Proverbs are mentioned in relation to the conversation that Okoye and Unoka have in the opening chapter of this tremendous novel. Achebe uses them because, above all, he is trying to create an impression of this tribal society in all of its beauty and mannerisms, and, as we can see if we read the novel, proverbs were used extensively by this tribe to show the way that the art of conversation was so important. Note what the text tells us about the use of proverbs for this culture:
Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proversb. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten. Okoye was a great talker and he spoke for a long time, skirting round the subject and then hitting it finally.
This quote helps us to identify the importance of conversation in this culture and the way that proverbs were considered to be akin to gem stones in a good piece of conversation. Clearly Okoye uses proverbs to help "skirt round" the issue, avoiding direct confrontation and openly demanding his money back from Unoka. Proverbs therefore are something that the skilled communicator is able to use in this society.