By Hugo Odiogor
Reconstruction of social and historical account of African traditional societies is an enterprise that ought to be thriving in an environment that has over the centuries groaned under the perfidy of discovering themselves through the eye of writers outside their cultural experience, but more importantly, at a time when studying history as an academic discipline has been outlawed.
Onicha Ugbo through the centuries, including the authentic origin of Umu- Eze Chime by Dr. Chudi Okwechime can be described as an attempt to knit oral historical account with research into the history, culture, etymology and sociological facts about the people of Onicha-Ugbo within a larger demographic matrix of Umu-Eze Chime in Western part of River Niger, in Delta State.
The author, Dr. Chudi Okwechime, who teaches Mass Communication at Delta State University Ogwashi-Uku, took his departure from his General Studies Course work as an undergraduate at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where the dearth of information on a research work on “The Traditional Social History of a Nigeria Community, ” using his own community, Onicha Ugbo, as a focal point.
The book is 290 pages, which is divided into eight parts, ranging from introduction, the origin of people, the main features of its economy, the social organisation and political system, life circle, philosophy and religion, the growth of Christianity and education and annual ceremonies, especially, the Ine Festival to be concluded with typical programme of the annual ceremonies, appendices, bibliography, maps and charts.
Again, the author’s view on the integration of Agba village into the greater Onicha Ugbo town is illuminating, but the process is bound to leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
The author tried to extricate the people of Onicha Ugbo from the imperial dominance of the Bini Kingdom and Nri hegemony which straddled the minority groups in the west of the River Niger, who are still in search of their socio-cultural and political identity.
The first part of the book therefore takes the reader through the location and physical environment of Onicha-Ugbo, the main villages that make up the town, their world view, sociological matrix, food, music, dance leadership and political structure, the religious rites and cultural totems, economic pre-occupation, dressing, food, music and dance. This is a significant piece of cultural information of the traits that the town share with the other social units that trace their origins to Eze-Chime, in Delta North Senatorial District.
Part two of the book can be described as the historical odyssey of Onicha Ugbo people and the inter-related towns of Obior, Onicha Uku, Onicha-Olona, Issele-Ukwu Issele-Mpitime, Issele Azagba, Ezi, Obomkpa, Onicha-Ukwuani and Aboh. The other towns are in Anambra state especially, Onicha-Ado, Obosi and Ogbaru.
It is a historical account of the various stages of migration that took place from the 14th to 20th century. The author observed that traditional account of the origins of earliest settlers of Onicha-Ugbo and their brethren, the Umu Eze-Chime, are many and varied, and over time, the several versions have been diluted and polluted for reasons of political expediency, (P.17).
Consequently, there are too many theories of the first settlement of the earliest ancestors of the clan and the real identity of Chime. There is unresolved conflict on whether he was a Bini man or an Igbo migrant into the ancient Bini Kingdom.