Auchi is the headquarters of Etsako west local government. The town is also regarded as the administrative capital of the Afemai region of Edo north and the Edo north senatorial district of Nigeria. It is bounded to the north by by Jattu, to the south by Aviele, to the east by Sabo-Iyakpi, and to the west by Owan local government area and is the seat of the Auchi Polytechnic Auchi. The town is unique, being one of the major links between the north and southern part of the country.
The study area and its environs fall into the Guinea savannah vegetation belt of southern Nigeria. The vegetation here is prominently made up of sparsely distributed trees, herbs, shrubs, and grasses. Socially, spatially and economically. Auchi is one of the fastest-growing towns in Nigeria especially due to the fact that it is a local government, regional and senatorial district headquarter and given the presence of a federal institution of learning (The polytechnic).
The institution has remained the major pull factor for the many people coming to live, work and study in Auchi annually.
In addition, Auchi is accommodative, and has the standard for any foreign demand. Auchi is also regarded as one of the most peaceful town and urban area in Nigeria. this is based on the fact that it is very rear to received any security treat report in the town. The reason behind this is that Auchi as a community has its own security, the security members are refers to Vigilante which has five (5) zonal body. this zonal body is based on the five major district or zones in Auchi.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF AUCHI
According to history, the people of Auchi originated from the ancient Benin kingdom. A prominent hunter and an idol worshiper named Uchi founded Auchi. He migrated with his son as a result of a fierce battle between the Oba’s army and the people of Udo, for their refusal to pay their tributes to the Oba. This was during the reign of Oba Ozalua between the years 1481 and 1500.
Uchi and his sons arrived and settled where “Uchi market’’ is situated today. The five communities in Auchi were named after the sons and in other of seniority; they are Igbei Ogu-Usogun Quarter, Ekpe-Akpekpe Quarter, Otse-Aibotse Quarter Quarter, and Iyiekhei Quarter. On the death of their father Uchi, they spread and expanded to their present day locations, Igbe to the East, Usogun to the west, Akpekpe to the north, Aibotse to the North-east and Iyekhei to the Southern part of the town.
Their original home Uchi was left for meetings and market known as Uchi market and to discuss other vital issues affecting the community. Auchi assumed the administrative headquarters of what was formerly known as Kukuruku or Afenmai division until it was divided into Etsako, Akoko Edo and Owan division and Auchi remain the headquarters of Etsako West Local Government where we have Uzairue, Ibie and Agbede. Due to its vantage position and the influx of strangers into the community since the Edo State government granted it an Urban Status in 1978.
Auchi as a clan is made of 25 villages. They are: Egelesor, Idaniyeluwa, Oki, Ughidane, Utsogun, Omemi, Okhuali, Oluedide, Aimanesi, Igiebor, Okilukhai, Utsokwili, Iyekei, Igbe, Akharuma, and we still have Otsemeke, Aibotse, Aleogbomi, Idamrace, Isami, Ogwaskhai, Akpekpe, Ikelebe, Iyogagah, and Ozomode.
This made the total of number of 25 villages in Auchi. Although some of them are mere landmass administratively they exist. The quarters/villages are headed by chiefs who represent their people at the Otaru’s (king) palace, where decisions and laws are made to develop the community.
Auchi is essentially a muslim town, but been a cosmopolitan town, most other religion like Christianity, Erkanka, Grail message and polytheism are also been practiced in the town. The people speak the yekhei/etsako version of the afemai language. Auchi today is a commercial town with several thriving businesses owned by indigenes and non-indigenes alike. This probably explains why most banks in Nigeria have a branch in Auchi, the town which is still the head quarter of Etsako west local government area.
LANGUAGE OF AUCHI COMMUNITY
The language spoken by Auchi people is Afemai language Or Etsako language. It is an Edoid language dialect or variant, although the language is commonly referred to by the same Name as the People Auchi.
Auchi has been a major Islamic town having the largest population of Muslim communities in south-south Nigeria. Irrespective of religion, the people live peacefully. The welcoming and hospitable nature of the Auchi people has to a very extent contributed to the culture and religious diversity of the town. Talking about religions, Auchi is also occupied by Christian religion with different denominations.
Below is detailed information about the two major religions in Auchi:
Islamic religion and Arabic education started at Auchi as early as 1897 and took a top rest before Christianity found its way in 1935. This is evidenced by the people being predominantly Muslims. Averagely about Ninety percent (80%) of the native population are Muslims. Mosques are found in every nook and corner of the town for worship. Due to Islamic religion influence in Auchi, It also established in that for anybody to do his manhood celebration, he must have finished reading of the Qur’an, this was established by the current Otaru of Auch, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh Ikelebe III. Most cultural heritage that is not compatible with Islam has been abolished.
Islam in Auchi before the Era of Momoh
This sub-heading may surprise some people in Auchi as the name of Momoh is almost synonymous with the advent of Islam in Auchi. The fact is that Islam was practised in Auchi before the birth of Momoh, though it was practiced then by strangers who were mainly of Nupe, Hausa, Fulani, and Yoruba origins. A few indigenes of Auchi particularly at Aibotse and Igbei also embraced Islam. It should be noted that the Nupe and Hausa settlers lived mainly at Aibotse. This perhaps is the reason why the praying ground lies in Aibotse till this day.
It has never been shifted from that area since the inception of Islam in Auchi. In spite of the fact that the Nupe did not directly Islamize Auchi, the fact remains that interest in Islam and the Islamic revolution which took place in the area subsequently were the result of their Conquest and sociopolitical interaction with the people of Etsako. Nupe mallams also contributed greatly to the islamization process when the people of Ayuele, Auchi, Uzairue, South Ibie and others decided to adopt Islam as a state religion. In view of the above mentioned reality, the role of the Nupe in the islamization of Auchi cannot be brushed aside.
Christian religion is second dominant religion in Auchi after Islam. There are roughly 20 denominations of Christians in Auchi.
Some Auchi sons of the soil have owned top position in different Christian denominations. Example of such are; Chief Reverend Daniel Sule of Anglican Church, Prince Pastor Elijah Momoh of St. Joseph Chosen Church of God and Apostle Johnson Suleiman the general overseer of Omega Fire Ministry.
The people of Auchi have two types of Markets, the Uchi and the Ughelle market Thu Uchi market holds in five days intervals on Emiela Days while the Ughelle market is daily market. In each of the markets, the neighboring towns and villages come to buy their requirements and sell their wares. Auchi is a commercial centre for all the people of Etsako west local Government area, from where they buy all their requirements from the local shops, super market stores and Cooperative stores. There are numerous commercial Banks in Auchi, such as GT Bank, union bank, fidelity bank, access bank, First bank UBA bank etc. these banks serve as centripetal force to draw other communities to its point.
In Auchi, if a boy is between 18 to 20 years of age, it is the duty of the parents to be sure of the boys ability to move with his mates before informing the rest of the family of their intention to initiate the boy into the first cultural steps of manhood celebration called ITSEBA-IGBAMA age group.
The duty of this group was to clean up all the roads leading to the town. The next year this group will move a step forward into another group called ISOMHI-IGBAMA age group whose duty also was to clean round the markets of the town.
Members of this group maintain their status for at least one or two years before they were called upon to celebrate their full manhood age group celebration during the EKHAI ceremony which has now been replaced by the celebration of ED-UL-KADIR festival ( i.e the Muslim festival) before They could then be given their age group name or title by Otaru of Auch. After that, they would then lead or be led for the execution of community programmes.
Auchi is a commercial centre with a population of not less than 42,610 inhabitants as at 1992 (NPC 1992). Auchi assumed the Administrative Headquarters of what was formerly known as Kukuruku or Afenmai Division until the division of Kukuruku into Etsako, Akoko-Edo and Owan divisions of which Auchi remains the Headquarter of Etsaka Local Government Area For its vantage position and the Constant steady inflow of strangers from the surrounding town and villages in 1979 till State Government granted it an Urban area. Auchi is connected with the Eastern States via the express road through Agbor-Unitsho, the Northern States linking the express road through Okene-Lokoja-Abuja, and the Western States by the express road through Ikare-Owo in Ondo to Lagos.
THE NON INDEGENES OF AUCHI LAND
Some of the remnants of the Nupe/Hausa warriors who were residing at Auchi before 1900 moved to form a village called Yelwa-Jattu in Uzairue clan in 19140. These people Nupe/Hausa together with the Yoruba live peacefully with the indigenes and inter-marry. The Igbos first arrived here in 1930 through Uromi in Agbazilo Local Government.
Some of the strangers were conferred with (HONORARY) Chieftaincy tittles to enable them represent their communities in any occasion among Auchi community before land use decree was promulgated in 1978, both strangers and indigenes almost had equal rights to building plots allocation. This is why the stranger elements buildings are about one third of number of the buildings in Auchi today. Strangers also have equal right in other social interaction such as manhood celebration, ownership right and other engagements.
CLIMATE AND VEGETATION
The Auchi area lies within the tropical region characterized by two climatic conditions namely, the rainy season and dry season. Early rainfall in some cases starts from January / February with full commencement of rainy season in March or April and ends in November of each year. The dry season lasts between four to five months. While the rainy season is characterized by heavy thunderstorm that lasts from April to November, the dry season extends from November to March with high temperature and dusty atmosphere known as the harmattan and harmattan haze.
Auchi is located in the equatorial region with average annual maximum temperature varying from 31ºC and average annual minimum from 23ºC, The annual average rainfall is between 2000 mm and 3000 mm with intensity exceeding 75 mmhr-1density of about 25mmhr-1. The high conventional rainfall intensity and the concomitant large volumes of runoff are of significant environmental issue and an important factor in formation of gully in the study area.
The study area and its environs fall into the Guinea savannah vegetation belt. The vegetation here is prominently made up of sparsely distributed trees, herbs, shrubs, and grasses. The land and vegetation cover is mainly used for agricultural purposes i.e. the natural vegetation is being altered and replaced with agricultural crops such as Maize, Groundnut, Cassava, Cashew, Mango, and Sugar cane.
PHYSICAL FEATURES (RELIEF AND DRAINAGE)
The study area undulating landscape is deeply incised by a runoff from upland to the stream valley, where the erosive action of running water is less. The soil in this area is mostly sandy with high iron content. The sands are loose and easily eroded when exposed to erosion.
The location has pockets of valleys and some flat plain areas, the topography (rise and fall) of the land and its undulating surface which is usually prone to erosion and excessive floods makes the common soil type present in Auchi include clay, loamy and sandy soil. The landscape of Auchi is steep with mean elevation of 200 meters. The observed minimum and maximum elevations of town are respectively 110 and 290 meters.
The area been between 150m and 200m above main sea level, these areas consist of the landmass of the polytechnic and the area of 200m above the sea level consist of the government reservation areas (GRA) the land mass around the prison yard and other areas of higher relief. Generally, the town has a very rugged topography. The area is drained by Orle River and few tributaries such as Omemi, Okami, and Awie River. These rivers have their source areas from both flanks of major water divide and contribute to the morphology of the gullies found within the region. (https://www.wikipedia-Auchinet/profile) and Okeke et al (2016).
SOCIO-ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES OF AUCHI
The town of Auchi is a very important settlement in Edo State, it is the second most urbanized city in Edo State, after the state capital, Benin City. The town has been described by many as the fastest growing town in the country.
In the past, the economic mainstay of Auchi was solely agriculture but as they began to gain wider recognition as the administrative headquarters of Etsako west and an institutional town, attention gradually shifted from agriculture into profitable ventures. it is observed that many small scale industries are located to serve the people living in the town. Examples of these industries include marble and block (concrete industry), bakeries, pure water factories others include banks, utilities such as hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, corner shops etc. Apart from industries, economic activities have also increased tremendously, because they serve as a commercial link to all other neighbouring towns and villages in the Afemai and Edo north region of Nigeria.
Notwithstanding, Auchi community is still largely engaged in agricultural production (farming), though still at subsistence level with the age long use of crude implements. Most of the crops grown and marketed in the town are cassava, maize, yam tubers, melons, groundnut, red pepper, tomatoes etc. Fruits include oranges, bananas, mangoes, and pineapples, tangerine. The most common mode of transportation is the motor bike popularly called (okada) and other private transport services which majorly ply inter city transportation, the town could be regarded as a center for academic and social functions, as well as economic activities which sees trade and commerce ranging from small to medium scale enterprises.
Now a household name in Nigeria, Africa and even known to the international academic community, Auchi has become a location for both local and international visitors. The rise in both local and international popularity is not farfetched given the presence of the town’s polytechnic, which has helped to attract students, scholars, businessmen, tourist and people of all works of life to come and settle in one of the fastest growing commercial and cosmopolitan towns of the Niger delta region.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION IN AUCHI
Some parts of Auchi have been seriously devastated due to soil erosion. Example of such are; gully erosion in Inu Umoru street, Suleiman street mini gully erosion, erosion menace from Ibe road to Olele junction and much more.
The federal government of Nigeria through the Nigeria erosion and watershed management project (NEWMAP), Assisted by the World Bank, are now tackling the menace and making fast progress.
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS OF AUCHI PEOPLE
Every area whether rural or urban area has its own culture and tradition, and Auchi is not an exception. It is a community headed by a monarch and the traditional ruler is referred to as the Otaru of Auchi.
The 8th of January is designed as Auchi day. This day was previously called Uchi Day. During this day, they display their cultural heritage and other Islamic activities like the Qur’an competition, Islamic lecture and much more.
Below is the list of Otaru of Auchi till date:
Alhaji aliru H. Momoh (Ikelebe III) 10th Otaru of Auchi (1996-present).
Alhaji A Guruza Momoh, the 9th Otaru of Auchi (1973-1996).
Abubakar Kereemi Momoh, the 8th Otaru of Auchi(1955-1970).
King Momoh Jimah Momoh, the 7th Otaru of Auchi (1945-1955).
King Momoh Idao, the 6th Otaru Auchi (1919-1944).
Ikharo ikelebe, the 5th Otaru of auchi (1905-1919).
Odifili, the 4th Otaru of Auchi (1905).
INSTALLATION OF AN OTARU
Installation of Otaru of Auchi is something that is based on custom and tradition of the land. It is something that majority of Auchi do witnessed due to its relevance.
Within a fortnight to the installation of an Otaru elect, seven age group men in the town are informed. From the seventh day to the installation, the age group men assemble at the Ughelle-Auchi (in Usogun) to perform the Umogbai traditional Rites for the Otaru elect. From that day at every night the age group men will parade round the town with traditional drums and songs for the occasion.
On the eve of the eve of seventh day, the relations of the Otaru elect wtll lead him to do some manual labour for the last time. There, he would be given a hoe and cutlass for the work, and as soon as he has done that of Umogbai tradjtional title, the hoe and the cutlass are taken from him and pointed white and then, he is warned never to handle a hoe and cutlass in his life time again.
On the seventh day, he would be made to sit on the floor where he would be turbaned by Mallams of the family and a Quran and a sword would be presented to him as a symbol of oath. When the drums sound and a consequent appearance of the Otaru, he would then be led to the throne “UDEKPEGHE” by the senior man in the family to sit and address the community before he retires to the house for the rest of the days.
INSTITUTIONS IN AUCHI
Auchi being the Local Government Headquarters of Etsako West, is home to:
- Auchi Polytechnic
- Nigerian Army School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
- Edo Fertilizer Milling Plant (commenced operation in June 2017
- Female correctional service
- Zenith Bank
- Access Bank
- Eco Bank
- First Bank
- Fidelity Bank
- Union Bank
- Skye Bank
- Unity Bank
- Uchi Microfinance Bank
Based on the history and other relevant information on Auchi, there is no doubt that Auchi sacred kingdom inventory is mind blowing. As such, there is need for any born indigene of Auchi to learn more about the community as well as showcasing the beauty about Auchi community.
Owing to the argument about the origin of the people of Auchi, this article gives a clear explanation about the origin and subsequent Islamization of the town. Auchi exist long before the arrival of the Nupes. The inordinate ambition of many people to become rich by trafficking human beings had inspired the Nupes and the Hausas to go abroad for new advantages. However is noted till date that they (the Nupes) played a major role in the Islamization of Auchi town which still exist till date.
Auchi has a great influence on Afemai land and produced many influential people both in politics and in education, as well as religion.
In view of this, there is no doubt that Auchi will become more influential has the days go by.
We do hope to see more documentation is related from Auchi.