THE ORIGIN OF AROCHUKWU by Onyeji Nnaji


read also "The Aro/Ibibio war"

    The merchandise style and the commitment to whatever is considered the collective responsibility of the Aro communities eventually made the Aro to develop a boomeranged history in the eyes of those who had encountered them in the past and the communities in the neighbourhood. Found with a distinct trading style believed to be different from the rest of the Igbo inhabitants; many people took the Aro to be a different people from the Igbo nation. But are the Aro Igbo? The answer is yes!  The Aro were the first merchants to export iron raw material from the ancient empire to the rest of the Igbo settlement. Their early contact with the Awka revealed the technocracy of the people in the area as belonging to the earliest iron workers. As a people from the part of the Igbo community where the gods show evidences of their existence, their position at the deity that finally survived their merchant empire should not be a question. 

In that same way, some Northern and Western Igbo land were believed by the Europeans to prove that they were not originally Igbo, but a colony of Jukuns or of some other Hamitic culture carriers. To the same group of Europeans, the people of Onitsha were not Igbo because they had a centralized political system considered uncharacteristic of the Igbo. They also had a tradition of origin tracing them to Benin. At one point it was thought that physical anthropology which is concerned with the study of bone structure and blood groups would settle all questions such as this. But this does not now appear to be the case especially as physical type is a function of environment and nutritional habits, while blood group may be affected by inter-breeding. Anthropometric studies of Southern Nigeria peoples by Dr P. A. Talbot and Mr. Mulhall produced a number of startling results. According to them their findings showed that
The Igbo, previously thought to be a homogeneous ethnic stock, are far from homogeneous. Not only do some Igbo sub-cultural groups differ from one another as regards physical type, but they also manifest significant physical structural similarities with neighbouring non-Igbo peoples and indeed with other African people living far away from Nigeria. On the strength of some of the data, for instance, it was found out that the Onitsha of the Northern Igbo cluster “are nearly identical with the Nyanwezi (of Tanzania) and near to the Swahili”. But amazingly certain; these near and distant Igbo neighbours were direct or indirect descents of the Igbo mega race.
It is apparent from the above observation that neither the Igbo, nor any other Nigerian group can be defined using only anthropometric or serological data; the oral tradition must be called to for help. Thinking of the Aro having migrated from the Jukun who suddenly returned from Afa, Ethiopia in the reign of Ezana, the Aksumite king simply because of the Aro’s pattern of merchandise would be unbelievably laughable. Of course, the Jukuns were considerably bellicose in their struggle to survive and rule others, but there was no Igbo settlement involved in the colony of the Jukuns. Again, the Jukun were no better traders than the Igbo, for about that time the dominant trading material was heavily iron from Nsukka and Awka. Other commodities were Olomgbo (beads), Akwo for kings’ burials and iron tools for the institution of deities.   

Should one depend on such meager characteristic, what would he say considering the cultural affinity and the traditional inclination of the Aro which are purely Ibibio?

Igbo do not have masquerades that go naked. it originally belonged to the Ibibio. Such a cursory writer would possibly insist that the Aro are the abandoned Ibibio in their days of hobo. The Aro speak Igbo of course, but their longtime relationship with the Ibibio before the Aro/Ibibio war  had designed for them a language feature that is heavily characterized by Ibibio, but the lexicon are Igbo. As a result, the Aro speak the version of the Igbo language with endued Ibibio tone. 

History is very clear here on the Aro/Ibibio relationship, that apart from a relative ethnic cleansing and replacement, there had never been any consanguinity or a sort of etymological relationship between both communities of people. The history of the Aro was beguiled by their hobo and the activities that had inspired their movement. This was the reason why the Europeans who de-pronounced and bastardised African cultural heritage, approaching them, called them by the name of the product they trade. Aro is a metal tool designed like a spear which the early men used in hunting. The only difference amidst both items is that while spear has two sharp edges pointing to the mouth, Aro does not have. By this, it is clear that the history of the Aro must lie on their original name; this I do not think any contemporary Aro is prepared to find out.

ETYMOLOGY OF THE AROCHUKWU PEOPLE 

The origin of the Aro has been a thing of concern as I could discover from the various attempts I have seen in the internet. The most unreliable of these attempts is found in Nairaland.com suggesting that the Aro might be the earliest Igbo to settle in the east. As false as this could be, the Aro was not even among the four mother-homes of the Igbo race. Although partly they belonged to the last mother-home; but they are not themselves (the Aro) the mother-home. Another source is the Wikipedia encyclopedia. This source is obviously true when it states that the present home of the Aro used to be the abode of the Ibibio. What is incorrect is the claim that the Ibibio had travelled from the Benue valley “in 300 AD”. The Ibibio were originally Igbo; they did not come from elsewhere. Various history books including the works of Dr. W. B. Baikie who wrote in 1854, and Major A. G. Leonard who wrote in 1906 recorded instances to this claim. The Efik have their original home in the present day Nwangene in Imo State, while the Anang are the original owners of the present Aba Ngwa. All in this circle belonged to the pre historic land marked in ancient history books as Aba, Abah or Arba. None of these settlers had travelled from places outside Igbo land.

Another source, of course the most laughable of them all, claimed that the Aro had travelled from the Middle East to the Ibibio dominated Igbo land.

The Aros, as other Igbos, migrated from the Middle East to their present location in the then Eastern Nigeria. You cannot mention Christopher Columbus who discovered America, without a short history of the Indians who owned the land. Also, in retrospect, the Aros came and won the land from the inhabitants, the Ibibios, after series of wars. These wars had a historic impact on the town. For instance, the leader of the Ibibio warriors who fought the war was captured and slain at Oro Village and this is why Oro became the chieftancy village. Amikpe Obinkita became the center where these defeated warriors were judged. This also is why all Aro villages assemble at Obinkita during the Ikeji festival. Any village that is not represented was fined by the entire Aro (LogBaby.com).
When I read this I was particularly concerned because of the obvious untrue information it contains: information that no history book or oral tradition has a support of. As a student of comparative history, I do not see any reason for falsifying history when the true information is before my nose. What will one gain seeking affiliation with the ancestors of the Arab nations? This was the same claim Olumide Lukas made about the Yoruba nation even when the oral tradition is there very glaring. The Juken also made similar claim of Yemen origin, whereas their information is carefully hidden in the History of Wars. Our failure to research beyond our immediate environment or disregard the viable facts left for us as wreckages for the trace of our source is the reason we hastily draw wrong conclusions about our very selves. For those who are begging the middle easterners to accept their subscriptions for ancestry, Diop Anta has this to tell you all the way from Egypt:
No matter where we collect legend on the genesis of the Black African people, those who still remember their origins say they came from the east.... Dogon and the Yoruba legends report that they came from the east,(Civilization, 179).
Let me state it categorically here, no Igbo settlement present in Igbo land has come from elsewhere; nothing is hidden again about any people, unless the writer has chosen to ignore facts made available for him. In the same way, apart from the Hausa tribe which came from the far Middle East to infiltrate the original northerners, and the later jihadists Fulani led by Osman Dan Fodio whose original homeland is Fouta Djillin; no settlement in Nigeria had travelled from beyond African setting. Tell me the people and I will tell you where they had gone from. That is why in our discussion of any people’s history in www.ajuede.com we make sure that all instances researchable are exhausted before we bring our readers to the ones they have not seen. We do this because our audience majors on the White race whom we want to see the truth and deconstruct their minds about the falsity of their hegemonic claim of fathering Africa. There is no relationship between the Aro and the population in the Arabian Peninsula.
Like I said earlier, the history of the Aro lies on their original name. If they don’t remember it then they need to ask their neighbours what their original name was. As a child growing up in the part of Nkanu referred to as Nkalaha, each time we saw distinct men roving the community in search of people who would wish to buy or sell the beads we called Aka and another, Ènwé, (both of which the Igbo central marked as Olomgbo, according to A. Afigbo), our parents immediately exclaimed, “Ndu Eru abi a” (Eru people have come). This was the name I came to hear, referring to a people of distinct roving trading style and who also traded on particular commodities. The name was not and still is not known only to Nkalaha, I later discovered that the entire Nsukka of the uneducated class call Aro thus. Till date, there are still Aro people in Eha-Amufu and Nkalagu and they are all referred to as “Ndu Eru” (the Eru people). I still remember that among the same people as stated above, anybody that is a remarkable bag carrier is eulogized with the same reference to the Eru; it doesn’t matter whether he is an indigenous or not. According to elders, they are thus called because that is the name of their ancestral home.
The Eru, which are presently called the Aro had originated from the part of Nsukka called Ero. They movement of the Eru people from Ero Nsukka was not orchestrated by the desire to find a place for settlement. Their movement was propted by the desire to carry iron raw material to different parts of Igbo land and beyond in those days of Nsukka civilization. 

Read also: The Civilization of Ancient Nsukka @ www.ajuede.com

They created the first link between Nsukka and Awka whom the Eru had heavily maintained as their trading partners because Awka needed iron slags for the different iron tools they fashioned.  It was through this trading style that we have those that are in Ajali in Orumba local government area of Anambra state even hitherto. It was the same idea that carried them to the homeland of the Ibibio people. Nnaji also made a similar remark on the Aro’s history as follow,

The Akan were the last migrants from the south eastern part of Nigeria. The Akan migrated from the Ibibio sect and founded the today Ghanaian settlement. The Ibibio had their original home in the present day Arochukwu. The Aros started settling in a smaller group around 22,000 B.C. They had travelled all the way from the old Nsukka, at the decay part of Nsukka/Nsude civilization of the Stone Age. They were merchants: the earliest so far known among the Igbo. With time, they overtook the Ibibio and chased them away from their home. The Aros were however assisted by the dreaded deity called Obini Ukpabi. The Aros overpowered the Ibibio around 9000 B.C. according to reliable sources. Around that same period, the Akan were founded; nevertheless, the Akan migration took place much later. Of course, it is pertinent to note that that Akan did not move to the present Ghanaian territory immediately. They moved farther than the African central and settled at the Nubian region. These movements were succeeded by the departure of the Anang from their Ngwa sister. They were the original owners of the present day Aba Ngwa housing the second largest market in Igbo land (Reality as Myth, 54).
I am not sure about the time. I only supposed that 22,000B.C. was considered because the archaeologist, Thurstan Shaw in the Igbo-Ukwu: An Account of Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria, 2 Vols, remarked that, “Spreads of charcoal dated to the eleventh and seventh millennium before our era at Igbo-Ukwu ... surviving at this latitude to those dates” (P.58). Eleven millennium from the first millennium, (AD 0001) is equivalent to 22,000 BC of iron production; meanwhile evidence unearthed in Nsukka proved the possibility of iron production as far as 500,000 B.C. Archaeologists even remarked that the period when iron “expectedly” began to go outside Nigeria was at or before 4000B.C. Therefore, using the period for the earliest appearance of the Aro people in the Ibibio homeland would not be express exaggerations. Considering the period the southern Ibibio land became the exit point for the discovery of other parts of Africa and the time when the Eru traveller must have reached Holland and peopled that area, it should be noted that such times must be very far.      

We have discussed how the Eru became Aro around the Onitsha axis when they encountered the Europeans in the late 19th century above. The “aro” they bore was of distinct sort, and in their explanation of the aro which, as a reserve for deity (which in turn is a chi understood by the Europeans as God), the Aro became dedicated to “Chuku” in the Whiteman’s way. Of course, in the manner of the Europeans, the idea for which any people are known automatically forms a major part of their denotation. So, the Eru who traded “Aro” for chuku became “the Aro chuku people.” 
The Aro eulogize their name (Aro Okigbo!) as great Igbo which they rightly are; but their adventures were no different from the rest of the Igbo communities of ancient reckoning.

Egypt, for instance, was founded by the Anu race, a group of people that characteristically lived last in the present day Enugu state; Ethiopia was founded earliest by Ndi Ojukwu (walker travellers) and their land is hitherto called Kambata because of the situation they faced against monsters in the days of their settlement, they also produced a king whose title was “Ezana” (king of the land) in the much latter migration wave; the same situation abides for the “A group” Nubians. That is why all of them, including the Kikuyu of Kenya, the Zulu, Shona of Zimbabwe and many other parts of Africa of much later migrations have evidences of Igbo names, language, village names etc. among them. Find any of these in www.ajuede.com. The Aro even maintain a relationship that is presently ailing with Agbaja, one of the homes of Iron near Nsukka. Izuogu, the progenitor of Aro Ndizuogu is said to be on such a visit to Agbaja when he encountered the people of Ohafia.

THE ARO/IBIBIO WAR
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 none did. They should be kind to state that the war was caused by the Aro. read Aro Ibibio War @ www.ajuede.com for details.

CONCLUSION
The Aro are scattered into various parts of Igbo land and beyond. We have Aro-Ngwa; I also know about those that are in Ajali in Anambra State. The people of lodge in Aboh mbaise could trace their origin to Aro. There are still some satellite Aro towns scattered in Ebonyi, Abia, Imo, Enugu and Anambra. But because their host communities knew their ways, they have been given attentions. It was rumored that Ibini Ukpabi was destroyed by the British during the Anglo/Aro war of the early twentieth century, but this is not true. The relics of Ibina-Ukpabi are still preserved in underground arches only known by high ranking members of the “Ekpe cult”. The Aro even have presently different secret cave that are yet to be excavated. Indeed, the Aro are great people.

QUICK REFERENCE
Diop, Cheikh Anta. The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality. New York: Lawrence   Hill and Company, 1974.
Talbot, Percy Amaury. Life in Southern Nigeria: The Magic, Beliefs and Customs of the Ibibio         Tribe, London, Macmillan and Co., limited, 1923.
- The Peoples of Southern Nigeria: A Sketch of their History, Ethnology and Languages, with   an Abstract of the 1921 Census, London, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1926.
Nnaji, Onyeji. Reality as Myth: Evolution of the Black Race and Babelic Tales. Akwa-Ibom: Jerry Complks, 2015.

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