Origin and Spread of Ancient Awka - Onyeji Nnaji

Out of the four foundational homes of Igbo land, Awka is the only population that did not establish a civilization uniquely denoted for her craft. We can vividly speak of Nri civilization, Umudiala civilization and the Nsukka civilization; only Awka did not have this feature. All that one can find about Awka antiquity are her contributions in the sisters' civilizations. For instance, the art for which Nri civilization is known today was the exceptional act of Awka; the pyramids that characterized Nsukka civilization in one aspect was exceptional Awka. It is also worthy of not, that Awka was particularly behind the success of the civilization before the flood at the Lost City of the Sun.

Awka is one of the oldest settlements in Igboland, established at the centre of the Nri civilisation, which produced the earliest documented bronze works in Sub-Saharan Africa, around 800 A.D. and was the cradle of Igbo civilisation at large. The liest settlers of Awka were the Ifiteana people, the name Ifiteana roughly translating into ‘people who sprouted from the earth.’ The people, themselves, were renowned as farmers, hunters and adept iron workers, all of whom indigenously inhabited the banks of the Ogwugwu stream, in what is now known as the Nkwelle ward of the city.

The deity of the Ifiteana was known as Ọkịka-na-ube, or the god renowned for the spear, and the Ifiteana were known as Ụmụ-Ọkanube, or “worshippers of Ọkanube,” eventually shortened to both Ụmụ-Ọka and simply Ọka (Awka when written in its anglicised form). In the ancient times, Awka was populated by elephants, insofar that a section of the town was named Ama-enyi, with a corresponding pond, Iyi-Enyi, used for elephants to gather to drink. The elephants were hunted for their prized ivory tusks (okike), which were kept as a symbol to the god Ọkanube in every Awka home, with hunting medicine stored in the hollow of the tusk.

Awka comprises seven Igbo groups sharing common blood line, divided into the following two sections: the Ifite section and the senior section. They collectively comprises four groups: Ayom-na-Okpala, Nkwelle, Amachalla and Ifite-Oka. The Ezinator section consists of three groups, namely Amikwo, Ezi-Oka and Agulu. Each of these groups have a number of villages, altogether spanning in Awka

The contribution of Awka in the Igbo Tradition

Talking about the Awka and their roles, from the consideration of some historians like Onwuejiogwu, Afigbo, Catherine Acholonu and others, the Awka were suggested to belong to the first generation. They saw the Awka as people who had existed before Eri descended from the sky. It may not be true. Even a layman can see the situation clearly and decipher the generations of the earliest inhabitants. Therefore, the matters concerning which set of people occupied the respective generations are not supposed to still confuse us because the story was straight. From the account as cited above, the first generation was the Eri. 

It was his struggle to gain balance on the morass earth that led to the coming of the Awka. The same God who sent Eri knew already that the earth was morass and had ordained the Awka to respond to the task at the appointed time. Therefore, their functions had to wait for Eri to complain first. So when he did, the Awka had to come. We did not get the story anywhere saying that the Awka ascended to the sky after their assignment. They remained behind to form the second generation or race. Meanwhile Umudiala takes the third race or generation.

To understand who the Awka were, there is need to understand the way creation is conceived in the east. The Igbo of the east are not so specific about Chukwu’s (God’s) role in the creation generally. Rather than subscribe to the absolutism of the almighty in the act of creation, the Igbo suggested a relatively delegation of power by Supreme Overlord to a lesser divinity. This sense had a profound influence on the accounts kept by Nag Hammadi. The only difference is that the Igbo appear to see the case of every act of creation as the work of a separate and individual agent, chi; a personified and unique manifestation of the creative essence. The Awka is clear here from all indications as the creative personalities of God. 

The Awka were exceptionally technocrats, they were craftsmen who were instrumental to the activities involved in the acts of creation. As the creative personalities of the divine creator, they were the people through whom creativity was born into the human world. Vested with the power to create, the Awka possessed greater energy than the first generation.  nation.

In the Lost City of the Sun, Awka contributed greatly in the setting of the Igno tradition. The City had an Awka representative who headed the art as one of the super struxlcses. Dioka, as history retains his name, was the head of every artistically works of the civilization. It should be recalled that the first ichi scarification of the son and daughter of Nri was done by the Awka (particularly Dioka). 

Origin of Awka

The history of Awka is a verse of Igbo history that hardly had people attempted to document unlike Nri. In fact, apart from Nri kingdom, little or no attention was paid to the rest of the ancestral abodes of the Igbo race by researchers until twenty first century.  
Out of the few information you will find about the Awka on the internet, there is no vital information about the origin of Awka. This show to you that out history is unique, cseale and can only be told by us, not strangers. Not even the Wikipedia with multiple editors could trace the history of origin for the Awka.

Awka descended from the sky like Eri, but at different ttimes. Awka population of ancestors were led by an ancestor who's name was Dioka. Dioka was in charge of Eridu superstructure. I use to call Awka a child of circumstance. This is because they descended to fulfil a function to ensure safe landing of Eri. When Eri and his wife landed, the rested on an anthill because the Earth was amorous. Then Eri called to Chukwu for help and Chukwu promised and also sent a new set of ancestors of the Igbo race. When they came, they used their blacksmithing tools to push the water and land showed up for people to inhabit. It was for this exceptional role to humanity that masquerades are forbidden from entering any blacksmithing shop. Although, presently, due to the damages brought by Christianity, some Igbo settlements do not honour it again.

As for her name, Awka did not derive their name from anywhere. They were called "Oka", from the day Chukwu saddled them on their duty. What you finding on Wikipedia about Awka's interwoven relationship with Nri kingdom was true. The reason was, about that time, Eri was not with population. The Awka remained around Eri in the ancient kingdom of light performing various roles that demanded their artistry skills until the days when the need to locate a homeland arose. That is why anytime one asked where Awka held from, the more precised information he is supplied with would be Ifute/Ifite.  

The word, Ifute/Ifite, means sprout or germination. In other words, it refers to foundation, for they were the first people to inhabit that part of land. The name connotes the reference to no place in terms of a consideration of ancestry. It is very pertinent to note that the settlement at the present Ifite-Oka did not take place in the beginning; it took place in the later days after the global flood. I have explained this situation of the flood in the book, Reminiscence. During my research at Nri and also at Okigwe, I was told the same story of the flood and each of these places did tell me that they survived. Of course, if you read The Lost City of the Sun, you will understand issues connected with the flood and the people who survived it.

The Spread of Awka Population

To completely document the spread of Awka population of old is as difficult as finding the origin of the Ijaw people. The reason is that, nobody in Awka today can tell you vividly where and how Awka population had spread. The only procedure to procure useful information bothering on the spread of Awka is by tracing the source from the downstream. By this, I mean, tracing people back to their sources. In doing so, the emigrant of Awka that is widely known by many committed researchers was Agbaja. 

Agbaja was the ancestor of Udi in the present Enugu state. He travelled to Nsukka in the heydays of Nsukka civilization to work as a professional iron fashioner, a period arround 572,000BC. Agbaja lived and died in the area; he did not return to Awka. When he died, the part of Nsukka area where he inhabited originally was called after his name, for he had children who sustained his name.

Agbaja was survived by his children. From the names he gave his children, it woiwobe difficult for one to trace them to Awka except one who is acquainted with Agbaja's history. He showed due influence of Nsukka in all the name he gave them. His children include Neke, Ochie, Aniugwu, Ojebe Ogene, Ugwunye, Ezedike and the father of Ezeagu. These children made up communities of their own which is collectively called Udi today.

Agbaja descendants was exclusively prominent through the legendary roles of two legends; viz, Uto and Ezechime. Oshie became more popular among his brethren through the legendry acts of 

 one of the legends that existed at his time. The monument kept in his memorial marked the prominence for which Nsude is celebrated today. Uto was a mercenary warrior who assist people in the Igbo neighbourhood to fight their enemies. On one occasion, he fought for the king of Benin during Wich he contacted chickenpox and died of it when he returned home. To commemorate his days, a five-stepped pyramid was built on top of his sepulchre. It became the first pyramid to be built on the first of the planet earth. Other not able people with certain historical positions were also honoured in like manners. Before the end of Nsukka civilization, Agbaja had ten individual pyramids.  The observation by A. I. Jones remarked that the pyramid was 412,000BCE.

Ezechime legendary belonged to the much later period. Born at the days when Nsukka civilization had ended, he grew up a self-made legend. He had been hired to fight for Wukari kingdom. Later on, Ezechime moved to Otu where he took a wife among the people. He fought for Oba Oguola during which he was reworded with Ojo. Ojo lived with Ezechime so also their descendants until when room no longer contain both nations and they were pushed to the waterfront. See details here. Ezechime is the father of all the Igbo speaking people in Delta State collectively known as Anioma and their slster communities in that area, apart from Ahaba.

Another people that emanated from Awka descendants are three other people who migrated from Achi. Ochi migrated from Achi in Udi and moved Eastward in a hunting expedition. He fought wars along the line and finally settled somewhere. There he had a son which he called Isu. Isu, in turn, had sons through whom he is survived. His descendants include Umunneochi and Isuochi. Ngodo had a descendants who also went farther southwards and settled in a community near Umuahia. We got this whole information from Achi in Udi when we asked why Achi and Isuochi do not intermarry. These people apart, every Igbo settlement that is called with "IFUTE" attached to her name, whether as a prefix or as a suffix must have come from the old Awka directly or indirectly.

Do well to put us through if you have further information about where the descendants of Awka, Udi, Anioma, Isuochi and others are settled today so we can add to this work. Send your findings to onyejinnaji@gmail.com or place it as a comment here.




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