The Ihiagwa autonomous community is a town located in the Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria. Sited 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) south of the capital city of Owerri. This municipality is composed of eight villages: Umuelem, Umuchima, Mboke, Nnkaramochie, Iriamogu, Aku/Umuokwo, Ibuzo and Umuezeawula.
The Settlement had principally been divided into two autonomous communities. Each autonomous community is a monarchy ruled by an Eze.
Inhabitants of the Ihiagwa Autonomous Communities are members of the Igbo ethnic group in the southeastern Nigeria. In totality they number roughly ten thousand (10,000) and easily identified among the Oratta people of Owerri.
Descendants of Ihiagwa are referred to as the Aguzieafors i.e. the calendar keepers. Meaning in those pre-British times the Ihiagwa were responsible for keeping the calendar of the surrounding communities and also had the duty of alerting the surrounding communities of the period for the new yam festival and also other dates.
OTAMIRI RIVER (IHIAGWA)
This is one of the main rivers in Imo State, Nigeria. It attained its name from the deity Ota Miri, who lords all waters which are called by his name, and who is often the dominating god of Mbari houses. Lengthing from its source to its confluence at Emeabiam with the Uramiriukwa River is 30 kilometres (19 mi).
The turning point covers about 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi) with annual rainfall of 2,250 to 2,500 millimetres (89 to 98 in). The watershed is mostly covered by depleted rain forest vegetation, with mean temperatures of 27 °C (81 °F) throughout the year. Conversion of the tropical rainforest to grassland with slash and burn practices is degrading soil quality.
Conjoining with the Nworie River at Nekede in Owerri, a river about 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) long. The River known as “NWORIE” is subject to rigorous human and industrial activities, and is used as a source of drinking water by the poor when the public water system fails.
The River is polluted by organic wastes but in 2008 was not above acceptable levels of chemical pollution. Garbage and Waste Management in Owerri is quite inefficient and contributes to pollution of the river.
A wide percentage of the wastes from Owerri are dumped at the Avu landfill in Owerri West on the Port Harcourt highway, which creates a high concentration of phosphate and nitrate in the Otamiri.
South-side of the Owerri the river flows through an alternating sequence of sands, sandstones and clay-shales. Capricious testers of sand from the bank of Otamiri River amongst Chokocho and Umuanyaga, Local Government Area of Etche, Rivers State showed that 86 percent of the sand particles are within the ideal range for glass making.
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY OWERRI ( FUTO IHIAGWA)
This institution is widely recognized to be the Oldest University of Technology in the Country and was established in 1980 by Executive fiat with the composition and appointment of the principal makeshift Council by Nigeria’s First Executive President Shehu Shagari.
It also became the first of three of its kind set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria who sought to establish a University of Technology in each geo-political region and predominantly in a State which did not have a conservative University.
The institution started with 225 students and 60 staff (28 academic and 32 non-academic). Similar to other federal institutions in the Country, FUTO is headed by a Chancellor who is usually a royal father, and followed by a Vice Chancellor who oversees the daily activities of the university.
The Institution also possesses a senatorial parliament, which is the highest decision making arm of the University. Its students are fondly called Futoites and they number over 22,000. FUTO has over 50 professors. The current vice-chancellor is Professor Francis C. Eze.
History of FUTO.
The University was founded in 1980. The University later on amalgamated with the Alvan Ikoku College of Education Owerri, absorbing the latter’s students.
Its scholar structure contains individuals from all over West Africa and Yonder. The Institution Proudly stands as the Only Federal University Of Technology in the South-Eastern Region Of the Country, and one of the oldest in the West-African Region.
THE ONUNU FESTIVAL (IHIAGWA)
This is a yearly Festival, which marked the traditional calendar of old Uratta clan. The Host Community which is the Ihiagwa, is the custodian of the traditional calendar of the old Uratta clan and the Onunu festival is the instrument with which this traditional calendar is established. The Onunu Ihiagwa also establishes the yam season.
Afore the festivity of Onunu, no new yam enters into the land of Ihiagwa. After the Onunu Ihiagwa, the people of Owerri nchi ise celebrate their Oru Owerri and new yams can then be sold in the markets.
Ngu: This the material used in the counting of the season to arrive at the appropriate dates for the Onunu. The family of Osunkwo of Ishiuzo village, Ihiagwa is the custodian of the Ngu counting material. They have done this for a long time and the tradition passes from one member of the family to the other.
This festival (Onunu Festival) is an age-long tradition of the Ihiagwa people approved by the community. The Community which is regarded as the center of excellence amongst her neighboring community within Owerri, which are popularly known as the Uratta clan, is the calendar keeper of the clan. The festival is the instrument with which this calendar was established.
The Onunu Ihiagwa establishes the new yam season. The festival is also regarded as the new yam festival of ancient Ihiagwa.
The festival is all about the period whereby, a deity of Ihiagwa called Opara-ogu, the son of the chief deity of Ihiagwa, Otamiri, goes to farm to inspect and reap planting proceeds before any one will start harvesting, especially that of new yam.
This period is reserved for Opara-ogu deity and none is expected to go to the farm. It’s assumed that whosoever that goes to farm during this period of Onunu will have a serious encounter with the spirits and that might result to death or any serious calamity to defaulters household.
Onunu (The Festival) is an annual pilgrimage, a journey embarked on by the Otta’s and Opara-ogu chief priest. It marks farming season. Afterwards the Pilgrimage all other community surrounding Ihiagwa community can now pick a date for their own celebration hence Ihiagwa is called Aguzie Afor (calendar keeper).
The Beginning of the Festival
Subsequently before the Onunu festival begins every year, there is always an inter-visit between the Ibuzo kindred, particularly the Osunkwo family with the Mboke, the chief priest of Opara-ogu otamiri.
The stopover is to remind the chief priest that the time of Onunu festival is very close. Afterwards the first visit, the chief priest will also in return visit, the Osunkwo family as they deliberate on the issue of the festival before any further steps could be taken. During these visits there is usually enough food to eat and drink, in fact, it attracts attention from passers-bye.
An Additional step taken before the Onunu festival begins properly, is what the people call Okukoro ngu (hanging of Ngu). There is no English Affinity to the Name “Ngu”, rather, it is a material that is used in the counting of the season to arrive at the appropriate dates for the Onunu.
The task is carried out by the Osunkwo family of lbuzo kindred of Ihiagwa. When the materials are brought, they are kept on a particular tree in the forest. The tree believed to be over five hundred years old still remains as though it is the youngest tree in the forest. It does not grow fatter or taller than it has been.
Then Ngu is hung on this particular tree. Spirits continuously perform the task of hanging the Ngu, while the osunkwo family provides Ngu and the Eze-aro goes to come back after a period of four market days to get the outcome of the Ngu that was hung.
The Period And Duration Of The Festival
The festival of the Ihiagwa marks the end and beginning of New Year traditionally.
Through the duration of this period of Onunu festival, nobody is expected to go to farm or even to the stream to fetch water. It’s seen sacred and every individual who is a farmer is expected to be at home, all allow the deities, especially the chief deity of Ihiagwa, Otamiri to have time to move in various farmlands to bless them.
It’s assumed that any individual who goes out to farm will encounter one danger or the other as the case maybe. Before it begins properly the “Ottas” must have gone round the community to give out the information, warning people ahead of time to avoid being a victim of the deities anger.
The time frames of the festivities are not determined by any human being, rather the chief deity, and this can be done by the family head of Osunkwo family, who goes back to the forest to view the Ngu that was hung by the deity.
In Actuality the quantity of the Ngu hung regulates how long the Onunu festival will last. If four Ngu’s are hung, that shows it will not take a long time, the Onunu will only last for four market days, which is traditionally one week in local calendar.
At times, it hangs eight. It will request everyone to be at home for about eight market days and it could be more than that. A date and number of days vary and have never been static and no human being takes decisions on how long it lasts, It is the initiative of the deities to do that, while the messenger goes to get information and delivers it the way he got it without adding or subtracting.
The Purpose And Significance Of The Festival
The Main resolve for which the Onunu festival is set up is not farfetched, it involves within the conferment of peace and orderliness in the land/community of Ihiagwa.
The festival aids in protecting the aged long customs and tradition of the community and setting out days of rest for the hardworking farmers. Hence, the need to instill fear into the life of the members of the community and also to show great respect to the Opara-ogu deity whom they said celebrates his own new yam festival during this period.
More so, it contributes to peace, togetherness and unity among the people. The festival is likened to the way Christians celebrate Christmas and New Year. The festival is a traditional retreat of the Ihiagwa people that signifies the end and beginning of the year in a local calendar. The epoch of Onunu festival is regarded as sanctified and should be kept sacred. Ihiagwa people still practice it till today.