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|Local Government Area||Owerri North|
Orji is a village in southeast Nigeria. It is located in the Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State. This region is part of the ancient kingdom of Uratta. Orji is one of several settlements along the Owerri-Okigwe road, including Umuchoke, Umuogowerem, Umuogii, Umukehi, Umuodu, Umuimeka, Umundula, Umuasonye, and Aro.
The present day name of the village comes from various local legends about an ancestor who was called Orji.
In one version, Orji had eight giant sons whose descendants made up the eight Kings of Orjiland. A ninth child, Aromao, brought the total to 9, but since she was a girl, she could not become royalty. A local saying, "Orji ri nchi asato Aro e me ya itoli," is often associated with this story.
In another version, oral history recalls that the ancient patriarch Orji had five sons from his first wife (Choke, Ogowerem, Ogii, Kehi and Odu, in that order), followed by four children with his second wife: Odagu, Umuodagu-Mbieri, Imeka, and Umuimeka-Orji. Orji’s third wife had Ndula, while it is alleged that Asogamuonyeanya was a child of Orji's daughter, Mgboto, who is married to Mbieri. The severe nature of this marriage led to a war between Orji and Mbieri in those days, resulting in the returning of Asogamuonyeanya to Orji.
Various disagreements surround the Orji story, which is remembered as a local creation myth with details spanning several generations. For example, one school of thought claims that Asogamuonyeanya, who is the father of another ancestor, Umuasonye, was actually the first child of Orji. These disagreements are important, because they continue to influence marriages between Orji descendants.
The Aro-Orji Village as is popularly called is the smallest of the nine villages that make up Orji Autonomous Community. Situated between Umuodu and Umuogowerem, some other families (Orji and Onyeneke) live on the other side of the road on Umukehi land. Some other Nwosu and Okoroafor family members live in Umundula village. This situation is occasioned by the size of land which they occupy and as the families expand, they have need to seek new settlements to accommodate other family members. The Aros have a very strong culture and celebrate Aro Day annually on December 26 unless otherwise agreed by the Aro Family Meeting which comprises all the married adult males in the village. For the very first time in the history of Orji, the Aro Village came out tops and lifted the annual Orji Unity Football Cup trophy for 2014. This is a team that hardly fields 11 players owing to their size.
Geographically, Orji covers an area of roughly 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi). The town occupies the western periphery of the mother-clan, Uratta. Orji is bounded on the west by Umuodagu and Umunjam villages and in the east by Owaelu and Okwu; on the north by Obazu]; and on the South by Owerri town.
Orji is the last child (mmbi ime) and the youngest among the ancestral eight kindred villages of the ancestral mother-clan, Uratta.
Originally, Orji occupied the area around the Eshimeshi Quarter of Umunahu-Uratta. Owing to her desire to avoid territorial disputes with her neighbours and also to develop at her own pace and for self-determination, Orji migrated through Owalla and Owaelu to ‘Uhu Orji’, a central point to the outer borders of Amatta to the North, Owaelu to the East and Mbieri to the West. At ‘Uhu-Orji, Orji felt her desires were not met and on consultation with ‘Ibina Ukpabi’ (a famous Arochukwu Oracle), erected the historic ‘IGWUDU-ORJI’. In their pursuit of peace and prosperity, the ‘Nkwo-Orji’ market was founded adjacent to the famous ‘Igwudu’ and thenceforth, the Igwudu was known as ‘Igwudu Nkwo-Orji’. The Igwudu Nkwo-Orji was religiously revered by the community.
Due to security concerns, and the protection offered by Igwudu, Orji people settled around Nkwo-Orji market, in close proximity to Igwudu. Thereafter, Orji lived peacefully and happily and expanded in various directions, having boundaries between them and their Owaelu, Amatta and Owerri neighbours.
In the past, Orji people settled in rather circular-shaped settlements due to defense considerations. This pattern of settlement can still be found in parts of Umundula and Umukehi. The present linear settlement of Orji is a recent development that arose from the need to relocate to the trunk A road provided by Okigwe Road and thus resulting to migration from their ancestral settlements (‘Uhu’). It should be recalled that attempts to divert this trunk A road through Mbieri resulted to communal clashes between Orji and Mbieri. It is also believed that the present settlement pattern of Orji was influenced by a fratricidal war between two wealthy and influential men in the community: Nkwola and Anumudu.
Orji is a traditionally agrarian community, but since the recent past, the search for ‘greener pastures’ in foreign lands by the youths of Orji has made agriculture lose its dominance, as an economic activity, as people have now discovered ‘farms’ in other sectors. This is more so as most of the farmlands have been acquired by government for other uses, thereby denying peasant farmers in the community their sources of livelihood. It is of note that Orji is a host community to Imo State University, Shell Camp Quarters, Federal Medical Centre, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Mechanic Village, parts of old Imo State Secretariat, Works Layout, Aladinma Estate, etc.
The paramount traditional ruler in Orji is Eze Innocent Opara (Eze Ugo II of Orji Autonomous Community), who ascended to the throne after the death of Eze Ben Akakem, who was very popular and Charismatic during his reign.
Ascension to the throne of Eze in Orji is not hereditary. The institution of Eze in Orji was introduced when Orji was elevated to an autonomous community by the Imo state government in 1982.
The Eze oversees the traditional and cultural matters of the community through the Eze-in-council which is made up of special advisers and one person from each of the nine component kindreds of the community, who are referred to as ‘Odu-Ugo’.
Orji is administered by the Town Union (Orji Development Union), whose leader is the President General (PG). Orji Development Union (ODU) was formerly Orji Town League (OTL), while the women's wing is the Orji Women Federated (OWO). The ODU represents democracy in the real sense. Orji is administered through the Orji representative Council of the O.D.U., which consists of representatives from the nine kindreds of the community; representatives of all the registered traditional organizations, youth organizations, women's organizations and all O.D.U. branches. Most developmental projects in the community are actualized through self-help efforts mobilized by ODU leadership.
Although politically Orji is autonomous, it still shares cultural and traditional bonds with the Uratta clan, their ancestral lineage. They still perform ‘omenala’ and ‘nso-ala’ and festivals like ‘Onwa-Oru’. Onwa-Oru-Uratta provides a forum for cultural identity, social interaction and an avenue for setting the goals of socio-economic development of the Uratta people. Orji has her own annual New Yam ("Iri ji") festival usually hostel between the months of August and September or as may be decided by the community leaders with the Eze Ugo.
In recent years, Orji has witnessed an obvious transformation from a little rural setting to a sprawling suburb in Owerri North.