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Volume 6. No 1, June, 2018

Ideal International Journal
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Onukwube Alex Alfred Anedo

SCHOLARS FORUM Nigeria calls for well researched
papers from authors in areas that borders on Igbo in relation to
other people’s cultures. We welcome articles or proposals
from all perspectives and on all subjects pertaining to Igbo,
Nigerian, African people’s and others’ relations on Public
policy, Language, Religion, Philosophy, Education, Medicine,
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Submit manuscripts as e-mail attachment to the Editorial
Office at: or send two hard
copies of your papers to any of the editors. Referencing style
is MLA or APA. The Journal wishes to publish the results of
her researches annually.
Onukwube Alex A. Anedo
Department of African & Asian Studies,
NnamdiAzikiwe University Awka,
Anambra State – Nigeria
Phone: +2348037859249, +2348149225739;
Vol.6 No.1 June, 2018. ISSN: 2476-8421

Ideal International Journal is one of the brain children of
Igbo Scholars Forum born out of the zeal to get the young
Igbo scholars together so as to start thinking like Igbo sons
and daughters through paper publications, meetings and
symposia. As a matter of fact, Igbo Scholars Forum was
founded by Dr. Onukwube Alexander Alfred Anedo and born
at the launching of a festschrift in honour of their life patron,
Prof. ObedMuojekwuAnizoba (Ozonwa) on the 15th day of
December, 2012. In his kind gesture, Prof O. M. Anizoba
thereforeestablished a website for them to use in
telling the world who the Igbo people are, about their life,
what they believe in and their relationship with people and
other cultures of the world outside theirs. Other journal outlets
through which this Forum wants to let Igbo people and their
culture out to the world are Igboscholars International Journal
and Ekwe International Journal which is solely written only in
Igbo language.
Onukwube A. A. Anedo, Ph.D.

Consulting Editors:
Dr. Mrs. LizzyAnizoba Department of English and Litrature,
Paul University,Awka – Nigeria
Prof. Sam Uzochukwu Department of Linguistics, African &
Asian Studies, University of Lagos Nigeria
Prof Sheng JiaDepartment of Chinese Culture &
Anthropology, XiamenUniversity, Xiamen, Fujian Province,
P. R. China
Prof YuhuaJi Department of English language & Linguistics,
Xiamen University, Xiamen, FujianProvince, P. R. China
Prof B. Okolo Department of Languages & Linguistics,
University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria
Dr. GaminiRanasingheDepartment of Archeology &
Anthropology, FacultyofHumanitiesand Social
SciencesUniversity of SriJayewardenepura, Sri Lanka
Prof. Paul OguguoDepartment of Philosophy, faculty of Arts,
NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
Dr Babette ZoumaraBank for Seeds and Solar Energy,Atlanta,
Georgia, United, States of America
©Igbo scholars’ forum, Nigeria 2018


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1. Rajagla Buddhist Monastery complex: The Biggest
                                                                  Spiritual Center in Ancient Sri-Lanka                                                                   Dr.Gamini Ranasinghe
                                                                            Dr.Alexander Kapukotuwa1                                                                            Dr. Alexander Anedo

2. Low Level of Language Competence: A Fundamental
Factor for Promoting Frequency of Code-Switching
Among Adolescent Igbo-English Bilinguals
Njoku Nneka c.
Department of English Language and Literature
Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri +2348037360839
Onuabuobi Oluchi Stephanie
Department of English Language and Literature
Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri +2348069272330

3. Oath-Taking and Covenant making in Igbo Traditional
Religious Society: Central Subcultural Zone of Igbo land
Charles Okeke, Ph.D.
Department of Christian Religious Studies
Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe

Onukwube Alex Alfred Anedo, Ph.D.
Department of African & Asian Studies
NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka

Rajagla Buddhist Monastery complex: The
Biggest Spiritual Center in Ancient Sri Lanka
Dr.Gamini Ranasinghe
Department of History & Archeology, University of Sri-
Jayewardenapura, Sri – lanka

Dr.Alexander Kapukotuwa
Department of History & Archeology, University of Sri-
Jayewardenapura, Sri – lanka
Dr. Alexander Anedo
Department of African & Asian Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe
University, Nigeria

The Buddhism is received from India in the third century BC
the regime of the great king Asoka. ArhathMahinda and
ArhathSangamittha led the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka in
the period of king Devanampiyathissa (BC) who the ruler in
the kingdom of Anuradhapura. Within very short period
Buddhism spread over the island because of royal patronage.
The Buddhist mission is explained in the great chronicle
named Mahawamsa and other contemporary records as well
as early Brahmin inscriptions also proved the royal patronage.
2 ,2 Department of History and Archaeology, University of Sri
Jayewardenepura, Gangodawila, Sri Lanka

Figure 1.Rajagla Archaeological Site Figure 20151. Land
use Pattern in Ampara District
Source: Based on Survey Department: Source: Based on
Survey Department: 2015

Rajagala monastery site is the one of the main Buddhist center
from the bagging of the Buddhist society in Sri Lanka.
Rajagala archaeological reserve is located Uhana secretarial
division in the Ampara district of the Eastern province in Sri
Lanka. This is the biggest Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka
that is spread over 1025 acres and recorded the highest place
about 1038 feet on mean sea level (Kapukotuwa 2017:1-4).
The monastery complex is formed with a main mountain and
several sub mountains, planes, natural pods, forest, water
stream, thousand of medicine plants, animals and other natural
resources. There are two beautiful stairways to approach to
the top of the mountain. Through the area it can be seen caves,
stone building, stupa (pagoda), stone pathways, Buddha
statues, manmade tanks, stone burials, stone houses etc
(Godakumbura 1964:39, 1965:12-13). There are recorded
very limited archaeological activities for the site by the
department of archaeology because of the war, forest and
limitation of the trained officers at that time. Professor
Paranavithana concerned to one of most important inscription
where located top of the site. According to the inscription, at
least the site became as a Buddhist monastery early 200BC
(Paranavithana 1985:34). However it is not clear about
founder of the monastery but scholars got attention on site
through historical documents to unearth its history. The king
named Lajjathissa (119-109BC) has given huge patronage to
the development of the site (Mahawamsa 33:14-15,
Deepawamsa 1970:11-20). At the present Rajagala called as
Rajagalathanne and Rassahela. Somehow, Rajagala has
several named in the inscriptions and other chronicle such as
Girikumbilavihara, Kumbilathissapabbatha, Ariyakaravihara,
Girikumbilathissavihara and Danathisapavathavihara
(Kannangara 2014:84-103). After king Lajjathissa other
several rulers named Mahadathikamahanaga (337-365AD),
Mahasen (274-301AD) and Mahinda II (777-797AD) had

given special attention on construction of Rajagala in the
kingdom of Anuradhapura (Kannangara 2014:96-99,
Hettiarachchi 2014:120-137). Finally, the department of
history and archaeology, university of Sri Jayewardenepura
and department of archaeology made collaborate attempt in
the recent past to read the monastery through scientific
approach. Then the first prehistoric excavation held in 2016
and its history back to several thousand years. At the moment
the site is not only Buddhist monastery also rich with
prehistoric evidences such as stone tools, bones and rock arts.
Meditation monasteries
Due to the influence of Buddhism, hundreds of mountains
changed in to monastery sites. Specially several mountain
sites populated as meditation monasteries. Therefore, two
kinds of monasteries were appeared in the ancient Sri Lanka
like temples in the settlement and the temples in the forest.
Temples that located near to village and urban area was more
crowded and always the monks linked with ruling system in
the country. At least they have interfere civil matter of
devotees, because they were totally depended on human
settlements. Villages and rulers also expected the help from
monks for ruling system. The above situation was pathetic
because mediation and enlighten walked away from the
monasteries like Abhayagiriya, Mahaviharaya and
Jethawanaya. They were more concerned to distribute of the
Buddhism, writing books and inscriptions, constructions and
other material activities. This background made conflict
between monks and rulers then numbers of problems flew to
the temples to avoid meditation and to be reached to the
The second group of the temple totally concerned to build
mind power and to be attend to nibbana. They were lived in

the mountain and forests where people were less used.
Normally, this kind of monasteries located far from the urban
area also was not to closed with ruling systems, even they
were tried to be away from villages too.
Those type of temples which explained above, appeared even
first stage of the Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The main
monasteries named Mahavihara, Abhayagiriya and
Mihinthalaya which was played main role in kingdom of
Anuradhapura era as the temples in the settlement, Ritigala,
Arankale, Manakanda and Rajagala forest monasteries were
main forest temple or the main meditations temple in the same
era. Although, there was two type of temples, the monks were
lived in both places. According to their wish and need they
were changed to both places. But some of monks lived only in
the forest monasteries and they were engaged with only
meditations. The main aim was to enlighten and stop the
Rajagala is the one of very important meditation monastery
located in forest which was situated in very far from human
settlements as well as from the political sector. There are very
interesting stories about Rajagala monastery. According to
those stories there were five hundred arhath monks in the
complex. There are more than fifty caves and numbers of
buildings in the site, therefore, the amount of monks is
believable. Although, the monastery was located very far from
the capital, the royal patronage is received over several
centuries. Since kingdom of Anuradhapura, Rajagala is the
biggest monastery complex in Sri Lanka. The calm
environment is an essential thing for the meditation not only
that natural beauty but also distance from populated areas had
been make favorable environment for monks to be in
concentrated mind. The place was ideal for the keep of
lifestyle as mentioned in Vinaya. The ancient record named
Visuddimagga has provided guidelines for a meditation life

and highlighted the impotence of forest living, including the
rejection of popular monasticism (Wijeysuriya 1998:42-43).
Natural Resources in Rajagala
Rajagala monastery has rich natural water source which flew
over year. Also there is a man-made tank and natural ponds on
the rock. Two of stone bowls had used to store drinking water
that collected from natural stream. The stream is still offering
water to the site. There are another several streams which
activating in the rainy season and another few months. There
are more than fifty natural caves in the site to be used as
residence for monks. The site is rich with raw materials for
the various kinds of constructions. Two pathways for the top
of mountain are very difficult creature because they needed to
discourage and limit of the visitors. There are numbers of
fruits, yams, nuts and other natural resources to be used for
monks over the forest. Somehow, the difficulties were not a
barrier to look after monks in the meditation complex. The
ruins of refectory hall in the site are explaining the richness
and capability to bear five hundreds of arhath monks. On the
other hand, the forest temples of Sri Lanka having high
attention of the Buddhist. The food time table of above all
temples are fill without a space. The arhathsociety in
Rajagala had made influence to the island and gets more
attention of king and royalties as well as public. That is why
they received the relic of arhathMahinda who was the son of
great king Asoka as well as the person who led the Baddish
mission to Sri Lanka. Although, he led the Buddhismission
over the island there is not any stupa (pagoda) except in
Rajagala. Because Rajagala played very significant role in the
kingdom of Anuradhapura.

Rajagala Buddhist monastery is the main meditation center
where lived numbers of arhath monks in the island with
having respect of king and public. The complex was important
with favorable environment for the meditation and keep up
the simple lifestyle that need to be enlightened for the stop of
next birth. After two thousand and two hundred years later,
still Rajagal is appearing as a meditation center for the public.
The project of Rajagala now is preparing logistic for
reestablish an international meditation center in Rajagala
monastery area.

Deepavamsa, (1970) Ed. GanawimalaKirealle, Colombo.
Godakumbura C.E. (1964). Administration Report of the
Archaeological Commissioner Report, Government
Godakumbura C.E. (1965). Administration Report of the
Archaeological Commissioner Report, Government
Hettiarachchi.(2014). Unpublish inscription of king
Buddhadasa, Vidarani Society of History and
Archaeology, University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Kannangara (2014).Ariyakaraviharaya, Vidarani Society of
History and Archaeology, University of Sri
Kapukotuwa A. (2017), Rajagala, Sandesa Publishing,
Mahavamsa, (1946) Ed. Sumangalathero and
DevarakshithaBatuwanthudawe, Colombo.
Paranavithana S. (1970), Inscription of Ceylon, vol.i,
Archaeology survey of Ceylon, Department of
Archaeology, Sri Lanka.
Rajagala Annual Report, 2013-2015, Rajagala Archaeological
Project, Ampara.

jesuriya, G. (1998). Buddhist Meditation Monasteries of
Ancient Sri Lanka, Department of Archaeology, C
Figure 3. Caves
Figure 4. Water sources
Figure 5. Buildings and stupa (Pagodas)
Figure 6. Building and pathways


Low Level of Language Competence: A Fundamental Factor
for Promoting Frequency of Code-Switching Among
Adolescent Igbo-English Bilinguals
Njoku Nneka c.
Department of English Language and Literature
Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri +2348037360839
Onuabuobi Oluchi Stephanie
Department of English Language and Literature
Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri +2348069272330

The study aimed at investigating the factors promoting the
frequency of code switching and mixing among Igbo-English
bilingual students of Owerri North Local Government Area of
Imo State. The study created awareness on how lack of
adequate exposure to Igbo language and Vice-Versa leads to
the frequency of code-switching among this group. The
background information was introduced and related literature
was reviewed. Hyme’s theory of communicative competence
was used as the theoretical framework backing the study. The
primary data used was questionnaire directly administered by
the researcher to three-hundred secondary school students
who were randomly selected from three schools in Owerri
North Local Government Area. The researchers further
collected samples of code-switched speeches through careful
observation of conversations among students. The findings
revealed that the key factor promoting the frequency of codeswitching
among this group was low level of language
competence and lack of lexical equivalents in their first
language; Igbo language. To minimize the rate of codeswitching,
the researcher recommends that parents should take
adequate measures to ensure that their children develop a
good mastery of their indigenous language. The
Lexicographers were further encouraged to create more Igbo
terminologies and make them available to the general public.

Nigeria is a culturally and linguistically diverse nation.
This multilingual nature made it imperative for English to be
adopted as an official language uniting the diverse linguistic
groups. The Igbo language on the other hand is one of
Nigeria’s three major indigenous languages. “The Igbo
people according to Afigbo (1979:84) are closely knit group
that has a very large population and it comprises more than

five dialects and several sub-dialects”. It is regarded as a
child’s mother tongue, the first language (L1) a child should
acquire before learning other languages. It is also the primary
language of communication which has developed to the point
of being a school subject mainly in the eastern part of the
According to Adetugbo (1984:4), “The earliest contact of
the Igbo people with the Western World could be traced to the
advent of the Portuguese about the 15th century into the West
African Coast and other intrusion by other visitors especially
the British”. The European Colonization of Africa brought
about the imposition of English language by the British as
lingua Franca in Nigeria. English therefore became the
language of Colonial administration and education. The
importance of English language has been over-emphasized to
the detriment of our indigenous languages which is evidenced
in the speech of adolescent Igbo-English bilinguals. The
speech of adolescent Igbo-bilinguals is characterized by the
mixture of these two languages which led to what is known
today as English-Igbo” (a hybrid of English and Igbo
language) otherwise called code-switching among bilinguals
of South Eastern part of Nigeria
Code-switching is a wide spread phenomenon among
bilinguals. The contact between two languages leads to the
infusion of some elements from the target language. The
contact between English language and Igbo is not an
exception. There is a tendency to switch and Mix Codes
amongst bilinguals in the cause of their daily communication
with one another in their speech community. However,
Ezeikeojiaku and Okolo (1999:226) pointed out that “two
culturally different communities may come in contact by
reason of marriage, religion or trade and develop common
economic and political system”. Such a contact may result in
quite a number of things which may include; Code-Switching,

Code-Mixing, bilingualism, pidginization, create and
Code-switching is not a bad speech habit. It is a
byproduct of multilingualism. When bilingual speakers are
not equally competent in two languages, code-switching takes
place. Competence means possessing the knowledge, skills
and abilities. Competences vary from one individual to
another. Sometimes, it could be low or high depending on
certain factors. The communicative competence of an
individual to use language is determined to a great extent from
the stand point of the socialization of the child. The agents of
socialization of a child include: the home, the school, the
church. The home, or the immediate environment of the child
plays the key role in explaining the individual competence of
the child in relation to the influence of other speakers in the
community in which the child lives and if the child is not
adequately exposed to syntax of the language or does not have
communicative competence in the language forms the basis
for code-switching and it’s frequency. The frequency of codeswitching
is said to be manifested in different cultures in
different degrees. The predominance of this phenomenon in
the speech of adolescent Igbo-English bilinguals has given
rise to this study.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is essentially to find out the
extent to which the proposed factor low level of language
competence contributes to the frequency of code-switching
among adolescent Igbo-English bilinguals.
Research Questions
1. To what extent does low level of language
competence contribute to frequency of code switching.
Hypothesis 1

The low level of competence is a significant factor
contributing to the frequency of code-switching among the
Igbo-English bilingual students.
2. To what extent is lexical gap a factor associated with
the frequency of code-switching?
Hypothesis 2
The lack of lexical equivalents is a significant factor
contributing to the frequency of code-switching among Igbo-
English bilingual students.
3. To what extent is gender a factor associated with
frequency of code-switching?
Hypothesis 3
The proportion of girls who code-switch among Igbo-
English bilingual students is greater than the proportion of

The data got from the respondents were analysed
using simple percentage because of the “Simple” and true
to life nature of the study. The population of the study
was made up of three schools in the Owerri North Local
Government of Imo State. The researchers carefully
selected students whose first language (L1) is Igbo. The
assessment instrument was a Yes and No point rating
scale constructed by the researchers and face-validated by
specialists in the field to assess the appropriateness of the
items and their relevance to the objective of the study.
The Researcher’s questions were answered by using
percentage scores.
What is Code-Switching?

2.0 Code-switching and Code-mixing are twin phenomena in
sociolinguistics that have generated a lot of controversy
among researchers.
Many researchers have seen it as exerting negative
influence on the language, while others see code-switching as
a natural linguistic behaviour triggered off by certain social,
situational, linguistic and psycho-social factors. Trudgil
(1992:16) defined Code-switching as the process whereby
bilingual or dialectal speakers switch back and forth between
one language and another within the same conversation.
Code-mixing on the other hand occurs because of the
bilingual phenomenon whereby the speakers switch between
languages for particular reasons and purposes. He went
further to give examples of countries like Nigeria and Hong-
Kong where educated elites indulge in Code-mixing using a
Mixture of English and any of the local languages as a
strategy of projecting two identities at once “e.g sophisticated
person and a local Patriot. According to Trudgil (1992:29)
“domain is a concept employed in studying code-switching in
multilingual contexts and in the study of other situations
where different languages, dialects or styles are used in
different social contexts”. He further described domain as a
number of factors which are believed to influence choice of
code (languages, dialect or style) by speakers. He listed three
influential factors affecting domain in his study.
i. The Topic
ii. The Role Relation
iii. The Locale
The topic referring to issues being discussed. The
role relation refers to our listener. According to him, our
listener determines what language we use. For instance,
within a family domain, we have pairs such as father to
mother, father to child, child to child, etc. The locale
referring to the place where the conversation takes place; He

gave examples of locale like the home, school, church,
market, and neighbourhood.
In relation to the present study, the researchers agree
with Trudgil that speakers switch between languages for
particular reasons. In other words, the reason for codeswitching
is peculiar to a particular group of people. He
further stated that in Nigeria and Hong-Kong, educated elites
switch codes to project two identities,
i. an educated person and
ii. a local patriot/
The reason for code-switching among the group under
investigation is peculiar to them and may be quite different
from the reasons given by Trudgil in his work.
Trudgil (2000:81) also initiated that “men and women
do not speak languages, but they speak different varieties of
the same language. According to him, the fact is more or less
contributed by the social roles they play in the society”. He
found out that in variations, women use standard forms more
than men. In his study of Norwich/English bilinguals, Trudgil
found out that the women are expected to carry out different
roles and in some cases this may correlate with male and
female language. The notion of gender and language
variation stated by Trudgil is an indication that gender is
studied based on the social roles women and men play in the
society. From the summary of Trudgil’s work gender has no
universal standard of significance.
Different works by different sociolinguists have also
suggested that the relationship between gender and codeswitching
has no global/standard but rather should be
examined based on a particular linguistic group. Romaine’s
(1989:65) “study of Punjabis-English code-switching found
out the association between gender and code-switching. He
found out that women tend to code-switch more than men”.

He concluded that the difference was due to gender role
differentiation in the community under investigation.
According to Romaine, in Birmingham code-switching is
used mainly for personal communication within group
members in the community while pure Punjabis and pure
English are sued for the communication with outsiders.
Women as house wives tended to have fewer contacts with
the outside world than men, and therefore, would likely use
Punjabis and English separately. Women are said to use
more proportionally standard or prestigious variants than
men speakers from the same social background. Among
the Igbo-English bilingual from the cultural perspective,
there are more marked differences between the male and
female speech of adults. Men engage in proverbial sayings
more than women. They often use proverb and wise
sayings in expressing their ideas. Proverbs in most cases
are said without alternating Codes. For instance:
Onye mara asu, ya sua na ikwe
Onye amaghi asu, ya sua n’ala (Onuekwusi
The above Igbo proverb cannot be code switched or codemixed
Onye mara asu, ya sua na Mortar
Onye amaghi asu, ya sua na ground
Myres and Scotton (1995:1) described code-switching as
the use of two or more languages within the same
conversation. They went further to say that one of the uses
of code-switching is to help identify alternation of linguistic
varieties within the same conversation. Myres and Scotton
also pointed out in their statement that some other
sociolinguists like Braj Kachru (1983) and other researchers
associated with him use the term intra-sentential codeswitching
to refer to the term code-mixing. According to
them, they prefer using the cover label code-switching to

represent both phenomena. They further added that both
terms could be differentiated by the labels “intra sentential”
and “inter-sentential”; intra-sentential representing codeswitching
while using inter-sentential to represent codemixing.
Thus, he states
I prefer code-switching, as a cover term,
The two types can be differentiated by the
Levels intra-sentential and inter-sentential (1995:2)
The work above demonstrates that in studying these two
phenomena code-switching could be adopted as a cover
label to represent the two concepts. The researchers, in
some cases used code-switching as a cover label and the
views of Myres and Scotton indicate that it is not a violation
of rule.
Hudson (1996:51) defined code-switching “as the
consequence of multilingualism”. According to him, the
language chosen by the speaker who speaks more than one
language depends on the circumstances and what language
the hearer understands. He gave example with the
Italian/German bilinguals where a speaker uses German
within family, sausarian Italian dialect within the village
and standard Italian in formal settings as schools, churches
and work places. According to him, a change of code
equates to a change of situation when the switches between
languages in a given discussion coincide with the language
changes from one situation (language used within family) to
another (speaking with neighbours). Hudson (1996:52)
further stated that the changes are controlled by some rules
that the members of the same society get from their own
experiences which then, become “part of their total
linguistic knowledge” (Ibid).
Hudson (1996:56) in differentiating between
borrowing and code-switching explained that while “codeswitching
and code-mixing involve mixing languages in
speech, borrowing involves mixing the systems themselves,

because an item is borrowed to become part of the host
language”. The above view confirms the opinion that codeswitching
is a consequence of the contact between two or
more languages. His view also suggests that in studying
code-switching, the difference between code-switching and
borrowing should be made explicit. This is based on the
fact that people who code-switch often think that they are
borrowing words from the target language.
Obiamalu and Mbagwu (2007:18) in their work on
code-switching tried to make a distinction between codeswitching
and borrowing. According to them, the
difference between the two terms is usually linked on
phonological and morphological adaptation. They argued
that code-switching is a type of borrowing, and therefore
code-switched elements can equally undergo phonological
and morphological adaptation into the base language.
However, Obiamalu and Mbagwu (2007:18) “classified
code-switching into three types; borrowing, quasiborrowing
and true code-switching”.
The case of borrowing according to them, manifest
when lexical items from one language are inserted into
another and the items undergo phonological and
morphological assimilation into the host language.
O maakigo ule ahu (Mark)
He has marked the examination
O din a tebulu (table)
It is on the table (Obiamaly and Mbagwu, 2007:18).
Quasi-borrowing according to them arises when the
host language has an equivalent but the intruding language
equivalent is more often used by both monolinguals and
bilinguals and it may not be assimilated into the language.
a. Obi zuru car ohuru
Obi bought a new car
b. Obi zuru ugboala ohuru
Obi bought a new car (ibid:4)

c. Akwa ya na-acha red
His cloth is red in colour
d. Akwa ya na-acha obara obara
His cloth is red in colour (Ibid)
The third situation according to them is when the speaker
chooses to use English when there are readily available Igbo
3a. Fela na ecriticize onye obula
Fela criticizes everybody (Ibid:6)
b. Fela na akocha onye obula
The two types of code-switching proposed by
Mbagwu and Obiamalu is quite relevant to this study.
The first type illustrates a true situation of borrowing
because the borrowed words have been assimilated and
universally accepted in the host language Igbo. The
second case they referred to as quasi-borrowing is part of
the focus of this research work. In the examples given
above the English word have competence contribute to
frequency of code-switching.
Factors Promoting Code-Switching.
Malik (1994:72) in his study of the communicative
functions of code-switching among Hindi/English bilinguals
of India discovered ten reasons why these students codeswitch.
These include:
1. Lack of facility
2. Lack of register
3. Mood of the speaker
4. To emphasizes a point
5. Habitual experience
6. Semantic significance
7. To show identity with a group
8. To address a different audience

9. Pragmatic reasons
10. To attract attention
According to Malik bilinguals or multi-linguals often
explain that they code-switch when they cannot find an
appropriate expression or vocabulary item or when the
language of conversation does not have the particular word
needed to carry on with the conversation smoothly.
Secondly, he noted that when speakers are not equally
competent in two languages, code-switching takes place.
He also stresses the fact that code-switching occur in fixed
phrases of greeting, expressions of gratitude, discourse
markers, commands and requests. He stresses that codeswitching
at a particular moment conveys semantically
significant information. Lexical choice is seen as conveying
meaning during code-switching. He also found out that
they engaged in code-switching to show that they shared the
same values and experiences. Malik also found out that
Hindi/English bilinguals use code-switching when the
speakers intend to address people coming from various
linguistic backgrounds. He gave an instance of the Indian
television announcer who often uses Hindi as it is the
national language but also switches to English. Also, often
repeats the same in English for south Indian people who do
not know Hindi.
Finally, he shows that in advertisements in India,
code-switching is used to attract the attention of the
Holmes (1992-35) describes code-switching “as a
move from one code (language, dialect or style) to another
during speech for a number of reasons”. In her study of
code-switching, among English-Maori speakers she
discovered three factors that determine the switching of

She found out that a speaker may similarly switch to
another language as a signal of group membership and
shared ethnicity with an addressee, to hide some
information from a third party, to reduce social distance.
Hilmes also discovered that bilinguals can switch codes to
discuss a particular topic. She further stated that some of
the codes have effective functions;
1. Switching is used for amusement and dramatic effect.
2. It is used for joking.
3. A person may code-switch when he is angry
4. To put the addressee at a distance
5. To emphasize disapproval of one’s behavior or to
Holmes (1992-43) differentiates between lexical
borrowing and code-switching. According to her, codeswitching
involves a choice between the words of two
languages or varieties, but lexical borrowing involves
borrowing single words due to the lexical need. Holmes
(1992-45) “listed the equivalence constraints and matrix
language frame” (MLF) as the two linguistic constraints
guiding code-switching. In equivalent language constraint
switches occur at points where the grammar of both
languages matches each other. While the matrix language
frame impose structural constraints on code-switched
utterances. In conclusion, Holmes states that the attitude of
people towards code-switching is often due to the fact that
people are unaware that they code-switch. They may think
they are borrowing from the target language.
3.0 The theoretical framework used in the study is drawn
from one of the leading sociolinguists of the time (Dell
Hymes, 1974:60). He propounded a theory called
communicative competence. This theory was propounded to

account for the sociolinguistics perspective of knowledge that
enabled people to use language appropriately in a range of
diverse social contexts. According to Hymes, the
environment of the child and other external factors to a large
extent determines the child’s communicative knowledge not
just the innate ability of the child to use language.
According to Hymes (1974:60) the “Communicative
competence of each individual is determined from the stand
point of the socialization of the child”. The agents of
socialization of a child include: the home, the school, the
church. The home or the immediate environment of the child
plays the key role in explaining the individual competence of
the child in relation to the influence of other speakers in the
community in which the child lives and if the child is not
adequately exposed to the syntax of the language or does not
have communicative competence in the language forms the
basis for code-switching. This best explains the situation
faced by Igbo-English bilingual students.
The frequency of code-switching among adolescent
Igbo-English bilinguals could best be accounted for using
Hymes theory of communicative competence with the link of
Noam Chomsky’s language competence of the knowledge of
language an individual possess which if limited leads to
resorting to other alternative codes.
1. Hypothesis 1: the low level of competence is a
significant factor contributing to the frequency of codeswitching
among the Igbo-English bilingual students.
4.0 Results
Table 1: low level of language competence
S/n Items Total no
Responses No of Respondents
1. Do you speak 300 Yes 169

English more
fluently than
Igbo language?
No 131
2. Are you more
fluent in Igbo
300 Yes
131 161
3. Do you speak
English without
inserting Igbo
words or
300 Yes
4. Do you speak
Igbo without
English words
or phrases?
300 Yes
The findings show that 62.6 percent of the students like
English language more than Igbo, 49% prefer speaking English
language, 56.3% have greater skill in English than Igbo
language, 100% speak English without inserting Igbo words
and phrases while 2.3% speak Igbo without inserting English
words and phrases. This shows that greater percentage of
students has low level of competence in Igbo language and it
corresponds with the hypothesis.
Table 2: Lack of Lexical gap.
S/n Items Total
no of
Responses No of Respondents
1. Are there
words in
English that
300 Yes
does not have
equivalents ?
2. Are there
words and
phrases in Igbo
that does not
equivalents in
300 Yes
3. Do you codeswitch
of lack of Igbo
300 Yes
Table 2 shows that out of the 300 students used for the
study, 100% agreed that there are words and phrases that
does not have readily Igbo equivalents, 100% agreed that
there are English words and expressions that does not have
readily Igbo equivalents, 97.3% agreed that frequency of
code-switching is an indication of lack of lexical equivalents
in Igbo language. The researchers dispute this a nonfundamental
factor contributing to the frequency. Based on
their interaction earlier on with the students where they could
not produce readily available equivalents of some English
words like assignment, phone, noise, criticize, etc. This
shows that lack of lexical gap is not a fundamental factor.
Table 3: To what extent is gender a factor associated with
S/n Items Total no
Responses No of Respondents
1. Do girls
more than
300 Yes
2. Do girls use
than boys?
300 Yes
The responses above show that there could be little or no
difference between the speech of boys and girls. It
equally shows that gender is not a significant factor to be
associated with the frequency of code-switching among
this group. The examples below are series of codeswitched
utterances jotted down by the researchers during
the observation exercise. The observation was carried out
without the knowledge of the students. The gloss in
English is written below each utterance.
1. This is how somebody si abanye na trouble
“This is how somebody yets into touble”
2. Chioma na ecriticize principal O bula
Chioma criticizes every principal
3. Emeka preparera maka exam a very well
Emeka kwadoro maka ule a nke oma
4. I ga abia school tomorrow?
I ga abia uloakwukwo echi?
Will you come to school tomorrow?
5. Asi anyi ejikwala phone anyi abia school
Asi anyi ejikwala ekwenti anyi abia school
“They told us not to come to school with our
6. Enyere anyi assignment na English
Enyere anyi ihe omume na Bekee
They gave us assignment in English
7. A gam agba W.A.E.C na miracle centre
“I will register for WAEC at the miracle centre”
8. Nye m that your book
“Give me that your book”
9. A chorom I copy note
“I want to copy note
10. A puola break
“It’s break time”
11. Kedu side ebe I na ala
“Which side are you going”
12. Abiara m school late
“I came to school late”
13. Sir nyere anyi punishment
“The male teacher gave us punishment”
14. Principal si the whole class kneeluo down
“Principal told that the entire class to kneel down”
15. Anti ahu gbara wicked
“That Aunty is wicked”
16. Echi wu moral instruction
“Tomorrow is moral instruction”
17. Kedu onye na-eme noise abe ahu?
“Who is making noise there”
18. We have meeting at three O’clock, bia ka anyi ga ahia
“We have meeting at three O’clock, let us go to the
market now”
From the close investigation of all the code-switched
utterances from the large corpus of data collected by the
researchers and from the questionnaire, it is quite
imperative to say that members of this group readily
switch codes because they lack the knowledge of the Igbo
equivalents. The researcher therefore concluded that

code-switching is not bad in itself but the frequency
should be guided amongst this group.
On the basis of the findings, the following
recommendations are made:
1. There should be effort to re-orientate the parents and
the general public to promote their culture by ensuring that
their children acquire and develop competence in their native
language because language is culture.
2. The researcher also recommends that Igbo
lexicographer should work assiduously to develop more
terminologies and the broadcasting media houses should have
access to these standardized terms. By so doing, the
developed terminologies will become household term.
3. Teachers should also be trained to help students by
teaching them some of these Igbo equivalents or expressions.
4. The researcher further recommends that a credit pass
in Igbo and other indigenous languages like Hausa and
Yoruba should be made one of the pre-requisites for every
prospective student before being admitted into any of the
Universities in the country Federal, State, Private Universities,
Polytechnics and Colleges of education.
Adetugbo, (1979) “Appropriateness and Nigerian English
in varieties and functions of English in Nigeria”
In Ubahakwe, Ebo(ed). Ibadan: Spectrum
Afigbo, A.F (1979) Towards cultural revival among the
Igbo speaking people. Anu Magazine, Owerri
cultural Division.
Adetugbo, (1984). “The English Language in the Nigerian
Experience” University of Lagos Press.

Ahukanna (1990) “Bilingualism and Code-Mixing in
language use: The Case of English, Igbo,
bilingual” in multilingualism minority language.
Chaer, A. and Leong, A. (1995) Socialinguistics:
Pengenalan Awal Jarkata P.T. Rineka Cipita
Ezikeojiaku, P.A. (2000). “The language factor in
resource mobilization for rural development” in
Braj Kachru (1983) “Studies in Hindu Linquistics. New
Delhi: American Paperback edition by Pergamon
Press, Oxford.
Ezeikeojiaku and Okolo (1999) ‘Introduction to Language
and Linguistics. Mindex Publishing Company,
Benin City, Nigeria.
Holmes, J. (1990) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics.
USA: Adiso Wesley Longman Inc.
Hudson, R. A. (1996) Foundation of Sociolinguistics: An
ethnography approach. Philadephia: University of
Pennsylvania Press.
Myers-Scotten, C. (1993) “Common and uncommon
ground” Social and Structural factors in Code-
Switching Language in Society.
Obiamalu, G.O. & Mbagwu, D.U. (2007) Code-
Switching: Insight from Code-Switched
English/Igbo expression. Akwa Journal of
Linguistics and Languages, Vol.3
Romaine, S. (1994) Language in Society: An introduction
to Sociolinguistics. New York: Oxford University
Trudgil, P. (2000). An introduction to Sociolinguistics.
England Pearson Education Limited.
Trudgil (1992) “Introducing Language and society”
London Penguin English

Malik, L. (1994) Sociolinguistics: A study of Code-
Switching: New Delhi: Anmol.
Onuekwusi, J.A. (2001) Fundamentals of African Oral
Literature. Alphabet Nigeria Publishers.
Myres and Scotton (1995) “Social Motivations for Code-
Switching: Evidence from Africa” Clarendon
Hymes Dell, (1974). “Foundations of Sociolinguistics:
An Ethnographic Approach. Philadephia”


Oath-Taking and Covenant making in Igbo Traditional
Religious Society: Central Subcultural Zone of Igbo land
Charles Okeke, Ph.D.
Department of Christian Religious Studies
Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe
Onukwube Alex Alfred Anedo, Ph.D.
Department of African & Asian Studies
NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka

Oath-taking (Ịṅụiyi) and covenant (Ịgbandụ) are parts of
the important customs in Igbo traditional religion. These
customs are in practice long before the advent of
Christianity in Igbo land. With the coming of
Christianity to Igboland, the period of enlightenment
came and there came a remarkable shift by many from
traditional practice to Christianity. Many people became
converted to Christianity; although one can say that the
people were not holistically converted to Christianity as
some still indulge in traditional practices like oath-taking
and covenant making. This study explored the meaning
of oath taking and covenant making and how the
traditional Igbo administered them. The study also
examined the types of covenant obtained in Igbo society
and reasons for entering into covenant and taking oath.

To avoid falling victim to error of overgeneralization,
the study adopted subculture area approach. This
approach is necessary because what obtains in one
culture may not be the same in another culture. With this
in mind, the study focused on central subcultural zone of
Igboland, which includes: Igbo-ukwu, Aguluezechukwu,
Agulu, Nnokwa, Nnobi, Adazi-enu, Adazi-ani, Adazinnukwu,
Alor, Eziowelle, Abacha, Umudioka, Ukpo,
Ifitedunu, Abatete, Ogidi, Obosi, Abagana, Ozubulu,
Ukpor, Oraifite, among other towns that fall within this
axis. The findings revealed that the Igbo of the central
subcultural zone use the administration of oaths to find
out the truth when one is accused of something, also
settlement of land disputes when there is no other means
of establishing the truth. People resorted to oath-taking
administered with the ancestral staff and other objects
such as kolanut. The administration is usually by a ritual
leader or a priest before a shrine.
Key Words: Ịṅụiyi (Oath-Taking), Ịgbandù (Covenant),
Ọfọ, Ezemmụọ, Akpứ, Ọjị (Kola)
It is clear that the light of the Gospel is
blossoming now among the Igbo, which includes the
area understudy. Christianity has drawn the people out of
darkness, per se. In the primitive era, ignorance played
alarming role and dominated the people’s culture. The

killing of twins as well as traditional oath-taking and
covenant making, for instance, were not done out of
prejudice but out of ignorance. However, one cannot
doubt the fact that in one way or the other, the traditional
Igbo man and woman have been in touch with the
religion which the white missionaries and their trade
counterparts looked upon and described as primitive
religion. This though is true, yet we do not try to
condemn our past, as no one speaks from the vacuum.
There seems to be a link between the religion of
our forebears and Christianity. For instance, as African
tradition holds the ancestors in high esteem, Christianity
on the other hand, esteem and revere the saints and
Christianity seems to have superficially conquered the
traditional religion. It is obvious that the traditional Igbo
have in their era developed some norms that guided and
still guide the Igbo society. Some of these norms are
fundamental to the survival of the Igbo man and woman.
They are cherished and valued by the Igbo. These norms
include the oath-taking and covenant making as well as
their processes of administration.
This study tends to study the concept of oath and
covenant among the Igbo and their processes of
administration. To become a Christian does not imply
that the cherished culture of the people must be thrown
away, especially those cultures that are in tandem with
the Christian doctrine and belief. African traditional
norms have no doubt played an important role in shaping
the minds of the people and sanitizing their society. In
those days people were afraid of committing crime
whether deliberately or indeliberately. Once a crime is
committed whether personal or public every effort must

be made to appease the spirit or the earth (Anị) goddess,
which is regarded as the mother of morality lest the spirit
strikes the person or even visits the community with
Oath-taking and covenant making are, therefore,
one of the means of restoring trust and confidence
between parties and anyone who goes against the norm
is visited with punishment such as death or disease. This
study, therefore, tends to highlight not only the concept
of oath and covenant among the traditional Igbo of
central subculture area, but also their processes of
administration and implications on the people and
Conceptual Framework:
· Concept of Oath
Iwuchukwu (2002) describes oath-taking as an
occasion when “one invokes the deity in attestation of
the truth of one’s words, by what is probably an
exaggerated reverence” (p. 79). Oath is a statement or
assertion made under penalty or divine retribution for
intentional falsity. Hornby (1989) sees it in two senses:
religious and legal. In religious sense, he describes it as
“solemn undertaking with God’s help to do something”,
and in legal sense, he describes it as “solemn declaration
that something is true, having sworn to tell the truth” (p.
577). In line with Hornby’s view, McBrien (1995)
defines oath as “an invocation of God’s name in witness
to the truth of a statement” (p. 926). He went further to
identify two references or two types of oath. According
to him, “an oath may be either assertory, referring to the
validity of a past or present fact, or promissory, referring

to the liability of a future commitment” (p. 926). On the
other hand, Mbiti (1970) describes oath as “a form of
prayer in which God is asked to witness the oath or
execute the curse” (p. 211). Hence oath goes together
with curses and blessings.
Oath taking is, however, a widespread practice
among the Igbo. It is sometimes combined with the
ordeal. A suspect is made to prove his innocence by
submitting to swearing. In Igboland, a shrine serves for
an oath. In central subcultural zone of Igboland, oath
constitutes principally in asking the accused to swear by
a spirit. In other words, the accused takes oath to
reinforce his affirmation or denial about some issues
(Okeke, 2012). Arinze (1970) holds that “it is the desire
for justice and truth which moves one man to ask his
accused to swear by a spirit” (p. 30). And it is rightly
observed that justice is one of the main pillars of Igbo
In Igbo society, an oath as the invocation of the name
of God in witness to the truth may be made only in truth,
in judgment and in justice. This implies that an oath
must be taken with discretion, not for any trifling affair
and must be just. Oaths are taken seriously in Igbo
society. Mbiti (1970) corroborated this when he asserted
that “oaths are taken seriously and curses feared greatly
in African societies (p. 211).
The above statement by Mbiti applies partly to
central Igbo, who believe that the invocation of the name
of God with reverence achieves its purpose. However, it
must be pointed out that in Igbo traditional society, to
curse in the name of God is not as frequent as to take an
oath in the name of God. Chukwuis believed to be all44
good and, therefore, is often called to witness one’s
testimony. Chukwuis the just judge and merciful Father.
On the other hand, the names of the minor spirits are
used very often in curses, because to them is attributed
the power of punishment and revenge. The fact accounts
for the numerous sacrifices made to the minor divinities
who have to be thanked or as it were, paid for their
Process of Oath Taking
In the concept of oaths (ịṅụiyi) all honesty and
harmony, peace and co-habitation is solidified and based
on ịgbandụ(covenant) which is an aspect of oath
(Iwuchukwu, 2002). Iwuchukwu (2002) describes one
condition for oath-taking among the Igbo. He states:
If A & B individuals or groups are
quarrelling over a question such as
ownership of a piece of land and it is
difficult to arrive at the truth by human
evidence, one party may be asked to swear
an oath that he owns the piece of land.
Similarly, two parties may seal a contract
by swearing an oath. The oath is expected
to kill or devastate the individual or
individuals that swear falsely or break the
contract within a period of time, generally
within one year (p. 10).
So the Igbo of the central subcultural zone use
the administration of oaths to find out the truth when one
is accused of something, also settlement of land disputes
when there is no other means of establishing the truth.
People resort to oath-taking administered with the

ancestral staff and other objects. The administration is
usually by a ritual leader or a priest before a shrine.
Below is a sample of oath-taking by an individual
who was accused of poisoning his brother:
The land of Eziowelle, all the divinities in
Eziowelle, all the spirits in Eziowelle, the
ancestral staff and spear of Arọ, I am taking
this oath in your name. If I gave poison to my
brother and I am denying it, please come and
kill me. The seven native weeks I will be in
oath, help please to reveal the truth. If I did
not do this may life be my own, but may our
ancestral staff kill those who stained my
name. So be it!
The above oath was taken before a shrine at
Eziowelle. The priest who was the ritual leader firstly
poured a libation on his ancestral staff (ọfọ) and on the
ground. Thereafter the accused person extended his
hands towards the staff and took the oath.
For the oath to be efficacious, the land goddess
who is regarded as the ultimate judge of morality and
conduct and who is in close communion with the
departed fathers, that is, the ancestors (ndichie) of the
clan whose bodies had been committed to earth is invited
to witness the oath. More so all the divinities in the
town, the spirits and the Arọdeity, all these are called
upon as witnesses. When all these divinities are invited
the accused then places his hands on the ancestral staff
(ọfọ) and then the oath is administered on him. Without
inviting these important divinities the oath taking would
not be efficacious.

Furthermore, one observes that the accused
person taking the oath asks the spirit to kill him, if he is
found guilty of the accusation against him, if not may his
curse go to his accusers.
Concept of Covenant
Covenant (ịgbandụ) is an establishment between
two parties. It is a type of oath, though stronger than
oath. According to Iwuchukwu (2002), in Igbo society,
“Igbandu (covenant) was generally employed to
establish agreeable and lasting relationship between the
leaders of Nri town and the leaders of the Igbo
communities” (p. 11). He claimed that the reason for
establishing a covenant between the Nri town and other
Igbo communities was because Nri is said to be the
original and ancestral leaders of Ndigbo (the Igbo).
However, this claim by Iwuchukwu (2002) in the view
of this researcher, has not gained a consensus
acclamation among the Igbo.
McBrien (1995) describes how covenant is
understood among the Israelites. He says that covenant is
an agreement between two parties. In the Old Testament
there are two kinds of covenant. The first is
unconditional, that is, an outright grant is made by one
party to the other as a reward for faithfulness. Examples
are the agreement between the Lord and Abram in Gen
15, Phinehas in Num 25, and David in 2 Sam 7. The
second kind is conditional, that is, continuation of the
agreement depends on fulfilling its requirements, as in
the Sinai covenant between the Lord and Israel.
On the other hand, Hornby (1989) sees covenant
in two ways. The first side according to him is that

covenant is a formal agreement that is legally binding,
written, signed and sealed, usually concerning property.
The second side is that covenant is an undertaking to
make regular payments to a charity, trust. However,
among the Igbo, particularly the central Igbo, covenant
can be made between two individuals or groups to clear
some doubt, fear or suspicion. It can as well be made
before the spirit of sacred tree or a shrine to ratify an
agreement between individuals (Okeke, 2012). Hence,
like oath-taking, covenant solidifies all honesty,
harmony, peace and co-habitation.
Process of Covenant Making in Igbo Society:
Similarities and DisimilaritiesBetween Covenant Making
and Oath Taking
There is a sharp difference between oath-taking
and covenant making among the Igbo just as the two
concepts are not the same, though both concepts are
related in one way or the other and their processes are
almost the same. Oath is taken when an individual is
accused of wrong doing. He takes an oath to prove his
innocence. However, oath (inụiyi) or covenant (ịgbandụ)
can be taken to douse tension or suspicion, or to
establish a trust between individuals or a group. In the
process of oath-taking, the accuser is summoned before
the shrine or sacred tree. On the other hand, an
individual can be summoned to state the reason why he
violated the covenant between him and the other party. A
sample of oath-taking is described earlier in this study.
In covenant making, the process depends on the
type of covenant the parties want to establish. However,

there is a confluence between the two. That is, both are
taken or made before a shrine or a sacred tree such as
silk-cotton plant (Akpụ), administered by the priest of the
shrine, and witnessed by the deities as they would be
summoned to be present. And while oath is taken with
the ancestral staff (ọfọ), covenant is also sealed with the
same staff in the presence of the visible and invisible

Types of Covenant
In central Igbo, there are three types of covenant,
namely, blood covenant, covenant to establish an
agreement, and covenant with god or goddess. This
study will examine them below.

· Blood Covenant
This type of covenant is made with kolanut (ọjị)
and a sharp object such as razor. The two parties or
persons making the covenant bring kolanut to the priest
(Ezemmụọ) or to the ritual leader and both parties are
expected to say what they want. Thereafter, the priest
presents the kolanut to the spirits through prayer of
blessing, Then both parties are cut or given marks on any
part of their bodies, preferably on the finger, then the
kolanut is dipped into the marked spot to collect their
blood and it is given to them to chew and swallow in the
process, with the promise that whoever breaks or
violates the established covenant will be harmed.
Violation of this covenant can even lead to one’s death
or the offender runs mad. Example of this covenant is
one between two parties: man and woman who intend to
marry each other.
· Covenant To Establish An Agreement

This covenant is also made in front of a shrine or
a sacred tree. The priest (Ezemmụọor Ezealụsị) of the
shrine who acts as the ritual leader administers the
covenant to the parties involved. The two parties are
expected to repeat whatever the ezemmụọ says,
following their complaint to him. Incantations are made
and the two parties would then reach an agreement. Then
the ezemmụọ seals the agreement by saying prayers in
the name of the spirit or invoking the spirit of the deity.
And the agreement is sealed with the ancestral staff
Nothing is to be eaten and no blood is shed.
Example of this covenant is one between business

· Covenant With the God or Goddess
This is a third type of covenant among the Igbo.
This covenant is made where there is land dispute. It
involves the earth goddess. The process requires that the
parties involved are expected to present their case to the
chief priest (ezemmụọ) and show him the land in dispute.
The (ezemmụọ) priest of the land deity, goes to the site
of the land, enters on it and walks round it without
uttering a word. He only shows the edge of the land or
demarcates the land with a sacred tree such as ogilisior
echichii. As he goes round the land he is closely
followed by the elders, not necessarily from among the
two parties. While surveying the land they all must
remove their foot-wears. After showing the demarcation
of the land, the ezemmụọ goes away without talking and
none of the people who follow him will also talk or ask
questions as they go round the land. Moreover, no
edible item is eaten during this exercise.

Whoever had a covenant with the earth goddess
(Anị/Ala) does not answer calls at night and he does not
eat any food prepared outside his house. This covenant is
usually made between brothers from the same kindred or
villagers from the same town or community.
Reasons for Oath-Taking and Covenant Making
among the Traditional Igbo
A lot of reasons abound why oaths are taken and
covenant is made among the traditional Igbo of the
central area and indeed, all parts of Igboland. Oaths as
well as a covenant are taken to resolve a conflict
between two or more parties, communities, villages or
towns. They are also taken to establish a trust, a harmony
or peace. Oaths are taken to prove innocence where one
is suspected for one reason or another.
One the other hand, covenant is made to build a
strong relationship. If a conflict or quarrel or suspicion
has arisen between two blood relations, the traditionalist
is called upon to make the quarrelling parties enter into
covenant. Below is a sample of a covenant administered
on a family who suspects one another:
Using kolanut the ritual leader administers the
covenant by saying, if any of you sees where
his brother or sister is being killed or
maltreated by others; he or she will not be in
support and will not agree to it. But if he or
she does, the evil spirit behind the covenant
would harm or even kill the person.
All present shout in chorus, Iseee! (So be it!).
Then the ritual leader seals the covenant with the ọfọ by
stamping it on the ground. By so doing, the earth

goddess and other divinities will now watch the parties
and if any of them breaches the words of the covenant
the spirit of the covenant will visit him or her with a
punishment as it wishes. This type of covenant is to
bring peace into the family.
A husband and his wife also go into covenant.
However, marriage by nature is itself a covenant. And
so, processes of marriage are naturally processes of
covenant which lead to marriage in actuality. In fact, the
marriage promise between the couple is conventionally a
covenant. Nevertheless, when they live together as
husband and wife and then, there arise any problems or
suspicion between them, they may wish to enter into
covenant in order to restore normalcy.
Furthermore, kindred or community members
may enter into covenant for fear of being killed or
harmed by the other group, or they may enter into
covenant to protect one another either from enemies,
war, or in business partnership.
Implications of Oath-Taking and Covenant Making
Oath taking and covenant making though have
their merits, they have a lot of implications on the
individual and society which may not easily be solved.
The breach of an oath and covenant can affect the person
involved. The person may be visited with punishment by
death or diseases as the spirit of the deity wishes. And, if
after fighting for the accused person who is innocent and
he fails to go back to thank or appreciate the spirit, he or
she will bear the consequences associated with the
neglect or refusal.

The accused or the person who has lost trust in
his neighbor(s) or even the offender may run to a
particular deity for protection and so, he becomes an
outcast (Osu). In this case, the person is totally isolated
or excommunicated by the community as he or she has
been dedicated to the deity. His or her children are not
left out, since it will affect the marriage of his or her
children who are not yet married, and it will affect their
communal living. In this sense, the community will no
longer have anything in common with the family.
The breach of oath-taking and covenant may also
result to madness. So, an oath or a covenant which one
has contracted may sometimes go as far as affecting the
family particularly the children who may not be aware of
the exercise.
Furthermore, it is difficult for one party to go out
of the covenant contracted with another if rituals of the
covenant are not properly broken. A person who dares to
go out of a covenant contracted may in the process be
harmed, since tradition is no respecter of any person.
Ọfọ in Covenant Making and Oath-Taking: Why it is
Ọfọ is used in covenant making and oath-taking.
Okeke (2012) describes ọfọ as “a mediator between the
spirit of this world and the spiritual world” (p. 43). Ejizu
(1986) describes it as “the abode of the spirits of
ancestors, it is the emblem of unity, truth, authority and
indestructibility of the individual or group” (26). In the
same vein, Arinze (1970) describes ọfọ as “the symbol of
authority which descends from the ancestors, a guarantee

of truth, and sometimes part of the regalia of the ụmụ
alụsị (spirits)” (p. 16).
Ọfọ is very significant in the religious, political
and economic lives of the central Igbo and indeed, the
entire Igbo. It is dreaded by the people, respected for its
omnipotence (Okeke, 2008). When one holds ọfọ and
oguin innocence against ones insurmountable foe,
victory is obviously his. Ọfọ is the link between God and
man, dead, the living and the unborn, while ogu is the
moral force, a potent spur of righteousness, who drives
the innocent against his aggressor (Munonye, 1985). The
traditional Igbo believe that God created ọfọ to be sacred
and that is why it is respected (Okeke, 2012)
The above reasons explain why ọfọ is employed
during oath-taking and covenant making. In fact, there
are no serious rites or ceremonies that can be performed
without ọfọ. The people believe in the efficacy of this
sacred tree that an agreement, oath or covenant cannot be
made without sealing it with ọfọ. The holder of ọfọ taps
it on the ground to summon the attention of the ancestral
sprit, that is, the spirit of ọfọ. The traditional Igbo
believe that the spirit of the sacred tree is watching
whenever an oath or covenant is made. Therefore, one is
bound to keep the words of the agreement or contract

Oath and covenant are generally employed to
establish agreeable and lasting relationship between
individuals. In this case, as Okeke (2012) explains,
“covenant is a mechanism of consolidating an alliance

and management of external affairs between individuals”
(p. 43).
Oath and covenant are usually administered by
the priest of the particular deity. Oath or covenant can be
made by an individual as a promise to the spirit of a
deity. If his request is granted then the individual is
bound to fulfill his promise for fear of unexpected
consequences. Oath and covenant are a sacred exercise.
They are highly valued among the Igbo. They are a
means of protecting the innocent, establishing
relationship, uniting people and settling issues, among

Arinze, F. A. (1970). Sacrifice in Ibo religion. Ibadan:
University Press.
Ejizu, C. I. (1986). Ofo: Igbo ritual symbol. Ibadan:
Hornby, A. S. (1989). Oxford advanced learners
dictionary. London: Oxford University Press.
Iwuchukwu, A. C. (2002). Christian and traditional
oath-taking among ndigbo: A comparative `
analysis. Nimo: Rexcharles& Patrick.
Mbiti, J. S. (1970). Concept of God in Africa.London:
McBrien, R. P. (1995). Encyclopedia of Catholicism.
New York: The HarperCollins.
Munonye, J. (1985) The only son. Ibadan: Heinemann.

Okeke, C. O. (2008). Sacred trees in the central subcultural
zone of Igbo land.Unpublished
master’s thesis.Awka: Unizik.
Okeke, C. O. (2012). The dynamics of Igbo traditional
prayers in the central sub-cultural zone of Igbo
land.Onitsha: St. Stephen’s.
Okeke, C. O. (2012). The phenomenology of sacred trees
in traditional Igbo society: A theological
dialogue. Onitsha: St. Stephen’s.

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