The Long Juju of Arochukwu



Arochukwu, sometimes referred to as Arochuku, or Aro-Okigbo, (pronounced Aruchukwu) is the third largest city in Abia state (after Aba and Umuahia) in southeastern Nigeria and homeland of the Igbo subgroup, Aro people. It is composed of 19 villages with an overall leader called Eze Aro. Arochukwu is a principal historic town in Igboland. It was also one of the cities in the Southern protectorate targeted by the British colonial government. Several historic tourist sites exist in the city. The mystic Ibini Ukpabi shrine, the slave routes and other relics of the slave trade era are frequently visited by tourists. It is also in the food belt of Abia state where most of the staple foods are produced.
Arochukwu is believed to have been the homeland of the Ibibio as they arrived in 300 AD from the Benue valley and founded early states like Obong Okon Ita and Ibom. Many years passed as Igbo immigrants came along and pressed into the Ibibio occupied territory and founded several states. The first Igbo group were the Ezeagwu group led by their leader Agwu Inobia. As Aro-Ibibio wars occurred, there was a stalemate. In reaction, the Eze Agwu clan invited a priest named Nnachi from the Edda clan of northeastern Igboland and another group from the east of the Cross River through Nnachi. These people were identified as the Akpa people. Akpa forces led by Osim and Akuma Nnubi, they helped the Igbo forces capture the rest of the area. This formed the alliance of 19 new and old states in the area known as the Arochukwu kingdom around 1650-1700. The first king (or Eze Aro) of a unified Arochukwu was Akuma but after his death, Nnachi son’s Oke Nnachi took over and his descendants have the throne to this day.
Arochukwu played a significant role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 1600-1800 AD. The Aro confederacy (Aro slave traders) scattered throughout the hinterlands of the Igbo nation, in coalition with several Igbo tribal leaders orchestrated the sale of over four million Igbo sons and daughters during the transatlantic slave trade. Many Igbo slaves who were shipped from the slave outposts in Calabar and Bonny to Europe and the Americas, were first assembled in Arochukwu,and then transported to Calabar or Bonny via the Aro Blue River which pours into the Atlantic ocean. Most Igbo slaves were shipped to North Carolina and Virginia, in the United States. Igbo slaves were also shipped to the Caribbean Islands of Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba.
One of the tourist sites in Arochukwu is the Long Juju of Arochukwu. This is a cave with a long dark tunnel that is associated with the slave trade. According to Prince Uche Isaac Kanu- Orji, grandson of the late Eze Kanu Orji, the longest reigning king of Arochukwu, a certain European had been taken into the caves, as he had insisted on getting to the end of it. After walking for five hours in the dark tunnels, he had impatiently exclaimed “This juju is too long. I can’t go on again. This is long juju” and the name had stuck.
Prior to the slave trade era, it had served as a court of arbitration for the settlement of local, tribal and inter-tribal disputes / problems. During the slave trade, it was an important route through which slaves were sold and transported outside the country through the Cross River to the Ocean port in Port Harcourt.
Because of the significant role it played during this period, the long Juju has gained international recognition in historical perspectives. The state Government has therefore applied to the world body UNESCO for its recognition as a World heritage Site. The site is open for development to internationally acceptable standards through Private Public partnership (PPP).

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