Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 81-85
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 81
African Metaphysics and Theocracy: A Case Study of Theocratic
Politics in Ogba Land, Rivers State, Nigeria
Uche A. Dike
Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Nigeria
Received September 11th, 2012; revised October 12th, 2012; accepted October 2 6th, 2012
The modus operandi of this paper is centered on governance and the metaphysical forces in Ogba Land.
In other words the main focus of the article is that theocracy is concomitant with Ogba metaphysics. The
salient points discussed include Maduabuchi Dukor’s reflection on African cosmic environment as pos-
ited in Dukor’s four great works on African philosophy. Others include Jewish theocratic tradition, Is-
lamic theocratic tradition and Ogba theocracy and metaphysics in the light of Dukor’s philosophy. The
researcher adopted the literature approach to achieve the aforementioned objectives.
Keywords: Metaphysics; Ogbaland; Africa; Theocracy
Democratic principles were widespread in Ogba traditional
political systems. Kingships, where they existed embodied also
democratic ideals. Such an overbearing democratic attitude
prevented the development of full-blown monarchies and the-
ocracies. This allowed the apparent harmonious co-existence of
forms of republicanism, monarchism and theocracy and de-
mocracy. The development of theocracy or even the mere
presence of theocratic impulses is explained by the presence of
dominant religious fervor in the Ogba traditional society and
the Oba Sacred Kingship represented the highest developed
democratic theocracy. The comparative analysis made in this
chapter is intended to expose to what extent the development of
theocracy was realized among the Ogbas. The choice of the
Jewish and the Islamic traditions as normative is based on the
fact that the two have been among the most elaborate traditions
and have had tremendous influences on world history. Even
today the theocratic ideology is a strong force in the interna-
tional forum as well as in several national political discussions.
This paper goes beyond the mere appreciation of the complex-
ity of the Ogba political tradition of multi-systems seen to exist
sometimes in comfortable opposition. But while proposals for
the revival and development of the Ogba theocratic structures
and principles are not envisaged, the study nevertheless,
strongly suggests that its particular insight could be of assis-
tance in confronting the present Ogba political predicament.
Maduabuchi Dukor’s Reflection on
African Cosmic Environment
Here I want to briefly recall the thought of the above eminent
philosopher on Africa cosmic world particularly that of the
Ogba people. An understanding of it is of immense importance
to the readers of my paper. The African theocratic King or the
Oba of Ogba Land Dukor (2010: p. 104) has stated is the tradi-
tional paramount authority, he is the central and Supreme au-
thority because in the Ogba people cosmological hierarchy of
forces the Oba of Ogba land is the nearest to the ancestors. On
that note the Oba of Ogba land is the living intermediary be-
tween the sacred and the profane world. It follows as a corol-
lary that any pronouncement from the Oba is supported and
backed by the spiritual authorities.
One of the most important issues in Ogba theocracy Dukor
(2010: p. 2) has informed us is the overriding role of ethics.
Ethical and social conception of justice is concomitant with
Ogba people theocracy. That is, to say that, the Ogba must obey
the ethical laws of the land if further civilization is desired on
the land. For Dukor (2010: p. 24) everything has a spiritual
cause. Hence all physical and metaphysical laws have their
offshoots from the spirit world. The Ogbas are religious, in
every day affairs, be it economic or political they permeate the
thought of God and yearn to commune with him. One of thess
thoughts (Dukor, 2010; also see Dukor, 2009) is the Ogba con-
cept of polymonotheism which dominates African or Ogba
belief in the Supreme Being and the lesser gods, who were
created by the same Supreme Being. This is why Ogba religion
could be said to be polymonotheism (Supreme Being in diver-
sity). The Ogba people religion or her theocratic government
could also be said to be “theistic panpsychic” because accord-
ing to Dukor the Ogbas personify nature in form of gods or
spirits. These forces as we are going to see pervade Ogba theo-
cratic government.
What Is Theocracy
Theocracy is a term invented by the Hellenistic Jew Josephus
Flavius (against Apion 2: p. 16) to describe the Hebrew politi-
cal system by which God is acknowledged as ruler over Israel.
It is therefore understood as a political organization in which
God himself is recognized as head of state. Such government or
state is believed to be under the immediate direction of God.
Generally, the divine will is mediated through some charismatic
or constituted leadership, or through an authoritative priesthood
by which the system becomes a hierocracy. This was the case in
the hierocratic government set up in Israel after the exile when
the monarchy had disappeared. The theocratic form of govern-
ment existed among many ancient peoples. In Mesopotamia it
was accepted that “Kingship was a divine institution and that it
came down from heaven (Mackenzie, 1976: p. 475). In Sumeria,
the god ruled the city through his viceroy, the ensi. The city
itself was regarded as a temple community and as the estate of
the god of the city (Ibid). Babylonian dynasty was believed to
have come down from heaven at the beginning (Von Rad, 1975:
p. 308). In Egypt the idea of divine choice was carried to ex-
tremes. This tradition affirmed the divinity of the king because
he was the son of Re and Osiris. As Mackenzie (1976: p. 475)
pointed out, “The divine power of kingship reached the Egyp-
tian state directly through the person of the monarch. Hence the
King was not a cultic officer but an object of cult”. The king
was physically begotten by deity and was therefore the incarna-
tion of the deity. The Pharaoh without any qualification was
called “god” or “the good god” for he is the son of Re the crea-
tor god (De Vaux, 1961: p. 101).
The history of Christianity reveals quite a widespread theo-
cratic impulses, ideas and indeed situations that were in essence
theocratic. The influential church of the Middle Ages embodied
the theme conspicuously. The papal title of Vacarius filii dei or
the papal right of ex cathedra pronouncements which were
considered as proper mediations of divine will is clear exam-
ples. Medieval heresies reacting against orthodox teachings
often entertained theocratic ideals that were given expressions
in millennial overtones. The theocratic idea even gained
prominence when the Pope possessed also territorial sover-
eignty as was the case before the Italian unification in the 19th
In British protestant traditions and also in American religious
history, theocratic loyalties are known to have flourished (of
Braner S. V. theocracy). In modern times and outside Christi-
anity, theocratic ideas have been conspicuously exemplified in
Tibetan Lamaism and in Islam. While some forms of theocracy
have become extinct, others have survived to the present and
even with reinforced intensity such that the subject dominates
any discussion in modern political theology. While theocratic
formulations may have varied in time and among people, a
common affirmation—the rulership of some deity pervasion of
other sectors of culture is obtained theocracy all the more
Jewish Theocratic Tradition
Pre-monarchical Israel already was possessed by the theo-
cratic vision. It saw itself as a people chosen by God. As
Eichrodt (1961: p. 225) said, “God as king of Israel is not an
idea born during the period the monarchy … but on the con-
trary, is one of the most genuine and most ancient doctrines in
Israel. In the period of the judges the tribes resisted an early
kingship because of the prevailing belief that God is the real
king of Israel and that the proclamation of an earthly king
would constitute betrayal”. The God-centred origin of Israel,
her dependence on Him for the realization of her identity is the
essential basis of God’s rule. Therefore “Jehovah was the su-
preme ruler of the Hebrews whose laws constituted at the same
time religious and civil obligations” (Peters, 2012: p. 15). At
this period God’s rule was accomplished through the patriarchs,
through charismatic people, such as moses and the judges,
through the pentateuchal legislation and through the priesthood
institution. These were persons or institutions whose actions
were considered inspired and mediations of the divine will.
Israel’s monarchical institution was truly theocratic in spite
of opposed currents in favour or against its institution. As De
Vaux (1961: p. 99) pointed out, “Israel is Yahweh’s people and
has no other master but him. That is why from the beginning to
the end of its history Israel remained a religious community”.
Digressions by individual kings notwithstanding, Israel’s mon-
archy remained essentially theocratic. Kings were regarded as
God’s vicegerents. The king was an adopted son of God. He is
not God’s son as in the sense the Pharaoh is the son of Re. if
the king is God’s son per adoptionem it only means that “he is
commissioned to rule by God himself, he governs with perfect
justice and wisdom, he is the great benefactor and shepherd of
his people which flourishes under his rule; yes, even the natural
fertility of man, beast, and field increase through the blissful
effort of this rule” (Von Rad, 1975: p. 41). Israel’s faith in
Yahweh was that of a personal and transcendent God, making
impossible the conception of the king as god. The making of a
king in Israel was not mythically accomplished but by process
of an historical legal act, “in view of which the king was sum-
moned into a quite special relationship vis-à-vis Yahweh” (Von
Rad, 1975: p. 320). He owes his election to God’s grace pro-
claimed through a prophetic oracle. The king just as the judges
was a charismatic person, this means that he was endowed with
the spirit of Yahweh. He fulfilled his mission by the impulses
of Yahweh. Through anointing he was ritually conferred with
the spirit and by this very rite the king was made a sacred per-
son. Anointing conferred grace—the spirit of God took hold of
Saul after he was anointed (1 Samuel 10: 10). The king a con-
secrated person, shares in the holiness of God, he is inviolable
and this is why David refused to kill Saul because he is Yah-
weh’s anointed (1 Samuel 26: 9). The election of the king was
purely Yahweh’s initiative. The case of David is a clear exam-
ple (2 Samuel 16) which recounts the election of David as king
over all Israel. His legitimating as a ruler commissioned by God
was affected at the coronation ceremony in the sanctuary where
he receives the royal protocol which contains the mandate to
rule as given by the deity, as well as a new throne name (of
Von Rad, 1975: p. 319). The king exercised authority as Yah-
weh’s viceroy. Von Rad (1975: p. 320) has pointed out that
“the supreme privilege was that of ruling in God’s stead … if
the anointed is the son, then he is also the heir; and Yahweh
makes over the nations to him as a heritage. The king in Zion is
thus the mandatory of Yahweh himself … The anointed sits as
viceroy side by side with Yahweh himself: he does not sit upon
his own throne but upon that of Yahweh”. The king does not
act alone in his official duties. He does so in the presence of
Yahweh and with his help.
In foreign politics the office of the anointed was a military
one; he goes into battle against the foes of his people, bat-
tle for which Yahweh himself girds him (Ps, 18: 40), and
with Yahweh’s help he vanquishes and destroys every
enemy. In internal affairs he acts as the guardian and
guarantor of law and justice. The presupposition of this is
his own relationship to Yahweh—he knows himself to be
completely subordinated to Yahweh’s will … he is in a
right relationship with God… (Von Rad, 1975: p. 322).
Islamic Theocratic Tradition
Theocracy has remained essentially the Islamic tradition of
politics. It seems very natural to it. The fundamental dogmas in
Islam affirm it and uphold it. Theocracy has therefore, received
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
outstanding emphasis in the social and theological configura-
tions of Islam. Islamic empires and nations have in the main the
same tales of theocratic loyalties. The revelation granted Mu-
hammad inter alia, is the affirmation of God who is creator and
judge. From nothing, he created the universe and man and He
will summon humanity before Him at the last day in order to
judge them with perfect justice. He is sustainer of all creation
and nothing else and nobody else is to be worshipped beside
Him. Khrished (1976: p. 37) thus explained the nature of Islam:
Islam is not a religion in the common, distorted meaning
of the word, confining itself to the private life of man. It is
a complete way of life, catering for all the fields of human
existence. Islam provides guidance for all walks of life—
individual and social, material and moral, economic and
political, legal and cultural, national and international.
The famous Shahada or profession of faith states: “There is
but one God and Muhammed is the apostle of God”. Muham-
med made no claims to divinity, nor have several miracles
posthumously attributed to him changed the view for most ad-
herents. He is the prophet of Allah and is such a messenger that
to obey him meant to obey Allah (Schimmel, 1971: p. 133).
The fundamental concept in the structure of the Islamic com-
munity is faith and not kin-ship or tribal affinities. With this
basic ecclesiological principle Muhammed moulded “the dif-
ferent groups in Madina into a single community of faith, no
longer clinging to the inherited Arab ideals of tribal honour but
declaring Allah, the one God, the real ruler of His community
(Umma) and himself as the organ of His Supreme Will”.
(Schimmel, 1971: p. 129). This is the theocratic essence in
Islam. God rules his community, indeed his family equals and
he does so through Muhammed who mediates His divine will.
The five pillars of Islam, namely, Shahada or the affirmation
of the faith, the Zakat or obligatory alms tax, salat or the five
daily prayers, the month of fasting—Ramadam—and the annual
pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Haj were effective instru-
ments which Muhammed employed “to hold together his
community of simple and often rather savage Bedouins”
(Jansen, 1976: p. 21). The Koran is central in Islam. It is the
word of God spoken to Muhammed by Gabriel, the angle of
God. Popular tradition maintains that “the book is not a new
creation but exists in archetype in heaven; fixed in the very
essence of God and delivered piecemeal to the prophet” (Hor-
don, 1963: p. 343). Rubman (1966: p. 33) has thus described
the conception of the divine quality of the Koran. “The Koran is
purely divine … Divine Word … equally intimately related to
the inmost personality of the prophet’s heat … but Muhammed
was not himself divine, wholly or partly”. The centrality of the
Koran is evidenced in the fact that “both the inner values of life
personal piety and the external rules of behaviour—socio-
political questions, legal decisions are regulated essentially by
the same God—given laws which have been revealed in the
Quran” (Schimmel, 1971: p. 126).
When a solution to a problem is not found in the Koran, the
prophet’s example becomes normative and there has arisen
several traditions (hadith) of his customary behaviour. Islamic
jurisprudence, the sharia is a detailed articulation of God’s in-
junctions taken from the Koran and tradition and covering the
areas of ritual, cult, politics, social relations and legal precepts.
The Sharia is a prominent organ in the realization of Islamic
theocracy. Since the Islamic community is under the direct
supervision of Allah, the existence of other divinely authorized
institutions within the community is not provided. The learned
Ulama who are interpreters of divine teaching are laymen. Or-
thodox Islam does not in any way envisage a hierocracy. Rather,
as Horden (1963: p. 360) has pointed out, “in place of sacerdo-
tal hierarchy, orthodox Islam has ever looked to the political
sovereign for the direction of Moslem affairs, not excluding
impositions of sanctions for breach of koranic precepts and
interpreting these precepts by civil decree”.
In Iran for example where the Ulama has assumed clergy
status and become a ruling class, they have tended to experi-
ment on extreme theocratic forms. Extracts from Khomeni’s
book, Islamic Government’, a collection of lectures given in
Iraq in 1970 reveal the tendency.
In our day … the government, authority and management
over the people, as well as the collection and expenditure
of revenues has been entrusted to the religious experts.
God will punish anyone who disputes their authority.
Government in Islam … is constitutional … in the
sense that those in power are bound by a group of condi-
tions and principles made clear in the Koran and by the
example of the Prophet Muhammed … thus Islamic gov-
ernment is a government of divine law … the actual au-
thority to legislate belongs exclusively to God.
Since Islamic government is a government of law, it is
the religious expert and no one else who should occupy
himself with the affairs of government. It is he who
should function in all these areas in which the prophet
functioned … There is no room for opinions or feelings in
the system of Islamic Government: rather the prophet and
the Imams and the people all follows the wish of God and
his laws (Laffin, 1979: p. 162).
In a comparison of Islamic and Western democracies Maw-
dudi (Laffin, 1979: p. 91) thereby offers the synopsis of the
Islamic theocratic principles. What distinguishes Islamic de-
mocracy from Western democracy is that while the latter is
based on the concept of popular sovereignty the former rests on
the principle of popular Khalifa (leadership). In Western de-
mocracy, the people are sovereign, in Islam sovereignty is
vested in God and the people are His caliphs or representatives.
In the former the people make their own laws; in the latter they
have to follow and obey the laws given by God through His
prophet. In one the government undertakes to fulfil the will of
the people; in the other the government and the people who
form it have all to fulfil the purpose of God … Islamic democ-
racy is subservient to the Divine law and exercises its authority
in accordance with the injunction of God and within the limits
prescribed by Him.
Whether, indeed, Islam of such qualifications merits the de-
mocratic attribute may remain a matter of relative interpretation.
What is worthy of note is the affirmation of the theocratic prin-
ciples which the comparison very poignantly expresses. Islamic
theocratic tradition centralizes the Koran and the Prophet Mu-
hammed and from the two are derived the legislations and all
the necessary injunctions by which the divine purpose of ruler-
ship is realized.
Ogba Theocracy and Metaphysics
If anything the Ogba traditional political systems are essen-
tially democratic with the segmentary lineage as the basic prin-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 83
ciple of socio-political organization in all the variations. Even
where title system, secret societies, kingships both secular and
sacred obtained, the basic principles of lineage representations
and consensus remained. The tradition of politics incorporates
the Supreme Being, the ancestors and the deities in her system
of governance (Dukor, 2010: pp. 103-104), thus the meta-
physical principles or laws of these sacred beings must be
strictly obeyed, hence there is no compartmentalization be-
tween Ogba theocracy and the metaphysical world. The lineage
system is the Onuobudo. The system encourages political dia-
logue, equality, communalism, and egalitarianism at all levels
of lineage-segments, while title-holding encourages individual-
ism and gives prestige and a considerable amount of political
and ritual power and authority to the holder.” Given such de-
mocratic arrangement, it was most unlikely that theocratic ideas
would find a place in the world of Ogba political conceptuali-
zations. However, a closer examination reveals quite a good
spread of underlying theocratic impulses within the system. By
theocratic impulses we refer to implicit or explicit tensions
within the political system arising from conscious or uncon-
scious inclinations to make affirmations in favour of the theo-
cratic paradigm. As we did in our preceding discussions on
Jewish and Islamic traditions we shall seek to identify these
impulses in the area of institutions of political authority, con-
cept of community and injunctions.
The institutions of political authority deriving from the
Onuobudo organization are the council of representative elders.
Its political authority is religiously legitimated by the fact that
elders are channels of communication between the ancestors,
deities and the living members of the community. The moral
code which originates from the earth goddess Ala is given to
ancestors to deliver to the living members of the community
through the elders. The function of safeguarding and interpret-
ing this code to which compliance was reciprocated with secu-
rity, progress and prosperity of the community falls on the eld-
ers. That this political organ is legitimated by the deity in the
custodial and interpretative functions of the elders is already a
theocratic setting. The theocratic view is more intensively re-
flected in the Ogba kingship institutions. In the instances of
kingship institutions’ numerous taboos shield the king from
human defilement. In the case of Oba sacred kingship, the
number of taboos reached exaggerated proportions.
At his coronation, the king is officially charged: “Rule your
people well … so that peace, health, prosperity, wisdom-
truth … justice … may prevail in your town and in your king-
dom” (John, 2011: p. 12). The emphasis on the high quality
leadership expected of Eze Ogba or the Oba is made on the
grounds that he has been ritually transformed into a spirit that
partakes of the supernatural realm. His sacredness brings him
close to the deity and ancestors and all the more he would dis-
charge his authority perfectly. The ritual elevation apparently
points to an expectation of the perfect rule of Chukwu or the
other deities. Quite unlike the Jewish concept of the chosen
people of Yahweh and in Islam where faith constitutes the basis
of community, the Ogba idea of community consists of the
living, the dead and the yet unborn. As fortes (1965: p. 24)
therefore explained “the ancestor … is … an “organic member
of the community of the living, he is one of the links in the
chain”. The people are only the physical members of the com-
munity and they are spiritually and morally in intimate and
active union with the ancestors. The union is so vital that sev-
erance of any part would result into crisis and disharmony. The
union fosters a theocratic tension since the aura of the ancestors
exerts a dominant presence of the supernatural and the sacred.
The theocratic impulse reflects in the body of sacred tradition
which is the source of Ogba jurisprudence. The moral, social,
cultic, traditional political laws are sacred because it has the
gods of the land as author. The ruler and the ruled in Ogba so-
ciety must abide by the laws. In most cases contravening the
metaphysical laws demands ritual reparation, the metaphysical
laws are therefore the divine will to which the people must
submit or risk the deity’s displeasure. Such is a dominant con-
ception even in the well elaborated theocratic systems, where
law is regarded as divine will.
The semitic-originated theocratic paradigms arising from
concrete event or a dramatic revelation have endured to the
present in the Jewish and Islamic traditions respectively. While
the Arab model has enjoyed conspicuous continuity in its re-
ligio-political ebbs and flows, Jewish theocratic tradition has
had its dark ages but has risen to monumental heights as Jewish
nationhood regained its existence.
The Exodus engendered Jewish theocratic concept. Referring
to the event Pinchas Lapide (1987: p. 48) explained: “It was
neither Moses nor Aaron who are the heroes of this drama but
God…” On this basis, a complex linkage has been fashioned in
modern Israel. According to Mazuri (1990: p. 150) the very
notion of “returning to Israel, the fanatical commitment to the
retention of Jerusalem as the capital, and the choice of the name
Israel for a twentieth century nation-state are all symptoms of
an underlying merger between biblical nostalgia and Jewish
nationalism within the ethos of Zionism”. In the centre of world
and regional politics, at least the Jewish and Islamic theocratic
ideas are very much alive and active. In the attempt to articulate
the more or less theocratic forms, we noted the complexity of
institutional interactions and interdependence in the Ogba tradi-
tion of politics. It is amazing how the traditional mind so in-
geniously propelled the humanistic ideas of democracy and
“dictatorship” of theocracy such that each made vital contribu-
tions according to the needs of the society. Compared to the
Jewish and the Islamic, the Ogba theocratic tradition was un-
dominating. As constituent element Ogba tradition of politics,
confirms perhaps to an evolutionary trend—the common stage
in socio-political and religious development. This may be the
pre-humanistic stage, before man through his abilities began to
assert his authority in several of human and mundane affairs.
To some extent this interpretation may be valid given that ex-
isting theocratic systems, especially the undiluted types, en-
gender dangerous tensions in regional and global political or-
ders in modern times.
Perhaps for such reason as the fundamental Ogba democratic
culture, even where theocratic forms achieved significant height
in articulation, none of its elements became a system that
claimed an overall acceptability. Otherwise, a more politically
unified society organized and furthered on dominant theocratic
principles could have emerged. Yet what was religious contri-
bution served the model role guiding the many variations of
Ogba political organization. It is however recommended that
other African tribes should inculturate the good aspects of Ogba
theocratic culture. Such inter cultural inculturation would en-
able African tribes to meet up the cumbersome of modern soci-
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As Dukor (2010: p. 12) has stated:
Culture is not static but dynamic; there have been emer-
gence of values consequent upon the complexity of mod-
ern society. Society that fails to meet up the challenges of
modern time would degenerate and asphyxiate in the
competitive environment of scientific world order.
Religious and secular acculturation has endangered religion’s
function in politics of modern Ogba society. The contributions
to the value structure arising from the more or less forms of
theocracy became marginalized. Some other ethnic groups in
Nigeria who are participants in the national politics are funda-
mentally impelled either by traditional cultural model or by a
purely religious one. The Ogbas are essentially guided by ultra-
democratism which following many opinions is responsible for
individual and sub-group conflicts that have dangerous implica-
tions for the tradition of politics in the contemporary Nigerian
socio-political context. The question which arises touches on a
certain pre-disposition that determines for a people, reactive
patterns in the multi-ethnic society. As the influences of relig-
ion have been suppressed, a vacuum exists which a guide for
the politics of the future must fill. The Hausa-Fulani have the
theocratic paradigm, and the Yoruba have the cultural model.
For the Ogba two options exist: one may be based on the his-
torical event that made crucial demands on all Ogba, directly or
indirectly; the other on the irruption of a certain personality, a
leader that commands trust and respect, and who is perceived as
a powerful symbol of unity and strength. Both of these could
serve without compromising Ogba democratic attitude and they
could serve as good as the theocratic or cultural paradigm.
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