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The Essence Of ‘umuada’ meeting In A Typical Igbo Community

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From time immemorial, women have played noble roles in the emancipation of men. The Beijing China 1995 Women Conference assigned more dignifying duties to women. To be accommodative to the gender, FIFA organizes tournaments for women while UN recognizes the roles of womanhood hence the commemoration of the International Women’s Day. The Catholic Church has never hid her unquantifiable regard for women. Even the respect the Church gives to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is amazing though God via Archangel Gabriel was the trail blazer. The Mothering Sunday which is now almost an all denominations affair, is a special day for mothers, all of whom are “Umuada” in their various families. The Federal Government of Nigeria appreciates the role of women in the society. In 1929, the Aba women successfully waged war against the imposition of tax on Nigeria women by the white rulers and since then has remained, the status quo. The usual maternity leave is no mean recognition of the importance of women. Furthermore, there is a Ministry incharge of women and it is being (wo)manned by a woman. Most importantly,the 35% quota allocated to women in all sphere of human endeavour by the Federal Government should through an agency allocate oil wells to the Nigerian women so that the proceeds will directly benefit the Nigerian women.

In various Igbo traditional communities and homes, women have become the sine-qua-non. Gone were the days when women answer “Oriaku” (wealth consumer). Today, they partake in the struggle for the acquisition of wealth (Okpata aku). I know it may not be an exaggeration that many homes now have women as bread-winners. They have accepted unconditionally the responsibility thus accomplishing the saying that men make houses but women make homes. This rightly corroborates a saying that a woman is she who can take the place of everyone  and no one can take her place. Perhaps that might be the reason why one “ Ichenku” (Parrot) masquerade of Ibughubu – Umuchu sang, “Kama nne g’anwu, nna m nnnnn h” meaning instead of my mother dying, let my father nnnnnh.

“Ada” means daughter in Igbo language. Ndigbo hold “Umuada” (daughters) in very high esteem and regard because of their unique roles in various families. Many of the “Umuada” in their various paternal families in Igbo land act as peace-makers, equalizers, equilibriuim distributors, joy-givers, consolation- materials, radiators and tranquilizers in their families. Could it be the uniqueness and pivotal role of “Umuada” that enables the group to be allocated the hips of goats, cows etc killed in some Igbo traditional communities?

In the early 80s, UMUADA NDIGBO organization was prominent in its activities. The body had an umbrella organization initiated in Enugu by the likes of Lolo Lynkate Ezeofor, Lynda Menakaya, Dorathy Ipere, late Angelic voice Singer, Nelly Uchendu etc. Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo administration then, gave the organization an unforgettable recognition and a moral booster. Is this organization now defunct or dormant? There is a need to rekindle that wonderful and helpful association especially in our communities, Local Government Areas and States. The Ohaneze Ndigbo should accord official recognition to the UMUADA NDIGBO as a legitimate arm of Ohaneze Ndigbo and ensure the rationalization of the body. At present, what is obtainable is something like Anambra Daughters, Enugu Daughters, Imo Daughters etc in their various states of residences. But then,  UMUADA NDIGBO should exist in Delta, Rivers etc as Ndigbo are indigenes in these states. This is quite different from Delta Daughters or Rivers Daughters which includes UMUADA NDIGBO in those states besides daughters of people of other ethnic groups.

Right now, other fire-brand Igbo women are emerging and this organization will help more to emerge. In many traditional families, Kindred, Villages and Towns, UMUADA meeting is in existence. For example in my ancestral family, “UMUEBULUZO”, Our “Umuada” meeting started in the 70s and it is second to none and it is still waxing stronger. Their meetings hold on Easter Monday of every year. Today in my hometown, Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Easter Monday is specially dedicated to and reserved for UMUADA MEETINGS.

The UMUADA meeting is a special concourse that has helped to settle issues that could have set families and communities on fire. The difference between UMUADA MEETING of Easter Monday and WOMEN AUGUST MEETING is not farfetched. The UMUADA meeting is for the daughters of a family, Kindred, Village or Town while WOMEN AUGUST meeting is for married women of a town or church denomination. In the latter, a non-indigene is eligible to attend so long as she is married to a son of the area. And the married daughter-in-law, being from a different genealogical and ancestral home with different gene, character, environment and temperament, there is no gainsaying the honesty that the homogeneity, unity, equilibrium of the husbands family status quo may be breached or disrupted especially nowadays that marriage has gone “nuclear”, MEET or SEE ANYWHERE AND MARRY” without recourse to either family history or antecedents. Some have married ghosts and heartless urchins.

The UMUADA meeting as it is constituted by all daughters, married and unmarried (of certain age) in the family or Kindred, the group is closest in the genealogy or cultural affinity of the family with those of the male folk. By virtue of this relationship, their naivety, silence, laissez-faire attitude, indifference or callousness on the wellbeing of the affairs of their paternal home is detrimental to their genealogical existence. Therefore, where the married women derail, jeopardize or compromise the family focus, ideals, sacredness, the UMUADA usually comes to the rescue. In the olden days, traditional and pagan festivals serve as forum for UMUADA, grand and great grand children to know their paternal and maternal relations. Above all, it gives UMUADA the ample opportunity to be aware of the latest development in their nuclear families, villages or communities. Today civilization, distant marriages, hard times, “born-againism” among others have made such social concourse a rare occurrence. In some families, funeral obsequies of family members avail UMUADA of the opportunity to see one another. Christmas period is always congested with activities to come to the rescue of this coming together.

The UMUADA also use such gatherings to settle conflicts in their families, righting some wrongs in the society in addition to the ones perpetrated to the widows of their late brothers. Even, some complaints against an ADA in her married place usually receive attention in their meeting etc. Conversely, the UMUADA meetings have curtailed or trimmed the menace and cruelty of wicked brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law and recalcitrant widows. The meeting enables those married outside their communities, states, country to visit their community at least once a year especially nowadays that Abuja and Lagos marriages abound. Once a girl cohabits with any lover and gives him babies, she turns into a wife; no dowry, no traditional marriage etc. Contingencies such as untimely death have exposed a lot of abnormalities in these types of marriages. And the shame of the misbehavior has often times deprived these young UMUADA the joy of visiting their paternal families as they are scared or ashamed of themselves and their attitudes.

The UMUADA meetings usually help to control and subdue the attitude of some Umuada who forget completely their paternal families once married more especially to a wealthy husband. It will not be out of place if this ethno-socio-cultural organization contributes even financially towards the development of its paternal home. This concourse will lend its voice to the one of the AUGUST meeting by telling the “modern children” the no-go areas of the relationship with their relatives; that incest, bestiality, lesbianism, sodomy are not only abominations in the Igbo traditional society but also an anathema to God. Worse still prostitution, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, indecent dressing, ritualism, assassination, secret cultism, armed robbery, same-sex marriage, child trafficking, Rape, kidnapping, suicide, murder etc should be drummed into the ears of these youths as taboos. All these palliative functions and more, UMUADA meeting has also helped to perform.

Great women all over the world never do different things, they just do things differently thus corroborating the saying that everything is not for everybody. What make the UMUADA meeting extra-ordinary is the extra-ordinary things it does.

The UMUADA NDIGBO have produced the likes of  Golda Meir, Margreth  Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Ms Condolice Rice, Hilary Clinton, Angelo Michello, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joyce Banda etc in the persons of Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, Bianca Ojukwu, Justina Eze, Oby Ezekwesili, Ndi Okereke Onyiuke, Mary Odili, Viola Onwunliri, Joy Emordi, Onyeka Onwenu, Mary Otigbuo, Chinwe Obaji, Uche Ekwunife, Irene Chigbue, Carol  Nduaguba, Ada Okwuonu, Eudora Igwe etc as role models. The likes of Virgy Etiaba, Eunice Uzor Kalu Theresa Agbonma Udenwa, Nkechi Okorocha,  Eunice Egwu, Mercy Odochi Orji, Lady Aguiyi Ironsi etc are special mothers and “Umuada”. Mary Onyali, Chioma Ajunwa, Chinyere Onyenaucheya among others are in the inspiration – motivator cadre of “Umuada”. They have done differently the same thing others do, hoping to do more and for this we say bravo.

Finally, the deteriorating, devastating and decay of morals, ethics, ethos, values and consciences in various families, villages and towns in Igbo land have underscored the urgent need for UMUADA meetings in various societal segments.The UMUADA on the other hand, in utmost good faith should accept this challenge of assisting their paternal brothers in the renaissance of our Igboness as the men are almost “consumed” by the societal “mess”. The UMUADA ought to realize that saliva has always become food when one has sore throat.(Mr Ezennaya writes for the World Igbo Times Magazine London).

 __________________________
Sixtus Chibueze  Ezennaya

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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