OUR HISTORY AND CULTURE

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The world in which we live (Macrocosm) has an origin and many references go to confirm this though with certain amount of probabilities here and there. As the world is supposed to have an origin, so are all other units which unite to make up the world i.e. microcosms in macrocosm.

Ihiagwa town is one of the towns that make up the world, and as any other town, she has her own history. In the whole town of Ihiagwa, Iriamogu village is the principal village group. They are the descendants of a man called Ogu. The first child of Ogu was known as Okoma. After a period of ten years another child was born known as Heshila and after Heshila, another child was born in person of Alum who was a female.

Alum, the daughter of Ogu had to befriend Ekwemarugo who put her in a family way. Because of Alum’s state, Ekwemarugo was asked to marry Alum who he had put in a family way. Ekwemarugo refused because of finance. Traditionally, it was an unbearable thing to have a bastard in the family. Because of social valuation of bastardy in the community, Ogu, the father, asked the daughter Alum to go and live between Ihiagwa and Owerri, by this time, there was nothing like Nekede. This provision was to make it possible for Alum to be visiting her friend Ekwemarugo (from Owerri) at will. but socially, Ogu experienced a discomfort. it was that he would not cross any town whenever he wanted to visit his daughter Alum. To this end, Ogu bought a slave whom he made to live between where he lived and his daughter Alum. The name of the slave was Oma. So Oma lived with Alum and when Alum delivered her child, the child and other ones following were called UMUALUM and this was the origin of the village called UMUALUM.

Then, Alum and Oma lived at a point where “Aboshi” tree was planted. It was from this that we had the origin of “Uzi na Aboshi”. Uzi tree is in Ihiagwa. The first child of Alum and Oma was Okam and from Okam we got “UMEZEROKAM”.

One “Dibia” who was a black-smith from Umuzu came to ihiagwa. He was taken to a point between Ihiagwa and Naze to live. This black-smith got married and it was from him we had UMUDIBIA and where he lived was the position of the village Umudibia today. Other descendants from Dibia and wife were UMUTOKO, UMUOFOCHA, UMUOKOMOCHE, AND UMUERIM.

(Note: UMUALUM, UMUDIBIA and UMUOMA are villages that makes up Nekede the neighboring sister town of Ihiagwa. Aboshi tree is in Nekede)

MESSAGE FROM THE GOD OTAMIRI

According to the mythology connected with Ihiagwa town, the God Otamiri sent some messages to Ogu whom we mentioned earlier in this story. The message was not delivered by the people that Otamiri requested to deliver his message and they were people from Mbieri, Egbu and Naze. But one man from Emekeukwu delivered the God’s message and Otamiri was pleased and decided to have Emekeukwu as his messenger.

According to mythology, Otamiri sent a message to Ogu – an old man with gray hair- as Otamiri described him. Ogu was told to “catch” a bird called “Ovu” and come and see him. Ihiagwa went and told the sister town Nekede but Nekede understood the message literarily. Nekede went about in the bush hunting for the bird called Ovu but never understood that the instruction meant “Going as early as possible to the God Otamiri (It could be 4.00 am or 5.00 a.m).”

Ihiagwa became Calendar keeper or regulator: Ogu had his wife at the verge of delivery. So, as he was unable to go to see the God Otamiri he delegated his son Okoma with other representatives from Ihiagwa. As they arrived, Otamiri did not see Nekede because Nekede was busy wandering the bush in search of Ovu bird. Therefore the God Otamiri made Ihiagwa to be the Calendar Regulator i.e. Ihiagwa was made to be telling time to Nekede for any festival, traditional activities as they are done today. On the other hand, Nekede should be taking instructions from Ihiagwa as regards time for farming, for cultivation, for New yam etc., all these till today are taken care of by Ihiagwa and it is Ihiagwa who instructs Nekede about all these as Nekede comes to take instructions.

ORIGIN OF “OHA”

Distribution of baskets: As the delegates from Ihiagwa to Otamiri received instructions, the God Otamiri distributed baskets to them one by one.

1. The village Mboke had one and the delegates from Mboke village was to answer “Ohawu-ruoke” which is fully interpreted as “If “Oha” title was to be booty, no one would have remembered Mboke”. The former name of Mboke was OBOKO.

2. Umuadamoche Umuelem were to take one, and the title was “Oha Ala”.

3. Umuelekwerem Umuelem was to take one, the title was to be “Aguzie Afo”

4. Durunta which is now known as Duruba was to have one. The title was “Oha Otamiri” which is before their stream. It was instructed that he-goat and cock should be used for sacrifices.

5. Umuezeawula was to have one and the title was to be “Okwopi”. This “Okwopi” i.e. trumpeter is to be the trumpeter to herald the coming of these delegates to Otamiri the God.

6. Aku and Umuokwu to have one basket and the title of Oha there was to be “Nkojiakpa” which means nominal Oha, inconsequential Oha which was for making up the number.

7. Nkaramoche village to have one basket and the title was to be “Oha Ehihie”

8. Okomo the son of Ogu was among the delegates and Okoma was to have the Oha title as Eze-Ario. Eze-Ario was the overall of all the Oha. He is to feed the God. He sees him first before others. Eze was to take three baskets (a) Abo Otamiri (b) Abo Ala (c) Abo Oparaogu. All these baskets are to serve according to the God mentions. Okoma leads all these whenever they were to go to any God of the Gods. “Eze Ario” i.e.. Okoma was to be the last to eat New yam of all the “dibias”, Oha, and priest of our deities.

History of Ihiagwa was written by : C. D. NGOKA (AN EXCERPT FROM THE OHA IHIAGWA CULTURAL MAGAZINE MAIDEN ISSUE Published in 1982 by the Ihiagwa Student Association at UNN)

THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME IHIAGWA:

The name IHIAGWA is culled from two Igbo words, IHI and AGWA and literally translated in English language to mean REASON and ATTITUDE respectively.

In the olden days, as earlier said, the father of OTAMIRI that is CHUKWU had lived with the forefathers’ of the Ihiagwa people and because this God is very powerful, the forefathers’ usually took all their problems to him even the very minor ones that they could solve themselves the people bothered the God so much that he could no longer contend their disturbance and because of this he decided to leave the people of Ihiagwa. Thus he moved from his OKPU-CHUKWU shrine in Ihiagwa and went to a very far place in Arochukwu to lived and said that it would have to take them a very long time to come and disturb him but that he will leave behind his son OTAMIRI for them.

In the words of the God as narrated by the people I quote “MAKA IHI AGWA UNU, A GA M A HAPU UNUGA BIRI NA -ARO MA NA A GA M A HAPURU UNU OTAMIRI NWAM”

This is translated to mean “I WILL LEAVE YOU PEOPLE AND GO AND FIND A NEW ABODE IN AROCHUKWU BUT BECAUSE OF YOUR ATTITUDE, I WILL LEAVE BEHIND MY SON OTAMIRI FOR YOU PEOPLE”

So when Chukwu left the Ihiagwa people he did not take with him Otamiri his son that is how Otamiri came to have his abode in Ihiagwa.

But even though CHUKWU left his son for Ihiagwa people, they still went in search of him in Arochukwu whenever they had problem despite the fact that the road was too far but all this stopped after OPARAOGU had been upgraded.

There has been another compelling story on the origin of name Ihiagwa which says that:

The name Ihiagwa is culled from two Igbo syllables “Ihi” and “Agwa”. Ihi meaning Reason in English verbal communication, Agwa refers to a tree whose leaves are medicinal in nature.

The people of Ihiagwa said their fore father’s chose the name IHIAGWA for their current place of settlement because they said that the first man to arrive and settle there came in search of the leaves of the “AGWA” tree to be used for a purpose and on finding the tree there decided to settle there, and hence said to himself O bu maka ihi agwa kam jiri bia ebe a. Literally meaning, It is because of the agwa tree that I came here, hence the name IHIAGWA.

ORIGIN OF IHIAGWA COMMUNITY by J.O. MURUAKO, (excerpt from OHA cultural Magazine, Maiden issue. Published in 1982 by Ihiagwa Student Association at University of Nigeria Nsukka)

People all over the world have through the ages sought to trace their history to source. Races have always tried to know where they originated in order to bolster their pride in their ancestry or link themselves with proud dynasties or kingdoms. This search for the family tree has sent historians, archeologists and sociologists digging into the ages to answer the question of peoples’ origin. Consequently, records, books and physical features have been stored as guides in these searches for the ‘great beginning’ of races, nations, communities and human families.

When the writer was researching for his bachelors degree thesis on the theme: “The meaning of the development in Ihiagwa” he searched libraries, academic journals and other documents for sign-posts to the origin of Ihiagwa. These searches met with little or no success. it became apparent that no documented work has been done or has been preserved on this very vital issue. The writer had to extend his search to the wider fields of mythology, folklores and tales of the elders. This area proved so fertile with very convincing wide spread believed theories on the origin of Ihiagwa. It became apparent to the writer that the origin of Ihiagwa is still shrouded in myths, tales and traditional, religious and cultural beliefs.

IHIAGWA PEOPLE FIRST ON EARTH

Having found little or no documented traces of the origin of Ihiagwa people, the writer J.O. Muruako directed his searches to the rather uncertain, unproven but rather strong word-of mouth testimonies of the elders. Late Mazi Emezi Okor of Umuelem village was the oldest man in Ihiagwa in 1975 when my research was conducted. In answer to a question as to the origin of Ihiagwa people, the old man declared solemnly: “Ihiagwa people were the first people on earth, they were even met in the present spot by the Otamiri” which is Chukwu – God. he went forward to tell the writer that Ihiagwa people did not immigrate from any where else. That the Ihiagwa people arrived the earth with ‘CHUKWU’ who had his abode in a shrine ‘Okpu’ at a spot between Iriamogu and Ishiuzo villages of Ihiagwa. Communed with his chosen people of Ihiagwa until they started pestering him with petty domestic matters. When a woman went to the ‘OKPU’ to ask Chukwu to tell her who stole her ‘ogiri’ ‘Chukwu’ felt he had had enough and left Ihiagwa for Arochukwu where he established another habitat among the Aros.

Mazi Emezi went on to inform the writer that Chukwu could not forget his chosen people of Ihiagwa. he later returned to Ihiagwa in the guise of the Otamiri and made his shrine deep in the forest between Ihiagwa and Nekede. on his arrival he sent for the people of Ihiagwa and Nekede for a new covenant. Ihiagwa people as the original people of ‘Chukwu’ understood his message which was coded in semaphores and met Chukwu at the appointed time. A new covenant was established and ‘Chukwu’ now know as Otamiri choose eight priests ‘Ohas’ to represent Ihiagwa in his spirit court. Despite the encroachment of Christianity, the ‘Ohas’ of Ihiagwa still pay the annual visit to their spiritual father for discussion and the reception of decrees and guidelines for the conduct of their affairs.

All efforts to find an alternative feasible theory on the origin of Ihiagwa people have proved unsuccessful. What gives the theory a strong aura of authenthecity is its similarity to the biblical theory of creation of man in the Garden of Eden. The sacking of Adam and Eve from the Garden and the return of God in the form of Jesus Christ to abide with man forever. The leadership roles in culture, law and politics assumed by Ihiagwa before the advent of the white man also give credence to this theory of originality. Ihiagwa people were no warlike race but they still held sway power over their neighbors – the only source of this power could only be divine heritage. Up till now the Ihiagwa man and the Aro man never marries and the elders point to the Chukwu/Otamiri divine umbilical cord binding the two disparate races.

This short discourse poses a thesis that no viable alternative has been found to the Divine Theory of the origin of Ihiagwa people. Today the Ihiagwa man still believes that he is the descendant of the Gods. In these era of scientific fact finding, one looks at this rather mythological but widely accepted theory as a challenge to the on coming crop of Ihiagwa intellectuals and the situation in which their descent is still allowed to remain in the realms of folktales should prove too tantalizing for them to avoid for much longer. They should pick up the gauntlet and give the world a scientific theory of their origin. ***END***

THE UZI AND ABOSHI TREES:

They are two trees, with Uzi in Ihiagwa and Aboshi in Nekede. These trees are a symbol of unity, equality and brotherhood between the Ihiagwa people and the Nekede people. Also the two towns have similar customs.

That is to say that the trees represent the fact that Ihiagwa people and Nekede people are brothers, while the people from Nekede are seniors to the people from Ihiagwa.

Also aside the fact that this trees shows which of the two community’s is the elder, the Uzi tree in Ihiagwa has some major functions or importance as the case may be.

For instance the Uzi tree is used as cure for some ailments such as stroke and even as a cure for bareness.

FESTIVALS IN IHIAGWA: Some of the festivals in Ihiagwa include;

THE ODU FESTIVAL: The Odu festival of the Ihiagwa people is celebrated by the Ihiagwa people to mark the new yam festival. This new yam festival otherwise called the iri ji ohuru in Ibo language is an age long culture of all the Ibo speaking ethnic-group of the south-eastern Nigeria of which Ihiagwa is part of them. In celebrating this festival every Ibo speaking ethnic-group in the south-eastern part has a peculiar way of celebrating theirs and has special names to identify it.

The ODU festival is a great festival of the Ihiagwa people and it is used to signify the go ahead of the indigenes to eat the new yam. During this period, the new yam has matured, The Aguzieafor’s in the Ihiagwa autonomous community i.e. the people from Ibuzo in Ihiagwa sounds the gong to alert the other villagers and the nearby communities that the time to eat the new yam has come. This is otherwise called the Okokorongu i.e. the sounding of the new yam festival gong. At the sound of this gong the indigenes will now match to Iriamogu, which is the kingship seat of the Ihiagwa people and also the first village i.e. the Opara of the Ihiagwa people.

After that, the Ezeario which is the chief priest of the Otamiri deity (Otamiri is the chief deity of the Ihiagwa people) and also the head of the Oha Ihiagwa performs some traditional rights and the new yam festival or eating rather takes off.

THE ONUNUN OPARAOGU OTAMIRI FESTIVAL: The Oha Otamiri is also the Oha of Ihiagwa i.e. those elderly men chosen from each village of the Ihiagwa autonomous community.

Otamiri as earlier said is the chief deity of the Ihiagwa people, while the Oha Otamiri is the Oha’s i.e. the elders from the different village units of the Ihiagwa autonomous community.

Amongst the Oha Otamiri is the Ezeario who is the head of the Oha’s.

This Ezeario could either be from the Iriamogu village i.e. The Akufor family to be precise or he could be from the Osunkwo family in Ibuzo Village. The Ezeario is vested on an individual by reincarnation. That is to say that any Ezeario is a reincarnate of the previous Ezeario.

This Onunun Oparaogu Otamiri festival is usually performed during the crowning of the Eze i.e. The King.

THE ONUNUN OPARAOGU OTAMIRI PILGRIMAGE

This is a yearly pilgrimage embarked upon by the traditional Chief priest of the Oparaogu deity and also the Oha Otamiri’s in Ihiagwa.

During this pilgrimage, there is usually a four day non-farming and an eight days of incessant rainfall otherwise called the MGBADA IHIAGWA, after which the traditional chief priest must have come back.

This journey is usually began by the traditional Chief Priest of Oparaogu who goes by night on the Afor market day. Yes it has to be by night because Oparaogu is a very powerful deity and this is usually called NIGHT JOURNEY. Also the traditional Chief priest has to go first before the Oha Otamiri’s so as to make the way for them. The Oha Otamiri’s goes by day and on the Nkwo market day. This is the reason why the local market of the Ihiagwa people is on an NKWO MARKET DAY and called NKWOUKWU IHIAGWA and also the Nkwo is also a day of rest for the Ihiagwa people when they are forbidden to farm.

It is wise to mention the fact that any body who must embark on the Onunu pilgrimage must be free of guilt in all it’s ramifications since the deity Oparaogu is not a God of evil. The Traditional Chief Priest of Oparaogu usually warns them about this on his return because after he must have returned that they are allowed to go.

This Onunu Oparaogu pilgrimage marks the end the Igbo calendar year and the beginning of the new year/new yam festival in Igbo land. It is after the Oha Otamiri’s must have come back, and announced their return that every community in the Owerri senatorial zone is free to chose their new yam festival date and also other festivals such as the ORU OWERRI.

Hence that is the reason why the Ihiagwa people are called the AGUZIEAFOR’S i.e. calendar keepers.

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The Ihiagwa autonomous community

The town Ihiagwa Autonomous community is organized into eight villages namely; Iriamogu village, Ibuzo village, Nnkaramochie village, Umuezeawula village, Aku/Umuokwo village, Mboke village, Umuelem village and Umuchima village. Ihiagwa is also home to the Federal University of Technology Ihiagwa, Owerri.

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