ETỌCHỊ EBA— The Water Oracle: An Anthropological and Ethnographical Study of Aba Ụnọ People
Maazị Ogbonnaya Okoro
Aba Ụnọ is a beautiful community operating a monarchical system of leadership and as well as ụmụnna system. It is a town situated at Anịọcha South Local Government Area of Delta State. From Asaba, you will pass Igboụzọ and Ọgwashị-Uku before the Aba Ụnọ.
Just as every other Igbo towns written by the English man, the town is written as Abah Unor. But for the purpose of linguistic correction of Igbo towns which I, Maazị Ogbonnaya is an advocate of, I am writing it following the Igbo alphabetical rules.
Aba Ụnọ is a flat level soil with no hilly environment. A peaceful place with people full of hospitality. They love strangers. Aba Ụnọ people loved sanitation. They lived a neat life.
In the past, in every Eke and Afọ market days, everyone was obligated to sweep the community. Anyone who failed to do so must be fined. You could see through the next quarters because everywhere was neat. Mothers would remind their children to keep the community clean. It was their culture and part of their identity.
Aba Ụnọ people never killed one another. It was a taboo for a blood of a brother to drop on the soil. They lived a communal life. Ate together and loved one another. No one was afraid of being killed or being poisoned by his own kinsman. They have a communal large expanse of land.
The people of Aba Ụnọ are predominantly Igbo. Their day-to-day language of communication is Igbo. Their culture and world prism is Igbo.
80 year old man I interviewed almost changed it for me when I asked him whether he's Igbo or not. He picked an offence. How can I be asking nwa afọ that kind of question? It was actually a research and psychological one at that owing to the fact that some people from Anịọma are claiming Edo ancestry. I wanted to find out from older people their opinion towards that.
Igboụzọ migrated from Isuama area, which comprises places as Amaigbo, Ọlụ (Orlu), Ihiala, etc. Igboụzọ is just a few minutes away from Ọgwashị-Uku and then Aba Ụnọ.
Aba Ụnọ people had "ọgbaidu". It looked like an elephant tusk. Once it is blown, everyone must gather together.
ETỌCHỊ EBA: The Water Oracle
Aba Ụnọ has a river called Etọchị Eba. This river is a source of life for the community. There is an oracle in this river called Etọchị Eba. If anyone hurts you or persecute you, just go to the river and pray, whatever you wish for must be fullfilled. It's there for justice and doesn't hurt someone whose hands are clean.
Anyone whose hands have been soiled with blood cannot enter here as the oracle forbids blood. Even goats offered to it as sacrifice cannot be killed. Just throw them into the river, you will see the goats walking out of the river and hang around it. The same thing as chickens. Pictures attached on this post are the chickens around the water. They belong to the oracle. You dare not kill or hurt any. They don't also go into the community. Just within the water and forest around it you will see them.
Goats and chickens sacrificed to the oracle cannot be killed. After offering some prayers, throw them into the river. They cannot be drowned. What will happen is, the goat will come out and follow you. Getting to the boundary of the forest and the community, the goat will reverse and goes into the forest belonging to the oracle. It shows acceptance. The goats will wander in the forest. Nobody will kill them nor kill any fowl found in that forest surrounding the Etọchị Eba. They will multiply, wander in the forest until they die naturally.
You don't kill any fish in this river. You dare not. Those fishes are not called fishes or azụ but Ụmụ Etọchị. Children of Etọchị. If any of them is mistakenly hurt, villagers when I interviewed them said that big python will surround the river and no one escapes until something is done about it. The biggest python will cry.
They take their bath in the water, drink it as well. It's a source of life for Aba Ụnọ people.
Interviewing a man by name Uchenna (not the original name) , he said he was given a poison and his stomach got swollen. He rushed to the river, offered some sacrifices and prayers. Immediately he drank the water, his stomach let out a sound: "kpowai!" He rushed to defecate many things. That was how he got healed.
Whenever young men, old men and women from Aba Ụnọ are telling you about this river, they do so with convinction and joy. They feel gratitude for having such nature around them.
What do they do?
Young people work so hard to keep the river clean. While cutting grasses around it, they are careful not to hurt any of the smaller fishes. This act is called: Igbu mma mmiri. Check the pictures attached. Youths working so hard to keep the water clean.
Igbu Mma Mmiri if loosely translated means cutting grasses with a cutlass inside the water. That is, weeding off grasses sprout in the bank of the river or surrounding it. Before you get to this level, you must be trained. The essence of the training is to ensure you don't hurt any of the Ụmụ Etọchị.
In the river, those who want to speak with their ancestors do so. The person in charge of the river is being selected by the oracle. According to the Aba Ụnọ legend, the oracle selects whoever it wants when and how it wants it. No matter where you are at the point of call, you must rush to answer.
The last person in charge of the oracle was said to have climbed a palm tree. Immediately he received his call, he fell down unscathed, then rushed to answer his calling.
Occupation of Aba Ụnọ People
Aba Ụnọ people are predominantly farmers. They grow crops like yam, cassava etc. They have rubber plantations. The community is blessed with beautiful stones, natural resources like oil, natural gas etc.
The community is blessed with massive lands, greenish vegetations and fresh air.
The community practices monarchichal system of leadership. They call their traditional leaders Obi, just as some other Igbo communities in the western area.
Their first Obi is called Obi Nwaokolo. Before he died, he gave birth to Ezeana and Okwudịọgọ who are step brothers.
Following the history of Aba Ụnọ, there comes a certain level of political crisis in the traditional leadership which affects the growth and development of the community, one way or the other.