Aro Confederacy (1690-1902) was a political union
orchestrated by the Igbo subgroup, the
Aro people, centered in Arochukwu in present day Southeastern Nigeria.
influence and presence was distributed across Eastern Nigeria into
parts of the Niger
Delta and Southern Igala during the
18nth and 19nth centuries. It is claimed that their influence
extended through parts of present-day Cameroon and Equatorial
Guinea. The Arochukwu Kingdom was an economical, political, and an
oracular center as it was home of the powerful Long Juju oracle, High Priests, the Aro King
Eze Aro, and Chiefs.
Confederacy of Arochukwu expanded with alliances with several
related Igbo and eastern Cross River State neighbors.
Several large families of the
began slave trading activities
lands. Among many of the ethnic groups
of eastern Nigeria, anyone who enters a shrine and begs the deity
of the shrine for help instantly becomes an osu
called a "juju slave"), a slave of the shrine and a social outcast.
The priests of the Ibini Ukpabi oracle (also known as the Long Juju
Shrine), popular in midwest and southeast Nigeria, exploited this
in order to force travelers and pilgrims into slavery. Agents of
the oracle would pose as bandits and chase their victims into the
shrine, hoping they would beg the intervention of the god and
, so the priests could then sell them off for
As this continued, Aro businessmen from Arochukwu migrated across
southern Nigeria and also to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and
founded numerous settlements. There they spread the Aro trading
The Confederacy Era
activity became very popular as coastal Niger Delta city-states became important centers for the export
of slaves. Such city-states included Opobo, Bonny, Brass, Calabar, as well as
other slave trading city-states controlled by the Ijaw, Efik, and Igbo.
The Aros formed a strong trading
network and incorporated hundreds of communities that formed into
powerful kingdoms. The Ajalli
, and Bende
Kingdoms were the most powerful Aro
states in the Confederacy after Arochukwu. Some were founded and
named after Commanders and Chiefs like Izuogu Mgbokpo
whom led Aro forces to destroy and conquer Ikpa
and founded Arondizuogu.
In the late 19th century, European colonists moved into Igboland.
Royal Niger Company of Britain bore friction with the Aros because of their
alleged human sacrifice, trading
network, and economic control of the hinterland.
was threatened with Europeans pressuring their territory and
populations and with Christian
missionaries like Mary Slessor
led to a war known as the Anglo-Aro
which began in 1901 with an Aro invasion of
British-controlled city of Obegu
. The British
retaliated with the Aro Expedition and repeated invasions on the
Arochukwu Kingdom, resulting in its collapse in 1902.
Contrary to the belief that the Ibini Ukpabi was destroyed, the
shrine still exists, and is intact in Arochukwu and serves mainly
as a tourist site.