If you are in Imo State without knowing something about Owerri, the State Capital, your knowledge of the State is hopelessly incomplete.
The facts to note. Owerrl i.e. Owerrl Municipal the capital of Imo State
A. The advent of the British – 1901
B. The Monarchy – the last quarter of the 17th century about 1670-1680.
The Title of the Eze of Owerrl – OZURUIGBO (The King whose authority spans a large area of Igboland).
The first king that is, the Eze-Eze Eke Onunwa
1. Eze Eke Onunwa 1690 – 1735
2. Eze Okorie Onunwa 1735 – 1788
3. Eze Iheancho Okorie Onunwa 1788 – 1845
4. Eze Njemanze Iheanacho Okorie Onunwa Ozurigbo the First 1845 – 1920
5. Eze Ihemeje Njemanze 1921 – 1931
6. Eze Onwuegbuchulam Njemanze 1931 – 1941
7. Eze Johnson Osuji Njemanze Ozuruigbo the 2nd 1941 – 1965
8. Eze Reverend Samuel Njemanze 1966 – 1970
9. Eze Reginald Anugwolu Njemanze Ozuruigbo the 3rd 1970 – 1976
10. Eze Alexuis Anumaku Njemanze Ozuruigbo the|4th 1976 – 1988
11. Eze Emmanuel Emenyonu Njemanze Ozuruigbo the 5th is now on the throne as Ozuruigbo the 5th by title, the 8th Njemanze on the throne and 11th king of Owerrl, was crowned on the 11th of November 1989 (11/11/89)
About 1840-1850, the kindred’s of Eke Onunwa and Okorie Onunwa agreed to leave the crown permanently with the Njemanze family and became the kingmakers of Owerrl who decide the Njemanze that wears the crown.
The oldest man from the lineage of Akalonu Okorie kindred crowns the Eze of Owerrl.
The British Occupation:
The peace with friendliness of Owerrl people was encouraging.
The British settled and built;
a. Military Hospital later named African Hospital which thereafter was renamed General Hospital and today is the Federal Medical Centre Owerri. The Owerri General Hospital is relocated to New Owerrl in Owerri Municipal.
b. Government School in 1906 and added the secondary wing now Government Secondary School Owerrl in 1935 and moved the Primary School to Wetheral Road Owerrl as Owerri Township School in 1952.
Owerri is not only Divisional Headquarters but became the provincial headquarters of the Old Owerrl Province was what is now Imo, Abia plus Afikpo up to Diobu in the Rivers State.
The need to have a seaport informed the building of Port Harcourt from Owerrl the Provincial headquarters. When Port Harcourt was finally built, Delta province was carved out of Owerrl Province with Port Harcourt as its headquarters.
Note that Port Harcourt was built from Owerri as Port Harcourt never existed before the advent of the British.
Physical Features:- Owerri is a land approached as you descend hills. There are two rivers:- Nworie on the West flank while Otamiri Is on the Southern flank.
The two rivers influenced the culture of the people, Owerri people do not fish in Nworie River but do so in Otamiri River, they do not eat fish from Nworie River.
The source of Nworie river had a deposit of Emerald a precious solid mineral but not in commercial quantity. There is also Lake Nwebere at Imo State University, Owerri.
Owerri people were subsistence farmers but have since abandoned farming when it became a State capital in 1976 and the arable lands acquired by government for other development projects.
Owerri is a well planned city and is listed by the Federal government as one of the planned cities in Nigeria.
It was planned by Mr. Tetlow being the headquarters of Owerri province and later by a Swiss Consortium – Finger Hooth and Partners who designed New Owerri an idea conceived by the first military Governor the then Commander Ndubuisi Kanu now Rear Admiral Rtd. which is indeed an extension of Owerri Urban.
Education:- Embraced education ab initio with schools such as the Government School, Government Secondary School Owerri and schools both primary and secondary built by the missionaries – Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist etc. and later the Alvan Ikoku College of Education Owerri the Federal government Girls’ College Owerri many private and other missiorjary secondary schools.
Today there is Imo State University Owerri and the Federal Polytechnic and the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Owerri West Local Government Area.
All the missionaries have cathedrals e.g the Anglican, Catholic and Methodist and the Pentecostals while the Moslems have a Central Mosque, and the Cherubim and Seraphim all in Owerri.
The Monarchy Revisited:
All Traditional Institutions in Owerri are hereditary and do not rotate. There are no ruling houses. The institution stands in one family.
The hereditary system is not necessarily father to son but to a fit and proper son of the royal family.
The Njemanze / Owerri dynasty is a first class institution and has been involved in Nation Building and took part in the 1958 Constitutional Conference that ushered independence to Nigeria where Ozuruigbo of Owerri (my father) HRH Eze Johnson Osuji Njemanze represented the Old Owerri province of the former of Eastern Nigeria as part of the delegation led by late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as did the North and the West led by the late Ahmadu Bello and late Chief Obafemi Awolowo respectively.
Eze Njemanze Ihenacho of Owerri was the Vice chairman of the Council of the Traditional Rulers of the former Oil River Protectorate with Calabar as its headquarters. The Obong of Calabar was the Chairman of the Council Diplomatic Ties: Owerri monarchy had diplomatic ties with Arochukwu, Nkwere and the Benin Kingdom.
Oil Prospecting in Nigeria: This began in Owerri before the second world war. The Second World War broke out and it was suspended. The war ended and shell D’arcy returned to Owerri in the forties of the last century to continue the oil prospecting hence the shell camp in Owerri. Shell was in Owerri up to the early sixties before moving to Port Harcourt when their level of technology could not strike oil in Iho in Ikeduru LG.A of Imo state a few Kilometers away from Owerri. However, today there is a Chevron Rig in Owerri but not yet commissioned.
Culture: As subsistence farmers had implements for farming, practiced crop rotation, built barns for the storage of yams, built native wooden bridges (Igbo) across the rivers to link their farm land across the rivers Nworie and Otamiri, had their cultural dances, songs, moonlight songs, musical instruments, the wooden xylophone, opi or oja and odu as wind instruments, drums and percussions made of wood and animal skin, clay pot instruments etc. marriage rites, birth ceremonies and funeral ceremonies punishment for crimes depending on the scene of the act.
Mbari Culture had its root in Owerri: It is now a thing of the past as religion had dealt a big blow on the arts and crafts etc.
Generally religion/Christianity in the main relegated our culture.
By Ugo Okeke-Realtor.
First published by Ifeanyicy.com April 5, 2015 http://www.ifeanyicy.com/2017/05/history-of-owerri-and-