Some young Igbo and some westernized Igbo elites say that they have neither heard of nor seen or even known of Nri. This is understandable because many in this category cannot state their genealogy up to three generations. This group suffers from “cultural hiatus”. According to Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart in a pathetic way for this category of Ndigbo: “They do not even know the name of their Umunna”. They simply will say “ I am from Awka”. They cannot even speak their dialect of the national Igbo language spoken by over fifty million Igbo and even by some non-Igbo like Hausa, Yoruba or Efik living in the Igbo culture area. This category do not know much of Igbo land, yet some of them will shout loudest about their knowledge of Igbo history, culture and civilization.
We have come across hundreds of such Igbo personalities in and outside Igbo land. This has not enough knowledge of Igbo to tell us either of the Igbo in general or Nri in particular. They need to be re-socialized in Igbo culture history.
On the other hand, there are groups of Igbo westernized elites who have adequate knowledge of Igbo culture but are propelled by narrow, parochial vision of their own community as the center of Igbo culture. And there are, yet another group knowledgeable and broadminded enough to see the facts that their own community is only an atom in the Igbo culture. This group knows that Nri is the center of the culture solar system of Igbo from time immemorial or between AD 900 and 1911, and even to the present. This category is well socialized in Igbo culture-history.
This category of traditional elite has interesting remarks to make about Nri. We hereby state clearly how they assess Nri.
The Nri are head of the earth force, isi ana.
The Nri believe in God, the Creator – Chukwu Okike and Chukwu gave them more powers; hence they were able to bring the Igbo together (Chikoba Ndi-Igbo).
The Nri have wisdom and knowledge (amamife na mmuta) and are great in mystic (ndi na fu mmuo).
The Nri crown kings (chi eze) and make Alusi priests (chi eze Alusi), and ordain the earth priests (chi eze ana).
The Nri are people who break kolanuts (wa oji) when Igbos are in gatherings.
The Nri are non-violent and peaceful (ha buro ndi ike, ha bu ndi udo)
The Nri people are owners of Nri town through which the Igbo dead go to the spirit land, ana mmuo.
The Nri have ichi marks on their face and carry otonsi. Because of this they are not killed or molested in any part of Igboland
The Nri establish the markets (do ahia), and make peace (do udo) in Igbo land.
The Eze Nri is king of Nri. His agents with ichi marks on their faces and the aka -Nri and ada- Nri (dwarfs) work for him.
The Eze Nri interprets changes and enacts what is custom (Odinani) abomination (alu) and taboo (nso) for all Igbo.
Some will derisively concede, “Okwali alu ka ndi Nri nakpu.” Is it not only cleansing of abomination that Nri people do? The utter naivety of this bland concession can only be appreciated when one temembers that cleansing of abomination is tantamount to ablution. In all organized religion the only humans that can intercede between God and man is superior to man. Christianity is the biggest organized religion in the world with over 2billion followers out of the world’s 6billion population. With over 38,000 denominations, Roman Catholicism is the most popular with over 1.1billion adherents. The Pope is the only one who has ablution rights which he dispenses all over the world through his bishops and priests.
The Eze Nri is Eze Ora (for all Igbo) and all Igbo groups obeyed him in the past.
The Eze Nri is a mystical Eze. He fasts and makes himself holy (nso) for the good of Nri and Ndigbo
Eze Nri controls fertility (omumu)
Eze Nri controls yam and crop fertility through ifejioku and gives yam medicine (ogwu ji), to Ndigbo
Eze Nri controls erosion, heat, rain, insects like yam beetles (ebe), and locust (igwulube).
Eze Nri receives tribute (ife nru) and payments from Nri and Ndigbo.
Eze Nri controls the Igbo calendar by counting the year (Iguaro).
It is clear that this class of Igbo see Nri like the proverbial big elephant described by the seven blind men. Each person describes Nri or Eze Nri according to his or her individual perception.
2.3 Evidence from archaeology and anthropology AD 900- present:
In order to understand the role of Eze Nri and Nri people in Igbo land among Ndigbo, let us start with evidence from archaeology dated AD 900 and AD 1500 through Olaudah Equiano’s work of 1775 and documents of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and finally through the works of researchers mostly anthropologists between 1912 and 1980.
(i) Archaeology of Igbo Ukwu, dated AD 900 by Carbon- 14, by Prof. T. Shaw- University of Ibadan- Archeologist. (British)
From 1959 to 1960 and in 1964, Professor Thurstan Shaw conducted an archaeological excavation at Igbo-Ukwu, Eastern Nigeria, near the town of Oreri, on land formerly belonging to Oreri which was an Nri settlement. The report was published in two volumes and called Igbo-Ukwu objects according to archaeological system of naming sites.
The quantity and quality of the bronzes, iron objects, pottery and beads indicate that the users as well as the makers of these objects had developed a complex system of organization based on king ship. From the outset, it was obvious that certain symbolic motifs depicted on the Igbo-Ukwu objects such as the elaborate facial marks called ichi on the bronze pendant heads and the cords around the ankles of the figures of man and woman depicted on the cylindrical bronze objects are all at present associated with the ozo titled men who are regarded as the leaders and political elite of Ndigbo towns and villages. The objects were dated by carbon- 14 AD 900. Every object excavated has a similar extant object, suggesting continuity (Shaw, 1971, vols 1 & 11).
A simple photographic identification test of the objects made at Igbo Ukwu, Oreri, Nri and Awka among elders, show Nri elders scoring highest in suggesting the functions, structures and history of the objects used, in the test (Onwuejeogwu, 1974, 1975, 1981).
Archaeology of Ezira, Dated AD 15th Century by carbon-14 by Professor H. Hartle (United State of America)
Professor Hartle excavated at Ezira twenty-five miles east of Igbo-Ukwu and fifteen miles east of Nri and recovered bronze objects including anklets, bracelets, bells, etc and some pottery similar to Igbo-Ukwu objects. They were dated late 15th century A.D. and this date synchronizes with the latest date from the Igbo-Ukwu site (Hartle, 1972).
The ichi marks on these objects were conspicuous as Ezira area was under the Nri sphere of influence. Onwuejeogwu saw and identified these objects in the museum of the Department of Archaeology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, before their disappearance during the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970.