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The Ofo na Ogu concept of justice and fair play in Igbo traditional legal system has many definitions, though they may vary in thought line, they are one and the same. The concept of Ofo na Ogu are one and the same, and are not different concepts.
The Ofo comes from the Ofo tree or (dearum microcarpam) or Ofo Nkpo nata. The Ofo in Igbo traditional legal system is a symbol of truth, power, authority, justice and law. The (Ofo Osisi) is usually given to the first son ( Okpara or Okpala) or the oldest person in a family, kindred or village. The Ofo is a supernatural concept that helps to bind the Igbo legal tradition and custom, thereby giving it the power to administer truth, justice, peace, authority and law in the traditional legal code.
The Ofo can be inherited from one person to another person in the family, kindred or village. The Ofo is also a symbol of ancestral power and authority. It is the central core or framework of socio-cultural cum religious embodiment of the Igbo culture and tradition. While Ogu is the spiritualized concept that works with the Ofo. The Ogu is a symbol of clear conscience and truth. The Ogu activates and re-activates the Ofo. Everyone is entitled to use Ofo na Ogu, but everyone does not carry the Ofo. The Ofo is a physical stick carried most at times by old titled elders of the Igbo community.
There are different patterns of Ofo na Ogu concept. For instance, there is the Ofo Eze, Ofo Ndiche, Ofo Umunna, Ofo Ndi Oha and Ofo na Ogu nke onye. These patterns of Ofo na Ogu differ in their applications and usage in the everyday life. The Ofo Eze cannot be the same as Ofo Ndiche or Ofo Ndi Oha. These patterns help to place the individual in a good position of choosing what kind of pattern he or she wants in the adjudication of the conflict they must have found themselves in.
However the physical and abstract concept of Ofo na Ogu can still be used to highlight on the patterns of Ofo na Ogu. Physically the Ofo is the stick that is being carried by those that have authority to carry and use it when the need arises. While Ofo na Ogu that is abstract is that which is carried about by each and everyone of us. This abstract concept of Ofo na Ogu is usually found within the spiritual framework of those that posses such purity to withstand the consequences of using the Ofo na Ogu.
The Ofo na Ogu is not a free commodity like water that just comes out like that. It has to follow a step by step stage to achieve its required expectation by people in the society. The Ofo na Ogu follows the process of exhausting all the traditional methods of social control before it is wielded. For instance in a land dispute, the Ofo can only come out when every other measure has been used to settle the matter failed. Before it will get to the level of calling the elders to use the Ofo na Ogu concept, it would only be ripe if the conflicted parties have gone through their family meetings, umunna meeting, kindred and village meeting to the chief, before the eze Ji ofo, oha ji ofo can be called to come and administer the use of the Ofo na Ogu.
The use of Ofo na Ogu can only be seen in circumstances of conflict and is mostly used in traditional African society to resolve conflicts. It can also be added that Ofo na Ogu is upright judgment, truth, justice and the unifying system of the Igbo traditional legal authority.
The importance of the Ofo na Ogu, in the Igbo legal code, cannot be overemphasised, it is a symbol to administer justice. Justice is the essence for the use of Ofo na Ogu. This is so, because when it is time to settle a dispute, the Ofo na Ogu concept comes in, to help adjudicate on the matter in question. Its importance is based on its supernatural force, and as a measure of seeking social control to guard against social disorganisation.
Most people in this modern age would not want to use it, because they have indeed soiled their hands in one way or the other, and that is why we have atrocities committed here and there. Many individuals have desecrated the concept of the Ofo na Agu by intimidating and oppressing those lower than them in the society and this is a very terrible phenomenon. There are those who have also murdered and maimed other individuals for one reason or another and these atrocities (Aru) goes against the annals of the Ofo na Agu. These terrible individuals hide under the cover of religions like Christianity and Islam and other high organisations to perpetrate these misdeeds. There is no longer the forbidden (Nso Ala) misnomers. In most communities, (Aru) misnomer has become the order of the day.
The Ofo na Agu concept is also being misapplied nowadays and is now a thing of caricature for most individuals who have thrown its worth to the wind. Things have gone so bad nowadays that people now use this traditional concept of Igbo cosmology as an avenue to hoodwink and deceive people. Most times these people do not even know the meaning of Ofo na Ogu. They do not even know that they can weld such influence as humans. Most of them have resorted to spiritualist, pastors, Imams and the like to help them, with issues they can but solve themselves, if only they are pure. God loves purity, and in purity can one be close to God.
The concept of Ofo na Ogu, has remained an age-long philosophy of the Igbo man, that has help him unravel the truth, and seek justice. This has continued to work in the past and even now. There is however, need for mankind to look inward and use that, which he has in settling disputes. The process of administering Ofo and Ogu is a gradual process, but has never failed mankind in any way.
There is never any gain in being dishonest or wicked to a fellow man. It goes against the laws of nature and these misdeeds always come back to haunt the perpetrator in one way or the other – this is one of the staunch, unbending laws of Nature.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK