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Friday, March 1, 2024

Nze na Ozo – a social way of living

The African culture is a predominant concept of living, one of such exist with the Igbos. Nze na Ozo is viewed as a social belief that allows people to explore the meaning of life.

The Nze na Ozo initiated men performs a sacred rite that bridge the gap between the visible and unseen world of the ancestors.

Nze na Ozo titleholders are regarded as the guardians of truth and morality in the community. Despite its status, the group has been repeatedly accused of misogyny and sexism.

To become Ozo implies that the titleholder is now a ‘Nze’, implying that he is a living spirit & an ancestor. Initiation into the aristocratic Nze na Ozo society marks the person as nobility. The oath-taking by the titleholders is to ensure that they live a good life in the service of humanity.

If a man is a convicted murderer or a thief, he cannot take Ozo title. A stranger can also not hold the title even with their contributions to the community in Igboland.

Several traditional rules and customs regulate the Ozo title; in some places, when a man’s father is still alive and hasn’t taken an Ozo title himself; the son, can’t hold the title. In other places, a titled father can initiate his son, but his son must remain an Ozo Agbala while he is alive. He also cannot dance to the sacred Ozo music.

The people of Onitsha, on the other hand, are exempted from this rule, as they can take the Ozo title while their father is alive.

Generally, in most Igbo communities, only holders of the Ichi title may become candidates for the Ozo title. Categorization and grades of Ozo titles are different across Igbo communities.

In most parts of Igboland, there are generally 2 major classes, the first is nnukwu Ozo (big Ozo). Within nnukwu Ozo, there are three grades consisting of Dunu, Dim and Ezeana. The second class is Obele Ozo (Eyisi, Ezuzo and Okpala).

Before the 1930s, Nnukwu Ozo had a fourth grade known as Igwe; it was regarded as the highest grade of Nnukwu Ozo and was held by the spiritual head, Eze Nri. This changed over time as most Igbo communities are now being led by an Igwe or Eze; a senior Ozo holder.

The different grades of Ozo are not necessarily distinct based on nomenclature alone. For example, while Ozo Okpala is known as obele Ozo, the position is usually held by the first son in a lineage, who becomes responsible for resolving internal family disputes by accepting the title.

A person is awarded an Ozo title during special Igbo religious festivals like New Yam Festival. The candidate is required to have obtained the Ichi title before taking the Ozo title (gbue Ichi).

The Nze na Ozo society does not exist in most southern Igbo communities such as the Aro. Instead, these communities have masquerade societies such as Okonko and Ekpe.




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