Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The age-long affinity enjoyed by the two communities of Enugwu-Ukwu and Agukwu Nri, in Njikoka and Anaocha local government areas of Anambra State respectively, is seemingly getting sour based on their claims of having right of primogeniture among the sons of Eri dynasty.
NewsProbe gathered that these claims came to the fore when the traditional ruler of Enugu-Ukwu, Igwe Ralph Obumnemeh Ekpeh, read an address at the inauguration of their new Obu Okpalanakana ‘Isi-Nri Museum,’ which was perceived as an affront, demeaning and antithetical to what Nri kingdom represents.
The contextual statement reads, “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 artefacts 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 rancour, disintegration and incoherent achievement is the consequence.”
Also contributing, the Traditional Culture Minister of Enugwu-Ukwu, Chief Jude Ekwunife, said that Enugwu-Ukwu was the first son among the nuclear children of Nri and Nri was one of the sons of Eri.
“Nri who migrated from Aguleri spent most of his active life at a spot known as Nkpume-Onyilienyi in Ugwu Awovu area of Isionye quarter of Enugwu-Ukwu.
“It was while sojourning at Nkpume-Onyilienyi that Nri begat Okpalanakana, the revered father of Enugwu-Ukwu,” Ekwunife posited.
Nri is perceived to be the oldest kingdom in Nigeria as it existed since 900 AD and the next is Kanem Bornu Empire that also existed in the mid 900 AD.
It was anthropologically researched and universally acknowledged that ancient Nri kingdom has been the ancestral home of Ndigbo and custodian of Igbo culture and traditional values.
It is said that history owes its excellence more to the writer’s manner of which it is composed; therefore, the indigenes of Nri kingdom believe that the royal father couched the statement with elements of doubt, thus skewed the historical narrative.
In reaction, Prince Engr. Charles Tabansi, the former President General of Nri kingdom and great grandson of the former Nri king, EzeNri Tabansi Udene Nrijiofor, frowned on the word ‘usurpation’ used, stating that, “It is obvious from the many utterances of prominent men of Enugu-Ukwu and now the big masquerade himself, the Igwe of Enugu-Ukwu, that our Enugu-Ukwu brothers have lost 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.”
Narrating the history, Tabansi said that the children of Eri were made up of Agulu, Ogbodudu, Onogu, Iguedo (female), Onuoja and Menri.
Eri was a very spiritual and a mystic man with great charisma. His son Menri inherited his spiritual powers and mysticism but decided to distance himself from such practices. He then started wandering about under the influence of the supernatural.
His first port of call during his wandering life was Amanuke, then to Ugbenu and later to Ugwu Iru Okpu or Mkpume Onyilenyi at Enugu-Ukwu.
He settled in the area at a place now called Osili village in Enugu-Ukwu and by then had four children; the progenitor of Enugu-Ukwu called Okpalanakana (also called Kanu Ukabia); the progenitor of Isu-na-Agidi (presently known as Enugu-Agidi), the Umenekanu, progenitor of Nawfia called Ariam; and the progenitor of Oruora that became extinct.
“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, and taking the title of Nri (the highest title that could be taken in Nri sphere of influence), as sanctioned by Chukwu and the ancestors, tragedy struck him and he started losing his children mysteriously.
“First to die was Okpalanakana, Ariam and then Umenekanu. Menri was still under a spiritual torment, and he then abandoned the Osili sojourn and migrated down into the Valley of Agulu Lake where he 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’ funeral rites and ‘resurrection’ which occurs during the coronation,” Tabansi stated.
Continuing, during this symbolic death, his wives mourn him as being really dead and after his resurrection, he takes a new name and marries new wives. This is what was said that happened to Menri.
After his symbolic resurrection, he took the name of Nri Ifikwuanim and married two new wives who gave birth to 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 custody of some of his children, Uruanata kindred of Agbadana).
His wife, who hailed 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.
Actually, the Urunebo descendants have strong tie of consanguinity with Agukwu Nri and were the ones doing all the traditional and spiritual jobs in Enugu-Ukwu in the absence of Nri people who are exclusively responsible to perform such rituals like spiritual cleansing (Ikpu Alu) and Igbaye atali (granting Nze titleship).
Nri Ifikwuanim equally built marriage ties with the aborigines he met. In the South he met Akamkpisi people led by one Ezikanebo whom he gave his daughter in marriage.
In the North side of Nri kingdom were the Diodo people, his cousins who are also descendants of Eri were led by a man who had also taken the Nri title and called Nri Namoke na Ogbodudu.
Nri Ifikwuanim further took Namoke’s daughter in marriage for his third son, Ogboo, which formed the basis for the unity that prevailed among the three sections into one town, Nri.
At this point, Tabansi contended that, “from the above history, it is obvious that Enugu-Ukwu cannot claim to be Nri because their progenitor, Okpalanakana 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 and by the dictates of our tradition as earlier illustrated, they cannot claim Nri, not to talk of being the first born of Nri.
“According to Igbo tradition, if the male child or children of a man dies before the man, they lose 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 claim right of primogeniture.
“A life example is Eze Nrijiofor the 2nd, who in his life time before his coronation begat my father, Prince R.N Tabansi and his brothers. When Eze Nrijiofor the 2nd travelled (died), the person that inherited his palace was my uncle and age mate, Prince Augustine Tabansi, who is the first son of Eze Nrijiofor 2nd after his coronation.
“Enugu-Ukwu, therefore, cannot answer Isi-Nri or Okpala of Menri or Nri as they are not. They cannot even answer anything Nri.”
Tabansi appreciated the sound advice of Igwe Ekpeh of coming together as one family to protect what is theirs by extension, stressing that the four towns comprising Enugu-Ukwu, Enugu-Agidi, Nawfia and Nri have 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.
“The term UmuNri was a creation of the 1970s by people like Chief FGN Okoye, Chief R.O. Nkwocha, (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,” he stated.
In the opinion of the traditional ruler of Nawfia Kingdom in Njikoka local government area of Anambra state, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, “if the first son dies before the father, he has no inheritance in that family and he loses all his entitlements. Menri who took a title of Nri became EzeNri and re-married. The issue now is whether Enugwu-Ukwu who died as the first son before their father, according to the tradition, married the next wife who had Agukwu-Ukwu Nri is entitled to first son.
According to Igwe Nwankwo, once you are the first son and died before your father, even your son cannot inherit anything because you cannot inherit what your father doesn’t have, it immediately ends there. He noted, “If government takes your father’s house, you don’t have the house anymore and that is my reason.
“There was nothing wrong with what the late Igwe Agwuna was doing. He said he was elected to be the chairman of UmuNri clan, perfectly right. You can be the chairman of Ozo title holders but can’t be the head because the head is the man that first took the Ozo title.
“Nothing wrong only if he used that elected position to claim the first son, that is where it will be wrong. You don’t create first son by election but by inheritance which is a natural phenomenon. The first son is by nature not by election.”