Against the background of scholarly debates and controversies on the subject, this micro study critically examines the much generalized and romanticized influence of the great Benin Kingdom on state formation among the west Niger Igbo. It thereby sets out to fill the gap in the historiography of state formation in the area, with the Kingdom of Ubulu-Ukwu as a case study. The study adopts the historical method of description and analysis, hinged on a chronological framework to posit the Nri-Awka area as the source of the initial stimulus for the peopling, kingship and title systems of Ubulu-Ukwu. It argues that relations with Benin were stimulated by Benin’s needs for the vital services for which Ubulu-Ukwu was famous. These included the security of Benin coronations and the mystical protection of the Oba’s throne, state regalia and the magical paraphernalia necessary for his vitality and rejuvenation. Ubulu-Ukwu, being dynamic, through adaptation and emulation, effected adjustments to its monarchical system. Thus the Benin factor in political and cultural developments at Ubulu-Ukwu was not the result of conquest and imposition, despite a mid-18th century war between the two polities. The study concludes that the tendency to view west Niger Igbo history in the context of Benin domineering military influence and political tutelage which British imperialism encouraged is out of tune with historical reality.
Keywords: Benin kingdom, Nigerian History, Nri-Awka area, State formation, intergroup relations, west Niger Igbo
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