By Dennis Agbo
IN 1997, when the then military junta was preparing to return Nigeria to the present democracy, the need arose to delineate each state into three senatorial districts. Enugu state that was formerly two senatorial districts had an issue of how to equitably subdivide the 17 local government councils into three senatorial districts.
The present Enugu North district, previously known as Nsukka zone, had seven LGAs while the old Enugu zone had 10 LGAs. To strike a balance, one LGA needed to be carved out from the old Nsukka zone to reduce it to six LGAs and use that one LGA to make one of the Senatorial districts of old Enugu zone six LGAs, while one of the senatorial zones of the old Enugu zone would have to cope with five LGAs.
Igbo Etiti LGA which is widely agreed as an Ojebogene clan was favourably chosen to return to their kith and kin in Udi to make Enugu West senatorial zone six LGAs. But Igbo Etiti insisted on remaining under Nsukka or Enugu North district. The impasse became an albatross to the state on how to balance the districts. It was in that confusion that the late sage, Odezuluigbo II, the traditional ruler of Nike, HRH Igwe Edward Nnaji spoke loud and quipped, “why are we begging Igbo-etiti while our brothers, Ndi Isi-Uzo are there?”
Isi-Uzo, then led by late Senator Isaiah Ani, was approached and they consented. Igwe Edward in joy of the acceptance and return of their ‘lost kin’ offered that Isi-Uzo should go to the House of Representatives first before Enugu East LGA. That was how Hon Chijioke Edoga emerged as the first representative of Enugu East/Isi-Uzo Federal Constituency in 1999. Since then Isi-Uzo and Enugu East have alternated without dispute in representation of the constituency.
According to the Sages, some communities in Isi-Uzo and Obollo in Udenu are related. Mbu in particular, would point at their left-behind relations at Ugwogo-Nike during the Igbo migration and dispersion. They still point at their family relations in Nike communities such as in Alulu-Nike.
Until Igwe Edward Nnaji passed on, he had always reminded Ikem community about their Ugbene (which Ikem calls Ugbele) accessorial home in present day Nike axis. Ikem has had long relationships with Nkanu communities that several generation mothers of several families in Ikem came from Nike, Ubahu, Nkala-Eha, Obeagu, etc. There are common ancestral deities which many Isi-Uzo communities still commute to worship in many locations of Nkanu till date.
For Neke (Isi-Uzo), both Nike and Neke attest that the present Neke-Agu in Isi-uzo left from Nike-Uno in Enugu East, owing to disagreements and communal disputes of the olden days. Both Neke-Uno and Neke Isi-Uzo still relate till date. Neke has many tentacles such as Umuneke in Udi and Ezeagu. It is in similar manner as Neke that Ukehe and other Ojebogene communities in Igbo Etiti communities are related to Udi. The Odo Neke is adjourned to be the cradle and progenitor of Odo mask in the whole Igbodo (Odo-masking communities), whether in Isi-Uzo, Igbo Etiti, Abor and other Ojebeogene communities in Udi, same as Ngwo.
Origin, now settled, the entire communities in Nkanu land pay homage and reverence to Nike as the elder community which is the reason Nike is always called upon to superintend over kola nut rituals at any function in Enugu or Nkanu land. In Nike, the people agree that Ibagwa-Nike is the elder and accord the community due respect. Ibagwa-Nike community traces its origin to Igala, same as most communities in Nsukka. This is a pointer to the history that the Igbo and Igala are related. It is also a pointer to the fact the people of Enugu state, or Ndi Wawa, are the same people but delineated by political convenience that emanated from colonial rule. It should therefore not surprise anyone that the people of Isi-Izo and Obollo community are related, dialects apart.
In Nkanu land, there are distinct traditional features that make the clan homogenous such as music and dance (Igede, Uboo for instance), festivals, masquerades (Ekpe), names, dialect, worship, among other features that are commonly found in all communities in Enugu East senatorial zone with Isi-Uzo as prominent in preservation and originality. Isi-uzo dialect, for instance, is closest to Nike and Awkunanaw. Indeed, a Man from Amagunze was once reported to have said that “every Nkanu man knows that Ikem is the spiritual headquarters of Nkanu land.”
The above background became necessary in view of some pseudo-writers who now claim to have become more Nkanu or ‘core Nkanu’ than the others. Geographically, Amankanu, which unarguably, and by its name, is the traditional homestead of Nkanuland, is located close to Isi-Uzo.
Regrettably, those ‘Core Nkanu’ have refused to make the place accessible that the people till date use Neke through Umualor to get to their community. Schools and hospitals they attend are in Isi-Uzo and other Nkanu communities such as Obeagu and Nkalagu (Nkanuagu) ceded to Ebonyi state. Those parts of ‘Core Nkanu’ know their origin better than this writer but the question that suffices is: If Nike is settled as the cradle of Nkanuland and the same Nike attest to Isi-Uzo as its neighbor where then lays the ‘core Nkanu’ claim?
As the 2023 elections draw nearer, political manoeuvring is accepted, but not twists of history. Isi-Uzo was earlier ceded to the Nsukka zone because of its location in the Igbo North-East. While in Nsukka, Isi-Uzo asserted itself and on its return to origin has been playing indispensable political and cultural roles. The core Nkanu, as claimed, have held and still hold dominant positions in Enugu East senatorial zone, it is time to fully reintegrate Isi-Uzo that has the blessing of relationships with all divides of Enugu state.