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INTER-GROUP RELATIONS OF MBANO IN IMO STATE, NIGERIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURS, 1906 TO 2006

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study                           

            Study of pre-colonial and colonial African society emphasise isolation and the general hostilities of one ethnic group or polity against the other. Existing colonial literature in their assessments of Africa wrongly classified pre-colonial and colonial African indigenous communities as immobile, stagnant and averse to change. It is to be stressed that in pre-colonial Africa, inter-relations were not caste-like or closed. Rather, there existed amalgams of proximate towns and community groups that related through various ways. The fulcrum of this study, Mbano in Igboland, is one case in point. Igboland is a territory in the south-eastern part of Nigeria, surrounded by such landmarks as the Cross River at the foot of the Cameroon Mountain in the east, the Kukuruku Hills in the west, the Benue River, and the great Atlantic Ocean in the Bight of Biafra in the south. Most significantly, Igboland lies on the plain near the delta of the famous Niger River[1].

Igboland has at its northern and northeastern borders, the Igala and the Idoma; in the west, the Edo; the Ijo in the south and the Ibibio in the east. Igboland includes the present Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo states and some parts of Delta, and a large part of what is today called Rivers State. In fact, Port Harcourt, by the Colonial Land Commission of 1952, was confirmed as in Igboland[2]. These different groups have had one form of interaction or another, especially in the area of economic pursuits, social-cultural and political relations. These relations, which go way back in history, manifest through marriages, cultural festivals and activities, and also wars. The interactions have been peaceful most times and hostile at other times. On inter-group relations, Afigbo argues that different Nigerian ethnic and cultural groups sought through their richly varied traditions of origin and migrations and through accounts of the rise and expansion of their socio political system, to preserve, interalia, their perceptions of the relationships which existed between them and their neighbours.[3] In fact, relations among the Igbo have always been based on some factors either relating to common historical origins, ancestry or to a common language, tradition, and custom, religion, belief system, trade and festivals, among others. These factors tend to bind people closely together but can also lead to war. Wars are in themselves a form of inter-group relations. Most communities in Igboland came into contact through different movements, for instance, the Awka-Orlu movement in which people migrated and settled in different areas.  The Mbano people and their neighbours, the focus of this research, have benefited in the course of their socio-political, economic and cultural activities Mbano is found in Imo State. It appears to be the only community that shares boundaries with communities in Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri that constitute the three Geo-political zones of Imo State. Mbano is centrally positioned in Imo state, and is something of the Igbo heart land. The area embraces Isiala and Ehime Mbano local government areas. Geographically, Mbano occupies an expanse of land of more than 205.30 square kilometers. It is located approximately between latitudes 7 and 8 E4[4]. The map below shows the location of the area of study in Imo State.

Map no 1: Map of Imo State showing the area of study separated with a black line.

Mbano consists of Osu, Ehime, Mbama and Ugiri clans. These clans of Mbano and its neigbhours are as indicated in the map no 2

Map No 2: Map of Mbano showing its neighbours.

Map N0 3: Map of Isiala and Ehime Mbano showing their Neighbours

The people are predominantly farmers. They are known for the production of palm wine (mmanya-ngwo), from the raffia tree, and in much smaller quantity, (mmanya-nkwu), palm oil and kernels, cassava, yams, three-leaved yams (una), coco-yams (ede), native plantain (unyere ojii) and so on. They also keep live-stock such as goats, dogs, fowl, and pigs which provide them with a means of livelihood. Agriculture in the area fluctuates between subsistence and commercial production. Mbano people had been adherents of Igbo traditional religion until Christianity began to gain sway among the people. Mbano belief system tallies with those of other Igbo groups. That is, the belief in the sanctity of deities and pantheon of gods.                                                                                    The name Mbano, like Nigeria, is said to be a colonial creation. The area was originally known as Mbasaa. The British colonial rule balkanized Mbasaa through its administrative creations. Mbasaa comprised seven clans namely, Ehime, Osu, Ugiri, Mbama, Isu, Ugboma and Obowo. According to S.A. Ike,

the origin of the name Mbano was during (sic) the British administration of Umuduru Native Court created in 1906. A separate native court was established to serve Obowo, Onitsha Uboma, Etiti clans and their neighbours. The Umuduru Native Court Jurisdiction served four clans; namely Osu, Ehime, Ugiri and Mbama. Thus, it was during the sitting of the court at Umuduru, that the name Mbano, meaning-four clans, naturally began to be used by the warrant chiefs in reference to the court’s jurisdiction[5].

Mbano, according to records, had appeared extensively in British colonial records before it was recognized as Mbano Federated Native Authority in 19456[6]. Mbano was carved out of Mbasaa for easy administration by the British and most probably, due to the fact that the people constituting the Mbano Federated Native Authority are closely related.

As traditions of origin of Mbano indicate, the people migrated from the general area of Orlu and settled in their present location. Some neighbours of Mbano also share in this common ancestral origin and belong to the larger Isu-ama clan of Igboland. Hence, it is not uncommon to hear an Mbano elder say “anyi shi uzo orlu bia-ebea”, “we came here from Orlu area”. An Eziama Mbaise elder would say; “we migrated from Mbano area”. The same is said of Amaimo Ikeduru or by Inyishi elder. Adiele Afigbo appears to support this view stating that,

the tradition of the Isu-ama Igbo (meaning the Isu who had gone abroad –made up of Mbama, Mbieri, Ikeduru, Osu, Ehime, Uboma, Ugiri and  Mbaise) of the Ohuhu Ngwa and of many Cross River Igbo groups indicate that they migrated eastwards from the general area of Orlu. To many communities in this group of Igbo-speaking peoples Ama-igbo in Orlu is a sacred and revered spot. The name itself means the street, meeting place or headquarters of the Igbo[7].

The saying that Mbano and its neighbours share a lot in common is a fact of history. Mbano and its neighbours fall within Afigbo’s description. The neighbours of Mbano are as follows: Ahiazu Mbaise on the West, Ikeduru/Mbaitolu on the South, Okwelle-Onuimu on the North and Agbaja-Isu in Nwangele on the eastern end[8], in Orlu zone. The contiguous communities that form neighbours of Mbano are, Eziama in Ekwereazu Mbaise, Inyishi, Amaimo, Atta and Umudim in Ikeduru, Etiti, Abajah Isu, Ogwa, and Okwelle in Onuimo. The boundaries which supposedly divide Mbano and its neighbours are no ‘Berlin walls’ that could prevent interaction. There were considerable mutually interactive relationship and contact between them.                                                             Boundaries are said to be a thing of the heart; so it is with Mbano and its neighbours.  Some border villages in Mbano easily cross these boundaries for different purposes. These include trade, religious, cultural and educational activities, among many others. The relationships and interactions have been largely symbiotic and peaceful, though minor skirmishes and disagreements do occur occasionally. Most of these communities live in such close proximity that enables neighbours fetch amber from one another to make fire. For instance, a person from Umueze11 can do so from his Eziama Mbaise neighbour. This is also applicable between an Oka person and his Inyishi Ikeduru neighbour. The same close relationship exists between Amaraku and Agbaja-Isu, and between Osu Mbano and their Okwelle-Onuimo neighbours.                                        The people cooperate and interact through other ways: exchange of labour- igba onwo oru, youth activities, isusu contribution, cultural festivals such as traditional wrestling (ekere mgba), Ibo ama, mbom uzo, ikpo oku, nta and the new yam festival (ekweji/aruru/awa or ahajioku), dances like the Alija dance, ubo ogazi, nkwa otele, nkwa inwakiriinwa, masquerades (nmanwu), marriages and numerous other activities. Despite the mutuality existing between Mbano and its neighbours, there were occasional periods of misunderstanding arising from these activities. In some occasions, they led to conflict and skirmishes between the people. According to Marcel Ibe, in the 1950s, there was a boundary dispute between Osu and Okwelle that led to crisis that lasted till the colonial government intervened and settled the matter by placing the disputed portion of land under government control.”[9] Before then the crisis had claimed many lives.                            Other sources of conflict between Mbano and its neighbours include marriages, burial rites, and cultural festivals, among others. Religious conflict has often arisen from the siting of churches. Such churches were usually near shrines or community sacred forest. In recent times, the pursuit of various political interests has been another harbinger of conflict. The creation of autonomous communities in Imo State has divided neighbours, leaving a backlog of unresolved conflict situations between individuals and communities. These conflict situations seem to be introducing new elements in the relationship and interaction between Mbano and its neighbours.                                  Mbano, like most other Igbo communities, was organized on kinship, non-monarchical principle.[10] The people do not have a centralized polity; rather, they have many autonomous communities, each with its own traditional ruler. Some of these institutions are the off-shoot of colonial warrant chief creation. Besides, colonial boundary adjustments and administrative reorganisations placed Mbano in the midst of numerous neighbours who hitherto had been their kin.  Chidi Onwubuariri stated that,

Atta community now in Ikeduru Owerri zone used to be the head community for the Nta festival that heralds the ekweji for Mbama and Ugiri clans. Inyishi also used to be part of Ugiri clan in Mbano. Today colonial rule placed Atta and Inyishi administratively under Old Owerri District and they are today neighbours of Ugiri and Mbama clans in Mbano.[11]

These colonial situations contributed to the ever-changing nature of intra/inter group relations prevalent in the society today. The dialects of Mbano people and those of their neighbours are almost the same, with only minor differences in pronunciation and accent. Each of the groups in the course of their interaction has affected the other through its actions. As Adiele Afigbo observes, inter-group relationship properly understood pre-supposes contact and interaction between groups each of which has an identity, each of which has the capacity to make some inputs into the relationship, in short, each of which has some scope and area of autonomous action. Inter-group relationship thus involves giving and taking[12]. It is a truism that inter-group relations entails contact and interaction between groups or peoples. The forms in which relationships manifest notwithstanding, interactions between groups reflect of human actions. These actions are intrinsic in the process of existence and the uniqueness of identity of the interacting groups and the reciprocity of inter-group relations[13].                                                                                     The Mbano and its neighbours, and the various groups inhabiting the area do not present such a complex network of contacts and interaction. The relationships embrace all aspects of historical development, viz, economic, social-cultural, political and religious, gender and so on. A good deal of the history of the contacts and interaction between the people is contained in oral tradition. The story of their migration from the general Orlu area appears to be in line with oral traditions regarding their origin, migration/dispersal and settlement. Afigbo is of the opinion that stories such as these are most likely to have arisen among peoples who were in meaningful contact with one another and who therefore were understandably anxious to build up a working theory of inter-group relationships.[14] Okpe O. Okpe thinks that contact and interaction between groups pre-supposes that each group must consciously or unconsciously, advertently or inadvertently, relate with other groups to survive[15].  This makes contact, interaction and inter-dependence not just a fact but a necessity of life; universally constant and basic.[16] Obaro Ikime writes that no human groups are isolationist in orientation, but that the mundane needs of daily life bring diverse Nigeria peoples into close and continuous contact with their immediate neighbours[17]. Mbano and its neighbours were not strangers to one another, but lived in close affinity and co-operation. They also developed over time considerable historical commonalities arising from their contact and interaction.                  Inter-group relation is dynamic and multi-dimensional. This reflects the mutational nature of man’s relationship with his environment. Hence, changes that occur are sometimes products of the nature of happenings at the material time. Inter-group relation is, therefore, a factor of the social, economic, cultural and political conditions and can be critically anchored on geography.[18] Colonialism was one monumental development that brought in its wake radical changes in the form of inter-group relations in Africa in general and Nigeria and Igboland, in particular. It introduced new dimensions of violence in interactions and all forms of endless struggles for political, economic and socio-cultural interests between groups. This in turn brought a number of consequences on the relationship between neighbouring groups and societies. According to Afigbo, relations between neighbours became modified.[19]      Isichei opined that “boundary creation brought a situation in which people were either confused about the actual boundaries or were forced to accept artificial boundaries.”[20] Over time, peace-loving generations appeared quarrelsome and boundary-conscious, resulting in avoidable inter-group skirmishes and a times even wars. Ethnicity and ethnocentrism became implanted in the minds of brothers who, through colonial political activities, began to be seen as neighbours. However, despite these changes, relationships between Mbano and its neighbours continued to be largely peaceful. But the changes brought by colonial rule are not without challenges to inter-group relations in the area. These problems, as discussed in this work, are considered shortly.                                                              Statement of the Problem                                                                                                                                                       Mbano and its neighbours constitute a group of communities in Igboland located in present day Imo State, Nigeria. From remote antiquity, the different groups have co-existed, interacted and cooperated in various ways in their relationship. The age of their co-existence is difficult to establish because of the dearth of documentary and archaeological evidence that could provide possible and objective clue to the genesis of their contact.  Over time, certain events affected relations between the people. One of these is colonial rule that brought far-reaching changes in the area. The other factor was the Nigeria-Biafra War which affected the nature of relationship between the people. Unfortunately, there is no detailed research on the nature of changes brought by these events in the relationship and interaction between the people, during and after colonial era. The dynamics of the newly evolving relations are yet to be brought to historical understanding. There is therefore no literature on the area, with special regard to inter-group relations. Because of the absence of any serious research on inter-group relations for the period (1906-2006) in the area, knowledge of the relations between the people is lacking. This absence of research creates a knowledge gap about relationship between Mbano people and their neighbours at the time.                                                                                   There are opinions among the elders and the people that Inyishi and Atta, now in Ikeduru, as neighbours of Mbano, were part of Ugiri group of villages before they were transferred to Ikeduru by the British colonial authority. In fact, Umudim and Atta now in Owerri were said to have been part of Ugiri Mbano. Even Agbaja-Isu town was also said to have been part of Ugiri clan. Intelligence reports in the National Archives, Enugu contain the view that these towns were formerly, either part of Ugiri clan or Mbama. Colonial administrative rearrangements thwarted the hitherto existing political structure and socio-cultural organization in the area. Hence, Atta and Umudim communities were transferred to Ikeduru Native Court which was closer to the people than Otanzu Otanchara at Okigwe. For instance, Bones Ojiah’s compilation of intelligence reports on Ugiri clan provides helpful clues yet to be investigated.  He writes that:

During the British colonial administrative reorganisation of Mbasaa, argument ensued on whether the town of Agbaja-Isu belonged to Ugiri. The Ugiri clan claimed that Agbaja-Isu was part of Ugiri. Also, the towns of Umudim and Atta in Owerri Division were visited. Umudim people were divided as to whether to remain as part of Okigwe or be grouped under Owerri Division. Atta was definitely against any change. The main reason expressed by the people was the distance they would cover to attend court at Provincial Headquarters of Otanzu Otanchara at Okigwe. Umudim looked amenable to transfer, but that in view of hostility of Atta to change, Umudim chose to attend court in Owerri Division.[21]

By this action, some Mbano communities were transferred to Owerri Division which was a different administrative unit. The implications of this colonial action on inter-group relations are yet to be examined. Ojiah provides a list of the original composition of Ugiri clan before colonial administrative re-organization in the following order of seniority: Ugiri, Obollo, Umuneke, Ogbor, Oka, Umudim, Atta, and Ibeme. Umudim and Atta are now part of Ikeduru in Owerri Division. Umudim used to be a quarter of Oka Ugiri in Okigwe.[22]                                                                                                                                 Inyishi in Ikeduru is also surrounded by a similar contention. Oka community in Ugiri clan speaks of Inyishi in Ikeduru as their brothers. Inyishi people again claim they migrated from Amuzari in Mbama clan who they claim to be their brothers. For instance, Onwubuariri of Umuoti Inyishi told the author that their brothers in Amuzari are still part of Mbano but Inyishi is part of Ikeduru. This problem was created by colonial rule that divided the land arbitrarily, thereby separating brothers, and making them administratively spatial neighbours[23].                                                                                     Colonial advent and administrative reorganization compounded aspects of relations between these communities which have not been interrogated. The various towns were autonomous and claim almost common traditions of origin. However, due partly to the reorganization of the area for administrative convenience by colonial officials, some communities became neigbhours of Mbano. The changes had implications for inter-group relations in the area. The Nigeria-Biafra war was another event that affected peaceful and smooth relations in the area. The thirty-month war significantly affected political, socio-cultural and economic aspects of inter-group relations in the area. This research identified that the challenge of how the entity called Mbano related with the contiguous communities sharing boundaries with them as their neighbours is yet to be interrogated. Besides, studies in Igbo history have concentrated more on the Aro, Nsukka, Awka and Nri, among others. In fact, researchers have said nothing about inter-group relations in the area.  From the foregoing, it becomes increasingly necessary to investigate and understand the factors inherent in the relationship between Mbano and its neighbours from 1906-2006.

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework      

 The study of inter-group relations presents a number of theoretical and conceptual issues among scholars, particularly, with regard to its nature and evolution as a human phenomenon. There is, for instance, the question of what inter-group relations is and how it has been viewed in human societies over time.[24] Human society in all of its forms of existence and nature is predicated on inter-dependence. This is anchored on the fact that human beings naturally are dependent creatures; they depend on their environment and other humans for food, shelter and clothing, all of which give them a sense of purpose.[25] The inter-dependent nature of human beings is as a result of the differentiating factors and the existing polarity in the unequal distribution of natural resources as manifested in boundary delineation and geography.[26]                                                                      The Theory of Mutual Aid                                                                                                              The mutual aids theory is one of the contending theories of inter-group relations. The theory postulates that in the all-important question of struggle for the basic things of life, human beings co-operate not just for the sake of social community, but indeed out of necessity.[27] The proponent of the theory, John Locke, in his essay, Concerning Human Understanding, argues that necessity rather than mere social association/interaction is the driving force of the co-operation and association humans enter into with their fellow humans in a given society. Thus, human beings become “interest”-driven as they relate with their fellow humans. In other words, where human interest is not at stake or threatened, they tend to quickly dissociate themselves. Locke’s theory is predicated on his belief that, God made human beings, and naturally put them under strong obligation of necessity, convenience and inclination to make their choices. He drove them into the society and also endowed them with understanding and language to mutually continue to enjoy it.

Theory of Natural Anarchy and Human Relations

The theory was propounded by Thomas Hobbes. It sees humans originally as that which lived in a state of nature before the advent of civil society. This theory postulates that, “the natural state of man is one of unrestricted war and competition; a war of all against all; one based on continued unrest predicated on the survival of the strongest over and against the weakest”[28]. It rules out the possibility of any just action by human since nothing is naturally just in man’s life. The idea here is that human society is largely characterized by pandemonium and rancour, arising from belligerence, anarchy and mutual antagonistic awareness among groups and individuals. It thus assumed that since the group has different and conflicting interests, harmonious cohabitation was hardly a characteristic of the society. Hobbes explains man’s life as one in its natural state, deeply rooted in solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short episodes. In this state, it is only the fear of death that draws humans towards peaceful interaction with others.    However, humans relate due to natural forces within their environment that inevitably bring them together. This tends to provide explanations for conflict in relationships between groups by exploring sociological, political, economic and historical factors that characterize such relationships.[29] Thus the belief here is that cultural and value differences as well as group interest all influence relationships between individuals and groups in different ways.[30] At the sociological level, the differences between cultural values pose challenges to individuals or group identity formation process. This creates the tendency to see other humans as intruders who should be prevented from encroaching upon established cultural boundaries.                                                                                          The theory of natural anarchy and human relations appear to perceive society from different narrow and rigid realms. In effect, consensus and conflict may assume bi-polar opposites, neither alone could offer full interpretations and explanations for the ever changing nature and scope of inter-group relations in Nigeria and indeed within Igbo society. Besides, human society is composed of economic, socio-cultural and political activities which grant them access to the basic needs of life. The inter-dependence arising as a result of the disparities in natural resources endowments and distribution between communities accounts for the context of inter-group interactions. It emphasizes that every human being largely becomes truly a human being by means of his/her relationship with other human beings. Okpe O. Okpe reasons alongside the mutual aid theory that, indeed, humans, by nature, are dependent creatures as they depend on their environment and others for food, shelter and clothing, all of which give them a sense of purpose here on earth[31].                                                                                                                                     Human groups therefore, consciously relate with other human groups in their political, economic, and social activities. Most communities and groups in Nigeria and indeed Igboland have had a web of relationships that has already made life possible for them. Pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Igboland, presented different forms of intra/inter-group relations between communities at different epochs. In relation to the nature of relations between Mbano and their neighbours, it should be borne in mind that intra/inter-group relationship is a multifaceted and dynamic concept. These facets, according to Afigbo, are:

…the political (which might be war-like or peaceful), the economic and technological; the cultural (which include arts, dance, music, marriage, custom and mode of dress etc.,). Other facets include interactions between legal and judicial systems, language and folklore, religion, philosophy and cosmology[32].

Afigbo further explains that different communities in their actual day-to-day experiences have had to co-exist and interact in peace and in war[33]. Given this situation, therefore, it could be suggested that in the absence of war, peaceful co-existence becomes almost inevitable.    Consequently, considering the study of inter-group relations as a “process within a broad continuum,” five stages could be identified in the process. According to Okpe O. Okpe, they include the stages of,…..

He further explained these stages thus:

  1. a) In the first stage of contact and interaction, social groups evolve out of co-existence and isolation by making contacts with one another. This brings about interaction. These contacts could be by accident, political adventure, migration, trade or through war. This is usually, the threshold of interaction and leads to the second stage.
  2. b) In the second stage of compromise and cooperation, relations between social groups appear very complex but interdependence advance the course of compromise and cooperation. At this stage, social groups relate mutually and the nature of relationship is symbiotic. This brings about the process of giving and taking in inter-group relations.
  3. c) At the third stage of competition, each group attempts to appropriate the rewards of each interacting group. The mutual reciprocity ceases to be the guiding principle of inter-group relations but competition.
  4. d) The fourth stage is the stage of conflict. At this stage, competition heightens contradiction between the groups and such interaction fails to be resolved amicably, thereby giving rise to conflict. Each group tries to assert their claims to the detriment of others, by restricting access to the rewards arising from their interactions. This is usually achieved through warfare which involves the conquest and subjugation of the weaker group by the dominant ones.
  5. e) The last stage of integration and assimilation involves the gradual process, spanning decades if not centuries[34].

These stages implicitly concern the relationship between Mbano and its neighbours. They are arguably, oftentimes over-lap; and so there is no hard and fast rule about the stages. Group interactions could occur in any form. These forms would provide a guide in assessing, within the confines of inter-group relations, Mbano and its neighbours in Igboland. Given the ever changing nature of inter-group relations, any serious attempt to study and understand the phenomenon in any society should, as a necessity, take into consideration, the depth and significance of the various interacting groups over time.[35] This study aligns itself with the Mutual Aid and the Hobbesian theories in human relations in its explanation. They would serve as a guide in the effort to study how Mbano and its neighbours conducted their relations over time.                                                   The concept of inter-group relations has various scholarly interpretations. The interpretations point to interaction between two or more groups. Afigbo writes of inter-group relations as one that presupposes contact and interaction between groups each of which has an identity to make some input into the relationship; in short each of which has some scope and area of autonomous action[36]. R.L. Ellis, M.J. Lipetz and M.J. Herskovits view inter-group relations in the light of the responsive behaviour and interaction of societies or groups towards one another.[37]       From the perspectives of M. Sheriff and G.W. Sheriff, inter-group relations is perceived as states of friendship or hospitality, co-operation or competition, dominance or subordination, alliance or enmity, peace or war between two or more groups and their respective members[38]. R.H. Bates, E. Bonacich, and D. Horowitz share a similar view of the concept of inter-group relations as a process within a broad continuum[39]. Hence, the concept of inter-group relations in the writer’s opinion is an embodiment of all aspects of peaceful and conflictual interactions between individuals, groups and their enlarged environment from the point of contact as its first process to the point of death of the individual or group. It is an endless form of relations in human nature borne out of necessity.                                                                                 Purpose of the Study                                                                                                                                     There are no physical walls of demarcation between Mbano and its neighbours. However, colonial rule imposed new identities and boundary delineations within the area. Groups of clans and villages that had been closely knitted together as a people, now refer to themselves as neighbours. In this regard, Afigbo suggests,

It is now considered necessary to establish the existence of actual historical links to investigate how they operated. In other words, the focus of attention is now the network of links between actual historic cultures which the colonial rulers met in existence on their advent. This was a subject, whose scientific study, colonial writers and publicists shied away from, preferring to speculate freely instead.[40]

Some colonial reports nonetheless provide meaningful insight into the nature, structure and form of the relationship that existed between the people.                                                     The purpose of this research among other things is to examine the impact of colonial rule and balkanisation of the area formerly known as Mbasaa before its advent with regard to inter-group relations. The emphasis is on the socio-cultural, economic and political changes that occurred in aspects of their interactions over the years. Therefore, what this research examines are; the extent to which British colonial advent and administrative reorganisation affected relationship between Mbano and its neighbours; the factors that sustained the resilience and mutuality in their relations despite the balkanisation of Mbasaa during colonial rule; the effects of the Nigeria-Biafra war, 1967 to 1970, on relations between the people; how far Western cultural implements and infrastructure influenced socio-cultural, political and economic relations in colonial  post-colonial and the post-war era to 2006.      This is with a view to determining inherent factors in both peaceful and antagonistic relationships in the area. This research is a modest attempt in that regard, to examine the contours and dynamics of inter-group relations in a historian’s perspective within a centenary, and to advance knowledge on the area as well as contribute to existing historical scholarship.                 Significance of Study                                                                                                                       The changes brought about by colonial rule and the Nigeria-Biafra war on inter-group relations in the area have hitherto not received any serious research attention in spite of their far reaching implications on inter-group relations. The history of many Igbo communities today like Mbano, still lives in the hearts of the elders and in oral tradition. This situation is not satisfactory considering the fact that life is transient. It is also an inevitable fact of history that, human memory with time loses count of some historical events. These elders, who are knowledgeable on aspects of the relationships in the past, will not live forever. If the area continues to suffer neglect by researchers, historians and scholars, such first hand information about their past may be lost. As the Igbo would say, o di nma ka ndi okenye fodu n’obodo ka umu aka ghara iri udele kpoo ya egbe, (it is good for elders to remain in the land so that children would not eat the vulture thinking it is the kite). The study would serve as a reference document for further researchers in the area.                                                                                             . Though this work would not be a conclusion on further researches in the area, nevertheless, it endeavoured to shed some light on and contributed meaningfully to the study of inter-group relations, using Mbano and its neighbours as a model. This work is significant as it investigates, interprets and documents its findings for the use of future generations. It would help the young ones to understand their society and the dynamics of how their people related in the past.                                                                                      The findings would be useful to historians, tourists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, missionaries and the academia. It is hoped that this research, which is the first of its kind, would advance knowledge on Mbano and its neighbours, especially, the nature and dynamics of relations about the people and their society. Through this research, Mbano and its neighbours would be positioned in the right historical perspective in the theme of inter-group relations. The number of Igbo communities whose histories have been reconstructed would increase, hence adding to the existing literature on Igbo, Nigeria and African history.                                                

Scope of Study                                                                                                                    This study essentially covers the two local governments that make up the entity known as Mbano: Isiala Mbano and Ehime Mbano created out of the old Mbano Local Government in 1991. It also considers aspects of their relationship with their neighbours such as Isu, Atta, Inyishi, Amaimo, Eziama Mbaise, Ihiteafoukwu, Okwelle and Ogwa, among others. The work begins in 1906 when the communities that comprised the old Mbasaa came under British rule. Umuduru Native Court was created in 1906 to administer what later became known as Mbano. The study terminates in 2006 which marked a century after the British had established their political, economic and cultural presence that gave birth to the name of the area known as Mbano today.

Map No 3: Isiala Mbano LGA created out of old Mbano LGA in 1991.

Map No 4: Ehime Mbano LGA created out of old Mbano LGA in 1991

Literature Review                                                                                                                             The dearth of written materials is a challenge and limitation to this work. There are no major researches conducted in our area of research. However, a few literatures exist on some communities within Mbano and its neighbours. The literature contributes to the study of the origins of contact and forms of relationships that existed between the people. Some pertinent literature on inter-group relations in Nigeria, and particularly Igboland are reviewed.                                                                                                       Adiele Afigbo in his Ropes of Sand: Studies in Igbo History and Culture mentions the historical origin, migration and settlement of Mbano and its neighbours. He states that, “the tradition of the Isu-Ama Igbo (meaning the Isu who had gone abroad –made up of Mbama, Mbieri, Ikeduru, Osu, Ehime, Ugboma, Mbaise of the Ohuhu, Ngwa and of many Cross River Igbo groups) indicate that they migrated eastwards from the general area of Orlu.”[41] Apart from the above passing comments, Afigbo’s book provides no details on the relationship that existed between these people. However, the book provides us with insights into the legends of origin, migration and settlement which reflect in the oral traditions of the peoples of the area.                                                                               In The Igbo and Their Neighbours: Inter-group Relations in Southeastern Nigeria to 1953[42], Afigbo considers the nature and forms of relationship between the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria and their neighbours. Mbano is located in Southeastern Nigeria, in Igboland, but the book did not study the situation in the area. However, Afigbo gave some information concerning economic, religious, socio-cultural, and political factors intrinsic in the patterns of contact and relationship which also affect Mbano and its neighbours.                                                                                                                            Tony Nwaezeigwe in his book, The Igbo and Their Nri Neighbours: A Study in the Politics of Igbo Culture and Origin, discusses the relationship between Nri and other Igbo communities. Nwaezeigwe observes that nearly every aspect of Igbo culture was linked by early European scholars to “Nri” culture complex.[43] He claims that ofo as a symbol of authority in many Igbo communities, and is mostly traceable to Nri. Though some Igbo areas may not share the view expressed by Nwaezeigwe, some Mbano communities and its Ikeduru neighbours, especially the Umuri community, claim the power of the ofo used by their nze and ozo titled men as having derived from Nri. Nwaezeigwe though is silent on the influence of Nri in our area of study. The book contains some details on the spiritual role of Nri oracle agents as a factor of contact and known form of relationship and interaction within Igbo communities. Nwaezeigwe states that “…the body of Nri ritual influence was.

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