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!
Idoa has been Esan from its beginning and in all its customs and traditions except that of inheritance of its Onojie title. Even this is a new innovation forced upon Idoa Community by circumstance.
In the Benin Kingdom and Edo speaking people of South-Western Nigeria (Bradbury, 1957) R.E. Bradbury said, "Individual titles of the Benin type are found throughout Ishan with the exception of Idua, Uzea, Ujagbe and IlJushi. Ukhun has a title association, probably of Ivbiosakon type but in recent years individual titles have been adopted AS A RESULT OF CONTACT WITH OTHER ISHAN GROUPS". Thus, as explained already under Ukhun, the Onojie title in Idoa is of recent, being adopted, many years after the return of the original Idoa people.
Idoa was a single independent village with five original quarters
1. OMOAKON or UHONLUMUN or UBI
4. ATOLOGUA and
Apart .from the fact that Omoakon was the first remembered settlement and hence is regarded as FIRST, no order of precedence is known among the other four. During the Nupe War of the eighteen-fifties, Idoa was one of the areas that suffered incestant slave raids by the marauding Nupes. In the final attack Idoa was sacked and the inhabitants fled to different places - Agbede, Ibore, Idoani etc. By then Ibore had got to its present site some ten years earlier. Majority of the people fled to Agbede where the powerful Akhigbe whose mother, AGBONROFO hailed from Idoa, was the ruler. Years later when peace returned the remnants of Idoa regrouped under the influence of Agbonrofo at Agbede and Omoakon or Uhonlumun with over-all name of Ubi, Afuku, Afokolo, Atologua and Ofie were the original quarters although smaller ones like Ebhoegbon, Afoghodo, Udolojie, Iweh, Uhiahia and Otoika were too small to be counted as full quarters during the Agbede assembly. Ebhoegbon went with Ornoakon or Ubi, Afoghodo was with Afuku while Udolojie, Iwele, Uhiahia and Otoika were with Ubi. It can now be understood how Omoakon or Ubi, Afuku, Afokolo, Atologua and Ofie came to form the five ruling kindreds of Idoa.
On getting to Esan they found that each group had a respected leader and sensing no group would accept the other leader they came to a compromise of allowing the leaders to rule one after the other, this being the origin of the rotational method of inheritance. Ikpebua of Afuku who was the first to arrive back home when no one was sure of his safety, started. On his death Ugbadamun of Ofie succeeded him in 1940 ruling for nine years. Odijie of Omoakon took over in 1949, and during those hectic Action .Group days when the government in power could do anything, Odijie was elected into the then Western House of Chiefs with a vengeance! He ruled for nineteen years and died round about 1968. He belonged to Omoakon quarters.
Trouble came when progressive sons of Idoa thought it would be better to choose the most able man rather than base everything on age alone. This trouble was not resolved until 1970 when Chief Kadiri Ofoma Asejebho was elected and gazetted in 1974. He is from Atologua quarters.
II GENEALOGICAL TREE:
Return of the Remnants of Idoa
IKPEBUA - OF AFUKU
UGADAMUN, 1940 - OF OFIE
HON. ODlJIE, 1949 - OF OMOAKON
KADIRl OFOMA ASEJEBHO, 1974 - OF ATOLOGUA
III It is interesting to take a look at the recent Declaration of Customary Law Regulating Succession of Traditional Ruler title for Idoa and see how gerontocracy is still so heavily weighted.
1. There are five Ruling Kindreds in Idoa known as Afuku, Ofie, Ubi, Atologua and Afokolo. Females are absolutely barred. ..
2. The Onojieship rotates around these five kindred in the order given in paragraph (l) above, and a candidate for the title of Onojie is selected by the appropriate kindred and approved by a Clan Council Kingmakers.
3. A candidate for the title must be at least twenty' years old and be a member of the Edion • grade either by-age or initiation and must possess a Chieftaincy title.
(NOTE: - There is no way a twenty year old can be of Edion grade in Esan custom, let alone be an accredited Chief outside the hereditary Chieftaincy group. What is more- the Ukhun - Idoa method of accession is gerontocracy!)
4. The clan council of kingmakers consists of two persons each from the five Ruling Kindreds. The two persons are the OLDEST MEN (Odionwele) in the kindred and one other ELDERLY person preferably a title holder (Chief) personally nominated by the Odionwele.
5. Upon the demise of an Onojie, the eldest man in Idoa (Odionwele) acts as Regent for the period of twelve months during which period the children of the deceased Onojie perform the burial rites and ceremonies before a new Onojie is selected.
6. Should the burial rites and ceremonies be delayed or not performed the installation of a ' new Onojie may 'proceed' upon the presentation by the whole Clan of twenty cowries to the -children of the deceased Onojie.
Dated at Benin this 28th day of September, 1979.
'D.P. Lawani OON, K.S.G.
Secretary to - the Military
Bendel State of Nigeria
B.S.L.N. 79 of 1979