LEADERSHIP IN IGBO SOCIETY: ANALYSIS, CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS BY EKWE NCHE ORGANIZATION LAW and ORDER COMMITTEE COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP IN IGBO SOCIETY. To fully understand political behavior and especially leadership in Igbo society, we have to go back to the smallest group, which is the family. The father is seen as the head, voice and shield of the family. He takes direct charge and responsibility for whatever happens in his family and will not accept dictation from even his father. Thus he is seen as "di bu uno", the man that carries the household. I am sure that some of you will ask, how about the woman? The woman or mother is seen as the heart of the household, the pillar which provides emotional nurturance for the family as well as ensures that material nurturance is available on a daily basis for the family. She is a moderating influence in emotionally charged, explosive situations and is usually her husband's confidant and adviser in most matters affecting the family. If the family becomes involved in discussion, negotiation or conflict resolution with the (Umunne) extended family, (Umunna) kindred, his primary responsibility will be to protect the rights and privileges of his family and to ensure that the voice of his family is duly heard during the discussion. In such situation, he will be expected to consult with his wife and grown children to figure out what position he should take on the issues. If the family suffers injury, injustice or disability as a result of his failure to protect their interest, he will be roundly blamed by his wife and children and depending on the severity and frequency of the incident could face revolt and challenge to his authority by his adult sons especially the eldest son. That scenario is rare but it happens. In matters affecting the Umunna (Kindred) every family is represented by adult males from each family. However leadership of the Umunna is vested in the eldest male in the Umunna who is called Okpara, opara, onye ishi, diokpa etc. The diokpa keeps custody of the Ofo, the sacred stick, which symbolizes the legitimacy of his authority as well as his commitment to justice in all his decisions and rulings. The authority of the diokpa is not imbued with dictatorial power as he must consult with all the family and possibly obtain consensus on the issue at hand before making a ruling. He also cannot enforce a ruling without the explicit mandate of the extended family. If the Umunna is involved in a negotiation, consultation or conflict resolution with other groups at the level of the village or town (Ogbe, Ama, Obodo), the diokpa becomes the spokesperson for his Umunna. Consultation with members of his Umunna will precede all-important decisions that he will render. If he is requested to render an opinion on the spot by the Obodo (Town), or if he suspects that the opinion he is about to render will be regarded unfavorably by his Umunna, or if he is faced with a totally new development, that he was not prepared for, he will immediately request leave of the Obodo to consult with his Umunna through a procedure called "igba izu or izuzu", before rending the opinion. During the izu, which is usually done standing up in a circle a good distance away from the Assembly, all the members of the Umunna will have an opportunity to air their views on the issue at hand. The discussion goes on for a few minutes and quickly they arrive at a consensus on what their leader should present as their view. When they get back to the assembly the diokpa or some other person delegated to present their view renders their opinion as clearly as he can. He will usually end by looking back at his Umunna who may be standing or sitting behind him, and intoning in a clear voice: "Okwa nu ya ibe anyi nu" or "okwa ihe unu kwuru" (is this what you resolved). And all the members will answer in unison, "iyaa obu ya" (yes it is). And they salute him by his traditional name. If he missed a point, they will take a quick glance at one another and a member of his Umunna will quickly interject when he asks the question "okwa ihe unu kwulu", "ka m nwelu gi aka" (let me help you). And he will add the point missed by the diokpa. If he says something totally different from what they had agreed to, a member of the group will quickly call his attention to it and immediately effect a correction. During the izu, the Umunna does not usually strive for unanimous agreement on the issues. Rather they seek to establish an acceptable majority. And once this majority has been established, it becomes the consensus and all opposition ceases as everyone is expected to stand with the group. This is why Ndiigbo have the saying: "onye Umunna ya gburu adi agbe mmee" (whoever is killed by his Umunna does not shed any blood). The diokpa maintains his authority , power and status by virtue of his credibility, good judgement and excellent performance. He does not expose his umunna to ridicule by engaging in corruption, immorality, or injustice. He does not let the Umunna suffer humiliation, injury, injustice or other form of disability at community deliberations. He will do anything and everything within legal limits to protect the interest, rights and privileges of the Umunna and to ensure that their voice is not lost at the Community Assembly. If he does this, his Umunna will be very proud of him even when they lose a case. If for any reason the diokpa consistently exposes the Umunna to ridicule, injustice, humiliation, injury or other forms of disability, the power and authority given to him could be taken away by the Umunna and handed over to another person, who the Umunna believes is capable of protecting their interest. Usually, it will be the next oldest person, but sometimes it could be a younger person who may have proved his capacity to represent the Umunna effectively. If the diokpa commits a minor infraction, or engages in behavior unexpected of his elevated status, the Umunna will reprimand him respectfully. This same procedure of representation is repeated at the level of the Town Union or Community Assembly. Each town is made up of several villages. The Town Union government is made up of officers elected from all the villages. Each village elects a stipulated number of representatives to the Town government. In electing the representatives to the town government, each village makes deliberate effort to have at least one representative from each Umunna where possible. These representatives know that it is their responsibility to project and protect the interest of the village at the level of the Town government. They take this responsibility very seriously aware that if they fail to project the views of the village, they will not only be recalled but may also face severe socio-psychological sanction such as shaming or even economic sanction such as a fine. In addition to representing their village, they are aware that they are ambassadors of their Umunna. Therefore they strive very hard to avoid any actions that could portray their Umunna in bad light e.g. taking bribes, being a drunk. Because of the importance which Ndiigbo attach to the "representative" function or duty, they adopt very stringent parameters in choosing these representatives. Such parameters include demonstrated wisdom, knowledge, honesty, oratory, and other achievement characteristics like bravery, wealth, titles, valor in battle. It is important to emphasize that unlike what happens in Western democracies where money and affluence seem to be the determining characteristics for election to representative office, in Igbo culture, the value or quality of a person is not determined in dollar and cents or naira and kobo. It is determined by the individual performance on the assigned task. Therefore money and material possession do not constitute supreme parameters in selecting an individual to represent his Umunna or Village. Because an individuals wealth or financial status does not play an overwhelming role in determining an individual's suitability for election to representative office, the group the individual is representing does not feel overawed or intimidated to recall the representative any time they conclude that he is not living up to their expectation. In a similar way, the deference and respect accorded an elder in the socio-political arrangement in Igbo Society is not seen as willy-nilly obedience to the elder. No. The elder strives at all times to earn, maintain and therefore retain this respect through exemplary conduct at all times. Failure to do so might result in loss of respect, status and withdrawal of this authority by the group.