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The History of Isuikwuato
Isuikwuato is a prominent community from the Igbo ethnic group, and is located in Isuikwuato Local Government Area, Abia State, in southeastern Nigeria. It has a population of over one million people. It is bordered in the north by Uturu, Okigwe and Ihube, in the south by Alayi and Ugwueke, and in the east by Akoli, Mkpa, and Amoji. Isuikwuato is blessed with many natural resources such as kaolin and iron ore, and cash crops including cassava, yam and palm oil.
The name, “ISUIKWUATO” is symbolic and it literarily signifies a family of three clans. The three clans that make up Isuikwuato are Imenyi, Oguduasaa and Isuamawu. These clans were named after the three brothers, and children of Obiangwu, who was recognized as their ancestral father. Ojim was the head of the ancestral family and he gave birth to Okaka. Okaka in turn gave birth to Obiangwu. Obiangwu married two wives, and one of his wives gave birth to Imenyi and Amawu (descendants of Amawu are known as Isuamawu). Obiangwu’s second wife gave birth to Oguduasaa. Imenyi was the first child followed by Amawu, and Oguduasaa was the youngest of the three brothers. These three brothers had several children of their own, and the community expanded as several new villages were established and named after their offspring. Thus, this family tradition preserved our rich cultural heritage, and accuracy of our ancestral history. The family tree of Isuikwuato is shown below:
Our ancestry is also linked to other surrounding communities around Isuikwuato. For example, historically Uzuakoli, Nkpa, Akoli and Amoji are recognized as grandsons of Imenyi. These communities are presently in Bende Local Government Area. Traditionally, they are still regarded as “umunwanwa” Isuikwuato.
When Imo State was carved out of old East Central State in 1976, Isuikwuato was still under Okigwe province until the former Imo State was split into Abia and Imo States. Isuikwuato became an integral part of Abia State. The name Abia was derived from the initials of major communities that comprised the state, thus – A stands for Arochukwu and its environs, B for Bende and its environs, I for Isuikwuato and its environs, and the last A stands for Aba and its environs. Upon the creation of Abia State on August 27, 1991, Isuikwuato became one of the 17 local governments that were created with its headquarters at Mbalano.
In accordance with the Igbo traditional, Isuikwuato observes eight calendar days representing different market days. These were derived from the four major market days, namely EKE, ORIE, AFO(AHU) AND NKWO. Each market day was split into two, which could be “nke Ukwu” (big one) or “nke Nta” (small one), which does not signify the size of the market. Each village observes their own market day, which could be either “nke Ukwu – Orie Ukwu, Ahu Ukwu, Eke Ukwu, or Nkwo Ukwu” or “Nke Nta – Orie Nta (Ndu), Ahu Nta, Eke Nta, or Nkwo Nta.” The particular market day observed by any given village is not synonymous with the size of the village. Some of the merchandize sold at these markets would include cash crops, arts, livestock, various articles of clothing, etc. People travel across various neighboring communities to participate in these markets.
Early missionaries brought Christianity and education to Isuikwuato. They established churches and schools in Isuikwuato. Most of these schools were operated by different Christian organizations or missions; hence they were designated as mission schools. The mission schools took over the earlier schools built by the Local Authorities known as LA schools, which originated from the colonial masters. The various Christian organizations named the schools after their specific denominations, for example, Methodist School, Catholic School, Anglican School, etc. Isuikwuato people are passionate about education. Girls Secondary School, Ovim and Annunciation Secondary School were among the premier institutions in Igboland. Several other schools have also been established across the community. The Abia State University is also located in Isuikwuato Local Government. Isuikwuato has produced several educated men and women both at home and in diaspora. The future of education in our community is dependent on the rehabilitation of most of the dilapidated government schools and equipping them with modern technologies that will enhance learning.
The socio cultural life of ndi Isuikwuato revolves around various cultural and social celebrations most of them in keeping with traditions established by our forefathers. In keeping with such traditions, several villages have different cultural events ranging from izaa ahia (sweeping the market square), izaa ama (sweeping the village square), uzo iyi (tidying the route to the stream), Iri Ji (marking the harvesting season), etc. These celebrations afford all Isuikwuto sons and daughters the opportunity of socializing, particularly among age grades. Members of each age grade have particular responsibilities traditionally assigned to them. For instance, the teenagers could be saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the village is clean to host visitors during such celebrations. Men in their twenties may be responsible for hunting for the meats to be used during the celebrations. Often times, the sound of mbele or the like signals the start of the event and beckons every member of the community to the celebration.
Marriages were conducted according to our traditional and cultural format. Presently, with more people embracing Christianity, Church marriages are deemed as important as traditional marriages. The traditional marriages are usually conducted in phases. Another big ceremony in our community is the presentation of a new born to the community; commonly referred to as child dedication. It is the belief of the community that every child belongs to the community hence, once a child is born; there is always a big ceremony whereby the parents present the child to the community via the elders. It is always at this occasion that the child is named. Often times, the name a child is given is facilitated by prevailing circumstances associated with the family or the community at the time. For instance, if a child was born on Eke market day, he could be named Nweke or if a female child, Mgbeke.
Prior to the advent of Christianity to Isuikwuato, the community worshiped many gods, namely ogudu, etc. The community appeases or reaches out to these gods through various practices and rituals. One of the rituals that are still being observed till date is “itu mmayi,” which means pouring libations. Prior to the start of any event, it is traditional to pour few drops of drinks, usually hot drinks, on the ground to appease our forefathers and also have them enjoy the taste of the drink first before everyone else does. Presentation of kola nuts is considered a symbol of peace and acceptance. Traditionally, the kola nuts breaking ceremony offers an opportunity to express appreciations to our forefathers for watching over us, and asking them to continue to protect us. However, in contemporary sense and with the advent of Christianity, it is common to bless the kola nut with prayers offered to the Almighty God.
Traditionally, the people of Isuikwuato show utmost respect for their ancestors and have profound appreciations of their cultural heritage. They recognize traditional institutions of NDI ICHIE AND NDI EZE. Chieftaincy titles are branded “obiara ohu,” meaning new traditions. Chiefs were not originally recognized in Isuikwuato. Ndi Ichie ruled the community. These are supposedly wise, honest and respectable men with utmost integrity selected by the community and entrusted with making decisions and handling issues that affect the community.
In the political arena and public service, several prominent Isuikwuato sons and daughters have played significant roles in government at both state and federal levels. For examples, General Ike Nwachukwu and Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu have served as governors of Imo State and held various federal political and military positions in Nigeria. Navy Captain Osondu was the military governor of Cross River State. Other notable public servants include, Professor Ukpabi, a prominent visionary and educationist, Richard Harrison, former commissioner for finance, Abia State, etc.
Isuikwuato community faces many challenges. One of the greatest challenges confronting the community presently is the menace from erosion. The only single lane road that leads to the community is in a deplorable state with many sections of the road collapsing due to erosion. Several lives have been lost as the road has become almost impassable and a “dead trap.” Vehicles fall into erosion ditches almost on a daily basis. Both the state and federal governments are yet to come to the aid of the plight of the people of Isuikwuato with regard to addressing the menace of this lingering humongous erosion problem. The road stretches from Ugba junction in Uturu to Akara junction.
Other problems facing the community include lack of electricity and potable water, poor medical or functional health care infrastructures, preponderance of dilapidated school buildings, and high unemployment rate. Over 90 percent of the community is still without electricity. Almost all the schools in Isuikwuato are ill-equipped and lacked necessary modern day technology required to compete effectively. The students lack basic infrastructural amenities needed to enhance learning, including a functional library, computers and internet access.
Healthcare continues to be a pressing need for the people of Isuikwuato. The entire community of over one million people has only one hospital that is practically not functional. The clinics are very poorly equipped and are also not functional. The organization has organized several medical missions to help alleviate medical challenges of the people. Sadly, these missions would not meet the constant but challenging needs of numerous people with chronic ailments such as heart diseases, arthritis and diabetes. Several of our brethrens die every day from preventable and/or manageable diseases. They need efficient and functional health care delivery system.
NANIUSA needs your help to alleviate the sufferings of our brethren back home. You can contact us directly or send your support by clicking on the “how to contribute” icon on this website. Your support and act of kindness would ensure that our people get access to potable water, functional health care delivery system, electricity, good education and improved quality of life.