Cultures and TraditionsIgbo

Igbo Traditional Society

By Raymond Nicholas
Traditional Igbo political organization was based on a quasi democratic republican system of government. In tight knit communities, this system with a king ruling over subjects. This government was witnessed by the Portuguese who first arrive and met with the Igbo people in the 15th century. With the exceptions of such as Onitsha, which had kings called Obi, and places like Nri kingdom and Arochukwu, which had priest king: Igbo communities and area governments were overwhelming ruled solely by a republican consultative assembly of the people. Communities were usually governed and administered by a council of elders.
Although title holders were respected because of their accomplishments and capabilities, they were never referred to as kings, but often perform special functions given to them by such assemblies. This way of governing was immensely different from most other communities of West Africa, and only shared by the ewe of Ghana. Umunna are a form of patrilinage maintained by the Igbo. Law starts with the Umunna which is a male line of decent from a founding ancestor ( who the line is sometimes named after) with groups of compounds containing closely related families headed by the eldest member. The Umunna can be seen ad the most important pillar of Igbo society.
Mathematics in indigenous Igbo society is evident in their calendar, banking system and strategic betting game called Okwe. In their indigenous calendar, a week had four days, a month consisted of seven weeks and 13 months made a year. In the last month, an extra day was added. This calendar is still used in indigenous Igbo villages and towns to determine market days. The settled law matters via mediators, and their banking system for loans and savings called “Isusu”, is also still used. Igbo people produce bronzes from as early as the 9th century. Some of which have been found at the town of Igbo Ukuwu, Anambra state.

Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (July 3, 2015). Igbo Traditional Society. OldNaija. Retrieved from


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