THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF UDI by Onyeji Nnaji


INTRODUCTION
One thing that made Udi remarkable is the indubitable legacy adopted in commemoration of the legendry fighter, Uto at Nsude.   It was one of the greatest contributions of the descendants of Agbaja to the survival of Nsukka civilization of memory. Uto held from Oshie. Uto dies of small pox after a mercenary battle he was hired to fight in the ancient Benin. His body was buried in the evil forest as the tradition demanded. Although he lived no longer, the stepped pyramids above were adopted to commemorate the lasting peace he brought to the entire Oshie and Udi nation of people.

Another remarkable thing about Udi is the fertility of the land. This has contributed widely in sustaining the inhabitants and provided a name for the inhabitants in the manner of Abakaliki, Umudike, Ogbaru, Igboariam, Ohaji, Uzouwani, etc., especially in Amofia-Agu, Affa. Udi is a land of great rivers and springs: Adaada, Ajali, Oji, Aria, Nvenu, Ngene Evu, Iyi Ububo, etc. as was the situation everywhere in the world, people move from places to others in search of sustainable livelihood natural instinct as running water, fertile land and places where lives could be preserved, the case is quite different with the history of the settlement of the Udi father. Instead of the above listed reasons, he had traveled to the present Udi land to exhibit his naturally gifted technocracy.

ETHYMOLOGY
The people we today call “Ndi Udi” are descendants of the greate Agbaja, a technocrat who had travelled to the area in the hey days of Nsukka metallurgical boom. Agbaja had come from the Awka community of people to work in the docile smelting sites in Nsukka in the days of the Nsukka civilization (a time rated from around 500,000B.C. to early century A.D.)  Agbaja comprised of peoples between the wooded lands of Awka (capital of Anambra State) to the rocky valleys of Enugu (capital of Enugu State). Agbaja is made up of communities in present-day Udi, Ezeagu, Igbo-Etiti, Oji River, greater Awgu, and Enugu East Local Government Areas. However, the influence of Agbaja has extended to lands beyond.

Agbaja begot many sons. They include Neke, Oshie Aniugwu, Ojebe Ogene, Ugwunye, Ezedike, and the founders of Ezeagu, etc. As in such stories, these sons married and had children who founded towns; the sons of the children founded the villages. By nomenclature, some of the children of Agbaja bore names that proved due influence of Nsukka on their parents. Names like Oshie, Neke, Ojebe and Ugwunyi for instance look more of Nsukka than they are Awka.  These are the people collectively termed Udi local government area of Enugu state of today.  Oshie became more popular among his brethren through the legendry acts of Uto one of the legends that existed at his time. The monument kept in his memorial marked the prominence for which Nsude is celebrated today.

Of all the sons of Agbaja,  Ojebe Ogene was most blessed with children. They are: Ebe, Abor, Ukana, Awhum, Okpatu, Umulumgbe, Umoka and Ukehe. These sons were all born at Ebe, but due to the desire for spaces, they all separated and moved to their different places. When Ojebe-Ogene died at Ebe, history has it that the first son Ebe invited all the sons for his burial, but none of them came except Okpatu who with Ebe, buried their father. This single act made Okpatu and Ebe develop divine bond and love that is peculiar to both of them till date. They even concretized it through their visiting ceremonies which take place every two years.

NEKE
According to legend, Neke had seven sons collectively called Umuneke: Udi, Abia, Okwe (Amaokwe), Agbudu, Agu (Obinagu), Abi Ezike (Umuabi), and Aga (Umuaga). These sons of Neke had children, who founded villages. Example: the five sons of (umu) Abi Ezike are Abia, Ighum, Alugwo, Ogbuabala, and Ufiala. Udi has Ezechime, Ekeneene, Okuniino and Umuoka; Abia has Agbaani, Enugu-Abia, and Ogwugwu. Aga might be the last born, but he was apparently the most procreative; in Umuaga town, we have: Umunnacha, Umuokpala, Umueze, Umuabianta, Umualum, Amaata, Umuataaguma, Umuataogene, Umuamom, Ishiagu, Ndibinagu, Obodoinyi, Umuaneke, Umuonaga, Umungwu, Umuchime, and Abanibo.

OSHIE A version of the Neke legend has it that Oshie, another son of Agbaja, married and begot two sons and a daughter: Eke, Nsudi and Nneke, the daughter. Some Oshie descendants believe that Nneke married and begot Udi, Abia, parts of Amaokwe (Idedu). Now, whom did Nneke marry? Neke? Or, was “Nneke” actually “Mrs. Neke”? This claim does not add up because “Nneke” would be married to her paternal uncle Neke. Obioma, sandwiched between Abia and Nsude, claims direct descent from Neke and or Oshie.

Eke has seven sons (back to the norm!). Two of Eke sons died young. The survivors are: Amankwo, Amufia, Enugu, Ogui, and Oma. The Ajali River forms the boundary between Eke and Owa, now in Ezeagu Local Government Area (LGA). Note that names of towns do not always coincide with the names of legendary founders. Enugwu, for example, is more a geographical nomenclature than a corruption of the popular name “Ene-Ugwu.” In Amaokwe, we have Onicha, Enugwu, Uwaani, etc.; In Umuaga: Ndibinagu (those who live in the woods), Amaata (pine grass square), Ishiagu (head of the woods), and Umuaro (children of Aro settlers); etc.

OJEBU OGENE
North of Oshie clan, we have the children of Ojebeogene. Some authors believe that Ojebe Ogene was a woman, but no one says whom she married; besides, matrilineal descent is rare in Igbo mythology. So the patrilineal argument holds in almost all cases. Jude Akubuilo, Ph.D., a Beverley Hills-based attorney, confirmed that Ojebe Ogene had seven sons. Writing in Waawanet, Dr. Akubuilo (“Okeosisi Ojebeogene”) pointed out on Sunday, June 27, 1999 that “Ebe is the eldest, followed by Abor, Ukana, Awhum, Okpatu, Umulumgbe, and Ukehe.” Ukehe is now in Igbo-Etiti (Nsukka zone), but its link to Ojebe Ogene legend is not in dispute. The other Ojebe Ogene towns formed part of defunct Odo Ozo LGA. Ukehe is not the only Agbaja son out of the Udi loop; Nike, as we shall see, is now in Enugu East (Nkanu) senatorial sphere.

UGWUNYE The fourth group of communities in Agbaja sphere is Ugwunye. It is made up principally of Affa, Egede, and Nike. Nike is no longer in Udi political sphere, but the Umuugwunye link remains.

EZEDIKE In this group of direct brethrens are grouped the following towns are: Akpakwume, Nze, Oghu, and Umuoka, all gateways into Nsukka communities.

NGWUO In “What does Enugu mean?” Ikechukwu Ude-Chime told an interesting story of the people we now know as Ngwo, a part of today’s Udi LGA. Ngwu Nwangwuako was a great hunter from Neke (probably from outside Agbaja proper). He had ten children known collectively as Ngwuo Ili. One of the sons was Amaudeneogu, whose name his descendants adopted for their village and, because of the location of their village on a hilltop (“enu ugwu”), they became Enuugwu Amaudeneogu.

“Enugu” is an Anglo adulteration and shortening of the word “Enuugwu Ngwuo.” It is also a fallacy in naming of the city: You see, the city of Enugu is situated in a valley, on the farmlands of Ngwo, not on top of a hill as the name suggests. “Uwaana” (valley) or “Uwaani” (a quarter in today’s Enugu) comes closer to defining the geography of the capital of Igbo nation.

Communal spirit, extended-family structure, and responsive republicanism of Udi people of Igbo heartland made developmental work under colonialism much more effective and efficient and the people’s progress possible. Many communities from as far away as the emirate of Gwandu sought to learn from the Udi experience. Udi did not swallow colonialism hook, line, and sinker. Everyone, black or white, could settle in Udi and coexist constructively and peacefully. However, when the European tourists turned around to rule, the people refused the concept of taxation without representation.

Chief Onyeama n’Eke acquiesced to the tyrannical repudiation of popular participatory politics (oha na eze). The people revolted. This spirit of revulsion at oppression was reenacted in the Udi Revolt and the bloody Coal Miners' Strike (Iva Valley, Enugu) of November 18, 1949 which signaled the beginning of the struggle for independence. One must not forget the refusal of Udi people to succumb to an attempted demystification of the “Mmanwu” mores by the colonial Chadwick regime. Udi people are neither protesters nor pushovers; any attempt to arrogant oneself to the pinnacle of absolute power is almost always resisted. Udi folk did not fight the coming of Europeans, decades after they had established bases in southern Igbo communities, but they could not tolerate the concept of recent immigrants using local thugs to lord it over a responsively republican race. It is no coincidence that Udi was the first political capital of lands east of the Niger. The capital was only moved to Enugu after the discovery of coal in Udi Hills.

Regardless of the oppressive ways of colonialism, Udi people embraced the wisdom of western education en masse. No wonder Udi marked the beginning of mass literacy in Nigeria. The movie, “Daybreak in Udi,” awakened in the people in and around Udi and beyond to the new wave of formal education. The increased consciousness in formal education was responsible for the large turnover of teachers of Udi extraction at independence in 1960.

CULTURE There is a certain commonality of culture in the Udi area, but it varies as much as cultural diversity in Igboland. For example, Odo festival occurs in northern parts of Udi (Odo Ozo area), while Mmanwu appears more from Oshie to Neke communities. Eke is a town of both Odo and Mmanwu. Umuabi had the strongest attachment to the Mmanwu phenomenon; Nachi, much less so. Umuaga, besides its strong Mmanwu culture, has the popular rites of rebellion called Okomoyo, during which the young are allowed to revel all-night long under the supposedly watchful eyes of older folk. There are slight differences in New Yam festivals, marriage particularities, masquerade initiation rites, title-taking rites, etc. Most importantly, no Udi town speaks exactly the same dialect as the other. Many people can detect the differences in all Agbaja dialects.

Udi people have a worldview that is not very different from mainstream Igbo communities. They believe in the sacredness of Ani, the Earth deity, and in the supremacy of Chi Ukwu (Almighty God). Each town in Udi has at least one major deity, a being force (alusi) to which a shrine is built. For example, Ani Udi, Nneche Umuaga, Aniobodoishiokwe, etc. Onu Eke Oga belongs to Abia, Amaokwe, and Udi towns, possibly in honor of their common Oshie ancestry.
Different towns have different taboos. For example, the people of Umuaga do not eat snails, but they won’t stop Amaokwe ladies from collecting as much as they could carry  as long as they do not destroy farm crops or use an indigene's utensils to eat or drink. In Ngwo, Afia Usu market is located beneath giant cotton trees on which bats habit in their thousands. Though eating bat is not prohibited, no one hunts bats at the market. Oshie communities curiously do not intermarry, for they are descended from one man; curious because intra-marriage occurs in these communities. Intermarriage is virtually zero between the people of Nsude, Eke, Amaokwe, Abia, and Udi.

NATURAL RESOURCES
Natural resources are abundant in Udi. Okpa, also called bambara nut, is a ritualized plant in parts of Udi. One seed could yield as many as 200 seeds within months of cultivation, without serious tending, weeding, or fertilization. The palm trees of Udi yield the best palm wine on earth. Tappers from far and wide agree that Udi “up wine” is made of divine stuff. Cashew trees grow freely in the area, requiring serious control. Cassava, yams, stringed beans, vegetables, peppers, garden eggs, oil beans, tropic fruits, and assorted agricultural products come from Udi. The lands of Udi harbor minerals such as high-quality coal, iron ore, and petroleum. And we have not looked hard enough for gold!

CONCLUSION
Udi, the anvil of Waawa awareness, is not where it should be in terms of modern development. Mass literacy campaign started in Udi when others believed only the rich and wealthy went to school. Udi should house an institution of higher learning in this decade. With the busiest highway vehicular junction in Africa at Ninth Mile Corner and a culture of ironworks, Udi should be a manufacturing and distribution center. The tallest mountain peak in southern Nigeria (Udi Hill) is in Udi; and from its wombs Nigeria extracted coal in abundance, ferried it across the land to its southern tip at Oji River to produce electricity. Almost 100 years later, some communities have no dependable supply of power. Udi must have uninterrupted electric power supply.

Udi men mined coal and opened up Enugu, but they have little to show for it. They have not taken to the streets, protesting or calling for resource control or preaching the politics of “we-we” and “them-vs-us.” That’s not the Udi way. Those who live and thrive in Udi, no matter when they or their forefathers and foremothers got there, are no rabble-rousers. In the fullness of time, Udi will blossom for all who believe in its essence: fraternity, liberty, equity, and progress. It won’t happen without you: family and friends of Udi.

The forefathers of Udi people knew why they settled in this particular place. It is surely a land of greater tomorrow. The coalmines shall resurrect to produce reliable and cleaner coal-powered, efficient electricity at Oji River thermal station. The towering palm trees shall sustain the vegetable oil refinery at Nachi. Adaada, Ajali, and Oji River shall provide all the water needed for agriculture, the many bottling plants at Ngwo/Nsude, including the mega Heineken plant, the future steel plants at Nsude, and the thermal planet at Oji River.

For those who want natural drinks, the best palmwine in the whole wide world shall flow from Nkwo Agu Market in abundance to compliment the best “okpa” (Udi bread) on earth. Udi has the best tapioca salad, so good it is called “Udi salad.” With these products, peaceful passengers traveling through Ninth Mile Corner shall be treated with love to the best stuff from Earth. When Enugu International Airport becomes operational, the first regional airstrip at Udi could be reopened for cargo and shuttle services. Most importantly, the 24 towns in the presently too-large Udi Local Government Area have some of the best human heads around, the cream of its tomorrow, to support and sustain the greenness and greatness of Udi, Enugu State, Igboland, Nigeria, Africa, and humanity at large.


Comments

  1. Udi my udi.my beloved motherland.oh mother udi.the eye and bread of millions including visiting strangers from afar.long live udi my ancestral motherland

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, How I love this article! Made me fall in love all over with my very own Udi! Abum Nwa Umuabi.. Udi ndi nwomoo!

    ReplyDelete

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