Awka Etiti is a town located 28 kilometers North East of Onitsha, bounded on all sides by Nnewi, Amichi, Azigbo, Ichida, Nnokwa and Nnobi respectively.
Located in the heart of idemili South Local Government Areas of Anambra State, Awka Etiti is made up of seven(7) Villages; Nkolofia, Umunocha, Ejighinandu, Iruowelle, Umudunu, Nnaba and Ogunzele.
Historically Awka_Etiti was known as Awka_Diedo (oka Diedo) and Awka_Nkakwu (okankaku). The nomenclature, Awka Etiti by which the town is known today was adopted in 1944 by Awka _Etiti Improvement Union after much cross-pollination of ideas.
In his book, A Short History of Awka Etiti, Chief G.O. Akajiobi (2012:24), affirmed that Awka Etiti was founded by a great Patriach, oke Diedo. The progenitor of Awka Etiti, according to oral traditions was related by blood to Nnobi and Nnewi as well as uke and ojoto. His migration to the geographical location known today as Awka-Etiti was at the instance of the conflicts that had defined relationships between him and his brothers. Tired of wars and fighting, he left his brothers in company of his wife, son, Okagbado and daughter-in-law. The hisyory of Awka Etiti before 1900 is not recorded in writing, but rather rooted in oral traditions and mythologies, based on the discovery and archaeological excavation of sites dated to the 9th century. There existed a flourishing metallurgical industry as well as ancient EGYPT as revealed by the vast amounts of glass and some of which were manufactured in Old Cairo at the workshops of Fustat.
In oral history, Awka_Etiti shares common ancestry with Uke, Ojoto, Nnobi and Nnewi. Diedo was said to be son of Ezenne. Ezenne was a brother to uke and ojoto. Ezenne had two sons and a daughter. His sons were okwuike and Diedo while his daughter was Edo. Edo was married to Ezemewi who legend ascribes the founding of Nnewi to. Okwuike is reputed to be the father of Nnobi. Diedo had an only son called okagbado.
E.R. Dallah and E.C.Nzewi (1996) affirmed that at the death of Ezenne a disagreement over the sharing of their late father’s assets arose between okwuike and Diedo, which led to Diedo and his son, okagbado leaving their ancestral home along the obiaja River to settle at a spot called ogwuwgu Diedo in present-day iruowelle village, Awka –Etiti. Okagbado married three wives, who bore him nine sons. His first wife gave birth to ocha, Duneze and Nnaba. These nine sons make up the original nine villages of Awka-Etiti. Umoh and Ezioka engaged themselves in a bloody fratricidal war, for reasons which are unclear. Both parties made use of mercenary head hunters from ohafia and Abam. The brutality of the conflict led to the near extinction of Ezioka villages. The remnants of Ezioka were later absorbed by Nkolofia villages, while the survivors of umoh were absorbed by Ejighinandu villages, leaving Awka-Etiti with seven(7) villages to the present.
Nnewi, especially engaged Awka-Diedo in a series of vicious battles spanning many centuries over boundary issues. Nnokwa, Amichi, Azigbo and Ichida were also at war with Awka-Diedo at various times during this period. The tenacity and bravery displayed by Awka- Etiti warriors on the battlefield as well as their repertoire of cunning tactics such as tunneling behind the enemy lines and booby traps instilled respect in their enemies and earned them the nickname, “Awka-Nkakwu” (Nkakwu,”Skunk”). This nickname earned by Awka-Etiti warriors in the battle was later used to refer to the whole town by its neigbours. As E.R.Dallah and E.C.Nzewi explain : “it was at this time that oka-Diedo earned the nickname Oka-Nkakwu, because of the numerous tactics employed by them in warding of the enemy. At times they constructed deep trenches at strategic points, with sharp pointed bamboo stakes imbedded in them. The trenches were camouflaged with grass covering helping to hide their existence. The enemy troops were usually lured to these hidden trenches with the bamboo stakes piercing through them and their entrails gushing out. At other times, they burrowed holes behind enemy lines, thus surprising the enemy from behind and thoroughly routing them. Such daring escapades to the consternation of Nnewi Warriors earned them the nickname, ‘Oka-Nkakwu’. It was nothing derogatory to our forebears, as they cherished such accolades from the enemy. In no time a nickname fashioned to deride Oka-Diedo became their new name and it sent shock waves down the spines of their enemies.
AWKA-ETITI UNDER THE ERA OF BRITISH COLONIALISM
It is no gain saying the facts that Awka-Etiti proved difficult to British colonialists’ invaders. Efforts by the British colonialists to make inroads into Awka-Etiti between 1883 and 1906 were rebuffed by Awka-Etiti warriors. The notoriety by which the colonialists were warded off pissed the Europeans so much so that Awka-Etiti was identified as being a major hindrance to the further advancement of British policy and had refused to comply with the demand to surrender.
To establish and justify the facts that Awka –Etiti had resisted British establishment, it is a historical fact that the first church mission society (Anglican) church and school built in Nnewi in 1882, it was not until 1904(twelve years later and a distance of not more than two kilometers)that the first white person in form of the church mission society missionary, Mrs. Mary Bennett was peacefully received on Awka –Etiti soil. It took another three years (February 5, 1905) that the first official representatives of His majesty’s Government, Lt. COI. (Later Lieutenant Governor of Southern Nigeria), H.C. Moorhouse was received peacefully by Warrant Chief Ezenwosu in Awka_Etiti .
It reports that prior to the arrival of Lieutenant H.C. Moorhouse, however, in 1990 Awka-Etiti was finally conquered by British expeditionary force. How was this possible? It was a combination of deceit and diplomacy: a peace meeting to settle border disputes between Awka-Etiti and Nnewi was arranged by the colonialist. The translator at this crucial meeting was Mr. Nwokedi, an indigene of Nnewi.
It was like the case of Lomaji Ugorji in the now rested Icheoku television soap opera where the translator would tell the judge another thing while deceptively relating another thing to litigants and defendants. In this case, British mediators present at the peace meeting between Awka-Etiti and Nnewi were told that Awka-Etiti had categorically declined a peaceful settlement. On the other hand, Awka-Etiti delegates to this peace meeting were deceived into believing that a peace agreement had been reached by the translator. The unsuspecting Awka-Etiti representatives went back home to spread the good news that the white men had brought peace between Awka-Etiti and Nnewi. Consequently, the Awka-Etiti warriors were stood down and demobilized.
It was, therefore, a huge surprise to Awka-Etiti when the British Southern Nigeria Regiment led by Nnewi scouts launched a midnight surprise attack on Awka-Etiti. A hastily organized counterattack by Awka-Etiti warriors against the superbly armed British troops ended in a defeat. Leading the counterattack against the British positions was Ochiagha Awka-Etiti (Awka-Etiti Commander of war). This man, an experienced General and veteran of many wars was reputed by friends and enemies alike to be completely bullet and arrow-proof, a feat which he had used to good effect on many previous occasions. Ochiagha’s bullet proof nature was attributed to a powerful charm, which he had acquired from his mother’s family who were notable strong native doctors in Ichida. It was, therefore, a most unforgettable experience when British forces opened fire on the Awka-Etiti warriors at long range with maxim guns and heavy artillery. A bullet smashed the ochiagha’s arm at the elbow with blood gushing, which forced him to drop his weapon. On seeing this, Awka-Etiti men were demoralized and lost hope of victory. Ochiagha and his bravest warriors lost their lives. The surviving ringleaders and prominent warriors fled into exile to their relations in Igbo-Ukwu and as far away as Neni. The rest of Awka-Etiti was compelled to give up their firearms to British colonialists at Eke market square where the firearms were destroyed.
AWKA-ETITI AND CHRISTIAN FAITH
As stated earlier, the first Christian missionaries who arrived Awka-Etiti soil were led by Mrs. Mary Bennett of church Missionary society (Anglican Church). This was in 1904. The first church building was erected in Iruowelle village. Roman Catholic Mission arrived Awka-Etiti nine years later, precisely in 1913 who promptly built a church building as well as a school.
These two churches rapidly led to a conversion of the majority of Awka- Etiti indigenes to Christianity. In 1944 Awka-Etiti improvement union (A.I.U) was formed. It served as the governing body of Awka-Etiti. It subsequently took over the mantle of leadership of the town from the traditional council of Elders (okwu Azu-Oji). The name of the town was officially changed to Awka-Etiti by A.I.U. in 1946, some accounts; however, affirm that the change in nomenclature took place in 1944. In m1957, Awka –Etiti, improvement union decided to elect the first obi (king) of Awka-Etiti. This desire to have a king was based on the creation of the eastern House of chiefs by the then colonial Eastern Regional Government in 1956. The intention of Awka-Etiti was to secure a seat on this legislative body mindful of what had transpired between her delegates, British mediators and Nnewi people, specifically the roles played by Mr.Nwokedi, the translator or interpreter.
Traditionally, Awka-Etiti did not have a King, although two warrant chiefs had been appointed by the British after 1900. The first was chief Ezenwosu upon whose death chief Oyiatuigbo was appointed warrant chief by the British in 1915. He remained on that position until his death in 1954. The elections for the Igweship stool were held on 29 July 1957 where H.R.H. Igwe (Dr.) Silas O.C.Ezenwa emerged as the first obi of Awka-Etiti. The second obi was His Royal Highness, chief Joachin ojukwu (Akum 1 of Awka-Etiti) who joined his ancestors in 2014.
Awka-Etiti culture is deeply oriented on omenani, which is typical of igbo culture. Igbo culture, generally are steeped in Igbo Art and Music. While several cultural activities and festivals of old such as IlO MUO and Igba Ota ceremonies were associated with ancient pagan gods and rites, these have largely ceased to be performed owing to the influence of the Christian Faith. However, several traditional institutions have persisted to the present day.
In Awka-Etiti some ancient traditional festivals has been Christianized and or subsumed by existing Christian ceremonies. The Kamanu festival, which is celebrated eight days after Afia Nkwu in late December and early January, which marked the end of old Igbo calendar have been largely, supplanted by both Christmas and New Year celebrations. Some ancient traditional festivals such as Iwa Ji (New yam Festival) which is commemorated in August of every year celebrated in the town have also been adapted to fit present needs and contexts. Afia olu, Ofala and other traditional holidays are still actively observed in Awka- Etiti till date.
ODUNKE FESTIVAL: AN AWKA-ETITI CULTURAL SIGNATURE
Odunke Festival was last performed in 1995. It was a festival that was peculiar to Awka-Etiti. While it lasted, it served as an inspiration and name giver to a talented group of Biafra artistes, which included late Professor Chinua Achebe and Dr. Christopher okigbo who established Odunke community of Artistes. Odunke was one of the festivals that had no religious bias. It was rather a carnival with grand ceremony, feasting as well as displayed of material wealth, Opulence and social status. It was a festival that harmoniously incorporated all the arts of the community.
NZE NA OZO TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN AWKA-ETITI
As is typical of Igboland , the institutions of traditional chieftaincy title holders, Nze na ozo is ingrained in Awka-Etiti. There are two grades of traditional title in Akwa-Etiti. The first grade is the Ozo title which consists of the following groups of titles; Ezissi, Okpala, Isiokolo, Ikiwi and Ozala. Of these the Ezissi is the most senior, with the responsibility of appeasing the various gods and deities historically befalling on the most senior Ezissi title holder in the community.
The second grade of chieftaincy title is the Nnukwu-Ozo (High-Ozo). The Nnukwu-Ozo titles in Awka-Etiti fall into these categories: Ezeani, Dunu, Dim, Dallah and Umeh and can traditionally only be conferred on candidates who had been seen to have proved their pedigree in battle in battle or through other most notable endeavors.
Initiations into these Nnukwu-Ozo titles were and still are, very expensive. Historically, the initiation ceremony into the secrets of the Nnukwu-Ozo involved the very painful and prestigious Ichi scarification, by which men were identified in public. The Ichi scarification as part of the ritual has been discontinued in modern times for aesthetic reasons. The last bearer of Ichi marks, chief Ezenwosu died in the early twentieth century.
Other distinctive pieces of regalia that identify the Ozo title holder and the Nnukwu-Ozo title holder in Awka-Etiti are red car (with eagle feather for the Nnukwu-Ozo), horse tail fly whisk, round cow hide fan and elephant trust.
TABOOS IN AWKA-ETITI
The killing or eating of Eke snake (python regius) or Dog (canis lupus familiars) is anathema in Awka-Etiti. These are considered sacred animals associated with local deities by Awka-Etiti forebears.
AWKA-ETITI AND EDUCATION
It is an incontrovertible fact that Awka-Etitians are very adaptive, intelligent and educated. The advent of British colonialists and western, Awkaetitians education with both hands. Consequently, schools were built. The first sets of schools in Akwa-Etiti were built by Christian missionaries of both Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths. Various primary and secondary schools were built across the seven(7) villages in Awka-Etiti. These include: Nkolofia Primary schools, Father Paul’s Memorial Primary and secondary school: union primary school: umunocha primary school and central school among others. St. joseph’s secondary school was founded in 1962 by the catholic community. The premises of this school later served as a refugee camp and teaching hospital during Nigeria Biafra Civil War. Girls secondary school was established in 1964 by then Obi of Awka-Etiti, H.R.H.Igwe (Dr.) S.O.C.Ezenwa.
The first university graduate from Awka-Etiti were Mr. E.R.Dallah (1955), Dr. A.A. Okoye(1956) and Chief O.F.Obi (1957). The first medical doctors from Awka-Etiti graduated about 1965 in the person of Chief Dr. Francis.E.Ezissi (Ife Awka-Etiti), a German trained surgeon, Dr. Samuel Ezenwa, an American trained surgeon and Dr. George Udenkwo, a Gynecologist trained in Ireland. Today, Awka-Etiti boasts of world-class graduates, teachers, academic doctors, lawyers, professors and professionals of variegated disciplines who have made their marks in global communities and have contributed greatly to the universe knowledge.
ECONOMY OF AWKA-ETITI
Awka-Etitians are by nature extremely very resourceful. Men and women of Awka-Etiti are foremost industrialists in Nigeria and have been noted as forces behind the Igboland. As early as 1940s, sons and daughters of Awka-etiti were heavily involved in importation of bicycles and bicycle parts. After Nigeria Biafra Civil War, entrepreneurs of Awka-Etiti extraction successfully established renowned manufacturing concerns. Notably among these are G.M.O. Group of Companies, Road maker Industries Ltd, IKB Cosmetics product line, Interbau construction company LTD, Akinota Works Ltd, Silas Works, Jeniks Bread, etcetera. Succinctly stated, Awka-Etiti is replete with entrepreneurs of varying degrees: Large, Medium and small scales, Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of job opportunities in Nigeria and beyond have been provided directly and indirectly by companies, industries and businesses owned by Awka-Etit indigenes. To say that Awka- Etitians have contributed and are contributing meaningfully to national, regional and global economies would be an understatement –they have greatly impacted them.