CHAPTER IX


THE STRUCTURE OF THE SELF

IN IGBO THOUGHT


THEOPHILUS OKERE




THE PROBLEM AND THE METHOD

This is an attempt to present a brief account of the constitution of the self in Igbo traditional thought. For the present, I shall avoid the use of the concept of person, much as I would concede that this would be about the nearest Western equivalent. One common pitfall in a study of this nature is to introduce ab initio prefabricated categories borrowed essentially from European philosophy, theology, psychology or other science and then try to force African original concepts to pass through their foreign mold. The result is often a distortion of the African idea and a lazy assumption that it has been thought through when it was only superficially scratched. This is not always done overtly or even wittingly. Often there is an effort to define what African concepts are by saying what they are not, that is, that they are like or not like this or that foreign concept. In this way not only is the originality of an African idea sacrificed, but even worse, a Western censorship is surreptitiously allowed to preside over African reflection.

To obviate this difficulty, we shall try, as much as possible to work from inside out, in this case, from the native concepts of Igbo culture and, as it were, to let the culture speak for itself without anybody's censures or promptings. One principal resource is the Igbo language itself as we tap it for the relevant vocabulary that has helped from time immemorial to express these concepts.

ETYMOLOGICALLY SPEAKING

To investigate the concept of the self in Igbo culture one starts naturally with the commonest usages as they occur in the expressions: myself, yourself, himself, etc. In Igbo one refers to oneself as Mu nwa--Myself, Gi nwa--Yourself, Ha nwa--Themselves, where Mu means "I," Gi means "you," and Ha means "they;" the attached nwa is a demonstrative which means "This here." Thus Mu nwa, literally "This I" or "I here," is essentially an emphatic pronoun. But the primitive noun that names the self, the core concept in the structure of the self is onwe as in Onwe m "myself," onwe gi "yourself," onwe ya "himself" or "herself." Nwe, which seems to be the original root, means to own; onwe would then mean "he who owns." Thus the above-mentioned expressions would translate literally: Onwe m- "he who owns me" or "myself;" onwe gi- "he who owns you" or "yourself," etc. Onwe is therefore a self-owner, an independent self. Dialectal variations would include ike m and ogwe m, each with rather more obscure etymologies. Ike could possibly derive from the root ke meaning division or creation and Ike m could originally be construed as my portion my own piece of reality. Ogwe is literally a log and in its use as self, is reminiscent of the expression commonly used by witnessesa nom noshishi m ya emee literally "I was there in my trunk when it happened," that is, planted there and solidly present as myself.

Onwe or Ike or Ogwe

Onwe or Ike or Ogwe roughly meaning self, is the core subject of identity, perduring and enduring all human experience. It is not describable and has no name and no function except as the ultimate author of all the functions of the individual, the carrier of all experience. It is the link between the experiences of yesterday and today, the basis of that proprietorship by which these fleeting multitudes of experience are one and are mine. The onwe or Self is that part of me (in a manner of speaking, because it is not just, and cannot be just, a part of me) of which I cannot speak in the third person: the possessive adjective m in Onwe m (my in myself) is not exactly the same as the m in ahu m (the my in my body) which latter does convey some distance, some alterity, a subject-object relationship. Self is not an object but rather the ultimate subject. Myself is myselfOnwe m bu onwe m. Here we are talking of identity as distinct from mere equivalence.

The self is the basic unit of autonomy. If the etymology of onwe has to do with the root -nwe, to own, then one must remark how perfectly this fits in with the Igbo expression for freedom. The Greeks would say: We are free because we are autonomous, that is, we give ourselves our own laws. The Igbo, instead of using the idea of lawgiving and self-lawgiving, would define their freedom from the idea of ownership and self-ownership. To say that we are a free people is: Anyi nwe onwe anyi--We own ourselves or negatively, Odigh onye nwe anyi ni, i.e., there is no one who owns us.1 Freedom is conceived as self-ownership; a free person is a self-owning self. The basic assumption is that the self is not owned. The expression Onye nwem ni--He who owns me, though occurring mostly as a flattering, endearing invocation, is used to designate the closest relationship, especially of blood. Ndi nwegi ni--those who own you--designates the most immediate family, the innermost circle and last line of defense for the individual. It is the utmost insult and challenge to threaten some one with: Mmechaa gi ihe m'echere ndi nwegini, i.e., after dealing with you I will wait to deal with those who own you, that is, your most intimate family, those to whom you are precious and who would be your most reliable defense. But basically, to be free is to be one's own owner and not to be owned by anyone else.



Muo or Spirit

Around the kernel of Onwe, Ike and Ogwe or self there is a cluster of other elements most intimately involved with it and some how contributing to its make up. Foremost among these is Muo or Spirit. Although Muo is the principal name for immaterial beings, gods, ancestors and ghosts, it is used also for the immaterial but constituent element in the human being. This indicates that man is thought of as sharing in some way in the peculiar being of spirits. Despite appearances, man is therefore part spirit. The Muo or spirit in man is clearly conceived as the cause or principle of life in the individual because when someone dies it is often said that his spirit has leftmuo ya ahafula.

Further usage of the notion of spirit shows that it is regarded as the seat of emotions. Ihe okwuru gbuchara muo m, what he said quite killed my spirit, despirited or demoralized me. Ihe okwuru meturu m na muo, what he said touched me in the spirit, in my inmost depths. Muo m anabataghi ya, My spirit refused to accept it (a suggestion). Muo m ekweegh, My spirit rejects it. Muo is therefore conceived as the intangible, invisible element in man, the seat of will and emotions, the principle of life and point of connection, similarity and sharing with the world of spirit. It is the Muo in man that is responsible for the following activities without which the idea of Onwe/Self could neither emerge nor be sustained : (1) Uche, Iche echiche--Thinking, considering, reflecting with some anxiety over one's lot. Cebara ya echiche, think it over. Icheedi gini, what is it you are ruminating over? Uche awaala ya aba, His thought is split into branches, he is in doubt or he is full of thoughts. (2) Iru eruruto reflect deeply, usually on some sad, sombre, tragic subject. Eruo m uwa m--I am reflecting on my world (lot), my bad luck, fortune, destiny. (3) Nchetalit. to think out, to remember, recall. M cheta Rahurahu nne m nwuru ni When I just remember my late brother Rahurahu! to quote the Tortoise in the tale.2 The Igbo verb has a peculiarly dynamic structure whereby the ta enclitic confers on the verb root the notion of bringing forth into existence or into presence (for example, Nku-ta means to earn or bring in by labour or oku, Nzota to bring home by struggling or izo azo). Hence, Ncheta is strictly speaking to fetch out from the past by thinking, iche uche. Ncheta is a crucial function since it is not only useful in storing the memory of events but also accumulates them and unifies them into a continuity that makes them into a story and thus helps to give the self its unity and identity. (4) Nghota--lit. to pluck, to grasp, to understand, to comprehend, to appreciate the full implications of. Ighotala ihe m n'agwa gi? Do you understand what I am telling you? The image suggests that understanding amounts to getting a firm grip on a rather slippery object or getting some hold on a complex and confusing mass. (5) Izu--deliberation, consensus or wisdom and information resulting therefrom. Igba izu is to undertake deliberation to determine in a case an appropriate, generally a consensus, judgment. Ima izu is to have wisdom or know how, or to be privy to. Ama m izu? Do I know ought? (6) Ako--Cleverness, Wisdom, Prudence. Onye ako is the prudent one. Nwaevula ako is the wise, little ram of folk-tales who outwits the notoriously clever tortoise. (7) Ngenge, Igba Ngenge--Imagining, surmising; and finally (8) Atutu, Itu atutu--to plan, to project, to order the execution of a plan. These and all such are activities of the Muo or spirit in man. A dead man cannot do them. An animal or any being lacking spirit cannot do them. They are therefore typical of the self of which Muo is a constituent part and it is from its aspect as Muo that the self can do them.

Obi or the Heart

To take care of a whole variety of functions and emotional and moral attitudes the Igbo use the concept of obi--literature the heart. It is the psychological center of emotions, sensation and sympathy. Obi kara aka, lit. a heart that is mature or ripe, means a brave heart. Obi mgbawa means a heart break. Onye obi miri (of a watery heart) means a weakly, sentimental person. Beyond the psychological role it plays, the Obi has also moral relevance and function. Obi kporo nku (lit. a heart dry like firewood) means a wicked one. Obi nwayo (lit. a quiet, soft heart) means gentleness, meekness. Obi ike (a strong heart) means heartlessness. Obi oku (a heart of fire) means a hot temper. Obi ojoo (a bad or ugly heart) means wickedness and cruelty, while Obi oma (a good or beautiful heart) means kindness. Obi ebere (heart of pity) means a sympathetic, merciful and pitying heart. For all practical purposes, Obi is the seat and center of virtue and vice, of conscience and morality.

The expression Mkpuru obi or "the seed of the heart" accurately designates the anatomical heart of an animal or man. But in one of those notorious twists of missionary/colonial history by which a foreign concept is foisted on a native word, it has acquired inappropriate use in Igbo Christian theology and catechesis as it is used to translate the concept of the soul, the spiritual element in man destined for eternal life or salvation.3 Yet the heart (Obi) often is said to know, to hide or tell information. There is a classic proverb to the effect that: Obi anagh awo nna ya ochie uka: the heart will not deny information to its grandfather. Here the grandfather is the Onwethe self. The expression is used to extort hidden information from a close relation on the basis of the assumption that there can be no secrets when relations are so close, just as the heart keeps no secrets from the self to whom it is so close. This shows that the Obi (heart) reveals and confesses to the self whatever it knows, that the Obi is itself not the self or Onwe, but relates to the Onwe (self) as child to grandfather, and that it is the Onwe that is the core of the self.





Ahu or the Body

Another key element in the concept of self identity is ahu, the body, perhaps derived from hu which is the verb "to see," and therefore, perhaps designating the seeable, visible, tangible, sensible part of the self. Generally it is not spoken of as external to the self or as an object apart. The nearest one would come to objectifying the body would be in phrases such as anu ahu meaning simply the meat of the body, ie bodily appearance. A certain epileptic patient known to this writer and whose arms and shoulders had been badly charred by fire burns sustained during one of his many fits became famous in the village for the following aphorism: Ime ahu dila m mma, etu anu ahu huru ya diwa, Provided the inside of my body is good (healthy), it does not matter how the outside looks. Here Ime ahu (the inside of the body) has a meaning already transcending the merely material and approaching the idea of a healthy condition that is not visible but still felt or enjoyed by the individual. Similarly, the popular greeting: gi na nwa ahu? (lit. You and your little body, means: How are you? Is your body well?, ie., How is your health?) Also Ahu gi kwani? What of your body, often rendered by some other groups in Pidgin English by the well-known How body? meaning How are you? In these expressions Ahu/Body is thought of as the indicator of the state of health. Ahu ojoo or Ahu njo--Bad body--is the normal expression for illness.

In the pet names Ahunna (Her father's body) and Ahu di ya (Her husband's body) for a favorite daughter and a beloved wife respectively, a person is called a body. This could be no more than a bold though reductive metaphor, but the body is invoked to depict the utmost endearment, closeness and intimacy as indeed the body is so close, dear and intimate to the self that it is hardly distinguishable from it. Ahunna and Ahu di ya amount to the expression alter ego.

Ahu is used also to portray and perhaps locate depth of feeling and emotion as in Mmetu n'ahu (body touching) for very touching, which is said of chilling news as it shocks some one. Ihe okwuru meturu m n'ahu, What he said touched me in the body, ie., moved me deeply. Iri ahu, lit. body-eating, actually means blood-curdling, disgusting and Ihe na eri ahu is some touching, pitiful, blood-chilling business. Oriela ya ahu owuwu in the song indicates that it was a blood curdling story.4 In Igbaji ahu, literally to shatter the body, actually meaning to show disrespect to some one, and mmekpa ahu (constraining the body) meaning trouble or difficulty, as in Ono na mmekpa ahu (he is in real trouble), we see that closeness of the body to the self by which disrespect, insult or any difficulties for the body translate into insult and difficulties for the whole self. The same identification of body and self, or the designation of the self through the body alone, shows in the phrase: Gba m n'ahu, lit. run away from my body, that is, leave me alone, give me a break.



The Personal Chi

An important element for rounding off the concept of the self is chi, the enigmatic but crucial notion or principle with which the Igbo explain their experience of history and religion. Percy Amaury Talbot terms it the oversoul or the multiplex ego and compares it to the Roman "genius" and the ancient Egyptian "Kra".5 Contemporary West African peoples such as the Yoruba of Western Nigeria and the Akan of Ghana seem to have the same or similar concepts, but there is really no Western philosophical or theological equivalent. The Igbo Chi is the divine double or personal guardian and protector that is variously conceived as part of God in man, or a divine part of man, but presiding essentially over the individual as he or she works out his or her destiny. Considered as a personal deity, Chi is distinguishable from the self since the self can pray to it, honor and worship it, blame or praise it. He can persuade it, manipulate, coax and negotiate with it. But Chi is not only a religious entity; it is also a philosophical concept. As such, it is also part of the individual's identity and is seen as the prime moving force and principle of individualism in Igbo culture. As such it is strictly personal, indivisible, not shared or sharable with others as the proverb says: Otu nne namu mana owugh otu Chi neke: Same mother but different Chi, that is, a person has the same mother as his sibling but his Chi is strictly his. Thus Chi combines a complexity of ideas and has been variously understood as:

(1) A divine force, agent or power unique to the individual, part of the individual and constitutive of the individual. As such it has in fact been dubbed the principle of individualism, a characteristic attribute, in Igbo culture.6

(2) A guardian, resident deity, deputizing for the supreme God Chukwu or Chineke, but resident within the individual. Hence it is often called God's double within the individual who in turn dedicates a shrine to him.

(3) In either case, it is the principle of destiny as well as of fortune. Every individual has a distinct destiny, ie, his allotted path in life, a path however, which is so delicately laid out that it has opportunities, failures and successes strewn along it. The individual's Chi enables, helps and collaborates with, him in manipulating these possibilities for his self-realization. Hence the paradoxical juxtaposition of both limitation and enablement which connects the Chi idea with destiny in the sense of fatalism, but also makes it the very agent enabling and prodding the individual towards success and achievement as he bursts the molds of fatalism.

Chi as a guardian is given credit when the individual exclaims: Chi m mu anya, My chi is vigilant, after escaping a danger one knows not how. One cannot be greater than his Chi as the name goes: Onye ka chi? Who is greater than his Chi? One cannot therefore go beyond that which is within his allotted path. Yet, to be greater than some one is to be greater than his Chi, Onye ka madu ka chi ya. This means that not even his Chi can bring someone higher than has been allotted to him. Chi is so identified with the individual that one is as high or low as the other and no more. Neither can one challenge his Chi to a wrestling match: Ichuru Chi ya aka mgba. But one's failure is attributed to his Chi: Ebe onye dara owu Chi ya kwadara ya, lit Wherever one has fallen, it is his Chi that has pushed him down. Great achievements are attributed to one's Chi (Owu chi oma m oo, It is all due to my good Chi) just as catastrophic failures are blamed on the same Chi, then regarded as treacherous or weak or ill-fated (Chi m egbuola m oo, My Chi has ruined me).

ILO UWA OR REINCARNATION

The Igbo theory of reincarnation helps us to see other dimensions of the self and we may start by inquiring what aspect of the self is believed to reincarnate. Surely not the entire person as constituted before death since at least part of him, that is, the body or the skeleton can still be around while the reincarnation of the deceased is being noised abroad. Reincarnation in Igbo is known as Ilo-uwa, returning to the world, not a returning into the physical world but perhaps more accurately into Uwa/world in the sense of destiny or lot. The question, Oloro uwa onye? Whose world or destiny did he return to? clearly shows that it is a question, not of the physical universe which is shared by all but rather of the inner world, lot or destiny, or perhaps more accurately life cycle of the individual who often would talk of uwa m ozo, my next life cycle or n'uwa ya mbu, in his first life cycle or use the well-known expression Uwa n'uwa m na'alola, in whatever future life cycle I may return to. Belief in reincarnation is universal among the Ibos, says Basden.7

In the face of the obvious skepticism of Christian believers, Igbo traditionalists have developed arguments to justify their belief based essentially on striking resemblances in bodily, emotional and at times behavioral disposition between the deceased and the new born. Onyewuenyi brings out these reasons clearly as he recalls the phenomenon of child prodigies used as proof of preexistence and preexistent knowledge as well as bodily marks made at the deceased's funeral ceremonies to facilitate recognition of him when he returns to the new cycle of life.8

The author goes further to pose a most relevant question, namely that of the paradox: How can Africans sincerely and truly believe in reincarnation while at the same time recognizing the personal individual existence in the spirit world of the ancestors who are believed to have reincarnated? or as he puts it later, since the birth of the little one(s) in no wise puts an end to the existence of the deceased ancestor in the spirit world.9

One answer is to dismiss all this as an untenable contradiction. Another answer is to interpose a second soul so as to have one reincarnating and the other remaining as ancestor. Yet another is to posit the so-called African force vitale as deus ex machina. What is mistakenly called reincarnation, we are told, is really the ancestors perpetuating themselves through reproduction, by exercising vital influence on living descendants.10 But however we want to explain it, what is certain is that the self alone subsists in all this, whether or not it uses one and the same body, one or more souls or faculties. Such a self is obviously different from and not reducible to any one or indeed any number of its components, for instance the soul, that might then be said to reincarnate in the context of a body/soul division.

The same may be said in the case of the Igbo belief in ghosts where the person/ghost is visible to dogs, to sick persons in delirium or to visionaries, but not necessarily to others; the ghost through having some bodily qualities like shape, sound and motion, remains intangible and may retain other powers that normally would be attributed to spirits. What is it that appears as a ghost? Who is it behind the ghost? Finally we have the case of metempsychosis or the transformation at will into the shape and characteristics of animals such as tigers or buffaloes,11 often in order to use their physical powers to harm enemies. Or the case of witches who appear in the form of rats and bats at night, roaming around as vampires in search of prey while simultaneously they are sound asleep at home. Prescinding from any judgment of truth or falsehood over these beliefs, and inquiring only what understanding of self enables the Igbo to make these multiple attributions to the one self, one is obliged to think that the concept of self is essentially one of ultimate identity. The many and varied activities of mind and body, of soul and spirit, of emotions and of intellect and will, the various categories of soul and oversoul, and the forms of existence as ancestor or ghost or reincarnation, all these are so many masks behind which there is one and only one major operator, namely, the self or Onwe. Nwoga made a very perceptive observation in his 1984 Ahajoku lecture, which I would like to quote at length:

The Igbo person is principally an identity. The reflexive pronouns--oneself, himself, myself, yourselfare not merely compliments to emphasize statements, but they are based on the pronoun, "self," which a dictionary goes into great strains to define as "an identical person, personality, ego; a side of one's personality; what one is; personality; identity. . . . When the Igbo person uses Onwe m, I believe that we are dealing not in imagery but in primary statement of reality. For the Igbo, it is this identity that is made manifest in the biological, social and religious activities in which the individual engages or in which he is involved. That identity has a reality of its own which has characteristics that cohere to it. The biological processes are essential to the person. He has to eat and drink and keep the body from harm. Religious activities invigorate the person, supplying him with help from deities and unseen external forces and also protecting the person from the dangerous activities of spirits. But though the person is dependent on these activities, they do not define the person. There is still the person whose valor is aided and abetted, but not subsumed, under these other activities. That is the identity that sickens and/or strengthens to determine the status of the person. Initiatory rites act on that identity to release it for heightened performance of the person. . . . In masquerade performance, it is this identity that is transformed."12

This identity is no other than the self, the Onwe.

But we cannot round off this study of the self in Igbo thought without at least a brief mention of the defining context in which the identity plays itself out. If we have been looking at the structure of the kernel of the self, one must immediately add that this hard core is surounded by a thicker layer of enveloping relationships. The self as so far studied remains in a way only an abstraction. Even though one can be thought of as a unit and in abstraction from any thing else, in fact, the self is never alone. The individual is never a pure, isolated individual. There is an Igbo saying to the effect that Madu anagh agba ka ugbaA human being does not fall like a bolt from the blue, lit. no none falls from the sky like the ugba (oil bean) cotyledon, that is, by some inexplicable explosive mechanism. There is no big bang that throws a human being from no where into the world. This is often quoted by parents to children to insist that every one has a source, a link, a belongingness, the parents being the source of their chidren. Everyone comes into the world belonging and relating.

The human being is conceived as the focus of a web of relationships. He is related first of all to parents and siblings but gradually to a whole kinship network that widens in concentric circles to include the entire village group or town. Father and mother, Nne na nna (the Igbo reverse the order) are the sacred source of one's existence. An insult to one's parents is an insult that touches one to the depths of one's being. The ultimate curse among young people and which inevitably starts a fight is nne gi nwuokwa, May your mother die! Conversely, when one wants to touch some one with a solemn appeal or prayer, he virtually disarms him with Kaa biko nne gi anwuna, please may your mother not die . . . and goes on to make the request. Parents are an integral part of pesonal wholeness. Igbo forlklore is replete with the evil and misfortune that is the orphan's lot.

Next to the parents are, of course, brothers and sisters, umunne na umunna, and the more of them there are, the richer and fuller is one's sense of self. An Olu nwa, an only child, is pitied and thought somehow incomplete and disadvantaged. The sibling relationship is particularly valued and nourished by the use of specially reserved terms of endearment and courtesy which designate the level of kinship, the sex and especially the age and seniority relationship. An elder brother is addressed as dede, an elder sister as dada, an aunt as adee and an uncle as opanna or opaa. In some places Ndaa is the all-purpose term to cover all genders and age groups but fulfils the same function of asserting intimacy courtesy and corporate belonging.

Beyond the nuclear, but within the extended family, cousins and more distant relations are referred to as brothers and sisters and special rights and obligations accruetaking care especially of children, widows and orphans and taking corporate responsibility on behalf of all members. The individual lives and moves within this orbit of solidarity. This solidarity continues in diminishing degrees towards the exterior peripheries of consanguinity, but it remains vibrant within the limits of the village-group or town. The prefix Umu, the children of, attaching to hundreds of place names in IgbolandUmuonyike, Umukabia, Umuchima, Umuelemai, Umuleridemonstrates the important role of kinship in defining the Igbo person's self-understanding. It makes a statement of corporate solidarity based on blood relationship even when some sub-groups are known to be relatively new immigrants. It also makes this statement of solidarity within the geographical ancestral land shared by these villages, which is a piece of land consecrated and bequeathed by the ancestors, and ruled and protected by the earth deity, which thus confers on this solidarity a quasi religious character. It is this convergence of blood and soilBlut und Bodenwhich creates and supports the living space and the network of relationships where the Onwe/self sees itself as part of a community and this community as a constituent part of the self. This is why in this culture, the self is a congenitally communitarian self, incapable of being, existing and really unthinkableexcept in the complex of relations of the community.

CONCLUSION

All the elements we have discussed hitherto are no more than manifestations of the Onwe, the self-owning self.

- We have examined the Muo as the special aspect of Onwe that is synonymous with the very life of the individual, while being responsible for the vital faculties and functions of thought and memory, understanding, deliberation and wisdom.

- The Muo is the spiritual and most intimate manifestation of the self.

- The Obi is again the self as emotion and morality.

- The Ahu/Body is the external but by no means merely exterior manifestation of the Onwe; it is as intimately part of the self as the Muo or Obi, only differently.

- Chi is the divine part of the self; in a way of speaking it is god made man, as transcendent to the self as it is also immanent to it, helping to work out the individual's destiny as much from within as from without.

It is not easy to figure out the complex relationship between these elements and the Onwe, or with each other. Cumulatively however they make up, not Onwe itself, but the sum total of all the functions and actions attributed to Onwe. And if any new functions or activities are ever found, they will still be attributable to Onwe. This goes to point out that Onwe is perhaps neither defined nor definable, but remains essentially the ultimate subject of all attributions. One can distinguish, but cannot separate, these functions, qualities and actions from their subject of attribution. Neither can this subject be reduced to any one of them or any combination of them. The self/Onwe is neither this nor that attribution, but is rather the sovereign and ultimate proprietor of all attributions of the individual.

NOTES

1. M. M. Green, Igbo Village Affairs (London, Frank Cass & Co Ltd. 1964), p. 145.

2. The cunning tortoise was being transported across a river by the spider. He jests at the spider's hind anatomy even as the latter weaves a bridge of webs from his own entrails. In disgust and anger the spider cuts him loose and lets him fall into the river to face a series of woes and tests. He is forced to gulp down a hot soup on condition of not cooling it by blowing cool air into it. But he got over this by the famous lament over his late brother Rahurahu while using his sobs to blow the soup cold.

3. This means not only an inaccurate rendering of "Mkpuruobi" as well as of "soul", but also more ominously, the imposition of a dualistic body/soul division on an indigenous anthropology rich with the complexities and nuances we are at pains to point out in this article.

4. A ballad commonly heard in the fifties described a car accident that plunged several victims into the Imo River. The pity of it all was expressed in the refrain: Oriela ya ahu owuwu o!

5. Percy Amaury Talbot, The Peoples of Southern Nigeria (1926; repr. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.), II, 279-295.

6. B. I. Chukwukere, "Individualism in an Aspect of Igbo Religion" Igbo Traditional Life, Culture and Literature, The Conch 3. 2, ed. M.J.C. Echeruo and E. N. Obiechina (Owerri, 1971).

7. George T. Basden, Niger Ibos (1938; repr. Frank Cass & Co Ltd. 1966), p. 286. Cf. D.I. Nwoga, 1984 Ahiajoku Lecture (Owerri: Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, 1984), p. 46.

8. Innocent Onyewuenyi, "A Philosophical Reappraisal of African Belief in Reincarnation," International Philosophical Quarterly, 22 (no. 3, 1982), 162.

9. Ibid., p. 166.

10. Ibid., p. 166,

11. G.T. Basden, op, cit., pp. 286-287.

12. D.I. Nwoga, p. 46.