, too? The debate has only begun! (Click here to view more pictures of the coronation of Eze Iruoma 1 of Eziawa). 


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