1.1. Background of Study
The town ‘Awo-omamma’ is dichotomized into two sections – Ofekata and
Eziawo. It covers an area of about 89.2 square kilometres 1
. It is bounded in the
north by Mgbidi and Otulu both in Oru West Local Government Area, and
Amiri community in Oru East Local Government Area; in the east by Okwudor
in Njaba Local Government Area; in the west by Akabu, Awa, and Mgbele
communities in Oguta Local Government Area; and in the south by Eziama
Obiato community in Mbaitolu Local Government Area 2
. The Njaba River
which rises from Isunjaba in Isu Local Government Area of Imo State washes
the southern stretch of the town before it enters into the Oguta Lake 3
On the other hand, the town ‘Amiri’ is bounded in the north by Omuma in Oru
East Local Government Area; in the south by Awo-omamma in Oru East Local
Government Area; in the east by Atta, and Okwudor in Njaba Local
Government Area; and in the west by Otulu in Oru West Local Government
Both communities lay between sixteen and twenty kilometres on the OwerriOnitsha
trunk ‘A’ road5
. They are situated in the present day Oru-East Local
Government Area of Imo State alongside Akata, Akuma, and Omuma
. They possess topographies of level fertile lands.
The towns of Awo-omamma and Amiri situate in a tropical evergreen rainforest
belt and have all the climatic traits of this zone. The plains are low. The
presence of the Njaba River provides the people of these communities with
access to natural water supply.
The towns are characterized with dispersed settlements, with the inhabitants
living in mud houses and very few living in modern houses. Most of these
houses were roofed with corrugated sheets.
Presently, both towns consist of nine autonomous communities - six in AwoOmamma,
and three in Amiri. The autonomous communities in Awo-omamma
include Ofekata I, ruled by HRH Eze Anthony Nnabuo (Ezeudo III of Ofekata
I); Ofekata II, ruled by HRH Eze Bernard Amanfo (Ezeoha IV of Ofekata II);
Ofekata III, ruled by HRH Eze Polycarp Abanukam (Okosisi I of Ofekata III);
Ofekata IV, ruled by HRH Eze Titus Ngimah (Uchekaku I); Eziawo I, ruled by
HRH Eze Leonard Amukamara (Egbuador III of Eziawo I); and Eziawo 11,
ruled by HRH Eze Theophilus Onyenekwu (Imo IV of Eziawo II)
. On the other
hand, Amiri town possesses as autonomous communities Amiri Isu, ruled by
HRH Eze B.N. Igbojekwe (Gedegwum I of Amiri Isu); Amiri Oru, ruled by
HRH Eze D.D. Nnabuo (Igwe III of Amiri Oru); and Umuduruigwemmadu,
ruled by HRH Eze N.N. Obilom (Duruoha IV of Umuduruigwemmadu)
aforementioned traditional rulers have chiefs under them. These chiefs (village
chiefs) alongside the elders wield greater authority than the elected councillors
in these communities.
In addition, there are twenty-three villages in Awo-omamma and Amiri. These
villages make up the nine autonomous communities found in these towns.
Thirteen of these villages (with the exception of Umuelibe “whose recent selfacclaimed
autonomy from Okworji village- a cause being championed by the
Ogbennas, Achiukwus, and Nwakammas, who are known to be wealthy families
in Okworji village- is yet to be recognized”
) are found in Awo-omamma, and
they include Ubogwu (Ofekata I); Ubachima (Ofekata II); Okworji, Umubochi,
(Ofekata III); Umuezeali, Umueme (Ofekata IV); Umuokwe, Obibi, Ohuba
(Eziawo I); and Isieke, Umuezukwe, Ubahaeze, and Umuezike (Eziawo II) 10
while Amiri consists of ten villages to include Ubahazu, Nchoko, Ugbeke,
Amaokpara, Mbubu (Amiri Oru), Umuecheta, Amuka, Isiorie, Umudioka (Amiri
Isu) and Umuduru (Umuduruigwemmadu)11. Under these villages are kindred
(see appendices I and II).
Topographically, both towns have been described as level fertile land. The
traditional occupation of the people is agriculture including fishing on the Njaba
River. Ab initio, an attempt to fish on this river was considered sacrilegious.
This was in line with the belief that the fishes in the river were the property of
Njaba Deity, and consequently were held sacred similar to “the sacred fish of
the Imo River”12. Recently, due to general enlightenment, fishing became an
inevitable economic activity on the Njaba River.
The quest for economic inter-dependence among the people has continuously
encouraged the exchange of goods and services. This was responsible for the
emergence of traders and markets at different locations in the towns of AwoOmamma
and Amiri. Consequently, such markets as Orie Bridge market (which
is currently inexistent), Eke Okworji, Afor Isieke and Nkwo Umuokwe in AwoOmamma,
as well as Orie Amiri in Amiri, emerged. These markets since
emergence have been playing significant roles in strengthening the relationship
between these towns.
Awo-Omamma and Amiri towns are associated with industrialization and
urbanization. This development has encouraged such economic activities as
artisanry, cobbling, bicycle repairing, tailoring, petty trading and bricklaying
among the people. Additionally, there are roadside mechanics, welders,
carpenters and staff of Consolidated Breweries Plc, staff of Afrik
Pharmaceutical Plc, and staff of Nich Ben Group of Companies. Furthermore,
there are equally labourers who sell their services in different forms to
employers in the factories.
More so, sand and gravel excavation along the banks of the Njaba River provide
means of livelihood to many in these towns. This occupation had begun to exist
since the late 1970s13
. It has been serving the structural development needs of
the people of Awo-omamma and Amiri. Block moulding industries in these
towns obtain their sand and gravel needs from the banks of this river - an
activity which has been causing natural disaster such as erosion menace and loss
of lands. Despite these negative implications, sand and gravel excavation has
persisted till date. This is associated with the potentials of the exercise in casual
There exist strong believe in Njaba Deity among the indigenes of AwoOmamma,
and Amiri towns. A reliable source revealed that “the Njaba exists as
a male and a female deity inhabiting the famous Njaba River”
. The deity is
regarded as the highest divinity after the Supreme Being. It is also believed to
possess its agents such as mermaids and mermen and other deities ministering
The Njaba is represented by a totem personified in a harmless snake - Eke
Njaba, which is held sacred. Even the Christians and intellectuals have not
completely renounced the belief in the sacredness of this snake. For instance, in
Awo-Omamma, strong belief in the sacredness of the Eke-Njaba exists in the
lives of notable Christians and intellectuals like Dr. B.U Nzeribe, the first
principal of the famous Comprehensive Secondary School, Awo-Omamma;
Prof. George Obiozor, the former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of
America; and Prof. Vincent Okeke, Head of Department French Language, Imo
State University, Owerri. Departed icons of the community such as late Chief
D.N. Akuneme (one time Commissioner in the Imo State Public Service
Commission), and Prof. L.O. Obibuaku (one time Head of the Department of
Agricultural Economics/Extension, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and
Commissioner in the Ukpabi Asika’s East Central State), equally had strong
belief (prior to their departure) in the sacredness of the aforementioned
. In a similar vein, notable Christians like Inspr. Evans Nwakonobi of
Amiri town equally holds a strong believe in the sacredness of the snake16
On the other hand, there exists an inter-village relationship in both towns. The
villages are closely webbed together in affinal bonds via the practice of lineage
exogamy and clan endogamy. Genealogy is traced from the father’s side
because the descent system is patrilineal, and inheritance is also from the
father’s side. However, a person’s relationship with his maternal side is very
cordial. The festivals celebrated in these towns (as we shall see in the
subsequent chapters) offer the people the best opportunity to go back to their
heritage, renew old ties, draw inspirations for the future, and enhances cordial
relationship between members of the communities.
1.2. Scope of Study
This research work analyses the post-civil war relations between communities
in Igbo land with the case study of Awo-Omamma and Amiri communities in
Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State. The information provided in
this thesis covers the period from 1970 which marks the end of the
Nigeria/Biafra Civil War.
Similar to most communities in Igbo land, the thirty-month civil war in Nigeria
obstructed the various socio-cultural activities which had contributed in
fostering pacific relations between the aforementioned communities. An
example of such activity was the Owu festive period celebration. However, the
celebration of the first post-civil war Owu festive period which stretched from
mid-May to mid-August 1970 was a remarkable event that saw the reestablishment
of the relations which existed between these communities prior to
the outbreak of the Ngeria/Biafra Civil War. On this note therefore, the
researcher intends to assess the nature of the post-civil war relations between
1.3. Statement of Problem
As a discipline in academic institutions, the study of History has always
involved national, continental and world topics. Apparently, there seems to be a
neglect of local histories. As a result, many young historians are deficient in
information on immediate local histories. However, this thesis is considered
necessary in view of the fact that certain conflicting cultural practices exist
between communities in Igbo land despite their socio-cultural cooperation and
interaction. Thus, as case study, part of such conflicting cultural practice in the
relations of Awo-Omamma, and Amiri was captured on the area of Osu caste
system. However, while the discriminatory practice against the Osu people still
holds firm (especially on the area of marriage and title taking) in AwoOmamma,
such practice is not strong in Amiri community. This adversely
affects the existing inter-community relations between the aforementioned
On this note, therefore, the researcher intends to reveal to the general public the
existence of these conflicting practices in the aforementioned communities. This
is necessary because, many are ignorant of the fact that differences in belief
systems can be conflictual to communities in their relations with one another.
1.4. Theoritical Framework
The Mutual Aid Theory
The field of inter-group relations is ample of theories, but as it affects this study,
the mutual aid theory is adopted. The reason behind the adoption of a theoretical
framework for a study is not only anchored on providing the study with a
foundation, it equally presents (with a systematic view), explains, and predicts a
phenomenon. Consequently, the aforementioned theory is deemed the most
expounding for this study.
The mutual aid theory emphasises on cooperation as a significant factor for the
survival of species. Propounded by Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1842-1921)-
a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, and philosopher, the theory
maintained that it was an evolutionary emphasis on cooperation that made for
the success of species, including humans. Furthermore, the theory explored the
widespread use of cooperation as a survival mechanism in human societies
through their many stages. Such cooperation in most cases is affected by the
power structure and the norms of these societies. As part of human society, thus,
such cooperation is captured in the post civil war economic, social, and cultural
relations of Awo-Omamma, and Amiri communities in Oru East Local
Government Area of Imo State.
1.5. Purpose of Study
Research work, as an academic exercise, is expected to be significant and
meaningful. Making an addition to the existing body of knowledge constitutes
the aim of this exercise. Also, this work is embarked upon with the purpose of
enriching the historiographies of Awo-Omamma, and Amiri communities. In
addition, friendly neighbouring relations can be fostered via a better
understanding of socio-cultural affinities.
Furthermore, this study equally aims at divulging the impact of the relationship
between the two aforementioned communities. Getting acquainted with the
cultural practices and identifying the flaws in the existing relationship between
these communities equally constitutes additional aims of the researcher.
1.6. Significance of Study
This study provides additional knowledge to the myriads of literatures on intercommunity
relations in Igbo land. With a case study on Awo-Omamma and
Amiri communities, this study reveals various socio-cultural practices which
have been playing tremendous roles in strengthening the relations of the
In addition, this study will immensely guide any student or researcher who
intends to carry out a research work on any of the aforementioned communities
as it contains adequate information on these communities. Furthermore, the
study will not only act as an instrument of revelation to the Nigerian populace
on the existence of these communities within the Nigerian polity but also will
educate them on the communities’ various socio-cultural practices which might
differ from those within their scope of knowledge.
1.7. Literature Review
Reviewing the works of other scholars in an attempt to undertake a related task
has been a common routine among researchers. Thus, without the views of
intellectual predecessors and mentors, no product is considered academic or
In relation to the context of this study, A.E. Afigbo was of the view that the
influence of Benin spread up to the western Igbo area. This was against the
view of some Edo writers like Jacob Egharevba. In addition, the book was able
to stress out other socio-cultural interactions between the Igbo and their Edo
While commenting on the economic and commercial relations in the Niger
Delta, Obaro Ikime omitted the fact that beneath economic and sociocommercial
relations lay age-long socio-cultural ties even prior to the coming of
. On the other hand, J.C Anene observed that the political
boundaries created by the Europeans are artificial20. He further maintained that
“even though these artificial boundaries separated ethnics, socio-cultural factors
continue to bring them together in form of inter-marriage”
It has been revealed by A.B Aderibigbe that the Yoruba, Igbo, and Benin had
influence on one another22. He further contended that “the impact of the Yoruba
on the Bini is beyond dispute”23. However, the answer to the question as to
whether there were areas of cultural conflicts between these people was omitted
in this study.
The need to create a community of economic interest, cultural crossfertilization,
as well as free social intercourse and association among African
states was emphasized by the late President Tubman of Liberia24
. His ideas
might be precise but it should be noted that cultural cross-fertilization can
survive where less cultural conflicts exist. In reality, cultural conflicts get in the
way of cultural cross-fertilization. Kenneth Grundy, on the other hand, observed
that Africans celebrate success with their kits and kin25. However, it could be
noted from his study that he was ignorant of what Africans call abomination
within their cultural context.
It has been divulged by C.C Ifemesie that a wider-layer of similarity in symbols
and rituals exist among the West African peoples26. He further contended that
diversities result from adaptation to peculiar environment27. Therefore, it should
be noted that peculiarity of cultures indicates aspects of cultural conflicts.
Commenting on the preservation of cultural items by the Igbo, and the Igala,
which are identical to both groups, Ade Obayemi in his study stressed the view
that there exists an institution, Attama, among the Igbo villages of Nsukka
region and their Igala neighbours28. But the study failed to realize the possibility
in the existence of cultural conflicts between these two groups owing to the fact
that they are of different ethnicity.
While establishing an account on the early political organization of Onitsha and
Oguta, Michael Omolewa noted that “…the political arrangement in Benin had
some influence on the evolution of the institutions of Onitsha and Oguta”
Such influence must have resulted from the early contacts which had existed
between these groups of people. This was omitted in the study.
In his study, Ikwuoma C. Anezi uncovers that Orlu/Umuna relations involved
inter-marriages30. It should thus be pointed out that inter-marriages exist despite
conflicts. On another note, Gerald C. Nwobu was of the view that the people of
Amandugba and their neighbours had other forms of peaceful get-together
despite their involvement in inter-village wars which broke out among the
T.N. Tamuno pointed out in his study that, apart from political and cultural
contacts, there were also important commercial links existing among the
peoples of the Niger-Benue confluence32. It should therefore be noted that there
must have equally existed cultural conflicts underneath these links. This was
omitted in this study.
Theresa Acholonu has revealed in her work that there exist inter-marriage
between Nkwerre and her neighbours. This practice is attributed to the early
contact between these people. Other consequences of such contact include
I.J Iwu, in his study, stressed the view that dances contribute immensely in
enhancing the socio-cultural relations among various group of people in Oru
division. However, it should be noted that cultural conflicts constitute an aspect
of inter-group relations34
A contribution by E.J Alagoa proposes that there exist close historical relations
and cultural contacts between the Efik, Ibibio, and other peoples of Cross
. It should therefore be noted that the existence of cultural contact does
not mean the absence of cultural conflict. In actual fact, such conflict which was
not mentioned in the study must have existed.
Commenting on the relationship between Cross River people and other
communities, John Okoro revealed as a form of interrelations the existence of
inter-marriage between Ihechiowa and the people of Cross River 36. It should
therefore be noted that adherence to established customs forms a major basis for
contracting inter-marriages. Such inter-marriages are discarded with the
development of conflicts.
Commenting on the political setting of Nigeria, Ikenga R.A. Ozigbo in his study
was of the view that the well known two hundred and forty (240) ethnic groups
which have been in existence long before Nigeria came into being did not coexist
in total isolation37. According to him, these ethnic nationalities “…had
thrown up mutually beneficial commercial and social relationships with their
respective neighbours”38. However, it should be noted that there must have
existed cultural conflicts underneath these links. This was omitted in the study.
While studying the people of south eastern Nigeria, C.C Ifemesia revealed that
there exists a connection between the people of Nembe, and the Itsekiri.
Quoting E.J Alagoa, he maintained that these two groups of people “have…
always been on the very closest terms of friendship with, and have never made
war on each other”39
. However, it should be noted that war is an aspect of intergroup
Still on his study of the people of south eastern Nigeria, C.C. Ifemesia made
known of the fact that there has been in existence long before the nineteenth
century a close relationship between the people of Okirika, and those of
. In addition, he also maintained that the people of Okirika likewise
Bonny has equally maintained intermarriage contact with their Igbo
. This study however is silent on the possibility of the existence of
cultural conflicts between these groups of people.
George Peter Murdock while studying the East African Hunters revealed that
The influence of local exogamy has been responsible
for the existence of the singular cultural uniformity
among the African hunters of East Africa. This
cultural uniformity is found in their technological
achievements; and social organization which reveals
such widespread common features as a uniform
division of labour by sex, marriage by gifts or at most
a very moderate bride price, patrilocal residence, the
practice of sororate and levirate, and absence of
slavery and differentiated social class42
However, in as much as there is cultural uniformity, there equally exists cultural
differences among the aforementioned groups. These cultural differences as
pointed out in the study are seen in the areas of hunting, fishing, and
subsistence gathering activities 43
Still on his study of the East African Hunters, George Peter Murdock pointed
out that “…the Dorobo, Sandawe, and Sanye have adopted exogamous
patrisibsfrom their Negro or Cushitic neighbours”44. There could be other
consequences of such contact between these groups. This was neglected in this
While studying the early states of Nigeria prior to the nineteenth century, G.I.C.
Eluwa et al made known of the fact that there existed an institution of divine
kinship between the Zaghawa, and their Tebu neighbours. Furthermore, they
equally posited that there also existed a good business link between these two
groups 45. However, the study neglected the fact that there equally could have
possibly existed cultural conflicts between these two groups courtesy of ethnic
Basil O. Njoku noted that there exists an economic relation between the Igbo,
and their Ijaw/Ibibio neighbours. In his words, “economic transactions existed
between the Igbo and Ijaw/Ibibio on the aspect of river rain products and other
46 The writer however was unable to recognize the
possibility of the existence of cultural conflicts underneath this link based on
the fact that the groups involved are different ethnic groups.
1.8. Conceptual Clarification
Awo-omamma: A town situated in the present day Oru East Local Government
Area of Imo State.
Amiri: A town situated in Oru East Local Government of Imo State. It bounds
Awo-omamma to the north.
Owu: An annually celebrated cultural dance festival in Awo-omamma, and
Amiri towns. The festival commences by June and ends by July every year. It is
the climax of the Owu festive period which stretches from mid-May to midAugust.
The festival is said to have lasted for over two hundred (200) years
with all elements which induce social integration. It constitutes of three (3)
types of dance: Owu Abuba, Owu Oma, and Owu-Ulo-Akwa.
Alinkwo, Utumiri, Okija Okwu, and Afara: These were socio-military blocs
comprising of villages in Awo-omamma.
Njaba: The name of the deity respected, and worshipped in Awo-omamma, and
Amiri towns. The deity is equally respected in other towns in Oru division.
Eke-Njaba: A snake owned by the Njaba deity. It is neither touched nor killed.
This snake is held sacred by the people of Awo-omamma, and Amiri towns. It is
believed to be the representative of the deity in the midst of the people.
Okorosha: A cultural masquerade whose presence usually marks the nearness to
the end of the Owu festive period in both communities.
Ofo: A symbol of authority in every family or lineage in both communities.
Nkwo-Manamiri: A small market located near present day Umuezeali village in
Ofekata III autonomous community, Awo-omamma. It maintains a daily market
Orie Okworji: Formerly known as Eke Okworji is a small market with a daily
market statue located at Okworji village in Ofekata III autonomous community,
Nkwo Umuokwe: A major market in Awo-omamma located at Umuokwe village
in Eziawo I autonomous community. It operates only on nkwo market days.
Ogwoyiri: The native bridge across the Njaba River.
Afor Isieke: A major market in Awo-omamma located at Isieke village in
Eziawo II autonomous community. It operates only on afor market days.
Orie Amiri: The central market in Amiri town which operates only on orie
Afor Ubahazu: A small market located at Ubahazu village in Amiri Oru
autonomous community, Amiri.
Iwara Njaba Nji: This is an exercise usually carried out in favour of the Njaba
deity on the nkwo market day, within the new yam festive period in AwoOmamma
and Amiri communities. It is usually done before the proper
celebration of the new yam festival. It involves offering sacrifices to the Njaba
deity with items like fowls, yams, and rams, on the bank of the Njaba River, or
at the different intermediate shrines of the deity within these communities.
Ozo: A traditional title in Awo-omamma, and Amiri communities, as well as
other communities in Igbo land. The holder of this title is referred to as Nze in
the aforementioned communities, while his wife is called Lolo.
Okpu nwa-gwara: The cap of an Nze in the aforementioned towns which
comprises of red, white, and black colours arranged horizontally on it.
Okwu-kwu: The stool of an Nze.
Ufo: The inner-chamber of an Nze in Awo-omamma, and Amiri communities.
Eze-Ikpe: Titled chiefs in Awo-omamma during the colonial era.
Ogwumabiri: The general name for small markets in Awo-omamma town.
Eke Achara: A small market located at Umuajara kindred in Ubogwu village in
Ofekata I autonomous community of Awo-omamma. The market maintains a
daily market statue.
Ogubie: A small market located at Ubachima village in Ofekata II autonomous
community of Awo-omamma. This market equally maintains a daily market
Ichu Ofia Ughammiri: A hunting expedition practiced in Awo-omamma which
is believed to have been introduced into the town by the Awo-Idemili settlers-
the supposed first settlers in Awo-omamma. This hunting expedition marks the
beginning of cultural calendars of Awo-omamma.
Mmiri Umu Ewi: A small body of water located at the boundary of Ubahazu
village in Amiri town, and a part of Otulu town. Both towns are situated in Oru
East, and Oru West Local Government Areas of Imo State respectively.
Ama John Nwaochia: Presently known as Amiri junction is located at Nchoko
village, Amiri. The area where this junction is located was formerly under the
territory of Otulu but falls under the territory of Amiri after the occupation of
the area by the descendants of Nchoko.
Orie Omuma: A central market in Omuma town in Oru East Local Government
Area which operates only on Orie Market days.
Osu: “A person who is specially consecrated to a spirit that has a shrine. He is
symbolically immolated, and then left to live on as a child or a slave of his
47 (Alusi is the deity that lives in the shrine). He is regarded as “…a thing
set apart- a taboo forever and his children after him. He could neither marry nor
be married by a free born…”48 He is connected with the deity in a special way
as opposed to the ordinary free born under natural and normal circumstances of
his personal god 49
Owu Council: An assembly of Owu cult functionaries from different villages
which are operative in Amiri, and Awo-Omamma respectively.
Olokoloja: Also called Ebule Nwaolokoroja, is a dancer with the feature of a
masquerade which is presented by the office of Ada-Owu as one of her dancers
during the Owu-Oma dance.
Agalaga: An elongated structure used as a head-dress which forms part of the
costume for an Owu Oma dance.
In other to achieve stated objectives in research, meticulous approach in terms
of methodology becomes necessary. In other words, it is an evidence of
scholarship should the researcher utilize a wide-range of sources.
In view of the above, historical methodology was adopted in this research work
where the researcher utilized available sources of information. They include
primary sources (oral tradition), secondary sources (unpublished written
sources), and tertiary sources (published written sources). In addition, available
information from newspapers, magazines, and the internet were equally utilized
in this study.
The reason behind the adoption of oral sources was to clarify the areas
unexplained by written sources which were unclear and hard to understand. In
addition, some of the socio-cultural practices of pre-colonial times which play
tremendous roles in enhancing the relationship between Awo-omamma, and
Amiri communities are still in use.
With the above process, the researcher achieved a critical assessment of sources
bearing in mind the limitations of sources. Data gathered from written sources
such as books, newspapers, magazines, unpublished projects, as well as the
internet were thoroughly verified prior to usage.
The Origin of Awo-omamma, and Amiri Communities
According to M. Onwudiegwu “a traditional history of a given people forms
part of their thought system and social life”1
. With this therefore, it has been
deemed necessary in this study for the origin of Awo-omamma, and Amiri
people to be studied. This will assist in revealing why there has been immense
cordiality in the relationship between the two aforementioned groups of people
which forms the topic of discussion of this thesis.
2.1. Origin of Awo-omamma Community.
Starting with Awo-omamma, one can safely assert from the weight of evidence
available that just like the traditions on the origin of the Igbo the traditions on
the origin of Awo-omamma have been perplexing and enigmatic. This can be
attributed to the non-conclusive evidence regarding the origin or genealogy of
With regards to the above assertion on the Igbo origin, one can recall that there
had been established various story versions regarding the genealogy of the Igbo.
This according to E. Ilogu is attributable to “...the absence of helpful records or
archaeological findings by which the people can determine the date of
settlement or place of origin.”
Consequently, there is the autochthony tradition which suggests that the Igbo
have been where they are located now since the beginning of time, and that they
have remained in their present area without being immigrants since they
occupied a kind of established position territorial wise3
. This tends to support
the views of D.D. Hartle who posits that “archaeology indicates that the Igbo
were in occupation of parts of south-eastern Nigeria by 2000-3000 B.C.”
This position equally buttresses the claims of an elderly man whom Isichei
quoted as saying in an interview that “we do not come from anywhere and
anyone who tells you we came from anywhere is a liar”.
A second tradition- the External migration tradition- asserts that the Igbo
descended from the Jews and as such migrated from the Far East. Similarities in
the Igbo and the Jewish’s culture buttress the claims of a direct Jewish descent
of the Igbo people. As a result, Basden writes
There are certain customs which rather point to levitic
influence at a more or less remote period. This is
suggested in the underlying ideas concerning sacrifice
and in the practice of circumcision. The language also
bears several interesting parallels with the Hebrew
This goes to support the views of Innocent Okorie which holds that the Igbo
migrated from the Middle East- Juda- and whose story gives even more explicit
dates, names and map of this migration of the Igbo from the Middle East 7
A third tradition holds that the descendants of the Igbo originated from the area
presently known as Awka-Okigwe. Hence, the communities known as Umu-Nri
regard themselves as the descendants of a hero called Eri who along with his
wife, Nnamaku, was sent down from the sky by Chukwu- the Igbo Supreme
. Though this claim sounds like a ferry tale, it still forms one of the
established myriads of traditions on the genealogy of the Igbo.
This issue of different traditions postulating the origin of the Igbo people
equally exists in the genealogy or the origin of the people of Awo-omamma.
Consequently, there exist (as contained in this thesis) four traditions
establishing different genealogical stories on the origin of the Awo-omamma
people. They thus include the Awo-omamma/Awo-Idemili tradition, the Awo
Tree tradition, the Migration tradition, and the Oma tradition.
2.1.1. Awo-omamma/Awo-Idemili Tradition: This stressed the view that there
exists a blood relationship between Awo-omamma in Oru East Local
Government Area, and Awo-Idemili in Orsu Local Government Area.
Accordingly, the present Awo-omamma territory constitutes of the descendants
of young able bodied men from Awo-Idemili who had embarked on a hunting
expedition in the present Awo-Omamma. A source further revealed that these
men “hailed from Amokwe, Obibi, Ezegwu, Isieke, Ubahaeze, and Ubahaezike
villages of Awo-Idemili”
. They had combined guarding the southern frontiers
against Aro invaders with hunting, and subsequently settled in what is today
known as Awo-omamma. The fertile banks and peaceful environment of the
Njaba River may have been the source of attraction to these first settlers in
Awo-omamma from Awo-Idemili.
In the course of executing their duties- hunting and mounting guard at the banks
of Njaba River- they fell in love with the maidens from Umunoha- a
neighbouring community who were supposedly the first settlers around.
Subsequently, the relationship metamorphosed into marriage leading to the
evolution of a serious family life. The charming physiques and personalities of
the young men were not only secretly admired but equally brought about the
question- where are you from? In response, they replied, Awo. The people
responded immediately in appreciation, Umu Awo mara mma, literarily
meaning these Awo people are handsome. Thus, the name Awo-omamma
emerged from the compliment.
At the expiration of the hunting expedition, the young men would normally
return home to Awo-Idemili. Unluckily, most of the ladies kicked against the
idea of relocating with their spouses to Awo-Idemili. This act of unwillingness
was consequent of the stories of lack or near absence to certain natural
endowments. Similarly, a number of men were overwhelmed by the presence of
good drinking water, plain topography, vast arable lands, and the presence of
game animals. After so many considerations, they made a decision to settle,
retaining the original names of their villages in their new settlement. But in
some cases, these names were slightly modified.
The credibility of this tradition could be drawn from the fact that some villages
in Awo-Idemili possess equivalent names with the villages in Awo-omamma.
These villages therefore include:
In addition, both towns comprise of thirteen (13) villages each, and the hunting
expedition (which is known as Ichu Ofia Ughammiri) is still in practice today in
Awo-omamma. Also, the commonality of Awo in the names of both towns was
not coincidental. To this end, V.O. Okeke and F.N. Nnadi posit that the
presence of Awo in the names of Awo-Idemili, and Awo-omamma was “…an
eloquent reflection of blood relationship between the two towns which could be
likened to lines of relationship as typified by such names in African setting”
2.1.2. The Migration Tradition: Isichei had revealed that the history of many
people begins with migration11. This explains why the supporters of migration
tradition stress the view that there were noticeable waves of migration from
different parts of Igbo land into what is today known as Awo-omamma. For
instance, the people of Umunwaeze in Eziawo II autonomous community were
believed to have migrated from Amiri. In addition, the people of
Umuduruiheoma and Umuduruigwe in Isieke village were equally believed to
have migrated from Amiri- Umuduru (Umuduruigwemmadu autonomous
community) Amiri to be precise. The emigration of these people were connected
with the search for safe haven when there ensued a rancour leading to violence
between the people of Ezioha, Umuchime, and Umuobom kindred in
Umuduruigwemmadu autonomous community12
Similarly, an extended family in Ubogwu village known as Umuejike-akwa
were believed to have migrated from Isiorie village in Amiri and settled in the
midst of the people of Umuajara kindred 13; while the majority of Umuokwe
people were believed to have migrated from Afara in the present day Mbaitolu
Local Government Area of Imo State. This therefore explains why these people
were often addressed as Umuokwe Afara by the late Eze G.N. Amukamara,
Egbuador II of Eziawo I autonomous community14
. Afara connotes their place
of origin. Also, Umuezukwe people were believed to have migrated from
Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area; and Umuezike people came in from
Amuka Amiri. In a similar vein, the people of Umuawa kindred in Ubachima
village traced their root from Umudioka in the present day Dunukofia Local
Government Area of Anambra State; while Umunweze people in Isieke village
originally migrated from Umuecheta Amiri.
Certainly, this situation where different groups of people came to stay closely
with one another gave rise to inter-group conflicts which finally brought about
inter-group wars. Consequently, there were the long protracted UbachimaUbogwu,
Umuokwe-Ubogwu, and Umuokwe-Ubachima wars. To withstand the
incessant onslaught from the more belligerent neighbours, groups bound
themselves together leading to the emergence of socio-military blocs such as
Alinkwo (comprising of Umuezeali, Ubogwu, and Umueme); Utumiri
(comprising of Ubachima, Umubochi, and Okworji); Okija Okwu (comprising
of Isieke, Ubahaeze, Umuezukwe, and Umuezike); and Afara (comprising of
Umuokwe, Obibi, and Ohuba). This structure which existed and functioned
effectively prior to the advent of colonialism was found instrumental by the
colonial masters in achieving their interests during colonial era. Consequently,
warrant chiefs were appointed to superintend over these local blocs.
The presence of the Whiteman on the historical stage of the Igbo people
sparked off a new wave of conflicts between groups 15
. The Aro, and the ohafia
people led the way in this with the Aro instigating sectional conflicts among
Igbo communities in a bid to secure slaves for sale. The four aforementioned
socio-military blocs during this period were able to sink their differences and
joined forces against an external common foe. Via this act, these blocs were
able to defeat any invading warrior. This feat was to the credit of the quick, and
wise decision of the elderly men, and leaders of the power blocs16
After the military encounter, the elders met at Nkwo market square, later known
as Nkwo Awo, to celebrate their achievements of unity and victory. At the
occasion, they decided to evolve a common name that is Awo-omamma.
Incidentally, the men who deliberated at this occasion were elderly men with
white grey hair- Isiawo. In cognisance of the fact that their decision was wise
and “goodness” all through, that is mmamma, they chose to call the emergent
union Awo-omamma, meaning “a union fashioned by grey-haired men of
goodness and wisdom”17
2.1.3. Awo Tree Tradition: This is similar to the migration tradition in that it
equally agreed to the fact that the present people of Awo-omamma were
immigrants from different parts of Igbo land. This tradition thus has it that Awo
is the name of a tree whose size is analogous with the size of the famous Iroko
tree (Chorophera Excelsa), with plenty and extensive branches. The tree was so
conspicuous that people from different areas arriving at different times took
shelter under it. On arrival, these people were marvelled with the charming
setting, abundant treasure, and ample endowments of the environment.
Consequently, they decided to settle and eventually comprising themselves into
villages addressed with the preceding name, Awo. As a result, there were such
names as Awo-Okworji, Awo-Umuokwe, Awo-Umuezike, etc. The name Awo
suggests the roots of these villages.
Being afraid of possible conflict due to the conglomeration of people from
different areas and background inhabiting in the same environment, some of the
migrants emigrated to Mbieri in the present day Mbaitolu Local Government
Area of Imo State. They equally adopted the preceding name, Awo, in their new
settlement to distinguish themselves from the original settlers. Consequently,
there emerged Awo-Mbieri.
When codes of conduct were being given out during the colonial era, the Awo
people were often represented by grey haired men (also called Ndi Awo at the
gathering) in whose custody laid the Ofo of their families. These people were
deemed wise consequent of their years of experience. The accent of the
colonialists in greeting these people on arrival to the venue where the codes will
be given always caused laughter. For instance, Awo-mama as a way of greeting
these people from Awo meant Awo mma mma nu. This expression was used in
cracking jokes among the people of Awo, and even beyond. Gradually, Awo
mama became an identity of the people. With time, the name Awo-omamma
emerged consequent of linguistic modification 18
2.1.4. Oma Tradition: This tradition is of the view that Awo was one of the
children of Oma, and Mma- a couple believed to have lived in Ibiasoegbe in the
present day Oru west local government area of Imo State. Other children of the
couple included Egbu, Egwe, Mgbidi, Amiri, Omuma, and Atta19
. Awo was the
last child. These children were admitted to possess similarities in their cultural
features. To this end, V.O. Okeke and F.N. Nnadi posited that
Agriculturally and specifically in yam production, they
are the only people that stake yam tendril or vines with
palm fronds. Other people around who practice it
learned it from them through cultural borrowing20
Each of the children was addressed with the suffix Oma attached to their names.
The suffix thus reflects their origin. Consequently, there were such names as
Amiri Oma, Mgbidi Oma, Egwe Oma, etc. Of all the children of Oma, and
Mma, Awo combined the names of both parents in appreciation and recognition
of his root. Thus, he answered Awo-omamma.
Subsequently, Awo-omamma emigrated to settle in the present area which the
town occupies. This movement was accompanied with the aims of inhabiting in
an endowed and befitting area, reducing rancour, and making exploits. The
presence of rich and arable land, plain topography, rivers, and the natural
protection provided by the Njaba hills might have influenced Awo-omamma to
take a settlement decision in this area.
With time, Awo-omamma got married and begot two sons- Ofekata, and
Eziawo. These names are presently borne by the two sections of the town
revealing the descent of the people from these sections. They equally are borne
by the autonomous communities to reflect their lineages.
Subsequently, Ofekata having got married begot six (6) sons. In a similar vein,
Eziawo begot seven (7) sons. These sons of Ofekata and Eziawo represent the
thirteen (13) villages in Awo-omamma. Later, Eziawo and Ofekata begot thirtysix
(36) grand children from their thirteen sons. These grand children represent
the thirty-six kindred existing in the town (see appendix I- villages and kindred
in Awo-Omamma community).
2.2. Origin of Amiri Community.
Unlike Awo-omamma, there exists only one tradition- Isu-egbulem traditionaccounting
for the origin or genealogy of Amiri town. This tradition agreed that
the people of Amiri possess a common parental descent with the people of Awoomamma,
as postulated by the Oma tradition- one of the traditions accounting
for the origin of Awo-omamma. Where there exists a difference between the two
postulating traditions was on the parental nomenclature of both towns as well as
According to Isu-egbulem tradition, the origin of Amiri town is traceable to a
man called Isu-egbulem who got married to two wives- Asiabaka (the first
wife), and Mbubuka (the second wife). Mbubuka was married after the demise
of Asiabaka who begot only one son known as Oru for Isu-egbulem. She
(Mbubuka) begot five sons- Amucha (the first son), Nkume (the second son),
Atta (the third son), Amiri (the fourth son), and Awo-omamma (the fifth and the
last son)- also for Isu-egbulem. Thus, this tradition established the fact that Isuegbulem,
and Mbubuka (instead of Oma, and Mma) were the ancestral parents
of the people of Amiri and Awo-omamma. Similar to Amiri and Awo-omamma,
the other three children of Mbubuka in search of settlement emigrated and
established towns after their names in the old oru division- Amucha in
Nwangele Local Government Area, Nkume in Njaba Local Government Area,
and Atta also in Njaba Local Government Area. These names reflect the origin
of the people of these towns 21
Subsequently, Amiri got married. He maintained a polygamous family by
marrying two wives (whose names were not mentioned). The first wife who
hailed from Isu begot four sons namely Umuecheta, Amuka, Isiorie, and
Umudioka, while the second wife who hailed from Oru begot five sons to
include Umuduru, Mbubu, Amaokpara, Ubahazu, and Ugbeke. The names of
these children of Amiri are presently borne by the nine (out of ten) villages in
the town to reflect their lineages. With time, Amiri begot twenty-eight grand
children from his nine sons whose names are borne by the kindred in this town.
More so, the names- Isu, and Oru are equally borne by the two (out of the three)
autonomous communities of the town as suffixes in their existing names- Amiri
Isu, and Amiri Oru- to refletct the origin of the villages in these autonomous
communities. Umuduru, which was a village in Amiri Oru became an
autonomous community- Umuduruigwemmadu autonomous communityhaving
sought for autonomy. This brought the total numbers of the town’s
autonomous communities to three 22
In the preceding information, it was mentioned that Amiri community constitute
of ten villages. The recognition of Nchoko, who was not among the first
generation sons of Amiri, as a village (alongside the first generation sons)
brought the total number of the villages in the town to ten. This development
earned the three children of this son of Amiri recognitions as kindred in Nchoko
village thereby bringing the total number of kindred in the town to thirty-one
(see appendix II- villages and kindred in Amiri community).
According to history, Nchoko was a grand son to Amiri and one of the children
of Mbubu who was known for his laziness in farming activities, but has passion
for warfare. He was belligerent. His other siblings included Umuduruogwu,
Amakpu, and Ugboloha- names which are today borne by the three kindred in
Mbubu village. As a result of his laziness, Nchoko was dependent on his
brother, Umuduruogwu, for food, shelter, and medication. Consequently, he
became part of his brother’s family.
Upon his decision to become independent, Nchoko sought for dwelling place in
his father’s land. Due to lack of space, he decided to emigrate from
Umuduruogwu in search of his own settlement. In respect of his decision, he
was thus advised by his brother to seek for assistance from their uncle,
Ubahazu, who was known for his benevolence. Ubahazu however allocated to
his nephew (Nchoko) a small piece of land beside a small body of water known
as Mmiri Umu Ewi which is located at the bundary of Ubahazu village, and a
part of Otulu town where Ama John Nwaochia (presently Amiri junction located
beside Awo-Omamma junction along Owerri-Onitsha trunk A road) is situated.
The multiplication of the descendants of Nchoko in number brought about their
expansion into this part of Otulu which shares border with Ubahazu.
Subsequently, due to their belligerent nature and bravery, they were able to
claim over this area from the original owners. These aforementioned features
were equally responsible for their subsequent assumption of the status of a
village having agitated for such recognition.