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Where in Igboland is the Isu Home of Umejei, the Founder of Ibusa?

The well known oral account of the origin of Ibusa is cogent and logical judging from the coherence of the originating story. It is also reasonable and sensible to agree that the traditional wrestling bout Umejei Nwa Eze Isu (Prince Umejei of Isu) experienced in which he killed his opponent is not fictitious or strange within the period under discussion. However, the missing link is the name and location of that particular Isu community in southeastern region of Nigeria where this took place. I shall visit this area in this work because it is great concern to me and it is what this work sets out to unravel.

A critical analysis and understanding of the origin account is quite necessary to enable us seek to ascertain where the original home of the Ibusa people in Igboland lies.  

He threw his opponent down in “Mgba” (traditional wrestling) at Isu in Igboland, a situation that amounted to the death of his opponent even though it was not intentional. It makes sense to conclude that traditional wrestling is a commonly featured in Igboland as in other parts of Africa till date and its values, and social ego which it socially bestows on such societies is well documented in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in which Okonkwo threw down Amalinze the Cat and emerged a force to reckon with in the social as well as political history of Umuofia.

According to the oral tradition which gave birth to the history of Ibusa, we are further told that killing one’s opponent in a traditional wrestling bout was “Alu” (Abomination) attracting a capital punishment, this is also quite sensible since traditional wrestling was not a battle but only meant to test the manhood of contending parties. Umejei fell short of this but his father who was the Eze (king) of that community duly utilized his royal influence in commuting it, forcing Umejei to undergo an exile rather than get killed as the law of Isu land required.

Interestingly, Umejei’s father would prepare a wonderful pot of charms for mejei to enable him safely find a peaceful passage and place of settlement. Certain oof his relations may have also agreed to accompany him to begin the journey to the unknown world, they could have been either coaxed or coerced too. Did Umejei himself willingly agree to take the trip to the unknown world or was he coerced by the Eze? Was this arrangement concealed by Umejei’s father from his subjects who might reject such an arrangement and compel Umejei to face the law of the land? Was it an open secret?

On the issue of the name of the community Umejei hailed from, it will continue to generate controversy among the entire Isu people of Igboland in Nigeria as almost every Isu community continually lay claims to the original home of Prince Umejei Nwa Eze Isu.

Although certain Ibusa indigenes continue in their claims to maintain that Umejei hailed from an unknown community In Awka, present day Anambra State, Nigeria, my researches in Awka have not positively revealed any oral evidence or document to support this argument. People who are of this opinion such as Diokpa Willy Okobi, the head of Umuafene clan in Umuekea, Ibusa and a former principal of a secondary school hold that Umejei must have migrated from a nearby Igbo region somewhere in Anambra or Enugu States but probably Anambra State and not innermost part of Igboland. So far records and oral tradition of Awka are saying nothing about the movement of Umejei one of the founders of Ibusa from that very community.

Another prominent Igbo Historian, C. N. Ugochukwu from Nnewi, Anambra State has also claimed in one of Books that Ibusa-Isu is part of the Isu people as it is a fact that Umejei hailed from this very region of Igboland. To buttress his argument, he said that there was a time in the history of both communities that Ibusa-Isu warriors were frequently invited by Isu-Nnewi to support in the prosecution of wars against Isu-Nnewi. Again, he holds that in recent time, as early as in the 20th century, there existed a market in Nnewi called “Igbuzo Market” which remained so until it was renamed.

He further maintained that it was this bloodline relationship which existed between the two communities that warranted the Ibusa to extend an invitation to, and causing Nnewi community to send a delegation to witness the coronation of the first and current Obuzor of Ibusa, Obi (Prof) Louis Chelunor Nwaoboshi and the presence of the delegation was ancestrally given recognition.

The present Obuzor of Ibusa as a learned personality will do well to encourage further historical researches as well as fact-finding missions in several of these Isu communities to help ascertain the Isu home of Ibusa in southeastern Nigeria. Only this will truly enable us know where we belong.     

The origin of Ibusa account can be given credibilty since the story oral tradition identifies the people not as those who originated from Egypt, Israel or Ethiopia but simply from a known and definite region of Igboland in Nigeria.   

By Emeka Esogbue 


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