LEADERSHIP IN IGBO SOCIETY: ANALYSIS, CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS BY EKWE NCHE ORGANIZATION LAW and ORDER COMMITTEE HOW IS POLITICAL DISCUSSION ORGANIZED IN IGBOLAND? In traditional Igbo Society it is extremely important for ones voice to be heard. To deny an individual the right to have his or her voice heard is the equivalent of social death or at best the status of a slave. It can be interpreted to mean that the person does not exist. An Igbo person will therefore protest and fight with utmost vehemence if this right is infringed upon and may not give in until this right is restored. If this humiliation continues, the individual will "cry" to his Umunna who will take umbrage at this humiliation of one of their own and demand that the degradation stop immediately. One of the worst things that could happen to a man is to make this appeal and be ignored by the Umunna. It can be interpreted that the Umunna regards such a person almost as a living dead. From the extended family (Umunna) to the Town Union, discussions are usually frank and forthright even as individual presentations are laced with idioms and proverbs. Honesty, frankness and forthrightness are seen as great virtues while rigmarole is often regarded as evidence of weakness and cowardice. At an assembly each person is expected to indicate their intention to speak by clearing their throat, raising their hand, standing up or using any other such as saluting the last speaker. Then the person chairing the meeting will recognize his presence. Should two or more people indicate their intention to speak at the same time, the chair will recognize them according to their chronological age beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. Sometimes titles such as Ozo, Onyeishi (in the areas that take these titles) can enhance an individual's recognition to speak at an assembly. To attract optimal attention at ones presentation, an individual may begin his speech by saluting the Assembly; Kwenu! Yaa! As the discussion progresses, members present at the assembly will have a feeling as to which point of view has the greatest support. Once it becomes clear which view has overwhelming support, the chair will declare that, and close the discussion. Henceforth all opposition to the prevalent view will cease and even the losers though unhappy, will be bound to go along with the majority, satisfied that at least their "voice" was heard. In Igbo Society, each Village of Community, sees itself as autonomous, sovereign, and would not accept dictation from any other group. In most traditional Igbo Societies, the entire village or community acting as Amala, Oha (Community Assembly), makes the laws. In such communities there are no special law making bodies. More recently, in several communities, a small group elected from and representing all the villages or Umunna is mandated to make laws which are then presented to the Community Assembly for ratification. Such law-making bodies go by various names in different communities: oti-ekwe, oji nkpo, Town Union Executive etc. Communities often enforce the laws through these bodies, which act in judicial capacity, adjudicating cases, handing down judgments, imposing sanctions and other penalties. In more traditional settings however, the entire community also acts to enforce the laws using Umunna, Age grades, Okonko and other small social units to enforce the laws. The community also assesses taxes and levies for the purpose of executing development projects. Once the Community Assembly has determined the qualification for taxation, every Umunna provides the list of its taxable adults to the village representative who transmits such to the Town Union. There are procedures in place to crosscheck for undercounting. Besides since everyone knows that the same list will be used for sharing any amenities and benefits that might come to the town, the motivation to undercount is undermined. A close look at this organizational structure shows that in relation to the village assembly, the Umunnas act like federating units, exercising a significant measure of autonomy on most issues in their relationship to the village and yet subjecting its members to the authority of the village on other matters. The same relationship exists between the villages and the Town Union. There is probably no better definition of a federation than what we see in Igbo social organization.