Posted by Amanda Ibironke on Sunday, July 6, 2014

Every society has hierarchy and different level of leadership title. The traditional/cultural society has one form of chieftaincy title and it is taken very seriously. Amongst the Igbos, titles are sometimes given, and taken to reflect the character of the title-bearer or holder. In some other cases, the titles are just symbolic, and become a mere symbol of greeting during social interactions. In typical Igbo communities, people are not known, called or greeted by their names but rather by their titles. Some of these titles are self explanatory, but majority require hard thinking to fully decode their meanings, but still each title signifies something or else it becomes a mere nickname.
The average Igbo man by tradition is expected to have a title, either given to him by his father or one that he assumes and takes up himself. However, there are titles that one can only bear after going through some traditional rituals and practices such as Nze na Ozo, Ichie chieftaincy or other Igbo traditional titles. Anyone who successfully goes through the stipulated processes would have been considered to be fully initiated, and his peers will no longer have any inhibition in giving him the traditional Igbo three – backhand slap and handshake (ina ito) - a social greeting ritual that is reserved only for the initiated.

Although there is no general expectation for people to formalise their titles, there is however a class system within the Igbo cultural system. More respect and honour are accorded to those who have formalised their titles. The act of formalising one’s title is indeed not something for weak hearts and requires some elaborate preparation which culminates in series of events. The title holder will be expected to fulfil certain conditions including feasting his Umunna, Umuada, initiated title holders and other relevant stakeholder groups in the community .

Some titles are also hereditary, passed on from generation to generation. In such cases, while all the male children born to a family may be addressed commonly by such titles by which their father or grandfather was known, in the long term it is only the eldest male child that eventually retains the title. Preference in this instance always goes to the firstborn son. The younger siblings will be expected whenever they can, to assume or take their own titles.

As with men, so also with women, there is no evidence of discrimination against women in the Igbo culture with regards to title taking. In fact, the women are holding their own and giving the men a run for their titles. They do have their class system as certain titles can only be taken by the initiated, usually into the much revered and influential Iyom society. Interestingly, men and women do not normally bare similar titles in Alaigbo as they would some Igbo names such as Uche, Ngozi, Chinyere, Chika and Udodiri which are unisex names, but it does seem from the sound of some Igbo traditional titles, that both the women and the men already know which titles they could bear and which is exclusive to the opposite gender.

Igbos are very accommodating and have been known to show their appreciations of friendships and beneficial relationships with other races through the bestowing of honorary titles, some Igbo in-laws are known to have bagged these honorary titles.

Source – The Village Square

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