INTER-GROUP RELATIONS OF MBANO IN IMO STATE, NIGERIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURS, 1906 TO 2006
Inter-group relation is not an entirely new field in historiography. Scholars of different backgrounds have expressed divergent views on changes that have occurred in this area of study. Investigations and findings on the theme differ from epoch to epoch. Historically, social, political, cultural and economic considerations, account for changes in the nature and form of inter-group relations in human society. Igbo culture, custom, tradition, and belief systems are dynamic and heterogeneous. Facts of history contribute either to a hostile or harmonious relationship among individuals or groups. The Mbano of Imo State, South-eastern Nigeria appears to enjoy some peaceful and harmonious relationship with their neighbours, through their social interactions and economic relations, especially, through cultural festival, marriage, trade and agriculture, though not without occasional skirmishes. Given the nature of their relationship, this study investigates the factors at play in the society in the face of growing conflict in Igboland and Nigeria at large. Two factors account for the changes in the contour and dynamics of relations between the people. These inter-alia include colonial rule in the area beginning from 1906-1960 and the Nigeria-Biafra war, 1967-1970. The study examines the issues intrinsic in the changes brought by the two episodes to the form of relationship existing between Mbano and its neighbours. It therefore argues that common claim to history, ancestry and cultural ties account largely for the mutual relationship existing between the people, the impact of the two episodes notwithstanding. The work concludes that, in spite of the marked changes wrought on the society mainly through colonial administrative reorganisation, Western education, Christianity and the Nigeria-Biafra war, the people have maintained mutual relationship as people that share common ancestry. They have also continued to emphasize umune as a bond of unity among them and their neighbours. The cordiality of relationship between the people demonstrates the Igbo saying that, indeed, ‘peoples’ neighbours are their brothers/sisters’ -‘agbata obi madu wukwa umunne ha’. The method adopted in the study combines both descriptive and historical narrative. Qualitative research methodology was used in the re-interpretation and analysis of verifiable information collected from different sources. The approach was interdisciplinary and presentation of findings was both chronological and thematic.