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PROJECT TOPIC:WARFARE IN PRE-COLONIAL AFIKPO

WARFARE IN PRE-COLONIAL AFIKPO

 

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        CHAPTER ONE

       1.1     GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF AFIKPO

The Afikpo Village Group (Ehugbo) covers an area of roughly sixty-four (64) square miles, (164 sq. km). It is located in the Southern corner of the present Ebonyi State. It is grouped among the eastern or the Cross River Igbos. It lies approximately on 6o North Latitude and 8o east longitude. The Cross – River forms a natural boundary between Afikpo and her Cross-River State neighbours of Ekomoro, Ediba, Obubra, Ugep, Calabar, that is the Ekoi, Mbembe, Yako and even the Efik – speaking people of the Cross Rivers State. The Afikpo culture has therefore come in direct contact with their cultures and cultural traits which has tremendously helped in one way or the other to modify and even mould the Afikpo culture.1

However, Afikpo is bounded on the South by Edda, North by Abaomege, West by Okposi and East by Abili in Cross River State. Afikpo is one of the 34 Local Government Areas in Ebonyi State and one of the clans locate in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria.2 Geomorphologically, Afikpo is a hilly region which lies in the trough of a syncline of undulating sandstone ridges in an elevation of between 250 – 300 feet above sea level. It lies in a transitional zone between open grassland and tropical rain forest with an annual rainfall of about 77 inches.3

 

WARFARE IN PRE-COLONIAL AFIKPO

 

        1.2    ORIGIN, MIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT

The origin of the people of Afikpo like most of their pre-literate counterparts in African 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 that “the Egu and Nkalu groups fled to different pats especially to areas around Abakaliki such as Nkaegu, Ezza-egu, Nkwoegu, Ikwo, Effium, even Amasiri and parts of the Cross – Rivers State after they had been outflanked by Igbo Ukwu and his group.”5

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”.6 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.7

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 æjææ’ 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.8

The Egu were renowned craftsmen in pottery, carving 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, one Afikpo proverb refers to the Egu as, “Egu, Okpu ite n’eri ji na mgeju” (Egu, the pot-maker who ate from pot-sherds).9 Be it as it may, the egu were scattered over the present location of Ugwuegu 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 – 5,000BC. This shows the antiquity of pottery in Afikpo and the people in their present area of location. It presents the oldest dates pottery found in West Africa.10

In addition, Afikpo tradition has it that the present settlers of Ena Ohia Nkalu came from Ikpom in the Cross Rivers 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 the 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.11

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 Oroghoro 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 talk 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

WARFARE IN PRE-COLONIAL AFIKPO

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