The Aros, also known as umuchukwu (children of the supreme God and custodian of the great chukwu of Arochukwu – ibini Ukpabi), are a people whose home base in the city of Arochukwu is the last Igbo settlement before the cross river in the south-eastern region of the area now known as Nigeria. Log before the Portuguese and the British arrived at the coast of West Africa, the city-state of Arochukwu had developed into a highly organized and progressive power, supported by a hierarchy of priests and chiefs who were agents of the all-powerful (God), ibini Ukpabi, the Aro God. The Aros were highly respected and appreciated within the Igbo and non-Igbo lands of eastern Nigeria. The Aro man was regarded as a sacred being not to be attacked, killed or looted of his merchandise, for such an act against the Aro man brought instant punishment on the perpetrators. Given the protection the Aro man had, from both the influence of ibini-Ukpabi and the Ohafia/Abam warriors, he enjoyed free trade within the region. This resulted in the Aros traveling long distances in various directions away from their homeland to set up out-posts for trading purposes. Most of the se outposts survived till this day as Aro settlements away from the Aro homeland. These Aro settlements maintained their allegiance to the Aro homeland and to the Eze Aro, who is the supreme leader of all the Aro people, towns and settlements the world over. We the Aros, like the Jews, take great pride in our culture and identity wherever we go. Though we may settle among other cultures away from the Aro homeland, we still maintain our customs and traditions. The Aro state empire unfortunately suffered a devastating setback with the coming of the British which resulted in the Anglo-Aro war in the turn of the century.
The mysticism surrounding the ibini-Ukpabi was destroyed by the British army, and the well organized Aro system of government and infrastructure were recklessly dismantled by the British. There are over 100 Aro Communities in Nigeria. Until the British firmly established authority in what became Nigeria in 1901, various peoples of Nigeria moved freely and settled in different parts of the country. Some settlements were achieved by peaceful means, others were through a mixture of diplomacy, localized wars and negotiations. Whereas Aro Okporoenyi and Izombe typifies the first category, Aro Ndizuogu and Ndi-Eni (Ndikelionwu, Ndiowu, Ndiokparaeke, Ndiokpalaeze, Ajalli, etc.) are of the second order. Some Aro settlements (communities) within the second order (diplomacy and negotiations) signed away their rights (of conquest) recognized at that time by international law as the strongest right of any nation. Aro Ikwere, Aro Cameroon and Aro Ajalli, among others, have either lost their settlements or are in heated micro-battles with dominant cultures for their independence and sovereignty. The history of the Aros goes back to the Igbo migration and founding of the kingdom of Arochukwu. Before Igbos started arriving in the 17th century, Ibibios lived in many scattered communities between the Imo and Cross Rivers where they arrived through the Benue and plateau area. Population pressure caused Igbo migrations from the north into the Ibibio areas starting in the 15th century. Tensions escalated especially when the last and heaviest phases of migrations occurred in the 17th century. The Aro-Ibibio wars and the migration of the Akpa from east of the Cross River, formed the nation. This began during the turning point of the 17th century to the 18th century. The Igbo and Akpa alliance, defeated the original inhabitant Ibibios after several long years of warfare. By this time, the slave trade was popular in the hinterland. The mid-18th century saw the start of mass migrations of Aro businessmen and slave raiders. Priests of Ibini Ukpabi, spread the religion and the Aro Confederacy was in power. Aro culture and influence spread, until it went into a downfall during the last quarter of the 19th century. This was due to the abolition of slavery and the penetration of the Europeans, mainly British colonists. After tensions finally led to bloodshed, the Anglo-Aro war took place from 1901-1902. This resulted in Aro dominance being drastically decreased enough for British to occupy eastern Nigeria. Not only did the Aro suffer a defeat but a terrible loss of importance and influence throughout the settlements. The Aros have a very rich tradition. One factor is the Ekpe society which is a sacred cult originally from east of the Cross River. The highly religious and judicial cult took a major part in Aro cultism. The use of the writing system, Nsibidi, was based on secret societies like Ekpe. Another is the Ibini Ukpabi shrine, who was a mediating god among the Aros. They influenced neighbors and allies before the British invasion. The shrine was used for selling slaves during the slave trade. The Ekeleke masquerade activity was important in Aro settlements rather than Ekpe. Brought from the Aros in the western Niger Delta, it eventually spread to the Oguta area. They also were known for wearing the popular "George" cloth. The Ikperikpe warrior dance was very famous among warriors in the old days and continues to be practiced. These parts of their culture were borrowed by or influenced their neighbors during the Confederacy era.