History of the Abiriba people of Abia province of Biafra

History of the Abiriba people of Abia province of Biafra

The people who occupy the territory known as Abiriba descended from the Igbo and Efik people of Calabar. They migrated from the upper Cross River area centuries ago led by a Nnachi Oken, from whom the title “Enachioken” (“The Monarch”) originates. Initially, they occupied a smaller territory which expanded when the Abiriba people routed the surrounding Nkporo people and took over their lands. The Abiriba people were war-like and quickly established themselves in the area.
The origin of the Abiriba people is not as speculative as the origin of other Igbos of Biafra. Historical evidence supports the fact that Abiriba people have common ancestor with the Yakor tribe of Ekoi of cross river basin and the people of Arochukwu. At Ekoi, constant disputes between the seven families under Ukpaghiri prompted the clan to move to Ena and finally to Akpa.
The settlement at Akpa was difficult for many years due to hostilities with neighbors. After the death of Ukpaghiri, Mbiriba and his group moved to Usukpam and stayed there for many years but were never at peace with the neighbors. Mbiriba decided to move to Udara-ebuo whereas Otusi led the other branch of the family down stream and eventually founded Arochukwu. The term Nwadim is often used between Abiriba and Aros because of our common lineage. Mbiriba who had advanced in age, moved his group once more and settled at Udara-ebuo.
Nature was inhospitable to the inhabitants at Udara-ebuo. There was no water and the place was overrun by monkeys. Oral history has it that monkeys used to visit homes to look for food, and the people became sick living on monkey meat only. Mbiriba died at Udara-ebuo and left his son Ifa Mbiriba in charge.
Ifa Mbiriba finally moved to Uruanta and Agboha and settled there. The new settlement was very fertile and had a natural fortress. Thus Abiriba was derived from the name Mbiriba or nickname “Ebiri-Aba”.
Oko Ogo opened Ndi Okogo which is currently where the Chiefs palace is situated. Nwagu Ifa founded Okagwe and later Agboji. Ngwu founded Ihungwu. Chukwu Oke founded Amogudu. The name Amaeke was derived from the market day Eke. The Capital of Abiriba is Ameke and the paramount Chief for the whole Abiriba uses the title Enachi-oken.
Incessant conflicts and border skirmishes between the Item and Amogudu led to the creation of a standing army in form of the age-grade system. Historical artifacts exist to support the consensus that the age-grade system started at Amogudu. Nwagu Ifa, Ngwu, Oko Ogo and Chukwu Oke used the age-grade as a standing army to protect the Abiriba from hostile neighbors.
The Abiriba people are known to be industrious both in crafts and trading; their arid lands make it tough for agriculture to flourish. These made them popular amongst the Igbo people of Biafra. As a matter of fact, in the history of the Igbos of Biafra, Abiriba is reckoned for her pre-historical black smithing and sculpture artifacts. These ancient occupation of the Abiriba people later on metamorphosed into what is today the trademark of the people – Trading (or better merchandise) popularly known among Abiriba People.
Since the people were predominantly merchants, they were widely travelled both within and outside the boundaries of Biafra, and they are correspondingly cosmopolitan. Being so exposed and prosperous, the people have enough information about vogue and money that made them transform their locality from the normal village setting, as is common with the surrounding villages, to a model sub-urban but purely residential setting with some of the most exotic building in the Igbo land, even in Nigeria as a whole. The Abiriba people take great pride in the serenity and aesthetic value of their landscape, consequently shunning attempts by government or individuals to set up factories in the town, and seeing same as attempts to “pollute” their land. In 1959, the late President of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe was so taken in by the beauty of Abiriba that he called it “Small London” – a name in use today.

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