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|Nickname(s): The Small London|
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The people who occupy the territory known as Abiriba descended from the Igbo and Efik people of Calabar. They migrated from the upper Cross River area centuries ago led by a Nnachi Oke, from whom the title "Enachioken" ("The Monarch") originates. Initially, they occupied a smaller territory which expanded when the Abiriba people routed the surrounding Nkporo people and took over their lands. The Abiriba people were war-like and quickly established themselves in the area.
The origin of the Abiriba people is not as speculative as the origin of other Igbos of southeastern Nigeria. Historical evidence supports the fact that Abiriba people have common ancestor with the Yakor tribe of Ekoi of cross river basin and the people of Arochukwu. At Ekoi, constant disputes between the seven families under Ukpaghiri prompted the clan to move to Ena and finally to Akpa.
The settlement at Akpa was difficult for many years due to hostilities with neighbors. After the death of Ukpaghiri, Mbiriba and his group moved to Usukpam and stayed there for many years but were never at peace with the neighbors. Mbiriba decided to move to Udara-ebuo whereas Otusi led the other branch of the family down stream and eventually founded Arochukwu. The term Nwajim is often used between Abiriba and Arochukwu people because of our common lineage. Mbiriba who had advanced in age, moved his group once more and settled at Udara-ebuo.
Nature was inhospitable to the inhabitants at Udara-ebuo. There was no water and the place was overrun by monkeys. Oral history has it that monkeys used to visit homes to look for food, and the people became sick living on monkey meat only. Mbiriba died at Udara-ebuo and left his son Ifa Mbiriba in charge.
Ifa Mbiriba finally moved to Uruanta and Agboha and settled there. The new settlement was very fertile and had a natural fortress. Thus, the name ABIRIBA was derived from the name Mbiriba or nickname "Ebiri-Aba".
Oko Ogo opened Ndi Okogo which is currently where the Chief's Palace "The Agboezi" is situated. Nwagu Ifa founded Okagwe and later Agboji. Ngwu founded Ihungwu. Chukwu Oke founded Amogudu. The name Amaeke was derived from the market day Eke. The Capital of Abiriba is Ameke and the paramount Chief for the whole Abiriba uses the title Enachi-oken.
Incessant conflicts and border skirmishes between the Item and Amogudu led to the creation of a standing army in form of the age-grade system. Historical artifacts exist to support the consensus that the age-grade system started at Amogudu.
Nwagu Ifa, Ngwu, Oko Ogo and Chukwu Oke used the age-grade as a standing army to protect the Abiriba from hostile neighbors. It should be noted that, the kingdom grew into three prinicple clans; AMEKE, AGBOJI AND AMAOGUDU. Ameke developed into 10 traditional villages and later into 11 villages about 1941. These villages are Amaeke Echichi, Ihungwu, Agboha, Ihebu, Umueso, Amaebelu, Amaja, Amanta, Amuba, Binyum, and Ukpo. Aboji has 2 traditional villages namely Amabia and Amagbo. Finally, Amaogudu has 4 villages to wit: Umuechukwu, Amamba, Ogbu and Udanta. Amaeke Echichi has 10 traditional Ezi namely Ihungwu – 7 compounds, Umueso – 19 compounds, Amaja – 9 compounds, Ihebu – 9 compounds, Amaebelu – 7 compounds, Amanta 14 compounds, Amuba 12 compounds, Agboha 3 compounds ( formally 8 compounds) Biyum – 9 compounds and Ukpo 7 compounds. Amabia -9 compounds, and Amagbo -7 compounds, Umuechukwu -20 compounds, Amamba -14 compounds, Ogbu -8 compounds and Udanta -16 compounds. Apart from these traditional villages, Abiriba Kingdom, in recent times has further expanded with the formation of 72 different layouts spreed across the three principal clans.
The Abiriba people are known to be industrious both in crafts and trading; their arid lands make it tough for agriculture to flourish. These made them popular amongst the Igbo people of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, in the history of the Igbos of Nigeria, Abiriba is reckoned for her pre-historical black smithing and sculpture artifacts. These ancient occupation of the Abiriba people later on metamorphosed into what is today the trademark of the people - Trading (or better merchandise) popularly known among Abiriba People.
Since the people were predominantly merchants, they were widely travelled both within and outside the boundaries of Nigeria, and they are correspondingly cosmopolitan. Being so exposed and prosperous, the people have enough information about vogue and money that made them transform their locality from the normal village setting, as is common with the surrounding villages, to a model sub-urban but purely residential setting with some of the most exotic building in the Igbo land, even in Nigeria as a whole. The Abiriba people take great pride in the serenity and aesthetic value of their landscape, consequently shunning attempts by government or individuals to set up factories in the town, and seeing same as attempts to "pollute" their land. In 1959, the late President of Nigeria, The Rt Honourable Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was so taken in by the beauty of Abiriba that he called it the "Small London" - a name in use till date and forever.
Abiriba is made up of three main villages: Ameke, Agboji, & Amogudu. Abiriba is governed using a monarchichal system. The "Eze" (The King or Monarch) is called Enachioken. The people of Abiriba have experienced little direct impact of the government in their development and governance except in very recent times. In the instances when government has actively involved itself in the life of the town, there is a consensus that the effects have been rather minimal and in some cases detrimental. Abiriba has a well-developed and active Age-Grade system, in fact, one of the most effective ones in Igbo land. Some Age-Grades include: Akahaba, Erinma I & II, Ekpankuma I & II, Onyiba, Egwuena, Ojighiri, Isimini, Okezie etc., Amogudu people starts age grade and are the founders of age grade,they as well give the age grade's name & they have the right to change the name based on the achievement of the age grade. which maintain offices in all countries of the world where Abiriba people reside. These Age Grades have been the main agents of development in the town, especially those in the diaspora. They also play the traditional role of policing the community and punishing offenders, regardless of age and status. It is often witnessed where a notable and wealthy member of an Age Grade is whipped publicly due to an offense.The Enachioken of Abiriba is what the Abiriba Royals called ekwu-eto, consisting of Eze Ameke, as leader (known as Enachioken)Eze Agboji (known as Iffa)Eze Amogudu (known as Ukpaghari and Eze Otisi Abiriba). The current (from 2000 - )Enachioken is HRM Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu who ascended the throne of his fore fathers after the death of the last occupant Late Eze U.U. Ukiwe. The Ezeship (Monarchy) is hereditary and rotates within the royal families that have the birth-rights of producing the Enachioken. Ndi Ogogo (now known as Nde ogo) is where the palace of the Enachioken is situated; the other three compounds that make up the ruling compound Amaelunta-Umueso viz, Ndi Ekpe,Ndi Ezema and Ndi Mbaku, are in Amaeke. In Amogudu there are Nde Agwu, Nde Ebe and Amelu. Amelu comprises four compounds, of which only Nde Aso rules; it goes only to the family of Late Eze Mang Dieke and Agboji. They have their own traditional functions distinct from producing the Enachioken.
Succession to the throne of the Enachioken
Succession to the throne of the Enachioken is hereditary. It is only the descendants of the founder of Abiriba that rule over the kingdom. Such descendants must emerge from any of the ruling houses in the three royal compounds
- Nde Oke-ogo (Nde Ezema)
- Nde Mbaeku
- Nde Ekpe
Who ruled Abiriba in rotation. The Enachioken of Abiriba originally emerges from Nde Oko-ogo Royal compound alone. However, due to developments, some of the descendents of the founder of Abiriba moved over to Amaelunta to ply their blacksmith trade. From Amaelunta ( Nde Mbaeku and Nde Ekpe), they come to rule Abiriba when it is their turn to do son.
The traditional Abiriba society evolved a system that took care of its actual policing and military needs ranging from guarding her territorial integrity, settlement of disputes between communities or individuals and punishment of crime against the person and community. The Eze Enachioken, Ikwukwuma, Uke-ji-abala, Uke uche-oba, Uke Ekpe and Uke Ogba Ngwuru etc. kept the peace, enforced social order and cohesion. Crime and delinquency was at its minimal, people moved around with relative easy and fear of crime was non existent as every male from seven years of age already has a place in the social control structure of Abiriba. In the accepted oral history of Abiriba as cited in Uche (2010), are documented efforts made by men and the gods at social control. According to him, Amaogudu (a community in Abiriba) created a surveillance group from the Uke Ogba Ngwuru. Its formation was in an attempt to provide information and warn the warriors of invaders. Subsequently, it was also use to report suspicious movement and crime. Also the Uke Uche-oba has as its manifest function to keep watch at the yam barn. This duty they perform for two or three years as they case maybe. However, at the end of their expedition, the miscreants among them were not allowed to return. This long vigil away from home was an opportunity to rid society of such persons (Obasi, 2003). Following the return of the Uke Uche-oba, they will assume a new name Uke Ekpe and from this moment on, they shoulder the responsibility of social control and executing punishment through the most senior age grade, the Uke-ji-abala, the age grade responsible for law and order under the directive of Eze Enachioken (Akuma, n.d; Uche, 2008; Obasi, 2003). The role of a belief system is not left out in the Abiriba social control mechanism, as it was common knowledge that the gods will punish evil doers. The concept of evil Obasi (2003), stated involves doing things the society forbids which includes stealing, poisoning, taking someone else’s wife, destruction of another person’s farm, incest, homosexuality etc. Thus the gods, Otisi Binyom, Kamalu Ozua elu, Kamalu Nde ebe and Isimokoto, Iyieru and Akakpo (gods of the sea) virtually policed the community according to the belief of the people. He stressed that belief system rendered a very useful social service in the nature of crime prevention where there were no policemen or prison (Akuma, n.d; Uche, 2008; Obasi, 2003). It should however be noted that these social control mechanism can impose any of these sanctions: fines and compensation, ritual cleansing, trial by ordeals, ridicule and gossips, confinement, ostracism, banishment, capital punishment and socialization as a process of punishment to any defaulter of the laws of the community. Today in Abiriba, not much has changed as those traditional institutions of social control are still in existence and the various gods still potent. However, they now lack jurisdiction to convict and punish offenders, this followed a decision that was taken at the 1958 constitutional conference to abolish customary criminal law in Nigeria altogether (Okonkwo, 2009).
The Big Achi Tree
At the heart of Abiriba —the very center of the town—is a large, ancient tree "Okpu Achi" (Achi tree). The tree is both symbolic and spiritual in nature; and many believe that in the event of its fall, water from Okpu Achi would engulf the entire Abiriba land. Legend also has it that the Ishimokoto River is so mystical that when foreigners tried to leave town with a bottle of water from the river—the bottle broke apart and the water flew miles back to the river.
Abiriba is known for some of its unique dishes. Among other foods such as rice, yam, beans, and garri (cassava), "Asusu" is a very common dish among the Abiriba people. It is made of corn starch whole meal ground with salt and pepper, wrapped with a local leave call akwukwo-asusu and steamed with water covering all the raps. Asusu is eaten with a popular vegetable soup called Ugboghor. "Oto" (ground water-yam porridge) is also very popular among the Ebiriba people.
Common Abiriba names include: Ikwan, Kalu, Nnanna, Nnenna "Nina", Ndukwo, Ogbogu, Agwu, Oyediya, Ogbonnaya, etc. It is a common Abiriba naming tradition for parents to name their first son after the father's father and the first daughter after the father's mother.
Naming traditions are paternal-oriented, Abiriba is a matrilineal society: descent and inheritance are traced through the mother's family.
- Abiriba Continued
- Uche, K.O.(2008). The African community life. Lagos: Nelag & company Ltd
- Akuma, E.(n.d). The comprehensive history of Abiriba. Unpublished note
- Ndukwe, O.R.(2015). Public perception of community policing in Abiriba. Msc Thesis. University of Nigeria,Nsukka