By Dr Jimanze Ego -Alowes
Gov Wike, Right receiving the Total Exploration and Production team led by its Executive General Manager, Godwin Barike during a courtesy visit to the governor at Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday.
We can recall the following. Out in Abuja many years ago we were sipping some cold drinks. A very clubbable gentleman, Ezeagabara, was our host. As I was meeting him for the first time I kept wondering why he was being called and addressed, convivially, as King of Spirits. Was he some babalawo or dibia? It was not too long I got to know his friends translated his name – Eze-Agbara, literally and un-philologically as King of spirits.
By the way, those who mistranslated Ezeagbara as Kings of Spirits are not unique in their errors. Venerable names, some of the most literary of names have been caught in the same inelegant errors of rendering. For instance, Professor Chinua Achebe in ”There was a Country,” had misdirected himself to translate Eze-bu-ilo as a king is an enemy. And Chimamanda Adichie stirred the dusts, when she fell into the waters of repudiating bride price. However, not very known to her, bride price is a very wrong translation of Igba-nkwu or Ime-onu aku nwanyi. Interested readers may reference: https://www.sunnewsonline.com/the-bride-the-price-and-ms-chimamanda-adichie/
For the Achebe error, we may immediately state that Eze-bu-ilo means excellence, achievement, attracts enmity. By the way, that is a universal, not an Igbo specific sentiment. For instance, Roger Kahn, the Achebe of Baseball if you liked, writes: ”He did not realize that success, breeder of envy” in his ”The Boys of Summer.” That is, it is universally human that success or excellence breeds envy, enmity or ilo. The bu in eze-bu-ilo is a cropped form of butara, not bu as in being, as Achebe mistook it.
However, in a sense both Achebe, Adichie, and our fellow guests at the open evening drinking party hosted by Ezeagbara were right. In a narrow sense though. However, They are also and very importantly wrong at that.
The point is that in the beginning before the white man came, Eze never meant king as Achebe supposes in error. Eze meant and translated as excellence, mastery, master. In a sense, its synonym in Igbo is di. Thus Eze-ji and Di-ji or Di-ochi are of similar meaning across stated career lines.
However, in consequence of our external and self-subjugation before the colonialists, we voluntarily and otherwise altered our world views, cultures etc. We so did to be approved of patterns of thought of the colonizers. It was this encounter that gave colonizer-centric re-evaluation of Igbo words and categories. And many, including sometimes the very elect, have fallen victims, mixing up the philological and the urban too urban as one.
The fact is that since immemorial times, the Igbo conjugate Eze as root words for persons embodying excellence in a given career line. Thus, Ezeji is excellent or supreme [yam] farmer. Ezeagbara, whose synonym is Eze-muo, means supreme caretaker, husbandman, of the gods, of things divine. The Igbo used chi, agbara and chukwu more loosely than the bible translations forced them into. In other words, Ezeagbara and ezenmuo mean and translate properly as bishop or pope.
For instance, the Yoruba-Ogboni equivalent is Olori-Apena, not Olori-Oluwo. The Apena, holder of the edan, [ofo is the closest Igbo equivalent] is the enactor of magic, keeper of the scriptures and chants. Olori-Oluwo is the diplomatic and public face of this deep hermetic arts of the Ogboni. By the way Ogbonism is an attempt to probe into and possess ultimate mathematical truths. It was only, alas, that Ogbonism was frozen in its quest and got stuck in mere poetry, mere chants.
Ogbonism couldn’t jump mediums. Thus a key part of Ogboni or Yoruba development may lie in unlocking the narrow neck blockage to ease the transition from mere verse to numbers. Indians did it. See Srinivasa Ramanujan, etc. Anyway, it is only as mathematicians that men can fly, never as dervishes or chanters or tricksters. Ahiazuwa.
The next point is that Nwike is the analogue of Ezeagbara, Ezenmuo or Olori Oluwo. Even here a problem of translation ensues. Nwike does not mean son of power or ability as it literally translates. Nwike means beloved of, preferred by the acts. Interested readers may see: https://www.sunnewsonline.com/nwa-chukwu-does-not-mean-son-of-god-nwa-chukwu-means-beloved-of-god-2/
The fact of Nwike as honourable epithet has to be understood in the sense of being a gifted wrestler or warrior. That is being fluent in deploying quantities, of power, acts or leadership. Nwike to reiterate is the temporal equivalent of Ezenmuo, Ezeagbara or Ezeani.
Anyway, in much of Igbo land today Nwike is translated in urban error as son of power. If you used that line you soon get stuck. Nwa-anyanwu would thus mean son of the sun? Nope. The point is that the nwa in Nwa-anyanwu is metaphorized as beloved, not son of. Thus Nwa-anyanwu is beloved of the sun, which of course is a deity. In other words, Nwa-anyanywu and Nwa-chukwu are synonyms. It is in this light that what the Anambra Igbo call nwa-di-ani does not mean son of di ani/the sons or owners or masters of the land. It means and is conjugated to mean beloved of the masters or the owners of the land. And it’s addressed to offspring of married daughters. In other words these offspring are specially beloved, so much, they can do no wrong in their mother’s maiden homestead. We may all recall, that once an Igbo flees to his mother’s place, he is sheltered as innocent, and suffers no lien. Simply put, he is so beloved his sins are washed away.
If we returned to Nwike, it is safe to state that Nwike means a bold and gifted leader, doer of deeds. Of course Wike is the Ikwerre dialectal variant of Nwike, which means a true and gifted leader.
We have only watched Wike from the corner of our eyes. There is of course a lot to disagree with. But given the skewed nature of our federation it is safe to say the man is a gifted leader, full of activity, gumption and courage.
To conclude on this matter, it may serve well if we recalled the following. We have witnessed in Igbo land, especially Anambra State, where rich men who should belong to Nwike degree or order of initiation, grab the more sacred and completely unsuitable order of Ezeani/Ezeagbara/Ezenmuo.
Apparently, they in urban translation think Ezeani means king or Lord of the land/town. Nope. The ani in Ezeani is a metaphor for the divinity which owns the land. It is the same ani as in Ani-chebe, whose dimunitive is Achebe. Ani-chebe/Achebe doesn’t mean town/land protect me. It means the gods protect me.
The point is that these usurper rich big boys have no spiritual or sublime powers/achievements or callings patterning to ani, that is to things spiritual. Perhaps, it is that they don’t know that philologically, a successful businessman/professional belongs to the order of Eze-ego or Eze-ike/ezike or Nwaike, never Ezeani or Ezeala/Ezeani or Ezeagbara. Such as he, is a doer not a thinker, not a sentient being.
Such as he is in the order of Caesar, not Buddha. The persons who should so be are the bishops and the scholars. Scholarships and religions are one, never been separable. For instance many don’t remember that what Pythagoras wrote were scriptures. It was only that he petitioned to decode and worship God with numbers, not verses. In fact, in heaven, communicants receive their unction in numbers, not chants. Ahiazuwa.
To illustrate, I am not Igbo. I am Oru. My inherited title, thanks to my mother’s peerage, is Ozo-nma Ogbugo na Oru, not Igbo. This is a higher grade of title and initiation. The Ozo is the purchase of the title, the Nma is of the beauty of the sublime, and the Ogbu-ugo consolidates the sublimity thereof. Ugo is the highest totem of Oru na Igbo achievement. It’s not that I insist on these things, but a scion in the peerage of Mother A’Endu and Patriarchal Eshi, it is my bounden duty to help educate ourselves in the who we are.
The point is to forever bear in mind that before the white man came there was Mother A’Endu, that before the white man came there was our Paterfamilias, Eshi. Eshi is the more appropriate name of the dialectal variances of Eri, Ehi and sometimes Nri. Interested readers should see our book, ”The Unreported Genocide against the Igbo.”
Lest we forget, the issue of Igbo mistranslating key categories of words is rampart and needs addressing. The other day a lawyer as brave as they come insisted that Obi-agu is lion heart. This is despite the fact that agu is not lion, philologically, even if not in its urban corruption. Actually Obi-agu is a dimunitive of obi-na-agu, that is frontiersmen, brave explorers who open up new grounds. Thus, Agu Ukwu Nri does not mean big lion or odum of Nri. It means a frontier space that the brave Umu-Nri have taken possession and pacified. Why ukwu? Because to be ukwu implies that an a-priori agu-nta, perhaps unlisted as such, had existed. It also follows that Agu-ata, Ezza-agu are referencing new pioneer genius. The rest is in humor. Ahiazuwa.