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As the topic indicates, this research work is on Missionary Enterprise in Ebonyi State. It attempts to highlight how the missionaries came into Ebonyi State and what they did to bring about development in the area. This development came as a result of the missionaries’ primary objectives of evangelism. And to eradicate man’s inhumanity to man, which was exemplified by the killing of twins babies. They equally

educated people on equality between men and their feminine counterparts. As part of man’s inhumanity to man, the missionaries also educated people on the need to eradicate human sacrifices, which were prevalent in most communities as well as the initiation of young boys into the Ogo cult. This practice was mostly prevalent in the old Afikpo division as well as in other Igbo communities which the early

missionaries explored.The area presently constituting Ebonyi State was marked with the establishment of missionary educational institutions. These institutions were set up for Christian evangelization of the pagan territories and, furthermore, to assist the colonial authorities in their work of spreading civilization or civil or social development among the indigenous people of the area.





The development of the present Ebonyi state is as a result of the emergence of the Christian Missionaries between 1888 and 1970. We must pay tribute to the numerous missionaries who brought us the Christian faith for their love shown in their daring and endurance, their selflessness and sacrifice; and also for their contribution to human development in the then Ogoja Ecclesiastical province as evidenced by the network of schools, the numerous hospitals and clinics built and maintained, the social services

established etc.The story of the missionaries in South Eastern Nigeria is the story of many things which, perhaps, have not been fully appreciated. Partly responsible for this may be the ignorance or the  conscious falsification of facts by some writers; or because of the lack of publicity which characterized the early churches. The sowing of the Gospel seed triggered off general human development through

educational institutions, training in crafts or skills in a good network of the schools established. In social services, for example, medical care was given in hospitals and mobile clinics. The emergence of the elite, the present crop of elite in Ebonyi State, owe their success to the schools established by the missionaries. The first set of manpower to serve in the colonial establishments and in the church were products of the

mission schools. Missionary activities in Nigeria, (especially the area presently constituting Ebonyi State: include the following towns: Afikpo, Abakaliki, Ikwo, Ezza, Izzi, Ishiagu to mention but a few), was marked with the establishment of some basic amenities and infrastructural facilities.



The part of Nigeria presently referred to as Ebonyi State falls within the old Eastern region; in the contemporary political division of Nigeria, this part lies in the South East geo-political zone. Ebonyi state is presently divided into three senatorial zones or divisions, namely: Ebonyi North, Ebonyi South and Ebonyi Central. The whole of the present Ebonyi South Senatorial district, (comprising the Old Afikpo

division: Afikpo South, Afikpo North, Ivo, Onicha and Ohaozara) was formerly part of Abia State, while Ebonyi North and Central senatorial districts (comprising the old Abakaliki division: Abakaliki, Ebonyi, Izzi, Ikwo, Ishielu, Ohaukwu, Ezza North and Ezza South) were formally part of Enugu State.


The origin of the people of Afikpo like most of their pre-literate counterparts in Africa is shrouded in obscurity. However, their oral tradition has tried to throw much light on the matter. Now there appears to be a general agreement among the oral sources collected that the original inhabitants were non-Igbo speaking groups called the Egu, the Nkalu and the Ebiri. There was also a legend of the existence of a

distinct group called the Ohaodu. In fact, Afikpo tradition stated “the Egu and Nkalu groups fled to different parts especially to areas around Abakaliki such as Nkaegu, Ezza-egu, Nkwoegu, Ikwo, Effium, even Amasiri and parts of the Cross-River State after they had been outflanked by Igbo Ukwu and his group.”It is suggested that the word Nkalegu is a compound of Nkalu and Egu. However, the

authenticity of this assertion still has to be established. From the foregoing, Professor Afigbo has noted that, “the traditions of the Eastern Igbo including Afikpo, are rich in account of fierce encounters with various sections of the Benue-Congo-speaking people who appear in their tradition as the Egu, Nkalu and Igbo”. In fact, it was a direct reference to the clashes and war which Igbo-Ukwu had with the Egu and

Nkalu, both of non-Igbo extraction, had been described as belonging linguistically to the Benue Congo family of languages. The direct reference to their clashes with the Igbo in Afikpo at this period no less than the clashes and war between them and Igbo – Ukwu which echoes in Afikpo traditions. And in fact, this war took place around 17th Century. Furthermore, the history of the Egu people do not contain much

in the shape of historical detail, yet there are indications that the history of Egu in Afikpo may have had a great time depth, up to this day, some isolated bushes at the ‘Gorogoro’ area are regarded by Afikpo people as the location of Egu shrines. The people did not know at what point in time such shrines came to be, but the ‘Ohia Ojoo’ have never been farmed. Moreover, among the present people of Afikpo those

who claim descent from the Egu have also claimed that their ancestors lived in the Gorogoro area from the very beginning of time. The Egu were renowned craftsmen in pottery, carvin and smithery. They still have descendants living in the Central Ugwuegu Elu in  Afikpo. The traditional reference to them in connection with pottery in Afikpo is symptomatic and a pointer to their age old attachment to pottery. In

fact, on Afikpo proverb refers to the Egu as, “Egu, Okpu ite n’eri ji na mgeju” (Egu, the pot-maker who ate from pot-sherds). Be it as it may, the Egu were scattered over the present location of Egwuegu and ‘Ukpa’ and the Nkalu occupied the area of the ENA OHIA NKALU. The archaeological excavations made at a rock-shelter near Ukpa-Afikpo where the Egu were said to have originally settled, dated Afikpo

pottery to 2935 BC (approx. 3000 BC). A recent review of the Afikpo site by Dr. B. W. Andah and Dr. F. N. Anozie places the date to between 4,000 – 5,000 BC. This shows the antiquity of pottery in Afikpo and the people in their present area of location. It presents the oldest dates potery found in West Africa. In addition, Afikpo tradition has it that the present settlers of Ena Ohia Nkalu came from Ikpom in the

Cross River State. The people of Nkalu however, claimed that they are the remnant descendants of the original Nkalu. The group came with ‘Elom Ji’, and the juju priest if the Elom ji was and is still called ‘Eleri Aja’. Perhaps, it was strongly believed that this group of people was the real founder of yam. In their routine appeal to the gods and ancestors, it is very common to hear Afikpo elders say, ”Ji diri Igbo, diri

Naku, nke Nkalu Karia eka”. It is said that the Ndibe village later acquired the knowledge of the secret of the yam ritual from the Ena – Ohia people. Afikpo tradition is unanimous that the founder of Ehugbo (Afikpo) was Igbo Omaka, otherwise called Igbo-Ukwu Omaka. He migrated from Arochukwu in company with other kinsmen who founded Edda, Amasiri and Akpoha. On arrival he settled at a place

called Ohoghoro or Amaozara between amaobolobo and Amaizu. This migration took place probably in the mid 17th Century. It might be as a result of warfare for historians always stalk of the Ibibio – Aro – Akpa war which took place in the mid 17th Century. The Aro had invited the Akpa from the Cross River valley. The Akpa who were armed with superior weapons called blunderbusses and better organized

, helped the Aro to defeat the Ibibio. During and after the war, a lot of migrations took place. The elders of Ehugbo often refer to the Akpa – Ibibio war during which there were dispersions. But the exact identity of this group, Akpa is not known. It was traditionally between among all the Afikpo people that Igbo Omaka was a very strong warrior. He came with admixture of Igbo culture. Igbo, the warrior

launched a war on the Nkalus and the Egus and other non-Igbo original inhabitants most of whom had to flee as mentioned earlier. The rest were assimilated into Ehugbo society. These later migrants had been settling with his authority and permission. This war, it is further said, was referred to as Nkpu Oroghoro, because all the Igbo groups in Ehugbo (Afikpo) sent their war lord to Oroghoro to help in the war effort.

It was in this way that the oldest village-group in Ehugbo (Afikpo) called Nkpoghoro derived its name – Nkpu agbaari Oroghoro.


There are many versions of the history or the origin of the Ishiagu community. Most of the people interviewed like Chief Pius Ajah, Eze Paul O. Chukwu, the Agu I of Ishiagu, Mazi Lazarus Chukwu and Mazi Uziogwe Ajah stated that the community owned its origin to a hunter called Ezoka, who migrated from his country in the South; (Awka) and settled at Ngwogwo the acknowledged oldest village in

Ishiagu. These group of people maintained that the abundance of wild animals made this man to settle in Ngwogwo. According to them, the hunter gave the community its Mme, “Ishiagu”, which he either borrowed from his former home or coined probably from the cordial relationship that existed between him and “Agu” (Leopard) that abounded in the community at that time. He, in the course of one of his

hunting expeditions, they said; met a Leopardess tendering her newly born ones. Fear of man caused the Leopards to run away abandoning the cubs. The second group of people interviewed like Chief Stephen Ivere, Mazi Uwaju and Mazi Aja Okoro stated that the first settler was Ezoka, a hunter from Umuchi Akuma in Arochukwu, Aro-Chukwu Local Government Area. According to them when Ezoka pitched his

tent at Ngwogwo, he was astounded by the abundance of Leopards that frequently came to rest and to eat other wild animals they killed in his house. This frequent visitation of these animals made him to fearfully exclaim, “Oh”, this place is the home of Leopard”. Consequent upon this, the hunter called his new home “Ishiagu” (that is home of Leopard). Till, every few people like Mazi Aja Uka, and Mr.

Anthony Chukwu, when interviewed, were of the view that the first settler was Ezoka, who migrated to Ishiagu from Isuochi, a town in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State. They settled at Ngwogwo village. According to intelligence report on Ishiago (Ishiagu), 1931, “another legend takes the founder of the clan back, a step further than Agu. According to this account, “the people of Ishiagu never

lived anywhere except where they are living now. Their father was Azioka, a child of the god, being the son of the deity Aja-Ali-Eke, who sprang from Ali, the earth god. Azi-oka was the father of Agu from whose children the villages of the clan descended.” This view, however, was never accepted by the people as expressed by the report. The report also stated that some people were of the view that, “the name

Ishiago has no connection with the clan ancestry; there was no such person as (Agu): and there is not truth in the legend of the descent from Aja-Ali-Eke”.From the stories so far, what is established and what is generally accepted are, that the first man that lived in Ishiagu was Ezeoka (Azi-Oka being the White Man’s style of pronunciation); and that he was a hunter. It is also generally accepted that Ngwogwo

village is the oldest village in Ishiagu, by virtue of being the first point of settlement. Furthermore, from this several versions of the history of the origin of Ishiagu, three towns stand out perspicuously as the place the first man probably emigrated from. These towns are Arochukwu, Isuochi and Awka.


Orri was traditionally believed to be original occupant of Abakaliki territory before the arrival of the dominant ethnic groups – Ezza, Izzi, Ikwo. The Ori themselves were said to be adding and degenerated race protected from total annihilation by the Ezza in exchange for farming rights.The father of Eza people was Enyi, the father of Una and grandfather of Ezekunna, the founder and Legendary ancestor of all

Ezzas. The father of Ezekuna was Ekuma Enyi. His wife was Anyigor. Although Ikwo and Izzi dispute this aspect of their oral history and rather regard Ezekuna as their in-law and “anyigor as their sister only. As a result of this dispute, the Izzi and Ikwo have their own version of the origin of Abakaliki. For example, they believe that Noyo was the founder of Ikwo and Olodo was the founder of Ezza. It was obvious that

the people originated from one ancestor. It was also believed that the grandfather of Ezekuna was Enyi who came from Afikpo and alternated trade with adventure between Afikpo and Izekwe. From a linguistic point of view, Enyi which means Elephant in Afikpo dialect is also used by the people of Abakaliki to denote something that is powerfully built. Indeed, according to tradition, the Ezza, Izzi, and

Ikwo (making up the Major ethnic groups in Abakaliki) are children of the same parents. Unfortunately Ezza fought Izzi first. The cause was attributed to family wrangling and jealousy over their father’s affection. While this wrangling was going on, Ikwo revealed a secret plan of war between her and Izzi to the advantage of Ezza who took the opportunity to launch war against Izzi, defeated her and later compensated Ikwo.

Chapman also noted some differences in the tradition which he believed were borne out of their relationship: “In Ikwo and Ezza nearly every organisational fact and every ethnological detail is the same but the practice is different. Ikwo is autocratic and Ezza is less autocratic but Ikwo dialect is similar to that of Izzi.



The present Ebonyi State was carved out from two states (Enugu and Abia States) by General Sani Abacha, the then military Head of State in 1996. Ebonyi state lies within 703N Longitude 504’E and 6045’E. It occupies a land mass of approximately 5,932 square KM. It is bordered by Abia State, Enugu State, Benue and Cross River States in the East, North and South, respectively.

According to the profile of Ebonyi State recorded in Ebonyi State Government Diary 2006, the state has a population of about 1.8 million people. The source of this figure, the diary noted is the 1991 population census. Ebonyi State lies in a low, undulating plain about three hundred feet above sea level. There are prominent hills like: Ekka and Ameka that stand out against the open landscape. It is mainly grassland,

but there are occasional narrow forest belts, separated by expanse of grassland. The vegetation of the state is a mixture of Savanna and Semi-tropical forest. The state is endowed with numerous natural resources and solid mineral deposits, which are at present, largely unexploited. The climate is hot during the dry season which is between November – April. The wet or rainy season is from May to October.

The main rivers are known throughout the region as Ebonyi River: thus we have Ebonyi-Ezza, Ebonyi-Izzi, Ebonyi-Akpoha and Ebonyi-Ezilo. The state was created in 1996 and was called Ebonyi State. Ebonyi State is made up of peoples of the  Igbo ethnic nationality. They are predominantly farmers, producing food crops, such as: yam, cocoa yam, cassava, as well as varieties of vegetables for

domestic consumption. Colonialism brought the introduction of rice, into Nigeria. The people of Ebonyi State took advantage of the thousands of swampy farmlands in the region to embark on the production of rice, both for subsistence and for commercial purposes. Ebonyi State is endowed with a lot of mineral deposits or resources which is responsible for the localization of mining companies for the mining of

minerals. There are still a lot of untapped mineral resources in the State. The State was originally divided into thirteen (13) local government areas, prior to the creation of 21 more Local Government areas in 2002 bringing the number of Local Government areas to 34. Ezeogo, Dr. Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam (now Late) was a prominent citizen of Ebonyi State and a frontline Nigerian statesman during his lifetime.

Traditionally, the people of Ebonyi State are animists. But with the coming of European missionaries, a greater percentage of the people have been converted to Christianity. At present, there are many different Christian church denominations throughout the state. The earliest ones included the Scotland Mission (C.S.M.) and the Catholic Mission.

Culturally, Ebonyi State is a crystallization of varying cultures owing to the differences in origin of the people that constitute the State. Ebonyi State is made up of a resilient people mostly peasants and traders who lived=s simple lives.


Field work or oral interviews will be conducted with knowledgeable individuals in chosen areas of Ebonyi State.

References will be made to Secondary sources, such as text books, journals, articles published or unpublished. Theses of other research efforts in the past that bear directly on our area and period of study, will be consulted.



In the view of J. O. Ekuma, the first missionaries arrived Unwana part of Afikpo North, in Ebonyi State in about 1886. They used English language as they came with Ibos who had vague knowledge of English language. The interpreters were not Ebonyians and the aim of the missionaries was to Christianize the people with whom they came into contact. This they succeeded to do. Consequently, certain cruel acts,

superstitions and practices were gradually abolished in the society, viz: human sacrifices, killing of twins (twin babies); the fear or worship of green snakes (totemism) as smaller gods”.

  1. K. Ekechi states that: in the field of education, they introduced western education and enhanced it through the establishment of primary and post primary schools. They also established mission hospitals. The first missionaries (amongst other denominations) were the Church of Scotland Mission (C.S.M.) now called the Presbyterian Church Mission. They first settled at Unwana and then went into the hinterland. Amongst the then missionaries were Rev. Christie and Doctor Hitchcock.
  2. O. Nkama, in his view held that: “the first missionaries came into Afiikpo through the river that separates Ebonyi State from Cross River State. From Calabar passing through Ediba, Igonigoni, they reached Ndibe, a village in Afikpo in 1914, at a village square known as Ogo where most of the elders use as their resting place. On introducing their aim the villagers rebelled against them, stating that they have come to destroy their culture.

Prof. E. A. Eyandele, holds that the most remarkable development of the Catholic Church in Nigeria was the introduction of a formal school system, which was inspired by the enthusiasm of Liberamann of the Congregation of the Holy ghost Fathers. Bishop Shanahan of the prefecture of the lower Niger founded schools among the non-Catholic population of Eastern Nigeria. He refused to endorse Fr. Zappa’s practice

of buying slaves to be trained and liberated as Catholics. Rather, even against the advice of his superiors, Bishop Shanahan put all his available funds into the building of schools and the support of teachers for the non-catholic indigenous people of the territory, instead of using the money for the purchase of slaves who would become Catholics. He considered the building of schools for the indigenes was of the utmost

importance to the mission because it would ultimately contribute more to the establishment of the church in the area entrusted to him.In an address to welcome his Lordship, Bishop Thomas, McGettrick on his installation as the first Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese contained in his memoirs: the first mention of  Abakaliki/Afikpo in the history of the vicariate of Southern Nigeria is the founding of three schools in July

1922 by Father Groetz, cs.sp., the then Father in charge of Ogoja. These schools were opened in Iboko-Izzi, Amagu-Ezza and Igbudu-Ikwo. There was one teacher in each school and about thirty or forty pupils. This was the shaky foundation on which the church in Abakaliki was built. To compliment their activity. Leprosy patients received treatment from Mile Four Leprosy and Maternity Centre

Abakaliki, Mater Hospital, Afikpo with its full accredited nursing training school and St. Vincent’s Hospital, Ndubia. This was achieved through the aid of the sisters of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM). According to Fafunwa, critics of the standard of the church in education alleged that the church educates for heaven and as such would relegate science to the background. For him therefore, the Church

does not forbid science and the use of scientific methods rather, the church takes steps to ensure that science does not oppose God’s teaching. Hence, most of our scientists, medical doctors, engineers at that time were products of the mission schools.


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