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The significance of “OFO” medicinal plant in our society

Prof. Gilbert Ezengige

One of my active and brilliant students Pastor Chicksy Aniekwena, (I still

intend asking him how the name CHICSKY came to be), gave me a cut of
OFO; the picture of which I used as a featured image for this article. We
discussed much about its therapeutic uses in addressing physical,
emotional, mental as well as psychic afflictions. I would save details our
discussions on that fateful day for another post. Today, I am looking at
the symbolism or significance of OSISI OFO especially in the IGBO
OFO, a 3-letter word reminds me of the outworking of Love, Purity and
Justice. OFO is a symbol of authority and justice. Igbos have a saying;
‘Ihe bia na nke ato, oto’ (once an issue gets to the “third”, it gets stuck).
The “third” here represents Justice which resolves, settles or balances
things. The feeling or manifestation of getting stuck or hooked is what
we usually refer to as strokes of fate, punishment or karma.
Another interesting saying in Igbo is, ‘Ejim OGU na OFO’ (I am in
possession of OGU and OFO). What is OGU and what is OFO? It is also
noteworthy that OGU swings in the number 3 just like OFO.
OFO is scientifically known as Detarium microcarpum.
Below is an interesting exposition on the subject matter sourced from
Igbo medicine and culture platform on facebook.
Ofo is made from a sacred ofo tree and it is a critical ritual symbol
among the Igbo. It is not messed with.
Ogu is formed with a young palm leaf to represent conscience and
equity. Both Ofo and ogu go hand in hand for equity and justice. One
who has Ofo also must have Ogu to stand on justice and equity.
Ofo has certainly received in-depth study among the Igbo in the context
of traditional religion, blessing and prayers, petitioning, settling
disputes and healing illnesses.
Among significant books and book chapters on Ofo and Ogu is Healing
Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria (2010)
available online Fr. Ejizu's book captioned Ofo: Igbo Ritual
Symbol is an important work on Ofo in Igbo society.
Once, I was asked to explain Ofo to a group of youth in a family meeting
where discussion bothering on land and Osisi Orji which happened to
be a grand economic tree were in conflict arose. Being the head of my
kindred and a holder of Ofo of my kindred, I made it clear that Ofo is a
powerful symbol of authority and power.
One with Ofo is respected and the one lives a good life to show what
one holds for the community. Ofo is raised in prayers and petitions. It is
also raised in blessing people, settling disputes and sealing up
When Ofo is laid down, it means a decision has been stamped and
authorized and no other one should discount it or go against it. This
decision is in Ofo and Ogu reflects the fact that a decision pronounced
is merited based on the conscience, equity and justice at the best
disposal of the issues involved and according to the norms and peace
order needed for the kinship community cohesion.
For more insight, read either of the two books mentioned.
Furthermore, I have in another occasion explained Ofo by connecting it
to the contemporary situations. In House Assembly of a state, we have
"MACE" as a staff of office and power to do ceremonies, debate and
make laws affecting the people whom the assembly represents.
A Court Judge or Magistrate carries a power and authority wooden
hammer or carved staff/hammer which is struck on another piece to
stamp down authority over a decision or judgement. In community and
union meetings a bell or gong can be used similarly.
Ofo symbols are varied in specifics and categories with a central
purpose. Ofo symbol is also used to call for order and peace when it is
struck or laid down. In business affairs, particularly in the context of
auctioning goods, services, wares, an auctioneer will strike his hammer
after a deal is reached.
Religious altars are common with Ofo or related symbols of office,
authority and power to do things.
Human life is filled with rites of different kinds and this suggests that
elements of Ofo characterization and power cannot be ignored towards
grappling with the reality of everyday life rituals and connections.

SOURCE: Igbo medicine and Culture Nigeria Facebook

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