By Dotun Ibiwoye

The debate over the true origin of the Igbo  continued recently when two communities laid claims to being the progenitors. Now, the professionals of Umueri extraction in Anambra East Local Government Area of Anambra State, under the auspices of Greater Umueri Liberation Forum, GULF, debunked the claims by Nri & Aguleri,  saying their town was the ancient Igbo settlement in Omambala valley.

Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh, the traditional ruler of Nri in Anaocha Local Government of Anambra State, had  said the Igbo originated from his community.
GULF described  the claim of the monarch and that of Aguleri as baseless and fallacious.

According to GULF,  the story of the of the  Igbo was first dismissed  by one Elder Ndive Aniegboka, an elder from Umueri, who said  the monarch was being economical with the truth as Umueri was the first area of human settlement before the Igbo of Igala descent migrated.

The group, in its report  endorsed by nine of its members, described  Aguleri & Nri, as erstwhile partners in FOISTERING an inconsistent and inaccurate story on the Igbo  people, which they termed fallacious & misleading. The report was signed by Comrade Biafra Diboh, Chief.Daniel Obi Aninwetalu, Mr.Obi Kachi Nzedigwe, Mr. Titus Ugo Nwoye,  Comrade Sonny Onochie ,  Ms. Purity Nwofia, Mr.Oliver Chinweze, Mr.Chike Nnamdi and Sixtus Chinedu.

Igbo-areaThe group insisted that  majority of the people who make up the Igbo of today were those who came from Israel while the rest migrated from Igala and other places.
According to the group, the founders of  the  earliest settlers of the town are from Eri clan of Israel who left the Israelites during their time in wilderness (post-Egypt exile), migrated from East Jordan towards the Mediterranean Sea and later crossed back to Egypt from there to Ethiopia, then to Southern Sudan from where they sailed through the rivers and finally found themselves in Omambala or Anambra valley where they settled.

“They now named the place after their clan, Umu-Eri, which means children of Eri. The migration was long-time ago before Saul was made King over Israel”, GULF said.
It went on:  “At the new settlement, the culture of Hebrew worshipping, 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.

“The Bini Kingdom also tried introducing its kingship by imposing the Ezes & Onowu but with limited success. However, the Umueri  people resisted the cultural encroachment from them until the colonial  administrators foisted warrant chief system on them.

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. 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 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 artefacts’ 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.

Migration & trace of Umueri people
“The founders of ancient Umueri community was not just a single man and woman as fallacious story peddled around by people, but group of people amongst whom was Eri, a great hunter and warrior from Eri clan of Gad’s tribe of Isreal around I,300BC.(See Gen46:16, Numbers 26:16).

They found themselves in Omambala valley where they settled. Original ancient Umueri people settled amongst basically in all northern Igbo communities notably Nteje(Umueri/Umuevi Nteje), Umueri Awka, Umueri Ogbunike, Umueri Okija, Umunagu- Achala, Amåleri Ichida, Umueri Awkuzu, Umueri Nkwelle Ezunaka.

The Influence of Bini Kingdom
“Another group that impacted its culture on the Omambala people are the Binis known formerly as the Idu in the local parlance. At the height of Bini Kingdom, it  annexed territories at will through conquest, but the emerging communities in Omambala valley through  juju & war charms were able to stop the Binis.

In mutual pact agreed upon, Umueri and other communities in Omambala  communities, through their powerful medicine men & charm makers, provided the needed spiritual support to the Bini Kingdom whose standing army was busy fighting numerous wars during the ancient days.

In reward  for their effort, the Binis rewarded and imposed them as Eze & Onowu Iyasele. This is how all those parading themselves as royal homes in northern part of Igboland emerged. It was not part of our culture and so anyone telling you that at  the death of Eri, his fore fathers became kings and that he is the 100th King of Eri is being far from truth. Our culture has no room for such political stool.

Conclusion
“It’s obvious that the name Umueri (the name by which other Omambala people address Umueri from time immemorial), which literally means “Children of Eri”, is a natural and unbiased nomenclature indicating Umueri special relationship with Eri, even though several attempts have been made in the past to deny Umueri its rightful position as the cradle of Igboland through mispronunciation of our name & heaping of false name as our ancestor.

Archaeologically, the traces of the habitat of the early Igbo settlers are still visible today in Umueri. For Instance, ‘Akpu Nri’ and ‘Okpotoevi’ are still at Ugume Umueri. Akpu Nri is an antiquity of great importance. It’s about half a thousand year old tree located at Ama Iruakpu-Ugume, Umueri. It was said to be founded by founders of early settlers of Agukwu-Nri who left long time ago.

igbomarriage1“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’.

We urge all Igbo historians, scholars & anthropologists of Igbo culture to go the who hag  in unravelling the true ancient map of Umueri town (clan) and also to focus their searchlight on this ancient town of Umueri to study her unique culture and oral tradition which has so far been suppressed deliberately by fallacious works of some authors and writers, who were unable to conquer prejudice and bias, thereby ending  up into distortion of fact”.

Migration & trace of Umueri people

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 our 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. Relationship with Aguleri People Long ago, some of the Aguleri people and Umueri live in ancient Umueri town as a community before the people of Ezi-agulu, Enugu & Onogu migrated into our land from Ibaji in Kogi State. Aguleri which really translates to farmland of Eri (Agu-Eri) just like other farm settlement such as Agu Nneyi (Nneyi’s farmland), 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 umusiolu.

The Inhabitants of Aguleri as presently constituted are immigrants from different places and they met the Okpu people who is been referred as the head Village in 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 Sons 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 of Cow or Goat used for its sacrifice. Apart from the Okpu, the Igboezunu Aguleri was also part of ancient umueri clan as they have blood relationship with Ugume Umueri. Umumba Igboezunu,Aguleri- the Custodian of Ajana Aguleri has 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 Onoja Nwa Oboli’ saw the war brought to an end with treaty dully signed by the Igbos & the Igala.

The Umungalagu of present Aguleri was settle in their present place by the people of Ugume 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 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.

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