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 EMULU.
The founder of Emu, ORIOMON and Erakpe of Ohordua were full brothers. Before the death of the two Princes, Kuoboyowa and Ezuwarha, Warrior Okhirare was finding enough trouble in his secret dealings with his idol, Princess Elonmon. After the enactment of the unnatural mourning laws, existence became near impossible for the two lovers, and so they fled the city with all they possessed.
While the father Okhirare and his first son Erakpe, settled at Ohordua, the second son Oriomon crossed the Utor stream and established a settlement which later came to be known as IDUMOGBE. Oriomon was a great farmer who devoted all his energy and knowledge to getting out of the soil as much yield as possible.
In 1463 when in stooping to conquer, Oba Ewuare the Selfish invited all Esan leaders to Benin, it was round about May when the yard plants were just spreading and needed roping with constant attention to ensure good yield. That, in farmer Oriomon's mind was the wrong time for social visit particularly as the journey to Benin at that time took anything from three to six months. He asked his son, Uwagbo to deputise for him Ewuare's diplomatic stroke turned this apparent disrespect to one': sovereign into a boomerang which hit old farmer Oriomon. His son returner to be the ruler of his people, including his father! Uwagbo became the first Onojie of Emu and to spare his father further insult he moved to the present Eguare called ORAKHUAN.
This place is better known as Orakhuan and while it had population of 917 in 1953, this had grown to 1749 in 1963. It consists of two following components:
(c) EMOA, majority of its founders came from Afuda Irrua and here the Iyasele lives
(d) UNEME and
(e) OBIDIGBON, which was founded by Uwagbo himself.
2. IDUNEMA (1963 - 503):
Ema, one of Oriomon's sons founded Idunema. This quarter with Idumogbe forms AGADAGA.
Here the Oniha lives in Emu.
Idumogbe (the original settlement of Oriomon), Idunema, Ugun, Obolo and Akhiomen because of their geographical positions together form USOLO which had a population of 2210 in 1963.
4. IBHIADAN (1963 - 1409)
This consists of Odogbo which came from Eguare, Idumu-Oise, Okede from which some migrated to establish part of EBHURU of Ubiaja, and OKPOGBO. As explained already Idumogbe, Oriomon's original settlement was named after Oriomon's second son who remained with his father to develop the place.
5. EMUNEKHUA (1963 - 1,086):
This consists of IBHIOZE, EKE, UDOH and OBODOGUN. They constitute the early settlers of Emu, soon after the arrival of Oriomon. Ibhioze was founded by a Benin man called Eke and his junior brother UDOH were the founders of Udoh. Obodogun settlers were immigrants From OKPANAM in Asaba Division now Oshimili Local Government Area. Odin, the founder of Orowa was a brother of Oze of Emunekhua, making one wonder at the sense in the protracted land case between Emu and Orowa.
II. IMMEDIATE PAST ONOJIE:
Until 1935the Onojie of Emu was the long lasting ruler known as OJIEALEKHE. He was an educated, quietly dignified man. He began his education at the Catholic School, Ubiaja finishing up at the C.M.C. School, Sapele. He worked in Sapele and later taught in the R.C.M. School, Ohordua. He became Onojie in 1924and for sixty-one years he was Onojie of Emu; he died on 23rd November, 1985 at 11 p.m. and perhaps he could pass for the longest reigning Onojie in modern Esan land.
Eguare edion are the kingmakers of Emu. Like the rest of Esanland after the kingmakers have made their selection according to custom, the Oniha performs the installation after the blessings of the Osukhure who is the most elderly of the EGBELE - IBHIERANMEN.
Emu places emphasis on the constant occupancy of the throne saying the throne is never vacant. On the day the Onojie dies, if there is no argument about the heir he is installed. Then he must begin the Burial Ceremonies at once in order to have legal right to both the family property and Onojie title, for should he die before he has performed these vital ceremonies both pass away from his line.
I consider what followed Ojiealekhe's passing away so important for future researchers into Esan history and tradition that I will record them.
Remember as said above Emu tradition is for the throne never being vacant - hence the immediate installation of the heir after the death of his father, but by March, 1986, five months after the death of Ojiealekhe, the whereabouts of the Crown Prince Augustine Imasiemonjie was still unknown despite all the searches and publicity over the Onojie's death. Some Emu people had started fidgeting with the idea of asking the second son Prince Orukpe to go ahead to perform the burial ceremonies instead of allowing Emu to remain in uncertainty and with agonizing vacant throne. Lovers of Emu needled them with the Esan idiom, "Qnon ton Olinmin yaan uwa (He who performs the burial ceremonies owns the house)!
In April 1986, the kingmakers took the wise decision that EINOJIE OBANON, senior uncle of Imasiemonjie should become AKHEOA-(Regent) until the heir can be traced but in a document addressed to the Commissioner of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and copied to Omo N'Oba N'Edo Uku Akpokpolo, Oba of Benin, the Secretary to Agbazilo Local Government Area, All Enijie in the Local Government Area, and the Divisional Police Officer, Ubiaja, Emu Kingmakers ruled fmally as follows:
Members of the Royal Family,
2nd April, 1986.
The Hon. Commissioner,
Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs,
CORONATION/CROWNING CEREMONY OF PRINCE PETER ORUKPE
OJEALEKHE THE FIRST: AS THE NEW ONOJIE OF EMU:
We the Kingmakers and members of the Royal Family of Eguare, 'Emu, in Emu Town, Agbazilo Local Government Area of Bendel State, have the mandated honour to make this chieftaincy declaration as follows:-
1. That H.R.H. ' Ojealekhe Obanor II, the Onojie of Emu passed away to the great world beyond, on the 22nd of November, 1985.
2. That since the passing away of the Onojie, all efforts has been made by the Royal Family and indeed the entire people of Emu to locate or find the where about of the Heir Apparent to the throne. Prince Augustine Imhasiemhonje Ojealekhe, throughout the nook and comer of the country but without success.
3. That we had done all that is humanly possible both in publications in our national dailies and other spiritual means to find his where about but all to no avail.
4. That in the light of the above reasons, we the kingmakers and members of the Royal Family, have unanimously resolved that Prince Peter Orukpe OJealekhe, being the second son to the departed Onojie should perform Burial Ceremony of his departed father, so as to be crowned as the new Onojie of Emu, in absence of the first son.
5. That this decisions unanimously adopted in a meeting held by Emu Community because a Community without an Onojie is always left out in the scheme of things. Onojie is always left out in the scheme of things.
6. That it is also hereby agreed upon that Prince Peter Orukpe Ojealekhe should hand over to Prince Augustine Imhasiemhonjie Ojealekhe immediately he returns back home, notwithstanding his coronation as Onojie of Emu. Prince Peter Orukpe Ojealekhe, wholeheartedly agreed with the contents of this Declarations.
Witnessed and signed by the following Elders of the Royal Family/Kingmakers, on this 2nd day of April, 1986.
I. Onogbose Omhanimhen
2. Oyugbo Omhense
3. Esangbedo Usubho
4. Ikharehon Omhense
5. Egbodu Iyogbon
6. Odighi Omhense
7. Dickson Enayomen
8. Ozioko Onosegbe
9. Cyril Ukhakha
10. Samson Eboh
(I) Omo N'Oba N'Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba of Benin
(2) The Secretary, Agbazilo Local Government Area, Ubiaja.
(3) All Enijies in Agbazilo Local Government Area
(4) The D.P.O., Police Station, Ubiaja.
In 1986 I called this a time bomb and the only thing that would prevent its detonation is not prayers that should have come from a patriot like me, - that Prince Augustine Imhasiemonjie should NEVER RETURN! If he did and Prince Peter Orukpe stepped down, terrible seeds of discord had been sowed and the tomb bomb would explode long after the present Kingmakers, Emu people and the two Princes, have left the scene. Surely someday someone would tell the children of Peter Orukpe that their father performed the all-important burial ceremonies of their grand-father, Ojealekhe and by Esan Customary Law, all inheritance passed therefrom to Peter Orukpe and his children or heirs! I refer the reader to Ehiemuan (1868 - 1898) of Ewu. He had sold off his cantekerous heir Prince Abhulimen and made Ojiefo the Matyr the first son. When Ehimuan died in 1898, Ojiefo.
I dutifully performed the burial ceremonies, ascended the throne and later this good man feeling sorry that while he was lord supreme of all Ewu, his senior brother (of the same mother) was a slave perhaps to someone inferior to him. He left no stone unturned and Abbulimen was finally after many years, found somewhere in present day Northern Nigeria; Ojiefo redeemed him, brought him home with jubilation, but evil men soon started working on Abhulimen, who blinded by jealousy and avarice challenged Ojiefo, appealed to the then British Administration who said Esan law says the first son succeeds his father and since no one argued that Abhulimen was the first son, Ojiefo was destooled. It was left to the wisdom of the Oba of Benin who told the British there were more weighty laws governing selection and succession in Edo and Esan land.
The original decision of the Emu Kingmakers to let Prince Einojie, OBANO become Akheoa pending the arrival of Prince Augustine Imasiemojie was "the best solution to Emu problem over succession to! Ojealekhe; this would have precluded anyone being allowed to perform the all decisive burial ceremonies. But God in his mercies saved Emu Kingmakers and the people of Emu when Augustine Imasiemojie returned home on about the II the of August, 1992 after forty years away from home and seven years after his father's death.
Since the time of Obano, Emu has known no chieftaincy dispute, due to its adherence to traditions. In the line of rulers, OMENLIMEN must be mentioned. He was Onojie round about 1880 - 1900, and made a name as an avid slave trader. He got and sold slaves indiscriminately to Ighanlan dealers. All adulterous wives of neighbouring Enijie invariably ended up in Obano's possession as slaves. If a man from the village misbehaved with one of his myriads of wives - the laws of adultery were not as strict in Ishan 'B' as they were in Ishan 'A' - Omenlimen never demanded his head as the land prescribed. He merely looted and sacked the village of origin of the offender!
Obano headed those appointed into Ubiaja Native Court from Emu, the appointment taking effect from 28th April, 1920 (See SSPA 287/14, BP 214120). Emu did not get its own Native Court until 1925.