The consciousness of a people’s history enriched by cultural awareness is indeed the pride of any group who may have realized and identified with their oneness as a family, community, tribe, nation, or race. In essence, the sense of commonality and oneness is transferred from one generation to another as a history, culture and solidarity. Awo-omamma is indeed no exception as a community and a people.

Awo-omamma’s history indeed explores rich culture and adventures of the ancestors and progenitors of Awo-Omamma people. There is need to explicitly explain the land and people of Awo-Omamma. This is to provide the knowledge of geo-location and political citation of Awo-Omamma in present day South Eastern Nigeria for a better understanding of its history (even by foreigners).

Awo-Omamma is situated in the present day Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria. It covers area of about 89.2 square kilometer area, making it the largest town in Oru East L.G.A in terms of landmass. It lies to the South of Oru East L.G.A and between 16 to 28 kilometers on the Owerri-Onitsha trunk A road. Awo-Omamma has contiguous settlement with the following communities: Umonnoha and Orodo in Mbaitoli L.G.A at the East. Akabo and Awa both in Oguta L.G.A at the South. Mgbidi and Otulu both in Oru West L.G.A at the West. Amiri and Atta both in Oru East, Okwudor in Njaba L.G.A at the North.

The community is also situated in the tropical evergreen rainforest belt and has all the climatic traits of this zone. The Njaba River rises from Isu-Njaba in Isu L.G.A of Imo State and washes the town’s entire southern stretch before it enters into Oguta lake. The study of the origin of a people known as Awo-Omamma requires more tacit effort because of variations in oral accounts, absence of written primary sources and little or no archaeological facts to portray the civilization of their ancestors. However, an attempt to recreate the past may be based on the rich oral tradition (though varied) and cultural practices of the people. Some myths, folktales, local music etc carry the weight of Awo-Omamma as a defined people with definite sense of commonality and communal living. However, two outstanding historical accounts exist which form the basis for other accounts like the Awo-Omamma/Awo-Idemili, the Awo Tree and the Nne-nasa accounts. The Oma and the heterogenous migration accounts are outstanding because they attempted to address the question of origin of Awo-Omamma as a man (the progenitor) and as a people (the descendants).

The Oma account holds that Awo-Omamma is a descendant of Nri, through an Nri grandson called Oma whose father was Oduoma. According to the account, Oma begot children with his wife known as Mma. These children who came to be known as “umu oma na mma” (children of Oma and Mma) were: Egwe, Amiri, Aji, Omuma, Ama-ofoo, Egbuoma, Eleh, and Awo. The total number of children Oma begot is not clearly pointed out by oral history. However, it pointed out that each descendant was addressed with the suffix Oma either as the last name or to reflect the origin, Oral tradition explains that the couple Oma and Mma settled in Ibiasoegbe in present day Oru West L.G.A as migrants from Nri. At Ibiasogbe, the family grew and rapidly expanded into present Oru, Njaba and Isu Local Government Areas.

The heterogeneous migration account tells a story of the migration of different groups of people from diverse origin who settled together and rose to the consciousness of oneness and identified with a cultural consummation as a community that emerged to be known as Awo-Omamma. These migrants were said to have settled in the area due to the comfort of a historic tree known as the Awo Tree. The Awo Tree according to this legend has accommodating features provided by its widespread branches which attracted sojourners from different localities. A slight variation of the Awo Tree legend attributes the attraction to the comfort provided by the fertile crescent of the Njaba River which made agriculture possible every year round just like the history of the ancient fertile crescents of Nile of Egypt and Euphrates of Babylon. The comfort of the Awo Tree and its tropical rainforest environ made some sojourners from Ihiala, Ogwa, Okija, Afara, Oru and other localities to settle with the fertile crescent of the Njaba River. Thus,adding such suffixes as “Awo”-Okworji, “Awo”-Umuezike, Umuokwe “Afara” etc was an attempt to connote their place of origin.

Another interesting consciousness of Awo-Omamma history is the uncommon commonality between Awo-Omamma and Awo-Idemili as a people and a distinct culture. Prof Vin Okeke wrote this “History has it that the commonality of “Awo” in the names Awo-Omamma and Awo-Idemili was not by sheer coincidence. It was rather an eloquent reflection of blood relationship between the two towns which could be likened to lines of relationship as typified by surnames in the African setting.”

The Oma account further tells a story to explain this uncommon commonality. According to the Oma account, Awo (a son of Oma and Mma) begot Idemili and Omamma. The second son (Omamma) was named after his father (Oma) and mother (Mma) to reflect much excitement and love after some years of despair in trying to get another male child. This legend also indicated that Awo-Idemili and Awo-Omamma once settled together in the present location of Awo-Idemiliin Isu Njaba L.G.A after they migrated from Ibiasogbe ( a place where the parents lived). Hence, the commonality in the market’s name “Afor Awo” and similarities in the name of thirteen villages such as Obibi, Isieke, Ubahaeze, Akworji (Awo-Idemili) and Okworji (Awo-Omamma), Ubahaezike (Awo-Idemili) and Umuezike (Awo-Omamma) etc.

It is imperative to note that peace and co-existence is an admirable virtue of Awo-Omamma culture because its history is devoid of colossal communal war. Stories and events that show quest for communal development and peaceful resolution of disputes through family-clan institutionalized arbitrations abound in the history of Awo-Omamma. Records also show that Awo-Omamma was home to the International Red Cross Society and other voluntary missions during the Nigerian Civil War of 1960-1970.

Awo-omamma through the efforts of its illustrious sons home and abroad have achieved many developmental strides like hosting multinational companies, developing western education and fostering a united front in leadership. As a close knit community, the people of Awo -Omamma , through sheer ingenuity have been at the cutting edge of Health- care delivery. The Awo-Omamma General Hospital was built by the communal effort of its people. Today , the hospital, expanded to an include oncology department serves the need of Awo Omamma and its contiguous neighbours. It is also worth noting the pioneering effort of Awo- Omamma in the pharmaceutical industry, as three or more of her illustrious sons have established reputable pharmaceutical industries in the town . These include , … Nich- Ben pharmaceutical Inc Afric Pharmaceutical Inc D.N Akuneme pharmaceutical Inc Onyedebulu Pharmaceutical Inc

Written by Ibeh Joseph Uchenna (B.A History/Int’l Studies. Imo State University)