THE ARO/IBIBIO WAR (How the Ibibio Left their Homeland)




Read also the Origin of the Arochukwu People @ajuede.com
So many things have been said about the Aro/Ibibio war, but all the writers have hidden the real truth; maybe intentionally, or due to ignorance. Had anyone discussed it with certain fancy and intention to conceal certain vital information simply because it may arouse certain unpleasant feelings, then I give him kudos. This is what Ama Ata Aidoo remarked that in writing about a people of one’s own, there are aspects of the life of the people one needs not bring to book. But this was not the situation; it is simple that they did not know the war in its exact. If any of these writers had heard the correct version of this Aro/Ibibio war he would have stated the main cause of the war, but one did. They should be kind to state that the war was caused by the Aro.

The Aro we know today had one distinct character that made them difficult to live together with others in the same area. Before the modern era and its civilization, the Aro were dominating in their nature. They have similar character with the Ezza of Ebonyi State and the hostile Fulani. At inception they come singly, but as time glides they continue to bring in their kings gradually until the place is overflowing with their population. And because their intention was not for mere business, they do everything possible to be assimilated into the host community to play such roles as partaking in their communal meetings and showing certain devotion like an indigenous. And with the amount of humility and submission they do this, it would be hard for the host to understand their original intention.  By the time the host has been engrossed by their population, the next step is to form an association of their own people to champion their primary goal to be indigenized. At this point they are prepared for war, if that is the only solution for them to take over the land.  This arrangement can take hundreds of years before the final action. That was the Aro technique against the Ibibio. 

The Eru (Aro) traders came to the Ibibio community and lived in recluse at the inception. Later, with the intuition of more and many more Aro within successive years, the Ibibio community became populated with Aro traders who did not think travelling back home again. The Ibibio, being quite docile and accommodating, did not think anything was wrong having them as brethren. They got the Aro weaved into their scheme of things and allowed them with the freedom due to an Ibibio bone citizen. Such was a right and kind thing to do, but the Ibibio never knew that it is not very stranger that one should live his wife with in the same house. The Aro on their own part, being conscious of their ancestors’ master plan, had not failed to communicate to their successive generation that “this is their home”. By so doing the generations of the Aro ran oblivious of their true history. Such was the subtle move that grants them access to the Ibibio Ibini Ukpabi deity.

Ibini Ukpabi originally belonged to the Ibibio and serviced gerontocracally. The priest had been an elderly person selected from different Ibibio villages at successive periods. It then happened that at one turn, the proposed village had an Aro as the eldest person. Thoughts were given to this decision before agreement was reached that the Aro should serve the deity since he was no more different from the Ibibio. The day this decision was made was the day the Ibibio sold their heritage to the Aro. Being a people who had originated from the part of the world where the activities of deities reigned supreme, the Aro had their charms inside their body at birth. Spirits of deities recognized them and communed with them because they knew the ways of the spirit better.

Finding himself before the service of the deity, Ibini, he seized the positive function and turned the deity against the Ibibio. Evil began to befall the Ibibio until information was sought and attempts were made to replace the priest; an attempt which came very late, so he could not be moved. This led to the war that finally ejected the Ibibio from their ancestral home. Today, nobody visits the Aro setting in Abia and believes that there was once a different set of people that have lived there before. About the war, it would be fair to say that none took victorious position; just as we fondly say, the Ibibio left the territory and travelled towards Cameroon and called the place Osak edet (pronounced “Osangele”). Since those days, the Aro had used Ibini Ukpabi to display certain supremacy among their Igbo neighbours. Through the same means they had sold several Igbo natives to slavery during the trans-Atlantic slave period. Their commitment to this trade as those of the prehistoric iron and iron tools made the area a trade route for slave transaction. They hunted people outside their territory for their merchandise.   




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