To many Aro men and women (lassies inclusive), uzi is one concept that is misunderstood. The mere mention of the word signifies an age-long institution in the ancient town of Arochukwu. The term has been given too many meanings. To some, it signifies sexual promiscuity, flirting, coquettish living and life-style, reckless sexual relations and laxity, moral bankruptcy and waywardness! To this set of people, uzi means living a loose life of emersion in sexuality, hence such people must be promiscuous and have series of sexual relationships with as many people of opposite sex as possible – as a way of the Aro people!
The male ones must abandon their wives and have as many woman-friends as possible. If it means neglecting and not taking care of their wives and children at home, it does not matter! If it involves women, then they must flirt from one man’s (or boy’s) bed to another in their villages, the entire town of Arochukwu, or where they live in Lagos, Abuja, Aba, Enugu, Maiduguri, or Umuahia, Port Harcourt or Benin, name that town – whether such persons are married or not is immaterial!
So, because of this sordid melee, you see many teenage-girls, and boys living ignoble and coquettish lifestyles in Aro villages, jumping from one bed to another, and going ahead to say that that type of living is the custom and tradition of the Aro in uzi! But is this really true of us? No. This is false and misleading as well as un Aro in its entire ramification. One of the workers of Arochukwu local government I had spoken with in March 2015 had cajoled me of that during my visit to him at the council headquarters; he had the temerity and boldness to tell me, point blank, that ‘your girls are so loose and cheap! They like uzi.’ Yes; that is it; the way we are painted black because of the way some of us portray ourselves through conduct!
So, the concept of uzi has continued to mean so many different things to so many different people in Arochukwu. While the young ones and those who returned to Aro ‘yesterday’ have continued to give it a different, negative meaning, others, especially the older ones and those who are versed in Aro trado-cultural heritage and nurture, have continued to live by the tenets of the institution, though very infinitesimal and minute in Aro society today.
In order to arrive of finding out what the institution of uzi is and stands for in Arochukwu, Aro News went to town to find out the truth from those who know, through interviews from both older and elderly ones, babes and lassies, and the young people at heart, including those who returned to Aro n’ukori and those who were born and brought up in the villages of Arochukwu – those nurtured in the town, and who should ‘know.’
First to speak to Aro News at Arochukwu Sub-treasury was Mazi Oji (former Arinzu Aro). According to him, ‘Uzi is an age-long institution put in place in Arochukwu for some reasons. A well-behave man would be invited by a bereaved family (or the immediate compound of the widowed woman) to befriend a woman widowed early in life. The family must have known the character and type of person the invited man was before the invitation. This was to ensure the dead man would still beget azinna sons (and daughters) in his absence, in order that the lineage of the dead man would continue, and not go extinct! That was the origin of the institution of uzi. In that way, the family linage will not close. The man-uzi will be known to every member of the woman-widow, and would often be welcomed with the mazi title each time he arrived at their compound!
Before then, the man must have presented ngwa isii to the woman’s relatives/people in that regard. Thus, uzi is a well-conceived and well-intended institution in Arochukwu by the people of old; it must be contrasted with sexual immorality and promiscuity, fornication as what we witness today in Arochukwu.
Two other respondents corroborated what Mazi Oji had said. One of them, Mazi Ndukwe Okoronkwo Okpo of Agbagwu village, 78, added that the meaning of selecting a man of good character/conduct is to ensure that only persons of good character would be born into the family, as children usually take after their mother or father in behavior and character; not every male-person should befriend a widow for purposes of continuity in the lineage of the family. Uzi is, therefore, a very good institution in Arochukwu; but today those who do not know the ntoli Aro have given it different interpretations and meanings to suit and enable them to continue to be reckless and promiscuous, especially among the so-called youths of these days who combine this rascality with drunkenness (of kaikai), stealing, fornication, smoking (of anything available), and drug addiction in the town of Arochukwu, and still go ahead to cause problems in the town.
But a young man, John, told the reporter that uzi means freedom to sexual promiscuity, on interview. ‘Uzi allows us to have fun at will in Aro. There is no restriction….’ But, was he right? No. So, when next you use the word uzi or hear someone say or use it to paint Arochukwu black in corruption, you should be able to know the truth about the concept, the meaning and essence in Arochukwu, and stop abusing the institution, or use it to continue to paint our town black again as a result of ignorance, and to go ahead to actually show people you, as it were, returned to Arochukwu ‘yesterday’ in doing that unknowingly.