Impact of Christianity on the Cultural Values of Esan People
The role of religion particularly the Christian religion in the development process of a society has continued to be a subject of study. Some people think that religion contribute positively to the well-being of the society, while others think it has negative effects. In Esanland, some people that are knowledgeable in the culture of Esan see religion as “Opium of the people”, this simply means that the Christian religion has negative influence on the development and cultural values of Esan people. This study aim at the impact of Christianity and western culture on the cultural values of Esan people. Particular attention was given to Eguare and Emaudo-Ekpoma, both in Esan West Local Government Area. It also shows that the traditional Esan society was a well ordered society, with a viable social structure, social institutions and cultural values before the advent of Christian religion and western culture. Historical-analytic method was adopted for the study. Two Hundred respondents were randomly selected within the Local Government Area for the study. Data for the study were collated through the use of self-developed questionnaires. The study also adopted the theoretical framework of Prudential Personalist Ethics theory of Benedict Ashley who was a 20th Century American theologian and philosopher. The result of the study showed that the impact of Christianity and western culture on the Esan people were both positive and negative. It is recommended that the Christian witnesses and missionaries should establish relationships of respect and love with those men (to whom they witness), they should acknowledge themselves as members of the group in which they live, and through the various undertakings and affairs of human life, they should share in their social and cultural life. The study concluded, that long before the advent of Christianity into Esan land, the traditional society has already been structured to reflect socio-cultural status. There were such socio institutions that serve the purposes of Integration and sustenance. Such institutions also promoted the well-being of the society.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE.. 1
1.1. Background to the Study. 1
1.2. Statement of the Problem. 8
1.3. Objectives of the Study. 9
1.4. Research Methods. 9
1.5. Location of Study. 12
1.6. Scope of Limitation of Study. 12
1.7. Clarification of Terms. 13
1.7.1. Christianity. 13
1.7.2. Culture. 14
1.7.3. Values. 15
1.7.4. Esan. 16
1.8. Organization of the work. 17
CHAPTER TWO.. 19
LITERATURE REVIEW… 19
2.0. THE ESAN PEOPLE.. 19
2.1. History. 19
2.2. Geographical Location. 34
2.3. Occupation. 36
2.4. Traditional Religion. 37
2.5. Social Structure. 43
2.5.1. The Village Council 44
2.5.2. The Lineage (Idumu) 47
2.5.3. Uelen (Family) 47
2.6. Major Institutions. 50
2.6.1. Marriage. 51
2.6.2. Iruen (A rite of Initiation) 63
CHAPTER THREE.. 66
3.0. CULTURAL VALUES OF ESAN PEOPLE.. 66
3.1. Culture: A Definition. 66
3.2. Cultural Values of Esan. 70
3.2.1. Communalism.. 71
3.2.2. Respect for Elders. 73
3.2.3. Chastity. 75
3.2.4. Sacred Days. 76
3.2.5. Festivals. 77
3.2.6. Music. 80
3.2.7. Life After Death. 81
3.2.8. Sanctity of Life. 84
3.2.9. Unity. 85
3.2.10. Name. 88
3.2.11. Faith Healing. 90
3.2.12. Language. 93
3.2.13. Mode of Dressing. 94
3.2.14. Hair Styles. 94
3.3. Cultural Evolution in Esan. 97
3.4. Economy Evolution in Esan. 98
3.5. Culture and Religion. 101
CHAPTER FOUR.. 106
4.0. CHRISTIAN RELIGION IN ESAN.. 106
4.1. The Advent of Christianity in Africa. 106
4.2. Advent of Christianity in Esanland. 111
4.3. The Spread of Christianity in Esan. 114
4.4. Conflicts between Christianity and Esan Cultural Values. 119
4.4.1. Reasons for the Conflicts. 120
4.4.2. Inculturation: A Solution to the Conflicts. 121
4.5. Impact of Christian Religion on Esan Cultural Values. 130
4.5.1. Christianity as it Affects Cultural Values. 131
18.104.22.168. Social Values. 131
4.5.2. Religious Values. 145
4.5.3. Educational Values. 153
4.5.4. Economic Value. 156
4.5.5. Christianity and Development in Esan. 158
4.5.6. Religious Development 159
4.5.7. Social Development 160
4.5.8. Educational Development 161
4.5.9. Economic Development 161
CHAPTER FIVE.. 164
5.1. EVALUATION.. 164
5.2. Summary. 173
5.3. Findings. 175
5.4. Contributions to Knowledge. 176
5.5. Conclusion. 176
5.6. Recommendations. 177
Works Cited. 180
1.1 Background to the Study
Before the advent of Christianity into Esanland in the first decade of the twentieth century, the Esan society was a well organised society with a viable social structure, social institutions and cultural values. The Esan people occupy the Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State Nigeria. It is made up of five (5) Local Government Areas viz:- Esan West, Esan Central, Esan North-East, Esan North-West and Igueben, with Ekpoma, Irrua, Uromi, Ubiaja and Igueben as Headquarters respectively. It is made up of thirty (30) clans; Ekpoma, Egoro, Opoji, Irua, Ewu, Uromi, Ugoha, Ubiaja, Ukhuesan, Emu, Ohodua, Ewatto, Ewosa, Ewohimi, Ekpon, Ebelle, Okalo, Amahor, Iria, Ugun, Ujiagba, Ogwa, Igueben, Ugbegun, Idoa, Uzen, Orowa, Udo, Onogholo and Ukhun (Okogie 29).
The people had a religion with certain basic beliefs similar to those of the Christian religion. They believed in an Almighty or -Overall God (Osenobua) to whom worship was given through the minor communal household gods known as ebo (Donatus Akhilomen 12). Ebo, divinities or gods who were worshipped by the traditional Esan society were only approached as intermediaries between Osenobulua, Supreme Being and them (the people). ‘They act for Him in the theocratic government of the world’ (Alli 45). As they,s the ebo were brought forth by Osenobulua, Supreme Being Himself, they have no absolute existence or authority. They were appointed and are commissioned by him to serve a purpose. Hence, their authority and power is derived from Him and delegated by Him. This is why in Esan, every act of worship or ritual has an ultimate reference to Osenobulua the Supreme Being who in turn sanctions it.
Apart from this, the traditional Esan society cherished their cultural values such as family unit or communalism, respect for elders and constituted authority, ancestral worship, to mention but a few. All of these were strictly adhered to as their guiding principles. This was the position in Esan when Christianity and western culture began to make inroads. The coming of Christianity with its civilizing influence has greatly affected the cultural life of Esan people. This impact has been greatly felt in the economic, political, educational, medical and in the overall cultural life of the people. In essence, it could be said that the presence of the Christian Church stimulated the socio-cultural development of the Esan people. These are, in spite of the deficiencies of the early Christian missionaries (who could not distinguish between the culture of Europe and the principles of Christianity). Those aspects of the Esan cultural values that were not in the best interest of the people (according to the missionaries) had to give way or abolished.
One could say here, that, it might be one of the reasons why in the mid-nineteen seventies, there was a constant call for the revival of culture in Nigeria. Every ethnic group in Nigeria was encouraged and motivated to revive the apparently dormant cultural values of its peoples. General Yakubu Gowon, a former Head of State, said at the fourth National Festival of Arts in 1975, that some people had wondered whether the aim of cultural revival was to abandon all modern amenities and conveniences and return to pre-historic times, or whether it was to raise a new religion which would replace the existing ones. He maintained that such views were wrong since Cultural Revolution is not synonymous with cultural bigotry (Kato 4). Nwafor Nduka, argues that Cultural Revolution or emancipation does not mean a call to return to the past. What he is saying is that there are much of our past that are no longer relevant to the society today and therefore, should be discarded (vi), but those that are relevant should be revived and reserved. This is because much of our past is no longer relevant to the society today. Matthew Omo-Ojugo, agrees with Nduka when he said that, Edo State and Nigeria have excellent cultural values which should be revived for the survival of our society and for our people to compete meaningfully wzith other societies in the world in the 21st century and beyond. He added that there are, however, some traditional and cultural traits which must be discarded because they are no longer relevant in civilized societies (2). According to Nduka, “we are culturally under-developed; therefore our appreciation of beauty is mundane and almost naive. We instinctively like or dislike what we see. The profound and the intriguing put us off” (7-10). This implies that our cultural values still exhibits the disabilities of adolescents, for, as yet, it has not assumed is final distinctive statures. Therefore, there is need of re-assessment, re-evaluation and development.
If Cultural Revolution is neither a return to the past, nor an introduction of another new religion, then what is it? According to Adrian Hastings, it means “rediscovering the wisdom of the ancestors, revaluing their ceremonies, reawakening their names, renewing their own language” (43). Nduka, opines that, it is; “a more discriminating, in culturing of foreign cultural elements with the indigenous cultural heritage, instead of just selling our cultural birthright for a mess of Western Cultural Pottage” (vi). In a nut shell, culture is an aggregate concept fundamentally characterized by the distinctive spirit, way of life, device for living and attainments of the people. Olive Ponting opines that culture determines how social institutions cultivate and impose behaviour that is communally transmitted from one generation to another. Culture is versatile and includes both material and non-material objects and concepts. It entails the totality of a people’s norms, values, beliefs, codes of socially acceptable conducts, mode of life, religion, philosophy and ideology. It also includes communal informal education and technology (430).
If the above statements are correct, then cultural revival are noble intentions that should be pursued vigorously. Africans generally and Esan in particular, has every reason to seek the revival of their cultural values since their philosophy, value, systems, identity, languages and indeed, all of their cultural values had apparently been threatened with extinction. They had been humiliated, exploited, oppressed, and denied self-determination (Kato 5), and this also applied to Esan people. They had become strangers even in their own land as a result of colonialism by the Europeans.
The white men had conquered them with their culture, and so anything that gave Africans a sign of relief was welcome, while anything that subjected them to the imperialists was resisted. That was why, what seems to be good was marred by those who conducted the crusade against Christianity, “the White man’s religion”,and directed their energies to the persecution of Christians. The Christian religion was rightly or wrongly identified with imperial Europe, therefore, all appeared culturally alienating. Those who felt that Christianity was detrimental to the cultural values of the people wanted a cultural revival without prejudice to the schools, medical facilities, architectural designs, and indeed the benefits of science and technology from Europe. Culture has been defined as the total life style of people. According to Edward Tylor, culture is; ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’(21). Also, culture comprises ideology, including ideas, beliefs and values, technology including skills, crafts, arts and material items; and social organization- including rules, regulations and roles (Hobbs and Blank 84).
In this study, we shall present the cultural setting of the Esan society before the coming of the Christian religion, of particular interest on the fact that the society was a religious one and given these ideas about cultural values, we observed a situation of cultural clash between the Africans and the Europeans at the coming of the Christian religion. A change in any aspect of a cultural value affects other aspects. This is more evident in connection with religion which has been regarded as the heart of culture. The Esan people, however, already had values that they would not give up. They liked some of the things Christianity taught and did, but it was not possible to throw away everything they had so cherished before the coming of Christianity. The result was a conflict of values. Conflict between the traditional Esan values and the Western Christian values. The westerners insisted on the superiority of their culture and religion and demanded a complete abandonment of the traditional Esan values such as their mode of worship, polygamy, communalism et cetera. This was not acceptable to the Esan people. Christians were persecuted, and on many occasions taken to court at Ubiaja (interview with Chief Samuel Omofumaat Ukpoke-Uhiele on June 5, 2016). The Esan people who accepted the Christian religion, did so mainly because of the benefits they would get from the civilizing influence of Europe. Their conversion was superficial; there was no deep commitment to the Christian religion. However their life-style was bound to change. Those cultural practices that were not in agreement with the new religion had to be completely dropped or modified (Ayandele 243). For instance, people were made to change their traditional names which expresses their philosophy and religion to Western names at conversion even without knowing the meanings. Those who answered traditional names on conversion to Christianity, changed them to Christian names particularly at baptism. Some who even answered meaningful traditional names considered a change necessary to march with the demands of the new religion. This trend almost destroyed the value in names as people abandoned meaningful names that expressed their cultural philosophy, religion amongst others. (interview with Omofuma at Ukpoke, June 5, 2016).
Some Esan people however resisted changing their names and have ever since not been any less Christians. A good example is the researcher whose father did not change her tradition name at baptism. Till today, she bears her traditional name. Apart from these, the Esan people’s cherished culture such as respect for elders, communal life, ancestral worship amongst others were distorted in the name of western civilization which was encouraged by the Christian faith.
Service Elman, affirms that, “the human race is proceeding toward greater and greater homogeneity-racially, culturally, and linguistically” (xiii). Regrettably, Elman noted that, through this process of homogeneity, many of the world’s ancient cultural values had disappeared. Elman continued that, while some cultural values are simply dying out or being exterminated, some are undergoing radical changes as they become involved in various kinds of functional relationships with expanding industrial civilization, and others are being ethnically assimilated (xiii). This is sad observation and it is not in the best interest of Africans who are endowed with their God-given cultural values. Some anthropologists have also expressed fear over such findings, such that the disappearance of cultural values has brought a great loss to human knowledge, art, history and science (xiii).
Is it in any wonder therefore, that, a people whose culture is threatened with extermination would seek means of protecting their cultures? They need to be sympathised with. Their predicament is caused in most cases by “the ignorance and sometimes the cruelty with which ‘civilized’ peoples had treated them” (xiii). This situation could be the sad story of the Esan people. They have complained about the apparent extinction of their cultural values including their language. Omo-Ojugo, “Time News” states; “A language is endangered when it is on a path toward extinction. A language is in danger when its speakers cease to use it in an increasingly reduced number of communicative domains and cease to pass it on from one generation to the next. That is, there are no new speakers, adult or children. In Esan today, there are many literate parents, who deliberately use the English language as the only means of communication between themselves and their children at home. Even among illiterate and semi-literate parents, it is becoming something of ‘fashion’ to use adulterated English, Nigerian Pidgin English or a mixture of both Esan and English or Esan and Nigerian Pidgin English, reflecting an apparent diglossie situation in a society that otherwise was homogenous linguistically” (81). There is need for Esan people to revive their language so that Esan language will not go into extinction. In the face of such apparent extinction, what could be the justification of the Esan society playing host to Christianity for these number of years? Could it be that the Christian religion has not done what it was supposed to do in the land? Is it also true that the total cultural values of the Esan people have been threatened with extinction? These and other related issues shall be examined in the course of our discussion.
In this work, we shall present some cultural values of Esan people as it has been affected both negatively and positively by Christianity and western culture. This thesis, therefore examines the impact of Christianity and Western culture on cultural values of Esan, the conflicts between Christianity and culture in Esanland and then proffer possible solutions to the conflict so that future Christian evangelists do not make the same mistake of the early missionaries.
1.1. Statement of the Problem
The common opinion by some knowledgeable and highly placed men and women in Esan is that the Christian religion is a mere “opium of the people”. Karl Marx used this expression to argue that religion functions as an instrument of maintaining stratification systems in society and of keeping the masses under subjection to a few privileged rich. By this position they contend that the Christian religion is detrimental to the development process of the Esan society.
The introduction of Christianity to Esanland was viewed as a threat to the old order and was therefore strongly resisted by the Chief Priests of the various traditional religions who were supported by village elders. It is not surprising that, most of the pioneer Christians in Esanland were persecuted in their attempt to win converts (Kio-Apori 63). The implication of this position is that, the Christian religion has no positive effect that it can offer to the cultural values of the Esan people. Such a negative view of the Christian religion in Esanland fails to recognize the contribution that Christianity has made in the areas of education, commerce, health, housing, politics, economy, social services, among others. These improvement have been a direct result of the coming of the Christian religion with Western civilization and culture. Instead of recognising this, these antagonists contend that in spite of the number of years that Christianity came to the land, its impact has been very minimal on the cultural life of the Esan people.
If these submissions are proved to be correct, they will have devastating effects on the Christian religion in Esan society. It is the burden of this essay therefore, to assess the impact of Christianity and Western culture on the Cultural values of Esan people. This task is carried out with the consciousness that whereas there is a difference between the Christian Religion and Western culture and civilization, on one hand, it is impossible to separate one from the other in the context of our present discussion. The reason is that Christian religion came into Esan on the wings of Western civilization and colonialism.
1.2. Objectives of the Study
The overall aim of this study is to critically examine the impact of Christianity on the cultural Values of Esan people. The specific objectives of the study, therefore, are to:
(a) examine the negative and positive impact of Christian religion on the cultural values of the Esan people;
(b). establish that the traditional Esan society was a well ordered, with a viable social structure, social institutions and cultural values before the advent of Christian religion and Western Culture;
(c). prove that Esan people are not atheists: they were not irreligious, that religion guided their total life before the coming of Christian religion; and
(d). make useful recommendations in addressing the conflict between Christian teachings and Esan cultural values.
1.3. Research Methods
This study relies on primary and secondary sources of information. It made use of historical and evaluative methods of research.
For the primary sources, copies of questionnaire were administered to respondents and key informant interview (K.I.I) was conducted among Esan people in order to get up to date data. The instrument used was the random sampling method. For the secondary sources, relevant materials such as journals, articles, books and other resources were consulted. The lack of ample literature in the subject area has made key informant interview and the use of questionnaire compelling and inevitable. It is expected that an objective historical and evaluative study of this kind would give fresh perspectives on the impact of Christianity and western culture on the cultural values of Esan people.
Theoretically, this study adopts the Prudential Personalist Ethics theory propounded by Benedict Ashley, which is basically teleological in nature, but different from emotivism and voluntarism or deontologism. “Prudential Personalist Ethics stresses that the “ends’’ of human action are always persons and the community of interrelated persons responding to each other” (173). This ethical model is qualified Prudential because this indicates the practical goal-seeking character and even the situational or contextual character of this ethics. Personalism advocates that morality is not solely a matter of obeying abstract rules, but to intelligently seek appropriate, concrete behaviour by which an individual achieves personal goals. According to Anthony Flannery, “the value of the law or rule is not denied, but the emphasis is on the fact that what makes such law obligatory is their helpfulness in guiding prudential decisions to successful goal-achievement’’ (955). The goals that are morally right for a human being are such that are determined by the nature of the human person and human action. Thus, this Prudential Personalist model of ethics is not based on intuitionism or idealism of any sort since its principles are derived from human historical experience, especially the experience of perfect human actualization (John Onimawhawo “Youths and Moral”16). Ashley claims that this ethics is called ‘’personalism’’ because it evaluates human goals and the means to these goals in terms of the self actualisation or fulfillment of the human person in the community (173). In Prudential Personalism, therefore, the consequences of any human act must be assessed not in terms of immediate pains and pleasures or even in terms of other immediate qualitative values but must have bearing on the actualization of the human person in relation to other persons (17).
In the debate on ethical issues, that ethical decisions are always taken within the context of some value system is an obvious fact. In considering any ethical debate within a historical-theological context, we need a paradigm which will help us make our conclusions not only consistent with historical-theological norms, but also that which takes into account the value systems of others. This is why this work adopts Prudential Personalism ethical model in evaluating the impact of Christianity and western culture on the cultural values of Esan people. It is an ethical model whose logic goes beyond those who take their stand on absolute principles or authoritative laws and those who argue only for pragmatic solutions. Therefore it is when Prudential Personalism logic is employed that we shall be able to achieve a synthesis of extreme positions on Christian religion and western culture on cultural values of Esan people.
In this study, a historical-analytic approach based on Prudential Personalism ethical model was adopted. With the historical approached, we were able to discourse, explain and analyse critically the negative and positive impact of Christianity and western culture on the cultural values of Esan people. The evaluative method of research was employed to achieve the overall aim and specific objectives of this study. The study, therefore, examined the impact of Christianity and western culture on cultural values of Esan people, using the Prudential Personalist Ethics theoretical framework to ascertain the significance of the solution proffered to harmonise the two cultural differences. This theory was considered basically because of the moral and cultural values highlighted in the work. It is an ethical model whose logic goes beyond abstract rules; it is to intelligently seek appropriate, concrete behaviours by which human personal goals are achieved.
1.4. Location of Study
Esan is made up of 30 clans and it is located in the northern part of the forest regions. It occupies longitude 5o 301 7o 301 and latitude 5o 301 north and 7o 301East of Benin (Olayinka 12-33). The area is bounded in the north and northeast by Akoko-Edo Local Government Area; on the south by Ika Local Government Area; on the west by Owan Local Government Area. It occupies an area of about 2,987.52 kms (Okogie 2).Before the colonial period, there were rigidly fixed geographical boundaries. The areas expanded and contributed under various political and social-economic circumstances which reflected possible strength and weaknesses of the period. The boundaries were often along roads and demarcated by geographical and environmental features such as hills, rivers and streams. Iyala or moat demarcated an in-group from out-group of Esan settlers (Okoduwa 1).
1.5. Scope of Limitation of Study
This study is poised to explore the impact of the Christian religion and western culture on the cultural values of the Esan people. The area of concentration is basically in these five (5) Local Government Areas viz:-Esan West, Esan Central, Esan North-East, Esan North-West and Igueben Local Government Areas, all in Edo State. These areas have been selected by the writer because the writer is well abreast with these areas and quite conversant with the custom and cultural values of these areas.
In the course of the study, the researcher had financial and transportation constraints due to the deplorable situation of the roads in Esanland and such could not move round all the Local Government Areas; therefore, could not access those to be interviewed in such areas personally except through the questionnaires distributed with the assistance of some members of my church. Also managing my family as a widow with my job and the state of my health was quite demanding during the course of this study.
1.6. Clarification of Terms
Some key terms will be defined and explained for purpose of clarity. They include: Christianity, Culture, Value and Esan.
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheist religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who served as the focal point of the Christian faith. It is the world’s largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers or 33% of the global population, known as Christians.It is one of the most popular religions through the western world. Members of the religion are called Christians. It is a monotheistic religion, meaning it has only one God (Encyclopedia; Monotheistic Religion.Web 5th Febuary 2016). It is also the act of voluntarily accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and saviour and as such become his disciple who learns and behaves like him. In respect of this study, Christianity shall be referred to as religious activities carried out by religious people with the aim of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As an adjunct to the above considered definition; I have put forward my own definition of Christianity. Christianity is a term that refers to the beliefs espoused by various group of churches that derive their doctrines from the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles. The most important thing for Christians is love and charity towards all manners of men. Christians group sometimes differ in traditions that come to surround their practices of faith. The expression of the basic tenets as indicated above is a unifying factor that shapes the outlook of Christians.
From the beginning of a person’s life to when he goes to the grave he is regulated by certain creations of man called culture. In spite of the fact that all anthropologists’ agree on the importance of the concept culture, yet no particular definition has a universal acceptable definition. Different definitions are given depending on the persuasion and perspective of the proponent. It must be noted here that men of letters have usually adopted a descriptive and practical approach in their effort to define culture. According to Paul Mussen, culture is; “a body of stored knowledge, characteristic ways of thinking and feeling, attitudes, goals and ideas” (Mussen 62). Edward Taylor defined it as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (21). John Fichter a sociologist has also concisely defined culture as: “the total configuration of institutions that the people in society share in common” (270). OnyerisaraUkeje summarized all the above mentioned definitions as an all-embrasive sort of descriptive definition when he said:
In general therefore, culture may be defined as the fabric of ideas, beliefs, skill, tools aesthetic objects, methods of thinking, of eating and of talking as well as customs and institutions into which each member of the society is born. In short it includes the way each individual makes a living the music he plays, celebrations and festivals, modes of communication and transportation, the house we live in and the food we eat. (3)
From the definitions we have attempted from above, it is very clear that culture is descriptive and complex concept with wide-ranging and comprehensive connotations and significance. It is also clear that culture refers to the way of life of a people-away of life that reflects their distinctive genius and spirit, their fundamental character or ethos, their values orientations, world-view, institutions and achievements in the various fields of human endeavors-Legal and literary, artistic and scientific, religious, philosophical and technological (Leonard Broom and Philip Selznick 50-51). Therefore, culture is an aggregate concept fundamentally characterized by the distinctive spirit, way of life, device for living and attainment of people.
Values are important and lasting beliefs or ideas shared by the members of the society about what is good. Levi Ezeaku defines value as norms which refers to a set of ideas and of opinion commonly held against which member’s actions and achievements are measured and evaluated. It is these that determine what is socially accepted (89). Every human society has a set of moral issues, what is good or bad, right or wrong. These notions, which have a great deal of influence on the conduct of the members of that particular society are usually based upon some recognized authority whose sanctions are accepted and obeyed. To some, moral values, sanctions or ethics are derived from human society (Idowu 144). To others, common sense is the source of supernatural source. Whatever the source, moral sanctions have power to compel obedience (146, 152). African society are no exception although, their moral values are not uniform throughout the land. The moral values or codes of behavior are designed to promote good, right and healthy societal living (Dzurgba 60). They are to regulate the behavioral lives of people individually and collectively for peace, concord and social harmony.
The African traditionalist believes that the society belongs to the deity and the various divinities have been given certain duties to perform among their people. They are the final authority over all laws and moral codes regulating such society. He punishes evil not only here on earth but in hereafter as well. To avoid this punishment, the African traditionalists are required to live an ideal life here on earth to secure a sure good home hereafter. Ideal life includes honesty, kindness, truthfulness, chastity, loyalty, kindness, humility, obedience, devotion, respect, generosity, hospitality, justice and such other virtues.
One of the agents of cultural values are parents and elders. They are strictly charged with the up keep of the society, to govern their homes and society at large. It is their obligatory responsibility to keep orders and sanity in the society. They are the guardians of the laws, rules, and order regulating the society; hence they are greatly reverenced (Parinder 179). Others are ancestors, divinities and personal names.
However, due to new African modernism generating from western Christianity, civilization and political emancipation a lot of the valuable cultural values are either reinterpreted or set aside with total ignominy. Prominent conversational acts, taboos and rules of the past are no longer regarded today. However, from historical experiences, and for ideal ethical societies, the African (Esan) people have to rediscover their wealth or values to improve upon the present decadent society.
The word ‘Esan’ is the shortened form of the original Edo phrase “Esanfua” (which means they jumped off’ or they fled or escaped) (Omokhodion 1). It is generally believed that due to the oppressive measures put in place by the Oba of Benin in the 14th century AD, the people, who later came to settle in this part of the State ‘escaped’ or literally put, ‘jumped out’ from Benin kingdom and fled into the jungle. Today, those who descended from them are called the Esan people.
Geographically, Esan is located on a plateau of about 134 miles above the sea level. This Esan plateau rises from river Orhiomo in Esan East Local Government Area and it is drained by river Utor, Orie, Obhu and Oha, including Iyagun stream, Utobo stream and a few other minor streams. The group of people referred to today as Esans can be found to the North-East of Benin. These people form the bulk of the people in the former Esan division of the Benin province. On the North-West and North of Ishan land, there is the Ivbiosakan land (owan) and Etsako Divisons while on the South and South-East you have the Western Ibo, the Agbor and Asaba people. On the East, it is boarded by the River Niger and Igala people (Omokhodion 1). Today Esan division is divided into five Local Government Areas, namely; Esan West, Esan Central, Esan North East, Esan East and Igueben Local Government Areas.
The Esans possess a well-defined social political structure in which the family plays vital roles as its unit generates dual social and moral systems (Akhilomen 12).Akhilomen contributed that, Esans as a people had a democratic and egalitarian system of government before the advent of the Europeans. The families form the bases for social unity and thereby exerts great influence on its members. Members consult one another before major decisions was taken. The Onogie directs the political wheel of the community, while the Odionwele functions at the level of Idumu or quarter to ensure that administration is run smoothly (12).
1.7. Organization of the work
This study is divided into five Chapters. The first chapter is the introductory chapter. It deals with the statement of the problem of the research, the aim and objectives of the study, Research methodology, location of the study, scope and limitations of study, clarification of terms, and organization of works. Chapter two gives the review of related literature of some Scholars on Esan people history of origin, occupations, traditional religion, social structure and major institutions of the Esans. With these, one was able to appreciate the organisation of the traditional Esan society. In Chapter three, we examine the cultural values in Esanland. In this regard, a brief definition of the concept of culture was given. We also examine how the economy and religion of the Esan evolved. This was to show that, the Esan society was richly endowed with values that enhanced its integrating and survival before the advent of Christianity into the land. A brief history of the advent of Christianity into Africa, and Esan is given in Chapter four. The Chapter also focuses on the spread of Christianity in the land of Esan, such advent and spread were not without conflicts.as is the case when there is clash of two forces, there was a conflict between the Christian church and the cultural values of the Esan people. This is carefully evaluated in this chapter. The impact of the Christian religion on the cultural values of the Esan people was also discussed. Each cultural value is carefully examined to see how Christianity has affected it. A further look is also taken at what role the Christian religion has played in the religious, social, educational, and economic development of the Esan people. Chapter five focuses on the evaluation, summary, findings, contributions to knowledge, conclusion and recommendations.
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