Amuvi Throne in History

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As at date, the two most authoritative written accounts on Amuvi history were provided by Elder Jonathan Nwagba Oji and Professor Chris Aniche Okorafor. The two authors substantially agreed on the events that led to the founding of Ogo Amuvi but vehemently disagreed on timing, circumstances and roles assigned to our progenitors. However, of material significance is the fact that Professor Chris Aniche Okorafor came very close to indicating the exact period Amuvi city state was founded. Arriving at a determinable time frame is necessary in tracing the Amuvi royal tree. In fact, the best method to approach the history of Amuvi throne is to lay out the royal list from recognizable time of certitude. This effort is therefore, based on the account by Professor Okorafor with the conviction to the effect that Amuvi was founded about 1630 – 31 by the two brothers – Mazi Oti Oke and Umahi Nlenanya.

His postulations relied heavily on the extensive research of Professor M B Abasiattai of the University of Calabar. The learned Professor had in his work on the “History of Cross River State” determined a mean reign of 11.8 years for our neighbors, the Efik’s king-lists. Taking a cue from that, available evidence indicates that the first to occupy Eze Ogo Amuvi throne is Mazi Itigbe Nwosu. He was succeeded by his son, Eze Ogo Oji Nwosu. When Oji Nwosu passed on, the seat was due to Mazi Okoroji Mgbavor but Amuvi opted for an educated gentleman who made great sacrifices for its development – Eze Ogo Revered A O Anicho. The line was restored at his death to Eze Ogo Cyprian Oti. Then came the very brief reign of Eze Ogo Okoronkwo Oji Nwosu of the lineage of Oji Nwosu. This brings us to the present – Eze Ogo Thomas Nlenanya Okoroji of the lineage of Okoroji Mgbavor. There is an unsubstantiated case of one Mazi Ijeoma from Okereke-Ijeukwu who once sat on Amuvi throne. We do not have detail about this particular Eze Ogo? Further research is therefore, required to confirm this information and also determine when exactly in history the first Eze Ogo ascended the throne, the years each of them ruled, and other important matters pertaining thereto. Our objective presently is to sensitize readers and cause additional inquiry on the matter. Individuals with useful information should please, forward written memos to any member of the editorial board of Aro News Newspaper. Excerpts from the work of Professor Chris Okorafor which was referred to above is reproduced here for guidance. Details are available in Vols. 1 & 2 of Perspectives in Aro History & Civilization by Mazi Azubike Okoro & Mazi Ben Ezumah, currently on sale:

“… Population growth and improved security, led to the entry of three children of Oke-Nnachi namely Oti, Ezuma and Abiara, into the Amamgba community. At this point, Ngwu and Mkpu the children of Eze Jaka had moved quarters to found the present day Amangwu and Isimkpu. The subsequent settlement of what was to become Amuvi is by this remnant group of Oke-Nnachi lineage domiciled in Amamgba namely, Oti, Ezuma and Abiara. From known genealogies of generation, and using the standard archaic phraseology, Ipia begat Nnachi. Nnachi begat Oke and Oke begat Oti, Ezuma and Abiara. Oti begat Ezuma the father of Ota. Ota begat Okoronkwo and his brother Okereke. Okoronkwo begat Esomonu who is also known as Orimma. Tracing the roots of Esomonu down to our own time is easy. From the age of his descendants and associates, some of whom saw Aro surrender to the massive British invasion, his age has been objectively established with a very insignificant margin of error. It must be pointed out that there are at least two Ezuma=s within this root trace. The one is Ezuma Oke, and the other is Ezuma Oti. The situation of the Ezuma in the name Bianko Nnaezuma has not been easily resolved, it is though accepted that as is evident today in Amuvi, the name Ezuma was also in the past, repetitively a popular name. Consequently, it has been hypothesized that Bianko Nnaezuma, must be one of the junior half-brothers or cousins of Oke Nnachi.

Of Oke Nnachi’s several children, only three of his male children are directly relevant in our further discussion on the founding of Amuvi. Of these Oti Oke and Ezuma Oke were of the same mother while Abiara was of another of Oke’s several wives. As their families grew, they spread from Amamgba to cover the present Asaga. The principal Aro trade route to the Igbo heartland was through this City State, a prominence it was to later loose with the founding of Amuvi. The initial habitation of Asaga was therefore attributable to these three brothers and explains the land tenure and ownership structure among the Umuoti kindred in Asaga and Amuvi. As persons moved with their families to new habiliments, the remnants of the initial and expanded inhabitants of Amamgba now consisted principally of the homesteads of Ezuma Oke and Umahi Nlenanya. Continuing population pressures on the land and increased security to Aro Confederacy, created a demand and opportunity for the Amamgba community to migrate to a more spacious land track. Ezuma Oke and Umahi Nlenanya thereupon moved further north of Amamgba, beyond Asaga and the Nwanne flood plain to the promontory which is today Ogo-Amuvi. In time this settlement expanded. It was though initially not recognized as a City State separate and distinct from Asaga. Its liabilities and obligations as well as its rights and privileges were derived from that of its root stock – Asaga. Subsequent wealth and population increases led to the development of more compounds (ezi) from the initial Nde Ezuma Oke and Nde Umahi Nlenanya both separately also known as Eziukwu and Ugwogo. These two names were not derived from the name of any individual. The one related to the senior member of the founding siblings B Ezi Ukwu (the large compound), while the other related to the topography of the initial habitation B Ugwu Ogo (the hilltop city state). Ugwogo for ease of administration arising from increasing homesteads, was split in time into five compounds, namely. Nde Umahi Nlenanya, Nde Okoro Mgbo, Nde Obia, Nde Onyike, and Nde Igweoti. When the community demanded autonomous City State status, the principles of Aro democratic principles necessitated the creation of one more compound. It was the basic principle of Aro governance that for a majority opinion to be established the number of voters has to be odd, otherwise there could arise such a spilt as not to afford any side a winning vote. Ezinta was thereupon created from Eziukwu around the personality of Esomonu Okoronkwo Ota, to make up the present Ezi-Asaa Amuvi.

If we accept that Oti Oke was initiated into itinerant trade when he was between age fifteen and twenty one, then by the time he was between forty and fifty, he would have accumulated such experience and capital as to have control over a sizable team of trade assistants and trainees. At this stage, it is usual for the merchant to now settle down and delegate his children and trusted assistants to the trips, markets and trade fairs management routines. At fifty also, the aging process delimits his ability for long journeys and the consequent inconveniences of sleeping in varying locations on successive days of the trip. It is therefore definite that at this stage, which is about 1630 that Oti Oke and Umahi Nlenanya must have planned and executed their permanent and independent residency away from Amamgba. This is the age at which our neighboring Cross River Igbo communities retire from the routine tasks of their age grade (Ugba Uche) and settle do`wn with other elders in the council huts of wisdom to plan and monitor activities related to the welfare of their communities. The point to be made here is that by the year 1630, Mazi Oti Oke and Umahi Nlenanya were by no means neither hunters nor farmers. Aro ascendancy renaissance were at this time at the prime of its life cycle. Trade routes and settlements had been well established to the coastal cities as well as to the brinks of Igbo heartland. He and his siblings were very much engaged with the very profitable enterprise of the period. It is therefore incorrect to assign to either of them, the demeaning duty of foraging in the forest or the primitive occupation of hunter-gatherer. The land area north of Asaga and across the Nwanne River lay by the route to Bende. All its topography including the Iyi Ivara and Iyi Ocha, were already known to Aro not later than ten years from the 1534 Ibibio war. Oti Oke and Umahi Nlenanya were both wealthy and noble merchants of the lineage of Oke Nnachi. They co-founded Ogo Amuvi about ninety-six years from the lbibio War, while at the same time retaining their rights and privileges within their root community, Asaga. The creation of Otusi Bianko consisting of only Asaga and Amuvi, was thereafter a confirmation and ratification of this ancient relationship…”

About author

Azubike Okoro

Mazi Azubike Okoro holds two Master’s degrees - Sociology and Human Resource Management- and Doctorate of Management of Argosy University, Chicago, USA. A Fellow of Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, he is Member, Nigeria Institute of Management; Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) USA and International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), USA. Currently Deputy Director at Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), he founded Aro News in 1997 to encourage research on the culture, history and civilization of Arochukwu nation. Also, he was the pioneer Publisher/Editor-in-Chief until December, 2006. Dr. Okoro is married with children and currently resides at Abuja, Nigeria.

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