The Battle Of Imilike With The Colonial Masters.

Imilike is a community that can be likened to Isreal in terms of living and surviving with their neighbors. Israel fought and is still fighting to stop external forces from taking control of her territory. Imilike also fought gallantly well to stop external forces from taking control of their territory The only difference is that Isreal is a nation while Imilike is a community.

Imilike is a traditional Igbo community made up of fearless warriors just like their ancestral father Nnaogene. They had a very organized traditional judicial system where justice can be obtained without delay. Equity and justice was their watchword.

It all started when the colonial masters(ndi ocha) first came to Nsukka in 1908 through Igala the present-day Kogi State. Before then, their presence had been established in Awka but the distance between made it impossible for them to operate in Nsukka areas. For them to take control

to take control of Nsukka they moved from Awka to Udi, from Udi to Nsukka, from Nsukka to Okpanga, from Okpanga to Obollo They fully established their presence in Nsukka in 1908 then proceeded to Obollo Ulo where they established a native court in 1914. The establishment of these native courts by the British was not done through negotiation with the host communities but by force.

They just come and conquer the community and establish a court there. Then all the neighboring communities will be subjected to obey all the commands that are coming from the court. One of the commands given to the conquered community is that they should henceforth be submissive to the court by bringing every one of their cases to the Court.

This did not go down well with the people of Imilike because other communities see and feared them as famous warriors and could not see any reason they should submit their authority to the weaker ones. So, Imilike refused to obey that command from the British. To add salt to an injury, the colonial masters went ahead to appoint a warrant chief by the name of Chief Nnaji Eze Aba in 1918 to represent Imilike in Obollo Ulo native court. Though Nnaji is an indigene of Imilike the people did not see any reason he should be imposed on them. Another reason they rejected Nnaji’s appointment was that Imilike people were already used to a democratic system of doing things.

Gerontocracy was highly maintained. Imilike in one accord decided not to honor anytime that will be coming from Nnaji Eze Aba or the colonial masters.

Imilike people decided to trade the part of honor instead of being cowardly and cowering in a corner.
Imilike people knowing full well that every other community within the Udunedem has been conquered by the colonial masters decided to show the Oyibos that “Azu na egwu mmiri mana, odi egwu mmiri oku”. They started looking for opportunities to teach the colonial masters a lesson.

The first opportunity finally came in the seven months (onwa esa Imilike)in 1918. There was a dispute between Aleke Arua from Obulegu Imilike and Ona Eje Ugwuowo from Eha Alumona. Aleke is a huge strong man who can sometimes be troublesome. I call him the “Killi We” of Imilike. Aleke borrowed two “Echi” ( Two Brass rods) from Ona Eje Ugwuowo but could not pay her back at the stipulated time.

So, Eje started paying some disturbing visits to Aleke. At a point, Aleke became very annoyed to the extent that he started threatening the woman. So, the woman cried back to her husband who rush in Anger to Aleke’s house to fight him but unfortunately, the woman and her husband were no match to Aleke. Aleke really showed him that “Dimkpa na ibe ya ha bu n’onu”.

The woman had no option but to take the case to Obollo Ulo’s customary court.

A court messenger was later sent to inform Aleke that a case was filed against him at Obollo Ulo customary court, but, Aleke gave the messenger the beating of his life. Aleke’s punch on him was ” One Blow, Three Ekpus”. The court messenger nearly could not find his way back to Obollo court as a result of various degrees of wounds he sustained.
Aleke Arua quickly informed Imilike elders of what transpired between him and the court messenger.

The elders hailed him and immediately went in for preparation to combat the colonial master knowing fully well that they will come back in a stronger way. It is now very clear to Imilike that the reasons they are embarking on this war were no longer about the case between Eze Aleke and Ona Eje Ugwuowo but the battle to settle the grudge they have against the colonial masters. They were happy because “Ihe ha na_acho na uke ele ka ha nwetere na uke ala”

After four days, the District Officer(D.O) sent six police officers to arrest Aleke Arua and all the able-body men in Imilike but the policemen met a waterloo because Aleke and his brothers(Imilike men) resisted the arrest. This resulted in the “Men to Men” battle between the colonial policemen and Imilike men. These policemen were beaten like babes because even three policemen were no match to one Imilike man. Imilike men were beating those policemen and at the same time making caricatures of them saying; “ Nwabe abug’ Obollo!…… Nwabe abug Orba!” (Meaning; This place is not Obollo,… This place is not Orba!) The punches became too much on them, so they ran away in different directions. Three of them died in the bush as a result of the heavy punches they received. “Hee agladg’ egwu ogu”

When the report of what happened got to the Division Officer, he decide to visit Imilike for a peace talk but it did not work out because Imilike people were told to come to the meeting venue unarmed but they did not obey that order. So the D. O and his securities went away in anger.

By now, Imilike did not need any soothsayer to tell them that the battle line has been drawn. They started preparation immediately. They went to Ijegeje to wait for the British soldiers. The choice for Ijegeje was as a result of its natural bunkers(Ukporo Igegeje) which makes it very difficult for strangers to operate. The Division Officer thought that they will defeat Imilike the same way they defeated other communities. So, he sent both European and African military to confront Imilike warriors but they made a huge loss in the encounter.

Imilike warriors ambushed and killed so many of them at Ijegeje. Imilike warriors decimated them and destroyed all their weapons. In fact, the warriors showed them “Ihe oku ji nchi oke eme”. Imilike warriors were very brave but their war charms “Okwulu Okwuru” and “Akwaa Okwuru” contributed to the defeat of the European forces. The Oyibos were very strong in terms of weapons but Imilike were stronger in terms of physical strength and charms. Imilike through their physical strength and charms told the oyibos “ Ka ima nkea, ima nke ozo“? The function of the charms was to make the men courageous. The charms also make the warriors “anu ana agba egbe, o na ata nri (Odeshi).

But for the charm to work on them, each warrior must stay away from three things:

1) Sexual intercourse a day before and throughout wartime. (Not even his wife).

(2)Each warrior must not eat cocoyam a day before and throughout wartime.

(3) Each warrior must not drink alcohol a day before taking the concoction and throughout the wartime.

With this particular defeat of the colonial armies by the warriors. Imilike became more famous. They were being feared by all her neighboring communities. The phrase “ I ji Imilike egwu egwu” became popular among her neighbors.

When the colonial masters realized that Imilike people are very strong both physical and spiritual, they started looking for Judas among them. They found this Judas in the person of Ona Aguiyi. Ona who was familiar with the terrains in Ijegeje later lead the British troop through another road. He also leaked the secret of Imilike war charms to the Oyibos. Ona Aguiyi did not do this alone for the Oyibos later sought the helping hand of Agha Igbo Idoko whom they got immediately promised him the position of court Clark (kotoma).

The first thing they did was to lead the Oyibos to Ukwuolu village square in Imilike Agu where the “Okwulu Okwuru” and “Akwaa Akwuru” war charms were kept. Onah also lead them to Abere Nkwo Imilike Ulo where the Abalufie charm was kept. Several attempts were made by the Oyibos to set these chams and shrines on fire but they did not catch fire. But, Ona Aguiyi who knows the secrets of the charms and the shrine went and brought cocoyam and touched the tassel(Ugere) in the shrine four times then backwardly approach the shrine with fire on his hand and set them ablaze. Chai!, Aru emee!

From that day, Ona Aguiyi and Agha Igbo Idoko began to lead the Oyibos in-house to house the killing of Imilike warriors. The British rewarded Ona Aguiyi and Agha Igbo Idoko with the post of Warrant Chief and Court Clark  (kotoma) respectively.

Ona Aguiyi’s leadership was characterized by arrogance. He was confiscating people’s properties day by day. He connived with the colonial masters to arrest some notable people in Imilike like; Ona Nwenyi Ukwueze, Eze Nwogwu Ojo, Ugwu Ogbonna, and other brave warriors. Though they were later released.

But, do you know what happened?. The man died!. Yes, Ona Aguiyi died by mere answering a call from one powerful Imilike dibia. It was celebration galore at the hearing of the news of his death. Then people started saying; “Obleg ya bu ihe j’eme Ona Aguiyi”.

After the death of Ona Aguiyi. The colonial masters appointed three warrant chiefs namely; Eze Ayigbo, Ugwu Nwa Ugwuanyi, and Ona Nwenyi who was appointed in the year 1922 and died in 1974 on Orie market day. The same day eclipse of the sun happened in Nigeria. It was insinuated that his death was the cause of that eclipse. Whether it is real or a coincident is a story for another day.

The death of Ona Aguiyi and the appointment of these three warrant chiefs reduced tensions and rekindled HOPE FOR IMILIKE.

Ndi Nna anyi dar’noo!, unu ghashiri ike. IDI N’OTU AMAKA.

Kelvin Ugwuora

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