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 OKHUELE-ESAN, a name which has overemphasized the connection there is between Okhuele-Odua (Okhuodua) and Okhuesan. From the name it would appear as if there was one Okhuele which split into Okhuele of Odua and Okhuele of Esan. That would be a wrong impression for the only connection between the two places which are quite distinct and separated by a large community - EMU - is ELONMON, the Princess from Benin City who eloped with the audacious OKHIRARE founder of Okhuodua. This woman after the death of Okhirare, married
OLU, one of the junior sons of Izibi or Ijesan of Udo.
Prince Olu, an independent, resourceful and avid hunter, one day while hunting, came to a spot full of Ukhua (Native Walnut). He was so fascinated by the beauty and richness of the spot, that he came home with a glowing report of it to his father, the Onojie. He packed his property and together with his immediate family members and servants he returned there to settle. Because of the many Ukhua growing wild there Prince Olu's settlement was referred to as ISI-UKHUA or OTO-UKHUA which soon got corrupted to OTOUKHUA. It was a matter of years for the original name to degenerate into OKHUE.
Now from the union of OLU and Princess ELONMON resulted a son called ESAN. By his father’s industry and popularity many people in search of peace and quietness came to swell the population of the little hamlet the inhabitants of which served Olu as a ruler. But the very first to be installed Onojie formally was Esan, Olu's successor. As a godson of OJUDO (Onojie of Udo), and the half-brother of Erakpe of Okhuodua and Oriomon of Emu, his connections were so regal that he was soon a famous man. Thus the Oto-Ukhua founded by his father came to be known by his name - OKHUE-ESAN.
The blood relationship between places like Udo, Ubiaja, Emu, Ohordua and Okhuesan can now be understood. It is related to Udo and Ubiaja patrilineally, and to Ohordua and Emu patrilineally. Izibi of Udo was the father of Olu, founder of Okhuesan, when Izibi was the senior brother of Edeikholo, founder of Ubiaja. Esan, the son of Olu, was the son of Princess Elonmon, mother of Erakpe of Ohordua and Oriomon of Emu.
With a prolific and much-travelled woman like Princess Elonm there was bound to be an avalanche of burial complications descending her off springs. Her death raised so many issues that brotherly blood, freely spilt, with the one result that would surprise no one: She had to be buried in parts! Death finally caught up with the Princess at Okhuesan; the junior son, then sent word to his senior brothers, Erakpe and Oriom Erakpe followed by his people arrived post-haste, and like the big brother he was, demanded as a right, the respected body of their mother. Especially though the most junior, maintained that since she died on his lap, the mother should be buried at Okhuesan - it was no strange place for the According to Esan custom really Elonmon ought to be returned to her natural place - Benin, but in her case, no son however dutiful, was prepared carry the body of his dead mother in a six months trek! A heated argument ensued but it got temporarily stopped by Okhuodua seizing the dead brother and making a dash for it! Okhuesan gave a determined chase and on road between Okhuesan and Emu, a bitter scuffle followed. Hours later when there was neither hair nor skin left on their "respected mother Okhuodua cut off the dead woman's head and made away with the prized part of the human body, according to Head hunters 'code'! They buried it at Okhuodua and the spot is marked today by EKI-ELONMC Okhuesan had the consolation of having a headless and skinned body bury! It was all very shocking for Emu, the middle son who had been neutral!
1. IDELUAN (1953 - 707; 1963 - 983):
This was founded by one of Olu's sons called Oakhireman.
2. IKIALA (1953 - 428; 1963 - 536):
The full name is IKEKIYALA and was founded by Oghogho, of the Onojie, UWAIFO, hence it is also known as Idumu-Oghogho.
3. IKEKEN (1953 - 509; 1963 - 686):
This village consist of IDUN-ISO and IDUMU-OGWA. The la was founded by immigrants who had fled from the unrest at Ogwa, result of the Ekpoma - Ogwa skirmishes. The Idun-Iso quarter was founded by people from Iki Opoji, during the protracted Irrua - Opoji War of 1850.
The site occupied by Idumu-Ogwa was the original Ikekogbe Iweala, Ubiaja's first Eguare. This really gave the two settlements of Idumu Ogwa 468 Idun-Iso and Idumu-Ogwa their common name; Ogbe is sometimes called EKEN. Every Eguare in those days had a quarter where the Onojie's servants and slaves lived; it was usually behind the walled palace grounds, and hence this special quarter was called IKEKOGBE, that is, behind the palace wall. This 'BACK OF OGBE' or BACK OF EKEN Iweala came to be IKEKEN which became the overall name of all the settlements that later grew up in the area.
The original Oto-ukhua became the Onojie's seat - EGUARE, which had a population of 522 in 1953 and a figure of 610 in 1963.
2. PRESENT ONOJIE:
His Royal Highness EHIDIAMEN is the present Onojie of Okhuesan. He was born in 1916 and as a youth, was famous for his agility and acrobatic prowess.
When Onojie Ozigue, about the 8th Onojie in Okhuesan died in 1905, his son and heir was ISII, the second son was ATAIMEN while the third son was O-bo. Isii at once began the burial ceremonies according to Esan Native Laws and Custom but within nine days of his father's death, he too was dead. He had actually begun the ceremonies but death did not allow him to conclude the rites and was the second son Ataimen that finally performed the burial ceremonies with Ogbe. He then ascended the throne in 1905. In April, 1920 Ataimen was appointed a members of Ubiaja Native Court (BP 2/4120, S.S.P.A.of 29/9/20) but on the 20th of September, 1920, he died with his son and heir Ehidiamen, a minor. His uncle Obo (pronounced Oobo) was made a Regent. It took the long period of 1920 to 1933 for young Ehidiamen to overcome his minority. In 1933 Obo stepped down and he with his own first son EIGBOKHAN left the palace for Ehidiamen.
Chief Ehidiamen was an Honourable Member of the House of Chiefs in the Old Western Region and in the Midwest House of Chiefs following the creation of Nigeria's fourth region in August, 1963. Ehidiamen is fearless, forth-right and dedicated to any cause he believes in, an attribute that had brought him on a head-on-collision with powerful politicians after the 1979 elections. He has very little respect for his brother traditional rulers who pretend to be neutral in' politics but work ceaselessly at night for the party in power. Chief Ehidiamen who had always had a real grip on his people, had a long lasting problem with his people and up to 1992, is still living outside Okhuesan in Uromi, his mother's place, despite a settlement. It is only now in June, 1993 he has begun rebuilding of his palace under the assistance of Okhuesan Community and men of goodwill.
The elders of Eguare form the kingmakers of Okhuesan.
Okhuesan history amply emphasises the uniqueness and advisability of keeping strictly to Esan Native Laws and Custom as exemplified by the Isii - Ataimen episody. Burial ceremonies are decisive.