Emeka Esogbue

This work presents the theory of Nwaezinmadu of the Anioma people of Nigeria as a global model for societal growth and development. It discusses the subject as that which aids the smooth and efficient running of the Anioma society since foundation and is linked to the way of life of the people socially. It will be discovered that in typical Anioma societies, the people strive to be identified as possessing the Nwaezinmadu persona. Among them, this concept serves or contributes in the establishment of acceptable behavioral pattern of life, which also provides an enterprise of social functionalism in Anioma society. Justice is never bought neither is it dispensed on the basis of disparity in status in the society because the people’s forbears long understood that biased or delayed justice, or even lack of justice would cause their institutions charged with that responsibility to lose the salt. Since everyone in the society endeavors for the recognition of the good personality in them, a healthy society, for all becomes generally intended. It is believed that in a society, ideas or information should be freely distributed. In the society, everyone should share information and also be confident to generously get and give information to others or necessary institutions when obligatory. This work digs into the concept of Nwaezinmadu as a principle of good behavious in Anioma society and in the discussion; descriptive analysis will be employed as an approach which shall enable proper and adequate illustration of the subject.
Society: A long-standing group of people sharing cultural aspects such as language, dress norms of behaviour and artistic forms.
Attitude: The position of the body or way of carrying oneself; posture.
Behaviour: Human conduct relative to social norms.
Culture: The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.
Justice: The state or characteristic of being just or fair
The word, ‘concept’ defines ‘ideology’ or ‘philosophy’ of the people. Philosophy characterizes the attitude of the people and the attitude of the people typifies their approach to issues surrounding them. The concept of Nwaezinmadu created series of acceptable processes within the Anioma society which necessarily or importantly helps the society to function for the good of generality of the people. Nwaezinmadu is a mechanism of communication as well as social control of the people of Anioma to the extent that it is valuable to their society.
This is because the concept functions to make the society running. For instance, crime becomes reduced drastically because in most cases, it is avoided by the people who must be thought to be good but not necessary evils to their neighbours or the society at large. However, where crime occurs, justice is dispensed accordingly without fear and favour. This justice is weighed and dispensed in accordance with the crime committed within the society.
This is to say that commensurate justice to crime deters crime. In the traditional judicial system, officers charged with the dispensation of justice do not receive gratification from suspects. They have understood that everyone falls under the equality of the law irrespective of status, knowing fully that lack of belief in the administrative system would lead to influx of cases to the cases. Take for instance until in recent times, it was a taboo in Ibusa for an indigene to invite the police for any indigene. Anyone who steals a goat gets a goat strapped to his back and compelled to travel around the community to be mocked by his own people. All of these behavioral mechanisms help the Anioma man to live his daily life. In Ibusa, the Iwu Festival affords the community an opportunity of discerning good and evil men in their society. It is the time celebrants of the festival move round to praise good people and also condemn evil men while singing and dancing.
Nwaezinmadu is a principle of good behaviour as derived from the dialect of the Enauni people. It praises the good and condemns the evil. In the 19th century Aboh, Obi Ossai, one of the greatest kings of the community who possessed Nwaezinmadu quality tended to apply this value to his bilateral economic dealing with the British traders but it failed him. Only then was it realized that the imperialists he was dealing with did not merit it or that its application was utterly unnecessary in economic matters especially that having to do with imperialists who were available to further their own interest. Obi Ossai decided to deal with the Europeans and no longer through the Brass hoping to court friendship with them, the Europeans.
In the book, “Groundwork of Nigerian History”, Ogedegbe was quoted as reporting that:
“In 1832, he (Obi Ossai) was angry with Macgregor Laird for not doing trade with Aboh and threatened to block them unless Europeans “bought and sold with him1”.
He had earlier sought to court the friendship of the European traders to achieve the desired end. However, it was all miscalculation from him. Although his calculation with the British was aimed at achieving certain desires, he failed to foresee the kind of trade relations which was to grow between his Aboh and the British in the years ahead.
He obviously was mistaken in applying the Nwaezinmadu concept to the British, a people it did not matter to.
The concept of Nwaezinmadu is an important perception in the society of Anioma. It defines the Anioma way of life in totality because it encompasses the social way of life of the people. From time immemorial, the Anioma people have gained the understanding that very strong disparities exist between the good and evil thus the concept of good and evil has also played some roles in molding the individual character and patterning the society to the extent that man is at liberty to make a choice from either of these two or choose to go with both. However, Nwaezinmadu is an accentuation that exists side by side with evil in the world; it creates the expected consciousness of both, giving an Anioma individual the natural opportunity to be aware of it. The good must fear and avoid evil to thrive in the society.
In the end, what is sought in dealing with issues within the society is a portrayal of good behaviour. A good aspect of life is that all men think of what others think of them judgmentally. It is this intangible verdict that guides the attitudes and actions of man in the society though a few may bother less about the human ruling about them. It is the tangible trepidation of the reaction of the Anioma society on anyone that shapes the activities of man inside it.
It is important to state the understanding of the Anioma people which will ultimately lead to the perception of the topic under discussion. The Anioma are a group of people geographically located in Delta State of Nigeria where the people primarily reside. They occupy nine local government areas in the state. According to Joshua Enueme the word ‘Anioma’ is an acronym coined by the legendary leader, Chief Dennis Osadabay of blessed memory, who employing his poetic talent, formed the name by combining the first letters of Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika and Oshimili, then adding MA to arrive at the word ‘ANIOMA’ – MEANING ‘GOOD LAND’ – (inhabited by good people)2.
“The area inhabited by Anioma people consists of the Aniocha, the Ndokwa, the Ika and the Oshimili, now divided into nine local government areas (LGAs). Anioma is bounded in the northwest at Ika South by Agbazilo and Okpehol LGAs; in the east at Oshimili South and Ndokwa East by the River Niger, and the southwest and south at Ndokwa West LGAs by Orhionmwon, Ethiope East, Ugheli North, Isoko North and Isoko South LGAs. Thus, there is a geographical contiguity of the area referred to as Anioma”3
The Anioma nation is surrounded by a number of entities as explained below:
“Still on the region’s contiguity, it is surrounded by a number ethnic groups and states. It is bounded in the southeast by Anambra and Imo States. Anioma is also bounded by Rivers and Kogi States. There are still ethnic groups such as the Ijaw, Urhobo and Bini that surround Anioma. The contiguity of Anioma to different ethnic groups is a clear evidence of heterogeneity of the people in origins which has come to affect the people of the area socially, making it a melting pot”4
The Anioma people in view of their heterogeneous origins possessed somewhat distinct aspects of cultures, community by community. With time too, they became greatly influenced socio-culturally by the people surrounding them. For instance, while the Ndokwa/Ukwuani group was influenced by their Urhobo neighbours, the people of Ika that share borders with the Edo people were influenced by aspects of Bini culture, all of which the people are still living with till date.
In the same manner, the people living around the state capital such as the Asaba, Ibusa, Ogwashi-Uku and Okpanam are heavily influenced by the eastern Igbos across the Niger. However, with time, the syncretism that occurred as a result of historical relationship having lived together for long, traded together, engaged in inter-marriage, warred led to interactionism and group membership evolvement, all of which again molded them into the single Anioma entity that are today because they developed distinct and homogenous traits, part of which is the Nwaezinmadu topic under discussion.
Etymologically, the word, ‘Nwaezinmadu’ also known as ‘Nwaezigbonmadu’ in some Anioma quarters is a cultural concept derived from the group of words of ‘Nwa’, ‘Ezi’ and ‘Nmadu’. It is the adverbial combination of these words that births ‘Nwaezinmadu’. Nwaezinmadu depicts a ‘person of good character’. The Anioma people found a way to describe people who were distinct from others in the sense that they were considered people of honour because they had integrity and avoided reprehensible and discreditable acts capable of damaging their image or family name. What should be understood is that the Anioma people show so much concern to good name upon which family good must be preserved in honour. An outward expression of this is found in ‘Eziafakaego”, the traditional name of the Anioma people. Nwaezinmadu is an indigenous concept to Anioma.
The word was frequently used by parents especially mothers to praise their young children especially those that did noble by listening and obeying them or instructions issued them. In most circumstances, the word is often supported with thank you thus, ‘dalu nwaezinmadu’. This goads the child to delivered more on instructions passed to him. Within Ibusa, one of the communities of Anioma located in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, mothers sending their children on errand were known to tell them, ‘ozigbo, onye ka nga fu ka obilu ngi’, meaning ‘who will I see soon if not you’. Some were known to pour saliva on the ground, point to it and tell the child going on errand, ‘ka nfi tu pu asua taa’, meaning ‘let me see you return from this errand before this saliva dries up.
The child then races and returns from the errand in no time and is thanked by his mother for a job well-done. This helps to shape the child to understand that certain things in life need to be accorded with seriousness as against frivolity. He grows to become staid, reliable and regular in his responsibilities. It is the belief of the Anioma people that traits of Nwaezinmadu are inculcated in children early enough in life to mold them.
The closest concept to Nwaezinmadu is the Yoruba concept of ‘Omoluabi’, which Odebunmi and Awoniyi as quoted by Atolagbe are clearly linguistic and discursive means to interactivity in world cultures such as in the use of rational formulae that includes greetings. Like Nwaezinmadu, Omoluabi is explained to rest on principle of good behaviour, social harmony and integrity5. Like Omoluabi, Nwaezinmadu also communicates greetings. It is generally a welcome salutation for people with the attributes discussed below. It is not therefore uncommon to hear mothers praise their children as Nwaezinmadu or even other individuals in the society pay tribute to people believed to posses this value. Everyone works towards being identified as one.
Nwaezinmadu is an ethnophilosophy of the Anioma people which properly fits into Anyawu’s definition of African philosophy as “that which concerns itself with the way in which African people of the past and present make sense of their destiny and the world and of the world in which they live”6. For the Anioma people, the concept denotes good behavior, upbringing and commonality within the society and every Anioma indigene is expected to live a life within the dictate of this model because it encompasses them.
The statement of Ralph Linton (1936) although now hackneyed, is prefaces the conceptual framework of ideology of Nwaezinmadu as a way of life of Anioma people. Linton explicates the idea that:
“The culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation”.
This actually emphasizes that culture emphasizes encompassing the society of a particular people covers the social, political and economic life of a people inhabiting that very society. It extends to what is right and wrong in that society and most importantly, explains that culture differs from society to society. Perhaps, this was what Egwu (2019:48) elucidated in the following words:
“…culture gives order and meaning to the social, political and economic aesthetic, religious norms and values of the people, and thus distinguishes them from other peoples. It comprises material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects7”.
In elucidating the above, Egwu provides a whole of dictate mores within the social and physical environment. It is for this reason that Nwaezinmadu, the concept of the Anioma people bears the interpretative cultural traits as shown below:
• The value
• The status
• The belief and values
• The literature (oral and written)
• The attitudes of the people
• The right and wrong
• The Self-reliance option
• The option to choose between what is right and wrong
• The development of the society as the goal of the society
It is the way of life of the Anioma people as a social group as provided for by the Nwaezinmadu concept to share the beliefs in the attributes that should differentiate one as being good. It is hoped that when values are sustained one’s status within the society becomes elevated after all; honesty and integrity attract seen and unseen interests. Everyone in the society has the option to choose from between what is right and wrong provided that the age of consciousness has been attained. In other words, everyone has the right to determine his own destiny. It is now the beliefs shared, principles and the ability to make a choice between what is right and wrong that shapes the attitude. The attitude then decides on self-reliance while by and large features characterize pursuit of the development of the society.
• Integrity: steadfast approach to moral codes within the given Anioma society
• Honour: must be seen to command importance or value within the given Anioma society
• Honesty: must command good opinion and admiration within the given Anioma society
• Chivalry: must ethically be humble and courageous
• Compassion: must possess deep awareness of the suffering of others within the given Anioma society
These entire elements put together are the constitution of Nwaezinmadu in an individual.
Mention must also be made of shame and guilt as directs opposites of impacts Nwaezinmadu. Since the culture of the Anioma people has a body of honour, which indigenes must obey, failure to obey the honour in some way may breed shame and guilt to the individual, his family or society at large. Shame and guilt are present as contracting honour8.
Already, in the social contract enjoyed by the Anioma people in their respective communities, it may be expected of them to sometimes lose their freedom or that of their society at large and in this act, an injury may be sustained. The Anioma society also has a way of honouring its brave members. The red cap also called ‘Okpu Ododo’ is held sacred among the people of Anioma and may not be worn by everyone since it may amount to an act of profanity. Nevertheless, among the people of Ika North of this region, it comes as an honour for a hunter that has killed a wild animal. Any hunter that kills a rare or wild animal can therefore be entitled to the red cap alongside people of other class within that society such as those that have performed the kingship, Ifie uzu, Ichi Ikparan and Ichi Ikenga rites. Anyone from Ika North area of Anioma with great understanding that he is not entitled to the use of the Red Cap unless he is a hunter with a remarkable feat, have performed the kingship rites, Ifie Uzu and Ichi Ikenga is an Nwaezinmadu. He has integrity and knows too that his community traditional laws ought to be respected and not violated.
Nwaezinmadu, native to the Anioma people is the concept of the good individual. It symbolizes the model of value inculcation in individuals and also the principle of good behaviour. The Anioma society believes that societies are founded on characters of indigenes and expects individuals be of good behaviour for the society to operate smoothly. The concept of Nwaezinmadu distinguishes Anioma from other societies because it is unique to them. Although this concept originated from the Anioma people, the people in some way extend its use to individuals from other societies who are deemed to merit the traits of the principle. The Nwaezinmadu ideology is so useful that it is recommended to other societies for emulation especially as it is always a pride for the people to be identified with this principle.

Obaro, I (1980), “Groundwork of Nigerian History”, Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria) PLC
Osia, K (Ed.) (2012) “Anioma in Contemporary Nigeria: Issues of Identity and Development”, Bookbuilders Publishers, p. 35
Ibid, 36
Esogbue, E (2015) “A Study of the Origins and Migrations of Anioma Settlements”, Carophem Communications Limited
Atolagbe, A (2019) “The Spoken Word and Identity as Catalyst in Terrorism and Counter-terrorism”, Paper Delivered on the 3Rd Annual International Conference on July 24 2019 at the Lagos State University
Anyawu, K & Ruch, E (1981) “African Philosophy: African Philosophy: An Introduction”, Catholic Book Agency
Egwu, J (2019), “The Distinctive Elements of Western Igbo Civilization”. Anioma Essence, Vol. 12, No. 1
Bertain, W (2007) “Southern Honour: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South”, Oxford University Press


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