The Brief Historical Origin Of Umueri
The Oral History Of Umueri, the Cradle of Igbo Race
Much have been said, twisted and re-chronicled as it concerns the first Igbo Settlers that infiltrated into the Omambala Valley, in early 940.AD. But there are still a verified account of the Migration though not popular but have all along be part and parcel of *Umueri* (pronouinced Umuleri) Oral tradition. In this account, unlike the earlier one peddled by her Neighboring Village of Aguleri and Nri and others with Igala cultural influence, there are anthropological cum cultural practices that suggest that the wave of migration was actually led by founders of modern day Umueri- descendants of Eri.
According to Umuleri Oral tradition, the town was nucleus of migrating but nomadic Clan which traced its origin to wave of migration led by a priest of Eri clan of Isreal known as Dabawor. Various accounts now linked or equating him as the Biblical Eri, who was mentioned as Son of Gad, the son of Jacob(Gen 29 vs 30.). the Although there were no written records existing to back up this assertion, its indeed true that the religious practices obtained in the area was a mixture of ancient Jewish and animistic religion, as confirmed by the Early whitemen that visited the area.
Oral story has is that the first Wave of migration was not actually led by Eri but a man from Eri clan of Isreal named Dabawor. This man was highly regarded as mystical Priest. Unlike the earlier version of Eri that claims that he has two wives, Dabawor and other families of Eri clan migrated into the valley. On Arrival at the place, they nicknamed the settlement *Umu-Eri Clan*, implying *Children of Eri* The aborigine villages of Umu-Nri clan, that include Agukwu, Enugwu Ukwu, Nawfia and Enugwu Agidi are also descendants of the first Settlers who left from Nri-Aka Ugumana Ugume Umueri. At the new settlement, the culture of Hebrew worshiping, circumcision, burial & other customs remained visibly the same with some modifications. There was no king or culture of king-making until the invasion of the land by the second wave of migration from the Igala descents who brought the system of priest-king along with it.
Although Historians have not agreed on exact place the travelers came from. But it was quite clear that they migrated from the east and moved further down and settled temporarily with his followers (among them Dabawor, Nri Ifukuanim, Nnamenyi, Arodi and many others), to an area near the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers (present day Igala land). From there, the settlers moved to the Anambra Valley and finally settled near the coast of Omabala river (corruptly called Anambra by the White men) at Okpotoevi (In Ugume Umueri) near Obuaga, which was part of the ancient Umueri clan but now in modern day Aguleri. Some other accounts hold that Dabawor was specifically the direct descendants of Eri, the son of Gad who is the 10th son of Jacob ( Israel ). (Ref. Gen: 46:16; Numbers 26:16). What is however certain is that the settlers were all from clan of Eri and Eri was the father and progenitor of Umueri and other Umueri clans and that his residence in Umueri remains the ancestral homes of the Igbo nation.
Archaeologically, the traces of the habitat of the Early Igbo Settlers are still visible today in Umueri, for instance, “Akpu Nri” and “Okpotoeki” are still at Ugume Umueri. Where as Akpu Nri is an antiquity of Great importance. Its over a thousand year Old tree located at Ama Iruakpu-Ugume Umueri. It was said to be founded by founders of the early settlers of Agukwu Nri who left long time ago. The Surviving Generation of Elders confirmed it as antiquity of Great Historical Importance. One Problem that had affected the fact of Aguu-Nri is contradiction emanating from the Nri,Aguleri and Other Communities claiming head to the origin of Eri. In this bid, a lot of distortions came up either by design or Ignorance of true Position.
But In spite of these distortions, the name Umueri which literally means “Children of Eri” is a natural and unbiased nomenclature indicating Umueri relationship with Eri. Whatever historical view may be, One point remain untainted- that all the Children or Descendant of Eri once had their ancestral home in Umueri, as borne out by archaeological, oral and anthropological records. Perhaps one pointer to these assertions is the existence of several trace of Umueri lineage in Some Northern Igbo towns and even western igbo areas. For instance, Umueri Ogbunike, Umueri Nteje, Umueri Okija, Ugume in Kwale area,Umuriam Nawfia, emanates from Umuriam Umueri(Descendants of Riam, son of Dabawor) and a lot of other traces. It’s indeed worth to note that with exception of Umueri, there are no other towns that have such proof elsewhere.
Apart from oral tradition & archaeological evidence, the early European visitors confirmed Umueri communities in Anambra valley as the cradle of human existence in Igboland. “According to the works of Dr Elizabeth Isichei, while quoting L Froberius, wrote. “The first cradle of human habitation in Igbo area was 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’.
The Erroneous Story of Iguedo
The Origin of Iguedo though seems to be a great puzzle to Historians than that of Eri/Dabawor but her importance in history of Igbo origin could not be over emphasis. Some Scholar attempted to credit her as maternal ancestry of Umueri town, but this attempt failed because there was no way She could be a daughter of Eri and got married to same man or his son inorder to begat Umueri. This is tantamount to taboo or “nso ani” in Igbo Culture. The Second Group has tagged her as Eri daughter who was allowed by her father to bear children at home without been married. But the Oral tradition of the entire Iguedo clans disagreed with this assertion as it could have amount to bastardization of Culture if Eri made such a taboo as all of their tradition indicates paternal origin
From Umueri Oral tradition its clear that Iguedo was daughter of Nnamenyi, a sibling and co traveler of Dabawor. Her Father Nnamenyi were regarded in the version of Umueri oral tradition as founders of a portion of Umueri land known today as *Nneyi Umueri* (Short form of Nnamenyi Umueri). She was quoted to have married various men that include one of the earlier founder of Ogbunike, Onitsha Ado, Awkuzu, and Nando. On her death at Nando after a lengthy protracted sickness, Nando invited the rest of the towns she founded for burial arrangement and also sent message to Children of Nnamenyi, that their daughter has died . But then there was commotion and quarrel-lings on where to entered her body. Ogbunike who was the eldest of the Iguedos wanted the body to be taken home (Ogbunike) for burial since they are Children of the First Child but Nando Objected on the ground that they were people that took after her during her old age. Unknown to all of them, Umueri Emissary from Nnamenyi Clan had already made up their mind that their daughter corpse shall not be lost abroad *Ozu Nwa Ada ana efu na Mba* When commotion aroused due to arguments on where to buried her, the Emissary have no choice but to cut off her head and took it home where it was buried in Nneyi Umueri. This marks the cultural ritual of returning female corpse back to their ancestral home in Igbo adegbe area of Igboland.Ibuna ta Ozu Nwa Ada
Today the trace of her tomb is found in the Shrine of the Aro Oracle of Umueri while her body was finally buried in Nando. In order to commemorate her memorial, there was traditional annual Iguaro & “Oriri nne Iguedo” been celebrated in Nneyi Umueri and Nnado respectively unto this very day. And all her Children and relatives are expected to be there for the rituals.
Over the years due to the gathering of Umuiguedo at Nneyi Umueri to commemorate the great Amazon, some scholars out of sheer ignorance distort history by regarding Umueri as part of Umuiguedo clan. This has led so many into believing in fallacies been peddled by the adversaries of Umueri.
Relationship between Umunri & ancient Umueri
“The original settlers of the communities that make up the Umunri clan are descendants of the first settlers of Umueri. Therefore the people of Umunri, otherwise called Nri Kingdom, are part of our ancient town. The clan that consists Enugwu Ukwu, Nawfia, Agukwu and Enugwu Agidi trace their ancestry to Nri Ifukuanim of ancient Nri-aka Umueri. It is a fact 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 subsist in Ugwu Nzu. “There is a popular road path which exists 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 Umu-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 artifacts’ and monuments, shrines, etc left behind by the fleeing Ires. “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 the 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 was a foreign culture amongst the earliest settlers.
The Aguleri & Umueri Relationship
Aguleri and Umueri were Neighbors and from all available evidence some part of Aguleri are part of ancient Umueri clan,that are descendants of the first Igbo settlers. Long ago, some of the villages of Aguleri people and Umueri live in ancient Umueri town as a community before the people of Ezi-agulu, Enugu & Onogu migrated from Igala land, following series of War between the Igbos and Igalas. Aguleri which really translates to farmland of Eri (Agu-Eri) just like other farm settlement such as Agu Nnamenyi or Nnamenyi Farmland (Agu Nneyi for short), 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 Umu-si-olu. The Inhabitants of Aguleri as presently constituted are largely immigrants from different places and they met the Okpu people of Ivite Aguleri who are referred as the head Village of 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 descendant 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 or waist of Cow or Goat used for the sacrifice.
Apart from the Okpu, Umumba Igboezunu,Aguleri- the Custodian of Ajana Aguleri and the head kindred of Igboezunu Aguleri was part of ancient Umueri. They have never DENIED it’s blood relationship with Ugume (Dabawor) Umueri. At the Installation of an AJANA Chief Priest, Ugume Village of Umueri is usually informed. It’s mandatory that “Sons of Dabawor (Ugume) should be there to perform the customary rites. 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 Igala’ saw the war brought to an end with treaty dully signed by the Igbos & the Igala. T
The “Umungalagu of present Aguleri”, which literally means “Umu igala agu”, a name that was given them by the natives of ancient Umueri due to the bravery they exhibited during the war, was also settled in their present place by the people of Umueri 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; Some others were settled in Umunkiti Aguleri. The areas WHERE these immigrants were settled was known as Agu-Eri- (Eri farm settlement). These immigrants assimilated with each other to become known as Aguleri. While the Onogu people are scattered amongst the children of earlier settlers in Igbariam, Nteje, Nsugbe and other coastal Igbo towns. 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 MCM Idigo, Page 5 (Published in 1955) ), 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.
Migration & trace of Umueri people
As a result of ancient war and need for expansion, most early settlers of Umueri left the valley in search of other haitable place. 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 the 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
Compiled & Researched by Biafra Buchi Diboh
A History of Igbo People By Elizabeth Isichei
Umueri- Head of Ancient Umueri Clan By Nwabunwanne Ifediorah
Umunri King By Ferguson
Niger Igbos by GT Basdon 1938