The purpose of this chapter is to examine exhaustively the life of the Ututu people before contact was made with the white-people at the beginning of the 20th century. A convenient point to begin this scrutiny is the method of acquisition of land; this is because land was the single most important property that determined the status of an Ututu man in the pre-colonial days.
There are two categories of land in Ututu; i.e.
(a) Residential lands.
(b) Farm lands.
As enunciated in the previous chapter the Ututu kingdom was initially founded through war. The first group of people that arrived the Ututu ridge had to drive away a group of Ibibios that sparsely inhabited the area. At the time it was just Amaeke Village, but with the passage of time other Villages were clearly differentiated by their hearthstones “ Nkuma Etiti-Ogo”.
As the people settled in their villages, the need for farmlands arose since the people’s major occupation was farming. Three categories of farmlands became discernable. The first were lands acquired jointly by the Clan which became Community land, and the Clan Head Eze Ututu was charged with the custody of such lands which were clearly demarcated with odu trees. The second was village lands which was acquired jointly by a particular village and thereafter referred to as Village lands and was put under the custody of the Village Head, and the third was family or Kindred/Compound land which belonged to a particular family. Those kindreds whose ancestors were hard working benefited most in this quest for farmlands, whereas the lazy kindred’s became the losers, this search for farmlands continued unabated until all lands had been acquired.
After the death of Eze Akuma Ukwu, the first son of Otutu Ezema, Eze Ijo Mgbeke also from Ndi-Eziakuma Compound became the next holder of Offor Ututu or Eze Ututu. It was during the reign of the third Eze Ututu that Ukwen Eze, the son of Isii Koko and the grandson of Koko Ukwu (the second son of Otutu Ezema who had made his home in Ujara) decided to join his kiths and kin in Ututu. The Ututu people welcomed their brothers whole-heartedly, infact it has been asserted that it was the arrival of Ihechiowa people that was responsible for the departure of Ukwen Eze and members of his family to the Ututu ridge.
In those days only the Villages of Abuma and Ohomja occupied the big stretch of land that will eventually be known as Umuiwe Ututu. On arrival at Ututu ridge Ukwen Eze and members of his group were shown this varse stretch of land, and it is here that they established their Village which was called Ukwuakwu Ututu. At their former home Ujara (near Ihechiowa), they had kept their deity of Anyunku, which ensured peaceful coexistence among the Koko Ukwu Clan. This deity was now transferred to their new home in Ukwuakwu Ututu, and became part of Obasi Ututu. A New Court known as Awada Ukwen Eze was established and became part and parcel of Awada Ukwu Ututu in Ndi-eziakuma compound.
As already explained in Chapter One, the Ututu Government up till the time of Eze Akuma Ukwu consists of Ndi-Akpa Asaa, or holders of the Seven Sacred Portfolios, this body continued to rule Ututu singly during the reign of Eze Ijo Mgbeke even though other new villages were springing up in the Clan.
It is perhaps Dr. C. O. Okoreaffia, a renowned anthropologist that best describes the stratification of Ututu Villages.
“Ututu is an autonomous community of 19 Villages. These Villages are zoned into 4 anthropological groupings, which have stood the test of settlement stratification from the very beginning of the Ututu settlement. The zones are in alphabetical order:
Zone One: Ututu Akasi: made up of 5 villages, namely;
Zone Two: Ututu Eleoha: made up of 6 villages, namely;
Zone Three: Ututu Umunna Isii made up of 4 villages, namely;
Zone Four: Ututu Umu Ugwuonyiri made up of 4 villages namely;
We must not loose sight of the natural idiosyncrasy, definitely certain, which gave rise to the unsavoury nomenclature of ELEOHA and UMUIWE. These are words of doubtful etymology, and have consequently been exploited for all sorts of purposes in religion and politics…”
C. O. OKOREAFFIA PH.D
By way of analysis, let us take a closer look at the origin of the (19) Nineteen Ututu Villages. In terms of seniority, Amaeke and Amasa Villages are the most senior by virtue of the fact that they were the Villages established by Otutu Ezema and his group, the first set of people to firmly establish themselves in the Ututu ridge. The Village Amodu is an offshoot of Amaeke Village.
Next in seniority are Abuma and Ugwuogo Obiene, let us recall the hunter Cheke Ukwu and his son who were permitted by Otutu Ezema to form the Village of Abuma as security measure againt Ibibio invasion. When Cheke Ukwu had firmly established himself in Abuma Village, that is he placed his hearthstones (i.e. Nkuma etiti-ogo and Nfjioku), he now left the Village for his son Nzerem and established another home known as Ugwuogo Obiene. It is in his new home that he lived until his death.
Sometime later when Cheke Ukwu who was then residing in his new home, a remarkable event took place that will be of great significance to the history of his former home of Abuma. One eventful evening, Nzerem his son visited him in his new domain. “There is a stranger who has arrived Abuma Village – said Nzerem – I have come to seek advice on what to do with him”.
Cheke Ukwu thanked his son for his thoughtfulness in coming to him over such a sensitive matter. At this period people were not as civilized as they are today, and the obvious treatment given to any stranger was to be………….. After getting all the details concerning the stranger Cheke Ukwu advised his son to do nothing about the issue until he had heard from him. The next day Cheke Ukwu was in Abuma Village and had the opportunity to see the stranger Amaezie.
Recalling his own experience with the Otutu Ezema group, he advised his son to have Amaezie as a neighbor, he suggested that Amaezie should be allowed to occupy the northern section of the town where yam and cassava had just been uprooted (Ugwu Ukabi). But as a seasoned colonizer Cheke Ukwu was conscious of the fact that this agreement could be breached in future, he now entrusted the deity of Acha to Amaezie, the reasoning was that if he ( Amaezie) goes against the terms of the treaty that Acha should kill him.
We have already traced the origin of the Village of Ukwuakwu which gave birth to other Villages like Obiakang, Amaebem, Obijoma, Ugwuogo and Amakofia. We have also traced the origin of the Village Ohomja, which had made an independent migration to the Ututu ridge. Another Village known as Obialuko is said to have been founded by Aluoko Nkee who originally resided in Abuma Village. Aluoko Nkee a popular blacksmith he was indispensable to the community for the supply of smith products especially during ceremonies like Ila – Asaa.
The Akpa Villages in Ututu are Amaetiti, Obiagwulu and Amankwu. The Villages of Obiene and Ubila were bastions ofdefence established to check the intrusion of the Ibibios. These Villages had very strong links with Ukwuakwu and Abuma. Finally is the Village of Nkpakpi. History has it that this Village was established as a camp for prisoners of war, with the passage of time it was elevated to the status of a full Village, but it was still their responsibility to produce one of their group when the community needed a human being for sacrifice as often happened in pre-colonial Ututu.
Eze Ijo Mgbeke had a hard time administering these Nineteen Villages with his Council of Akpa Asaa. It was customary for Akpa Asaa messengers to go round the Nineteen Villages after every major decision at Awada-Ukwu Ututu. It was the next holder of Offor Ututu Eze Orie Nwa Ikemi whose administrative genius will be bequeathed as a legacy to future generations of Ututu people.
Eze Orie Nwa Ikemi was of the kindred of Okorochukwu, one of the three Kindreds that make up Ndi Eziakuma Compound. The other two kindred’s in
other of seniority are Ndl-Akuma Ukwu and Ntlte Nwaba. This fourth Eze of Ututu was reputed as one of the wealthiest farmer of his time. Before this time it was customary for the people of Ututu to provide food, money, etc. for the upkeep of the Eze Ututu on the grounds that he should concentrate his potentials in his onerous duty instead of pursuing his own means of livelihood, but Eze Orie Nwa Ikemi abolished that practice, principally because of his great passion for yamcultivation.
As already stated the job of governing the Nineteen Villages in Ututu had become too ardous for members of the Akpa Asaa Ututu, especially the task of going round the Nineteen Villages, to inform the people about major decisions taken at Awada-Ukwu Ututu in Ndi-Eziakuma Compound. It was in order to lighten the burden of governance on the Akpa Asaa Ututu that Eze Orie Nwa Ikemi decreed the existence of a new-body to be known as Uke-Eke. This body was to comprise of representatives of the Nineteen Villages. The term “Okpu Abosi” was used to identify the first family that established themselves in a particular Village. It was this family that produced the Eze Ogo (Village Head) who was now admitted into the deliberations of Eze Ututu and members of his cabinet.
Henceforth, Ututu Traditional Government will comprise of two bodies namely; Akpa Asaa (holders of seven sacred portfolios) and Uke-Eke (made up of village heads of the nineteen villages). Together these two bodies became referred to as Amala Ututu – the highest traditional authority in Ututu.
Eze Orie Nwa Ikemi therefore was the Eze Ututu that established a democratic traditional government in Ututu, because for the first time representatives of the Nineteen Villages had the opportunity to assemble at Awada Ukwu Ututu with the Eze Ututu and members of Akpa Asaa to make policies and laws for the smooth government of the community. It is imperative at this point to comment on another classification of the Ututu Villages. It is customary to hear that a particular Village belongs to right flank (Utuga Ikenga) or left flank (Utugu Ibita). This classification came about as a result of how individual Villages became part of the Ututu confederacy.
Right flank is used to describe those Villages who were part of the Otutu Ezema group including those of his sons Akuma Ukwu and Koko Ukwu. These Villages include Amaeke, Ukwuakwu, Amasa, Obiakang, Eziama, Obijoma, Amakofia, Amodu, Obiene, Ubila, and Ugwuogo. Whereas left flank are those Villages who joined the Otutu Ezema group after they had established themselves in Ututu, namely; Abuma, Obiagwulu, Amankwu, Amaetiti, Obialuoko and Amaebem.
The order of sharing things in Ututu however cuts cross this classification, and is in accordance with the seniority of the Villages in the traditional hierarchy as follows; Amaeke, Abuma, Ukwuakwu, Amasa, Amankwu, Amaetiti, Obiakang, Eziama, Ohomja, Obijoma, Amakofia, Amodu, Obiagwulu, Obiene, Nkpakpi, Ubila, Ugwuogo, Obialuko, and Amaebem. The next Eze Ututu after Eze Orie Nkemi was Eze Ntite Nwaba (Jnr.) of the Ntite Nwaba Kindred. Very little is known about this Eze Ututu, possibly because there were no administrative changes in the Ututu traditional government during his reign.
The stage was now set for the greatest Eze Ututu of all time, the great Chief Okore Nne Agwu who was the Sixth Eze Ututu. It was this Eze Ututu that the white people met when they arrived Ututu in 1923, even at that there is no evidence to prove that there was any direct contact between the great Eze and the British colonizers. Chief Okore Nne Agwu popularity did not derive so much from the fact that he was the Eze Ututu when the white people arrived the Ututu ridge, but due to the administrative structures he incorporated into the Ututu Traditional Government.
The Amala Ututu refers as earlier elucidated to the two bodies Akpa Asaa Ututu and Uke-Eke Ututu established by Eze Akuma Ukwu and Eze Orie Nwa Ikemi respectively. During the reign of Chief Okore Nne Agwu, three other bodies were established to smoothen the process of Traditional Government in the Clan. They are;
UKE-AFOR: This group was the equivalent of spies in modern Government. The duty of this body was to report to the members of Amala Ututu any infringement on the native laws and custom of Ututu people. It was their duty to present to disputing parties the “Omu” (palm front) sanctified by touching it at the Offor Ututu, this act was an injunction that the parties should be of good behaviour until their disputes have been amicably settled by the Eze Ututu and members of his cabinet known as Amala Ututu. One of their most common duties was to report to Eze Ututu and members of Amala Ututu anyone who harvests the new yam before the day has been approved by members of Amala Ututu.
The head of UKE-AFOR was known as Otonke (Chief spy). There were messengers and spies to the Eze Ututu and their presence was always recognized at Awada Ukwu which is the Court of the Eze Ututu.
Sometimes this body undertook the role of the Police. This they did through another body known as UKE NKWO. Membership of UKE-AFOR was on heredity basis that is members were selected from certain families. When it was desired by the Eze Ututu to arrest any citizen; it was the UKE-AFOR that carried out this instruction. The Otonke and his cohorts will go to the village where the arrest is to be made and conscript young people in the culprits Village who are then referred to as UKE-NKWO. Thus UKE-NKWO was a temporary body conscripted by members of UKE-AFOR to execute the wishes of the Eze Ututu in any Village in the Clan.
Besides informing and carrying messages for the Eze Ututu, the Otonke and members of UKE-AFOR sometimes acted as emissaries of the Eze Ututu in other Clans. For instance it was members of the UKE-AFOR who sold questionable characters to the Aro’s as slaves. Also when slaves were required for certain sacrifices, it was the UKE-AFOR who negotiated the contract. And when criminals were sentenced at Awada Ukwu Ututu and were to be executed at the Execution Tree (Akwu-Ndi Ochu), it was members of UKE-AFOR who took the criminal to the spot, and then caused a slave to actually carry out the execution.
As a result of his numerous offices the Otonke of Chief Okore Nne Agwu, by name Mazi Kalu Okwara from Ndi-Ubuo Eke, a Compound in Amaeke Ututu became very popular during the reign of the Sixth Eze of Ututu. But his glamorous career was to end in disgrace, when during the course of his job he stole a dog. He was tried at Awada-Ukwu and found guilty, as a result of which his family was banned from occupying any traditional office in Ututu.
CHINYOM : This body also established by the legendry Chief Okore
Nne Agwu was for women. Their functions included.
a. Ensuring unity of women in the Clan.
b. Treatment of matters on women immorality and indecent behaviour, all cases of abuse of sexual intercourse among women were referred to them.
c. Rendering special services to the community in the such area as:
i. Cleaning of roads
ii. Marriage, dance, war. Etc.
CHINYOM was used in case of recovery of debt, especially in cases when one or both parties was a woman. If a woman debtor refuses to pay back the money she had borrowed, the creditor would go to the head of CHINYOM in the Village (usually a very old woman). A messenger would then be sent to the debtor telling her to pay. If she still refuses to clear the debt, the creditor with CHINYOM (now made up of other women from the Village) will deck themselves with feathers and other articles, and armed with sticks they would enter the debtors Compound backwards, after which they beat the house with their sticks singing scurrilous songs until the money was paid. At this stage the debtor would have to pay much more than the original debt. The interest would be divided between the creditor and CHINYOM. In essence CHINYOM was referred to as the women’s God.