Modernization as a concept denotes the modernifications that are experienced in all aspects of human environment, which are mearnt to suit present circumstances in human society (Ezema M.C 1998). It refers to the transformed nature of a traditional type of society into a more technologically, sophisticated, and advanced type, associated with industrial society. No wonder Nweke (2003) argues that modernization is a process in which society becomes more internally differentiated and complex and in which science and technology guide change.
Increasing contacts with the outside world has introduced new ideas into African culture. Enveloping idea came with the experience of Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Sahara slavery, colonialism, Christianity and Islam, industrialization and the advancing globalization (Hunter G. 1969) influence of foreign ideas, artifacts and religion of Africa is the modernizing effects of kinship/family system in Nigeria.
In discussing the place of the “impact of traditional kinship/family system in Nigeria”, Urualla community in Ideato to North Local Government Area Imo state is used as a case study. It is worthy to note that as a patrilineal society, the family and kinship system in urualla is rooted in the ancestral land which constituted “wealth” of the whole people – the living, the dead and generations yet unborn.
Land, in urualla and else where is not only regarded as God’s divine gift to the people, but also provided the link between the living and the dead. It is for this reason that the sanctity of land as a source of wealth and the resting place of our ancestors is well preserved. This explains the reasons why the different clan or ethnic group regard as bases for identity and association. The strong identification of the urualla people in their “place of origin is anchored on their belief and attachment to their ancestors through their land (the Ihejiamaizu, 2002). Altruism is the motto of the traditional people and a sin against one person is considered as a sin against all. These ties were in the ancient Urualla before the wake of colonialism.
Before the advent of colonialism, Urualla people were dominantly peasant farmers who depended wholly and entirely on land for their survival. Land is communally distributed to individuals through their extended families. While land is held in common, it is worthy of mention that even in the primitive times, crops and wild fruits were not owned or distributed throughout the community. Each man gathers to feed his household, so as to reward on land belonged to the individual or family who performed it as a unit of the society (Talbot, 1969).
In Urualla and Ideato as a whole, man’s estate is inherited by his children usually according to their ages starting from the first son to the last one. When a man has no male child his eldest brother or any other male relative is made the heir to the estate of the person whether he was in-capcitated or deceased. The successor automatically assumes the main responsibility of maintaining members of the family entrusted in his care. The estate or property left in his custody is usually given to him in trust for the whole family, so each family member has a claim on it, as a result there is mutual solidarity among them to protect the land and cater to the welfare of their needy members because of their belief that most of them will come back into the same circle of life after this present similar help whenever they reincarnate into life again.
In observance of the family responsibility and obligation to the people, the head of the house sets up an economic base and marries a wife for every son in the family. The family is held accountable for the behaviour of all its members to the extent that sometimes the right, privilege and duties of individuals subsumed or merged into those of extended family.
With the arrival of the white man in the land, things began to fall apart with the increased influence of his government, education, technology, wage employment e.t.c. the authority of the extended family and the strong kinship ties that once existed started weakening in Urualla resulting to the growth of nuclear family structure with its attendant impersonality.
The family and kinship ties in urualla were stronger fifty years ago than they are today. In the past fifty years, the people were more altruistic than the present generation, as such there were more able to live together with one another peacefully (Ihejiamazu, 2002). Furthermore, there was greater in security in those days because of intertribal war. They stay together to protect each other. Additionally the scope of operated a strictly subsistent economy, producing only for food and depended only on land for their living. The socio-economic order of the olden times did not develop value system that emphasized wealth and materialism as it is today. The pre-occupation of the people was focused on how to meet basic necessities in life. Their beliefs, traditions, customs, values and culture were held sacrosanct because the people live together as one united entity under the watchfully eyes of the elders.
Colonialism exposed the people to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things, thus challenging the sanctity of the traditional values, beliefs and customs.
Modernization had altered the whole fabric of the society. The communal land meant to be held in trust for the community for all and sundry to have access had been taken possession of by a few powerful members on longer depends on the ancestral land for the livelihood and as such have migrated the stateliness centers in search of greener pastures (Kottak, 1991).
Advances in technology and science have reduced the whole wide world to a global village such that the primitive custom of inheriting one’s late brother’s wife (Levirate) has been rejected by women as an infringement on their fundamental human rights.
The aspect of inheritance and succession even discrimination no longer exist between the male and female children. The made relatives today only serve as administration or the estate of the deceased.
The expanded scope of responsibility of extended family structure in the modern dispensation with out a corresponding increase in the wealth (resources) of the people has weakened family and kinship ties in Urualla.
- To what extent is the extended family structure in modern day Urualla still performing its traditional functions?
- How can the extended family structure in modern day Urualla strengthen family and kinship ties in the olden days?
- To what extent has the weakening family and kinship ties in modern day Urualla been caused by social change introduced by modernization?
- What better ways can extended family be organized to strengthen family and kinship in the modern day extended structure?
This study seeks to investigate the following:-
- The extent to which the extended family structure is working to strengthen family and kinship ties among the different kinship groups in Urualla.
- Whether or not extended family structure is still helping to preserve the culture and traditional values in urualla.
- Whether or not the weakening family and kinship ties are caused by modernization.
- The extent to which the extended family structure and kinship ties can be strengthened under the new dispensation.
This study is important because it provides a background understanding on how the African traditional values systems as entrenched in their beliefs, customs, traditions and culture at contradictions to modern scientific innovations, inventions and discoveries that came in the wake of industrialization and modernization.
The research seeks to show how society changes in the contemporary world have weakened the cultural values of the Nigerian rural traditional society, which in fact was the custodian of our ancient culture and civilization. Furthermore, the study is, however necessary to correct the enormous impression earlier created by family and kinship obligations were exposed to the rules of modern day industrial society.
The study is also intended to identify and clarify the obligations of the extended family system that had faded away with the encroachment of industrialization and urbanization with a view in them.