NRI KINGDOM is the oldest Kingdom in Nigeria. It was founded around 900AD by the progenitor, Eri, the son of Gad. According to biblical accounts, Jacob had Leah as his wife who begot four sons for him. When Leah noticed she had passed child-bearing age, she gave her maid – servant, Zilpah to Jacob to wife, and through Zilpah he had a son named Gad. Gad then bigot Eri, who later formed a clan known as Erites vide Genesis Chapter 30 verse 9; 46 verse 16 and Numbers chapter 26 verses 15-19. Eri was therefore amongst the twelve tribes of Israel via Gad.
During their stay in Egypt Eri became the high priest and spiritual adviser to Pharaoh Teti, the fifth dynastic king of Egypt around 2400 BC.
During the Exodus, which marked the beginning of the mass movement of the tribes of Israel, the tribe of Eri was amongst the tribe that left Egypt following the injunction from God to the Israelites (see Deuteronomy chapter 28 verses 58 – 68). Some of these tribes founded settlements in the southern part of Sudan, where they established the “Nok” culture, which is similar to that of other (sun Cult) culture, like Nri, Fiji, Samoa, and Jukun in the Northern part of Nigeria and elsewhere. But others who could not remain in the Southern Sudan traveled further South, some branched off to Jukun, in Northern part of Nigeria, others continued and arrived at the confluence of Rivers Niger and Anambara known as “Ezu-na-Ọmambala” and settled there while some veered off to the Island of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. An intelligence report notes that the Fijians have the same sun culture with the people of Nri.
When Eri arrived at the confluence of “Ezu-na-Ọmambala” he had two wives, namely Nneamakụ and Oboli, Nneamakụ begot five children, namely (a) Nrifikwuanịm-Menri being the first son (b) Agụlụ (c) Ogbodudu (d) Onogu and (e) Iguedo the only daughter. Oboli begot Ọnọja, the only son who founded the Ịgala Kingdom in Kogi State. Meanwhile, Nri-Ifikwuanịm begot Agụkwu Nri, Enugwu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Agidi, Nọfịa, and Amọbia, while his brother Ogbodudu who later became Nrinaoke N’Ogbodudu had founded the Diodo Dynasty, while his brother Ezikannebo founded Akamkpịsị and Amanuke. Onogu Begot Ịgbariam, while Iguedo, the only daughter, begot Ogbunike, Ọkuzu, Nando, Ụmụleri, and Nteje, Known today as Ụmụ-Iguedo clan, while the former are better known as Ụmụ-Nri clan. According to Nri Oral tradition recently substantiated by archaeological findings of Ọraeri/Igbo-Ukwu objects, the unification of Agukwu, Diodo, and Akamkpịsị was enacted constitutionally during the beginning of reign of Nribụife (AD 1159 – 1252) who was the first Eze Nri to observe the Ịgụ-Arọ Festival as a pan – Igbo affair in 1160AD (Prof. M.A. Ọnwụejeọgwu 2003).
Nri-Ifikwuanịm took after his progenitor Eri, and became a high priest among his people. He left Agụleri in search of a better living place, according to Mr. M.D.W. Jeffreys report, and settled at present Nri site. He started performing what Eri did at Egypt, cleansing of abominations, giving titles such as prestigious Ọzọ title, to his people, proclaiming the New Year (Ịgụ-Arọ) etc.
ỊGỤ-ARỌ: Ịgụ-Arọ is an annual festival of the Nri people. It is during this festival that Eze Nri proclaims the New Year to all the Igbo communities under his jurisdiction, and he then announces the Nri calendar to the people. The Nri calendar is made up of thirteen (13) Lunar months namely:
The Nri were great innovators in rituals, diplomacy, economy, administration, and management of a segmented and decentralized people. The Lunar system of calculating the year with a system of adjustment was known to the Nri priests of Alụsị Arọ and the knowledge of the movement of the heavenly bodies were employed in calculation the lunar year, according to Northcote Thomas (M.A. Frai) a British Government Anthropologist who served in Ọka District in the early 20th century, in 1910 he reported he got names from the following heavenly bodies at Nri-Pleiades, Orion and Great Bear. Therefore Nri elders had clear knowledge of these stars and others which helped them in calculating the intervals between each Lunar period and finding their directions during their sojourn from one Igbo Village to another in both the semi – forest and the forest zones.
During the Ịgụ-Arọ Festival, Eze Nri proclaims the New Year; he also distributes seed yams to the Igbo People and asked them to go home and farm. He tells the people that after his Ịgụ-Arọ, approximately within four days but certainly not more than three native weeks (Izu Anọ) “you will have the first rainfall, so after this rainfall you can go ahead to cultivate your crop”.
Eze – Nri introduced the cowrie currency (Ego ayo), and a sophisticated system of using cowrie as a medium of exchange and valuation was developed in the Igbo cultural area. The system of calculation and the table of conversion used in the Nri area in the late Nineteenth century were as follows:
Fowls and bags were valued in Ukwu, goats and sheep in Afịa, cows, slaves and land in ili Afịa. Bride wealth was negotiated in nnu, never to exceed four Nnu Afịa. Iron bars and rods, copper bars and rods and manilas were valued in terms of cowries. In order to facilitate carrying them around for transaction, cowries were strung together in rows of sixes and sewn permanently on mats in bundles of 6, 1,200, 24,000, and 240, 000. The mats were rolled, loose ones were tied in bags of 24,000 called akpa.
Prof. M. Angulu Onwuejeogwu equally reported the conversion of cowries to British currencies this way. At the beginning of the 19th century, the British introduced the pound, shillings and pence #, s. d. currency system. This new system was resisted in various ways. First a dual currency system was developed, traditional goods were sold in cowries and European goods in British currency. Later cowries could buy British currency and British currency could buy cowries. By a system of haggling, the exchange rate varied and was determined by several factors. As more European goods began to penetrate without replacement, the British currency backed by law, became dominant. In 1925, the following rate of exchange was still operating in many rural markets.
Having introduced trading and currency which was the cowrie system, and having worked out the rate of exchange to accommodate the British traders and their currency system, Eze Nri introduced a sort of local system for people with extra money to keep on this Prof. M. Angulu Onwuejeogwu 1981 writes:In Nri, a rudimentary local banking system developed, during the slave trade period, men with strong buildings began to keep the cowries of other people in return for commission. Such men became very rich and were able to give a capital loan to persons who wished to begin a trading venture. No fixed rate of interest was paid, one had to haggle over the interest called Ọmụlụnwa on the principal, isi ego.
Stock Exchange was introduced for the first time in Nri, for instance stock exchange was associated with Ọzọ title. In this system, a person who had belonged to one of the alliance groups called Ogwe Mmuo. The candidate for the title will purchase a total of Nine (9) shares known as “Ọfọ Itenanị”. The shares are known as “Ọfọ” the stall of immortality. The Ọzọ titled man will get his entitlements depending on the number of Ọfọ Ọzọ he has. An Ọzọ man with nine Ọfọ Ọzọ will be entitled to nine shares whenever a new person took the title and made payment. One could sell his Ọfọ, except three, within his Ọzọ group at a loss or profit, whenever he is in need of money. He could use his Ọfọ as security for a loan, the person giving the loan will take the shares allocated to the Ọfọ whenever payments of share were made until the capital and interest were paid back by the owner of the Ọfọ. If a man dies his male children will inherit the total Ọfọ Ọzọ and the allocated shares. Shares of Ọfọ Ọzọ lapses two years after the man’s death, it is known as ovunisi. The family of the dead Ọzọ man will continue to take all shares accruing from the Ọfọ Ọzọ left. The son could use one of the Ọfọ Ọzọ in taking his own Ọzọ title. If he did this he would continue to take shares accruing from his own Ọfọ and those inherited. If he has brothers, the Ọfọ Ọzọ of their father would be shared according to the law of inheritance in Nri. (Northcote W. Thomas, M.A, F.R.A.I) 1913.
The Ọfọ, the staff of immortality, ritual and political authority was converted into a type of security certificate. Nri used the ritual system to achieve economic enhancement via Stock Exchange. This cultural civilization was introduced to Igbo – land before the coming of the British Colonial Administration. Therefore, Nri bequeathed this highly civilized pattern of exchange to Igbo – land.
Eze – Nri introduced the four market days to the Igbo Land, namely Eke, Oye (Orie), Afọ and Nkwọ. In each of the communities where the Eze – Nri establishes these markets, he will keep one of his Alụsị (Deity at that market square, and leave one of his agents to take care of that Alụsị. The inhabitants of that community will pay allegiance to the Eze – Nri through that agent, especially during the Ịgụ – Arọ ceremony of Eze – Nri.
It is on record in Igbo land that Eze – Nri introduced agriculture in Igboland. He introduced yam, cocoyam, and other cash crops in Igbo – land. That is why at every Ịgụ – Arọ ceremony, His Majesty the Eze – Nri will share out seed – yams to the people present, to go and plant. This symbolizes the introduction of yam to the Igbo race.
LIST OF PAST EZE – NRI AND ORDER OF REIGN:
NRI AGE GRADES:
Since the present monarch ascended the throne there has been peace, however after the initial wrangling in the community. The community is well-protected security – wise. The town union, Nri progress Union (NPU) has introduced a very reliable security outfit, that patrols through the community both day and night.
The community has benefited from the Federal Government two unserviceable water boreholes. However, since the ascension to the throne by HRM. Eze Obidiegwu Onyeso (MFR) Eze – Nrienwelana 11, Anambra state Government has awarded ADB assisted water project while the federal Government has through the federal ministry of water Resources awarded three borehole projects which have been ostensibly completed but they are not functional yet. We are still begging the Federal and State Government to assist us to get these boreholes become operational, so that our water problem would be solved.
We are gradually improving on our electricity supply in order to ensure that Nri has steady electricity supply. The Federal Government through NEPA is currently executing an enhanced electricity supply project through the installation of a 2.5kva electricity step down from Nibo sub – station to Nri. To this end the Eze – Nri in Council and the N.P.U. Executive would like to thank the Federal Government for this kind gesture to the people of Nri. With the enhanced electricity supply to Nri, our sons and daughters and other entrepreneurs can now site small-scale industries in the community so as to improve the unemployment syndrome of our youths, as well as help reduce the worsening urban drift to the metropolitan cities.
In less than three years into the reign of HRM. Eze – Nrienwelana11, he has attracted the Anambra State Government to look into the road leading into the ancient Kingdom of Nri, The road leading to Nri to wit Enugwu – Ukwu/Nri/Agulu road as well as Nri/Agbanabo/Neni (Anaocha L.G.A Headquarters) have been award to indigenous contractors. Unfortunately road construction work stopped soon after mobilization thereby making these roads unpassable. HRM. Eze Nrienwelana 11, the Eze – Nri in – council and the N.P.U. Executive would like to use this opportunity to request Anambra State Government to see to it that these important link roads which naturally form part of the inner road through the Ọka capital territory are rehabilitated for obvious reasons. Meanwhile we must thank the Anambra state Government for completing the Nise/Eke Nri road last year in 2003. we are indeed very grateful for that gesture a singular dividend of democracy. The village and other well-meaning individuals are helping to renovate the other roads leading into the hinterland.
His Majesty, Eze – Obidiegwu Onyesoh (MFR) Nrienwelana II, was invested with the National Honour of the Member of the Order of Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR) by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, on the 16th of December, 2003 at Abuja. This is the first time any indigene of Nri is bestowed with this kind of high profile honour. We must thank God of Nri, our ancestors and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for this good gesture unto Nri Community, the Ancestral Homeland of Ndi Igbo.
Last year the members of Nri Progressive Union (N.P.U) USA branch, renovated the Lake City Girls Secondary School Nri, and the Ebede primary school, Nri. They also supplied the two secondary schools with educational equipment, materials and books. They also refurbished the famous ỌDỊNANỊ MUSEUM, Nri, a joint project with University of Ibadan Institute of African studies, which has been neglected by the U.I. They have also promised to do more in the coming years of which we are very grateful.
Nri people living in the Ancestral Homeland of Ndigbo are trying to re-establish positive and effective relationship with our brothers in Diaspora here in Nigeria and even outside the country. Our brothers in Diaspora outside Nigeria are Fijians, Haitians, Samoans, Some Black Communities in the USA, Eritreans, Jamaicans. Records available to us reveal that about 30% of Jamaicans today are from Nri, their progenitor being one slave boy called Aneaso as Archibald John Monteith. The most recent research work on the subject carried out by Dr. Maureen Warner Lewis of the University of west Indies Kingston Jamaica was presented in 1994, when she, the researcher visited Nri Kingdom and had stayed for several months.
The authorities in Nri are working concertedly to re-establish effective relationship with our brothers and sisters in Diaspora in some 113 and ever growing list of identified communities in Nigeria including:
From the foregoing, Nri is one of the oldest established Kingdoms in Nigeria, which dates back to 900AD. There are to date 113 Ụmụ – Nri Communities in Diaspora within Nigeria about some score others outside Nigeria. In these communities H.M. Eze – Nri has definable functions and roles known among the Igbos as “the spiritual head and potentate”. Hence, Nri has been widely heralded as the heart of Igbo nationality “and” a kind of holy city, the Rome or Mecca of the Igbos” (Isichei 1977,10). Professor Elizabeth Isichei goes further to capture the evergreen picture of Nri in these elegant words.The street of the Nri family is the street of the Gods, through which all who die in other parts of Igboland pass to the land of the spirits.
Some other notable references include Olaedo Equiano (1789), G.T. Basden (1902, 1921), A.G. Leonard (1906), M.A. Talbot (1926), Northcote Thomas (1930), C.D. Forde and G.I. Jones (1950), Professor Kenneth Dike (1956), F.K. Elechi (1971), M.D. Jeffreys (1972), A.E. Afigbo (1973), (1981), Prof. M. A. Onwuejeogwu (1981) B.I.O Odinanwa (1987, 1993), D.C. Ohadike (1975), Cardinal Arinze Francis (1970), P.J.O. Nwadirigwe (1999), Uche P. Keanyibe (1997).
PAST ỌFỌ NRI HONOREES
Rt. Hon.(Dr) Nnamdi Azikiwe, The Owelle of Onitsha.
Rt. Hon. (Dr) M.I. Okpara
General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Rt. Hon. (Dr) Jim. Nwobodo
Rt. Hon. Sen. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo
H.E. Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani
RECIPIENTS OF AWARDS:
H.E. Dr. Sam Egwu
H.E. Senator Adolphus Wabara
H.E. Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige OON
Senator David Mark
Engr. Emma Okonkwo,
Conferment of Certificate of Honour as well as certificate of Merit to deserving Nri Indigenes.
Otunba Mike Niyi Adenuga Jnr. OON.
Chief Dr. Anieze Chinwuba PhD.
Chief Barr. (Dr.) Mrs. Josephine N. Anenih
Iyom Nri Nwachinemelu
Chief Mrs. Uche Ekwunife
Prof. Miriam Ikejani Clark
Iyom Ada Eji Eje Mba. Of Nri.
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