Nri & Enugu-Ụkwụ Relationship: By Prince Charles Tabansi

NRI & ENUGU-UKWU RELATIONSHIP: By Prince (Eng.) Charles O. Tabansi (PHD), Adaka-Igbodo na Nri – a Prince of Nri Kingdom.

As part of his address delivered at the inauguration of Obu Okpalanakana and so called “Isi-Nri Museum”, his Majesty, Igwe Sir Ralph Obumnemeh Ekpeh, Igwe of Enugu-ukwu made the following statement amongst others;

“Agukwu has usurped the place of the son of Nri who is Okpalanakana-Ukabia Nri. Nevertheless we cannot stop commending the effort of Agukwu to preserve the glories and artifacts of Nri. In doing this they should not forget to accord respect to the first son of Nri who is Okpalanakana-Ukabia Nri. Quick realization of this and cooperation would help Nri Kingdom to restore its place in history. Together we shall move mountains, but in rancor, disintegration and incoherent achievement is the consequence.”

It is obvious from the many utterances of prominent men of Enugu-ukwu and now also the big masquerade himself, the Igwe of Enugu-ukwu that our Enugu-ukwu brothers have lost a sense of their history and ours too. The following write-up is intended to educate them on the History of Enugu-ukwu and Nri and the filial relationship between the two. One hopes that this will help them know and appreciate who they are so that together we move forward as aptly stated by the Igwe. The write-up will be in 3 segments. The first will deal with the filial relationship between the 2 towns. The second will deal with Enugu-ukwu history proper and the 3rd will deal with the first Igwe of Enugu-ukwu, Igwe Osita Agwuna, how he emerged and the many controversies surrounding his Igweship.

This write-up will be quoting extensively from the many scholarly works of Prof Onwuejiogu(especially from his well researched books “An Igbo civilisation, Nri Kingdom and Hegemony” and “The Osili factor in the Culture History of Enugu-ukwu”), Thomas Northcote (1913 – An Anthropological Report on the Igbo – speaking Peoples of Nigeria), Elizabeth Isichie (The Ino People and the Europeans), and many others.

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Eri begot Agulu, Ogbodudu, Onogu, Iguedo (female), Onuoja and Menri. Eri was a very spiritual and mystic man with great charisma. His son Menri inherited his spiritualism and mysticism but sort to distance himself from it. In trying to get away from the responsibility of taking over his father’s powers he started to wander about under the influence of the supernatural. His wandering first took him to Amanuke, then to Ugbenu and later to Ugwu Iru Okpu or Mkpume Onyilenyi. He settled in this area at a place now called Osili in Enugu-ukwu and by then had had four children: the progenitor of Enugu-ukwu called Okpalanakana (also called Kanu Ukabia); the progenitor of Isu-na-Agidi (now Enugu-Agidi) called Umenakanu; the progenitor of Nawfia called Ariam; and the progenitor of Oruora that became extint. At this time Menri was under the inspiration of the spirits and was behaving abnormally. Because of Menri’s delay in taking on the powers of his father Eri by taking the title of NRI (the highest title that can be taken in Nri sphere of influence), as sanctioned by Chukwu and the Ancestors, tragedy struck him. His Children started to die. First to die was Okpalanakana, then Ariam and then Umenekanu. Menri was “spiritually disturbed” and he abandoned the Osili site and migrated down into the valley of Agulu lake and founded a new settlement called Agukwu (being the name the area was called because of its thick forest nature). At Agukwu he finally took the title of NRI and became Eze Nri Ifikwuanim, the first Eze Nri of Agukwu. Normally when one takes the title of NRI one takes a new name after his symbolic “death” and “resurrection” which occurs during the coronation. During this symbolic death his wives mourn him as being really dead and after the resurrection he takes a new name and marries new wives. This is what happened to Menri. After his symbolic resurrection he took the name of Nri Ifikwuanim and married 2 new wives and begot Onyiora (progenitor of Agbadana); Alike (progenitor of Uruoji), Ogboo (progenitor of Obeagu) and Odili (who died early and his brother from the same mother Onyiora took some of his children (Uruanata kindred of Agbadana) while his wife who is from Orji village in Enugu-ukwu went back to her people with some of the very young Odili’s children who grew into Urunebo of Enugu-ukwu). So Urunebo in Enugu-ukwu are of Agukwu Nri and where the ones doing all the traditional and spiritual things in Enugu-ukwu reserved for Nri people (who do these things on behalf of the Eze Nri) like spiritual cleansing (Ikpu Alu) and Igbaye atali (granting Nze titleship).

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NRI Ifikwuanim built a marriage relationship with the groups he met on ground; to the south he met Akampisi people lead by Ezikanebo who he gave his daughter in marriage. To the North where the Diodo people, his coursins, also descendants of Eri who were lead by a man who also had taken the Nri title and called Nri Namoke na Ogbodudu. NRI Ifikwuanim took his daughter in marriage for his 3rd son Ogboo whose son through the woman United the 3 sections into one town Nri during his reign as the 2nd Eze Nri Nribuife. Through the amalgamation of the 3 sections Nri Town (people under the rulership of Nri) was born.

From the above it is obvious that Enugu-ukwu cannot claim to be Nri as their progenitor was born before Menri became Nri. With his symbolic death the old person had gone and with his symbolic resurrection a new person (half spirit half man) was born. So even though in reality Enugu-ukwu is Agukwu Nri’s senior brother and the first son of Menri by our tradition they cannot claim Nri talkless of being the first born of Nri. A life example is Eze Nrijiofor the 2nd who in his live before his coronation begot my father Prince R.N Tabansi and his brothers. When Eze Nrijiofor the 2nd travelled the person that inherited his palace was my Uncle and age mate Prince Augustine Tabansi (Igwe) who is the first son of Eze Nrijiofor 2nd after his coronation. Besides (according to Igbo tradition) if the male children of a man dies before the man they loss their position in the inheritance ladder. So being that Okpalanakana died before his father he lost the position of Okpala of Menri and so cannot claim to be Okpala or Isi anything.
Enugu-ukwu therefore cannot answer Isi-Nri or Okpala of Menri or Nri as they are neither. They cannot even answer anything Nri.

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The term UmuNri was a creation of the 70s by people like Chief FGN Okoye, Chief R.O. Nwocha, (both of Enugu-ukwu); Chief Ikeanyi, Chief Umeano (both of Enugu-agidi); Chief F. F. B. C. Nwankwo (Nawfia); Prince R. N. Tabansi (Nri); etc, and was created to build brotherhood and common front to seek for common good. The 4 towns had a Common Ancestry in Menri who was better known as Nri after his coronation. Nri was the name known and documented by the early writers. By answering UmuNri, they sought to capitalise on a known quantity. The real name of the group should have been UmuMenri.

It would therefore be wise for His Majesty Igwe Enugu-ukwu and his people to read some of the many well researched scholarly works on Nri by various authors especially (Prof. M. A. Onwuejiogu, Thomas Northcote, Elizabeth Isicheie, etc)and heed the Igwe’s sound advice on coming together as family to protect what is ours and theirs by extension.

What are your thoughts?

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