By: Igala Teacher.
This is my intervention on the Ib’egwu saga that has been trending for the past days.
I must start by stating without equivocation that the act of molestation and efforts to forcefully obtain confession, under several cameras by some Ogugu people in the trending video was absolutely wrong.
That act called our humanity as Igala people to question. It is not about the validity of our culture, just as it is not about the innocence or guilt of the woman. It is about our apparent approval of trial by ordeal in the 21st century. That aspect of the whole fiasco has exposed us to public ridicule; so much that it becomes difficult for us to point out any efficacy in the Ib’egwu institution.
Having said that, let me state that the essence of this intervention is to answer a particular question that has been ask by several persons, that is; why will Ib’egwu’s judgment be to strike the husband of an adulterous woman and not the wife?
This question appears valid, more so that the husband is the sole victim of the crime of adultery. As sensible as this question is, it becomes of no moment if you ask for an explanation from adherents of the Igala religion (Ogwuchekwo).
I am not just an adherent, I am very familiar with my religion and that is why I want to answer this question.
Ib’egwu literally means the ancestors. When an Igala man dies, he is believed to have transcended to another realm (Oj’egwu), from there, he protects his children; and at times disciplines his sons, grandsons and so on, except where the grandsons have lost their father too, in that case, the task of discipline shifts from their grandfather to their father.
Ib’egwu does not necessarily have any business with his daughters in-law, his concern is his son. Need not to say that Ogwuchekwo is a religion anchored on patriarchy.
So, yes, Ib’begwu has no business with his son’s wife who commits adultery, but he sure will strike his son, if he becomes aware or has reasons to believe that his wife is adulterous and goes ahead to keep and relate with her as his wife, particularly if he eats food cooked by her. So, the offence is not adultery but concealment of the adultery by the husband.
What a man who becomes aware of his wife’s adultery should do is to first abstain from his wife, then report her to his family leadership. If she admits culpability, a man from another family, but whose mother is from the husband’s family is invited to cleanse her. This cleansing is done within few minutes and the man returns with his wife.
You may be wondering why should it be a man whose mother is a relative of the husband, well if a man of paternal relationship with the husband tries it, he is struck too. Ib’egwu only has jurisdiction over his male descendants, that is why he cannot punish his son’s wife, but can punish his son. That is why the adultery of his daughter in-law is not an offence, but the concealment of it by his son is. He has no business with the woman, it is the man! He has no business with the adulterous wife, it is the concealing man.