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A Brief History of Ishiagu Clan Community

Ishiagu is a large clan community of seventeen villages varying in size in terms of land and population. It is one of the largest autonomous communities in Ivo Local Government Area. It is located on the plains of the south-eastern savannah belt in Nigeria.

In the case of the seventeen village groups that constitute Ishiagu clan community, most of the people of the seventeen villages identify themselves as belonging to a common ancestral descent, even though evidence abounds that the movements to, and the settlement in Ishiagu land, were piece-meal, uncoordinated, and occurred at different periods of time. It is difficult to imagine that the original eleven villages were of the same ancestry, in terms of being the offspring of members of one family.

The traditional method of sharing common community interests and things along the customary line suggests that the arrival and settlement of the early ancestors of each village to their present site differ greatly from the others. This traditional group-sharing method was symbolic of the differences in their periods of arrival. Each village community has its own traditional history of arrival and settlement. Even in one village there might exist several traditional histories of arrivals and settlements of the ancestors coming from quite different communities outside Ishiagu land.

Some schools of thought hold the view that the purported dates of arrivals of the ancestors were not really arrival as imagined, but the community sharing technique was meant to reflect the period when each village came to join the other village groups. Through the passage of time it appeared that the founding fathers of Ishiagu community started to refer to the people of the eleven villages as the children or descendants of Echelle. The name Echelle started to be the second bond of unity after the acquired name of Ishiagu being applied to the land.

The belief that Ishiagu people were the children of Echelle might have been derived from the need to provide a strong sense of unity, since there existed a central belief in Echelle as mythical, legendary or real founder of ishiagu land. In any case the search for the origin of the name Echelle continues. We shall now consider why Ishiagu is described as a clan community.

When one talks of a community one has in mind a number of people associating together on account of residence in the same locality, who are bound together by the same laws, norms, belief systems and values. The terms are then applied to a group of people with a common territory and common interests and objectives. It may be necessary to distinguish between a village community from a clan community.

A village community can be described as a cluster of people living within a continuous, somewhat small area, and who share a common way of life. A village community is usually a local territory group. On the other hand a clan community is a larger territorial group where people who live in the community can come from various village communities, but all are united in the belief that they have a common ancestral descent, and have certain common links such as religion, economy and tradition. Each village community may be made up of wards and kindred groups.

With this classification in mind, which is rather loose, it can be asserted that Ishiagu clan community is made of seventeen village communities, each varying in size and population as well as the number of wards and kindred groups.

There are several smaller and larger village communities within Ishiagu clan community. There are certain unifying factors that tend to bind the seventeen village communities together to form a cohesive clan community. These will include the following:

  • All the inhabitants, except those who arrived at the scene late, and those who live close to the borders, speak the same dialect of Igbo language. The immigration of various groups into Ishiagu land will be explained later.
  • Religious belief and practices have always tended to unite people together. The entire people of the various village communities had tended to worship the same deities in ancient times, and Christianity has also brought all together in the modern time. It might be correct to say that religion not only provides social unity, but also a sense of meaning to life, and explanation to the mysteries of the world to those who share the same faith, and also promotes a sense of belonging among its members.
  • The common belief that most of the villages had a common origin makes the unity of the clan people of Ishiagu much stronger.
  • The influence of the Eke market as a unifying factor cannot be over emphasized. The choice of the market square to serve the socio-economic needs of the clan community had been a masterpiece, since the centrality of its location made it possible and easy for the people from the various village communities to meet there for purposes of exchange, social interaction and entertainment purposes.
  • Common cultural belief systems, values and practices are shared by all the members of village communities. There were common beliefs in the cycle of life under the watchful eyes of the ancestors, the existence of the land god, (ajali), the yam gods (aho, and njoku), and these factors tend to exert a strong unifying influence on the people. The regulation of the agricultural activities of the people from one season to another, in order to complete the cycle of year, provides a very strong force to unite the people as belonging to one clan.

These factors demonstrate that Ishiagu people have since been occupying a definite geographical area known and called Ishiagu, and that they had since been constituted as a self-governing social unit long before the colonial era. They have developed to a high degree some common values and have been experiencing a sense of belonging to one another, but that each village had always tended to maintain its own separate identity and limited autonomy in certain respects. This is why it might be true to say that Ishiagu clan community is made up of seventeen semi-autonomous village communities.

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Author: Chief Sir Eugene Udeogu Anyata

First published: January 16, 2010

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