Professor Edward Oparaoji
Amuzi town is a small progressive rural Igbo community, with a population of about 25,000 people, occupying an area of about 12,000 Square meters. It is a component part of a group of clans, under a jurisdiction referred to as Ahiara Ofor-Ise (“ofor” is a revered symbol of justice in Igbo land). Other components of Ahiara Ofor-Ise are: Obodo Ahiara, Obodo Ujuchi, Akabor and Ogwuama (the last three ofors collectively called Ihenweorie). Amuzi is a homogenous community and a unique state with same culture and custom, same language and same traditional belief system – Chineke or Chi.
Saint Jude’s Catholic Church Amuzi (East Side View)
Amuzi is located on a plain terrain with a very simple topography. Every village is accessible by land. There are no natural barriers, no hills, no valleys, no knolls, and no thick forest or swamps. The vegetation is evergreen, the land is arable and the people are traditionally subsistent farmers and traders and are therefore hardworking. They are very competitive by nature.
Amuzi is located West of Ahiara (of Biafra’s Ahiara Declaration), in Ahiazu Local Government Area of Mbaise, in Imo State, Nigeria. It is bound to the North by Owu-bi-na-ubi, Amakohia, Ikeduru L.G.A; to the East by Ogwuama and Obodo Ujich (Ihenweorie)i, Ahiazu L.G.A; to the West by Obibi Nguru in Aboh Mbaise L.G.A; and to the South by Ogwu and Umu-oda Nguru, both in Aboh Mbaise L.G.A.
Amuzi is comprised of two officially recognized kingdoms and 10 clans – Umuchoko (made up of Umu-Odu and Umu-Izugha) and Amuzi (made up of Umu-Ofor, Umo-Owasi, Umu-Nnanwe, Ako-na-Ojibo, Umuhu-na-Umuloghocho, Umu-Ochamoko, Umu-Okoro and Umu-Okazi) kingdoms.
Amuzi had two major markets, Eke Amuzi and Orie Achi, with Eke Amuzi being the more actively patronized and thriving market in the town. Nevertheless, Orie-achi is also becoming a thriving commercial center with retail shops, bars and restaurants and other forms of artisans, springing up.
A view of the Nkwogwu- Ihe Nweorie Road from Saint Jude’s Church- the only tarred road across Amuzi town, but connects to Imo State Airport, which is about 10 minutes away.
RELIGIOUS/BELIEFS: The Community is a 99 percent Christian town (mostly Catholics). History has it that the Amuzi people enthusiastically embraced Catholicism and in 1914, the vibrant delegation of John Heart, Amadi Agim, Oguamanam Atudume, John Nwokedi, Anozie Egwuatu, Onumajuru Egwim and Kemdirim Oparaji, all went to Emekuku to request that Amuzi be granted an out station. The Rev. Fr. O. Walsh posted Mr. Peter Anaelechi to be the first teacher/cathechist that opened an out station in Amuzi. There was regular visitation to Amuzi by the Rev. Father from Emekukwu, until about 1930, when Mbaise was raised to a parish status, now seated at St. Brigid’s, Nnarambia, Ahiara. Despite this, regular visitation continued to Amuzi, with Rev. Fr. Foreman as the Parish priest. The status of Amuzi as a full station attracted a lot of envy and agitation from otherwise bigger neighboring communities and towns. Amuzi became more resolute when they built a befitting Rev. Father’s lodge and so developed the age-long expression “ONABIRI FADA ABIALA AMUZI” dictum, meaning nothing can prevent any ordained priest from coming to Amuzi. This growth continued till today. There are two major churches – the St Jude’s Catholic Church and St Mathew’s Anglican Church. St. Jude’s church Amuzi Parish was officially dedicated on 28th October, 2000, by His Lordship, Bishop Victor A. Chikwe of Ahiara Diocese. It became the third dedicated parish, out of about 150 existing parishes in the area. For the 3rd time since 2009, Amuzi Parish has taken the 1st position as the best church built in Ahiara Diocese. Every October 28th of the year is marked with a huge celebration of St. Jude, only rivaled by that of Christmas. Amuzi has produce 21 catholic priests, 32 nuns and counting, a testament to their strong catholic faith.
The Anglican Church has made tremendous impact and positive contributions to the growth of Amuzi. From a humble beginning and a small population, the Anglican Church has developed into a Parish with very strong foundation laid by a highly dedicated membership. Notable individuals who brought the Anglican faith and threw in everything at their disposal – time, energy, money, materials, etc., to ensure the church stood firm and deep rooted, included Madam Mary Ejereonyeoku, who was the trail-blazer in the fight. Others include, Chief Ohanu Ejereonyeoku, Pa Mathias Opara, Jonathan Abara, Abraham Iherire, Festus Okoronkwo, James Ugwudi Oparah, Arisukwu, Gakwe, Oparaugo, Nwachukwu Iri, Igbokwe Iri, etc. The St. Mathew’s Church, Amuzi, had taken off and provided the needed foundation for transformation and peaceful co-existence.
There are a handful of smaller churches peopled by the new Pentecostal faithful. A slight number of Igbo traditional religion worshippers and atheists can still be traced in the community.
Amuzi has a big Secondary school established in 1962 by community efforts – Amuzi Community Grammar School. The school has produced many giants in academia, diverse industries, engineering, medicine, religious, business, commerce, etc. There are other private secondary schools in Amuzi and these have contributed in no small measure to the growth and development of education in Amuzi. These include:-
Blessed Lamb Commercial School
Central Commercial Academy (CCA) Amuzi
Mid-Town Institute, Amuzi and
St. Michael Commercial/Vocational School, Amuzi.
Amuzi Community Grammer School
Amuzi also has many private and public primary schools and these have laid solid foundation and formation of many Mbaise sons and daughters, in various fields of endeavors. They include:-
St Jude’s (Central school) Amuzi, established in 1927
Holy Rosary (Community school)
C.M.S (Group school)
St Jude’s nursery school, Amuzi and a handful of other small private schools.
As a result of their commitment to education, Amuzi has produced Professors, Scientists, Doctors, Architects, Lawyers, Pharmacists, Nurses, Engineers, Authors, Accountants, and leaders in public and private sectors, serving all over the world.
Amuzi is informally governed by a town Union – The Amuzi progressive Union (APU): It is the highest institution vested with the administration of the town, in co-operation with other institutions. The idea for the formation of the Amuzi Progressive Union (APU) was first proposed by late Mr. Cyril S. Ogu of Umuokoro, Amuzi, at an informal meeting of Amuzi sons, in 1946. This great meeting had in attendance Messrs. Boniface N. Igbokwe (Umuofor); Jacob Ugochukwu (Umuofor); J.A. Dozie and Michael O. Ajaero (both from Umuokisi). On the 26th of December, 1951, the first written constitution of APU was drawn by these eminent Amuzi sons, with Paul Mbanu Ekechukwu (Umuofor) as President and Late Nze L.M. Ndugbu as Secretary. These founding fathers and patriots thus became the pathfinders and pivot on which the APU stood firmly to cater for the affairs and general welfare of Amuzi Community till date. The current President-General of APU is Chief Dominic Echeibe.
AMUZIANS IN POLITICS OR FEDERAL SERVICE:
Many of Amuzi sons, right from the 1950s, ventured into Federal and State bureaucracies and they have occupied many enviable positions. They have been proven to be very diligent, conscientious, disciplined and wholly committed to their duties. At the last count, Amuzi has produced over 300 Directors, in State and Federal Services, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Service
Notable today are: Professor Viola Onwuliri – Nigeria’s Minister of State, Foreign Affairs; Engr. John Chukwu – Permanent Secretary, Federal Capital Territory; Chief Felix Chukwu – Board Chairman – Federal and Road Safety Commission. Late Professor Celestine O. E. Onwuliri – served as Commissioner in two separate departments for Imo State and also a former Vice Chancellor (President) of one of Nigeria’s most renowned universities – Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). He also served as the immediate past Supreme Subordinate President, KSJI, representing Nigeria. Dr. Mrs. Agatha Ndugbu (OON) – A former Head of Service of Imo State, who has contributed in no small measure to the upliftment of Amuzi and its people. Mbaise Wikipedia describes this next Amuzian thus “….. Nigeria is today a democratic nation, thanks to the untiring and courageous fight of our Mbaise son, Professor Edward Oparaoji, who as a US-based National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Chieftain and Chairman, Nigerian Democratic Awareness Committee (NDAC), facilitated the transfer of power from the Nigerian military to elected civilians. Professor Oparaoji faced down Nigeria’s worst dictator, General Sani Abacha, at the height of his oppressive regime ….”
AMUZI AND PATRIOTISM:
There have been established in Amuzi, functional scholarships and foundations for educational advancement by Amuzians for Amuzi citizens. These include: ECUDOMEF (Eze Cletus and Ugoeze Dorothy Oparaoji Memorial Education Foundation) , The Nze Daniel Nkwocha Education Foundation, The Nneji foundation and The Jacob Ugochukwu Foundation. All these and more have ensured that an underprivileged Amuzi child gets the best education and remains on top.
SPORTS AND RECREATION IN AMUZI:
Amuzians love all kinds of sports and entertainment. They are especially fanatic when it comes to soccer. There are always healthy soccer competitions between schools, villages, towns and even states. The youths take pride in showing their prowess. To encourage this healthy exercise and competition, several Amuzians have established awards/trophies for the Amuzi youths to compete on. Trophies with financial redemption to winners in the past have been established by Barrister Chinedu Iwuji, Late Prof. COE Onwuliri, Prof. Edward Oparaoji, etc.
Traditional rulership of Amuzi has evolved over time. The institution is the custodian of culture and the first step in the adjudication of disputes before they get to the customary courts. The first recorded traditional ruler from Amuzi was Eze (King) Cyril Akagbulem Unamka- Eze Ntuala 1, MBE, OBE (The first Paramount Ruler of Mbaise and Life President of Mbaise County Court), then followed by Eze (King) Cletus Oparaoji- Eze-Oha 1. The succession to Eze Oparaoji became controversial until recently when another autonomous community (Umuchoko) was carved out of the former Amuzi kingdom. The two autonomous communities are now ruled by Eze (king) Okoronkwo (a medical practitioner) and Eze (king) Innocent Ugochukwu (a philanthropist), respectively.
THE MODERN AMUZI:
Amuzi citizens believe in doing for self rather than wait for or depend on government. It has provided for her citizens the necessities of life, like electricity, clean water, good healthcare etc. Many in government civil service now decide to live in the community and commute to work in the nearby towns, instead of living there.
Amuzi is a beautiful community, whose citizens strive to work together for same goals, are proud of every little achievement. This single fact is the reason Amuzi friends and neighbors cannot resist the urge to declare that “Amuzi Nwere madu.” All the neighboring towns and others in Mbaise and Imo State testify that “Amuzi is indeed a blessed town, whose palm kernel has been cracked by the benevolent spirits.” The beauty of Amuzi could not be possible without the grace of God Almighty and the contributions of its great sons and daughters.