By DR. CHRISTOPHER.G. OKOJIE, OFR, DSc (Hon)
It will serve a useful purpose to remember right at the onset that there are two parts to every Esan district: the royal family and the common people. They were quite distinct, for nearly all the ancient ruling houses came from Benin City or its suburbs. The head of the ruling houses was and still is, the ONOJIE, who with his family, servants and brothers inhabited EGUARE, the administrative CAPITAL of the district. Another important thing an enquirer must take notice of is the use of the word BROTHER by Esan people. It can mean anything from a male blood relation to a very good friend. Secondly OBA's SON can mean a BINI and, in fact, it was recently, a common thing for any Bini, outside the city, to describe himself as the OBA's SON!
a. EGUARE (2,961; 6,159: 1963):
This consists of:-
b. The Royal Family and families that grew into quarters out of servants who traditionally lived in Ikokogbe.
c. UKPUGHE which was founded by Isidaehomen, the second son of Udawe.
d. UWENLENAFUA which was founded by AFUA, a junior brother of Udawe and second son of ODIA and
a. UWENLEN - OIBO which was the very first settlement of the Binis who deserted the City during the Oba Ewuare the Selfish reign. Their leader was Ijiebomen: from here the ruling family moved to present Eguare.
(2) UHONMIDUMUN (2,748 - 2461):
This is described as the very first settlement of Ekpoma and as a unit in Ekpoma, it consists of the following quarters:
(a) IGBE- IBHIUASE
(d) ISIBHI - ENELO
Ihonmidumun or Uhonmidumu is the centre for all major and serious meetings in Ekpoma and in the olden days when INOTU assembled there, the exact spot being UGHE - ORIEMUN, the matter for discussion was grave. With this traditional importance, it is necessary for one to go into the history carefully.
I have been given several reasons for why Ihonmidumun is so called and why it is first in Ekpoma, Eguare taking precedence because it is the seat of government. Many elders maintain that Ihonmidumun became first after UDA had rewarded its founder, UASE for his sacrificial services. That would mean that before Uase there was no settlement in Ihonmidumu and since Vase was a servant to the Onojie in Eguare, Eguare in theory and practice, was senior to Ihonmidumun. But all elders are agreed that in theory, Eguare came after Ihonmidumun.
Some elders told me that Ihonmidumum came to be so called after the Ora Warrior, Idimu, was killed. The Ora people fought even more bravely to prevent the head of their leader falling into the hands of the enemy, but in the struggle, Ihonmidumun got the head (UHONMON) while the brave Ora fighters could only recover the valueless body. Where the head was finally buried came to be known as VHQNMQN-IDIMVN. This story has not got us far as regards the history of the village. It only emphasizes the fact that before this battle there was already a settlement at the present Ihonmidumun.
What then is the truth about this important village of Ekpoma? The truth is that as usual, the original or indigenous settlement is often overshadowed by the new-comers who were either superior in number, talent, might or hostility. Before Vase and before any other settlement in Ekpoma there was a primitive and humble settlement called OWON-ONA; the actual enlargement of this settlement came during the second dynasty of the Ekpoma Ruling House.
When Uda returned to resuscitate the extinct Ruling House round about 1845, he was so impressed with the selfless services of Vase, his grandfather's great servant that he decided to share all Ekpoma with him. Uda chose Eguare, ENE, and EMAUDO while Vase chose OWEN-ONA, IRUEKPEN, UJEMEN, UHIELE and IGOR. Uase, now a man of authority, withdrew from Eguare and went to settle at Owen-Ona. This great reward, merited only from utter disregard for his own personal feeling is –I expressed today in Ekpoma as "UASE NON GA OJIE TUE EKUE- A!” (Uase who served his King up to the point of burning his male organ!).
Now here was "a man second only to the ruler of the land – any wonder that he and his descendants soon imposed themselves upon the originaJ settlers of Owen-Ona? Soon, Vase's family began to enlarge. He- had the following sons, in order - ABIE, OGO, OMOFUA, the founder of IKHIDEV, and a host of younger ones that had not separated from their father before he died. Isibhelua headed these younger ones. This name ISIBHELUA came to be the name of the originaJ settlement of Vase and is today, the first quarter of Ihonmidumun. Ogo founded IDVMOGO and Omofua's Ikhideu later migrated to Egoro.
Abie, Vase's heir, himself had the following children: OIDE, founder of Idumuoide, Ama, Oakhen, founder of Idumuoakhen, Osumen and Odu. The quarter founded by the son soon came to assume political importance in Ihonmidumun, and till this day when a new Onojie comes to the throne, he must come to Ihonmidumun for installation as the owner of not only Eguare, Ene and Emaudo but to assume ownership of the original Uase territory. Where he stays is at OHEN OWIA, this priest being the direct descendant of Abie.
1. Ishibhi - Enelo:
A majority of the settlers were descendants of Enelo who hailed from IDUNEGBON in Benin City. These descendants were quite distinct in that they forbade carrying dead bodies, since according to the old tradition anybody who had carried an IYIE-OBA (Oba's mother) never soiled his head carrying another dead body in his life time. The founder, Enelo, had the dubious honour of carrying the dead body of an Iyie-Oba!
2. Isibhua and Isibhohi:
Once the great Uda was having his annual UJE at which several heads were to fall. One of those whose heads were destined to fall on that day was the wealthy but homeless IZANOGHA, who later passed into Esan legendary because of his bravery and excellence in medicine and magic with which he mesmerized his opponents. When the executioners started at the head of the line of condemned men, Izanogha made up his mind that he still had many, many days to live and enjoy this world. While all eyes were fixed on the executioners as they danced themselves into a state of frenzy before dealing the fatal blow on their next victims, Izanogha made a bid for freedom; the power of his legs was his saviour! Rather than upset the whole ceremony for the sake of one escaped condemned man, a few chased him and as he disappeared round the comer, they gave up the chase. Reaching his house, he gathered up his family and fled. Somewhere in the jungle, his first son, UHI, remained behind and thus founded ISIBGUA, one of the quarters of Ihonmidumum. The second son, ISELUA founded ISIBHUA. At Egoro area another son called EBO, Another son called ABIA was the founder of a quarter in the present ABIA IRUEKPEN. Near the present lruekpen market brave Izanogha felt he had put sufficient thick impenetrable forest between himself and Uda, and so he settled down to found the first settlement of IDUMEBO, lruekpen. One of the children who followed him founded IDUMEHONLEN.
The only reminder of the original settlement founded and dominated by Uase and his descendants is that when OTO - EKPOMA needs purification, people of OWEN - ONA in ISEBHELUA do the worship. This is in accordance with Esan tradition - the first settlers in a new district were the worshippers of the EARTH.
3. UJOELEN (710 - 1054)
One of Oba Ozolua's daughters called UOELEN was so beautiful that all the great men of Benin fought to secure her hand in marriage; the battle was so much that the girl who combined beauty with wisdom, decided to shun the contestants with their wealth, and to spite them, she chose a nonentity as a husband. This was an unprecedented insult on such great Binis as the lyase, Ezomo, Uwague etc. To humiliate the princess they demanded the head of the innocent man. Uoelen fled with her Romeo, seeking safety in the jungle. They founded UJOELEN and they expressed thanks to God who delivered them safely to their hideout by worshipping OJIEBIUDU, which actually was no juju but just an expression that they were then in existence by virtue of the Onojie who owned the land and on their own strength of evading the jealousies of powerful Benin Chiefs.
4. UKPENUN (1,169 - 1,688)
Ukpenun Ne Eka was founded by OLOWEMEN, an Ekpoma Prince who lost the fight for succession. The rest of Ukpenun descended in the main from Ihonmidumun.
5. UKE (1,963 - 493) and IDUMEBO (1963 - 923) were by and large, extensions from Ihonmidumun.
6. UHIELE (3,868 - 6,281):
This is the generic named for:
a. UKPOKE (1963 - 1,247)
b. AKAHIA (1963 - 1,(02)
c. IDUMUEGAN (1963 - 332)
d. EHANLEN (1963 - 1,720)
e. EBHOAKHUALA (1963 - 771)
f. IDUMIGUN (1963 - 332)Founded by a blacksmith from Ugbegun and a man from Iruekpen and
g. IKHIRO (1963 - 390) Founded by settlers from Urhonigbe.
1. UKPOKE: OJOLE was an Oba's son who committed a crime so grave that the Binis were after his life. He fled into the jungle and after many days of wandering, tired and worn out, he fell asleep under a tree. The unforgiving Binis who had been tracing his footprints located him in a thicket but before they could get to him, a cuckoo cooed near him thus waking him. Hearing the excited noise of men round him, he knew he had been caught by his father's long punitive arm. Resistance was pointless and running impossible - so he went on his knees and begged for his life. His. Life was accordingly spared after his passionate pleadings, and in gratitude to this bird which is honoured by nearly all the Uhiele villages today, he settled in the place where he was found; this settlement became UKPOKE.
Ojole soon began to grow in importance and the Onojie hearing of him sent for him to visit him and he would make him a chief. The proud Benin man felt his accepting a title from an Onojie infra dig particularly as he was an Oba's son, irrespective of the rumour that he left Benin City in a rather undignified haste. He therefore declined the offer and sent a servant instead. That servant was created EDOHEN who later founded AKAHIA, wedged between Ukpoke, Ehanlen and Eguare. Later, he Ojole was made the Eson, quite fittingly as this gave him a position of a guardian to the Onojie.
2. IDUMEGAN was founded by one of Uda's sons called EGAN. He had fled from Eguare to escape punishment at the hands of his influential father.
1. EHANLEN: Ojole had a very serviceable slave called ORENMENU who was so impressed with the thick grove of oil palms nearby, that he used to be a day or more away collecting palm nuts for his master. He was later given a little girl slave to bear him company as he used to be several days before he got back home. Soon nature had its way, and Orenmenu pregnated the girl in the bush during their off-duty hours. Fear made him keep away for quite a long time but later he saw the childishness in hiding so he came home to report his lapse to his master, Ojole, who was shocked and thoroughly angry at thoughtless Orenmenu going to foul such a virgin soil. He was however given the necessary things to go and purify the grounds and the little girl was given him as a wife. Where they stayed in this palm grove became EHANLEN from the purification of the soil HANLEN - To purify). The, wife was forever nagging at him that he brought her away from her home at Ukpoke where she was happy. To please her, harassed Orenmenu built her a house first, but whenever it was raining she drove out the poor man. To guide against this cruelty he decided to build himself a house but whenever he began work on it she would begin to sob that Orenmenu just wanted to add to her misery by leaving her alone in her house. The result was that Orenmenu succeeded in building a house for his wife but he had to live without a roof over his head!
Ehanlen soon grew into a large village but a large migration took place when Uda persistently raided the village for slaves. A large body of men in search of freedom founded EHANLEN ONIHA in Ewu.
2. EBHOAKHUALA was founded by an ORA man called AKHUALA.
3. IKIDRO founders were partly from Urhonigbe and partly from Eguare.
EMUADO (1,232 - 1,653)
The first settlement here was the one founded by a Nupe called IDUBOR. Some warriors lumped together as "Hausas" later stayed behind with him but most of these really were from the Northern part of IFEKU (IHEKU) Island on the Niger. Many of the Emaudo quarters are quite distinct and have no blood relationship whatsoever. They form the same village just because of the nearness of the quarters. Thus marriage is possible amongst members of two adjacent houses.
Many of the early inhabitants left during the Eguare-Ikeakhe War of 1850. Some of these refugees founded IDUNWELE of Ewu, IDUMU OLOGHO in Ubiaja and UDOWO, Irua.
EMUHI (2,064 - 2,944)
This is a group name for the eight quarters which in order of seniority are:
(i) EBHOJIE - whose founders were people stationed on the western side of Ekpoma by the Onojie of Ekpoma to stem human and slave movements on the Benin road.
(ii) OKE (864) - Founders were from Uhiele.
(iii) IGOR (1,455) - Founders were from Ojieghudu and Ora. For many years the whole area known today as EMUHI went as Igor.
(iv) IDUMUNEGBQN - Founders were from Ukpoke.
(v) UVUE - Founders were partly from Eguare with some being of the same stock as Ekougbo of Uke.
(vi) UDO (369) - Founders were from Uhi, Urohi and Eka (Agbor area).
(vii) EDUIKI (252) - Founders were mainly traders who finally settled in the area to make trading between Benin and the Esan country easy. Some of them founded Ugbiokho now in Uhonmwode Local Government Area.
(viii) UWEHIMIN - Founders were from Idumisi, Urohi. The four quarters of Ebhojie, Igor, Oke and Idunmunegbon are united in their worship of the goddess of the lake Amanhanman whose hereditary priest comes from a particular quarter in Oke.
For some fifteen years these eight quarters that had lived and operated as one village, had been at each other's throat because of a name. Igor, a virile village with many industrious and important sons and daughters, situated right on the main road and the most accessible, had overshadowed all the others and came to replace the original name of EMUHI. There are several examples of group names in Esan, ready examples being ILLEH which covers Imule, Ukhiodo, Ebhorua, Uguoben, Uwene, Idumeakon, Ekunanlen, Ihonmidumun and Enogban. Uhiele covers Ebhoakhuala, Idumegan, Ehanlen, Akahia, Ukpoke, Idumigun and Ikhiro. In Ugboha Emaudo is the generic name for Idumuabekhae, Idunzenebi, Idumu - Iyasele, Afuda, Iduenema, Idumuoso and Idumu - Ihaza.
The amount of destruction and bad blood that occurred in 1985 can "only leave a visitor flabbergasted as houses, market and schools were built with no boundaries over the years. St. John Anglican Primary School, Emuhi Ekpoma, now known simply as Emuhi Primary School, caused no disruption to the community who used it with gratitude to the Anglican Mission. It needs charity to understand the emotional feeling of seven out of eight villages today resenting the name Igor by which all of them were known even to the British when they arrived the area in 1901 and when I was gathering materials for the first edition of this book in 1953.
ENE (2,241 - 3,210)
This is the group name for nine villages stretched along the Ekpoma – Ewu road and consists of:-
viii. IHQNMIDUMUN and
Most of the early inhabitants were natives of IBHIARO in the old Kulrurulru Division now Etsako Local Government Area. IDUMUENUELE made famous by the prolific ENEARU, was founded by people from ARUE - UROMI, while a part of Ukhiodo came from Idunwele of Ewu.
This is a large district populated by very industrious, shy and gregarious people. It consists of:-
a) ABIA: A quarter which was founded by one of the great Izanogha's sons named Abia.
b) IDUMU-OZA - which is where the Oniha of Ekpoma lives
c) IDUMU - AGBEDE is the blacksmith quarter
e) EBHOKPE - which was founded by a man of Benin extraction called OKPE
f) OGBOMON - which in full is OGBOMOIDE
g) IDUMUOGO - founded by Ogo, one' of the many children of Uase
j) IDUMUEKE - founded by another Benin man called Eke.
k) IDUMUEBO - which was founded by the fleet-footed Izanogha himself.
l) IDUMUEHONLEN was founded by one of Izanogha's children. It is unsafe for anyone to be dogmatic about the origin of many of the quarters making up a place like Iruekpen because as a result of admixture of population, the different places lost their early distinctive affiliations. Many settlers came from Benin City and adjacent districts like Eho, Ojieghudu etc. Traditionally the different quarters were grouped as follows:-
i. Idumuogo and Idumuoze
ii. Ughodin and Idumuemalua
iii. Idumuebo, Abia and Idumuehonlen
iv. Ogbomoide, Ebhokpe and Idumeke
v. Ikhin which has some blood affinity with a quarter called
vi. IKHINERARA of Emaudo Ekpoma.
(11) UJEMEN (1,734) is closely linked with lruekpen and is closer to Idumebo, Abia and Idumuehonlen than to any of the other quarters.
2. Non-Aggression Pact:
i. There was a strong peaceful tie between Ekpoma, Opoji and Egoro. This tie followed the establishment of the royal houses of Egoro and Opoji, their first Enijie being second and third sons of the great Uda, respectively. Since in those days the Onojie was law, any relation between him and a third party was binding on all his subjects; so the blood relationship existing between the rulings houses of Ekpoma, Egoro and Opoji was extended to mean that Ekpoma, Egoro and Opoji founders and people had the same descent.
ii. Ekpoma, Ogwa and Ujiogba with Ugun had strong peaceful connections resulting from the fact that Ogwa, Ekpoma, Ujiogba and Ugun were partly founded by immigrants from Ekpoma; for example, Ekpon royal family hailed from Benin via Ekpoma. Ogwa royal family founder, Omi, came from Benin via Ekpoma and Idumu - Obo of Ujiogba was founded by Ikeakhe's junior maternal brother called IZEGBO. Ago-Ola part of Ugun was founded by immigrants from Ekpoma.
iii. Ekpoma and Uromi did not "see each other's blood" during the intertribal wars; many people erroneously believed this resulted from the founders of the two districts being brothers. I have found no evidence of patrilineal or matrilineal connections between Ekpoma and Uromi. In fact, while the leaders of Ekpoma immigrants came from Idumebo Benin, Uromi ruling house founders hailed' from Idumu-Oza in Benin City. The peaceful connections between Ekpoma and Uromi had impetus from the hatred of a common enemy: Ozolua, who had exterminated Ekpoma Ruling House at the battle of Vengeance in 1480, returned to Esan in 1503 to deal with Uromi in a similar way which would differ just a bit as a result of Ozolua's growing experience and ruthlessness:
Uda who had returned in 1485 to build a strong ruling system in Ekpoma, though he did not declare war on the Oba, secretly encouraged any of his subjects who could give AGBA a helping hand. It was this appearance of a common formidable foe that brought Ekpoma and Uromi so close as to take the oath of friendship.
3. Immediate Past Onojie:
Abumere I (1910 - 1946) was originally the second son of Akhimien I (Uzaka), but when UIEBO, the stately first son died in 1932, Abumere naturally became the heir to the throne. He received his education at Government School, Ekpoma, and on the death of his father in 1946, after he had completed the burial ceremonies of his father, he was installed Onojie.
4. Present Onojie:
Is Akhimien II who was Prince Macauley Aidenojie. He began his Primary School Education in C. M. S. School, Ihonmindunmun in 1948 and finished in S1. Andrew, Eguare from 1951 - 1954. From 1956 to 1958 he was at Ziks College of Commerce, Sapele then Esan grammar School, Uromi from August, 1958 to 1960. He entered the Provincial Teacher Training College, Agbede in 1961 completing his professional course as a Grade II in 1964. He taught in various Primary Schools in Uke, Egoro-naOka and Idumabi, Irrua. In February, 1969 he left for Lagos to join Sterling Products (Nig.) Limited as a Clerk rising to the grade of Assistant Office Manager by 1979. He was also National Secretary of the Workers' Union. When his illustrious father H.R.H. Abumere died on the 11th of February, 1979, he had to be recalled home. He went through the necessary Burial Ceremonies with Ogbe before he was installed the 16th Onojie of Ekpoma. He got the official presentation of staff of office on the 30th of June, 1979.
With the luck that came to Esan in general and Ekpoma in particular with Prof. Ambrose Folorunso Alli as Governor of Bendel State in 1979, Ekpoma as Headquarters of Okpebho Local Government area and a University town (Bendel State University) , the town got an intense fillip, boosting the population, commerce and international fame. Ever since Akhimien II has been at the helm of affairs superintending all the developments.
Asked if it is true Ekpoma, Egoro and Opoji are blood related, Akhimien II answered "My forefathers handed it down that we are tied by blood. The tradition I found is at my ancestral worship the hearts of animals slaughtered are given to my son and heir but at Alu Ijesan the hearts belong to the Onojie of Egoro. That custom is based on strong Ekpoma history and connotes a well known Esan custom. I regard Egoro and Opoji as descendants of one great father and I will continue to work in that belief'
UIEBONEN, leader of the Binis who came from Idumebo Quarter of the crumbling city, was the first Onojie of Ekpoma; he was one of the Esan leaders made the Oba's representatives in the Esan country, in 1463. OKPOBO, Ijiebomen's successor, developed leprosy toward the latter part of his reign. People got so frightened of this disease which they knew first, had no cure, and secondly, was highly contagious, that they entirely deserted him. His brother who was to have succeeded him as he had no son of his own, made himself so scarce that but for Okpobo's godson, EHIZOJIE, he could have suffered and died miserably; this godson took care of him and before the Onojie died he cursed his brother who was more interested in keeping his skin whole than fighting for the throne. Poor Okpobo invited the Egbele to witness his humiliation and finally adopted the godson that buried him to the great admiration and_gratitude of the Eguare. Egbele, but when the question of succession came up, the kingmakers gasped! Ehizojie of course, succeeded.
Ehizojie soon found himself surrounded by enemies and intrigues, so he very wisely packed bag and baggage away from Ijiebomen's Ijie to a site removed from his distractors. Thus the seat of the ruling house passed from UWENLEN -OIBO to the present Eguare, and up to. Today a new
Onojie had to go to Uwenlen-Oibo to be made Onoije, as a recognition of its being the ancestral site.
UDA THE GREAT (1485 - 1515) AND THE BATTLE OF VENGEANCE 1480:
Round about 1480 OGHALE's son went to Benin City to pay homage to the new Oba, and on his father's behalf. As he was having a war dance and making a lot of show round the city, a man challenged him.
The young Prince's pride being hurt he slaughtered the challenger there and then. Two things were unfortunate in this incident: First the man thus wantonly killed, turned out to be a son of the Oba, and secondly, the Oba happened to be OZOLUA whose chief desire even before he became Oba, was to have plenty of fighting.
Ozolua was not satisfied with an eye for an eye, he traced the Prince to his home, Ekpoma, and massacred not only the innocent Onojie, Oghale, but all his children. Some of the servants and a majority of Eguare fled to ENE; only one young man was saved in this expedition of vengeance and attrition. His name was UDA, a grandson of the Onojie, and whose mother was married to a man in Emaudo. Ozolua,a veritable fighter saw something attracting in the young man, and having seen Eguare deserted, he took Uda captive to Benin.
Uda was given to a chief to look after. During the yearly wrestling festival, courageous Uda threw all who challenged him. At another meeting he killed all his opponents and this attracted him to the admiring Oba. Now a grown-up man, the Oba made enquiries about him and the guardian explained that Uda was not a native of Benin but the young man who was brought from Ekpoma during the battle of vengeance against the Onojie of Ekpoma. Oba Ozolua, always a lover of courage, was much impressed with Uda's exploits, and feeling sorry for the extinction of the Ruling House of Ekpoma, he sent Uda back to resuscitate the royal family of which he was a descendant. That was about 1485. Ozolua fitted brave Uda up like a duke giving him men, property and money. Some well known warriors and medicine men, were given him to see him safely installed as the ruler of Ekpoma. After a long triumphant journey, Uda and his men found their way to Eguare Ekpoma. The flute player who accompanied him later founded EGBE - EKHUILE of Emaudo. Many of the men who followed Uda to Esan became founders of now well known districts of Esan when they had seen Uda well established as a monarch, and they themselves could not go back to the City.
During this unfortunate interregnum, UASE, Oghale's senior slave, gathered the dead Onojie's wives who had taken to the bush during blood thirsty Ozolua's massacre, built houses for them, and to be sure he did not fall into temptation over his late lord's wives', he burned his male organ, and honestly took care of the women for five years. When Uda returned to begin the second dynasty of the Royal House and saw such faithful service to a dead master, he was so moved that he rewarded this slave by sharing the whole of Ekpoma with bim. Ud'a chose Eguare,Ene and Emaudo, while the ex-slave chose Ihonmidumun, Ujemirue (lruekpen and Ujemen), Igor (now Emuhi) and Uhiele. This is the origin of the traditional method of sharing booties or labour in Ekpoma. Whatever there is to be divided is first shared into two for Eguare, on behalf of Ene and Emaudo, to choose first, while Ihonmidumun takes the other part on behalf of other villages of Ekpoma.
From the above, Uda's greatness with a fitting deification throughout Ekpoma could be understood. Since according to Esan tradition, OJIE KHE BHO (The king is the Community), a man who resuscitated the ruling Family of Ekpoma was as important as the very first Onojie. So deep was the gratitude of the people and so powerful and glorious was Uda, that Ekpoma, like the rest of Esan who always appreciated and recognized power, came to think of him as a god, and with that the name UDA crowded out not only the name of those that had ruled before him in the first dynasty, but those that were his immediate successors. The result was that many of these names had been lost to history. Those of Odia and Udawe are remembered because of:
a) The great family Odia gave rise to; for example, he was the father of the fabulous AFUA founder of UWENLEN-AFUA and
b) UDAWE, Odia's first son was the father of the famous SIX PRINCES OF EKPOMA: IKEAKHE, ISIDAEHOMEN, OGUAMELE, ERONMON, OIYORIA and OZUA: These six nearly changed the history of Ekpoma, Uda had so bravely rebuilt.
It is interesting to observe an item in the Intelligence Report on ISHAN DIVISION of Benin Province -Page 10 - III HISTORICAL: "According to tradition, the founder of Egoro was one Owele, who like the FOUNDER OF EKPOMA and OPOJIE came from Benin with a title of Ogie from the Oba. He is said by one story to have come with Uda, the founder of Ekpoma. "And under Ekpoma, paragraph 30, “Historically it may be accepted that UDA WAS THE FOUNDER OF EKPOMA AND THE FIRST OF THE ENOGIES AND PROBABLY THE SON OF AN OBA."
Three quarters have hands in the selection, appointment and installation of ONOJIE of Ekpoma. These are UWENLEN-OIBO, UKPUGHE and UWENLEN-AFUA. Uwenlen-Afua is senior to Ukpughe in that Afua the founder of Uwenlen Afua was the second son of Odia, while the founder of Ukpughe, ISIDAEHOMEN was Udawe's second son. Thus, Uwenlen-Afua is an 'UNCLE' of Ukpughe. Isidaehomen, a handsome and influential prince, went to live in the place that is today called Ukpughe and gradually all his grown up brothers ran to meet him and thus the tradition of all male children living in this part of Eguare came about.
Now the succession strife Ekpoma had known in the past came about in this way: UDAWE had six sons - the famous six! On their father's death, the heir IKEAKHE the UNLUCKY (1820-1860) performed the necessary burial ceremonies but without OGBE before he became Onojie. He was famous for his wealth, renowned for his 140 wives (collected in a whirlwind attempt to get a son), but none could bear him one! He had only a daughter, IWAMON, who later followed one of the Nupe warriors who had come to help her unhappy father during the Eguare - Ikeakhe troubles of 1850. Under this pathetic circumstances, there was no point going into the expense of Ogbe since he had no male issue for whom to ensure right of succession. Thus, on his death, his next brother, Oguamele (lsidaehomen the second son of Udawe had died), succeeded him according to Esan native laws and custom. The only ceremony Ikeakhe had not performed for their father Udawe, was Ogbe, which Udawe had performed for all his children. When Oguamele himself died, he too had not done Ogbe, and the right to secession passed to his brother, ERONMON, rather than to Oguamele’s son. This was how the succession according to BROTHER SENIORITY came to be superimposed upon the well known Esan custom of FATHER TO SON with the result that the awkward new custom wrecked peace and order in Ekpoma for nearly eighty years.
All these brothers were living in Ukpughe to where the late Isidaehomen's influence had drawn them. Thus, each new successor had to be brought from Ukpughe. They knew the brothers and their exact seniority and hence were better placed to BRING THE NEXT MAN. In this way grew the custom of the elders of Ukpughe being responsible for the actual SELECTION of a successor. APPOINTMENT was jointly the prerogative of UWENLEN-AFUA and Ukpughe while INSTALLATION was the right of the elders of Uwenlen-Oibo.
According to the system which had come about by Ikeakhe not having an heir and like his successor, Oguamele, failing to perform the important Ogbe after ERONMON, the next Onojie should have been the fifth of Udawe's sons - OIYORIA; OZUA, the youngest of the brothers was afflicted by two maladies - insatiable cunning and deep hatred for his brother, Oiyoria. If there was anything he hated in his life, it was to see this object of hate on the throne - at least not in his life-time! So he used all his cunning to ensure that Oiyoria never came near the throne - at least, not before him, Ozua. He went up to Eronmon who was then reigning as Onojie, and advised him to perform the Ogbe ceremony, extolling all the manly reputation attached to that ceremony, but carefully making no reference to the momentous- succession alterations it would lead up to.
In good faith Eronmon accordingly performed Ogbe. But Oiyoria predeceased Eronmon, so that on Eronmon's death the next brother to succeed him should have been OZUA! But Eronmon, by performing Ogbe had claimed all right to inheritance and succession for his own line. Ozua was caught by his own trap! He put a stiff fight arguing that right from Ikeakhe's time succession had become established on BROTHER SENIORITY and not by heredity. Of course the elders of Ukpughe and Uwenlen-Afua told him he was talking nonsense and that right to succession had passed indisputably to Eronmon's first son, EDIALE. By his cunning Ozua roused a few elders to his favour and a civil war broke out. Ediale was driven from the palace and traditionally, fled to ENE. Ozua installed himself Onojie, blessed by practically all Ekpoma, but the kingmakers led by the late Abhulimen, maintained that native laws and custom must be respected, and that Ozua's boomerang had rebounded on him. The Oba sent peacemakers headed by Obahiagbon, in 1895. On reaching Ekpoma, the missioners took so much bribe and so indiscriminately, including Obahiagbon's marriage from the two factions, that the only decision possible under such heavily greased palms, was to declare them both Onojie, telling the Oba that the trouble in Ekpoma was a question of RIGHT versus RIGHT. So Ediale was made onojie with headquarters at IBHADEGBELOBHO's place in Ukpughe, while Ozua ruled at UWENKPOLOMON! This corrupt decision made matters worse but Ovonramwen soon faced his own troubles and Ekpoma left in turmoil for the next three years. By then, the Oba had been deported and in 1898, a European officer was sent to Ekpoma to restore order. He heard the case between Ediale and Ozua at lruekpen and ruled that native laws and custom must prevail: since Ediale's father had performed all the important burial and Ogbe ceremonies, Ozua had lost all rights to succession. That was the end of a man caught in the whirlwind his cunning had set up in an attempt to destroy his own brother.
Ekpoma's trouble did not end here. Since they followed Esan laws and custom perfunctorily and stuck to no tradition as it were, there was bound to be succession strife, the ember of which was constantly fanned by bat-like manoeuvre of some of the kingmakers. Ediale who suffered so much before he got his right, died again without performing Ogbe. His brothers OLUMESE and BHULIMEN were both eligible in so much as their father Eronmon had performed the ceremony for them all. Olumese who was then Eronmon's eldest son, claimed the title. He was solidly supported by Ukpughe and Uwenlen-Afua who were actually responsible for selection and appointment of a successor for Uwenlen-Oibo to instal. But Ediale's first son, Akhimien was backed by his late father's wealthy and influential Chief Steward OSIN. He sought the aid of the then powerful and vocal Onojie of Irrua Momodu I (Akpakpa Ayonbo) and the great Imadojiemun of Opoji. These two Enijie reduced the dispute simply:
"It was whether Epkoma was Esan or not Esan l" They found that as long as Ekpoma followed the method of BROTHER SUCCESSION there was bound to be continuous and devastating troubles and this would go on from generation to generation until Ekpoma Kings maker adopted the laws and custom known in Esan all over - SUCCESSION BY THE FIRST SON AFTER PERFORMING THE BURIAL CEREMONIES OF HIS FATHER. The real trouble was that Ediale had so much trouble that he never got to settling down to perform the necessary OGBE CEREMONY.
Olumese, therefore stepped down in favour of Ediale's heir, AKHIMIEN, after three months on the throne as a result of the Enijie's ruling, and ever since, when an Onojie died his heir buried him and succeeded to the .title in accordance with LAW 4. That finally settled the penial chieftaincy dispute in Ekpoma and a slump followed the trade on pretenders to the throne of Ekpoma!
Ediale (1898 -1909) was sitting uncomfortably on the Ekpoma throne when the whitemen arrived the Esan country in 1900. In 1905 Ekpoma Native Court for Ekpoma, Opoji, Egoro and Urhohi districts was set up, turning the face of Urohi from Benin to Esan. The famous Government School followed a year after his death in 1910. Either because her people have always been calculating, suspicious and revengeful type, or because of the BROTHER SENIORITY of succession, Ikeakhe the unlucky's heirless death had initiated, Ekpoma had never really suffered the misfortune of having an autocrat on their throne. Those with deep respect of the constitution and traditions and people who were otherwise carefree formed the community that tended to have a despot as a ruler. A man who knew the throne was not his by right or birth, that is he could not only say "Since my father was the Onojie and I am his lawful first son, the throne must be mine alone, would infinitely be more careful of his actions. For a long time in Ekpoma, between Ikeakhe the Unlucky and Akhimien (about 90 year) there were several pretenders to the throne. Anybody chosen then knew his own children had only a remote claim to the throne and that himself was there by the grace of God and the mercy of the people; ln other words he had no pretension at Divine Right of Kings: he must rule with an eye constantly to what his people thought of him.
In the history of the Ruling Family, few names stuck. Uda, of course, formed a class by himself; he resuscitated the house Ozolua had razed to the ground, even though he was really a mokhuian to Eguare. Today many names still remind us of him: Udawe, Udazele, Udabo, Ivbiuda etc. Ikeakhe's name was another commonly mentioned for two reasons: First he led a most pathetic life; he was fabulously wealthy but he died without an heir. The only daughter he had, was seduced by IMOGODIA and ADAUDO, two of the Nupe warriors he had invited to help him punish Eguare for their mental torture crowned with their driving him to Ene and later to his mother's place, Ihonmidunmun. In addition, because he had no issue from his 140wives. He led the meekest of lives. He suffered abuses and indignity - his frequent ejaculation was, "Ekpoma is ill treating me because I have no child!" In great contrast was his uncle, Afua. Afua was the typically proud and rather vindictive Ekpoma man. He once sent to poor Ikeakheto ask him if he knew how an Onojie without children was buried. Ikeakhe meekly sent back that he did not. Afua sent back the same messenger to tell the unhappy man that an Onojie without an heir was buried with a young virgin and a youth in place of the customary 15 women and 15 men who were beheaded to escort the dead king who had an heir, to the great world beyond. Such a king was placed in a grave lined with living slaves and each arm rested on a living man's body. Then the grave was covered. If later the grave caved in, another man had to be used to refill it. But poor Ikeakhe who had no possibility of having an heir before he died must know that all he would be entitled to would be a virgin and a youth - in order words, he would receive the pauper's burial!
The second reason for Ikeakhe's name standing out in the history or Ekpoma was as a result of his having no heir and hence he failed to perform Ogbe; he thus nearly altered the constitution of Ekpoma and certainly altered the direct line of succession. As we have seen already the right to succession which went from father to first son, went from brother to brother with all the disruptive strife that attended such a clumsy method of inheritance. With Ikeakhe went peace in Ekpoma until the time of Akhimien.
METHOD OF INSTALLATION:
All the princes lived in Ukpughe so that as soon as an Onojie died; it was Ukpughe who selected the new successor. This was the late Onojie's first son, before and after the Ikeakhe episode. This man was put forward by Ukpughe and approved by Uwenlen-Afua. He went over to the palace and took possession. As usual with Esan laws and custom burial had to be begun at once. In most parts of Esan the ceremonies of burial and Ogbe having been merged, the new man then performed the funeral obsequies to satisfy his Egbele which consisted in Ekpoma of Ukpughe, Uwelen-Afua and Uwelen-Oibo. Having completed these ceremonies he now performed the, IRUEN (Clothing Ceremony), if he had not already done it. He was then followed by all the Egbele to Uwelen-Oibo for the installation. This tradition had its origin from the time Ehizojie moved to the present Eguare.
At Uwelen-Oibo the new man was made first to realise the joy and dignity of labour before pleasure: he swept the street, then climbed a palm tree. He then gave the elders a slave since replaced with lponey since the abolition, before he knelt on a special installation stone (UDO OLOJIE) with each hand resting on UJE, about 18,667 cowries. The actual ceremony of blessing was performed by the Odionwele of Uwelen-Oibo. Then the Onojie-elect returned to Eguare in jubilation. At the inner chamber of the palace, ancestral worship was performed by the Osukhure before the Uwelen-Oibo Odionwele and the Oniha counted him on the OJIUKHUO with OKPA, Eva up to Ugboloo (one, two up to eleven), making him take his seat on the eleventh count. They then blessed him with UKHATO UKPEELE, ALE RE NON OMON (Long may you reign and may you be succeeded by your own son). They then stepped back and gave him the Onojie salute of DO OMON! Everybody then came forward to pay him homage. Then the new Onojie stepped out to the public grand throne where members of the public came to pay their respects.