Delta History

benfes2ben

HISTORY OF THE DELTA TRIBES OF

URHOBO, ITSEKHIRI, ISOKO & IJAW

 

THE Benin Empire as described by Prof. Philip Igbafe in his Benin Under British administration represented “the unwieldy but fluid empire which was made up of a loose conglomeration of various people’s covering from most of present-day Delta and Edo States to Lagos and beyond. In fact, on a Dutch map drawn in 1705, titled A New and Exact map of Guinea and reprinted in 1907 in English by Sir Alfred Jones KCMG- the founder of the Bank of British West Africa – the name BENIN is shown to designate what may today be called Nigeria South of the Niger and Benue. Other contemporary states on the said map-which now stands for West Africa – from the farthest West, are Melli, Grain Coast, Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, and Slave Coast, and immediately to the West of the Niger, only Great Benin, as a large territory, and Awyi ( Warri) are marked.

 

It should be expected that for a vast community as that, diverse peoples, today’s accounts of its trade dynastic relations, migrations and other bric-a-brac would be different from area to area. However, it remains amazing that certain areas of cultural influence within the old empire remain so strong till today as various ethnic nationalities still talk about them with nostalgic pride: for example, an independent Republic of Dahomey in 1975 decided to change its name to the Republic of Benin; the Itsekiri of Warri , the Igbo of Onitsha and others trace their own highly venerated royal lineages to the Bini link is claimed even as far as the Kalabari Ijaw of Degema in Rivers State.

 

At the heart of this expansive empire was the old Benin Kingdom. What is remarkable about the Old Benin Kingdom is that it was purely an African state whose growth was not stimulated by either Islam or contact with Europe. Like Oyo, Benin was at its greatest before any contact with Europe was ever m a de. Under Oba Ewuare, the Great, 1440-1473, the Kingdom of Benin through conquests from Idah to the North, Owo and Akure to Igboland, West of the Niger, had become an Empire. The Oba gave Benin a strong central government that weakened political factions and intrigues of the chiefs. His constitutional reforms strengthened the Oba against the Uzama and the Palace chiefs. A great and shrewd magician, regarded as a semi-divine monarch, Oba Ewuare gave Benin City the look and status of an imperial metropolis. It was during the time of Ewuare’s reign that the first European, Ruy de Sequeira reportedly visited Benin in 1472, although Michael Crowder argues that it is more likely that the first European, Joao Affonso d’ Aviero’, came to Benin in 1486.             The Political & Spiritual Purpose of the Holy Land

 

It can be said here that Benin attained her greatest glory and splendor under Oba Esigie (1504 -1550) , when her progress in the fields of culture, politics, arts and crafts was immeasurably outstanding. The Oba, according to some English visitors could field t wenty thousand warriors in one day, and up to 100,000 men if necessary”. In 1702, a Dutchman, David Van Nyendal described the richness of the Bini people’s diet (beef, mutton or chickens.) And their neat and ornamental mode of dress. Their craftsmen included metal workers, weavers, wood-carvers and brass-smiths. Edo State, the surviving core of the Old Benin Empire, today, arguably though, claims to be the Heart-Beat of modern Nigeria. Outside the Ogiso dynasty, thirty-eight Obas (Kings) have ruled the Kingdom to date.

 

The legendary fame of the old Benin Empire was widespread and the peoples of Europe heard about, and desired to visit it. Also, it was known before the 15th century that somewhere in the hinterland of the Maghreb, gold was obtained by the Arabs from the Negroes for sale on the European markets.

 

Thus naturally, Europeans wanted to gain direct access to the source of supply and sideline the Arab middlemen. Also, Portugal and Spain were interested in finding a sea-route to India in o rder to avoid trading for Indian goods through Arab intermediaries. These economic motives, plus a desire to extend geographical knowledge and, then possibly, find a Christian king in tropical Africa as an ally in the struggles against Islam led Prince Henry of Portugal, the navigator, to launch expeditions to sail beyond the West Coast of Africa to discover a new route to India. Aided by the Papal Bulls of the 1450s, which had secured their rights to the African Coasts, the Portuguese had by 1480, completed their exploration of the West Coast and were able to settle down to its fruits “mainly in gold from Mina and peppers from Benin.

 

As mentioned above, the real motive for the missionary work in tropical Africa was the desire to find a Christian king to become all ally in the struggle against Islam. The crusades (1096 -1453) were undertaken in Europe in order to recapture the Holy Land of Jerusalem from the infield Turks who had occupied it from 7th century. These expedition having failed, most parts of Europe were traumatised, and quite naturally, the Christian nations needed allies outside Europe. Then came the reports about the fame, size and power of the Benin Empire. And if the Portuguese were to make any headway in West Africa, Benin City, the centre of the empire, was to be the take-off point.

 

Thus Benin became the centre-piece of the missionary strategy of the Portuguese. Unfortunately, their priests rather than settle amongst the Benin people and learn their language and customs were instructed to convert the Oba and make him decree the Catholic Faith as the religion of his realm as Emperor Constantine did in the Fourth Century Roman Empire. But the Oba’s position as head of the cultic life of his people, and one they regarded as divine guaranteed the failure of the Portuguese missionary strategy.

 

However, Oba Esigie in an effort to spread Christianity in his realm sent Ohen -Okun, the Olokun priest at Ughoton, as an ambassador to the king of Portugal to ask him to send priests to Benin to teach him and his people about the Christian Faith. He also allowed churches to be built in the city at Ogbelaka, Idumwerie and Akpakpava.. The last-named being the Holy Cross Cathedral” site. The Oba and the King of Portugal exchanged valuable gifts and a Portuguese Ambassador was accredited to Benin. The Aruosa church in Benin City remains a survivor from this era.

 

Michael Crowder in his The Story of Nigeria tells about the Portuguese who in the second half of the fifteenth century built a factory at Ughoton, the port of Benin to handle pepper trade and purchase of slaves. The Oba had a royal monopoly on trade and it was the duty of his high chiefs like Uwangue and the Eribo to transact business on his behalf. Other items trade included Leopard skins, ivory, Benin cloths, wood works, brass works and in exchange for them Portuguese goods like firearms, dresses, glasses, beads and umbrellas were obtained. The introduction of firearms in Benin at this time positively increased its military str ength and played a remarkable role in its imperial expansion in the 16th century.

 

It is not disputed that most nationalities in both Edo and Delta States (except perhaps the Izon) have direct or indirect links with Benin origin. The Esan are said to have migrated from Benin, some during the Ogisos and others after. Their first enijies were mostly princes from Benin. So, too are the Oras. The Etsako are Benin migrants.

 

The Ika (Agbor people) came from Benin in several waves. Other Western Igbo and Onitsha trace their roots to Benin. The Ihoho (Urhobo) were migrants from Benin and Their language is clearly a dialect of Edo language. The Benin monarchy extended its influence to Eko (Lagos – where it set up its dynasty; the first Eleko of Eko), to Itsekiri land (where prince Ginuwa became the first Olu the Itsekiri ) and to Badagry and beyond

Asagba-BookCover

URHOBO HISTORICAL SOCIETY
URHOBO HISTORY

 

THE UNTOLD STORY OF A NIGERIAN ROYAL FAMILY:
The Urhobo Ruling Clan of Okpe Kingdom
by H.R.H. Prince Joseph O. Asagba, Ph.D.
(Lincoln, NE: Universe, Inc., 2005)

This book presents the story of the Urhobo ruling family of Okpe Kingdom and its political power in Nigeria. It traces the origins and history of the Okpe people and discusses their social and political organization. Topics include:

· The Okpe revolution that led to the assassination of H.R.M. Esezi I in 1779
· British colonial rule of the kingdom during the late 1800s through 1960
· Civil war beween the Okpe and Olomu of Itsekiri in the 1800s and the palm oil trade rivalry
· Urhobo-Itsekiri collaboration in the slave trade, and slavery in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Okpe.

It also examines the political role played by the traditional chiefs, the role of feminists who campaigned for women’s rights to participate in the all-male council of elders, and the effort by H.R.M. Esezi II to promote the democratic system of government within the Okpe council. It concludes with the story of the uncrowned king of Okpe Kingdom, including a brief history of the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70, the reign of H.R.M. Orohoro I, and the story of the author’s candidacy for Okpe King after the death of Orhoro I. Postscripts include Nigeria oil policy, the Muslim-Christian strife, and human rights abuses.

Available in hardcover and paperback from:
http://www.amazon.com
Author

Joseph Obukowho Asagba

 

When Orhoro I, King of Okpe Kingdom, died in February 2004, a descendant of the Evwreke descent group was eligible for the throne. Joseph, who is also a descendant of the Evwreke lineage through his fathers mother, became a candidate for the position of King. His candidacy was based on his education and experience in leadership. He is a modern prince, highly educated and in touch with the fast-changing world. Prince Joseph is regarded as a moderate among the Okpes and a progressive within the Okpe royal family. He is chiefly known as a member of the Okpe royal distinguished families of Asagba and Omarin.

In his application for the Okpe kingship, Joseph outlined some of his vision for the Okpe people, which includes:
1. To provide economic development, better education, and better health care, and
2. To work with oil companies on environmental issues, working for clean air and clean water standards, so all Okpes can enjoy clean and healthy communities.

Joseph was selected by his ruling house as their best candidate. However, members of the Orhue ruling house of Okpe Kingdom stated that their ruling house was eligible for the throne, not the Evwreke group. After much tension between the members of the two ruling houses, the Orhue descent group were allowed to contest for the throne.

THE ORIGIN AND A BRIEF HISTORY
OF THE URHOBO – OKPE

By Prince Joseph O. Asagba, Ph.D.
Introduction
The Okpe people are part of the Urhobo ethnic group in the Delta State of Nigeria. Okpe Kingdom encompasses about 200 square miles and has a population of over 240,000. It is the largest kingdom in the Urhobo states. The River Ethiope separates Okpe territory from that of Oghara and Idjerhe. Okpe also shares common boundaries with the Urhobo states of Agbarho, Agbon, Ughienvwe, and Uvwie. Sapele is the second largest city in the Delta State, which belongs to the Okpe people (Asagba, 2005, p. 4).

The power and authority in Okpe Kingdom is derived from the following sources:
1. The Orodje (King)
2. The Otota (Speaker)
3. The Ekakuros (Chiefs)

The Orodje is the head of the kingdom and head of the Udogun Council, which is the supreme council of Okpe. The king is also the head and president of the Okpe Traditional Council.

The Otota is the spokesman in Okpe. In the event of the death of the Orodje, the most important spokesman in Okpe Kingdom is the Speaker. In fact, his position is similar to that of a Prime Minister (Asagba, 2005, p. 70).

The Chiefs are the representatives of the people and are members of the four ruling houses in Council (Asagba, 2005, p. 79).

Urhobo-Okpe-map2

Migrations

Igboze

Igboze (b. ca. late sixteenth century)

Prince Igboze is the founding father of the royal family of the Urhobo Okpe people. He was the son of an Oba (king) of Benin Empire. In the middle of the seventeenth century, he noticed the decline of the power of the Empire and, fearing for its future, determined to found his own kingdom. For this purpose he obtained his title of Ovie (king) from his second cousin, Oba Ahenzae of Benin, who was then on the throne (1640-1661). He left Benin Empire in the middle of the seventeenth century with his wives, family, and a number of followers (slaves) and set out southwards from Benin.

He arrived at his new territory of Orere-Olomu. After a decade or so, when Igboze’s new kingdom was well established, he was later visited by an Ibo named Olomu. Olomu lived with Igboze for a long time and succeeded in winning the confidence of Igboze to such an extent that Igboze declared him his heir. Igboze, who had obtained the royal title of Ovie (king) to rule his new territory, was at the height of his power when he died. Upon Igboze’s death, Olomu took the title of Ovie. This caused a rift, because Igboze’s son, Okpe, quarreled with Olomu about who should succeed as king (Bradbury, 1957, p. 131; Hubbard, 1948, pp. 237-8; Asagba, 2005, p. 7). Okpe and his followers later left the territory and settled in the Agbarho quarters of the Isoko Okpe. Okpe lived and died in Isoko Okpe. Before his death, Okpe had four sons: Orhue, Orhoro, Evwreke, and Esezi. The descendants of those four sons are the royal members of the Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe (Otite, 1973 and Asagba, 2005).

PrinceOkpe

Okpe, Prince (b. 1664 – d. 1740)

Prince Okpe was the son of Prince Igboze, who was the son of an Oba (king) of the Benin Empire.

PrinceOrhue

Orhue, Prince (b. 1694 – d. 1772)
The First Son of Prince Okpe

Prince Orhue was a political leader and a hunter who searched for food and a fertile region for settlement. Orhue lived in Agbarho, and later crossed the nearby stream and founded Orerokpe, the present capital of Okpe Kingdom. His three brothers, Orhoro, Evwreke, and Esezi, came and settled with him at Orerokpe, where they started the royal monarchy of Okpe.

PrinceOrhoro

Orhoro, Prince (b. 1709 – d. 1781)
The Second Son of Prince Okpe

Evwreke

Evwreke, Prince (b. 1712 – d. 1780)
The Third Son of Prince Okpe

Both Orhoro and Evwreke became senior political leaders under the regime of their brother, H.R.M. Esezi I.

Kingship

EseziI

H.R.M. Esezi I, King of Okpe

The Fourth Son of Prince Okpe
Reigned 1770-1779 (18th century)

According to the 1947 Okpe Chiefs statement on the traditional history of the kingship of Okpe, the Okpe people wanted to have a king to rule their domain so as to maintain peace, equity, and order in their traditional land, so Esezi, the son of Prince Okpe, was appointed as the Orodje of Okpe. He was installed by his senior brother, Orhue (Okpe State Document, 1947). He installed Esezi because he was too old to rule and because there was a quarrel between the two other brothers Orhoro and Evwreke. Esezi ascended the throne as Esezi I, the Orodje of Okpe.

Esezi I’s installation caused controversy within the Okpes who felt he was not the right royal family member to be crowned. During his regime, Esezi I ordered his people to cut down large palm trees in order to see them crushed by the weight of the trees. He also ordered members of the ruling houses to break a huge bar of iron, and when they failed, ordered them killed. He was a ruler who violated his people’s human rights and did only as he wished.

In 1779, the Okpe people, tired of his brutal treatment of them, vowed to kill him. The people of Okpe secretly dug a pit, covered the pit with sticks and mats, and placed the king’s chair over the pit. They also prepared a pot of boiling palm oil. When they were ready, they called a meeting. When Esezi I sat on the chair, he fell into the pit. The people poured the boiling oil and water over him, and he died in agony, cursing the Okpes that they “will never be reunited under an Orodje” (Mebitaghan, 2001, p.6; Asagba, 2005). Esezi I was killed for undermining the Okpe constitution and failing to work within its framework (Ikoyo-Eweto, 2005). He also failed to embody the hopes and symbols of unity and happiness which formed the basis of the monarchial government of the Okpe people (Asagba, 2005).

After his death, the Esezi family were unhappy over the assassination of their leader, and there was great unrest in the state capital city of Orerokpe. The capital was set on fire, and a consuming blaze swept through the city of Orerokpe. There was bloodshed and disunity between his descent group and supporters and the rest of the Okpes. The King’s relatives and supporters fled the capital city. Those who could not escape were either killed or driven from the city (Kerr, 1929).

According to Otite (1973), “the death of Esezi I occurred 150 years before 1929, that is, in about 1779” (p. 61). Fellows (1928) confirmed that Esezi I was killed in the year 1779 (p. 6). After the assassination of Esezi I, four chiefs—Odorume of Orhue ruling house, Owhere of Orhoro ruling house, and Eruohwo and Ogoni, both of Evwreke ruling house—dominated Okpe government and politics, and redivided the whole kingdom, leaving no portion for the Esezi ruling house (Otite, 1973, p. 67; Asagba, 2005, chapter 2). This period was known as the Okpe Revolution (Asagba, 2005, chapter 2).

The assassination of Esezi I in 1779 and the revolution that followed prompted a split in the family and the migration of its branches to different towns and villages throughout Okpe Kingdom (Asagba, 2005, chapter 2). Okpe Kingdom remained without a king for 166 years after the assassination of Esezi I. The kingdom was under the leadership of political representatives from the four ruling houses until the selection of H.R.M. Esezi II in 1945.

Odorume

Chief Odorume (b. 1729 – d. 1796)
Son of Prince Orhue
He was a political leader from Orhue ruling house and a revolutionary.

Owhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief Owhere (b. 1742 – d. 1805)
Son of Prince Orhoro
He was a political leader from the Orhoro ruling house and a revolutionary.

Eruohwo

Chief Eruohwo (b. 1740 – d. 1802)
Son of Prince Evwreke
He was a political leader from the Evwreke ruling house and a revolutionary.

Ogoni

Chief Ogoni (b. 1745 – d. 1810)
Son of Prince Evwreke
He was a political leader from the Evwreke ruling house and a revolutionary.

EseziII

H.R.M. Esezi II, King of Okpe
(b. 1902 – d. 1966)
Reigned 1945-1966 (20th century)

Esezi II was born John Deveno to the royal family of Mebitaghan of the Esezi family of Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe. In 1940, with the British indirect rule of the kingdom, the Okpe Union saw the urgent need to fill the vacancy created by the death of Esezi I. But the installation of Esezi II to the throne had to wait because the British Colonial government opposed his selection and refused to recognize him as the Okpe king. However, the Okpe people installed Esezi II as their king in January 1945, but it was not until June 1948 that the Colonial government declared that they would recognize him as the Okpe king and that the Okpe people were free to regard and treat the king as their leader.

British rule marked the reign (1945-1966) of Esezi II. He was the first Okpe king to rule under the British indirect government. During his reign, Esezi II worked to make the Okpe kingship a democratic and constitutional monarchy. On March 16, 1957, Esezi II approved and signed into law the Okpe Tradition and Constitution, which enabled the democratic processes to begin functioning within the Okpe Traditional Council headed by the king.

When Nigerians began seeking their independence from Great Britain, Esezi II was among the Nigerian delegates of traditional kings who participated in the 1957 Lyttelton Conference that was held in London to help seek Nigerian independence.

During his reign, Esezi II and his council of chiefs became members of the House of Chiefs under the Western region of Nigeria. In 1956, Esezi II was chosen to represent the Urhobo division in the regional House of Chiefs and retained his position until 1960.

Esezi II is remembered by the Okpes as a ruler who brought his ideology of social equality to the Okpe monarchy by introducing a democratic system of government and as the first Okpe ruler to work with the British Colonial officers. Esezi II died in 1966 at the age of sixty-four (Otite, 1973; Asagba, 2005).

Following the death of Esezi II, and in accordance with the rotational system to the throne among the four ruling houses, the Orhoro ruling house was asked to present the successor to Esezi II. Prince Koyima Asagba of the Orhoro ruling house was selected to be the next king, but the Udogun Okpe Council rejected his nomination because his mother was an Itsekiri native. Following his rejection, Prince Vann Etietsola Asagba, a cousin to Koyima who was also from the Orhoro ruling house (and his mother’s father, Chief Omarin, was a member of the Evwreke ruling house) was nominated by the Asagba family. He had to turn down the nomination because of a split vote in the Asagba family. This action allowed Prince Domingo Amujaine Ejinyere to be appointed King of Okpe in 1972 after a six-year interregnum (Asagba, 2005).

Koyima

Asagba, Koyima G. (b. 1920 – d. 1974)

Prince Koyima G. Asagba was the son of Prince Gbabune Asagba and the grandson of Chief Asagba of the royal family of Asagba of the Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe.

Vann

Asagba, Vann Etietsola (b. 1923 – d. 1997)
Prince Vann Etietsola Asagba was the son of Prince Joseph Etietsola Asagba, grandson of Prince Eyeyan Asagba, and the great-grandson of Chief Asagba, born to the royal family of Asagba of the Orhoro ruling house of Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe. His mother was Princess Alberta Aduviere Omarin (b. 1900 – d. 1968), daughter of Chief Omarin Etajeme of the royal family of the Evwreke ruling house and of the Ogoni family of Okpe Kingdom. He was a member of both the Orhoro and Evwreke ruling houses of Okpe Kingdom.

OrhoroI

H.R.M. Orhoro I, Orodje (King) of Okpe  (b. 1921 – d. 2004)
Reigned 1972-2004 (20th-21st centuries)
His Royal Majesty Orhoro I was born in Orerokpe in 1921. His Majesty’s father, the late Chief Ejinyere Edjere, was of the Ibobo family on the paternal side and of the Owhere family on the maternal side. His Majesty’s mother, the late Princess Btadievu Erhobor, was from the Owhere family. It is instructive to note that both the Ibobo family and the Owhere family are sub-branches of the Orhoro ruling house.

HRM Orhoro I received his early education at the Holy Cross Catholic School in Lagos. Upon completing high school, he then joined the Nigeria Police Force from 1940 through 1952. He later proceeded to the United Kingdom in 1956, where he studied business administration and received a diploma. Upon his return from the United Kingdom, His Royal Majesty took a chieftaincy title and established a business. He was appointed president of the Customary Court in 1963.

In 1964, His Royal Majesty, along with his brother, Chief J. E. Odiete, jointly established an industrial company known as The New Africa Industries Limited. He held the positions of Director and General Manager of the company until his appointment as Orodje of Okpe in 1972.

Since the installation of His Royal Majesty Orhoro I, the Orodje had brought tremendous peace and stability to his people and also in the relationship between the Okpe people and their neighbors. He had reigned successfully and instilled relative peace, discipline and dignity in Okpe Kingdom. Under the leadership of Orhoro I, the kingdom acquired the notable life-image as a first class ethnic nationality in Nigeria. The monarchy had truly achieved success in the modern life of the Okpe people. When Orhoro I was crowned in 1972, the Nigerian government was under military rule and most traditional governments had only limited constitutional power. However, the Okpe monarchy remained a constitutional institution because of the Okpe Tradition and Constitution that was passed into law on March 16, 1957 by the late Esezi II.

During his reign, he was the First Vice Chairman of the (then) Midwest Council of Traditional Rulers (1973-1977); Deputy Chairman of the (then) Bendel State Traditional Rulers Forum (1977-1991); member of the National Council of States (1992); first and pioneer Chairman of the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers (1993); Chairman, Southern Delta Traditional Rulers Forum and Chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities in the Delta State. He was also the life president of the Okpe Traditional Council. During his lifetime, His Royal Majesty won a Medal of Honor during the war of 1939-1945; he received a commendation from the Police Command in 1950; and in 1978, he became a Justice of the Peace.

He received the Merit Award for the Development and Upliftment of Okpe Culture by the National Association of Okpe Students at the University of Benin/University of Benin Teaching Hospital in 1998. His Royal Majesty was also a Grand Patron to the National Union of Urhobo Students and received a Merit Award from the Union. In 1998, he was awarded the Distinguished Community Leadership Award by the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria; and, in 2003, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, honored him with the Officer of the Order of the Niger.

His Royal Majesty Orhoro I passed away in February 2004 at the age of 82. During the Orodje’s burial, several kings and chiefs who are members of the Nigeria Traditional Council came to pay their last respects. Among the prominent Nigerians who attended his burial ceremony were the former Nigeria Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, and the current governor of the Delta State, James Ibori (Eghagha, 2004).

The Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Major Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (Rtd).

Bibliography:

Asagba, Joseph O. The Untold Story of a Nigerian Royal Family: The Urhobo Ruling Clan of Okpe Kingdom. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2005.
Bradbury, R. E. The Benin Kingdom and the Edo-Speaking People of Southwestern Nigeria (London: International African Institute, 1957).
Eghagha, Hope. “Celebrating the life and time of HRM Orhoro I, JP, the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom” in Vanguard, Lagos. Friday, April 9, 2004.
Fellows, L. E. H. “Report on the Ukpe Sobo Clan” in file C.S.O. 22/6/3/2/1943. National Archives, Ibadan, 1928.
Ikoyo-Eweto, Isaac P. “Cultural Development in Okpe Kingdom.” Lecture presented at the Okpe National Conference held at the Orodje’s Palace, Orerokpe, January 2-3, 2005, p. 6.
Kerr, R. B. Ukpe Sobo Assessment Report in file C.S.O. 22/6/3/2/1943. National Archives, Ibadan, 1928, p. 6.
Mebitaghan, Isaac S. A Brief History of Okpe Kingdom. Ughelli: New Era Publications, 2001.
Okpe State Document: Traditional History of the Orodje of Okpe Clan. Western Urhobo District Council Office, Orereokpe. September 23, 1947.
Otite, O. Autonomy and Dependence: The Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe in Modern Nigeria. London: C. Hurst and Company, 1973.

Picture Credits.

Portraits of Princes Igboze, Okpe, Orhue, Orhoro, and Evwreke; Chiefs Odorume, Owhere, Eruohwo and Ogoni; and H.R.M. Esezi I are artist’s conceptions by James J. Johnson, Jr., Ed.D., professor emeritus, The University of North Texas, Denton, Texas.

Photos of H.R.M. Esezi II and H.R.M. Orhoro I courtesy of the collection of the Okpe Traditional Council.
Photo of Prince Koyima G. Asagba and courtesy of Dr. Austin O. Asagba; photo of Prince Vann Etietsola Asagba courtesy of the private collection of the Asagba family.

 

THE ITSEKIRI HISTORY
By J.O.S Ayomike

 

ogiame

Now, we may first try to describe the Itsekiri peopl e whose kingdom is Warri. As already pointed out, the Dutch map of 1705 referred to above, marks their homeland as Awyri which over time had variously been spelt Iwere, Ouere, Oere, Warree, Wari. and now Warri. The Edo and the Yoruba call them Iwere. The people who constitute the Itsekiri tribe have diverse origins: early settlers from Ijebu, some from Igala and Aboh came to settle in various communities such as Omadino, Ureju, Ugborodo , Inroin, etc at various times out of human memory . Then a party from the Benin Royal family about the end of the 15th century set up a monarchy which constituted these erstwhile autonomous mini-communities into a nationality which it is today.

 

Prof. P. C Lloyd says that “in the English literature they are known as Warri or Jekri, though in the 19th century they were often referred to as Benin since contacts with them were first made on the banks of the Benin River”. Here was a Kingdom founded by the royal party from Benin, but by the early sixteenth century through th e seventeenth, it had done so much overseas trade to match or exceed that of the mother – kingdom; the reason being its advantageous position within the empire on the rim of the Atlantic. The Itsekiri speak a Yoruba dialect whose vocabulary has been widened by the infusion of a large number of Portuguese, Bini and English words.

 

As an introduction of the influence of the Bini culture in Itsekiri land, it is pertinent to recall part of the address presented to Prince Solomon I.A Akenzua, then Edaiken of Uselu (now His majesty the Oba of Benin by the Itsekiri community in Benin) by the Itsekiri community in Benin on the occasion of his retirement from public service and return home in 1973.

 

We would like to recall the special historical relationships that bind your people and ours. Both Bini and Itsekiri histories agree that Ginuwa, a prince, as your goodself, left this great city to found the Iwerre (Warri) Kingdom about 1480. In the 15th and 16th centuries, these two kingdoms emerged as a civi l izing force in this part of the world and provided great splendour which attracted European adventurers, missionaries and merchants alike. The visit of D’ Aviero of Portugal of Benin City in 1485 and the establishment of a Catholic Mission in Benin about 1515 AD were great historical developments that have had their parallels only in Iwerreland. At the beginning of the 17th century, a son of a reigning Olu went to Portugal for ten years (as the Oba’s ambassador went to Portugal between 1481 and 1495 to be educated in the best schools and returned with a Portuguese lady of a high birth as his wife, their son , Antonio Domingo was Olu of Warri in the 1640s. The site of the Catholic Cathedral (St. Anthony) built in Ode-Itsekiri.. is still called (Satoni)… we have proud similar chieftaincy titles-Iyatsere as Iyase; Ologbotsere as Ologhosere; Uwangue as Uwanguel Otsodi as oshodin and many other… Even your present esteemed title of Edaiken compares with “Daniken”, the last ceremonial stage of the Olu-Elect bef ore coronation. And, our Itselu means “sacred quarters” of the Olu’s mother as Uselu in Benin. Aslo, our war songs, lyrics and burial songs have common roots with Bini ceremonial songs.

 

Truly, these cultural bonds span the vast areas of royalty, chieftnancy, language, music and dancing, rituals to dynastic ties.

 

The Warri throne, being a direct off-shoot of the Benin monarchy, bears all its attributes. Historically, the Olu of Warri, like the Oba, is the personal focus of the people’s loyalty and affection. The crown, highly glamorised, is the symbol of supreme authority in both kingdoms. The Olu, like the Oba (aiguobasinwin) does no wrong and can not be queried or challenged (Afo massin; Afo were tse were); he is the keeper of the corporate conscience of his people. The Oba is titled Uku-Akpolokpolo, which literally means high and extremely very large. In essence, it means next to God, divine and infinite. He is also addressed: Ogie N’Ogbomwan be edge uwuikomwam; i.e king who can confer life a n d death. A similar title of the Olu of Warri is Ogie-uwu i.e , king over death. The Oba is also addressed: Ekpen N’uwa i.e the tiger at home. In spite of the contemporary societal forces which have constrained the practical meanings of these titles, in the nitty-gritty of the norms of Benin and Warri societies, these mind-bending titles, theoretical as they are, still do provide the pillars and sign-posts that guide most traditional activities. These titles remain stilted and honorific.

 

Examining some royal titles in Benin and Warri, one would be amazed at the striking oneness of their roots. Even in some cases, Warri tended religiously to follow Benin titles every sixty years on the average. The fourth Olu of Warri, Ojoluwa who ascended the throne in 1550 assumed the title of the fifteenth Oba of Benin Ozolua who reigned in 1483; the fifth Olu Esigie who became king in 1570 bore the title Esigie, the sixteenth Oba of Benin who came to the throne in 1504. And the thirteenth Olu Akengboye (1710) took t he title of the twenty-second Oba Akengboi (1669). Others who followed were the fortheeenth Olu Atogbwua (1735) who bore the title Orhogbua, the seventeenth Oba (1550). And the sixteenth Olu Akengbuwa (1807) took the title of the thirtieth Oba Akengbuda (1750). Even Erejuwa in Warri and erediauwa in Benin sound alike. In both cultures, part from the crown, and other high-profile symbols of royalty are swords and scarlet cloth. The Itsekiri have derived the names of these items from Bini.

 

Chieftaincy

 

Olu-of-warri-new1

The main Itsekiri chieftaincy titles are derivatives of Bini titles. Some are Iyatsere (Iyase), Ologbotsere (Ologbosere), Uwangue (Uwangue), Olisan (Oliha), Otsodi (Oshodin), Osula (Osula), Ojomo (Ezomo) and Ero (Ero). In both kingdoms, chiefs perform palace rituals and, in the olden days, assisted their monarchs to rule in-council.

 

According to Igbafe the custom was for the Oba’s eldest son, on reaching maturity to b e shown round to the people and installed as the Edaiken, or heir to the throne. He was then sent to live in Uselu, a village which was outside the walls of the town but is now incorporated in Benin City , to be trained in the dignity and responsibilities of kingship” Today, the Edaiken is one of the seven Uzama chiefs (Uzama nihairon) – a distinct branch of the Bini traditional government. In Warri, Daniken is the three lunar- month period of restriction imposed on an Olu-Elect during which, as in Benin he gets trained in the dignity and responsibilities of kingship. The title in Warri, as shown, refers not to a person but to a period. Meaning hold with care, Daniken in Warri could not have related to a person (Olu’s eldest son), because Igiuna left Benin with no son to take from him. However, he married and had children during his long journey to Warri. Rather, it would seem that at the time of his demise in Ijala (Warri), his retinue, while installing his son Ijijen a the Olu, cautioned him to hold with c are his new responsibilities.

 

As soon as the Edaiken leaves Uselu to ascend the throne, his mother becomes known as Iyoba, and goes to live in Uselu. As head of the village, she has her court, like the other Uzamas, and confers titles. Thus in Benin, the Iyoba has some political functions, to perform. In Warri, Omoneukarin says, “tradition is somewhat silent as regards the political activities of any previous Iyolu.. (Olu’s mother), the first Olu did not come from Benin with his mother.. (and) and the custom of investing the Oba’s mother at Benin with the title of the Iye-Oba (Queen mother) did not exist at Benin before Prince Iginua left about 1480 and until the reign of Oba Esigie about 1504”. However, in Warri kingdom, Itselu (Uselu) is regarded as the quarters of the Olu’s mother and is beyond any attacks by the Olu himself. There is this saying in Itsekiri: “Aja te je oba jija reje Itselu” meaning the town that the Olu can never attack is Itselu (Uselu).

 

Language

 

In royalty and chieftaincy areas vast numbers of Itsekiri words as already shown above are coined or borrowed from Bini. Other words such as Ugbo (forest) Idimi (quarters), Ighele (adult man), Odibo (steward) have Bini roots. Others are Ugha (compound), ekete (throne) and Igedu (timber).

 

Music and Dancing

 

All Ibiogbe dance songs are in Bini language. Ibiogbe is a kind of military dance generally performed at all Itsekiri funerals, and come after Ukpukpe, another military funeral dance. During Ibiogbe dance, seven songs are generally rendered.

 

Benin and Warri developed vast overseas trade, which made them prosperous and famous. Both experienced slave trade, welcomed overseas missionary workers, dealt with foreign kings and their ambassadors, exchanged correspondences with them, but at the end of the nineteenth century, suffered unwarranted humiliating defea ts in the hands of British Imperialism. These events in both Benin and Warri had their appropriate ripple effects in the neighbouring communities.

 

It will not be out of place to refer to a British merchant, George William Neville, who seemed not to see justice on the side of his own Government in the way the Old Benin Kingdom was sacked in 1879.

 

He was the first Lagos manager of the Bank of British West Africa and a good friend of Nanna, whose own deposition he had also condemned. Believing that Consul Phillips was high-handed in his treatment of Oba Ovonramwen and his kingdom, Nevilla wrote.

 

“I contend that we have no more right to ride roughshod over the susceptibilities of subject races than we have to storm the tabernacles and tear down the banners of the Salvation Army”.

 

And on the exaggerated tales of human sacrifices in Benin circulating in Europe: he opined:.

 

“The motive ( of wholesale human sacrifice) is not blood lust but a deep – seated belief in the principle of propitiation, for which authority is not wanting in the Old Testament”.

 

“In judging the African”, Neville wrote, let us not forget that, almost within living memory, we Englishmen hanged men for sheep-stealing and exhibited heads on Temple Bar, and I question whether any atrocities in Africa – now things of the past – have ever approached in magnitude the massacres under Cross and Crescent in modern times”. Neville died in 1929. Being excerpts of paper titled March of Edo civilisation and its effects on the neighboring communities 

 

 

 THE ISOKO HISTORY

By Hon. Chief Clement O. Akugha 

 

The Isokos are a unique and delightful people, a distinct ethnic group made of seventeen (17) clans with a total of about 500,000 people. Isoko occupies a space of land south east of Delta State of Nigeria; bounded by Kwale to the North, Urhobos to the West, Ndosimili/Aboh to the East; and the Ijaws to the South. The Isokos are a peaceful people as there are no records or history of conflicts or wars between them and their neighbors in the past.
 

Their occupation is farming, trading fishing and teaching. They thirst for education and they are progressing in this area. It is a happy note that today Isokos can be found in most of the professions in Nigeria, e.g. Law, Medicine, Engineering, Accounting, Education, Architecture, Survey, Estate Management, Journalism, Teaching, Business Administration, and general business, to name a few. No doubt, if the trend continues it will have a salutary effect on the development of Isoko in no distant future. 
 

The seventeen clans in Isoko are: 
 

  1. AVIARA    2. ELLU          3. EMEDE         4. EMEVOR  

 

  1. ENWE/OKPOLO       6. EROWHA/UMEH      7. IGBIDE        8. IRRI
     
  1. IYEDE             10. OFAGBE          11. OLEH           12. OLOMORO
     
  1. OKPE             14. OWHE             15. OYEDE       16. OZORO
     
  1. UZERE  

 

MIGRATION FROM BENIN KINGDOM 
 

Oral history has it that the first group of Isoko ancestors migrated from Benin kingdom in about 1600 AD at the same time as the ancestors of Aboh. The ancestors in this first group were EROWHA (The Senior), UZERE, and OKPE. Isoko oral history also told that the second group led by ancestors of IYEDE left Benin about 1650-1700 AD during the reign of Oba Ozolua, the Oba of Benin. After, a short while the ancestors of Ughelli, Ogor and Agbarha-Otor (3 brothers) in Ughelli North local government area followed the trail of IYEDE ancestors and settled in their present sites.
 

Between 1600-1700 AD there were many migrations from Benin Kingdom to many parts of the present Edo and Delta states as a result of incessant internecine wars coupled with the unbridled wickedness of the princes of Benin Kingdom.
 

There were further migrations by some of the first and second groups of migrants to other areas and in some cases their children moved from their parents’ settlements to settle in virgin lands.
 

The ancestors of Effurun-Otor in Ughelli local government area, LGA, came from ERHOWA in Isoko South LGA whilst Effurun in Uvwie clan migrated from Effurun-Otor. Ekpan and Ugborikoko towns moved from Effurun to settle in their present sites. 
 

Irri came from UZERE whilst Oleh and Agbon clan in Ethiope East LGA migrated from Irri. Agbon consists of Kokori, Okpara, (Inland & Waterside), and Eku towns. 
 

The present Okpe Clan in Urhoboland i.e. in Okpe and Sapele LGAs migrated from OKPE in Isoko along with Ozoro. Ozoro settled in their present site whilst Okpe went further to Orerokpe their present settlement. Ofagbe clan came fro Okpe. 
 

Emevor and Owhe clans migrated from IYEDE; and also Ibrede and Iyede-Ame in Ndokwa LGA are direct descendants of from IYEDE to settle in their present sites. Ellu clan, i.e.  Ellu, Aradhe and Ovrode are descendants of Owhe. The ancestors of Aviara migrated from Benin and came to its present settlement through the river Niger. The only Isoko community that migrated from Urhoboland is Olomoro clan which descended from Olomu clan in Ughelli South LGA about 1750-1800 AD.
 

The ancestors of all the clans in Isoko migrated from Benin with the exception of Igbide, Okpolo/Enwe and Umeh in Isoko South LGA and Evwrheni, now in Ughelli South, which came from east of the river Niger, i.e. the present day Anambra, Bayelsa and Rivers States. They came through the river Niger to Isoko creek (a tributary of river Niger) near Patani, and advanced inland to settle in their present sites. Umeh ancestors came from Onya on the river Niger (opposite river Nun, a tributary of river Niger) and came through Isoko creek near Patani and advanced inward to settle on the banks of Isoko creek where they are at present. There was further movement of Owhawha ancestors from Igbide in Isoko South LGA to settle in Jeremi clan, Ughelli South LGA. 
 

The re-migration of people from Isoko to Urhoboland was due to insufficient choice of land for settlement and also due to constant flooding during rainy season and also due to river Niger overflowing its banks.
 

Before the advent of the British to the Niger Delta the communities in Isoko were frequently engaged in conflicts between and amongst themselves owing to disagreements resulting from ownership of land and struggle for crude power to have dominion over others. The salutary point however, was that wisdom prevailed in the long run, and as a result the leaders initiated and entered into covenants between themselves to ensure sustainable peace. Some of the covenants are still in existence today and they are respected by the communities that covenanted as they were respected in those days. For example, the covenant between Erhowa, Iyede and Aviara is highly respected and feared. It promotes peace and understanding among the people of these communities; no evil or harm is done to each other under any circumstances. The one between Igbide and Oyede is also highly respected. 
 

THE CREATION OF ISOKO DISTRICT COUNCIL 
 

In 1951, the Richards Constitution came into operation in Nigeria. The Western Region Delimitation Commission created two constituencies from Eastern Urhobo Native Authority, NA, and elections to the Western House of Assembly were conducted by Electoral College system on individual or personal basis, although political parties were behind the candidates. Chief James Ekpre Otobo from Uzere for Isoko;  Chief Mowarin for the other side of Eastern Urhobo NA. They both contested and won their elections to the Western House of Assembly, Ibadan. Chief James Otobo for NCNC and Chief Mowarin for Action Group. 
 

At the 1954 general elections, Chief James Otobo again contested, this time under the platform of NCNC party and won and was returned to the Western House of Assembly. In 1957 Isoko was given a modicum of independence by the creation of Isoko District Council from Eastern Urhobo NA. Chief James Otobo influenced the creation during his tenure as a member representing Isoko at the Western House of Assembly, Ibadan.
 

 

 

THE IJAW HISTORY 

 Naijatreks_carniriv3

Posted by Otedo News Update on February 4, 2015 a

 

“THE IJAWS ARE FROM BENIN “…The Origin of the Ijos. There are lots of different opinions about the origin of the Ijos. Some anthropologist say that the Ijos came from South Africa, some say from East Africa. Some say they are from a district around Nupe province in Northern Nigeria and some say that the Ijos came from Benin…. In general the Ijos themselves believe that they came from Benin and in fact most of their traditional stories and folklore refer to Benin. Yet we are left to wonder the great difference in language among the Ijos and Benin. If we should assume the belief that the Ijos came from Benin according to the natives it might be that the Ijos left Benin far earlier than any other tribe migrating from Benin….”[7]””

Ijaw Nation

 We The Ijaws, the predominant indigenous people in the Niger Delta,  moved to the Delta over 7,000 years. We have a distinctive language.

 

The Niger River Delta, one of the largest and beautiful deltas in the world, is the largest delta in Africa, and it covers approximately 14,000 square miles (36,260 square kilometers). Its origination is in the highlands of the Fouta Djallon Plateau in western Guinea 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the Atlantic Ocean.

 

The Niger River is Africa’s third longest river covering approximately 2,600 miles or 4185 kilometers. It flows northeast into Mali. In central Mali, the Niger forms a vast inland delta, a maze of channels and shallow lakes. Just below Timbuktu, the Niger bends, flowing first east, then southeast from Mali through the Republic of Niger, and finally into Nigeria.

 

At Lokoja in central Nigeria, the Niger is joined by its chief tributary, the Benue. The Niger then travels south 250 miles or 400 kilometers, becoming a great  fan shaped delta before emptying into the Gulf of Guinea. The Ijaws have called this delta home for over 7,000 years.

 

The Niger Delta covers an area of about 70,000 square kilometer, and is spread across eight of the 36 Nigerian states. These are Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Abia and Imo. It is endowed with immense natural resources, particularly crude oil.

 

Ijaw History (From Ijawnation Yahoogroups Archive – by Mr. Benaebi Benatari of IPA, UK.)

 

The Ijaws are a nation of more than fourteen million people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the most populous indigenous inhabitants of the Niger Delta and constitute the fourth largest ethnicity within the borders of Nigeria.

 

The term Ijaw is the anglicised version of Ijo or Ejo, a variation of Ujo or Ojo, the ancestor who gave the Ijo people our name. Other modern variations include Izon (Ijon), Ezon (Ejon) and Uzon (Ujon) meaning the same thing. Other names referring to Ijaw people are Uzo (at Benin), the original ancestral name Oru (in Ijaw and Ibo land) and Kumoni (in Ijaw). These names were applicable through the Niger Delta and environs as noted by early British visitors;

 

“… The early British explorers applied the curious name “ORU” to the Ijo west of Brass from the Nun entrance to Taylor creek, Dr Baikie said of them in 1854. ‘From the mouth of the river (NUN) up to this point (TAYLOR CREEK), the country on either side is named ORU. The people are of the same tribe as who inhabit the tract of country up to the Rio Formoso where however they are called EJO or OJO by which name they are known at Abo, at Brass and even Bonny, by English palm oil traders. They are often termed Jo-men. Throughout this district but one language is spoken with but little dialectical difference….Dr Bakie does not explain where he got the name Oru as the appropriate term for Ijaw. the word means “a God” in Nembe and it is clear the explorer did not get it from a Nembe source….In 1906 Major Arthur Glyn Leonard listed a number of tribes of the Delta, distinguishing an Oru as well as an Ijo tribe…”The Oru occupy the tract of country on each side of the Nun branch of the Niger and along the coastline between it and the Ramos river. Then in the triangle formed by the Nun and the Gana-Gana, also outside it, to a small extent, both eastward and westward, dwell the Ijo the most important tribe in the lower Delta, and indeed after the Ibo in the whole of Southern Nigeria…”[1]

 

“..About three hours from Sunday Island, we came to inhabited villages; we induced two canoes to come off, from who we learnt that the people between Brass and Aboh are called Oru…”[2]

 

“….July 2:…Some of the neighbouring chiefs of Oru came off, with whom we had conversation about legal trade…”[3]

 

“…November 3: weighed early this morning, and anchored of Agberi, the first Oru village below the Aboh district…”[4]

 

“…The Oru or Ijo or Udso of Koelle are identical with Brass, at the mouth of the Nun on the coast, otherwise called Hebu or Nempe by their Ibo neighbours. This language is spoken to the extent of 100 miles from the mouth of the Nun, to the boundary of Abo territory: how far inland towards Benin, on the right and towards the Ibo country on the left is yet unknown…”[5]

 

The original collective names for the ancestors of the Ijos were “Kumoni” and “Oru”, survivals of the ancient terms of “Khem-Anu” or “Khem-Onu”, and “Horu” of the ancient Nile valley civilisations of Khem or Kemetu (ancient Egypt) and Kush (ancient Sudan). The Kumoni-oru derived from ancient Egypt via Ife, while the Oru derived from ancient Sudan. Now the earliest ancestors of the Ijos, the “Orus” or “Tobu-Otu”, migrated from the lake Chad aquatic civilisation of Daima region (c 5000-2000 BCE). Their settlement in the delta was from the earliest of times. Unfortunately not much is known about this period, only that traditionally it is said that these early ancestors “dropped from the sky” (i.e. to say the Orus were of divine origin), and were devotees of spiritual culture that made much use of the waters (hence the mermaid and water people legends “Beni-Otu”) They were later to be joined by other ancestors “Kumoni-Orus” from about 400 CE, and 650 CE (AD), who, after settling first in the Nupe and Borgu regions, then the Ile-Ife region, moved to the Benin region via Nupe, and Ife.

 

In the Benin region they eventually settled and launched expeditions into the Niger Delta, where they came across remote settlements of the Orus, whom they termed “ancient people”. But because they were also ultimately Oru, from the beginning they established communities as one people. The Ijos were known by the two names of Kumoni or Oru up till the time of the 19th century. European visitors noted the name Oru as a distinct term for Ijaw. Likewise the compilers of the Izon/English dictionary noted that “to speak Kumoni is to speak pure Izon language”. The term Ijo (Ijaw) or Izon evolved as the name of the whole ethnic nationality through time, even though as a personal name it derived from one ancestor who was known as Ujo, whom as we have previously mentioned, represents the time when the Ijos evolved as a distinct separate people from their neighbours.

 

The Formation of the Ijo ethnic nation was a gradual process. We have the period prior to 400 CE i.e. 500 BCE to 700 CE (AD), of which the proto-Ijos or “ancient people” ancestors (Tobu Otu) or Oru settled in the central delta and fused with later immigrants. Then we have the time of; 700-1200 CE (AD), where we have the ancient Kumoni-oru ancestors who came with the ancestor Ujo ultimately from Upper Egypt, migrating through Ile-Ife and other places such as Gbara in Nupe, establishing further settlements at Agadagba-bou in Igbedi creek, and the Nun river in present day Kolokuma Ijo. It was from here that the bulk of the ancient ancestors fused and founded several towns and clans and the beginnings of the Ijaw evolving as a distinct ethnic nationality.

 

After establishing at Igbedi creek, Ujo sent for more of his people who were at Wari-Ife/Warige and Ujama or Uzama (i.e. Ado or Beni). This was at the very beginning of the foundation of Beni, and it is this account that some traditions mention Benin as a place of origin (also a district around Nupe was also called Beni, founded by the Beni clan of Kumoni, with capital at Gbara);

 

“…The first place of Ujo’s encampment in his journey from Ile-Ife was the site where Benin City now stands. Then like the Yorubas all the tribes founded by members of Ujo’s retinue and by Ujo himself claimed that place (Benin City) as the place of their original settlement whence they emigrated….”[6]

 

“…The Origin of the Ijos. There are lots of different opinions about the origin of the Ijos. Some anthropologist say that the Ijos came from South Africa, some say from East Africa. Some say they are from a district around Nupe province in Northern Nigeria and some say that the Ijos came from Benin…. In general the Ijos themselves believe that they came from Benin and in fact most of their traditional stories and folklore refer to Benin. yet we are left to wonder the great difference in language among the Ijos and Benin. If we should assume the belief that the Ijos came from Benin according to the natives it might be that the Ijos left Benin far earlier than any other tribe migrating from Benin….”[7]

 

The original ancestral settlements founded by the proto-Ijos in the central delta were, Agadagba-bou (first home of Ujo in the central delta), in Igbedi Creek, Isoma-bou along the Nun river, Opuan-bou in the same area, and Orubiribua-bou, also in the same area, and Abo, with its villages, further up the Niger.

 

When they came and settled in the central delta, the ancestors personified by Ujo, after establishing their authority over preexisting settlements (central delta), instructed an expedition force to go and guard the mouth of the delta and other important places along the coast as stipulated by his father King Adumu. These people became the ancestors of several Izon clans. Keni Opu Ala or Keni-Ala, the holy seer (Asain) of Adumu, the Supreme Intelligence symbolized by the sacred serpent python, was the ancestor who founded Ke or Keni and its daughter towns. Kula and Bille were also founded in this way. Ogulagha and Iduwini, were founded as a result of proto ancestors settling in the western coastal delta, to guard that region. Oguru (alias Kala-Ogbo who gave his name to Warri region (Ogbo Ijo) settled the area now known as Warri region, these ancestors were to be joined by people from Oporoma. Others such as Kuru, founded the Kru people (they seem to have been proto-Ijos), who eventual migrated to the present day Liberia region, while some ended up settling in present day Ghana region.

 

After many years of settlement Ujo left his headquarters in Igbedi creek in charge of the Agadagba of Egbesu (military officer), and decided to go back to Otu-Ife. He traveled with nine companions including his grandson Apoi (Opoi) the son of Kala-Okun. Without a skilled astronomer they got lost and decided to settle in a creek near the vicinity of the Nun river. It was here they founded the village of Apoi. Ujo made his permanent home with his grandson Apoi at the quarter now known as Okoto-aja. It was here that he died and was buried. Ujo who was titled Kalasuo, gave the title to his grandson Apoi, since then the rulers of Apoi clan have been titled “Kalasuo”. From the central Apoi, a section migrated to the western delta, to found Apoi Ijo of the Ondo region. Also from the central Apoi, was founded Akassa clan along the coast.

 

The ancient town of Ujo-Gbaran or Gbaran for short was founded by Gbaran an elder son of Ujo. Gbaran was given the scepter of Ujo on the death of his father. Later on his descendants went and founded the town of Oporo-aja (Oproza) in the western delta region of Escravos, to give birth to the Gbaranmatu and also Arogbo in Ondo area. Children of Ujo, Olodi and Oporo, went and established a common settlement, from which descendants founded Oporoma and Olodiama clans. From Olodiama in central delta, ancestors left to found Olodiama in the western delta near Benin, and also ancestors left to found Olodiamabiri and Onyomabiri and other towns, to form Nembe clan. From Agadagba-bou was also founded Ogbia (Ogbo-Oyan) clan who are the descendants of Oyan. From the same Agadagba-bou, led by Opu-Ogbo, was founded, Isoma-bou or Opuan-bou, from which ancestors later migrated to found, Ekpetiama, and Seimbiri clans.

 

The last to leave the ancient town of Agadagba-bou, were the ancestors of the Opukuma, Kolokuma, Tarakiri and Andoni. Opu-Okun was the ancestor of the Opukuma, while Kala-Okun was the ancestor of the Kolokuma, both were children of Ujo by the same mother. Tara a younger child of Ujo was the ancestor of the Tarakiri, while Ayama the son of Tara was the ancestor of the Andoni in eastern Ijo,. The Andoni (ruler known as the Andoni-Oru) town of Asarama was founded by Asara or Assa an ancient ancestor descendant of Ayama.. At that remote period most of the ancestors lived in Igbedi creek at Agadagba-bou and the immediate environs of the Nun river. Afterwards their descendants migrated all over the delta. Lastly Abowi, the Asain (seer) of Ujo who led the migration from Otu-Ife or Ile-Ife, journeyed up the river Niger to establish a number of villages which gave rise to Abo and Atani (ruler known as the Atani-Oru). Abo or Aboh and Atani no longer speak Izon language.

 

Lastly we have the 1200-1600 CE (AD) period; From these early formations and migrations sprang other clans, while at the same time ancestors joined the Ijo of the delta at the beginning of the 12th century up to the 16th century CE or AD when the old Napata kingdom collapsed at Gbara, the Adumu or Oduduwa dynasty was overthrown at Ile-Ife, the last Ogiso Kaladiran, were overthrown at Benin City, and civil strife at Benin caused people to leave. From the central delta Apoi, was founded the Apoi of the western delta area of Ondo. From Oproza town in Gbaranmatu clan was founded at the end of the 15th century, Kabo, Kumbo and Gbaran clans, which was the result of a large family migration from Oproza town about 1480. From Kumbo was founded Okparabe. From Gbaran town in central Izon, was founded Effurun and Uvwie. Efferun a descendant of Gbaran, elder son of Ujo, was the ancestor of the Effurun in upper Warri area, while Owei was the ancestor of the Uvwei. Likewise from Gbaran was founded via Efferun, the Tuomo clan. From Oporoma was founded the Operemo clan, and some went to join the Ogbos, descendants of Kala-Ogbo to become the Ogbe-Ijo clan. From the Isedani lineage of Kolokuma, led by Opumakuba and Alagbariye (alias Kala-Beni), a migration to the eastern delta coast founded the Ibeni or Ibani clan now known as Bonny early in the 12/13th century. From the Isoma-bou area along the Nun, was founded Obiama, from which came Boma and Ogboin. Izon who lived at Benin city later joined these ancestors.

 

From Benin City, migrated Beni-Izon people who were fleeing the local wars. They founded Obotebe, and Beni (Oyakiri) clans. The ancestor Mein, who was Beni-Izon, i.e. an Izon citizen of Benin, and his family migrated from Benin City because the reigning Oba had started to confiscated the private lands and property for his own use. Mein settled in Igbedi creek and founded the town of Ogobiri. From Ogobiri, was founded the Mein of the western delta. Perebokekalakebari shortened to Kalabari the grandson of Mein was the ancestor who founded Kalabari clan.

 

Basan, Furupagha and Tungbo was also founded about this time, through ancestors coming from Nupe, Oporoma, Kolokuma and Ke. Other clans include the Buseni and Okodia, who hailed from Kolokuma and Benin-Izon (Ado), Egbema from Iduwini and Operemo. Okirika or Kirikeni hailed from Isoma-bou, Andoni, and Ogboin,. Others include the Ndoki, who came from Isedani of Kolokuma, but now speak Ibo, Nkoro or small Okirika, Zarama and Egbema of Imo region, Opobo (1800), who hailed from the house of Opubo of Ibani (Bonny) and Oruma, whose other name is Tugbene hailing from Oboloma. Altogether they constitute the Ijo people who stretch from the eastern shores to the western shores of the Nigerian coast.

 

References

 

[1] Alagoa E J (1964) The Small Brave City State, p7.

 

[2] Crowder S (1970 2nd Edition) Journal of an Expedition Up the Niger and Tshadda [Benue] Rivers undertaken by Macgregor Laird in 1854 – Missionary Research and Travels no.15, p10.

 

[3] Ibid, p13

 

[4] Ibid, p194

 

[5] Ibid, p199

 

[6] Owonaru S K, op cit, p118.

 

[7] Neiketien P B (1941) A Short History of Tarakiri Clan, p27.

 

SOURCE: http://www.ijawfoundation.org/people.htm

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