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!
The correct name is OWOHA. Although the population of the district was given as 3,003 in the 1953 census, the more accurate figure is likely to be nearer 5,000 than anything else, for Eguare, Emaudo, Idumu-Ihaza, Uzogbon, Inemen and Amalu without Idegun and Otokhimin, give a population of 4,480.0.
I have heard people even in Ugboha say that the name Owoha was given to the area because the people inhabited the hinterland of Esan, that is OWU-OHA meaning 'Inside the bush'. I hasten to say that nothing could be further from the truth. Presently we shall see that the name came from the place of origin of the founders.
There is a story that the leaders of the founders of Uromi and Ugboha were brothers. On getting to Uromi the senior brother wanting to settle in a place that appeared unusually fertile to him, lied to his brother that he was having intense colic which made his further travel impossible; in consequence he was very reluctantly settling where they had stopped for rest. The junior brother could not understand such a sudden illness and feeling very suspicious, he warned his brother to remember there was no drop of water where he was trying to settle, and so urged him to let them move further to a place they could get water. Instead the senior feigned a collapse, and the brother who was being deceived, getting doubly suspicious said, "Well brother, if this bellyache from the blues is genuine, I wish you a speedy recovery; but if it is a pretence, may bellyache haunt you and your descendants forever!" So saying he left in search of water and so got to the present Ugboha area.
Under the history of Irrua, Uromi and Ubiaja there is a story that the founders of these places were BROTHERS. There was no mention of Ugboha. Till the present day there is an AFFINITY which forbids the 'seeing of blood' between the people of Irrua and Ugboha and though the elders of both places affirm this, no one has been able to tell me why. Evidence suggests that no strong tie developed until the arrival of Queen Ehuade of Irrua who was a native of Ugboha. Her influence was such that a non-aggression pact between Irrua her legal home and Ugboha her natural home did not need formal oath. There is no real evidence of blood affinity between the people of Ugboha and Uromi but what is a fact is that the people who first inhabited the area today making up Ugboha came from various settlements although ultimately, the original home is Benin.
1. EGUARE (595 - 1269) AND EMAUDO (709 - 3586)
The original founders under the leadership of UIEBOMEN, came directly from IDUMU-IGUN Ugboha in Benin City, having the same origin as the people of Agbede, Alegbete and Unemen in Igala district. These immigrants left the city during the disintegration of the great Benin Empire round about 1460. Although they were much impressed with the fertility of the areas through which they trekked as could be judged by the great forests and dense under growths, they trekked further than most of the deserters from Benin because they sought greater inducement to settlement - water. The result is that this settlements, Ugboha, is full of streams with some of the villages being right on the bank of the Niger and its Eguare is only eight miles away from this great waterway.
The Binis settled down under their leader Ijiebomen, but in 1463, Ewuare the Selfish's message to all Ekakulo reached Ijiebomen's settlement. For months before this the Okakulo had been reduced to hopping about on crutches with the soles of his feet riddled with burning tertiary yaws nodules. Trekking to Benin was of course unthinkable and so he asked his junior brother ONOR, to deputize for him: Reaching Benin, Onor was one of the ambassadors who had the mixed joy of being made rulers of the districts which hitherto, had not been under their influence. They were instructed to conduct themselves from henceforth honourably, princely and, of course, faithfully to Oba Ewuare. Then they left for their various homes, loaded with bribes consisting of slaves, coral beads etc. Months after, Onor arrived home and his senior brother in ecstasy struggled up to give him a brotherly handshake. Onor with his jaw stuck up into the air in disdain, thrust his right hand into his EKPOKIN (smoked bag every man of importance carried across his shoulders in those days) "Ah!" he said with importance, "Brother, you are making a mistake; you see the Oba has made me the Ruler of our settlement and I would be disgracing this right hand with which I shook the Oba, if I let you have it!" Hurt and swallowing bard, Ijiebomen said, "But I sent you!" "True," said Onor, "But what you sent me for has been conferred upon me and it is not transferable!"
"Very well", said the much injured Ijiebomen, "You can go and rule your people, but certainly not me!" So Onor is the founder of the Ruling Family of Ugboha. Movement to the present Eguare was forced upon Onor and all his people - firstly by incessant attack from neighbouring Kukuruku
Territory and secondly by the frequent illness which Onor took as a displeasure from the departed spirits; this stimulated reconciliation with his senior brother to whom he and all his people moved closer. Today ljiebomen's Idumu-Iyasele and Onor's Eguare are adjacent though the first settlement is today marked by Egbosun and Erie near Otokhimin. After Onor's death a shrine - ALUONOR, was built in this original settlement, the priest coming from Idumuabekhae Emaudo. The present priest at the original ONOR Shrine is Owohazele Ojie.
1. (a) Eguare really is made up of the Onojie, Princes, slaves and those who fled to the Onojie's patronage and protection. Despite the growth of Eguare, its purity had been maintained by the fact that the members cannot intermarry since they trace their ancestry to Onor just as they cannot marry from Emuado, descendants of Ijiebomen. This brings to focus the Eguare enclave known as OKE. Oke people are exotic and in no way related to the Royal Family and their descendants - hence but for Onojie Okojie who decreed that since Oke lives in extreme proximity to Eguare, marriage must not be allowed - there is no customary reason why an Eguare person cannot marry a person of Oke descent. 'For the same reason Okojie descendants can marry from Ijiebomen's Emaudo as exemplified by:-
(a) Ogbekhiulu (m) of Oke married Agboinwanlan (f) of Idunzeneb Emaudo who was the mother of Ebhodaghe (m), Ugoyi (m) Oghodan (t) and Obeto (t).
(b) Omoiyebagbe (t) of Oke was the daughter of Agheghe Ogbekhiuh of Oke; she married Odalo of Idunzenebi Emaudo and was the father of Otoibhi and Ikhuoria who as Princess Zuma's maid in the early thirties, was a lover to Adu Asemota, driver of Onoji Okojie. Since the people of Oke are alien to Eguare, the descendants of Ok cannot therefore handle the ancestral Onor Ukhure and so cannot aspire customarily to the Odionweleship of Eguare.
This consists of two quarters:
(i) UHUEKPEN or IDUMUEKPEN which was founded by one of Onojie Abulu's daughters and customarily, descending from a female line, this quarter has no say in anything affecting the way of life of the sons of Ijiebomen and Onor.
(ii) IDUMUOKHUN was founded by one of the sons of Ikhimigbole, who had to be ostracised because he was an albino. This was the fate of all albinos, for although Esan people did not murder albino babies, they did everything possible to make life and survival difficult or impossible for them. The Esan proverb - AKHA GBE AYAIN NAN UWOLO, OKIN EDE (if you slaughter an albino for a pond, it becomes a stream), lends support to the statement that albinos in Esan used to be drowned in certain ponds.
I had been asked many questions about the Origin of Uhuekpen and Idumokhun; the rather fractious nature of things within Idueguanokokhun itself creates difficulties. What one should remember is that in a large family let alone in royal family, it is no surprise to find many uncles who are junior to their nephews. So the fact that the founder of Idumokhun is a nephew to the Aunt who founded Uhuekpen does not make the latter senior to the former. It is the Albino Prince that the Princess Aunt went to join. There is no example any-where in Esan where a woman started an eko, a settlement. Ijiebomen, angry and bitter, was left with his immediate family. He and his children were the founders of the quarters making up
which consists of :-
1. IDUMUABEKHAE) Both quarters were founded by Ogun.
2. IDUNZENEBI) Ijiebomen's youngest son.
3. IDUMUN-IYASELE) Is the seat of the Iyasele second only to the Onojie. This was the original settlement of ljiebomen the leader of the settlement who would have been the Onojie but for Ewuare's action; hence it is traditionally first in the Ijiebomen Onor family.
4. IDUENEMA: Was founded by ENANIEN, Ijiebomeo's first son.
5. AFUDA was an extension of Ijiebomen's settlement.
6. IDUMUOSO: This place was founded by the children of Ijiebomen's daughter called ENOGHONMAN who was an Arebhoa hence they do not attend at the ancestral shrine of Ijiebomen.
When Onor, the Onojie, wanted to worship at the ancestral shrine he invited his senior brother Ijiebomen who retorted that it was an insult for him to go to Onor's place. So he sent his most junior son, Ogun to represent him. This is why the two quarters founded by Ogun, Idumuabekhae and Idunzenebi, became the chief worshippers at the Onojie's ancestral shrine. Customarily, the Onojie in Esan does not handle the symbol of the departed ancestors, UKHURE, himself. This is done by the Osukhure who in the case of Ugboha, had to come from Ogun's quarters. When Onor's invitation was refused by Ijiebomen, the latter sent his most junior son Ogun, in spite, to handle the Ukhure which he Ijiebomen ought to be in custody of, but for the trick Ewuare played on Esan leaders. This was how the custom grew and the most elderly in the two quarters of Ogun, has to be the Onojie's Osukhure.
This consists of:
(1) IDUMUN-IHAZA which was founded by OKPO, Ijiebomen's second son and so is of the same origin as Idumuabekhae of Emaudo. Idihaza itself has two other components which are exogenous to Emaudo. They are:-
(a) Utebhie and
Thus, while Emaudo, Eguare and the main Idihaza are bound by exogamy they can marry from Utebhie and Uhe to emphasise they belong to different patrilineage.
The founders of this settlement were the very first settlers in the present Ugboha land and were already here before the organised followers of Ijiebomen, leader of the Benin immigrants. According to Esan custom therefore they are in possession of the big Ukhure for all-Ugboha as a unit, have the prerogative of Oto worship and since they are first, they in consultation with the Onojie, decide the time for the EKEBHOANNUAL FESTIVAL which falls in October. The Ukhure which they take charge of, ISIKUOTO deals only with Ugboha land and has nothing to do with the Onojie title.
The very first settlement here was founded by the dauntless and upright warrior, AGOBO of Idumuagbala of Uromi. He was one of the top ranking leaders of the Uromi side when the Uzea war became intractable. He became better known with this name because he had lost the use of his right arm from the effects of past battles at which he excelled all others.
Noticing that the information about lovable Agba's death was received vwith unbidden mixed feelings and fearing that after the Binis had gone his colleagues might expose him despite their oaths, he fled the Uromi territory. His eko became the nucleus of the village of IDASUN where he was later deified for his noble life. His shrine is the yearly meeting place for all men who have done something of great gallantry, for example, killing a leopard and women who have done something out of the ordinary like bearing twins or triplets that survived.
The people of Idasun even today are noted for their trait: they could always be trusted to carry out their own side of any agreement. They are valiant, full of honour and they handle things with their left hands – a symbol of secret societies and men of valour. Once a year they come to Eguare for the Onojie's celebration of victory -victory of good over evil, uprightness over treachery and life over death in the past year. This is the feast of ISU EFALE. It is performed on the day of the new moon and from thence, the Ekebho Ukpe is due in another lunar month.
KILLING OF A LEOPARD:
The custom surrounding the killing of a leopard in Ugboha emphasises the noble position of Idasun. The killing of this animal is one of the greatest acts of valour in Esan and in Ugboha in particular, it places the man in a special rank of distinguished men. Such a man is accompanied with a war dance and the great beast is carried on men's heads like a corpse. No matter his village of origin, the gallant man must first go to Idasun the village of the brave and its men accompany him to Eguare for recognition. After the ceremonial dance the man is rewarded for his bravery and the leopard is taken to Idumekpen of Idueguanokokhun for butchering. On the following morning the skin, the heart and the nine whiskers are brought to the Onojie. In the olden days the heart was used for making sasswood poison which was more potent in Eguare. The flesh was not usually meant for eating, but bits of it were shared round the villages and every child who had not tasted it before was given a bit, thus protecting him against the severe reaction which is believed would follow accidental swallowing of any material with which the leopard might have touched, for example, a thirsty hunter drinking from a water hole from which a leopard might have had a drink. This belief is not superstitious in that modern medicine has proved that severe anaphylactoid reactions could follow the ingestion of materials from cats, leopards, flowers etc.
Culturally, Ugboha is divided into four groups:
(ii) Uzogbon with Idegun
(iii) Otokhimin; and
Ekebho itself is divided into:
(b) Emaudo; and
(c) Idinegbon which itself is made up of Idihaza, Idumabu and Idasun. As said already the Onojie's Osukhure is found in the two quarters founded by Ogun - Idumuabekhae and Idunzenebi. The Ezomo is found in Idumun-Iyasele the Uwague, Oshodi and Egbe which was one of the 'personal titles' like the Ehi were titles traditionally found in ldurnuabekhae while the Ehi was found in Afuda - the present holder being Chief John Ekoh.
After the abolition of the slave trade in 1900, personal titles like Ehi and Egbe the holders of which used to enjoy unrestricted privileges during the life time of the Onojie who created them but dying with him at his burial, became hereditary. There is yet another traditional relationship maintained at burial ceremonies. Eguare, Idurnun - Iyasele and Afuda perform burial ceremonies for each other while Idumuabekhae, Idunzenehi, Idueneman and Idihaza do theirs with Idueguanokokhun.
4. UZOGBON (1114 - 1693):
This large village is made up of:-
(1) Idunmun - Oniha, the seat of the Oniba next in rank to the Onojie.
(2) Idingun -
(5) Idinwe; and
This place closely related to Uzogbon consists of:-
(a) Idunmun - Ode; and
(b) Idumun - Akuanyan.
Most of the early settlers of Uzogbon came from the old Kukuruku division particularly Uzosi and Uzano while Idegun people are of the same origin as Uzogbon and up till how they have the same custom and celebratethe same annual feast. –
After the death of Oba Ozolua in Uzea in 1504, the tired Benin fighters and the starving Uromi warriors saw no need for 'further hostilities and bloodshed. Everybody on both sides was happy to return to his home after the liquidation of the two war mongers. As the Biniscould not take the rapidly decomposing body of Ozolua to ' Benin, the head was saved and returned to Benin City while the body was taken far into the jungle from Uzea and removed from Uromi, for burial. To prevent desecration a few soldiers were stationed at the spot for day and night guard duty. These
soldiers founded the settlement that is today OTOKHIMIN, whose inhabitants, up to the time of Onojie Okojie, who brought them fully under Ugboha early in the present century, still used the Bini tongue mostly and prided themselves in claiming to be Binis and not Esan.
Today Otokhimin consists of:-
(1) Idunmun - Esan
(2) Idunmun - Eghe
(3) Emule; and
Idunmun-Eghe and Emule are of Benin origin as described above. The original Okakulo who commanded the Benin warriors is today represented by the intelligent and peaceful Chief Ekpaojie, Idunmun-Esan as the name suggests is of the same origin as Iduneka and are of Esan origin.
7. INEMEN (1,272 - 2,146):
Inemen made up of nine quarters is divided into two main units:-
(i) ONUMA which is the original settlement and consists of:
(3) Idunmun Oghede
(5) Idumien; and
(6) Iduanenin (ldunmun - Anenin)
(ii) QNAAN which is made up of:-
(7) Idunmun - Esogban
(8) Oyomo; and
Round about 1480, during the reign of Onojie IZOYA, IELEN, one of the sons of the great Oghomighon of Ubiaja, committed adultery with one of his father's wives and as he could not be killed for this grave offence, he was banished. He found his way to Ugboha where Izoya gave him asylum and a place to settle. That settlement became IDUMIEN from Idunmun IELEN in the first settled area of ONUMA. The Ukebho, the Chief of Inemen, comes from Iduanenin while the Ohe
Aluogbe is found in Idunmun - Esogban and he fixes Inemen feast. Preset holder is Ehiaguina Abhonokhue.
8. AKAMARU (205)
During the Nupe or Bida War which some refer to as Kukuruku War (1850 - 1853, the people of Inemen village bore the brunt of these over slave raids. In one big swoop round about 1850, a majority of Ineme community were sacked, made for the bush and as fugitives, landed on the right bank of-the Alika River. They formed the early settlers of Alegbete. Adede was then the Onojie of Ugboha.
THE UDAGE - EGUARE WAR, 1894:
As a result of these devastating raids the word Nupe or AZANAMA became so terrifying that warned men fled their village even before a shot was fired. Even as late as the early twenties, naughty children could be brought into immediate control with the cry GHE AZANAMA! (Here come the Nupes!)
Shortly after EBADAN, OLUMESE'S heir, had completed the burial ceremonies and ascended the throne, Udage buttressed with the notoriety of the Nupes, arrived Ugboha via Inemen with Nupe and some Benin mercenaries. Many Inemen people remembering the havoc these raiders had brought on Inemen in particular years before, fled without resistance or actual battle reaching them. Udage's objective really was Eguare which he and his predatory helpers attacked with the utmost fury, razing it down when the Onojie and nearly all Eguare took to their heels.
One of the men who fled Ughoha during the raid was AMALU, a native of Oyomo quarter of Inemen, who crossed over to Ifeku Island. Soon he fell ill seriously and the Ighanlan host, fearing he might die, shoved him into a canoe and landed him on the Esan bank of the Alika. There ill and hungry he got a message to reach the Onojie of Alegbete through passing canoe men. Help really came by way of men to take him to Alegbete, but finding him too ill to be moved, they built a hut for him and after some days when he had got better they left him with food supply. When he had fully recovered, even though he had heard that Ebadan and a majority of those who had fled Ugboha had returned to their homes, he refused to go back. On the contrary, his junior brother called Ukpokolo and many others from Idunmun-Akubo of Inemen went to join him and soon a hamlet grew. It was called Eko Amalu which for short degenerated into EKAMALU or with Ugboha inflection, AKAMALU.
Round about 1902, some Illushi or Ozigono and Ighanlan traders under Chid' ATOKHARA, began to come to the new village to sell fish, Okpan lghanlan (carved calabashes) etc. and thus EKIAMALU took origin. With the arrival of the United Africa Company (UAC) and the John Holts round about 1906the river port soon became an important produce buying station for places as far as Irrua.
With such a rapid growth in importance Amalu's settlement soon became a bone of contention between the people of Alegbete and Ugboha. By 1907 matters came to a head and at the Illushi Enquiry of March 26, 1907, Chief Okojie who had become Onojie of Ugboha a year earlier, claimed not 001) Ekamaru but Alegbete which he maintained was uninhabited before the Nupe or Bida War of 1850 - 1853. Then it was that refuges from Ugboh: founded Alegbete that was later claiming Ekamaru! Okojie, flanked by such dignified men like the audacious Otumu, a warrant Chief and Ubiaja Native Court member (who died in April, 1920) and Akhuemokhan, put up such a strong case against the Alegbetes led by Chief IJESAME that the District Commissioner H.M. Douglas, decided that Ekamaru belonged to Ugboha The boundary between Ugboha and Alegbete was then fixed to be the UHONMORO Stream.
On the 4th of November, 1918 AMARU became a crown land, Chief OKOJIE, Onojie of Ugboha being the Grantor under the title of Absolute Grant. In 1932 approval was given for the United Africa Company to surrender their plots at Illushi and Amaru (See file 1634/104, Intelligence Report - Benin Province, June Quarter - 1932 and Minutes of a meeting between Commander Pykenott, D.O. Ishan and Mr. G.B. Williams on lot of March, 1932).
9. IFEKU ISLAND (1,098):
This long island lying between the River Niger (Oshimili) and the Aliki was uninhabited until the Idab siege of 1515 - 1516 by Oba Esigie. Man Idab people fled Idab town southwards, some founding settlements on the Ifeku or Iheku Island. The incessant molestation of the areas south of Ida by slave raiders of Bida, scattered the inhabitants of such places and EKHUELE (Ekperi), Alegbete and Inemen - Ugboha. Many of the fugitive helped to establish settlements on the island too.
As the settlements fused, the island came to consists of mixed groups (Ighanlan (Igala), Nupes, Ugboha and Ekperi people and the territory itself was being claimed by Chief Okojie of Ugboha, Ugbodaga of Alegbete are the Atab of Idah. Again Chief Okojie put up such a strong case based (the history of origin of the island community that at a joint meeting at while Chief Okojie, Chief Ugbodaga and some Igala Chiefs were present, Mr. Shute, then an Assistant District Officer at Idab, went into the dispute in conjunction with Mr. Falk, later a Resident, Benin Province, on the 16th of April, 1916. The safest way to peace was for the officers to divide the island into two: the northern half which was predominantly Ighanlan speaking, was placed under Ugbodaga while the southern part from a point opposite Ekamaru to Ojigolo (lllushi), was placed under Ugboha since it was practically inhabited by Ugboha people. Thus while the northern part attended court at Fugar the southern part went to court at Ubiaja! But the final separation did not come until 1923 when the north joined Kukuruku Division while the south became definitely Esan territory.
10. ILLUSHI LAND:
The thorny matter concerning Ozigono or Ojigolo or Illushi, a word first used in a document titled "AGREEMENT OF SALE SIGNED BY KING AND PEOPLE OF OPOROPORO (lLLUSHI) must be dealt with at this point.
In June, 1975, the government of Mid-Western State set up a Commission of Enquiry to look into the custom of succession to the village head of Illushi in Ishan Division, with Mr. S.O. Ayonote as the Sole Commissioner. Not only as Chairman of ISHAN DIVISIONAL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL but as a responsible citizen of Ishan, I submitted a memorandum which I went to defend at Ubiaja on the 16th of July, 1975. I consider it fairer for future enquirers and students of Ishan history to reproduce this memorandum verbatim.
Ref: No. 31ILLUSHI/E175
MEMORANDUM PRESENTED TO THE COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY ON THE VILLAGE HEAD OF ILLUSHI BY DR. XTO G. OKOJIE – OFR
This is a matter that would require painstaking study as Illushi being in Ishan District cannot be treated in isolation. Illushi which most Ishan call Ozigono has so many complicated problems that unless they are unravelled, any decision about this community will end in more serious complications. This is why appointment of this august commission caused me a great surprise.
1. ACKNOWLEDGING IDSTORY:
Today. Illushi stands on eastern border of Ishan Division, 10 miles from Oria, 16 miles from Ugboha and 21 miles from Ubiaja. The only thing there is no dispute about in Illushi, is the land: there is a land bearing the name Dlushi; as for ownership and who are the People of Illushi, there is a jigsaw! The truth is that before 1896 it was an uninhabited land claimed by Ugboha with mouth of River Idon forming the boundary between Ugboha and Urho people. Ugboha and Urho villages farmed along the bank of River Niger and fished in it.
(i) In 1885, the National African Company Limited, was granted a Royal Charter as the Royal Niger Company WITH AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER THE TERRITORIES WHICH IT HELD UNDER TREATY AND .CONCESSION. This Charter was not revoked until 1899 – thus between 1896 and 1899 the Royal Niger Company was the de factor government of the territories under it in what is today Nigeria. It traded in produce from as far inland as Katsina Ala, the western part of Northern Nigeria evacuating its purchases at Burutu Port. It was a long distance causing tremendous strain on the boats and men. It was therefore necessary to establish River Ports for refuelling rest and later to evacuate produce in the territories in between. One of the sites they chose was Ozigono. Soon after their arrival and after building the station and a factory trade that developed was handicapped only by the absence of a real road, to the hinterland. There were foot paths to Ugboha, Oria and Urho villages. The British decided to legalise their position and prepared an agreement which obviously had difficulty in being executed. From the fishermen, traders and hangers - on like domestic staff, they got a few people to "sign". By this agreement dated 29th February. 1896 the Royal Niger Company signed an agreement over purchase of a portion of the land WITH THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI. How they came to give this name to the place they found called OZIGOLO which they themselves called "Jigolo" today is again froth with contention; suffice it to say that the nearest quarter of URHO to the Royal Niger Company station was URHOSI. To show how spurious this agreement was, even Benin was not occupied until 1897 and it was years before any Benin man could speak English. In 1896 there was not a single Ishan man who could speak Engl ish. The question arises - who interpreted the agreement for THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI? The truth is that in 1896 the Royal Niger Company was the government de facto, and in the British eyes , de jure, and the taking of the portion of land for trade was a purely GOVERNMENTAL ACTION, if anything, clothed in a legal document, no one in Ishan or Ozigono could comprehend.
(ii) Let us go into some details about this so-called Agreement of sale said to be signed by "KING AND PEOPLE OF OPOROPORO (IJ1ushi)". It was registered as No. 57 in Volume I ofthe Niger Lands Agreement, kept in the Lands Registry, Lagos, Nigeria. The signatories were "KING"
Jackara, Chief Omootooni, Egualo, Itsodi etc. while John Taggart signed for the Royal Niger Company. Jackara must be Atokhara while Omootooni is Omochulu, both said to be natives of Idah and according to Commander Pykenott, D.O. Ishan and G.B. Williams, representing the U.A.C. and John Holts which became Lessors of the Royal Niger Company land at "Jigolo", "Jackara and Omootooni were natives of Idah who appear to have had trading activities at Ogu and Jigolo . In the very many litigations over this land in Native Courts, High Court and Supreme Court, witnesses on both sides affirmed that there has never been an Onojie (KING) in Illushi.
(iii) The People of Ugboha, Urho and Ubiaja who have had strong connections with IIlushi or Jigono are agreed that the land is Ishan. It will be ironical to have a man from Idah as Onojie or King in a land not belonging to Igalla people. The truth is that Ugboha had always claimed lIIushi and havea common boundary with the people of Urhol/Uroshi. Chief Okojie who became Onojie of Ugboha in 1906 ten years after the building of the Royal Niger Company station and factory at Illushi had:
(1) Always received tributes from Illushi.
(2) Appointed Market masters who because they had power to adjucate cases in the market and represented Okojie of Ugboha, began to address themselves as Chiefs over the years. Examples are Orukpe Ikekhua, an Inemen Ugboha man» then Arome; an Urho man, Eguma an Igalla man, Alfa Tedi, a Nupe Tom Amalu etc. When Local Government was introduced the market master yielded place to the Tax Collector. In this capacity Okoiwele of Oria entered the murky political scene of Illushi.
(3) Okojie's suzerainty extended across Illushi to Urho, Iyenlen and Ebu now in Asaba Division. Commander Pykenott in his Intelligence Report (10/3/32, 88A - B) said "Ugboha is concerne with FISHING AND NOT LAND RIGHTS", a most amazing, statement to students of Land Tenure in Ishan! Those who own the land, own the water and fishes in it!
When Chief Okojie died in 1931, Ugboha was convulse with an all-embracing chieftaincy dispute, their power to claim their rights waned and Illushi became all comer's territory could have been unthinkable for anyone in Urho/Uroshi or Oniha to lay claim to the land with Onojie on Ugboha throne.
(4) Even today who are the prominent people in control of Illushi Chief John Ekoh, Pius Amiegbebhor, the Okpatakus (Adanyi an Ofor), Ogudu Ipe - all Ugboha men!'
(iv) Going back to the signatories of the Royal Niger Company large sale, the hinterland Headquarters .of this Company/Government, was the confluence town of Lokoja. The people around Lokoja had contacts with the officers of the Company, had begun trading activity with them and which some of the officers came down to Illushi station and factory, many can down with them. Most of these men were people from Ajaokuta, such we Atokhara, Omochulu, Itsodi (Chordi) etc. Unlike what happened few yea before, down the Niger, the Royal Niger Company on getting to the Delta Areas, looked for the owners of the area and in 1894, it signed a treaty friendship with the "King and People of Patani". In Ishan where there was no hostility or resistance, it prepared a legal document, called together though they knew but who did not understand a word of what they thump imprinted, and got them to sign it as "King and people of Oporoporo!"
As an aside, in the many petitions and litigations over Illushi land are:
(a) Achima and others (See J.D. 394).
(b) Chief Mordi and others of Uloshi (Urho) versus Chief Okowere and others of Oria (See J.D. 94/3.1).
(c) Etu and three others versus Chief Mordi, Dick Ibe for themselves and on behalf of the people of Oroshi, Chief Okowere (See J. 94/S.2).
(d) Etu , Unubi , Thomas Onobi, Joseph Okalor for themselves and behalf of Ogbodogun Family versus Chief Mordi, Ben Ibe, Chief Okowere for himself and on behalf of the people of Oria (See E South East Federal Court, Suit No. 99/51).
(e) Dick Ibe and others versus Okowere and others (See Suit 13/16/1949, heard by Justice Jibowu at the Supreme Court 20/2/51).
(f) Okoh Ugbodu for himself and on behalf of the people of Illushi versus Okoiwere of Oria and Bala of Kankanda (See Suit No. 8/64/61).
(g) Oko Ugbodu versus Okoiwere and Bala of Kankauda (See Supreme Court SC.717/66 heard on Friday, 23/5/69) the real claimants have never sued in their own right. For instance, Urhol Uroshi people have never sued as such, but as people of Illushi, because their legal advisers have always said as the real people of Oporoporo, they are the real people of llIushi. And this brings a thornier question to mind. The alleged signatories were supposed to be natives of Oporoporo. Today "who are the people of Oporoporo" is not in doubt. It is our Ishan Okpokporo that had been reduced by the white men to Oporoporo. Thus if these people should go to Court, the lawyers will have a field day and we might find ourselves looking towards Urho for the real "of Illushi". In other words, I will anticipate myself by saying that a more pressing problem today for the government is to identify in no unmistakable manner the real "People of llIushi" for whom a village Head is to be chosen. For instance if the Government finds that the people of Urho or Uroshi or Okporokporo own the land of Illushi - there would be no need for a headship of Illushi since Urho has an acknowledged Onojie according to Ishan Native Laws and Custom. Second thing to note is among the cases cited in courts inside and outside Ishan practically the same people appear as Plaintiffs and Defendants or verse versa illustrating the near impossibility of knowing who really are "the people of Illushi."
And what was the result of the Ayonote Commission of Enquiry? Some said it was aborted, others said it never saw the light of day. Whether it suffered abortion or it was a still-birth let us end this mixed grill with a look at the Rule of Law as it affected lllushi:
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA" Holden at Lagos on Friday, 23rd May, 1969
Before their Lordships
Sir Adetokunbo Ademola
Chief Justice of Nigeria
Sir Ian Lewis
Justice, Supreme Court
Charles Olusoji Madarikan
Justice, Supreme Court
(For himself and on behalf of the People of IIIushi)
2) Bala of Kakanda)
Judgement of the Court
Delivered by Madqrikan, J.S.C.
In the Ubiaja High Court (Suit No. B/64/61) the Plaintiff for himself and on behalf of the people of Illushi took out a writ of summons against the defendants claiming:
"1. Against the first defendant only:
(a) Declaration of title to land situate at Illushi foreshore and edged pink in the plan to be filed in court.
(b) Forfeiture of the defendant’s customary tenancy subsequent upon various acts of misconduct committed by the first defendant on the Plaintiffs land at Illushi.
1. Against all defendants jointly and generally the sum of £300 being damages for trespass committed by the defendants on plaintiffs land at Illushi since six years ago or in the alternative the sum of £300beingarrears of Customary tribute since unpaid.
2. Against the second defendant only recovery of portion or parcel of plaintiff's land at lllushi indicated in the plan to be filed in Court wrongfully occupied by the 2nd defendant at the instance of the first defendant.
At the trial, the plaintiff certified that at a time beyond human memory, his ancestors migrated from Ohordua in Ishan Division to Illushi and that they were the first settlers there. The Ishan and second defendants are natives of Oria and Kakanda respectively. About 1947, the first defendant who was engaged as a labourer for the construction of Illushi - Ubiaja road came to live with the plaintiff's father at Illushi. On completion of the road work, the first defendant remained in Illushi, and at his request land was allocated to him by the plaintiff's father on the instruction of Chief Mordi Who was then the Onojie of Illushi thereby became a customary tenant of the people of Illushi to whom he paid tribute annually. Later, the people of Illushi appointed him as the head of the stranger's element at Illushi; and he also became the President of the Customary Court at Illushi. It would seem that after attaining a position of some importance, he not only stopped paying tribute to the people of Illushi but also claimed ownership of the land, and gave out portions of it to tenants one of whom was the second defendant. In proof of the exercise of acts of ownership, the plaintiff tendered in evidence the agreement (Exhibit2) for purchase of land dated 29th of February, 1896, executed by the people of Illushi whereby the Royal Niger Company purchased portion of the land now in dispute from King and people of Okporoporo (Il1ushi). The plaintiff also stated that the site occupied by Messrs John Holts and Company Limited at Illushi falls within the land in dispute and was granted to them by the people of Illushi. The plaintiff's evidence was substantially supported by Alemogwa, a son of the late Mordi, and evidence was also led to establish that other tenants on the land paid tributes to the people of lllushi.
Daniel Enyen, a native of Illushi also testified for the plaintiff. He stated that his father was one of those who granted parcels of land at Illushi to Messrs John Holts and Company Limited, Christian and Company and British Cotton Growing Association. In regard to the capacity in which the action was instituted, the plaintiff testified that he was authorized by the people of Illushi to institute the action and this was confirmed by both Alemogwa and Enyen.
For their part, the defendants also relied on evidence of traditional history which may be summarised thus. Ishiota who was severally described by the first defendant as his brother and uncle, was the first settler at Ozigolo. He made a grant of a parcel of land at Ozigolo to the Royal Niger Company and made another grant to the second defendant. Without issue the first defendant performed the customary burial rites an inherited Illushi. According to him, the plaintiff came from Urho and is not a native of Illushi, but it is important to note that when pressed under cross examination, the first defendant said:
"I gave nobody in Illushi land. Strangers have been coming to stay Illushi since I became Onojie. Plaintiff's second witness used to give their land. He used to collect tributes from the strangers and made use of them. The plaintiff's traditional evidence was regarded by the learned trial judge as being inconclusive and he made the following findings of facts with regard to the defendant's case: "Turning to the defence case, I think sufficient to say that after considering how the first defendant said he carry to the land in dispute his evidence is unworthy of credit". "The 'defendant called in all four witnesses and one of them was the surveyor who tendered his plan for the case, another was the Secretary/Treasurer of North East Ishan District Council who contrary first defendant's expectation that the witness would say he was Onojie I Illushi; said the first defendant was only a Chief on a salary paid by the Council.
The defendant's third witness Ogwamelu Sidahome, Onojie of Oria and the 4th witness Otape Ijoh can be summarily dismissed from any consideration in this case. At the close of the evidence of either of these two witnesse I was satisfied they were total strangers to how first defendant came to connected with the land in dispute. They 'are volunteers. Using the file defendant's evidence as a yard stick, either of them excelled the defendant in the measure of lies he told to this court".
After rejecting the traditional evidence adduced by both parties, the judge proceeded to consider acts of possession and as he did "not think much either parties case" he came to the conclusion that the plaintiff had failed to prove his case "because he was unable to state his case properly" and for that reason, the learned judge entered a judgement of non-suit.
This is an appeal against that judgement. Before us on appeal, Chief Williams on behalf of the plaintiff/appellant argued all the grounds of appear together. It was his contention that as the learned judge has rejected the traditional evidence of both parties, the case turned on acts of possession. He argued that the judge failed to give adequate consideration to the plaintiff’s case that the people of Illushi whom he represents were in possession of the land and leased portions of it to the Royal Niger Company and other companies, and that tributes were being paid to them by their remnants on the land. He then referred us to the following portion of the judgement:
"The plaintiff said the first defendant a native of Oria came to lllushi as a road labourer about thirteen to eighteen years ago at the time when Illushi - Ubiaja road was being constructed and that at that time his (plaintiff's) father by name Ogbodu was Chief of Illushi whilst one Mordi was Onojie of Ohordua" , which he criticized on the ground that the evidence of the plaintiff is that Chief Mordi was the Onojie of Illushi and not as stated by the judge in this judgement, that Chief Mordi was the Onojie of Ohordua, We consider that the criticism of Chief Williams in this respect is justified as the learned judge clearly misdirected himself on the facts. In reply, learned counsel for the respondents submitted that as the learned Judge was satisfied that the plaintiff and his people were not in exclusive possession of the land in dispute, the judge was right to have declined to enter judgement for the plaintiff on the claim.
The identity of the land was not in dispute. Both in his statement of claim and in the evidence adduced at the trial, it is clear that the plaintiff was sueing for himself and on behalf of the people of Illushi. The first defendant not only claims to be a native of Illushi where, according to him, he had been living for 49 years, but he also claimed to have inherited lllushi from Ishiota, the first settler in Illushi. Indeed, he testified that he was the Onojie of lllushi. It seems to us that the learned trial judge did not fully appreciate the most vital issue in this case. As there was no dispute regarding the identity of the land and as it would appear to be part of the case of both parties that the land belongs to the people of Illushi, the fundamental issue which the learned judge ought to have decided is which of the parties represented the people of Illushi. Unfortunately the Judge failed to direct his mind to that issue. He seemed to have proceeded on the basis that this was a personal claim by the plaintiff against the defendants. For that reason, and in view of the misdirection on a material fact to which we had referred the conclusion at which we have arrived after hearing both parties is to remit the case to the High Court, Ubiaja, for retrial so that the issue involved in the case may be properly considered and adjudicated upon.
In the result, the appeal succeeds and the judgement of Ekeruchi J. in suit No. B/64/61 including the order for cost is hereby set aside and it is ordered that:
(i) the case be sent back to the High Court, Ubiaja for hearing novo.
(ii) the parties be at liberty; if they be so advised, to amend their pleadings;
(iv) the respondents do pay the appellant the cost of this appeal fixed at 93 guineas; and
(iii) the costs of the plaintiff/appellant in the High Court do abide the event.
(Sgd.) A. Ade Ademola, (C, J.)
(Sgd.) Ian Lewis, (J.S.C.)
(Sgd.) C.O. Madarikan (I.S.C.)
O. Alak2ija (Chief F.R.A. Williams and Edeme-Sillo with him) for the Appellant S.D. Uwaifo for the respondents.
And this brings us to square one - exactly where we were in 1951, 1969 and in the year of our lord 1986; in a deafening silence, the people 0:
Ugboha and indeed all Esan, are waiting to know WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI
11. ILLUSHI MARKET:
Apart from the valuable land and River Port facilities, Illushi's real importance is economic • its great market which serves the whole of the Midwest, Kwara and East Central States. The history of this market might not be out of place. Those who really own the market call it AGO MARKET and the day is known as Ede Ega. Originally the market was situated on the Ubiaja side of River Idon and was known amongst the people of Ugboha, Oria and Urho as EGORIA from EGA ORIA. Because the land available was too restricted, the market shifted to Eko Okpaire, father of Oko-na-kpa, beyond the River, still bearing the original name. The first market master appointed by Okojie of Ugboha was Orukpe Ikekhua, an Inemen Ugboha man. After the construction of the Ubiaja - lllushi Road in 1924, the great River Idon was bridged, the market became open to all Ishan and the market shifted a second time to a bigger place. Through the influence and activities of the U.A.C. and the John Holts successors to the Royal Niger Company, the market shifted finally to Illushi with Orukpe Ikekhua still the market Master responsible to Chief Okojie. When Orukpe
finally returned to Ugboha, Arome, an Urho man was appointed by Chief Okojie. They were followed by others until Chief Okojie died in 1931. What Chief Okojie was appointing at first were simply Market Masters but because they had power to try cases in the market, they became feared,
respected and began to assume the role of Chiefs since they were Representatives of their Suzerain, Okojie.
(iii) The first Native Court all Ishan know was the one at Uromi established in 1903. Years after, 25/4120, other courts were established and Ubiaja Native Court serving Ugboha, Emu, Ohordua, Udo etc was established. By 1920 wben U.A.C. and John Holt produce trade was at its zennith, many traders began flocking to Illusbi, many of these: who did not return borne every market day like most Ishans, were Nupes and Igallas who also did not understand Ishan language and their custom. The District Officer decided to give them representation in the Native Court at Ubiaja and in April of 1920, TEDI, UTI and ONYI (which must be Enyen) were selected not by the people but by Government represented by the District Officer. When the all powerful ISHAN NATIVE COUNCIL combining executive and judicial powers, was set up in that same year, it consisted of Okojie of Ugboha, Erornosele of Irma, Ifebho of Ewohimi, Madojiemu of Opoji, Oribhabor of Ohordua and Agbebaku of Ora.
On 10th March, 1932 in one of his minutes on Illushi, Commander Pykenott wrote among other things "Illushi is now administered by the D.O., Ubiaja, since 1908. Prior it was administered from Asaba. Illushi is never represented on the Ishan Council as it was NOT AN ESAN COMMUNITY" (See File No. LD. 94/51). This is a great error. Why was it represented in Ubiaja Native Court set up by Authority for Warrant S.S.P.A. 287/14 of 28/4/20, B.P. 214/20?
The reason Illushi was not represented was that the Ishan Council consisted of the most powerful of the sixteen or twenty Enijie in Ishan who were in charge of the six districts into which Ishan with Ora was divided. Illushi had no Onojie of its own and so its representation was out of the question, let alone that there were vastly bigger Ishan Communities like Ebelle, Emu, Uromi, Ubiaja the capital, that had no representation. In any case Chief Okojie of Ugboha as District Head (D.H.), Ubiaja, ruled Ubiaja, Oria, IJIushi, Vrho, Orowa, Iyenlen, up to Ebu and Igueben. The devastating chieftaincy dispute that ravaged Ugboha after Chief Okojie's demise left Ugboha Clan disorganized with no one man with full authority to look after Ugboha's interest. This gave room to plunderers and usurpers. It was at this time Okoiwele of Oria that featured prominently in all Illushi Court cases, surfaced. (Okoiwele died on Wednesday, 3rd March, 1971 and was buried at Oria on 4th March, 1971). Anybody bold enough, became a land lord in Illushi - Okoiwele, Daniel Enye, even Ibos and the recently dead Giwa - Agbomeirele, all had their sphere of influence and lay claim to various areas of Illushi. Today it would appear to me that neither the Government nor Ishan and residents of Illushi fully realise how confused I1lushi matter is. In 1949 when I was a Medical Officer in the British Cameroons, I got a message that Illushi land was being parcelled out for sale and I was asked to come and buy. I sent a message back that anybody buying land at Illushi was only fishing in troubled waters and some day he would regret it. Later, with all the power, political resources and skill of the late Giwa-Agbomeirele, he got onto the old Royal Niger Company land inherited by V.A.C. and John Holt but he fought a losing battle with some people in Illushi and the Government till he died. And this is over a portion of land surveyed and registered, no matter how the legal document came to be executed: H.M. Douglas as District Commissioner, Benin, said in 1899 "Whatever the facts, Government is the present landlord of the factory site and no claim by Urho or any other village can upset the leases”. (See P.1140 88 A-E). This may be true but what of the other portion of Illushi? The gravity of the Illushi situation will dawn on all of us the day an individual takes another to court and although I am a layman, people will be hard put to prove their ownership. As a group, Urho people took all claimants of Illushi land to various courts. As I said above, they sued Oria people, some non-Ishans, Ibos; others sued Urho people, as a group, with Ibos, with Oria people until no one could say who was plaintiff, defendant, appellant etc! The sad result was succinctly put by Mr. LA.G. McCall in 1951 - "The case concerning Illushi land between Chief Mordi and the people of Urho and Chief Okoiwele and the people of Oria has recently been concluded at the Supreme Court with NON-SUITING of the Plaintiffs (Chief Mordi and Co). In order words THE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES IS JUST WHERE IT WAS AFTER THE EXPENDITURE ' OF MUCH TIME AND MONEY BY BOTH PARTIES IN LITIGATION" (See 1O.94/S 1I53, 12/4/51).
(iv) All the non-trials and non-suiting hung on one question. There is no doubt there is a place called Illushi, but WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI? This question is calling for an urgent answer. In 1974 the Chieftaincy Committee of Central Ishan District Council appointed a Committee to select a chief for Illushi. My advice then is not different from what I am today telling this high-powered Commission! "You will be setting up a whirl-wind that would result in people losing their money and property. Let us first decide who really are the people for whom a village head is going to be selected". As a leader in our State and Chairman of the Ishan Development Council, I am not happy at the confusion that has surrounded Illushi matter. Hence I am here to help as a responsible citizen and as 3 friend of this 'Commission.
Let me respectfully refer to your terms of Reference:
(a) To inquire into and ascertain the CUSTOM of succession to the title (Village Head of Illushi in Ishan Division).
(b) To determine the order of rotation.
(c) If succession is by rotation to ascertain the person or group whose turn it would be to fill the present vacant STOOL.
(d) And to ascertain whether the title "Village Head" is still acceptable to THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI and if not what title is acceptable.
Mr. Commissioner, I have bored you with the history of everything connected with Illushi for you to see the magnitude of what Government: wants you to do. First we know politically and geographically Illushi is Ishan out Illushi has no CUSTOM! An amalgam of Ishans, Kankandas,"
Nupes, Igallas, Ibos, it is as at best a miniature TOWER of Babel! The characteristic political unit in Ishan is the chiefdom ruled over by an Onojie, in the olden days, owing allegiance only .to the Oba of Benin, otherwise he was lord Supreme of all he surveyed. He was the unifying factor for the villages in each of which social organization and political framework consisted of the Edion, the Igene and Egbonughele - the village workers. The village head or the Odionwele, was the oldest man of the village. The title VILLAGE HEAD does not exist in Ishan, and the social and political organizations referred to above do not exist in Illushi. This takes care of (a) and the first part of (d) of the Terms of Reference. Then under (d) one comes face to face with what has bedevilled all Illushi throughout its murky history - THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI! As I have had to prove all along, even the Law Courts, do not know who are the PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI How can you then find out whether any title is acceptable to the PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI? Even if we knew this and it was acceptable to these elusive people, it would be unacceptable to the custom of Ishan which Illushi belongs. Coming to order of Rotation, one might say what Okojie did in the twenties supported rotation, but what Chief Okojie appointed were Market Masters, Tax Collectors, NOT a legal head by whatever name called, who someday will pose as holding the LAND OF ILLUSHI IN TRUST FOR THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI!
In conclusion, my advice respectfully, is that the more urgent job for the Government is to identify THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI; if this is legally impossible, then the Government –
(a) Acquire the whole of Illushi land.
(b) Take over the control and sale of its land.
(c) Appoint a governing body headed by a Chairman of an Illushi Development Committee, and avoid constituting a mixed community into a hybrid with NO CUSTOM; SINGLE CULTURE AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.
Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.
(Sgd.) DR. XTO. G. OKOJIE, OFR, LSM (NIG)
Medical Director and Chairman,
Ishan Divisional Development Committee,
16th June, 1975.
I have tried to bring out the near insoluble legal tussle Illushi land and the eople of Illushi had become. It had gone, up to the Supreme Court and back to Ubiaja High Court with nobody able to say WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF ILLUSHI. It is therefore with some amazement I saw that by
B.S.L.N. 56 of 1979 the Bendel State Government-had gone ahead to approve a Declaration made under Section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict 1979 stating the Customary Law Regulating Succession to the title of Clan Head of Illushi. It stated:-
(1) There are three major ethnic groups in Illushi, namely- Ishans, Igallas and Azanamas. The word Azanama used here is understood to include the Hausas, Yorubas, Bidas and Nupes and all other non-Ishans and non-Igallas in Illushi.
(2) Succession to the Clan Headship rotates around the three ethnic groups in order stated above.
(3) On the demise of a Clan Head, his corpse is interred immediately after, if a Moslem, otherwise within seven days upon demise. Burial rites are then performed, provided that its non-performance/
Non-completion will not debar the succeeding Clan Head from assuming office.
(4) Thereafter, ten representatives of the appropriate group, including the Odionwele, shall meet to select a candidate for the Clan Headship. Subsequently, during a meeting called by the Odionwele of the appropriate ethnic group, the candidate is presented to the leaders of the community comprising the Odionwele and six representatives from each of the three groups.
(5) On the appointed day the new Clan Head is installed.
Dated at Benin City this 28th day of September, 1979.
D.P. Lawani, OON, KSG,
Secretary to the Military Government, Bendel State of Nigeria.
ENOWE THE CONQUEROR, 1461 - 1516:
The great Enowe is the one big link between the people of Ugboha and Igueben in Esan and Idumu-Igun, Ugboha in Benin City. His parents were members of the organized emigrants from Idumu-Igun Ugboha when the great Benin City cracked under the strains of Ewuare the Selfish. That was about a year after the settlement of Ijiebomen and his party.
As a young man Enowe soon made a name for himself and the Ruling Family of Ugboha, for he excelled everybody else in the three great arts of medicine, blacksmith and war. In and around Ugboha his cleverness as a blacksmith brought him as much fame as his bravery had done.
After Ewuare had conquered the emigrants by appeasement, he was in a position to hear of all that went on his once again, vast domain and like the greedy man he was, he wanted the very best magicians, herbalists, artists and warriors exactly as he looted people's property. Enowe was already earmarked as such a loot when death claimed Ewuare in 1473. Thus early in the reign of Ozolua, one of the three Ewuare successors, Enowe was invited to Benin City round ahout '1481. At Benin in fitting with Ozolua's constant thirst for war, Enowe demonstrated his prowlers in battles and by the time Esigie came on the throne he had become the commander of the Royal Troops and led the Oba's forces from victory to victory. Thus in 1504 he helped Oba Esigie achieve a decisive victory at the Udo War, and was one of the pivots of the Benin Army that made the Attack sue for peace during the Idah War of 1515- 1516. At the Idah War his valour so impressed the great Eben who later founded Igueben, that he had tried to get him settle at his Idumigun, Igueben.
By this time he had made his ancestral-home of Idumu - Igun Ugboha his home and could not return to Esan country. He lived and died in Benin City and at his death which occurred shortly after the Idah War Victory Celebrations of August 1516, it was only fitting to deify him in the three places of his association - Ugboha in Esan 'where he was born, Igueben which was founded by his great admirer Eben and at Idumu - Igun Ugboha in Benin City where he lived and died and which was also Eben's place of origin. All the blacksmiths both in Ugboha Esan and Ugboha, Benin City are known as the children of Enowe.
The people of Ugbohaand Igueben are wontto exclaim "Enowe N'Ojie!” This must be understood to mean that while Enowe was never an Onojie, he lived and moved as the honoured favourite of Obas and Enijie. Through the advice and influence of Enowe another Okakulo called OJIEMOUDU was snatched from Ugboha to swell Oba Esigie Brave men.
The kingmakers of Ugboha are the elders of Eguare and Emaudo. As a result of the original seniority of Ijiebomen who founded Emaudo, over Onor, founder of Eguare, Emaudo is senior of the Kingmakers, quarters. No matter the age of the Odionwele of Eguare he cannot be senior to that of Emaudo because of this same reason.
In Emaudo itself there are two quarters that hold position of significance; they are Idumuabekhae and Idunzenebi, the two quarters founded by Ogun, the son who represented the most senior man at the original ancestral worship of the first Onojie, Onor. Till this day they still hold this unique position amongstthe Kingmakers of Ugboha. The Osukhurewho plays such a vital role in the selection and installation of a new Onojie, must come from these two quarters. Whoever, is the senior of the elders’ ofthe two places automatically becomes the custodian of the Onojie's ancestral shrine. To complete the picture, it will be mentioned again that the elders of Idumoso and Idumekpen who descended from female lines have no connections with the kingmakers. It is important too to realise that when the people of Emaudo and Eguare are assembled, no Eguare man, no matter his age, can break kolanuts. For the same reason, when all Ugboha people are assembled it must be the oldest Emaudo man in the gathering that has the honour of breaking the kolanuts.
3. THE INSTALLATION:
The method of installation in Ugboha is in strict accordance with Laws 3 and 4 of the basic laws governing selection and installation of Enijie in Esanland. Ugboha custom has no room for the self-deception of the THRONE IS NEVER VACANT. When the heir is yet making himself eligible by performing the all important burial ceremonies, the Oniha takes the place of the Onojie at the palace, so that it is the corruption of modern times which tries to deny the Oniha of his hereditary functions, that makes the heir assume a position he is not yet qualified to hold, under cover of THE THRONE IS NEVER VACANT. Pure and unyielding Esan custom is
NO INSTALLATION UNTIL AFTER THE BURIAL CEREMONIES.
Thus when the Onojie dies the heir begins the burial ceremonies at once, and when he has finished, usually the vital parts are over in about seven to fourteen days, he is ready for installation as Onojie.
The Kingmakers are sent for and the principal actors are the Osukhure, the Odionwele of Eguare and the Oniha, who since the Onojie's death has been living and doing the duties of the Onojie in Eguare. First, blessings at the ancestral shrine by the Osukhure (lluobo). Then the new man is installed by counting him on the inner Ojiekhuo with the Oniha, the Odionwele and the osukhure propping up his arms.
The genealogical tree of Ugboha Ruling House is bifid and unfortunately will be so to the utter detriment of the town until the Kingmakers see the selfless wisdom of sticking to Esan Native Laws and Custom guarding the selection, appointment and installation of Onojie. From the time Onor was installed the first Onojie in 1463 by Oba Ewuare the selfish to the time of ADEDE who some call IRIELEN, the Ruling Family was peacefully intact. Trouble started from Adede's house.
Several times since 1906 the dispute has found itself in the melting pots of British official investigations and enquires and I cannot see TRUTH AND JUSTICE crystallizing in any crucible until government officials realise that they are only sowing seeds of discord, perpetual feud, hate, suspicion, dividing brothers and cousins of the Ugboha Royal Family.
Some one hundred and forty years after Adede's death rancour is apparent in Ugboha making cohesion difficult - all sown and nurtured by the inherent British attitude of "the man on the spot being always right" and each succeeding Officer thinking his sacred duty is to uphold the decisions of his predecessors, who like himself, was ignorant of the custom, tradition and laws of the people over whose destiny he presides.
In 1906 a protracted investigation into the OLUMESE – ONOBAKHAN dispute was brought to a final conclusion at the Grade B Native Court at Uromi - a court constituted in 1903, although today the administrative officers pretend to have been unable to trace the files and records of the then
District Commissioner. As a matter of fact on the 28th of March, 1931 V.C.M Kelsy minutes - "I have looked up Old Intelligence Books and records but THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL". In June, 1954 Mr. J.R. Bromage, Acting Resident Benin Province said, "The records in the office give no information at all. . ."
The dispute was reopened in 1931 - 1934 by Stephen Ukato, the one educated man in a country of the blind, and being a Court Clerk who had served under every powerful Onojie, he wielded something near an awe inspiring influence on the kingmakers and the towns’ people. The government, represented by the District Officer, Hugo Marshall, who had become the Lieutenant Governor of the Western Region when Mr. Bromage conducted his enquiry of June 1954, gave its decision without reference to the enquiry of 1906. In July, 1953, Ukato died and the Okojie family pressed for justice. A series of investigations followed first by Me. Murray Haig (22/9/53 and later 10/3/54, then by Mr. G. Francis Harris (2/12/53) and finally by the Acting Resident J.R.V.A. Bromage on (14/6/54). At this final enquiry, when a Court of Justice would certainly have disabused its august self of 'hear-say' and the 'present influence' of the last judge, or if it must be influenced by past trials and decisions, it would for the sake of equity, consider all such trials and decisions right from 1906 when the dispute started; the witnesses for Ukato or Onobakan's side gave such glaringly contradictory testimonies that the only way open to uphold the decisions of the past officers was to IGNORE them and believe the alleged evidence of dead supporters who the then enquirer, ignorant of Esan laws and custom, could not cross-examine to see through masses of lies made good by Stephen Ukato's influence and affluence. The amazing ladder with which Mr. Bromage reached his tall decision was "IT IS NOT PROPER TO ENQUIRE AT THIS STAGEWHETHERTHE LATE ONOJIE WAS CONSTITUTIONALLYAPPOINTED" which to students of Esan Laws and Custom, was equivalent to saying simply, "Since the laws and custom guarding the selection and appointment of Onojie, justify the recognition of Etotoma as Onojie of Ugboha, it makes no difference whether Ukato, his father, was appointed Onojie constitutionally or at variance to Esan Tradition. Bromage found it uncomfortable to admit if Ukato did not come to the throne according to Esan laws and custom, there is no way his son and heir Etotoma could be lawfully an Onojie, which is the case of Dr. Christopher Gbelokmoto Okojie throughout the Bromage Enquiry of June 14th, 1954.
To sincere men of progress who realise "WHERE there is no peace there can be no development, AND no development, no progress", I will record the whole enquiry conducted by Mr. Bromage on June 14th, 1954, leaving the reader and such men of progress to appreciate the hate and disunity in Ugboha today.
AN ENQUIRY HELD IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 2(2) OF THE APPOINTMENT AND DEPOSITION OF CHIEFS ORDINANCE by J.R.V.A Bromage, Esq., on June 14, 1954
Representing UFUA the petitioner- Dr. e.G. OKOJIE
Representing Etotoma Ukato the respondent - Chief Iyasere.
Dr. Okojie on behalf of petitioner submits in evidence a letter written to the District Officer, Ishan Division, on August 26, 1953 (1.0 . 132/27). Dr. Okojie sworn by affirmation in English states the Onojieship of Ugboha is a constitutional monarchy controlled by traditional custom. Any matter concerning it is decided by a certain section of the towns people called Kingmakers. There are two quarters constituting the Kingmakers by name Emaudo and Eguare. In Emaudo proper two quarters are of vital importance, Idumuabekhae and Idunzenebi. The elders of these quarters are also of importance. The most elderly of the Idumuabekhae and Idunzenebi is the Osukhure. He is the traditional worshipper at the ancestral shrine of the Onojie and custodian of all our traditions. On the Eguare side the most elderly man is the Odionwele. In the question of appointment the Osukhure of Emaudo and the Odionwele of Eguare are the heads of all those who are entitled to have a say. In making a decision they are guided by Native Laws and Custom. Seven of these laws are of special importance.
(1) The title is hereditary.
(2) The first surviving son succeeds the father.
(3) There is no question of succession until due burial of the late Onojie.' It is a foolish heir who will be fighting for title anc property without burying his father.
(4) He who performs this burial inherits the family property and the title. This is of over-riding importance."
5) Wherever an Onojie dies his body must be brought home (Eguare for burial.
(6) Once a man has been installed nothing but death removes him."
(7) The Onojie title being one held in trust is not a personal property. It is held in trust for the community. It cannot therefore be in favour of a son, brother, uncle or friend.
These laws apply throughout Esan and are not peculiar to Ugboha alone. The Okojie family admits that the two disputing sides are descendants from the same ancestor. Adede had two sons Onobakhan and Olumese. The first son developed leprosy during the lifetime of Adede. He was ostracised and a house was built for him in the bush. He ceased to come to the town and see anyone. When Adede died, Onobakhan was not available, so the kingmakers came together and said, "This is a ceremony that cannot be postponed as unless it is performed no new Onojie can be appointed.” The second son Olumese who was able-bodied was accordingly instructed to perform the ceremonies. He was then installed. On his death his first son Ebadan was installed according to tradition. Shortly afterwards war came and the place was sacked bya rival faction. The Onojie Ebadan and his family fled to Uromi and his followers scattered. Udage then installed himself. The British occupation followed shortly after this. Some of the British settled in the villages and began trading. One of them was way laid and his goods stolen. The matter was reported and the Onojie was then found guilty, sentenced and deported. There was jubilation when he was deported, because it was said he had no right to the title. The District Commis.sioner came and asked the people for a ruler. He was told that Udage was not the right man, but Ebadan. As Ebadan was dead his first son Okojie was produced. He was installed in 1906. On Okojie's death in 1931, Ufua, his eldest son performed the burial ceremonies but before installation Stephen Ukato, who had been a clerk to the Courts of all the most important Enijie, who in tum constituted the Ishan Council, a man in the town, instituted a dispute. His claims were full of fallacies, but he was installed and recognised by the government. While the dispute was on, Stephen Ukato saw the importance of the burial ceremonies. He saw that burial was the principal factor in deciding the right to the title. He came home and he buried his father. But he revealed his designs by not only burying his father,
He also buried his grandfather Idubor and his great grandfather Onobakhan. In fact Idubor and Onobakhan could not have become Onojie unless they had performed burial ceremonies. In 1931 Stephen Ukato was the third son of Udage; yet he was allowed to bury his father, while· his two elder brothers were alive and healthy. It was said that the senior brother had voluntarily relinquished the title to his brother. If there was a grave reason for Okosun not being Onojie, it was for the kingmakers to decide who was next in succession. In fact he Ukato obtained his position by his influence in the town. It was said that in 1906 when Udage was deported Okojie was brought in as a regent; but Udage at that time had four grown up sons, the fourth Stephen Ukato was also educated. Yet all these were brushed aside in favour of Okojie on the other side. In Uromi the late Okojie was sentenced in 1918 and deported to Ibadan. His son succeeded him, but his return in 1931, stepped down again in his father's favour. In the same way Stephen Ukato was sentenced in 1939 to eighteen month imprisonment. While he was away Chief Iyasele deputized for him. Udag, on the other hand was allowed to come back after a few years and remaine in Ugboha as a commoner until 1924 when he died while Okojie continue as Onojie. This proves that Okojie was Onojie in his own right and was no acting on behalf of Udage. All three, Udage, Idubor and Onobokhan die and were buried in the village. If they had been Enijie they should have been buried in the official place, Eguare. The Okojie family maintains that Olumese buried his father Adede, Ebadan buried Olumese, Okojie burie Ebadan and Ufua buried Okojie and therefore Ufua is the right person to inherit the Onojieship.
OJOTU THE OSUKHURE OF UGBOHA, sworn on juju in Ishan states Adede was alive when Onabakhan was in the bush. He was buried in the bush and the body was not brought home. Emuado and Eguare were consulted and asked Olumese to bury his father. On Olumese's death Ebadan performed the burial and became Onojie. A year later he was driven out by war and fled to Uromi. Udage became the Onojie in his stead. When Ebadan died Okojie buried him. When Okojie died Ufu buried him performed the burial. During the chieftaincy dispute man people voted by hand for Stephen Ukato; accordingly he performed the burial ceremonies for his three ancestors. He killed a cow for his father and a male and female goat for each of his grandfather and great grandfather. An Onojie must be buried in Eguare. In this house were buried Adede, Olumese, Ebadan and Okojie.
Cross-examined by the respondent: When it was suggested that Etotom be put on the Onojie's seat, I was annoyed and went away. I was not present.
Re-examined: During the enquiry in 1931 the kingmakers were not allowed to speak; but a decision was reached by popular vote. Stephen Ukato performed Udage's burial ceremony. Stephen Ukato had two brothers alive at that time, Okosun and Orukpe. This is not in accordance with custom. According to custom the first son buries his father. A grandson does not bury his grand-father. It was during the burial ceremony of Stephen Ukatothat it was suggested that Etotomabe installed. No Onojie can be installed until burial ceremonies have been completed.
THE ODIONWELE OF EGUARE: Sworn on juju in Ishan:
I am senior grandson of late Adede, Olumese was my father. Adede was father of both Onobakhan and Olumese, when Onobakhan died it was Olumese who performed the burial ceremony of Adede and became Onojie. When Olumese died Ebadan performed the ceremony. When Ebadan died
Okojie performed the burial. When Okojie died Ufua performed the ceremony. The performance of the burial ceremony is the most important in the recognition of an Onojie; the reason Olumese was asked to perform the burial ceremony of Adede was that Onobakhan had died. Onobakhan had been sick and it was because of this sickness that Olumese performed the ceremony.
OKOIDEGUN: Sworn on juju in Ishan. Onobakhan and Olumese had the same father. Onobakhan was attacked by a bad disease and was isolated in the bush. He was in the bush when he was informed that his father was dead. Before three months Onobakhan himself died in the bush, but no one knew it. When Onobakhan died the family asked Olumese to perform the burial ceremony of his father. Olumese performed the ceremony as did Okojie and Ufua in turn for their fathers. They were buried in Eguare, the official place. Idubor did not perform ceremonies for Onobakhan nor did he bring his body from the bush. Udage never brought Idubor for burial. The late Udage did not become Onojie by right, but obtained it by force. If Udage had been the rightful Onojie, his grown up son would properly have acted for him. When the British came the Onojieship was given to Okojie, because he had performed the burial ceremonies which entitled him to it: At that time the Ugboha people said that the rightful owners had recovered their property. The place where Stephen Ukato built his house is farmland and not the proper site for the Onojie to have his house. My quarter is Idumuabekhae. I am one of the elders of the Kingmakers.
CASE FOR THE PETITIONER
CHIEF IYASELE SWORN BY AFFIRMATION IN ISHAN:
I wonder that this matter has been brought up again. It was enquired into about twenty-two years ago. The Officer who enquired into it visited every village and met the old men in their houses and questioned them. The Odionwele at that time was called Uwaifo. We were playing outside his house when the ofticer came to question him. When the Officer left we went to ask the old man the reason why the Officer came to quest ion him. He told us that the officer had come to question him about the Onojieship, as has also been done in the case of Okojie’s dispute with Udage. Uwaifo told us that Ukato's side were the rightful people for the Onojieship. Uwaifo said that one Ijiebomen was the one who gave the Onojieship to Onor, his younger brother, and Onor was father of Adede. I am one of Ijiebomen's family who transferred the Onojieship to Onor. If the dispute in the Onor's family continues, we will have to transfer the Onojieship back to ourselves. As the late Onojie Stephen Ukato is dead, Etotoma is the rightful man to be Onojie.
Cross-examined by Dr. Okojie: After Oniha I am third in rank to the Onojie. I do not know that Onor was the first Onojie. All I know is that Ijiebornen gave the title to Onor. In Ishan custom it is not incorrect by native law and custom for a son to bury a grandfather if he has the money to do so. It is not incorrect for an officer enquiring into the Onojieship to enquire from the public as well as from the kingmakers. The eldest son of the Iyasele could accede to the title even if he had not performed the burial ceremonies. If the eldest son of an Onojie dies before his father, it is possible for the grandson to succeed and if a minor, it is possible for someone else to act as regent. The eldest son inherits property, whether he performs the burial or not. If Ukato buries Udage and Etotoma buries Ukato, then Etotoma rather than a younger brother of Ukato will be entitled to the Onojieship.
OJIEYOKAN SWORN ON JUJU IN ISHAN STATES: I am the son of Udage and the younger brother of the late Onojie. This dispute was the subject of an enquiry more than twenty years ago. The people who gave evidence at that time knew that the Onojieship belonged to my grandfather
Onobakhan. The statement that Onobakhan was a leper, was false. Onobakhan being the eldest son buried Adede. Olumese did not perform the ceremony. When Onobakhan died Idubor was a minor and Olumese was made regent. When Idubor grew up he asked that his position of Onojie be given to him, but Olumese refused. This refusal continued until Olumese died. After Olumese died Idubor became Onojie. Ebadan was never at any time Onojie. Dr. Okojie did not know Udage; but I knew his grandfather Ebadan. I remember when Ebadan died. He was not buried in Eguare, but in his house at Okokhunoke. Idubor, Onobakhan and Udage were all buried in Eguare. My father was alive when Ebadan died and it was not possible for Ebadan to be buried in Eguare, when my father was still alive. The Onojieship is the right of our side of the family. Dr. Okojie has nine senior brothers who have not raised this matter. A thorough enquiry on this dispute has been carried out before and the Onojieship was given to us. During the previous dispute Ufua said that he would give up his claim if Ukato swore juju. When Ukato swore the juju Ufua gave up. After the decision of the Governor Ufua was sentenced to three months imprisonment for continuing this dispute and warned that if he continued he would be given seven years. All the elders including the two who gave evidence for the petitioner joined to install Etotoma at the Onojie's death. Egbe and Oniha are the two people entitled by custom to install the Onojie. This has been done in the case of Etotoma and he was been accepted by the elders. Ojotu is not among the Edion of Emaudo village. He is one of the Igene age grade. One Ikekhedu is the Osukhure of Ugboha. There is also another Osukhure by name Akairenemen. I agree with the first, second and sixth of Dr. Okojie's statements of Native Law and Custom. I do not agree to 'the third, fourth, fifth and seventh.
Cross-examined. The Egbe title was a man buried with the Onojie, when he died. Though Etotoma was in fact installed after his father's burial ceremony was performed, he would have been able to have performed the burial ceremonies after his installation, if he had been prevented from doing before. A commoner may require an Onojie to swear juju if there was I dispute. I have never heard of this happening before. Where an Onojie; living is known as Eguare. When Udage died Okojie was Onojie; but his house was not Eguare because Okojie was only a regent. The old Eguare was uninhabited and had become bush. When Udage died Okojie was living in Idumueguare. Idumueguare is the same as Eguare. My late father was at Uzogbon village when he died. We carried his body to Eguare to bury him. We did not move the actual body. We got a rope and measured the grave round. We then remeasured the grave at Eguare and performed the ceremony. By remeasuring the grave the tradition is fulfilled. In this self it is correct to say that an Onojie must be buried in Eguare. Ukato, performed the burial ceremonies for Onobakhan, Idubor, and Udage. Even if Ukato had not buried his father Etotoma still would have been entitled to claim the Onojieship. Ukato was given preference to Okosun in the title because Okosun gave way to him. It is the burial ceremony performed Etotoma that has entitled him to the Onojie over himself Ojieyokan brother of the deceased. The senior son is the one who performs the burial ceremonies. Okosun actually performed the burial ceremony; but Ukato produced the animals and the offerings. Idubor was Onojie. He was recognized by Eguare. During the 1931 enquiry the Edion agreed the
Idubor had been recognised by Eguare.
IGBERAESE THE ODIONWELE OF UGBOHA SWORN ON JUJU IN ISHAN STATES: The Osukhure is in Idumabu village. Ojotu is no Osukhure. I did not know Onabakhan. Ebadan was not Onojie. He performed the burial for Olumese though he was not Onojie. Ufua 31St performed the burial of Okojie. In the same year that he did this Ukate performed the burial of Udage. During the burial the Iduzenebi were with Ukato and I was with Ufua burying Okojie. At that time Uwaifo was the Odionwele as I am today. During the burial I questioned who was the senior among the persons making the burial. He answered Ukato. We have now installed Etotoma as Onojie and I greet him. I am one of the kingmakers. The others are Ojotu, Aikwemelo, Irabor, Akharia, Aikhorm Aikareneme, and some younger people who may accompany us. Two of I carry the Onojie by the arms. I carry him by the waist and we take him seat him to the seat. After that no one should dispute it with him again.
Cross-examined: The title of Onojieship is hereditary. The eldest should succeed his father. The eldest son performs the burial: but someone else can supply the materials. When Ukato died I would have agreed to the second son performing the burial instead of Etotoma the eldest. If the second son performed the ceremony he should be the Onojie, because he has performed the ceremony. I do not remember saying before the District Officer that Olumese performed the burial ceremonies for Adede. The kingmakers are all found in Emaudo and Eguare quarters. Oniha is not Eguarebut Uzogbon. Etotoma was installed after the burial ceremonies had been performed. This was correct custom. Idumuokhun village is also entitled with the other villages to provide kingmakers.
IKEKHEDU SWORN ON JUJU IN ISHAN: Supported by Adaghebalu, Akharia, Orukpe, Aikhomu, Okoand Oniha from different quarters. I come from Idumabu village. If the eldest son has money he can perform burial ceremonies at once and be installed. If he has no money he can be installed Onojie and perform the ceremonies afterwards. I was not present at the burial ceremonies of Okojie. I was however present at that of Ukato. I used to perform yearly ceremonies for the late Okojie. I did the same for Udage. When Udage was arrested and deposed in 1907, it was considered proper for Okojie to act as Regent. Since that time Okojie was allowed to be Onojie and looked after Ugboha. Udage returned two or three years after. He asked to be accepted as Onojie as before, but Okojie refused. After this Udage returned to his mother's village Uzogbon. Udagedied at Uzogbon. When Okojie died the Ugboha people said it would be best for Ukato to be Onojie, because it belonged to them originally. When Ukato died recently Etotoma performed all the ceremonies and was installed. He gave us a free of £10.
Cross-examined: The eldest son of an Onojie is responsible for burying his father. If the second son was very rich and wanted to perform the ceremonies I as a Kingmaker would agree provided the eldest son was willing. After Etotoma had performed the burial ceremonies I would not agree to another brother being installed as Onojie. He who performs the burial ceremonies inherits the family property and title. The eldest son may be acknowledged as Onojie though he has no means to perform all the burial ceremonies. He may then perform the burial ceremonies later, and will then be installed properly. I was not present when Ukato performed the ceremonies of his father and grandfathers and I do not know about them.
ONIHA OF UZOGBON SWORN ON JUJU IN ISHAN: I was given the title of Oniha by the late Onojie Ukato. It is my duty to announce where Onojie dies. I was at home and was sent for when the late Onojie died. When I arrived the family reported to me and according to custom reported the death to the Onojie's wives. After informing the wives I sit down in the Onojie's house and Etotoma told one Ojieyokan to give IT presents. I was told to wait fourteen days in the house. I am only sent if a recognized Onojie dies and Ukato was a recognized Onojie. I toe Etotoma by hand and took him to the Onojie's seat. Then I went home.
FINDINGS: (ALL CAPITALS - AUTHOR'S) The object of the enquiry is to decide whether the appointment of Etotor as Onojie of Ugboha had been made in accordance with Native Laws a:
Custom. The petitioner claims that the appointment has not been propel made ON THE GROUND THAT ETOTOMA'S FATHER WAS (PROPERLY APPOINTED and that Ufua petitioner's elder brother is the right man to be Onojie. To understand the relationship of the parties 1 following genealogy is shown:-
(deposed 1907) (died 1931)
OKOSUN 2 OTHERS UKATO OJIEYOKAN UFUA OTHERS DR. OKOJIE
2. When Okojie died in 1931 the succession to the title was disputed between Stephen Ukato and Ufua. As a result of the petition from Ufua the dispute was investigated by the District Officer who reported as follows (See B.P.778/1):-
"Onobakhan succeeded Adede. Onobakhan's son Idubor was a minor and his uncle Olumese acted as regent. When Idubor attained his majority Olumese refused to retire and the matter was taken before the Oba of Benin. Before any decision was given Olumese ran away and after the deputation had returned to Ugboha he also returned. The result was that the town was split. EGUARE QUARTER RECOGNIZING OLUMESE AND THE REST OF THE TOWN IOUBOR. Idubor died before Olumese and for the rest of the latter's life HE WAS ONOJIE. When Olumese died there was a full town meeting and Udage was recognized as the proper Onojie. UDAGE WAS DEPOSED BY THE DISTRICT OFFICER IN 1907(?) for criminal practices and OKOJIE INSTALLED AS REGENT. Udage died some five or six years ago AT UBIAJA and OKOJIE CONTINUED AS ONOJIE. THE RECORD IN THE OFFICE GIVE NO INFORMATION AT ALL AND THE ABOVE IS BASED ON WHAT I ELICITED AT THE MEETING".
The District Officer held a meeting in Ugboha Town in August, 1931 and again reported (B.P. 778/1):
4. "The town is divided into four quarters and I called the elders from the three others first. Out of eight elders and four titled men all were supporters of OKOSUN except one who said he did not know. I then took Eguare and called the elders from each of the four sub quarters. From Ufua's own sub-quarter Idumu-Eguare I called the eight senior elders. The senior and the sixth supported him, the senior being his real uncle: The other four stated definitely that OKOSUN WAS THE RIGHT MAN. In two other sub-quarters five elders, one being the senior elder of all Ugboha, SUPPORTED OKOSUN. In the fourth sub-quarter the three elders said Udage, father of Okosun was the proper Onojie but that he had been deposed, Okojie put in BY THE GOVERNMENT, AND WHOEVER THE GOVERNMENT PUT IN NOW THEY WOULD OBEY.
THE DISTRICT OFFICER ALSO REPORTED THAT OKOSUN HAD ASKED TO RELINQUISH HIS CLAIM IN FAVOUR OF HIS YOUNGER BROTHER STEPHEN UKATO. The appointment of Stephen Ukato was consequently confirmed by the Resident (BP 26/1931 of 26/8/31).
3. In May, 1931 Okosun took action against Ufua in the ISHAN ISTRICT COUNCIL for recovery of certain properties of office i.e. 12: strings of Ivie bead, Ada and Ebelen and two elephant tusks. Judgement was given for the plaintiff.
4. In January, 1932 Ufua was convicted and sentenced in ISHAN DISTRICT COUNCIL to one year I.H.L. for conduct likely to cause breach of peace. The sentence was reduced by the District Officer OJ review to six months and confirmed by the Resident (Case No. 9/31).
5. In May, 1934 Ufua petitioned the Resident for the return of the Ada and requested permission to summon certain persons for bringing fats evidence against him in the previous case. The Resident refused to order the return of the Ada.
6. Ufua then sent a petition to the Governor reiterating his claim to be Onojie. His Excellency however declined to interfere.
7. The arguments put forward by the petitioner IN THIS CASE ARRIVAL IN EFFECT THE SAME AS THOSE PUT FORWARD IN 1934. There are:-
(1) That Okojie was descended by direct line of Enijie from Adede and that Udage was usurper.
(2) That it was not in order for OKOSUN TO GIVE WAY TO (STEPHEN UKATO HIS YOUNGER BROTHER.
The District Officer's findings on the first point have already been given. It may be noted however that there was no mention in the 1931 petitions of Onobakhan being a leper. With regard to the second point the District Officer had two comments, first THAT THE ARGUMEN" COULD ONLY OPERATE IN FAVOUR OF OKOSUN AND NOT A FAVOUR OF UFUA, AND SECONDLY, THAT THERE WAS A PRECEDENT AT EWU WHERE ON THE DEATH OF IKANWAI' OGIEFO SUCCEEDED, ALTHOUGH HIS ELDER BROTHER ABURIMI WAS ALIVE. (The Onojie referred to is EHIEMUAN and the reader is referred to the section on Ewu, page 333) (of this Printed book).
8. The petitioner in his evidence set out seven principles which have to be observed in the selection of an Onojie. They are:-
(1) The title is hereditary.
(2) The first surviving son succeeds the father.
(3) There is no question of succession until the burial of the late Onojie.
(4) He who performs the burial ceremonies inherits the family property and the title. This is of over-riding importance.
(5) Wherever an Onojie dies the body must be brought home to his Eguare for burial.
(6) Once a man has been installed nothing but death removes him.
(7) The Onojie title being one held in trust is not a personal property. It is held in trust for the community. It cannot, therefore, be willed in favour of a son, a brother, or a friend.
The petitioner has made very careful and detailed studies of Ishan custom and may be regarded as an expert. I DO NOT FEEL I AM IN A POSION TO CONTRADICT HIM AND FROM THE EVIDENCE OF THE WITNESSES I AM SATISFIED THAT HIS PRINCIPLES ARE SUBSTANTIALLY CORRECT'. The petitioner is, however, one of the parties in this case and I believe he· has over-emphasized some of the principles he has stated. Native Law and Custom is unwritten. IN THE OLDEN DAYS PRECEDENTS WERE FEW BEING LIMITED TO SMALL NUMBER OF GENERATIONS AND TO NEIGHBOURING CLANS. Custom has therefore to be broad and exceptional circumstances had to be dealt with ad hoc as they arose. Unlike modern laws, Native Law and Custom could not provide for all contingencies and a certain amount of latitude was, therefore, bound to be given in difficult decisions. With this reservation I AM PREPARED TO ACCEPT THE PETITIONER'S PRINCIPLES.
9. As I have stated already the object of this enquiry is to decide whether Etotoma has been properly appointed in accordance with Native Law and Custom. IT IS NOT PROPER TO ENQUIRE AT THIS STAGE WHETHER THE LATE ONOJIE WAS CONSTITUTIONALLY
APPOINTED, especially as this was the subject of a detailed enquiry twenty-three years ago. In any case it would be most unlikely that a fresh enquiry of the old dispute could bring to light any new evidence. The original dispute which divided the town was between Olumese and Idubor
THIS IS NOW A LONG TIME AGO and the evidence is twenty-three year: older and therefore twenty-three years less reliable than that submitted to the first enquiry.
Turning to the appointment of Etotoma I find that HE FULFILLED ALL THE CONDITIONS LAID DOWN BY THE PETITIONER. He is the oldest son of the late Onojie. He has performed the burial ceremonies and he has been properly installed. I therefore find that the appointment 0
Etotoma as Onojie of Ugboha has BEEN MADE IN ACCORDANCE WITH NATIVE LAWS AND CUSTOM.
Acting Resident, Benin Province.
Series of enquires had been conducted between 1906 and 1976 not Bromage Enquiry of 14th June, 1954 is the first to have concrete tools with which to work, discern truth from falsehood, to be able to say where truth lay between the claims of the Olumese line and Onobakhan dynasty deserves a thorough xray.
Mr. J .R. Bromage relied heavily on the records of the then District Office (V.C.M. Kelsy) who ended the portion quoted by Me. Bromage with, "the record in the office give no information at all and the above is based (what I elicited at the meeting", but on 28th of March, 1931, there was minute - "28/3/31 at Ubiaja: Both claimants and most of the titled men and Chiefs. I have looked up old Intelligence Books and records but there nothing in writing at all. I CONSIDER the Okosun is the proper man and I informed the meeting. The Oniha to remain in charge of the town.
This obviously is the "detailed" enquiry Bromage relied on, complete oblivious of the sentence "I consider the Okosun is the proper man"! In for Archives there is a minute - "Crewe Reade's Enquiry of 1906 - 1910 – two enquiries in all - for notes see File 14/31. . .” yet Mr. Kelsy in 1931 looked up old Intelligence Books and records but found nothing in writing. One would have thought the presence of titled men and Chiefs would have informed him of Ishan Native Laws and Custom which Mr. Bromage heard and agreed with - "I do not feel I am in a position to contradict him (Dr. Okojie) and from the evidence of the witnesses I am SATISFIED that his principles are substantially correct". This makes his statement "It is not proper to enquire at this stage whether the late Onojie (Ukato, Etotoma's father) was constitutionally appointed", very puzzling. The decision arrived at by Mr. Bromage becomes very questionable if in applying all the native laws and custom governing selection and installation of an Onojie, he finds the last Onojie NOT installed according to the laws and custom of Ugboha people. If the father became Onojie in disregard of these laws, there is no way his son, obeying all the same laws, can right the wrongs upon which his father inherited the title he wanted to pass on to his heir. Apply the conditions which Bromage said Etotoma fulfilled and take them seriatim:-
I. The title is hereditary - passing from father to son - Ukato and Etotoma line in the Ugboha Royal Family began with Onobakhan, first son of Adede father of Olumese, the second son. If Onobakhan was indeed Onojie of Ugboha, he would have been able to pass the title on to his son Idubor.
2. The first surviving son succeeds the father - Onobakhan's first son was Idubor, father of Udage, father of Ukato father of Etotoma.
3. There is no question of succession until the burial of the late Onojie. This means Onobakhan buried Adede whose second son was Olumese. This also means Idubor buried Onobakhan, Udage buried Idubor and Okosun, Udage's heir, buried Udage. Before Mr. Bromage was the undisputed evidence - Ukato, Udage's THIRD SON, buried his father Udage, his grandfather, Idubor and his great grandfather, Onobakhan. In other words Idubor, said to have been an Onojie in his own right, did not bury his father Onobakhan. This means Udage, Ukato's father did not bury his father Idubor. First in Esan custom a grandson does not bury his grandfather - IT CANNOT HAPPEN IN THE ROYAL FAMILY. It is an undisputed Esan custom - if an heir did not bury his father, if he the heir dies, the title passes from his first son to his next (Onojie's) senior brother. The line changes. So if Idubor did not bury his father, his own son Udage CANNOT SUCCEED him Idubor. Up and down Esanland right from our city of origin, this is the custom. Thus, if this is the case, there is no way Idubor and Udage could have been constitutionally installed Onojie of Ugboha. With this as the true custom, how can Ukato or his son Etotoma be properly installed? Where lies the raison d'etre of Mr. Bromage's "I therefore find that the appointment of Etotoma as Onojie of Ugboha has been made IN ACCORDANCE WITH NATIVE LAW AND CUSTOM"!
4. He who performs the burial ceremonies inherits the family property and the title. This is of over-riding importance. Before Bromage was the evidence - "It is the burial ceremony performed by Etotoma that entitled him to the Onojie over himself Ojieyokan, the brother of the deceased (Ukato)". Burial validates inheritance in Esan and once performed the person who performed it can pass on to his heir whatever he had inherited, property, title etc. Since Ukato, for any reason, was allowed by the Kingmakers to perform the burial ceremonies the inheritance of the Onojie title had passed irretrievably from Okosun and Orukpe - two senior brothers to Ukato's heir, Etotoma. No argument about that, but when you apply it to Ukato's father Udage, grandfather, Idubor and his great grandfather Onobakhan, there is a frightening can of worms Bromage was at pains not to open!
Now if you apply this all important burial proviso at the level of Adede's heir Onobakhan, and Olumese, the second son, one can understand why Mr. Bromage armed with the laws and custom governing the Onojie title in Esanland, refused to apply them as he did for Etotoma whose appointment he said was made in accordance with native law and custom. This was the candid opportunity he had to know where the truth lay in the prolonged chieftaincy dispute among the descendants of Adede and why this dispute had been resurfacing since 1906.
Who buried Adede, was it his heir Onobakhan or his second son Olumese and if so why?
Mr. Bromage said, "It may be noted however that there was no mention in the 1931 and 1934 petitions of Onobakhan being a leper". This is true but why is it that Onobakhan did not bury his father - Adede, one of the most famous Enijie in Ugboha history? What prevented him from performing this all important duty an heir owes his father? During the 1931 and 1934 enquires nobody ever talked of how an Onojie is selected and installed; all the District Officer was after was what happened in the past and every one told him the story he knew. How could they find the truth? Why was it left to a great grandson, Ukato to bury all his ancestors Udage, Idubor and Onobakhan, all said to have lived and reigned as Enijie in Ugboha? Hear Ojieyokan the oldest living brother of Ukato at the Bromage enquiry: "Ukato performed the burial ceremonies for Onobakhan, Idubor and Udage", Is this not a sufficient evidence showing that family the Onobakhan family - had really never become constitutionally installed, lived and ruled from Eguare, Ugboha?
5. Wherever an Onojie dies the body must be brought to Eguare for burial - an Onojie is never buried in the bush or in a village other than Eguare. For researchers, in Ubiaja the actual burial place for Ubiaja Enijie is Ahia - the original settlement of the founder of Ubiaja Royal House Edekholo (EDE).
Applying this law would leave many questions for Me. Bromage to answer and make his tall reasoning impossible to support. If indeed Onobakhan, Idubor and Udage were Enijie WHERE DID THEY LIVE AND REIGN AS ENIJIE? Until 1931 there was only one Eguare as in all Esanland. In Ugboha Idumueguale proper is where the Onojie lives, with its IdumunEguale-non kokhun (upper Eguare). It had been the seat for ALL Enijie right from Adede to Okojie and his heir UFUA. There was only ONE PALACE occupied by all the Enijie of Ugboha from Adede to Okojie and his heir.
No one disputed the fact that Idubor and Udage never lived in Eguare. All the elders up to 1931 knew they lived in Uzogbon. There they died. It is unthinkable that when they died their bodies were brought to a palace occupied by a royal Cousin for burial! E1derman Ojieyokan, the oldest surviving son of Udage affirmed, "When Udage died Okojie was Onojie, but his house was not Eguare because Okojie was only regent. The old Eguare was uninhabited and had become bush". Under cross-examination: "When Udage died Okojie was living in Idumueguare. Idumueguare is the same as Eguare. My late father (Udage) was at Uzogbon village when he died. We carried his body to Eguare to bury him" but still under cross-examination, he said, "We did not move the actual body. We got a rope and measured the grave round. We then remeasured the grave at Eguare and performed the ceremony. By remeasuring the grave the tradition is fulfilled. In this sense it is correct to say that an Onojie must be buried in Eguare”. The truth is that neither Onobakhan, Idubor nor Udage was buried in Eguare. Even Ukato, when installed, had to find a place outside the traditional Eguare. Where he settled was Emaudo - NOT EGUARE another evidence showing that family had never been constitutionally installed, lived and ruled from Eguare.
Once a man has been installed, nothing but death removes him. And Mr. Bromage believed the so called record of V.C.M. Kelsy "Udage was deposed by the District Officer in 1907 (?) for criminal practices and Okojie installed as Regent. Udage died some 5 or 6 years ago at Ubiaja and Okojie
continued as Onojie”. The lies are obvious: first if Udage was truly an Onojie, on his return from prison, he could have gone back to his palace as Onojie. In Esan custom no other person can be appointed Onojie in the incumbent’s life time. Secondly it is agreed there has been a prolonged dispute between the lines of Princes - Onobakhan and Olumese - Udage is from Onobakhan and Okojie from Olumese. Where is the sense and rationale of bringing Okojie, an arch-emeny to be a regent for Udage who at that time, had got not only grown up sons, but the third was fully grown; literate and working with the District Officer? Who will believe the story that when Udage the real Onojie returned, he did not go back to the palace in Eguare but went to live in the village! Who will believe the story that Okojie a regent, went to live in the palace, refused to vacate it for the substantive Onojie? Who will believe the story that when Udage died, his heir did not bury him to succeed to the title but Okojie (NOT HIS HEIR) became Onojie? Incidentally all Ugboha know Udage did not die in Ubiaja but in his mother's village - Uzogbon. As a matter of fact, Omeko Udage told me on the 24th of May, 1970 that her father died in Idiwe, Uzogbon.
Thirdly there are several examples of this Esan law that only death can remove an Onojie. Asikagbon of Ugbegun was imprisoned twice, each time he returned to his throne. The great Ogbidi, despite the vicissitude he suffered in the hands of the white men, returned from deportation and later imprisonment and his heir Uwagbale left Odugha for his father. Ukato, himself, Udage's son, on return from goal came back to Ugbohas and his throne.
7. The Onojie title being one held in trust for the community, is not a personal property. It cannot therefore be willed in favour of a son, brother or a friend. But for this law, many Enijie could have found it easy to disinherit their first sons as often there is no love lost between an Onojie and his heir. Whether an Onojie likes his first son or not, short of madness or a terrible incurable disease, there is no way an Onojie can block the way to succession for his legal heir by willing it to a second son or a brother. This is impossible. How could Bromage believe and accept that there was a precedent, quoting Ewu case. This is another error in Mr. Bromage findings - quoting Ishan native law and custom very, very wrongly. In the case he was trying to use to support his knowledge of these laws, Abhulimen was heir to Ewu Onojie Ehiemuan. He was so terrible that his father sold him into slavery. When the Onojie died the next surviving son was Ogiefo, a maternal brother of Abhulimen. Unable to find Abhulimen the kingmakers asked Ogiefo to perform the burial ceremonies, after which he was installed Onojie. As Onojie he felt sad that while he was Onojie, supreme ruler of the Ewu territory his brother was languishing a slave to someone perhaps inferior to him Ogiefo. He organised a search for him and finally he was found somewhere in Northern Nigeria. At a considerable cost he re-purchased him, brought him home, built a house and married wives for him all in order to rehabilitate him. Soon enemies set working on him-" Do you know that post your junior brother is occupying was yours?" Foolishly Abhulimen took the matter to the District Officer who messed up poor Ogiefo, dethroned him saying Ishan custom decreed the first son inherits the title. Ogiefo knowing Ishan Native Laws and Custom petitioned to the Resident who finally referred the matter to the Oba of Benin who agreeing that it is indeed Edo custom that it is the first that succeeds the father there were other provisos even more important than this. This was the burial ceremony and since there was no dispute that it was Ogiefo that buried their father - the right to the title belonged to Ogiefo. That is how Ogiefo and his heir Ogiefo II still sitting on Ewu throne, came in line. Thus, Bromage precedent is untrue and it is a fabrication.
In 1969, Etotoma died with his first son, John Eidenojie, a minor. His next brother that is Eidenojie's most senior uncle, Eigbadon became regent. On the first of June, 1971, he was rushed to Dr. Okojie's Zuma Memorial Hospital, Irrua, showing blood is thicker than water. Although he recovered, he managed on weakly until he died on Thursday, 7th December, 1972. Succession strife reared its ugly head in Ugboha again - the Okojie family pressing for their right. This was far more serious than previous ones, short of war. It got Ugboha hopelessly divided, leaving no aspect of life sacred. Dr. Okojie who was President General of Ugboha Progress Union felt it would be unfair as members of this non-political organization would be drawn into the unhappy situation and so suspended activities of the Union, until it fell a pray to power hungry and small minded politicians.
Finally, the Midwest government set up the Salami Commission of Enquiry in September, 1973. It began sitting in Ugboha on the 1st of March, 1974 and did not submit its report until 4th of February, 1976.
The Salami Report which was not published, left two vital questions unanswered. Elder Okoidegun who gave evidence in the 1957 enquiry and also in 1973 by which time he had become the Odionwele of Emaudo and the Osukhure of Ugboha again and again wanted the question answered: - Do you have two Eguares anywhere in Ishan?" On the final day of the Salami Enquiry the Commission decided to examine the two Eguares. At the Okojie Eguare, Ojieyokan admitted the two Owo (date palms) standing by the present Odugha occupied by Ufua, were planted by Adede and are known as THE ADEDE OWO. He added that the site was where Adede lived and ruled Ugboha. Dr. Okojie, in his final submission begged the Commissioner to help Ugboha answer the vital question - "How did a second son Olumese, the ancestor of the Okojie family, come to be in possession of Ugboha Odugha (Palace) which he passed onto Ebadan, to Okojie and to Ufua?
A lot of water had run under the bridge between 1973and 1976. Be that as it may, by No. BDS0054 of 17/1/79, the Bendel State Government declared John Etotoma Ukato the rightful claimant to the vacant title of the Onojie of Ugboha and approving the descendants of Onobakhan as the people entitled to inherit the Onojie of Ugboha title. This was a military government and the OKOJlE FAMILY had no one to appeal to other than the belief that THE TRUTH. LIKE A CORK. CANNOT STAY AT THE BOTTOM OF WATER - HOWEVER DEEP - IT MUST RISE AGAIN! They believing in God's justice, know some day, Ugboha people will demand to know how a second son came to be in possession of the Ruling Ijiogbe of Ugboha.
It is pertinent and of great historical importance to record that the night of Monday, 6th April, 1987, the famous Adede Owo planted same day, by Adede the father of Onobakhan and Olumese, were blown down by storm.