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“Onye wetalu Oji, wetalu ndu” (he who brings kola-nut, brings life).

Kola nut is a significant native reddish or yellowish fruit of the pod of a kola nut tree called ‘Osisi Oji’ in Igbo language. The kola nut is a sacred fruit in Igbo land. There is no Igbo cultural symbol that has received an equal attention as the kola-nut. Kola nut is seen by the Igbo people as a symbol of life, peace, acceptance, goodwill, hospitality, solidarity, unity etc. Igbo kola nut (Oji Igbo) is the only kola nut specie accepted, recognized and use for any spiritual, cultural and traditional purposes in Igbo land. This is because the Oji Igbo is a naive fruit which speaks and understand Igbo language only.

The kola nut is a crucial part of many ceremonies and served before an important function begins, be it traditional marriage, child dedication, weddings, house warming, settlement of family disputes and any other Igbo gatherings. It has four steps:

n The presentation of the kola-nut

n The breaking of the kola-nut (Iwa Oji)

n The blessing of the kola-nut

n The distribution of the kola-nut


The host family offers the kola-nut. The number of kola-nut offered ranges from two upwards, presented in the traditional wooden dish called ‘Okwa Oji’ (kola-nut plate) alongside with alligator pepper, bitter kola, garden egg, and ose oji (peppered groundnut butter). In most Igbo communities, they include money (no specific amount) or nzu (white chalk) with the Okwa Oji. Inside the wooden dish is added a knife for the breaking of the kola nut. An elderly man from the host family presents the kola-nut to the quest. In a situation where a King is present at the occasion, he does the presentation and blessing of the kola-nut. The host proceed to break and bless the kola-nut. The blessing of the kola-nut is done by the eldest present or a King from the host family or community in Igbo language. After the prayer is being said, he offers a piece of the kola-nut to the ancestral spirits and take a piece for himself. Then, the kola-nut will be distribute to others present. This act signify acceptance of the guest by the host family/community.

When an Igbo kola-nut is being broken during the breaking of kola-nut (Iwa Oji); the number of the kola-nut lobes has spiritual significance. They include:


Number of Lobes and their Spiritual Significance


One Lobed Kola-nut

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Oji ogbu/ Oji mmuo - Dumb kola-nut; kola-nut of the spirit. It is not eaten by human beings because it belongs to the Spirit. Not used in Igboland.

Two Lobed Kola-nut

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Signify bad omen! Just like one lobed kola-nut, this is not used for any spiritual, cultural and traditional purposes in Igbo land.

Three Lobed Kola-nut

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Oji Ikenga/ Oji Ike/ Oji Okike - It symbolizes power, achievement, brave, valiant, success and fertility. Special celebration is arranged for this. Good omen!

Four Lobed Kola-nut

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Oji Udo na Ngozi/ Oji nwoke na nwanyi – The kola-nut of peace and blessings; kola nut of both male and female genders (two males and two females). It signifies completeness. It is a normal kola-nut, representing the four market days in Igboland namely; Eke, Orie, Afor, Nkwo. It is very significant for new couples when used during the breaking of kola-nut in Igbo traditional marriage ceremonies. For it is believed that the new couples will be blessed with both male and female children. Good omen!

Five Lobed Kola-nut

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Oji Ubara mmadu, Omumu na Ukwoma - It symbolizes procreation, fertility, and goodluck. However, unlike the four lobed kola with two males and two females, the five lobed kola comes with three males and two females. Good omen!

Six Lobed Kola-nut

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Oji ndi mmuo na ndi mmadu jiri gbaa ndu - It indicates double progress. It indicate communion with the ancestors; covenant kola nut. The smallest lobe is not eaten but given to the ancestors. Good omen!

Seven Lobed Kola-nut

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Oji asaa mmadu na asaa mmuo/Oji emume na mmemme - It is the kola nut of perfection of man and spirit; the kola nut of celebration and festivities. Very rare to see. It is a sign of prosperity to everyone that partake in the kola-nut ritual. Good omen!