A Short Political History of Aku before the Establishment of British Rule

In this treatise, Professor Lawrence Offie Ocho, a renowned educationist presents the historical account of the political history of Aku. First published in Okikpe Magazine, a publication of Aku Undergraduates’ Union, Vol. 1, December 1974, Pages 1-29, the article covers Aku position and size, name and origin, outstanding five (5) evolutionary periods in Aku before the coming of the British Rule such as the first Oha Period, the Igala Hegemony, the rule of Ojiyi, the Second Oha Period and the Period of Plutocracy which features Aku trading activities as well as Wars and raids of the 19th Century. Rendered in the most lucid and captivating form, the historical account is a must-read. See details in the link that follows.


A Short Political History Of Aku Before The

Establishment Of British Rule




In reconstructing the history of Aku, the writer relied mostly on information supplied him by Aku elders, some of whom were Ugwuajema Ugwuanyi of Oshigo, Ezeamenyi Ezeagu of Ugwunani, Odo Akubue and Amu na Echeonu of Use, Isaiah Offie of Ugwunani and Chief O.C. Manu of Nua. I hereby acknowledge my indebtedness to them and to others whose names are not mentioned.


Aku, Position and Size.


Aku is presently in Nsukka Urban Division of the East Central State. It is twelve miles by road from, and to the South-west of, Nsukka and 33 miles by road to Enugu. It is almost completely surrounded by a chain of hills, which in many places are over 1,400 feet high. Thus it had a very good defensive position in the days when inter-town wars and raids were rampart.


Aku, with a population of about 60,000 is the largest town in Nsukka Urban Division. Most of its population live clustered in the valley formed by the hills so that the surrounding hill slopes and grassland areas are used as farms.


Name and Origin.

The name, Aku, is very common, not only in Igbo land but in many parts of Nigeria. In Igbo land, it has three popular meanings- wealth, palm kernel or the eatable ants that fly in the night. There is a town in Awka called Aku and another in Okigwe. Aku is also used to denote the whole Yoruba Creoles who migrated into Yoruba land from Freetown. It is a designation for some kings in Northern Nigeria like the Aku Uka of Wukari. In Igala land many people answer Aku. To Aku people the name has no special meaning nor is any connection traced to other towns and people that answer Aku.


The full name of the town is AKU DIEWA MGBOKO ODOBO. If one applies the logic in Igbo names, one might be tempted to think that Odobo was the father of Mgboko who was the father of Diewa who was the father of Aku. According to tradition, it did not follow exactly like that. Diewa is believed not to have been the father of the whole people of Aku nor the son of Mgboko. Before treating this subject any further, it is necessary to make an important digression. There are thirteen villages in Aku, viz: Use, Amabokwu, Mgboko, Umu-Ezike, Ohemje, Ofienyi, Nua, Ugwunani, Obie, Amogwu, Oshigo, Oda, and Ugwuegede. The first six villages are called Akibite, the next four, Akutala and the last three Ejuona. Some villages like Mgboko and Nua are very large, numbering between 8,000 and 10,000 people each, while others like Use and Ugwuegede are very small, numbering less than 1,000 people each.


There are many traditions and sometimes conflicting versions of the origin of Aku. In a situation of this nature one is tempted to accept the version that comes nearest to explaining the situation as it is today. One of the popular traditions of origin runs thus: – A man, by name Ijija, while on a hunting trip came to the present position of Aku and was enchanted by the place. Except for people who were living at the place we now call Use and a few others at Umudikwu in Nua, the place was uninhabited. Ijija then went back home (place unknown) and brought his entire family to the present position of Mgboko. One of his wives, by

name Odobo, gave birth to a male child called Mgboko. To distinguish him from other sons of Ijija, he was called Mgboko Odobo, as many Aku polygamous families still do today i.e children answering their mothers’ names instead of their fathers’. The first son of Mgboko was Aku. We are not told what happened to the other children of Ijija. Perhaps Aku dominated the rest and their names were forgotten.

Aku had three sons, Akibite, Akutala and Ejuona in that order. The first son of Akibite was Mgboko who was called after his grandfather. Mgboko gave birth to Ugwuocha, Dimotue, Dimaloke Ocha, and Owerre. These became the fathers of the present families named after them. The remaining six families that make up Mgboko – Amani, Amegu-Uwani, Amegu-Uwelu, Agumoha, Umuodeke, and Ezani were said to be children of another Aku village, Amabokwu. (Here the word, family, is used to represent a population of between 300 and 2,000 people who claim to be descendants of one great grandfather).


Since Ugwuocha was the eldest son of the eldest village, Umu-Ugwuocha was regarded as the eldest family in Aku and entitled to all the privileges due to the eldest until it lost the right to Use. Umu-Ugwuocha lost this right because they were so stingy that they never gave kola nuts to the elders of Aku who usually assembled in their Obu for meetings. One day, Aka elders who gathered at Umu-Ugwuocha were so annoyed that they asked for a kola nut from among themselves. Nobody had a kola nut except an Use man, who, after rummaging in his goat­ skin bag was able to produce a shriveled half piece of kola nut. The rest of the Assembly asked him to sacrifice to the gods with it. From that day Use became recognized as the eldest family in Aku. The other sons of Akibite were Amabokwu, and Ofienyi, each of whose descendants have grown into the villages that now bear these names. Although Use, Umu-Ezike and Ohemje villages are in Akibite, their forebears were not direct children of Akibite. Many people believe that Use was occupying its present position before the arrival of Ijija. Use people say that Nrobu, a village about eight miles north-west of Aku came from Use, that the people ran away from Use during an invasion. On the other hand, Nrobu people say that Use was a part of Nrobu that migrated to their present position from Nrobu. Use people support their claim by arguing that where an Use and Nrobu man meet, the latter concedes the former seniority of age, thus proving that Nrobu split from Use.


Umu-Ezike  answer Umu-Ezike Attah. The Attah there refers to the Attah of Igala. Ezike, the father of Umu-Ezike was said to have come to Aku with Diewa who was sent to rule Aku by the Attah of Igala. According to historians Igala power was in the ascendancy in Nsukka area at about the seventeenth century. Tradition has it that when Aku came under the Attah, probably through conquest, as the Ekpe Igala (Igala Fortresses) stand on two hills in Aku as testimony to his military presence, he sent Diewa to rule Aku just as he sent Achadu or Asadu to rule Okpuje, Obukpa and Nsukka; Achabero or Asabero he sent to rule Obimo and Nkpologu. Achadu lived at Okpuje, Achabero at Obimo, and Diewa at Aku. Aku, Obimo and Okpuje regard themselves as blood relations and do not kill one another. Many people feel that this idea originated from the close contact and friendship between the three rulers and their capitals. From the names of the generals or governors we get Aku Diewa, Obimo Asabero and Nsukka Asadu. Ezike, the father of Umu-Fzike village was therefore an Igala man who accompanied Diewa to Aku and was in-charge of Diewa’s farms. Because he was in-charge of Diewa’s farms, Umu-Ezike people are the chief priests of Fijioku (god of fertility) in Aku.


Diewa married in Aku and became the father of Odeke Ohemje, Diewa Ohemje, and Amaidi Ohemje. The other families in Ohemje village – Amegu Uwani and Amegu Uwelu were Uzagba people, a village or town that was situated between Aku and Lejja but which was invaded, conquered and assimilated into Aku. The sixth family in Ohemje is Ama Ezike Onochite. Ezike Onochite was the grandson of Diewa. Diewa’s daughter was married at Ukwuvuru Ofienyi. Her son was much loved by Diewa, so that, when he was about to die, he blessed his grandson and willed that he should occupy his house at Ohemje. That was why the boy was known as Onochite ( the person who replaced ). Diewa’s altar is at Ohemje and all sacrifices to him are made there.


The second son of Aku was Akutala. Akutala had four sons – Nua, Ugwunani, Obie and Amaogwu. The last three were from the same mother; and that is why they have one Ama feast. Nua came from a different mother. These sons became the fathers of the villages that answer their names.


The last son of Aku was Ejuona, who had three sons ­Oshigo, Oda and Ugwuegede. These names now stand for villages.


Outside of these there are many families in Aku whose first ancestors were not descendants of Aku. In this connection, Umu-ehelete (children who flew in) Oshigo readily comes to mind. The father of Umu-ehelete was said to have been a hunter from the neighbouring town of Uvuru, a place eight miles by road from Aku. Some people in Lelegu believe their father came from Ufene, Enugu-Ezike. There is a spot in Lelegu called Otobo Ushene. Others say this is not true that Lelegu was part of Nuaenu in the same Nua, and that the real name of Lelegu is Nuaenuegu (Nuaenu who left to live in the farm).  Amaoze family in Ugwuani say they are the children of Okengwu in Umukorom Afa in Udi Division. As one  moves  from one village to the other one hears these stories of coming or migrating from places far and near, which in actual fact might not mean more than connection though marriage, friendship or trade.


Periods In Aku History.


It appears that the history of Aku before the establishment of British rule could be divided into five periods, each named after the type of government or the political power in existence at the time. As should be expected in human affairs, the divisions were not as sharp as they appear on paper for each division naturally

Shaded into the other.


These periods are:


  1. The first Oha period. 2. The establishment of Igala


  1. The rule of Ojiyi.  hegemony


  1. The second Oha period. 5. The period of plutocracy.




The First Oha Period


The name, First Oha period, is used to describe the end rather than the beginning or middle of this period. It is the longest period and stretches from the dim beginnings up until about the seventeenth century A.D. All of this period is lumped together simply because, as of now, not much is known about it.

The word, Oha, can be used in different senses. Thus Oha Aku could mean the whole people of Aku or the governing body of Aku, or the meeting of the council of lineage heads and elders. Here, (the title) it is used to mean the governing body of the town. The creation of the Oha system seems to be the culminating point in the political evolution of Aku. Because of the firm base 0n which it was built, it has been able to survive all political vicissitudes.

The beginning of this period could be the time the population of Aku started to expand rapidly, the time when people from different areas were migrating into Aku, all intermarrying, acting upon and reacting to their neighbours and evolving a distinctive culture that made it possible for them to identify themselves as people of one town. It ended with their perfecting a unifying and representative system of government – the Oha system which brought the entire people under one government.

Three very important socio-political cum religious institutions were established during this period. It may not be necessary to remark that every cultural activity of the Igbo, and therefore, the Aku, is bound up with religion. The three institutions helped to stabilize and unify the town. These institutions were the Ama feasts, the Odo ancestral cult and the Ozo title system.


The  Ama Feasts.


There was a time when fighting and quarrelling were rampant among the villages. A few elders, under the leadership of Awhurum Aku tried to establish peace and order by the introduction of the Ama feasts. The Ama feasts were established as

periods of peace when there ought to be no fighting or quarrelling. It was during the meeting on which this decision was taken that Use became recognized as the eldest village in the town because the Use representative, Ezike Enyawhuru, was

able to present a kola nut to the people assembled. The Ama feast starts with Use, the next month is Ama Akibite, then Ama Nua, Ama Obie and Ama Oshigo in that order, which meant that five months of the year were recognized as months of peace. This brought the quarrelling to an end.



The Odo Ancestral Cult.

Odo is believed to be a dead man or woman who has come back to earth to stay for a short time among the living especially with his own family members. Every odd year is an Odo year. Thus 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981 etc. are Odo years. The first six to seven months of an Odo year is almost exclusively devoted to the worship of ancestors, mostly men, occasionally women, who have come back to visit the living. An Odo year is a year of play and happiness especially for the male citizens of the town. The sentimental attachment to the Odo among the people of Aku, men and women, is so high that even Christians, literate and illiterate people of the town look forward to it with longing and fervour and all participate in its festivities with more or less an equal amount of ardour. Its music is the most thrilling and enchanting music in the – ears of most Aku males brought up in the tradition. It is the highest perfection of Aku art and culture. It is not only music per se, but also performs the functions of language as an art and as a vehicle for culture transmission and perpetuation.



Tradition has it that Odo simply walked into the town. At Amaoze Ugwunani, he met a woman carrying her three-year old male child on tbe back. Fear gripped the woman so that when the Odo asked her to call him ‘Odo,’the woman could not. The small child on her back fearlessly ‘called him ‘Odo’. The Odo there and then decreed that only males could be his priests and only males could see him naked in his groves, Obu and music houses.

The first Odo lived at Amaoze but when Amaoze people could not keep its taboos, it left for Umudikwu, Nua. That is why the first sacrifice to Odo at Umudikwu is done by Amaoze people and why Amaoze people have to open the gate of the Odo grove before any other person could enter. Tribute to kola nuts from all newly Ozo titled men of the year meant for the First Odo ( Nwa Nua) remain the property of the eldest Amaoze man.

Aku people are more emotionally stirred and committed to the first return and the going back of the Odo. People who live far and near rarely deny themselves the opportunity of being present on these occasions. In this way, the Odo ancestral cult has helped to bind the people together.


The people believe that Nshi N’Amoke is the home of the Odo and that when they disappear into the caves on the hills of Egba Ugwu, they journey underground to their home at Nshi N’Amoke,


When the time of their going back approaches, the Odo music says that Nshi N’ Amoke has sent word that the Odo should return because they have stayed for too long in Igbo land. This lends weight to the theory that Nri (Nshi) was the original centre from which most Igbo migrated to their present position.


The Ozo Title System.

The Ozo title system is another social institution that must have originated during this period. As far as the writer knows, there is no tradition of origin of the Ozo system. Our elders are of the opinion that it has always existed.

The Ozo title taking is open to all qualified male citizens of Aku who are rich enough to foot the bill involved. To be initiated into the Ozo society in these days,  one has to spend between N800.00 and N 1 ,200.00 depending on the type of Ozo being taken.


While the Ozo title is a mark of wealth, it is also a mark of honour. An Ozo titled man is expected to be truthful, forthright and just. If an Ozo titled man is convicted of stealing or poisoning or of other crimes regarded as heinous by the town, he loses his title.


In Aku, the title did not and does not confer any political authority. The eldest of a family loses nothing of his political, judicial, religious or social authority if he is not titled. The only limitation is that he is not as highly regarded and respected as he ought to have been where he titled.

The system must have helped to produce the trusted reliable and just men who helped to knit the town into one and who were needed both in peace and war. Since the richest and most powerful members of the society belonged to the Ozo society, there is no doubt that it must have influenced public opinion and public action to a great extent.


Economic Activities.

Apart from a few blacksmiths and iron manufacturers, everybody was a farmer. Trading and hunting were hobbies indulged in when farming activities had lessened, especially around the harvest season.


Farming was of the intensive type, because the population was comparatively thick and agriculturally fertile areas greatly limited by the presence of other villages very close to the borders of Aku. The people of many of these villages were, during the  nineteenth century either assimilated, dispersed or destroyed by Aku. (See the period of plutocracy).


Terrace agriculture on the hillsides, intensive manuring of crops and scientifically orientated system of crop rotation were evolved, practiced and perfected during this period.

The chief farm crops included yams, coco-yams, beans, ground pea, cotton, pumpkin, and various types of vegetables.


The Iron Industry

Iron smelting as an industry had existed in Aku for a very long time. None of our elders had ever heard of a time when it did not exist. Archaeologists, by carbon-dating some of the slag materials heaped in various places in Aku, especially at

Ugwunani, Amogwu, and Ezi-Oshigo, are the only people who can give a probable date when this industry flourished. It is a pity that these slagheaps, are fast disappearing as they make excellent building marterials.


Ekma is what Aku people call the type of stone with high iron content. The best Ekma was mined around Oshigo hills, lyi Aho hill and Amogwu hills.

According to the description from Nadi Uzo whose ancestors were the best iron smelters, and Isaiah Offie, the furnace was a round mud wall into which were loaded big oil-bean logs. On top of these were heaped the iron-bearing stones. More logs were then thrown upon this. The logs were lighted, and soon a very huge fire was blazing. From different openings at the sides of the wall liquid iron would flow out and soon harden. This was bought by blacksmiths who used it in making hoes, knives, and other farming and fighting instruments. Jagged looking, generally roundish stones from the furnace are called Ewhuru aga. They are heavy for their size and were freely employed as weapons during inter-family feuds. Presently they make good building stones.

The town could bring any family to heel by forbidding the iron manufacturing families to sell pig iron to such erring people. The god of the iron industry is one of the chief gods of Amauwani Ugwunani. This god is called Uthu.



The Oha System of Government.

The Oha system was a representative system of government in which each lineage group or family was represented in the governing body of the town by the eldest in the family or his representative. The eldest in each lineage group or family had certain religious, judicial and political powers because of his position as the nearest to the ancestors and their representative, the priest of Ala, and other family gods. He therefore had the right to represent his people in the meetings of Aku elders, known as the Oha Aku. As mentioned before, the word family is used to mean a collection of families who claim to come from the same ancestors.

Some families like Lelegu or Amankpo number over 2,000 people. This number includes wives married into the family and, excludes females married out of the family. At present there are 63 such families in Aku. Before the nineteenth century, there were certainly not so many because many families migrated into the town quite later in its history. During the first Oha period, all the existing families were represented in the Oha council. It will be noticed that during the second Oha period, only about half the number of the present 63 families claimed exclusive right to speak for the rest of the town. The Oha made laws that were binding to all the citizens of the town. It had judicial powers and tried cases referred to it by the different families. Executive authority lay with the appropriate age grade, normally people of middle adulthood (35-49 years).


The Oha however was not the supreme organ of government.

Supreme authority lay in a meeting of all mature male citizens of Aku called sometimes the Aku Assembly or Ololo Didigbo. It was normally summoned in cases of emergency to take such major decisions like the declaration of war or when it was felt that the Oha had passed obnoxious laws. Such meetings could review major decisions taken by the Oha, reverse, reject, amend or approve such laws.


Outside  Influence.

Aku must have been socially and culturally influenced by Nri.  At certain stages in the Ozo title ceremonies, the presence of an Nri representative was necessary. It has been pointed out that the cult of Odo claims Nri as its home. The most powerful herbalists claimed relationship with Nri.

Apart from Nri, there is no doubt that Aku maintained close cultural links with its neighbours, especially with the Ojebe Ogene group of villages in Udi who are in the group of Odo ancestral cult and whose Odo and Ozo festivals closely resemble that of Aku people.


Marriage and business alliances linked Aku with the neighbouring towns and villages of Ukehe, Lejja, Obimo, Nkpologu, Uvuru and other Igbo Oda towns and villages, Nze, .Afa, Egede, and other Ojebe Ogene people.





(From About the Middle of the Seventeenth Century to about the

beginning of the Eighteenth)


According to Dr. Afigbo, the Igala kingdom probably became the dominant power in the Anambra Valley and Nsukka in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Aku was the most southerly of the towns where the Igalas built forts. It is to be expected that from Aku, the Igalas foraged into other towns, and villages surrounding Aku for slaves and tributes. Aku must have been a sort of collecting centre or capital for the southern areas under Igala rule. Igala rule must have been established in Aku at a later date than other areas in Nsukka. It then follows that the Igalas must have lost hold of Aku earlier than other areas, it being the, farthest from the centre of power at Idah.


Aku tradition has it that Diewa was  an Igala Officer sent to rule Aku by the Attah of Igala. That is why Aku is called Aku Diewa. It was pointed out above that Nsukka is called Nsukka Asadu because Asadu ruled over her. On the other hand, although Nkpologu was under Asabero, she answered Nkpologu Attah because Nkpologu claims direct descent from the Attah. Umu-Ezike, a village in Aku answers Umu-Ezike Attah because their great grandfather, Ezike, came from Igala. Thus Nkpologu and Umu-Ezike claim to have blood relationship.


Aku people did not accept the rule of the Igalas and fought relentlessly against it until Diewa defected from the Attah, married an Aku woman and lived in Aku until his death. He has three sons and many daughters.  His descendants form the bulk of Ohemje village. Diewa is worshipped as one of the heroes in Aku History.



It would appear that after the defection of Diewa, the bulk of  the Igala occupation force remained loyal to the Attah and continued to live in the forts on the two hills. Aku elders remember two dramatic incidents in connection with Igala occupation. Both incidents concerned the tail end of their stay in Aku.

During their struggle against the Igalas, Aku people succeeded in cutting off their line of communication with Idah. They then surrounded the forts and made sure that no more food was sent to the Igala soldiers. One day, during the Ama­ Oshigo feast, the area allotted  to Oshigo people to guard was deserted because the young men from Oshigo could not  bear to stay away from the feast, especially as the noise of drumming, singing, and dancing wafted up towards them from the valley below and as the gods would be against them if they fought during their Ama feast.

They quietly stole down the hill to their village. Igala soldiers observed their movement and carefully trailed them, armed to the teeth. While the people of Uwani Ezike in Oshigo were eating and drinking, they were suddenly attacked. Everybody, men, women and children of Uwani-Ezike was killed except a baby of a few days old. This baby, Ezukwugwu Ocha survived because just before its mother was killed, she had succeeded in hiding it among some leaves in the forest nearby. A relative from Ugwunani picked the child up, cared for him and he survived to become the father of many sons and great grandfather of the present Uwani-Ezike.


Igala soldiers then carried to their fort whatever they could lay their hands on – water, food and wine. Before the news of what happened had got to other Aku people, Igala soldiers had once again taken refuge in their fortified city. It was clear to them they could not last indefinitely, so one dark night, they decided to leave finally. When they reached a lake at Odoko in Nua, they were attacked by Aku people. In trying to escape, many of them perished in the lake. The name of the lake was immediately changed to Omeru Igala, (The destroyer of Igala). No lake now exists there but the place is still called Omeru Igala.


The now greatly depleted force retreated to the fort, and from there moved down the hill to Nkponkpo and through Uwelu Amabokwu to Amogbo. At Amogbo, Aku troops once again attacked them. The writer has not succeeded in getting any details about this engagement. What is important is that the battle at Amogbo marked the end of Igala occupation of Aku.


No one has an idea how long the occupation lasted. In the opinion of the writer, it must have been short-lived because it brought little or no changes in Aku political, and cultural systems. Dr. Afigbo, in the paper already referred to, was of the opinion that the principal aim for Igala penetration of the Anambra and Nsukka areas was to obtain slaves, in which case the type of relationship conducive to cultural borrowing from the conquerors would hardly exist. The writer is not aware of any single Aku custom or way of life that could be traced back to the Igalas. The only Igala name that survives in Aku is the word Attah.




(From about the beginning of the Eighteenth Century

to about a few decades before its end)


With the departure of the Igalas, Aku people resumed their former system of government. The Oha system came into operation again. One of the first major decisions taken by the Aku Assembly was to pass sanctions against the former allies of the Igala occupation force. These were the people of Umu­Ezike village who claimed that the Igala people were blood relations. They argued that Aku people did not expect them to take part in the shedding of the blood of their relations. They were forbidden to participate in the meetings of Aku people. Marriage contracts were forbidden between them and the rest of the town. This sanction, however, did not last. Umu-Ezike decided to give away their daughters to influential members of the community without asking for any bride prize. Influential members were bribed in various other ways and within a short time

Umu-Ezike people were once more accepted into the Aku fold.


The Coming And  Rule Of Ojiyi.

Ojiyi is called Ojiyi Aku and is one of the gods worshipped by the generality of Aku people.


There are various versions of the story of the coming of Ojiyi. Some believe Ojiyi was an Nrobu god called lfogo. The village of Use who owns Ojiyi were said to have migrated from Nrobu and brought their god along with them. Some say Ojiyi simply walked into the town as a tall, handsome, titled man carrying an eleghant tusk on his shoulder. He claimed he could do a lot of things including killing people at a distance, increasing the fertility of crops, animals and man. Though he was such a powerful man, most Aku villages did not allow him to live amongst them for the simple reason that one of the important food items in the town was taboo to him. This was millet. Only Use people accepted him and his taboos. When cassava was introduced into the town in the twentieth century, it became taboo to him also, with the result that both millet and cassava are not allowed into Use village today.


The third version and the one the writer thinks is nearest the truth is that Ojiyi was a herbalist from Nrobu who often visited his relation, Ezike Aloke of Use. When his fame as a herbalist became established, he came to live permanently at Use as many herbalists still do today.His powers as a herbalist were exceptional and soon  his fame spread through the town. He was soon accepted in the Oha and town meetings. He was feared and respected and soon his voice dominated all others. He gradually established his personal rule in the town. All meetings were henceforth held in his court at Use and decisions were ratified by him.


He was so powerful that it was believed that if one swore falsely in his presence, such a person would die within three native weeks (12 days) after committing the offence. One day in the year was declared Ojiyi day and was celebrated with pomp and pageantry. The day was declared a public holiday, the whole town would come out in their best to do him honour and give him gifts as he travelled from Use to Oye market accompanied by the blood-stirring Ekpa music, the music which could only be danced by people who have shown prowess in war or who have killed a tiger. People made him gifts of cows, goats, sheep, cocks and kola nuts. The best and biggest yams from each man’s farm were his. People danced and sang his praises from one village square to another.


After his death his medicine continued to be powerful. It is still believed that it kills people who swear falsely in its name. It is still the final arbiter in disputes between individuals and whole families or villages. Rogues and poisoners go in fear of it for eventually (our people believe) it will wipe them and their descendants out of the face of the earth except if costly purification ceremonies were performed before or after the offenders’ deaths. His day, Oye Ojiyi is still celebrated with undiminished vigour and fanaticism.


The personal rule of Ojiyi could not have lasted for up to fifty years. But during this historically short period it had made a great impact on the minds of Aku people. Though his rule was based more on the fear of the supernatural than on anything else, it was more or less a rule of justice and peace. He did not condone the maltreatment of the weak and he was as severe to the rich as to the poor. His fame spread into all the neighbouring towns and villages and thus gave Aku traders and travelers protection, these always travelled, carrying any materials like pieces of cloth, feathers, iron implements or any other materials that had touched the body of Ojiyi or has been blessed by him. This might account for the fact that Aku people are the greatest traders and the most travelled among the whole people of Nsukka and neighbouring Udi areas. Ojiyi’s rule gave Akibite people more courage so that it helped to break the domination of Aku politics by Akutala because Ojiyi lived at Use, one of the villages of Akibite. It could be said that trade prospered and Aku people became relatively wealthy as a result of his rule.




(From Around the End of the Eighteenth Century to

About Middle of the Nineteenth)


With the end of the personal rule of Ojiyi, (the man) a change was brought in the government of the town. At first his priest assumed the spiritual and political powers of Ojiyi. It was at this time that Ojiyi was deified especially as the medicine he left behind was believed to be as strong as when he lived. Many Aku people were envious and unhappy about the priest’s political powers. They felt that his powers should be restricted to spiritual matters alone. The rule of one man, like in other Igbo villages, was hateful to the majority of Aku people. For a time fear prevented people from taking any steps to wrest political power from Ojiyi’s priest.

The man to defy Ojiyi’s political power was a man from Ofienyi by name Okite-Ogbonna who summoned a meeting of all Aku elders in his family’s Obu instead of at Use. Fear of Ojiyi prevented a majority from attending. The few who met took the decision to meet regularly to take decisions which they considered good for the entire town. They were convinced Ojiyi would never turn against people acting in the interest of the town. Aku people waited breathlessly to see the reaction of Ojiyi who normally struck a person dead within three native weeks of his committing a crime against him.


Nothing, however, happened, so that at the next meeting many more joined. About half still kept away, but those who met constituted themselves into the Oha, the Aku Council of elders. The Oha then decided that other elders who refused to attend would only be admitted if specifically invited by the Council.


The Oha then took over the functions of the old Oha and. treated matters referred to it by family heads and villages. It legislated for the entire town and presented its major decisions to the Aku Assembly for ratification. The consent of the priest of Ojiyi was only sought when war was to be declared against other towns because Ojiyi was expected to lead in battles.


It did not take long before the families not represented in the Oha began to agitate for their rightful places on the meetings of the Oha.


The Oha members resisted this and claimed that one could only become a member by invitation. The others then formed themselves into their own Oha and invited into their group families who were not members of the First Oha Period. Because of this, their own Oha was nicknamed Oha Ugwaka (Oha that .has been mixed with non-Ohas) by the other group. The struggle for supremacy (surprisingly bloodless throughout) between the two Ohas forms as important and interesting part of the history of Aku and its echoes were still reverberating with undiminished vigour in the late fifties and early sixties of this century.


Every action has a reaction. The struggle between the two Ohas brought about the government of plutocrats, which was the government in power when the British arrived and conquered  Aku in about 1910 or 1911.


With the resuscitating of the Oha system, Ojiyi’s (the, god) political power was drastically reduced. Its sanction was still necessary before wars were declared and it normally led Aku people to battles, accompanied by the Ekpa and Ngwongwo music. Whenever the priest of Ojiyi refused to lead with Ojiyi’s banner in front, Aku people would not fight. For example, in about 1906, the Aku Assembly (the supreme organ of government) decided to sack Ozalla, a neighbouring town about six miles to the north-east of Aku, Ojiyi ratified the decision through its diviners. On the appointed day, the priest came with the normal staff of Ojiyi but half way to Ozalla, be turned back and returned to Aku. Although the invading force did not like this action, it had no option but to turn back. Latter, it was reliably learnt that Ozalla people, working through Aku men whose mothers came from Ozalla, especially people of Umuore Obie, succeeded in bribing the priest of Ojiyi, Igboke Olowa, who then informed them the invasion would be called off. Igboke informed Aku people that the spirit of Ojiyi turned him back. Songs soon sprang up whose themes centered on mocking and ridiculing the priest.





(From About the Middle of the Nineteenth Century

to the imposition of British Rule Around 1915).


Developments inside and outside Aku were helping to bring up a crop of wealthy and influential men who virtually ruled the town through already existing agencies -the Council of elders (Oha) and Aku Assembly. It would be correct to say that before the advent of Ojiyi the bulk of Aku people were peasant farmers. Even though the people engaged in the iron industry and in black-smitting, they regarded these as subsidiary to farming. Trade was restricted mainly to the buying and selling of food stuffs, home-made clothing materials, iron implements for farming and a few other commodities. Two important articles of trade were becoming popular during this period and the people who engaged in these became comparatively richer than others. It was at this time that people took up trading as an occupation not subsidiary to farming.These new articles of trade were slaves and manufactured products. Most probably, the trade in slaves did not become popular in Aku until the second half of the nineteenth century.


There are two reasons to support this theory. The first Aku person to open trade with Nike people was Offie Nwa Ezeado. He was a very old man at the time the first white man established contact with Aku at about 1911. It was said that Offie’s beard was very white and so long that when he sat down, he would twirl the beard round his big toe. At first the white man thought it was an artificial beard and had to uncurl it himself and stretch it to as long as it could go before he could believe his eyes. Offie could not have opened this trade earlier than around the middle of the nineteenth century. Offie bought horses from Ebakpo (Hausa) people and with slaves handed over to him by Aku people in general and those given him by individuals would exchange these for manufactured products at Nike.


Secondly, it was in the second half of the nineteenth century that Aku engaged in numerous wars with its neighbours, many of whose towns and villages she completely burnt down and the population sold into slavery. These wars and raids must have been partially prompted by the desire to obtain slaves, otherwise they would not all have been concentrated within the second half of the century when the trade with Nike was established. To obtain slaves, these wars were necessary because it was a law in Aku that no Aku man should sell any Aku person. People had to look outside for human beings to sell. The second reason for these wars might have been the desire for more farming land because Aku population was growing at a very fast rate. At least this was the reason for the invasion of Akpugo around 1910. Some of the people who took part in the invasion are still living. In support of this last reason for the numerous wars is the fact that with the imposition of British peace Aku people were only able to feed its population by establishing numerous farm settlements at Uvuru, Nze, Afa, Nimbo, and Adani areas where the majority of Aku people still do farm work. It is reasonable  to suppose that during the invasion and occupation of Aku by the Igalas, many Aku people must have been taken prisoners and later sold as slaves by the Igalas. This must have been one reason for the Aku stern opposition to their rule. In any case this would have involved no peaceful buying and selling between  the two groups as the Igalas would  normally have taken whoever they wanted by force. At their departure, the horror  of their practice must have made Aku people pass the law that it was  criminal for an Aku man to sell another into slavery.  The existence of the law was a sure sign that there were violations of it. The establishment of the Ojiyi peace must have given added weight to the law against the selling of Aku  people.  It was only when Ojiyi’s grip on Aku people was loosening that people started  surreptitious buying and selling of themselves, although the  penalty at conviction was heavy as it involved the expulsion from the town of people of the entire family of the offender i.e. all the people of the same great grand-father with the offender. That  must have been the reason why the trade did not become popular in Aku until the second half of the nineteenth century.



Offie Nwa Ezeado was the person who opened up trade with Nike and later with Uburu. He was the person who introduced manufactured products called Eru (Aro ) goods into Aku. The first contact Offie  made with Nike was as a herbalist.

He learnt the art of using herbs from Ishi Ngbarogwu from Nri. The Nri man lived with and died in Offie’s house. Offie then inherited his medicine and started practicing the art. He soon became famous at Afa, Egede, Eke, Ebe, Ngwo, Nsude, Akaegbe, Ugbawka and Nike. From his contacts he discovered that trading was more paying than herbal healing. He however did not abandon the latter but combined both especially as the fear of his herbs would protect him against robbers and kidnappers. To be able to trade in those days and for that matter, to be able to move from place to place, one had to establish a sort of friendship with influential men in each town he was to visit. These influential people had to introduce one to other influential people in neighbouring villages and towns. Luckily enough, details of Offie’s system of contacts exists through his grandson, Isaiah Offie. The table below gives a list of Offie’s contact men in the various towns he passed through to Nike. It also gives an idea of the probable route he took.






Town                             Contact Men


Afa              –                  Akware Ekemngwu of Amokwu


Egede          –                 Ozo Nwa Ikpa


Eke             –                  Amadi Ezeoha Ozo Nwa Owushi of Amankwor Eke


Ngwo          –                 Ozo Ude Nwa Ugwu of Amaeke Ngwo


Nsude          –                  Ewo Nwa Onovu


Akaegbe      –                  Oburuenyi Odu and Omeru ka Okwuru


Ugbawka    –                  Mba Nwa Anuka or Amika


Nike            –                  Ani Nwa Eloka and Agbo Nwa Agbowu



Articles  Of Trade


Offie bought horses from Ebakpo and Igala people. Oha Aku (Council of Elders) would hand over to him criminals and others captured during wars and raids to be sold on their behalf. Before he opened up the trade, such criminals were normally killed. For every person sold, he got a commission of 100 echi (metal rods). He would exchange horses and slaves for metal rods. He would then buy manufactured products, mostly gun powder, clothes, yellow caps and different types of head-gear, beads and gin.


Trade With Uburu


At Nike, he heard that horses and slaves could be sold at a higher price at Uburu. He sent one of his sons, (most of his grown up sons had become traders) Ebiaka, to Uburu. Mba Nwa Anika introduced Ebiaka to Mazi Njoku of Nkerefi who took

him to Uburu. At Uburu he was introduced to Ogbu Nwa Eze. The trade with Nike and Uburu made Offie family the richest in Aku. They maintained a monopoly of the trade and Aku people could only go to Uburu through them. The first Aku man outside Offie’s sons and relatives to go to Uburu was Mba Nwa Anidobu of Amabokwu, Ebiaka’s friend.



(From About 1850 to 1918)


It has been pointed out that a quarrel over political authority soon developed between the two Ohas. The second Oha group (the mixed Oha) contended that the other Oha could not impose its decisions on the whole town if every family was not represented. Insults and name-calling were freely exchanged between the two but luckily fighting did not follow nor was there a break-down of law and other. In fact, in spite of the internal bickering, it would appear that during this period Aku town grew more united and stronger as they invaded sacked towns and villages in succession. The reason for this apparent contradiction could be found in the following:


  • Lack of a dividing line between the two Ohas.


(b) Increased prosperity accruing from the trade in slaves and manufactured products.

(c) The Executive was not divided.


( a)  Lack of a dividing line between the two Ohas.

The difference between the two opposing groups was only political and was not allowed to affect or intrude into religious, social and other cultural affairs. Thus the quarrel did not prevent inter-marriage, friendship, economic co-operation, Ozo title taking, etc. among members of the two groups. Thus the leader of one section, Offie Nwa Ezeado, was the bosom friend of the leader of the other, Udene Diarua. Their friendship was further strengthened by the marriage of the former’s son to the latter’s daughter. Yet it did not prevent them from verbal thrusts against each other whenever the two groups clashed in meetings of Aku people.


(b) Increased prosperity accruing from the trade in slaves and manufactured              products.

With the opening of the trade with Uburu, the lust for slaves was so high in Aku that it led to numerous wars and raids against Aku neighbours. Most prisoners of wars were sold and the money divided among the elders of the different families, though not proportionately, a person’s share depending more on his alertness and ability to follow the intrigues involved. The result was that the trade became a sort of a permanent source of income for many of the leaders. Moreover many Aku people became engaged in the redistribution of manufactured products to Nkpologu, Abii, Nimbo, and other Igbo Oda areas; Lejja, Ukehe, Opi and other Nsukka towns. Aku traders also travelled to Affa, Nze and Akpakuma. It was in the interest of the leaders and traders that peace should be maintained in the town. It was also only as a united people could they fight and raid others for slaves.


(c) The Executive arm of the government was not divided like the Legislative.

A t this period, the Ojakaru age group was the executive arm of the government. They were not divided like the Ohas. For this reason they carried out only decisions arrived at during Aku Assembly meetings. Partisan decisions of the different Ohas did not concern them.


So it was that despite the seeming division and partisan politics, the town remained stable and united. The Oha quarrel war like “the tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.   The Oha quarrel was finally buried in 1945 with the formation of the Aku Town Council. In this Council all families and heads of families were represented. All parties concerned agreed never to refer to the division again. But the Oha case refused to lie quietly in the grave without one more struggle with death. In 1959, some politicians wanted to exploit the Oha sentiment for their own political ends. The upheaval that followed carried all the fury and mud-slinging of its predecessors. The law courts provided a costly outlet. Everybody felt he was defending his father’s crown, in which case, no amount of expenditure was too much. By 1962, everybody looked spent and agreed to let sleeping dogs lie or perhaps dead dogs, because they could stink if stirred.


The  Rule  Of The Plutocrats


As mentioned before, between about 1850 to around 1915 the government of Aku was in the hands of a few comparatively rich men who at the same time had the gift of the tongue. Given the Oha division at the time, there developed a sort of convention between the leaders of both groups. Whenever a major decision was to be taken, the leaders of the two parties would meet secretly, agree among themselves and fix the date for a meeting of the entire town and in some cases that of the elders. During the meeting, the problem was introduced and after a few skirmishes between speakers from both sides, a few people from the assembly would be asked to go out and deliberate and give them their opinion. Invariably leaders from both sides would be among the nominated few. Soon they return with a decision, which on the majority of occasions was normally unanimously carried. Here is an illustration:


The people of Ezaelu Obie were banished from the town and their houses burnt down because one of their sons was convicted of selling an Aku person. From their place of exile, they contacted Offie Nwa Ezeado asking him to plead for their return and sending him 300 echi (metal rods) to cover the expenses involved. Offie then went to Udene Diarua and told him what had happened. Both decided that the money Ezaelu sent was sufficient and that they should be allowed to return. Immediately, they summoned a meeting of the whole town in which it was unanimously decided that the whole of Ezaelu should not suffer for the sins of one man and that while the whole of Ezaelu should return immediately the culprit should remain in exile forever. The descendants of the culprit are said to be living today at Ohebe, a neighbouring village a few miles from Aku.


There is a funny story sequel to this event. While Offie informed Udene that he had received 300 echi from Ezaelu, he did not give him even one. It was simply understood that he would share it into two. But Offie did not. Udene did or said nothing. He was biding his time. One day, Offie decided to marry his friend’s daughter for his son. He sent an unusual amount of 300 echi through his family members to Udene as bride prize. When his relatives objected that the money was too much, he convinced them by telling them that when a rich man is going to the house of another rich man to marry, he does not count costs. When the people presented the money to Udene and his people, Udene started laughing. At the end of which he thanked the visitors, stood up and divided the echi into two and asked his people to carry one half into his inner room. He then told his visitors to thank Offie Nwa Ezeado for bringing 150 echi to marry his daughter. He then handed his daughter over to Offie’s people at the same breath informing everybody that he made a gain of 300 echi with Offie Nwa Ezeado somewhere and that his friend had decided to give him his share in this manner. When Offie was told of what happened, he also laughed and laughed and congratulated his friend for his wit and humour.



The Wars And Raids Of The Nineteenth Century

As pointed out above, Aku people engaged in a number of wars and raids and in short became a terror to all the towns and villages around. These wars must have been prompted by the desire of Aku people to find more agricultural land for its growing population and by the need to capture prisoners for sale. Since the government of the town was in the hands of people who were making a lot of money through the trade in slaves and since it was not possible for them to obtain their slaves from Aku itself, it was to their interest to engineer these wars and raids. These wars will now be mentioned and treated briefly in a roughly chronological order.


The Sacking of Ugwu Amoke


Ugwu Amoke was a village four miles to the South-West of Aku. It was reputed to have had an unusually strong breed of men. Aku invaded the place time and again and were each time repulsed. According to the story, Aku then employed a powerful herbalist, who after his concoction made a bird the carrier of the deadly medicine. When the bird reached Ugwu Amoke, it sang, “Where will I put it.” Ugwu Amoke young men answered, “If you do not put it here, where else in the world can you find men as strong as we are?” The bird dropped what it was carrying. Panic seized Ugwu Amoke people and within a few days, the place was captured and burned down. Some of the escapees who had relations in Aku took refuge there. Two families are identified as having come from there-one in Ugwunani and one in Nua. Others took refuge at Nze and Afa. Descendants of the latter still bring annual sacrifices to the ghostly place otherwise Ugwu Amoke is no more, only broken earthen ware pots exist as indication that it was once occupied.




The Destruction of Aka Aku


Two miles west of Ugwu Amoke was a town called Aka Aku. It was bigger than the former. After the burning of Ugwu Amoke, the people of Aka Aku knew it was their turn. Their resistance did not last as long as that of Ugwu Amoke. A family in Amaegu­ Uwani Mgboko is said to have come from Aka Aku. The town was completely destroyed and their land parceled out among Aku people. In the writer’s father’s plot of land at Aka Aku, there is a slag heap which might mean that they also engaged in the manufacture of iron.


Aku people still fear Ugwu Amoke gods and nobody has been brave enough to farm what is regarded as the central part of the town. Aka Aku is different. Every bit of it is cultivated.


The Destruction of Umu Oke


Umuoke was the last of the three villages to be destroyed. The village was about five miles south of Aku. Evidence still exists to show that the place was inhabited not long ago. Mortars and pestles in varying degrees of decay can still be found.

Unfortunately, the writer has not been able to get any details about the invasion that led to its destruction. There is a family in Ugwunani who were said to have been descendants of the town and who still answer Umuoke.


The Sacking of Ikolo


lkolo is a small village, four and a half miles from Aku. Aku people say there was a time when Ikolo was far larger than now. At that time lkolo was a torn in the flesh of Aku. The attack on Ikolo was sudden and unanticipated. Immediately their strongest man was killed, everybody took to his heels. The place was deserted. The bulk of the people took refuge at Afa, where they are still called Ikolo Afa. A few came back to their original home and submitted to Aku people who allowed them to live on condition that every year they make a tribute of a young man or woman to Aku. With the establishment of British rule, a goat or sheep plus a keg of palm wine were then received as a yearly tribute. This is still done today. In 1971 young Ikolo boys decided the tribute was unnecessary. Their elders disagreed with them, informing them that it was an agreement ratified by the gods and that whenever they stopped the gods would be after them and that in case, if they stopped, Aku people might fight to take their land.


Lejja’s Submission


Aku then turned its attention to its neighbour to the north­ east, Lejja. The people of Lejja sent emissaries through the people of Ohemje whose mothers were from Lejja to plead for them. They agreed to supply the number of people required as tribute. Having done this, they were left alone.


Ohebe Is Humiliated [about 1905]


Ohebe is a village very near Amogwu Aku. Ohebe had previously been paying annual tribute to Aku. The tribute consisted normally of human beings. In about 1905, Ohebe refused to pay tribute. Aku sent her soldiers who made short work of them. The story is told that when one of the soldiers, Ugwu Adanaa returned home with two heads and showed these to his family head, Offie Nwa Ezeado, expecting congratulations, the money-wise old man asked him, “Do you eat human heads? Of what use are they?” The young man understood and went back to Ohebe and brought back two cows. The old man smiled and shook his hands. Ohebe submitted and her tributes became regular until the British arrived.


Aku Soldiers Become Mercenary


Around this time the fame of the Aku army as a redoubtable force must have spread so far that Adaba, a town in Nsukka west, about twenty-three miles by road to Aku, invited Aku to come and fight on their behalf against Umulokpa. Adaba and Umulokpa were fighting over a piece of land lying between the two towns. Adaba sent Odeligbo Omihe with a large quantity of echi (money) to Aku to ask for help. Aku sent the Ojakaru age grade down to Adaba. Immediately Aku soldiers arrived Umulokpa deserted their town. Aku then entered Umulokpa unchallenged and started looting. Umulokpa sent emissaries made up of people whose mothers were of Adaba origin to sue for peace. Aku soldiers had to remain at Adaba until peace negotiations were concluded and Umulokpa accepted the Awoha River Valley as the boundary between the two. The official gift of Adaba to Aku elders was made up of cows.


Aku Soldiers At Nkerefi

Nkerefi and Nara were fighting over a piece of land. Both towns are in Agbani Division. Nkerefi invited Ebiaka Nwa Offie, who was a herbalist and trader like his father, to help them. Ebiaka came home to Aku, collected a few hardy friends plus a narrow piece of cloth to represent Ojiyi Aku (the Aku town god). He and his few friends with the cloth from Ojiyi hoisted on a long pole led Nkerefi to victory. Ojiyi-Aku became a popular god at Nkerefi, especially when its reputation of killing within three native weeks any thief that swore in its name or touched any article under its protection appeared to be working. Its influence waned only after the 1940s when thieves broke into the market of Nkerefi and stole things under Ojiyi’s protection. Nothing happened to them and so people lost faith in it, but Nkerefi people still remember Ojiyi-Aku.



War With Ukehe, (about 1907)

The war between Aku and Ukehe was actually no war. It was the mockery of a war. When Aku sacked and dispersed lkolo, Ukehe became ill at ease at the growing power of Aku and was anxious to fix a permanent boundary between them and Aku. The immediate cause of the war was that one Ogiri from Ukehe visited his Lelegu friend in Aku but failed to return back to Ukehe. Ukehe people sent a message to Aku asking for their son. In reply Aku soldiers marched towards Ukehe to invade it. Ukehe were prepared for this. Some Aku people allege that Aku people whose mothers came from Ukehe secretly informed them of the intentions of Aku.

Immediately Ukehe soldiers sighted Aku soldiers they started firing. The fire was returned. The two-day war ended without a soul being killed on either side. Diyoke Ugwu of Aku and Olenyi Omaga of Ukehe secretly agreed to work towards the ending of the war. Each consulted leaders among his own people and soon a boundary was fixed and the war ended. The boundary between Aku and Ukehe was fixed at Onuogwu Nwa Egboocha, a spot just where the road to Ohebe branches off on the Aku-Ukehe road near the school compound at Igbodo. The spot was named after Nwa Egboocha who prepared the medicine with which the boundary was fixed.


The Invasion Of Akpugo (About 1910-1911)


This was the last war Aku people fought before the British came. In fact the siege of Akpugo was in progress when the British intervened. For a long time, Aku people had been looking for a reason to invade and sack Akpugo and take over their lands. One day, she was provided with a reason.


Ugwueze Okagu of Amankpo Umuezike was looking for a special type of ashes used in the preparation of dyes by woman. He was collecting the ashes near Akpugo forest, about three miles from Aku when Diyoke Ogo of Akpugo saw him and kidnapped him.


Ugwueze told Diyoke that he was making a big mistake by kidnapping him since he was sure his three brothers would look for him. By his three brothers, he meant Aku because Aku is made up of Akibite, Akutala and Ejuona. When Amankpo people missed their son, they started to look for him. He was found at Adani, a town about twenty-three miles by road to Aku. He had to be re-bought.


Aku then sent a message to Akpugo demanding that they produce Ugwueze whom they had kidnapped. Akpugo denied having anything to do with Ugwueze. A meeting was fixed between the two at Ugwuadege Nwanta hill near Akpara. Aku produced Ugwueze who told his own story. Akpugo then apologised and offered Aku a compensation of five human beings. Aku people refused, fired two shots into the air and told Ugwueze to follow Diyoke Ogo, his kidnapper. Ugwueze had to live with Diyoke who treated him like a king. One day, Ugwueze returned to Aku in the night and informed the Ojakaru age group that Diyoke Ogo would travel to Nkpologu the following day. He stole back to Akpugo. On his way to Nkpologu, Diyoke was kidnapped and taken to Amankpo where he was killed after being paraded round the town. Aku again ambushed and killed two other leaders of Akpugo, Dugwu Ijakpata and Obo Ozara. Once again Akpugo people offered apologies. Akpugo elders brought and offered Aku a hoe handle, a broom and a lump of clay which represented their agriculture, their family hearth (home) and all their means of livelihood as a sign that they stood at the mercy of Aku. They asked Aku to name any prize. Aku told them that the only remedy was that they should evacuate their village and find another place to live. Akpugo asked for time to consider the demand.

On returning, they immediately set about preparation for the defense of their village. Akpugo lived and still lives in the middle of a thick forest. They fenced round the village with doors made of climbing twines and straight tree trunks. They then dug trenches round the village and camouflaged them in such a way that there was no noticeable difference between them and the surrounding decaying forest soil. Observation posts were mounted on the tops of two tall trees in the middle of the fortified area.


On the day prior to the invasion day, Udene Diarua, on behalf of Aku elders, advised the young men not to enter Akpugo forest at all. Since the source of water supply for Akpugo lay outside the forest, the soldiers should simply surround the forest and pick up Akpugo people one by one since they were bound to look for water. The young men laughed at such a ludicrous idea of having to spend such a long time in destroying a village like Akpugo.

While Aku soldiers were still a long way away, the observation posts had sited them and informed the defenders, using a sort of native flute to pass on quick information. These observers were so placed that they relayed information about Aku troop movements, strength, direction, etc. At a signal, Aku soldiers charged on the fence. Bullets struck them from nowhere and within a short time, they retreated. Surprise was written on every soldier’s face for nobody had seen any Akpugo man, let alone killing one, while Aku had lost some of her men.

As Aku leaders consulted, the Akpugo observation posts kept on relaying information. Aku people noticed this and some attempted to shoot the observers down. They merely wasted their powder and bullets for the trees on which they were perched were too tall. Aku re-grouped and charged again. The charge produced no better result but ended with Aku still losing more men.

The whole day passed without Aku soldiers seeing any enemy let alone killing one. They carried their dead and wounded home. At this juncture, it dawned on them that the elders at home were right after all. They then sat round Akpugo to starve them to surrender. Weeks passed and Akpugo had not surrendered. It was clear the siege was taking a toll of them for many of them attempted to steal out in the night to fetch water. Some were captured who told stories of dying children. All banana trees had been cut down, the water in the trunks being squeezed out and used as drink. But Akpugo refused to surrender because surrender meant extinction. It was said that most children below the age of seven died of thirst and that Akpugo lost a great deal of her population. Without knowing it, deliverance was at hand.

The British had reached Nkpologu and Uvuru. Aku people had already heard about them but were determined not to have anything to do with them. Moreover the inactive life at Akpugo had wearied some soldiers, made them restive and quarrelsome. A dispute over the ownership of an antelope killed at Akpugo led to the soldiers returning home to Aku to get the elders settle the quarrel. Akpugo took the opportunity to store some water and mend its defences.  After the quarrel over the dead animal had been settled, the soldiers returned back to Akpugo. Soon they were recalled to come and defend Aku against a possible attack by the white man. The white man later attacked, defeated Aku and forbade the continuation of the war with Akpugo.





Though all of Aku people are believed not to have descended from the same parents, one would be struck by the closeness of the people to one another. It is surprising that in a town of such a size, a great many of the people know one another by name and family. One reason for this is that the entire people live in a very small area unlike most villages in Nsukka and Udi Divisions. There are no recognizable boundaries between one village and the other, between one family and another. Because of proximity all sorts of ties bind the people together.


There has never been any king in Aku.  Every Aku man regards himself as equal to the next man. A popular saying in Aku, with reference to equality, has it that in Aku there are no big dogs, every dog is a small one. This idea has been maintained throughout the history of Aku. Until the British came, the supreme authority in Aku had always been the Aku Assembly which was open to all adult males of the town. One important aspect of Aku political and social life which was not treated in this paper is the position of women in Aku political life, for unlike in other places, Aku women had their own Assembly which sometimes took decisions binding on the men. On a few occasions they were known to have rejected decisions of the Aku Assembly. They therefore deserve a separate paper.

The only foreign people who had ever dominated Aku politically were the Igalas. It is important to remark that during the nineteenth century when Aro people dominated a sizeable part of Igboland, Aku was free from their direct influence. Their oracle was unknown in Aku neither did their fighting men ever reach Aku. Nri people must have influenced Aku culturally as many Aku social customs refer back to them.

Nineteenth century Aku history was a history of wars caused most probably by the slave trade and by the desire to acquire more agricultural land for the growing population. In pursuance of the latter objective they destroyed three towns or villages and partially destroyed a fourth. They even later took up other people’s wars on the payment of a stipulated amount of money. Had not the British intervened, these wars would have continued and would have led to the destruction of more neighbouring people.