Omenana’, also written ‘omenani’ or ‘omenala’, refers to the culture of the Igbo people of Nigeria. For many authors, ‘omenana’ is synonymous with ‘odinana’ (sometimes spelt ‘odinala’ or ‘odinani’), which means ‘as it is in the land’. the word “land” here, denotes, the ‘tradition’ or ‘custom of a people’
The two concepts obviously merge in scope and content. The present author investigates the meaning and contents of both with a view to distilling the salient differences between them. Both aim to protect and preserve the purity, sanctity and sacredness of the “African Igbo” land, and naturally, the Igbo people therein.
However, ‘omenana’ is man-made; it is changeable and adaptable. ‘Odinana’, on the contrary, is a code of life, handed down from “Chukwu”, God the Creator, to “Eri”, the patriarch of the Igbo race. The existence of “omenana”, as a code of conduct, for the igbos, is ultimately to prevent communial disorder
The earth spirit, “Ana”, is ‘odinana’. This spirit has same role as is the sacred role of the staple food crop, “yam” in the Igbo world. Same applies to traditonals laws like the right of inheritance, and the place of the elder.
‘Odinana’, as the immutable customary rites and traditions of the Igbos, is enduring and cuts across indigenous Igbo tribes, while ‘omenana’ is rather relative from one section of Igbo subgroup to the next.
Many of the laws and culture intertwine with native spirituality, such as taboos and laws concerning sacred spaces of forest deities. Since customary law is recognized in Nigeria, many in Igbo society find themselves soaked in a mixture of these ideologies
Odinala is consecrated on the principle of peace, called “Udo.” A man walks up to his neighbor’s “Obu/Ovu/Obi”, and he is required by convention to make the “peace greeting.” A peace covenant is then made by welcoming him and sharing the communion of the “kolanut.”
The ancient Igbo lineage is made up of five sub-nationalities. Agbaja, Isu, Idu, Oru and Nri.
The “Agbaja” were agrarians and workers of the earth, the “Isu” were metallurgists, the “Idu” – what we now know as the “Benin” today, possibly a corruption of “Ibinu”, and sometimes jokingly described as the “angry people”, of the Eweka dynasty, were the military lineage. The “Oru” were marine ecologist, while the “Nri” were the diviners and healers. That is why when the Igbos gather to invoke the ancestor’s collective memory, they say, “Isee!” or “Ihaa!”, after every invocation.
Odinala-Igbo believes that life (“ndu”), is the most sacred of our divine condition. To murder someone, is one of the most aborminable crimes, “nso ala”, and a major violation, “Iwu-Ala”, one could commit, amongst all of the “do,s and donts” of African native spirituality
The igbos believes so much in the supernatural being. In the olden days an average igbo man would believe so much in his personal ‘chi’, knowing that his “chi” will protect, defend and provide for him and his household in times of danger and vulnerability.
Omenala is important to an average igbo man because here, he is free to communicate directly with his god, knowing that his god is always available and eager to listen to him.
However, the advent of Christianity has heightened the demonisation of traditional beliefs and spirituality. The white man told us that our tradition, (Odinala), is fetish and unheavenly. They used all kinds of instrument of coercion to intimidate and suppress us to bend to their will, thereby having us unconciously reject our omenala (odinala) as we accepted their foraign gods
Igbo people have a rich cultural heritage that is deeply rooted in communal values, respect for elders, and a sense of brotherhood. Traditionally, decision-making was a collective effort, with the wise and knowledgeable being called upon to contribute to the well-being of the community. This sense of unity and collective responsibility fostered a strong and resilient society.
However, the advent of modernity like we mentioned earlier, and the allure for material wealth have shifted priorities and values for most people. Excessive love for money and power, especially political power have led to the erosion of traditional values (Odinala). Today, it is not uncommon to see a focus on personal gain over communal benefit, with wealth becoming a measure of success and influence.
The impact of this shift can be seen in the way resources meant for the development of Igbo land are sometimes misused or embezzled. The rise of corruption and criminal activities within the community have led to cultural decay which inhibits overall progress.
To reverse this trend, it is essential for Ndị Igbo to re-evaluate their priorities and values. Emphasizing the importance of integrity, wisdom, and character over material wealth, can help steer the community back towards its harmonious roots. It is necessary to nurture leaders who genuinely care about the welfare of the people and are committed to the development of Igbo land.
Reconnecting with cultural values, helps strengthen the sense of community and foster a more inclusive decision-making process, where the opinions of all, regardless of financial status, are valued and considered. Unity and love for one another should be at the forefront of efforts to rebuild the society.
Preserving cultural heritage does not mean rejecting progress or new ideas; it means incorporating the best of both worlds to create a vibrant and thriving community. Embracing African culture and tradition can also serve as a source of pride and identity, instilling a sense of belonging and purpose.
In conclusion, Ndị Igbo must embrace their culture and tradition, while minimising the excessive want for money. Understanding Odinala is a vital step towards revitalizing the community’s values and identity. By prioritizing wisdom, individual integrity, and communal well-being, the Igbo people can build a more prosperous and sustainable future for generations to come. Odinala is a sacred heritage pass down from generation to generation.