The Story Of Obowo

The Story Of Obowo People And The Theory Of Obowo ‘In –Persona’

By UCC staff with research contribution by U. Okoh

Whereas the study of the Igbo speaking people as a whole have yet to reveal any acceptable and popular tradition of common ancestral descent, each section of the Igbo indigenous community or village-group traces its origin from either a mythical or an historical founding ancestor. It is within the context of the later perspective, rather than former, that the Obowo people had for long continued to assert their common ancestral origin. The phrase ‘Story of Obowo’ is preferred here to the ‘History of Obowo’ for while the latter is somewhat rigid in its approach and demands, the former allows for a good measure of flexibility. It is necessary to make this distinction at this stage because of the inadequacy of authentic historical and/or archeological data to support the story of Obowo. While the affirmation of the link to ‘Nri’ by all the Igbo tribes is not minimized, however a story, a myth or a belief which sustained a people and guided their behavior for many generations, becomes in our view, functionally real and factual in effect. Indeed, the story of the origin of Obowo has a basis in both written and oral evidence.

The present state of the studies of origins of Igbo people would suggest that the forebears of Obowo joined their Igbo kits and kin in their early migrations centuries ago. Although there is hardly any concrete evidence to show the exact point in time when the Obowo people settled in their present day abode, it is generally believed that they have lived here for a very long time.

Obowo is one of the three clans that made up of the former Etiti Local Government Area, in Okigwe Zone of Imo state. It is bounded in the North by Ihitte; in the South-East by the Imo River; in the South-West by Mbaise; and in the North-West by Ehime clan of Ehime Mbano Local Government Area. There are fourteen main villages in Obowo namely, Achara, Alike, Amanze, Amuzi, Avutu, Ehume, Odenkume, Okwuohia, Umuariam, Umulogho, Umunachi, Umungwa, Umuokeh, and Umuosochie.

The earliest known record of the tradition of origin of Obowo people can be found in the Nigerian National Archives, Enugu [NNAE], Intelligence Report of Obowo and Ihitte Clan, Okigwe Division [1935]

One account has it that the history of Obowo in particular is traceable to ‘a person’ the son of a couple Azu (man) and Ahude (woman) – both of Dinka in Agbaja in Mbano. Obowo had two other brothers (Obohia and Obokwu) who left their home for Mbaise where Obohia settled and founded the clan that is today known by that name. Obokwu, on the other hand, founded the communities around the area now known as Ihitte-Afukwu. But Obowo continued his journey and settled in present day Obowo. Obowo married a woman from Ujirichi Ahiara; and through woman he had a son (Okwunanso) who in turn married one Nkwo from Ezido (near Ujirichi). From this marriage, Okwunanso had seven sons, Alike, Okwuohia, Amuzi, Umulogho, Umuoke, Umunachi, and Avutu. Thus, these seven sons became the founding fathers of the seven villages of Okwunanso, namely, Alike, Amuzi, Okwuohia, Umuoke, Umulogho, Umunachi, and Avutu.

Obowo was a polygamist and had a second wife from Umuopara Umuahia. By this second wife Adaure, Obowo had a son called Ekwerenote, who in turn also had seven sons. These seven sons became the founding fathers of the seven villages that make up the Ekwerenote group: Ehume, Umuosochie, Umuariam, Odenkume, Amanze, Umungwa and Achara.

Therefore, we note that a man called Obowo had two wives through whom he had a son each. In turn, the two sons had seven sons each and these became the founding fathers of the fourteen villages in Obowo.

There is however another historic account of Obowo that deals with it purely as a geographical location, a place, rather than a person. According to this account, the first people to settle in Obowo were the Ikenga from Mbano. The Ikenga included Ehume, Umuosochie, Umuariam, Umuhu, Okauga, Umudiawa etc. They were not alone in their journey to Obowo but came along with another migrant clan – Ihitte. But while the Ikenga settled within the area now known as Obowo, the Ihitte settled at a place quite near Obowo. It is, therefore likely that the Ikenga and the Ihitte were kinsmen, hence in libations obowo people often say: NDU IKENGA; NDU IHITTE. The Ikenga established the Onugotu (one voice) at Ehume before dispersing to other parts of Obowo. The Onugotu shrine which is present at Ehume have been recognized by all Obowo communities as evidence of Ehume’s precedence as in the settlement of the area and served as a symbol of unity [Opara Obowu].

Another group to migrate to Obowo was the Okwu. It was this group that established Alike, Amuzi, Okwuohia – the villages now collectively referred to as Okwu. They were followed by yet another group, the Nso (followers); and it would appear that Okwu and Nso were kinsmen. The Nso established Umulogho, Umuoke, Umunachi, and Avutu; hence these villages are today collectively called the OkwunaNso; both are said to have migrated from Obokwu.

It further continues that Obokwu from where the Okwunanso migrated was on a dry land with no rivers and streams. But when they got to Ikenga, they met many rivers and streams and in order to satisfy their need for water, settled along the numerous courses (owa) of these rivers and streams. Rather than lose their original name Obokwu; and to reflect their later identity, they took the name Obowo (the obo of owa – the river courses) a name, that has been changing from time to time – sometimes spelt as Obowa, sometimes as Obowu and most recently as Obowo. Under this mythological concept, it makes sense to suggest that there was no historical person called ‘OBOWO’, although certain villages in Obowo have common biological ancestry.

The  materials for this write up were gathered from preserved oral tradition, archival records and published writings some of which include  the book, “Obowu the Eastern Heartland People” and lastly, from the Global village*.