THE NRI KINGDOM
Eze Nri, Nri Enwelana II, Obidiegwu Onyeso
NRI KINGDOM is the oldest Kingdom in Nigeria. It was founded around 900AD by the progenitor, Eri, the son of Gad. According to biblical accounts, Jacob had Leah as his wife who begot four sons for him. When Leah noticed she had passed child-bearing age, she gave her maid – servant, Zilpah to Jacob to wife, and through Zilpah he had a son named Gad. Gad then bigot Eri, who later formed a clan known as Erites vide Genesis Chapter 30 verse 9; 46 verse 16 and Numbers chapter 26 verses 15-19. Eri was therefore amongst the twelve tribes of Israel via Gad.
During their stay in Egypt Eri became the high priest and spiritual adviser to Pharaoh Teti, the fifth dynastic king of Egypt around 2400 BC.
During the Exodus, which marked the beginning of the mass movement of the tribes of Israel, the tribe of Eri was amongst the tribe that left Egypt following the injunction from God to the Israelites (see Deuteronomy chapter 28 verses 58 – 68). Some of these tribes founded settlements in the southern part of Sudan, where they established the “Nok” culture, which is similar to that of other (sun Cult) culture, like Nri, Fiji, Samoa, and Jukun in the Northern part of Nigeria and elsewhere. But others who could not remain in the Southern Sudan traveled further South, some branched off to Jukun, in Northern part of Nigeria, others continued and arrived at the confluence of Rivers Niger and Anambara known as “Ezu-na-Ọmambala” and settled there while some veered off to the Island of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. An intelligence report notes that the Fijians have the same sun culture with the people of Nri.
When Eri arrived at the confluence of “Ezu-na-Ọmambala” he had two wives, namely Nneamakụ and Oboli, Nneamakụ begot five children, namely (a) Nrifikwuanịm-Menri being the first son (b) Agụlụ (c) Ogbodudu (d) Onogu and (e) Iguedo the only daughter. Oboli begot Ọnọja, the only son who founded the Ịgala Kingdom in Kogi State. Meanwhile, Nri-Ifikwuanịm begot Agụkwu Nri, Enugwu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Agidi, Nọfịa, and Amọbia, while his brother Ogbodudu who later became Nrinaoke N’Ogbodudu had founded the Diodo Dynasty, while his brother Ezikannebo founded Akamkpịsị and Amanuke. Onogu Begot Ịgbariam, while Iguedo, the only daughter, begot Ogbunike, Ọkuzu, Nando, Ụmụleri, and Nteje, Known today as Ụmụ-Iguedo clan, while the former are better known as Ụmụ-Nri clan. According to Nri Oral tradition recently substantiated by archaeological findings of Ọraeri/Igbo-Ukwu objects, the unification of Agukwu, Diodo, and Akamkpịsị was enacted constitutionally during the beginning of reign of Nribụife (AD 1159 – 1252) who was the first Eze Nri to observe the Ịgụ-Arọ Festival as a pan – Igbo affair in 1160AD (Prof. M.A. Ọnwụejeọgwu 2003).
Nri-Ifikwuanịm took after his progenitor Eri, and became a high priest among his people. He left Agụleri in search of a better living place, according to Mr. M.D.W. Jeffreys report, and settled at present Nri site. He started performing what Eri did at Egypt, cleansing of abominations, giving titles such as prestigious Ọzọ title, to his people, proclaiming the New Year (Ịgụ-Arọ) etc.
ỊGỤ-ARỌ: Ịgụ-Arọ is an annual festival of the Nri people. It is during this festival that Eze Nri proclaims the New Year to all the Igbo communities under his jurisdiction, and he then announces the Nri calendar to the people. The Nri calendar is made up of thirteen (13) Lunar months .
What many historians seem to skip is the influence of Nri on Benin's Igu'Oba.