Where is the bond that held us together?

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I remember that in my growing up days my father’s married sisters regularly visited the home to pay him visits. When they come they are never without some local gifts items to our dad and us his children to express their love. It was an exciting moment to behold any of them as we are sure we will be treated instantly to some delicacies like ugba (processed oil bean), ukpa (wall nut), erousu (processed egusi cake), fruits of all sorts, bons, akara jiakwu (cassava processed bean cake), and many more I cannot now remember. My father too intermittently returned those visits to each of them sometimes taking us along. When they meet with us they identify us more with names of their kits and kin they believe reincarnated us.
Some of the characters we display are sometimes believed to be a carry over or influenced by the previous lives we lived in our past lives. I can hear always my father’s eldest sister, highly revered and respected in the family, claim that we, my father’s children are his brother’s, that have come to keep him company again. They usually talk to us especially when we err in conduct not to stress ‘our brother’ (my father) this time and making reference to how we lived before. The manner they cuddled us, called us names, petted us by constantly relating the lives we lived before which is not known to us as children to the present showed a clear demonstration of a strong belief in reincarnation in our culture. It was truly fun as I reminisce now.
During festive periods the most popular of which is ’emume’, or ‘iri ji’ (new yam festival) it provides another opportunity of bonding. All the married daughters of the family congregate together to the family with their kids and various gifts especially fowls and other food items like akidi, kola nuts, garden eggs, breadfruits, ugba, fufu etc. It was fun mingling together. Then we could not behold any difference between our home and those of our father’s sister’s as we regularly exchanged visits. Sometimes when we are beaten on account of misconduct or whatever we usually take a flight to our maternal homes or our father’s sister’s places for solace. We were usually warmly received any time before there is any inquiry to the issue.
My father and his brothers regularly consulted and confided in each other on family issues. At the kindred and community level the people regularly held meetings together for various reasons. There is the popular ‘ngwo orie’ where every palm wine tapper donated a keg of palm wine each Orie market day for free for the general consumption of kindred men. It is a serious offence to be extracting your palm wine and consuming alone and deny your kinsmen this gesture. There is also the popular village masquerade dances example ‘agaba and Oji onu’ for the boys, the girls danced their own too during festive periods visiting each compound and picking some money in the process. There were no walls around buildings and so children moved round freely each compound playing together and regularly identified with their play mates.
It was a common practice for couples to give out their children to their relations either as house helps or to be trained in one craft or obtain education or whatever. As holidays period approached we already would have indicated where to go or our relations would have already been subscribing to our parents to have us visit them. This was the opportunity some of us had to visit cities for the first time in our lives and those not so privileged visited their other relations in neighbouring villages and towns and assisted them in farm work or other crafts. As young lads we found delight volunteering our services free to assist our God parents or aged people as well as those incapacitated by health challenges to work on their farms.
During festive periods people returned home in mass. While the kits and kin looked forward to going home and beckoned on the dates to approach faster, those at home waited anxiously to receive them. There was unrestricted free flow of people from one point to another. There was love. There was peace. There was trust. There was respect and no violation of each other. We bonded with each other. Life was simple and fun. We were free with each other. Our word was our bond then. Every child was everybody’s child as any child caught in any misconduct was spanked and taken to the parents for better attention. Our values were topmost and everybody knew the consequences of derailing from the values. You will either be whipped into line or be ostracised for unrepentant conducts or heinous crimes.
Examining yesterday and today there is no way you will not be made to question, where is the bond that held us together? Everything it seems is now in reverse gear. We are now more fragmented than ever before as could be glimpsed from the individualistic lifestyle we indulge in. The spirit of communality is constantly begging to be reinstated. The more sophisticated we are growing in our way of life through the influence of westernization the more wide apart we are separated from each other. Check it out. In the name of privacy and security we wall off others from us and us from others as we live a secluded life. How many of us today still freely allow our children to intermingle with each other?
In the words of late legendary Chinua Achebe, things have indeed fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold. So many things combined have contributed to draw a wedge between us. One of such regrettable factors is the religious beliefs we now profess. Even when many people are likely to dispute this factor it still sticks out like a sore thumb. The advent of Christianity not only stole us away from our traditional values but also balkanized us along different lines through its practices. Today even with the Bible as the symbol of authority we speak and profess different doctrines thus we have multiple denominations. Most of these groups are not agreed on a singular mode of worship or what to believe notwithstanding that the Scripture remains a common reference book.
I am aware of a lady that has remained unmarried till date because at the time the suitors came for her hand in marriage she turned it down on account of the fact that it would attract sanctions to the family especially the Mother. This is because the Catholic Church to which the family belonged forbade them from marrying non Catholics. I don’t know if this practice is still in existence in the church till date. For fear of indoctrination no man ever allows his kids to be handled by another at least not at this period when people are in the mad rush to win souls for Christ through their own doctrines which they all claim is the best. In a family of five men you can find each of them in different denomination and so guided by different doctrinal practices.
It is ironical that rather than the church teachings welding us together we are further separated from each other. Religious issues it is observed is held in great awe by the adherents because it is believed that it draws one closer to God and so people stick strongly to it for fear of not making heaven. In my own personal experience it was a battle of a sort to get my younger brother who is of the Deeper Life stock allows his children visit my family for holidays as do my own kids to him. The children crave to move about but the parents would hold them back for fear of being ‘contaminated’. It is much more disturbing when the teachings of the modern day churches condemn, malign and impugn the issues that bind us together. Some of these would be described as demonic as they paint scary picture of what they represent thus drawing away these young impressionable minds from the reality of their existence.
Aside from religion there are other social forces that have contributed immensely to drawing us apart. The prevailing economic challenges have created financial constraints which have limited people from opening their hands towards others. Many people are more occupied with salvaging their own situation than looking beyond themselves. Another issue is the attitude of some of us arising from our education and exposure to other cultures where people have been disoriented to mind only themselves and their nuclear families. Again the events of the time have created in the minds of many that life is competitive rather than complimentary. As a result people become engaged in a rat race preferring to outpace the other rather than share what they have. A saying goes that if you want to wipe away poverty you share what you have. If this statement is actually observed even if by half, the world would be a better place to live in.
A closer observation of our social life in recent times would easily indicate that we have lost the extended family system and the benefits for which we are known. Some of the powerful men we have today are beneficiaries of this system. I have come across very bright children who cannot further their education because of finance, but when challenged to take their issue to their relations either on the mother’s and father’s side they would shock you with their response that you will wonder what has really become of us. I am convinced that a rediscovery of our social values will go a long way in resolving the social maladies plaguing us today. Indeed, where is the bond that held us together?

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