Owerri was founded about the 14th century by father Ekwem Oha. His mother’s name was Arugo.
He fled from Umuori Village, Uratta in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State when his life was threatened by his younger brother Ndum. The threat to his life arose from the dispute over the sharing of the Funeral Cow slaughtered when their father Oha the aristocrat and embodiment of royalty died.
The first son (Opara in Igbo) Ekwem was to provide the funeral cow as demanded by custom. He did not have the means to do so. He appealed to his younger brother Ndum popularly known as Ndumoha to buy the cow, which he did. Ndum asked for the head, heart and other parts of the cow that go to the first son in keeping with custom. His reason being that he Ndum, bought the funeral cow. Ekwem turned down his request and a quarrel ensued.
The elders (Oha Uratta) were invited to settle the dispute. They did so by allowing tradition to prevail. Ekwem was’entitled to the aforementioned parts of the cow being the first son. Ndum did not take kindly to this and so planned to kill Ekwem in order to have his way.
The plot leaked and Ekwem fled with his family at the dead of the night to Egbu a neighboring town (Community) taking with them some stores and domestic assistants. History has it that his sister was married at Egbu.
His sister fearing that Ndum may look for him asked him to continue his journey to an unknown and uninhabited land for safety and settle there permanently. They set out during the night with the aid of owa (native torch) and arrived at a hill top now known as Ugwu Ekwema and settled there. They heaved a sigh of relief saying OWERELA IHE MARAYA AKA meaning HE HAS TAKEN WHAT IS HIS RIGHT or what rightly belonged to him.
He sounded the drum (as he was told by his sister) to indicate his location. His sister was happy to locate him and his family the following morning. She returned to Egbu thereafter.
The morning broke and they took their first meal roast old yam together in a typical communion fashion (not served) with thanks to Almighty and merciful Father our Lord God for their safety, the thick forest in the area being infested with dangerous animals such as lions, tigers and snakes like pythons, vipers and cobras.
THE NAME OWERRI (OWERE)
The advent of the British saw the anglicizing of Owere to Owerri but pronounced as though it was spelt Owere. All the neighboring towns (communities) of Owerri were founded and existed on planet earth centuries or decades before Owerri came into existence. It is a God given land (DESTINY LAND being the slogan for Owerri Municipal) and has remained protected with all the people therein by the same God Almighty.
The British found them very clean people. Recall the presence of Nwaorie and
Otamiri rivers flanking Owerri on the West and South respectively. Owerri people were caring, friendly and accommodating hence *:he choice of Owerri by the
British Colonial Government as first, Divisional Headquarters later Provincial Headquarters and today a state capital of Municipal status.
However, it is sad to note what the so-called modern technology in culverting had done to both Nwaorie and
Otamiri rivers at the creation of Imo state in 1976 when Owerri became the state
The fine bridges that flew across the rivers that once flowed with beauty were pulled down to give way to the culverts which were perhaps unprofessionally constructed. The rivers are now almost stagnant and would require millions of Naira to dredge. The influence of the two rivers on the culture of Owerri people is now historical.
Lolo Ijeoma Njoku Obinwannem News Writer / Nov 17, 2021