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By Dr. Alex Ukoh
The Aros, other wise known as umuchukwu (children of the supreme God and custodian of the great chukwu of Arochukwu – ibini Ukpabi), are a people whose home base in the city of Arochukwu is the last Igbo settlement before the cross river in the south-eastern region of the area now known as Nigeria. Log before the Portugese and the British arrived at the coast of West Africa, the city-state of Arochukwu had developed into a highly organized and progressive power, supported by a heirarchy of preists and chiefs who were agents of the all-powerful (God), ibini Ukpabi, the Aro God. The Aros were skillful in developing peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, an art which with the influence ibini-Ukpabi sustained the Aro empire which at the time had influence over most of the then Eastern region of Nigeria.
The Aros were highly respected and appreciated within the Igbo and non-Igbo lands of eastern Nigeria. The Aro man was regarded as a sacred being not to be attacked, killed or looted of his merchandise, for such an act against the Aro man brought instant punishment on the perpetrators. Given the protection the Aro man had, from both the influence of ibini-Ukpabi and the Ohafia/Abam warriors, he enjoyed free trade within the region. This resulted in the Aros traveling long distances in varous directions away from their homeland to set up out-posts for trading purposes. Most of the se outposts survived till this day as Aro settlements away from the Aro homeland. These Aro settlements maintained their allegiance to the Aro homeland and to the Eze Aro, who is the supreme leader of all the Aro people, towns and settlements the world over. We the Aros, like the Jews, take great pride in our culture and identity wherever we go. Though we may settle among other cultures away from the Aro homeland, we still maintain our customs and traditions. The Aro state empire unfortunately suffered a devastating setback with the coming of the British which resulted in the Anglo-Aro war in the turn of the century. The mysticism surrounding the ibini-Ukpabi was destroyed by the British army, and the well organized Aro system of government and infrastructure were recklessly dismantled by the British. The Aro empire as we knew it has not since been resurrected. The discipline of collective efforts became replaced with an individuality that has remained since.
As we get ready to move into the 21st century, we have to ask ourselves the pertinent question of whether the present Aro generation is ready to meet the challenges before us. To whom do we look to restore the honor and prestige of the Aros? Today we are beginning to answer this question. As you can tell, the IGBOS in general, we well we the Aros have since the Biafran war remained fragmented. The Northerners have their zumuta which deals with the affairs of the Northerners; the Yorubas have their Egbe Omo Oduduwa, which deals with Yoruba empowerment and welfare, but we the Aros and the IGBOS have before now found it hard to from a united umbrella organization to deal with our welfare, economic and political empowerment. The world Igbo congress is now three years. Thank God for that.
Fortunately, today the Aros appear to be back in their progrssive and enlighening mode. We have taken the lead today in forming this All Aro umbrella organization to which every local Aro organization in the diaspora MUST belong. We are once again leading the way in sounding the wake-up alarm to our Igbo brothers and sisters that unifying under a national/international umbrella is a doable project. I salute you all my brothers and sisters for your meeting of the minds to make this a reality.
Now we have succeeded in pulling this wonderful taks off, what do we do with it? Do we structure it as a social feel-good, food-eating, beer-drinking vehicle? Hell no. Do we use it as a vehicle to resuscitate the Aro state for the benefit of All Aros – both Aro Ulo and Aro Uzo? You bet. How do we go about achieving this? The answer my brethren lies in the eight point agenda set forth by Mazi S. O. Onwukwe, a distinguished Aro elder, and an authority in the history of the Aro people. In his narrative titled "Rise and Fall of Arochukwu Empire" (from 1400 to 1902), he develops what he describes as the perspective for the 21st century. I find this eight point program as relevant today as they were the time he developed them. My brethren as a guide for us to deal with the tasks ahead of us, I am reproducing Mazi Onwukwe’s visionary and foresighted eight point program toward the revival of the Aro State:
If we and future Aro generations can implement the above visions by Mazi Onwukwe, we would be on our way once again to reviving our beloved Aro state. Walk tall and be proud of our heritage. We should not allow petty politics and interpersonal conflicts to derail our resolved today to move the Aros into a higher dimension. If we all work together, we succeed together. If we bicker among ourselves, we fail together. And if we fail, we would have done a great disservice to future Aro generations. Long live Aro people. Long live Eze Aro.