A BRIEF LOOK AT HISTORY AND CULTURE OF PEOPLE OF EBONYI STATE, NIGERIA.

 

Ebonyi state culture and tradition

By: Peter Njoku

A LOOK AT DEMOCRACY IN EBONYI STATE

In 1999, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu was elected as the First governor of the state under People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He was succeeded by Martin Elechi who was designated to govern the people in 2007 and successfully ran for re-election in 2011, under the same PDP. Governor Marin Elechi was thrived by the current Governor Dave Umahi, who was designated to govern the people in March 2015 election and was re-designated in March 2019 for a second term into office

THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE STATE ARE AS FOLLOWS

  1. Rice
  2. Yam
  3. Potatoes
  4. Beans 
  5. Cassava
  6. Crude oil
  7. Palm oil

Ebonyi state was formed in 1996 by the Military government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria led by late General Sani Abacha.

Ebonyi state was derived out of two major states in Nigeria e.g  Abakiliki was derived out Abia state, while Afikpo was derived out Enugu state. 

Abakiliki and Afikpo is the foundation of Ebonyi state followed by other towns.  

Ebonyi state is in-between South and Eastern region of Nigeria.

Ebonyi state is the 33rd state among the 36 states in Nigeria 

Ebonyi state occupied predominantly by the Igbos with Abakiliki as the Capital City; other metropolises includes: 

  1. Afikpo
  2. Onueke
  3. Ezzamgbo
  4. Edda 
  5. Effium 
  6. Aba Omege
  7. Amasiri
  8. Unwana
  9. Echara Ikwo
  10. Egu Ubia
  11. Uburu
  12. Onicha 

Etc.

Ebonyi state has Thirteen (13) Local Governments

  1. Abakiliki
  2. Afikpo
  3. Onueke
  4. Ezzamgbo
  5. Edda 
  6. Effium 
  7. Aba Omege
  8. Amasiri
  9. Unwana
  10. Echara Ikwo
  11. Egu Ubia
  12. Uburu
  13. Onicha 


Ebonyi state has Ten (10) Languages which are included below:

  1. Izii
  2. Ezaa
  3. Ezaa
  4. Ikwo
  5. Ezaa; Oring
  6. Ezaa
  7. Izii
  8. Ezaa; Mgbolizhia
  9. Ohaozara
  10. Ohaozara


THE HISTORY OF ONICHA

Onicha is a Local Government Area of Ebonyi state in Nigeria.it has an area of 476 km2  and has population of 236,828 according to 2006 census. The postal code of the area is 491, it has an headquarter in Isu. However, it has other town and villages under it; which are as follows;

  1. Agbabor
  2. Amanator
  3. Isu achara
  4. Mgbaneze
  5. Ezekporoke
  6. Anike 
  7. Mgbana
  8. Ukwu
  9. Obeagu

Umuniko among others was in Ohaozara Local Government Area until the creation of Onicha Local Government. Mbaneze is a border town between Ebonyi state and Enugu state 

THE HISTORY OF ISU ACHARA TOWN

Isu achara is a land in which our ancestors have lived for more than hundred years.

Our settlement dates back to approximately 1500 AD, when our ancestral father Eze Ndumoke Ugota left his home town Isuikwuator in present day state called Abia for a better hunting ground, and he settled in the area Isu achara with his wife Ugbana Eze. Him and his wife later relocated to the area known today as Mgbaneze Isu leaving his second son Isu Achara Eze who later increase in multiplication to a town that we now call Isu Achara village.

According to verbal history (Isuachara) Isu Achara use to be the second son of our ancestor among his 3 sons and 7 grandsons.

Isuachara Village is very little both in population and terrestrial and as a result of the population issue our ancestors in the ancient days lived only within the Centre of the surrounding forest known as Ndiuno (Ndiulo) (meaning a place for home) and also used the contiguous forest as their protection against their opponents that dwell around them.


Onicha people have been antagonistic neighbours to Isu Achara people right from ancient time. The jawbone of argument has been the Azuegu (Azuagu) land disagreement. Because of these enemies and the activities of the slave dealers nobody in those days was brave enough to build a house and live outside Ndiuno forest home.


KINDRED UNIT

Isuachara Eze progressed as a family unit to protracted families which have today advanced into seven (7) component kindred units:

  1. Okuzoenu
  2. Amata
  3. Umuchima
  4. Amagu
  5. Ndiachi
  6. Umuezeuna
  7. Urnuama

The eighth kindred is Isu Binagu.

In accumulation, Isuachara Village has two linage families, Okuzo and Oduma.

Okuzo is made up of the following kindred units:

  1. Okuzoenu
  2. Amagu
  3. Umuchima
  4. Umuema (Umuama)

Oduma is made up of the following kindred units:

  1. Amata
  2. Ndiachi
  3. Umuezeuna


ENVIRONMENTAL FEATURES

The land of Isuachara is separated into two (2) major environments, the forest area Ndiuno (Ndiulo) and the outer area Ndiegu (Ndiagu). In the ancient days our ancestors used Ndiuno Forest as their residential zone and Ndiegu was used as their farm zone. In those days no one dwells in Ndiegu Isuachara, for many reasons including:

  1. Population issue.
  2. Aggression of the close neighbors.

The ancestors lived with their families and their domestic animals in Ndiuno, where lives and property were more preserved from their enemies by the surrounding forest.

Ndiuno (Ndiulo) Home Settlement

Since our ancestral father Eze Ntumoke Ugota settled hundreds of years ago, our ancestors have been living in Isuachara Eze land as their ranch. Our ancestors had hunting and farming as their primary occupation. As time goes on, population of the people started growing as families were escalating and acquiring livestocks (cow, sheep, goat, fowl, pigs, etc). Our ancestors were using their Onuagu lands (immediate land area after the forest) for training of their livestocks such as; cow and sheep. Each of the seven (7) kindred units in Isuachara Eze had their own Onuagu land. This Onuagu land, apart from training of their livestock's served other purposes which comprises gathering of grasses for roofing of our ancestors’ local mud houses which was the only available type of house in those days. Because of that, every family must ensure that they roof their local mud houses during the dry season before the raining season comes in.


Ndiegu (Ndiagu) Farm Settlement

In the ancient days our ancestors used Ndiegu land for cultivating only. Even though the big farmers used to have a house and yam ban in their farm lands, it was easy for them:

While working in the farm they cook their food and rest in those houses in the farm land.

During the raining season, they took shelter in their farm land houses if the rain comes while working in the field because Ndiuno (Ndiulo) is far from Ndiegu.

The major food crops then were yam, coco yam, and water yam. Later cassava came followed by rice, today everything changed; cassava and rice turned around to be the two major food crops in Isuachara.


Our ancestors produced yam in huge quantity because apart from feeding they used yam for traditional title (Ohunuji title) which was one of the major titles a man need to perform in order to be selected in the village as a man and one of the Nobles man of the clan.


Our people started leaving Ndiuno to build their home at Ndiegu around 1950s when the colonial masters with their system of government, security, law and order which offered better protection than Ndiuno Forest. Due to the presence of Whiteman’s government then (court and police) men can then travel freely without the fear of enemies or fear of being seized and sold into slavery to Arochukwu people who were slaver traders then. Because of these sharp changes, our people came out from Ndiuno forest; our ancestral home and begins to build home outside Ndiuno and at that time they started spreading to Onuesu areas in order to save our lands from trespassers. But, due to the persistent trespassing into our land by Onicha people who started intruding into our land for ages, our ancestors thought it wise to invite our sister villages in Isu to come and live with us at Ndiegu Onuesu as another way of warding off these trespassers since our ancestors’ population were so few that they cannot effectively cover our land mass.

Those sister villages who honored the invitation were Amanator and Umuniko mainly, their men settled at Ndiegu Onuesu area, they built their home and settled there, they are known today as Isubinagu Isuachara.

That unit of people made Isuachara eight kindred units and their offspring are still occupying that area of land up till this day.


THE PEOPLE

In the ancient days, the population of our ancestors was very little, for that reason all of them were composed within Ndiuno Forest. Ndiuno was called as such because it was the only place our ancestors made their homes where all men lived with their families and Ndiegu was called as such because that was where they make their farms and rear some of their life stock.


In those days, our ancestors had the land mutually, the land was surplus. The available population had enough land and men kept on moving from one area of land to another to farm at their optimal places. Nobody owned a land individually as it is today. They also fought any infraction on the lands with that same spirit they were known for being brothers in the days of war. Our village was known as Isuachara Ezekara Agu (meaning that our ancestors were stronger than lion) even though our ancestors were very few in population but they were all men of war. When men were men Isuachara Eze was regarded as home of warriors. Our ancestors were known for keeping aside their individual differences whenever the enemies attacked them, they fought for their lands with that spirit of brotherhood. They were fearless when it comes to war. Despite their small population they fought their enemies and recovered their lands without looking back.

CULTURE OF ISU ACHARA

MARRIAGE CULTURE

IKU AKA N’UZOR (Knocking at the door)

When a man sees the woman he loves and approaches the woman for a marriage and both of them are in love with each other and agree to get married. Under Isu Acharaeze custom the tradition demands that before other things the parents of the man will go to the parents of the woman to seek their permission in the marriage issue of their son. In doing so the parents or the guardian of the man who will embark on the journey is obligated by the custom and tradition of our land to take a gallon of palm wine to the parents of his bride to be. The language is this: when the parents of the young man or whoever that undertakes the journey meet with the parents of the woman he will present the wine to the man who may present kola nut in return as a mark of welcome; they will be drinking the wine and eating the kola nut and cracking jokes until at a point the man will open up and tell his in-law the reason of his journey and what the wine stood for. He will introduce his discussion this way. After thanking the host for the kola, they will exchange greetings. The man will now tell the father of the young woman or whoever that will represent the father “we saw a ripe apple in your compound and we have come to ask for your permission to pluckt it”. The man would ask his guest to be more specific as there may be many “apples” in his compound. The young man will then say it is Ngbaeke or Ngbafor. The prospective father in-law after appreciating them for their interest in his daughter may ask them to go that he will send his words to them later. The guests will thank their host and go home and tell the people that sent them the outcome of the journey and they would be waiting for the promised reply. That might be the position of the father of the young woman. If the prospective in-law is not from a family well known to would be father in-law that would offer him the opportunity to investigate the family linage of the young man properly before giving his consent to the marriage. What the father of the young woman required to know before giving his consent include the following:

1. Whether there is madness in the linage of the prospective in-law

2. Whether they have-untimely death in their linage.

3. Whether there is stealing in their family linage

4 Whether they are Osu (outcast) or Ohu (slave.)

5. Whether they have any other questionable character in their family linage.

When the father of the young woman, is contented with the above listed issues, he may decide to either give his consent or reject his consent either way would be his reply in the circumstance and the guest would be informed accordingly. In those days, if the parents of a woman refuse giving their consent in a proposed marriage that would be the end of such proposal. But if the family of the proposed In-law is well known to the parents of the woman as a good family lineage the parents of the lady may give their consent from the first day and the marriage starts and the door is opened immediately.


MARRIAGE INTRODUCTION

In this stage the two families will meet, the family of the young man will go to the house of the father of the young woman for formal introduction.

In this occasion the proposed In-law is required to take wine, kola nut and other soft drinks and the would be mother-In-law will cook enough food for the guests, the two families will eat and drink together, that would be .the day the two families would know themselves formally and the would be bride parents would know the groom to be. On that meeting they will fix a date for Igu Ife (issuing of a list.) Therefore, betrothal is completed.

IGU IFE (issuing of marriage list)

At this stage the lady's parents must have been sure of the seriousness of the man. The father will now invite the elders of the kindred who are responsible for issuing marriage list, to come to their house on a particular date that his In-laws are coming to collect list for his daughter's marriage. On the scheduled date the elders will assemble in the man's house waiting for the In-laws to come, the In-laws will bring wine for collection of list, when they arrive they would be introduced to the elders who will also welcome them. They will present their wine and kola before the elders. After drinking the wine and eating the kola, the elders will issue the suitor with the comprehensive list of all the customary requirements for marriage under our tradition. The In-laws will pay a certain amount of money for the collection of the list and the marriage contract will be triggered off therefrom.

Naming of the Kola men

In this stage, the parent of the lady will name the “kola men” to the suitor and his people. The kola men, according to the tradition includes the following;-

1. Onyeojimbu (the first kola man)

2. Onyeojiabuo (the second kola man)

3. Onyeojiato (the third kola man)

4. Onyeanaesiuloya (the middle man)

The middle man (Onyeanaesiuloya) will be introduced to the suitor and his people as one who will be guiding them in everything; they are required to do everything concerning the marriage. Traditionally, heavy responsibility is imposed on the middle man as the man will be playing the role of an supporter to the suitor, and mostly take side with the suitor as he leads them; if the suitor is a stranger, it is the duty of the middle man to educate him about the custom and tradition of the land and its requirements and help him, and his people as much as he could to plead on their behalf in any way they were found wanting, may be, what they brought may not be all that presentable, the middle man will be pleading on his behalf urging that what they brought should be accepted and if it is so bad the middleman could request that they be allowed to use money to complete it.

OJI UMUNNA

Oji Umunna (kola for the extended family) is almost the most important among all the kolas because it is supposed that once the Oji Umunna is done in a marriage process and Umunna ate their kola and gave their consent, every other thing afterward is regarded as fulfillment of tradition of the land.

After the kola, there are other things that are required to be done for the mother of the lady which is also contained in the marriage list issued to the suitor. These include the following:

1. Nmbataulo, (coming into the house)

2. Doing festivals for the mother In-law.

All the above mentioned kolas are required to be done before the Igbankwu ceremony could be done.

IGBANKWU NWANYI (Traditional Marriage Ceremony)

Igbankwu is the occasion that marks the taking of the lady by the husband witnessed by the general public. On that day it must be shown that the suitor has done all that was required of him by the tradition to qualify him to take his wife home. On the Igbankwu day, Oji Ikwunaibe (kindred kola) would be done by the suitor as contained in the list issued to him at the beginning of the marriage journey.


The list will be brought out by the Ikwu-na-Ibe and all the items required for the marriage would be brought out too by the suitor's people and it will be cross- checked with the list. If at the end of the cross-checking, the items corresponded with the list given to the suitor, then Ikwu-na-Ibe (village people) will accept their kola and the next thing will be the payment of the bride price of the lady by the suitor. This is normally done by negotiation by the two parties even though the bride price is fixed by the tradition but still they must be a negotiation before the payment could be made. The bride price could be paid on a separate day. After the payment of the bride price the father in-law may take all the money or only N10, or N20 as the case may be and may give back the remaining money to the suitor, signifying that he was not selling the daughter instead he was giving her in marriage to establish a new branch of relation.


After everything has been settled which includes the issue of wine, kola nut, snuff, potash, tobacco, cigarette, yams, goat and the bride price among other things, then it will be publicly declared that the in-laws have fulfilled all the traditional requirements and have been accepted by the kindred. At that point, the Igbankwu ceremony will be declared open, then eating, drinking; music and dancing will take off. As the occasion would be going on, the father and the mother in-law would bring out all the house property they bought for the sending their daughter to her husband's home. All the items both the ones bought by the father and mother for the lady and the ones brought by other relations and friends will be duly documented by both families for reference purposes. At the end of everything the bride's friends that decorated her for the occasion will take her inside the house and lock her up in the house expecting the husband to come and settle them before he finally take his wife home, the suitor will negotiate with them and settle them and they will unlock the house and release the lady for her husband.


Finally the man will take his wife home with his people and they will start their own life as a family, the man becomes part of the family where he married his wife hence forth

CONCLUSION 

In conclusion I present to you the history and culture of my beloved state which is; Ebonyi, my Local Government Area, which is; Onicha and my Village which is Isu Achara, and my local language which is; Ohoazara.

We are located in-between South and eastern region of Nigeria.

Generally we are Igbos. 


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