The Afikpo Village Group (Ehugbo) covers an area of roughly sixty-four (64) square miles, (164 sq. km). It is located in the Southern corner of the present Ebonyi State.

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It is grouped among the eastern or the Cross River Igbos. It lies approximately on 6o North Latitude and 8o east longitude. The Cross – River forms a natural boundary between Afikpo and her Cross-River State neighbours of Ekomoro, Ediba, Obubra, Ugep, Calabar, that is the Ekoi, Mbembe, Yako and even the Efik – speaking people of the Cross Rivers State. The Afikpo culture has therefore come in direct contact with their cultures and cultural traits which has tremendously helped in one way or the other to modify and even mould the Afikpo culture.1

However, Afikpo is bounded on the South by Edda, North by Abaomege, West by Okposi and East by Abili in Cross River State. Afikpo is one of the 34 Local Government Areas in Ebonyi State and one of the clans locate in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria.2

Geomorphologically, Afikpo is a hilly region which lies in the trough of a syncline of undulating sandstone ridges in an elevation of between 250 – 300 feet above sea level. It lies in a transitional zone between open grassland and tropical rain forest with an annual rainfall of about 77 inches.3


The origin of the people of Afikpo like most of their pre-literate counterparts in African is shrouded in obscurity. However, their oral tradition has tried to throw much light on the matter. Now there appears to be a general agreement among the oral sources collected that the original inhabitants were non-Igbo speaking groups called the EGU, the NKALU and the EBIRI. There was also a legend of the existence of a distinct group called the OHAODU.4

In fact, Afikpo tradition stated that “the Egu and Nkalu groups fled to different pats especially to areas around Abakaliki such as Nkaegu, Ezza-egu, Nkwoegu, Ikwo, Effium, even Amasiri and parts of the Cross – Rivers State after they had been outflanked by Igbo Ukwu and his group.”5

It is suggested that the word Nkalegu is a compound of Nkalu and Egu. However, the authenticity of this assertion still has to be established.

From the foregoing, Professor Afigbo has noted that, “the traditions of the Eastern Igbo including Afikpo, are rich in account of fierce encounters with various sections of the Benue – Congo – speaking people who appear in their tradition as the Egu, Nkalu and Igbo”.6

In fact, it was a direct reference to the clashes and war which Igbo – ukwu had with the Egu and Nkalu, both of non-Igbo extraction, had been described as belonging linguistically to the Benue Congo family of languages. The direct reference to their clashes with the Igbo in Afikpo at this period no less than the clashes and war between them and Igbo – Ukwu which echoes in Afikpo traditions. And in fact, this war took place around 17th Century.7

Furthermore, the history of the Egu people do not contain much in the shape of historical detail, yet there are indications that the history of Egu in Afikpo may have had a great time depth, up to this day, some isolated bushes at the ‘Gorogoro’ area are regarded by Afikpo people as the location of Egu shrines. The people did not know at what point in time such shrines came to be, but the ‘Ohia j’ have never been farmed. Moreover, among the present people of Afikpo those who claim descent from the Egu have also claimed that their ancestors lived in the Gorogoro area from the very beginning of time.8

The Egu were renowned craftsmen in pottery, carving and smithery. They still have descendants living in the Central Ugwuegu Elu in Afikpo. The traditional reference to them in connection with pottery in Afikpo is symptomatic and a pointer to their age old attachment to pottery. In fact, one Afikpo proverb refers to the Egu as, “Egu, Okpu ite n’eri ji na mgeju” (Egu, the pot-maker who ate from pot-sherds).9

Be it as it may, the egu were scattered over the present location of Ugwuegu and ‘Ukpa’ and the Nkalu occupied the area of the ENA OHIA NKALU.

The archaeological excavations made at a rock-shelter near Ukpa – Afikpo where the Egu were said to have originally settled, dated Afikpo pottery to 2935 BC (approx. 3000 BC). A recent review of the Afikpo site by Dr. B.W Andah and Dr. F.N Anozie places the date to between 4,000 – 5,000BC. This shows the antiquity of pottery in Afikpo and the people in their present area of location. It presents the oldest dates pottery found in West Africa.10

In addition, Afikpo tradition has it that the present settlers of Ena Ohia Nkalu came from Ikpom in the Cross Rivers State. The people of Nkalu however, claimed that they are the remnant descendants of the original Nkalu. The group came with ‘Elom Ji’, and the juju priest if the Elom ji was and is still called ‘Eleri Aja’. Perhaps, it was strongly believed that this group of people was the real founder of yam. In their routine appeal to the gods and the ancestors, it is very common to hear Afikpo elders say, “Ji diri Igbo, diri Naku, nke Nkalu Karia eka”. It is said that the Ndibe village later acquired the knowledge of the secret of the yam ritual from the Ena – ohia people.11

Afikpo Tradition is unanimous that the founder of Ehugbo (Afikpo) was Igbo Omaka, otherwise called Igbo – ukwu Omaka. He migrated from Arochukwu in company with other kinsmen who founded Edda, Amasiri and Akpoha. On arrival, he settled at a place called Oroghoro or Amaozara between Amaobolobo and Amaizu. This migration took place probably in the mid 17th Century. It might be as a result of warfare for historians always talk of the Ibibio – Aro – Akpa war which took place in the mid 17th Century. The Aro had invited the Akpa from the Cross River valley. The Akpa who were armed with superior weapons called blunderbusses and better organized, helped the Aro to defeat the Ibibio. During and after the war, a lot of migrations took place. The elders of Ehugbo often refer to the Akpa – Ibibio war during which there were dispersions. But the exact identity of this group, Akpa is not known.12

It was traditionally believed among all the Afikpo people that Igbo Omaka was a very strong warrior. He came with admixture of Igbo culture. Igbo, the warrior launched a war on the Nkalus and the Egus and other non-Igbo original inhabitants most of whom had to flee as mentioned earlier. The rest were assimilated into Ehugbo society. These later migrants had been settling with his authority and permission.

This war, it is further said, was referred to as Nkpu Oroghoro, because all the Igbo groups in Ehugbo (Afikpo) sent their war lord to Oroghoro to help in the war effort. It was in this way that the oldest village-group in Ehugbo (Afikpo) called Nkpoghoro derived its name – Nkpu agbaari Oroghoro.13



“The smallest unit of political organization, as other parts of Igbo land, was the family. The oldest man of the nuclear family or extended family was called the Okpara.

Following this was the Umudi, called Umunna in other Igbo areas. That is, different families or lineages with closest paternal blood relations who trace their origin from a common ancestor or father. The Umudi finally graduated into minimal and maximal lineages and finally to a village-group. The people practice both patrilineal and matrilineal descent. They also practice endogamous and exogamous marriages. Residence is viri-local but in actual practice it is patri-local while inheritance is double – unilineal. Sex polarity is strikingly high in the society”.1


Igbo was a democratic man, but very courageous. As soon as he established his authority and consolidated his position, he inaugurated a Supreme Council made up of all the elders of Ehugbo (Afikpo). He was not only a brave warrior but also an administrative wizard and genius. He quickly organized an Age-Grade System of government. But the particular group that made up the council was the Ekupke Esaah. Every village in Afikpo was represented in the council since it was made up of all the seven age sets in Afiko who had attained the age of about 65 years and above. They were the representatives of the villages in Ehugbo (Afikpo). The Ekpuke Etos always sat in council with the Ekpuke – Esaah.

At Ehugbo (Afikpo) national level, the recognized age grades are:

i. Isi Elia Ehugbo

ii. Ekpuke Eto Ehugbo

iii. Ekpuke Esaah Ehugbo

iv. Oniikara

v. Horii

vi. Rikweri


i. Isi Elia Grade: The ages range from eighteen to forty (18 – 40) years. They maintained law and order in each village.

ii. Ekpuke Eto: This is made up of three age grades of the ages of about forty six to fifty four (46 to 54) years They are also custodians of law like the Esaah and they ensure security in the whole clan and hence, maintain the policies and order of he upper house or chamber.

Ekpuke Esaah: This is the upper house of Afikpo traditional council of elders (the governing council) made up of six age grades of about (65 – 78 years). They are the custodians and traditions of Ehugbo (Afikpo). They had the power of life and death.

It is pertinent to lump the three groups together because there are mainly advisers in Afikpo society- the Oniikara, Horii and Rikweri.3


From time immemorial, it is axiomatic that all societies have a culture, likewise Afikpo people that have a culture akin with their Igbo counterparts. A culture that is the people’s way of life, the life of the people, which is passed down from parents to their children and which connected the living and the dead and even the yet unborn.4 The Afikpo culture has its religious beliefs and practices, it possess formal education for children and has its social customs. Besides, more than 64 villages that make up Afikpo have the same system of worshiping their gods and both their beliefs and customs are akin.


The people of Afikpo had from time immemorial believed and still believed in the existence of a Supreme Being, who they called, Chineke (the spirit that creates) or Obasi di n’elu (spirit that lives above). They believed that he controlled all things above and below and dispensed rewards and punishments according to merit. His form was unknown to them and as a result, they had never represented Him in any carved or moulded form or cult symbols. As a matter of fact, they did not know, how exactly to worship Him formally and directly. Hence, they approached Him through intermediaries called Erusi, who according to them was kept by Chineke himself as agents to carry out variety of functions and in the moral prayers to their ancestors, Chineke is mentioned first.5

They believe in Ali (earth deity) was closely linked with the Afikpo philosophy about God and the ancestors. Ali, (the earth goddess and fertility), was the most important deity which was equated with God.6

However, according to one Orator, “whenever we drank some wine or ate any kolanuts, first Obasi bi n’elu, look at yours and Ali see yours, that was what we would said before eaten ours”.7

The (Afikpo) like their counterparts, worship their ancestors called Maa Obu, who was closely associated with Ali and hence acted as her agent and regarded as the judge and guardians of human morality.

And again, other important deities were Njoku, Nkamalu, Ibinukpabi, Okike Uwa, Oma ezi, Egwusi and Nja Ikwu. For example, Njoku, was primarily, the god of yam which should be consulted by a farmer before and after planting of yams. As a rule, Njoku, Nkamalu and Ibinukpabi, must first ‘eat’ new yam before the people will taste it.8

In fact, there was one called Egbe Onu Ogo, according to my narrator, that “it was placed in front of each village in Afikpo, and that the deity was capable of warding off dangers, enemies, evil spirits and even epidemics (small pox) and prevent the people of Afikpo from engaging in ritual money making”.9

However, in the social customs, the people of Ehugbu had a multitude of customs which guided their actions and behaviours. They have the secret societies, such as OGO or EGBELE and masquerades and even the EKPE, all of which were secret to women and the uninitiated male folk. As a general rule, men were neither allowed to marry nor to impregnate a girl until they had been initiated into the secrets of the Ogo cults.10


The economic pattern of Afikpo people in the pre-colonial time like their Igbo counterparts were based on Agricultural, Trade, Craft, Pottery, mat-making, basket-making, smithing, hunting and even fishing.11

In the case of Agriculture, it was based on land tenure system. We have the matrilineal land called (Alilkwu) and the patrilineal land which is only given to those who were initiated into the secrete society or cult. (Nde buru isi ubu).12

However, the chief agricultural tool in Afikpo were simple, consisting of hoes (ogu), mma or mpama, ubia or ngwu – ali and even the small weeding hoes called uwele.13

Furthermore, the Afikpo people were industrious in farm work, as Professor A.E, Afigbo noted, “Igbo people (Afikpo) placed high premium on hard work… valued the hard worker… while the lazy man was the subject of ribald songs and jokes”.14 In Afikpo, laziness was viewed seriously and was totally abhorred. This is better explained by a popular saying which states, “onye muru nwa iberibe meri nnia ukpa”.15 (A foolish, (lazy) son is a source of poverty to the father).


The market place was usually “the principal venue for commercial exchange. Trade in Afikpo was initially carried out only at the village or internal level, then to the regional and finally graduated into long-distance trade. In fact, the main local market in the pre-colonial Afikpo were Ahia Okpu Ugwueguelu, and the Ahia ogo Amachara markets. But in addition to the above, within the village – group each village centre was usually associated with a market called Ahia ogo, which was scheduled in the four (4) or eight (8) days cycle of the Igbo week (izu).16

However, it could be noted that in Afikpo, there are small markets that supplement the main one and the main market is the one called Eke market (Eke ukwu) which is the most recent but the biggest market in Afikpo totay.17

In fact, articles of trade in the local markets in pre-colonial times were mostly agricultural products, such as, yam, cocoyam, vegetables domestic animals, both dried and fresh fishes and pots.18

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Long distance trade in Afikpo could be said to have developed out of the need to make up for the economic deficiencies of the local and regional trade. And it was mainly men that were involved in the long distance trade. Besides, what constituted long-distance trade in pre-colonial Afikpo was the trade with the Owutu, Nguzu, Ekoli Edda, Uburu, Okposi, Oso, Aba – Omeghe, Akpoha, Item and Igbere, some now in Abia State and majority in Ebonyi State. And the trade with the Cross-Rivers people was prominent and mostly were carried out by the Ozizza and the Enaohia people and even the Kpoghirikpo. And the main article of trade were palm oil and kernel, yam and the pottery.19

However, the medium of exchange was based on barter, Ikiribie, Okpogho Ogologo and Mkpola Ocha.20

From the foregoing, Afikpo people were good at craft, fishing and even pot-making. The Ozizza people for instance, were good at pot-making and even the people of Egu that were noted for producing the Nja bororo and the Ite Ekpurukpu that were mainly produced by old women in the village. Because of the sacredness of these pots.21

The basket making (Nkata), was also prominent in the pre-colonial Afikpo economy. These baskets are of different types, we have the round–shaped basket locally called Nkata, and the long ones called abo ogologo.22

However, based on the use and functions of this Nkata, Chief Agwo noted that “during the pre-colonial period, this round-shape Nkata was used by women in their various homes and farms activities.”23 And some of the beautiful ones were used in carrying their market products. For him, this Nkata served a multi-purpose functions because, it was even used in fishing as he noted:

When we were small, we used the small Nkata in fishing, after removing water from such a small dam which we have constructed by blocking both the upper and the lower streams, hence, the Nkata was used in catching all those fishes in such dam.24

In the hunting side of their economy, the Afikpo people have both local and professional hunters. The public hunting was also among and was called Nta Oha. We have the Nta Egbo, which was for spiritual purposes. In the case of Nta Obu, it was only meant for those initiated male folk. And for Mr. Egwu:

In this Nta obu, it was meant for the initiated male folk, and when this time comes, all the initiated males in our village are expected to go inside the Egbo (bush) and hunt all kinds of animals including grass cutter, rudent and rabbit, and all these animals were brought to obu (Ancestral curt) and prepared and eaten in that Obu and should not be taken home to avoid been contaminated by the male folk because it was a taboo.25

The weapons used were spear (Arua or Opia), Dane – gun (Egbe nsi egbe), Nma or Mpama (matchets). All these weapons were used by both the local hunters and the professional ones. The games hunted were Nchi (grass cutters), Mgbada (deer), Ele (antelope) and even Enyi ite (African giant Rats).26

More to this, Mr. Mbey noted that “there is one notable professional hunter who lived at Ukpa, who killed one big elephant at a place called Ehoma and the man because of his achievement and prowess earn a little called Omeri Enyi, (the killer of elephant)”.27

In fact, it is seen that the idea of my Mbey agreed with Professor S.C Ukpabi’s view, when he noted that “during the pre-colonial Igbo society, that a man who was noted because of his skill in any given profession, was given a title in the community”.28

For example:

A very big farmer or a professional hunter was recognized and was given a title especially during any ceremonial event in the community as a whole.29




Oral tradition of Afikpo has traced the origin of warfare in Afikpo to the constant struggles for the acquisition and control of land.

Land was so much needed for settlement and Agriculture. In act, the axiomatic evidence from oral tradition have “reviewed and indicated that the original inhabitants of Afikpo were very much attached to land.”1

According to Oral tradition, the “settlers may have looked on themselves as tenant and consequently contented themselves with such alternative activities as fishing and hunting”.2 indeed oral traditions refer to most of their leaders as ‘hunters’. Besides, the traditional account of the Egu suggested that even at that early period, the economy of the Afikpo community was quite diversified.

However, that these early settlers became finally involved and deeply embroiled themselves in intergroup conflicts, showing the fact that there was something which made war inevitably necessary. Perhaps, tradition noted that it “may be the growing population”3, which according to Charles Darwin in his theory; “survival of the fittest”.4

But it could be remembered that these internal wars, which followed were not in the form of invasion of the indigenous inhabitants by better armed weapons as some authors have claimed.5

In fact, Oral Tradition strongly believed that the “time Afikpo people used fire-arms increasingly was during the Anglo-Afikpo of (1902), the phenomenon which characterized the last phase of Afikpo war with the British”.6 Besides the possession of fire-arms by any of the groups no matter how few, would have given them the motivated spirit or egg them on to fight more.7


The circumstances which caused war in Igbo land in the pre-colonial period were akin with that of (Afikpo) too, since Afikpo is among the ancient town in Igbo land.8

It is basically understood from oral tradition that the “Afikpo people unlike their counterparts fought non-endemic wars during the pre-colonial Era and mostly the cause of them was for territorial expansion as a result of the increase in population”9, which we have stated before. In fact, as could be noted. So, according to oral tradition, the “real causes of the wars in the pre-colonial Afikpo were: The desire to acquire more lands and crops, the ambition for material gain which was simply called looting, and others like slave raiding and economic factor”.10

But we should understand from this analysis that Afikpo tradition indicated vehemently that the real major causes of the wars was mainly land because for oral tradition, that the “Egu war, the Cross Rivers and that of Amasiri were caused by land and other secondary ones listed above”.11 While the commercial disagreement was between the same Cross River and our people (Afikpo) because tracing from the time of long-distance trade, oral tradition indicated that “disagreement between the two parties at times led to fatal scuffles, which often made the Afikpo people to mobilize arms against the Ekumro people”.12

In fact, oral tradition had it that “such punitive expedition was always disastrous on the side of the Ekumoro people because of the offensive strategy which the Afikpo people normally employed. And the swoop usually took place before dawn, which was exactly the surprising attack employed by Napoleon Bonaparte of France, as one of his principles of tactical warfare”. 13


Oral traditions stated that there were various weapons that were used in the pre-colonial Afikpo wars, which range from wooden materials to the non-wooden materials called metal types”.14

In the wooden clubs, we have the Odi, which was a large wooden club used mainly in a close combat, to strike the enemy down and kill or render him harmless. This was exactly like the short arrow developed by Shaka the Zulu in Zulu Kingdom.

Edam was a short pole with a flat wide part at one or both ends, which was used in paddling small boat or canoe. It was all purpose or multi-purpose weapon for throwing, striking, stabbing and cutting its feature mostly in the Cross Rivers (Ekumoro) war.15

In the metal types, the earliest were as follows: Mpama Mkpumkpu, which was a short machetes used for stabbing. Mkpama Ogologo, which was the long-edged double machete used for amputation. In fact, oral tradition noted that the one called Mpama Agalaba were especially used by those warriors who had great dexterity at stabbing and pulling technique. And this “type of machete possesses three sharp edges and could only be used by Onye isi Agha and others who have the prowess”.16

Following the above one was another important one called MBU (shield), which was used for defense. Following it was Opia (spear) which was of various sizes and designs. We have the long one and the short one also. All of which were used for stabbing and throwing.

Chief Gabriel Agwo noted that there was “a man who was given a title called “Opia one of Ehugbo”, “simply because of his profound experience in the act of using the Opia during war”.17

Furthermore, following the general evidence about guns and gun powder that were not pronouncedly used in pre-colonial wars in Igbo and (Afikpo) in particular was because of it expensive nature and the scarcity of the gun powder which was because of it expensive nature and the scarcity of the gun powder which was only imported by the colonial masters.18

But oral tradition stated that “they was a one locally produced called Egbe Nkuru – Ali , which consisted of heaps of gun-powder stored in bamboo or mental barrels mounted in a straight line, which is been connected to one another by a light spray of power. Therefore, when one of the lines came in contact with the fire that was light on the powder, hence, the whole barrel released a very powerful sound that is capable of inflicting a very positive fear psychologically in the mind of the enemies and compelled them packing.19 It was discovered or invented by a man called Ihere Uka, an Ozizza man in Afikpo. Because of this invention, Afikpo traditions refer to him as Ihere Omenka or Ihere the artist.20


In the first place, we need to note that there was no pan-Afikpo Military unit like her Igbo counterparts. And no standing or regular army in all the Afikpo villages or communities.21 Above this, soldiers or troops were raised whenever the need arose. Though entry into the army was voluntary, every community at war expected all able-bodied male adults to take part in the fighting.22

However, since all wars were seen as wars of survival for the respective villages, qualified persons who declined joining the army was seen as saboteur of a common will to survive and was generally regarded or being called a woman and such a person was disdainfully deride at.23

Since there was no regular army, there was no regular village or community armoury. Similarly, military training was largely adhoc, involving mainly in accurate marksmanship.24

In fact, those who were expected to go to war are Ndi Wari Ikpo. These groups came from various villages that make up Afikpo. And one thing we need to note about this Afikpo pre-colonial wars was that, “these wars did not took place at the Eke day (market day) or at Orie day (farm day) because in the whole Igbo land, it was forbidden and called taboo by our ancestors”.25

Before this war, every soldier are expected to fortify himself with charm from the Afikpo war God called Nkamalu who would protect the soldiers. Before the war, the parents of the soldier have to meet Nkalamu with varieties of items of sacrifices like Ovuvu Ekwa, Oji, Ogunzu, Rigirigi, Apa etc. And in case the soldier happened to came back with human head, perepere okụkụ and that of human head would be presented to Nkamalu too and the whole village would celebrate it and such a soldier would earn a title called Oney ike (the great warrior) or Orchi Agha (the leader of the war).26

In fact, Mr. Okpani noted:

My father told me that his own father took him to Nkalamu and he said, Nkalamu look at my son, he has reached the age of going to war and you know that war entails life or death, Nkalamu, look at your good items which I have kept in front of you, I’m promising you that, if my son goes and comes back saftly, I will give you the rest items I promised.27

It was believed traditionally that this so called Nkamalu was so powerful in protecting any soldier that promised him of something and was defenceless to those who did not make any promise, hence, emanated the saying in Afikpo.

“Are you Nkamalu, who would not do anything without been promised”.28


So when all the warriors have assembled at Ogo, head counting would be carried out to ascertain the number of warriors that are going to that particular war and after that war, another tattooing would be observed again in order to know the number of warriors that survived the war. And it is pertinent to note that before the war, that the elders of the two parties might have met in a particular scheduled place for peaceful settlement of such dispute, which involves diplomatical negotiation in order to avert the yawning impending war. But in the converse, collective security, which was war would be the next deciding factor or option.29

Before the war, Oga ama (spies) might have reputed the enemies and hence, town crier would announce it with the use of Omomo or Ofu. At the hearing of this, all the warriors of Afikpo would converged at ogo with the war dress called Aji, (a fibre of palm leaves) which are sun-dry and tied across their waist and Ọmụ Nkwụ (the newly fresh of palm leaves) which are also tied across their faces and necks and the ogunzu (white chalk), which are robbed under one’s eye lid and one’s arm which made the soldier more terrified.30

In fact, children and women were not killed during the course of the war as the fighting involved constant ambushes and close range attacks, which made the element of surprise attack to feature so much which automatically made the war looked like guerilla warfare.31


Oral tradition has it that the “knowledge of military training originated from the Egu people”32 (the earliest inhabitant of Ehugbo). From this view point, Mr. Martin Ibe Onya, noted that the “Ogo initiation was the practice and the custom as well as the tradition of the Egu people right from time immemorial. It was after the conquest of Egu and their incorporation by Igbo ukwu (the founder of Ehugbo), that this custom, was passed down as a legacy to Ehugbo (Afikpo) people. Besides, in order to keep that custom of initiation and training on, the people had to transformed that Ibu ubu (Circumcision) into Isiji, which he called a by custom of the Egu people”.33


At about the age of twenty, Afikpo males participated in compulsory military training called Isiji.34 Before entering into that native military training, onikara Otu, noted that the “father of that male child had to go round with a small piece of wood to all the irusi (oracles), both that of the father and the mother and including that central village to ask for protection from physical injury and fever”.35 He noted that “on 25th August was when there were usually sent into the Oka (Camp), and for him that particular day usually be taught in all the whole ogo”.36 In fact, following that idea, Mr. Onya agreed with Mr. Otu’s view that during that day, “all the whole warriors in that village must be present at Ogo (ancestral play ground)”.37

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However, inside the camp, you must not wear any cloth but only Anam (towel), which was tied across your waist and in between your legs and inside this Oka, you stayed more than one month. In addition, after the camp they have to move down to ogo and stayed there for another one month that must accompany with hard labour and hard training.38

In fact, Chief J.O Irem (J.P) noted that “during when he was initiated into that native military training called Isiji, that was in 1931, that they spent roughly a year, staying nudely both in the rainy season and in the dry season. For him, right there in the Oka, which was a playground and they were given all kinds of stories while their warriors would be watching them, but there must be vigilant because of the big and wicked masquerade called (Ota eru).

Right inside the Oka, there are meant to eat a hot yam while still on fire”.39 Still in the camp, “the warriors taught us how to run faster, how to leap the fence and how to escape dangers in case the Otaeru ran after us and even how to use the Mpama and the Nkpa isiji”40 (Isiji working stick).

From the foregoing, right inside the camp, uninitiated male folk are permitted to visit us and when they visited, we must connived together to subject them into that ordeal training and propelled them to eat the hot yam on fire. Based on that stage, one must note that at a certain time, we would start to fend for ourselves for complete one to two months and according to Afikpo culture and custom, the Isiji was allowed the leeway to go to any village far from his home town to harvest yam, cut plantain, harvest even cocoyam and plucking of orange. Mr. Chukwu, noted, “that was the only freedom of both movement and eating which the Isiji enjoyed.41 And Mr. Onya (Akwari) noted that “in the process of exercising such freedom of fending for themselves, people or any village who intervened have committed felony. In fact Mr. Akwari, used the experience he encountered during his own military training in 1972 to give as an example, when they went into Ozizza which was abut 12 miles away from Elu Ehugbo. He noted that after they had collected what they needed, the people compelled us to talk, which is a sacrilege or felony they have committed and they have to pay for it”.42

Their weapons of training was also very closely supervised and those warriors gave the trainees sufficient drills in the various ways of applying all those battle weapons as have noted earlier.

This Isiji was in the context of Afikpo society a period of transition from childhood to manhood. While the training was essentially military, it has also religious education to give it sanctity.”43 Mr. Akwari, Chief J.O Irem and Onikara Uche famous Otu noted that “throughout that training, that great emphasis was laid on the need for the participants (the trainees) to keep secrets and furthermore, they are meant to understand that any of them who took the instruction for granted must face instant death”.44

In fact, they are meant to understand many signs and be able to interpret it as well like the insipid signs, many signs of shouting”.45

What was the importance of that military training? Chief J.O Irem, maintained the fact that the “main aim of training you was for you to maintain the secret things and to make you stronger for any eventuality like war”.46 while both Mr. famous, Akwari and Mr. Ibe agreed that “such training would made you became a full grown Afikpo man and made you face the challenges of this world”.47 But for Mr. Chukwu who later concluded that such “a training would “surely made you to understood that as a man, the world is not a bed of rose”48 and according to him:

It justified survival of the fittest in this harsh world to every Afikpo man.49



The history of any group in Igbo land as regard to their relations with other groups in the pre-colonial period must have connection with stories of wars waged against certain groups of people, which was caused by several factors, like the desire to acquire more land by force because of either population growth or the natural desire to acquire more, since man by nature is as old as force and according to the Realist schools of thought, that:

“Man by nature posses an imperialistic trait which becomes inalienable and indispensable”. 1


However, unlike other event in the history of Igbo land, warfare in Afikpo in the last decade of the seventeenth century has apparently remained a mater of controversy.

In fact, Afikpo wars were of two kinds. The earlier ones appears to have taken the form of civil wars in which the various groups fought for the control of lands in Afikpo; as previously stated in my chapter three. And the later wars, the newly constituted Afikpo village–groups with their tenacity of purpose, fought against their neighbours such as the people of Amasiri, the people of Ikumoro (Cross Rivers people) and one traditionally known as the Agha Umu-eru, (Aro war), of which the nature of it will be unraveled and elucidated later. And the last of the external wars in Afikpo was the Anglo-Afikpo war of 19022.


The earlier remembered military engagement of Afikpo people was for the control of the Cross River area, and evidence about these wars is extremely scanty.3 For Inya Oko, Afikpo tradition stated that, “a trade relationship with our coastal neigbhours gradually developed into arms conflict overnight, just because of the desire of the people of Ikumoro (Cross River) to control the Ote-eke River (Ndibe Beach), the slave activities of the Ikumoro on the people of Afikpo and the ambition of the Ndibe sub-group of Central Afikpo area to expand”4. But Nwachi agreed with him and asserted that:

A – “The act of fobbing off with substandard goods on our women traders.

B-“The act of kidnapping our women and our children was the last stroke that caused the war”5. And for him, “it was on the bases of these that made the central Afikpo people to enter into military alliance with other sub-group in the Central Afikpo”6. In fact, it was the mutual co-operation of these sub-groups that was to become the Nucleus of a future all Afikpo army.

However, oral tradition has it that the leaders of the Ndibe sub-group were Igbo Uka, and the two brother called OBILA IBE and UKA IBE, who led the war. In the war, many of the indigenes of the cross-River area were defeated and compelled to abandon their homes and moved inward into the big forest. In the last phase of the war, the Afikpo warriors waged the war against the East of the cross-River and mounted such punitive expedition against the most restive part called the Ikumoro people”.7

Be it as it may, the Ikumoro people were defeated based on my statement in my previous chapter three that the people made such a surprising attack and swooped on them in the early morning and got them slaughtered in their thousands. Besides, after the war, the people of Afikpo acquired another new technique especially with regard to the use of arrow and that of bow, which were the prominent weapons of the Ikumoro people and secondly, a lot of cultural traits were also acquired which are being practiced in our Ogo culture. And again, the coastal land became the possession of the Afikpo people and the river which expanded as a result of natural force became the demarcation.

For Oko .A. Oleh, “the war produced some heroes and heroines like Oriente Imomo and Nne Ogeri Egbe, of which Oriente Imomo’s shrine is said to have become the Afikpo earth deity known as Orie Ama-Izu.

Today it is still taken as an oath by those accused of murder, adultery and theft”.8


The Egu people as previously said were the earliest inhabitants of Afikpo and they occupied the Eastern part of Afikpo. And it was traditionally believed that there had acquired a lot of lands for themselves and their expansionist bid was much too because of Natural reproduction and there were the second largest group after the Nkalu people in the Western side. Besides this, our previous effort made us to note that this Nkalu people were warriors of great strength and valour and their great expansion was a very big threat to others, even the Central Afikpo (Ndibe). And according to tradition, it was that Nkalu threat that compelled Igbo Ukwu (the founder of Afikpo), who settled first at a place called Eke-Ngbom, just close to Nkalu people to look for a close ally, probably the Egu people, but he had the great task of conquering them first and then used them to stop the hegemony power of the Nkalu people.

However, Mbey noted that, in “order to conquer the Egu, Igbo had to send many of his spies to Egu village and hence, they were caught as captives and incorporated. They learnt about the people’s culture, political organization, social structure and even more especially the military art and organization. So they came back and unraveled the secret to their master Igbo ukwu”.9 But before them Afikpo tradition made it clear that Igbo had waged many wars with the Egu but the disclosing of the secret led to the defeat of the Egu because of the fact that Igbo now knew when, how and where to attack them (Egu people).

For Mbey as he went on, “Egu people were drastically slaughtered and massacred in their hundreds and thousands”.10 So such “massacre took place in a Bomker where both all the children and their mothers were kept. That is why the place came to be known as Ogbugbu Umuruma”.11 (Children progamme).

According to tradition, “some of them (Egu) had to flee to some places like Nkalu-Egu, Nkwo-Egu, Isiegu and Amasiri e.t.c. Those who fled to Amasiri waged war against Afikpo, which came to be known as Afikpo Amesiri war”,12 which will later come into focus in our subsequent discussion. So the conquering of both Egu and the Nkalu people by Igbo Ukwu was through diplomacy and crafty and especially his alliance with the Egu in the defeating of Nkalu warriors revolved around his ingenuity and hence, incorporation of the remnant of both the Egu and the Nkalu and hence the formation of what came to be known as Afikpo.


Afikpo tradition indicated that as the name of these wars imply, it therefore connotes or encompasses the pre-colonial wars which our soldiers wages against those people in disputes with the people of Aro.

Traditionally, it could be noted that “after the unification of the Egu and the Nkalu people and other sub-groups like people of Ebiri, that apolitical organization was formed, with these Afikpo warriors and Igbo ukwu at the helm of affairs and these groups were later to exercise much influence in both the political and social making of the whole of Afikpo community. It is however pertinent to note that these groups of soldiers came to be known as Amadi, and there became the supperheader and chief leaders of all the subsequent wars in Afikpo including the Aro, Amasiri and the Anglo-Afikpo war of (1902)”.13

However, according to Okpani, “our tradition made us to understand that our relationship with the Aro were cordial and in the terms of the war:


We were not actually hired as a mercenary, but it was in a mutual agreement between us and the people of Arochukwu. They are expected to bring certain items like Kola nuts and seven gallons of palm wine, ten goats, a cow, ten cocks and many flints lock guns within a period of six months before the war. And again, they would allow us a free movement and trade in their land and we in return would assign it as a task to prosecute the war to the last man.14


In the long run, Nwachi noted that:

Our soldiers were meant to come back with human heads especially the brave warriors and many domestic slaves were brought home while some were sold to the Aro’s.15


In fact, Afikpo oral tradition stated that “these wars were fought in distance homes or villages like AWKA, OHUHU, UKEHE, AGHAJA and NKPOROGWU”.16 And in addition, these wars were not fought for acquisition of lands but for the above listed factors and more especially, to inflict harm and damage to those enemies who compelled them to accept the authority of the Aros”.17

In the above analysis, it could be wise to note that when any Igbo village or community went to any distance war, such soldiers usually went with a raffia bag tied across his waist with his small gallon of water.18

In the nature of the war, Mbey noted that:

It was a surprise attack especially to those obstinate villages like the people of Awka and ohuhu, in which the Afikpo warriors still made their swoop in the early morning an in each of that mould house with thatched roof, four to five warriors would encircle it and set it ablaze and hence, the people were easily overcome and for him, it was from this bases emanated the Afikpo proverb or adage…”I je ge na ibe onye ịke, na iburu uzọ ye ịbe yu ọkụ…,” (when you met a powerful warrior in his hut, you first burn down his hut or house.19

And for that course of the war, Afikpo warriors demonstrated their valour and any warrior who showed evidences of mettle, bravery and military expertise and came back with human head stood the chance of being promoted to the next rank in the army called the Amadi or near to Ovu Agha (the leader).20

And in fact, that human head was celebrated in the course of dancing in Ogo when such warrior will jump on too of his feet in the course of answering the call of the sounding Ikoro. After, a ritual cleaning would be made called ima umu.


The issue of these Afikpo-Amasiri wars has attracted the attention of many historians of both clans and the matter has since time immemorial remained a subject of controversy among these historians, even though both have the same cultural and political pattern and have traced their common migration from “Aro” in search of area of settlement.

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However, as a matter of fact, many Amasiri historians because of what could partially be regarded as ethonocentrism, held the verdict in favour of their people and claimed that Afikpo allied with Edda and Nkalu clans. But be it a it may, it could be pertinent to note according to doctor C.O Mgbada, who quoted a German historian called Leopold Von Ranke, that:

The role of a historian was to analyze the fact as there are… and let the fact speak for themselves.21


In fact, Afikpo tradition indicated that the “first settlement of Amasiri clan was at a place called ‘Okpọgọrọ’ in (Ebe Mgbom) and their isiji camp was at Azu-uru, very close to Azu – uhu”.22 Perhaps of course, their relationship which has lasted for several centuries began to lose its value, when certain ugly strain began to be identified by Afikpo clan over Amasiri clan activities. Besides, oral tradition asserted that “many factors were responsible for the war but only two were cogent enough, which were:

A – The previously defeated Egu people still want to have a claim over their lost farmland which the warlike Afikpo people objected vehemently and for them, it never done in history.

B – The collective constant vituperative abuses which Afikpo clan usually received from Amasiri both at market, farms and during the cultural festival, by calling them ‘Ehugbo’ (people who laid their stomach on a mould pavement), which in Afikpo context, negatively means ‘lazy people’, because of the description which Amasiri clan gave it. And it was meant by nature, to affront the dignity of Afikpo people”23.

Indeed, it is worthwhile to note according to Prof. Ukpabi and S.I Okoro, “that the causes of war in the pre-colonial era must have connections with land struggle, which must be accompanied with some abuses. But S.I Okoro went on to note that:

The abuses may be course to have an outlet one day.24


Based on this above statement, Nwachi ran out of the opinion to note that “one day, the statement came to pass, when Amasiri clan killed one palm wine tapper from Mgbom village, which made the Mgbom community in Afikpo to take the case to Afikpo in the Eke market day, hence, in Nkow day, Afikpo warriors made attack on Amasiri clan in a place called ‘Isi Nw’eze’ (war of the king’s head). That was the major first phase of the war in which the both clans suffered many casualties”.25 Afikpo tradition identified one powerful warrior in Amasiri called Akualo, a man who killed many Afikpo soldiers, but in the long-run, Amasiri clans were later driven down to ‘Oke Oha’ or Ozara ukwu (the great forest land), where the second phase of the war took place.

In that war, Afikpo tradition noted that many leaders led the war like: Opaka Nwa agwu of Ndibe, Oko Inya Nwachi, the two brothers called Obila Ibe and Uka Ibe, Aja Ibere Ukwu of Ukpa, Orobo Chiala of Ngodo, Ekuma Abagha of Echara Mgbom, Chukwu Obela, Omaka Aja of Mgbom, Uhere Unagha of Ugwuegu, Egwu EHiti the founder of Ubam village and Ataja the founder of Ezi ukwu Amaizu. These pronounced warriors led their regiment accompanied with a Great War songs that was mytical and metaphysical through which Afikpo cosmological forces may be summoned and directed to the course they know…26

Furthermore, Afikpo soldiers tried to push Amasiri clan down to Poperi, which they later did but before it was possible, many warriors of Afikpo had lost their lives in the hands of that great warrior called Akualo who was been described by Afikpo tradition as a ‘Goliath’, who was even a ritualist too and his wife Ayina, who later avenged the death of the husband.27

In short, Obila and his brother Uka Ibe lost their lives at a pace in the hands of that ‘Goliath and their regiment slaughtered.28

According to Nwachi, the “war dragged down to ‘Ugwu Ewe’ and extended to “Ora mee” (A pore of blood or a flow of blood)”.29 From this point, Mbey and Uhere agreed that “it was at Ugwu Nkok where the Gloith was killed, when he pushed and attacked up to that ‘Ugwu Nkok’ (Present Macgregor Hill) and in the process, Uhere and his soldiers retreated back as the attack was coming and hence, Uhere ambushed him and such a surprising guerrilla attack was one on him and his head was chopped off and the head is still hung at Obu Ugwuegu (Ancestral cult in Ugwuegu)”.30

We could now believe vehemently that the tactical warfare which Uhere adopted was exactly the tactical warfare of Mao Zedong, an ancient Chinese strategic thinker and a statesman, which stated that:

When an enemy attacks, we retreat and when the enemy retreat, we attack.31


In fact, Amasiri soldiers were massacred to their last person after Akualo was killed, that was why the place was called “Ora mee”. And later, Amasiri clan were pushed from popery down to Eso – Okposi.32 Besides this, Amadi Uche noted that, “it was that massacre that made us to call the service of Okposi and Edda in the settlement of the conflict which took place at “Ugwu Ogbugba – ndu” (the hill of covenant). And it was because of the service of the Okposi people in the settlement of the dispute that made us Amasiri to give them a piece of land called “Ndukwe” in Amasiri village”.33

In the conclusion, it could be pertinent to note that the aftermath of the Afikpo-Amasiri war was:

Firstly, both clans agreed never to cause or get involve d in anything that would result in the lost of human life or waste of blood.

Secondly, as a defeated group, Amasiri ceded the land in Azu – Uru and the Ozzara Ukwu to Afikpo people.


In fact, by May 1902, the people of Aro Chukwu had been subjugated by the British troops with the long juju or Ibini Ukpabi destroyed. The major aims of the expedition, according to Ralph Moore, were: “To open up the whole of the Igbo country lying between the Cross – River and the Niger to civilization and trade, to abolish the slave trade which was actively carried on throughout the entire territories belonging to and dominated by the Atro tribe; to introduce a currency in lieu of slaves, brass rods, and other forms of native currency that existed in the territories and finally to established throughout the territories a labour market to replace slavery. Besides this, it was a policy of the Britain at this period to pacify Igbo land and make room for extension of British influence and eventual occupation of the area.34

However, after the subjugation of Arochukwu in May 1902 the British turned their attention to Afikpo. By August 1902, the British had moved their troops from Arochukwu to Uwana. From here, they started their contact with Afikpo. Afikpo was eyed as a suitable and strategic place for the establishment of the headquarters of the newly created Cross River Division which was made up of five districts namely Afikpo, Obubra, Bende, Okuni (Ikom) and Arochukwu and further, to ensure the safety of the Presbyterian mission station in Unwana. After the establishment of this mission in Unwana, the British now decided to use Unwana as a stepping stone in attacking Afikpo people. They thus got the consent of the Unwana and also allied with other neigbhouring towns like the people of Enioha Itim against the Afikpo people.35

According to A.E Afigbo, “the people of Afikpo were so fierce and warlike, so much so that they would not allow a government post be established in their territory and would not even receive messengers sent to negotiate with them. They went so far as to attack the village group of Enaohia Itim which was pro-British, and to ambush British fact finding parties. So stubborn and determined was the Afikpo resistance to the British that none of their neighbours friendly with the British government would take message from the Whiteman to them”.36 Besides this, according to one British officer, “the chiefs and the peoples of Unwana and Enaohia towns had grown so ‘timorous and nervous’ in anticipation of attacks from the Afikpo that they were living on the roads ready to run in the case of attack”37. In anticipation of British reaction of the Afikpo took measures to fortified and guard all the major approaches to their town, including the Cross Rivers landing place through which they suspected the British might want to infiltrate troops.38

From the foregoing, the first phase of the war took place at a place called Iyioka in August. Even though the British were aware of the stubbornness of Afikpo, the underrated the strength of their warriors and hence, they thought that he war would be a mere walk–over, a matter that could be settled in a few hours. The military expectation was under Major Heneker, who was the Commander of Column 4 of the Arochukwu expedition. But the campaigns was directed by the southern Nigerian protectorate under Sir Ralph Moor, who was the High Commissioner.39

It is pertinent to note according to tradition that “there was a misconception notion which the Afikpo people and their warriors had about white men before the war, which were:

A – That it is good to catch the Whiteman alive and brought him to “Ogo” especially in the day time, when the sun is at its peak, since they believed that white men do not see clearly in the day time.

B – Secondly, that when once there are being defeated at the first battle, they would not fight back”.41 These above points were all in the primitive minds of the Afipko people but they forget that a beheaded snake will still fight back disastrously than ever before. In fact, it was this notion that made one Mgbom war leader called Okoro, Ugo Egwu Ali to amok out of his ambush and seized a white soldier, carried him on his shoulder and made for his home. But the Whiteman pulled out a concealed pistol and shot him, he screamed and fell, others who saw the drama took to their heels.42

The second phase took place on 28 December 1902, in which the British expeditionary force against Afikpo set out from Unwana. Making use of the intelligence collected from Enaohia Unwana and Ndibe women towns, the troops out-flanked the main defending Afikpo forces and attacked them from the rear. The war took place at Ugwu Ovum (Ovum Hill), where the British mounted their sophisticated weapons and the heavy artillery made up of incendiary bullets, which set thatched roofs on fire were all used, in the grassland in which the battle took place, Afikpo found themselves gravely handicapped in trying to crawl through the grass to get close to the British force using repeater riffles and field guns. The result was that we suffered appalling losses. Still said the Commanding Officer, “they showed ‘great courage’. Even after having been dislodged from their entrenched positions,

They retreated to the defence of their homes”.43


According to S.C Ukpabi:

We generally knew that war by its concept and the way it was prosecuted was not good even though it has been believed by some politicians and statesmen that war is the continuation of politics and peace in human relations, especially, when diplomacy failed…, But it was clear that when it happens, everybody must be affected both psychologically, mentally and even physically especially, when all the society was destroyed and all the valuable material aspect of our culture destroyed completely.1


However, the views and the attitudes of Afikpo people towards war during the pre-colonial Era was something they believed that should not be a constant affair since it involves a wastage of human life.

From the foregoing, it is quite pertinent to note that Afikpo tradition indicated that during the war time, women and children were not killed or harmed and quite often played key roles in efforts to end wars among their neigbhours. The point being stressed here is that the sanctity of human life was still respected. Besides, perhaps one factor that made it difficult to achieve the respect for human life during that pre-colonial Afikpo war was:

It had to do with the war culture, which regarded warriors who returned with enemy skulls as heroes. So the ‘enemy skull was a kind of trophy which proved the fighters valour and won for him different types of honour.

So they strongly encouraged their great warriors return with enemy heads and that soldier would be promoted into an “Amadi class” who were the “War Lords and Nobles” as previously noted. These groups of people were highly respected in the pre-colonial Afikpo society.

So in the conclusion, the conducts of war in the pre-colonial Afikpo rested on strong codes which were very much respected. For instance, commercial relations were on whenever hostilities were halted, both day and night.


Since the evolution of communities in Africa, no community does not have stories of wars they fought with their neighbours as parts of their relationships. Nigeria and mostly, Igbo land” under Nigeria and (Afikpo group) as a case study have the same stories or histories of war they fought during the pre-colonial era.

In fact, it is worthwhile to note that in the above wars, both metal and non-metal objects were used as weapons of warfare and during the course of the war, war songs were sang which usually induced the warriors with great strength and galvanized them into actions. And after the war, peaceful settlement must be the next line, that was how the Afikpo – Amasiri was ended.

And the agreement was strengthened by a solemn oath taken usually called “Igbandu”. In that, a sacred food known as “Nri-Ogbandu”, (oath food) would be taken together. The left over was buried together with a creeping stem representing a “lame-man” in Afikpo context. And according to Nwachi:

A livestock, usually called Ogirisi was planted on the spot of the border between us and Amasiri as a symbol of peace.2


In conclusion, the triumph of the well sophisticated British force over feeble native force of Afikpo was the last and the final episode in the pre-colonial warfare in Afikpo, which took place in December, 1902.

And according to A.E Afigbo:

Afikpo people were drastically and decisively defeated and they suffered appalling losses.3


And for Afikpo people, the conquest meant the end of their familiar ways of life, which made Ajah Raph. O to note that:

A new social, political and cultural ways of life were all imposed on them and all these led to their subjugation.4


In my peroration, to what extent the verdicts of this research justified, remains a subject of historical investigation. Meanwhile, there are legal leeways for other subsequent historians to investigate pensively and thoroughly in this subject matter.


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  1. Uche King says:

    Thanks for this vital information. It has really helped me in my case study

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