Aerial view of Mmaku Village, Enugu; Biafra
IN MMAKU; UMUADA IS THE HIGHEST DECISION MAKING BODY; WOMEN REIGN SUPREME IN BIAFRA

By Ifeanyi Chijioke
November 05, 2016

I will reference Mmaku in this essay as I use a part to represent a whole. Mmaku is a village located in Agwu L.G.A of Enugu State with relatively a remarkable but unpublicized history; in Agwu local Government, the village has turned up to make its mark on the list of rising villages. The latest was the Guilder ultimate search that was done there; when the village was gotten as a location; it was said that Guilder Ultimate Search director shouted “This is natural setting; what Africa is known for”.

 The village is an epitome of beauty of nature and even the breeze that oozes out from the mountains and valleys has a chilling noticeable effect on the skin. Beautified with mountains and streams; valleys and natural unexploited resources. It was said that white men had come to take possession of the village but they have always been opposed. I have been to Mmaku to find out myself everything about the village; taken to their native (Ishi Mma-amu) I saw the source of a large stream the inhabitants do swim; it was a ‘like-ring’ water; coming out from the earth. I was categorically told; that this little source is the water that spread throughout the earth, they boasted

A natural sprint water

Unlike Yoruba and Hausa that consign their women to the Kitchen and Bedroom; women in Mmaku are respected, take executive part in the land and feared to the core. They make major decisions and almost on pal with the men in the village. The Umuada in Mmaku seems to be stronger than the men; they take certain major decisions and in a case there is opposing view between Umuada and any group of men in the village; Umuada always prevail. There has been a case Umunna and Igwe took a decision to banish a villager and Umuada opposed that and till date; the banishment never held despite the naggings that followed it. This attest to the supremacy of women in Biafra; speaking on the issue of Umuada, Mr Okafor who is in his 80s said. “It is not only here in Mmaku; I fought Biafra war and I have been to places in Biafra. Umuada is the strongest or highest decision making body in Biafra; they make and enforce things no matter what Umunna or anyone thinks. They are feared because the gods of the land don’t joke with them; if they call upon the gods; you are finished, so they have leverage over us and that is why we respect them, their decisions and allow them reign supreme”

From the name of the village, it was all clear of the kind of life they live; their culture and perception to life. I had a moment with the first graduate of the village before his passing; he explained to me the meaning of the name of the village. He noted that Mmaku was a kind of a shortened name which means ‘The beauty of wealth’ he noted that the complete name is ‘Mmaku bu Ndu’ which is translated as; ‘the beauty of wealth is life’. He noted that the village doesn’t joke with life of a fellow human being; they have utmost respect for human life; don’t engage in money rituals or any life-taking act. He warned that any villager that does that anywhere he is doesn’t succeed. He is either killed by the gods of the land or he didn’t succeed in that act and will eventually regret it.

In a different account; another elderly said that the name of the village is complete that their fathers had a different interpretation of wealth. “When our fathers were here; they saw this land as a wealthy land; it is beautified with what could be described as natural wealth then. They looked at a befitting name to have given it ‘Mmaku” Mma is beauty, Aku is wealth. In those days, wealth is not money and all these we see today; wealth is fertile land, beauty is the nature of your land. The mountains you see, the valleys, the source of our river and stream and all that” He argued. Although the village still thrives on farming and hunting; the villagers have become travelers; that the village is only filled in December and left scanty again after that festive period.

Power ranking was shown when I decided to join a burial rite in the village; a woman had brought back the lifeless body of her husband from Lagos; the man seems not to following up the village meetings over there in Lagos; left his kindred for something else. On the side of the woman; she has been in good term with Umuada and then issue broke out when the body was brought home. Umunna had come as well as the Youths and Umuada; and when the time to bury the man came; Umunna objected and said the man will not be buried until his dues are paid and everything concerning him cleared. At first Umuada did not speak as they stayed back consoling the widow who said he has nothing left; but when it was clear time was fast ticking to dusk; they rose like a phoenix.

The leader of Umuada humbly addressed Umunna to consider burying the man because the woman has nothing now and tomorrow she could pay but they refused. What first started like a plea suddenly became a fracas; while some unruly men exchanged words with Umuada; some wise men retired and watched. Angered by what is going on; Umuada took over the burial; urged the Youths to bury the dead which they did and they led the woman to the grave to perform tradition. The unruly men that were formerly on top of their voices succumbed and said “ Because you are Umuada; we will leave you all; but you people are taking more than required in this village. You will take your right but won’t let us take our rights; she paid all her dues to you people but you won’t let them pay for our own” still speaking to them, one of the women responded.

“If we didn’t come here and you buried this man; the gods will strike you people down; this burial is complete because we are here. We are Umuada and we deserve your respect because we are the head; we spoke to you people respectfully but you declined” when the chairman of the men was approached; he stated.

“They are Umuada and I cannot join words with them, we try to understand them and work together for the good of our land. You cannot take them away and you cannot do without them; they are almost the most important people here because they take or play major roles” As Buhari noted that in Nigeria, their women are meant for the Kitchen and Bedroom; it is imperative to know that in Biafra; women play major roles and decision in the land. Just like was demonstrated in that burial rite; it is replicated in everything; both leadership and social activities.

Editor/Publisher: Chinwe Korie
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