Yaa gives you a class with attendant social responsibility. You are a warrior. You cut plantain round the community with a crowd of people singing and praising you. In situations of supernatural needs, you can intercede and the ancestors will listen. It is positive initiation into manhood.
One socio-cultural practice that has resisted the neutralising power of modernisation in Ogoni land, Rivers State, is the Yaage tradition which requires participants to dance completely nude round the community during initiation. Yaage tradition is generally acclaimed by the people to be a vehicle of social transformation of youngmen into adulthood.
Yaage which is also called Yaawii means “rite of son” performed by youngmen to attain the title Kabari (Chief), a leader or commander of fighting force for his community. It is a general belief that the process of Yawii is the preparation of youngmen as warriors who will posses good leadership qualities and unblemished character,
During the process of initiation, youngmen are placed under the tutelage of a te-yaa (yaa father) who takes them through a three months pilgrimage to perform certain rites in all the ancestral shrines of the community.
The first step in the performance of this rite is called Sibu Zim te (pilgrimage to the sacred shrines of the patrilineage ancestors. During the process, all the chiefs, elders and the principal men of the district are invited to the occasion, and many sacrifices and rituals performed and libations poured to the ancestors. As a requirement for their participation, each yaa man is required to pay a prescribed fee towards the cost of the rituals and the activities.
The second homage is called sib u zim ka, (homage to matriarchal shrine) made to the yaa matriarchal house (bua), where similar rites, rituals and libations are performed amidst reunion of kindreds. Next, the yaa man visits all the important places in Ogoni land to perform the traditional rites and to pay the prescribed fees.
Among such places are the houses of the founders of the component towns, the war shrines and the matriarchal house of Gbenebeka at Ka-Gwaara, the last of the early female ancestresses and the universal rulers of Ogoniland. And finally the participant goes to his ancient matrilineage or the house of his great, great grandmother to perform rites.
Fifty years old son of Chief Benson Deekae nwiyor, the Mene Buen of Kalaoko Community, Chief Akpobari Benson Nwiyor (Mene Dedum 1 of Ogoni) who performed the yaa rites from July to October 2008, described the climax of the process as holy baptism which is performed on the yaa by the priestess of the ancient matriarchal house.
Chief Akpobari Nwiyor told The Tide On Sunday that the purpose of the baptism was to give the yaa his greatest spiritual fortification and insulation against external negative forces and to endow him with wisdom, intelligence and a sense of direction in the spirit world, which the elders believe, is the basis of proper conduct, success, and right actions in the natural world.
The evening before the baptismal ritual, each yaa man slept alone in the house of his senior patron (te-be), until about 4.30am the following morning when each yaa father takes his yaa man to the nearest running stream for the baptism.
“Led by the house father, the yaa man dipped his feet into the water and ran away as fast as he could towards the village. As soon as he caught a glimpse of the village, he ran back to dip his feet in the stream again. This, he repeats for seven times and at the seventh time he threw himself into the water and took a smart quick bath and ran out of the water back to the house of the yaa father. The whole process must be completed before twilight, and no fly must perch on his body during the ritual, “ Chief Nwiyor explained.
The yaa man must be completely nude while performing this ritual. At the seventh time when the dam yaa throws himself into the water, the house father runs home with the dam yaa cloth. In that way, the dam yaa had no choice but to run home nude and remains nude until 8 pm the next night when he begins a separation dance called Yep pee ment for only virgins.
According to Chief Nwiyor, who is also a lecturer with the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori, men who have had sex with a mother of twin or a strange woman are not qualified to participate in the yaa ceremony.
“The consequence is that if you concealed the truth and danced the holy pee and touched the sacred instrument, you will drop dead instantly. For those of us who were no longer virgins’ we dare not touch the yaa tree when we go into the forest during the process. If you touch the yaa free you disappear.”
“The young men go naked but the old and mature ones do not. They tie a small piece of cloth around their waste region. For the period of three months we stay without having carnal knowledge of a woman. We only sit with somebody who had performed the rituals and such a person can only sit on the left hand of the participant. The initiation process used to be one year but now reduced to three months because of the dynamics of society,” he narrated.
Chief Nwiyor insists that in Ogoni land there are certain gathering a man can not be admitted into if he had not undergone the yaa process.
“In some communities, if you do not perform the yaa ceremony, you are not buried at home when you die.
“Yaa gives you a class with attendant social responsibility. You are a warrior. You cut plantain round the community with a crowd of people singing and praising you. In situations of supernatural needs, you can intercede and the ancestors will listen. It is positive initiation into manhood.”
When a yaa man rules a line on the ground, a non-yaa person does not dare cross the line. As the yaa men perform the ceremony, they are libating for the peace, health and wealth of the community. They appease the gods and when they come out of it they are richer in traditional knowledge. During the period, the yaa man prays fervently to the gods that nobody dies in his family else he be disqualified. It has no negative social impact but all depends on the perception of the people,” he argued.
The Ogoni prince who has gone beyond yaa to perform the Yikabaar, contended that the yaa ceremony was meant to prepare a young man for leadership and for life. “By its teaching and discipline, it inculcates the attitude of hardwork, self discipline integrity, credibility, sound morality and respect for service of human life and the human world,” he concluded.
Only Popular Candidates’ll Win Re-Run Polls – Hon Deekor
Ahead of the March 19
re-run polls scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State, candidates of the various political parties are back in the trenches making last minute political preparations, exploring and exploiting their advantageous platforms to clinch victory at the polls.
For Hon Dumnamene Deekor, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), candidate for Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency in the re-run polls, his greatest political asset is his grassroots involvement, a leadership model and political strategy he imbibed and perfected over the years.
In his sense of political judgement, Hon Dumnamene Deekor, a former Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, believes that participatory democracy requires more than a passionate lust for power but a deep sense of grassroots participation to earn the confidence and mandate of the people.
Hon Deekor who spoke with The Tide in a no-holds-barred interview in Port Harcourt recently, decried what he called the tendency of most unpopular politicians to imposed themselves on the people.”
According to the seasoned lawmaker “every politician aspiring for a representative position must be connected with the people, they must relate directly with the people, feel their pains and burdens so that they can represent them well. Anything contrary amounts to a dupe and abuse of popular will.”
He said most of those parading as candidates are completely alienated from the very people they want to represent, and being conscious of this missing link, resorts to crude measures to usurp popular mandate through the back doors.
Optimistic of his resounding victory at the re-run polls, Hon Deekor said the people of Khana/Gokana Federal constituency had freely given their mandate to the Peoples Democratic Party, and were ready to revalidate that mandate in the re-run election.
“The people of Khana/Gokana constituency are mature politically, and they have opted for the Peoples Democratic Party which is the only party on ground in Rivers State. I have also endeared my self to the people through my grassroots affiliation with them and I enjoy the good will of the people, the opposition party is aware of my popularity in my constituency, we are going to coast home victory with ease.
Hon Deekor’s huge support base is mostly from the youths. As a state legislator, he acknowledged the fact that he made himself accessible to the youths and committed available resources to the promotion of their well being.
He said the youth constitute the active population of a given society and as such needed active mobilisation of their inherent talents to produce an egalitarian society.
Deekor further pointed out that youths empowerment would be cardinal in his development agenda when re-elected into the House of Representative. The lawmaker also faulted what he described as “social media deception”, a tool he said was perfected by unpopular politicians who use propaganda and blackmail as their yardstick for political campaign.
“I don’t believe in social media politics because it is over bloated and skewed to cover up the inefficiencies of unpopular politicians, my political philosophy is to relate directly with the people to know their needs and feelings, I know that only popular candidates will win the re-run polls the people of Khana/Gokana constituency have known the difference, they know their trusted political leaders and they cannot make the mistake of mortgaging their conscience no matter the intimidation and blackmail”.
Commenting on the recent military invasion in Ogoni land which led to the killing of some people, in Bori, Hon Dumnamene Deekor, said the unfortunate incidence was the mastermind of overzealous politicians who want to acquire political powers by all means. He said the gory incidence replicated the darkest history of Ogoni, when an army of occupation took over Ogoni territory, and challenged Ogoni politicians, especially of the All Progressive Congress (APC) to tell the truth on the matter.
Hon Deekor, also warned against the plot to militarized Ogoni during the re-run polls and advised the military to stay away from partisan politics and perform their professional duties within the ambit of the law.
The House of Representative hopeful regretted the fact that there was no crisis in Ogoni land to warrant such a military onslaught on the people. He further stated that, “what the Ogonis need at the moment is effective representation to attract development in the area, not political intimidation”, adding that, Ogoni has suffered the brunt of oil politics in Nigeria over the years, and have remained grossly under developed despite decades of enormous contributions to the economic development of the country.
In his estimation the military invasion of Ogoni was the fallout of the tactical plots by some self serving politicians in the area to polarize key organizations in Ogoni to achieve selfish political goals, rather than fostering unity of purpose among the people.”
He however, called on all Ogoni stakeholders to remain focused and resolute in achieving the ultimate objectives of the Ogoni struggle especially the strict implementation of the UNEP report, noting that Ogoni was highly mobilized and sensitized and cannot afford to be used as pawns in political chess games.
On his vision as a federal legislator, Hon Deekor, said he had the right pedigree to represent his people and give them articulate and effective representation. “I succeeded as a lawmaker at the state level by the grace of God, I am very accessible and properly groomed to represent my people, I have always been with them and I know their development challenge. As a member of the House of Representative I will work hard and contribute my quota in terms of vocal representation to ensure that some extant laws that dispossessed the Ogonis and other Niger Delta communities are amended, will work with all the stakeholders in Ogoni to ensure that unity of purposes and development is promoted among the people”, we owe posterity a sense of duty, and we cannot afford to fail our people because of diversionary motives, we must not tell lies to attain public offices, the killings in Ogoni should be properly investigated and the perpetrators should be brought to book”, he stated.
“The military have no business with the electoral process, they must not allow any politician to smear their professional integrity with partisan interest. The APC’s plot is to cause crisis in Ogoni using the military and impose themselves on the people. This will not happen. Our people are aware of all there plots and are very vigilant to nib such tendencies in the bud. The APC is not on ground in Rivers State and they cannot impose themselves on the people.”
The Khana born politician also took a swipe at the National chairman of APC, Chief John Oyegun which he described as the arrowhead of APC’s vindictive politics against Rivers people.
He said the “cynical” remark credited to the John Oyegun against Rivers State indicate that “the drive for the prime objective of Rivers State by APC, is only driven by selfish, exploitative economic motive rather than a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the people of the state.”
Deekor called on the people of Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency and Rivers State in general to remain focused and supportive of the Government of Chief Barr Nyesom Wike, to enable the Governor continue to dispense quality service to the people.
According to him “only the PDP has clear vision and objectives for the development of Rivers State, and the interest of the state must not be compromised at the alter of the political ambition of self serving leaders who believe that public office is their exclusive rights.
In the final analysis, Hon Deekor said the PDP has trained its personnel ahead of the re-run polls and the party was ready to abide by the stipulated rules of the game by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said INEC should be committed to the conduct of free and fair re-run polls in Rivers State and restore its integrity.
Taneh Beemene/ Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
Nigeria: Safe, Exciting Country -Butcher
American Motivational Speaker, award-winning
producer and writer, and member of the Eckankar Clergy, Anne Archer Butcher, who recently visited Nigeria, spoke to select editors which included The Tide Op.Ed/Features Editor, Victor Tew, on her spiritual experience, Eckankar teachings, America’s perception of Nigeria, the country’s security situation and sundry issues.
Could you share with us your perception about Nigeria before coming to the country?
The first time I came to Nigeria was 12 years ago; I was extremely impressed about Nigeria, and I couldn’t wait to come back. It is not a question about my impression about Nigeria; it is about what I experienced when I first came here; it was very interesting. I felt I have come to an ancient land; my deep spirit was rooted here. I got connected to the root. And I felt it is a powerful place; a very high spiritual place. I know it has its own down side, many difficulties but at the same time, I felt the beauty of the land. And I am very attractive to it, and I am delighted to be back to Nigeria.
1 am sure you have heard about the challenges facing Nigeria – the issue of insecurity, poverty and others. How do people perceive Nigeria in your country?
You know many of the things we hear about Nigeria, are surely frightening. It can scare people away from the country. And it’s quite unfortunate. But like I said, I see a beautiful land that is very exciting and powerful, deeply spiritually rooted. On the other hand, we hear about Northern Nigeria, the difficulties that are going on there; we hear about kidnapping, and that gave people the sense that Nigeria is not safe. But, my message to everyone that I know is: until you experience Nigeria, you have not experienced Africa. I say it not because of the infrastructures, it is the hub of the people in the land; it is extremely impressive to me. My husband was with me the last time I visited Nigeria and I had the same experience. And when we stepped out he asked me: ‘what you think about Nigerians, the sense of the people they are?’ And I said I don’t want to tell you just like that. And I said I want to hear yours. We later agreed to write it down and compare notes. And we wrote, and compared notes, it was exactly the same thing. What each of us wrote was: a super race. They are more beautiful than us; even got better teeth than we do; they are spiritually connected than we do. That they feel to us like an ancient people. And that we were glad to be here. And that I cannot wait to come back; that was 12 years ago.
What was your feeling when you were planning to come to Nigeria for the second time, in view of the nation’s security challenges? Before I came 12 years ago, my phone was ringing consistently and I went inside to answer the phone; it was my aunt and she said: I call to beg you not to go to Nigeria. I said nobody can stop me because I can feel the excitement of going to Nigeria. I told her I had been to Nigeria and I don’t care about the security situation; I know I will be taken care of by Nigerians. That those who are inviting me would have make adequate arrangement for security, and I will be in safe hands. No, I was not concerned about my safety.
What is the importance of the seminar put together by the Eckankar?
The seminar is all about a book, Inner Guidance: Our Divine Birthright, which talks about our ability to have inner guidance of our own. It doesn’t matter whether they are members of Eckankar or not. It is to remind everyone that we are all spiritual human beings; who are here to achieve our spiritual destiny. And that we should use this great potential in this life time. We can do that by creating a relationship with God-with the techniques available to everyone. And everyone is invited to the seminar. It will be covering some of the stories in the book and about my own life. I had some dramatic experiences which taught me a powerful lesson; it is not just about me but it is about all of us – who we are, why we are here, what we can do and how we can do that. I came from a very humble beginning, and I found myself – as I was growing spiritually and my life became much bigger. And it is a lesson each of us can acquire; we want to see our life changed for better. It has to start within but through the vehicle of a story.
Leading Edge Review has described your book, Inner Guidance: Our Divine Birth Right as “truly intriguing, inspiring and insightful read for anyone, regardless of their faith or belief system”. What really motivated you to write the book?
The book has actually become a national Best Seller because people have shared the content with one another, not because of the campaign. It is my gift to Eckankar – for all the gifts I have received. Yet, why I become more successfully-why everyone is sharing this story, has to do with the story of what happened to me many years ago – it is such a thing people like to hear about because it is very exciting. It was December, like this time- Christmas period, I was in an Island where my mother stays and went to swim in a beach. While I was swimming, I was pulled down by reptile into the ocean; as I found myself out there on Christmas day-with people on the beach, I thought they will rescure me. When I look, I saw a shark-coming towards me and I said I am going to be eaten by shark this Christmas day. It was terrible! I did not understand what was happening, and my heart continued to pound wildly, yet still I felt no pain. I felt the strange hitting sensation slam against me a third time. Then a powerful, smooth, sleek body approached from my right side, and suddenly rose up underneath me, lifting me right out of the water. I was rapidly moving across the surface of the ocean, spreading towards the shore. The surface of the water broke in front of me, and I saw the heaven-sent rescuer on whose back I had just been carried. It was a beautiful dolphin, piercing the wave and jumping through the air in the inimitable way of these intelligent mammals. And I knew life was mystical, powerful than I had ever imagined. I am not alone; we are interconnected spiritually; that was the beginning of the story; and it started to be shared all over the world.
How has that experience shaped your life?
It has been very profound; from the perspective of what is in for me; that is what people want to know. But with the experience, how can I ask for more? I was pulled into the ocean by a reptile, a shark was about to eat me; and I had a powerful, mystical experience of riding at the back of dolphin. If I am that blessed-when I am not in control, then I must surrender to the divine spirit. The dolphin called me to begin to surrender to the divine spirit; I said do with me what you want. When we have that focus, it changes everything. It has strengthened my relationship with God.
Eckankar is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, including in Nigeria. But for those of us who are not members we see it as a secret group that practice occultism. What is the religion all about?
Eckankar is a highly spiritual path. It teaches personal responsibility and spiritual freedom. And of course, it can’t be a cult. It is very attractive to people because those who are very sensitive to the spiritual life is concentrated. We want teaching that can help us concentrate in divine spirit. Like I said the path is about personal responsibility and spiritual freedom. We respect all religious groups and all lives. Because religions were brought here to help man kind. Let me share my personal experience with you. My husband said to me: No one is going to discuss Eckankar, and I said it is a business meeting, I am not going to talk about Eckankar. I later promised I was not going to talk about it. And we got into the meeting hall and the chairman of the meeting, sitting next to me asked me: are you an Eckist? And I said why would you ask me that? There was nothing to identify me. The man was one of the executive vice presidents of the company we were meeting with. And he said in the college his roommate was an Eckist, and anytime he came visiting him, he always felt him coming. And he said: If I close my eyes now, I see my former roommate.
Is it possible to practice the technique without being a member?
Yes. You can. You can practice the technique. Nothing comes to us unless we are in the state of our own consciousness. We do spiritual exercise. And anybody can do it. You can do spiritual exercise 20 minutes a day.
Is there any connection between Eckankar and other religions?
There is connection. All religious practice peace and love. But Eckankar offers guidance and protection. It is all about service.
Is Eckankar religion elitist as perceived in some quarters?
Eckankar is based on doing daily simple daily exercise, and listening to your own inner guidance, listening to your own inner messages. And then you discover that life is better than it was before.
It is open to all irrespective of status.
Atamuno’s Vision For His People
Until his enlistment
into the long list of governorship aspirants under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atamuno Ajubo Atamuno was a relatively quiet philanthropist not given to partisan politics. But when he finally emerged, many realised that he indeed meant business.
That business is to contribute to the well-being of the thoroughly impoverished Rivers people in general, and men and women of his immediate constituency the Okrika speaking Ijaws of Rivers State. To be seen as a serious contender, an aspirant under the PDP, according to him, would require an initial investment of N100 million.
This covers, office structures, logistics, contact and mobilization and indeed initial campaign financing. Others are collection of Expression of Intent form, N1 million, Nomination form N11 million, State Administration fee N3 million and South/South Zonal office fee N2 million.
After all these, what was his impression regarding inta-party democracy and what options are left for him, was a question The Tide posed to him. His answer was simply ‘awful.’
Atamuno is an apostle of zoning of political offices for equity, unity and political integration. It is his belief that Rivers State in 1999 experienced relative political peace within the PDP on account of the fact that the founding fathers of the party willingly ceded the governorship slot to the upland part of the state, which led to the emergence of Dr. Peter Odili.
After eight years, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who succeeded Odili is also from the upland of Ikwerre ethnic extraction.
This makes it unacceptable for another uplander, not to mention an Ikwerre son to succeed Amaechi as flag bearer in the 2015 gubernatorial elections.
Atamuno described as bad political calculation the emergence of Chief Nyesom Wike as flagbearer of the PDP, saying it will be a burden on the party, as it was likely to engineer protest votes. “How do you explain to the average Ijaw voter in the state that he will be denied political power at the governorship level for 24 years? Atamuno wondered.
So what are the options left for him? Atamuno said he expects the National leadership of the PDP to properly address the issues raised by all the aspirants and undertake a broad-based reconciliation to ensure that all aggrieved stakeholders are pacified and reunited behind an eventual flagbearer.
“Afterall there can only be one candidate of the party”.
But if that is not done, he warned, just as some have defected to other parties, many more would follow suit. Although, he said, not all the governorship aspirants are serious individuals, some of them can make a change that could impact on the party’s fortunes.
Atamuno said he had no personal quarrel with Nyesom Wike, but thinks that the succession of an Ikwerre man by yet another Ikwerre son, is poor political calculation. Besides, the process of Wike’s emergence through the total colonisation of the party structure, according to him, made it difficult for anyone to enjoy a level playing ground.
“Using party structure to close-out other aspirants and winning the primary is one thing and using that same capacity to win the general elections is another challenge.
What Atamuno expects the eventual PDP primaries’ winner and the party leadership to do is to carry out an all-embracing reconciliation of all aggrieved aspirants and not pick and choose stooges to speak for others.
Atamuno, who is the facilitator of the Rivers Mandate Group and Okrika Cultural Foundation said his primary concern is to contribute meaningfully to the development of the people, especially of the indigent youth Rivers in the state in general and his local government area, Okrika in particular.
Whether he succeeds in his political ambition to become governor or not, he would continue to pursue that mission. Already, as many as 120 young men and women have responded to his call to obtain free JAMB forms for enrolment into tertiary institutions.
Out of this number, 20 will be granted automatic scholarship if they succeed in gaining admission into universities to read Engineering, Law, Political Science and Accountancy. According to him, this number will be reviewed upwards annually and expanded to include many more disciplines.
Atamuno identified a lull of competent manpower as responsible for the engagement of foreigners and non-indigenes by multi-national firms operating in the state. This is not healthy and needs to be tackled in time, to avoid major youth protest in the future.
Atamuno said he was discussing with foreign firms over the possibility of coming to Rivers State to invest in the marine construction sector. With two such investments, graduate unemployment within the area, he said will be wiped out completely. “If two such companies start operations in the Okrika axis of the state, unemployment of the youth of the area would have been eliminated completely.
Charity, he said begins at home, and hopes to target the Okrika youth in particular and those of Rivers State in general as the focal group of his development initiatives.
That feeling, he said accounted for his involvement in the formation of Okrika Cultural Foundation, non-political pressure group that has pioneered the development of the Okrika Language, through the sponsorship of various events, seminars, symposia and revival of indigenous Okrika language programme on Radio Rivers FM.
Atamuno, an International Business mogul with offices in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, said his preference to assist the needy was indeed deliberate. “I have seen poverty. I have tasted it. I have fought poverty. And I can tell you, it is not easy.
According to him, he had tried his hands in many ventures, including buying and selling detergents in the open Lagos market and streets to break even. Such travails with-out support can never be easy and was not.
That is why he has chosen education as a choice of investment to assist the needy and indigent write JAMB and gain admission into universities. With the free JAMB initiative and scholarships for successful candidates, Atamuuno hopes him, empower young men and women to pursue their dreams.
These, according to hi, form part of the compelling reasons for his enlistment into the roll of governorship aspirants within the PDP. And because he is very passionate about it, nothing would stop his poverty alleviation programmes with or without his emergence as governor of Rivers State.
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