By Nnadozie Victor
In order to survive, men must form and organize themselves into groups and subgroups. And in order to keep the group functioning and progressing, men must learn to co-operate. They must try to avoid violent, ruthless struggles for wealth and power in favour of peaceful competition, and they must make and enforce rules to prevent “nonsocial behaviors from disrupting the group. A well organized community is simply the practicalization of strategies that different individuals have concocted to make and keep up with aggregate orderliness and security.
It is this ancient need of mankind “a well organized community” that Eze Akuma Ukwu grappled with in fashioning out a Traditional Government in Ututu.
Today we have nineteen distinctive Villages in Ututu, but this wasn’t the case following thedeath of Otutu Ezema, and the crowning of Eze Akuma Ukwu into his dad’s brief.
The Villages that had become distinctive were:
It was these Villages that sent representatives to Awada Ukwu Ututu. Except Amaeke Ututu which had two voting positions because the Eze Ututu resides in the Village, the five other Villages had one position each which entitled them to have a say in every major resolution reached at Awada Ukwu Ututu,. The holders of these seven sacred hereditary portfolios eventually came to be known and called AKPA ASAA UTUTU. Because this body was also charged with fixing all the festivals in the Clan, they were also referred to as Ndi-Etutu.
Henceforward at Awada Ukwu Ututu, the people of Ututu assembled and discussed issues of common interest, such as farming matters, maintenance of law and order, fixing of traditional ceremonies in consonance with the agricultural cycle, fixing of rules concerning the harvesting of new yams, convening a body known as Ndi-Enai (a group of military experts) any time there was an aggression or attacks from neighbouring Communities. In all these issues Eze Akuma Ukwu presided and in his Court all manner of cases were settled, such as murder, poisoning, stealing, adultery etc. At this point we can clearly discern three levels of Traditional Government in Ututu:
This is the Compound/Kindred level. This patrilineally kin-based unit can be identified with the Nfjioku, a set of hearthstone placed by the founder of the Kindred to mark the Centre of his domain. The head of this unit is the eldest man in the Kindred. The Kindred or Compound head is the eyes of his compound members as they are his ears. He represents the Compound in its external affairs with other Compounds. Any injury inflicted on any member of his group is considered a personal injury for which he may seek a personal reprisal. Let us pause a little in this presentation in order to acquaint the reader on how Compounds were established in Ututu.
As stated earlier Otutu Ezema came to reside in the present Ututu with a group of warriors of which he was their Leader. Having installed himself in Amaeke Ututu by placing his hearthstone (Nkuma etiti ogo), the members of his group in turn placed smaller hearthstones Nfijoku within the area covered by the Nkuma Etiti Ogo. In the case of Amaeke Villages, it is the other members of Otutu Ezema group that founded the compounds in Amaeke Ututu, except of course Ndi-Eziakuma compound which was founded by Akuma Ukwu, Otutu Ezema’s first son.
Let us also make a distinction between Kindred’s and Compounds. Normally, it is one man that founds a Compound, which belongs exclusively to him or his heirs, but the founder of the Compound could decide to bring in another person as a full member of the Compound, in this case, the new comer will be entitled to own on a somewhat equal basis any property that belongs to that Compound. This arrangement is not as benevolent as it might seem on the part of the original founder. This is because they must be some special quality possessed by the new comer which endears him to the original founder – such qualities as extraordinary physical strength, courage, resilience etc. So that in Ututu it is customary to find one compound being made up of two or more kindred’s. There is of course the consideration given to the original founder in all matters i.e. during sharing of anything in the compound, the original founder must be given the first share.
The instrument that validates the autonomy of a Village in Ututu is the hearthstone Nkuma Etiti Ogo. It is the first family to establish a Village that places this hearthstone, and this family shall henceforward be known and called “Okpu Abosi” or original founder. The Chief Priest of this hearthstone is the eldest son of the founder who presides over Village meetings in which all compound members in the Village (especially married men) have a right to attend and also air their views. At this level all manner of cases such as land disputes, cases of divorce, poisoning are settled at the house of the Village head. It is only matters that cannot be resolved that can be heard at the Clan level, i.e. Awada Ukwu Ututu where the Eze Ututu and members of his court known as AKPA ASAA has jurisdiction.
At this point it becomes imperative to elucidate on the religion of Ututu people, since the Clan Head is the head of Ututu Traditional Religion. Sociologists have defined religion “as that aspect of culture that deals with the transcendence or supernatural,” thus religion is an important ingredient of every culture.
At the Apex (Y) is the Supreme God (Obasi di relu). The edges of the base of the triangle (X) and (Z) represents Obasi Ututu and Offor Ututu respectively. Ututu Religion recognizes one Supreme Being (God) or Obasi di relu who resides in heaven. This God who is the maker of heaven and earth can be approached through its agents (X) and (Z), representing Obasi Ututu and Offor Ututu.
The Obasi Ututu has an abode at a specific spot in the Cross-River which marks the boundary between Ututu and Umon (at the other side of the Cross-River). It is the Offor holder or the Eze Ututu who is competent to make sacrifices to Obasi Ututu on behalf of the Ututu people, the prop for these sacrifices is the gravesite of Otutu Ezema known as Ihu-izu which incidentally is the holiest spot in Ututu. The Eze Ututu derives his political and religious authority by virtue of the fact that he takes custody of the Offor Ututu, which is the only Symbol of Power, Peace and Rulership in Ututu.
The priestly function of Eze Ututu as the Offor holder is very demanding; he is also charged with the responsibility of determining the agricultural cycle, as he is the head of Ndi-Etutu. Decisions reached at Awada UKwu is given this ritual binder.
“These laws are in accordance with our custom and must be obeyed. Those who refuse to obey them may OFFOR kill them.”
In essence the Awada UKwu, the Court of Eze Ututu is the Supreme Court of the land, charged with settling appeals from individual-Villages, and the members of this Court are the AKPA ASAA, holders of the seven sacred traditional portfolios.