Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Harvest Thanksgiving

Harvest Festivals: What Do They Signify?

The three greatest ancient Jewish festivals were directly connected to their agricultural harvests, theirs being a predominantly agrarian society.  The first was the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which began on Nisan 15, a day after the Passover Feast.  This festival was celebrated during the barley harvest time.  On Nisan 16, the high priest took a sheaf from the firstfruits of the barley harvest and symbolically waved it before God, thus declaring open the feasting and rejoicing that followed. (Lev. 23:6-11). This festival ran from Nisan 15 to 21.  Nisan is the first month of the Jewish calendar, and it correspondents to March/April.

The second Jewish harvest festival came up during the third month of the Jewish calendar, which is Sivan.  This month correspondents to May/June.  This festival, called the Festival of Weeks (that is the Pentecost), took place seven weeks (49 days) after Nisan 16.  To declare this harvest festival open the high priest would also perform a wave offering as in the Festival of Unleavened Bread, but this time with two leavened loaves made from the first fruits of the wheat grain.  Usually this festival fell on Sivan 6.

The third harvest festival was the Festival of Ingathering.  It was referred to as the Festival of Booths (or the Feast of Tabernacles).  This one began on the 15th day of the seventh Jewish month (i.e. Ethanim 15). The month Ethanim falls within mid-September and mid-October.  The Festival of Ingathering used to be the grand finale of the Jewish agricultural year as well as of the harvest festivals. (Lev. 23:33-36, 39-43).  This usually stretched from Ethanim 15 – 21; the 22nd being declared a Sabbath with a solemn assembly.

Reading through Exodus 23:14 – 17, Lev. 23:1 – 43 and Deut. 16:1 – 17, one finds these three harvest festivals which the Israelites were commanded to celebrate.  Though they were joyous occasions celebrated with pomp, they invariably culminated in solemn assemblies.  Indeed, in one of these festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles precisely, the Israelites, while residing in tents during the seven-day festival, were also to engage in thoughts and discussions about their deliverance from Egyptian slave masters. (Lev. 23:42 – 43).

These symbolic harvest festivals began in Israel under the leadership of Joshua, almost 1,500 years before Christ’s resurrection and the Pentecost of the year 33 AD.  Curious Bible-studying Christians will observe that Christ’s resurrection in 33 AD coincided with Nisan 16 when the Jewish high priest usually waved a single sheaf of the first fruits of barley before the altar of Yahweh, thus declaring open the celebration of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.  It may also have come to the notice of keen Bible readers that the Pentecost of the year 33 AD coincided with the receiving of the Holy Spirit which Christ had promised his disciples. 

It should be noted that, apart from the Lord’s Supper which Jesus himself commanded his disciple to observe in remembrance of his death, the early Christians never celebrated both the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the Pentecost because they had been convinced by means of the Holy Spirit that these symbolic festivals had fulfilled their purposes since 33 AD.  What were these purposes?

Since the Mosaic Law was only a shadow of forthcoming better things, the single sheaf of barley – which the high priest usually waved during the Festival of Unleavened Bread for about 1,500 years – pointed to Jesus.  As the barley sheaf presented to God by the wave offering was never adulterated by leavening, so was incorruptible Jesus resurrected on the very day that the high priest would wave the raw barley before the altar.

But as for the Feast of Weeks (the Pentecost), it will be noted that what the high priest presented before the altar as wave offering were two loaves made from wheat that had been leavened with yeast.  This practice had been going on since the days of Joshua the son of Nun.  As a human being the priest would have only two hands and therefore the two loaves held in both hands would suffice to represent the plurality of the adulterated humanity that would be redeemed  by grace so that they could be presentable before God as fellow-brothers of (or joint-heirs with) Christ.  The anointing of the 120 disciples with the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost of 33 AD was the fulfillment of the purpose for which God had instituted this particular festival.

However, the purpose of the third Jewish of the third Jewish harvest festival is yet to be fulfilled.  This was the Feast of Tabernacles.  The present-day church harvest festivals have their roots in this third Jewish agricultural festival.  It is sad to note that church harvest thanksgiving has turned to a money-making venture, especially with the inclusion of bazaar in the harvest festivals of some churches.  This new form defeats the very purpose for which Yahweh had instituted the harvest Festival of Tabernacles.  What we read in Revelation 7:9 – 10 has been prefigured by this particular harvest festival if we consider the example at Nehemiah 8:14 – 18.  The parable of Jesus at Matthew 13:24 – 30 and 36 – 43 points to the fulfillment of the purpose of this third Jewish harvest as we can foresee in the ingathering of the great crowd at Rev. 7:9 – 17.  See what Jesus had said long ago:

“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the Kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age and the harvesters are angels.” – Mat 13:37 – 39.

While the great crowd will have the joy of everlasting life, the reverse will be the case for those who do not qualify to be harvested.  Rev. 14:17 – 20 points to the everlasting destruction of such ones at the end of the age.  With the understanding that fire represents everlasting destruction, we can be sure that Matthew 3:11-12 also refers to the upcoming everlasting destruction of the evil ones.

Knowing that these things will come true, what should be our attitude toward church harvest festivals and end-of-year thanksgiving services?  Should we not be circumspect and remind ourselves of what the harvests symbolize at the end of the age when Christ ushers in his millennial reign?  However, in the light of Colossians 2:16, 17 should Christians necessarily engage in harvest festivals as some churches do today?

C.F. Monye
Owerre-Olubor, 17 Nov. 1999


Some Questions

“Knowing that these things will come true, what should be our attitude toward church harvest festivals and end-of-year thanksgiving services?  Should we not be circumspect and remind ourselves of what the harvests symbolize at the end of the age when Christ ushers in his millennial reign?  However, in the light of Colossians 2:16, 17 should Christians necessarily engage in harvest festivals as some churches do today?”

Yes, Mr Agbaje, those were the concluding questions that you referred to in the tract, Harvest Festivals: What Do They Signify?  As for our attitude to church harvest festival, the simple answer is that they should be avoided if we have the guts to do so.  Now look at it, the church harvest festival (or thanksgiving, as some call it) has in most part degenerated to an occasion of waste of resources, time and energy; scarcely does anything edifying come out of it.  Some even end up in schism within the church!  And the scriptures advise against wastage in any form, especially in the aspect of time. – Eph. 5:15-17.

Note that since the casting down of Satan upon the earth, he has been working in frenzy to rope in a large chunk of humanity, knowing that his time is short. (Rev. 12:12). Today, man’s time too is very short and that is why people want to achieve so many things because they know that lifespan has become very short; gone are the days of centenarians! So if time is so short, why not make the most of it by being circumspect and working out our salvation with fear and trembling, moreso, as the end-of-the-age harvest is near?  Can the harvest festival (thanksgiving service) in its present format of frivolous junketing help us to realize this goal of eternal salvation when the righteous shall end up in the joy of being in Christ’s barn? – Mat. 13:30, Rev. 7:9, 10, 14.

You mentioned that during the harvest week the injunction at Lev. 23:42-43 is somewhat adhered to by churches when they invite guest speakers and “revivalists” who through their expositions and exhortations remind the congregation to seek God’s Kingdom first and earnestly hold on to the faith that would sustain and lead them to the glorious Kingdom.  However, you said that organizing this sort of thing sometimes cost a lot of money by way of paying and entertaining the guest speaker-revivalists.  If it costs so much to “hire” such visitors, then they have already received their reward and they may have no part in the Kingdom that they are exhorting others to strive to enter!  In terms of humbuggery, this kind of expenditure is not different from bazaar.

If there must be harvest festival at all, the theme of the harvest week should be Christ’s parable at Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.  Anything outside of this runs against what the Festival of Tabernacles symbolizes.  To revert to the literal practice by the Israelites of just residing in tents and feasting is to flout the Biblical advice to Christians of these last days.  That advice is found in Colossians 2:14 – 18.


C.F. Monye
23 Nov. 1999

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sabbath

SABBATH-DAY OBSERVANCE: IS IT IMPERATIVE FOR CHRISTIANS?

The Sabbath means seven. Its mention connotes rest. God gave the observance of the Sabbath and the attendant rules to the Jews. From the days of Moses in the wilderness the Israelites observed the Sabbath in its simplistic form until the advent of the Pharisees who were adept at complicating issues. The Pharisees introduced all manner of peripheral rules to the Sabbath observance, and these pharisaic rules were antithetic to God's purpose regarding the Sabbath.

And so, on one occasion, Jesus Christ made it clear to them, the Pharisees, that the Sabbath was made for man and not the converse. (Mark 2:27)  Yes, the Pharisees, in their characteristic manner of adding to the burden of the downtrodden people, had so much amplified the Sabbath law that its essence became somewhat distorted.  They were the true sons of the master of distortion, Satan the devil.

This distortion continues to this day, as we can see from the emphasis on Sabbath-day worship by some Christian organizations.  One Church of Yahweh now campaigns for the return to Sabbath-day worship.  This means that Christians, and not the Jews alone, should have Saturday (and not any other day) as their main day of worship.  They cite Sura 2:65 of the Quran and also the Bible book of Exodus at chapter 20 verses 8 -10 to support their campaign.

We may call this approach backward integration, for this aptly describes the return to "weak and miserable principles" -- tenets that have fufilled their purposes and are no longer relevant to the Christian heritage.  (Galatians 4:8-10)  These ones can be likened to those who, while already in the higher school, wish to return to the kindergarten level.  It is not clear if these new "Pentecostals" belonging to the Sabbath-day school of thought are Christians or Jews, for if they hold on to the strict observance of the Jewish Sabbath, then they have not read the Bible correctly and so they have no incontrovertible basis of calling themselves Christians.

After the death and resurrection of Christ, the strict observance of the Sabbath became invalid, and to try to revive it (as some are now doing) is to become "over-righteous" as the Bible calls it. (Colossians 2:13-17, Romans 7:6, Ecclesiastes 7:16).  Jesus Christ is the "Lord of the Sabbath" as he told the Jews during his earthly ministry. (Matthew 12:8)  But the new Sabbath-day campaigners have misinterpreted this statement to mean strict observance of the Sabbath, even by Christians!  What this statement truly means is that Christ himself will be Lord during the 1,000-year reign -- the period during which obedient mankind will enter into God's rest and have blissful respite! (Isaiah 35:5-10, 65:17-25, Rev. 20:1-3)

This is the true Sabbath, which the instituted Jewish Sabbath had prefigured.  Disobedient humans will not enter that rest, just as prefigured by the Israelites who proved disobedient in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:30, Psalm 95:11, Hebrews 3:18, 4:8-11)  Paul the apostle said that the entire Law, including the Sabbath ordinance, served only as the shadow of better things yet to come -- the reality of which was found in Christ. (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:17)  And it is not in vain that God inspired Paul to write chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews, where he expatiated on the Sabbath.

We do well as obedient Christians if we are constantly on our guards against the renaissance of counterfeit worship, especially in these last days.

C.F. Monye
Owerre-Olubor, August 2001

Doki Steve Ojogbo of Owerre-Olubor

Doki Steve Ojogbo

Please pardon the tardiness of this tribute.  It never occurred to me to write this until after the vigil held in Doki’s honour between the night of Friday, 12th October, and the dawn of Saturday, 13th October 2007.  It then struck me to write a tribute after hearing the eulogies and also emendations of his life’s course by the kith and kin of the late Doki Steve Ojogbo.  It was a wake-keep to remember for a long time to come and of which fairy tales might be woven in the future.

I knew the late Doki (Dede, as he was fondly nicknamed by friends) some 30 years ago.  That first acquaintance was through my blood relation, Mr Chuks Nweke of Umuikpulu.  It was in Lagos and the then young Doki used to visit us regularly in his Datsun 120Y saloon car.

Though a heavy drinker, as opposed to the teetotaler that I was at that time, Doki came across as a handsome, amiable and likeable gentleman.  His type would easily make friends anywhere in the world.  I happened to later discover more intrinsic attributes of Doki. I discovered he was more inclined to action than talking and making promises.  I discovered he had great fellow-feeling, especially for all Olubor indigenes.  I discovered too that he was a very generous man— a “cheerful giver”, to use the Bible’s parlance.

Through the years, Doki evinced the above-mentioned attributes, and more until death snatched him away before our very eyes in the prime of his life!  Doki was a great lover of people, not forgetting our womenfolk to whose causes he donated generously.  And what about the youths? Those present at the vigil of 12th/13th October will recall the moving testimony of that young man who told the crowd of the many financial helps that Doki rendered to Olubor football association and also the plan afoot to donate a prize cup for a forthcoming football competition in the homeland.

I am told that Doki’s generosity did not fall short of contribution to the church.  He had donated well-tailored costumes to the Choir of St. Barnabas, Olubor.  Doki, so I am just informed, also contributed generously to the construction of St. Barnabas’s vicarage.

It is apposite not to overlook Doki’s sociability and kind-heartedness. On several occasions he had enlivened dreary social gatherings with plentiful supply of drinks— minerals, lager beer, wines and spirits! Chief Eloseh knows more about this aspect of Doki’s generosity than I do.

And talking about Doki’s kind-heartedness, there was one remarkable occasion wherein he demonstrated this.  It was at one of Olubor Community’s monthly meetings in Lagos.  Some unemployed members had complained about difficulty in transporting themselves to and from the meeting venue.  Doki rose to the occasion by donating a large sum of money that would suffice as one whole year’s transport fare for the four beneficiaries present at that meeting.  That was vintage Dokian generosity for you!

And Doki, it would appear, never forgot similar generosities shown by other Olubor indigenes.  This was why he was almost in tears when the Olubor union in Lagos took a decision not to attend the burial ceremonies of a prominent Olubor man whose union membership had elapsed over many years.  Doki spoke, he brokered peace and the union reversed its tough decision.

Doki had asked at that meeting, as if he had premonition of his own death, that if a member who had been so generous to the union were to die after his membership had expired, would the member’s generosity be forgotten and his funeral treated with scorn?  Perhaps Doki’s generosity was his own method of building a mansion of goodwill for himself wherein a large crowd would gather to mourn his demise.  And that was what happened when kith and kin trooped to his wake-keep at Igbo Elerin in the night of 12th/13th October.  I do not need to intuit of a greater crowd; I confidently wager that a crowd more mammoth will gather at his funeral in Olubor on Saturday, 20th October 2007.

Onwu anarin enyin ugegbe tiwa!  Sleep well my honourable chief—Doki Steve Ojogbo of Olubor!!



Frank Monye
Lagos: 15 October 2007

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sabbath and the Mosaics

From  CF Monye <cfmonye@gmail.com>,

To        taiwoolalere@yahoo.com, Josiah Okoro-Ocha <apostlezion1@yahoo.com>, Vincent Uyanwanne <vincentalert@yahoo.com>,
nd_success@yahoo.com, anipat57@yahoo.ca, doneasy investment <doneasyinvestment@yahoo.co.uk>

date               Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 11:05 AM
subject          The Sabbath and the Mosaic Law



Gentlemen,
Only yesterday afternoon, a young and zealous religious man engaged me as to why I have kicked the church, pointing out to me that I should remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy by attending church service every Sunday. That afforded me a grand opportunity to educate him on the meaning of Sabbath and its irrelevance to the Christian heritage.  He did not quite agree with my position. To help him further I gave some Bible citations and my further search evoked my August 2001 write-up on the same issue.  I subjoin this to my Bible citations dated today.  Please see the attached.
Regards,
CFM


The Mosaic Law (i.e. the “written code” for ancient Israel – the Jews): Its place in the Christian heritage.

-          Obsolete, irrelevant and abolished
Romans 10:4
Galatians 3:19; Galatians 4:8 – 11
*Colossians 2:14, 16 – 18; Heb. 10:1; Heb. 7:6; Ephesians 2:14 – 16

-          All the 10 commandments and its over 600 Judaic amplifications hinge on the twin loves, i.e. the love of God and the love of fellowman.  In other words, the new commandment, Love, is the hub of the whole Mosaic Law. (Matthew 22:35 – 40)

C.F. Monye, Lagos
31 August 2010


SABBATH-DAY OBSERVANCE: IS IT IMPERATIVE FOR CHRISTIANS?
The Sabbath means seven. Its mention connotes rest. God gave the observance of the Sabbath and the attendant rules to the Jews. From the days of Moses in the wilderness the Israelites observed the Sabbath in its simplistic form until the advent of the Pharisees who were adept at complicating issues. The Pharisees introduced all manner of peripheral rules to the Sabbath observance, and these pharisaic rules were antithetic to God's purpose regarding the Sabbath.

And so, on one occasion, Jesus Christ made it clear to them, the Pharisees, that the Sabbath was made for man and not the converse. (Mark 2:27)  Yes, the Pharisees, in their characteristic manner of adding to the burden of the downtrodden people, had so much amplified the Sabbath law that its essence became somewhat distorted.  They were the true sons of the master of distortion, Satan the devil.

This distortion continues to this day, as we can see from the emphasis on Sabbath-day worship by some Christian organizations.  One Church of Yahweh now campaigns for the return to Sabbath-day worship.  This means that Christians, and not the Jews alone, should have Saturday (and not any other day) as their main day of worship.  They cite Sura 2:65 of the Quran and also the Bible book of Exodus at chapter 20 verses 8 -10 to support their campaign.

We may call this approach backward integration, for this aptly describes the return to "weak and miserable principles" -- tenets that have fufilled their purposes and are no longer relevant to the Christian heritage.  (Galatians 4:8-10)  These ones can be likened to those who, while already in the higher school, wish to return to the kindergarten level.  It is not clear if these new "Pentecostals" belonging to the Sabbath-day school of thought are Christians or Jews, for if they hold on to the strict observance of the Jewish Sabbath, then they have not read the Bible correctly and so they have no incontrovertible basis of calling themselves Christians.

After the death and resurrection of Christ, the strict observance of the Sabbath became invalid, and to try to revive it (as some are now doing) is to become "over-righteous" as the Bible calls it. (Colossians 2:13-17, Romans 7:6, Ecclesiastes 7:16).  Jesus Christ is the "Lord of the Sabbath" as he told the Jews during his earthly ministry. (Matthew 12:8)  But the new Sabbath-day campaigners have misinterpreted this statement to mean strict observance of the Sabbath, even by Christians!  What this statement truly means is that Christ himself will be Lord during the 1,000-year reign -- the period during which obedient mankind will enter into God's rest and have blissful respite! (Isaiah 35:5-10, 65:17-25, Rev. 20:1-3)

This is the true Sabbath, which the instituted Jewish Sabbath had prefigured.  Disobedient humans will not enter that rest, just as prefigured by the Israelites who proved disobedient in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:30, Psalm 95:11, Hebrews 3:18, 4:8-11)  Paul the apostle said that the entire Law, including the Sabbath ordinance, served only as the shadow of better things yet to come -- the reality of which was found in Christ. (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:17)  And it is not in vain that God inspired Paul to write chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews, where he expatiated on the Sabbath.

We do well as obedient Christians if we are constantly on our guards against the renaissance of counterfeit worship, especially in these last days.

C.F. Monye
Owerre-Olubor, August 2001

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chief Chukwuelozie Francis Ogwu-Monye

Chief Chukwuelozie Francis Ogwu, the Odogwu of Owerre-Olubor

Behold the Odogwu of Owerre-Olubor!
-- by Frank Monye

The dateline was Wednesday, 30 December 2009, Umuikpulu in Owerre-Olubor. The event was a chieftaincy investiture which, to state the obvious, marked a daybreak of hope after a long night of drifting!

The man of the day is the rightful prospect of the chieftaincy being invested in him, i.e. the Odogwu of Owerre-Olubor.  You may be starry-eyed on reading this seemingly exaggerated description!  No, it is no exaggeration. It is not misappropriation of honour. Let me open a secret to bolster my assertion.

The name of the man of the day – “Ogwu,” you will notice, rhymes with the title, “Odogwu” and even His Highness’s title, “Ogwude”.  In the former, it is the suffix whilst in the latter it is the prefix.  Besides, this chieftaincy had waited for three decades – perhaps to enable the man of the day, Lozie Ogwu, attain the providential age of sitting on the stool.  You can now see why I am saying that Chukwuelozie Francis Ogwu is the “rightful prospect.”
The Odogwu, Chukwuelozie Ogwu, has got all the pre-requisites for the Odogwu chieftaincy.  Odogwu Ogwu is foresighted, forthright, brave, sincere and educated; he is an ex-soldier, a benefactor of indigent students as well as the jobless. These are some of his commendable attributes.

Odogwu Ogwu’s foresight in concert with that of other Ikpulus led to the formation of Umuikpulu Progressive Union in Lagos in November 1979. Thus Umu-Ikpulu became the first Ogbe in Owerre-Olubor to form a satellite union. It is now on record that the four other Ogbes followed this fine example of Umuikpulu in Lagos.

As for being brave, a case in point will illustrate this.  During the unauthorized felling of timbre trees in the primeval forest, Lozie Ogwu rose to the occasion and challenged the lumberjacks frontally.  He was threatened with a curse.  He was accused of being overweening, of over-reaching himself and plotting the dethronement of Ogwude Benson Anizor.  They threatened to move the town’s okpukpu (an emblem of Ogwude’s regnant authority) to Lozie Ogwu’s residence just for daring to rebuke some of the town’s chieftains who had connived at the unlawful logging in Edofi Forest.  All these threats did not stop Lozie Ogwu from pressing his charges against those lumberjacks at the Olubor Summit where they were penalized with fines.

Odogwu Lozie Ogwu’s pedigree is enviable by the standard of Owerre-Olubor.  His father, John Ogwu Monye, was the first educated man in Umu-Ikpulu.  He was, during his lifetime, the chronicler and demographer of Umu-Ikpulu.  Pa John took great interest in recording the dates of births and names of children born to Umuikpulu fathers.  Besides, Pa John took records of major events and could even tell you the number of Ikpulus off-hand.  Pa John Ogwu was sired by Monye of the great Afam lineage.

Our Odogwu’s mother, Mary (nee Obuseh) would have passed for a princess in some other climes.  Her father, Obuseh, was the Isama of Owerre-Olubor during his lifetime. The name Obuseh sounds like melodious music to the people of Olubor, the reason being that Obuseh was a forthright chieftain in the order of the great Iyase Iyadi.

In this new dawn, the expectations of the people of Owerre-Olubor are high. They wish that the Odogwu would keep up the tempo of his past revolutionary activities. They expect that he will keep proper watch over Olubor’s forest as that had been the Odogwu’s theatre in the days of tribal conflicts.  The people look forward to the Odogwu playing the accomplished lobbyist in the socio-political affairs of Owerre-Olubor; they expect his constant presence in the delegations to government and neigbbouring towns whenever the need arises. They expect very much that he will deal in truth, justice and fairness.

Let me end by wishing the Odogwu – Chief Chukwuelozie Francis Ogwu – good health and longevity like his predecessors; a distinguished tenure – the sort about which legends are woven by the townsfolk; and above all, to say “may God the Almighty bless the Odogwu and his household.”

Ndudi Smart Monye of Owerre-Olubor

Ndudi Smart Monye, flanked by two brothers
NDUDI SMART MONYE
- A Date With History -


A Biographical Sketch

“Man proposes, but God disposes,” so goes the popular saying.  In the whole of creation only God the Grand Creator is able to propose as well as dispose without failing.  And so it happened in the life of Ndudi Smart, the son of Eyin—the son of Monye of Afam lineage in Umuikpulu, at a memorable event on Wednesday, 25 June 2008. That day was Afor in the native calendar and the event was Ichi Ogbe Umuikpulu in Owerre-Olubor.

Left to Ndudi, he would decline any chieftaincy—especially one involving an ancient Olubor tradition like the Ichi Ogbe.  Some call it Ichi Mmo, and this is why it is loathsome to Ndudi who likes to view things from the Christian perspective.  However, longevity has thrust upon him this prime position in Olubor gerontocracy.  And who gives longevity other than the giver of life—the god whose name is Jehovah?  And here is where the saying—“man proposes, but God disposes”—comes very true!

Born in 1918, at a time when birthday specifics as to time of the day, the day in the week, the day in the month and the very month were not considered important among his kindred, Ndudi began the first 32 years of his life course in Umuikpulu.  For his only formal education Ndudi attended Diagbor Primary School (then known as CMS Primary School and in the same premises as the St Barnabas Church, Owerre-Olubor) between 1945 and 48.  That primary education, which though started very late when Ndudi was 27, still fell short by two years when he began preparation to take a wife to his elder brother, Okorie Pius Monye, in Accra, Ghana (then known as Gold Coast) much later in June 1950.

In 1951 Ndudi moved from Accra to Takoradi where he stayed with one Mr Peter Akamagwuna, a Nigerian of Ubulu-Uno, together with his wife of Igbo extraction. Peter and his wife always visited the newly married Okorie, Ndudi’s brother, in Accra and had expressed interest in having Ndudi come over and stay with them so they could help him secure a job in Takoradi.  This couple reneged in the promise as it enjoyed Ndudi’s excellent handling of household chores!  However, Sylvester, the younger brother to Peter Akamagwuna, had found a bosom friend in Ndudi and was not happy at the fatigue Ndudi was having in the home of the Akajiokus.  Sylvester was living apart from Peter. One day he stirred up trouble with his brother Peter over Ndudi and asked Ndudi to pick his things and come along so they could live together.  While with Sylvester, Ndudi got a job as an apprentice in the assembly section of SCOA Motors, Takoradi, in 1952. Though he came in as a novice, within weeks Ndudi had mastered the ropes of assembling completely knocked down Austin motor vehicle.

In the 1950s the government of Ghana was developing a lot of infrastructure, especially the railways. Taylor Woodrow was contracted to supply and service tractors and caterpillars which were used for clearing the hills and forests along the path of the rail lines to be constructed. In a circumstance like this, artisans would always be in high demand. Equipped with his experience at the SCOA Austin assembly and confident in his ability to quickly understand technical details, Ndudi applied to Taylor Woodrow as a tools boy in the hope of becoming a fitter machinist. This was in 1952.
On his employment, Ndudi was assigned to the Accra-Tema rail line project to work as tools kit carrier and errand boy for the foremen.  It is worth noting here that only a few of the expatriates knew the job very well; many of them only came out to Africa to earn a living because of the abundant job opportunities available in the colonies at that time. After three months of tool-carrying and watching the foremen at work, a caterpillar broke down and for four days the five foremen worked on the caterpillar but could neither find the problem nor the solution to it.  The problem was a worn-out contactor, but the five Ghanaian fitter machinists did not see!

The technical manager was a British engineer.  He came out of his office to find the caterpillar still not fitted after four days! He looked down, turning his head in disappointment and then asked Ndudi: “Smart, can you fit this machine?” “Yes, I can try Sir,” replied Ndudi. The expatriate manager probably did not have the technical know-how to repair the broken caterpillar, otherwise he should have mounted it and prove his mettle as the master! 

In less than an hour Ndudi had isolated the problem—a worn-out contactor!  He disconnected it, scraped it, fitted it back, started the engine and it thundered.  The caterpillar had been resurrected after four days!  The technical manager, who had ordered the five foremen to leave the scene and follow him into his office, dashed out on hearing the loud rumble.  He headed straight to the caterpillar upon which Smart had mounted like a conqueror.  He asked the apprentice Smart what he had done and he explained.  There and then, he took Smart to the pay office and authorized a 50% salary increase with immediate effect!

Ghana’s construction of infrastructure was nationwide, and so in 1953 Taylor Woodrow transferred Ndudi to another rail line under construction—the Achiansi-Kotoku rail line.  And here something happened that proved that Ndudi had honed his skill as a fitter machinist. One of the caterpillars refused to move, even while the engine was running.  When the British engineer in charge was told of this he promised to bring in a tug to tow away the caterpillar to the workshop for repair.

This expatriate boss, who had promised a tug before mid-day, went away and never came back to the project site until past 7 p.m. and even without a tug! He was met on the muddy path coming with his Land Rover jeep while Ndudi and his fellow artisans were being conveyed to the highway in a truck, having waited for their boss since the morning till two hours after the closing time of 5 p.m. The boss was drunk and thoughtlessly asked why Ndudi did not wait for him.  In anger, Ndudi retorted with a query to his boss, asking if 7 p.m. was the 12 noon he had promised to bring in a tug. This reminds one of a similar incident between the late Bashorun MKO Abiola and his British boss at the ITT who was a damned drunkard and ever so incompetent.

Ndudi told his onyeocha boss that he knew what was wrong with the caterpillar even before he promised to bring in a tug to tow it away, only he did not want to argue with him then.  He told the onyeocha what he did when he had left.  Ndudi only cut to size a heavy wooden block and fitted it tightly within the caterpillar track which was slack.  By so doing, the track became stretched and tight enough to roll.  He started the engine and the caterpillar moved and moved and moved! He then told the onyeocha that with that improvisation the caterpillar could move mounds of mud twenty miles to and fro without the track slacking back!  That repair was effected before 12 noon and Ndudi had waited for over 8 hours to explain to the boss what he had done, only to receive a stupid query from the incompetent engineer.

This senior onyeocha did not take lightly the challenging answer that Ndudi gave to him and so he reported the matter to the junior British engineer, one John, who was directly supervising Ndudi’s group of artisans. The following day, John came scolding Ndudi because, according to him, Ndudi had rudely answered the overall boss the previous day.  And for this reason, John told Ndudi that his employment would be terminated, whereupon Ndudi called off his bluff and asked him for immediate pay-off.  Within minutes what transpired between John and Ndudi had leaked to other artisans on the project site and they all trooped to John’s office to rain insults on him and to tell him that they would no longer work unless he rescinded his decision to terminate Ndudi’s appointment.  In the protest some of the artisans had threatened to kill John, but Ndudi passionately pleaded with them not to do so because of him and that they should allow John pay him off immediately.

Ndudi got his terminal pay that day, but the artisans did not return to their respective duties— at least throughout that day— in protest against John’s unjust action. Unfortunately, John died two weeks later, having been beaten flat by a heavy steel which fell from a crane over his head. One of the Ghanaian artisans, who had conveyed John’s body to Accra for burial, saw Ndudi that afternoon, and approaching him with trepidation, expressed shock at the supernatural power of life and death which he claimed Nigerians possessed!  He and his fellow artisans believed that John’s death must have been invoked by Ndudi.  “So, if John died, I killed him?” Ndudi asked.  Ndudi, who knew nothing about John’s death, stood up with righteous indignation to rebuke this Ghanaian and told him to leave his sight immediately.

In the 1950s many job opportunities were available to the skilled workman in the Gold Coast.  And so it never took long for Ndudi to change jobs.  Within three weeks of the debacle at Taylor Woodrow’s Achiansi-Kotoku rail line site, Ndudi had got another employment with UAC.  He left UAC after a few weeks to join Parkston & Howard (harbor builders) in Tema.  This was in 1954 and here he met again his former boss and mentor, Mr Willer, who had interested him in the skilled work of fitter mechanics.  Unfortunately, Ndudi resigned this appointment on a sad note.  What happened?

While working on an engine at Parkston & Howard, Ndudi had the top part of his left thumb chopped off by the moving part of the engine. He picked up the piece of flesh from the floor and tried to stick it back in place, while co-workers rushed him off to the hospital. The doctor did a very neat stitching and, with some medication, he put Ndudi on sick-leave in the first instance. Later, the doctor placed him on light duty.  However, after a month, Ndudi’s onyeocha boss (not his mentor, Mr Willer) felt it was too much privilege for a Blackman to be placed on a long light-duty schedule with full pay, and so he sought to stop the schedule. With his skill much in demand, Ndudi resigned rather than subject himself to the impending degradation.  Two days after his resignation, Ndudi got employment with Ghana’s PWD.

In November 1955, Onyenenke Constance Dibie flew in from Lagos to become Ndudi’s wife.  Onyenenke was helped with her flight details at the Lagos airport by Ndudi’s cousin, Chief Augustine Ndikawun of Umudese. Many problems— afflictions and tribulations— followed afterward. But let God be praised, Ndudi is alive today with his wife and all his seven children!
Ndudi returned to Nigeria with his family of four in January 1960.  He briefly worked with Taylor Woodrow Nigeria Ltd, and then with P&T (now NITEL) from where he retired in 1985 as a workshop superintendent (mechanical).


Umu-Ikpulu
                                
                                IKPULU ANTHEM

Na ni ke mesi zo ghi,
  Umu-Ikpulu?
Na ni ke mesi zo ghi,
  Umu-Ikpulu?

Umu-Ikpulu n’Olubor
  Umu-Ikpulu!
Umu-Ikpulu, ekwu udo
  Umu-Ikpulu!

Umu-Ikpulu idumu oma
  Umu-Ikpulu!
Ogbe Odogwu
  Umu-Ikpulu!

Mba, ma’zo ghi
  Mma ghi ke m’cho
Oga nihun ke ma cho
  Umu-Ikpulu!

The area called Umu-Ikpulu in Owerre-Olubor is bordered by the ancestral forest called Ugboko Edofi, Idumu-Etiti in Olubor and Ute-Ogbeje on the eastern side.  This vast acreage is the inheritance of Ikpulu, the youngest son of the patriarch Olubor.  The patriarch lived in Ugboko Edofi and it would appear that Ikpulu was highly favoured to have inherited the estate nearest to the ancestral forest.

Olubor conferred on Ikpulu the chieftaincy title of Odogwu. The Odogwu chieftaincy is the exclusive preserve of Umuikpulu in the land of Olubor.  The patriarch Olubor ordained it that way.

In the days of yore when there were frequent internecine conflicts, the Odogwu was Olubor’s generalissimo. And so to be an Odogwu in those days, the man had to be thoroughly trained in the art of war the traditional way.  But gone are the days.  The modern society is guided by laws— rules, regulations, charters, conventions, armistices etc— for the sake of peace; and therefore the Odogwu is now in respite or in retreat, so to say.

The modern Odogwu’s role is more of a lobbyist.  Where tough decisions or strong representations are required, there you should find today’s Odogwu canvassing Olubor’s altruistic position.  It does not require such formal education to play this role as some proponents are now demanding that the modern-day Odogwu must possess!  All it requires are shrewdness, eloquence, integrity and, above all, native intelligence.  It has become necessary to highlight the place of the Odogwu in Umuikpulu’s ogwa, since he is the prime chief in that council.

Taunts, innuendos and disparaging stereotypes are sometimes used by small minds to pull down their fellow denizens.  This sort of mindset probably led to the socio-cultural stigmatization called the osu caste.  And this springs from envious and oppressive people assuming the role of taskmasters in their communities. Such is the hidden superiority complex which sometimes is revealed in the beer-parlour drivels which some Olubor men utter in their drunken stupor.

It is the reference to Ikpulu as a “slave boy” of the patriarch Olubor that is being addressed here. One can only infer that those who make that reference are simply re-writing the history which they know little or nothing about. Let such men first go and ask their fathers about the histories of their own families before coming to Ikpulu’s history in Olubor. If Olubor allotted a “slave” the estate nearest to his and went further to give him the exclusive warrior’s title of Odogwu, then the freeborn sons were outcasts and sheer cowards!

Besides, it is not known that the patriarch took slaves as spoils of war in his lifetime.  And if he did, could Ikpulu have been the only slave?  If not, who were the other slaves and where are their descendants in the land of Olubor?  In his terminal declarations did Olubor not order that Ikpulu, being his youngest son, should not take part in the construction or rehabilitation of the shrine, Diagbor, in the ancestral forest? The question then is: Could the patriarch have referred to his “slave” as his youngest son in this context?  The perfidious loudmouths should answer these questions and, furthermore, be explicit on this troubling issue.

 
Ichi Ogbe in Olubor

It is a very well-known fact that before the Europeans came with their western civilization and system of local government which they called Native Authority, every clan had its peculiar form of traditional government.  So, in Owerre-Olubor it is Ogwa Ogbe.  Ogwa Ogbe is constituted after the Ichi Ogbe ceremony. Ichi Ogbe is a sub-set of Olubor’s gerontocracy, the apex of which is Ogwude-in-Council. Each of the five ogbes (or quarters) in Olubor has its own Ichi Ogbe.  For an insight into Ichi Ogbe, we should have a recap of what happened on Wednesday, 25 June 2008, in Umuikpulu.

The day for this ceremony has to be an Afor according to Olubor’s native lore.  The reason for this is a matter beyond the scope of this narrative, as it is still locked in secrecy just like many native customs which are in inexplicable.  But before the chosen date, the old man to be installed must have formally informed every other ogwa ogbe as well as the Ogwude-in-Council. One or two high chiefs, e.g. the Iyase, must be formally informed too. This whole notification is done by wine-carrying and kolanut presentation.

By mid-day on the Wednesday, 25 June 2008, Ndudi Smart Monye, the concerned, and Ada Nnunu, the oldest female survivor in the line of Afam, presented themselves to Chief Okafor Mokwuye.  Chief Mokwuye, an adept in native lore, brought down the okwa okpukpu which had been hanging on rigs in front of his house so as to perform the necessary rites before the eyes of the two witnesses—Ndudi and the Ada. The purpose of the Ada’s presence is for the ofor (a small piece of wood used as emblem of authority), to be handed over to her temporarily for onward presentation later to the diokpa during the installation ceremony.  The rites having been performed, Chief Mokwuye instructed a man to lift the okwa okpukpu to the front of the newly constructed ogwa before the next stage of the installation ceremony began. The place of the okwa okpukpu actually is on a platform in the ceiling of the ogwa; and this is where it would go after the final rites of installation.

Ndudi Smart Monye, the man of the day, sat in his new ogwa with his goggles atop his nose while exchanging pleasantries with the invited chiefs as they arrived one after another.  Meanwhile, outside the ogwa, the Otu Egede had begun to show their dexterity at drum-beating.  So rhythmic was the percussion that it evoked the Ogbanigbe, the yam harvest festival dance, which was still four months away.  The guests seated outside the ogwa, who had come also to witness the installation, could not help turning their heads and moving their bodies to the beat.

An occasion like this in the traditional setting is usually awash with drinks— palmwine, beer, stout, soft drinks, strong drinks and wines— as well as food—which invariably is the staple akpu (pounded cassava) and melon-bitterleaf soup.  All these were served to the guests who sat in eager expectation of the climax—the Ida Nzu.

The Iyase, the traditional prime minister, is usually the director of affairs at a ceremony like this.  Yes, he was there with full presence of mind, unfurling the event’s programme with panache.  And so, while the food and drinks were being served, the Iyase had instructed the carrying out of an important aspect of Ichi Ogbe ceremony— that is, the presentation of ogogoro (local gin) and kola nuts.

The gin was decanted into as many as forty 35-centilitre soft-drink bottles. Together with four kola nuts on a plate, each bottle of gin was presented to the chiefs in batches of five for of about six to seven rounds.  The answer usually given to anyone trying to find out the meaning of this is simply that it is the tradition.

And then the long-awaited moment — the installation! Chief Okude, representing the Ogwude of Olubor, began the whitewashing of the diokpa with pulverized sacred chalk called nzu. This ceremony is the Ida Nzu.  Chief Okude then summoned the Ada of Afam Family, Nnunu, to hand the ofor over to the diokpa.

Without much ado, the sacrificial she-goat was presented to the chiefs and, having been accepted, the animal was taken outside the ogwa to be slaughtered right at the feet of the diokpa.  The other rites followed and with the diokpa eating a small roasted portion of the goat meat whilst a traditional prayer was offered, the diokpa’s installation was complete. The drums boomed again as the Otu Egede performed their art with accustomed dexterity!

One observer thought that, being a Christian, a prayerful Bible reading should have climaxed the installation of the diokpa— Ndudi Smart Monye.  And so, in his own corner, the observer read and meditated on Psalm 72 which was very apposite for the grand ceremony.  The relevant portion of the Psalm is herein adapted as a prayer for the diokpa.

A Prayer for the Diokpa— Ndudi Smart Monye
An adaptation of Psalm 72:1 – 7 (TEV)

Teach the [diokpa] to judge with
your righteousness, O God;
share with him your own justice,
2   so that he will rule over your
          people with justice
          and govern the oppressed with
          righteousness.
3   May [Umuikpulu] enjoy prosperity;
          may it experience righteousness.
4   May the [diokpa] judge the poor fairly;
          may he help the needy
          and defeat their oppressors.
5   May your people worship you as long as the sun shines,
          as long as the moon gives light, for ages to come.
6   May the [diokpa] be like rain on the fields,
          like showers falling on [Umuikpulu].
7   May righteousness flourish in his [period],
          and may prosperity last as long as the
moon gives light.


Retrospections
Someone who has lived up to nine decades should be in a good position to give commendations as well as proffer suggestions for doing certain things in better ways.  These are the benefits of hindsight. And so, some of Diokpa Smart Monye’s retrospective views may be evocative and also serve as food for thought.

Almost at every turn in Olubor you find an ogwa.  Some of these huts are so minuscule that one wonders how many persons can be seated in each whenever the ogwa is in session.  Perhaps this is why a bamboo tent (nzegene) is usually annexed to the ogwa; the usual excuse that nzegene is the custom is just a way to rationalize the inadequacy of the petite ogwa in terms of spaciousness. Diokpa Smart believes that some of these huts, rather than being memorial cenotaphs, constitute defacement of the beautiful tableland of Olubor.  Someone, though, may argue that it is better to leave the ogwa ruins as remembrance monuments after the demise of the village heads.

Diokpa Smart, like some denizens of Olubor, thinks that it is sheer waste of fund to be erecting an ogwa at the turn of a new village head.  This continual erecting of ogwa is the direct result of moving the okpukpu to the place of the new village head.  Diokpa Smart is of the well-thought opinion that to check waste of fund, especially for those who may not have the means, each of the five quarters of Olubor should have a permanent ogwa (or abode for their okpukpu).  In so doing, each quarter should be able to find the money to construct a much more spacious ogwa.  Every kingdom has one palace, and so it is not inappropriate if in Olubor every quarter has only one ogwa.

One spectacular feature of ogwa architecture is the ukpo. Must ukpo be strictly a part of ogwa?  There is no idol buried inside it; rather it reduces the already small space inside the ogwa.  Diokpa Smart considered these things and decided to do away with the ancient pattern in the construction of his own ogwa.  Therefore, Smart’s ogwa has become the first ogwa without ukpo and could seat more people than any before it, as benches have replaced ukpo. There may be dissension about this, but the advantage of this new format is greater than any disadvantage that may be trumped up.

“MBEKE, the extraordinary Ogwude!” exclaimed Diokpa Smart.  It would appear that in the history of Olubor gerontocracy, Ogwude Mbeke has been the most eminent, the most revered, awesome, …. Mbeke the Ogwude would appear to be someone comparable with the patriarch Olubor, judging by the effusive glowing tributes that people utter whenever the name Mbeke is mentioned.  Ndudi Smart has fond memories. He talks often of how Mbeke used to visit the CMS Primary School and how the headmaster and pupils received him always with ├ęclat. Ogwude Mbeke’s dedication to Olubor’s cause and to his generation could be likened to that of a leader in ancient Israel as expressed in Psalm 137:5, 6—
5 May I never be able to play the harp again
      if I forget you, [Olubor]!
6 May I never be able to sing again
      if I do not to remember [Olubor],
      if I do not think of [Olubor] as my
         greatest joy! —TEV 

The place of the Iyase in Olubor’s traditional government is not something that can be overlooked.  He is the prime minister.  His role at Ogbanigbe is especially noteworthy; and this is where Iyadi, the charismatic Iyase, comes to the fore.

Ndudi Smart remembers Iyase Iyadi as a man imbued with outstanding native intelligence, a man steeped in the ancient lore of Owerre Olubor.  Very much averse to the dimming of the light of Olubor culture, Iyase Iyadi usually engaged in the wheeling and dealing that made Olubor’s Ogbanigbe as colourful as the rainbow as well as an annual festival with a happy ending.  Most indigenes still believe that the Ogbanigbe festival reached its most colourful climax during the chieftaincy of Iyadi.
A scene from the Ogbanigbe of 2009

This heavily beaded damsel displays some choreography at Owerre Olubor’s Ogbanigbe 2009

It is apposite at this juncture to say a few things about this colourful annual festival called Ogbanigbe. Oral tradition has it that this festival started around the end of the nineteenth century or early in the twentieth century when expansionist wars as well as slave raiding among clans finally ceased. These wars also included the “Ekumeku” wars of the British colonialists who sought to move further into the hinterlands of the Niger Delta by conquering and annexing territories. To celebrate the cessation of these wars and to relish the ensuing peace, the Ogbanigbe was instituted as an annual festival of peace to be celebrated after the Iwaji (the new yam festival). Though the name may differ from community to community, the context and content are similar wherever this autumn festival is celebrated across the vast landscape called Anioma.
Children too love and enjoy the Ogbanigbe. This is another scene from Ogbanigbe 2009