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Historical Enugwu-Ukwu

HISTORY AND TRADITIONAL STRUCTURE OF ENUGWU-UKWU

Enugwu-Ukwu is made up of partrilineages of different levels, minimal, minor, major and maximal. Maximal patrilineages are grouped into villages, and villages grouped into village-groups. Village-groups are named and grouped into Ifite and Akaezi, and Ifite is grouped into Ifite enu and Ifite ana. These terms have two connotations derived from geo-territorial and chronological formations. The earliest villages in terms of time of formation are generally lumped as Ifite. The Ifite enu are the first to be formed. They also occupy the higher ground while the Ifite ana are the next to emerge and occupy the lower ground.

The Akaezi groups are the last to be formed and the last to settle; and they occupy the lowest ground. After this initial formation, inter-village migrations and alliances generated by other factors such as kinship, land pressure, and division of labour began and caused changes in places of residence of individuals of some members of a segment of the lineages. These later movements complicate the initial residential pattern. Enugwu-Ukwu settlement and its residential pattern are not static. They are dynamic. The dynamism is reflected in the historical antecedent of each linage, village and village-groups.

Ifite enu of Enugwu-Ukwu comprise three village-groups of Osili, Awovu and Urukpaleke (see table 1 and genealogy Chart Fig. 1). Ifite Ana comprises Uruogbo, Urualo, Ire, Umuokpaleri, Oraoffia, Uruokwe, Umuakwu, Umuatulu, Umuatuora, Akiyi, and Enuagu. Table 1 models the arrangement thus:

Table 1: The Dual Organization of Enugwu-Ukwu
Dual Structure Village Groups Village  
Ifite Enu Isionye
  • Osili
  • Awovu
  • Urukpaleke
  • 2 Major lineages
  • 3 Major lineages
  • 3 Major lineages
Ifite Ani Ebeteghete
  • Uruogbo
  • Urualo
  • Uruokwe
  • Umuakpaleri
  • Ire
  • Umuatuora
  • Umuatulu
  • Umuakwu
  • Enuagu
  • Akiyi
Not available yet
Akaezi
  • Orji (na)
  • Urunnekwo
 
  • Uruekwo (na)
  • Avomimi
Maximum lineages

Akaezi is grouped into two. Oji village groups with Urunnebo village. In social action they are regarded as a unit. The other group is Uruekwo with Avomini, who also act as one. Enugwu-Ukwu is one of the many Igbo towns characterized by what is refereed to in anthropological literature as the dual organization whereby the whole town is grouped into two sub-groups which are again grouped into two for purpose of orderly action at the social, political, economic and religious spheres of activities. These divisions reflect their age or time of formation in the territorial and genealogical structure.

The dual system also sub-divides into quarter system which is simply another mathematical way of re-arranging the dual system into four for social action when rights and duties to share have thinned down to the barest minimum. The British adopted the quarter system between 1914 and 1950.

Table 2: The Quarter System of Enugwu-Ukwu
Ifite

Ifite Enu

  • Osili
  • Awovu
  • Urukpaleke

Ifite Ani

  • Uruogbo
  • Urualo
  • Uruokwe
  • Umuakpaleri
  • Ire
  • Umuatuora
  • Umuatulu
  • Emuakwu
  • Enuagu
  • Akiyi
Akaezi
  • Oji na
  • Urunnebwo
  • Uruekwo (na)
  • Avomimi

The dual structure and the quarter structure tell the same story. What story do they tell? It is the story of Igbo concept of inequality and equality, of what is senior and what is junior, of what is original and old and of what is new and accepted, of what is kingly, eze, and of what is ordinary ofeke, of what is high and what is low. The dichotomy in Enugwu-Ukwu needs explanation to understand the salient but powerful political and kinship symbolism the dual organization and the quarter structure stand for. It is a reflection of Enugwu-Ukwu social spatial geography, genealogical space, seniority structure, leadership role, and group ritualization. It is undemocratic to restructure Enugwu-Ukwu into fourty-four villages without a referendum.

These dual and quarter structures are based on the indisputable and unwritten constitution and custom and tradition of Enugwu-Ukwu. For example, wherever there is something for the whole of Enugwu-Ukwu to share, it is divided into two parts. Ifite chooses one half first and Akaezi takes the second half. By this, Ifite divides the half into another two. Ifite enu takes first and Ifite ana takes the remaining half. Similarly, the half taken by Akaezi is divided into two; Uruekwo with Avomimi will take first while Orji and Urunnebo take the other half. This method of sharing is similar to the one described among southern Igbo and adequately analyzed by the anthropologist Uchendu (1975). This type of reciprocal relationship of equality and inequality, seniority and subordination, old and new, kingly and ordinary in Igbo land is a typical Igbo philosophy of the "king in every man" which was well studied by the anthropologist Henderson (1972) in his Onitsha Igbo work.

This mode of sharing in Enugwu-Ukwu based on reciprocal relationship is an ancient phenomenon and strongly corroborates the genealogical seniority and ascendancy of Osili and its related lineages as shown in figure 1. It is strong and incontrovertible evidence that Osili village is the head of Enugwu-Ukwu structure. Its position as the Isi ana Enugwu-Ukwu was not a cephalous. It had a head recognized by all Enugwu-Ukwu.

As afore mentioned, by AD 1025 the first three sets of Nri's children had founded the settlement of Osili from which Enugwu-Ukwu descended. Nawfia and Enugwu-Agidi followed in formation. Let us reconstruct, using the oral tradition, the present territorial and genealogical disposition what happened in history to the formation of Enugwu-Ukwu.

The genealogical figure I shows that the ancestor of Enugwu-Ukwu was Nri (Ifikuanim) who gave birth to Okpala Nnakana, also called Kanu Ukabia Okpala Nnakana gave birth to Isi Onye, and Isi Onye begot Agu, and Agu begot Osili and Awovu. Osili gave birth to Akama and Ovum. Akama was the senior line who gave birth to Akpolum and Agbakwu (of the same mother) and Okpeche (of another mother) and Etibu from Abba who joined the Akama line. The Osili lineages own and still keep custody of the Enugwu-Ukwu earth cult, ana and ofo Enugwu-Ukwu which is the symbol of headship. This fact is accepted and held sacred by every one who ought to know this fact in Enugwu-Ukwu and Umu Nri group. The Enugwu Ukwu intelligence reports of 1914 and 1931-34 also record this tradition. So it is not a new formulation. The elders of that period would not have made any mistakes about a fact that remains true up to this day. Once a year, all other subordinate ana which are segments of Enugwu-Ukwu villages, come to ana Enugwu-Ukwu to do homage, acknowledge and commemorate the ancient covenant between holders of village ofo and ana Enugwu. None questions this fact.

Today the lineage group called Isi Onye-nato is made up of Osili, Awovu and Uru-Okpaleke. The Uru-Okpaleke village branched off from Ekwo and so is more related to Uruekwo village group in kinship structure. But in the present covenat they are now glued to Isi Onye group and so are parts of Ifite-Enu group. This needs further explanation to expose the dynamics of lineage segmentation, fission and fusion through alliance, covernant and federation principles: the ancient grund-norm of Enugwu-Ukwu.

About A.D 1253, during the reign of Nribuife, Oneana (Okpala Nri) and Odili lineages broke out of Agukwu Nri, and moved beyond the present Onu Ngene stream. There Oneana begot Nnevo and Ezedike or Ikemere eze. Nnevo begot Egwele and Enie (a woman). Egwele begot Ezenta, Nnevo, Nneovocha, Eduputa, Olime, Egwechika and Dike-Uliji. These lineages form the present Adagbe and Enu Avomimi group of villages. Adagbe Avomimi refers to those living in the valley while Enu Avomimi refers to those living in the higher ground, enu. Later Abatulu migrated from Owa to join Umu Egwelo Nnevo using the ana covenant, thus Umu Abatula became part of Avomimi. Uru Agu is another segment. They came from Umu-Nri Agu in Agukwu Nri at around A.D. 1550. Today, they are an integral part of Avomimi by ana covenant. Then followed Oji from Awatofia who married Enie Nnevo, the sister of Egwele Nnevo. The lineage forms the nucleus of Umu Oji Avomimi. They are part of Ovomimi through mother's-brother sister's-son relationship called Nwadiana-nnamoche and covenanted to ana Enugwu through Egwele. Umu Atuora Avomimi is another segment that emerged from the descendants of a woman called Anlimma whose son, called Atuora, became the progenitor of Umu Atuora. Similarly, Umu Akujimma who dedicated herself and children to a shrine formed the Umu-Akujimma. From this account it is clear that the present Adagbe Avomimi and Enu Avomimi are made up of many maximal lineages founded by Egwele Nnevo Oneana who came from Agukwu-Nri and other lineages from other places that joined the Egwele Nnelo in the covenant that binds them under one ana and ofo Avomimi that are subordinated to ofo and ana Enugwu-Ukwu at Osili.

Let us examine the lineage of Ezedike the brother of Nnevo. Ezedike begot Ekwo and Ekwo begot eight children namely: Kpaoke, Emecheta, Ekpe, Anyafulu, Ochibulu, Obionwu, Osuo and Mbe. The first son, Kpaoke, decided to move and join his material lineage in Isi Onye maximal lineages consisting Osili and Awovu. The three formed what is now called Isi Onye-nato. Isi Onye nato comprises Osili, Awovu and Urukpaleke (derived from kpeoke of Ekwo). So Urukpaleke were once Ekwo in the kinship alliance but in the ana covenant that took place around A.D. 1166, they became part of Isi Onye, and their ofo and ana subjugated to that of Osili. The movement of Kpaoke to Isi Onye left Emechata, Ekpe, Anyafulu, Ochibulu, Obionwu, Osuo and Mbe Lineages to become the major lineages of Umu-Ekwo Enugwu-Ukwu of the present.

The Odili lineage mentioned above had an interesting development. Odili bore Nnebo (Aka) who bore Abari, Okpeche, Ogbu and Ajana Oligbo, each of these developed its lineages. They were later joined by descendants of the child of Nri Ezimilo also called Nnebo. They combine to form the present Urunnebo famous for migrating out of Enugwu-Ukwu to Northern Igboland.

Orji (Oji) village of Enugwu-Ukwu migrated from a village in Agalu Nkita Aku, around the reign of eze Nri Alike and Apia (1677-1700). Eze Nri Ezimilo (1701-1723) had a wife who came from Orji village. She committed abomination by tampering with the ritual meat. She also had a baby that cut his upper teeth first. She was sent back to her people at Orji. This is Agukwu Nri version. Nri Ezimilo died 1723. His wife never returned. She delivered a child called Nnebo. Nnebo became part of Enugwu Ukwu attached to the Orji lineage. Nnebo grew into an independent village that joined the Enugwu-Ukwu federacy through Orji and Odili and through Avomimi by the covenant of ana Enugwu-Ukwu. Hence Avomimi and Uruekwo, Orji and Urunebo are Akaezi in Enugwu-Ukwu (Table 1).

So, kinship and history determine the territorial organization of the various villages in Enugwu-Ukwu. The Ifite Enu is the the oldest to be formed around AD 1025, apart from Urukapleke that came from Ekwo. Ifite ana (Ebe Teghete) followed in formation. They were formed after AD 1020. The last to be formed were Avomimi and Ekwo on one hand and Orji and Urunnebo on the other. Hence they are grouped as Akaezi.

The group of villages called Ifite ana joined the federation of Enugwu-Ukwu at different periods. There are nine villages that came at different times to federate with Osili and take the oath of ana covenant. Each village came with a rock, mkpume, to take the perpetual oath to defend the integrity of Enugwu-Ukwu in the Light Truth. The Ifite ana village groups were originally nine (Ebe Teghete) namely: Uruogbo, Ire, Urualor, Uruokwe Orofia, Umuokpaleri, Umuatulu, Umuakwu, and Umuatuora, It should be noted that in later times Agu and Akiyi lineages moved into the north east of Enugwu-Ukwu to become Enu Agu and Akiyi village groups. They left their founding home to their new homes among the Ifite ana to safeguard against land trespassers at Nise and Nawfia boundaries. They became part of Ifite ana whose number has increased from nine to eleven today.

A hard look at the names of the nine village groups clarifies their internal composition. Those with the prefix, (uru) are generally of mixed origin patrilineally, such as: Uru-alor, Uru-okwe, Uru-Ofia, Uru-ogbo, and Ire (pronounced without the prefix 'Uru'. Those with the pre-fix 'Umu' originated principally from one founding ancestor. Such villages are Umu-Okpalaeri, Umu-Atulu, Umu-Atuora, Umu-Akwu. The founders of each of these villages came to Osili to be covenanted to the founding ana and ofo, and to accept the unwritten treaty of being part of Enugwu-Ukwu. They left their stone, mkpume as evidence of their acceptance morally, legally and religiously.
They came yearly to celebrate ana Enugwu and renew their ancient covenant which is the primary unwritten constitution uniting Enugwu-Ukwu.

In Enugwu-Ukwu federation each village is equal to the other village except with regard to the specialized functions the villages perform.

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This angle of professor Onwuejeoqwu's piece on Enugwu-Ukwu history has been the subject of some controversies and therefore may not be generally accepted as the conclusive account of the origin of our town. No set of people has ever produced a definite history of themselves. Be that as it may, we will rely on what is available till a universally approved account emerges. In placing this account on this site, we urge all not to regard this as and out-right endorsement of the story. What should be uppermost on the minds of all is the search for and sustenance of unity among the components of Enugwu-Ukwu entity. We welcome rejoinders and more stories on this piece.

Furthermore, historians and anthropologist insist that it is better for a people to be with an imperfect history than to have none at all. In this regard we urge all to see this as a challenge, we call on our leaders to encourage and sponsor researches on our history. We urge our people to keep documents of historical relevance and preserve notable antiques and artifacts of our past and present for the future benefits of our town.

-Jude Ekwunife

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