Eze Chukwuemeka Eri is the traditional ruler of Eri, a community in Aguleri, Anambra East Local Government Area.
The Eri Dynasty is believed to be the progenitor of the Igbo race.
In this interview in his palace, Eze Eri spoke on how the African-Americans of Igbo origin in America are tracing their root, challenges facing the Igbo nation, among other things.
We have a lot of Igbo people in the Diaspora, including those who were sold as slaves; what are you doing to unite them?
We are working towards the unity of the Igbo race around the world.
We have reached out to our brothers and sisters who were sold as slaves to America.
They normally come here every year during our New Yam festival.
We have built a bridge between African-Americans and the Igbo.
The bridge is Eze Chukwuemeka Eri.
There is another Eze Chukwuemeka Eri in America, who is organising Igbo culture over there.
And they do that every December 23.
They have Igbo Day in America. Some of them like coming to see where their forefathers came from, especially whenever there is festival in Eri.
Immediately they come here, they are taken to Omabala river, where their statuses as slaves are washed and they are returned as free citizens.
What do you think is the problem of the Igbo race?
The problem is lack of unity, as well as love for wealth. If the Igbo are united, nobody can successfully fight against them. Because of love for wealth, they can do anything for survival.
That is our problem.
We have been calling on Igbo people all over the world to come back home.
They cannot retire and remain in other people’s lands.
Why would someone stay in another man’s place and die there?
That is another problem.
Again, some people ignorantly say the Igbo do not have kings; it is not true.
Igbo people have been having kings since 5,000 years ago.
The problem we have is that we are not united, and that is because we love material wealth more than ourselves.
Another problem is that it is only an Igbo man that uses the back of hands to greet.
It is a symbol of slavery.
In Igbo culture, the normal way of greeting is with your forehand, not the back of your hand.
No Igbo man needs to greet anybody with the back of his hand; it is not acceptable.
If the Igbo would come back to their senses as created by God, no force will subdue them.
God loves Igbo people; that is why they progress wherever they find themselves.
What is your take on the people’s preference for foreign values and cultures?
It is sad that most Igbo men give preference to foreign cultures above their traditional values.
A lot of things have happened to the Igbo society.
For example, white men came with books and Christianity and we embraced them without asking questions, without knowing that they would destroy our system.
Today, they see every of our tradition as idol worship.
The Igbo man always prefers to speak English in every occasion, even when the audience is made up of his kinsmen.
The white men came and destroyed Igbo culture and values and replaced them with valueless cultures.
Christianity sees everything about Igbo culture as fetish.
This is not true. In churches, they play bands, ring bells and burn candles; in Igbo traditional religion, we also burn fire and ring bells before praying to God.
We call to God almighty and tell him our problems.
We ask for protection and tell him to provide for us.
We also ask for unity.
Christianity destroyed a lot of Igbo festivals.
In this place, there is a festival we call ‘Alomou’, which is celebrated after farming because yam is the greatest farm produce in Igbo land.
Before we eat the yam, we dedicate days to pray to God, but today, Christians call the festival idol worship, yet they do their annual harvest in their churches.
Even when they did not farm, they would buy yam from the market to do harvest.
In every church you hear people calling Jesus Christ.
We believe that he is our brother because the Igbo were begotten by Israel.
Our father is Jacob.
Inadvertently, Christianity and Igbo cultures are the same.
They use their bible and we use our kolanut, alligator pepper and white chalk to pray to our God.
The lives of our forefathers were better than what we have today.
They lived longer (120 to 150 years), but today, you hardly see people living up to 100 years.
Anybody who lives up to 70 is celebrated.
Some Igbo youths are returning to traditional religious worship, what does this mean?
It shows that we are coming back to our roots.
We are from Israel, and when you go there now, you would see that they still engage in divination.
Every country wants to be like Israel because if they have a problem and call onto their God, their problem will be solved immediately.
For you to get a clearer picture of things, Israel has no record of COVID 19.
It is God that did that for them.
For us to experience goodness in God, we need to go back and behave like our forefathers.
We need to come back to what we were known for.
Our forefathers were not mad when they introduced traditional worship.
These trees around us produce what we eat and use for our medicine.
In Igbo culture and tradition, we have dos and don’ts.
We are telling ourselves to come back to God for our good and development.
We are children of God.
In Igbo land, a man does not marry a man and a woman does not marry a woman.
And if a woman is menstruating, he does not cook for real men.
Every Eke market day, men did not go to work; they only discussed issues in the community.
They also didn’t do hard work on that day, but the white men came, destroyed this value system and called it evil.
Now, the names – Nwankwo, Nwoye, Nweke or Nwafor – are seen as evil.
Most of them have changed their names to Nwachukwu or Godspower.
What a confusion!
This means we are accusing our forefathers of evil.
We need to come back to our senses and embrace our tradition and customs so that good things will follow us.
How would the people bring back and entrench their culture and tradition?
We need to sustain the campaign for cultural revival.
We can’t continue with foreign values and cultures, which are hindering our progress and identity.
We cannot continue behaving like other people.
Anytime we start observing our culture and tradition, the blessings of God will be great on us.
The Osu caste system and Ume practice are still a problem in Igbo land; what is happening?
Now, there is nothing like Osu in Igbo culture; it has been abolished.
Nobody is being married to deities and nobody is running there for protection again.
Our tradition is all about love for our brothers and neighbours.
You cannot be a good neighbour or brother when you discriminate.
Anybody who thinks he is Osu and comes here, we will cleans the person and he or she will be free.
This place is the ancestral land of Igbo people.
We originated here.
People have been coming here for cleansing and we have been setting them free.
We will take them to the river and wash them, with a strong declaration that they are no longer Osu; they are liberated. It is real.
There is the need for us to look inwards because there are values in our culture.
Let’s appreciate what we have; it is for our good.
Benin people left here to establish the Benin Kingdom before establishing Ife.
It is not only the Igbo and Igala that originated from here.
Eri had five children; among them was only one female.
Aro people are found in every part of Igbo land, what is their place in Igbo history?
They lived in Eri before they left to settle in other parts of Igbo land.
They were the first government that ruled Igbo land.
When they started misruling and doing all kinds of evil, they were dethroned.
Then, if anyone offended the people’s culture, the person was taken to Ogbunike Cave while he awaited trial.
But Aro people would secretly sell the person to white men as slave and claim that the cave had killed him.
When this was discovered, they were dethroned and another ruler installed.
They were called Ada.
They started well but later started behaving like Aro people because they lived together.
They were also dethroned.