Christianization and Ogba Traditional Religion:
Within three decades after the establishment of the native court and the government school, no less than ten Christian denominations were established in Ali-Ogba, all of them vying for converts among the people.
The first denominations was the Anglican pastorate, which was used by the colonial authorities on official occasions. In 1925, a temporary Catholic church was built at the site of present state school. In 1961 Omoku became a separate parish with a resident parish priest, a mission hospital and a secondary school (the Santa Maria Secondary School).
African Church: By the time Native African Church reached Omoku in 1927, it had adopted polygamy and allowed considerable latitude on questions affecting traditional religious beliefs and practices. The liberal attitude made the church very popular in Omoku. The leader of the church in Ogba was (later Bishop) E . Wokocha of Uriem (Okposi).
Seventh Day Adventist: In 1930, Edwin Oburu and his wife broke away from the Seventh Day Native Church of God and extended a new branch of the Seventh Day Adventist Church to Omoku. It seem a very thriving affair from its inception, but it appears to have made greater progress in Egi than in other parts of Ogba.
Jehovah’s Witnesses: In 1936, Dickson Ewo (alias Ogranya Nwegwogba) the founder of the abortive Christ Army Church and School spearheaded the establishment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Sect. The new church made considerable progress in Ogba, although their apparent lack of a recognized place of worship has adversely affected their development and their impact on Ogba society.
The development of education in Ali Ogba helped to covert people from worship of natural phenomena to Christianity. Up to eight different religious denominations vied with one another for Ogba members. Today, up to twenty-six different Christian denomination have been established in Ali-Ogba. But many Ogbas (say fifty percent) still practice the traditional religion.
Ogba Traditional Religion: On the whole, the religion strongly resemble that of ancient Egyptians, who combined a belief in the existence of an Omnipotent Supreme God, called “Chukwu Abiama” by Ogbas meaning “God Ever Becoming” with that in multitudes of sub-ordinate deities, mostly personifications of natural phenomena.
This observation by P.A. Talbot in his peoples of Southern Nigeria applies to Ogba people. Sir Alan Burns makes a similar point in his History of Nigeria when he says: “It is important to realize that the existence of a supreme Being is appreciated practically throughout the country… however…more attention is paid to minor deities, good and evil, who are considered to have a greater interest in human affairs.
But even these are but the representation of the spirits, not the gods themselves. In most cases, there is a tribal god, a lesser god for each village of the tribe, a household god for every family in the village, and a personal god for every member of the family. Add to these, a god or devil for every large or remarkable tree, and it will be understood how remarkable is the African’s mythology”.
Re-incarnation: “The belief in egu or (re-incarnation) is a cardinal point in Ogba traditional religion. The good man returns to earth as often as he wishes within his agnatic group. A woman returns with the agnatic group of her husband. A female may return as a male never returns as a female. A bad man, or woman dies deepest death (imida) and never returns to earth in any form.”
Death and Burial Ceremonies: Death ceremonies and rituals in Ali-Ogba were very elaborate. Immediately the death of a member was announced, the Okrosu featured mainly in the ceremonies of the dead and has little or no connection with Ogba traditional religion, except that it (okrosu) is supposed to come from the spirit world. The heart and soul of Okrosu is supposed to reside in the echina which according to Umuzeali was carved for them by “Umuodilammo” (143) Okrosu speaks nkaba.
Shrines: Ogbas had (and still have) numerous shrines as Ndeze, Abohuo, Erisi Omoku, Egbamini, Odu-ka-Ogidi, Otu-Ohali and Uzor Oru, Awiya Ocha, Akpu Eze, Utu Aligu, Orji Aligu, Mkpitima, Odu-ka-Ajie, Ezumezu, Ema-ka-Dike…
These are the brief of the religious and social significance of some these shrines or deities:
Ndeze: (Kings) These “Kings” were carved images representing the immediate ancestors of the extended family. They were highly honored as the guardian spirits of the family who continued to take an interest in the affairs of the living. The head of each extended family (i.e. the oldest member) is the priest and curator.
Abohuo: (basket of traditional symbol of authority) This “basket” which contained the ohuo of each family was usually kept under the custody of the oldest member of the onuobodo. It represent a bond or union of all branches of an onuobodo. Elechukwu Njaka defined Ohuo without the basket or abo as A symbol of authority, the link between the dead, the living and the unborn. God and men; a symbol of truth and justice, trust and confidence. The ohuo has both religious and political significance, and without it no religious ceremony can be fittingly performed.
Erisi Omoku: (Omoku Shrine) Umueke are the custodians of Erisi Omoku. They are always entitled to produce a priest for the erisi. The post is not hereditary in any one Umueke family but when a priest dies, a soothsayer is consulted who must announce the Umueke son selected by the Erisi to be her priest. Erisi Omoku does not permit an Omoku son or daughter to get drowned in Omoku River, All Omoku sons and daughters worship Erisi Omoku except Christians.
Egbamini: (boundary waters) Before an umuorodu goes to war, he must first visit the onuobdo shrine known as egbamini to ask for protection, taking with him one white goat, one white hen or cock, four white pieces of cloth and an eagle’s feather, Egbamini is unlike many shrines in that it cannot be invoked to kill an enemy or harm anyone or do any evil. It is solely concern with doing good.
Odu-ka-Ogidi: (The elephant tusk of Ogidis) Before an Umuogidi transmigrates, he must go to Odu-ka-Ogidi at Osiakpu and sacrifice a fowl. The oldest member of Umuogidi is usually the high priest of Odu-ka-Ogidi. The present high priest is called Akio.
Otu-Ohali: (Ohali group) and Uzor Oru (Oru Way) The Otu-Ohali shrine in Ohalielu is worshipped in common by all Umuohalis. The oldest member of Umuohali is its high priest and any Umuohali found guilty of Isoruhu (i.e. desecration of Umuohali totem) must appease the gods through the intermediary of the high priest. Apart from Otu-Ohali, Umuohalis are also the owners of Uzor Oru, which is regarded as the protector of Umuohalis wherever they may be. The oldest Umuohali member is automatically the high priest of Uzor Oru.
Awiya Ocha: (White Eddy) Akpu Eze (kings cotton tree) and Utu Aligu (Aligu Stream) Umunkarus worship Awiya Ocha, Akpu Eze and Utu Aligu. These gods do not kill anyone, but they bring good and keep away evil. A soothsayer chooses the high priest of each of the shrines after consulting his oracle.
Oriji Aligu: (Aligu Iroko) Oriji Aligu is the habitat of many pythons, which are sacred to Umunkaru and Umuoyro… When Umuoyres are in danger, they go to Oriji Aligu and seek the intervention of its pythons.
Mkpitima: Any Uriem eating any of these things (viz: frog (ubelebe and mmaekwu which are taboo to Uriems) must sacrifice to Mkpitima shrine on eke night. He should paint his whole body with white chalk and appear before the shrine (Mkpitima).
Ezumezu: An ezumezu shrine is usually located in a conspicuous position within the premises where the principal devotee resides. It often comprises a small hut containing several “action” images mounded in mud. The devotee and his family have to worship it night and day with frequent beating of loud drums and much energetic dancing near it.
Totems and Transmigration: One of the most curious phenomena in Ogba traditional religion is the belief that members of different onuobdos can transmigrate into various lower animals such as python, leopard, elephant, crocodiles, ants and beetle. This is obviously an extension of the universal to totemic culture characteristic of many indigenous groups, which is still depicted today in their various “coats of arms”. But Ogbas treat their totems with extreme respect, almost raising them to the level of humanity in a most peculiar association.
“That the [theory] all souls of the dead that persist have their rebirth into these [animals] only, is incredible.
And of those who wound assign some reason connected with the art of government, some say that Osiris upon his great campaign, divide his force into many divisions (they call them companies and squadrons in Greek) and gave them all ensigns of animal figures, and that each of these became sacred and venerated by the clan of those banded together under it”. Thrice-Great Hermes, Vol. 1, by G.R.S. Mead, (353).
Frequently, the members of an Ogba onuobdos have to abstain from certain food items because of their transmigration animal or totem. Offenders have to propitiate certain gods, which appear to have been created purposely for that reason.
Ali Ogba, History of Ogba People By Ellah, Francis J.
Totems of Transmigration: Python: Umuezeali, Umueke, Umuorodu, Umuohali, Umunkaru and Umuoyro claims the ability to transmigrate into python. This power was acquired by Umuezealis through a charm prepared for them by the Arochukwu people or the Akwa people or a people of no fixed address known as Umuodilamo (sons of those in the land of the dead).
They acquired this power during the Aboh war (slave raid) and it help them escape from the enemy. Oriji Aligu (Aligu Iroko) is the habitat of many pythons, which are sacred to Umukaru and Umuoyro.
Leopard: Ihiukwu, Umuogidi, Umuokrocha, Uriem and Umuimegi claim that their members migrate into Anu-akpo (leopard) Uriem have the power to change from human form to that of Anu-akpo. Umuogidi can transmigrate into Anu-akpo (leopard). Before an Umuogidi transmigrates, he must go to Odu-ka-Ogidi (the ivory of Ogidi – a shrine) at Osiakpu and sacrifice a fowl. the oldest member of Umuogidi is the high priest of Odu-ka-Ogidi at Osiakpo. The present high priest is called Akio.
Elephant: An Umualinwas member is capable of transmigrating into an elephant for the purpose of fighting his private or public enemy. Odu-ka-Ajie shrine commands the confidence of Umualinwas.
Crocodile: Umuagbda members are the only Ogbas who claim to have the ability to transmigrate into crocodile.
Ijere: (Ants) Umuenyikes claim to be able to transmigrate into ijere (ants). This probably reflects their strong military organization in the past. Umuenyikes is a kingship group and refrain from ona and eru (mushroom).
Ebe: (beetle) Umuebes (Edihurus) and their relatives Umuossia are the only onuobdo having the beetles (called ebe in Ogba) as their totem. Umuebe is a kingship group and abstain from eru (mushroom) 18
The Ogba Nation 1460-2003 Volume 1 By Ben-Fred Ohia and Henry O. Onyedibia.