Agbagwu the ‘Awada Aro Okeigbo’ village

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Umuahia branch hosts Nzuko Aro CEC

Historical Origin

A group of Jews left Nubia in Upper Nile River in Palestine and wandered through Sudan and Cameroon and settled at the present Akamkpa in Cross River State of Nigeria. Genesis, Chapter 46, verse 16 has already confirmed that the Ibom Isii lineage (the Akpa group) belongs to that movement. While the people settled at Akamkpa, their friend, Nnachi, met them and requested that they would join him to save some people in Arochukwu, who needed to get their enemies defeated and pushed away. The people in need lived at Ndi Otuu, Obinkita. It was not for mercenary reasons but to save souls.

The group at Akamkpa selected four able and experienced soldiers, namely Osim, Ackman Nubia (later called Akuma Nnubi by the Igbo group in Arochukwu, as they lived together), Ezeobin and Orung Obin. Out of sympathy and to save a group definitely being cheated, using their Jewish background and up-bringing, they left to Arochukwu. They used Ubila town in Uturu as their base. At that time, Obiene was a mere farm plantain by Ukwuakwu, Uturu people, who were later joined by an Ito hunter, called Ene, whose name later became more prominent and Obiene remained to this day.

As the war regard, their weapons of war (mainly gun power – nsiegbe) finished at the hill where Agbagwu village now stands. The name ‘Agbagwu’ is an abridged statement, that is, Agbaghagwu Nsiegbe (where the gun power finished). Later, during the peace period, Ezeobin decided to settle at that place where his nsiegbe finished and to this day, the place became Agbagwu. Osim died during that war but his brother, Ackman Nubia, chose to live at Ugwuakuma, where, as a mark of respect, the three decided should be their headquarters, hence ‘Awada Aro Okeigbo’ remains the permanent outcome of their wise decision.

Historical importance

Having lost Osim, it was no longer comfortable returning to Akamkpa and even some Ugwuakuma people who attempted, crossed the river at Ikot Okpara and lived at Orira, Ndi Okoro and Ndi Aniche and never saw Akamkpa until they were chased back to Ugwuakuma by the Nigerian Federal Troops during the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra civil war. Ackman Nubia started building Ugwuakuma, Ezeobin continued at Agbagwu, while Orung Obin was sent to Oror, where Osim was buried and Udude Ibibio group was chased away through Amaoba over Nkana River to make sure that the present Ukwu Ovor Aro was never desecrated.

Alu Akuma moved to develop Amasu; Imuo Akuma was sent to Ibom Etiti to represent the father on Aro duties, while Ezeobin sent his able security officers – Okon Na Akuru (Okon na Ndi Owuu) to live at Ibom Etiti to protect the territory. Ezeobin made Agbagwu the headquarters of Otusi Amata Ezeobin to accommodate Umu Orung Obin – his younger brother. During Ikeji festivals and other cultural ceremonies, Amata Agbo will, with Amata Ugwu (Agbagwu), assemble at Eziukwu Ulonta to remember their ancestors who helped them, before moving to Ugwuakuma for the national ceremonies. As the population increased, Ezeobin allowed his younger son to open a new compound called Agbogo, and later Uche Okereke and Ivi (Nwa Ugbala) were allowed to open their compounds. While Uche used to get his share of duties and benefits through Agbogo, Ivi continued to share with Eziukwu – the headquarters. Ackman Nubia and Ezeobin used to hold their own meetings where the administration of Arochukwu was discussed as Ackman was at the head of the Arochukwu Administration for twelve years before handing over to Okennachi.

Ezeobin was a meticulous person who never took things for granted; and because each time both met, the house of Ackman would become was untidy; and Ezeobin would order his son, Okpo, to sweep the royal house (Awada), and that was how Okpo Iza Awada became the duty of Agbagwu to this day during each Ikeji festival! Ezeobin made sure that even his friends and slaves were treated well and his descendants followed it to advantage. In fact, his children had lesser sizes of land compared with what his friends he allowed to live in Agbagwu permanently have to this day. He went further to apply Aro tradition to make some of them qualified to be Umu Otusi Amadi. It was not only that Agbagwu was growing, he, with his brother Orung Obin, allowed their descendants to live in such places as Ndi Ichie Torty at Amasu, Ndi Orie Okwara and Ndi Ukwu Onoh of Ndi Eni Ama in Ibom Etiti.

These were there to also protect the interest of Akpa group in case of war. They encouraged their subjects to live in settlement such as Ahaba, Amune-Ovim, Amakwu (Agbgwu) Alayi, Umu Okpo Item, Amaokwe-Item, Nkporo, Edda, Udi Agbaja, Afikpo, Nkata-Alike Ohuhu Umuahia, Ibi-asogbe and Awo Omama, in the present Oru East LGA, Imo State. The Diaspora towns have been enriching Agbagwu, particularly since after the Biafran war when living in such places were no longer very profitable and comfortable.

Political Structure

Agbagwu now has three distinct compounds. Eziuku, Agbogo and Ezi Ovuru. Ezi Ovuru came into being because Mazi Okoroafor Ojukwu (living alone) was unjustly punished by the rest of village giving his small compound some work to do along Aro-Itu road. As he hired Akpoha, Afikpo labourers, he completed the job and wisely petitioned the European District Officer for his separate share in Agbagwu, about the year 1932. He went further to convince Ndi Uche Okereke to join him in the agitation. Mr Shanlack – the district officer then – granted the request. At first, the union was called Ndi Ulu Agwu Enyi but now it is called Ezi Ovuru.

Now, Agbagwu has Eze Ezi for Agbogo, Eze Ezi for Ezi Ovuru while the Ezeogo Agbgwu is also in charge of Ezi Ukwu. Duties and benefits are shared into three. We have many things in common; for example, ekpe, ekpe, obon, and also carry out funerals and weddings as a unit. The first Christian Church of Scotland Mission (now called the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria) was brought here in 1922 by Mazi Okoroafor Ojukwu (Akakpughinwa) to serve Akama Ato, comprising Utughugwu, Ugwuakuma and Agbagwu – all lived closely then until 1936 when Utughugwu moved to their present site. It is only Agbagwu that has maintained the old stead – Eziukwu. We have more than fourteen Christian church denominations in the area now.

Traditional Leadership

Ezeogo Agbgwu is always selected from the two families of Ezeobin (popularly called Ndi Torty) and Ndi Okwara Ukpabi. Only the aboriginal and true descendants – Umuotusi (Amadi) – are qualified to be so selected. With Christianity and civilisation affecting Aro traditions now, Ndi Ezeogo (who are Christians or who refuse to carry out ritual obligations) can have willing members of the family carry out such, while they remain the authentic Ezeogo, losing nothing in the end.

For twenty years, Agbagwu has been in Ezeogo feudal tussle because the present one is a Christian by faith. By the grace of God, those who oppose what the Aros have accepted may soon yield to good reason in the village. Since Ezeobin founded Agbagwu, Ndi Ezeogo of the village have been as follows:

1. Ezeobin 2. Omuma 3. Ukabi 4. Torty 5. Abaa 6. Ukpabi Okwara(1895-1906) 7. Torty Nwa Torty (1907-1920) 9. Anwa Okwara (1947-1908) 10. Ukpabi Maduka (01/01/1970-22/09/1982) 11. Ogbonnaya Torty (1983-28-2-1990) 13. Elder Isaac Okwara Onoh (30/11/1993 to Date). Agbagwu’s Otusi is Amata Ezeobin.

Agbagwu in Arochukwu Affairs

It is necessary to note that when things are shared in Arochukwu, Agbagwu takes the fourth position in order; after Utughugwu, Ugwuakuma and Obinkita. In Ibom Isii, she takes the second position after Ugwuakuma. While it is the duty of Otusi Amaja to share things for Arochukwu, it is the duty of Otusi Amaja Ezeobin to do same for Ibim Isii. If in any Arochukwu, Amaja people are absent, Amata Ezeobin will act; as what obtained when Dr Nwakamma Okoro buried the mother. Amaja (Isimkpu, Amangwu, Ndi Okoro Okpong – Atani) was absent and Amata was invited to act; and Ezeogo Agbagwu then – Mazi Ogbonnaya Torty, not only rode the funeral horse but went ahead to slaughter it for them. It is important to point out that all children born into these villages must be prepared to carry out these in all Arochukwu gatherings.

Economic Activities

Fortunately, Agbagwu people are peasant farmers and traders. In those days they went to Uburu and Upper Cross River towns bought and brought dried bush meat and goats (elulu) to sell at Ncheghe market. Agbagwu has a large acre of land and part of it is where the Government station is situated today, plus the Abia Hotels premises, and the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria; and where Hugh Goldie Lay/Theological Training Institution, Arochukwu, is situated.

Agbagwu village occupies a land area that is suitable for citing many projects. As a result, in the 1970s, the then Imo State Government that became part of the present part of Abia state in 1991 on creation inherited a water project began here for the Arochukwu Kingdom. The project neither served Arochukwu well nor even satisfies the host community, Agbagwu. The Federal Government of President Shehu Shagari sited another one here through the late Dr Nwakamma Okoro (SAN) in 1979. Till today, it supplies no water to anybody. Out of sympathy for the much Agbagwu had suffered, Mazi Chibuike Jonas, one-time chairman of Arochukwu local government, sited another water project here. The community felt relieved of the suffering of fetching water from the abandoned streams posed, but not quite long after the chairman left office, the water project, then uncompleted, got grounded again.

We appeal to all the three tiers of government to return to help us drink potable water, for when our people have laboured for all these years. We remember, too, that Nzuko Arochukwu had, on several occasions, tried to persuade the Government to return to site. Some of the Aro clubs had donated large sums of money to help the project be reactivated. It must not be easily forgotten that Agbagwu is one of the nearest villages to Baraki – the Government Station in Arochukwu. Most civil and public servants live with us. The facilities available in Agbagwu for them are what they will enjoy, and report about Aro Urban when they leave Arochukwu.

Again, where the British troops dislodged the thriving slave market at Bende, the Aros quickly influenced the transfer of the market to Uzuakoli and named it Agbagwu Uzuakoli in memory of our great ancestor, Ezeobin Growing Population Agbagwu had a thin population before the Biafran war and so there were not enough pupils to fill a primary school then, and which was why the effort of the late Mazi T K Utchey of Ujari, with his friend, Mazi James Ojukwu Okorafor, to establish a primary school in the village then had failed. Our boys and girls had to trek to Ibom Government School (now Aggrey Primary School) and the Presbyterian Central School, Obinkita; the A M E Zion School, Obiene, Ututu, and St Paul’s Catholic School, Abuma, Uturu, for school and early education. The hazards were unbearable for the pupils as their parents could not find it easy to do this.

Dr Michael Okpara’s government of Eastern Nigeria brought a new hope for education called Universal Primary Education in 1956. The elders of the village and the growing and popular Agbagwu Progressive Union took advantage of the fact that Mazi James O Ojukwu got one slot to build one block at Agbagwu to see to it that a primary school was built. By December 1956, the building of two classroom blocks was not completed or ready and so the elders of the Church, PCN, led by Elder Okoro Oji Kanu and Mazi J O Ojukwu, got the Rev’d Nwachukwu Eme at Obinkita, to allow the pupils to begin classes in the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Agbagwu hall. Some of the people have been always grateful to the PCN for being their partners in progress in this regard and the school has since 1970 been renamed Eze/Akuma Memorial Primary School, Agbagwu. Eze/Akuma here named means in memory of Ezeobin and Akuma Nnubi, the founders of Agbagwu and Ugwuakuma villages respectively. The school is also serving Utughugwu village at present.

Agbagwu village has a hall, a civic centre and a marketplace. The orderly development of these things is being affected adversely by the protracted Ezeogo tussle that has lasted since 5 November, 1994. There is hope that peace will soon return. The only fortunate thing is that in spite of these man-made problems, blessed families have made progress in many other ways in the village – the number of university graduates has increased, better houses are being built on daily basis, many more people struggle on and our people overseas have continued to show interest at home. An individual living in Abuja had spent more than six million naira in renovating Agbagwu Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, PCN! To God be the glory. Some of our neighbours are encroaching on our land day in and day out, taking the advantage of the Ezeogo tussle to do this. This is being challenged too.

Conclusion

As in the olden days when Isaac Okwara Onoh had to serve the village as secretary-general of Agbagwu Progressive Union for twenty five years (1963 to 1988), we encouraged Agbagwu people, especially the youths, to copy the example of other Umu Aro who work through their village unions and Nzuko Arochukwu, to bring development to the village. Most of the people seem not to be doing this hence Agbagwu lags behind and we appeal all other Aros to come to the rescue, just as the village is grateful to the patrons of Nzuko Arochukwu who, on behalf of the kingdom, are spending sleepless nights to restore peace in Arochukwu.

written by Isaac Okwara Onoh and Ogbonnaya Akoma

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2 comments

  1. Kingsley kanu okereke 8 October, 2015 at 09:22 Reply

    I have some questions here.(1)Why was it only Akuma Nnubi that changed his name from Ackman Nubia to Akuma? What are the Palestinian names of the other ones? (2)Where was Nnachi living before he met Akuma and the rest? A whole lot of Aro history is being distorted in such a way that it will be difficult for the less informed to really understand the true story. Never heard that Utughugwu people ever lived in Agbagwu.These and many other questions I will post at the appropriate time needs answers.

  2. Orji NwaOrji Ezeani 25 December, 2016 at 18:00 Reply

    You said that the first Christian Church of Scotland Mission – the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria – was brought to Agbagwu by Mazi Okoroafor Ojukwu in 1922: So can you explain to me what the Scottish Missionary Ms Mary Slessor did when she was carrying out missionary work in Arochukwu? This is a great historical piece of work. This goes to confirm that the Akpa group who came to save souls in Aro were Palestinian jews. No wonder why the Aros are called jews. They have a jewish ancestory indeed. Although this piece of work focuses on Agbagwu, it has so much in common with Aro history as a whole. I have now found the origins of several names my mother used to invoke when she was alive, which I did not know how they came about and took for granted. She talked about Akuma Nnubi (from this historical piece, I know that Akuma Nnubi originated from Ackman Nubia). And so Akuma is not igbo word, but the adaptation made it sound very igbo. I did not understand this part of the history before. Really enlightening piece and highly recommendable.

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