History: The Relationship Between Mbaise, Umuahia, and Ngwa in the Ohuhu Igbo Subgroup | #NwokeukwuMascot

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Many people are unaware, but Mbaise and Ngwa are actually closely related, despite being separated by the Imo River. They share similar customs and a dialect that is very similar.

According to a scholar, the Mbaise dialect and culture are about 60% Ngwa, 30% Uratta, and 10% Isu.

The Ohuhu subgroup is one of the largest Igbo subgroups, although there is currently no overarching cultural association for Ohuhu, except perhaps Ezumezu Mbaise.

Ohuhu is the term Ngwa uses to refer to the Ezinihitte, who are located to the west of Ngwa and Umuahia to their north. The name implies that they were stragglers, those who were left behind.

They were part of the same wave of population movement of southern Igbo from their original homeland, which was likely Alinso. They migrated eastward to settle along the banks of the Imo River.

The Ohuhu group was slower in their migration and eventually integrated with the neighboring Uratta and Isu people they encountered on the west bank of the Imo River. In contrast, the Ngwa were more culturally purist and quickly crossed the river in search of new lands and opportunities.

The Ngwa were believed to be led by the legendary figure Ngwa Ukwu, who gave the tribe its name, along with his brothers Nsulu, Nwaoha, and Ntigha.

Despite being separated over time, the Ohuhu people and the Ngwa still share many cultural similarities, including certain cultural practices, deities, and dances such as ekereavu, abiigbo, ese l'uko, and others. They also share similarities in their dialect.

The prevalence of place names like Okpuala in Ikeduru, Mbaise, and Ngor/Okpala is evidence of the migrations between Ohuhu and Ngwa.

It's important to note that the migrations across the Imo River did not happen all at once, as oral tradition suggests. Scientific and anthropological studies reveal that the movement across the river occurred in different waves, with various Mbaise groups crossing the river due to land shortages and the Ngwa needing more labor to subdue the Annang people on the other side. As a result, there are replicated town names between Mbaise and Ngwa, with some towns not intermarrying.

In the 1940s, five Ohuhu clans came together to form a distinct identity known as Mbaise. These clans were Agbaja, Ahiara, Oke-Uvuru, Ekwereazu, and Ezinihitte.

However, some Ohuhu clans did not join this merger. Clans like Isu-Obiangwu, Umuohiagu, Umuowa, Logara, Okpala, and Obowo chose to remain separate.

Obowo, in particular, has a different tradition of origin. They claim to have taken a different route from other Ohuhu-Ngwa people, either via Orlu or Nekede, which may explain their cultural similarities to Owerri.

It was from this population movement that certain clans later crossed the river to settle in the northern part of Ngwa, specifically Umuopara and Umuhu na Okaiuga (Ohuhu) clans of Umuahia. In addition, the same axis from Ezinihitte crossed over to form the Ubakala clan of Umuahia today. 

Note: The Ibeku and Olokoro people are more affiliated with Bende and Ikwuano.

Obowo chose to align with Etiti (Ihitte and Ehime) for political reasons, as the Okigwe administrative court was closer to them.

In total, Ohuhu people are made up of the following clans: Ahiara, Ekwereazu, Agbaja (Nguru, Enyiogugu, Lagwa, etc.), Mbutu, Uvuru, Ogbor, Ezinihitte (Onicha, Eziudo, Itu, Ife, Amaumara, Okpofe, etc.), Isu-Obiangwu, Umuohiagu, Logara, Okpala, Obowo, Umuhu na Okaiuga, Umuopara, and Ubakala.

They are united by their shared culture and close relationship with the Ngwa people.

#IgboHistory

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