The History of Nkanu Clan

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Nkanu people live contigually within the
Enugu East Senatorial zone of the
present-day Enugu Sate of south-east
Nigeria. They are predominantly farmers.
The area lie approximately between
latitude 60 30’ North and longitude 70 30’
East, and stands on an estimated
excavation of about 763 feet above sea
level. According to sources from the
defunct State Ministry of Works, Land and
Transport, Nkanu clan occupies an area of
about 1602. 22 square kilometres.
Nkanu, like every other Igbo clan, falls within
the savannah region of the former Eastern
Nigeria, usually characterized by tall trees
and grasses. The growth is stunted by the
annual bush burning in the area during the dry
season by itinerant hunters. Conversely, the
area is surrounded on the West by a cluster of
highlands, which gradually level off into an
expense of rich agricultural valley on the
North, East and South of the area. There is as
well a criss-cross of streams and rivulets;
among which, notably are Nyama, Atavu,
Idodo, Asu, Ojorowo, Ufam, to mention just
these few.
A colonial officer described the soil of the
area as “fairly fertile with a light sandy soil
made up of outcrop of laterite nature.”
Indeed, the area is endowed with such mineral
resources as bandile, salt, copper, and notably
Nkanu land shares border in the East with
Ohaozara and Ivo LGAs in Ebonyi State; on
the West with Udi LGA, in the North with
Nkalagu (Ebonyi) and Isi-Uzo LGA, and in the
South with Aninri and Awgu LGAs.
Its population between 1932 and 1934 was put
at about 119,500. But by 1963 census, the
population had tripled to 32,263. With
subsequent projections, the population was
estimated to rise to 743,509 in 1985; 761,971
in 1986; 791, 654 in 1987; 822,608 in 1988;
854,895 in 1989; and over 888,524 in 1990.
At present it is presumed to be nearing almost
2 million.
Nkanu as a group has no common ancestry. But
individual communities that make up the area
had. However, the geographical area was
rather a colonial creation of the British who,
for administrative convenience, merged the
disparate communities together in 1934, to
become Nkanu Division.
That notwithstanding, there are different
versions of the etymology of the name
“NKANU.” One version said it was a nickname
given to a certain NWA AWUWA (Son of God)
by his contemporaries due to his fame, wisdom,
courage and bravery. He was well-respected
for these attributes; which earned him the
envy of his family. This later degenerated into
subdued cold-war, eventually forcing him to
emigrate out of their Lower Benue area
habitat, as a result of frequent fraternal
He later migrated further southward and
settled somewhere in the present-day
Ibeagwa-Nike. At Ibeagwa-Nike, he
demonstrated his ingenuity in craftsmanship,
forging round hoes, spears, arrows, and so on.
He was also a hunter of repute, who lavishly
entertained his guests with a variety of meat,
from his hunting expeditions. He was
consequently nicknamed “Onye Nka” or “Ome
Nka” (Craftsman) and “Ome Anu” (Meat
Provider); hence, the contraction “Nka-
Anu” (Nkanu). So, the name Nkanu came to
symbolize his ingenuity, industry and sagacity.
NWA AWUWA, nicknamed “NKA-
ANU” (Nkanu), according to this source,
became the progenitor of Ibeagwa-Nike. And
so, too, since Ibeagwa is the most senior
village in Nike it conferred on the Nike people,
the right of primogeniture, as well as the
oldest and most senior community in Nkanu
land. It was believed on his demise that his
spirit appeared to his descendants, instructing
them to erect an earth deity to be venerated
by the Nike people in his hounour; hence, the
Anike (Nwa Awuawa), the earth goddess of
From the foregoing account, it can only be
reasonable to conclude that the first Nkanuite
was none other than Anike Nwa Awuwa. But
that is not always so with oral history.
Nevertheless, another vision believed the name
“Nkanu” was a derivative from the peculiar
round mounds (ridges) common to farmers in
the area. The phrase “ruo ya Nkanu
Nkanu” (“cultivate it Nkanu Nkanu”) meant the
common round and big ridges. So, that came to
signify the set of people who make the same
type of round hoe and ridges.
Yet, a third vision claimed it was an imposition
by the British colonial administrators in 1934,
whilst carving the area out of the then Udi
Be that as it may, whichever version is
authentic is immaterial. What should rather be
uppermost in the mind of every Nkanu man or
woman is that the name has not only come to
stay, but has as well gained currency and
acceptance. And without a doubt, Nkanu land
is endowed with abundant human and material
resources. The slogans “Nkanu Ogbuzuru
Ogbuzuru” and “Nkanu Ebuka” are all
symbolisms alluding to the fertility of their
soil, as well as their progressive, forward-
looking and aggressive adventurism in every
human endeavour.
Evolutionary Trend
From its excision from Udi Division on April 1,
1934, as a separate Division, Nkanu land has
metamorphosed into five different local
government areas. These are Enugu North LGA
with headquarters at Ogui; Enugu East LGA,
Nkwo-Nike; Enugu South LGA, Uwani; Nkanu
East LGA, Amagunze; and Nkanu West LGA,
Agbani. Other smaller administrative units
include about 11 development centres and 65
wards, as well.
As a people, the Nkanus are the dominant
political bloc in the present-day Enugu State.
And as an emergent political powerhouse, or a
melting pot of political activism in the State,
no political decision can be taken without an
input from Nkanu people.
Culture and Tourism
As has been observed earlier, the various
masquerades and festivals found in the area
reflect the cultural diversities of the Nkanu
people. Some of these cultural identities are
common; while others are community-specific,
or peculiar to a particular community. Igede,
Ikpa, Okanga, Ubo, Ebe, and so on, usually
displayed during festive and burial ceremonies
are most common within the area. While Omaba
and Ekpe masquerades as well as Achikwu
(Maa Enyashi – nocturnal masquerade),
forbidden to non-initiates and women are
renowned masquerades of the people. Edene
war dance music is peculiar to only the Obeagu
(Awkunanaw) people in the whole of Nkanu
Aju festival, which heralds the New Year, is
widely celebrated in the area. Ani Oha (an
equivalent of the Christmas), associated with
the soul day (Igo Iyi) is celebrated in
commemoration of the departed soul of either
the grandfather and/or grandmother.
Noteworthy of mention is the Ugwu Uzu deity
in Obeagu (Awkunanaw). It was said that in the
olden days, blacksmiths from all over Igbo
land and beyond converged at Obeagu to
celebrate and pay homage to this deity of
blacksmithry. Blacksmiths from as far as
Awka, Nkwerre, Agulu, Agbor, and even Igalla
come to this festival. They not only fraternize
with one another, but brainstorm and rub
minds on the improvement of their trade.
Various metal products are on display. After
days of merrymaking, feasting and toasts they
return to their different abodes. Yet, Obeagu
people are not traditional blacksmiths, nor are
the Nkanu people in general. Nevertheless, the
conviviality this festival generates, can only be
likened to what happens in modern-day trade
It is, however, lamentable and sad to observe
the degree of westernization our people had
embraced, had eroded the potency of some of
these cultural identities of the Nkanu people.
If serious care is not taken to preserve them,
they might as well be on their way to
This piece cannot be summarized without
recounting the various achievements and/or
successes recorded in the area so far.
Noteworthy of mention include the first
Executive Governor of old Anambra State,
Chief Jim Nwobodo, a trail blazer in the art of
governance; the erstwhile President of the
Nigerian Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, whose
tenure witnessed tremendous transformation
in legislative procedures and processes in
Others are the first Igbo to become the
Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police Force,
Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo; the first black robotic
Engineer, Prof. Barth Nnaji, as well as the
first ever black student to score 99-99% (in a
dread discipline, Mathematics) at Oxford
University, Mr. Osita Onumah.
The present Nigerian Ambassador to Japan,
Hon. Gordi Agbo; a top-ranking military
officer, Major-Gen. Christian Ugwu, as well as
Mr. Ngene, the Managing Director, Texaco
Nigeria Ltd., are but a few of the recent
successes recorded by Nkanu people, as well.
Mention will also be made of other worthy
achievements. Among these are the first
private university in Nigeria – Madonna
University by Rev. Fr. Edeh; the first State
University – ASUTECH (now Enugu State
University of Science and Technology, Nnamdi
Azikiwe University, Awka and Ebonyi State
University, Abakaliki ) initiated by the
inimitable Jim Nwobodo’s administration; the
highest medal ever won by an African team –
the 1996 Olympic Gold medal in Atlanta, USA
– as well as Nigeria’s hosting of FIFA World
Cup competition was facilitated by Nkanu man
Jim Nwobodo; the African Cup, which was won
by Rangers International Club in 1977 was
piloted by Nkanu sons – Christian Chukwu,
(Captain) and Chief Jim Nwobodo (Chairman)
of the Club; Akanu Ibiam International
Airport – a gateway to Igboland, is located at
Emene – in Nkanu land; and Enugu metropolis,
which has served variously as the capital of
southern protectorates, Eastern Region,
defunct Republic of Biafra, East Central
State, old Anambra State, as well as the
present Enugu state, is ninety-nine percent
Nkanu land amongst others.

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