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!
The correct name is UROI
Until the later part of the thirties, Urhohi which the then British Administration referred to as Urhohi Village group had no intercourse with even the nearest district of Ekpoma let alone the rest of Esan: Urohi people had always regarded themselves as being Benin if one remembered what happened after the Idah War of 1516. As the Benin warriors were returning, home from the war front Oba Ozolua had wisely decreed defensive posts at strategic spots along the main routes through the old Esan country: some powerful defensive medicines were planted in flat wooden containers (Uro) with soldiers ostensibly to guard these defensive fetish weapons. These military out-posts developed into communities later that went by Uroh in Uzea in the North-East, Uroh, down South near the River Niger and Urohi, in the extreme Western end of Esan.
Until the coming of the British made travelling safe, no Urohi man visited Ekpoma, Opoji or Egoro with which communities Urohi was constantly in a state of war. Also until the construction of the Native Administration road which was more of a foot path through the impenetrable jungle, from Urohi through Ukpoke to Ekpoma, Urohi was isolated and insular even though Urohi was on the old routes most Benin Traders took to Esan.
The place was heavily forested, rich in Iroko, Mahogany and Obeche, very fertile and the people were excellent farmers. Hunters and gatherers, like Urhobos, traders etc. settled along River Ossiomo and on the fertile farm land. All the interests of these people were towards Benin to which it was easier and safer to evacuate their products through nearby Uhi. The Ossiomo River formed an effective boundary limiting Urohi to the Esan country.
It is reasonable to believe that the captain of the Benin warriors left to guard the defensive Uro, called Oseighelen or his heir called Irenlen, gave rulership of the community who later according to Esan .custom came to be known as Onojie. It is, also reasonable to see how this original settlement became Eguare with a 1963 population for 1556.
2. EKOMIJIE: (205)
This came·from the Eko or camp of Omijie, the first son of Urokuyuwa, a Benin man; this man first settled in Idomotien. Eribo was the Uko Oba (Oba's representative) who returned to Benin leaving Urokuyuwa as his deputy).
3. OHOGHO (610)
This village was formed by some Benin warriors, thus, becoming one of the earliest settlements. Here is the seat of the Oshodin that takes care of the Onojie's harem and like the rest of Esan, it was his duty to "Baa Igben” that is place one of the Onojie's Ivie necklaces around the neck of a desired woman, single or married. Once this happened the woman automatically became the wife of the Onojie.
4. EBHOUKHURE (347)
Some of the Benin men who came to settle the Urohi - Uhi land dispute, founded this community in an area where sugar cane (Ukhuere) grew luxuriantly. The original name Idumedo had been eclipsed by this produce.
Like all the settlements of Urhoi, the founders of this village came directly from Benin or nearby Uhi. Here the Iyasele of Urhohi is found.
6. UROHINAEGORO (383)
This place was founded by Benin people from Uhi and some fugitives from Egoro which got decimated about the same time Ikhatenmen and his group were forced to flee further into the jungle. Many of these people belonged to the hardy groups that withstood the onslaught.
This place was founded by some of the original Benin warriors under the leadership of Ekenuhan. The name has nothing to do with Ekhuele Khanoba of Ekperi. The name came 'from Akhue (for marble game) which abounded in the area.
Because of the fertil ity of the land and the remoteness from powerful rulers and marauders, farmers and hunters founded many subsequent communities that went by the name of Ago, Eko, like Ebutemetta camp (263) Okenauwa or Ago Uwa (805), Ageni from Ago Eni which was founded by elephant hunters who getting tired of the long and hazardous trips to Urohi jungle finally settled there.
From the-heterogeneous mixtures of the settlements, even the adoption of Esan custom following the establishment of Ekpoma Native Court, has not been able to weld them together in the true Esan way and with no ties of kinship inter-marriage within the same Idunmun is the practice. Exogamy is practically alien to Urohi!
As pointed out already, after the establishment of Ekpoma Native Court in 1905 and fixing of the old Benin - Esan boundary, Urohi was forced into some positive union with Esan, though in practice it was more at tune with Benin; thus Esan did not know anything about Urohi Enijie. Until 1931 when the all powerful Ishan Council was abolished Imadojiemum (1909 - 1946) District Head (D.H.) of Ekpoma - Egoro - Opoji District, ruled Urohi. But today, Urohi is a virile component of Esan West Local Government Area and fully integrated with all Esan activities and custom under an enlightened Onojie - His Highness Oguamere 11 like his jovial forebear, Oguamere 1.