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2.2    Morality in Igbo Perception

 The common characteristic of every Igbo society is the existence of norms called “omenala” that is, what happens on the land, as the dictates of the earth goddess, or norms that were made by the society but handed over to the earth goddess for guidance. Also affirmed, was the fact that “omenala” has social, moral and political implications, based on some specific rules or laws and given a religious undertone derived from the worship of the same mother earth. Ala – the earth goddess who regulates the moral life of the Igbo.

The earth goddess sounds a specific note in the ear of every traditional Igbo man. She is believed to be the mother of everybody. Uchendu (1965:96) opined that, “being conceived as the sources of life and of its sustenance and its preserver, there exists a divine tie to be a kind-hearted mother who protects all her children, hence no deity may exercise a fatal influence over any member of the society without first going to tell Ala the offence of the individual.” She abhors violent killings and ipso facto disapproves of the application of poison in the society. Each person is expected to be his brother‟s keeper.

The problem of others and their inability to note this distinction arises from the fact that in Igbo society, what constitutes an offence is what is contrary to “omenala,” and what enforces the compliance to observances is also the same “omenala.” To approach this problem we are going to pay attention to offence and punishment relating to the breakage of purely man made laws; and laws connected with the deity – “Ala,” and laws regarding religion and cults in Igboland. Malinowski (1970:56) observed that, “the only way in which we can classify rules of conduct is by reference to motives and sanctions by which they are enforced.”

The first category of offences to be considered are the breaches of purely social sanctions and laws that are enacted to regulate inter-personal relationship between individuals in the society on a purely social sense, starting from relationship in family to the community as a whole. Here we have in mind, “Iwu” (man made laws), the breach of which need not involve the deterioration in the “socio-ritual” status of the defaulter as “Aru,” (Taboo). In this group are to be found the implicit class of rules about which Malinowski (1970:56), stated that: “there must be in all societies a class of rules too practical to be backed up by religious sanctions, too burdensome to be left to more good will, too personally vital to individuals to be enforced by an abstract agency. This is the domain of legal rules. Igboland is hemmed round with laws – „iwu‟. To begin with, there are private and public “Iwu”. By private “Iwu”, are referred to those laws guiding different societies exclusively.

The second class of offences refers to those laws made by the community and handed to the deity to enforce in such a way that any breach becomes an act of disrespect to the deity on the one hand and an overthrow of social order on the other. This class includes those acts that are not bad in themselves but considered as such within a given community for the purpose of peace. The punishment due to such offences have dual dimension because they touch and upset social peace and decorum on the one hand, and a breach of relationship with a deity – Ala on the other hand. For instance, in Amizi village in Oloko clan in Ikwuano Umuahia Local Government Area – Abia State, it was an offence for anyone having the sexual act during the day. This law was made by the community for married people so as to safeguard the young. (In this village, fornication is said to be unknown until recently). This law was made and handed over to Ala; hence any person who broke it was obliged to offer a goat to the Earth deity as a fine. Note that it is married couples that were concerned, hence the act they did is not what is in question but the time.

2.3. Morality and Religion in Traditional Igboland.

Attempts have been made by many scholars to separate morality from religion, but one cannot deny the influence of religion on social and moral behaviour in Igboland. According to Quarcoopome (1987: 154), “The traditional religion sees morality as the fruit of religion and the social and moral patterns of behaviour are reflections of this belief.” Agha (2003: 43), supported this opinion that, “Morality and religion have been closely connected in the history of human race. That the traditional position holds that morality and religion are inseparable. One flows from the other as morality had its sole basis and justification in religion.” Agha (2003:49) further stated that. “both have emphasized human personality in its relationships and have been concerned with conduct. It follows that; the destruction of religion will automatically lead to the destruction of morality also. When men lose their hold on religion, nothing but moral confusion and decay will be expected. Hence, the confusion of our time in the school and society.”

Quarcoopome (1987: 159) added that, “the traditional emphasis on good character shows that contrary to western notions, God and the Good life are closely connected and that the traditional religion lays stress on individual sin and guilt.” The dos and don‟ts of the society come under ethics and taboos and these are religious, social, political and economic in content. On the whole, the taboos are stabilizing factors as they emphasize the role of religion in maintaining law and order in the society. Agha (2003: 44) also observed that, “religion has been concerned not only with the ordinary values of human life, but with the super-human values. Religion provides the conviction that what is highest in spirit is also deepest in nature.” Agha (2003: 41) further stated that, “morality is an outflow from religion, indissoluble bound up with it. Without religion there can be no effective morality, from its content, its form, its learning and its sanctions are rooted in the supernatural.” It is reasonable to say that the basis of moral behaviour is religion. The moral and ethical sanctions derive largely from God, who upholds the moral and are sometimes through the divinities and the ancestors. Therefore, moral philosophy must go hand in hand or side by side with religion. Moral decay is that logical consequence of religious decay and this will lead to chaos, anarchy and disaster in the world.

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It is a widely spread belief that Anambra people have a pronounced concept of morality and ethical values. Attempts have also been made to show how this can be maintained through the available agencies that are related and concerned with the life of the people. Moreover the moral sanctity of Anambra people has degenerated to an abysmal level thus.

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