OKIGWE CIVILIZATION by Onyeji Nnaji



Okigwe is the third largest city, after Owerri and Orlu, in Imo state of Nigeria presently. The city lies between the Port Harcourt-Enugu-Maiduguri rail line. being the nearest city to the biggest cattle market in Nigeria located at the Umu Nneochi Area of Abia state Thus, the city has grown into a major cattle transit town for the southeast and south subregions of Nigeria. Okigwe has a population of 132,237 (2005 census). Most of the population present in Okigwe is made up of immigrant workers from other states. Okigwe city was the primary host site of the old Imo State University (now Abia State University). 

Okigwe has various tourist and historical sites. The Federal Government College in the city has remained one of the best unity schools in Nigeria. Okigwe remains one of the breadbaskets of Nigeria with terrace cultivation practised on its hilly farmlands. Okigwe also boasts many relaxation spots such as Alexandra Suites & Hotels Limited Okigwe Imo state which is situated at No 1 Alexandra Ave, Umuchima Road, Ubahu. St. Mary's Cathedral in Okigwe is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Okigwe

Okigwe, by supposition, should be the headquarter of Christianity in Igbo land. This is reasoned upon the considerations of the inestimable contribution of the area to the survival of Christianity in Igbo land. It is remarkable to note here that Okigwe was the very venue where the event that characterised the 300AD Constantinaple synod took place in the Igbo historical version. That was the very venue where the old version of the Igbo Bible was translated by a congregation of selected early Igbo Christians. Perhaps, it was for this reason that Okigwe has been hallowed as the Igbo Christians' holy Land. Significantly, Okigwe houses the largest Catholic Cathedral in Igbo land (still under construction).

Added to this, the Nigerian Scripture Union (SU) members has their holy Land at Okigwe. If you think all these are for nought, then you need to have a rethink as the detailed discussion staged below shall clarify us that Okigwe was vested with more glorious and perfect depiction of the Igbo nature laws and spirituality than we have ever known. Again, we shall observe how the existence of Okigwe gave rise to other ancient communities, even outside the Igbo settlements.

Origin of Okigwe
It would certainly appear ridiculous to some researchers who, roughly, had ventured investigation into Okigwe archaeological properties because, nobody had ever reasoned towards deciphering the source of the original Okigwe population. But, because our historical discussion does not exclude any information relevant towards an overall study of the place concerned each time, it will be writing in Oblivion should we undermine such a meritorious history that has helped in the shaping of the Igbo history world round.

The name, Okigwe, did not occur by accident. It was ascribed to the population occupying the regional setting marked today as Okigwe because of the remarkable features they were originally denoted for. Okigwe is the amalgam of the two Igbo words: Ọka and Igwe. By supposition, the population of people occupying the geographical setting and the entire locale should be called, Oka-Igwe; that has been the original name until the days of the missionaries in the area. It was the missionaries who shortened the name to ease their pronunciation difficulties; for the name was given in line with the purpose they were created to serve in the Igbo traditional society.

'Ọka' refers to the exceptional function that had remained the reserve of the Awka people of Anambara State. 'Ọka' is the Igbo word for technocracy. This was the original name of the Awka people before the white men came and changed the spelling to an ordinary sound with no meaning. 'Ọka' is used in the Igbo lexicon to connote every-facet technocracy. It underpins special skill in craft. The second word, 'Igwe', is originally spelt as 'Igwé. With the rise tone on the 'e' it marks distinction between Iron and sky. And in referring to the technical quality of the people of this area, their name denotes the Sky. So, the name  Ọka-'Igwé means a people whose distinct technocrat quality is sourced from the cosmos. In this condition, anybody found with the difficulty of pronouncing the compound word correctly may find liberty in achieving such a name as Ọkigwé. That was how the name suddenly lost its validity for the meaning it was originally laden with. This directly tells anybody who uses the Igbo language well in communication that the original inhabitants of Okigwe were sourced from elsewhere.  

Just like the rest of the Igbo fathers, Okigwe originated from the sky. They were the third set of the Igbo ancestors to descend from the sky; nevertheless, at inception, they were not called Okigwe, for they bore their name collectively just like the Awka. This third ancestors of the Igbo nation were called the Umudiala. Umudiala were custodians of culture and tradition. In the Igbo cosmology, Umudiala were the generation or population of people vested with the moral tenet that conditioned the cosmos and were sent down to pattern the Igbo world the same as obtained in the cosmos. They were entrusted with the traditional roles, observation and maintenance of those rules that would make the world a better place. Just like the Awka who were headed by Dioka, the Umudiala were headed by Idu. Idu was the man on whose shoulder the responsibility of burying late Eze Nri and the coronation of a new Eze Nri was. Onwuejiogwu remarked that Umudiala acquired this sole responsibility because, a man from Umudiala married a daughter of Eze Nri. 


Umudiala had the largest population among the four sets of the Igbo ancestors. And remarkably, every of the Umudiala population was a pygmies. They were short people, popularly referred to as Dwarf. The Igbo traditional society referred to them as Nshi, Nsi or Eshi. Their headman, Eri wore scarified face in the likelihood of the princes of Nri. They were known for the populous Akwa Nshi in the Igbo tradition remarkable for the exceptional energy they carried. Umudiala contributed largely in the formation of the population of many ancient nations across Africa. They founded the ancient Egypt; we became very precised about their contributions in the peopling of ancient Egypt because, Diop Anta noted, in African Origin of Civilization, that the earliest population that inhabited Egypt were dominantly pygmies from inner Africa. See the Origin of Egypt. They also formed the populous Bantu that founded The Zulu of South Africa, The Kikuyu of Kenya, The Akan and many others in that population. Other nations founded by the Umudiala are discussed under page.   

The population of the Umudiala covered the present day Igbo heartland and beyond. The ancient map of Umudiala included The Aba, The Benben (The Benben were the original settlers of the present Ikom. It was from among them that Idu parted to the present Benin City). We knew this through the similarity of the traditional features of the Benin edifice and the culture unearthed in Ikom. Again, I grew up in Ikom and attended Army Primary School Asuegbe Ikom; the Ikom indigenous stated clearly that the culture unearthed in the area belonged to the people who first lived there. In other words, the present Ikom population came to meet those culture already there. That was why we argue that the monolith must have existed before the flood, since Idu left before the flood. We found similar situation in the Indan history. The ancient dravidians who founded the present Indian population cannot claim originators of the predated culture in the area, especially when they are aware that the Arinya population had registered their presence in the area centuries before the dravidians.

Apart from those groups mentioned above, Umudiala also had more people at different settlement before the flood. Among them also are the Ancient Nodo and others. Okigwe was  not as prominent as it is today. Okigwe became concentrated and esteemed like a capitol much later, especially after the flood. Ugwu Ele was like a refugee camp for the population of the Okigwe inhabitants of old. For those in the southern part of Umudiala territory, mountain Cameroon was their refugee camp. These population was civilized by the Nri survivors and survived today as the Ijagam or Ejagam. Nri ancestors were giants. In the same way, after the flood, the Umudiala population who survived the flood at Ugwu Ele, descended down the mountain and inhabited Okigwe area.

The Formative Stage of Okigwe Civilization (1600,000 - 950,000)BC.

Considering the ancient Nsukka civilization which dates to 500,000 BC., Okigwe Civilization which was much older should be more than 500,000BC. On this note, the observation of Reuben Eneze in his 2016 publication entitled, Igbo Culture will be relvrele. In the above book, Reuben spoke of the unearthed Stone age culture at Ugwu Ele estimated for about 1000 000BC. This suggestion varies with the carbon dating estimation of the excarvated stone age tools unearthed by Anozie led archaeological team estimated back to 1,600000BC. Another mistake Reuben made in positioning this civilization was that he, as well as many others, ascribed it to Ugwu Ele because it was the abode of the archaeological sites. There was a moving down from the mountain and settlements that were not on the mount. Ugwu Ele was significant for the survival of these population, but the concentration of life and habitation was heavily down the mountain; and the proximity amidst Ugwu Ele and Okigwe made this very possible. 

Nsukka Civilization was remarkable with the building of the first stepped pyramids in the world, yet the glory of the age was not ascribed to Nsude (the site of the pyramids), instead it belonged to the very entire area where the Civilization was heavily concentrated.

The Formative Stage of Okigwe Civilization was dated to 1,600 000BC. We know for sure that this civilization was older than this period, but since the excarvated acheulean proved dates around the period it becomes proper to base our discussion around such date. The remark made by the British archaeologist who accompanied the UNN Archaeology Department, Professor D. David is a clear proof of this. According to him, "Ugwu Ele site was the largest stone axe factory in the world; and of course, the oldest". The world generally has not recorded anywhere such enormous number of stone axes and other stone tools as was found in Ugwu Ele. Some of the stone axes found in the area are shown below. 



The Okpuchukwu cave in Ugwu Ele played veritable roles in the survival of the Okigwe Umudiala population housed by the Ele mountain. This also proves it true when the Igbo oral tradition remarked that those who survived the flood did so on top of mountains and in caves.

Caves served the purpose of sustenance to both human and cultural properties that proved the existence of life sometimes in the past. What we could find, as shown above, were the instruments used by the cavemen to prove the truth of their survival. The significant stone axes were instruments for predatory, and on another hand, they were used to engrave the civility clues of the survivors on stones where their knowledge and education of their time, though limited, were survived through successive generations. The actual engraving as found in Okigwe Civilization took effect at the middle and late stage of the Civilization.

The Middle Stage of Okigwe Civilization (1,000000 - 500,000B)BC.

The middle stage of Okigwe Civilization, studying the tools of this civilization, shows several improvement in the technique and in the depiction of civility. The earliest stage was characterized by the production of working tools such as axes, chissels and many other tools useful for the masterpiece engraving of the middle age.

The engraving of the middle age lacked finishing touches. It lacked the polishing required for a well organized artistic craft work. Okigwe unpolished artefacts are all the same all around the Umudiala. The ancient culture of the people existing around that time was everywhere the same. This unpolished condition ot the monolithic arts that characterised Okigwe Civilization clearly defined the level of their awareness to the existence of man and the purpose the parts of the body were to serve. Ignorance may not be the conclusion for the nature of their arts. The unpolished condition may be blamed upon the lack of a good craftsmanship. In other words, the craft men did their works to imprint the imagery that fused their minds. ie. their arts were not informed by pleasure rather than leisure. You see these in the Ikom monolyth.



The prominent features here are the derogatory human facial rendition and the naval. These two parts of the body were prominent in both Ugwu Ele and Ikom artefacts. The clue this similarity holds is that they belonged to the same culture proving a civilization that took place the same time. Towards the end of the middle age, the prominent features that clearly distinguish between the period was the inclusion of fake human arms. This is prominent with the Ikom monolith as shown below.

These features sporadically ended the middle age of Okigwe Civilization.


The Decay Stage of Okigwe Civilization (500,000 - 22000)BC.
All the stages of Okigwe civilization is distinctively separate from others. By these differences it is easy to treat the periods differently. From the potteries of the early stage to the middle stage, the explicit difference amidst the first and second period is found on the nature of the artistic engraving of the different periods. Compared to the above periods, the later stage of Okigwe civilization showed clarity of purpose born out of proper understanding of the reason for which something should be done. The late Okigwe produced refined artefacts. Again, one can easily deduce that around the period of the third phase of this civilization, the inhabitants had fully developed the art of writing. Akala or Orgam script writing which characterized the early and middle period has in this later period
developed into Nsibidi. Instances of these are clearly displayed through the artefacts of this period as shown below.


We found thorough modification on the working tools of the later stage of Okigwe civilization as shown below.


Decay Stage of the Okigwe Civilization took a simultaneous effect with the emergence of the Nsukka civilization. It is worthy of note that the Civilizations of the ancient Igbo took place in turns. With the desolution of Eridu through the war of the gods in the fifth generation of the Igbo history (an event which led to the creation of Adama within the same generation) 5000 years from creation date. We have carefully discussed all these in the bookss, Reminiscence and Reality as Myth. This battle was succeeded by the flood of Noah. Immediately after the flood Okigwe Civilization began.

Okigwe civilization was the Civilization of cavemen remarkable with stone works. At the tail of Okigwe civilization was the Nsukka civilization remarkable with the invention and popularization of iron production. When Nsukka civilization was aging seriously the Nri resumed another civilization remarkable with bronze production.

One significant people in the Okigwe civilization, very remarkable indeed, were the walker-traveller popularly called Ndi OJUKWU. About the same time when this civilization was heading away, the Walker-travellers left Okigwe and founded many nations in African. We have spoken of their roles in the formation of some nations in the northern part of Africa. We can speak vividly that they founded Egypt because majority of the Igbo words found in the Egyptian lexicon belonged to the Okiwe group of Igbo speakers. Read Egyptian words of Igbo origin  and see instances of those words.

Conclusion
The site at Ugwuele-Uturu, which lies on a dolerite ridge, was excavated between 1977 and 1981. Archaeologists were led to the site by local people who were aware of the unusual artifacts to be found. The northern end of the site held a huge accumulation of stone-age artifacts up to 6 meters in depth. There was no pottery and no polished stone tools, but there were triangular preforms for bifacial tools as well as many flakes and some cores. Handaxes, mostly broken, accounted for four out of five of the tools, and there were also cleavers, picks and side-scrapers. Based on this mix, the site has been classified as Acheulean. It is of evidence that these tools were rough or unsuccessful attempts, and the successful tools were carried elsewhere to be refined further. We have clarified these in the discussion of the first and second stages of the civilization.
There are three layers of occupation. The oldest and lowest holds quartz flakes, small stone tools and points. Above that is a layer with hoe-like tools, polished stone axes, red ochre, bored stone and red pottery. The top level, with dates between 2935 BC and 15 AD, held grey pottery wares. Those were potteries produced when the civilization has gone out of phases.
The Ugwuele hand ax is also particularly notable for archaeologists since it resembled the same tool found in the Acheulean sites, which emerged in FranceEnglandIndia, and North Africa. This sameness remains evident to prove that the Okigwe civilization gave rise to those other civilizations beyond Africa. 





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