The Brief Historical Origin Of Umueri
Umueri also known as Umuleri is part of ancient Umueri Clan which traced its origin to a warrior named Eri. The Oral tradition of the people traced the origin to waves of Migration led by Eri. Although there were no written records existing, its indeed obviously facts that the history and Origin of Umueri dates back to time immemorial and early part of human existence in this part of the world following emerging facts from ever constant oral tradition and recent archeological discoveries that tends to portray the Umueri enclave as the first area of human Existence in Southern Nigeria.
According to the works of Dr Elizabeth Isichei While quoting L Froberius The Voice of Africa 1913 as quoted MDW Jefferies, the Divine Umunri King of Igboland PHD Thesis ( London ) 1934 wrote “The First cradle of human habitation in Igbo area were probably the Cross River and Anambra River Escarpment. In each of these areas, latter Stone Age sites have been excavated. For instance an ancient storage Relic was excavated in Umunagu Umueri in 1975 by Mr. Emmanuel Ozoemena. This ancient relic was said to have been used during Stone Age era probably 980 AD. Elizabeth Isichei went further to state, “This picture of an early nucleus of settlement in Northern Igbo land is confirmed by Igbo traditions.
The Tradition of Umueri Clan which hitherto includes that of NRI states that both them and Igala emanated or descended from more ancient community in Anambra Valley . ''We are all descended from Eri but Igala went one way, Agukwu another, Amanuke another, Nteje and Igboariam and Others”. It was possible that the Igala and the Others were either wives, children or even descendants of concubines of the Great Eri.
Historians have not agreed on exact place that Eri and his company came from. But it was quite clear that he comes from the east and moved further down and settled temporarily with his followers (among them Ogiso, progenitor of Bini, Aro' progenitor of the Aro people in Igboland and many others), to an area near the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers (present day Igala land). From there, Eri moved to the Anambra Valley and finally settled near the coast of Omabala river (corruptly called Anambra by the White men) at Okpotevi (In Ugume Umueri) near Obuaga, which is presently located in Aguleri. Some other accounts hold that Eri was specifically the direct descendants of Gad who is the 10th son of Jacob ( Israel ). (Ref. Gen: 46:16; Numbers 26:16). What is however certain is that Eri was the father and progenitor of Umueri and other Umueri clans and that his residence in Umueri remains the ancestral homes of the Igbo nation.
According to tradition, Eri was a Great Warrior, hunter and Polygamist. He has a lot of children and wives (Not limiting to two as written by many writers). The Most famous of the wives was Iguedo from presumably the lineage of Edo (Bini) who was amongst the crowd of migrants at that time. She was also Mother to the founders of Ogbunike, Awkuzu, Umueri and Nando and a Daughter who was amongst the founders of Oboli Quaters of Onitsha( This explain the relationship between Umueri and Onitsha and other Iguedo clans). Eri due to his influence was said to have snatched (re-marry) Iguedo from Nnamenyi, another of the Migrants and she bore to him (Eri), Dabawor who founded Modern Umueri clan. At the Demise of Eri She re married again to Iru,a Hunter and Herbalist who was said to be part of Eri Company. It was here (in this relationship) that She begat Ndo who was the founder of Nando.
Archeological Surveys reveals that before ancient war and growth in population scattered ancient Umueri clans into the forest of Igbo land, they were all living in Dabawor/Obuga area. Hence today, traces of their habitats are still visible in this area. For Instance, "Aguu Nri" and "Okpotoevi" are still at Ugume Umueri. Aguu Nri is an antiquity of Great Importance. It’s about half a thousand Year Old tree which is at Ama Iruakpu-Ugume, Umueri up till this day. It was said to be founded by Nri Ifikuanim who was the founder of Nri Kingdom . The Surviving Generation of Elders confirmed it as antiquity of Great Historical Importance. One Problem that had affected the fact of Aguu-Nri is contradiction emanating from the Nri,Aguleri and Other Communities claiming head to the origin of Eri. In this bid, a lot of distortions came up either by design or Ignorance of true Position.
But In spite of these distortions, the name Umueri which literally means "Children of Eri" is a natural and unbiased nomenclature indicating Umueri relationship with Eri. Whatever historical view may be, One point remain untainted- that all the Children or Descendant of Eri once had their ancestral home in Umueri, as borne out by archeological, oral and anthropological records. Perhaps one pointer to these assertions is the existence of several trace of Umueri lineage in Some Northern Igbo towns and even western igbo areas. For instance, Umueri Ogbunike, Umueri Nteje, Umueri Okija, Ugume in Kwale area,Umuriam Nawfia( emanates from Umuriam Umueri) and a lot of other traces. It’s indeed worth to note that with exception of Umueri, there are no other towns that have such proof elsewhere.
The Maternal Influence of Iguedo
The Origin of Iguedo though seems to be a great puzzle to Historians than that of Eri but her importance in history of Igbo origin could not be over emphasis. Some Scholar attempted to credit her as a daughter of Eri, but this attempt failed because there was no way She could be a daughter of Eri and got married to same man or his son inorder to begat Umueri. This is tantamount to taboo or "nso ani" in Igbo Culture. The Second Group has tagged her as Eri daughter who was allowed by her father to bear children at home without been married. But the Oral tradition of the entire Iguedo clans disagreed with this assertion as it could have amount to bastardization of Culture if Eri made such a taboo as all of their tradition indicates paternal origin
From an account of One Mrs Paulina Osakwe now deceased, an aged woman from Nando clarified that in those (ancient) days, both Igbo , Igala and Binis are one people living in Anambra Valley under the leadership of Eri. That Iguedo was from Bini lineage seems be getting wide acceptance (taking consideration of her name).
Iguedo was said to be a very powerful woman with mysterious power. She holds a lot of power that at her demise most of the town founded by her children was known by her name. This was later to become a tradition in Umu-Iguedo and entire Anambra Valley as children are easily recognized by their Mother's name rather than that of their fathers. This was due to the polygamous nature of the society then. Because by using ones Mothers name, it would be easier to know the exact person and lineage. Hence Dabawor (founder of Umueri) was known as child of Iguedo . Dabawor (Umueri) was the 3 child of Iguedo as she had previously bore two to Nnameyi (Founders of Ogbunike & Awkuzu) before Eri took her as wife after having divorced the previous Husband. At Demise of Eri, she got married to Iru whom she bore Ndo (The founder of Nando).
An Oral account has it that at her death, Nando invited the rest of the children of Iguedo for burial arrangement. But then there was commotion and quarrellings on where to entered her body. Ogbunike who was the eldest of the Iguedos wanted the body to be taken home (Ogbunike) for burial since they are Children of the First Child but Nando Objected on the ground that they were people that took after her during her old age. Unknown to all of them, Umueri delegates went outside for private talk and came back singing war music. They cut off her head and took it home where it was buried in Nneyi Umueri. Today the trace of her tomb is found in the Shrine of the Aro Oracle of Umueri while her body was finally buried in Nando. In order to commemorate her memorial, there was traditional annual ritual festival called "Oriri nne Iguedo" been celebrated in Nnado unto this very day. And all her Children are expected to be there for the ritual of reunion of the Iguedos
Eri Origin: The Aguleri & Umueri Relationship
Aguleri and Umueri were Neighbors and from all available evidence are relatives since the both origin is surrounded in the myth of Eri. One accounts has it that Aguleri were amalgamation of Eri descendants living in the forest/wilderness as the name suggests -The Eri living in the forest(Aguu). This explains why many Aguleri have their ancestral home in Aguleri Otu and Odeke at the bank of Anambra River near to Kogi State.
Though this account seems not popular, but it’s no denying the fact that both Aguleri and Umueri hail from the same ancestor. Oral tradition of Umueri however agreed that they were half brother. The Oral tradition traces the geneology to Dabawor, the eldest Son of Eri whose daughter was Okpu, the founder of the most elderly village in Aguleri till today.
Eri been a typical Polygamist married many wives of which many of the other Villages in Aguleri fall into the category. But the Oral tradition of Aguleri speaks of Okpu lineage but points to the existence of non-Okpu descendants that today occupied the territory of Aguleri side by side with Okpu, a claim which is consistence with Polygamy. However to prove the fact that the oldest and most elderly Village in Aguleri emanates from Umueri, the Okpu Village has kept the ritual practice of paying tribute to Dabawor Shrine. And they have never failed to pay the homage despite recent stain in the relationship Occasioned by land dispute, litigation and war. During Sacrifices, the Okpu Village Elders received the daughterly share( a practice that has been observed unto this day) of waist of Cow or Goat used for its sacrifice. Furthermore, it was proved that Umumba Igboezunu,Aguleri- the Custodian of Ajana Aguleri has blood relationship with Ugume Umueri. At the Installation of an AJANA Chief Priest, Ugume Village of Umueri is usually informed. It’s mandatory that "sons of Dabawor (Ugume) should be there to perform the customary rites. The study of the relationship between the two towns was hindered due to the Otuocha land dispute which held way for more than 50 years (1933-1984). This has indeed led various indigenous authors and writers, who were unable to conquer prejudice and bias landed themselves into distortion of facts. Thus Umueri/Aguleri brotherhood was sacrificed on alter of litigation, calumny, greed and hatred.
Reference for further Study :
A History of Igbo People By Elizabeth Isichei
Umueri- Head of Ancient Umueri Clan By Nwabunwanne Ifediorah
Umunri King By Ferguson
Niger Igbos by GT Basdon 1938
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Igwe Okebo 1 of Umueri
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Chief Henry Agbakor Jideani
(President General, U.G.A)
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