Ibusa (Igbuzo) People

Ibusa (Igbuzo) People

Ibusa people predominantly speak Igbo, although English which is national language is also spoken within the area. Ibusa is a place notable for many houses, shops, stores and now Banks. The name “Ibusa” pronounced (“Igbo-Uzo”) is very much controversial as it is an Anglicization perhaps as a result of the inability of the British to effectively give it a native pronunciation. But for sure no one has been able to prove the exact name in consideration of the controversy surrounding the original name.

Ibusa is believed to be the first settlement among the Asaba-Ibusa-Ogwashi-uku axis thus the other version “Ibuzo” (Were you first to settle within this axis?) but it interesting to note that the indigenes refer to themselves as “Igbuzo” (Igbos that live along the road) Ibusa. Ibusa is also known as Isunambogwu because of their military prowess in the olden times.

Ibusa is located west of the Niger Basin, six miles west of Asaba in Oshimili North Local Government Area, Delta State of Nigeria. Ibusa is one of the 55% of Igbo towns and villages that constitute Delta state.

Ibusa is a classic example of bipartite social structure formed by two different settlement histories occurring at fairly close intervals. Ibusa thus is a federation of two autonomous communities that have different origins. Oral tradition of the town has it that Umejei, “Nwa Eze” (the Prince of) Isu near present day Awka killed his opponent in a wrestling bout, an action considered an abomination and punishable with death but rather than hanging himself, he was forced to go on exile. Specially prepared by his father he was given a pot of charm and other items by his father who was said to have strictly instructed him to settle wherever the pot dropped. Umejei was also accompanied by his sister, Omoha. The pot however dropped at a place called “Ani ohe” in present Ibusa.

However, the exact place Isu where the progenitor hails is still shrouded in mystery as there are several Isu in existence in Igboland today. Isu exists in Njaaba, Okigwe, Obosi, Awka, Nnewi, Mbaise, etc. It is however noteworthy that all of these different Isu have at one time or the laid claims to the original home town of Umejei. This is worsened by the particular absence of evidence either in Ibusa or any of these Isu towns and villages to suggest the very Isu. The most recent claim is that asserted in “Isu Factor in Nnewi” written by Ugochukwu where it is alleged that evidences abound in Nnewi to prove that Umejei was from that very place. It is the opinion of Historian that the Isu may be located in present day Anambra state since the state has the closest Isu to Ibusa.

Oral tradition links the second settlement to Obodo who had two sons, Odaigbo and Edini. Odaigbo the second son was to sleep with one of his father’s wives an act considered as abomination or what was better known “Alu”. The penalty therefore was death but Odaigbo was forced on exile together with his mother, father and Edini his brother. The Monarch, Eze Nshi (Nri) gave Odaigbo and Edini two small pots of charms which they carried on their heads with instruction to settle where the pots dropped. The pot of Edini was to drop at “Ani Udo” where his parents decided to live with them because he was the younger son. The other had his drop at the present Ogwashi-uku (Ogwa-Nshi-Uku)

The friend of the sons of Umjei and those of Ogboli became cordial and Ogboli moved closer to Ibusa where he settled. The two settlements became one. (Ibusa) Recently Historians are pointing out that some migrants with Chima the progenitor of Ubulu-uku, Onicha-olona, Issele-uku, Issele-Mkpitime and others who became tired along the way may have either settled or taken refuge in Ibusa since the town (Ibusa) is located along the road.

Pre-colonial life
According to Victoria Oluomachukwu Ibewuike in her work African Women and Change; a Study of the Western Igbo Nigeria with special focus on Asaba town.

“In Igboland, there are two types of political systems practiced by the Igbo on both side of the Niger. The first is the democratic village republic type of government found among the Igbo living west of the Niger and by the second is the constitutional village monarchy, which is practiced by the Igbo of the west of Niger and the riverine of Igbo of Onitsha and Ossomali… This system of administration is derived from Benin from where most of the titles come”

Ibusa once practiced monarchical system but this was jettisoned over time. This system of administration as seen above was borrowed from Benin considering the proximity that exists between the town and Benin and the fact that the synonym “Obi” is close to “Oba” which is still the traditional and official title of the Benin monarch.

Isidore Okpewho in Research in African Literatures, Volume 29, No.1 states thus:

“A second issue concerns the history of paramount rulership in this traditionally republican polity. A man (Ezechi) from the Isu segment of the town, a hunter who had led a heroic defense of the town against a Benin invasion, was rewarded with the kingship (obi). Unfortunately, he had a self-assertive wife who insisted on participating in the king’s councils (contrary to tradition) and dominating the proceedings. One day, one of the councillors made bold to defile her with obscene language, forcing Ezechi not only to abdicate the throne but to exile himself and his family to a village some 25 miles away called Ejime (Twins). For a long time Igbuzo did not have any more paramount rulers”.

It is therefore safe to conclude that Ibusa has practiced both systems of administration i.e. the democratic village republic type and the constitutional monarchy.

Ibusa was to return to an arrangement in which three main hierarchies of Umunna (Idimu), Ogbe and the Ibusa exists. This arrangement recognizes “Diokpa” (The oldest living man) as the Head. The Diokpa of Idimu is assisted by Diokpa in Council comprising of Ndi-Eze, Ndi-Ichie or Nkpalor, Mgba-Nkpisi and Omu. The political arrangement of the Ogbe rests with the Diokpa-Ogbe-in-Council. The government of the entire town rests with the oldest man, otherwise called the “Senior Diokpa” He is neither elected nor selected but has to meet up certain criteria.

Colonial period
The arrival of the British in 1870s led to the identification of Ibusa people with their Enu-Ani (Anioma) towns and villages. This especially decreased distinctions dissimilarities between Ibusa and Anioma and the Ekwumekwu movement or wars helped to realize this very much.

In the years of Ekwumekwu when the western Igbos carried out series of agitations against the British who threatened their commercial stronghold with colonial policies, the Ibusa people played prominent roles in this agitation. Ekwumekwu was the war of resistance fought by the western Igbos against the British for some thirty years. The British 1883 carried out a surprising attack on Ibusa in which they inflicted heavy casualty on the people. The people soon retreated only to reinforce and attack back the British. Ibusa people held fought the British to a standstill until the British resorted to the clearing and burning down of the farmlands of Ibusa people, a situation that created hunger in the town and Ibusa surrendered to the British. The act gave Ibusa prominence as Ibusa was debated in the British parliament with the parliament trying to resolve on what punitive measure to mete to Ibusa.

What Ibusa might have lost to Ekwumekwu it gained with western education and Christianity, for not long after Ekwumekwu war ended the British established St. Thomas’ teachers Training College, St. Thomas’ Catholic and St. Augustine’s Catholic Churches from here they spread their education and gospel to the other parts of Anioma. The discovery of River Niger made this feat a success because it brought the missionaries close to Ibusa. Father J. B. Germaneti, a Frenchman and a Missionary is reputed have worked tirelessly in Etsako, Ibusa and Asaba in 1902 until he returned to Lokoja in 1918 (see African Women and Change; a Study of the Western Igbo Nigeria with special focus on Asaba town, Victoria Oluomachukwu Ibewuike pg146)

It is particularly sad that the authorities in Ibusa allowed the original construction of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church to be demolished on a flimsy excuse that the building was near the stage of self-collapse. It is more particularly sad that Historians and Archaeologists from this town in allowing this denied the town what could have remained one of the few oldest structures in the town capable of standing as a tourist attraction for the Natives and non Natives if it was rebuilt to retain its historic structure. Perhaps one day the town Hall would be demolished as well. In Asaba today the Holy Trinity Church built by the CMS in 1875, the building that housed the SMA fathers in 1888 and others alike still stand.

Ibusa music
Ibusa people appear typically attached to traditional form of music but are also known to enjoy Igbo melodic style as well. The typical Ibusa music could be Agbalani, Ekobe, Imanokwa, Oduko etc with Okanga, Aguba (for funeral ceremonies) strictly speaking, the common Ibusa music is a fusion of jazz and traditional music quite popular among the other Anioma towns.

The traditional Ibusa religion is known as Odinani and is wide spread. Ibusa offers an example of an Anioma town where traditional religion is still wide spread particularly in time of funerals but today majority of the people are Christians, a religion that impacted on the town. Many churches of other denominations have however sprung up in the town.

It amounts to an act of taboo to eat or