Place Of Ijala In Warri Kingdom:
The origin of the Itsekiri tribe of Warri kingdom has always been misconstrued because of its dialectical proximity to that of the Yoruba’s. The following essay compiled by Mr Henry Erikowa reveals not just their origin and how they came about their dialect but also the role that Ijala land played in the people’s history and development.
Prince Ginuwa was the eldest son of the fourteenth Oba of Benin – Oba Olua (1473 -1480A.D.), who was also the heir apparent to the great throne of Benin Kingdom. This Prince was well loved by his father, but the Benin chiefs hated him because they claimed that he was -too proud and arrogant. They then felt that It might be bad for the Kingdom, If he was allowed to reign after his father. For that reason they planned to eliminate him, so that he couldn’t reign. This clandestine plan was divulged to the Oba by one of the Oba’s loyal chiefs. Instantly, the Oba summoned his medicine man (Idibie) and sought his counsel on this issue. ‘From the play of oracle by the Idibie, it was revealed that, the Prince must be sent away from the Kingdom. Without further delay, the escape plan of Prince Ginuwa was set in motion by the Oba.
The Oba assembled all his chiefs and demanded from them, their first sons, to accompany Ginuwa to the river to perform the rites desirable to the goddess of the river (Olokun). They all complied immediately and made their eldest sons- seventy in all available on the appointed day of departure. Except for the Oba, the medicine man and the palace attendant who hatched the escape plan, the chiefs did not know that Ginuwa and his retinue would not return to Benin. They, therefore, joined the Oba in wishing Ginuwa, safe journey and good luck on his journey in Edo language by saying “OKHIENWERE O”. There was no woman on the entourage.
The journey from Benin took them through Ugharegin to Efurokpe, Amatu and Oruselemo where Ginuwa was reported to have got married to Derumo before he finally arrived at a virgin land which was named Ijala. Before his arrival at Ijala, he had already got two male children, Princes Ijijen and lrame.
As the chiefs waited in vain for the return of their children, the clandestine plan began to unveil itself and dawned on them that the Oba had taken them for a ride. Their next line of action was to dispatch soldiers at various times to places the royal team visited, so that their children could be brought back to Benin. Suffice it to say, that none of these soldiers sent out by the chiefs achieved their desired mission. It was on one of these unfulfilled missions by the soldiers, that information reached Ginuwa and his followers about the planned onslaught on them that made them start planning their evacuation from Ijala. Unfortunately, this plan did not materialise in Ginuwa’s life time because he joined his ancestors at Ijala and was buried there. Hence, all the demised Olus have been buried at Ijala from 1500A.D to date.
Movement From Ijala To Ode-Itsekiri
His eldest son, Prince Ijijen, immediately took up the royal command as was and still the practice in Benin Kingdom where primogeniture thrives, and all honour due to him was accordingly given.
The planned movement from Ijala was, therefore, executed by Prince Ijijen with the aid of an Idibie (medicine man or a diviner) who threw a magical spear (Egan or Etsoro) that was believed to have landed at a location called Okotomu, now Ode-itsekiri (Big Warri).
The tracing of that spear by Prince Ijijen and his people, with the help of the Idibie piloting, finally brought them to the spear’s location. It was here they met a group of people believed to have migrated from the South East region of the Yoruba territory who are now the bulk of the Iwere people (Oma- jaja).
The present site of the Warri Kingdom Royal Cemetery is the original place of abode of Olu Ginuwa 1. After the movement of all the entourage to Ode – Itsekiri (Big Warri) the area remained uninhabited and thus, became a royal grove reserved solely as a resting place of all demised monarchs of Warri Kingdom.
Choice trees including Iroko trees, planted to mark their graves and pieces of relics strewn on Ginuwa 1 Creek front residence over 500 years ago can still be spotted.
Portuguese traders on their maiden voyage to Ijala in 1500 introduced cassava to Olu Giniwa 1 -Talbot also mentioned that Portuguese traders bought beads from Ijala between 1505 and 1522
About 509 years after, ljala is now being repositioned as a tourist and industrial destination, charting the vision for the much talked about Greater Warri Metropolitan Dream with the restoration of the Royal Cemetery, the establishment of Falcorp Mangrove Park and several other proposed projects within and around the Community.
Compiled by Henry Erikowa