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The Rugged Spirit of Nwa 02 Onitsha: Embracing Identity with Pride

The Rugged Spirit of Nwa 02 Onitsha

Have you noticed that there is something about people born or raised in Onitsha? Or will I start by asking this: have you met Nwa 02 or “Nwa otu”? And what do you think about him?

While some may perceive this label as degrading, the people of Onitsha wear it as a badge of honor. They embrace their distinctiveness.

Let’s delve into the essence of the rugged spirit and unwavering pride exhibited by Nwa 02.

Nwa 02: Defying Stereotypes

Identifying with Onitsha is stereotypical. While some will believe that you are uncouth, others would conclude that you are uncivilized.

Sometimes, when Nwa 02 speaks without a thick accent or when they possess a gentle disposition, strangers normally make this remark: ‘You don’t behave like someone raised in Onitsha.’

Those strangers offer those words as compliments. Nevertheless, Nwa 02 doesn’t wear the flattery as a crown. He knows his strength is in his root. And that’s why, when an Onitsha ‘brought up’ triumphs over a challenge, he would boldly proclaim, “Fa amaro an m bu m Nwa 02!” (Meaning: They do not know that I was raised in Onitsha.)

This shows their refusal to be separated from their roots – even when others may attempt to distance them.

Onitsha: A City of Resilience

Many people, including non-resident Igbos, often wonder how Onitsha residents navigate the city’s unique environment. Onitsha has long been recognized for its roughness. But before the rise of social media, it was known as the most conservative and religious among the major towns in Igboland. While Main Market and Upper Iweka are widely known, Onitsha’s legacy also includes the renowned “Onitsha market literature” and esteemed educational institutions such as DMGS, CKC, and QRC, which have contributed to the city’s literary and academic reputation.

Onitsha’s Contributions and Accomplishments

Meanwhile, Onitsha has been home to numerous first-generation Igbo billionaires. These include Chief Ilodibe (Ekene Dili Chukwu)Sir Joe Nwankwu, G.M.O Chikeluba, Igwe Walter Eze, C.T Onyekwelu, and C.O. The city hosts the oldest Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals in the South-East region, as it served as the entry point for Christian missionaries who ventured into the Igbo hinterland.

Onitsha has also been a trailblazer in fashion, supplying the entire country with foreign styles and establishing its residents as expert knotters. Additionally, Onitsha’s sporting achievements include Nigeria’s first Commonwealth gold medal and CKC’s distinction as the first secondary school World Champions in football. In the academic realm, Onitsha excelled within the former Anambra state.

Embracing Identity and Resilience

Regardless of any criticisms directed towards Nwa 02, their unyielding spirit remains unshaken. They embrace the quote, “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”

In Onitsha, there’s even a local saying that encapsulates this sentiment: “Kupu Nti Zaa Isi,” which encourages disregarding external judgments and embracing pride in one’s heritage.

Nwa 02: An Attitude of Pride

Being Nwa 02 extends beyond a mere label. It’s an ingrained attitude within the individuals who proudly identify as such. They are undeterred by whether someone is from Abuja or Lagos, as they profoundly understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Just like Nwa 02, it would be wonderful if people took pride in their communities, just as there is a popular saying in Aba: “Aba ma ndi Aba” (Aba knows Aba people).


The Rugged Spirit of Nwa 02 Onitsha exemplifies a remarkable sense of identity and pride. These individuals defy stereotypes and embrace their uniqueness with unwavering determination. From their resilient character to their contributions in various fields, the people of Onitsha have carved a distinctive place in Nigerian society. Let us celebrate the rugged spirit of Nwa 02 and appreciate the significance of pride in one’s heritage.

Ozii Baba, a TedX Speaker, is an Onitsha-based storyteller and social entrepreneur. He works directly with children and young people.

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