Umueri Land Is The Cradle Of Igbo Race
The furore over the debate of the true origin of the Igbo nation which was brought to the fore last month when VANGUARD reported the towns laying claim to where the Igbos originated from, is yet to settled as annother group, from Professionals of Umueri extraction in Anambra East Local Government of the State under the auspices of Greater Umueri Liberation Forum, GULF, debunked the claim from Nri & Aguleri saying that their town is the indisputable head of ancient Igbo settlement in Omambala valley.
Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh, the traditional ruler of Nri in Anaocha Local Government of Anambra State, had initially said that the origin of Igbo was from his community.
However, GULF faulted the claims of both the Nri and Aguleri, the claims which they described as baseless and fallacious.
According to GULF, the news of the origin of the Igbos was first countered by one Elder Ndive Aniegboka, an elder from Umueri who debunked the allegation that the Igwe is been economical with fact, that his town, Umueri was the first area of human settlement before the Igbos of Igala descent migrated .
Weeks ago, the Aguleri community of Anambra East through 9 of their elders criticised the traditional ruler claiming that the founder of their town was the first Son of Eri, the supposedly founder of Igbo people, instead they claimed that Aguleri was the first son of the progenitor of Igbo race.
The Group through its well detailed but articulated report that was endorsed by Nine of its members, described the BOTH, Aguleri & NRI, as erstwhile partners in FOISTERING an inconsistent and inaccurate story on the Igbo People, which they termed fallacious & misleading. The Report which was signed by Comrade Biafra Diboh, Chief.Daniel Obi Aninwetalu, Mr.Obi Kachi Nzedigwe, Mr. Titus Ugo Nwoye, Comrade Sonny Onochie , Ms. Purity Nwofia, Mr.Oliver Chinweze, Mr.Chike Nnamdi & Sixtus Chinedu
The group insists that the majority of the people who make up the Igbo of today were those who came from Israel while the rest migrated from Igala and other places. According to the GROUP, the founders of THE earliest settlers of the town are from Eri clan of Israel who left the Israelites during their time in Wilderness (Post Egypt Exile), migrated from East Jordan towards the Mediterranean Sea and later crossed back to Egypt from there to Ethiopia then to Southern Sudan from where they sailed through the rivers and finally found themselves in Ommambala or Anambra Valley where they settled. They now named the place after their clan, Umu-Eri which means children of Eri. The migration was long-time ago before Saul was made King over Isreal. At the new settlement, the culture of Hebrew worshipping, circumcision, burial & other customs remain visibly the same with some modification. There was no king or culture of king-making until the invasion of the land by second wave of migration from the Igala descents that brought the system of priest-king along with it. The Bini Kingdom also tried introducing its kingship by imposing the Ezes & Onowu BUT with limited success. However, the Umueri People resisted the cultural encroachment from them until the Colonial Administrators foisted warrant Chief system on them.
The Relationship between Umunri clan & ancient Umueri town
The Original settlers of the communities that make up the Umunri clans are descendants of the first settlers of Umueri town. Therefore the people of Umunri otherwise called Nri Kingdom are part of our ancient town. Its facts that amongst numerous people that constitute the Umunri Kingdom, the descendants of Umueri people are regarded as aborigines or the head of their various communities. Those communities were even named after founders of Umueri lineages. The original settlers in Nri are from Nri-aka in old Ugume ana of Ikenga Umueri.
Nri people were actually occupying the large expanse of land between ugume umueri and ikem nando (then in old Umueri town) which today still subsist in ugwu nzu. There is a popular road path which exist till date which the the nri people use for their itineraries from ugume to ugunzu and is called ‘EZI NRI AKA’ till today. The vast area was inhabited by the descendants of Eri up to Omabala na Ezu before the present settlement of aguleri which is a recent settlement. The Ire and Oraeri were living in the portion of land lying between Agu Eneneanya and Agu oda in today ifite umueri and Nneyi umueri. The ire people abandoned this area in flight due to the war between them and the igalas. Today the ire people can be found in abba, obosi, ogidi, umuoji enugu ukwu. Occupying these portion of lands today are several artefacts’ and monuments, shrines etc left behind by the fleeing ires
The towns that made up Umu-nri clans of Enugu-Ukwu, Neno-via(Nawfia), Enugu Agidi and Nri town are named after the early settlers of Umueri town; that is why you have the same names like we have in Umueri: From Umuatuolu Village of Umueri you have Umuatuolu in Enugu-Uk¬wu, from the lineage of Riam(Hebrew name)- the founder of Umunriamu Village of Umueri you have the Umuriamu Village of Nneovia(Nawfia), While from Umudiana Village of Umueri you have the Umudiana Village of Agukwu Nri. The Umunri oral tradition also confirmed that they once lived amongst our people here in Omambala Valley. The Nri people of Umueri extraction had no king just like every other true Igbo town until the arrival of the Igala settlers who were FORCED to scatter and live amongst all Igbo towns in Northern Igbo communities as a result of ancient war that was waged by the people of ancient Umueri clan. It was the Igala elements that brought the issue of kingship in Nri. It’s a foreign culture amongst the earliest settlers.
Migration & trace of Umueri People
The founders of ancient Umueri community was not just a single man and woman as fallacious story been peddled around by people, but group of people amongst whom was Eri, a great hunter and warrior from Eri clan of Gad’s tribe of Isreal around I,300BC.(See Gen46:16, Numbers 26:16). They found themselves in Omambala Valley where they settled, Original ancient Umueri people settled amongst basically in all Northern Igbo communities notably Nteje(Umueri/Umuevi Nteje), Umueri Awka, Umueri Ogbunike, Umueri Okija, Umunagu- Achala, Amụleri Ichida, Umueri Awkuzu, Umueri Nkwelle Ezunaka.
The Umu asaja-owu clan of Mmanomma Nneyi Umueri along with other families of Umudiana Umueri founded Abegbu (and to extention the Umuoba anam community), where as the constant raid and inter tribal war between the ancient Umueri town and Igala forced some of our people to migrate to distance places around the River Niger. The Original Umueri settlers can be found amongst the Umuchi Ossomari Ogbaru, the Ozeh Nkwelle & the aborigine Onitsha, whom the Eze Chima conquered to establish the Eze Chima dynasty.
Other distant places that descendants of the first Umueri people founded directly were the Ụmụeri-Owerri, Ụmụeri Ọraukwu, Umuoba Anam and even in far away Kwale in delta state where the Ugume Kwale still recounts there history that they migrated from Ugume Umueri. At the height of Bini empire, most of our people who went to war of conquest for the Binis as medicine & Juju men in far away Yoruba land and could not return back founded places like Okeri(in Oyo), Iponri(Lagos) & Igboeri now called Igberi(in Kwara State). Apart from Umueri no other community in Igboland has such connection of lineages.
Relationship with Aguleri People
Long ago, some of the Aguleri people and Umueri live in ancient Umueri town as a community before the people of Ezi-agulu, Enugu & Onogu migrated into our land from Ibaji in Kogi State. Aguleri which really translates to farmland of Eri (Agu-Eri) just like other farm settlement such as Agu Nneyi (Nneyi’s farmland), Agu-Mgbede(Mgbede farmland), Agu Ukatta(Ukatta farmland) was indeed a recent settlement inhabited by the descendants of Okpu of ancient Umueri town(now in Aguleri) until they were joined by strangers elements from Igala also referred as umusiolu.
The Inhabitants of Aguleri as presently constituted are immigrants from different places and they met the Okpu people who is been referred as the head Village in Aguleri. The Okpu Village traced their lineage to Ugume-ana Village of Ikenga Umueri. The Oral tradition of Umueri traces the genealogy to Dabawor, one of the Sons of Eri whose daughter was Okpu, the founder of the most elderly village in Aguleri till today. Nevertheless, to prove the fact that the Okpu , the head village of Aguleri emanates from Umueri, the Okpu Village has kept the ritual practice of paying tribute to Dabawor Shrine. And they have never failed to pay the homage despite recent stain in the relationship Occasioned by land dispute, litigation and war. During Sacrifices, their elders received the daughterly share (an Omambala culture that’s still in existence) of hip of Cow or Goat used for its sacrifice.
The story of how Enugu, Eziagulu & Onogu people were settled amongst our people, in the ancient Umueri clan after series of war of conquest from the Igala are well known facts. The series of war known in Umueri oral tradition as ‘Ogu Onoja Nwa Oboli’ saw the war brought to an end with treaty dully signed by the Igbos & the Igala. The Umungalagu of present Aguleri was settle in their present place by the people of Ugume after taking Oath of obedience before their hosts; the Okpus then of Umueri (now in Aguleri) and Ugume allocated some portion of land to Isiokwe after Oath taking.
In 1974, the then traditional Ruler of Aguleri, Igwe Raphael Akwuba Idigo admitted openly in a publication that Aguleri people are from Igala ( See’The History of Aguleri’ by FCMIdigo, Page 5 (Published in 1975) ), that they migrated to Omambala about four hundred years ago. According to him they met Igbo Speaking people and by mixing with them and inter-marriage, the immigrants adopted the language. Even with this open confession, it’s worrisome to see some Aguleri declaring that they are the Igbo aborigine.
The Influence of Bini Kingdom
Another group that impacted its culture on the Omambala people are the Binis known formerly as the Idu in the local parlance. At the height of Bini Kingdom were they annexed territories at will through conquest, the emerging communities in Omambala valley through her Juju & war charms were able to stop the Binis. In mutual pact agreed upon, Umueri and other communities in Omambala Communities through their Powerful medicine men & charm makers provide the needed spiritual support to the Bini Kingdom whose standing army was busy fighting numerous wars during the ancient days. In rewards for their effort, the Binis rewarded and impose them as Eze & Onowu Iyasele. This is how all those parading themselves as Royal homes in Northern part of Igboland emerges. It was not part of our culture and so anyone telling you that at death of Eri, his fore fathers became Kings and that he is the 100th King of Eri is been far from truth. Our culture has no room for such political stool.
It’s obvious that the name Umueri (The name of which other Omambala people address Umueri from time immemorial) which literally means “Children of Eri” is a natural and unbiased nomenclature indicating Umueri special relationship with Eri, even though several attempts have been made in the past to deny Umueri its rightful position as the cradle of Igboland through mispronunciation of our name & heaping on heaping of false name as our ancestor, we know that truth shall always prevail over darkness. Archaeologically, the traces of the habitat of the early Igbo settlers are still visible today in Umueri. For Instance, ‘Akpu Nri’ and ‘Okpotoevi’ are still at Ugume Umueri. Akpu Nri is an antiquity of Great Importance. It’s about half a thousand Year Old tree located at Ama Iruakpu-Ugume, Umueri up till this day. It was said to be founded by founders of early settlers of Agukwu-nri who left long time ago.
Apart from Oral traditions & archaeological evidence, the early European visitors confirmed that Umueri communities in Anambra valley as the cradle of human existence in Igboland. According to the works of Reputable Dr Elizabeth Isichei While quoting L Froberius The Voice of Africa 1913 as quoted MDW Jefferies, the Divine Umunri King of Igboland PHD Thesis (London ) 1934 wrote “The First cradle of human habitation in Igbo area were probably the Cross River and Anambra River Escarpment. In each of these areas, latter Stone Age sites have been excavated. The Scholar cited an ancient storage Relic which was excavated in Umunagu Umueri in 1975 by Mr. Emmanuel Ozoemena which shows human existence in Umueri during Stone Age era probably before 980 AD. Elizabeth Isichei went further to state, “This picture of an early nucleus of settlement in Northern Igbo land is confirmed by Igbo traditions. We urge all Igbo historians, Scholars & anthropologists of Igbo culture to go all length in unravelling the true ancient map of umueri town (Clan) and also to focus their searchlight on this ancient town of Umueri to study her unique culture and oral tradition which has so far been suppressed deliberately by fallacious works of some authors and writers, who were unable to conquer prejudice and bias, thereby ended up into distortion of facts. We are conscious of the fact that lies tell repeatedly & consistently will seem to be fact but we are confident that at long last truth shall vindicate the just.
Culled from Vanguard of 21 September 2014