SOMTO CHIEDU (DONTE)
Breaking of Kolanut (Ịwa Ọjị)
Nothing defines the life of an Igboman as Kolanut. The breaking of Kolanut (otherwise known as cola acuminate) is a practice that cuts across every area of Igboland (omenala jikoro Igbo nile onu). It is so significant that no social, religious or traditional event is deemed complete and meaningful without it. It precedes any ceremony in Igboland, from ordinary visitation to a friend’s house to major events. Breaking of Kolanut is both a prayer and a cultural perpetuation over generations. It creates a synergy between the physical and the metaphysical world.
The breaking of Kolanut shows the Igbos belief in the intervention of his ancestors, his Chi and the Supreme God in the affairs of men. It expresses the Igbo cosmological thought regarding the existence of God, angels, life, peace, justice, equity, prosperity, death and life after death. It is used to summon good tidings and reject evil visitations. The prayers offered during the breaking of Kolanut is an expression of the authentic Igbo value system that has sustained Igboland for ages before the present western cultural invasion and the degradation that became the aftermath of it. For instance, the first prayer offered during the breaking of the Kolanut is for life, with the expression “onye wetalu oji wetalu ndu”. (He who brings kola brings life) This shows that sacredness of life over and above every other thing is paramount and fundamental in Igbo cosmology. That is why murder is an abomination, a sacrilege in Igbo culture generally. The understanding is that life is the foundation of every other development, and since it cannot be created, it should not be destroyed.
Furthermore, another prayer offered is for Harmony and peace with one another and with nature. The expression used is “ndu mmiri ndu azu. Mmiri atana. Azu anwuna” (May the river not dry and may the fish live). Another expression commonly used is “Ugboguru mialu m, nya mialu nwunye di m” ( May the fruited pumpkin grow in my farm and that of my neighbor”. This is the principle of live and let live, the principle of solidarity, the principle that recognizes that I can only enjoy my humanity if my neighbor can enjoy his too, that we are all one big human family.
Again, the Igbo notion of justice and equity is also shown during the blessing of the kola. The expression “Egbe belu ugo belu. Nke si ibe ya ebena, nku kwaa ya” (Let the kite perch on the tree top and let the eagle perch also. Whoever says that the other should not perch, may its wings be broken) is a leading justice construct. At the heart of it is the golden rule- Do unto others as you will like them to do unto you. The Christian scripture tells us that this is the summation of the law and the prophets.
Finally, the prayer also recognizes human needs and accommodates declarations for prosperity. But that prosperity is hinged on hard work. This expressions like “onye ruo n’ anwu, ya rie na ndo” (whoever works under the sun should eat under a shade) are used. The Igbo worldview on prosperity is bequeathed on hard work and also seen as a civic obligation.
It is important to note that unlike the usual Christian prayer that sometimes take the form of begging, prayers during breaking of kola are more of declarations. While these prayers going on, everyone must be silent. The individual making the supplication raises the kolanut up, while calling on God for his blessings. Those around will respond to each prayer request with “Isee”
At the conclusion of the prayers, the kolanut is broken and passed round for everyone to partake of it. Titled men and elders are usually served first.
Most times, the Igbo present two kolanut to a visitor. One is blessed, broken and eaten, while the other follows the person home, and is usually referred to as “ọjị akpa.” This aligns with the Igbo belief that when a kolanut arrives home, it will say where it came from.
Of equal importance is that it is intended that kolanut reaches everyone; no matter their age and size of the kolanut they are given. For, if some people are not given kolanut, they usually assume they were perceived as inferior to others, or not accepted in the gathering.
WHO CAN BREAK KOLANUT IN IGBO LAND.
The eldest in the gathering, the youngest in the gathering break kolanut in some parts of Igbo land, because it is assumed they are too young to conceive evil plan for others, yet again, in some parts of Igbo land, titled men break kolanut; notwithstanding if an elder is present, In the shrine, the chief priest breaks kolanut.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PIECES OF KOLANUT .
The number of lobes that throws up during the breaking of kola is usually regarded as a message and a warning regarding the present and the future.
- ONE LOBE KOLANUT: this is referred to as a dumb kolanut. The Igbo believe it is a bad thing, hence it is not eaten. In the olden days, they go to the Chief priest or diviner for consultation on why this happened.
- TWO LOBE KOLANUT: this is known as a kolanut that knocked on the door. In Igbo cosmology, two lobe kola lacks balance and regarded as a bad omen. It is usually cast away.
- THREE LOBE KOLANUT: it is called the Hero’s or Ikenga’s kolanut. In some parts of Igbo land, only warriors or individuals with significant achievements eat this kind of kolanut. It signifies stability.
- FOUR LOBE KOLANUT: This is widely accepted as a good kolanut, because it symbolizes the four market days and the four day cycle that makes up a week in Igbo land
- FIVE LOBE KOLANUT: it is regarded as the bonus kolanut, because it completed the four market days plus one. The Igbo believes that this brings many children and wealth.
In conclusion, breaking of kolanut is a revered traditional practice in Igbo land. There is hardly a gathering without the breaking of kolanut.
It has many benefits, especially as a unifying symbol amongst the Igbo.
Notwithstanding the coming of Christian religion and its accompanying changes, the breaking of kolanut was not tampered with, and has since been extended to many Christian gatherings. However, its relevance should be extended in creating a better world that will be founded on the principles enunciated during the breaking, like preservation of life, social justice, communal living, hard work and shared prosperity. In our world today that is governed by individualism, greed and unbridled capitalism, the world can learn from the prayers and declarations offered during the breaking of kola and perhaps, start the long overdue healing of humanity.