Africa

History of Otolo Nnewi by Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi

Nnewi was founded in the fourteenth century, and consists of four Quarters (large villages) and these four Quarters of Nnewi are Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim, and Nnewichi. Otolo, a premiere quarter of the four quarters in Nnewi has been outstanding in all aspect of human endeavors.

In it seated the mantle of leadership that governs the other quarters for the past decades. Its central success is figured in commercial trade but not limited to it, as its cultural heritage has always been the beacon of light to other neighboring village.

Background
Digbo, one of the sons of Nnewi, had two sons – Otolo and Ikwuabo. It is a custom in Nnewi that a married woman who has no child belongs theoretically to the woman – husband but practically to the man – the husband of that woman husband. One of the wives of Digbo had no child and she therefore married another woman who gave birth to a male child known as Ukwabo.

Otolo the first son of Digbo had many sons – Enem the first son followed by Nnofo, Eziogwugwu alias Eziegbelu, Diaba whose descendants are generally known Umuzu and Nnangana alias Nganaga. Before Otolo begot these, he himself was one. By Otolo originally is meant the descendants of Otolo. Later as consequent upon the success of Eze Agha, Ezekwuabos came under the umbrella of the name. Later still, Amilibas followed suit and so did the rest at appropriate times. It was in this way that Otolo as a quarter was made up

Otolo is the premier quarter in Nnewi. This is true in terms of population, seat of political power and, apparently even, concentration of wealth. There are facts recognized by the other three quarters of Nnewi. These factors have perhaps influenced it in its attitude. In Nnewi affairs, Otolo conduct is one of a leader and a bully. Otolo people have in them a belief that every Otolo man is infallible. Because of this belief, an Otolo man defends his fellow Otolo men in the face of obvious culpability.

For Instance, was it not Okafor or his son, Eze Ifekaibeya, thirteenth or fourteenth chief of Otolo that played a snob to Ezejim the eight chief of Nnewichi, and his brother Nwizu, by not entertaining the latter when they were invited to an eight-day dinner – an offence against reciprocity. The first place where Roman Catholic was establishing in 1907 in Nnewi was Oduda Nnewichi. There, consequently, was establishing the first Roman Catholic school in Nnewi But Otolo people saw this as irregular and therefore threw in their whole weight to relocate it. In 1916, therefore, the school was transferred to Otolo even though this exercise led to the loss of assistance the school previously enjoyed

Otolo is divided into Nnofo, Enem, Nsunana and Ebeanato. Just as Otolo is the capital of Nnewi, Nnofo is the ruling family of Otolo. The position Nnofers the owner of Ndi-ichie akwa, occupy in Otolo is definitely not as of right but of accident, just as the engulfment of Uru, for example, within Umudim was a matter of chance. Nnofo is divided into four sections. Nluonu, Udude alias Umunolu, Mbana-agu or briefly Agu and Umuanuka

Geographical Location of Otolo

Nnewi, earlier than now that it is urban, was as at 31/12/53(Vide the Nigerian census figures of 1996); the largest inland town of all others in the Eastern states. It had then a population of 130,000. It is a cauldron: with the aboriginal and immigrant populations running neck and neck (if the former has not lost in the Meled), Nnewi may rightly be called a diversified unity or probably a unified diversity. The town has shown proof of its elasticity by withstanding, across centuries and decades, multiple demographic and acculturational perturbations.

Dimensionally, Nnewi has an edge over all other units, being recognized by the 1953 figures as inland town the same preponderancy it manifests demographically. Nnewi is surrounded by towns like Orafite, Ichi, Otolo, Nnobi, Awka-etiti, Amichi, Ukpo, and Ozobulu; it is located some 20 kilometers from the town of Onitsha that perches the bank of the River Niger. Nnewi, like Onitsha, is in Anambra State of Nigeria.

Nnewi Township is an authentic "manufacturing miracle." Small and medium sized industries have set up in the town and are producing not only for the Nigeria markets but – albeit still to a limited extent – for markets abroad. Industrialization of the town began around 1970 when Nnewi motor parts traders began marketing their own brand name products instead of the reproductions of "original" parts.

Nnewi Township is an authentic "manufacturing miracle." Small and medium sized industries have set up in the town and are producing not only for the Nigeria markets but – albeit still to a limited extent – for markets abroad. Industrialization of the town began around 1970 when Nnewi motor parts traders began marketing their own brand name products instead of the reproductions of "original" parts.

The great majority of industrialists in the cluster of spare parts factories in Nnewi are also traders, and most of these traders are producing one or more of the products they specialize in marketing as traders (usually motor vehicle parts), and most began by distributing their products through their preexisting distribution networks. Nnewi is part of eastern Nigeria's industrial axis. The town has through culturally grounded institutions that act as sophisticated networks expanded to include an international dimension through trading relations with exporters from Asia. Over the last decade, the town of Nnewi has experienced relatively rapid industrialization. In excess of 20 medium to large scale industries have been established across a variety of sectors. Since 1970, Nnewi residents have controlled approximately 80 to 90 percent of the motor-parts trade in Nigeria. Nnewi (Nkwo) Market is the major import and wholesale point for motor spare parts in Nigeria. The industrialists of Nnewi are adapting foreign technology to local needs, providing employment to thousands, and making available goods and services which are relevant actual needs of the Nigerian citizens .

Socio-cultural setting/practices in Otolo

For administrative convenience and not necessarily because of ethnocentric considerations, Otolo is divided into Nnofo, Enem, Nsunana and Ebeanato. The presence of fertile land and rivers give the town the ability to indulge in some socio-cultural practices. The town lives mostly on farming and this gives rise to such practices as new yam festival etc. Each family has its own home farmlands called Mbubo where at the outset of the rainy season they go to cultivate things like maize, Okra, Vegetable cocoyam and yam. This home farm is cultivated as a support for the main farming at “Agu” i.e. the far distant farmland. Between June/July, while waiting for what is in the “Agu” to reach maturity, the people begin to harvest that of “Mbubo”. However, before the general harvesting of its yams, a day is fixed when each family head goes to his farm, harvest some yams. It is always around August and it is called “Afia Olu” although nothing is definite about when festivals, which today are observable, found their way into Nnewi. This festival is nowadays observes by everyone to mark the end of crop cultivation. This was observable to a deity known as Ufojioku to which formerly was being observed as the feast of Oghulu in the past, during the feast of Oghulu, Ufojioku was given offerings and sacrifices but nowadays, such is no longer the case because Ufojioku is nowhere extant.

Few preparations are made towards the feast and some of these include the clearing of the roads and the making or preparing of masks. For the first three days of the festival, boys mainly masquerade but, on the fourth and last day, all people, except females and old men, who like to masquerade, do so. Whilst old men do not masquerade because they task is challenging Females do not participate because it is customarily an offence for them to do so.

During this masquerading, boys and girls even women are pursued about and flogged by masquerades but following repeated complaints against this, an end has been put to it since the last 40 years. Some 45 years past, Afiaolu festival had every glory that could be found in a feast. From about 1960 onwards, its glory appears to have decline following a high exodus of young men into townships But from 1970, following the end of the Nigerian civil war and a near-mass return of young men from various parts of Nigeria, there appear to have a recrudescence in the zeal of this feast.

Political and commercial life in Otolo Nnewi

The ruling house of Otolo is as well as that of the entire Nnewi . The King is from Nnofo family in Otolo. In the other three quarters, his influence is felt but very slightly – a situation, which has arisen from the fact that the chiefs in those quarters are virtually autonomous. This sort of independence, which they each maintain and enjoy to a great degree, was a natural result of the unconnectedness of their descents. In fact, it was not until the claim of the twentieth century that these chiefs as well as their subjects began to draw any unity-oriented plans. Heretofore, contact was rare and very few laws, which were binding in all the quarters, were actually passed.

Chiefdoms were set up at various dates in the four quarters, but it was naturally in Otolo- the original settlement of Mmaku, the grandfather of Nnewi – where the first chiefdom was established under the reign of Mmaku.

Nnewi is generally known as a commercial town. This means that even though their citizens are conscious of education, the population of people in commercial business is more than those in education line.

The old Nkwo Nnewi Triangle is situated in Otolo and had served Nnewi on the pre-war years. When hostilities broke out, a new site for Nnewi, market had to be looked for because the trading population that returned from various part of Nigeria no longer found the old market commodious. Agbo Edo was consequently cleared and in 1970, the new Nkwo Nnewi market was opened.

In Nkwo Nnewi market, it is pointless to make a catalogue of commodities that are available for sale; it appears more purpose to enumerate items that are lacking in it than those in which it abounds. One of such items is four legged animals. The market of these animals is presently monopolized by Otolo and Uruagu quarters of Nnewi. The sale of motor and motor –cycle spare parts in Nkwo Nnewi is a raison d’ etre of the market; people from Taiwan and other countries come to Nnewi to buy motor parts which, on return, may reproduce, though their reproduction have been generally of quality lesser than the original. The benefit derivable from this is that where, for instance, the original not available, Taiwan’s product improvise

Apart from this large commerciality, each Village tries to have some sources of their own income and this comes in such communal projects as having a common farmland, a common palm plantation, etc. The money is reserved by the village groups with some part of it sent to the central body for development project.

Having said much, this article serves as a pointer to the bigger picture of the origin of Otolo but not a sacrosanct in itself. However, A new shed on the modern citizens of Otolo has a lot more to tell. To Know more about Otolo Nnewi Click here

References:

  1. Envision the new Nigeria , Onwutalobi Anthony-Claret 2006
  2. Otolo Nnewi History
  3. Brief history of Nnewi
  4. Isichei, Elizabeth, A history of igbo people London and Basingstoke: The Mac-milliam Press, 1976
  5. Ekwuru George Emeka, the Pangs of an African Culture in Travail, Totan Publishers ltd. 1999
  6. Mbefo L. Christian theology and African heritage, Onitsha Spiritan Publication, 1996
Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
https://www.codewit.com

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