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Burial Ceremony

 

One of the biblical corporal works of mercy, as entrenched in the catholic doctrine, is to bury the dead. Hence it becomes important that we harness in this book the way burials are carried out in Ebudin. The responsibilities for burial of the dead rest not only on the members of the immediate family of the dead, but also on the entire community where he lived. It is generally believed in Ebudin, that burial must be done to ensure the deceased is at peace in the great beyond.

To talk a little about death here, let me quickly mention that to become an ancestor, one has to die, and the death must be honourable to the society before the dead can become a recognized ancestor. One has to die well; because there are good and bad deaths according to the Esan tradition.

Good Death normally receives full burial rites while bad deaths do not receive full burial rites. The good death is that which happened when one lives to a ripe old age and has lived an exemplary and good life and has children to honour the dead. Sometimes though, the death of a young person who lived an exemplary and good life is not considered a totally bad death. Esan people believe such young dead will have a good place in the abode of the spirits. He is therefore given a befitting burial and in consequence of this, he becomes a recognized ancestor.

Bad Deaths do not normally receive full burial rites. Deaths caused by the divinities like ‘Ovia’ and other shrines and deities are regarded as bad deaths. They are regarded as capital punishment from the divine and must not be mourned. Those who die a bad death are buried with purificatory rites to appease the divinities concerned with the death. Other types of bad deaths include those who die of leprosy, people who die by accidents like falling from Palm tree, lunatics, suicide and those who were drowned. The burial of such persons is not usually attended by ordinary people but by certain individuals who have knowledge and charged with the responsibility of performing the rituals connected with such death. It is believed that such persons who died badly cannot join the ancestors unless the necessary rituals and funeral rites are performed in his honour or the rituals connected with such death are performed on the corpses.

It is common belief in Ebudin and indeed in Esan Land that in death the deceased becomes an ancestor provided he/she lived a good life and proper funeral rites are performed by his children and siblings. These funeral rites are rituals of transition for the dead from the point of death to their becoming an ancestor. It is believed amongst the Esan people that without these ceremonies, the deceased cannot join the ancestors; he/she will be separated and therefore kept aside (Egborkpen) till the funeral rites are performed.

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Political and Administrative Structure of Ebudin

 

Ebudin, as one of the communities in Nigeria, is generally governed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The people of Ebudin obey the laws, regulations and customs of the people of Edo State and those of Esan land in particular. Hence, customs governing issues of marriage, burial ceremony, inheritance, joining of age groups and all the likes in Ebudin, are virtually the same with those of other communities in Esan Land safe for some minor, but tolerable differences.

Administratively, Ebudin town is made up of seven quarters as established by the founder- Pa. Oboh. In order to ensure peaceful administration of the town, after his exit, Pa. Oboh divided the town into quarters and allocated each to his three sons and named the quarters after their names. In addition to the three quarters created after the names of Pa. Oboh’s three sons (Ogbe, Igun and Oghale), four additional quarters have emerged as a result of the migration of indigenes of other communities into Ebudin. The additional quarters are Ohoghe, Iguizi, Arua, Ididigba and the newest being Obhiagor which is regarded as part of Oghale quarters. 

Accordingly, Mr. Ogbe, being his first son, was made the head of Odogbe quarters. Igun, his second son, was made the head of Idimu-Igun quarters, while Oghale, his third son, was made the head of Idimu-Oghale quarters. He also made sure that the oldest man in all the other quarters was made the head of the quarter and this has remained the pattern of selection of the administrative head of each of the quarters in Ebudin till date. It must be mentioned here that after the demise of the biological children of Pa. Oboh, the oldest man in each of the three quarters (Odogbe, Igun and Oghale) formally administered by Pa. Oboh’s children became the administrator as applicable in other quarters in Ebudin. From then hence, the oldest man in each quarter now becomes the administrator of the quarter, while the oldest man in the entire Ebudin Community becomes the ruler after performing the laid down traditional activities.

The administrative head of Ebudin today is known as the ODIONWELE, who is usually the oldest man in Ebudin. To be crowned the Odionwele, there are usually other stages of titles and age-group ceremonies to be done by the intending Odionwele; otherwise he cannot ascend the Odionwele throne.  Whoever aspires to be an Odionwele must begin, grow and progress from the youngest age group to the eldest.

There are three other broad age groups in Ebudin, as in most other communities in Esan Land, namely Egbonughele, Igene and Edion, the youngest group being the Egbonughele group, followed by the Igene and then the Edion progressively. Every youth in Ebudin is a member of the Egbonughele age group, by virtue of their age and being an indigene of Ebudin. The Egbonughele group is further divided into two sub units; Egbunughele-ne-khua (Upper Egbonughele) and Egbonughele-ne-kotor (younger Egbonughele). They however operate as one major group though the upper Egbonughele group can delegate some responsibilities to the younger group. Whether you are a member of the Upper or lower Egbonughele age group, you must have performed the cooking ceremony for the next higher age-group, called the Igene age group, after being selected, before you can be admitted to the Igene age group. The selection into the Igene age-group is commonly in circles of Ten (10) years.

Any youth whose father has been in the Igene age group will by virtue of his upgrade to the membership of the Igene age group, expect the father to also upgrade to the Eldions’ group; provided he is chosen by the selection team of the Igene age group during selection time. It must be mentioned here that those Igene age group members whose sons have driven them from being in the group and but are yet to be able to celebrate the Iruen ceremony will have to remain neutral (without having membership of any of the groups), till they are able to perform the Iruen ceremony, which will enable them to move to the Edion’s group. Also, any member of the Igene group cannot move to the Edion’s group, only upon his celebration of the Iruen ceremony. 

It must also be clarified here, that it is not automatic for members of the Igene age group that have celebrated the Iruen ceremony to be admitted to the Elders’ Council. There is one vital requirement which stipulates that “not one person is admitted to the Elders’ Council”. Only at least two people can be admitted to the Elders’ Council upon performing the Iruen ceremony. In which case any Igene age group person that have celebrated the Iruen ceremony, must wait for another qualified person to join him before being admitted into the Elders’ Council or Edions’ age group. One other practice in Ebudin in admitting qualified Igene age group people into Edion’s age group is that, where there is no other qualified Igene man to be co-admitted to Edion’s age group, any aged woman qualified to be an elder in the community can be co-opted and admitted together with the qualified Igene member and be admitted into the Edions’ group.

There is the sub-age group, selected from amongst all the groups, which are called ‘Enotu’. This seemingly special age group is basically responsible for adjudicating on some selected criminal offences in Ebudin as listed below:

1.When somebody destroys another person’s farm crops such as yam farm

2.When one climbs a palm tree to directly drink the palm wine being tapped by another on the palm tree

3.When one destroys the animal traps set by another person

4.When a person climbs the same palm tree that someone else has climbed already  

These offences are regarded as criminal offences and abhorred in the Ebudin and therefore deserves special adjudication; hence the formation of this sub-aged group (the Enotu). It was once headed by Late Pa. Idiake Adelabu of Idimu-Igun quarters. Other members of the Enotu age-group then were:

•Late Pa. Agordi Ereghan of Idimu-Ohoghe

•Late Pa. Erewele of Ididigba

•Late Pa. Iyayi Akwualoboh of Idimu-Oghale

This group has gone into extinction since the death of most members especially that of their leader, Pa. Idiake Adelabu.

The succession of Odionwele of Ebudin is confined to core indigenes of Ebudin and is usually the eldest man in Ebudin and can come from any of the seven quarters/Villages in Ebudin as ordained by the founder. However, if the oldest man happens to be a non-indigene of Ebudin, who must have lived a greater part of his live in Ebudin and have participated in all age group activities from Egbonughele to Edion, he can only be given the number three man position in Ebudin. 

There is an established Elders’ legislative council in Ebudin, headed by the Odionwele and membership is restricted to the elders of Ebudin. To be regarded as an Elder and be allowed into the elders’ council in Ebudin, you must have performed the Iruen Ceremony and must have been formally admitted to the elders’ council by the existing elders, after performing the Iruen ceremony. The biological age of an individual does not confer automatic admission into the Elders’ Council in Ebudin; unless and until one performs all necessary ceremonies required. Rules and regulations governing the Ebudin people is formulated and administered by this Elders’ Council. It is the highest authority in Ebudin. Decisions taken in this Elders’ Council are binding on all indigenes of Ebudin and are usually obeyed by all indigenes.

The elders’ Council usually meet in a place called “Oko-Ughele”, which is a house built at the town square designated as the elders’ meeting venue. The Oko-ughele is the administrative headquarters (the seat of Power) of the Odionwele for the people of Ebudin. All the elders in Ebudin hold most of their meetings in this Oko-ughele, where matters of common interest affecting the entire community are discussed and addressed. Elders’ meetings can however hold in the Odionwele’s house if he so desires. All other indigenes of Ebudin are free to attend the elders’ meeting sessions as observers. Unless otherwise permitted to talk at this elders’ meeting, all other attendees are not expected to make comments on the elders’ discussions. Number of members in the Elders’ Council is as many as the number of the elders of Ebudin that have been admitted to the council after celebrating their Iruen and performing every other required ceremonies.

Some functions of the Elders in Ebudin Community can be listed as follows:

•Settlement of disputes amongst the indigenes

•Co-ordination of communal efforts towards the development of Ebudin

•Imposition of levies/fines towards the development of the town

•Legislation and formulation of laws and order for the good and wellbeing of all the indigenes and inhabitants of Ebudin town

•Crowning and acceptance of the Odionwele and other title seekers

•General administration of the town

Structurally, each of the quarters that make up Ebudin is inter-dependent on each other for daily subsistence. They help one another in the discharge of various manual labours such as building of their houses, maintenance of roads, clearing of farm land and planting of crops. Communal help are offered without restraint to location or boundaries. Each quarter also has their village head known as “Odin-Idimu”. This Odin-Idimu also performs basically the same functions as the Odionwele except that his authority is restricted or confined to that of his quarter. Decisions taken by the Head of quarter level is deemed final in so far as there are no further complaints or objections from anybody on the decision. Where there is any complaint, such will now be referred to the Elders’ council for final resolution.

Each of the quarters meets, as and when necessary, to discuss matters of common interest and resolution of disputes when they occur. Fines/levies, as imposed by the Elders’ Council, are usually collected at this level for remittance to the appropriate authorities. Each quarter retains the right to manage its own affairs though it is still subject to the overriding authority of the Odionwele of Ebudin. The quarters, therefore remains an ideological and political unit, in the sense that the constituent quarter regards themselves as members of the larger Ebudin Community, a sense of belonging symbolized by the annual performances of new yam festivals, religious rites and the joint maintenance of the village square and major streets in Ebudin.

Understandably, when the European came to Ebudin, just about 1916, the administration of the town changed temporarily to indirect rule system of administration with the introduction of Enojies and Chiefs (Ekhamonlen) in addition to the existing elders. They then introduced the people of Ebudin to the payment of Taxes on annual basis, which were usually collected by appointed government officials, then called “Unakpa”. They were government messengers attached to government courts, charged with the responsibility of tax administration for the local government. The taxes collected were usually paid into the account of the local government for their use in developing the local councils. The payment of taxes, which was limited to middle aged men, was done annually. Defaulters were usually harassed and arrested for prosecution in the local/magistrates courts and were susceptible to imprisonment when found guilty.

It was the late Onojie of Ugbegun, HRH Asikagbon that created some chiefs in Ebudin. He created the following chieftaincy titles in Ebudin:

1.Chief Oniha:This was bestowed on Late Pa. Oniha Anene from Idimu-Igun

2.Chief Osuma:This was bestowed on Late Pa. Ibhayehor Osuma from Idimu-Oghale

3.Chief Ezomon:This was bestowed on Late Pa. Thomas Eboh from Iguizi

4.Chief Obobafo:This was bestowed on Late Pa. Akpako Oko-Oboh from Idimu-Arua

5.Chief Ihama:This was bestowed on Late Pa. Ukpetena Asono

6.Chief Onogbosele:This was bestowed on Late Pa. Akpokan Imiabor.

These Chief were mere functionaries of the Onojie of Ugbegun and had little or nothing to do with the day-to-day running of affairs of Ebudin Community.

Amongst the first Europeans that came to Ebudin were the missionaries. There were two groups of the early Europeans; the Roman Catholic Mission and the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.). They introduced Ebudin people to Christianity which was only embraced by some of the indigenes of Ebudin. Apart from the introduction of Christianity to Ebudin by the Europeans, other influences they brought about included:

1.Curbing of the powers of the Onojie, Odionwele and the Chiefs:

 The traditional rulers were now limited to settlement of minor disputes and matters within the community. Issues such as murders and suicides were now to be referred to the public courts set up by the Europeans located in Ubiaja, being the headquarters of Esan division, in the early days. 

2.Giving of Christian names to children:

Some indigenes of Ebudin started giving their children Christian names contrary to what used to be. Children of both sexes started rejecting native names, preferring the English names commonly given to them at their baptism or by the Europeans.

3.Eradication of some tradition and customs:

Most of the old traditions, customs and rites were gradually being, either modified or eradicated.

 

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MANNER OF WORSHIP

Religion is the beliefs, feelings, dogmas and practices that defines the relationship between human beings and sacred being or divinity. It is also the beliefs in the existence of a supernatural ruling power, the creator of heaven and the earth. The people of Ebudin, before the coming of the missionaries, engaged in ancestral worship and this was universal in the whole Esan land. Everybody had to remember and worship the spirit of his/her departed parents, particularly his father, at the very least, once a year. In reality, the living appealed to God Almighty through their dead fathers; they knew that they really had not the power of God or even of any divinity, but they believed that being in the other world, where all inhabitants could see what goes on in   the earth, they could direct their off-springs they had left behind in this world. More so, they believed that all dead people could see and speak to God.

It was the common practice that all children worship their dead fathers in Ebudin as commonly practiced in Africa, through the most senior surviving son who is the custodian of the family’s ‘Statue’ known in Esan Land as ‘Ukhure’ (about two feet long carved stick, covered with cowries in it upper part to represent the family spirit of their dead; an effigy). It is the traditional ancestral stick. It is the first son alone that can touch this ‘Ukhure’ and use it to bless the family. Thus, if any of his junior brothers or sisters has to appease the spirit of their dead father, they have to come to ask their senior brother or oldest male child of the family to perform the worship for them. Sacrifices were made to this effigy (Ukhure).

When the first son dies, his own first son takes up the custody of the ancestral statue (Ukhure) and now has to perform the rites not only for his own brothers and sisters, but also for his uncles and aunts, whenever the need arises. Our fore-fathers, who started the ancestral worship, were directed by their beliefs that dead people had the power to see God Almighty face to face and also those they have power of seeing and knowing what went on in the world they had left. Generally, the belief is that the ancestors had powers to influence the affairs of the living for better or for worse. 

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