THE HISTORY OF IGBERE
Igbere history and its people traces from the lkweres who reside along the banks of Imo River in Nigeria. In lkwere Etche located in the River State of Nigeria, is a town known as “Okomoko”. It was here that our great ancestor “Ebiri Okomoko” was born. Ebiri Okomoko was the fifth of sixteen children of Prince Aguma Egbiri, a member of the Ruling House in Okomoko. His father had three (3) wives. His eldest wife had four daughters. Ebiri Okomoko’s mother, Ekemini, was the second wife. She was said to be so beautiful that she was thought to be a reincarnation for the “river goddess”, gbere stands at the threshold of history. And it is a two way brink, oscillating between the past and the future. That past ought to elicit pride from indigenes who owe their town to very brave forebears that brooked no injustice and evil deeds.
Stubbornly perched atop a tree on the way to Ibinaukwu, one of the thirteen communities amalgamating into Igbere, is a weather beaten flag, which evidently had survived strong wind and rain, yet wrestled free from the intimidating leaves to pronounce Biafra, the defunct republic which caved in 30 months after its proponents fought with bare hands to keep it alive. Perhaps that indestructible flag is unwittingly symbolic of Igbere, a town in today’s Bende local council of Abia State with a never-say –die spirit and history. We shall return to that proud past shortly.
But there is yet a visible stride into a historic future, one that threatens to thrust the town as, perhaps, the fastest developing space within the state. The people are not resting on their oars, basking in past glory. They have strived to keep pace with time. From the window of Wisdom Orientation Guest House at the eastern end of Igbere, a visitor behoves lush green scenery, stretching into the undulating topography of a place dotted with architectural masterpieces plastered with sparkling paints that smile at you. Whether the elegant buildings are at the hilly streets of Okafia and Umusi or the relative flat lands of Amaukwu and Eziama villages, Igbere has rightly earned the sobriquet of ‘New London’. It has displaced Abiriba, immediate neighbour to the east which had, over the years, prided itself as ‘Small London”.
If you visit both towns today, you will be in no doubt about which holds the mantle. The seeming sad fact is that both have lost the virginity of typical African villages and have been consumed with rampaging modernity such as turn foot paths of yore into beautiful streets adorned with smooth asphalt surfacing, bushes into mansions, trees into electric poles and telecommunication masts. Igbere is no longer a village. It is evolving into a city. That is the irony of development. Something must give. New and good things always sprout from the ashes of old ones.
As a visitor enters Bende local Government Area from Umuahia end, makes a right turn at Uzuakoli, does a few kilometres, hits Isiegbu in Ozuitem, turns left, at the T junction, a final journey into the ancient town begins.
A town founded ‘not later than 1267’ cannot but be ancient. No less a personality than 80-year-old Elder E.E. Ukaegbu, a legal practitioner and very prominent indigene of the town makes the assertion after his painstaking research gave birth to a booklet captioned The History of Igbere, published in 1974 and revised in 2008. Ukaegbu , an Aba based lawyer, and possibly the first parliamentarian to win election as an independent candidate in old Eastern Nigeria, also typifies the stoicism and strong spirit of the Igbere man. He spoke to Sunday Sun in his country home in Amaofufe generally pronounced ‘Ámaufufu’, another of the 13 villages.
“The average Igbere man knows that a man called Ebiri Okomoko was the founder of Igbere. He was a great warrior. Farmer and hunter whose place of origin has been traced to Andoni, very close to the Atlantic Ocean . He was said to have sojourned in several places including Okomoko now in Etche Local council of Rivers State,” said Elder Ukaegbu.
The story, as this newspaper found out, was that Ebiri did not head for Igbere at inception. He had moved from Etche to a few places before making a fairly long stop over at Ajata Ibeku, near Umuahia. There he met Uduma-Eze and Onyerubi, both of whom later founded Ohafia and Abam. He also sojourned at Oroni forest where he met Egbebu who later founded Edda.
They parted ways, for reasons researchers have not yet revealed ,and Okomoko, adventurous as ever, hit Eke forest and finally settled there. Even today, with its rampaging modernity and rapid development, no one has dared destroy Eke-Igbere which still inspires awe and reverence from the average Igbere man. If a disputing duo went to Eke forest and any swore falsely, the erring person is said to be inviting sudden and untimely death. If an Igbere man is wounded in a fight or even an accident, such as exposes his blood, it only takes liquid from leaves of any tree from the forest for the gushing blood to cease. Such is the real or perceived power of the Eke forest, named after the market day of Okomoko’s arrival. He arrived on an Eke market day, one of the four days that make a typical Igbo calendar week.
But the story of Igbere’s origin has just begun. Okomoko’s settlement was not the end of the matter. It is the end of the early phase. He passed away shortly after arrival. He did not live to see and take part in the battle royale that culminated into the naming of Igbere.
There is, therefore, a slight but negligible historical controversy over the true founder of the town. The question is this; was Igbere founded by Okomoko who led the first settlers or was it founded by his son Ebiri, who led the battle to crush a great wave of intrepid warriors who ravaged the land? Had they subdued the people there would have been no Igbere, at least by the name it is now known. Historians and later day researchers may find a mouthful to chew there.
But the name Igbere is rooted in a war of survival.
In those days there lived a certain man named Ota Obom. War was his life. And he had fought and conquered every community within the vicinity in pursuit of slaves. He had active support of Arochukwu(Aro Oke Igbo) known for pervasive slave trading. But Ota Obom met his waterloo in Igbere. The story of his beheading and the inability of the slave traders to enter the town make it one of the few in Igboland which effectively repelled slave traders and earned the name Igbo Eru or Igbo Ere.
“This is one of the few towns where you cannot find Aro settlements’’ says Elder Ukaegbu, smiling proudly. “Our forbears never allowed slave traders to get into Igbere’’
At the killing of Ota Obom by the gallant Igbere warriors who, going by what Eze Job Ukandu of Amaukwu told Sunday Sun, were aided by great seers at Eke forest, Ota Obom’s warriors dispersed in confusion and the Aro slave traders became frustrated. It must have been with clenched teeth of annoyance and the sight of an impregnable town that they pronounced it Igbo Eru meaning ‘the place which Aro Oke Igbos could not reach and capture’ or Igbo Ere [the place where Igbo could not sell]. Both expressions gave birth to Igbere. Somehow, the average Igbere man has retained the fierce quest for freedom and the independence carried from his forbears. It is believed that Ebiri never lost any battle. That hitherto invincible Ota Obom, leader of rampaging slave traders met his end in the town, marking the effective halt of slave trading in that area, remains a source of pride to every Igbere indigene. The victory did not come cheap. It came with a price, one which also endows indigenes with patience. The details may be cumbersome but the drowning of Ochi, a beautiful damsel whose father, Awalu, led one of the villages at the forefront of the battle, was a grievous price. In fact the Ebele river where she drowned was made to dry up. Today it is a market place.
How Igbere is governed
The internal government in the town, as in most others in old Bende division run on three planks, namely the traditional institution, the age grade system and the general town union. But the traditional stool is strong in the town and had also posed a challenge, now apparently contained with the reign of one of their sons as the immediate past civilian Governor of Abia State. Prior to the emergence of Chief Orji Uzo Kalu who hails from Umusi, as the helmsman in Abia State, Igbere had a challenge occasioned by tussle over the traditional head of the town. An old school headmaster named Ijioma Okocha from Okafia known to be a strong Christian sat on the throne as the first Ebiri (named after their forebear) of the entire Igbere. But Amaukwu people who claim to be the head and to whom Elder Ukaegbu conceded that headship in his chat with Sunday Sun, cried foul insisting that Okocha had used the privilege of education to usurp their position.
Igbere evolved into autonomous communities through the ages. The starting point being Eke Igbere where Ebiri settled originally. According to oral tradition and other documented evidence, the landmarks of Igbere represent various activities. For instance Ogbonta at Ozara, Amankalu Igbere is where the 8 stones of Igbere is found. There are places like Ogo- ubi and Nkumimo and Mgbele Ibina
Igbere is endowed with many natural resources some of which remain unexplored and untapped. Some readily identified resources in area of agriculture include palm produce, rice etc.
• Agricultural Products: Rice (currently accomodaiing a world hank Agricultural project around the famous Igwu River).
EZUMEZU IGBERE – THE LEGACY
I n preparing to complete the legacy of Ezumezu lgbere, many
considerations were made pertaining to the people of lgbere and their patriotism to “Ala lgbere” and the entire Ebiri. Our contribution of articles to IGBO BASICS U.S.A among other things motivated us to use this medium to say a few things for a better Ebiri. On this great Ezumezu celebration, We provide for the record, a broader perspective of what Ezumezu should signify for the lovers of lgbere prosperity. It is our hope that all Ebiri will appreciate the candor of this article. However, we do not in any way claim perfection whatsoever to this essay contribution we herein make. Our wish as we write is to be able to appeal to all lovers of Igbere to unite in peace for we all are one.
For the history buffs, there is the need to remind people of Igbere of the Ezumezu legacy. It is a well known fact that when people move out to reside in urban areas, they tend to forget the stories by the village story tellers. Sometimes the folklores, the traditional customs as it is often forgotten and in todays world, many sons and daughters of Ebiri-Igbere people now live and reside all over the world. It is to these people that we dedicate this legacy. Our hope especially, is that lgbere children born in urban and in overseas particularly the U.S.A will learn a thing or two about this great occasion called Ezumezu Igbere. Many as we have come to conclude are devoid of any knowledge of the traditions of their homes of origin. It is such people that we intend to help in understanding the significance of Ezumezu.
The legacy of Ezumezu of Igbere as we know it today was first called the “Anniversary of Igbere”. According to a great author/lawyer who once wrote that “One of the hallmarks in the efforts of Igbere Welfare Union (I.W.U.) was to modernize Igbere with the celebration of a ceremony of 1.W.U anniversary which came off in 1960 as a result of a motion tabled in a crucial meeting of 1.W.U. in August, 1958 by Mr. David Udeogu. “The author continued” that the motion in question was that when the maternity home (Hospital) was opened in 1954 in lgbere, lgbere youths returned home in large numbers that December. The next December experienced almost unprecedented calm during Christmas period in Igbere” It was in response to this un-lively atmosphere that motivated Mr. David Udeogu to table his motion which was unanimously approved by the then 1.W.U. The first “Anniversary” was born with a decree that it be celebrated once every three years. To shapen the events of the celebration, an elderly statesman Chief G.E. Ukaegbu the “Ofufe 1” of Igbere was appointed the first organizer!!
As history will have it, the late Chief!. Okocha was the chairman of the first Anniversary Celebration. The great hallmark in todays Ezumezu Igbere is the introduction of age grade activities in the Ezumezu events. And as was and still is the tradition the climax of the Ezumezu is the retirement of the o1dest age grade system. Other activities like naming new age grade and launching community development projects also are celebrated as part of the festivities. For years, the Ezumezu was known by all as “Anniversary Igbere” until Chief E.E.Ukaegbu first suggested a change of name in his well authored book “The History of Igbere” by Awa Press. 1974.!n one of the chapters, he suggested that the word “Anniversary” could be replaced with Igbo name. At that time no one really took it serious until when he came to a position where he was a mover and shaker in the affairs of lgbere. It was during that period that he coined the word we use today “Ezumezu lgbere”. Thus the word anniversary even though can still be heard, but a true Ezumezu buff dare not call it “Anniversary lgbere” because it is “Un Ebiri” to say so to Ezumezu fanatics.
Eminent Igbere People
Igbere Cooperative Society (I.C.A.S) Founders Aba
Front row l-r 1 Jonah Anyaogu Kalu (Ndiokpa) 2. James Eme Akachukwu 3. James Amadi Uche
4 Elisha Uko Ogwo (Amaukwu) 5. Saul Kalu Ugbo 6. Obediah Imo Iboko
Middle Row l-r
7. Jacob Chukwu Awa (Umuobasi Amankalu 8. Elder Dick Oko Igbokwe 9. Jonah Onwuka Oji
10. Obediah Ikwechegh Oturu (Ama-akpo) 11. Jonah Anya Onuoha 12. Johnson Eme Ibeka
back row l-r
13. Ogbonnaya, Son of Elisha Ukonu Elekwachi 14. David Oyo Udogu 15. Sam Obasi Ochuba
16. Egwuonwu Eme 17. Stephen Ude Obike 18. Micah Oji Izuka
19. Joel Anyaegbu Igu 20. Mark Agu Okorie
Eminent Sons and Daughters: Chief Elekwachi Ukaonu, Retired Director of NTA A ha and pioneer comedian in Aligbo with the famous Mazi Ukonu ‘s Club on Nigerian Television; Captain Amadi Ikwechegh, Former Governor of then Imo State of Nigeria; Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, current holder of the title Aha eji aga mba I of Igbere and others too numerous to mention
Commodore Amadi Ikwechegh
Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. Former Executive Governor of Abia State and Presidential Cadidate PPA of Nigeria.
Justice Agbai Ikwechegh
Hon. Justice Christiana Ijeoma Uche
Judge of High Court Abia State
Mazi Anyaogu Elekwachi Ukonu
Chief Amadi Awa
Retired Civil Servernt and Chartered Tax Practitioner
Elder Chief Mrs Eunice Uzor Kalu Odiukonamba
Travels & Tourism
Igbere is so endowed in this area that it has scenic places of interest.
Tourist Attractions/Landmarks: The Steps of Nature; Igwu River: River Falls: Osuwowo Springs; lkeogwu Ikeogwu; Eke Igbere; Ngbele Ibina. Markets of Igbere: Nkwo Ebele.
Igbere is still developing in the area of education and health. However education is not new to Igbere as the following schools have been existing since the colonial times:
Amankalu Primary School formally LGA School a.k.a Amanku. Roman Catholic School known simply as Roman at Amaofufe. Seven Day Adventist at Amaukwu. Central School, Onu Ibina Igbere; Igbere Secondary School and now the Proposed Abia State University of Arts, Science and Technology plus other Schools not yet listed in this effort.