Umuoji people

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The Umuoji people, who occupy this present place known as Umuoji town, in the present Idemili North Local Government of Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria, an Igbo speaking ethnic group, naturally fall among the people whose early history is much affected by lack of or non existence of a written record. Umuoji is bounded in the northwest by Ogidi, in the southwest by Ojoto, southeast by Uke, in the northeast by Abatete and in the west by Nkpor. It has a population of about 80,000 people.

Origin myth[edit]

Two possible sources about Umuoji origin have been postulated. Both apparently are derived from oral tradition. The first, more widely held, is that Umuoji people originated from a man called Okodu, who was a descendant of a man called Nri. Another is that one Okoli Oti from Arochukwu was the ancestor of Umuoji.

In those early days only people of Arochukwu (Umuchukwu meaning Children of Supreme God) and Nri who were also regarded as sacred people or mediators between men and the gods were free to travel about and they were the two sets of people who were known throughout the then Igbo nation. Arochukwu people, the Aros, migrated from outside Nigeria, probably Egypt and that made them to be on the go always. They were also great warriors with sophisticated weapons that gave them privilege over the other inhabitants of the Igbo nation. Consequently, one great warrior, Okoli Oti from Arochukwu set was out in company of his followers to visit the famous Eze Nri (the great king of Nri). His intention was not that friendly but on reaching the Nri town, he changed his mind as a result of what he heard and saw about the Nri people. Okoli later decided to settle near the kingdom of his host and thereby found his own kingdom. He settled in the present area inhabited by Abatete people. Okoli later married a woman from Nri town. Some of his men never went back to their places of origin. They also raised up families later known as Isiuzo, Azu, Owa, Akwa, Oraofia and Mputu.

Okoli Oti brought with him three deities named Ezeigwe, Oji and Ogwugwu. He begat three sons and some daughters. The sons were Ezeogu, Ora and Idike. Ezeogu was the father of the Abatete people, otherwise known as Abatete Ezeogu. Ora the second son was the father of the Umuoji people, while Idike was the father of the Nkpor people. Ora Okoli had a son named Okodu and some daughters whose names were not known as nobody bothered to trace the lineage of women in Igboland then. Okodu is the father of Oji; he named him after his father's deity which he(Okodu) later inherited. Oji in turn begat Ora II whom he named after his grandfather.

From mythology, Ora II had two wives from each of whom he got two sons. The sons were Ezi, Ifite, Echem and Akala. Ezi and Echem were of the same mother, while Ifite and Akala were of the same mother. These made up the four Quarters of Umuoji and the villages therein.

Leadership[edit]

The quarters and villages in Umuoji in order of seniority are as follows; Eziora (Aboh, Umuobia(Ukpabia), Ire, Amoji, Ekwulu and Urueze), Ifiteora (Ifite, Uruedeke, Umuoli and Umuazu), Dimechem (Agumaelum, Umuoma, Uruaneke, Dimboko, Umuechem, Urumkpu, Dianaokwu and Ideoma); Akala (Uruegbe, Akalaetiti, Aguma, Anogu and Abidi). Formerly, Umuoji had twenty five villages until Umunzulu merged with Amoji while Umuokezi joined Ideoma. Due to the number of Oji's children and grandchildren, Umuoji was referred to as Igwulube Okodu (Igwulube means locust).

Before now, the Umuoji kingship rotated among the five villages of Eziora quarter, being the first son that inherits the father's Obi in Igbo tradition and custom. Presently it rotates among the four quarters and the present King (Igwe of Umuoji), HRH Dr Cyril Enweze(Ebubedike I), a renowned Economist who retired from the IMF as Director Of Operations IFAD and Vice President of ADB, is from Ifite in the Ifiteora quarter having succeeded Igwe Akum Micheal A. Nweze(Anumili I) who came from Ire in the Eziora quarter. Each village is headed by an Ichie and the council of Ndi Ichie form the Igwe's Cabinet. Other traditional institutions in Umuoji are the Nze-na-Ozo, Age Grades, Umuofia, Umuokpu and Umuada etc. There is also the Umuoji Improvement Union which sees to the day-to-day governance of the town and the Umuoji Women Association.

Culture[edit]

There are three major festivals among others celebrated by the Umuoji people. The most important is the Uzoiyi Festival, usually celebrated in March, kicks off the farming season. It ends with a spectacle of colorful and monumental masquerades for entertainment, each presented by one of the villages in Umuoji are AKWUNECHENYI (Aboh village), EGBENU OBA (Anogu village), NYAKWULU (Aguma village), AGU (Agumaelum village), ENYI (Abidi village), ZEBRA (Dimboko village), UGO and AJA AGBA AGU MGBA (Urumkpu village), IGADA (Uruegbe village), IBUBO (Ekwulu village), OBAMILI (Umuoli village), NKENEKWU (Ire village), AGABA (Uruaneke village), ENE(Urueze village), ODUM (Urudeke village), OCHAMILI (Ideoma village), IJELE (Umuobia village), ATU (Amoji village), AGUIYI (Umuoma village), OMA MBALA (Akala-Etiti village), AKWA UGO (Ifite village), AKUM GBAWALU UGBO (Dianokwu village), ANA ELI AKU (Umuechem village), INYINYA (Umuazu village). The Mbajekwe festival ushers in the Ili Ji Ofuu(New Yam Festival), is celebrated in August-September. There are other feasts in between that are celebrated by villages that make up Umuoji town. The majority of the people had historically been subsistence farmers but now are in all fields of human endeavour.

Notable places in Umuoji include the Iba Oji in Ifite village, the Amangwu and Udume shrines in Aboh village, the Ideakpulu stream located in Umuoma/Ideoma Villages, the Ezi Ebenebe shrine in Akalaetiti village, Iba Aroli in Umuobia village. The early Catholic Christian missionaries to Umuoji established the popular Mater Amabilis Secondary School for girls, Our Lady's Catholic Church and St Francis Catholic Church/primary School. Umuoji has nine public primary schools and two Secondary schools (including the Boys High School, established in 1975) which is now renamed to community secondary school, Umuoji. And as well several private schools.

Another culture of the umuoji ( igwulube okodu) people is to honour the Python, popularly known as eke which is dedicated to Idemili. It is considered a sacrilege for one or a visitor in that town to kill a python and any perpetrator of such act is under cultural right to bury the python with the full funeral rites normally reserved for a human being to show their atonement for such act.

References[edit]