The father of the Igbo people – Guardian Life – The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
It is believed that the Igbo people descended from Eri, a divine figure who, according to folklore, was sent from heaven to begin civilization. Eri was the son of Gad and Gad was one of the sons of Jacob from his concubine, as mentioned in the Bible.
Folklore says that Eri lived in Egypt as a high priest during Joseph’s reign. When he foresaw the planned slavery of his people, he fled from Egypt by the Nile, crossed the Benue, crossed the Niger River, then settled near the confluence. With the people he was able to recruit, he settled there. Eri had a son there, and he named him Nri.
Nri had the same priestly ordination, and therefore his spiritual powers, and was named heir. Eri had four more sons and a daughter. As he grew older, Nri left his father to establish his own place. This place, named Nri, is currently located in Anambra State in Nigeria.
Interestingly, there is an ongoing debate about the origin of the Igbos between the Nri and Aguleri peoples. One school of thought maintains that Aguleri was the first son of Eri who emigrated from Egypt with him. As such, Aguleri should be the original source of the Igbo race, but another school claims that he was not born in the new colony, but from Egypt, it should not be. This school insists that Nri was the one who possessed the priestly nature of his father, Eri.
Despite these arguments, tradition has it that no one breaks a cola nut in a gathering but an Aguleri man if he is present. Additionally, before a king is crowned, he must visit Aguleri for a ritual and receive blessings for seven days.
Now after Eri’s death her first son Agulu (now known as Agulu + Eri, “Aguleri”) has taken over the land and people have multiplied and spread to form more communities. Nri learned of his father’s death and he returned to Aguleri, and stayed a long time so that one of his requests before his death was to be buried in Aguleri.
Before his death, he founded a kingdom which some claim was the result of his father’s mystical abilities passed down to him.
The Nri kingdom
Over the years, the kingdom of Nri has grown and has its capital at Igboukwu. Due to the rapid development that people were a part of and witnessed, they soon owned a currency and developed banking systems. Their economy was mainly agriculture and the hunting game trade.
Nri quickly became a refuge for fleeing slaves, and outcasts (osu) were welcome. Although the Nri people did not control all Igbo lands, their influence was visible in all Igbo lands and beyond, thus all activities, both cultural and traditional, took place in Nri.
Their leadership was devoid of dictatorship. The king managed trade routes, diplomacy and also had authority over religious matters. Becoming king was not limited to the descendants of Nri but by divine selection. However, the chosen one was mandated to go through rituals to prove that he is worthy of Chineke (the creator of the universe), must be of Eri, his mother would die a few days or weeks after his birth, and not must have no living father. His ritual involves a celebration as if he were dead, symbolizing death to himself as he now belongs to the spirits and the people. Then finally, he must visit Aguleri before being crowned.
Every year a festival called the Old Iduu Cultural Festival (Olili Obibia Eri) is held to celebrate the arrival of Eri at the Agbanagbo-Ezu-na-Omambala (confluence of the Ezu and Omabala rivers). This festival was initiated by Eri and is still celebrated.