Onyeji Nnaji

 Anybody who had taken a considerable distant trekking into the Nsukka UNN campus from the main gate would definitely have seen this image at the corner where art exhibition is dully displayed. And because this contemporary society could not decipher the pedagogical relevance of artistic works, it would be very difficult to understand the valorous value, beyond estimation, the contribution of the man whose image is imprinted on that solid ground. But for one who wants to understand this image, he may be required to move further into the ancient world of legends known as Ogurugu. At Ogurugu abides the foremost image from where that in UNN was copied. There the researcher will be told of the greatness of the legend Onoja Oboni. The image above portrays his legendary features as a conqueror. That was the father of the communities of people identically called Umuonoja.

Onoja, often referred to as Onoja Oboni, was the son of Oboni Oni of the Ata Igala linage in the Benue corner of Ida. Onoja was so called because he was born in his mother’s home, at Ofu. He was called Onoja by Igane (the mother as a reminiscent of his father’s position in the Igala royalty. Circumstances that led to his hobo are discussed in The Historical Foundation of Nkalaha; also in the document The History and Life of Onoja Oboni @

In his days of hobo, Onoja lived in Ogurugu for years and was respected as a king in the manner of Ata Igala. Through this view about him, he was called Onoja Eze (in other words, Onoja king). As time glided he was thus called and his surname was completely eluded. He later lived in Nsukka. Here he left a seed which today has grown into the population of a community. In Nsukka, this community is called Umuonoja up till date. It was not until recent time that they realized that Onoja has another community of people eastward from Nsukka. The Umuonoja in Nsukka could only speak of their consanguinity to/with Onoja Eze; they could not tell more about the life, marriage, children of Onoja and where or how Onoja died. To this confusion, The Historical Foundation of Nkalaha serves as a clearing point.

Onoja had followers that went about with him. He peopled populations from Ofu, Ogurugu, Nsukka and the Nkanu axis. On one of the occasions, they travelled towards the Niger River areas of the Agulu setting. When he wanted to return to Nsukka, some of the followers remained behind. Today they have formed a community of large population. They are referred to as the Umuekete. Onoja lived his last days and had children in Nkalaha; the land he founded. His descendants are called Umuonoja family. Onoja had three sons: Ofu, Omaba and Oyide with whom he is survived today. The map below shows the land mapping Umuonoja family.

Before Onoja died, he shared his legacy to the three children. He called them together and gave them titles and rites. On that day, while on his sick bed, he addressed them together, beginning with Ofu. Meanwhile, he had in his hand, tails of Atu, the animals he had killed in his active days. Alongside were some Ofor sticks. First, he took one of the sticks and turned towards Ofu. To him he said, 
“When a child is growing up, the first thing he holds as he learns to walk is stick. It serves as a support to him. I give you this as the first man of this family. With this stick your descendants remain the first in the face of tradition, just as I have been.” When he had so said, he handed the ofor stick to Ofu.

Again, he took one Odu-Atu and turned to Omaba and said,

“You are the second son of this family. Therefore, you do not need Ngburu because it is not in your position to hold. As part of this family I give you this Odu-Atu. With this you become the Onorovu of your brothers.”

 To his younger brother, Oyide he took another Odu-Atu and turned. He said to him,

“Oyide Nshuga (named after his maternal grandfather), you are very different among your brothers; you are not like them. Everybody in this family followed me to farm everyday but you; you do not know where my farmland is. I will not leave you out for reasons. If I do, the dignity of this family may be dragged to the mud should hunger kill you. I will give you this Odu-Atu to be the priest of Ebe. You will live by the proceeds of the sacrifice that people bring. On the other hand, you shall have it as a punishment that as you shout, calling the spirit of the goddess, you shall have headache. With this you shall teach your children that it pays to be hardworking.” 

Again, he took another Odu-Atu and turned to Ofu and said,

“What I gave you before was a walking staff. It is your entitlement as the first son of the family, it is not a title; it makes you the first among every other titles just as I am the first among all those who inhabit this land. With the Ngburu you will direct them to the right part as you have observed me do all these days. Now I give you Odu-Atu as the oldest person. You will hold it. This is your own title.”

Ofu rejected the offer. He responded thus,

“It appears somehow if I should in turn collect another duty after I have received the first. I heard you alright, but would want to make one plea. Permit me to give it to Edziragu to hold for me since you told me we are brothers. He shall hold it, should the gods give me longer days, as you said, I will collect it. And when otherwise, let the Odu-Atu remain in his hand.”

He collected the title and handed it over to Edziragu. Since that day, this very Odu-Atu had been held by Umuobeye, turn by turn till date. It qualifies the holder to be an Onye-idzi, eldest. Nate:

Edziragu is a concept that stands for the conglomeration of Umuonoja and Umuobeye. Obeye, the son of Edziragu was also called Edziragu (his descendants). He held from Ikem whose ancestral origin was traced to Igala land. Confabulations made them to know that they were brothers. The Odu-Atu given to him by Ofu to be shared in turns cemented this brotherhood and made them mentally one, but not in lifestyle and habitation. Whenever Edziragu or Umuobeye is mentioned, connoting Umuonoja, attention goes to the Odu-Atu. Today, the mental unity has waned in the character of the inhabitants (few young ones) of the latter who would want to be called by their name than the more general concept. So it lasted that Edziragu, Umuobeye becomes connotatively a name that refers to the both villages. It is to still retain that relationship (recap about their origin) that Umuobeye built Odo masquerade. Odo masquerade originated from Ikem Leke. Originally, Edziragu belongs to Umuobeye. That is why she is called Obeye Edziragu.  

Onoja took another Odu-Atu and turned to his third wife who was unproductive. To her, he said,

 “If a man does not have a son, he still cannot be denied parents, with whom he shares things in common. Since you have no son to give this as your share, you will take it to your people. With this title they become Ndu-oke in every traditional gathering.”

He gave it to her. This title afforded Umuogirii the traditional participatory rite they possessed till date. This has however been extended that they became the people permitted to offer crown to a new king during coronation.

After he had apportioned rites to them, he turned to Oji, Eke and Awo who were present to witness what had happened and said, “If one goes to separate a fight, he receives blows many a time. Thanks to our fathers that you have not come to separate fight. For being here today, you won’t go home empty handed.” He took the remaining three Odu-Atus and shared it among them as elders of their different settlements. It permits them to participate in the affairs of the elders. These were the geneses of the titles held by the descendants of the people mentioned above. This forms the basis of the meeting and protocol in Nkalaha. Onoja died in autumn, at the end of wet season; before winter sets in, that year. 

What is known today as Umuonoja comprise the descendants of these three families. These three were the direct sons of Onoja. This consanguinity, of course, remains the prominent reason why they are collectively called Umuonoja family till date. The descendants of the three lived together without a clearly defined boundary until when men got their minds ignited with the self-centred lifestyle introduced to them by colonial properties and modernity. 

               Onoja Oboni (Called Onoja Eze)

The Modern Umuonoja
Umuonoja family refers to the group of people occupying south and south-east of Orie Nkalaha. This family were, in the beginning, composed of three men who were the direct sons of Onoja Oboni (also called Onoja Eze). Through these three men, the family split, forming three mega families who are called by the names of their ancestors. These families shared things in common until when modernity taught their hearts the need for ownership and selfhood. At this point they began to assert independence, each defending his territory. They are called Umuodumu, Umuomaba and Umuoyide. Till date the inhabitants see themselves as members of one family.

What we known today as Umuodumu are the remnant of the siege in the dark period; the descendants of Odumu. Odumu was the son of Alu Ofu, also the son of Ofu nwa Onoja. Umuodumu of the modern time began with Ebe nwa Achi (A.k.a. Ebe nwa Achi nwa Ozokpo). He was also called Ebe Nnaji. He was the eldest son of Nnaji nwa Nnaji. Nnaji nwa Nnaji was the son of Nnaji nwa Ebe, the son of Ebe Nnaji, the son of Nnaji nwa Achi. Achi was the great grandson of Ede nwa Agbo. He was so called posthumously, referring to the Achi tree he planted at the centre of Umuonoja playground. His real name got lost to this reference. Nnamuchi nwa Nnaji was the younger brother of Ebe nwa Achi. Ebe nwa Achi had two sons and a daughter. They are Nnaji nwa Ebe, Nnamuchi nwa Ebe (named after his paternal uncle) and Njom Nnamuchi. Nnaji was also called Obaru. On his own part, he was survived by seven sons. They include Nnaji nwa Nnaji (1933 – 15th February, 2014; Orinya Nnaji (died 1966; was survived by Patrick Orinya, Cyprain Orinya who also died 7th August 2011, among many other children); Odo Nnaji (died 2011); Ezea Nnaji (also called Ofia, died 1995); Mba Nnaji; Ogbu Nnaji and Alu Odo. Nnaji lived with his grandfather, Ebe nwa Achi from1935-1939 when he died. Nnamuchi, on the other hands, had a son and two daughters. These are Ishialu, Oligbo and Nnenweze. For details about Umuodumu, google the history of Umuodu @

Omaba was the womb brother of Oyide. He was the second son of Onoja. To him belong the descendants called Umuomaba. His descendants were the original owner of Egu anumanu, east of Umuonoja land. They are bounded at north-east with Umuoyide and south with Umuodumu. Umuomaba is survived today by two families. These are the family of Uzu nwa Ega and that of Ebealu nwa Odo. She is generally underpopulated. The reason for this was not known to anyone. No aspect of the community history recorded any form of migration among the inhabitants. What could be noted, which was discovered prominently with the descendants of Omaba, is that they were affected by fate; greater of which were what they brought to themselves. First, their fathers sold their birth rite: the only potable gift entrusted to them by their father. Again, they were disillusioned and overtaken by the benevolence shown to them by their younger brother. The former robbed them of their rite, while the latter displaced them of their rightful home, land and self.

Originally, Onorovu title belonged to the descendants of Omaba. They held the title and moved it from one hand to another among their elders until it came to the time of Odo nwa Ayom, the son of Ayom Ega nwa Odo; the great grandfather of Uzu and Ebealu nwa Odo. Odo nwa Ayom was an elder in Umuomaba when the Onorovu left the linage. His son, Ayom Odo was unable to feed him in his old days. He was rather taken care of by his only daughter married to a man in Umuaja. It came to pass that the woman gave birth to a child and named him after Odo nwa Ayom. When he was told, he regretted that he had nothing to offer to the child the day his first tooth was celebrated. He asked his daughter to go back home and return with the child at midday. She did as was instructed. When she came, the man gave her his Odu-Atu as a present to his namesake. When men came back from farm the story was told. Immediately every man set out and they made straight to recover the Odu-Atu. Umuonoja saw it as a challenge, so they fought to reclaim it. As Umuebeoko discoveed that Umuaja was about being overpowered they too joined in the fight. That day, the rest Umulesha came to settle the matter. At the end it was concluded that the child should be allowed since it was a gift to him. That settled it that day. That is the very Onorovu title shared between Umuebeoko and Umuaja till date.

Odo nwa Ayom was also the beneficiary of Umuoyide’s benevolence. In those days when people live apart from the other, Ebe nwa Ebe was the priest of Ebe when Odo was the eldest of his people and, of course, the holder of Onorovu title. Ebe nwa Ebe lived alone in the place meant for priests of Ebe goddess to live. His brethren lived in the farm land. A time came that he needed a companion, he summoned Odo nwa Ayom to come and live closer to him so he could have a neighbour to talk to. Odo did just as the priest had pleaded. When Odo nwa Ayom as well as Ebe nwa Ebe died, the descendants of Odo nwa Ayom continued to live in the land as unto their own. It was in 1971, the year after the Nigerian civil war, that Uzu nwa Ega and Igwe came to know the truth about the land. They had a quarrel as Uzu made up his mind to extend his territory northward. Igwe disagreed and quarrel broke out. It lingered until Nnaji nwa Nnaji came in to explain the situation under which Uzu’s father came to live there. The quarrel was resolved however, but Uzu still lived in the land today.  Maybe for this reason or for sake of their ignorance of their real home, Umuomaba today had joined themselves to the people of Umuoyide, answering their name.


Another remarkable set of people in the history of Umuonoja is the Umuoyide family. These are the descendants of Oyide, the third and last son of Onoja. Umuoyide was assigned the role of priesthood to Ebe oracle. No proper trace of the inhabitants of this village in the early era and mediaeval era. All that could be trace and documented about them are in the modern era. The reason for this may be blamed upon the dark period event which almost contorted some aspects of the community’s history generally. Why? Umuodumu holds the community’s history in its oral form (through incantation), and the survival of the history of any people in the community depends richly on the co-occurrence of such people’s history with those of Umuodumu with respect to time, people, events and period. The same applied to the history of Umuoyide. Ironically, the only person who could tell a little about people in Umuoyide was Nnealeke nwa Oko. She died in 1994. Over this, what could be noted as the history of Umuoyide in the modern era began with Ebe nwa ebe and Ogbu Nneoga. These were the two figures history could capture after the siege in Umuodumu. Both were of Umu-Aluebe and Umu-Abalehvi respectively.

Ebe nwa Ebe was the father of Ezeoko. Ezoko, his son was still very young when Ebe nwa Ebe died. He died few years after the war with Eha-Amufu. At his death, Ezeoko was not grown to take his place in the shrine. As was the situation, the priest must be a husband of two wives. He was too young to get married. To keep the priestly position going, Ogbu Nneoga was asked to stand in for him. Ogbu took the priestly position and lived in the inn where his predecessors had lived. But the goddess did not reveal herself to him, instead, it was one of the late priest’s daughters that the goddess spoke through. Each time, during sacrifice, Ogbu sat at the priestly position while the woman stayed closer to speak by the goddess who possessed her momentarily. This was the prevalent situation until when the priesthood returned to Ezeoko. Many people blamed this to some factors. Some said he had spilled blood in the war against Eha-Amufu where he was always in the front. Others said, maybe because he was not of Umualuebe descent.

Ezeoko lived longer than anybody in Umuonoja village. He lived until he was unable to stand or walk with his legs. At his older age, his children complained that he made them suffer on the attempts to carry him to places during and after sacrifices. He was not happy at this. Angrily, he said to them that he will die, but no one of the linage will ever attempt his age. That year he died. At his life time, he was the first to hold two Odu-Atu. The first was in his position as the priest, while the other he inherited by virtue of his age. To gratify this, he detached some pieces from the second Odu-Atu and attached it to the first. It remained like that until the day he joined his ancestors. After his death, the pieces were removed. Such was the condition under which he was said to have held two titles.  Ezeoko had three sons: Njom Eze, Igwe and Uzu Igwe. When he died, Njom replaced him. Njom was the son of the younger sister of Abali Oganvu. He married two wives, one (the younger wife) held from Ezza Ngbo. The first had Ezeoko nwa Njom while the second woman had Aguda. When Njom died Igwe took his place in the shrine. Igwe had four sons and one daughter. They include Ezeoko, Idu, Omeje and Uzu Igwe. Igwe died in 1982. Meanwhile, Uzu Igwe, his younger brother died in 1981. He too was blessed with Ebe Uzu, Ede nwaezu, Chijioke and others who were bone posthumously. When Igwe died, Ezeoko nwa Njom replaced him. Eze had two sons; Njom Eze and Eze Nnamalu among other daughters. When he died, Aguda nwa Njom replaced him.

On the other hand is another family which I may refer to as “Umu-Abalehvi,” the prominent figure was Ogbu Nneoga. I call them thus, because, as Umualuebe takes the priestly title, it is in the position of this latter family to represent Umuoyide in Umuobeye’s Abalehvi. Ogbu was the father of Nnaji nwa Uzu (also called Nnaji Oga). Nnaji was survived by Uzu nwa Nnaji and Uvu nwa Edeoga. Uzu nwa Nnaji was survived by Alu nwa uzu and Nnaji oga Nnaji. While Uvu nwa Edeoga, his brother was survived by Ebe nwa Ede and Ofu nwa Uvu. Ebe nwa Ede was survived by Ede nwa Agbo and Ebe nwa Ede. Ede nwa Agbo was not survived by any son; instead he was survived by female children. Among these female children is Ori nwa Ega. His brother, Ebe nwa Ede was survived by Odanwu Ebe (called Oru nwa Mba) and Agbo nwa Ebe. Alu nwa Uzu was survived by Ebe nwa Alu (Ebeachega), Edeji nwa alu, Uvu nwa Alunwauzu and Ezea nwa Oga. Meanwhile, Nnaji nwa Uzu was survived by Alu nwa Nnajiogo and Ofu nwa Nnaji (also called Abalehvi and Obioma).

When Uzu nwa Nnaji died, situation became too hard for Alu nwa Uzu and his brother. To survive, they left for their mother’s home in Umuhualu; a neighbouring community. In their maternal home, they were dully accommodated to the extent that they became prosperous in their new home that they did not feel the sense of returning back again. They got married and were blessed with children. Alu nwa Uzu had four male children. They include Ebe nwa Alu (Ebeachega), Edeji nwa alu, Uvu nwa Alunwauzu and Ezea nwa Oga. While Nnaji nwa Uzu was survived by Alu nwa Nnajiogo (also called Ihvurube Nnajiogo) and Ofu nwa Nnaji (Obioma, also called Abalehvi). The place they lived in Umuhalu is called Umuoyide till date.

Fewer years later the natives began to scold them. They were called in the native tongue, “Obiaru abia woru alu.” Coincidentally, at home there were needs for their return. Ezeoko, the then priest lamented that their potion Umuobeye Abalihvi had lost because of the absence of Nnaji Oga. Over this he made sacrifices to the gods so that they could return. One afternoon, whether by the reason of the scolding, or by divine providence, they returned. On that fateful day, Ezeoko came out to the village playground, while people were still in the farm, and met a group of people that looked more of refugees. He interrogated them of who they were. In reply, they explained themselves. Their spokesman went further and disclosed that their maternal people scolded them, so they decided to seek their home. Ezeoko was very happy. He took them and showed to them some piece of land, east of umuoyide land to set their buildings. He told them that the place was the same place where their father had thir compound. The Eagles Tribe dramatized this aspect of the community’s history in page 118. Addressing Okachie, Ikenna said thus:

Your father did not come from anywhere, but it is said that if a monkey sits so long on the ground one might mistakingly take it for a dog. Okachie, your father had not come from any place. It was just that, years long ago, your great grandfather, out of hardship, left here to Okoto --- his mother’s home. --- He acquired land, built houses there. He was given enough attention over there that he had to expand so large and acquired wealth in Okoto.  

Of the descendants of Alu nwa Uzu are Ebe nwa Alu (Ebeachega), Edeji nwa alu, Uvu nwa Alunwauzu and Ezea nwa Oga. Ebe nwa Alu was survived by Joe Ebe and Ignetus Ebe. Edeji (died in 1988). He was survived by Martin Ede, Linus Ede, Emeka Ede, Ojibe Ede, Ekuma Ede and Uchenna Ede. While Ezea nwa Oga was survived by Silas Ezea (also called Nnaji). On the part of Nnaji oga Nnaji are Alu nwa Nnajiogo (also called Ihvurube Nnajiogo) and Ofu nwa Nnaji (called Obioma). Alu nwa Nnajiogo was not survived by anybody. Ofu nwa Nnaji was survived by Sunday Ofu (a.k.a. Skido), Alu nwa Nnajiogo (Onwukwe) and other males. These are the descendants of Ogbu Nneoga. Other families in Umuoyide still remains which are not grouped under the two linages traced above. These ones are minor however because their linage could not be serially traced. One of these is the family of Nnaji nwa Aja whose family came from Umuebenshi in Umuagu. The family of Nnamalu and his relatives is another set of people. They came from Amaezegba.

Aprt from these families mentioned, another is the family of Edwin Ede and his brother, Ojeogu Ede. They held from Amaokwe. They followed their mother who held from Umuoyide and return. There is also the family of Ebenshele of Umualuebe. These are what the community underwent to become what she is today.

Originally, as a family, Umuonoja did not have their land and landed properties divided. They own the land collectively and for such did not have specified boundaries among the brothers.  Ofu who was the eldest remained in Onoja’s compound while his two half-brothers moved north and east wards. There they lived and died, therefore it remained the heritage of their descendants. They had their boundaries in minds. It was like this until when their descendants continued to increase in number, then the fear of domination set in, therefore was boundaries created.

Ownership of land, nevertheless, can be best understood among the inhabitants through the way they used their land and manage their natural resources. The most remarkable lifestyle of the inhabitants is that, in a manner, allocation of land for building and trees for roofing were done by the collective and concomitant arrangement of the elders of the tree families. The only condition attached is a presentation of wine to the elders by the beneficiary. When this is done, men are mobilized to apportion sizeable plot to the beneficiary according to the size of the building intended.  Trees are allocated likewise by the users for roofing. Land was bounded, connecting one family to the other when this collective ownership was abused. Umuodumu is bounded to Umuomaba, south-east and, west to Umuoyide. The boundary map of Ndulo (homeland) is shown below.    



  1. Nice compilation but not all the hamlet expecially (obulegu) history were explained how they came about but nevertheless, it is a good job.. any community without history is as good as dead community. My father has told a similar story but not in details as this. God bless you my brother.

    1. Dear Chiemerie, I feel greatly happy that someone from Nkalaha will see issues connected to us and would find time to read through it. This unequivocally tells me that the future holds greater things for our community as many are aping for western education.
      As it concerns your beautiful observations, it is highly welcomed. But there are things you should know. The Ghanaian critic, Koffi Awoonor says that “in writing about a people, there are certain aspects of the people’s life that the writer should not include so that he does not keep the people vulnerable for decrials”. There is almost nothing you would need to know about Nkalaha’s past that is not contained in the book you can see the cover page titled The Historical Foundation of Nkalaha. What you have read online is what anybody looking for our history should get until he reads the text itself. That apart, the essay you read is complete, but for the things you asked for:
      (i) Definition: Please, as a writer and an international contributor to literary journals, I can vividly tell you that there is no definition for any community. What you find everywhere is a statement that clarifies the kind of people the inhabitants are, their origin, settlement, culture, where they live and other things that should be known about them. These are not definitions. And the essay you’ve read contains all these.
      (ii) On your second complaint; there are other essays down the blog, titled The Civilization of Nkalaha People, Myths and the Nkalaha World, and The History of Umuonoja. There you will find the entirety of Nkalaha civilization, culture, tradition and masquerading all captured. You only need to go down the blog.
      Thanks for your comment. Please next time, place the comment on the blog page provided for comments. I will see it faster and respond accordingly. Regards!


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