EXPERT VIEW ON EXCERPT OF THE HISTORY OF NRI TOWN AND EZE-NRI Part One: Origins, Migration and Settlement
Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan, Delta State, Nigeria
President, Never Again Coalition against Genocide in Nigeria (NACAG)
Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Author: FULANI ETHNO-ISLAMIC CONSPIRACY AND YORUBA SUBJUGATION—From Aare Afonja to Asiwaju Tinubu Lagos: Masterbuilder Communications, 2022 & 14 Ors
To Nri Town Committee on Eze-Nri,
I have read the position paper you sent to me and to properly guide you in the next battle for the Eze-Nri dispute as the end of the seven-year interregnum approaches, you must be as practical and historically realistic as possible, since it is a matter that would ultimately end up in the court of law like in the last succession dispute that respectively produced Nri Namoke VIII and Nri Obidiegwu Onyesoh.
In my own view the opinion you provided is at variance with the original traditional version of Akamkpisi (Ikenga) Nri version, including the result of my tortuous research. It is majorly a substantiation of Agukwu view as advanced by Prof. Michael Onwuiejeogwu. I will therefore like to highlight the fundamental aspects of my view on the subject matter as a professional Igbo historian with respect to Nri history and the institution of Eze-Nri, the details of which are in my book: THE IGBO AND THEIR NRI NEIGHBOURS. 2007. Enugu: SNAAP Press Limited.
To make my submission as much concise and understandable as possible I will present it in three parts: 1. Origin, migration and, settlement of Nri town. 2. Origin and succession to Eze-Nri. 3. Origin, migration and settlement of Aguleri people.
Firstly, the term “Nri” was originally and still remains the official traditional title of Nri king (Eze-Nri) and not the name of a progenitor (founding-father) whose original name was Menri. Going through the Minutes book of Nri Progress Union of December 31, 1940, I discovered that it was during that session that the Union decided to change the name of the town from Agukwu to Nri. It is important to further state that the claim that Menri founded the present Nri town is false. To properly understand the trajectory of the origins, migration and settlement of the inhabitants of the present town of Nri, we should first understand the dynamics human settlements and movements in pre-colonial Igboland in general and the Agulu Lake (Ezu Idemili) vicinity in particular, which is made up of the towns of Nri, Adazi Nnukwu, Agulu, Nise, Nimo, Enugwu-Ukwu, Neni and, Oraukwu. There is no way one can objectively discuss the origins, migrations and settlement of the people of Nri town without reference to these surrounding towns.
Much as space will not permit us to discuss the historical interrelations of this web of communities, it should however be emphasized that two other communities that once formed part of this web of Agulu Lake communities are no longer there, having been expelled by the warlike Adazi Nnukwu community. These were the Namkpu which is currently known as Mbaukwu in Awka South Local Government Area and, Umuori presently a Quarter in Neni town with the baptismal name of Umunri Neni. The interesting history of Umuori people is that of a people who moved from being an independent town to a constituent village of Adazi Nnukwu town, and then seceded to become part of Oraukwu town and later joined Neni as a constituent village. For Namkpu people, although their change of name to Mbaukwu attempted to obliterate their historical root from Agulu Lake vicinity, the fact that the piece of land which defines their original homeland has remained a source of dispute among Adazi Nnukwu, Nri and, Nimo people tends to constantly rekindle the historical essence of their root.
Two groups of aboriginal Igbo people were already settled and living in the location before the Umunri groups migrated in four phases to join them. These are the Umudiana of the present Ekwenayika village of Akamkpisi Nri and Nnukwu Quarters of Adazi Nnukwu who were the original custodians of Ikpu-Alu (Cleansing of abomination rituals) and Ozo title initiation rituals; and Umunsekpe (Agbana) kindred of Diodo Village of Akamkpisi Nri and Umuowele Quarters of Agulu, who were the original custodians of Idemili Deity priesthood. The Umudiana were nicknamed Adama by the later immigrants in recognition of their right of primacy as progenitors and kingmakers, or rather owners of the land. Adama means the first born or Okpala in Igala language.
Second, four sets of later immigrants came at different periods to join these aboriginal groups. The first set were the Diodo who were led by Nri Namoke Ogbuodudu aka ako mme who later emerged as the first Eze-Nri and, whose ancestors migrated from Aguleri through Achala-Isuana Headquarters of Awka North Local Government Area, where indeed he was born of an Achala woman. He joined the Umunsekpe and settled among them. He was later joined by Uruofolo and Ekwenanyika groups from the same Achala who constitute the second set. This explains why the original name of Diodo Akamkpisi was Diodo-Achala; and also why the Uruofolo kindred adjoining Diodo is known as Uzo-Achala. In fact Diodo derived its name from Di Odomma (Odomma’s husband).
Odomma was the name of the Achala woman married to the leader of the Diodo immigrants and direct progenitor of Nri Namoke Ogbuodudu aka ako mme. Diodo without Umusekpe, Ekwenanyika without Umudiana and Uruofolo are known as the Achala group of settlers in Nri town.
The third set is made up of the present Agukwu Nri villages of Obeagu excluding Umuochogu kindred, Uruoji, and Agbadana. The ancestors of this set migrated from Aguleri through Ugbene in the present Awka North Local Government Area, where they settled and lived for an appreciable long time in a location named Agukwu. This explains why they were originally referred to as Agukwu-Ugbene. They were later joined by Umuochogu from the neighboring town of Nimo.
As in the case of Nri town, Adazi Nnukwu was founded by three groups of people which include the original settler-group known as Umudiana (Adama) which forms part of Nnukwu Quarters and, ironically shares common boundary with Umudiana (Adama) of Nri town; the Adazi group made up of the rest Nnukwu Quarters and Amolu Quarters both of which migrated from the present Adazi-Enu town; and the Abba group made up of the present Amata (Ama-Nta) Quarters who migrated from Abba town in the present Njikoka Local Government Area.
It is therefore right to state that the origins, migration and settlement of Nri people are quite separate from the history of Nri kingship (Eze-Nri), even though they appear to be inter-connect at certain epoch, as will be shown in the next part on the brief history of Nri kingship.