Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan
I have perused through the main treatise by Mr. Emeka Esogbue and the accompanying responses on the above subject matter which I received courtesy of Diokpa Prof. Uwandulu and subsequently came to the conclusion that there are still a lot to be done on the study of Igbuzo history. As a professional historian the discipline of history rests squarely on factual analysis of extant body of evidence and not on infantile conjectures. And I stand to be challenged by anyone who has more authentic facts.
The history of the origin, migration and settlement of the present town of Ibusa is shrouded in controversy, not because the facts are not there for factual reconstruction, but because for over a long time its study has been guided by speculative analysis propounded by by-way historians. The same experience we have today in Ogwashi-Uku where the stranger Adaigbo is acclaimed as the progenitor; in Asaba where the stranger Nnebisi is acclaimed as the progenitor; and in Akwukwu-Igbo where the stranger Okonkwo-Agu is acclaimed as the progenitor.
In other to simplify matters for my readers I have decided to present my facts by way of some hypothetical questions which will act as our guide in the analysis of the facts.
The first hypothetical question is, if Umejei was the founder of Ibusa, why is Anioshe where he lived not the Ani-Igbuzo?
The second hypothetical question is why was Nkata made Ani-Igbuzo outside Anioshe?
The third hypothetical question is who are the original owners of the piece of land that defines Nkata today?
The fourth hypothetical question is what are the guiding principles in the naming of Igbuzo kindred and what are the connections between the names—Umueze and Umueze and their progenitor?
On the first hypothetical question, I wish to state that Umejei was never the founder of Igbuzo and such claim is an error founded on deliberate falsification. It is also important to state that Igbuzo is a conglomeration of people of different origins. Beyond the original founders from the present Isu Village in Uruagu Nnewi, the town is made up of people from Nri, Isu-Aniocha, Obosi, Akwukwu-Igbo, Egbudu-Aka, Obior, Asaba, Ogwashi-Uku, Benin, Ishan, Aboh, Okpanam, Okwe, Issele-Azagba and Utagba-Uno, among others. Every kindred know their members very well and so I need not go into details here.
Umejei which Ezukwu tradition calls Ikenga was a fugitive teenager brought by his elder brother—Ishite of same mother—Omuoha and different father. Thus for those who are well acquainted with the circumstances of Umujei’s migration, he couldn’t have been of any age beyond that of a teen or in his early twenties, which is the traditional wrestling age-set. The same traditional account also tells us that Umejei was once kidnapped into slavery by Adaigbo before he was rescued by Ishite and this has been the basis of Ogwashi claim that Igbuzo people were once their slaves.
It was after this incident that Ishite traveled to their ancestral land where he took the exalted Nze title of Ikwele which then commissioned him to initiate Umejei into Ogbuu warrior cult. It is important to note that Ikwele title is one of the highest Nze titles among the people of the present Idemili and Anaocha Local Government Areas of Anambra State.
It is also important to note that long before he brought Umujei to settle with him Ishite had settled in the present site of Achalla Igbuzo, with Okwe people in the present Ajaogwuaja farmland, Aboh (Ihum) and a section of Ikelike people in the present Umueze farmland, while Ogboli people were then living at their Ani-Udo.
In truth the core founders of Igbuzo are the Idumu-Ikwele kindred of Isi-Ogbe-Odogwu Village of Ezukwu Quarters. These are not just the custodians of Ikenga-Oha but the original custodians of Ani-Igbuzo and Ofo Ishite na Ikenga, and by extension the Okpala-Isi of the whole Igbuzo. In historical analysis arguments are generally supported by extant customs and tradition outside the easily gullible oral tradition. In the case of Ezukwu we have the following extant customs and tradition in their favour.
First is the fact that Otu Odogwu is the head of Igbuzo today by virtue of Ezukwu being the descendants of Ishite—the founder of Igbuzo. Umueze Quarters cannot dispute this fact of Ezukwu seniority for the following reasons:
The Diokpa of Ezukwu, (I prefer the original name Ezukwu because Anyalaobum is a recent phenomenon like Umueze, as will be shown later), is the custodian of Ifejioku-Oha of Igbuzo, which requires him to perform Ifejioku on behalf of the entire Igbuzo at the expense of the Diokpa of Igbuzo before the general feast kicks off.
In olden days, the head of every tiger killed in hunting or human being killed in war was brought to the Ikwele of Ibusa.
The ritual of Ime-Mmo (Group Alo title-taking) which takes place every twenty years is first performed by Otu-Odogwu, followed by Otu-Uwolo, and then Otu-Iyase. Among the Otu-Odogwu Ezukwu takes precedence before Umueze.
During joint Otu-Okwulagwe manual labour, in line with Igbuzo tradition, the elder shares the portion and the junior chooses. In this case it is Ezukwu that shares the portion while Umueze chooses first.
In Ulo festival celebration, it is Achalla first, Ezukwu second, and Umueze last.
More than half of the land space presently occupied by Umueze Quarters was originally owned by Ezukwu. These include half of Umuneze and Umumbekwu, the entire Obodo-Akpu and Mkpoji including Nkata, and half of Umuochie.
The Odogwu title was originally conferred on Ezukwu people alone before Umueze pleaded to be included since Ikwele title is hereditary in one family. This was coming after Umuochie people attempted to appropriate the Ikwele title by stealing the Ikenga-Oha. The consequences were mass death which not only forced them to return the Ikenga-Oha but forced majority of them to migrate from their original Idumu-Ukete abode and subsequently joined Umuedem to become Edem na Ochie Village until recently.
Contrary to Austin Izagbo’s spurious White Paper on Obuzo institution in which he clandestinely and falsely put Umueze as senior to Ezukwu, the emergence of Obi Prof Louis C. Nwoboshi as the Obuzo of Igbuzo was not predicated on the seniority of Umueze to Ezukwu but on a mutual agreement based on Umueze pleading at Diokpa Nwalia Nwajei’s Palace in Achalla on ground of equity, since Ezukwu already has the Ikwele and Odogwu titles, to allow them present a candidate who is related to both villages, since Obuzo’s mother was from Ezukwu.
The circumstances under which Nkata became Ani-Igbuzo clearly define both the seniority of Ezukwu Quarters and further put into question the name “Umueze” against “Omeze”.
Originally, both Ezukwu and Umueze were one united kindred until Umejei’s children criminally removed Ani-Igbuzo from Ezukwu in protest against the supervision of Anyala the Diokpa Nwa-Isi who was then a minor by his sisters in the performance of religious rituals. As soon as they mounted the Egbo (Newboldia Laevis) in Anioshe, they were greeted with calamity defined by untimely death and famine. Consequently the eldest ones who were affected the more— mainly the children of Onuma and Osheukwu fled the Anioshe vicinity. Umuonuma fled to Ezukwu where they joined Idumu Ikwele and lived untill 1904 when dispute over their claim to Odogwu title forced them to return to Umueze. Umuwagwu fled to Ezebogu—Umuisagba, while Umuehea fled to Umuekea which they formed a part until 1940s when oppressions by Okonji-Mpi led them to secede.
Those that remained behind but clear from Anioshe were the children of Ekwensuazu made up of the present Umumbekwu (Except Umualofe), Alamuzo (Umuedem and Umukanyia) and Umuochie. While Umuneze were later immigrants from Ishiagu following the failed marriage of their mother—Umujei’s only daughter, Umuwai are descendants of Uwai-Ezeogwu (Native doctor and Umejei’s elder brother by the same father) who was invited to nullify the calamity arising from the stolen Ani-Igbuzo from Ezukwu. Uwai’s advice was that the Ani-Igbuzo should be returned to Ezukwu. But because of their fear of Ezukwu, they decided to implant it on a piece of land belonging to Ezukwu which is the present Nkata.
On the matter of the famine, Uwai decided to acquire Ogwu ji (Yam medicine) from Okpanam to facilitate the harvest. And in line with the tradition that the maker of yam medicine must taste the yam first before others, Igbuzo and Okpanam struck an agreement to celebrate the New Yam Festival the same day, in which Okpanam tastes the yam in the morning with descendants of Uwai in attendance, who on their return celebrates their own, before the entire Igbuzo joins.
This explains why those who claim to be in-charge of Ani-Igbuzo whether the Nwukos of Umuedem or Agbugas of Umuochie or Etufunwas of Idumu Idogu have no historical and customary rights over the rituals they claim to perform. Furthermore, if Uwai was the successor to Umejei as it is being taunted in Umueze, why are his descendants not in-charge of Ani-Igbuzo? This puts into question the use of Umueze in place of the age-long Omeze as the name of Omeze Quarters. The fundamental question here is on which Eze among the descendants of Onuma, Ekwensuazu, Uwai, Neze, and Alofe if any, is the name “Umueze predicated?
With the second and third hypothetical questions having been addressed in conjunction with the first, we can now conclude with the fourth. Oftentimes patrilocal names are rarely the creation of their bearers but spontaneous reference by outsiders which with time gained currency. Omeze is the traditional name both in formal usages and colonial archival records and it originated as a reference to the people’s artful evasion and inability to stand firm on any decision they are elected to take (Omea Ozea). Ezukwu was a reference to Ezi-Ukwu Igbuzo (Ancestral compound of Ibusa). Its change to Anyalaobum came as a result of Achalla’s quest for independence. Ogbeogwugwu which is now Umuwagwu was a reference to multiplicity of deities. Obodoakpu which has now been changed to Obiaije was a reference to multiple silk cotton trees. The same applies to Mkpoji among others. It will interest people to note that such names as Ogboli, Umuadafe, Umuisagba, Ogbeowele and Umuezeagwu have no bearing with their progenitors. Ogboli is an Igbo generic name for sacred forest generally meant for ritual cleansing during Ozo title initiation. Odafe, Osowe, Isagba, Owele, Ezeagwu, Ozoma and Onihe are all traditional chieftaincy title names like Ikwele, Odogwu, Uwolo and Iyase as such do not stand for the real names of the progenitors of the associated villages.
Finally, I wish to conclude in this note: Igbuzo is made up of nine traditional Quarters namely Ezukwu (Anyalaobum), Omeze (Umueze), Ogbeogwugwu (Umuwagwu), Umuodafe, Umuidinaisagba, Ogboli, Umuezeagwu, Umuekea and Ogbeowele, hence Igbuzo Ebo Itenani. As earlier pointed out, before the 1940s Umuehea was never a separate Quarter but formed part of greater Umuekea Quarters. Thus the concept of Igbuzo Ebo Ili (Ten Quarters) has no bearing with the customary structural definition of the town but a recent phenomenon. Most importantly is that in traditional numerical definitions, ten is absent. In ritual terms after the ninth count follows the eleventh. A full grown town by Igbo customary definition is made up of nine Quarters (Ebo Itenani).
The concept of an Igbuzo town defined as a federation between the Isu and Nri settlers defined by Ogboli Quarters is also a spurious phenomenon imported by Prof Michael Angulu Onwuejeogwu. Igbuzo is a conglomeration of people of diverse origins structurally defined by three sub-clans for the purpose of defence against external aggressions, namely Otu Odogwu, Otu-Uwolo and Otu-Iyase, with nine constituent Quarters which do not strictly define origins.
Furthermore the practice of intra-village marriages is not based on the absence of filial relations but either by mutual agreement on inclusive chastity or certain underpinning circumstances. For instance, inter-marriage among Ezukwu Quarters originated from Ezukwu’s attempted secession from the rest Igbuzo following the outcome of the last Igbuzo-Benin war that subsequently expelled King Ezechi, in which the guardian Ezukwu Iyioji Deity that guided the victory through Ezukwu Quarters instructed that African rabbit (Eyi) be declared as a totem. When the rest Igbuzo initially opposed the instruction Ezukwu decided to secede by declaring inter-marriage among themselves. The same applied to Ogboli Quarters which arose as fallout to the land dispute between Igbuzo and Ogwashi when Ogboli people witnessed against Igbuzo which subsequently led to their ostracism.
Beyond these instances there is no filial restriction that stops Umuodafe people from inter-marriage because for instance, Umusowe is a separate entity from the rest Umodafe and could rightly claim a separate Quarters in Igbuzo. Ironically, Umuodafe tradition permits mutual sexual intercourse but places taboo on the man’s paternal claim to any resulting offspring. Similarly, Umuwagwu which is made up of descendants of Uwagwu and immigrants from Egbudu Aka have no filial relationship that makes intermarriage impossible. As in the case of Umuodafe, Umuidinaisagba could as well intermarry because apart from the fact that Umuname like Umuosowe has the right to constitute a separate Quarter in Ibusa, there is no strict filial relationship among the rest. Like Omeze and Ogbeowele, Umuekea is one of the largest Quarters with diverse origins. Beyond the core Ogwo and Oshe na Olu, the rest villages are of diverse origins with no filial relationship with Ekea. So there is no basis for restricting intermarriage among them except by mutual agreement on inclusive chastity.