Okwu ID provide a crash course in Igbo history starting with a look at Arochukwu and the Aro Confederacy
So, What exactly is Arochukwu and what was the Aro confederacy?
Arochukwu and the Aro Confederacy
Arochukwu is a town situated in modern-day Abia State, an Igbo state located in south-eastern Nigeria. The town is positioned close to the waters of the bight of Biafra and the country Cameroon.
Arochukwu is an important historic town in Igboland, it is the home of the Aro people, an Igbo subgroup that dominated south-eastern Nigeria throughout the 18th and 19th century.
The region was once the home of the sacred ‘Chukwu shrine’. People believed the shrine was the source of the much-feared oracle ‘Ibni Ukpabi’. The oracle was believed to be a judge for the Igbo supreme deity (Chukwu).
In the 18th century, mass migrations by several Aro business families into the Igbo hinterland brought about the spread of the oracle’s religious influence through priests.
The growth of Aro military power established by alliances with several neighbouring Igbo and eastern Cross River states quickly established the Aro Confederacy as a regional economic and military power. Some of these regions included Ohafia, Abam, Abiriba, Afikpo and Ekoi.
British Colonial expansion in the late 19th century fostered Anglo-Aro animosity. The Aro Confederacy, whose powers extended across Eastern Nigeria and beyond, was challenged in the last decades of the 19th century by increasing British colonial occupation.
Aro leaders knew that colonialism and the arrival of Christianity would threaten their monopoly and would destroy Aro economic rule. These tensions eventually led to the Anglo-Aro war in 1900-1902. The war resulted in the destruction of the shrine ‘Ibni Ukpabi’, and the dismantling of Aro dominance in the region.