Arochukwu (sometimes referred to as Arochuku, Aro-Okigbo) pronounced Aruchukwu is the third largest city in Abia State (after Aba and Umuahia) in southeastern Nigeria and homeland of the Igbo subgroup, Aro people. It is composed of 19 villages with an overall leader called Eze Aro. Arochukwu is a principal historic town in Igboland. It was also one of the last towns in the Southern protectorate conquered by the British colonial government. Several historic tourist sites exist in the city.
The mystic Long Juju shrine, the slave routes and other relics of the slave trade era are frequently visited by tourists. It is also in the food belt of Abia state where most of the staple foods are produced.
Arochukwu is believed to have been the homeland of the Ibibio as they arrived in 300 AD from the Benue valley and founded early states like Obong Okon Ita and Ibom. Many years passed as Igbo immigrants came along and pressed into the Ibibio occupied territory and founded several states.
The first Igbo group were the Ezeagwu group led by Nna Uru. As Aro-Ibibio wars occurred, there was a stalemate. In reaction, Igbo leaders invited a priest named Nnachi from the Edda clan of northeastern Igboland and another group from the east of the Cross River through Nnachi's son Oke Nnachi. These people were identified as the Akpa people as their firearms attracted their Igbo allies. Akpa forces led by Osim and Akuma Nnubi, they helped the Igbo forces capture the area and settled in the Aro region. This formed the alliance of 19 new and old states in the area known as the Arochukwu kingdom around 1650-1700.
The first king (or Eze Aro) of a unified Arochukwu was Akuma but after his death, Oke Nnachi took over and his descendants have the throne to this day. Slave trade hit the hinterland around the same time.
Slave trade formed the Aro Confederacy which was an alliance of the Aros and their related Cross River neighbours (mainly Igbo) which was led by the powerful Eze Aro (king of the Aros), other chiefs, and agents of Ibin Ukpabi. After the confederacy evolved, more Aro businessmen left their homeland to settle in hundreds of settlements mostly in Nigeria and claimed Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.
The confederacy was very influential as it monopolized trade in Eastern Nigeria, Delta areas, southern Igala areas and perhaps even beyond the borders of Nigeria by oracular and economical forces. Some slaves were captured by fierce Aro slave raiders and warriors were feared and backed up by allies such as Ohafia, Abam, Bende, Abiriba, Afikpo and other warrior lands that supplied recruiters and mercenaries.
Tensions rose between the Aro confederacy and Europeans in the late 19th century leading to the power to decline and eventually the Anglo-Aro war in 1901-1902. Constant British invasions by men with advanced and superior weapons defeated Aro forces who fought gallantly. The legendary Ibin Ukpabi (known as the Long Juju) shrine was destroyed as the Aro dominance and power was overpowered by the British forces with their superior firepower.
Confederacy in Arochukwu
Arochukwu is today made up of nineteen Ogos (villages or city states) some of these Ogos have grown from being mere vigilante camps established at borders with Ibibio land by the Aro Nation State, to maintain territorial integrity of the nation state. These camps grew into homestead as the young guards settled down to marry and acquire households. These new homesteads acquired autonomous city state status as their population grew.
Some of these new city states were named after the principal family head, some took their names from specifics of their location, some were given names of existing Igbo communities for reasons lost in history and others acquired names from the characteristics of their founding.
These City-States are:
Agbagwu: - Named solely after Agba, the son of Agwu Inobia.
Amanagwu: - City State of Agwu Inobia, one of the founding fathers of the confederacy.
Amangwu: - City State of Ngwu, the son of Eze Jaka
Amanuwu: - City State of Oke Nnachi’s second son. Not quite certain how the name of the place was derived.
Amasu: - Named after a river port (Ama asu)
Amaukwa: - City State of Ukwa, one of the grandsons of Agwu Inobia
Amoba: - City State of one of the grandsons of Agwu Inobia.
Amuvi: - Part of Umu Oti Asaga, then resident in Amamgba as Ugwuogo family unit. Population pressure on land made them to move to the highland further north of Asaga, across the Nwanne flood plain.
Asaga: - The then northern terminal of Aro town and the entreport of all travelers using the ancient Bende trade route
Atani: - A city State name common among the Igbos, Just like the name Asaga. Note that its usual full nomenclature of Atani-Aro implies the existence of other Atani’s.
Ibom: - This is the Ibibio name for the landmass now partly occupied by Aro. It was once their homeland during their migratory period 300 AD to 1750 AD from east of the Cross River in the Ekoi territory. They were classified in early European records as the Akpa People, because their popular ivory merchant king was named Akpa. The Ibom city state of Aro took on this name from its founding by Ibom-Akpa elements of Osim/Akuma Nnubi Kindred.
Isinkpu: - The City State of Nkpu, the son of Eze Jaka, the founder of Isinkpu.
Obinkita: - The Igbo corruption of Obot Okon Ita, the original capital City of Obong Okon Ita.
Oror: - The city state of Oror, son of Eze Obin of Agbagwu
Ugbo: - A city State of one of the Agwu Ibobia’s grandsons.
Ugwuakuma:- A city state of Akuma Nnubi surviving sibling of Osim the Akpa merchant/warrior prince who lost his life in the Ibibio war.
Ugwuaro: - A city state named after the hill of Avor Ukwu
Ujari: - More of the same naming categorization as Atani Aro and Asaga.
Utughugwu: - Un-satisfactorily ascribed to be a corruption of Ututu-Ugwu. No alternatively justifiable derivative has been proffered.