As an integral part of Igbo people, the origin of Mbaise cannot be established without having a look at the origin of the Igbo. According to Onwuzurike E in Nguma Uvuru, 1991, “if it is possible to establish the origin of the Igbos, one could then by deduction establish the origin of Mbaise.”

Also Nwagbara, S.N. 1977 stated that the origin of the Igbos, like that of other ethnic groups in what is now Nigeria, is provokingly unknown and therefore many suggestions bordering on guesswork and fancy have been made.” The suggestions include the following:

The Eastern theory of Igbo Origin

This theory links the Igbos as one and the same people with the Egyptians. The promoters of the theory, who were mainly colonial officers or anthropologists, based their claim on the similarities between the Igbos and the ancient Egyptian cultures. This eastern theory of Igbo origin was supported by Mr. Ijomanta who wrote in 1926 that the Igbos migrated from the Nile Valley through the Sudan to their present place of habitation (AfigboA. E, Nigerian Magazine 1983). .

Another version of the theory of Igbo origin points to Israel as the original homeland of the Igbos. This version associated the Igbo with one of the lost tribes of Israel. As seen in his book, entitled, “the’ origin of the Igbo,” Mr. Akwelumo propagated the view that the Igbos were a branch of the Jews, and wrote that the word “Igbo” was a contraction of the word “Hebrew”.

While these Eastern theories of Igbo origin have been rejected by African historians as a worthless piece of creative imagination, “the theory resurfaced during the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War (1967 – 1970) when the Igbo race nearly accepted the suggestion that they were Israelites or Jews.

This was because the Igbos associated the mass destruction of the Civilian Igbo race living in the Northern region of Nigeria with the genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The Biafrans of the Nigerian civil war also attributed the source of hatred for both Jews in Europe and the Igbos in Nigeria to their enterprising nature, economic and intellectual capability which were seen by others as an attempt to monopolize the economic and political power of the nation.

As Emma Onwuzurike remarked in Nguma Uvuru (1991) “This unfortunate incident compounded the problem of Igbo origin. It even pressed the Jewish origin almost to a convincing point.

However, the Hebrew or Jewish origin of the Igbos is part of the basic theory of Nigerian people origin which has been discarded by African historians as an unauthentic theory, which they failed to establish Bona fide Origin, The ‘Nfunala’ Hypothesis or factual story by word of mouth origin is based on traditions of non-migration from any area. In pursuit of this theory of non-migration, some scholars have mapped out a nuclear or core area” in Igboland where people believe they were created in their present homes.

Uchendu V.C. (1965) has observed that; the belts formed by Owerri, Awka, Orlu and Okigwe divisions constitute the nuclear area. Its people have no traditions of coming from any other place. We assume an early migration from this nuclear area into Nsukka-Udi highlands in the North, and into Ikwere, Etche, Asa and Ndoki in the south. The Eastern Isuamaclaim to have come from this centre, Ngwa tradition points to their secondary migration from Mbaise”.

In his research, Mr. G. I. Stocky which were put in writing in his intelligence Report on Ekwerazu and Ahiara Clans (1931) show that Ekwerazu and Ahiara claim that their ancestors were created in the area which they now occupy. Ahiara even named its founder as ‘Nfunala’.  Supporting the claim of Ekwerazu and Ahiara, Mr. Onuoha Duru of Nguru said to Mr. L.O. Nwahiri: “We did not come from anywhere and anyone who tells you we came from anywhere is a liar. Write it down!” (Isichei E. 1976).

This view strongly supports the Nfunala theory which claims that Igbos did not migrate from any distant locations. Also the people of Ezinihitte Mbaise have the cult of ‘CHINEKE’ and a creation myth which holds that Orie-Ukwu Oboama Na Umunama was the home of creation where God – Chineke is believed to have come down on earth and created all people who migrated to their present homes in Mbaise.

In his historical facts about Ihitte, Mr. G. U. Onwumere said, “No living soul in Ihitte now can say from where and how we came here. However oral tradition had it that the centre of creation was Orie-Ukwu Oboama Na Umunama”.

This view does not disclose that there was any other place from which all the people who moved out from ‘Ihu Chineke’ that is, Oboama Na Umunama came from. This cultural hypothesis has been criticized by many quarters. It is regarded by some people as a myth propounded by tribes who could not trace their origin from any other place, or who might have forgotten through lack of records or traditions how they came to their present location. The theory has therefore not thrown enough light on the origin of the Igbos in general and (the) Mbaise in particular. Cultural Amnesia

The Igbo traditions of migration highlight the fact that the Igbos migrated from somewhere to settle in their various present homes in Igbo land. In a lecture to the Nigerian Library Association; Professor Adiele E. Afigbo wrote that the Igbos did not originate from the orient (East) as many scholars have claimed, but from the Niger Benue confluence, six thousand years ago. From this location in the Niger Benue confluence, migration led to settlements of the Igbos in their present locations.

They are said to have originally settled in the Northern Igbo Plateau, Nri-Awka, Amaigbo-Orlu before scattering to areas they now occupy.

Professor A. E. Afigbo describes the Awka and Isuama (Orlu) area as the Igbo centre from where waves of migration started off to the South and East. Afigbo states that one can assume an early movement from the Igbo centre to the Nsukka-Udi highland in the East, and early drift South wards, towards the South coast. As V.C. Uchendu also noted; “We assume an early migration from this nuclear area into Nsukka-Udi highlands in the North, and into Ikwerre, Etche, Asa, and Ndoki in the South.

It is believed that this Tradition refers to a later and more massive dispersal South Eastwards from Igbo centre into Eastern Isuama area. Also as observed by Uchendu, “the Eastern Isuama claim to have come from the Igbo centre”.

From this subsidiary dispersion area, another movement took off South Eastwards again into Aba division to form the Ngwa group of tribes.

In a book titled, Aba and British Rule, Nwanguru recorded that the Ngwa group of Igbos migrated from Umunoha (Isuama) in the company of other groups who were heading eastwards into Aba division. He further observed that at the bank of the Imo River, they stopped to eat. A group quickly boiled their yams, ate them and crossed the River. The other groups wasted much time roasting their yams and eating before the river overflow, and they became unable to cross over like others. They were separated from the faster group. The faster group crossed to form the Ngwa tribes so called because they were described as “Ndi ngwa – ngwa” (fast people) or “Ndi ngwam” (the lucky ones) while the slow ones were described as Ndi ohuhu (roasters) or slow movers.

Oral tradition derived from Ezinihitte Mbaise and other Mbaise clans confirm that Ezinihitte clans were originally related to the Ngwa tribe. Other communities in Mbaise do refer to the Ezinihitte in particular as “ndi ohuhu”.  Ngwa communities also refer to the whole Mbaise as ‘ndi ohuhu!’

The general belief then, is that the ancestors of Mbaise in general and Ezinihitte in particular formed part of the movement eastwards out of the Isuama area and that some of the dispersing groups possibly stopped on the way to occupy the territory west of the Imo river. Uvuru is also likely that part of the massive movement eastward from Isuama halted at Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umunama where many eastward migration groups remained before dispersing to form various communities in Mbaise and environs.

Today there is a sacred place described as “lhu-Chineke, Orie-Ukwu” or culture centre, from where people allegedly migrated singly or in group to form what today are communities in and around Mbaise. The tradition that God created man in Orie-.Ukwu Oboama na Umunama has become so popular among Mbaise people.

Nonetheless, oral tradition had it that the centre of creation was “Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umunama”.

While it can be accepted that most clans or villages in Mbaise moved to their present homes from ‘Ihu-Chineke’ Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umunama, many other communities could have settled in the territory now selected Mbaise from other cultural centers or arrived later from other groups to settle among the original Isuama or Ngwa group.

Taken from Edwin Ardener in his interim report on Mbaise, “in the 185 square miles of territory of Mbaise, three Igbo cultural linguistic area, the Oratta, the Ngwa and the Isu met, blending into one another at their boundaries. The dominating culture was the ‘Ngwa’ extending, over Ezinihitte.

Most part of Oke and the Okwuato and Eastern Ahiara, up to Isuama area included Ekwereazu and parts of Ahiara west. Sections of Nguru and Enyiogwugwu were Oratta while the remaining parts of Enyiogwugwu and, Nguru were a blend of Oratta and Isuama.”

From research, there was a later migration group into, Mbaise from Arochukwu after the great dispersion that led to the formation of indigenous communities in Mbaise. This later group originated from Arochukwu to settle among pre-existing villages or village groups that had dispersed from ‘Ihu-Chineke’ Orie-Ukwu Oboama Na Uinuanama.

Communities among which the Aro-imigrants or Chukwu Abiama cultural agents settled included; Udo in Ezinihitte North-east, Mbutu which received Aro-migrants who formed the famous Aronta village, and Lorji whose culture Was so transformed by the Aro-settlers among them that descendants of Orji, had to think and believe that their ancestors migrated from Arochukwu. The Udo community was also very much influenced, It is believed that by association with Arochukwu, those descendants of the ancestor of Udo began to claim descent from Arochukwu. There were other pockets of Aro-settlers among Mbaise communities as in Obohia. The claim of Aro-origin by some of Mbaise communities derived from the fact that the Aro people were among the most civilized Igbo groups who traveled far and wide the east of the Niger .

“The Aros were so famous in pre-colonial 1gbo land and so well traveled as to establish Aro-colonies or settlements in various parts of the former Eastern Nigeria” (Onwuzurike E.)

Amuzu community claims origin from Awka. The traditional ruler of Amuzu autonomous community, Eze G. I. Elugwaraonu, Uzu 1 of Amuzu regards as false any tradition which claims that Amuzu originated from the sons of Oke-Osisi, the father of Uvuru. He maintains that Amuzu communrty was founded by migrant blacksmiths from Awka. This claim of Awka origin of Amuzu supports the view that a later and more massive dispersal South-eastwards from Awka, Orlu,. Okigwe nuclear centre or core area into the eastern Isuama area probably halted west of the Imo river at the present site of Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umunama from where they dispersed in single groups or family groups to form most Mbaise communities including Amuzu .. It is also probable that the migrants who halted at Orie-Ukwu ‘IhuuChineke’ included Awka migrants who had special claims to the smiting profession from God. Amuzu by its location and culture must have been among the eastward migration groups who could not cross the Imo but had to stay west of the Imo river as  ‘ndi-ohuhu’. Another tradition says that the indigenous inhabitants of Amuzu were not from Awka and had settled in the area before migrants from Awka who were blacksmiths settled among them and taught them the culture of blacksmithing which spread to every compound and earned them the name “Ama Ndi-Uzu”which was abridged to “Ama Uzu’ and in short, ‘Amuzu’.

While the view that the ‘Nfunala’ or autochthonous aborigines or earliest inhabitants of Mbaise descended from the “Ihuuchineke” Orieukwu Oboama na Umunama to form Mbaise communities, we believe also that, early in the history of the growing communities, they received waves of migrants from far and near who In some cases gradually and completely absorb the autochthonous inhabitants as in Udo and Lorji and in other cases were absorbed by the original inhabitants as in Mbutu.

It is historically correct to state that most villages or village groups in Mbaise Increased in population and sizes as a result of migration into them.

 MBAISE PEOPLE 1991) to be continued there is hardly any large community in Mbaise which did not receive migrants into its territory from far and near places. Lorji for example was constituted of “Nfunala’ and migrants from Arochukwu and Uvuru. The story of Aro-settlers in Lorji was a well known one. The origin or indigenous founder of Lorji was autonomous Lorji (ala-orji) was named in the tradition of origin of Mbutu as the younger brother of Ehioko, founding ancestor of Mbutu. The tradition strongly claims that Mbutu had relations that parted way with him from “ihu-chineke” Oboama na Umunama. Named as brothers or relations of Mbutu were Orji, Uboma, and the founder of Obiangwu. The tradition maintains that Ehioko (Mbutu) and Orji were from the same woman … The Maternal relation of Mbutu and Ala-Orji (shortened Lorjl) exists to date. Orji descendants who originally settled In the Umugama area later received migrants from Aroochukwu and other migrants from nearby Uvuru into ala-orji (Lorji). Uvuru tradition names Umuosike’ and Eziamata as villages, which hosted migrants from Uvuru. According to Emma. Onwuzurulke (Nguma Uvuru 1991). Umuosike Lorji migrated from Ogbor Uvuru and do not intermarry with Umuosike Ogbor Uvuru. The same source claims that Eziamata migrated from Ndigbo Uvuru and do not Intermarry with a particular kindred in Ndigbo. Mbutu also received waves of migrants, which were completely absorbed by the autonomous inhabitants of Mbutu. Movement of People out of Mbaise Land Movement of people continued after the dispersion from “ihu chineke” and there were immigrations from other areas into Mbaise area.The movement which did not ‘take place immediately after dispersion from the subsidiary culture Centre at Oboama Na Umunama was another secondary migration from Mbaise to other areas around Mbaise. One such migration was that of Avuvu. Ahiara tradition claims that Osuachara was the primogenitor of Ahiara, Odujuoanunu and Avuvu. The tradition says that Avuvu migrated out of the present place of abode of Osuachara descendants to settle in her present location in what is today, Ikeduru. According to theAhiara tradition, Avuvu moved out with the children due to hard time and bad relationship existing between him and other sons of his father Osuaara.

  Mbutu tradition also claims that two important groups moved out eastwards to join the Ngwa group. According to Nze G.B.C. Nzeata, the custodian of Isiala Mbutu oral traditions, the groups left Mbutu over five hundred years ago. Although their original places of abode are easily located in Isiala Mbutu and evidences of their settlement still exist, the date can not be said with any exactitude. One of the two groups was named as Umuigba. An elderly traditional historian, Mr. Philip Irondi (110) and Nze F. M. Agu (90) agreed with Nze G.B. C. Nzeata that the Umuigba group left Mbutu many centuries ago to settle in what is today Isiala Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State where they formed, and. perhaps with other groups, Mbutu Ama-Iri Na Isii autonomous community. According to Mr.lrondi, they moved out through Umunanwiri waterside in Ife Ezinihitte. Another group moved out from Mbutu during the same period. This group called, Umu-obioha left Mbutu owing to constant quarrels with their neighbours. Their neighbours in the village accused them of wicked acts against others. The three informants also agreed that this Umu-obioha people settled in the area of Ariaria in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area. Many groups also left Uvuru to settle in areas outside what is today, Mbaise. The most outstanding is the ‘Uvuru Ntu’ in the present Ngor Okparla L.G.A., Emma Onwuzuruike (Nguma Uvuru, 1991) states: “It is a historical fact that Uvuru Ntu in (what is today) Ngor Okpala. Migrated from Uvuru and retained their original name, “Uvuru”. Infact, this list will increase when more is know about Obizi in Abia, Onicha Uboma in Etiti and Mbutu Okohia in Ngor Okpala. Recent Adjustment in the Structure of Mbaise Apart from those who migrated to settle outside Mbaise, there was a recent ethno-political adjustment in Mbaise. This involved two communities in Agbaja clan. These two communities, Isuu Obiangwu and Umu-Ohiagu were members of Agbaja court. They attended court sesseions at Nkwogwu Nguru and later at Enyiogwugwu. Umu-Ohiagu and Isu-Obiangwu were named in Mbutu traditions as relations of Ehioko, the primogenitor of Mbutu According to the tradition, Ohiagu and Ehikemakola were also related to Uboma, Orji and Mbutu. The tradition claims. that they parted way at the cultural centre from where Uboma moved nortbwards and Iost contact with his relations due to geographical discontinuity. The descendants of Ohiagu (UmuOhiagu) and Ehikemakola (Obiangwu) lived very close to Mbutu as components of Mbaise. But in 1956, following a plebicite conducted by colonial officers, the two Mbaise communities decided to join Ngor Okpala County Council area. It was, possibly, the fear of dominiation by other groups in Agbaja clan that actuated their desire to join Ngor Okpala Council areas. Although the communities did not migrate physically to Ngor Okpala, they emigrated politically to Ngor Okpala as their territory automatically became Ngor Okpala land area with effect from 1956.. “The name Mbaise was not, of course, in existence before 1941. But the inhabitants of the territory which later became known as Mbaise were related as one ethnic group that is part of the primary core of the famous Owerri (Oratta) – Okigwe – Orfu axis of the Igbo ancestral habitant from which most Igbo groups migrated.” (Njoku G. 1979). Before colonialism, the various groups in the area, the Ngwa, Isuama and Orattas well as the Aro-groups had settled and become a homogeneous ethnic groups cognizant of their unity and relationship: . ,.

The villages and village groups which later became part of the 9 communities and clans that formed the political units described as Mbaise had socio-economic and cultural relations among themselves. From time unknown the people inter-married. Village groups and clans from one part took wives from the clans or villages on the other side of the Iand. Periodic markets in Umuokirika, Ihitteaforukwu, Mpam, Ogbe and Nguru were attended by people from Mbutu, Uvuru, Ife, Amumara, Enylogwugwu, etc. Important periodic markets like Nkwoo Lagwa, Afor-Enyiogwugwu, Afor-Oru, Afor-Ogbe, Nkwo-ala, Umuoklrlka, Eke-Onumiri and others were popular Markets among Mbaise people prior to the establishment of colonial rule.

In those days before colonisation, trading customer ship was practicalised. Traders made customers among those they used to buy from or sell to, many people from one part of the territory that became Mbaise in 1941 used to visit and interact with their customers in other parts of the land. They made friends among themselves and formed trade guilds or clubs, which often orgnasied savings and loans system for members. The savings and loans system carried traders from one part of the area to another thus, people were not strange to others as such. Trade and social contacts in the area were promoted by the presence of numerous tract routes, which linked communities. Although there were no main roads those days, villages had large roads swept weekly on the communities’ market day. Each village developed roads from their homes to the village or village group Centre or Market. Then a tract road was available to link one village with another and the market.

The communities, which Letter formed Mbaise, spoke mutually intelligible dialect, which distinguishes the Mbaise man wherever he speaks. Today, in Nigeria, whether one is from Ahiazu, Ezinihitte or Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area, Igbos recognize him as Mbaise man through his dialect. Although communities in Mbaise were Independent self-governing and recognizing no central authority outside the community “Amala‘, neighbouring towns met to settle boundary and other disputes between their commumtles. One incident which authentically revealed the oneness of the communities that later became known as Mbaise was the involvement of almost all town in the death of Dr. Rogers Stewart. The body of Dr. Stewart was shared among several communities far and near, and the British reprisal force or soldiers patrolled round the various communities from the north to the south and vice versa. There was hardly any community in Mbaise that did not suffer terribly in the hands of the reprisal forces. ‘The fact that the people who later became Mbaise by official sanction were related and cognizant of their oneness or relationship was authenticated by the return of southern Ezinihitte and Oke village groups from Okpala court area to rejoin their kits in Mbaise and void the design by the colonial officiers to dislocate them by the creation of Nkwogwu court for’ only a part of Mbaise and Okpala court for Oke clan and southern Ezinihitte communities. These factors of unity, which prevailed among the communities that later, formed the five court areas and Mbaise in 1941 controverts the assertion that “Mbaise was an artificial creation called forth by the exigencies of colonial administration.” Infact, what looked like a colonial creation was the name but even at that, the name Mbaise was formed by Mbaise people and adopted by the colonial officers. The name Mbaise was proposed by Mbaise pioneer politicians like Joseph Jamike Iwunna, D.N.Abii, and Pius Nwoga and accepted in 1941 in a meeting or conference of Chiefs of the area presided over by the District Officer, Mr. L. E. Chardwick. In the meeting, the five court areas became clans and joined together as Mbaise Disfrict. What the British administration did was the creation of political units for the area – Mbaise. Mbaise became a new name for all pre-existing and related communities. The People’s Own Method of Government Before 1900 ” Before the British colonial officers interfered with our traditional method of government, the communities that metamorphosed into Mbaise governed themselves the way other Igbo communities did. It was very democratic and gerontocratic in nature. There were two levels of government, one at the village level and another at the village group level. The village comprised families, and kindreds within which there were the okparas, titled’men, deity priests (eze-agbaras) age grade associations, respected men, youths and other classes of inhabitants. The village groups or towns (now autonomous. communities) were large bodies comprising villages ranging from three to twelve. Some village groups had so many villages, examples are Onicha, Uvuru, Ife, Enyiogwugwu, and Ahiara which have as many as ten villages. Others have between four and nine villages in the village group. The village level of government met at the village square or market usually named after the village. Members of the village assembly were not elected. They comprised every male adult, and there was no chief as at then, there were village heads whose position depended on maturity and position in the kindred and village. They were the okpara’. – The heads of the kindred (extended family). The families lived in large compounds and owed allegiance to the oldest man, who held the ‘ofo’ of the kindred or the village. He was highly respected and trusted as a man of truth. The elderly adults – the ‘okpara’ and the ‘ofo’ holders were considered to be the repository of communal wisdom and were conceded leadership in the affairs of the people or village. They were also see as persons very close to the ancestors. The elders and the Ofo ‘holders themselves had respect for authority and hardly abused It. The respect given to the elders had its. Practical effect in the maintenance of custom and tradition” of the land (OnwubikoA.O. 1991). . , The eldest man who held the ‘ofo’ of the kindred acted as Chairman of the ‘awuru-awu’ manyi Orie) gathering of the kindred. Kinsmen worked for him on the Orie-Ukwu Market day out of sheer honour (as head) during farming period. On such a day he had to feed them. When the need arose for the village assembly or meeting, all members of the kindred’s and village had to attend the amala call at the Village Square . . . invitation for the meeting was by sounding the village ‘ikoro, Ogle or tom-tom or by the announcement at the ‘town crier’ who had to announce the time and venue of the meeting. No agenda ‘ would be announced, as this would be disclosed only in the meeting. The man who asked for the assembly to meet had his agenda to disclose when the ‘amala’ assembled. When the’ villages had gathered at the venue, the agenda would have to be introduced. The members of the assembly would then rise. to make contributions. Usually, speeches began in idioms and proverbs. Most speeches would actually be spoken in idioms and proverbs. When the topic has been fully discussed, some elderly members including the titled men, the ‘oji ofos’, the okparas’, the ezejis’ and the ‘okonko’ society members would step aside (gbaa-izu) decide the matter and ask one person to announce the verdict. Whatever ruling they gave would become majority view and would be adopted by the assembly as ‘amala’ voice (mkpebi amala). The assembly had no elected speaker, chairman or secretary. As soon as the assembly (amala) had ruled on the issue, it had become law and would remain so. Whoever went contrary to the ‘amala’ decision on the matter would be punished according to ‘amala’ decision or law. In the traditional society, kindred also deliberated on domestic issues concerning them. They might not involve the village assembly until the matter had gone beyond their capacity. While families and kind reds were free to settle their own domestic matters other than stealing cases in their families or kindred square, the village assembly was the highest decision making body in the village. At the level of the village groups or towns (autonomous communities) there was the general’ council of the elders and prominent citizens. The meeting place was usually the central market square of the village group for such meetings. The general assembly of the Elders was the highest governmental body in the town. “Membership to the village group Council of elders was indirect unlike the membership of the village assembly which was direct or free for all adult males. Component villages sent representatives to the General Councilor, Villages Group . Assembly to discuss matters of common interest to all villages or the town. The agenda might be settlement of disputes between two member villages or the siting or clearing of a central market or discussion or information on threat from a neighboring village or village group. Representation was never on permanent basis as each component village was free to send any body at any time depending on the nature of the matter to be discussed if idea of the agenda was known. Traditional. priests, titled men, members of the ‘okonko’ society or members of an important age grade in the village could be delegated. The village and village group assemblies performed tripartite functions of government. They performed legislative (law making) function, executive functions (carrying out decision reached) and judicial function (settlement of disputes and punishment of offenders). Their legislative roles included taking decision on human activities such as street clearing, market clearing, levies to be contributed, days of work in the village or village group, and days of rest. Their executive function included execution of the decisions of the assembly; age grades served as executive officers or law enforcement agents. In their judicial function, the village or village group assemblies did not differentiate between criminal and civil cases. They decided all cases and punished culprits or offenders.

Punishment went according to the nature of the offence committed. They settled land cases as well as murder cases. They adjudicated on cases of stealing, encroachment and intact aII matters that affected the village or village group. Their Judgments were never imposed on a person, rather, any person who did not accept the ‘amala’ judgment was allowed to take an oath before the village deity and if he died within one year of talking the oath, his guilt was therefore accepted but if he did not die and no member of his nuclear family died within the year, he would be declared innocent, and this would be celebrated with fanfare in the traditional society. The ‘okparas’ played proment roles In the Village administration. The ‘okparas’ were the oldest male members of the most senior kindred or lineage in the Village. They were recognized heads or elders respected by all members of the extended family. They held the ‘ofo’ institution 0f their village or kindred and were believed to be credible. Their ‘ofo’ was a symbol of truth and honesty. Considered to be a repository of communal wisdom, they were conceded leadership position in the affairs of the people.  The ‘ozo’ titled men were equally respected and honoured with lots of attendant privileges. The “ozo’ titled men intervened in quarrels and wars and participated in the settlement of land disputes. In most cases, the ozo titled men represented their village in village group assemblies or meetings. Another prominent institution participating in the village government was the age grade associations. Every village had numerous age grades, all geared towards achieving peace and stability. Each age grades appointed a leader who did not see himself as superior to other members, but as a primus inter pares. The age grades protected their members in all forms and controlled their behaviour to avoid disgrace. They punished any defaulting member and did every thing to prevent any member from bringing shame on the group. The younger age grades often constituted themselves into village task force for the execution of all decisions of the village assembly ‘amala’. Another institutional body that assisted and complemented the function of the village assembly were the ‘okonko’ society members. They possessed great powers ‘which enabled them to contribute in the maintenance of peace and order in the community. The ‘okonko’ society like the age grade associations punished offenders and imposed fines on defaulting member villages. Their laws were strictly obeyed by members and they effectively executed the decisions of the village or village group assemblies – (amala). But the imposition of colonial rule in Mbaise put a stop to their existence as chiefs were appointed and courts were set up to carry out the functions of the ‘amala’. When courts were set up, the warrant chiefs began to query the power and roles of the ‘okonko’ and terminated their functions. CHAPTER TWO PRELUDE TO COLONIAL RULE IN MBAISE By 1900, the British colonial. Governrnet had gradually extended her sphere of influence over the agenda by the use of threats, conquests, subjugations, and agreements. But, at this time this territory inhabited by Isuama called Igbos was still Intact and under traditional authority of the ‘amalu’. Between 1901 and 1902, the British colonial officers had established in Owerri a British army garrison, had been put in place. Mr. H.M  Douglas had assumed duties as the first District Commissioner of Owerri District under which Mbaise was placed. He started by building roads in and around Owerri. But penetration into the interior was yet to take place effectively. Slave trade was stili clandestinely operated, and the Aro – slave dealers who centered around the infamous shrine of Ibini Ukpabi – Long Juju of Arochukwu had not ceased to terrorise the inhabitants of Igbo communities. In Ahiara clan, inter village inter-necine wars were raging between Oru-Lude and Nnarambia. Ibini Ukpabi slave dealers were still fomenting and instigating crises and were among neighbouring village groups in their bid to obtain slaves through capture of war prisoners. The Aro slave dealrs appeared not to recognise the presence of the colomal government newly, set up, and rebuffed all British colonial officers’ remonstrances or orders. It was in the attempt to checkmate the apparent indomitable desire of the Aro slave dealers and bring to an end their nefarious act indefensible slave trading activities around the shrine of the I b.1n I Ukpabl th.a~ the colonial administration decided to utterly extirpate the Iblnl Ukpabi culture in Arochukwu and similar institutionjs .in the East including Igwe-ka-ala, Umunoha. Consequently, in 1902 a column of the remnant of the West African Frontier Force (W.A.F.F.) Organised in Owerri was dispatched from Owerri through many directions to Arochukwu. One column of the Aro chukwu expeditionary force led by H.M. Douglas, the District Commissioner (DC.) Passed through Mbaise along roads cut by the force. The members of the expeditionary force passed in twos and in threes along their route towards Arochukwu. Their, route was bush paths from Owerri to Egbu; Awaka to Emeke, Emeke to Enyogwugwu and Nguru, Nguru to Ahiara, to Otulu, Umuawada Onicha to Umuosisi Obizi and so on. Another column passed through Okpala. Among members of the expeditionary force (team) was a medical doctor, Roger Stewart. He had missed the team and was following and tracing their movement along the route by bicycle. He was alone and was said to have passed Umuawada Onicha and was heading to Umuosisi Obizi where he was seen last. The natives had certainly heard of the loss of their traditional independence but had not actually known how it would be. They had however learnt that the whites had taken control at Owerri and had even started courts (1903) to try offenders. The natives had actually seen the members of the expeditionary force passing in twos or threes. The people were certainly strange because among them were whites and blacks. The natives were for the first time seeing white people and had ostensibly not reconciled with the presence of such strange elements or persons. Dr. Roger Stewart rode along on his bicycle, which also was strange in the neighborhood. In addition, the natives did not know the intention of the strange fellows passing in twos and threes. Such extra-ordinary passage, of strange, people threatened the people’s sense of security and independence’. In effect, the curious natives seeing Roger Stewart on his bicycle felt that danger was imminent. They therefore seized the strange fellow and annihilated him, tied his bicycle on a tree and buried his watch to ensure that they could not travel back to say what had happened to their owner. They cut the body into pieces and made sure that many village groups in Mbaise area had share of the strange meat. They were not cannibals because if they were, a few people could finish the meat. Rather, they wanted to show that the strange fellows’ trespassing into the interior were halted. Prelude to Colonial Rules in Mbaise History and Culture of Mbaise But the column soon noticed that Dr. Stewart was missing and without waste oftime, H.M. Douglas ordered for a search, and he and his other officers at Owerri began to search for him. They traced his route and discovered pieces of paper, which he wrote in red ink about his movement along the route. Those who traced his route picked up the pieces of paper and read up to umuosisi Obizi where they saw his bicycle tied on tree with adoll or ahiamara’ (string or rope). But the people could not find who killed the imperialist agent. Although Ahiara was going to be the scapegoat for Dr. Stewart’s death, the death of Dr. Stewart took place outside Ahiara clan.  Mr. Celestine Onyekwere and Rev. Fr. T.O.s. Enel’emadu, who documented the memories of Chief Pius Onyekwere, claim that Dr. Stewart was not killed in Ahiara but at Umuosisi Obizi after he had left Umuebelike Onicha. The account in ‘Here is Ahiara’ by Eze D. O. Onyekwere gives the impression that Dr. Stewart was killed by Ahiara people in 1904. This  claims  debunked by ‘the soldiers and other Europeans who, tracing his route began to pick the pieces of paper until they arrived at Umuosisi Obizi, where they saw that his bicycle was tied to a tree with four ‘adoli native tie’ (ahiamara). There are two Ahiara versions of the story of the death of Dr. Stewart. One version of the story was told by Chief Pius Onyekwere and documented by Mr. Celestina Onyekwere and Rev. Fr. T.O.S. Eneremadu. According to this version, Dr. Stewart was last seen at Umuebelike Onicha where an Umuaghara Ogbe or Umulolo man whose maternal home was Umuebelike witnessed the incident of the death of Dr. Stewart. The man was a real artist and after seeing the head of the white man cut off from his body, designed and carved a similar head resembling a white man’s head. He not only carved a Similar head or carbon copy of a white head, but he paraded the head round all Ahiara markets for the people to see. When the news of the death of Dr, Stewart began to spread, people who saw the carved head and could not distinguish at a glance an artwork and natural head, spread the information that the white man’s head was paraded round Ahiara Markets. In effect, Chief Nwaturuocha (held hostage by Douglas for the Death) then informed Mr. Douglas that an Ahiara man was seen parading the head of Dr. Stewart in all Markets of Ahiara. It was this information which made Douglas to ask Chief Nwaturuocha to look for an influential person from Ahiara to help the government to trace the where about of Dr. Stewart or in the alternative lose his life. Consequently, Chief Nwaturuocha named Pius Onyekwere, a youth of about thirty years old who had the same maternal home with him in Umuchigbu’s family of Oboama Nguru. Onyekwere  was conscripted from Umuchigbu’s family where he was in his grandmother’s house and was given over to Douglas, held hostage and promised to be made Chief (leader) of his people if he succeeded in giving information and support that would lead to the discovery of the body of Dr. Stewart or who killed him. Although the soldiers from Owerri including the whites and blacks from East Africa had reached the terminal point of Dr. Stewart’s journey, they had not identified who killed him. A second version of the story of the deaths accused Ahiara of involvement in the death of Dr. Stewart. Eze D. O. Onyekwere seems to have supported this version when he arrogated in his book “This is Ahiara” that “Ahiara was the first town in Mbaise to challenge boldly the first traces of British imperialism in this part of Africa, She regarded the first British adventurer to Ahiara as one whose mission meant unwarranted intrusion in the privacy of Ahiara. The adventurer was Dr. Stewart. His mission was drastically challenged and he himself eliminated. “this claim’ of responsibility for the death of Dr. Stewart on behalf of Ahiara was controverted by Celestine Onyekwere and Rev. Fr. T.O.S. Eneremadu’s defence’ that, “since no people agreed that they killed Dr. Stewart, people who disliked Ahiara accused Ahiara people of killing the late Dr. Stewart.” Authentic sources including the reports of the whitemen who traced his movement and found his terminal point at Umuosisi AHIARA AND THE DEATH OF DR. STEWART Obizi confirmed that Or Stewart was killed between Umuebelike Onicha and Umuosisi Obizi. Although the terminal point of Dr. Stewart journey had been identified but those who killed him were not known. It is of course true that Ahiara town was famous for wars and were belligerent at the time when the whites and soldiers were passing across Ahiara in twos and threes and although also Ahiara had mercenaries who fought on, for other towns and clans in Igboland, they were not Involved In the elimination of Dr. Stewart because the warriors were fully engaged in Oru-Lude-Nnarambia inter village inter-necine war. The involvement of Ahiara was essentially caused by the curious Umulolo Ogbe artist who did not understand that the killing of the white man would attract an avalanche of reprisals and trouble on any suspected community or persons. No wonder that both Ahiara, Onicha and Obizi in particular and Mbaise in general suffered under the reprisal forces of Captain Douglas who determined to destroy utterly if possible any living soul in Ahiara, Onicha, Obizi and neighbourhood. Eke Ahiara and Orie Obodo (Orie Ahiara). Following their excursion round the area, the soldiers established a camp base at Nkwogwu and made it a military headquarter. They established other camp bases at Orie Onuoha (Onicha), Orie Alaike and at Uzoaku Obohia (Ekwerazu). From these camp bases, Douglas commanded the soldiers to mow down every moving object from all corners and towns leading to Ahiara and Onicha. It was said that a single bullet from the bazzuca gun fired from Nkwogwu knocked down a big branch of an lroko tree in front of Onyekwere’s avenue at Okoro Akpaka Nnarambia and frightened the belligerent Nnarambia, Lude and Oru people. So threatened by this show of military strength, the people disengaged from inter village warfare to face a common enemy whose reason for attack on Ahiara was not understood by the people. From their military bases, the British soldiers including those recruited from Nguru hemmed in Ahiara, Ekwereazu, Onicha and Obizi and the neighbourhood. People’s homes were destroyed by burning, properties were looted and lives exterminated. While the British had used the death of Dr. Stewart as an excuse to subjugate the area, they had had encounter with Uvuru people in 1902, which resulted in the destruction of five quarters of Umuekeugo Ogbor. (Walter Of on agora, 1979). According to S. N. Nwagbara (1977), Nnorie-Uvuru patrol team under the command of Lt. Half penny destroyed a good number of Nnorie villages and extended same to Uvuru and Mbutu in 1903. The military patrols were intensified after the death of Dr. Stewart. It is noteworthy also that parts of Mbaise – Enyiogwugwu and Nguru had been subjugated before the death of Dr. Stewart and the consequent reprisal. In effect, the Douglas war was actuated not only by the desire to avenge the death of Dr. Stewart, but by the desire to subjugate the interior and introduce foreign or colonial rule. What ever decided the District Commissioners’ attack on the natives of the interior, the Ahiara warriors could not fail to defend their homes against both imperialistic and reprisal war by Douglas and Hasting. With local made weapons and the ‘erefere’ or rifle gun bought by barter from the Portuguese, they displayed their military powers, Having promised to lead the colonial soldiers to all the places they would want to visit in search of the body of Dr. Steward, Onyekwere Pius Njoku was given a king’s robe and a staff, symbolical of Chieftaincy and was taken to Owerri with Nwaturuocha both of whom lodged in Chief Njamanze’s house. Not long after, soldiers brought back Pius Onyekwere Njoku and Nwaturuocha to Nguru where they left Nwaturuocha hostage in his house and took Onyekwere and made him leader of all military operations so that he followed the colonial soldiers to any destination they desired. On the return of Onyekwere from Owerri, Ahiara people did not expect war with the British force because of Dr. Stewart’s death. The war against Ahiara was led by Douglas himself and Captain Harold Hastings. The first step taken by Douglas and Hasting was to require Onyekwere to take them round. the important places or market squares including Nkwo-Otulu Ahiara, Eke Nnevule, Aguneze, Afor Oru na Lude, Eke Ahiara and Orie Obodo (Orie Ahiara). Following their excursion round the area, the soldiers established a camp base at Nkwogwu and made it a military headquarter. They established other camp bases at Orie Onuoha (Onicha), Orie Alaike and at Uzoaku Obohia (Ekwerazu). From these camp bases, Douglas commanded the soldiers to mow down every moving object from all corners and towns leading to Ahiara and Onicha. It was said that a single bullet from the bazzuca gun fired from Nkwogwu knocked down a big branch of an lroko tree in front of Onyekwere’s avenue at Okoro Akpaka Nnarambia and frightened the belligerent Nnarambia, Lude and Oru people. So threatened by this show of military strength, the people disengaged from inter village warfare to face a common enemy whose reason for attack on Ahiara was not understood by the people. From their military bases, the British soldiers including those recruited from Nguru hemmed in Ahiara, Ekwereazu, Onicha and Obizi and the neighbourhood. People’s homes were destroyed by burning, properties were looted and lives exterminated. While the British had used the death of Dr. Stewart as an excuse to subjugate the area, they had had encounter with Uvuru people in 1902, which resulted in the destruction of five quarters of Umuekeugo Ogbor. (Walter Of on agora, 1979). According to S. N. Nwagbara (1977), Nnorie-Uvuru patrol team under the command of Lt. Halfpenny destroyed a good number of Nnorie villages and extended same to Uvuru and Mbutu in 1903. The military patrols were intensified after the death of Dr. Stewart. It is noteworthy also that parts of Mbaise – Enyiogwugwu and Nguru had been subjugated before the death of Dr. Stewart and the consequent reprisal. In effect, the Douglas war was actuated not only by the desire to avenge the death of Dr. Stewart, but by the desire to subjugate the interior and introduce foreign or colonial rule. What ever decided the District Commissioners’ attack on the natives of the interior, the Ahiara warriors could not fail to defend their homes against both imperialistic and reprisal war by Douglas and Hasting. With local made weapons and the ‘erefere’ or rifle gun bought by barter from the Portuguese, they displayed their military powers, regrouped at Nkwo-Otuulu, planned their traditional warfare strategies and replied fire to the British troops. The British did not expect any reply of fore from uncivilized people taken unaware. The Ahiara warriors used a very poisonous weapon, the spike which killed instantly.without cure. They also used bows and arrows, spears, matchets, club and even fibre (avuvu) mixed with pepper and burnt in pots in hidden places for the enemy. This fibre weapon caused the enemy very great irritation and cough” which exposed them where ever they hid. But more destructive were the ‘spikes’ and the ‘rerefere’ or Portuguese rifle. British were still bent on decimating the populatibn of Ahiara people. Although still afraid, theAhiara veterans from the villages went to Nkwogwu with weapons. Unaware of the plans of the British troops who had set machine guns all round the people who responded, the Ahiara warriors were attacked and some of the veterans were killed, others escaped into the bush with or without guns. According to Celestine Onyekwere and Rev. Fr. Eneremadu, Douglas collected the guns together, and burned them, and said that that had concluded the hostilities. But Eze Dr. Onyekwere said the British troops under Captain Hais (Hasting) demanded the surrender of all charms and guns to be destroyed and payment of war indemnity of one hundred pounds ( 100.00). Accordong to Eze D. Onyekwere, the conditions were fulfilled and the guns and charms were gathered and bundled away into the Abadaba (Obowo) lake. Chief Pius Onyekwere led a delegation, which took the one hundred pounds to Owerri under a military escort. After many months of open and guerilla warfare and the resultant casualties on both sides, H.M. Douglas and Harold Hasting sued for peace through Chief Onyekwere. The British had suffered terribly in casualties having been’ fighting in an unknown and difficult subequatorial forest and terrian. Calling for truce and cessation of hostilities, they asked Onyekwere to ask all Ahiara warriors to assemble at the Nkwo Otulu (Nkwokuko) market square with their war implements for the truce. All towns around Ahiara came down on the agreed day of truce with ‘Omu’ to symbolize that they were strangers and had only come to witness what was to happen at the market square. The whites themselves were a novelty. Their marching and military uniform were colourful. But unfortunately for the curious witnesses or spectetors, the Ahiara warriors did not turn up in large numbers as expected because they did not trust the British troops. The British toops in anger fired all those who had turned up probably for looting and mere curiosity. No truce or agreement to end the’ war was reached, as the soldiers of Ahiara had not come out as ordered. Consequent upon the failure of the truce at Nkwo-Otulu (Nkwokuko) Captain Douglas and Hasting realizing their mistak ,asked Onyekwere the second time to tell his people to bring their veterans to negotiate for peace now at a neutral place, Nkwogwu, Nguru, the Army Headquarters. Infact, how neutral an army headquarters was is again questionable and doubtful. The The war which Captain Douglas fought against Mbaise communities was not only punitive but also imperialistic war which caused untold hardship on the people of Mbaise in genral and on the people of Ahiara, Onicha, Obizi, Nguru, Uvuru and Mbutu in particular. During the war many people ran into the bush and forest and many escaped to communities outside Mbaise ‘and never returned at the end of the war. Many persons were killed even in the forest and bushes where they had run into. Many rich persons who ran away into the bush or to neighboring clans or towns lost their properties to looters who followed the soldiers. In effect, after the war, many people were subjected to untold hardship resulting from loss of members of family, property and reduction in status. Hunger and poverty ravaged the area. As no farming was done during the period of subjugation and reprisal wars, and trading which was the next important occupation of Mbaise people was not carried on during the war, people suffered deprivations, hunger and’ poverty. Famine was severe.  The war discouraged the production of our traditional military weapons because not only that the weapons were surrendered or burnt but the makers were killed during the war and those who survived the war became afraid of the colonial officers and the chiefs representing them. Consequently we lost the technology which had been developed before the Douglas war. The death of Dr. Stewart which Douglas used as excuse to subdue Mbaise people was very unfortunate. The people of Mbaise respected the sacredness of life and were weakened in fighting back to a reprisal war. Had the white men openly confronted the people they could have more stubbornly resisted the trespass to the territory by strange fellows. Many who ran into bushes and to neighbouring towns outside Mbaise were infact respecting our cultural practice of deserting the area where blood was shed especially the blood of a stranger. The report ofthe panel of inquiry set up by the colonial office in London over the death of Dr. Stewart and aftermath declaimed against Mbaise people. They described Mbaise as a land of savage, belicose and cannibalistic inhabitants. All colonial officers in the east and infact Nigeria, portrayed Mbaise as very wicked people who destroyed an innocent man’s life. Subsequently colonial officers were warned of Mbaise and all learnt to treat Mbaise with suspicion and caution. This became a stigma borne by any Mbaise man today. Our neighbours also, unfortunately saw us as the whiteman did. The Douglas was caused the initial bifurcation of Mbaise ethnic block into two court areas located in two different ethnic units or court areas. The extension of Obegu military detachment to Okpala brought about the extension of military action to Uvuru, Mbutu and Nnorie. Hence, in 1909 when courts were created at Nkwogwu and Okpala, the colonial officers grouped Uvuru, Mbutu, Lorji, Amuzu and Southern Ezinihitte towns of Ife , Akpokwu, Umudim, Umochoko and Umueze with Okpala court area. This policy of divide and rule adopted by Mr. Douglas separated. The Oke group of towns and Southern Ezinihittetowns from the rest of Mbaise. History and Culture of Mbaise who attended court sessions at Nkwogwu. The death of Dr. Stewart and the war that followed placed Onyekwere in a difficult position. He was set against his people. Although he was a bold chief, but what the colonial soldiers did in Ahiara and surrounding communities suspected of involvement in Dr. Stewart’s death placed Onyekwere in a bad book of his people. He was in danger of being either attacked by the British soldiers if he refused to obey instruction. However, Onyekwere gained personality.-: when he became a warrant Chief after successfully leading the British team to establish the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. Stewart. The Establishment of Colonial Rules in Mbaise Area CHAPTER THREE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COLONIAL RULE IN MBAISE AREA Colonial rule in Mbaise had not started in actuality until after 1903-1904. Before this period, H.M. Douglas had occupied himself with construction of roads through communities and with the suppression of the Arochukwu Ibini Ukpabi intransigence. Undoubtedly, the colonial government had been set up in Owerri between 1901 and 1902 with H.M. Douglas as Its first District Commissioner. From Owerrl, H.M. Douglas dispatched Columns of expeditionary force, or Aro-Field Force through Mbaise and Okpala areas. The military or expeditionary force had passed through Egbu, Awaka, Emekukwu, Enyiogwugwu and Nguru and had appointed Nwaturuocha leader or Chief of the area to assist in the construction of roads by appointing headmen to superintend the road construction activities in the area. The Aro Field Force originating from Owerri had cut route and passed through Nguru, Ahiara, Onicha, Obizi and onwards to Arochukwu. H.M. Douglas and his expeditionary force regularly patrolled the routes to suppress any form of opposition or resistance to colonial rule. By the appointment of Nwaturuocha (1903) as Chief of the area, the British had begun a systematic subjugation of the people of Mbaise. Nwaturuocha after his appointment, appointed headmen responsible for reporting any serious breaches of the peace, and turning out their people to make roads. In 1904, the British colonial authorities set up a type of government in which several districts or divisions were created within a province. Owerri became a province under which there were districts or divisions. Mbaise was included in Owerri Division with H.M. Douglas as its first Commissioner or District Officer. Before 1905 when Dr. Roger Stewart was killed, Mbaise colonization or subjugation had not been consummated. Although the patrol teams passed in twos and threes along the newly cut route across Ahiara, Onicha and beyond, the Mbaise people had not accepted the surrender of their traditional authority or government or reconciled themselves with the presence of white men or what they represented in the area. Unlike in Enyiogwugu and Nguru, where people had submitted to colonial rule, the Ahiara, Onicha and Obizi along whose territories the route passed had not been subjugated. The communities further away from the route had no idea of colonial administration in what is today Ahiazu and Ezinihitte Local Government Areas. In Uvuru, there had been encounter with the patrol team operating from Okpala, which destroyed Umuekugo village ofOgbor Uvuru . The Military patrols to Uvuru in particular were intensified after the death of Dr. Rogers Stewart and Chiefs were appointed to ensure the implementation of colonial orders. The first appointed in Uvuru was Ndukwu of Ogbor Uvuru and next was Ihekoronye Uzoaru Egbelu Uvuru and Madugba also of Egbelu Uvuru, which situate close to communities in . Ngor Okpala. Following in 1905 the death of Dr. Stewart, the colonial government represented by H.M Douglas undertook a systematic subjugation of all Mbaise under the eXGuse ttlat Mbaise people killed Dr. Rogers Stewart, a member of the British expeditionary force or patrol team. In 1905-1.06, in reward for his assistance during the search for Dr. Stewart’s body and in the war againstAhiara, Onicha, Obizi, Ekwerazu and in fact all component towns of Mbaise, Mr. Pius Onyekwere Njoku was made Chief (Warrant Chien, secciid to Nwaturuocha in the area. Onyekwere then appointed his headmen from the ten villages (later towns) in Ahiara to ensure the implementation of colonial orders including maintenance of peace, and order and supervision of forced labour for constructioh” of roads. Meanwhile, a native court had been set up at Owerri in 1903 and prominent chiefs “‘{ere members of the panel of judges. Chief Nwaturuocha of Umuanuma Nguru, Chief Pius Onyekwere Njoku and Chief Ihekoronye of Uvuru, Chief Okereke Ejije of Okpala, Chief Oparaocha Ekwe of Ulakwo, Chief Njemanze of Owerri, Chief Akpatu of Oguta, Chief Nwanchi of Akabor in Ikeduru, and Chief Akpatu of Oguta, Chief Nwanchi of Akabor Ikeduru, and Chief Ogbuji of Awara were members of the native court judges at Owerri from 1903-1908. Chief Nwachukwu of Mbutu who was warranted in 1907 was also among the The Establishment of Colonial Rules in Mbaise Area  Uzuaru of Egbelu, NdLJkvyu of Ogbor, Nwachukwu of Mbutu Oti Ihesiene of UmuodaAmuzu and others, ‘ panel of judges. Shortly afterwards, the colonial government partitioned the Owerri districts into smaller units called native courts and two native courts were established (1909) in Nguru at Nkwogwu, (the headquarter of the Expeditionary force and the venue of the final settlement of the Douglas war) and another at Okpala, the base of a detachment of the Obegu military force that extended military action to Uvuru. The Mbaise Area thus came under the jurisdiction of two court areas, which encompassed large number of people, some of whom did not become Mbaise in 1941. Thus, the court at Owerri was decentralized and members in the Owerri court became judges’ automatically in the courts in their area. In effect Nwaturuocha and Onyekwere were given warrants of authority to preside over the court at Nkwogwu established (1909). Chilaka Ukpo of Umunama was then recruited and given warrant to become a judge with Nwaturuocha and Onyekwere in the Court of Nkwogwu. Although neighbouring non-Mbaise towns attended Nkwogwo native court, the court belonged to Nguru, Okwuato, Enyiogwugwu, Ahiara, Ekwereazu, parts of Ezinihitte namely, Oboama na Umunama, Ihitte, Okpofe, Amaumara, Itu, Obizi, Udo, Onicha, Ezeagbogu and Eziudo. Southern Ezinihitte towns of Ife, Akpokwu, Umudim, Umuchoko and Umueze were grouped with Oke Communities of Uvuru, Mbutu, Amuzi and Lorji in Okpala native court. Fortunately, all the Ezinihitte and Oke Communities were never influenced by long association with Ngor Okpala Communities to remain in Okpala court area after more courts were created in Mbaise in 1934, following the women riot and new administrative reorganization. When the court at Nguru became so large and unwieldy, warrants were given to more people to help in the adjudication of cases. From NGURU, Chief Anyamele of Ogbor later replaced by Chief Nwachukwu Udaku of Eziala Ogwu was given warrant. Other Chiefs warranted at the time were Chief. Nwebe of Onicha, Chief Odilichukwu Anyanwu of Mpam, Chief Onwujiariri of Obodo Ujichi and Chief Abii of Eziudo. In Okpala court area, many warranted chiefs recruited from Mbaise area included Nwaigwe Akanwa of Ife, Ihekoronye Meeting the cost of Native Administration and the Women Riot. The British Government had no budget for the administration of the empire, which they had acquired by force and intimidation. The use of chiefs and headmen were actuated by their desire to run the empire at no cost to the British government. Under the colonial system of government, the Indirect Rule system was used in which the colonial officers met the expenses of operating. The courts and paying the salaries of judges through forced or compulsory labour and revenue collected by the courts. There were no direct taxation meanwhile. However, in 1927, the colonial government decided to introduce taxation to raise funds for the transformation of the entire system of local government into a more efficient structure. “Although the tax was supposed to be calculated on an assessment of the average farmer’s income, it in fact was merely a poll tax based on a census of the adult male population taken by the warrant chiefs the previous year”. (Smock, A.C. 1971) The idea of imposition of taxation on the people was not welcome. The people were self employed and had derived no social benefit from the colonial administration. The schools existing in the communities were not government schools but mission schools to which people could not send their children because of inability to pay the prescribed small fees. Were the people to pay taxes to support the warrant chiefs who collected bribes from them or what? What was the tax to be used for? The people were not educated and the defunct traditional government never imposed taxes on the people. Taxes were actually completely new in the traditional and colonial system. The decision to impose taxes on every adult male was thus met with suspicion.  Women did not feel free of involvement in taxation if it started. The suspicion for the inclusion of women, worsened by the alleged corruption and the excesses of the warrant chiefs History and Culture of Mbaise provoked the action of women who reacted against warrant chief Okugo who was counting men, women and children in Oloko near Aba as instructed by the colonial officials. This was however not for taxation but a census of the people. Since warrant chiefs were viewed primarily as tax collectors and representatives of the colonial rule, the counting was misunderstood in Oloko as in other communities as a step to tax women as men had been. In opposition to the colonial rule, taxation and warrant chief system, women rioted in Oloko and Aba , attacked residences of warrant chiefs, British officials and European trading stores and banks. The riot, which started principally at Aba, spread to other areas in the east of Nigeria including Mbaise and Okpala court areas. The women in Mbaise and Okpala areas became rampageous and destructive. They ravaged the houses of the warrant chiefs, destroyed their palaces or ‘OVU’. In Mbaise, the court building at Nkwogwu was destroyed and court officials were wounded. This important event which occurred in 1929 was known in history as Aba Women Riot of 1929. The riot was an incontrovertible evidence that colonial rule especially the indirect rule system and taxation forced on the people were not accepted. It showed that the warrant chiefs as representatives of the colonial rule were hated. It was a belated attempt to resist the colonial rule in this part of the Igbo land. Fundamental Revision of the Local Government System After the historic women riot (1929) in the Eastern region of Nigeria, the British government undertook a fundamental revision of the local government structure similar to the one contemplated but never implemented in 1927. Following a preliminary anthropological investigations conducted by the colonial administrative officers, new native authority areas were created. These new native authority areas were based on the preexisting clan units. After conducting two months of survey, an assistant administrative officer concluded, and wrongly of course, that there were three subtribes in the Nguru native court area. He named the subtribes as Ekwereazus, the Ezinihittes and the Agbaja. A later investigation identified Ahiara and Oke clans. In compliance with the report of the surveys tie colonial government set up three separate native authority areas, each With Its own court. The Ekwerazus had a native court at Uzuaku Obohia, the Ezinihittes’ native court was located at itu and the Agbajas with their own native court at Enyiogwugwu: Two other native court areas were created for Ahiara and Oke. Ahiara was created out of Nguru defunct court and Ovoro from Okpala. The Ahiara native court was located at Obodo Ahiara and Oke-clan native court was set up at Uvuru (OVORO). The five native court areas became clans and units of native authority, with effect from 1934. After this revision of the local government structure, which culminated in the establishment of five native court areas in Mbaise, communities were themselves asked to select chiefs and present to the government for recognition. Each town was allowed to have a paramount chief, assisted by other chiefs selected from other villages of the town. Colonial administrators also went on to ask for more chiefs to make sure that each village had its own chiefs. In the bid to ensure that every village had a chief, former headmen and tax collectors became court judges, or chiefs. The era of warrant chieftaincy had ended as soon as villages enjoyed the opportunity of selecting their chiefs and presenting to the government for recognition. With the new structure, native courts become so full and unwieldly with these “mass bench” chiefs (eze aghagburu). The courts were no longer as lucrative to the new chiefs as they were to the warranted chiefs – most of whom were not selected by their people as judges in the new structure. Because of the large population of the new chiefs or judges, period of court sessions had to be rotated in shifts. One shift attended court session for three months after which another shift took over. The shifts rotated until all had had their shifts and the rotation had to start again (onwa-ikpe). When it was discovered that this system was not very effective, a new restructuring took place, and the number of the mass bench or kindred chiefs was drasticqlly reduced to at most two in a town. In 1952, a native court of appellate jurisdiction was opened up for Mbaise sub- division and in 196… The Eastern Region set up the Eastern Regional House of chiefs where chiefs’ designated second class chiefs were selected from prominent and pre-existing chiefs in Mbaise. These chiefs of various status were disbanded after the Nigeria-Biafra war (the Nigerian Civil War 1967 – 70). The Formation of Federation of Native Authority Areas According to the annual administrative reports by colonial officers, the new court authorities could not become effective units of local government. Their ineffectiveness was attributed to their small size. It should be recalled that a revision of the local government structure was undertaken (1930-1) after the women .. Riot and implemented in 1934 when the five courts were established in Mbaise sub-division. But four years after this reorganization ofOwerri division, the colonial government began strongly ‘encouraging’ the formation of federations of the small units created in 1934. Consequently, after meeting with the. chiefs of Mbaise, Mr D. N. Abii of Eziudo, Mr. J.J. Iwunna of Nguru and Mr. Pius Nwoga of Umuokirika who were members of Owerri Divisional Union considered the desirability offederating the five court areas to form one political unit. The chiefs were equally considering the necessity of federating the five court areas into one. Since the federation of small units was an idea sponsored by the colonial government, the chiefs and the emerging politicians were allowed to consider the issue together. The name ‘Mbaise’ meaning five court areas was suggested and adopted as the most appropriate name for the new political units to be formed by the amalgamation of the existing five court areas. Consequently, a meeting or conference of the chiefs of the area and the officers of the Owerri Divisional Union from the area, presided over by the District Officer, Mr. L. E. Chardwick agreed to name the federated five court areas ‘MBAISE’ District with one native administrative headquarter and treasury. This was actualised in 1941 and in 1942, a Treasury was opened at Enyiogwugwu court premises. It should be remarked that. Nkwogwu had lost its initial advantageous position owing to the destruction of government property by the rioting women which had caused the then colonial divisional commissioner to curse Nkwogwu. In effect, what should have been located at Nkwogwu had to be transferred to another place. For its central location, and neutrality, the treasury was transferred to Aboh in 1948. Aboh was found to be the most central and neutral location for all communities and clans of Mbaise. By a major political or administrative changes in 1952, the colonial government replaced the native administration by a system of local government councils fashioned after those in Britain . Consequently, the Mbaise Division (or political unit) became ‘Mbaise county council’ and local councils were established in Ahiara, Ekwereazu, Enyiogwugwu, Okwuato, Nguru, Ezinihitte East, Ezinihitte West, Ezinihitte Centre and Oke. The Mbaise county council inaugurated in 1955 elected Mr. N. D. Uka of Umuokirika Ekwereazu as its first chairman, and elected Mr. D. N. Abii of Eziudo Ezinihitte (1958) as the second chairman. Abii remained as chairman for two tenures and was replaced by Mr. Donatus Onu in 1964. Mr. D. Onu also, of Umuokirika Ekwereazu remained the chairman of Mbaise county council till the end of Nigerian Biafrawar(1970). When Britain subdued the North in a series of military expeditions and finally in 1900, revoked the charter of the Royal Nigeria company, it decided to run the government of what is today Nigeria without the mid wifery of the trading companies. The British government which had taken over administration (of the country) from the Royal Niger Company had no plans for governing Nigeria . The colonial office appointed Frederick Lugard High commissioner of Northern Nigeria with no instructions regarding how to govern the area. Lugard faced two major problems: firstly, he had very limited resources as grant for administration, and secondly he had notenough British officers to help him gov.ern such a large territory. In effect, he decided to govern the country through the use of existing local structures – chiefs, Emirs, Islamic courts and traditional rulers. The Indirect Rule was based on the belief that chiefs, traditional rulers ar,d. emirs were the natural rulers of their people. It was considered by Lugard that recognition of these existing structure by the colonial governmel’Jt to make laws, punish offences and administer local revenue and services would make them useful in the administration of the country. Lugard believed that all the colonial government needed to do was to control and direct the leaders who in turn would control their own people. But this policy introduced for the whole area that became muted latter as Nigeria was not perfect in all areas. In the North, it was Unable because it followed their traditional native admimstration by the emirs and their Islamic courts. In the south It was not easy. The Yoruba chiefs in the west did not possess the type of Power which the northern emirs possessed. There was difficulty in trying to make the existing Yoruba chiefs exercise powers smiler to those of the emirs in the north. In keeping with the practice In the North, the colonial officers designated the leading Yoruba Obas as Sole Native Authorities’. This system thus, converted constitutional monarchies of Yoruba land into autocratic agents of colonial rule. This was a contradiction of the Yoruba culture. The situation in the east presented a more complex cases. In the east, the British administration due to lack of knowledge of indigenous political organization looked for strong rulers in whom centralized authority could be reposed. When they failed to find such strong rulers, they resorted to adopting the House Rule’ which was developed by trading companies. The indirect rule was completely successful in the North, partially successful in the south west where centralized administration in the form of kingdoms and chiefdoms similar in some respects to the emirates in the north existed. But it was a complete failure in the south east especially among the Igbos where the traditional pattern of authority was decentralized and decisions were made by the ‘amala’ or ‘council of elders’. In effect, the British government could not find paramount rulers in Igboland as they did in Yoruba land and in the northern emirates. Consequently, the administrators employed the services of the most forward among the people by making them chiefs by warrants without due regard for status of the people and the tradition of the people. In the east the warrant chiefs appointed by the colonial administrators possessed powers conferred on them by the British administrators whom,.they represented. The warrant chiefs combined in their persons the functions of tax collectors, road constructors, colonial government agents, and native court judges. This concentration of power in one person was foreign to Igbo culture or tradition, and caused crises which affected the system. According to Frederick Lugard himself, indirect rule meant that each locality was to be ruled through its chiefs and not by the direct rule of the British officers. Thus it was a system of government by colonial administrators through the use of chiefs (or local leaders) of the natives appointed by the colonial officers. The indirect rule in Mbaise was operated by the District Commissioner and District officers with’ the chiefs whom they appointed. The District Commissioner working under the provincial commissioner, and the resident legislated and fixed taxes while the chiefs they gave warrants in Mbaise as in other areas in the east, had the duty of assessing tax payers, and collecting the taxes through their headmen and tax collectors appointed by them (chiefs). As the provincial, and District officers were charged with the duty of maintaining law and order in their areas of jurisdiction, these officers in turn instituted a body of persons charged with the responsibility of effective execution of the colonial orders. This brought about the appointment of warrant chiefs who among other functions would be judges in . native courts where breaches of the laws and order would be punished. The chiefs therefore became available panels of judges for the courts which the native administration ordinance of 1906 had provided for. The chiefs as judges had to collect revenue through fInes. It was through the revenue collected that salaries of court judges, clerks and court messengers were to be paid. The warrant chiefs soon collected more than they required. Fines would be paid into treasury but bribes collected from court clients were higher than fines. Native courts became centre of corruption, bribery and oppression. Most warrant chiefs married too many wives and expanded their families with women snatched from their subjects. Their appearance became very vexatious and ignoble to their subjects. In fact, many of them were not able to recognize many of their wives and children. No . wonder, why the women rioting in 1929 concentrated on the warrant chiefs in Mbaise. The Effect of the Indirect Rule in Mbaise, The institution of warrant chieftaincy in Igboland in general and In Mbaise in particular was foreign rather than indigenous to the Igbo traditional government. The appointment of warrant chiefs was not as in the traditional African community, backed by religious and cultural sanctions. The chief appointed by warrant could neither assert his claim with myths nor appeal to traditions native to the people according to African traditional system. In fact the warrant chiefs’ position was without traditional and cultural basis. In addition, he had no ritual and effective checks to abuse of office and power. It has to be emphasized that the activates of the warrant chiefs and other colonial agents caused a disruption of the African sense of community in Mbaise. The Indirect rule system did not prepare the educated citizenry for democracy the educated were neglected while the system adopted the Illiterate who earned out all colonial instructions. The educated elite hated the native administration (Indirect rule) as an embodiment of British imperialism. In the words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo “Indirect Rule was a mere subterfuge for petty autocracy of British administrative officers”. By the 1906 Native Administration Ordinances, which provided for permanent leadership of the warrant chiefs who could not be removed from office except by the District officer, the warrant chiefs were by Implication empowered to act autocratically. Their autocratic power alienated them from most of their subjects. The decision of the administrati6n to meet the expenses of operating the courts and paying the salaries of warrant chiefs through compulsory labour and revenue from fines by the courts were very unpopular. Hence, when in 1927, the native administration introduced direct taxation, the populace agitated, and when it was rumored that women would be taxed as well, protests and rioting began. The introduction of direct taxation after a head count had created suspicion on census for our people. ThiS made many villages in Mbaise refuse to count their population. Many family heads suspecting taxation of members of their family omitted large number of their wards and subjects. The indirect rule had introduced direct taxation of all male adults to supplement the indirect taxation which fines represented, but taxation was not only new in our land but also a Violation of our traditional echos which forbade the imposition of levies on women. When therefore women expressed their opposition to the foreign rule which had changed our traditional rules, the warrant chiefs as agents of the foreign rule and the tax collection were victims and escapegoats of the evils of colonial rule. The rioting women in Mbaise, like other parts of the east, destroyed homes of chiefs at Nkwogwu and Okpala court areas. The indirect rule led to the women riot in 1929, which caused the colonial officers to investigate into the roles and activities of the warrant chiefs. Following the riot, most prominent warrant chiefs in Mbaise lost their warrant and were dethroned. The native courts were increased and Mbaise was assigned five native courts to avoid concentration of powers on a few in one court for the area which encouraged corruption and bribery.  CHAPTER FOUR COURT AREAS AND COLONIAL DESIGNATED CLANS OF MBAISE Before the establishment of colonial rule in Mbaise the people knew their kingship groups and culturally related to them when necessary. The Colonial designation of clans in Mbaise in fact had not taken place until after the women riot of 1929 when the necessity to revise the Local Government structure became urgent. Preliminary anthropological investigations by colonial officers were undertaken for the creation of new native authority areas. Following the investigations by the colonial administrative officers, five clan units were identified in Mbaise. After two months of survey, or investigation, an assistant district officer concluded that there were three sub-tribes in the Nguru court area. He Identified the Agbajas, the Ekwereazus and the Ezinihittes as sub-tribes. Following his advice,’ the colonial administration set up three native courts in Agbaja; Ekwereazu and Ezinihitte. Ahlara and Oke, as clans based on maximal lineage were also assigned two native courts. Smock AC, (1971) declaimed that the British administrative officer’s conclusions or findings were incorrect as a result of his lack of anthropological training and the brevity of his investigation. But in spite of the incorrectness of his conclusion, the five identified clan’s and native court areas in Mbaise have since become clans in the sense that the people of Ezinihitte, Ekwereazu, Ahiaia and other communities refer to themselves as clans because, the British administration had designated them as such. A clan is defined as a maximal lineage, the largest kinship group whose members claim common descent or ancestry, and are linked by shared activities. George Kimble, (Tropical Africa 1960) had noted that. “the connotation of clan varies. Basically, however; a clan consists of a group of people claiming common descent, the descent bemg reckoned by the social relationship of parents and children”. . Ade Ogundele’ (1978) adds that, “People of the same clan or lineage usually own things in common such as land where they live and which they share out for cultivation among the members of their particular group”. In his study of Mbaise, Edwin Ardener concluded that only one clan, the Ahiara is considered a maximal lineage. Edwin Ardener had qualified Ahiara as a clan based on maximal lineage. The people of Ahiara claim descent from a common ancestry. Their ancestor home, Eze D. O. Onyekwere called ‘Nfunala’ was the father of an ancestor called Akpukakpu who fathered Osuachara, Odujuanunu and Avuvu. According to Ahiara tradition or myth of origin, Avuvu migrated with his children and settled in the area now called Ikeduru where he and his children developed a community of Avuvu. According to the tradition, Ahiara and Odujuanunu remained where they were born and produced children that became the ancestors of the Ahiara Community. Because Ahiara had gradually absorbed the lineage of Odujuanunu, nobody now calls Ahiara and Odujuanunu but Ahiara only. The genealogical unity of Ahiara is expressed in a number of common activities and rituals. Until recently, each of the ten village groups of Ahiara ‘Ofo’ iri had its own central market and deities. By the 18th century, Ahiara had become so densely populated that each of the ten villages descending from the ten sons of Ahiara and Odujuanunu had their own markets. The ten village groups are Nnarambia, Oru and Lude, Ogbe, ‘Otulu and Aguleze to the east and Obodo, Ogwuama, Amuzi, Akabo and Obodo ujichi to the west. These had its own ‘Ofo’ and reference is made of Ahiara Ofo in People of Ahiara own things in common including the land, which they live in and cultivate. Villages and village groups of the clan have applied for their own Local Government Area to be called Ahiara Local Government Area of Mbaise. Since 1938, Ahiara formed a clan union of her own and have since protected the image of the clan. In 1964, the Ahiara clan union fought against the political domination of Ahiara by Ekwereazu political elites and succeeded in getting’ Bar. A.T. Mbaegbu (late) nominated and elected member of the Federal House of Representatives. Ekwereazu clan comprises Ekwereazu town, Mpam, Ihitteafoukwu, Obohia, Umuokirika and Oparanadim. The clan unit is made up of variety of kinship groups. It is not like Ahiara a genealogical unit. The clan is less culturally unified than Ahiara and Ezinihitte. But since the various colonial intelligence reports on the area designated Ekwereazu as a clan, the colonial government accordingly constituted it a separate clan and natiye court area based in Obohia. Since the creation of the clan and the establishment of court for the clan in Obohia, the towns in the clan unit formed union – the Ekwereazu Clan Union also described as Ekwereazu People’s Assembly. The Ekwereazu People’s Assembly was disrupted by the success of chief Pius Nwogu in joining forces with Ahiara clan union to politically eliminate Hon. N. D. Ukah during the nomination or primary election for party candidature to the Federal House of representatives election of 1964. Although agitation based on spread of political positions in the clan often threatened the unity of the clan, the Ekwereazu clan has become so powerful and more prominent in Mbaise politics than any other clan. From the clan have emerged political giants including Chief P. O. Nwoga, Hon. N. D. Ukah, Senator Tony Anyanwu, Senator Isdore Obasi, Hon. Nze P.C. Onuoha, Chief Donatus Onu, Dr. Sylvester Ugo, Speaker, Nuel Agwuocha Chukwukadibia, and Chief I.0. Nwoga, Hon. Tony Anyanwu (Jnr.) And Nze Desmund Osuagwu alias Barnax. The Agbaja clan was the most disparate of the five so-called clans. The name ‘Agbaja’ is an appellation for land without water. It referred to an administrative area 3 rather than an ethnic or culturally homogenous group. The communities designated as Agbaja have no kinship relationship and neither were they rescended from a common ancestor. Agbaja clan consists of three separate kinship groups of Nguru, Enyiogwugwu and Okwuato, which have no unified cultural or traditional ties. The three kinship groups were merged to become ‘Agbaja’ clan under the misconception that they worshipped the same ‘ndi iche’. (Ancestor). In view of this misconception the colonial administration established one court for the area at Enyiogwugwu. From the time of the report, the inhabitants of the area grouped as ‘Agbaja’ clan had refused to accept the appellation. The Nguru kinship group had petitioned for their own separate clan of Nguru Uboma. The Nguru kinship group hardly accepted the name and have continued. to reject the amalgamation of Nguru, Okwuato and Enyiogwugwu in a single clan. They have persisted to identify with their own individual kinship groups. Although administrations before and after independence have continued to recognise ‘Agbaja’ as a clan and a court area, the Nguru and Okwuato groups in particular choose to identify with their own individual separate kinship groups. The Nguru kinship group sees the amalgamation of such a distinct clan like Nguru with other groups as punishment for the destruction of the court at Nguru by women in 1929. They see it also as a clear ingratitude to Nguru for the help which Chief Nwaturuocha and Nguru people rendered to the colonial administration before and after the death of Dr. Roger Stewart. It was on record, however, that the colonial administration under H.M. Douglas recruited able-bodied Nguru men into the force used to avenge the murder of Dr. Stewart. Nguru itself qualified as a clan on her own merit. The three towns of Okwuato which the British merged with Nguru and Enyiogwugwu to form ‘Agbaja’ clan had no cultural ties with either Nguru or Enyiogwugwu which is a self contained community or village group. The Okwuato towns of Umuhu, Lagwa and Ibeku were part of Ezinihitte and for several years the Ezinihitte clan Union continued demanding the reunification of the Okwuato communities with Ezinihitte. They invited them to participate in ‘iwa-oji’ Ezinihitte festival which symbolizes the unity of Ezinihitte people. In the final analysis, the colonial administration and their anthropologists committed a grave error in the creation of Agbaja clan. It was, the author believes, a good example of the use of force and diplomacy by the colonial administration to bring together people who had no common affiliation into one new Unit in the bid to divide and rule the so called primitive people. The Ezinihitte Clan Ezinihitte is the largest of all the areas designated as clans by the colonial officers. Although the people of Ezinihitte have no common ancestor, they have a common myth of origin associated with Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umunama. The anthropological surveys carried out by the colonial officers in Ezinihitte identified common characteristics among the people. The ‘okonko’ society was everywhere in Ezinihitte. They worshipped the same god called ‘Chineke’ whose culturs. at Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umuanama. The people of EZlnlhltte also participate in ‘iwa-oji’ Ezinihitte festival which rotates from one town to another. The Ezinihitte people accept the appellations of ‘ohuhu’ to refer to themselves who according to traditions of origin became separated from the remained of the Ngwa group when they stopped to roast yam to during the course of migration across the Imo River. Drawing a precise boundary for the Ezinihitte group was a difficult task for anthropologists. Five village groups Incorporated into Ezinihitte clan were originally placed under the jurisdiction of Okpala court area. These southern Ezinihitte communities petitioned the. Colonial government to return them to the new court area at Itu for the Ezinihitte clan. The town of Onicha was ethnically related to Nguru as two segments of a lineage agnathically descended from a common ancestor. The two segments only ceased to participate in any common activities due to lack of geographical contiguity. However, all communities designated as members of Ezinihitte clan with a court at Itu agree that Ezlnihitte people were one at “Ihu-Chineke Orie-Ukwu”, Oboama na Umunama, the subsidiary culture or centre from where all Ezinihitte ancestors History and Culture of Mbaise moved out to settle in their present locatidns. Ezinihitte clan accept Oboama na Umunama as their ancestoral home and Ife as the first (Okpara) Ezinihitte village group .. The Oke Clan located south of Mbaise especially south of Aboh and EZinihitte Local Government Areas was designated as clan by the colonial administration after a very hasty survey or investigations. Edwin Ardener had concluded that the four communities constituting Oke clan seemed to approach the model of maximal lineage, less perfectly than Ahiara. Although the four Village groups were said to have descended from one common ancestor, known as the father of Uvuru, Mbutu, Amuzu and lorjl, the four communities engage in very little common activities like Ahiara and even Ezinihitte. The claim by the colonial officers that the four towns belonged to the large Etche Ngor cultural unit because they were members of the Okpala court, than Nguru court was a misconception. The communities did ‘not choose to belong to Okpala court area. They were grouped With Okpala probably because they had encounter with the Okpala court team. The team which subjugated Okpala extended activities to Uvuru, Mbutu and other Oke communities. The inclusion of Oke and Southern Ezinihitte communities in Okpala court area was a manifestation of the British policy of DIvide and use . Because the Oke clan group of communities . and the EZlnlhltte communities which were pushed to Okpala, (probably to reduce Mbaise in size as punishment for the death of Dr. Stewart), did not forget their cultural and ethnic affinfty with the rest of Mbalse people, they rejoined Mbaise when the courts were created in their home at Itu and Ovoro and thereby defeating the British ‘Divide and Rule’ policy applied here. Although some of the component towns of Oke clan do not accept the claim of descent from Oke-Osisi, the father of Uvuru, they all accepted being members of Oke clan because the colonial administration had designated them as such. Since the creation of the clan, the four communities have only been together in religious and political matters. But cultural activities are not yet shared among the four communities of Oke. For example, all Ezinihitte celebrates Iwa-OJi ceremony but. In Oke Uvuru celebrates Bia were OJI Uvuru as a communrty; Mbutu has ‘Itu aro Mbutu’. The communities have, however forged ahead” as a clan and have made efforts to be created a local government area of their own. Nguru Uboama Clan Nguru (Uboma) in the so-called Agbaja clan was not recognized as a clan of its own by the colonial officers who hurriedly identified clans and court areas. Had the anthropological surveys been thorough, more clans would have been identified in Mbaise. Based on the definitions of clans, the author after studies of some areas in Mbaise has come to a conclusion that at least three more clans exist within three official clans and court areas. Nguru has been identified by the author’s studies as a separate or independent clan in the so-called ‘Agbaja’ clan. Nguru traces descent from one legendry ancestor known as Uboma. Tradition of Onicha claims that Nguru was the second son of Uboma and migrated to the present area in Aboh Mbaise from the present location of Onicha Ezinihitte. Although the inhabitants of Nguru regard Nguru as an entity, but some functional differentiation such as five markets, existed. The separate towns or village grouped founded by the descendants of Nguru established five separate markets, which at the time of writing identify communities, example: Nguru Nweke, Nguru Nwenkwo, Nguru Nweafor, Nguru Nweorie and Nguru Nwe Ekeoha. Nguru approached the model of a maximal lineage as perfectly as Ahiara. Unlike Oke, Ekwereazu and Agbaja, Nguru engages in a common cultural activities. The Nguru people meet annually at Nguru centre for ‘Itu Aka’ Nguru festival. The author had witnessed the “Itu Aka’ festival in 1992, 1993 and 1994 when he observed that all the communities in Nguru rotated the festival annually. Each autonomous community traditional ruler performs the ceremony in turn. Like the EZinihitte, Nguru was the; first In Mbaise to firm clan union in 1937, with Joseph Jamike Iwunna as Its President. The clan union named Nguru Patriotic union was followed the same year 1937 by the formation of Ezinihitte Town union with Mr. D. N. Abii as its first president. Other village group, unions operated under the umbrella of the N Patriotic Union Nguru the educated and professional elites of Nguru Uboma Ahia Ise have an association known as Nguru League, which always meet at Nguru Centre. The political elites have also formed Political Forum. Believing that Nguru Uboma had five son that formed the Nguru ‘Ahia Ise’ the traditional rulers have written in 91 to the creation of five autonomous communities’ Nguru has joined in the “Obi Uboma legend”. There are today eIght autonomous communities joined in Obi-Uboma Onicha Clan Onicha is one of the old thirteen autonomous communities at presently constituted Ezinihitte Local Government Area  It Is Ahlngah; East is Udo; South are Obizi, Eziudo and Eziagbogu while West is Otulu Ahiara. Following the definition of clan above, Onicha approaches a level of maximal linea createted by anthropologists as a criterion for being a clan as, tradItion says, was a son of Ukatara (Utuakpu) popularly called Uboma. Tradition says Uboma had both Udo Ng Ob” as sons, I’ uru, IZI and Ezeala. Onicha according to tradition was related to Ezeala being sons of one woman. Later in the histoy Uvuru migrated to settle where she is found today in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area and have formed autonomous towns. But Onicha and Ezeala have remained area where Uboma lived. Udo and Obizi are also found around. East and South of Onicha respectively. Onicha  (Ezeala had no children) had ten male children’ who ~u~s~qU~~tIY beca~e an~estors of the ten villages or towns in nrc a. Ike the Ah,ara Villages, these have become so large Court Areas and Colonial Designated Clans of Mbaise -‘that they should be called towns or communities. Th~se towns of Onicha are Eziama, Umuevu, Umuhu, Umuoma, Ubonuk~m, U I wa Umuekwene, Umuawada and Omukwu. Like mue eag , k’ h’ Ahiara Onicha is a maximal lineage the largest inS Ip group whose’members claim common descent or a~?~stry. As a clan, Onicha communities are linked bY,shared actlv~tles. All towns of Onicha have a central place called Onugotu Onlcha, and the first clan head of Onicha, Chief J.~. Onyene~? was crowned, Onugotu 1 of Onicha Ama-iri. Onlcha Ama-Irl has one central market known and addressed as Eke-oha Onicha. Onicha h~s a central Development Union – the Onicha Development Umo~. But the ten villages or village. groups in ~nicha h~ve theIr individual unions for the development of their ow~ vllla~~s or towns. All towns in Onicha have their own markets In addition to Eke-oha. There are at present three secondary schools o~ned by village groups of Onicha. Ubonukam is pla.nnin~ to establish a seminary for the town in particular and Onlcha In general. All daughters of Onicha (okpu Onicha) at home and abroad. ha~e one central Union , which link them all. All women married ~n Onicha also have one central women’s meeting usually held In August. Although Onicha .at ‘prese.nt has one aut~nomous community, it has the capacity like Ahl.a.ra and .Ng~ru to Increase the number of recognised commUnities which In 2003 were divided into four autonomous communities. Uvuru Clan Uvuru is one of the four communities that constitute Oke colonial clan. The other three communities, Mbutu, Amu~u. and Lorji reject any claim that they are descendants of Oke OSISI, t~e legendary founder of Uvuru clan. It has been ~emar~ed earlier that Oke clan lacks cultural and genealogical Unity, which de~nes a clan. Although Uvuru, Mbutu, Amuzu and Lorji have re:malned as a clan since Ardener’s investigations and concluslo~, but recent studies have shown that the colonial anthropologist or . officer’s conclusions wer.e hasty and incorrect to a large extent. . The conclusion was based on the assumption that the four towns History and Culture of Mbaise were descendants of Oke-Osisi Akpeti. It is rather corr~ct to see ~vuru as a c1~n on her own merit. Uvuru is a large community of VIllages and Village groups, which claim descent from a common ancestor, Oke-Osisi Akpeti. Uvuru is believed to be the son of O~e-OsisiAkpeti, th.e legendary ancestor of Uvuru ~ommunity. Uvuru got married to a number of wives and had sons numbering ten who founded the early kindreds, villages’ and towns of Uvuru. Like Ahiara ‘ofo’ iri, Uvuru is also described as Uvuru ‘I~e: di na iri’ – (power exists in the unity of ten villages or communities). Genealogically, all Uvuru towns are related and althou~h it is said that one of the communities is missing, all the other vll.lage groups unite in the search for the lost community. All Uvur~ and towns have cultural unity or affinity. In the pree?olonla.’ period, Uvuru had its own Okonko society with branches In the Villages. ~he Uvuru clan owned in common one major deity or all Uvuru deity known as ‘Nguma Uvuru’ which was based in ~kpotu, the most senior village in Uvuru. All the villages and Village groups (towns) of the clan recognise the seniority of Akpotu as the descendants of the first son of Uvuru. Like Ahiara divided into ~ast and west, Uvuru is divided into Oze and Ogbor groups or Villages. The oze groups include Akpotu, Egbelu, Okwu na Akuwa, Amaisi and Ndi-Igbo. Ogbor groups includes Umukohie, Umudinka, Umuachalu and Ogbor. All the village groups had their own markets, and Eke-Uvuru (later renamed Orie Uvuru) is the central market where all celebrate Okwukwu. All villages in Uvuru celebrate Ofo the same day of Eke Uvuru (Orie Uvuru). Although village groups have development unions and town halls, Uvuru has one central town union called Uvuru Development Union (UDU). All villages and ~III~ge groups respond to the “Bia were Oji Uvuru” newly instituted to foster Unity and progress in Uvuru clan. While we still recognise the colonial official clans, it is necessary to point out that all clans could not be identified at the time for colonial a?’:linis~rative and punitive reasons. Today, Uvuru has bee~ diVided mto five autonomous communities of Akpotu na Egbelu; Okwunakuwa, Umukohie 11a Umudiaka (Ama-asa); Amaisi na Ndigbo; and Ogbor na Umuachalu.





Membership is open to anyone who by virtue of birth, is of mbaise parentage (with one or both parents being Mbaise), claims and accepts himself as an Mbaise irrespective of acquisition of other nationality (citizenship) by naturalization and like




Mbaise is an amalgam of indigenous, autochthonous clans, connected by intermarriage, and situated in approximate area the heartland of Igboland. It occupies an area of 404 square kilometers. The quiddity of Mbaise is that this homogenous group of more than 1000 persons per square kilometer is the most densely populated area in West Africa. The population of Mbaise as at 2006 was estimated to be 611,204 people (Agulanna, 2008).


Until the advent of European adventurers into Nigeria, the main source of income in Mbaise was subsistent agriculture. In Igboland, no centralized political system existed. The system of government depended largely on kinship relations and shared custom. The village group was the highest level of socio-political organization with the “Amala” exercising all power (Njoku 2003). The weekly gathering of the male family members around the fresh palm wine keg (“awuru-awu” or “manya-orie”) constituted the forum for discussing matters. Recently, the “Aladinma” of the autonomous community exercise judicial, legislative, administrative and executive powers and functions. Typically, life at the pre-colonial time is better understood by reading “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.


The Aro Expeditionary Force (British) moved through Owerri and Mbaise in 1902. When the British Colonial Administration was introduced in the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria, the government established a native court at Nkwogwu Nguru in 1905 and built a residence for the Whiteman there. Dr. Rogers Stewart who was trespassing Mbaise got killed and in 1906, the “Ahiara Punitive Expedition” led by Captains Brian Douglas and Harold Hastings started the reprisal punitive massacre of people in the area. In 1927, the Colonial Government introduced taxation using warrant chiefs and court messengers to collect the taxes. These colonial agents became corrupt and used taxes as tools of oppression and suppression. When the taxes were increased in 1929, it triggered the Women Uprising which resulted in the destruction of the native court at Nkwogwu and the sacking of the Whiteman’s residence. Subsequently, other courts were established at Itu for Ezinihitte; Afor Enyiogugu for Agbaja; Obohia for Ekwerazu; Orie-Ahiara for Ahiara; and Uvuru for Oke-Uvuru.


On June 12 1941, Mbaise became a federated unit of five clans, namely, Agbaja (Nguru, Okwuato, Enyiogugu, Obiangwu, and Umuohiagu), Ekwerazu, Ahiara, Ezinihitte, and Oke-Uvuru. A common treasury was opened in Enyiogugu in 1942 and it was later transferred to Aboh in 1948. Obiangwu and Umuohiagu which were constituent parts of Agbaja pulled out in 1957 and joined Ngor Okpala. Unfortunately Mbaise was currently reduced to three local governments, namely Ahiazu (result of a merger of Ahiara and Ekwerazu), Aboh-Mbaise (carving out a part of Ezinihitte West and added to Agbaja), and Ezinihitte.


Between 1955 and 1958, Mbaise County Council under the Chairmanship of Honorable N. D. Ukah initiated two landmark development projects namely Mbaise Secondary School and Mbaise Joint Hospital (now General Hospital) both in Aboh. In 1954, Dr. Aaron Ogbonna who studied abroad became the first qualified medical doctor, returned home, and established the first private hospital in Mbaise in 1956. Prior to this time, any sick person who needed western medical attention either went to Holy Rosary Hospital, Emekuku Owerri or Methodist Hospital, Amachara in Umuahia.


Mbaise people have always been very active in Nigerian politics. The sons and daughters have rendered services as Federal Ministers, State Commissioners, a Governor, Governorship candidates, a Federal Vice-Presidential candidate, and even a Presidential candidate. In 1946, long before Independence of Nigeria, Mr. Jamike Iwunna, who was credited for suggesting the name “Mbaise”, led an entourage of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to Mbaise before the 1947 London Constitutional Conference. Mbaise has produced four Federal Government Ministers in the persons of Dr. Sylvester Ugoh (PhD Harvard Economic), Chief I.D Nwoga (Oxford), Professor Fabian. N. C. Osuji (PhD Ibadan), and Mrs. Chinwe Obaji. Several sons and daughters have served as honorable commissioners in Imo State governments. Dr. Sylvester Ugoh was selected as Vice-Presidential Candidate while Prof F. N. C. Osuji and Dr. Alex Obi vied as the governorship candidates of Imo State, and currently Dr. (Mrs.) Ada Okwuonu is the Deputy Governor. Chief Chinedu Ezebuiro vied for the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the defunct Social Democratic Party. Air Commodore Luke Ochulor (Rtd.) was the first Military Governor of Delta State. Chris Anyanwu is the first female senator in Imo State. Late Gaius Anoka, who initiated the annual Pan-Igbo Ahiajoku Lecture series, was the Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone.


Mbaise people place a high premium on education. The earliest missionary and educational activities commenced in Mbaise about 1915. Today, there are several Catholic Priests and Clergymen of the Anglican Communion serving worldwide.

In 1934, an Irish nun established a convent in Ogbor Nguru that served Orlu, Ikeduru, Okigwe and Obowo. Mbaise daughters received early education at the Regina Caeli College, Ogbor Nguru and attracted suitors from all over the former Eastern Region of Nigeria and beyond. Despite the fact that western education arrived late relative to other parts of the country, Mbaise can boast of countless professors, PhDs, and different specialty graduates. These professionals are contributing to human development and progress all over the world. Some have served exceptionally well as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing council of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, as Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, the Madonna University, Okija, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the (Old) Imo State University, as Librarian FUTO, and as Registrar of the University of Nigeria Nsukka.


Mbaise indigenes have contributed in numerous areas of economic, educational, and social development of their country. Dr. Sylvester Ugoh was the first and only Governor of the Central Bank of the defunct Bank of Biafra. Dr. (Mrs.) Agatha Ndugbu (PhD, OON) a lawyer, statistician, and economist served as Imo State Head of Service. Famous legal luminaries Sir Mike Ahamba, Sir Bon Nwakamma, and Lucius Nwosu are among the first Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Imo State. Several others are serving as High Court Judges in Nigeria. The first lawyer from Mbaise Chief B. S. Nzenwa was called to the bar in 1959. From the military to the police forces, you will find at the top echelon, men and women from Mbaise in command positions.


During the 1967-1970 Nigeria – Biafra civil war, Mbaise played very strategic roles. A unit of the “Research and Production” (RAP) that improvised and manufactured various scarce commodities during the blockade was positioned in Mbaise. The Head of State of the breakaway Biafra, General Odumegwu Ojukwu launched the Ahiara Declaration, a blueprint for the political and economic development of the beleaguered Biafra at Ahiara. When Mbaise, where most Igbo people had taken refuge, was overrun by the Federal Armed Forces, the civil war came to an abrupt end.


Some cultural and traditional ceremonies have survived Western influence. The Ahianjoku festival dedicated to the yam deity lasted eight days. The New Yam Festival (Iriji Mbaise) introduced in 1946 is the Christianized modification of the Ahianjoku and it is fixed on 15th August every year. “Oji Ezinihitte” which celebrates the unity of the people of Ezinihitte clan rotates from the oldest community (Oboama na Umunama) to the youngest (Onicha). It is fixed on the first of January every year. Anecdotal evidence shows that the clan revers Oriukwu in Umunama, the market square where they believe the world was created. “Itu Aka” Nguru is also an annual event before the farming season which according to late Ambassador Gaius Anoka takes place to enable the people to better weather the new environment, new times and new challenges.


One unique feature of Mbaise is the high fecundity among their women called “eghu ukwu”. To qualify to be a member of this club, a woman must have a minimum of ten children. There is no maximum and some women were known to have given birth to as many as 15 children (Agulanna 2008). You can tell the gender of a newborn from the song of joy summoning “onye ji ego gba ngaa oo” meaning “whoever has money hurry down here” for a girl. The jubilant chant “onye ji egbe gba ngaa oo” meaning “whoever has gun hurry down here” heralds the birth of a boy.


The local salad called “ugba” prepared in Mbaise has a special appeal when sold in the cities because of its special taste and aroma. Similarly, the local raffia palm wine tapped in Mbaise is sold out before others because of its uniqueness. In a traditional setting, these two go together like bread and butter.


Mbaise culture is rich in music and dance appropriate for each social occasion. According to Professor Nwoga (1978), the peak of Mbaise cultural achievements is in its music and dance, in its song and literary skills. Every form of native Igbo dance ensemble is to be found in Mbaise; whether it has its base in the wood xylophone, hand piano, long drum, short drum, slit drum, pot, gong, bamboo horn or calabash horn. There are dances for childbirth, marriage, funerals of old men, funerals of old women, age group celebrations, communal labor, and other forms of group or social occasion (Nwoga 1978). “Agbacha ekurunwa” dance is performed at childbirth functions, while “Alija” and “Ogbongelenge” feature during marriage. “Eseike”, “Esse”, Ekwerikwe mgba” and “Nkwa Ike” are for death of old men. On the other hand “Uko” and “Ekereavu” are exclusive for death of old women. The “Ekpe” and “Nkwa udu” feature during the “Iriji” Mbaise and “Itu Aka” Nguru. A special mention must be made about “Abigbo”. According to Professor Nwoga who took one of the “Abigbo” groups to the USA in the 1980s, the music and dancers philosophize, criticize, admonish or praise in language expression which not only makes its point but also pleases while it hurts (Nwoga 1978). “Abigbo”, “Agborogwu” and “Ogbongelenge” are performed at the reception of dignitaries. Mbaise has produced many music legends but only few can be mentioned. Joseph Onyenegecha Iwuchukwu (popularly known as JONEZ) and Chief Chrisogonus Ezebuiro Obinna, aka (Dr. Sir Warrior) of Oriental Brothers International Band brought style and zeal into highlife music.


Many Mbaise sons and daughters are among the celebrities in drama, theatre and sports.

Before the advent of Nollywood, Jegede, the husband of Akpeno in the popular play “Zebrudaya” made his mark. Today, there are brand names such as Kanayo O. Kanayo, Genevieve Nnaji, and Rita Dominic Nwaturuocha. Others are Okey Bakassi, Eucharia Anunobi, Ben Nwosu (aka Papa Andy), Chidi Chikere and Ms. Phina Peters and many more celebrity actors and actresses of Nigerian movies. In sports, the first ever female Olympic gold medalist in Nigeria is Chioma Ajunwa. Several sons and daughters have played in the national football team – the Green Eagles and the female football team – The Falcons.



  1. Agulanna, E. C. (2008). “The Mbaiseness of Mbaise” (2nd ed), Owerri: Career Publishers.
  2. Njoku, C. A. C (2003). History and Culture of Mbaise from Earliest Times to AD 2001. Owerri: Celaju Nig. Publishers.
  3. Nwoga, D. I. “Culture and Religion in Contemporary Mbaise”. In: T. U. Nwala (Ed) Mbaise in Contemporary Nigeria. New York: Gold & Maestro.


Recommended for further reading

Njoku,G. (1978). “Mbais in Pre-colonial and Colonial Nigeria”. In: T. U. Nwala (Ed) Mbaise in Contemporary Nigeria. New York: Gold & Maestro.

Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart