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Udi: Land of tomorrow

 

EDITED BY IKEMEFUNA ANYANECHI.M,ENUGU,NIGERIA 
 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Udi is land of the free and home of the great. It is a land of love and liberty, the abode of free spirits and benevolent beings of bodily and divine dimensions. From as far away as coastal-delta lands and from north of the border, people have moved in and settled in the area. Since the beginning of human activities in the theater of Igbo civilization, people have come and left. The Arochukwu immigration-emigration, mostly from Amuvi village, is a good contemporary example of the free flow of human traffic through Udi country.

 

Why has man in his finite wisdom found Udi irresistible? The fertility of the land is, in parts, as you would find in renowned breadbaskets of Abakaliki, Umudike, Ogbaru, Igboariam, Ohaji, Uzouwani, etc., especially in Amofia-Agu, Affa. Udi is a land of great rivers and springs: Adaada, Ajali, Oji, Aria, Nvenu, Ngene Evu, Iyi Ububo, etc. Thus, humanity managed to survive and thrive in a liberty-enabling environment devoid of worthless wars and abominable acts. The average Udi person has an inherent love of the land, of peoples, of culture, and of knowledge in general. The quest for maddening materialism is as alien as monarchy is to core Igbo communities.

 

NOMENCLATURE

The people we today call “Ndi Udi” (people of Udi) are a part of the greater Agbaja people of the Igbo race. Agbaja comprised of peoples between the wooded lands of Awka (capital of Anambra State) to the rocky valleys of Enugu (capital of Enugu State). Agbaja is made up of communities in present-day Udi, Ezeagu, Igbo-Etiti, Oji River, greater Awgu, and Enugu East Local Government Areas. However, the influence of Agbaja has extended to lands beyond.

Udi town itself, now known popularly as “Udi Kpomkwem,” was the traditional headquarters of the Igbo northeast subregion that I have called "Waawalandia." [The Waawa country extends from Awka to beyond Abakaliki.] This was probably due to its panoramic location on the sunny side of Udi Hills, plus a people with big hearts living in an easily accessible savannah country. There are other reasons for the prominence of Udi that are outside the scope of this presentation. However, the term “Udi” no longer applies exclusively to the town of Udi (Kpomkwem), which is fast urbanizing. Currently, in popular parlance, "Udi" can refer to the totality of people living west of the Coal City, Enugu — roughly the same geopolitical Udi Division of yore.

 

ANTEDILUVIAN AGBAJA

In many Igbo legends, a certain man sires seven sons, who beget the seven villages. The rest is a matter of who has the most convincing story. Udi is no exception. It is agreed that Agbaja begot many sons. They are Neke, Oshie Aniugwu, Ojebe Ogene, Ugwunye, Ezedike, and the founders of Ezeagu, etc. As in such stories, these sons married and had children who founded towns; the sons of the children founded the villages. Some stories sometimes go off the tangent; others tow the well-hewn path in Igbo mythology. Somewhere along the line, we get back to the same basic conclusion: We are all brethren in humanity.

 

The fact remains that no one knows exactly who first inhabited a particular part of any country. Even on a virgin land with no sign of previous human habitation, no one can claim to be the founder of such settlements. In parts of Igboland, original populations have survived with such names as “Umuamadiala” or "Umudiani" (sons of the soil), even went those who claim ancestry to recent immigrants dictate the culture. Nri is a very good example. For the purpose of this presentation, let us agree that Agbaja moved into the area, produced seven children with some lady or ladies, and so the story began.

 

NEKE

According to legend, Neke had seven sons collectively called Umuneke: Udi, Abia, Okwe (Amaokwe), Agbudu, Agu (Obinagu), Abi Ezike (Umuabi), and Aga (Umuaga). These sons of Neke had children, who founded villages. Example: the five sons of (umu) Abi Ezike are Abia, Ighum, Alugwo, Ogbuabala, and Ufiala [See http://www.expage.com/page/umuabi/]. Udi has Ezechime, Ekeneene, Amægu, Okuniino and Umuoka; Abia has Agbaani, Enugu-Abia, and Ogwugwu. Aga might be the last born, but he was apparently the most procreative; in Umuaga town, we have: Umunnacha, Umuokpala, Umueze, Umuabianta, Umualum, Amaata, Umuataaguma, Umuataogene, Umuamom, Ishiagu, Ndibinagu, Obodoinyi, Umuaneke, Umuonaga, Umungwu, Umuchime, and Abanibo.

 

OSHIE

A version of the Neke legend has it that Oshie, another son of Agbaja, married Nsudi and had two sons and a daughter (a departure from the seven-son song). They are: Eke, Nsude, and Nneke — the daughter. Some Oshie descendants believe that Nneke married and begot Udi, Abia, parts of Amaokwe (Idedu). Now, whom did Nneke marry? Neke? Or, was “Nneke” actually “Mrs. Neke”? This claim does not add up because “Nneke” would be married to her paternal uncle Neke. Obioma, sandwiched between Abia and Nsude, claims direct descent from Neke and or Oshie.

 

Eke has seven sons (back to the norm!). Two of Eke sons died young. The survivors are: Amankwo, Amufia, Enugu, Ogui, and Oma. The Ajali River forms the boundary between Eke and Owa, now in Ezeagu Local Government Area (LGA). Note that names of towns do not always coincide with the names of legendary founders. Enugwu, for example, is more a geographical nomenclature than a corruption of the popular name “Ene-Ugwu.” In Amaokwe, we have Onicha, Enugwu, Uwaani, etc.; In Umuaga: Ndibinagu (those who live in the woods), Amaata (pine grass square), Ishiagu (head of the woods), and Umuaro (children of Aro settlers); etc.

 

OJEBE OGENE

North of Oshie clan, we have the children of Ojebeogene. Some authors believe that Ojebe Ogene was a woman, but no one says whom she married; besides, matrilineal descent is rare in Igbo mythology. So the patrilineal argument holds in almost all cases. Jude Akubuilo, Ph.D., a Beverley Hills-based attorney, confirmed that Ojebe Ogene had seven sons. Writing in Waawanet, Dr. Akubuilo (“Okeosisi Ojebeogene”) pointed out on Sunday, June 27, 1999 that “Ebe is the eldest, followed by Abor, Ukana, Awhum, Okpatu, Umulumgbe, and Ukehe.” Ukehe is now in Igbo-Etiti (Nsukka zone), but its link to Ojebe Ogene legend is not in dispute. The other Ojebe Ogene towns formed part of defunct Odo Ozo LGA. Ukehe is not the only Agbaja son out of the Udi loop; Nike, as we shall see, is now in Enugu East (Nkanu) senatorial sphere.

 

UGWUNYE

The fourth group of communities in Agbaja sphere is Ugwunye. It is made up principally of Affa, Egede, and Nike. Nike is no longer in Udi political sphere, but the Umuugwunye link remains.

 

EZEDIKE

In this group of direct brethrens are grouped the following towns are: Akpakwume, Nze, Oghu, and Umuoka, all gateways into Nsukka communities.

 

NGWUO

In “What does Enugu mean?” Ikechukwu Ude-Chime told an interesting story of the people we now know as Ngwo, a part of today’s Udi LGA. Ngwu Nwangwuako was a great hunter from Neke (probably from outside Agbaja proper). He had ten children known collectively as Ngwuo Ili. One of the sons was Amaudeneogu, whose name his descendants adopted for their village and, because of the location of their village on a hilltop (“enu ugwu”), they became Enuugwu Amaudeneogu.

 

“Enugu” is an Anglo adulteration and shortening of the word “Enuugwu Ngwuo.” It is also a fallacy in naming of the city: You see, the city of Enugu is situated in a valley, on the farmlands of Ngwo, not on top of a hill as the name suggests. “Uwaana” (valley) or “Uwaani” (a quarter in today’s Enugu) comes closer to defining the geography of the capital of Igbo nation.

 

COLONIAL

Communal spirit, extended-family structure, and responsive republicanism of Udi people of Igbo heartland made developmental work under colonialism much more effective and efficient and the people’s progress possible. Many communities from as far away as the emirate of Gwandu sought to learn from the Udi experience. Udi did not swallow colonialism hook, line, and sinker. Everyone, black or white, could settle in Udi and coexist constructively and peacefully. However, when the European tourists turned around to rule, the people refused the concept of taxation without representation.

 

Chief Onyeama n’Eke acquiesced to the tyrannical repudiation of popular participatory politics (oha na eze). The people revolted. This spirit of revulsion at oppression was reenacted in the Udi Revolt and the bloody Coal Miners' Strike (Iva Valley, Enugu) of November 18, 1949 which signaled the beginning of the struggle for independence. One must not forget the refusal of Udi people to succumb to an attempted demystification of the “Mmanwu” mores by the colonial Chadwick regime. Udi people are neither protesters nor pushovers; any attempt to arrogant oneself to the pinnacle of absolute power is almost always resisted. Udi folk did not fight the coming of Europeans, decades after they had established bases in southern Igbo communities, but they could not tolerate the concept of recent immigrants using local thugs to lord it over a responsively republican race. It is no coincidence that Udi was the first political capital of lands east of the Niger. The capital was only moved to Enugu after the discovery of coal in Udi Hills.

 

Regardless of the oppressive ways of colonialism, Udi people embraced the wisdom of western education en masse. No wonder Udi marked the beginning of mass literacy in Nigeria. The movie, “Daybreak in Udi,” awakened in the people in and around Udi and beyond to the new wave of formal education. The increased consciousness in formal education was responsible for the large turnover of teachers of Udi extraction at independence in 1960.

 

CULTURE

There is a certain commonality of culture in the Udi area, but it varies as much as cultural diversity in Igboland. For example, Odo festival occurs in northern parts of Udi (Odo Ozo area), while Mmanwu appears more from Oshie to Neke communities. Eke is a town of both Odo and Mmanwu. Umuabi had the strongest attachment to the Mmanwu phenomenon; Nachi, much less so. Umuaga, besides its strong Mmanwu culture, has the popular rites of rebellion called Okomoyo, during which the young are allowed to revel all-night long under the supposedly watchful eyes of older folk. There are slight differences in New Yam festivals, marriage particularities, masquerade initiation rites, title-taking rites, etc. Most importantly, no Udi town speaks exactly the same dialect as the other. Many people can detect the differences in all Agbaja dialects.

 

Udi people have a worldview that is not very different from mainstream Igbo communities. They believe in the sacredness of Ani, the Earth deity, and in the supremacy of Chi Ukwu (Almighty God). Each town in Udi has at least one major deity, a being force (alusi) to which a shrine is built. For example, Ani Udi, Nneche Umuaga, Aniobodoishiokwe, etc. Onu Eke Oga belongs to Abia, Amaokwe, and Udi towns, possibly in honor of their common Oshie ancestry.

 

Different towns have different taboos. For example, the people of Umuaga do not eat snails, but they won’t stop Amaokwe ladies from collecting as much as they could carry — as long as they do not destroy farm crops or use an indigene's utensils to eat or drink. In Ngwo, Afia Usu market is located beneath giant cotton trees on which bats habit in their thousands. Though eating bat is not prohibited, no one hunts bats at the market. Oshie communities curiously do not intermarry, for they are descended from one man; curious because intra-marriage occurs in these communities. Intermarriage is virtually zero between the people of Nsude, Eke, Amaokwe, Abia, and Udi.

 

GOVERNMENT

Like most communities in Igboland, Udi people are republicans from time immemorial. They had no kings, and they had no organized military or police force. In fact, there have no formal judicial nor penal system. On June 19, 1973, Ichie Noo Udala of Umuaga, aged c.102, stated the obvious:

Before the white man came we had no chief that saw to the affairs of the town. But we had several institutions that helped us organize our activities. The government of this town was not vested in one man. …. In the olden days, each village had a person that we could now call a chief to head the town's political and administrative activities. This man was normally the oldest man of that village, and was called onye ishi ani. Within this village we have another man that heads the affairs of a 'lineage' or umunna called okenye umunna. During any cases affecting the whole town, the ndi ishi ani, village heads, would meet and discuss effectively the issues involved. They met as equals….

[From Igbo Worlds: Village Democracy: an Agbaja example,

collected by E. N. Okechukwu]

 

And so it was until a certain Agbaja man from Eke named Ozo Amulu Onwusi married a beautiful lady from Ebe named Chinazungwa Ijeonyeabo. They had a son, Onyeama. He grew up to become the nearest Agbaja came to having one identifiable ruler in living memory. The legacy of Onyeama is captured in Dillibe Onyeama’s book: Chief Onyeama: The story of an African God. The first and last Okwuluoha Agbaja and an autocrat by all accounts, he is credited with making possible the establishment of Enugu as the fastest growing metropolis of the last century, One hundred years ago, Enugu was a farmland; today, it is the political capital of the Igbo nation.

 

NATURAL RESOURCES

Natural resources are abundant in Udi. Okpa, also called bambara nut, is a ritualized plant in parts of Udi. One seed could yield as many as 200 seeds within months of cultivation, without serious tending, weeding, or fertilization. The palm trees of Udi yield the best palm wine on earth. Tappers from far and wide agree that Udi “up wine” is made of divine stuff. Cashew trees grow freely in the area, requiring serious control. Cassava, yams, stringed beans, vegetables, peppers, garden eggs, oil beans, tropic fruits, and assorted agricultural products come from Udi. The lands of Udi harbor minerals such as high-quality coal, iron ore, and petroleum. And we have not looked hard enough for gold!

 

UDI WOMEN

Udi and the entire Agbaja have the most beautiful, the sexiest, and the most powerful women in Igboland. And they make the best wives. Such a combination does not exist just about anywhere in the whole wide world. Udi women adapt easily. They make the best homes. At some point in the 80s, some communities expressed concerns at the rate Udi daughters married outside the area. Then again Udi married marry some of the best from outside the area. It is no wonder that one of the world’s most beautiful girls is from Udi, and she married one of the most recognizable men in the world, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the leader of the Biafran Revolution.

 

What Ikemba Nnewi (Odumegwu-Ojukwu) wrote about Miss Bianca Onoh, in “Because I am involved” (1989) is true of Udi women:

“What can I say about this very beautiful young girl that won the 1989 Miss Inter-Continental pageant? … [If] I exclaim with all men that she is beautiful, it would be like standing in front of the Empire State Building in New York and exclaiming that the building is high. I would be stating the obvious and it would be trite.

 

And you wonder why he crossed the proverbial seven seas to marry her. Before Bianca’s brain and beauty, many Udi women were powerful and successful ladies of their times: Mrs. Vero Onyia, prominent Lagos entrepreneur and socialite; Lady Neboh, former NPN women leader; Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Ene, Librarian ESUT; Dr. (Mrs.) Maria David-Osuagwu, university dean; Dr. (Mrs.) Maludi Mgbo, former Head of State Civil Service, Enugu State; etc. There are countless other professionals who married home or abroad. Don’t forget: Udi women have the best coordinated dance steps anywhere on terra firma; it is in their genes.

 

UDI MEN

Starting from the progenitor Agbaja, great men come from Udi neck of the woods. Udi has seen a long line of great men. The legendary Ichie Nnebe Uzo introduced iron smithery to Awka; he was an Udi son. Obviously, Udi people were accomplished technologists before Nnebe took the technology to Awka, which mastered and ritualized the art of ironworks. Regardless of the tyranny of Onyeama, he was the greatest Igbo king in the last century. The first Igbo medical doctor was Dr. Simon Ezevuo Onwu, son of Ozo Ofianaechafa of Amaozala, Affa. The first Nigerian World Court Judge Justice Charles Dadi Onyeama, a contemporary of Dr. Onwu, was also an Udi son from Eke. The first pilot hailed from these lands.

 

Udi has produced prominent personalities, including Nigerian Supreme Court Justices Philip Nnaemeka Agu and Anthony Aniagolu. From Chief Gabriel Onoh, father of Chief C. C. Onoh through great professors (Odenigwe, Egudu, Aneke, Ene, Chime, Nebo, etc.) to Charles Dillibe Onyeama, one of the first two Africans to attend the exclusive English Eton College, Udi men have left footsteps on the sand of time. Great teachers, technocrats, and technicians, Udi has produced them all: Achu, Agu, Agbala, Akpu, Ali, Aneke, Ani, Chime, Ebulu, Egudu, Ekwe, Ene, Enenwali, Eze, Ezeogba, Nebo, Nevo, Ngene, Ngwu, Njeeze, Obodo, Ochi, Odenigbo, Odenigwe, Odo, Offor, Ogakwu, Ogbata, Ojiibe, Ome, Onaga, Onoh, Onovo, Onyia, Owoh, Ozo, Udala, Ude, Ugwu, etc.

 

CONCLUSION

Udi, the anvil of Waawa awareness, is not where it should be in terms of modern development. Mass literacy campaign started in Udi when others believed only the rich and wealthy went to school. Udi should house an institution of higher learning in this decade. With the busiest highway vehicular junction in Africa at Ninth Mile Corner and a culture of ironworks, Udi should be a manufacturing and distribution center. The tallest mountain peak in southern Nigeria (Udi Hill) is in Udi; and from its wombs Nigeria extracted coal in abundance, ferried it across the land to its southern tip at Oji River to produce electricity. Almost 100 years later, some communities have no dependable supply of power. Udi must have uninterrupted electric power supply.

 

Udi men mined coal and opened up Enugu, but they have little to show for it. They have not taken to the streets, protesting or calling for resource control or preaching the politics of “we-we” and “them-vs-us.” That’s not the Udi way. Those who live and thrive in Udi, no matter when they or their forefathers and foremothers got there, are no rabble-rousers. In the fullness of time, Udi will blossom for all who believe in its essence: fraternity, liberty, equity, and progress. It won’t happen without you: family and friends of Udi.

 

The forefathers of Udi people knew why they settled in this particular place. It is surely a land of greater tomorrow. The coalmines shall resurrect to produce reliable and cleaner coal-powered, efficient electricity at Oji River thermal station. The towering palm trees shall sustain the vegetable oil refinery at Nachi. Adaada, Ajali, and Oji River shall provide all the water needed for agriculture, the many bottling plants at Ngwo/Nsude, including the mega Heineken plant, the future steel plants at Nsude, and the thermal planet at Oji River.

 

For those who want natural drinks, the best palmwine in the whole wide world shall flow from Nkwo Agu Market in abundance to compliment the best “okpa” (Udi bread) on earth. Udi has the best tapioca salad, so good it is called “Udi salad.” With these products, peaceful passengers traveling through Ninth Mile Corner shall be treated with love to the best stuff from Earth. When Enugu International Airport becomes operational, the first regional airstrip at Udi could be reopened for cargo and shuttle services. Most importantly, the 24 towns in the presently too-large Udi Local Government Area have some of the best human heads around, the cream of its tomorrow, to support and sustain the greenness and greatness of Udi, Enugu State, Igboland, Nigeria, Africa, and humanity at large.

 

Thus, we shall together make Udi a land of greater tomorrow. Nke iru ka n’Udi. 

EDITIED FROM KWENU,BY IKEMEFUNA ANYANECHI,ENUGU,NIGERIA


A CASE STUDY OF EKE-TOWN,UDI L.G.A,ENUGU STATE,NIGERIA.

BRIEF HISTORY OF EKE TOWN IN UDI L.G.A OF ENUGU STATE, NIGERIA Eke town is one of the most prominent of the twenty-five communities in Udi L.G.A of Enugu state. Eke lies about 26km west of Enugu and only 5km from the strategic 9th mile corner which links the town and indeed Enugu to Onitsha in the southwest and Nsukka and Obollo Afor and thence to the Northern states. It is bordered on the east by Ngwo, west by Oghe, north by Ebe, south by Nsude and Southwest by Imezi Owa. Eke community originated from one of the three children of Oshie anugwu,a man who lived in the 12th century AD.Nsude and Eke were the sons of oshieanugwu while Neke was his only daughter.Nsude,the first son fathered ten sons.Neke married out and later gave birth to Udi,Abia and Amokwe. As the descendants of oshie increased in population(at Nsude) it became imperative for Eke,the younger son to venture out in search of suitable place of abode, which he found in a fertile valley north of Uto hill in Nsude,the site of present-day Eke. On account of this consanguinity, the indigenes of Nsude, Eke and the descendants of Neke do not intermarry to date. To further deepen the relationship a mutual defence pact was signed by them and so it is an abominable act even to this day for an Oshie descendant to draw another’s blood. Eke prospered at his new home and had seven children, two of whom were cut down in boundary wars between Eke and Ebe,The five who survived the dispute are represented today by the following villages:Amofia Eke,Amankwo Eke,Oma Eke,Enugu Eke and Ogui Eke( where the web master, Mr. Anyanechi Ikemefuna.M held from). In 1910, Chief Onyeama (okwuru oha1) was appointed a warrant Chief and later a paramount Chief. Western civilization had been implanted in wawaland and its springboard was the famous St. Paul’s primary school Eke, established by the Roman Catholic Church, who’s founding missionaries, arrived at Eke in 1914. Long before his death on 5th April, 1933, Chief Onyeama ensured his reign was associated with numerous landmarks in native administration, western education, christain propagation and economic development. It was only natural that the children of such a forward-looking paramount ruler should be among the pioneers in western education. In this regard such luminaries as late Justice Charles Dadi Onyeama (the first Nigerian to be appointed a regular judge at the International Court of Justice at Hague). Chief Hon Justice Anthony Nnaemezie Aniagolu, JSC (retired) and Hon Justice Byron Onyeama are called to mind. The clamor for western education by Eke citizens encouraged the Catholic Church to expand its base at Eke by establishing St. Paul’s Secondary school in the early 60s.this Institution like its primary precursor also became a prime choice college for boys from Eke and beyond. Indeed the quest for western education in Eke is not only phenomenal (thanks to Chief Onyeama) but also insurmountable even till date. Hence, today Eke Citizens both male and female are found in various fields of learning and Endeavour, be it Medicine, Law, Accounting, Banking, Engineering, Technology etc.

SOCIO-CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT.

The people of Eke celebrate several festivals to mark the various seasons of the lunar year. As should be expected they are associated with traditional religion. Prominent among them are Nshi (igwa Nshi), Akwali and Ekeane festivals. It was probably because Eke people had been worshiping of mono lithic deity that Christianity was later established here without many hassles. NSHI FESTIVAL. According to Late Vincent Amadife(1970),the first Nshi festival was celebrated about 1816.Then and as today, it is a feast that transcend boundaries of age,sex,social status etc.Resently it has drawn the attention of the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Bar. Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, by paying a visit to Eke during the festival. Up to late last century, the feast was celebrated within a few days in the lunar month, corresponding to May.However, on account of its growing appeal even among non-indigenes, the festival is now celebrated over a period starting in May and ending in August, WITH SPECIAL DIET OKPA (EMEREEME and IKPONKETI)………product of Mr. Anyanechi Ikemefuna.M.ENUGU,NIGERIA. ................EDITED BY IKEMEFUNA ANYANECHI,ENUGU,NIGERIA



The legacies of a legend: Eze Onyeama n'Eke

King Onyeama of Eke

 

EDITED BY IKEMEFUNA ANYANECHI,ENUGU,NIGERIA

www.ikemefunaanyanechi.4t.com

 

 

AGBAJA

Eke was a town like every other town in Agbaja, present-day Udi, Ezeagu and Igboeze local government areas of western Enugu State of southeastern Nigeria, but it has given Igboland and Nigeria many great names. The first western-trained Igbo medical doctor, Dr. Simon E. Onwu, was from Ebe, as is the first Nigerian judge to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Mr. Justice Charles Dadi Umeha Onyeama. But the greatest son of Eke in living memory was Eze Onyeama n’Eke, Dadi's dad.

 

The King of Agbaja, Onyeama n’Eke was the greatest king in northern Igboland [areas in Enugu, Nsukka and Abakaliki that form the present-day Enugu and Ebonyi states]. He was probably the greatest Igbo king in living memory. From his palace in Eke, Onyeama reigned over the entire Agbaja, from Oji River though Udi and Ezeagu to the present-day political capital of Igboland, Enugu, and even Nkanu and Ogui communities. With his Gestapo/Tonton Macoutes-like secret police called Ogwummiri (for they would reach their target and accomplish any goal come rain or shine), and backed by the colonial regime, Onyeama set out to establish a huge and dominant Agbaja kingdom. He was judge, jury, and jailer, an absolute king by any definition.

EARLY YEARS

Onyeama was born circa 1870s, the youngest of the ten children of Özö Omulu Onwusi, a polygamous titled man of means, and an only son of his mother – Chinazungwa Ijeonyeabo of nearby Ebe community. At 7, his father initiated him into the masquerade society. A puberty rite of passage, this showed the promise of the young man. Onyeama’s father passed thereafter. His mother also passed, probably killed for poisoning a man who had threatened her son Onyeama with violence.

 

Brought up by his half-brother, Amadiezeoha Nwankwo-Onwusi, Onyeama worked hard and made his mark in business. He traveled to famous Aro-controlled trading centers including Abiriba, Arochukwu, Arondizuogu, Bende, Oguta, Uburu, etc. When British rule reached Eke in 1908, Onyeama was rich enough to buy his way into the Ozo title society and to marry a local beauty, Afia Nwirediagu, and later Gwachi Ebue.

 

Slowly but surely, Onyeama got the colonists to award him the “Warrant Chiefdom” of Eke. He took power and defined it. Onyeama saw himself as an absolute ruler whose authority could not be easily flouted. But the King of Onitsha, Obi Okosi I, also reigned. No Igbo king questioned the might of the supreme monarch of Onitsha, let alone supposedly “lesser chiefs” from the north.

ALL HAIL THE CHIEF


Eze Onyeama n'Eke in his "warrant chief" regalia

Onyeama signaled quite early that the reign of the Obi of Onitsha was history turned upside down, because he considered the entire monarchy of Onitsha a sub-colonial setup of recent immigrants from the Benin Kingdom. If anything, he (Onyeama) was in the league of the Oba of Benin or Ooni of Ife, the Yoruba monarch. This set the stage for a looming showdown between the kings of the northeast Igbo (called the Wawa) and southwest Igbo (called the Ijekeebé).

 

And so it was that at the gathering of Igbo kings in 1928, all major kings and chiefs in the old Onitsha province (including Enugu) and beyond assembled in Enugu to welcome Captain W. Buchanan-Smith, the recently appointed lieutenant-governor of southern Nigeria provinces. The Obi naturally occupied the highest seat of honor reserved for the supposed traditional ruler of Igbo nation. When Onyeama came in later with his entourage of security men, chiefs and Igbanküda drummers, he was outraged by the Obi’s assumed position of supreme authority in his domain.

 

 

HERE COMES THE KING!

“Who do you think you are sitting in that seat?” Onyeama thundered and ordered the immediate removal of the powerful King of Onitsha. A scene ensued with the District Officer trying to placate Onyeama. Furiously, as legend has it, he uttered, “Wa” (the local lingo for “No”); for emphasis and as a mark of immutability, he stated: “Wa–wa!” [Never!] He turned and decreed to the colonial officers: “If that man is still occupying that seat when I come back, the leopard will eat him.” Onyeama got his way and prevailed as the greatest king in town!

Considered an upstart by those who have had longer socioeconomic intercourse with the British, Onyeama did not make himself many friends. A record would be waxed in the 30’s accusing him of burying an unfaithful wife alive! A court order forced the German company that waxed the slanderous record to withdraw it from circulation. This and other image-destructive stories of absolute tyranny, wife-snatching and even murder have never really removed from the legend of Onyeama. His people looked at him with mixture of awe and admiration. His secret police (made up of handpicked, local wrestling champions) struck so much fear into both chiefs and commoners that generations still respect the might of this great king.

 

Writes John .P. Jordan in Bishop Shanahan of Southern Nigeria (Dublin, 1971, p. 136): “This particular chief would deserve a history to himself; for he was probably the only Igbo ruler whose word was law.” Others say he was way way before his time.

 

THE LEGEND

It is interesting and intriguing that Onyeama operated within the confines of colonial legacy, picking his opponents apart in courts of law. Many of his opponents were chiefs from his immediate areas of control, from Udi, Ezeagu, Nkanu and Nsukka areas. Even though he openly desired no part of Christianity, he invited and encouraged church missionaries—to teach his people the ways of the white man. When the CMS would not teach English, but in Owere dialect of the Igbo language, Onyeama expelled them and brought in the Roman Catholics, on the condition that they teach in English and Latin and let his people speak their own dialect of Igbo! From his kingdom, the Catholic Church reached all parts of northern Igboland, Ogoja and Benue areas.

 

For those who wished to continue in the old ways and traveled to faraway Ilorin for oracular consultations, Onyeama imported Ilorin Muslim medicine men, which suggests that Onyeama indirectly introduced Islam into Igboland. He encouraged serious economic development, including mineral exploration and railway construction linking Enugu with Port Harcourt. Little wonder the first coal mine was named after him; and the first coal was presented to him by his driver before a cheering crowd of Africans and Europeans.

 

HOME & AWAY


King Onyeama of Eke
in London

Onyeama’s influence extended beyond Enugu and environs. He attended the British Empire Exhibition in May 1924 and was invited to Buckingham Palace. His two-month sojourn so impressed him he vowed to prepare his people for the future through education and economic development. Onyeama invested in education, sending his own sons and others to institutions of higher learning in the country and abroad. Onyeama’s guidance and influence opened up northern Igboland of Nsukka and beyond for the Catholic Church and colonial governance. Thus he paved the way for the eventual siting of Nigeria’s premier indigenous university at Nsukka.

 

Schools and churches and hospitals sprang up everyday. He formed a brass band that was the best in Nigeria. The Onyeama Eke Brass Band was booked to be the main attraction at the installation of Prince Godfrey Basimi Okoro Eweka Akenzua II as the Oba (King) of Benin. King Akenzua was the father of the present King of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolor Akpolor, Oba Erediauwa II.

 

Onyeama was a stickler for the rule of law, and used his Ogwumiri to enforce his rules and colonial laws. It was this delicate balance that led to his abrupt fall of fledging Agbaja kingdom. Bent on appealing a case to the highest court in the land, Onyeama left for Lagos by rail through Kaduna. At Kafanchan, word reached him that the colonists would do a King-Jaja-of-Opopo number on him – exile him for life on a God-forsaken island, or that they were going to jail him on a false charge as they had done the King of Benin in 1897. He made a detour and headed for home. On April 5, 1933, at Mada station in the Northern Nigeria, word reached him again of an impending disaster. King Onyeama shot himself rather than “be alive and let any human being humiliate me!”

 

DEMISE

The exact details of what happened exist in the realm of conjecture. Onyeama’s many enemies were closing in with calculated campaigns against Onyeama. From Coal Camp, Enugu, “Chief Lawrence” Onwudiwe of Ogbunike secured the alliance of such prominent Waawaland chiefs as Chief Ozobu of Owa (Onyeama’s father-in-law) and Chief Nwodo of Ukehe, plus professional petition writers! Onyeama was probably a victim of mischief, misinformation, and money politics.

Many interests group wanted to neutralize Onyeama’s grip on Enugu. The Anglican Church had not forgotten that he stopped them and put the Catholics ahead. He was at a time so strong that colonial district officers he did not like were immediately sent back to England. At this juncture, the colonial administration looked the other way for too long, in keeping with British divide-and-conquer tactics. Onyeama’s many enemies managed to forge a vast conspiratorial network of deceit designed to push the well-known suicidal impulses and morbid curiosity of King Onyeama.

 

Love him or loath him, no king in Igboland has since wielded such enormous political, religious and judicial powers as Eze Onyeama, Okwuluoha Agbaja (senior advocate/speaker of Agbaja). King Onyeama might have been a big inspiration to the powerful Eze nwa Iboko, the King of Abakaliki, whom the British colonists executed in Enugu, and the Nwodos of Ukehe (the Kennedys of modern Igbo politics).

 

Onyeama had over 50 wives, some of whom were just court enhancements in diplomatic marriages that were never consumed. He fathered about 60 children, mostly females. Prominent among his sons were Henry Onyeama, Chief Michael Onyeama, the Okwuluoha of Eke, Justice Dadi Onyeama, Sam Ekwueme Onyeama, Chief Inspector of Police James Onyeama, Justice Byron Onyeama, Alhaji Suleiman Onyeama, etc. Among his many grandchildren are Dillibe Onyeama, first African at the exclusive Eton College, England (author of Chief Onyeama: The Story of an African God) and Victor Akpu, a New Jersey-based real estate appraiser.

 

THE LEGACY CONTINUES

King Onyeama’s greatness lies mostly in his unapologetic and forceful exposition of Wawa pride, in reaction to what he considered the disrespect of his people by others. The momentum of this unbridled pride was later pushed into pure political arena by Chief Christian Chukwuma (C.C.) Onoh, Aninaefungwu, the Okaa Omee of Ngwo, former governor of Anambra State (now Enugu, Anambra and partly Ebonyi states). Chief Onoh, whose father Gabriel Onoh worked for Onyeama and whose wife is of the Onyeama kindred in Eke, is the father-in-law of the leader of the heroic Biafra revolution, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

 

The legacy of Onyeama lives on in and around Enugu, so much so that Eke is as Catholic as Rome, with the exception of the Islamic Center introduced by his son Suleiman –the most prominent Igbo Muslim. Onyeama brought a sense of oneness to the Agbaja people, despite the acrimony precipitated by his tyranny. To the Wawa people, he instilled a profound pride in their cultural and historical heritage. He took whatever he could from the European colonists to better the life of his people.

 

Onyeama bequeathed on Ndiigbo a political capital, the Coal City of Enugu, where everyone should and must live and thrive, free from ugly hands of distant and divisive lords. Without his intervention, Enugu could never have developed so rapidly into a multicultural metropolis. To Nigeria and the world, King Onyeama left indelible marks that are beyond the scope of this short profile.

 

And he was just in his 50s!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW

 The making of a stateswoman

M. O. ENÉ

egbedaa@aol.com

Sunday, December 7, 2003

 

UNBROKEN SPIRIT

The autobiography of

Loretta Ngozichukwu Aniagolu

written with

Charles Chukwuka Aniagolu

(published in  Nigeria by FIT Consult, 13 Link Road, Independence Layout, Enugu, Nigeria)

[Available @ 13.99 from Reedbuck, P. O. Box 150, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA]

 

When last August many of us -- males -- heard of Loretta Aniagolu coming to town, we adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Then the news came that she was stepping in where many men and women fear to tread. We held our breath. As then Chair of the Board of Directors of Enugu Association, USA, I recall discussing the issue with then President of the Association Alloy Attah. What to do? I didn’t mince words: She is our sister; let’s listen to her. If she is the daughter of her father, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Aniagolu, she would not disappoint. Besides, our sister Ms. Ngozi Agada, the major mover of her selection as the 2002 keynote speaker, did not suffer mediocrity.

 

Dallas 2002: She came, we saw, she stole the show! Her presentation impressed so many. An instant star was born: One of our own, a Waawa women to be proud of anywhere any day. As our ancestors would put it, she is “Ada e ji-eje mba (a daughter with whom you can go places).  Many instantly took to her and offered to support her quest to inject issue-oriented debates into the march of Enugu State to El Doraldo. Besides the charm and charisma of her person and presentation, that someone was out to discuss openly ways to improve Enugu State mattered. And her fans grew.

 

Since then I have had the opportunity to speak with and meet Loretta, but nothing prepared me for the manuscript of her book, then tentatively titled “The Making of the Woman.” Now published under the title “Unbroken Spirit” and co-authored with her brother Charles Chukwuka Aniagolu, Loretta presents a no-hold-barred autobiography that is captivatingly candid in a way you have never seen before.

 

But the question must be asked: Why is such a post-independent Nigerian lady writing her autobiography? You just don’t start telling the world about yourself because you are stepping into the forties. Why would she want to do that? Simple: Loretta believes that if she is going to be out there talking and expecting people to listen, then the audience deserves the right to know who she REALLY is. Besides, the “Chicago” and “Toronto” and “chief-crazed” politicians have fouled the polity deeply. Fair enough, but did she have to open it all up? From discussions, I found out that it’s all about being sincere and hoping that people trust you enough to give you a listening chance.

 

In her phone-in radio programs 'Ka Oha Malu' and radio talk show 'Media Link,' Loretta makes a point of letting listeners know that no question is off-limit, even when some supposedly salacious repetitions are rife. Loretta does not mind. For her to move into the next phase of her life, she reckons, she needs to let the world know where she is coming from, where she’s been, with whom (oh yes, that too), and where she is going.

 

Alaiyeluwa Oba Oladele Olashore, the Ajagbusi-Ekun of Iloko Ilesha, Ogun State, Nigeria captured it in the book’s Foreword:

 

By putting forward her autobiography, Loretta holds herself out for detailed scrutiny.  People have been named, places named and events mentioned that are verifiable even by her contemporaries. This appears to me more than a bold start.  In an age of forgeries and credentials that are not easily authenticated, Loretta has given those who seek transparent politicians to trust a great choice. Her track record, also verifiable should encourage development minded voters to invest their confidence in her.”

 

Then you open the book with trepidation. What is in it for me? Oba Oladele Olashore has an answer:

 

“The book you are about to experience is at once the interim report of the segment of four decades in the life of a maturing professional and a remarkable commentary on the making of a nation. It is about an accomplished professional intent on entering the next phase of life as a statesperson.”

 

The book is indeed a commendable commentary of immense historical importance. It captures the early years of Nigeria through its turbulent years. From the acknowledgement, we meet a plethora of people she has met in her life and who have impacted her in one way or the other, folk with whom she is “immensely pleased,” to whom she is “eternally grateful,” and without whom “my life would not have made interesting reading.” From “fabulous … Dad and Mom, Anthony and Maria Aniagolu” and her sisters and brothers (“my best friends, my strength and my support”), we go through such prominent VIPs as Justice Belgore, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (“the consummate intellectual, who has taught me the importance of conviction, as the very essence of a worthy life”), Bishops Anthony Makozi and Anthony Gbuji (Bishop of Enugu), Dr. Okwy Nwodo (ex-PDP scribe), Oba Oladele Olashore, Brig. Gen. Sule Ahman (Rtd.), Justice & Mrs. Eze Ozobu (President-General of Ohanaeze), Col. and Mrs. Lucky Torey, cousins, friends, and lastly but by no means the least, “my little Angel on earth, my special gift from God … my daughter Ola.”

 

But the book is about Loretta Ngozichukwu Aniagolu, her early days, her delights, notable national events and how the family coped, eventful encounters, and almost everything there is to know about her. The very first lines say it all about her imaginative style: “Out of a family of ten children, I emerged as the fourth of the fifth. That is to say the first of five daughters, after three sons. The fourth child in a sequence of ten! An interval in a succession of males!”

 

A grand niece of legendary King Onyeama of Eke, Loretta takes us to all corners of her family tree, which included “my uncle, late Judge Charles Dadi Onyeama,” formerly of the World Court at The Hague -- and Onyeama n'Eke's favorite son, and “Mom’s younger brother, Dr Victor Ejiofor Igbo… Tall, handsome, broad-minded, educated in Germany and Italy to PhD level in Architecture, fluent in German and Italian…. By 1976, Uncle Victor was a terribly eligible bachelor.” Then there is “Uncle Tony Mogboh, a dashing young bachelor at the time and a brilliant lawyer who would later become the state’s Attorney General and Minister for Justice.” Talk about being born with a silver spoon in the mouth, she had gold chopsticks encrusted with fine diamond!

 

From the “so-called Garden City of Port Harcourt in the 1960s of which I don’t remember much about …. apart from a fairly vivid picture of our colonial style house, which was in a lovely area, by a lake, with lots of trees” to “Calabar Prep School, privately run by Mrs. Uwemedimo, another English Lady married to a Nigerian,” the book takes you way back, way way back to the good old days. And then there was a war, and “Dad was posted to Umuahia.” Enter “Dragons breathing fire,” a period that could have made another book of its own. It was no longer about families and growing up;  girls matured quickly and boys “joined the Boys Company as fighters. Today they would be known as child soldiers and would probably be under the media spotlight as the victims of exploitation. But in 1969, the world cared a lot less.”

 

After the war, getting back to where the family called home was equally eventful: “We drove through innumerable checkpoints and rifle-totting soldiers barking commands like ‘Halt’…’Advance to be recognised’… ‘Proceed.’  The checkpoints consisted of two big rocks or in some cases two oil drums or two heaps of broken furniture on either side of the road with a tree branch propped against them… ...You had to stop when you heard the word ‘halt’ or you risked being cut down by a hail of bullets. … As we drove through one checkpoint after another, the soldiers would peer at Dad and Mom in the Volks ahead.  Sometimes they made us stop.  We would see Dad gesticulating and pointing at us in the truck behind.  Then they would wave us on.  We went through innumerable checkpoints but somehow they didn’t order us out of the cars to be searched or to have our travel documents examined. Now that the war was over, the soldiers seemed more relaxed and friendly. We of course never failed to yell “One Nigeria” enthusiastically at each checkpoint.”

 

Takes you way back, huh? If you did not live during that era, that's living history captured by a young mind.

 

In Ukpabi Asika’s Enugu, the book captured 1970s like no other work in print, complete with names of people you know. If you think today’s youth are degenerates, you didn’t grow up in the 70’s Enugu. The book lets it hang out there. Nothing is held back. Professor (Monsignor) Obiora Ike, Director of Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace, Enugu, weighs in here:

 

“An excellent and brilliant capture of memories (normally long forgotten). An exercise in the mastery of language, presentation and consistency. It exposes Loretta’s honesty, plain personality, bluntness and daring… It is an all around work.”

 

No one who has read the book will disagree with the reverend gentleman.

 

From her days in Pre-University Center in Dublin to entering the University of Jos at 16 to bag a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics, we learn the rich history of Loretta’s growth, the other side of Justice Belgore who guided her, and “lectures of one of my more politically radical teachers… Dr. Iyorchia Ayu,”   etc. And she stepped into politics: “unanimously elected as the Treasurer for the Youth Wing (University of Jos chapter) of the NPN.”

 

Loretta is so brutally honest you immediately want to know more! Read: “I graduated in 1981, disappointedly. I only managed a Second Class Lower rather than Upper Division. My parents were happy but I felt as if I had let myself down.” When she writes later that “America tested me beyond words,” she goes all the way to tell it all: her marriage, her pregnancy, the trials, and the tribulations. But she feels “grateful for the opportunity to have lived in the States for upwards of ten years.  … Previously, I had travelled to the US on vacations financed by my parents. It was a different life with money to spend on nightclubs, theme parks, cinemas and the theatre.  A far cry from the one I found myself in as a resident -- struggling to pay bills, driving an old car, watching my expenses, taking lunches to work and not eating out.”

 

Say no more, sister; of course we know: This is the America of immigrants!

 

If you think she is done, try again: “In real life, I am surprisingly small. Tiny in fact by some standards! An everyday kind of person who can sit you down to a horn of palm wine and fiery pot of Isi Ewu any day. When I speak, I mix short stabbing sentences – thrusts – with long flowery prose. I am friendly but sometimes wary, suspicious of questions and conversations. A perfectionist constantly challenging herself, highly intelligent, shrewd, intuitive, sympathetic, understanding, generous, honest and totally dedicated to my profession.”

 

Now, how many people could be so flat-out honest about themselves? Only Loretta Aniagolu, the lady who has seen and experienced enough to tell tons of stories. She simple told one; yes, one ton of a story. It is captivating, educating, motivating, and uplifting. I did not mince words when I classed it “an irresistible page-turner.” It is.

 

I highly recommend the book without an ounce of reservation.

 

[Loretta  contested the gubernatorial election in Enugu State under the banner of Gani Fwehinmi-led Nigeria Conscience Party]

This piece was written in April 2003, prior to the book launching in Washington, DC.

See details on how to get a copy: