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Edda Migration

Excerpts from “Edda Heritage” by Egbebu Liberal Movement

November 8, 2009

Information on the Edda and their immediate neighbors has survived, barely, through a combination of folklore and an elaborate and highly ritualized priest-kingship evolved by the people; hence, the variations in accounts.

The oral interviews reflected in this study are subject to debate and criticism. They commence with respondents’ opinions on the migration of Edda people and other “Clans” they interacted with prior to settling on their present site.

Oral Interviews with Non-Edda

Eze Kanu Oji (1986), Eze Aro of Arochukwu (now deceased), was the longest reigning monarch in Igbo land. He stated that Edda people lived initially at Afia Isagha Orie with the Arochukwu people (Aros). The two clans were said to be of the same ancestral father, Eze Oke Mgbom who begat Imo Eze (father of the Edda) and Oti Eze (father of the Aros).

According to the monarch, the Edda left for their present settlement, through Ohafia, principally in search of more fertile land for agricultural purposes. On leaving Afia Isagha Orie, he went on, the Edda settled successively at Okoni Ohafia, Anangwu Ohafia, Ukwukwa Okagwe Ohafia and finally Ugwu Nzu- now known as Nguzu, the traditional headquarters of Edda.

Gabriel Nwaubani Nwanko (1986), a community leader in Isieke Ibeku suggests that a group known as Elugwunta once inhabited the present location of Isieke Ibeku and following some misunderstanding ending in deaths, the survivors left through Bende for the present-day Abam, Ohafia and Edda. These three groups are one and the same people: while they had a common father – Eze Oke – Abam and Ohafia were of the same mother.

Chief K.O.K. Onyioha (1986) of Nkporo, in his contribution, reveals that the oral traditions of his people posit the Edda, Abam and Ohafia descended from three brothers – Egbebu, Onyerubi Abam and Uduma Eze respectively. These three groups once lived together in Isieke Ibeku, but left for Arochukwu after some disagreements with the earlier settlers, Elugwunta. The Elugwunta had accused the new-comers of killing their war dogs and a fight ensued which forced the departure of the Edda, Abam and Ohafia.

Somewhere along the line, the Edda separated from the other two groups which in turn subsequently broke off and headed to their present locations. Chief Onyioha adds that it was from the Ohafia that the Ututu emerged later, and that the Arochukwu Clan boasted of able-bodied young men and women of Abam, Edda, Nkporo and Ohafia orign who were settled there to act as buffer against the incessant attacks and invasion of the Ibibio of the south-east. The praise name Aro Oke Igbo refers to the Aros situated between the Igbo and non-Igbos.

Mazi Iro Uche (1986) of Ohafia contends that the Ohafia people met the Edda on their way from Adoni to Benin and the two groups continued together to Ibeku. In the wake of the incident of the war dogs, the Ohafia were said to have migrated further east, while the Edda moved south-east.

The Ohafia and Edda were to meet again a few years later. This time around, the Ohafia asked the Edda to wait while they surveyed the area for settlement, but never returned to reveal their findings. After a long wait, the Edda sensed danger and moved off to present-day Arochukwu. They settled with the Aros, but later migrated to their present location through Ohafia under the leadership of Imo Eze.

Amos Dike (1986) of Amaeke Abam deposes that the Abam, Edda and Ohafia were great grandchildren of Chima Ife. The Abam people were the children of Onyerubi Eze (who was the eldest of Eze Oke’s children) followed by Uduma Eze (father of Ohafia) and Imo Eze (father of the Edda).

All of them were said to have left Benin for Ibeku and subsequently a location near Igwu River. From there, Onyerubi Eze could not move any further due to his wife’s advanced pregnancy. She had gone into a nearby bush and soon gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. He went into the bush to check on her and on seeing the situation, decided to settle in that place with some people. On enquiry about his whereabouts, his brothers were told he had gone into a safe bush to seek his wife. The group that stayed back became known as Abam (Ibayi Abayi). Others moved a bit further where the Ohafia settled at Elu Ohafia from where the rest of the Ohafia villages dispersed. On their part, the Edda forged ahead through Okagwe Ohafia to their present settlement.

These three Clans were very close and their blood ties enabled them rally together to declare and prosecute wars. There were instances of atonement for occasional spilling of blood among them. Izu Abam (now Ozu Obam) was the rallying point to discuss serious matters of mutual interest, and from any animal slaughtered to entertain the delegates, the Abam, Ohafia and Edda took the head, jaw and neck in that order.

One of the significant features of migration is that no group moves on with all its members nor does any group move without encountering and mixing with some other group or the other. Groups on the move hardly ever forget those they last met or meet next or separated from. There is a possibility therefore, for real kith and kin to forget some of their over time, and could be reminded by those who separated from the others at a later date and point.

These are the accounts of Edda migratory trends given by non-Edda, but what have the Edda said about themselves? The two sets of oral tradition would provide a basis for analysis and perhaps some conclusions as to the origins and relationships of the Edda.

Oral Interviews with Edda

Okorie Oji Uzo (1981) of Owutu Edda contends that the combined migration comprising the Abam, Edda and Ohafia began at Ogba (Akpa Cave) somewhere beyond Arochukwu. At Afia Isagha Orie, Imo Eze – the great grandfather of Edda – separated from the Abam and Ohafia groups led by Onyerubi Eze and Uduma Eze respectively, and moved on to Ama and later Ugwu Nzu (now known as and called Nguzu Edda). It was really from Ama and Nguzu that the rest of Edda communities dispersed to their present locations. According to this respondent, his father had told him that the Abam, Edda and Ohafia groups are descended from a common father, Eze Oke Mgbom.

Eze Omaha (1987) of Oso Edda states that the Edda migrated from Ogba (a Cave in Okolasi Itu in present-day Akwa Ibom State. It was at Ogba that the Edda were said to have met the Aros and together with the Abam and Ohafia, they moved towards the present location of Arochukwu.

Under the leadership of Imo Eze, the Edda separated and moved on through Afia Isagha Orie and Ukwukwa Okagwe to their location where they found the Lokpa, Nkerefi, Leru and Amasiri people already domiciled. Through series of conflicts, including wars, between each of these groups and the Edda, they wee gradually driven off.

The account goes on that the Ezi Edda (Ozi Edda- Vigilante Group) who helped in the prosecution of the wars were popularly referred to as “Anya eji afu uzo” (Reconnaissance Group). Due to their gallantry in war, Eze Edda invited and honored them during his coronation ceremony.

Eze Omaha concludes by asserting that the Eze Edda his a aware of is located between Amaigbo Edda and Amaoso Edda.

Okorie Ekuma-Nkama (1987) of Amangwu Edda reveals that the Edda in company of the Abam, Ohafia, Nkporo and Item, commenced their movement from Ogba in Itu. These groups first settled at Oruocha and then Udara Ebo where they began to separate. Nkporo, Edda, Abam and Ohafia- the descendants of Eze Oke—moved together until they came to a fallen “off” tree. In their scramble to get a piece of the tree branch, Imo Eze (father of the Edda) was practically diving in all directions and eventually got the branch. His kite-like movements at the fallen “ofo” tree coupled with his conduct in war and wrestling, earned him the praise-name Egbebu.

It was after the incident of the “ofo” tree that Imo Eze led his group (the Edda) and headed northward to Ama Ugwu Nzu (now Ama Nguzu) from where the various villages spread to more convenient locations.

Ugoji Ama (1987) of Udiligbo (Udu Nta) dynasty in Ekoli Edda gives an account that the people originally lived in a place known as Ogba which was far beyond Namfe in the Camerouns. This is hilly country with several villages which looked like caves, hence the name Ogba. While the area provided them protection from human attacks, they fell prey to wild animals which killed them, especially the young ones, in their thousands. This was the major reason why they left Ogba.

On their way to present-day Arochukwu, the Edda spent brief periods at the following places: Mburum, Une, Ake, Ngele, Uburubu and Amanato. After a long stay at Arochukwu, they moved on to their present location – a hilly setting that reminded them of their original settlement in Ogba and the security it provided.

Imo Eze was their hero who led the people successfully to Ama Ugwu Nzu, and due to their sheer population size and the way they subdued and suppressed their neighbors, his descendants came to be known and referred to as EDDA – that is, war-like people who suppress others.

Okorie Akanu (1987) also of Ekoli Edda reports that the Edda with their brothers (most of whom are now lost to memory) initially trekked from Asia through Egypt, across the Sahara Desert to the north-eastern part of what is now known as Nigeria. As wanderers, they were compelled to leave each area they came to due to lack of food, hostility of neighboring tribes and danger from wild animals. They were said to have crossed Enyong Creek, Akanabio along the north-eastern borders of Ibibioland and finally arrived Arochukwu.

These were the leaders from Ogba to Ukwukwa Odagwe prior the separation through the two children of Ezeke Mgbom (Eze Oke Mgbom), Uduma Eze and Igbo Eze. The great migration was made by these brothers: Aro, Ututu, Ohafia, Abam and Edda under the leadership of Ife Nta.

At Ukwukwa Okagwe, they observed an abundance of fruits which gave them comfort and they decided to settle there. One day, Uduma Eze, one of the powerful leaders, went hunting and missed his way in the forest. His people began to suspect he might have been killed either by wild animals or hostile persons; so, the next day, all the skilled hunters in the area began to search for him.

Uduma Eze was sighted and his younger brother, Igbo Eze, in his excitement ran towards him but fell down. The two brothers hugged each other and Uduma Eze affectionately call Igbo Eze “Onye Eda Eda” (One who falls down). These two heroes were the roots of Ohafia (Uduma Eze) and Edda (Igbo Eze). It is due to the great hero, Igbo Eze that Nde Edda on occasion address a gathering of their people as “Umu Oke Igbo, unu ka”.

On his death, Igbo Eze was succeeded by Nnuma Akuma and Okporie Akuma. Some of the people under Okporie Akuma never called at Ama Ugwu Nzu, but moved down to Olori – a fertile strip of land with abundant wild corn and coco yams, a few kilometers from Ekoli Edda.

The actually met some settlers at Olori, people known as Okpuma (Okpu mma or blacksmiths) whom they regarded as magicians. At night, they brought out their metal works (which exist till today) for sale, with pieces of stick placed near each ware to indicate its price. The Edda traded with them, exchanging the metal products for their farm produce.

On one occasion, a man called Utom Nwa Mgbo Oko Ali was caught observing them as they displayed their wares at night, killed and transformed into an anthill. In their scare, the Edda ran back to Ama Ugwu Nzu. There, they were threatened by hunger and lack of natural water supply and terrified by a group known as Ukwa Anya Ocha. Two notable incidents occurred at Ama: the Ebiri who were living in the present location of Nguzu harassed the Edda and Anuma Akuma had a disagreement with his returnee-brother, Okporie Akuma. While Okporie desired to go back to Olori with its abundant food and water, Anuma was in favor of concerted efforts to drive the Ebiri out of Ama Nguzu.

The choice was soon to be made. On one occasion when they both went hunting, the two brothers came across two Ebiri hunters who had killed a monkey. The brothers demanded the head of the monkey on the grounds that they owned the land. The Ebiri men rejected this argument, claiming they were also owners of the land and lived only a stone’s throw from where the kill was made.

The two parties reached and agreement that any of them which was able to get home, fetch fire with which to roast the monkey and get back first, will be considered the nearest inhabitants and hence owners of the territory. While the Ebiri took off for their homes, the Edda brothers made a fire by striking two stones together onto some dry figs.

By the time the Ebiri returned, the Edda brothers had roasted the monkey, shared it out and taken the head. The Ebiri went back to report the incident to their people, but when they considered the sheer size of the Edda populace and the futility of confrontation, they decided to leave the area for the present-day Nkporo.

In spite of this development, some Edda under Udu Nta (a younger brother to Ugwuocha Ukwu) still opted to move back to the more endowed Olori, while another set led by the hero Okporie Eke, moved down to Ifuogo Nguzu for more fertile land, water and secure environment.

At Olori, the Edda had a market known as “Ogbomburumaja” where Nene Egegereghi, , two of the children of the wife of Isiulo Oku Nkwu, a palm-wine tapper, often sold her husband’s wine. There was this strong but poor bully, Afobuibu who usually visited the market to forcibly take other people’s wine, and Nene was to fall victim. Isiulo was informed of this nuisance. On the following market day, he got a sharpened cutlass and hhid somewhere close to where his wife displayed her gourds of palm wine.

Not too long after, Afobuibu emerged as usual and as he approached Nene’s wine, Isiulo ran his cutlass across the bully’s abdomen and he died instantly. The incident resulted in the Edda moving back to Ama (Ama Ezi Edda). As they made their way back to Ama, two of the children of Eze Oke Mgbom (Ezeke mgbom), named Mbiriba Eze and Oko Eze with their group moved instead to Urukpan Enna in today’s Cross River State. After some time, Mbiriba Eze with his younger brother, Oko Nta moved off to present-day Abiriba (Ebiriba). Till date, the Abiriba have a close attachment to Enna where their elder (Oko Eze) lived and died.

When the main group from Olori returned to Ama, Okporie was the leader or king of the two groups. This marked the beginning of the kingship/leadership ‘lineage’ of the Edda. His successors are still based in Nguzu and it is from Ama that other Edda villages migrated to their present locations. The first two major movements were those to Ifuogo and Ekoli under Udu Nta. Apart from Amaigbo, Eddagho, Ekata, Ezi Edda and Itim who migrated directly from Ama to their present locations, the rest of Edda villages and communities moved to their present areas from Nguzu or Ekoli. Amaoso, Amaiyi and Amangwu for instance, are from Nguzu, while Ebunwana, Ogbu and Igbara migrated from Ekoli. As the latest Edda settlement, Oso boasts of people from virtually all the major communities and villages of Edda, including Nguzu, Amangwu, Libolo and Owutu.

Udu Efamefula (1987) of Nguzu gives an account to the effect that the Edda came from beyond the Enyoung Creek across the Cross River where they lived in a cave-like area. After several years of sojourn, they moved to the present location of Arochukwu. At Arochukwu, the following Edda leaders were born; Oti Eze, Onyerubi Eze, Uduma Eze, Oboni Eze, Mbiriba, Eze, Biasu Eze and Ekelechi Eze.

When other groups left for sundry locations, Oti led his group to settle behind Arochukwu. These migrants are Akpa and Ibibio people who were there before others. Onyerubi took his group to Abam, while Uduma and his followers moved to Ohafia. The Edda were led by Oboni Eze and his younger beother, Imo Eze. Mbiriba Eze, Oke Eze and Biasu Eze later separated from the original Edda group and migrated to Enna and Ikun are presently located in Cross River State. Abiriba Eze was to leave Enna later on to settle where is known known as Abiriba.

The descendants of Mbiriba Eze were renowned traders and blacksmiths who usually came from Enna with their wares for sale at Nkporo. Their business associates and coustomers often referred to them as “Enna Uda” (People who came from Enna to sell pepper) because pepper was on of their notable commodities. In Enna (now known as Orie), pepper is called ‘Uda’.

Based on the business propects in Nkporo, the Enna traders decided to settle there for convenience. Unfortunately, according to this account, the Oboni Eze and Imo Eze did nnot reach the present loction of Edda. While Okporie Akuma actually reached Edda, Ututu and Ihechiowa separated from Ohafia and moved to their present locations.

Hitherto, there were other groups of home-seekers who travelled alongside the Edda and they included Nkporo, Item and Alayi. It is certainly not easy to identify every co- traveler or brother in these migration trends due to gaps in memory associated with oral tradition. It cannot be said precisely that most of these other groups had no blood relationship with the Edda, Abam, Ohafia and Arochukwu because similar names exist for towns and persons in those other Clans. For instance, nearly all of them address their people as Ndi Ife which may well draw some linkage from their common ancestor, Ife Nta.

Ikun Ubaghara and Ekuma Ubaghara are brothers of the same parents. After settling at Ikun for some time, Ekuma moved first to Libolo Edda and then successively to Amaichakara Ekoli and present location of Amasiri, Akaeze was founded at a later period by Eze Oke Oyim, the younger brother of Chima Oyim of Oso Edda. Amauro and Mgbom villages in Afikpo (Ehugbo) were migrants from Edda, while Umuchu Ezechi in Bende Local Government Area was founded by a man from Nguzu Edda. Their various names, Nguzu Ezechi and Umuchu Ezechi, reflect their close relationship.

In the light of the information obtained through oral interviews, it is crystral clear that Edda, Abam, Ohafia, Abiriba, Nkporo, Item, Igbere, Alayi and Arochukwu peoples point to one source of origin and migration routes. The information gathered also demonstrates that the following Clans – Erie (Enna), Ikun, Amasiri, Unwana, Amuro
& Mgbom in Afikpo (Ehugbo), Ututu, Ovim and some other parts of Isuikwuato and Akaeze – have common historical connections of descent.

The bases of their separation differed from one location to the other and as is natural with early migration trends, their dispersion occurred at different periods and points.

A group might move away and after a long sojourn forget those they previously migrated with, while the multi-directional migrations largely inform the diverse accounts put forward. It is a possible human fact that those who initially separated might meet again without any recollection that they had a common origin. It is also a possibility as well that they might be speaking different dialects or even languages, especially after a very long period of separation. Little wonder, Erie and Ikun now in Cross River State no longer speak the Igbo language or that Mbiriba Eze who moved with his group on a trading expedition to Abiriba cannot speak Enna.

The forefathers of Edda, Abam, Ohafia and Arochukwu can still be traced. The Genealogy as pieced from the various accounts obtained would take the following pattern (See Figure VII):

Efamefula points out that the close attachment between the Aro and Edda was due to constant attacks by the Akpa and Ibibio on the Oti Eze family left behind; so the Edda were hired to ward off the incursions. However, the aggressors always staged a come-back whenever the Edda withdrew. The Aro had to plead with some of the Edda warriors to live among them. Oko Nnachi, a powerful native doctor (medicine man) from Edda dealt the final blow on the enemies with the result that some surrendered (the incursions did not end as such, but eased). In any case, the Edda, the captured aggressors and others who lived among the Aro became assimilated into the mainstream of Aro society and later came to be known as Aro due to their famous oracle, Ukpabi.

The Akpa and Ibibio among them were originally non-Igbo, but the Ada (Edda) Aro influenced them to the extent that they all speak Igbo now.

Nsugbe (1974:26) notes that the domains of Ada (Edda) and Ohafia were two related warrior-communities with a long-standing friendship with the Aro as well as with the Nike. Indeed, as the Genealogy Tree shows, Edda and Ohafia have the same grandfather with Ada Aro (the Edda who were left behind at Arochukwu).

Dike and Ekejiuba (1990:42) state that “It is possible to conclude that the Ada who later contributed to the ethnic composition of the Aro, were partly from Agwagwuna and partly from Ohafia, a fact which explains later-day trade and military relationship between the Ada Aro and these two groups”. Edda oral tradition reveals that the people first settled in the present location of Arochukwu and later moved northwards, leaving Oti Eze and his family behind. Then Oti Eze founded the following villages in Aro: Amangwu, Amuvi, Amankwu, Asaga, Atani, Oso and Utughugwu as confirmed by Dike and Ekejiuba (1990-42). The military relationship between Ada (Edda) and Edda Aro was therefore, based on blood ties. Since they were not many of them, they were exposed to incursions from non-Igbo around them, but they were not disturbed by the Abam, Ututu or Ihechiowa who are related to them.

From the interviews with non-Edda and Edda as well as documented materials, it could be observed rightly that the following people have some blood relationship, must have migrated together or had long established contact: Edda (Ada), Ohafia, Abiriba, Nkporo, Arochukwu, Akaeze 9Akaeze Ukwu), Item, Ututu, Ihechiowa, Ikun, Erie, Umuhu Ezechi Ebule, Amasiri, Unwana, Afikpo (Mgbom and Amauro). Uturo and Ovim.

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