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Mbaise is a region and a people located in Imo State, southeastern Nigeria. Set in the heart of Igboland, it includes several towns and cities. The name "Mbaise" was derived from five cities: Agbaaja, Ahiara, Ekwereazu, Ezi na Ihite and Oke Uvuru. The area of Mbaise (the three Local Government Areas) is about 404 km²: Aboh Mbaise (185 km²), Ahiazu Mbaise (111 km²), Ezinihitte Mbaise (108 km²). The Mbaise Slogan is Seat of Sages.
The people are Igbo. About 90% Catholics, while Protestants and other religions comprise the remaining amount.
The Nkwotile dance (rump dance) is common in Mbaise. This is the chance used for celebrating the annual yam festival and for propitiating the yam god Ajoku (Ahanjoku). This dance has been modified over the years to ekpe, mmanwu (masquerade), Iroko, ekereavu, abigbo to mgba (wrestling). Other music and dances include: "A gbachaa E kuru Nwa", Alija, Edere, Egwu Onu Nwa, Ekwirikwe Mgba, Ese, Nkelenke, Nkwa Ike, Nkwa Udu, Ogbongelenge, Uko etc.
There are also numerous socio-political titles which feature prominently in Mbaise just like in other parts of Igboland. The titles include: Eze (king), Nze, Okenze, Ozo, Duru, Durunze, Ezeji (yam lord) and more. Some famous Eze and chiefs in Mbaise include, Eze Ambrose Waturuocha Eze Udo IV of Nguru Nwekeoha, Late Eze Pius Oguledo Nwoga of Umuokirika, Ekwereazu, Late Eze Alphonsus A Ezeh (Nkwo of Onicha NweNkwo), Late Eze F. U. Anyanwu (Igwe Akajiaku of Ekwerazu and Odozi Obodo I of Mpam, founder FUASON Industries Ltd), Late Eze R. O. Ekenna (Obizie of Obizi), Late Eze Onyeahialam (Eze of Obodo Ujichi autonomous community in Ihenweorie),late chief sir Geoffrey Onukogu(former president general Ezinihitte Development Association EDA), Chife P. E Madu of Amuzi, Eze Donatus O. Eke (Eze of Akabor in Ihenweorie), Eze Cyril Akagbulem Unamka, Eze Nwabueze Ugorji. Remembering the notable warrant chiefs that governed the land during the colonial rule are Chief Waturuocha of Nguru(The first paramount chief in Mbaise), chief Koko Njoku Ariaha of Obodo Ujichi, Chief Unamka of Amuzi and others.
The Mbaise people have festivals which attract both locals and foreign tourists - the Iwa Akwa, "Oji-mbaise" (kolanut festival) and the wildly politicized "Iri-Ji-Mbaise" (the New Yam Festival). The "Iri Ji" ceremony is celebrated on August 15 every year.
Before 1902, when the Aro expedition was carried out by the British Colonial powers to subdue the Aro slave trading oligarchy, Mbaise had not come under British rule. But by 1906, at the conclusion of the operation, the present day Mbaise consisting of the three Local Government Areas (Aboh, Ahiazu & Ezinihitte) was effectively brought together under British control while leaving in place a semblance of local authority.
To keep the whole clan under effective supervision, a native court was established at Obohia in 1907 but pressure from the likes of Chief Nwaturuocha of Nguru caused the transfer of the court to Nguru in 1909. In 1929, the Nguru court was destroyed as a result of the Igbo Women's War. Sectional courts were subsequently opened in Obohia, Itu, Ife and Enyiogogu in response to the increasingly popular "Home Rule" movement of the 1930s. The coming together of the people under a common political and administrative unit was secured in 1941. By 1945 councils had been formed based loosely on blocs of autonomous communities. The group councils and their number of autonomous communities recognized in Mbaise were: Ezinihitte - 16; Agbaja - 7; Oke-Uvuru - 4; Ekwerazu - 6 and Ahiara -6 (source: Ekechi 1989:179) A few more autonomous communities have been created in the past few years. It was from councils that the three local Governments were created. Ahiazu LGA was a merger of Ahiara and Ekwerazu councils and Aboh LGA was a merger of Oke-Ovoro and Agbaja councils. Ezinihitte remained by itself except for the secession of two small villages - Isu Obiangwu and Umuohiagu which joined Ngor-Okpala from the Agbaja area in Mbaise.
Mbaise's population today is in excess of 1 million people. Subsistence farming still accounts for a major part of the occupation. Yams, cassava, palm fruits, vegetables and fruits are the main agricultural products. However since the end of the Biafra/ Nigerian civil war, the quest for improved standard of living, academic excellence and the crave for enterprise have helped an unprecedented boost in the fortunes of Ndi Mbaise. Mbaise boasts of legions of doctors, lawyers, public administrators, educators, artists, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs. Mbaise also has one of the highest concentrations of Catholic priest in the world. In addition, some famous ex-priests hail from the area, among the well-known ones include Eze Enyeribe Onuoha, the current traditional ruler of Umuchieze autonomous community in Ihitteaforukwu and Sylvester Eze Ebisike, a former management consultant and prolific writer and author of numerous books and publications. Ndi-Mbaise are avid travellers and adventurers. There is in progress a large flux to the Americas, Europe and Asia in search of new ideas to bring home.
MBAISE IN THE AMERICAS In 1995/1996, a group of Mbaise people across America began to organize the first truly national umbrella organization for Mbaise people in America. The effort resulted in the American Federation of Mbaise Associations (AFOMA)in 1997. The first set of national officers were: Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji, National Chairman; Dr. Jeff Ohanaja, National Secretary General; Mr. Emmanuel Onyekwere, National Treasurer; and Mr. Reginald Ibe, National Public Relations Officer. At its peak AFOMA had 13 registered affiliate Mbaise groups across America. Over the years AFOMA has given over Fifty Million Naira worth of scholarships to Mbaise Secondary and University students in Nigeria. Others who have served as National Chairmen for AFOMA are Sonny Akpuda (2000–2002), Dr. Anthony Ihunnah (2003–2006), and Attorney Ezenwa Nwogu (2007–2009). Other prominent members of AFOMA are Mr. Damian Ike Ekezie, Dr. Ken Okorie, Mrs. Adaeze Chidinma Nwosu-Schaefer, Dr. Chima Korieh, Mr. Christian Otuonye, Dr. Ndubuisi Ahaghotu, Dr. Stanley Onye, Mr. and Mrs. Ijeoma Ogbuokiri, etc. AFOMA holds a national convention of Ndi Mbaise every year in America, which is rotated around the cities in the US.