Background to the Study
Study of pre-colonial and colonial African society emphasise isolation and the general hostilities of one ethnic group or polity against the other. Existing colonial literature in their assessments of Africa wrongly classified pre-colonial and colonial African indigenous communities as immobile, stagnant and averse to change. It is to be stressed that in pre-colonial Africa, inter-relations were not caste-like or closed. Rather, there existed amalgams of proximate towns and community groups that related through various ways. The fulcrum of this study, Mbano in Igboland, is one case in point. Igboland is a territory in the south-eastern part of Nigeria, surrounded by such landmarks as the Cross River at the foot of the Cameroon Mountain in the east, the Kukuruku Hills in the west, the Benue River, and the great Atlantic Ocean in the Bight of Biafra in the south. Most significantly, Igboland lies on the plain near the delta of the famous Niger River .
Igboland has at its northern and northeastern borders, the Igala and the Idoma; in the west, the Edo; the Ijo in the south and the Ibibio in the east. Igboland includes the present Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo states and some parts of Delta, and a large part of what is today called Rivers State. In fact, Port Harcourt, by the Colonial Land Commission of 1952, was confirmed as in Igboland . These different groups have had one form of interaction or another, especially in the area of economic pursuits, social-cultural and political relations. These relations, which go way back in history, manifest through marriages, cultural festivals and activities, and also wars. The interactions have been peaceful most times and hostile at other times. On inter-group relations, Afigbo argues that different Nigerian ethnic and cultural groups sought through their richly varied traditions of origin and migrations and through accounts of the rise and expansion of their socio political system, to preserve, inter–alia, their perceptions of the relationships which existed between them and their neighbours. In fact, relations among the Igbo have always been based on some factors either relating to common historical origins, ancestry or to a common language, tradition, and custom, religion, belief system, trade and festivals, among others. These factors tend to bind people closely together but can also lead to war. Wars are in themselves a form of inter-group relations. Most communities in Igboland came into contact through different movements, for instance, the Awka-Orlu movement in which people migrated and settled in different areas. The Mbano people and their neighbours, the focus of this research, have benefited in the course of their socio-political, economic and cultural activities. Mbano is found in Imo State. It appears to be the only community that shares boundaries with communities in Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri that constitute the three Geo-political zones of Imo State. Mbano is centrally positioned in Imo state, and is something of the Igbo heart land. The area embraces Isiala and Ehime Mbano local government areas. Geographically, Mbano occupies an expanse of land of more than 205.30 square kilometers. It is located approximately between latitudes 7 and 8 E4 . The map below shows the location of the area of study in Imo State.