Monday, April 4, 2011

A BRIEF HISTORY OF OKPANAM

The town called Okpanam is bordered by Asaba and Ugbolu (a vassal of Okpanam) to the East, Igbuzo (Ibusa) and Ogwashi-Uku to the South, Issele Azagba and Azagba Ogwashi to the West and Akwukwu Igbo, Atuma and the River Niger to the North. With a population of nearly 70,000 made up mainly of civil servants and farmers, Okpanam is indisputably the oldest human habitation in the Delta State Capital Territory. This is evidenced by the huge land mass available to her compared with that of her more prosperous neighours such as Asaba and Ibusa. In deed there are still records showing that the Zappa Primary School and Catholic Church by the Water works in Asaba are located on Okpanam ancestral lands. The coming of the State capital to this area has unfortunately given the government an instrument with which to grab more land freely from Okpanam and transfer to others under the guise of development. The other members of the triumvirate making up the State Capital Territory are Ibusa and Asaba. It is my hope that this will not become a source of friction in future.

Although she is the oldest of the the three, modern development is least here than in the others making her the weaker of the three politically. Not withstanding, Okpanam has a very proud history of accomplishments in war, building of political institutions and in their democratic credentials.
The town has a history of having attracted dwellers from various and diverse cultures such as: Anam in Anambra State; Oba also in Anambra; Benin in Edo State and Uchi in the Riverine are of Delta State. Indeed, the Uchi connection is so strong the town proudly identifies herself as Okpanam-Uchi. To buttress this link, Okpanam has a sobriquet: Okpalani, meaning: The first son of Uchi. Should you, per adventure, find yourself in Uchi, every one in Uchi would most delightedly welcome you as a son on a homecoming. But so is it with the Ogbeowele, where a large chunk of the population claim strong affinity to Oba in Anambra.

The diversity of historical origin has also been a source of fissions. But so has it been one of her greatest strenghts. Politically, Okpanam has four quarters namely: Obodoogba, Ogbeozoma, Amachai and Obodo-Ogwugwu. Of the four, the last is the largest, in size and population accounting for nearly 40% of the towns population. Each Quarter is further didvided into Villages. They are as follows:
1.   Obodogba: Umuomahe, Umu-Obodo and Umu-Osume,
2.   Ogbeozoma: Umu-Laguti, Ogbe-Obi and Ogbe-Ojiea
3.   Amachai: Umu-Mgbala, Umuezegbe and Umuolie
4.   Obodogwugwu: Umumale, Idigbe Ocha, Idigbe Oji, Umuchime, Ogbeowele, Ogbeosadi and Umuomakei

ORIGINS
It is not possible to clearly class every quarter as having come from one place or the other. However there are discernible waves of  migration from parts of Igala land, Anambra, Benin and Ukwuani at different times. The different names borne by the natives bear testimony to our diversity. Check your name today if it sounds like names found predominantly from people from the Bini speaking area, then your ancestors probably came from there. Apart from names, some deities are more like those from one predominant area than others. And each Quarters have deities associated with them.  If you take Ogwugwu for instance, you would notice that a whole quarter is named after this deity in Okpanam. This means that the deity has a deep attachment to the root of the area. The question is was Ogwugwu invented in Okpanam or did it come with some migrants from the East (where Ogwugwu worship is rampant? Remember the shrine where Governor Ngige of Anambra State was infamously administered an oath? It was an Ogwuwgu shrine).

I have also suspected that those areas with a similar greeting such as "Ajie" found in Umuomahe, Ogbeojie, and Ogbeowele have more than a cursory relationship. Ajie is also a greeting common with all Ukwuani speaking people making the Uchi connection a strong source of linkage. Though this is speculative, a study of the deities common to these Ajie greeting-communities in Okpanam and the riverine area of Aboh kingdom may throw greater light. This is open to investigation, though. Umu-Chime, a village in Obodoogwugwu seems to mean descendants of Chime. The military campaign of Eze (King) Chime are well documented. Could these have been fugitives fleeing the crises of the Ekukumeku wars? What of Ogba? Obodo (town or dwelling place of) Ogba is symbolic. Why did Obodo-Ogba become a quarter with that name? Who is Ogba? Answers to questions like these can reveal who we are very well.

POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
Okpanam has had a history  of one man rulership or monarchy as we have in many places today. However, the rule is already consigned to history. Why? The theories are many and varied. What is not in doubt is that there is a village today, Ogbe-Obi, where the king lived and which continues to hold the deity associated with the ruling family from Benin, whose over-lordship was overturned because one problem or the other. Proof of this link is the fact that till date no Oba of Benin could claim to have completed the process of coronation without coming to Okpanam to get the blessing of this Village or the deities associated with the ruling dynasty in Benin.
Today, there are no restrictions to being a king or Eze but your qualifications are that you must be a free born or adopted child of the town; have become a titled Alo holder; and be married with proof that you're not aspiring to this position in the life time of your father.

The Spiritual leader of Okpanam however is the Diokpa, the oldest man in the town but there are agitations that this should be changed to reflect the modern realities as seen in neighouring communities.

 MODERN INSTITUTIONS IN OKPANAM
No where else than here is it obvious that Okpanam has always been   cheated. Apart from a poorly staffed secondary school and 2 public primary schools, others institutions of learning here are privately owned. The Government schools are: Okpalani Secondary School and the primary schools are the La School and Umegbali Primary schools. There is a host of other private schools which would constitute the subject of another write up.
Other government presence in Okpanam or Okpam for short include: the half completed road from Asaba to the Express, the Olie Market along the Onitsha-Benin Expressway  and no other thing of note.
The Catholic Church in Okpanam is however a project to be proud of.


8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. The corrections below were sent in by Paul Olele, a banker and President of PROJECT 25 KLUBB OF NIGERIA.
    Thanks for your good effort at putting Okpanam on the map. In your BRIEF ISTORY OF OKPANAM, there are some corrections that need to be made. In Amaechai one village is omitted ie Umuezenwuzu where the Oburothas are from. There is only one Umuidigbe in Obodogwugwu, Ocha & Oji are subdivisions of recent creation in the 40s & 50s. Umuobiaije my village is omitted and should be reflected. Cheers Paul Olele

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  3. Dear Ngozi,

    I did enjoy reading your brief history of Okpanam. I am an indegene of Anaku, Anambra state. I actually have some questions for you because of the belief among my people that Anaku, Anam, Nzam, Ulossi and Okpanam are connected through Ogbe Ajida, a warrior of Igala origin. But on the other hand, history tells us that Igala Kingdom is influenced by Yoruba, Bini and Jukun Kingdoms.

    I understand that the entire Okpanam do not all come from Igala but only a fraction. You mentioned "However there are discernible waves of migration from parts of Igala land, Anambra, Benin and Ukwuani at different times."

    You went further and I quote -

    The town has a history of having attracted dwellers from various and diverse cultures such as: Anam in Anambra State; Oba also in Anambra; Benin in Edo State and Uchi in the Riverine are of Delta State. Indeed, the Uchi connection is so strong the town proudly identifies herself as Okpanam-Uchi.
    What is not in doubt is that there is a village today, Ogbe-Obi, where the king lived and which continues to hold the deity associated with the ruling family from Benin, whose over-lordship was overturned because one problem or the other. Proof of this link is the fact that till date no Oba of Benin could claim to have completed the process of coronation without coming to Okpanam to get the blessing of this Village or the deities associated with the ruling dynasty in Benin.

    In the fore-going analysis, I understand, and you confirmed, that there is relationship between Okpanam, Anam, Igala and Benin, but this connection is not clear. The Ogbe-Obi you mentioned, could we draw analogy to Ogbe-Ajida of Igala who is claimed to be the father of some people in Anaku, Anam, Nzam, Ulossi and Okpanam?

    Did you also have a look at what Benin, Nzam, Anam and Anaku people say about themselves? Please see under:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benin_Empire

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nzam

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Anakuogbe/Anaku

    http://oranyeliumueze.blogspot.be/

    Although I understand that you mentioned that some facts are subject to further research, let me know when you read this what you think about my comments.

    Best regards!

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    Replies
    1. I have read this blog: 'UMUEZE ANAM: A HISTORICAL EXCURSION' and the Wikipedia article on Nzam, where this quote is taken from 'The natives of Nzam were the descendants of General Ajida, a notable warrior of Idah origin. Ajida is the father of Field marshal Ogbe who was married to Iyida. Ogbe and Iyida had five children: Nzam, Anam, Anaku, Oloshi and Okpanam. Ogbe and his family lived around Ankpa in Igala kingdom. When the Apa and Jukun warriors invaded the Igala communities, Field marshal Ogbe along with many Others retreated with their families through the present Ibaji jungle moving southwards along the course of the River Niger'. I see that the wars in question were fought in the 17th century. I am still researching and my interest will be to locate this incidents on the historical map of Okpanam. I appreciate your assistance and would let you know what I find out. Thanks Igwebuike. May God bless you richly, Amen!

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    2. Igwebuike, I also find a corollary with the Odogwu Institution written about by Anaku with that of Okpanam. Indeed, the Odogwu of Okpanam is a military title meaning "War-leader'. Until recently, it was reserved for people with military antecedents and was confined to one of the four Quarters of Okpanam, Obodogba. He is the leader of the warriors and is the one that summons and leads the warriors when there was a war to fight. Fittingly, you will see that the account given of Anaku's Odogwu matches that of Okpanam snuggly: 'The Odogwu (Ajogwu in Igala) institution is common among the children of Ogbe. The Odogwu is the custodian and leader of the town security council. The Odogwu of Anaku is always from Umundum kindred which is made up of Umuarechi and Umuezekwelagu. He works very closely with his Warriors (Ozo Odogwu) who are drawn from different quarters of the town....' how interconnected we are. I am getting more excited about these discoveries and I will continue to update. Thanks once more.

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    3. Ngozi, thanks, for your answers. I'm the author of Anaku article on Wikipedia. This article is still a draft and I'm assiduously working to embellish and fine tune it. Let's keep collaborating on these things. Please, send me emails to anakuogbe = at = yahoo dot com.

      You may always take a look at an updated info at :-

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Anakuogbe/Anaku


      Best

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  4. The above narrative is not accurate. Please read my book "The history of okpanam people and culture" . Ogbe of Igala is the ancestral mother of okpalani, Uchi, Anakwu . Her husband was Olisa Olu of Nri. Later a fisher nan from the east kidnapped Ogbe at the shores of river Niger at Ugbolu while bathing. He married her and begot Anam Ogbe, Oroma etc. Okpalani is the first child. Uchi is second. The name okpanam uchi is incomplete without adding oroma hence okpanam-oro-uchi. This is to tie the ancestral brothers together. Also Uchibuolu means that Uchi is the son of olisa olu. Dr Ebigwei S.O.

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    Replies
    1. Dr. Ebigwei thanks for your contribution. The history of Okpanam as we all know is just being published and it is gratifying that you and Chief Dunkwu have made your contributions.
      The more research we have into our history, the better. I hope we can collaborate in researching other salient aspects of our history as time goes on. So far, what I have tried to do is to gather the snippets that are available to me. Historical accounts are usually not complete until exhaustive efforts have been made. I assure you that your findings will be taken into consideration when writing the substansive history of Okpanam as this one is just what it is "A Brief" history.
      Thank you.
      Ngozi

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