Uneasy calm in Anambra communities over cultural tie

Two Anambra communities, Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikoka local government area and Agukwu-Nri in Anaocha local government area may be in for a sour relationship should they not settle their recent claims and counter claims of cultural tie to a dynasty.  OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU writes on the recent claims that is about tearing the once-peaceful neighbours apart.

Nri and Enugwu-Ukwu are among the communities often addressed as ‘Umunri’ or direct decendent of Nri. Others are Nawfia and Enugwu-Agidi in Njikoka local government area. Their traditional rulers usually attach the title of Igwe Umunri (The monarch of Nri extraction) to their respective names after being addressed as ‘Igwe’ of their respective communities. 

The uniquess of their title is best appreciated when one is inuandated with their history. 

However, March 15 2020 seemed to have awoken their cultural differences or introduced controversy to the two communities. It was the date people of Enugwu-Ukwu unveiled their Obu Okpalanakana also known as Isi-Nri Museum with pomp and pageantry.

How the cold war started

At the inauguration, the traditional ruler of Enugu-Ukwu, Igwe Ralph Obumnemeh Ekpeh’s address was perceived by Nri people as an affront, demeaning and antithetical to what Nri kingdom represents.

His address reads, “Agukwu has usurped the place of the son of Nri who is Okpalanakana-Ukabia Nri. Nevertheless we cannot stop commending the effort of Agukwu to preserve the glories and artifacts of Nri. In doing this, they should not forget to accord respect to the first son of Nri who is Okpalanakana-Ukabia Nri.
“Quick realisation of this and cooperation would help Nri Kingdom to restore its place in history. Together we shall move mountains, but in rancour, disintegration and incoherent achievement is the consequence.”

Reaction started

On his part, the traditional culture minister of Enugwu-Ukwu, Chief Jude Ekwunife, disclosed that Enugwu-Ukwu is the first son among the nuclear children of Nri and Nri was one of the sons of Eri.

Ekwunife said, “Nri who migrated from Aguleri spent most of his active life at a spot known as Nkpume-Onyilienyi in Ugwu Awovu area of Isionye quarter of Enugwu-Ukwu. It was while sojourning at Nkpume-Onyilienyi that Nri begat Okpalanakana, the revered father of Enugwu-Ukwu.”

Nri reacts

Prince Charles Tabansi, the former president general of Nri kingdom and great grandson of the former Nri king, EzeNri Tabansi Udene Nrijiofor, frowned at the word ‘usurpation’ used by Enugwu-Ukwu leaders.

Tabansi said, “It is obvious from the many utterances of prominent men of Enugu-Ukwu and now the big masquerade himself, the Igwe of Enugu-Ukwu, that our Enugu-Ukwu brothers have lost sense of their history and ours too. The following write-up is intended to educate them on the history of Enugu-Ukwu and Nri and the filial relationship between the two. One hopes that this would help them know and appreciate who they are so that together we move forward as aptly stated by the Igwe.”

According to him, the children of Eri are made up of Agulu, Ogbodudu, Onogu, Iguedo (female), Onuoja and Menri.

“Eri was a very spiritual and a mystic man with great charisma. His son, Menri inherited his spiritual powers and mysticism but decided to distance himself from such practices even taking over his father’s powers, he then started wandering about under the influence of the supernatural. His first port of call during his wandering life was Amanuke, then to Ugbenu and later to Ugwu Iru Okpu or Mkpume Onyilenyi at Enugu-Ukwu.

“He settled in the area at a place now called Osili village in Enugu-Ukwu and by then  had four children; the progenitor of Enugu-Ukwu called Okpalanakana (also called Kanu Ukabia); the progenitor of Isu-na-Agidi (presently known as Enugu-Agidi), the Umenekanu, progenitor of Nawfia called Ariam and the progenitor of Oruora that became extinct.

“At this time, Menri was under the inspiration of the spirits and was behaving abnormally. Because of Menri’s delay in taking on the powers of his father, Eri, and taking the title of Nri (the highest title that could be taken in Nri sphere of influence) as sanctioned by Chukwu and the ancestors, tragedy struck him and he started losing his children mysteriously.

More reactions

“The first to die was Okpalanakana, Ariam and then Umenekanu. Menri was still under a spiritual torment and he then abandoned the Osili sojourn and migrated down into the Valley of Agulu Lake where he founded a new settlement called Agukwu (being the name the area was called because of its thick forest nature). At Agukwu, he finally took the title of Nri and became Eze Nri Ifikwuanim, the first Eze Nri of Agukwu. Normally when one takes the title of Nri, one takes a new name after his symbolic ‘death’ funeral rites and ‘resurrection’ which occurs during the coronation,” Tabansi stated.

Continuing, he revealed that during Menri symbolic death, his wives mourned him as being really dead and after his resurrection, he took a new name and married new wives. This is what was said that happened to Menri. And upon his symbolic resurrection, he took the name of Nri Ifikwuanim and married two new wives who gave birth to Onyiora (progenitor of Agbadana); Alike (progenitor of Uruoji), Ogboo (progenitor of Obeagu) and Odili (who died early and his brother from the same mother, Onyiora, took custody of some of his children (Uruanata kindred of Agbadana).

He said, “While his wife who hailed from Orji village in Enugu-Ukwu went back to her people with some of the very young Odili’s children who grew into Urunebo of Enugu-Ukwu). Actually, the Urunebo descendants have strong tie of consanguinity with Agukwu Nri and were the ones who do all the traditional and spiritual jobs in Enugu-Ukwu in the absence of Nri people who are exclusively responsible to perform such rituals like spiritual cleansing (Ikpu Alu)  and Igbaye atali (granting Nze titleship).

“Nri Ifikwuanim equally built marriage ties with the aborigines he met. In the south, he met Akamkpisi people led by one Ezikanebo whom he gave his daughter in marriage. In the north side of Nri kingdom where the Diodo people live, his cousins who were also descendants of Eri were led by a man who had also taken the Nri title and called Nri Namoke na Ogbodudu.

“Nri Ifikwuanim further took Namoke’s daughter in marriage for his third son, Ogboo, which formed the basis for the unity that prevailed among the three sections into one town. At this point, Tabansi contended that, “From the above history, it is obvious that Enugu-Ukwu cannot claim to be Nri because their progenitor, Okpalanakana was born before Menri became Nri.

“With his symbolic death, the old person had gone and with his symbolic resurrection, a new person (half spirit, half man) was born. So, even though in reality, Enugu-Ukwu is Agukwu Nri’s elder brother and the first son of Menri but by the dictates of our tradition as earlier illustrated, they cannot claim Nri, talkless of being the first born of Nri.

“According to Igbo tradition, if the male child or children of a man dies before the man, they loss their position in the inheritance ladder. So, being that Okpalanakana died before his father, he lost the position of Okpala of Menri and so cannot claim to be Okpala or claim right of primogeniture.

“A life example is Eze Nrijiofor the second who in his life time before his coronation begot my father, Prince R.N Tabansi and his brothers. When Eze Nrijiofor the second travelled (died), the person that inherited his palace was my uncle and age mate, Prince Augustine Tabansi who is the first son of Eze Nrijiofor second after his coronation. Enugu-Ukwu, therefore cannot answer Isi-Nri or Okpala of Menri or Nri as they are neither. They cannot even answer anything Nri,” he maintained. 

Tabansi, however, said he was appreciative of the advice of Igwe Ekpeh on why coming together as one family of Nri to protect what is theirs by extension, stressing that the four towns comprising Enugu-Ukwu, Enugu- Agidi, Nawfia and Nri have common Ancestry in Menri who was better known as Nri after his coronation.

“Nri was the name known and documented by the early writers. By answering UmuNri, they sought to capitalise on a known quantity. The real name of the group should have been UmuMenri. The term UmuNri was a creation of the 1970s by people like Chief FGN Okoye, Chief R.O Nwocha, (both of Enugu-Ukwu), Chief Ikeanyi, Chief Umeano (both of Enugu-Agidi), Chief C. Nwankwo (Nawfia), Prince R. N. Tabansi (Nri) etc and was created to build brotherhood and common front to seek for common good,” he stated.

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