Uburu is a community of brave men and women, a nation of one people, one family with one history united under one destiny. We are not a product of amalgamation of diverse settlers of different communities, but a people from one indivisible blood.
Our founding father who settled in this location we presently called Uburu is not just only a great hunter, famer, and trader but also warrior endowed with multiple skills.
Our ancestor the Great Adu and his Senior brother Ezentum Nwokeigbota with their wives migrated from isukwuato in search of wild animal, back then hunting was a lucrative occupation. So they settled first under two Agba trees that gave them shelter. The great Adu left his Senior brother Ezentum to the present day Uburu.
While Ezentum stayed back in this very place that is today called Isu in Onicha LGA, Ezentum was blessed with ten male children. In honor of the two Agba trees, he named the first of his sons Agbabor, and the second Isuachara after the bamboo trees where they used to rest, other sons are: Mgbanaze, Amanator, Umuniko, Mgbalukwu, Obeagu, Ufuojo, Amata, Ezekporoke.
Later inter Communal crisis ensued between the descendants of Ezentum. These internal wrangles caused three communities namely Ufuojo, Amata, and Ezekporoke to immigrate to another places to settle for existence.
Certainly, nobody can at present state convincingly what happened to them or where they migrated to. After the crises the other seven siblings stay together as one community maintaining the name ISU as the community’s name so as not to forget their root.
While the Great Adu settled in the present day Uburu. It’s interesting to note that, on one of the occasion as he went out on hunting he was thirsty and he began searching for water and suddenly stumbled on the salt lake, he took the water to drink but discovered it could not quench his thirst because of its salty taste. That’s how he knew it was a salt lake.
And after that year’s bounty harvest he also realizes that the land is highly fertile and blessed with abundant and diverse plant life: a variety of indigenous agricultural plant domesticates rich in both protein and carbohydrates. Among these are: Yam, Cassava, ube, oil palm tree, and African breadnut (ukwa).
Crowned with four salt lakes in the euphoria of the moment he nick name the land EBE URU translated as “Place of Prosperity” from where we today derive the name Uburu.
Uburu Village Setting
The Great Adu was blessed with fourteen male children from his two wives. These fourteen sons were the main founder of Uburu, the Great Adu Kingdom. The basic unit of Uburu life was the grouping of the village according to each Adu’s son. The names of his sons and villages are:
Naga – Umunaga
Chima, – Umuchima
Agwu Agbor – Ogwu
Obuna, – Umuobuna
Amenu, – Amenu
Odoigbo, – Umuodoigbo
Anum, – Umuanum
Aneketa, – Umuneketa
Amagu, – Amegu
Mgbom, – Mgbom
Egwuoke, – Umuegwuoke
Uhuabaa, – Uhuabaa
Urobo, – Urobo
Ihenu – Ihenu
The Esu River is one of the major watersheds in the southeast. It flows from its upper course in Akpugo Nkanu in neighboring Enugu state. Esu River divided the Uburu community into two halves. One half is mainly for settlement while the other half is the sparsely populated farmlands.
The setting of the Uburu settlement was a face-to-face society. Each family head settles family disputes, and command respect and reverence. Each age grade had defined obligations in community service.
Uburu government has sometimes been called a gerontocracy, why because, not all elderly men in Uburu had an equal say.
A warrior, who is also prosperous, with numerous descendants, slaves and farm produce, would, as it were, register and legitimize his success by taking a title.
Usually, there was a hierarchy of ascending titles; to be taken in order. A title was a guarantee of character, as well as of success.
For instance, Umunaga is not the senior, (Ogiriya Uburu) they became the senior (Ogiriya) by conquest and not by birth.
They became the senior when Uburu needed to make a sacrifice by swallowing the sacred spearhead and only an Umunaga man was brave enough to do so on condition that the seniority Ogiriya, and Offor Oracle should pass on to them.
Uburu indeed has an interesting history.
The Impact of Slave Trade
It is important to realize that the slave trade’s impact on Igbo society was greatest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the Igbo society had grown used to collecting slaves.
Because of our ancestor active engagement in farming and hunting the great Adu went into human and horse rustling and with that trade he came in contact with the Aro. And from them he got his first Danish gun (Dane-gun); it’s interesting to note that all this time, he has always gone out hunting with just mere bow and spear.
During one of his tour with Ndi Aro he was privilege to visit Bonny Island in present day Niger delta, where he got a firsthand insight of traditional method of salt and gunpowder production.
On his returned trip he decided to teach his family his new skill, because of the tediousness and the patient it requires in salt making it was exclusively reserved for the women while the gunpowder production was for the men.
Salt Making Initiative
The story in salt making and the Uburu is that of ingenuity and industry. It is the story of women, who, even in ancient times, created a technology with which they turned water into solid salt.
It’s interesting to note that when the Great Adu returned from Bonny Island trip he did not come back with any industrial equipment on salt production materials but just an Idea.
So the Great Adu’s wives, daughters and daughters in-laws with extraordinary initiative and drive developed a local technology with which they were able to produce salt.
Although the women go through rigorous labour, from one stage to another, this local technology is the science devised by these intelligent Uburu women and handed over to present generation. Oral tradition revealed that Ndi Okposi learnt from Ndi Uburu the salt making technology.
Although all married Uburu women or women married to Uburu men are free to partake in salt making process, there are requirements to be met. First of all, any woman interested in making salt would be initiated by Ogwu women.
For a start, the woman secures a piece of land within salt lake environment. She prepares it by leveling, after which she provides big earthen pots, which may be five or more depending on her ability.
The pots are arranged in a straight line. With wet clay soil, the stones are held together and in place. These large pots in a line are technically called ofufu.
Behind the ofufu is mounted another pot larger than ofufu. That larger pot is called Onini, which has a different function from ofufu. Underneath each ofufu is an earthen conical dish called nja ugbani this is meant to collect the filtrate dripping through the small perforation at the bottom of the ofufu when the perforation is opened.
The opening of the perforation is called irufu eja. The large pot behind the ofufu is meant for storing saline water to be used in ofufu when necessary.
The salt plot, where the women carry all these activities, is called onu ebe.
So on the appointed day, the women will be initiated by way of “Idu mmahi”. She would be given a special haircut known as “Ogo nwevi”. Then this new comer will be led by a group of young women and girls from Ogwu and other villages to the salt lake.
They decorate their bodies, singing and dancing walking down gracefully in a line to the salt lake. In that mood, they carry saline water from the lake to inundate every inch of the new comer’s salt plot in preparation for salt making. She is not permitted to step into the lake when menstruating.
The Production Process
The actual production of salt starts with the collection of earth from the water-bed of the lake using a flat metal called atakpa. The big pot (ofufu) is filled with earth until it gets to the brim.
The top of the ofufu is carefully protected from rainwater. The water and the earth in the big pots (ofufu) are allowed to knead properly by leaving them over night with the small perforations at the bottom of the ofufu still blocked.
In the morning, the perforations at the bottom of the ofufu are opened (irufu eja) to allow the filtrate to drain into the earthen conical dish beneath the ofufu-nja ugbani. The filtrate in the nja ungbani is collected and taken home for boiling to get salt. The collection of the filtrate is carried on for a number of days until the maker collects enough to start boiling for salt.”
It was learnt that adequate preparations are usually made pursuant to boiling saline water (filtrate) from the nja ugbani referred to as ochichi.
For instance, provisions must have been made for firewood with which to start boiling ochichi, in a special big earthen pot called eju. However, in modern times, it was learnt, eju has given way to drums.
When the boiling is on, the salt maker takes time to watch when salt starts to form in the eju (drum).
As it forms in the eju drum, the maker gradually collects it and puts it into a small conical earthen dish called nja agba. It is in the nja agba that the salt is caked and made into sizes the owner wants.
This marks the final journey of the high level table salt produced in Uburu by local technology. The salt is then ready for domestic use or for the market. The final product is always a sight to behold. Rock solid, it comes in various sizes. And a little piece gives you the desired taste in a meal.
The Birth of Uburu Market
While Uburu women are busy in their salt production the men specialize in the production of gunpowder. At the time brought to view Abiriba, Awka and Nkwere are already involved in the growing commerce by producing implements required for the slave trade such as Dane guns. The Nkwerre blacksmiths become renowned for manufacturing Dane guns, hence acquiring the name ‘Nkwerre Opia Egbe’.
Uburu as well become renowned too in gun powder production also acquiring the name Adu Nshiegbe. People were coming all over Igboland to Uburu to acquire gunpowder.
Because of its salt and gunpowder production and its strategic location for trade with the north Uburu developed into one of Igbo land’s great periodic fairs and also one of its gateways for import from the north.
As people, in large numbers, from near and distant places, came to Uburu to buy Salt and gunpowder, a very big market developed.
The rise of Ndi Uburu was marked, not only by great commercial acumen, but by a brilliant talent for diplomacy. Uburu became a big centre of commerce, as people freely traded in goods and services.
Among other things sold in Uburu are slaves and horses. In fact at 1880s, a horse was exchanged for four to six adult slaves.
Another interesting historic event in Uburu was the Aro expedition of December 1901 to March 1902. These fierce and warlike people began what is considered the largest military campaign to subjugate some part of Igboland; and the first major drive was in the Igbo interior.
Because of the thriving business in Uburu, the Aro’s tries to displace the Uburu people because of the (Avia Nkwuruoto Uburu) claiming that the market is one of their great periodic fairs and that they are the right people to collect the market levy.
The idea that the fourteen villages which makeups Uburu community migrated into Uburu from different communities of Igbo land to settled in this area was a fallacy first concocted by the Aro.
It was one of their strategy for subversion and invasion of Uburu land.
They began spreading those false rumors to cause disharmony and disunity, intention was to destroy Uburu.
Claiming Uburu is a land of migrants there’s no authentic owners.
This did not go well with Ndi Uburu, and they reacted immediately and demanded that they should leave or face war. They could not resist at that time, but left only to reinforced and returned back to attack Ndi Uburu, we were able to dislodge them.
They now resorted to guerilla warfare, attacking traders coming to Uburu for trade, sometime they snick by night to steal some horses and other market commodities. Ndi Uburu were able to contain their wicked assault.
Aro have no other choice but to enter into bilateral peace agreement with Ndi Uburu.
Oral tradition reveals that ISU the Senior brother to ADU has 10 sons, so why would you be in doubt about ‘the Great ADU’s 14 biological sons. You want to settle with the notion that Adu’s sons were adopted sons from other communities.
The Aro secretly encouraged rivalry between Ndi Uburu and her surrounding neighbors from which they profited.
The role of land disputes is very marked in the history of warfare in Uburu. The wars were fought mostly over land issues. Uburu fought virtually with all her surrounding neighbors except Isu because they are brothers.
We won all our battles because we never lack gunpowder of which we are the major producers.
Uburuome was not our original name. ‘Ome’ was added to the name Uburu by our neighbors who feared our violent, aggressive, ferocious, powerful abruptness of action as well as our invincibility and exploits in war. The name Uburuome instills fear on our neighbors. It simply means “Uburu the Doer”.
Although later there was mutual understanding between us and Ndi Aro, and whenever they were to fight any towns around us they had to notify us. On the other hand, their traders brought an economic stimulus to our market.
They brought firearms, cloths made from bark of the aji tree, and new kind of cassava, they also introduce coco yams, (known appropriately as ede-oru). The Aro brought a rapid impetus to Uburu’s economic expansion. They also did much to expand the slave trade.
It was this large stream of people, who came into and left Uburu, on market days that attracted the interest of the Church of Scotland Missionaries to initially establish a church, a school and hospital in the town. The hospital was established in 1913 in Uburu and Uburu became a centre for Christian evangelism.
This sketch history of Uburu was put together by Chinedu Daniel Obasi.The Author of a best selling Christian novel The Final Atonement”. A book published by an American publishing firm, ‘TEACH Services’ based in Georgia, United States.