• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Why kolanuts are not grown in Igboland but cherished by Igbos

Why kolanuts are not grown in Igboland but cherished by Igbos

According to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ọjájá II), despite the fact that the Igbos use kolanuts extensively, the Igbo soil is not the primary producer of kola nuts in Nigeria.

The primary producer of kolanut in Nigeria is Ogun state, which benefits from the ideal climate for kola nut cultivation—warm, humid environments with well-drained soil​.

Kolanut holds profound traditional significance for the Igbo people. It is an essential element in various cultural and social rituals. Traditionally, kolanuts are presented to guests as a symbol of hospitality and respect. This practice underscores the cultural ethos of the Igbos, where the kolanut is revered not just as a fruit but as a sacred object. The process of breaking and sharing kolanuts is often accompanied by prayers for prosperity and health, reinforcing its spiritual value​.

In Igbo land, the kola nut carries immense significance. The belief is that the kola tree was the first tree on earth and its fruit, the first. Igbos believe that kola is life and symbolizes peace, which is why an Igbo man would welcome his visitor with kola nuts. The native kola nut, which is brown in color, is preferred for ceremonies over the yellow ‘gworo’.

Kola is the first thing served in every function or ceremony, personal or communal agreements, welcoming visitors, and settling disputes. Ceremonies in Igbo land are incomplete without the presentation of kola nut, symbolizing peace and acceptability. Typically, the oldest person in the gathering performs the kola nut ritual, although in some communities, the youngest male breaks the kola nut after the ritual prayers by the oldest person present.

The distribution and breaking of the kola nut follow strict customs. In some communities, this is done according to the seniority of the villages rather than the ages of those present. Breaking the kola nut in the presence of in-laws is considered disrespectful. The distributor must know the seniority of all present to avoid grave errors that are taken seriously in the community.

Kolanut is integral to many significant ceremonies, such as marriage rituals. It features prominently on the day in-laws pay a daughter’s dowry. Kolanut is used in prayers, believed to connect with ancestors. It is the first thing given to visitors, unlike other cultures who offer water first. This fruit symbolizes love, unity, and togetherness, acting as a mediator between ancestors and the living.

Kolanut rituals involve the breaking of the nut and offering its “eye” to unseen spirits before humans consume the rest. The number of lobes a kolanut has connotes different meanings in Igbo cosmology: three lobes represent equality and justice; four lobes correspond to the four market days—Afor, Nkwo, Eke, and Orie; five lobes signify fertility and wealth; seven lobes are highly spiritual and sought after by herbalists.

Thus, despite not being major producers, the Igbos cherish the kolanut for its symbolic meanings and the roles it plays in their customs. The kolanut symbolizes unity, respect, and spiritual communion, making it an indispensable part of the Igbo culture.