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 founder of UDO was IZIBI better known as IJESAN. He was the senior brother of EDEIKHOLO of Ubiaja. After the banishment of Ede for pilfering at the Oba's palace; Izibi later traced him and found him in ESAN country. By now Ede had found new wealth and position of authority at IWEALA. Blinded by his new importance he dealt with his senior brother harshly and disrespectfully, so much so, that Izibi decided to escape the insults of this ungrateful brother by going to found a settlement of his own. He settled first at IKEKEDE.
Some elders maintain that it was from the present Eguare that some people went to found settlements in Ikekede. This is incorrect. The Onojie, as a matter of fact has been there twice: first, during the arrival of Izibi from Benin and secondly for a short time, when Izibi who had become
Onojie, in a fit of temper, killed AGBOINKHENAN, one of his junior brothers. Since as Onojie he could not be killed for this offence, Udo banished him from Eguare for a short period. He went to live in his original settlement of Ikekede. True, more people followed him to swell the few that had been left originally. When he paid dues Udo demanded of him, he was allowed to return to Eguare. He left some of his children as Ekhaemon of OGHONMERE, IRAKUA and UDONERIA.
This place was founded by Izibi's second son who became the first IHAZA.
This was the place founded by the third son who became the Ezomo. This is why in Udo, the Ihaza is senior to the Ezomo.
3. ERIA or UDONERIA:
The fourth son and his party remained when the Onojie, his father, returned to Eguare after his atonement. As a result of his influence and popularity he was made the Iyasele.
Enema, Izibi's fifth son founded this quarter.
5. EKO UROMI:
An Uromi Prince called UTOMI with his family was the first settler, in this quarter.
6. EKO UGBODU:
This place was founded by EDEN of Uromi, but he was later joined by the influential and wealthy Ugbodu whose name eclipsed that of the first settler.
7. EKO OKUKPON:
This place was founded by Olcukpon, an Uromi man, but his followers were from Eguare Udo.
Oghonmere, Irakua and Udoneria together form the community known as IKEKEDE.
The elders of Eguare form the Kingmakers of Udo. They form EGBELE - IBHUIE.
The late Onojie must be honoured with the customary burial and Ogbe ceremonies before a successor is installed. As soon as the Onojie dies, the heir’s most senior uncle takes charge of the Odugha while he gets busy with all the ceremonies ending with the funeral rites. By the end of the third month he is through with all the ceremonies and after inheritance of his father's wives and property, he is installed as Onojie. The important men in all the ceremonies are the elders of EGBELE - IBHUIE whose head is the traditional Osukhure. He and the Oniha install the new ruler.
4. PRESENT ONOJIE:
The ruler in the fifties was a regent and was the second son of AKUEWANBHO. His name was UJIAGBEDION. In 1948 EDOMEN, a young man of about 26, died shortly after completion of his father's burial and Ogbe ceremonies. His heir Joseph AMEBHAGBEMEN-UHONMON, was then a minor, and so his uncle, Ujiagbedion was chosen as the Akheoa. Ujiagbedion was an experienced, humorous and honest looking man of about 66 in 1954 and had taken sincere care of both the Palace and title which he was holding in trust. In 1968 Amenbhagbemenuhomon overcame his minority and came on his own as Onojie of Udo.
6. NON - AGRESSION PACT:
Blood ties kept the people of Udo, Ubiaja and Okhuesan in peace. The peaceful connection between Udo and Ewohimi emphasises the strong kinship organisation of old Esan. The mothers of Izibi who founded Udo and Ikhimi, the founder of Orikhimi were sisters. This matriline connection was brought down all the way from Benin to Esan and the tie remained strong and unbroken even up to the advent of the British. Ugbesea's tyranny got to a stage when the humble people of Ikeken could not take it anymore and so rebelled, but unfortunately they were so indiscriminate in their expression of hate for Ugbesea who had become synonymous for Ubiaja that soldiers had to be sent. Ewohimi under the leadership of Warrior Odijie, had come to the assistance of their cousin, Ubiaja. Before the arrival of the soldiers, the great Agho of Ubiaja fell to an Ikeken matchet and to prevent his paraphernia from failing into the enemies' hands Odijie pulled things from the body of the dead man. The Ahanman (Ivory) on his wrist could not be pulled and as he drew his matchet to sever Agho's wrist, Obiyan warned, Remember Ewohimi and Ubiaja do not see each other's blood! Ikeken had both Warrior Agho's head, Ahanman and all!
Though Ubiaja and Okhuesan fought later, shocking the spirits of the departed forebears by the free show of each other's blood, this was Ubiaja's fault. They had tried to impose themselves far too much upon Okhuesan on the ground that the latter was junior to Ubiaja which is really Okhuesan's ·UNCLE’. On the other hand the relationship between Udo and Ubiaja has been so cordial that there is no boundary between the two communities. Up till now Ubiaja sends EMINA UKO consisting of a leg, a forelimb and half the chest of a cow slaughtered when an Onojie dies in Ubiaja, to Udo. Similarly Udo and Ewohimi still exchange Emina Uko for the actual burial ceremonies of an Onojie, a goat and a piece of cloth are sent.