THE HISTORY OF UMUODUMU: ORIGIN AND EXODUS

by 
Onyeji Nnaji


When you travel to the far Bayelsa State, at a certain community, you will be surprise to see a community of people called Umuodumu. Travel again to Eha-Amufu in Enugu State, at a certain community you will see a people of the same name, Umuodumu Ape. Stroll further homeward to Obeagu community (pronounced Ubegu) in Ishielu, Ebonyi State, you will see two villages called Ameta Umuodumu Obeagu” and “Ikpele Umuodumu Obeagu. For these reasons Umuodumu will be very encompassing for ordinary explanation when the ecological landscape of the familial population is brought to mind. These are all the population of the descendants of Odumu the great grandson of Onoja Oboni (otherwise called Onoja Eze). Apart from the settlers at Umuodumu homeland inside Umuonoja, there are Umuodumu in Ebia village, Okpealu and Amegu all in Nkalaha. These populations in dispersion were given birth to by what the home inhabitants refer to as the exodus period of their history. Umodumu family tree is shown below.
Every Umuodumu settled anywhere you may find them in Nigeria and beyond belong to any of these three men under-listed in the family tree. Else such a people, though claiming, are not aboriginal, but have settled in recluse.

The Strength and Prominence of Umuodumu
Umuodumu generaly is the home of legends and heroes of various kinds. Of the entire descendants of Onoja, including the Umuonoja in Nsukka, Umuodumu stands out everywhere they are found. The are,of the sons of Onoja Obony, the people who rightly inherited and had retained the vibratory feature that stirred their father in his active days. Umuodumu has every quality of Onoja complete in them. They are always different behaviourally. It is important to note specifically that Umuodumu was highly significant and irreplaceable whenever the history of the civilization of Nkalaha is discussed. Their involvement with western characters started with Ebe nwa Achi. The first thing his keen for new ideas brought to the community was western education.

The first school that came into Nkalaha was called Methodist. Methodist was a church, and at the same time called a school because it embodies schooling system in it. So, in that ense therefore, the school was rather called Methodist school. It was brought by the missionary called Reverend Okpoku (Eagles 181) in the year 1934. The school was sited at Uzo Oye, in Umuonoja village. The site of this school and, of course, church was influenced by Ebe nwa Achi who was instrumental to the Whiteman’s tax forces. But this school could not survive that year.

Umuodumu’s history is very significant to the community’s history because, as the traditional home of the community, the history of the community would by no means be complete without a serial trace of the traditional settings and its interconnected features. The dominant governing system was purely theocracy. In this system, priests of gods and traditional elders ruled. They decide festivals, set rules and punish offenders by the delegated power and instructions of the gods, injunctions which every member of the society was bounded to through their belief. 

On this note, the theocratic power was vested on the Ugbo (Onyeidzi Ngburu) and the priest of Ebe goddess. This is one of the more prominent factors that distinguished the early era from the mediaeval Nkalaha. Again, Nkalaha history is not adopted in songs or drama (only but few are enshrined in Aju-Ede festival). It is only revealed through incarnations by the traditional eldest, the community’s Ugbo, who for all the time had come from Umuodumu. For this reason the history had been held tenaciously with jealousy and care to avoid desecration. A desecration by anyone during incantation untimely claims the life of the desecrator.

Umuodumu numerical strength could easily be estimated via the consideration of the vast measure of land where the inhabitant occupied in the days of their history before the exodus. Oral sources proved vividly that Umuodumu was numerically dense. Their population ranged from Ochini stream and spread through Ebe River. These are their homeland.  The truth about their population is evident in the saying, “Obiaru abia Amegu adziowere edeagbo,” meaning: a stranger does not know the bound of Ede Agbo’s backyard.  Ede Agbo was a prominent hunter, from Umuodumu, with whom early era remarkably ended, giving rise to the mediaeval Umuodumu. The Owere was manned by him at old age. He roved about the homeland bushes in search of animals. When people asked him why he didn’t want to rest at home, he said, “I have gone to inspect my Owere.” Therefore did the inhabitants retrospectively referred to the Owere as belonging to Ede Agbo. 

The population of the village grew larger after his days that the Owere was grossly occupied. From this village had emerged warriors in the past. And more remarkably, warriors from this village never died in the battle field or on account of it. Perhaps, nature put them so. Oral sources proved that if one commits murder and, running from the intended repercussion, ran into Umuodumu to confess his action, the inhabitants would save him from the intended action mated for him. Much was said about Umuodumu that are not included here maybe because they hold no significance for further research.  Densely populated, Umuodumu was feared in the community.

On the contrary, Umuodumu were naturally bellicose. At a certain point in their history, the inhabitants became overtaken by self esteem. They never believed the could be overtaken by any people, it does not matter what they were called. With this lifestyle they tended to dominate the entire community. While these brave activities continued, the inhabitants did not leave themselves vulnerable to any sudden event. They did all in their strength to foster their unity and selves with sophisticated charms, individually and collectively. This added to their brevity made them constantly insubordinate to any authority or law set by people outside them.                  
The Exodus
An aspect of Umuodumu’s history which is worthy of note is Onyeji Nnaji, in his history book refers to as "The dark period." The period was dark, in deed, to the descendants of Odumu. It was so called because it was a time of extinction, a period of death and a time when the entire village was at the verge of being phased out of the community’s population. The village actually was quiet and almost completely darkened out of both function and existence. 

Perhaps in a bid to still fence their defensive walls spiritually, they ignorantly allowed the event that brought the tarrying darkness on their land to occur. They invited a dibia who prepared a stronger charm for them. The dibia did as he was instructed and the charm was tested and approved to worth the assignment. As they set for his entertainment, someone came up with an idea. He suggested that the dibia should be led to his way home; otherwise he may build a stronger one for another village nearby. This meant trouble. To save this situation, the dibia was led to his way home, as the initiator of the thought had suggested. He was skinned. His skin was used to build the prestigious Igede Umuodumu, known all over Nkalaha. His body was in turn buried. Upon his grave was planted an Akpu tree where Umuodumu render sacrifices. It was called Akpu-Umuodumu. People from other part of Umuonoja do not partook of the sacrificial cravings; only people from Umuodumu did.  

Few months after the event, the kinsmen of the diseased man began to seek him. They traced his part to Umuodumu and enquired of their brother. This request was welcomed in a more provoking manner. They did not show any penitence for their acts. In anger, the visitors left without words. No one could tell whether they were going to come back in another form. When they got home, they consulted a greater dibia who prepared for them a stronger charm. The charm was built with two bunches of palm fruit. One was ripped while the other was not. They kept them on a tree. Ripped bunches stood for men while unripe ones stood for women. After the bunches had lasted for days it began to lose hold of their content fruits.  As a result, they began to fall off as days went by.

Consequently, in Umuodumu, the falling of the palm fruits was represented by corresponding deaths of the inhabitants. Days after the other people died, male and female. This situation lasted for days, weeks and months without anyone taking notice of what the possible sours of the death was. No thought went to the event of the dibia’s death. Lastly when it became prominent that the death might prevail, elders came together and consulted the gods. There it was disclosed that the people built a charm with bunches of palm fruit. The news went round the village, immediately people began to leave the village as they feared whose turn would be the next. About half of the inhabitants left to Obeagu. Those who vacated to Obeagu made up two villages. The villages are “Ameta Umuodumu Obeagu” and “Ikpele Umuodumu Obeagu.” Their names had remained one significant feature of the people of Umuodumu everywhere they live. Those in Eha-Amufu also are called by the name Umuodumu. Exception however, is found among those who dispersed and settled in Owo. Unlike other settlers, they are called Umuegu-Ukwa. All these villages sent delegates to Umuodumu any time the need for coming together arise.

Another set of people, of course the last set to vacate, left to Ebia village. Greater in the number of those that left for Ebia were the descendants of Chiokwoega (Umualegu). Few others from Umu-Uzunwagu left with them. Some families also moved to Eha-Amuf. These ones settled in Ape, Ngbuji Eha-Amufu. They vacated the village and left it desolate. Fewer numbers who could not found a place to run to or that some commitment held them within. The only remnant of this siege was Ebe Nnaji (the great grandfather of Ebe nwa Achi) of Umu-Uzunwagu. He could not leave because of his role in Ebe oracle. Meanwhile, the death ceased after the bunches gave up their content fruits, but the Igede remained till 1965 when Nnaji nwa Nnaji had become Ugbo in place of his father. Nnaji became the Ugbo of the community in 1964. He buried the drum (Igede) and stay in confinement for the man. After seven Oye market days, Nnaji broke the confinement and shove hairs for the dibia as was the tradition for normal burial in the community. Since then Umuodumu did not have Igede again.  

Many years after, some of those who vacated the village began to return gradually. Nevertheless, those who returned did so in a disguised manner. They lived in Ndiagu and come home during meetings. Their gradual return took effect in the modern era. The land remained waste for about two generations. It lasted till the days of Nnaji nwa Ebe (the son of Ebe Nnaji) to the days of Nnaji nwa Nnaji (the father of Ebe nwa Achi). Modern Umuodumu, and of course Umuonoja, began with Ebe nwa Achi. Eb nwa Achi was popularly called Ebe nwa Achi nwa Ozokpo. Of course, that was how he was called. He was a very huge man. It was said that he stepped on a metal gung (Ogele) and broke it as he, while dancing, went backward. Since that day, they called him thus.


Umuodumu after the Dark Period

What we known today as Umuodumu are the remnants 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, 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.

Ebe nwaAchi and Nnamuchi nwa Ebe were the great grandsons of the sole survivor of the dark period in Umuodumu, Ebe Nnaji nwa Achi. They had a younger sister. Nnaji, their father died when they were relatively young.  Their uncle took over the place of his late father in Ebe shrine. But things were not compatible with them and their uncle as it was suspected that his childless wife was behind the demise of Nnaji nwa Nnaji, their father. Ebe nwa Achi and his womb sister left to Umuayom, their maternal home. Nnamuchi refused to join them. He rather left for his own maternal home in Umuebeoko, Umuagu. Few years later, their uncle died. Now, the need for a successor arose. Therefore, the villagers went for Ebe nwa Achi in Umuayom. His maternal uncle gave one condition which the messengers accepted. They agreed to set a building for Ebe nwa Achi in Umuoyide, closer to the place of the priest so that he won’t be allowed alone in the cosy land (Umuodumu) where nobody lived. It was done and Ebe returned with his sister. Nnamuchi refused to come back. He lived, married and died in Umuebeoko. There also he was buried. Nnamuchi was the father of Nnaji nwa Nnaji (a.k.a. Aganuba). Nnaji was survived by Alukobia Nnaji, Okpunjo (died 1987), Eze nwa Eze (Colombus), Odo nwa Eze and other children. Aganuba died (2003), a year after the religious crisis in Nkalaha.

The only female child among them (the womb sister of Ebe nwa Achi) was married to a man in Umu-Ugoji. She was survived by the prominent fighter, Alu nwa Ezeogo (died 1973). This consanguinity was the concomitant concept in him which had brought him to Umuonoja in his days. He spent his days in Umuonoja, whenever he was within the community. He also made Umuodumu his place of safety. Alu nwa Ezeogo was survived by some sons. Mentionable among them are Nnaji Okwor (a Warri based businessman popularly called Myke), Sabastine and one other brother. To still retain the relationship, Ebe nwa Achi named his second son after Nnamuchi Nnaji, his half-brother. Till date, Nnamuchi’s descendants remain in Umuebeoko. Nevertheless, they too showed respect and concern which was an indicator that they had not ran oblivious of their real origin.

The Genesis of Foreigners in Umuodumu
It is very unfortunate to openly state that the people our father showed compassion to, by providing water to quench their thirsts, food to hold their hunger, set shelter over their heads and made to have a family of their own within us have turned out to fight their landlords. Ebe nwa Achi was a legend like Onoja and was far civilized that he was the person who brought the first white, church and school to Nkalaha. History nevertheless will never elude him. But his kind gesture is what had led his descendants into unexpected trouble.

Ebe nwa Achi married from Umuebenshi, Umuagu. His wife, the mother of Ejobu nwa Ebe and Aja nwa Nnaji had the same parents. After the death of his fther-in-law, Ebe nwa Achi brought the wife and her two children to Umuonoja. He built a house for them to live at the position where Umuodumu was bounded to Umuomaba. He used the house to hold his boundary with the people of Umuomaba. By that time, Umuodumu was still deserted. Ebe nwa Achi alone lived in Umuodumu (of course, he did not base there since he had a house in Umuoyide land; next to Edeoga’s residence). Since the day his father-in-law died, he became their duhu until the day he too joined his ancestors. He gave Aja nwa Nnaji a wife through whom he was survived by a son called Nnaji nwa Aja (a.k.a. Abaru-Eku). Nneze, the younger sister was married in Umueze, Obulegu Amaezegba where she was survived by Ejobu nwa Ebe. Nnaji nwa Aja could not go back to Umuebenshi again. He decided to stay in Umuonoja where he finally identified with the people of Umuoyide and joined them in their meetings. Therefore, the potion of land where he lives, in turn, becomes Umuoyide’s.  His mother died in 2006 and was buried in Umuebenshi where she had lived till the day she rested.

In the 1970s and later, people began to return to Umuodumu gradually. Meanwhile, the family of Abali Oganvu had settled. Abali came into Umuodumu to work in people’s farm as a hired labourer; a term which, in Nkalaha language, is referred to as “Obialibe.” He came together with Ome Otodzi (his brother) and a female child. They lived under the lordship of Ebe nwa Achi. They had come from Ezza Ngbo, their original home. They were relatives of Odachi Ekinyi. Odachi visited until 1990 when the war between Nkalaha and Ngbo communities began. Abali married a woman from Umuoko, Umuobeye. Her name was Ehviugo Osu. She was the manesake of Uzu nwa Ega’s mother (in Umuoyide). Abali was survived by Alu nwa Odo, Adalu nwa Igwe and Nne Igboke. Alu nwa Odo was survived by Alu nwa Alu (a.k.a. Aguworu, named after Ome Otodzi. He died in 1995), Eze Ebe and Nnebenshi.

The female child that accompanied Abali was married to Ezeoko of Umuoyide. Meanwhile, Ome Otodzi did not have any child. The younger generations knew nothing about them until early 2002 when Alu nwa Mba wanted to set up a building for himself and Eze Ebe refused to allow him do so. In his claim, that part of the land belonged to him (the concerned land was the plantation of palms planted by the mother of Ebe Mba, which directly belonged to Ebe Mba. Ebe died in the 1970s). Then the question came from Alu nwa Mba about who met who in Umuodumu. Responding to this question, Nnaji nwa Nnaji said, “My father saw orovoro igiji and covered his navel with his palm, it is for me to see the same and leave my navel uncovered.” Turning to Eze Ebe, he asked him to tell the congregation what he knew about the very land. This question resolved the whole turmoil as Eze knew nothing to say. Therefore, Alu nwa Mba had to set his building on his proposed site. Eze had played the same attitude when Matthew Alu (his nephew) wanted to build a house in 1990. 

Ome Otodzi was survived rather by the sole legacy he left behind. He was the founder of the prominent “Aneba” masquerade owned by Umuonoja. Aneba derives its origin from Ngbo, the home of the founder. It was the masquerade of able-bodied men. It carried a louder ovation like the mediaeval masquerade used during intra communal crisis. It was the nature of the masquerade during performance that gave rise to the poem rendered as it performed. The poem is recited below.

Aneba nwa Okwonwele,
Heya heya heya heya!
Aneba nwa Okwonwele,
Heya heya heya heya!
G’ola ehihe bu g’ ola agba oso,
Heya heya heya heya!

Ngbo edje o, Ngbo edje o,
Heh!
Ngbo edje ogu, Ngbo edje ogu,
Heh!
Ngbo edje o, Ngbo edje o,
Heh!
Ngbo edje ogu, Ngbo edje ogu,
Heh!

Ogerenya ago l’ akpa,
Heh!
Ogerenya do l’ akpa anyi echie ye ihe,
Heh!
Ogerenya ado l’ akpa,
Heh!
Ogerenya do l’ akpa anyi echie ye ihe,
Heh!

Ome nwa Otodzi bu l’ anyi l’ echi ma,
Adaka wuyawuya!
Abali Oganvu bu l’ anyi l’ echi ma
Adaka wuyawuya!

This poem is recited by the followers of Aneba while it performs. Aneba performs only when people die in Umuonoja. Greater number of the syntactic formation of this poem was borrowed from Ngbo language. Except for an indebt understanding of Ngbo dialect, it may be hard for one to carry out a better analysis of the poem, depending on Nkalaha dialect, particularly stanza three. Line one opens the poem by mentioning names which depict possessions. It is translated thus, “Aneba the child of Okwor the child of Ele.” Aneba, being the child of Okwor nwa Ele, refers to its origin rather than mere person which the sentence may mean ordinarily. Okwor refers to the popular market belonging to Ngbo community, while Ele refers to the founder of a village in Amaezegba (Ele Awo) whose father was of Ezza descent. Therefore, Ele represents (Ezza) his place of origin. And in the ancestral trace of Ngbo foundation, the man who founded Ngbo community travelled from Ezza-Ngbo to Ekwashi during hunting expedition and founded Ngbo community. In this regard therefore, Ngbo (Okwor) is the son of Ezza-Ngbo (Ele). Aneba belonging to these ancestries refers to the founder’s origin. This is finally made clear when the last stanza mentioned the name of the founders. This will highlight to your understanding, the indebtedness of poetry to the survival of Nkalaha history in general. 


Apart from this family, other people that came into Ebia village include Jonson Ekpe, Edeoga Onwe and Ejobu. Edeoga Onwe and kids came from Ikem, in now Isi-Uzo local Government Area of Enugu State. His sons were Ezea edeoga, Ebe Onwe, Mba nwa ebe and Okwor Edeoga. Edeoga, their father was killed by Atu. It was later believed that it was his fate to die by the Atu, seeing that he was dissuaded not to go after the Atu but he insisted. The Atu was killed by Ogboaleke (the father of Harrison Eze). Ezea died of a dreaded disease. After his death, Ebe nwa owe and Okwor Edeoga left for their mother’s place while Mba nwa Ebe remained behind and lived with Ebe nwa Achi. He begot Ebe Mba. He lived with Nnaji nwa Nnaji after the death of Nnaji nwa Ebenwachi. Later Alu nwa Alu pleaded with Nnaji to allow him to stay with him as his younger brother; Eze Ebe, was undergoing a study in Ovim, Imo State. Years later, Ebe died in his mother-in-law’s house in Umuogaragba. When he died, Nnaji and Alu sold the goat he left behind. From the money realized, they conducted his burial rite. Mba nwa Ebe was survived by females. They include Obele Mba, Nnega mba and their elder sister who was married to a man in Amaokwe. Her children include Mba nwa Ogbu, Modester Ogbu, chukwuma Ogbu, Mba and others. Obele was survived by Chukwuma Ebeoko and three other females. Nnega Mba died of sexually transmitted disease (shi nwanyi). She had no survivor.      

On the latter family, Ejobu came from Umueze in Obulegu, Amaezegba. His mother held from Umuodumu, where they lived after the death of her father. They were brought to Umuonoja by Ebe nwa Achi. His mother, the mother of Nnaji nwa Ebe and the father of Nnaji nwa Aja had a same consanguinity record. They shared the same womb. In those days, Ejobu was having a squabble with Chief Okwor nwa Onuma, the eminent philosopher and first elected chief of the community. The problem continued until Umueze was no longer safe for Ejobu, then Nnaji nwa Ebenwachi went and brought him down to Umu-Odumu. He lived all through his life as a dibia. He lived with Nnaji for few years and return to Umueze. There, Nnaji played the role of his father by marrying a wife to Ejobu. His wife held from Amegu. After the death of Nnaji nwa Ebe in 1964, Ejobu came back to Umu-odumu and requested to be given a place to build a house. Following this request, Edeji nwa Ewara suggested that some men be selected to go to Umueze with Ejobu and know what exactly the cause of his departure was. Everybody around accepted this view, only Nnaji nwa Nnaji objected to it. According to him “Ejobu is a dibia, he knows what is best for him and where best to stay: whether Umuonoja or Amaezegba.” This ended the matter. Then Nnaji pointed towards Orie market square and asked that a potion be cleared for him to set his building. That is where he lived till his death. Ejobu had sons and daughters. These include Sampson, Awoke, Aja (named after his father-in-law who held from Amegu) and Nneze nwa Ogbebor (named after his mother), Nnaji nwa Ebe, (This is the person who inherited the father’s juju and became a dibia in his father’s place. Nnaji was named after Nnaji nwa Ebenwachi). After this he gave birth to few other children.

Apart from these two set of people, others are very minor and insignificant. Meanwhile, some of the absconded families of the old Umuodumu began to come back in the 20th century, except for Johnson Ekpe who had refused to live in Ebia with his father. Other villages and communities may have similar infiltration which record could not carry, maybe, because time has concealed them from every possible recording or that their processes are very jaundice and sour-painful to be remembered. These are what the village underwent to become what she is today. Details are contained in the book shown above.


CONCLUSION

It is our utmost desire to unite the entire Umuodumu. Nevertheless, not for them all to return to the former setting, but to know themselves as brothers. The reason for this is basically to straighten and strengthen our history collectively. Again, it had been argued that the community of people called Umuodumu was wiped out through the dark event as explained above. The same false storytellers had claimed that the only survivors are the people within the confined setting of their knowledge. It made our story to look like the inconclusive assertion made by Noah about the flood situation in the world of old. If not for the sudden meeting in 1991 and the vast knowledge of history in the late Nnaji nwa Nnaji, those in Obeagu would not know that there are survivors apart from them. Personally, I am committed to making this history spread until we come together to know who we are. But for the publication of The Historical Foundation of Nkalaha in 1913, the Umuonoja settling in Nsukka would not have known that down there in Ebonyi state live their brothers. Presently they have called for familial congress that will unite us. You can do same at your different settlement.     







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