Arochukwu is a small town located at the Southern end of Abia State in Nigeria. The Aros, as other Igbos, migrated from the Middle East to their present location in the then Eastern Nigeria. You cannot mention Christopher Columbus who discovered America, without a short history of the Indians who owned the land. Also, in retrospect, the Aros came and won the land from the inhabitants, the Ibibios, after series of wars. These wars had a historic impact on the town. For instance, the leader of the Ibibio warriors who fought the war was captured and slain at Oror village and this is why Oror became the chieftaincy village. Amaikpe Obinkita became the center where these defeated warriors were judged. This is also why all Aro villages assemble at Obinkita during the Ikeji festival. Any village that is not represented is fined by the entire Aro. This still exists as I write.
Arochukwu town has 19 villages namely: (Not alphabetically ordered.) Ugwuakuma, Agbagwu, Utughugwu, Amanmagwu, Ujari, Amasu, Ibom. (These Villages are what is known as Ime Aro). Oro, Obinkita, Amoba, Amankwu, Ugbo, Amukwa, Atani, Isinkpu, Ugwuafor, Amangwu, Asaga, and Amuvi. (These villages sums up the Amuze.) Each of these villages are characterized by their respective cultural displays. For instance, Obinkita village (landlord of all Aro) is known by their masquerades called Ekpo. Atani villages are identified by their Ugboali music, for example madam Mary Kanu. Arochukwu town is divided into three kindred: Okennachi,Ezeagwu and Ibom Isi. These villages are then merged into these three groups due to their migration from one village to another. This inter village migration not only populated Arochukwu but brought internal progression that helped split the villages into different kindred. Note also that EzeAgwu is split into two Umumna Okpara Agwu and Okpara Ezo Agwu.
The population of Aro is approximately 60,000 and every Aro indigene is a proud person due to the fact that we are the cultural chief in all Iboland. Our culture is being exemplarily practiced in all Iboland and this is how the “Aro Okigbo” came about. The slave era found most Aro people migrating to all parts of Nigeria spreading the religion of Aro heritage. This heritage, became adopted by the host in all the cities and towns in Iboland where an Aro man lives. The branch out of Aros to other Iboland, for example, Aro Okporoenyi,Aro Ndizuogu,Aro Ikwere, Aro Yoruba,Aro Ngwa,Aro Izombe,Aro Cameroun,Aro Ajalli,Aro Oru,Aro Nkwesi,etc., did not only personalized the Aros but had an Aro matic effects to the entire Iboland. These Aros that migrated still have a bonding link with the villages they had left behind. The new Yam Festival is a period where all Aro cultures are displayed. The activities of these events are very fascinating and interesting to watch. All villages prepare for this wonderful occasion that starts and ends in September of every year. Any village (s) that is not represented as I mentioned earlier on, will be fined. The place of this meeting is called “Amaikpe Obinkita.”
The American Beauty Pageant has judges who decide the winner of the Pageant. So also, during this festival 19 Judges are appointed including the Eze Aro who will select the best village presentation on the Ekekpe day which is the outstanding day of the festival. These judges will then assemble at Obinkita recording and checkmarking events. At the conclusion of Ekekpe day, the Eze Aro then announces the number one village in the entire town. Also other identifiable villages that host some of these events as per another market day includes: “AKUMANNAOBI” who is from Ugwuakuma village. The Ugwuakuma village host the “MGBAPE AWADA” which signifies the beginning of the New Yam festival (IKEJI) for all Aros. As the events are heated up, every village must pay homage to the Eze Aro by going to Oror village as a group. The Eze Aro in return, will bless them and the village they represents. The “Ekpe Society” is predominantly becoming a domineering factor in Aro whereby if you are not a member, you tend to feel isolated. I vividly remembered my age mates who will proudly come to me and aske “I bakwara Ekpe?” or are you “Ikpoo?”. It is the man’s thing. Besides the Ekpe society, we also have the “OBON” that plays all night.
Mazi Ngozi Ukwu Okoronkwo who hails from Obinkita village contributed this article