The Igbo people of South East Nigeria, have been a group of people living in a decentralized community. They never had a single Kingdom or empire rather, they lived in communities that were ruled by “Nze na Ozo” (a group of highest ranked chiefs in the community). These people (Nze na Ozo) are seen as the leaders and guardians of the community and they administer justice when necessary. They are also guided by a Chief priest, who is seen as the religious leader of the community.Highly accomplished men are admitted into the Nze na Ozo tile holders, these people receive insignia to show their stature. Membership is highly exclusive, and to qualify, an individual need to be highly regarded and well spoken of in the community.
With the influx of British missionaries and the Colonial system of indirect rule, the British Colonial Masters commissioned warrant chiefs to rule the different districts in Igbo land, but due to lack of social hierarchies, the mandate for their authority did not work out well as it did in the North. After the Nigerian independence in 1960, the role of these district officers (warrant chiefs) were quickly transformed and adapted to Igbo land’s traditional title society.
Nowadays, different communities in Igbo land which consists of a number of villages or clans can nominate their traditional ruler, also known today as Igwe.
The Igwe usually have this role for a period of 8 years, while some have it for life, and the Igwe is tasked with the duty of giving titles to other members of the community, mostly out of their recognition for their achievements and character. The title system varies from community to community, except for different names, the hierarchy itself is the same.
It is worthy of note that the Igwe title in Igbo land today was not the usual title of the Igbo traditional leaders. However, the system have been absorbed and accepted into the Igbo culture and society.
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