Awka (Igbo: Ọka) is the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria with an estimated population of 301,657 As of 2006 Nigerian census. The city is located about 400 miles east of Lagos in the centre of the densely populated Igbo heartland in southeastern Nigeria.

The West-East Federal highway links Lagos, Benin City, Asaba, Onitsha, and Enugu to Awkaand several local roads link it to other important towns such as Ekwulobia, Agulu, Enugwu-Ukwu, Abagana and Nnewi.

Strategically, Awka is located midway between two major cities in Northern Igboland, Onitsha and Enugu which has informed its choice as an administrative center for the colonial authorities and today as a base for the Anambra State government.

 

History

Awka has a certain kind of aura about it, because it was the place of the blacksmiths that created implements which made agriculture possible. — Chinua Achebe

Awka is one of the oldest settlements in Igboland established at the centre of the Nri civilization which produced the earliest documented bronze works in Sub-Saharan Africa around 800 AD and was the cradle of Igbo civilization.

The earliest settlers of Awka were the Ifiteana people which translates into people who sprouted from the earth. They were farmers, hunters, and skilled iron workers who lived on the banks of the Ogwugwu stream in what is now known as Nkwelle ward of Awka.

The deity of the Ifiteana was known as Okika-na-ube or the god pre-eminent with the spear and the Ifiteana were known as Umu-Okanube or “worshippers of Okanube”, which evenutally became shortened to Umu-Oka and eventually Oka and its angicized version “Awka“.

In ancient times, Awka was populated by elephants with a section of the town named Ama-enyi (haunt of elephants) and a pond Iyi-Enyi where the elephants used to gather to drink. The elephants were hunted for their prized ivory tusks (okike) which was kept as a symbol to the god Okanube in every Awka home with hunting medicine stored in the hollow of the tusk.

Over time, the town become famous for metal working of a high level and its blacksmiths were prized throughout the region for making farming implements, Dane guns and ceremonial items such as Oji (staff of mystical power) and Ngwuagilija (staff of Ozo men).

In pre-colonial days Awka also became famous as the home of the Agbala Oracle a deity that was said to be a daughter of the great Long Juju shrine of Arochukwu. The Agbala Oracle (which Chinua Achebe drew on for inspiration in his book Things Fall Apart was consulted to resolve disputes far and wide until it was finally destroyed by colonial authorities in the early part of the 20th century.

Before the inception of British rule, Awka was governed by titled men known as Ozo and Ndichie who were accomplished individuals in the community. They held general meetings or Izu Awka either at the residence of the oldest man (Otochal Awka) or at a place designated by him. He was the Nne Uzu or master blacksmith, whether he knew the trade or not, for the only master known to Awka people was the master craftsman, the Nne Uzu.

In modern times Awka has adapted to the republican system and is currently divided into two local government areas, Awka North and Awka South with local representatives. However, it still preserves traditional systems of governance with the respected Ozo titled men often consulted for village and community issues and a paramount cultural representative, the Eze Uzu who is elected by all Ozo titled men by rotation amongst different villages to represent the city at state functions.

The current Eze Uzu of the city selected since 1999 is Gibson Nwosu one of the first recruits for the Nigerian Air force and a former head of Air Traffic Operations for the Biafra Air Force, the Lusaka International Airport and the Zambian Air Service Training Institute (ZASTI).

Awka should not be confused with Awka-Etiti which is a town in Idemili South local government area that is often mistaken for the main capital, Today, Awka is the capital ofAnambra state of Nigeria. Slogan: Sires of Smiths

 

People

Awka comprises seven Igbo groups sharing common blood lineage divided into two sections. Ifite Section, the senior section, comprises four groups, Ayom-na-Okpala, Nkwelle, Amachalla, and Ifite-Oka followed by Ezinator Section, which consists of three groups, Amikwo, Ezi-Oka and Agulu. Each of these groups has a number of villages. All together, Awka comprises 33 villages.

Awka people today as in traditional times are well traveled. In ancient times demand for their skills as blacksmiths had Awka people travelling throughout Nigeria making farming implements, household tools and guns. Each village had clearly defined trade routes. For example, people from Umuogbu village plied their trade in Benin and in the Urhobo and Itsekiri areas, Umubele were stationed in the Igala areas in modern-day Kogi state, Umuike and Umuonaga in present-day Abia and Rivers State, Umuenechi in the Kwale and Isoko area of Delta state, and Umudiana, Okperi, Ugwuogige stationed in Calabar area of today’s Cross Rivers state.

The people of Umudioka and Ezioka wards specialized in carving of wood, and ivory and arts designs including elegantly carved tools, door shutters and door panels, chairs, vessels for presentation of kola nuts, and idols. The ivory carvers produced elegant designs on “odu okike” (ivory trumpet) for ozo titled men and other items as part of the paraphernalia for titled men.

Today, Awka people can be found all across the globe many working as skilled professionals in a wide range of fields. As a result, there is a large Awka diaspora located primarily in the UK and in the USA. There, they have formed social clubs like Awka Union USA and Canada, Awka Town Social Community UK and Ireland and other community associations. These associations have been a way for people to enjoy their culture as well as to engage in community self-help projects.

 

Groups and Villages

Ayom-na-Okpala: Umuayom, Umunnoke, Umuoramma and Umuokpu.

Nkwella: Achallaoji, Umunamoke, Agbana, Umudiaba

Amachalla: Amachalla, Amudo, Umuzocha

Ifite-Oka: Enu-Ifite, Ezinato-Ifite, Agbana-Ifite

Amikwo: Umudiana, Okperi, Igweogige, Isiagu, Obunagu

Ezi-Oka: Omuko, Umueri, Umuogwal, Umuogbunu 1, Umuogbunu 2, Umudioka, Umukwa.

Agulu: Umuogbu, Umubele, Umuanaga, Umuike, Umujagwo, Umuenechi, Umuoruka.

Over the years Awka Town has attracted people from other states in Nigeria and has a significant number of immigrants from northern Nigeria, Delta and Enugu states, Cameroon and Ghana now comprising more than 60% of residents in the town.

 

Geography

Awka lies below 300 metres above sea in a valley on the plains of the Mamu River. Two ridges or cuestas, both lying in a North-South direction, form the major topographical features of the area. The ridges reach the highest point at Agulu just outside the Capital Territory. About six kilometers east of this, the minor cuesta peaks about 150 metres above sea level at Ifite –Awka.

Awka is sited in a fertile tropical valley but most of the original Rain forest has been lost due to clearing for farming and human settlement. A few examples of the original rain forest remains at places like the Ime Oka shrine. Wooded savannah grassland predominates primarily to the north and east of the city. South of the town on the slopes of the Awka-Orlu Uplands are some examples of soil erosion and gullying.

 

Markets

Awka like most Nigerian cities is defined by large rudimentary open-air markets where everything from basic food produce to clothes, cosmetics and household items are sold.

The largest market in the town is Eke Awka, named after one of the four market days (see Igbo calendar). Located on a former community burial ground in the center of the city, Eke Awka has grown from a small market serving the needs of residents of the Agulu, Ezi-Oka and Amikwo sections of Awka to functioning as the main retail outlet for the city and neighbouring towns. It houses an estimated 5,000 lock-up shops and stalls all tightly packed into less than 35,000 square meters of space and has become infamous for causing tremendous traffic chaos with a medley of shoppers, buses, wheel barrows all jostling for the limited amount of space available.

The second largest market in Awka is Nkwo Amaenyi located further down on the busy Zik Avenue business district artery. It is far smaller than Eke Awka with less than 100 market stalls in an area estimated at around 3,000 square meters.

 

Universities

Awka has a large university community which at times comprises around 15% of the population of the town. It hosts two primary universities of higher/tertiary education – Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Paul University.

Nnamdi Azikiwe University is owned and run by the federal government of Nigeria providing undergraduate and postgraduate education to an estimated student population of 36,000 at its over 100 acre main campus located at Ifite, Awka. Nnamdi Azikiwe University ranks among the top 10 universities in Nigeria in research output.

Paul University was founded in 2009 by Bishops of the five ecclesiastical provinces of the Anglican Church East of the Niger as a private university to provide quality undergraduate training in Theology, Natural and Applied Sciences, Social Sciences and Management. The university which is fully residential has an estimated enrollment of around 400 students (expected to reach 3,500) and has replaced St Pauls university College which was founded in 1904 by the Church Missionary Society of the Church of England to train church workers and teachers.

 

Imo-Oka Festival
The Imo-Oka festival is a week-long festival of masquerades and dances held in May at the beginning of the farming season in honour of a female deity who it is hoped would make the land fertile and yield bountiful crops. The festival starts with Awka people visiting the community of Umuokpu with masquerades and it ends with a visit to the Imo-Oka stream on the final day which is heralded by a heavy rain that falls in the late afternoon.

There are four major events performed during the festival, the ede-mmuo, ogwu oghugha, egwu Opu-Eke and Egwu Imo-Oka. Egwu Opu Eke is a rich cultural dance performed by female worshipers of Imo-Oka shrine which includes priestesses and ordinary women alike decorated in colourful costume dancing in the market square in honour of the deity controlling the shrine.

The Imo-Oka festival showcases a variety of masquerades (mmanwu) from sinister ones which flog spectators to friendly ones which sing or dance. The masquerades are believed to represent the spirits of Awka ancestors coming from the land of the dead for the festival.

In 2001 Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy MBE, a daughter of Awka, exhibited her oil on canvas paintings series of Awka Igbo Masquerades, to great acclaim in the Cork Street Gallery in London, various galleries in New York and Washington and at the Didi Museum in Lagos.

 

Notable people from Awka

Kenneth Dike, a historian known for his study of pre-colonial Nigerian history, the first Nigerian Vice-Chancellor of the oldest Nigerian University University of Ibadan and the person who set up Nigeria’s National Archives. During the Nigerian civil war (1967–1970) Prof Dike was a roving ambassador for the Biafra cause. He went into exile at the end of the Civil war becoming the first Mellon Professor of African History at Harvard University. He returned to Nigeria to become the founding Vice-Chancellor of what is today the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.

Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy MBE, a London-based visual artist. The first black artist to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II when commissioned to paint the official Golden Jubilee portrait. She was chosen as one of the UK Women of the Year in 2002 and 2003, represented the UK at the Council of Europe and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of East Anglia. During 2006 her work was represented on the national postage stamps of six countries. In 2008 she addressed the Cambridge Union. Chukwuogo-Roy was a regular contributor to the BBC and other current affairs programmes. In 2009 she was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Dr. Emmanuel Onu Egbogah is an internationally recognized authority in the fields of petroleum policy and strategy, improved/enhanced oil recovery, stimulation procedures and multidisciplinary team approach to field development planning and reservoir management. Former Special Advisor on Petroleum Matters to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and founder and Executive Chairman of Emerald Energy Resources Limited.

Rtd lt col Damian Oyeoka Orogbu, First Telecommunications engineer in the Nigerian Army, life fellow of the International Biographical Center, Cambridge England, Pioneer President General Awka Development Union.

Lieutenant-General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor, appointed in 2008 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as Military Advisor on UN Peacekeeping Operations. Previously served as Commander of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) Artillery Brigade in Liberia in 1996 and 1997, and as ECOMOG Chief Coordinator of the Liberian elections in July 1997.

Chinyelu Onwurah, a British Labour Party politician, who was elected at the 2010 general election as the Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central, becoming the first female British MP of African origin.

Late Ozo Barrister Amanke Okafor(Ozo-Awka)lawyer,author,philanthropist

Awka town has produced many professors, Doctors, Lawyers, Administrators etc.

 

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