THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF OHAFIA PEOPLE.

 

THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF OHAFIA PEOPLE.

Ohafia Ezema as fondly called is a community of communities located in Abia State- Eastern Nigeria. It is both a conglomerate of twenty six (26) villages and a Local Government Area in the State. It is a home to one of the biggest military facilities in the country; due to the role played during the Nigerian-Biafran war. Ohafia being one of the most popular towns in IGBOLAND, is known for its unique war dance called "Ohafia War Dance" (Ikpirikpe Ogu).

Like most Igbo societies, the history of Ohafia people remains controversial; as there are various sociological, anthropological and historical views to their origin. Nevertheless, some Historical scholars believe that, they migrated from the present day Andoni in Delta State; while others, hold it that, they migrated from the ancient Benin Kingdom in present day Edo State. The progenitor of Ohafia people is Ezema Atita; who had four (4) children with Uduma Ezema Atita being the last child and the most popular of them. The ancient Ohafia men were considered the alpha male of IGBO nation due to their stout and fierce fighting spirit and skills. This singular attribute of Ohafia men, earned them the appellation "The Land of Warriors" (Mba ji Ishi acho Ishi).

As stated earlier, Ohafia is compromised of twenty six (26) villages (ofu na Ishi) which are: Elu, Ibina (Ihenta), Nde Okala, Nde Anyaorie, Amuma, Amaekpu, Ebem, Nde Amogu, Okagwe, Nde Uduma Ukwu, Oboro, Nde Nku, Nkwebi, Amuke, Asaga, Nde Uduma Awoke, Amankwu, Nde Ibe, Nde Orieke, Okon-Aku, Amangwu, Ufiele, Eziafor, Abia, Akanu and Isiugwu. Elu Ohafia is the village capital of Ohafia people; while, Ebem Ohafia is the Secretariat of Ohafia Local Government Area. Abiriba is another popular community under Ohafia Local Government Area; though, not an Ohafia village, shares certain historical and cultural origin with the Ohafia people. The population strength of Ohafia is over one million (1,000,000) people and the traditional ruler of an Ohafia village is referred to as "Eze Ogo".

Ohafia has a very distinct dressing which singles them out from other Igbo societies. The traditional attire of a typical Ohafia man must have Okpu agu (warrior/Leopard cap) decorated with eagle feathers and Ram's mane to be complete. This dressing signifies strength, victory, masculinity and mood. The way Okpu agu is worn at any moment signifies the mood of the person wearing it and the event he is aiming at. For instance, when an Ohafia man is going for a burial, the tail of the cap, is placed backward; and this, is a sign of mourning or anger. Also, a typical Ohafia woman dresses in a two-piece wrapper called (Okara); with blouse and a head-tie with some beads on the neck. However, Okpu agu has become a very popular traditional cap among the people of the Eastern region (both Igbos and non-Igbos) alike. 

"Ohafia War Dance" (Ikpirikpe Ogu)

This is the most popular aspect of Ohafia culture and it has become so popular that, it is now the face of IGBO culture. The history of Ohafia War Dance has it that, it was a dance stepped mostly by warriors after returning from battles triumphantly. Those days, Ohafia men would set out for war and on their return, this dance wouldl be used to welcome them home. Most of them might return with the heads of their victims as a proof of victory. In fact, in the ancient traditional Ohafia society, some men won various traditional titles through the number of human heads they were able to bring home. It was a sign of masculinity, nobility and strength. The war dance wasn't like any other dance out there. It required good physical strength as men danced shaking their chests and making various calculated steps; with each move, having a spiritual meaning attached to it and that is why, it is also called "The Dance of the Spirit". Only those that understand (fellow warriors) can interpret every step made by the warriors.

The dancers usually dressed with Okpu agu on their heads, Ram's mane on their arms and tying a short piece of Okara on their waists. Then, use Nzu (native powder) to make various insignias on their body and carry short Cutlass. Sometimes, they wear leg beads for sounds.

Ohafia War Dance though now done as mere ceremony across the modern day Ohafia society, has become a symbol of pride not just to the Ohafia people but to the entirety of IGBO nation; due to its strong history. Each time the songs are played, indigenes dance in remembrance of whom they are, where they are coming and it resonates the memories of whom their ancestors were. The song exercebates energy, pride and joy. Ogba Kalu of Ohafia put it thus: 

"whenever (the war dance) is performed, our hearts brim with joy: because it is the umbilical cord with which we were born; whenever we hear its rhythm, our hearts swell with joy: we think of the day of our birth and cherish the day of our death; we think of the day we shall raise our heads in pride and rejoice in anticipation of the day we shall grow rich...so then, we are most happy to see it performed every time." (Azuonye 1974:96).

Although, nobody goes to war to bring human heads again, Ohafia war dance has become an epitome of pride, honour and respect to Ohafia people. So, hearing the songs to the dance, reminds one where he/she is coming from and how such a person must fight to become successful; as done their forefathers. Therefore, for every great feat made this day, it equals winning a battle and bringing the heads home.

Frankly speaking, Ohafia has a very interesting history and culture; among which, the war dance is the most celebrated. And one can only but take a tour to the land of great warriors to further exploit the riches of her history. Such names as: Kalu, Idika, Nkuma, Agwu, Kamalu, Fijo, Mbila, Ojiri, Agbogor, Oyidiya  and many others, are only distinct to Ohafia people and their neighbouring towns and villages. 

And with this,I will end this article by extending my greetings to Ohafia people across the globe in the Ohafia way. "Chee! Chee! Chee! Amangwu kwenuwoo! Just reply "Huh!" Akanu kwenuwoo!, Asaga kwenuwoo!, Okagwe kwenuwoo! Okon-aku kwenuwoo! Ebem kwenuwoo! Elu kwenuwoo! Ohafia kwezuenuoo! Ooo! Mba ji Ishi acho Ishi ekelem unu ooo! Ofu na ishi mma mmanu oo!


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