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                                         IBEKU  SOCIAL STRUCTURE

                   HOW IS IBEKU....ORGANIZED                 

                                      PRESENTING IBEKU EGWU ASA
       Chief Nnanna Agomoh *    Chief Theodore Ahamuefule Orji   

         Obimba Of Ibeku               Ocheudo of Ibeku

                                             The Chief Of Staff, Abia State Government.

IBEKU is a nation of seven sub-clans (Egwu-Asaa). These seven sub-clans are each made up of communities which themselves are composed of a cluster of villages having the same culture, custom, igbo  [ibo] language, tradition and heritage. The structure can be arranged literally, even if simplistically, as follows starting from the base:

47 villages:
There are altogether 47 villages on record. But strictly speaking, there are more than 50 villages in Ibeku, given the size of such sprawling communities as Amuzukwu, Mbom, Amaeke and Okwuta, which are on record as villages. This misnomer of classifying communities as villages can be attributed to not being conversant with the hinterland, coupled with the colonial administration’s preference for convenience in running native affairs. Even so, it was considered a wise idea in those days not to give out your full numerical strength and size for many logistic reasons. This mistaken notion of numeration, or deliberately falsified population information, affected adversely, on the one hand, the provision of adequate amenities usually provided according to population and, on the other hand, advantageously camouflaged the strength of the people in terms of manpower in the event of war, or payment of taxes or other tributes to foreign overlords..

Communities: In the Ibeku traditional sense, a community is a group of villages of kindred neighbourhood within a sub-clan. For example, Emede which is one of the seven sub-clans (Egwu) is made up of two communities of four and five villages each, namely Ihite community with five villages of Agbo, Ubani, Udide, Umueze, and Umuodudu; and Ikeaha community with four villages of Atta, Nkpuru, Umuagu and Umuakanu. The fine distinction between a village and a community in this arrangement is that no matter its size or largeness, no two members of the same village can marry.

Egwu Asaa (seven sub-clans): The seven sub-clans (Egwu Asaa) are a kind of regional outgrowths of the seven sons of the paterfamilias, the legendary Ibeku Ugwu Ogurube, i.e, Ibeku the Great, son of Ogurube. Each of these Egwu Asaa is composed of communities, which in turn are composed of villages. At the Egwu (sub-clan) apex there are seven satellite commanders in charge of each of the Egwu Asaa or seven sub-clans. These regional Ndi Eze are titled each after the Egwu as follows:-
(i) Attah of Afarata; (ii) Egwu-Ukwu of Afaraukwu; (iii) Ofo of Amaoforo (iv) Ede of Emede ; (v) Eke of Isieke ; (vi) Otuka of Ndume (vii) Udi of Ossah.

IBEKU: It was told as it were a fable, that God blessed Ogurube, the father of Ibeku, and promised him fruitfulness, affluence and influence in the land given to him. We are today witnessing the reality of what was once a fable. Ibeku Ukwu Ogurube, that is Ibeku the Great, son of Ogurube is the landlord of the territory known as Umuahia Ibeku, the capital of Abia State of Nigeria, the ancestor of Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi quondam Nigerian Head of State and the only Supreme Commander that ever was of the Nigerian Armed Forces and Dr J.O.J Okezie  . The famed Chief Dr. the Hon. J.O.J. Okezie (1922-2002), a medical surgeon, author and writer, one of Nigeria's foremost nationalists, the only Independent candidate and member of Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly, a one time Federal Commissioner, a political disciple of the Great Zik of Africa,  the Omereoha of old Bende, was a scion of Ibeku Ukwu Ogurube.  ...MORE

From time immemorial the name Ogurube is held in reverence and personified in the Traditional Ruler of the clan. Today, by the grace of God, the mantle of this reverence is worn by His Royal Highness, Eze Samuel Iheonye Onuoha, the Ogurube IV of Ibeku. He is the keeper of the Customs and Tradition of the people and the Ofo Holder , the traditional mace.

* * * ******** * * *

From what we know so far, there has been in existence a system of organization in every part of IgboLand in a long while. This includes Ibeku. There are different levels of organizations as practiced Ibeku Land .These administrators derive their powers from their AMA that lead to the Ibeku Ukwu Level, the Egwu Asaa listed as follows


One of the errors being made by various people includes terminating our history at the slave trade period. The slave period is a very resent event. There was a system of organization and communication in existence between kinsmen, neighbor and other clans before the slave trade. This communication allowed the trade to flourish with out inter-clan wars. Do not forget that many clans resisted the trade but they were met with higher firepower in gun battles.

We had direct rules

Do not forget that some of the earlier system still exists. This is by which mostly the eldest person in the family,Ama or the village has the final say and must be consulted. No visitors, no marriage, no war, no newborn ceremony, no death burial, no festival happens without consultations with the elders.

But when the white merchants who were in search of Ivory and other goods came into town, they did not want to deal the elders with their ways of doing things. The white traders decided to appoint representatives that must relay their messages to the people. They called these people CHIEFS. There were many noncooperation from the people as to where the orders were coming from. The bypassed the EZES. They were not welcomed with their new tactics.
They brought in law enforcers by setting up the court system that worked against the existing EZE and Elders systems. These agents were called Court Men short for Court Messenger but in Igbo vernacular is called CORTIMA.
    ibeku court White with their assistants cortima  dibiaMedicine man 1920
This was an indirect rule system in which the white people did not go to the elders anymore but these Chiefs relayed to the Elders. One of the famous court systems the white people set up in umuahia was on a hill at UMUOBIA OLOKORO. That place is still being called ISHICOURT. This location is the present Old Umuahia- Olokoro -Amakama road junction in Umuobia . They also built a railway station close to it called the Old-Umuahia rail Station.
On many occasions, the resident Eze did not want to deal with these white people. The Ezes did not want to travel to go and meet with these new visitors. Hence the Ezes sent their trusted right hand men or agents as representatives. Many of these errand men were made chiefs.
The above set up still cause problems in many villages and clans were the descendants of these errand agents are tussling with the original Eze linage for EZESHIP. Do not forget that this is the reason many places still have their EZE events held up in the court system.
           ibeku egwu  umuagbogho  ibeku nwoke ibekuwar
Ibeku has one EZE called THE OGURUBE IBEKU. The OGURUBE title is a 20th century event.
We are still putting together the names and other mechanisms before the time of OGURUBE TITLE.
Ibeku is made up of seven [asaa] brothers called EGWU. Thus the name :IBEKU EGWU ASAA.
The names of these groups are not in Alphabetical order

  1. Amuzu Ukwu     [2] Amuezeagwu [3] Mbom  [4]Ugba [5]Nkata [6]Amaeke [7] Isiadu



  1. Isiama   [2] Okwulaga  [3] Ohokobe na Umuokeyi


  1. Ajata-Okwuru [2] Iyienyi  [3] Avo nkwu [4]  Amuzu ora  [5]Erote


  1. Nkpuru [2] Ata [2]Umuakanu [3] Umuagu [4] Umueze [5]Agbo [6] Umuodudu [7]Odide  [9] Ubani


  1. Umuajiji  [2] Okwuta [3] Ihie [4] Ajata [5] Ukome [6] Okwoiyi


  1. Umuafai [2] Umuezeala [3] Ohokobe  [4] Umuohu [5]  Ahieke [6] Ihie [6] Umuana [7]Lodu [8] Umuhute [9] Umuaroko [10] Umuohu-Azueke


  1. Uzi [2] Eziama [3]  Mgbaja [4] Uhabiri [5] Umuchima [6] Amanso


The heads or the leaders of all Egwus meet with the OGURUBE to set the agenda of Ibeku as a whole
Prior to 2000, these groups never had their own Eze but they had Chiefs that worked with the Ogurube Ibeku. Now these chiefs have been converted to Eze Titles.
Even though their Chieftaincy Titles have been upgraded to Ezeships. All Ibeku agree that we still have one overall OGURUBE and that will keep the Ibeku Title.
Every one of these groups works with the Ogurube Ibeku. They meet with the Ogurube to set dates for events and ceremonies including the IRI JI festival.

This is a very tight level of organization running on precision. The size of each egwu varies. But every egwu is made up of several UMUNNAS, villages and many AMAs.This means that there must always be a level of understanding between the Chief of that Egwu and various ummunnas. There must be a reflection of broader interests than that of one lone ranger. Difficulties always come up at this level because of perceptions.

The  family set up in Ibeku is like every other in many ways alike in Igbo land. This is the primary ibeku structure of organization. The man [A] gets a wife, if dictated by conditions gets two wives or more [B,C].
ibeku family 1

They will have children [D,E,F,G,H,I ] where [D,I] are females that are from both wives [B,C] all belonging to the man [A]who is now the head of his own family.  This is now his ONU ULO, ONU MKPU [household].  Mkpu here means his house, this generally is specific in nature to a particular building. In the case of two or more wives, each wife lives in her mkpu and the combinations of all the mkpus belonging to Mr. A is collectively called his ONU ULO.  It must be pointed out that every wife is given a separate house for her and children. Mr. A has and lives in a central building that is accessible by all his household makeup. These Children are also grouped uniquely in a very simple way. Children DEF from mother B are called NWANNE  { from the same mother} Children DEF from mother C are called NWANNE { from the same mother}.  All the Children DEFGHI are NWANNA { from the same father}. These distinctions come up only during inheritance activities and a not easily noticed and identified from the outside.
When DEFGHI  get married and have children., The family of Mr. A is now growing. He is now a grandfather.  Note that the female [D,I] will be married out. But we can track their progress from this diagram. This is now his EZI NA ULO, his household but with the extended ones. 

ibeku family 3

The gradchildren they themselves will get married, adding to the numbers. They all retain and go by the name of Mr. A. This large family will now live in a larger area of the village called AMA.

This next level is sectioned into what is called AMA. Here groups of families from the same descendants cluster their homes together. In many instances, they all have the same great grandfather.You can tell and identify every body at this level by his or her last name. This AMA system is also very tricky because some person might decide to move to a new setting. He still has to be linked back to where he departed from, his ORIGINAL AMA or AMA OCHIE
 They will grow in family size and have many AMAs , this is then called UMUNNA [Children of the same father] . This  level  gives the recognision noted as the Social stautus of every IBEKU individual. The children of every ibeku woman married outside that AMA is now called NWANDIEM { child of our daughter}. This is very important in ceremonial functions because they are recognized  accordingly.The child is on a visit to his/her  UMUNE on any visit to the place of his mothers origin.They are also given the first protection in any even. It is also at this level that the recognisions for the first sons, age groups are established. All the villages and clans are set in order of age seniority in ceremonies disregarding the ages of those present at the ceremony. Individual's age come to paly in general recognision. The eldest person is always the spokes person, chairs every meeting as the wisest human alive in the clan, and is the default ruler, nothing gets done without his knowledge. In every inter Ama activity, the oldest person is the grand patron.

ibeku faily 3

At this lower level the organization becomes very personal. This is a very interesting level. This is where we direct descendants meet generations. SEE UMUIZU CLAN OF OKWULAGA AFARAUKWU IBEKU . There is never an inter marriage involved from this level down.
If one happens to move from his own to another umunna, he will get his administrative orders from his original umunna. His descendants must be tracked to avoid their  inter marriage with thier old relatives. Family relocation within umunna level is less problematic than relocating outside your umunna.
This is why making a family tree of any village is very easy to do from any starting point in the clan system.

The position of every body in this structure is laid out at the IbekuClan  level. This allows easy village administration.

*A Special Thanks on behalf of Ibeku USA. This Ibeku Introduction was by Nnanna Agomoh (Chief). The Obimba of Ibeku, .former Secreatry to then Eastern Nigeria Ibeku Union in Enugu, and a member of Ogurube Ibeku’s Cabinet. Whose insight and concern at different stages made the theme of this project possible and   successful, without whom all of us would be missing the  ideas  and  items in  clans, villages, communities and project. His intangible heritage is well recognized and valued..


*The family graphics are from© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved Department of Anthropology University of Manitoba.


* Compiled and Edited by Okechukwu [okey] Alozie. 

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