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!
Amaho consists of the following Villages:
6. AGO ORA
7. AGO EOO
9. AGO IZEKO
10. AGO OGWA
Amaho was one of the earliest settlements in the 1950 South West Federation of Ebelle, Amahor, Ogwa, Ugun, and Ujiogba with Okalo. The very first unit in Amahor is not Eguare but OLOKUMI quarter of Idunbelegha. The people of this quarter were some of the refugees who fled the great
Benin City round about 1460. This small habitation of Olokumi was the settlement found by the large body of immigrants who left UTE OKPU near Idumuje Ugboko and Umunede, round about 1508. With their large number and their oneness they soon settled down to orderly life and it was a matter of a few years before they swallowed up Olokumi as a part of their settlement. This large and more flourishing settlement of a more' assertive people under a verile leader called EWEROE, grew to be the executive and judicial headquarters - Eguare of the whole area. The protective juju called OZA which the new-comers brought with them also became the common Ebo for the whole of Amahor.
Idumuovien-Oba part was founded by immigrants from Ukpenu in Ekpoma during the troubles that followed the Olowemen fight for the Ekpoma throne. This settlement was swelled by refugees from the exterminated chiefdom of Ezen, during the Amahor War of 1853. The Iyasele and the Ezomo are found here.
Edohen's quarter was founded by Ezegho, a Bini from Oza near Ogada, while the Egbesan moiety was founded by Igueben people.
The upper part was founded by some of the dissatisfied immigrants who had left Onitsha Olona same time as the founders of Okuta Ebelle. Idumuata section came from Eka while Idumedo portion was founded by Binis.
The founders were from Igbanke.
As narrated above the indigenous natives of Amahor are the Olokumi people. Later immigrants founded Idumogbe. In accordance with Esan custom these original people are regarded as land owners and hence regarded as seniors and have the prerogative of worshipping OTO (Earth). This is the seat of the Oniha of Amahor.
7. THE WATERSIDE:
In a land so poor of water, Amahor waterside was bound to attract settlers with the rapid development of villages, for here is the confluence of the Ossiomo and the Ebai. Many of these settlers were non-Esan traders from Benin, Ijaw, Tsekeri and Urhobo countries.
Ago Edo was founded by the followers of ASIRUUA of Benin. Ago Ora was founded by Ora traders in the employ of Idundun who had his headquarters at Urhohi. Ago Izeko is a recent settlement started by Izeko of Ebelle. Ago Ogwa was the original farm settlement of men from Ogwa.
The IDUNBHIJIE - all male descendants of the Royal Family or Princes form the Amahor kingmakers. They are headed by the Osukhure who, in their case is the eldest of the Egbele.
As soon as an Onojie dies an Akheoa (Caretaker) is appointed to take charge of the palace. Usually the appointee is appropriately the Osukhure - the oldest of the Princes. The heir at once begins to prepare for the burial ceremonies and though the vital ones are over in about seven days strict Esan custom demands seven to fourteen days - the talk of about three months is to give the new man an opportunity to recoup himself. After three months the Oniha and the Osukhure perform the installation by counting him on the Ojukhuo.
IV. GENEALOGICAL TREE:
(a) UIEKHUMEN, 1795 - 1840: was renowned for his avid interest in herbs and magic. As a Prince this interest took him away from home months on end, and in fact, was away on such tours when his father died in 1795. He prepared the Osun which still bears his name today; one of the trees planted round this Osun is the great Iroko tree right in front of the Onojie's Palace at Amahor. It was refuted to be able to detect the onset of troubles in the town. Ijiekhumen was one of the Enijie who answered Oba Osemwede during the Akure War of 1818.
(b) OBANO, 1840 - 1870 AND THE AMAHO WAR, 1853:
He was about ten years Onojie when the Amahor War broke out. Ogbewekon, living at Igueben, relied heavily upon the medicine men of Amahor who were making a brisk business from administering anti-cutlass, anti-gun and anti-fear injections into the skin of the Prince and his supporters. To please him, nobody was anybody in Amahor if he could not haul insults at Oba Adolo, particularly if there were Benin traders passing by! To please Adolo, these traders paid him the dubious compliments of 'transmitting these insults to him. Obano, an Onojie installed by Osemwede, headed these rebels against Osemwede's heir. So in 1853, Adolo decided to teach Obano and his henchmen a lesson. In those days as now, the COLD WAR or War of Nerves had as much shattering effects on morals as the actual shooting war. The Binis made sure that the traders going to Esan were told as many stories as would be sufficient to make Amahor warriors drop their bows, arrows and dane guns and take to their heels, at the sight of an Adolor emissary! Thus for months stories of such Bini medicine men as Okhuakhua, whose fluffy scales that drop from his skin when he scratched his body were responsible for the dessicating winds of the harmattan and could send a warrior within a radius of two miles sneezing for days. Ayanzu, who could disarm a whole horde of tribesmen by all their arrows falling useless on his notoriously tough hide etc. were on the lips of any gossiper at Amahor!
After many months of sleeplessness came the news at last of the Binis approaching Amahor via Uhi and Urhohi. Amaho sent all Ogbewekon's supporters, Igueben, Ogwa and Ebelle, although neither Ogbewekon's side nor the other Esan Enijie who stood solidly behind them could tell exactly on what side the crafty Ogbeide of Ebelle stood.
Amahor prepared to meet the pincer-movement of the Binis and had the advantage of surprise. The people of Ogo infested the jungle miles away from Eguare Amaho, where Obano was. Their one assignment was to get nose-irritating and fearsome Okhuakhua's head. If that was achieved then the Amahor warriors could be sure of taking careful aims instead of making repeated duckings followed by a revealing explosion of sneezing! Truly the Binis were soon seen pressing forward with Okhuakhua holding his Ekhuae and other awe-inspiring paraphernalia. With the war cry of "Iwen Okhuo kha de o khi kpa!" (Once a woman's breasts have fallen, they can rise no more!) The Amahor warriors ambushed the Binis who had been told that their enemies were still a mile away! Many of those in front and these were the bravest, were mowed down, including the great man of fluffs, That gave the Amahor defenders big courage and so were able to face the Binis on more or less equal terms, despite the terrifying OIS1 ARUARAN (Outsized dane guns, Cannons) which the Binis used to plough the columns of the Amahor fighters. The result of the war was such that both Amahor and the Edos claimed victory - but the Binis left leaving one of their Cannons which is still to be seen at the Ewohimi Palace today.
Real peace did not come between Amahor and the Oba until the death of Prince Ogbewekon round about 1880. Izebhijie was then the Onojie as Obano had died some ten years previously. Even after the Prince's death, his heir Osajie, had continued the father's fight for the Benin Throne, until he decided wisely at last to stop kicking against thorns. His kind uncle, Oba Adolo forgave him and he was able to return to Benin in peace.
VI. NON-AGGRESSION PACTS:
Amahor was forbidden the sight of blood of the people of Ekpon Ogwa and Igueben. Though Ekpon and Amahor described themselves as BROTHERS there is no consanguity. Their sense of oneness followed the immigration of Igbanke people close to Ekpon, to found Ugbekhae. That of Igueben and Ogwa was a result of the Okoven system.