MENTION Ifite Ukpo, the name will not register except for a few people. This was once the name of Ifite Dunu, home to world’s famous music acts, P-Square, Chief Mark Okoye Snr, former State Minister for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the Second Republic, father to the current Anambra State Commissioner for Budget, Economic Planning, and Development Partners, becoming Nigeria’s youngest commissioner with his appointment in 2016.
The town is also home to Mr. Ben Akabueze, former Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning and the current Director General for Budget Office, Abuja.
Ifite Dunu, the most populous town in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State is one of the six towns that make up the local government. The town comprises of five villages: Obieze, Ukpomili, Akwa, Umuanugwo, Igbuala. Obieze is the eldest, while Akwa is the most populous among the villages.
Ifite Dunu borders Ukpo, Awkuzu, Abba, in the North, Abagana in the South, Umunachi on the East, Umudioka and Umunya on the West.
The landmark intersection known as Oye Agu Junction is located in Ifite Dunu, only of recent was a large sign post mounted overhead the junction with the name, Ifite Dunu Junction, to indicate the proper name and the town it belongs.
Ifite Dunu people maintain the junction has never been Oye Agu Junction but Ifite Dunu Junction, citing its closeness to Oye Agu Market, Abagana, as the reason people mistook the Oye Agu Junction for Ifite Dunu Junction and will always be Ifite Dunu Junction.
The town is home to Nkwo Ukpo, when Ifite Dunu used to be known by its former name. Even for its size, the market was massive that people from neighbouring states patronised it. One commodity stood the market out in those days; goat.
It was mainly at Nkwo Ukpo that people on that axis would tell anyone that wants to sell or buy goats to visit. It was common to hear such a phrase “Nkwo Ukpo ga-ekwu ife a ga-ele ewu, – which has entered the local lexicon to mean the only market to get the best of goats and fowls that you want and at whatever price it offers, it is the best bargain you can get that no other market can offer.
The state government’s N20 million Choose Yourself Community Project was used to modernise the market, to show the love they have for the market and it remains one of the town’s iconic landmarks, notwithstanding its ranking to mega markets across which has taken more prominent status.
Among the feasts of Ifite Dunu, Akpu Okochi stands out. Usually celebrated around Easter period, it initiates the rainy season, where it serves to usher in the planting season.
In the midst of merriment, supplications are made for bountiful harvest in the forth-coming farming season. The entertaining feast serves as a homecoming or re-union for sons and daughters of the land.
Ifite Dunu, until 1982, officially used to be known by the name Ifite Ukpo. According to the people, the name Ifite Ukpo arose from the common observation of the people. The name Dunukofia is peculiar to the people of the local government in the sense that all the communities in Dunukofia are blood relations.
They are descendants of one progenitor called Okofia. Okofia had a son called Dunu, hence referred to as Dunu Okofia. Dunu Okofia became shortened to Dunukofia, by removing the letter o and merging the two words. The first son of Dunu was Ukpo.
History has it that in the olden days, there was nothing like family planning like the way we know it today but the people knew how to space their children and children were spaced by as much as three to five years.
The same thing happened to Dunu. The first son was Ukpo. When the second son came five years later, the name was Ifite. Ukpo was the one that looked after Ifite. So it was that wherever you see Ukpo, his younger brother Ifite was always hanging around with him.
They were so united, so bound together that people started calling Ifite, Ifite Ukpo. It showed how close the brothers were, they were so inseparable. You cannot touch Ifite, where Ukpo was. He would fight the person.
The close affinity brought attachment of Ukpo’s name to Ifite. The name caught on and stuck that nobody talked about any other name than Ifite Ukpo, because of that cordiality that existed between the two brothers.
According to the traditional ruler of Ifite Dunu, Igwe Emeka Ilouno, the name arose until the 20th century. “Soon after the Nigerian Civil War, which devastated every community- however some communities were luckier, Ukpo had more educated people, more people in the government, people who could reach out to the government.
We discovered that when things were shared between or allotted to us, that of Ifite, today’s Ifite Dunu, Ukpo would claim it. So we were denied our rights in certain quarters. They claimed we are part of them.”
“I’m almost 70 years old. Since I was born, I have known Ifite Ukpo, before the name change we have always been a town of its own, never an appendage of any place. And my father never told me we are appendage to anywhere.
But when the war ended, they started claiming that Ifite was appendage to Ukpo. When this happened, we said no. let us call a spade a spade, let us make it clear to the world that we are an entity on our own.”
“We now said let us answer our father’s name, Ifite Dunu, because Dunu was our father that was how the name came.
There was no quarrel, it was just common sense. In the time past, people are more likely to call you by your elder brother’s name, particularly the one who nursed or who you are so attached to; hence, Ifite, the second son name’s attachment to Ukpo, which is commonly believed to be one town.
We said the name IfiteUkpo was bringing confusion in certain quarters; let’s change it to be who we are. It was a name we should have been answering from birth but because of blood relationship, cordiality, brotherhood, and once that trust became abused we said no, let’s answer our name.”
Every Ifite Dunu person would tell you the significance of the new name, which made him or her to know who they are; descendants of Dunu and not the descendants of Ukpo. In the words of Archmonarch Agunechenba, President General, Dunukofia Traditional Title Holders Association, “if you look at the way it has been presented, it appeared as if we are descendants of Ukpo, but it was nothing than common parentage.
Today, we answer our father’s name because if they ask you your name, you will mention your name and that of your father’s – surname, so we decided to do just that by answering both our name and our father’ name and that’s the way it should be.”
Igwe Ilouno, former Chairman, Anambra State Central Traditional Rulers Council, affirmed his people’s acceptability of the new name as very comfortable. “Every other person understands it. Like I said, it was something that was agreed upon because this didn’t happen in one day. The hierarchy has always been there, don’t misunderstand me, we are still cordial. However, we had two bishops. The first Catholic Bishop from Dunukofia, is from Ifite Dunu, Bishop Godsfrey Okoye.
He was Bishop of Biafra (Port Harcourt Dioceses) and after the war, he became Bishop of Enugu Diocese. The immediate past Bishop of Awka Diocese, Bishop Simon Akwali Okafor, is from Ifite Dunu.”
“When we were struggling to have Dunukofia as a local government, it was an idea that was supported strongly by Bishop Okoye and that was during the military era. The two brothers have never been at war with each other.
But we wanted to make it clear to the world that this is who we are. So, every person is happy with the development. It’s easier to tell your child what your name is and why your name is like that. Any child today will know that we are the children of Dunu and not Ukpo.”
Traditionally, people of Ifite Dunu who prides themselves for their hospitality are farmers, but are more into academic, civil service, and trading today. In the past, as mainly agrarian community, they were nicknamed Ifite Ogbuna di ji.
According to the Secretary, Ojiani Council, Ichie Akaeze Obiora Ikwenwilo, “because our forefathers cultivated yams more than any other crop. Lacking space, they crossed the Niger to farm and bring back yams.
In traditional Igbo society, a rich man is known by the size of his yam barns. We are strong farmers but having said that because we do not have plenty of lands, our people went into education with a resolve to excel in other endeavours.”
“We strive for the highest. I will give an example, if you come to Anambra State today, one of the best commissioners is Mark Okoye. He was 28 years old when the commissionership came to him. Because of the law of the land, he was asked to wait until he was 30 years old.
The post was actually kept for him. He was acting in the lower cadre as Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Budget and Economic Planning, while actually doing the job until he was pronounced commissioner. Today in Dunukofia, you will discover that our traditional rulers have always been known to be educated people.”
‘In Ifite Dunu, my predecessor was an engineer. I’m a medical doctor, with 10 degrees in medicine, law, business and other disciplines. The 10 degrees that I obtained are not honorary but passed academically after written exams. Ifite Dunu people always strive for the best in what we find ourselves doing,” Igwe Ilouno said.
Ifite Dunu people are Christians, and predominantly Catholics, but have one of the most dreaded shrines in the state called kisa, located in the Kisa forest, which is said to be the origin of Kisa River, a tributary of the River Niger. Offia Kisa or the Kisa forest was Dunu’s abode.
Igwe Ilouno, further described Ifite Dunu as unique, and mentioned a 360- year old tree called Ngwu tree, the oldest tree in Dunukofia, once massive, which the younger generation doesn’t value and started cutting it down.
The wood of the tree, is used to make Ikoro, a kind of gong to raise alarm in the days of old. There is an ofo tree that never dies. The tree rots, spring back to life and regrows.”
History tells that Okofia, who was a relation of Nri, who are the children of Eri, settled in a land called Okpamwase, present day Akwa village in Ifite Dunu, for a while, while Eri moved to Agukwu Nri, where he finally settled.
“No Eze Nri story will be complete without the mention of ofo tree, neither will its story be complete without the Eze Nri coming to Ifite Dunu to collect an ofo. There is still a place in that little forest that any person that is selected as the Eze Nri must sit and do some incantations. It is said that white chalk will come from under the tree.
The Eze Nri would pick up and starts shouting Okeemo – Chukwuekemo and heads to Obi Gad in Enugu Aguleri, where he stays for seven days. That little forest is located in Ukpo”The people regard themselves as hardworking, united, peaceful, and hospitable as encapsulated in their logo.
The town is among the few communities not to have gone to war or fought over land with her neighbours. “My town is known as a peaceful community, we are loving caring people. The place many people call Oye Agu is Ifite Dunu Junction. Why it is called Oye Agu is because of the Oye Market which is very close to the junction but the junction belongs to Ifite Dunu.
“We didn’t quarrel over the change of name because they are kit and kin. We may have one or two land skirmishes but we don’t allow it to escalate.
We know Abagana amassed some parts of our land. If you go to Abagana, you have Umudunu Abaganam, they are the descendants of Dunukofia. You see Amaenyi Abagana, they are brothers with Amaenyi Ifite Dunu, and some portions of that area were from our community.
They live side by side, so why should we fight. We see the demarcation as something of administrative purposes,” says Chief Uche Oraguncha, Vice President General, Ifite Dunu Town Union
Commenting on the peaceful nature of the town, Igwe Ilouno added, “You discover you will never hear any bad news between Ifite Dunu and her neighbours. We don’t fight with anybody, we resolve our issues amicably.
Some years gone by when they had someone called Joneb in Awkuzu, they invaded Ifite Dunu for whatever reasons; we handled it so maturely that only two were killed before intervention. It was resolved that Awkuzu had to come and beg; that Awkuzu had to appease our land.
“When some people from Abba that bought land in Ifite Dunu started putting up structures, they started calling it Abba.
I called them and told them it was wrong. We made them realise they are tenants and that we know their history that it doesn’t pay to start making trouble. It was resolved amicably. That is about us. We are at peace with our neighbours.”
A student, Okonkwo Ugochukwu from, Umueze Akwa village, doesn’t know what the name implies. He grew up hearing Ifite Dunu and sometimes hear people call the town Ifite Ukpo but prefer the new name.
‘If it still goes by the name, Ifite Ukpo, I wouldn’t like it because I learnt we were shortchanged in various areas. Get an allocation, it is Ifite Ukpo, when it gets home, my town will be left out.
“It is assumed Ifite Ukpo is under Ukpo. Anything we get now comes to us direct. We are hardworking, enterprising, some people called us, Ifite Okwe nan gbede – because we don’t easily agree to things.
We take the time to examine issues; perhaps too, we tend to rush things at the dying minute. Above all, we peace loving people but a guest or tenant don’t abuse our hospitality.”
Youth Leader, Ifite Dunu Youth Organisation, Ositadinma Nworah, responding on the origin and change of his town’s name said he wasn’t born when the former name was in use but from history, he learnt Ifite Dunu was overshadowed by Ukpo.
“Ifite is a different town from Ukpo but the two names were merged by calling it Ifite Ukpo, and it appears as Ifite who is the second son of Dunu is a village in Ukpo. And for long, to the outside world, it was like that.
“We took it upon us to separate and give proper identification to the two towns. With the name change, when Ukpo is mentioned, it will occur to none indigenes of a different town from Ifite Dunu. The name change enhanced the development of Ifite Dunu.
We all loved the change of name and we are comfortable with it. Whatever that is allotted to us now comes directly to Ifite Dunu. Look at the federal government Skill Acquisition Centre with construction underway in Ifite Dunu, this wouldn’t have happened under our former name, Ifite Ukpo.”