Omambala: Historical Insight into the Name, Myth & Oral stories surrounding It.
This piece is in fulfillment of my promise to bring to you, the undiluted & authentic story surrounding the name of Great Omambala River, known today as Anambra River from the perspectives of Umueri oral tradition.
As a kid that was born and brought up outside his hometown, I had this constant urge to ‘disturb’ my late father on issue concerning my town. So one day I confronted him with the Question on the literally meaning of Omambala River?
“Omambala implies a very Big River” He responded casually to the question that I poked at him
“It does not sound Igbo to me?” I quipped back. “What does that word “omambala” means in Igbo”
“Omambala is an expanded River- a huge river” He made emphasis to explain the literally meaning of “mbala” as “ive Sara mbala” (A thing that’s large- that’s expanded). He concluded that its a huge river. I retorted back that sometime it does not look huge. He then narrated the story of how the first settlers – our Ancestors founded the River as a very big and huge River (Seas) covering the whole of Today Otuocha land, part of Aguleri & ikenga Umueri.
Yes from Oral tradition of our people, Our ancestors- a group of nomadic men and women led by a very mystical man called Dabawor( variously mistaken as Eri by various Historians) crossed Seven Wilderness (Aguu na Asaa) and “Seven Rivers” (Mmili na Asaa) to arrived at Omambala – then a very large River. Every place was surrounded by water, except a little portion of land between today Eri-aka and Ugume Umueri.
A research towards unearthing this fable “Seven Wilderness” & “Seven Rivers” would invariably lead us to the very source of the migration of our ancestors to Omambala. From my personal research conducted over the years, It is obviously clear that our Ancestors had lived albeit shortly in Ethiopia, around the Valley of Omo River – a crossroads of migrating ancient tribes of middle east into the region of East Africa and a place where some of the missing children of exile Isreal found themselves and dispersed thereof.
According to Umueri Oral tradition, On Arriving at the Confluence of present Omambala River, the settlers on seeing the huge River christened it “Omo-mbala” implying a very huge River (Literally meaning larger or Bigger Omo River).It was from Omo-mbala, it became known as “Omambala” and corruptly christened Anambra by the Murtala Administration in 1976 all in effort to permanently delete the historical name that would point historians to our noble history of origin
Dabawu, the leader of the settlers according to Umueri oral tradition offered sacrifice to God, some claimed he used his mystical power to move the huge River back to its present location. And God answered him as the huge sea shrinked and moved to its present location, thereby throwing up more uplands where many villages in both Aguleri and Umueri today dwelled . Till date, the “Oku Omambala” (Source of the River) is still located at the Ugume Umueri, very close to the Tomb of Dabawu in Ugume Umueri. The trace and path of the river to Omambala are still evident unto this day.
During Dabawu Festivals, elders of Umueri & part of Aguleri assembled and recounts the mysterious deed of this legend that many have come to identified as Eri.
It’s therefore pertinent to point out that this oral tradition frowns at the fallacy that Eri migrated to Omambala. The pieces therefore intend to correct the wrong story and put the story straight that, it was Eri descendants led by the Mystical Dabawu that veered into Omambala valley. The early settlers conscious of this fact, that their Progenitor did not make it to the new found land referred to the days he lived with them as ‘Ube Eri’, ‘Mgbe Eri” “Oge Eri” etc, and the area as UMUERI CLAN
It was also a known fact that the Biblical Eri became an Ancestror(Dead) when his descendants were in Wilderness (Number 26: 16) . During the Census of isreal, the Erites were among descendants of Gad that had a total population of 40,500, which implies that the clan of Eri would be having an average of 8,000 or more descendants at the time of the Isrealites Census as captured in the book of Number 26. Hence there is no historical reasons why such a man with such number of descendants would be alive and the reference to his name as an ancestor confirms unarguably the fact, that he was no longer alive.
Narrated & Documented
Biafra Buchi Diboh
Leader, Greater Umueri Liberation Forum (GULF)