By Engr. Ifeanyi Kalu Okali Ubaka
As edited By: Amos Kalu
Ohafia is a town and local government area in abia state, Nigeria. It is an igbo speaking region. The ancestral capital of Ohafia is located in the village of Elu. The Ohafia Local Government Area also includes the towns of Abiriba and Nkporo.
Historcally, Ohafia people left Andoli and settled in Isi-Eke, from
where they ran away one night, when they heard the rattling
sound of calabashes. The sound was interpreted to mean that they were being
invaded which lead to a commotion, as some of them escaped toward Ngodo and others went towards Isuochi. At one point, some of them headed towards Abam leading the group heading to Abam, was a man known as Ezeama Atita, and two
sons called Uduma Ezeama and Onyereobi Ezeama. When they got to Abam, Onyereobi’s wife, who was heavy with pregnancy, could no longer walk. He, therefore, remained in Abam with his pregnant wife, while the group continued on the journey. In the present location of Ohafia, at a place called Ugwumgbo, Ezeama Atita, and his second son, Uduma, settled. After many years, their offspring established the 26 villages that make up today’s Ohafia. The ancestral headquarters of Ohafia is in Elu Ohafia. Each village is governed by an eze ogo. All the eze ogo’s come together to form the Eze Ogo-in-Council, which, with the amala, decide how the community is to be governed. The overall traditional ruler, Udumeze, who lives in Elu Ohafia, intervenes only when there is a matter between an eze ogo and a subject.
THE HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF WAR DANCE
In the past, the culture of Ohafia was hinged around one’s prowess in war. They were constantly on the lookout for wars in which to take part. They became something like mercenaries and the people of Arochukwu, who were all
over Igboland ‘hunting’ for slaves, harnessed this warlike spirit in Ohafia people to their own advantage.
The ancestors of the Ohafia people were renowned as mighty warriors. This aspect of the Ohafia peoples history remains fundamental to the Ohafia people’s sense of identity. The warrior’s cap or “leopard cap” (Igbo: Okpu agu)is well known and is an associated product of Ohafia.
The Ohafia warrior tradition is embodied in the performance of iri agha The practise of beheading a fallen foe was a favourite pastime. A human skull was valued as a souvenir, and it was a proof of a man’s courage, which brought to the Ohafia man different types of honour. Only those who brought home a human head could join the Ogbu-Isi society and wear the eagle plume of courage. The love of military glory became a consuming passion and the focus of all social values. The Ohafia people, whose warlike exploits made peaceful travel impossible, were now able to work abroad. By 1913, most of them were trading at Itu, in Akwa Ibom State, and Calabar, in Cross River State.
READ ALSO: Ohafia Community History
THE EARLY LEGENDERIES OF OHAFIA AND THE INITIATION OF EDUCATION
Before now, the Ohafia man, with his entire war prowess, went through a ritual, to purge him of his war-like traits. Perhaps, he needed to be told by no less a force than the colonial might the old order had passed away. And it came about in 1901, when a unit of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) based in Calabar laid a siege on Ohafia and Ebem. It was in response to the destruction of Obegu, in today’s Abia south, by fighters from the two communities.The Ohafia people had looked forward to that encounter. The people were in high spirit, sharpening their machetes and loading their dane guns with gun-powder. As usual, it was another opportunity for them to cut human heads. But, in their ignorance, they failed to realise that the firepower of the white man was far and above their crude weapons. Enter Eke Kalu, the former slave. He had since returned from Opobo and was now visiting Calabar as a businessman, when preparations to raid Ohafia and Ebem were in high gear. The sight of RWAFF soldiers marching in Calabar, coupled with his experience in Eket when he was a gun carrier, compelled him to seek a way of saving his people.
Eke Kalu knew from experience that his people, the famous and dreaded warriors of ancient Ohafia, the lions of the jungle, the proud and gallant sons of Uduma Ezema, would challenge the soldiers. He realised also that though the military tactics of the Ohafia warriors might surpass that of the RWAFF, yet their weapons were crude and nowhere near the firepower of the
rifles and machine guns of the RWAFF soldiers. He, therefore, hurried out of Calabar in a canoe and, passing through Ikun, arrived Ohafia. It was an eke day and, on arrival, he went through the area, warning the people against challenging the soldiers. Four days after his return, the British soldiers were on their way to Ohafia, taking the Akoli Adda route. Passing through Elu, they arrived in Ebem, where they pitched their tents at Ifi Iri-opu. Captain Mowatt commanded the soldiers. No sooner did the soldiers arrive than an Ebem warrior, Idika Echeme, was said to have charged at them. Thereafter, the order to open fire was given on the other side of the line. Soon, trees and human beings began to fall.
Each time cannon balls went off, trees and charging Ebem warriors were cut
down. The pillar of Ikoro Nde Anaga also came down. When they saw what was happening, the surviving Ebem warriors panicked and took to the forests for refuge. After Ebem was reduced to rubbles, the British soldiers turned their attention to Ohafia. As they approached, Eke Kalu was waiting for them, not
with machetes or dane guns. He had a long bamboo, at the top of which he tied a white handkerchief, which he waved frantically in the air, saying to the hearing of the approaching soldiers: “Ayi kwere na ndi beke”, meaning:
“We surrender to the British”. Given his exceptional courage, Captain Mowatt was said to have demanded to
know Eke Kalu’s identity. Coming close to the captain was an opportunity the
former slave needed to demonstrate, before his people, his ability to speak English language. To the captain’s question, he proudly replied: “I from Elu Ohafia; my fadda, Imaga Agwunsi, say he no wan war”. The captain was pleased
LATE LEGENDARY EKE KALU’S HOUSE and to another question, he replied: “I is de onle man for Ohafia hear” English”. When the British soldiers left Ohafia, the profile of the ex-slave rose among his people. The fact that he could engage a white man in a conversation earned him respect and honour. Consequently, they appointed him their adviser. The event that changed the course of Ohafia people forever occurred shortly after, and Eke Kalu was, again, at the centre of it. There was, in Ohafia, a Ohafia people”. The day came when he locked some men in the prison for what
was described as a trivial offence. The men broke out of the prison and were
intent on beating him up, when he reported the matter to one Major Cobham,
who despatched some policemen to his rescue. The prisoners were promptly
rearrested and fines were imposed on them.
After this event, Ohafia people started looking for a way out of what had
become regular persecutions in the hands of the Sierra Leonean. As the
solution to their problem, Eke Kalu, advised them to build schools and
educate their children who, knowing what the clerk knew, would better
challenge him and his successors in future. The first school was opened at
Ndi Imaga Shed. From now on, the desire for education swept through Ohafia
like a bush fire. Ohafia is home to the third largest military base in Nigeria, named Goodluck Jonathan Barracks. It houses the headquarters of the newly established 14 Brigade and 145 Battalion office complex.
OHAFIA CULTURAL HOSPITALITY
The first thing an Akanu Ohafia man offers their visitors is Nzu (Kaolin), a native white chalk. This the visitor (if male) rubs on his hand, and (if female) rubs on either the neck or the tommy. This act is in no way fetish. It is done to prove that the visitor is welcome, and if accepted by the visitor proves the visitor has come in peace. After nzu has been given, the next thing offered is Kolanut. The oldest man in the house says prayers first before the kolanut is broken by the youngest male in the house. When sharing, the man of the house is served first, next is the visitor, then every other male from oldest to youngest before women. After the kolanut has been given, drink is brought (usually locally brewed gin), and it is shared in the same order the kolanut was shared. Everybody drinks from one cup!
|26 OHAFIA VILLAGES AND THEIR FOUNDERS|
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN OHAFIA
The Obu-Nkwa of Nde-Ezera in Asaga Ohafia is a national monument in Nigeria. It has certain unique function for the Ohafia people and for tourist purposes. In ancient times, this was the only one (Nkwa) in Ohafia to which anyone in danger could be assured Nkwuzi (shelter-seeking). It has carvings of massive male and female figures; male figures in sitting posture, resting their hands on their knees, their feet upon the figures of slaves. The females also are on a sitting position, carrying babes in their arms. The Obu Nkwa is barred from unauthorized entry. Picture clips of this wonderful edifice have not been authorized to feature on this website.
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Abiansi Okon-Aku (Go Slow) is otherwise known as and popularly called DIBIA among the Ohafians. This tradition is believed to have been imported into Ohafia through native doctors that were invited to prepare charms for the Legendary warriors of Ohafia. With the passage of time, the act of war and head-hunting faded away and the reality of settling among the people dawned on the native practitioners. Among the earliest settlers were the founders of Ndi Idika Okoro and Ndi Ebin compounds of Okon-Aku respectively.
Abiansi has till the present days remained a very strong institution whose laws are well respected by all and this has put it on the scale of being one of the very arbitrator of the laws. The forebears of the forefathers has kept the trend strong, that is why up on till the present days, people from far and wide still troop to Okon to witness the Dibia day celebration that holds every September of each year.
It is a tradition of display of power and skills in the traditional act of magic, divinity and spirituality.
Notwithstanding it is an annual event, it has continued to serve as a good tool for tourist attraction to Ohafia at this particular period of every year.
The Ezie Ofri cave is one of the great wonders of the land. Unconfirmed reports have it that the length and breath of the cave covers a large expense of hollow underneath that extends to several kilometers afar. Some say the length extends up to certain places in Elu, over 8 kilometers away from Amaekpu. An unempirical and unintended research pointing to this fact was the incident that a hunter’s dog, missing his way, slipped into this cave, which is located 5 kilometers away from residential quarters but afterwards reappeared somewhere in Amaoba compound in Amaekpu. While these reports are subject to exploration and confirmation, it is obvious the Ezie ofri cave harbors many interesting facts or at least is a great tourist site to behold, perhaps a better site than the celebrated Ogbunike cave in Anambra state.
If there is a place where virgin and unperturbed vegetation still exist in Ohafia, it is a place called Nkpogolo in Ebem. Nkpogolo has been preserved in the original habitat for as long as Ohafia has existed. Farming activities, hunting, bush burning or any form of deforestation activities are forbidden here. The choice to keep this bush as it is arose out of the fact that both during the British Colonial military invasion of Ohafia (1905) and the Nigeria civil war, Nkpogolo served the people, especially the Ebem community, as a hide-out zone. Subsequently, the usefulness of Nkpogolo extended to a free-food harvest zone for the less privileged members of the clan. This is because no one lays claim of ownership of any fruit/ food crops found there. It is still believed that some animals which may have gone into extinction in Ohafia may still be found in this location. Similar vegetations like Nkpogolo could be found in certain parts of Ohafia like Offia Isha used for Uzo-iyi.
hill top over view of ohafia village
THE ACHICHI SQUARE.
The traditional capital of Ohafia, Elu has a prominent spot most sacred and respected by the Ohafia people. This place is called the “Achichi”. It is the place in Ohafia where Uduma Ezema, the founding father of Ohafia was believed to have been buried. This place has stood over the years as a spot of monumental sacredness. All words spoken in Achichi are believed to be nothing but the truth as the contrary is believed to be fraught with plague. The coronation of any Udumeze takes place here. Inter-village misunderstandings are also settled here. In ancient times, war between Ohafia and any group was declared at Achichi. In the olden days too, any hunter from any part of Ohafia who succeeded in killing a lion, leopard or tiger, normally presented the skin to the Achichi square.
IFUTITI WATER FALL IN AMAEKPU
Perhaps one of the greatest wonders of the land is the Ifutititi Waterfall. Hidden kilometers away from the residential axis of Amaekpu, Ifutititi Waterfall exudes great power and noisy vibration that may scare any first visitor to the site. It has over 300ff deep which was noted to have potentials for a hydro-electric power waiting to be developed either by private or government bodies. Another of such Waterfall exists in Uzoasuga in Akanu Ohafia.
A steep and hilly elevation situated along the road that ushers people to the Asaga community is the Ugwu Aaba Asaga. The beauty of Asaga could be better appreciated when view from the steep of this mountainous hill. But there is more to it! Preliminary survey done by certain indigenous geologists reveals there abound vast mineral deposits on this hill. It may interest any ceramics industry to know that clay deposits are very visible on this hill.
Along the Federal road linking Ohafia to the Abam community is situated river called Mmori. The river is fed by streams of water flowing in from Onu- Uduma, the longest River in Ohafia. Mmori serves different purposes to the Ohafia community: clean and safe source of drinking water, laundry & washing purposes, good swimming experience and comfortable resting atmosphere. Above all, the route is motor-able and very accessible. Imagine a cool evening bath here!
OHAFIA TRADITIONAL GOVERNMENT
The traditional political system of governance in Ohafia could best be described as an organized group of responsibilities, with the Ezie Ogo at the peak of the strata. There is interplay of responsibilities shared between the many groups that constitute arms of this traditional government. This group of individual(s) includes the Ezie Ogo, Nde-umuaka, Nde-Akpan, Nde-Ikpirikpe and the various age groups [Uke]
ADVENT OF CHRISTIANITY IN OHAFIA LAND
Ezie Onuoha recounts that two native doctors from Asaga Ohafia, namely Agwu Dibia and Onugu igbeke were responsible. The two native doctors had traveled to Ikorona in Cross River State in the interest of their profession as native doctors. While at Ikorona, the two men attended Christian church service. They were apparently intrigued by their new found “cult” that on their return to Asaga they reported to Ezie Ajadu Uma and the elders of Asaga Ohafia about the new cult. Unknown to them this new cult was one that preached against their practices instead of enhance them. However, the Asaga people embraced the new experience by spending 30 brass rods to invite Rev. Uwa Akpan Essien. Unfortunately, the military expedition of the British colonial Administration in 1905 put a temporary stop to this evangelist work.
Later in 1905 when Rev. J.K. Macgregor made an attempt to revive this work, the Asaga people rejected the offer. The Presbyterian Church however succeeded in Elu in 1910.
Prof. E.U.L.Imaga’s work on the same issue recounts that Christianity first took roots in Ohafia at Amankwu and Ndi-Uduma Awoke. This was as a result of an evangelization outreach from a church which was already established at Iheochiowa (Arochukwu L.G.A.).
Prof. Imaga also recounts that at same time, due to unfriendly activities of the court clerks, the Elu community invited the Church of Scotland mission to establish a church and school. Hence, an indigenous missionary teacher, Onuoha Kalu was sent to start a mission centre in Elu. Onuoha Kalu was in the Rev. Macgregor’s party that visited Asaga in 1908. They used the Obu Nde Imaga as church and school. This agrees with the Presbyterian Church’s account that Nde Imaga compound is the cradle of Christianity in Ohafia.
In 1911, however, a mission house was built around the Ukaka and Ifu-Orie forests (where the Presbyterian Church, Isiama manse stands). Rev. Robert Collins was posted to Ohafia after the completion of this manse. The first church built in Ohafia is the one we know today as Ohafia Presbyterian Central Church, Isiama. Other Protestant and Pentecostal churches have taken toll and set up their congregations in various parts of Ohafia. Its attendant blessing is the developmental projects undertaken by these churches, such as schools, hospitals etc.
Ohafia people today are a people of brave achievement, erudite scholars, great business entrepreneurs and professionals in many fields of human endeavours. They could be found virtually anywhere and everywhere human life exists. At home, many are hardworking and successful subsistent farmers and traders. Education is one of the most cherished industries in Ohafia. Eminent Ohafia sons ad daughters within and without the Ohafia community occupy great strides of accomplishment. Ohafia is a land of
Optimistic, Hospitable, Admirable, Famous, Illustrious and Accommodating people.