The Igbo language’s ancestry is up for debate. The Igbo are said to have originated in two Anambra communities: Nri in the Anaocha local government area and Aguleri in the Anambra East local government area.
The disagreement began when Eze Obidiegwu Onyeso, the traditional chief of Nri, asserted that his people are the ancestors of Igbo. Aguleri refuted it shortly after, claiming that Onyeso should be aware of the reality because he was required by Igbo tradition to see Aguleri prior to his 1988 coronation in order to get benediction. Aguleri is said to be the first son of Eri, who emigrated from Egypt, according to the Aguleri people.
However, Onyeso did not agree, insisting that the Igbo originated in his settlement before migrating to other regions and even outside the borders of present-day eastern Nigeria. “The father of Nri was a man by the name of Gad, and Nri has its roots in Egypt from roughly two centuries ago. Jacob was the son of Isaac, and Isaac was the son of Abraham. Gad was the son of Jacob. The lineage of Nri can be traced back to Abraham, who was God’s favourite child “Onyesoh stated.
Eri: The Father of the Igbo People
The Igbo people are thought to be descendants of Eri, a mythical deity who, according to legend, was sent by heaven to launch civilisation. According to the Bible, Gad was the father of Eri and was one of Jacob’s sons via his concubine (Genesis 46:15-18 and Numbers 26:16:18).
According to folklore, Eri served as a high priest during Joseph’s rule in Egypt. He left Egypt by the Nile, the Benue, and the Niger rivers before settling close to the confluence when he realised his people were going to be sold into slavery. He established there with the people he was able to gather. There, Eri had a son whom he called Nri.
Nri was chosen as his heir since he shared his priestly ordination and, thus, his spiritual abilities. Eri eventually became father to one girl and four more males. As Nri grew older, he parted ways with his father to start a life on his own. Currently, Nri is located in Nigeria’s Anambra state.
The children of Eri and/or their descendants left the settlement of Eri at Aguleri as the population there grew, along with other circumstances, and created several other settlements outside Aguleri, while Agulu, the first son, stayed in their father’s home at Aguleri with his descendants. Agulu, also known as Agulu-Nwa-Eri, formed Agulu-Eri by adding the name of their father, Eri, to his name (Aguleri). Menri fled Aguleri and made his home in a large forest, where he worked both physically and spiritually while hunting, farming, and engaging in other activities. He gave the town the name Agu-Ukwu (Nri).
When he was getting old, he instructed his children to bring him back to his ancestral house since he did not want to pass away elsewhere. Menri was returned to Aguleri, where he passed away and was laid to rest. His burial is still identified today in Okpu in Ivite Aguleri. Except for Aguleri, there is just one other location in Igbo country where Menri, the founder of Nri, is buried.
Disputed Origin Story
It’s interesting to note that the Nri and Aguleri people are at odds over where the Igbos came from. Aguleri, according to one school of thinking, was Eri’s first child to leave Egypt with him. Since Aguleri was born in Egypt rather than the new colony, according to one school of thought, he shouldn’t be the original root of the Igbo race. This school maintains that Nri was the one who inherited his father Eri’s priestly temperament.
According to them, Nri was Eri’s reincarnate, and the duties that their grandfather did were transferred to him. He stayed at his father’s compound while his siblings all went to their respective farming jobs. Because the process is from one Eze-Nri to another, the Ofo Ndigbo lives in Nri. You must receive the original Ofo and Alo in order to become Eze-Nri; otherwise, you are not Eze Nri. Over the past a thousand nine hundred years, the Ofo and Alo have existed.
About 180 towns today may trace their roots back to Nri, and the Nri culture spread throughout the world. Like his father before him, he established the Ozo brand and spoke anything related to justice and fairness. He established everything on his grandfather’s behalf, and the people he founded identified as Igbo.
Despite these reasoning, it is customary for only an Aguleri man to crack a kolanut at a gathering if he is present. A king must also travel to Aguleri for a rite and to receive blessings for seven days before being crowned.
After Eri’s passing, his first son Agulu—now known as Agulu + Eri, or “Aguleri”—took control of the territory, and the populace increased and spread to create other settlements. When Nri learned of his father’s passing, he returned to Aguleri and lived there for a considerable amount of time, making it a condition of his final will and testament that he be laid to rest there.
The Nri Kingdom
The capital of the kingdom of Nri is Igboukwu, which has expanded significantly over time. The rapid progress the people experienced and participated in led to the creation of financial systems and the ownership of a currency rather quickly. Their economy was based mostly on agriculture, however they also traded in game.
Outcasts (osu) were welcomed, and Nri swiftly developed into a safe haven for escaped slaves. Although the Nri people did not rule over all of the Igbo kingdoms, their influence could be seen throughout all of them and beyond. As a result, all traditional and cultural events took place in Nri.
There was no dictatorship in their leadership. The king had control over religious concerns as well as the commerce routes and diplomacy. Not only were the descendants of Nri eligible to become kings, but also other people chosen by the gods.
However, the chosen one was required to go through ceremonies to demonstrate his worth to Chineke (the universe’s creator), and he had to be from Eri, have a dead mother, and have no living father. In his ritual, he celebrates as though he has passed away, signifying his own passing and the fact that he now belongs to the spirits and the people. The last step before being crowned is for him to travel to Aguleri.
The Agbanagbo-Ezu-na-Omambala hosts the Ancient Iduu (Olili Obibia Eri) Cultural Festival each year to commemorate Eri’s arrival there (confluence of Ezu and Omabala rivers). Eri started this celebration, which is still observed today.
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