THE HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF EHA-AMUFU
Eha-Amufu road newly constructed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state in 2019
Apart from the strategic location of the Federal College of Education, one central reason remarkable about Eha-Amufu is her central position and her boundary situation. Eha-Amufu stands at the centre of many communities; as a result she has served as the gateway to different communities. She is bounded to Nkalaha, Agala, Ikem, Umuero and other communities, including Obeagu (pronounced Ubegu). Aside from that, Eha-Amufu embodies the route that traces the way to the northern part of Nigeria for travellers travelling from Ebonyi axis. Eha-Amufu also forms the remarkable boundary community between Enugu State and Ebonyi State. This situation makes Eha-Amufu very strategic in the discussion of the road and rivers across Ebonyi and Enugu.
In the era when transportation on rail was the order of the day, the most popular then ‘Express Train and later Diesel Train’ and also the ‘local goods train’ popularly dubbed ‘Subaba Train’, amongst others, must make a major stop over and be recharged with tonnes of water. The train station popularised this homogenous and large community, which equally boasted of being haven to tens of hundreds of non-indigenous living peacefully and doing commerce at Eha-Amufu. In those good old days of the 60s and 70s also made the town strategic in many respects. During the unfortunate pogrom in the north, when Easterners especially Igbos were slaughtered, it was at Eha-Amufu that the Red Cross and authorities of Eastern Region met with returning fleeing easterners and received some decapitated bodies.
Unpleasant stories are often abandoned even when they do not obliterate history. When eventually the war and guns boomed, with several months into warning 1967, the Biafran soldiers pulled out from the sectors of Obollo-Afor and Obollo-Eke, it was to Eha-Amufu, this all important town that served as the rendezvous as all officers and soldiers retreated to the town. It became a buffer zone. When Eha-Amufu fell to the Federal troops, it was only time for Enugu the capital to be threatened but the Biafran Engineers blew up the corresponding bridges to stop advancement.
As mentioned in the beginning paragraph, Eha-Amufu is the community that houses the prestigious Federal College of Education with a spiraling student population and lecturers from every corner of Nigeria. The Eha-Amufu ageing ‘Eke Market’ attracts traders from all over the eastern states and beyond. The cash crops, tubers of yams, cassava, palm oil and the abundance of grass cutter and other animals made the town the cynosure of all eyes. The stuck of Eha-Amufu shows her and agrarian society where egalitarianism was central in the ideology of the inhabitants. Eha-Amufu is comprised of the following villages: Isu, Agu-Amede, Amede, Ihenyi, Umuhu, Eboh and Mgbiji.
Eha-Amufu is very peaceful and hospitable. The land had served as the survival camp to refugees of the ear-sour Biafra war. Up until today, the community still has populations that had travelled from different parts of Igbo land residing in the area. A good instance of the population that had travelled from distant land is the Igbere who settled over rain, at the part of the town popularly marked as the Igbere quarters. The Igbere had travelled from the Igbere homeland in the present day Abia State. There are also the people of Ihenyi and Ape villages who are settled in two different parts of the community. These population had travelled from the nearby community, particularly, Nkalaha. (See The Brief History of Nkalaha @ www.ajuede.com). Eha-Amufu had fought no communal war, but one. This was the war between Eha-Amufu and Nkalaha fought on account of maintaining the boundary which was infiltrated by the people of Okpoto in their days of hobo. It was a two year war (1829-1831). Nnaji noted that after this war, Eha-Amufu appeased Nkalaha with a horse, then both communities entered into blood covenant; promising never again to spill the blood of the other.
ORIGIN OF EHA-AMUFU
What had led to the difficulties in defining the original home of the Eha-Amufu population are the affairs of the colonial masters. What has kept Eha-Amufu out of historical discovery was done by O. P. Gunning. Gunning was the District Officer, Abakaliki Division (1943-49) according to the Abakaliki District Account found in the National Archive, Abuja. Gunning is immortalized via the street road that runs through Ebonyi Hotel T. junction to the Ebonyi State University Administrative Campus. The street is named after O.P. Gunning, even hitherto. In the year 1947, Gunning took up the task of creating a lasting boundary between the communities in the then Northern Nkanu population. According to Nnaji in the book, The Historical Foundation of Nkalaha, published in 2013, “O.P. Gunning recorded in his boundary account the community bounded to Nkalaha in the north-west was Eha-Amufu”. This was where the problem of Eha-Amufu history started. Ochini River marks the boundary between Nkalaha and Eha-Amufu at the Nsukka/Abakaliki express way. The image of Ochini bridge, old and new, are shown below.
Just like Onicha called Onitsha, Enugwu called Enugu, Nkalu called Nkanu and Ehugbo called Afikpo by the foreigners who found it difficult to call us by our true names, Eha-Umuhu was as well called Eha-Amufu. And because written scripts contain this beguiled pronunciation, the inhabitants willingly takes to it as their own. The implication was a loss of their historical source. For as the Igbo believe, one who does not know his beginning will hardly know who he is. The colossal job of Alu nwa Nnajiogo in the media broadcast of Eha-Amufu dialect in the middle of 1990s would have solved this problem. He was aware of this flawed nomenclature. So, in his evening broadcasts, “Nkpoko Odu” he had stressed Eha-Umuhu instead of Eha-Amufu; but his audience gave no heed to the exactness of what he was saying and the intent behind it. The programme died out in 1997 due to lack of sponsorship.
According to Nnaji, what is the true history of Eha-Amufu was revealed in 1991, the day the elders of the surrounding communities: Eha-Amufu, Ubegu and Umuhuali visited Nkalaha on account of the war between Nkalaha and Ngbo (a community in Oha-Ukwu, Ebonyi State). The visiting elders were seated in the Umuonoja town hall. In the incantation said by the late elder Nnaji Nwa Nnaji (1933 – 15th Feb. 2014) led to the discovery of the communities whose elders were present in the taught provoking meeting. Starting with issues connected to the sisterhood of the converged communities which was believed had fired the desire and concern to enter to the war issue, Elder Nnaji nwa Nnaji said,
We were brothers, but our desire for selfhood threw us apart and we settled differently. My fathers, in his incantation, always say; Okoto (Umuhuali) is the senior to Okeogu (Nkalaha); Okeogu is the senior to Ngbaleke (Ubegu); and Ngbaleke is the senior to Echichieke (Ubahu). Your father (pointing to Eha-Amufu elders) ‘Eha’ left Umuhualu and moved to the head of Ebe River and created another Umuhu. This made Umuhu the eldest among the villages of Eha. You have settled before we came here. It was because of this blood that your fathers could not fight us when we passed through your land to get to this place. Ngbo was not our blood… (Tape record on Nkalaha history).
From the above observations it is apparent that the original name of Eha-Amufu is Eha, based on ancestral inclination, while their original home was Umunuali. This spores a sense of logic; the name ‘Umuhu’, one of the villages in Eha-Amufu is seen here as a replay of the name which assigns impetus to the direct trace of the ancestral origin of the inhabitants. But not all that are found in Eha-Amufu today belong to this ancestry. The population that is conclusively Eha is the Amede (Ulo and Egu), Isu, Mgbuji and Ebo.
There is a misconception in the issues connected to Ihenyi. This misconception is cleared in the Nnaji’s documented history of Nkalaha. According to Nnaji, the people of Ihenyi migrated from Nkalaha. For as history reveals, Nkalaha was comprised of eight un-autonomous communities locally referred to as ‘Nkpukpu/mkpuru’. Four out of these eight left the community in the days when Nkalaha fought wars against all her boundary neighbours. Ihenyi was one of the earliest to leave Nkalaha and settled in Eha-Amufu. This was followed by the Okposi (pronounced as Okposhi) who left and settled in Ngbo. Another set of emigrants from Nkalaha were the Ameta and Ikpele villages who left Umuodumu and settled in Ubegu. The last set of emigrants was from Umuodumu. This was in 18th and 19th century respectively. The are the Umuodumu in far Bayelsa state and the Umuodumu in Ape (Eha-Amufu). Significant enough, all the emigrants from Umuodumu retained their village name in all their settlements. Both Ameta and Ikpele in Ubegu are also called by the same name; thus, Ameta Umuodumu Ubegu and Ikpele Umuodumu Ubegu (Read about Umuodumu families @ajuede.com).
Ihenyi gained autonomy in Eha-Amufu so easily that many people seemed to insist that they were the earliest settlers in Eha-Amufu because of their proclivity. They are remarkable with their earliest institution of Odo masquerade. They learnt the skill involved in the masquerade through the involvement of the Leke people who accompanied Onoja Oboni to Nkalaha in the day of his arrival. Onoja was a legend with the numerous followers he peopled on his way to Nkalaha. They first built the masquerade in Umuobeye, Nkalaha. When Ihenyi left, they invented the same masquerade culture. And being significant in its kind, it became the first masquerade ever Eha-Amufu had. Thus came the saying, “Ukpokodu bu odu, Odo ndu Ihenyi bu odu”. ‘Odu’ in Eha-Amufu dialect simply means “first”. That was how the saying began which has lasted till date. Other issues connected to Eha-Amufu history are found richly in the history of Nkalaha. Both communities share common affinity.