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A Brief History of the Abor Communities

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Ojel Clara Adaozo Anidi PhD.

The name, Abor, as used here, refers to the two distinct communities of Abor and UmuavuluAborin Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. UmuavuluAboris a child of Abor, has developed from Abor, and, as her name reveals, isstill proudly Abor, and cannot cut herself off from that rich legacy. The traditional rulers of Aborand UmuavuluAbor, respectively, are HRH Igwe C. Ngwudile, Agodom III of Abor, and HRM Igwe Dr. C. C. Njeze, Ujaligwa II of Umuavulu-Abor.

Abor is situated on a highland, about two kilometers as the crow flies (in a straight course) from the famous Milliken Hill of Enugu capital city. Using the old road to Nsukka, the University town, Abor is about one kilometer from Ninth Mile Corner, Ngwo. It is bounded in the east by the Ekulu River and in the west by the Eke and Ebe towns. In the north of Abor is the Ukana town and in the south is the Ngwo town, wherein lies the Milliken Hill.

Attempting to trace the history of Aborwould confront one once again with Basil Davidson’s lament that “little is known about the distant past of the Ibo and their neighbours” (Davidson, “The Growth of African Civilisation, West African 1000-1800”). In this vein, too, Isichei (1976) has observed that the centuries that lie between the ninth century and the nineteenth are the most difficult period for the historian of Igbo land to write about. Yes, archeological evidences (the Igbo-Ukwu findings, for example) reveal that the Igbo have inhabited their culture area as far back as the first millennium (10th Century). Also, a great deal of oral and documentary history on the 19th century Igbo exist. However, the thousand years which lay in-between the ninth/tenth century and the 19th century are full of question marks and obscurities.Yet, borrowing from Davidson, what we can say about the Igbo and their neighbours is that they have lived in their present homeland for a very long time; that they have worked out their own methods of self-government; and that these methods generally helped them, after the beginning of trade with Europeans in the Niger-Delta, to make good use of new contacts.

How Abor originated is explained by two propounded theories. The more widely known is the Ojebe-Ogene theory, which has been generally propagated by both oral and written media. It purports that Abor was one of the off-spring of a legendary being known as Ojebe-Ogene. It is said that Ojebe-Ogene, the founding mother, had seven sons, from different husbands. Ebe, whose father was Eriudene, a hunter, was the first son of Ojebe-Ogene. When OjebeOgene could no longer stay with the hunter, Ebe’s father, she moved on and met IyimeAwubu, with whom she gave birth to Abor, OjebeOgene’s second child. She later left Abor’s father and moved on to other areas until she had given birth to Ukana, whose father was Ebenebe; Awhum, whose father was UjomEkete. Okpatu and Umulumgbe, it is alleged, have the same father, Edem; though, in certain accounts, UkwuEdem is said to be the founding father of Okpata, while Edem is the father of Umulumgbe. What is evident is that Edem exists in all the accounts. Ukehe, who is the last of her children, is said to have been fathered by Ojimanam, though some accounts called him OjimeIgweonyi. All these different communities had their different fathers, according to the theory, but the same mother, Ojebe-Ogene. Thus, Ebe, Abor, Ukana, Awhum (Ohum), Okpatu, Umulumgbe and Ukehe are the seven sons of the woman called OjebeOgene. There are more detailed accounts of the OjebeOgenelegend, which cannot be accommodated here.

Abor, the second son of Ojebe-Ogene, has eight sons. These sons founded the eight villages of Abor. According to Okolo (2000), there are three diverse legends about the eight villages of Abor. One claims that Abor had three wives: the first wife gave birth to three sons, Ugwunani, Ozalla and Amukwu (they are collectively called Ikenge); the second wife of Abor, as this account states, gave birth to four sons: Ebongwu, Ngwuagu, Ubiekpo and Amezike (these are collectively called Ibute); and the third wife gave birth to an only son, called Umuavulu. The second legend purports that Abor had only one wife who bore all the eight villages. The third legend alleged that Abor had three sons, Ikenge, Ibute and Umuavulu, and gives no other explanation about the existence of eight villages. Okolo is of the opinion that the first legend out of the three he gave sounds more acceptable. For the present researcher, however, what is obvious is the presence of eight villages in Abor, Aborn’isato – Ugwunani, Ozalla, Amukwu, Dinigweze, Dinunaobe, Ubiekpo, Amaezike, and Umuavulu. These villages indicate that Abor really had eight sons, whether from one wife or from three. The Ibute, Ikenge and Umuavulu distinctions may have been employed in later years, for purposes of equitable distribution of resources, assets, liabilities or responsibilities in the town. They are the three zones or sections of Abor. Note that two names, Dinigweze and Dinunobe, are no longer in use today. Ebongwu and Ngwuagu are now the preferred names. Some events happened in the past that brought about these changes. These events are yet to be properly researched and documented.

It is purported, however, that some Abor indigenes are in diaspora.Abor in diaspora here does not necessarily refer to the Abor people recently living in various parts of the world who regularly or intermittently come back home to Abor. What is meant here are the Abor indigenes that have migrated and resettled in other neighbouring communities and might now be regarded as people of these other places. An example is the Umuebo hamlet of Akpuoga Nike, who traces its ancestry to the Ikeaduba family of Ubiekpo village (Okamkpa, 2019). Engr. (Sir) Greg Nnaji, the present Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Enugu State, for example, who happens to come from that hamlet never ceases to stress his affinity and blood relationship, so to speak, with the Abor people.

There are yet two common designations – Enu-Abor andUmuavulu– used to describe the two major sections of Abor. The name Enu means‘up’ or ‘top’ in English. So, Enu-Aborcan be variously translated as ‘Aboron top’, ‘Abor on hilltop’ or ‘Upper part of Abor’. Enu-Abor comprises Ugwunani, Ozalla, Amukwu, Dinigweze, Dinunaobe, Ubiekpo and Amaezike (7 villages), while Umuavulu remains one village.

Ugwunani village is believed to be the eldest of the Abor sons, thus its location in the deepest oldest remotest area of Abor. Abor may have first settled in that area during the slave trade of the 12th-18th century. In those early periods, people preferred to settle in places where they would be hidden away from outside influences, most especially slave raiders, irritant neighbours or wild animals. Umuavulu, it is believed, is the youngest, and that explains its present location, according to this belief.

            One of the remarkable things about the Abor community is their way of worship.Today,they are predominantly Christians, the majoritypracticing the Roman Catholic religion.In the olden times, apartfrom the ‘ani’, which the Igbo people worship and to which they pay sacrifices and respect, the belief inancestral spirits was high. The dead ancestors are masqueraded as spirits, and they appear from time to time for people to admire and pay respects to them. In Abor, these spirits do not go by the name ‘Mmanwu’,as they are called in most Igbo communities, or the ‘Omaba’, as they are called in other Igbo communities. They are referred to as the ‘Odomagana’ (the ‘Odo’, for short). The origin of the Odo in Abor has always been a mystery, but they are believed to be our dead noble ancestors who returned into the town from time to time to guide and protect the citizens from the hands of their enemies.

The Abor physical area is noted for its undulating landscapes – hills and valleys. There is hardly any plane in the land area. It has amoderate climate, at almost all the seasons of the year. Rain begins in April and ends in November. The rainiest month is usually September. Abor has a comparatively fertile land for agriculture. Some of the crops which do well in the area include palm products, yams, cocoyams, groundnuts and pepper. A few years ago, for instance, the ‘edeAbor’, the cocoyam from Abor, used to be the most sought after in the markets in Enugu environs. The same goes for the groundnuts and pepper cultivated by Abor women farmers and sold to the traders in Enugu. These crops have almost become history in Abor due to the fact that Abor women and people hardly ever farm on a large scale in the present years, largely owing to the threats from the Fulani herdsmen in their farmlands, onuagu. Other major crops that do well in the area include the akpu (cassava), ukpaka (oil bean seeds), and mkpuruanara (garden eggs). These crops are used in the making of many palatable African dishes.

The abachaor ogodo, as it is locally called in Abor, is a regular meal and delicacy among the people of Abor and environs. The Abachais noddle-like flakes locally produced from cassava tubers. Theabacha plays an important role in the socioeconomic life of the Enugu State people of Nigeria, generally. Most people even outside Enugu State find the abacha palatable anddelicious, and often refer to it as the African salad because of the many fresh ingredients and vegetables used to prepare it. The Abor people of Enugu State have helped to propagate or ‘sell’ the abachacuisine inIgboland, giving it the popularity it now enjoys among the different peoples of Nigeria. How to prepare the abacha meal is discussed is another subsection. There are other meals indigenous to the Abor people though their major ingredients may not be presently being grown in the Abor environs. An example is theokpa (cowpea). According toPa Nnadiugwu Ben Eruchie, the oldest man in Abor, then, whom I had the privilege of interviewingin the course of my research on Abor history, Abor used to grow okpa around the 1920s-30s. Okpa, like the abacha, has become a table dish for every home in Igboland. Before now, because most Wawa people ateokpa, eating okpa then was an action not done in the public, for fear of being derided or cajoled – ‘okpa Wawa’, ‘Wawa…O jiokpaanu tea’ (meaning, Wawa person, who takes tea with okpa). Funnily enough, only the rich men can afford okpa today. Other delicacies for which Abor is known, usually prepared on festive occasions, include Ighuneji and mkpuluakidi, ofeegwusi and iriji, and ofempoto and akpummanu

Bibliography

Anidi, O. (2008). Sands of our land: Historical tales of Abor and Umuavulu. Enugu: Fidgina Global Books.

Isichei, E. A. (1977). A history of the Igbo people. London. Nigeria press.

Okamkpa, C. J. (2019). Origins and migrations of the UmueboAkpuoga Nike. Hundred years of the Catholic Church in Abor: 1919-2019, p. 271.

Okolo, F.M. (2000). The history and culture of Abor. Enugu: Mekanand.

Onodugo Lucy O. (1980) “Chieftancy music in Abor town”. Project, Department of Music, AlvanIkoku College of Education, Owerri, June

Ozoemena, I. S., &Njeze, E.O. (1998).Ojebe-Ogene Clan: In diaspora, myths, facts and realities of origin and migration: Enugu: Franco.

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