There is no single written record which tells of the history of a contiguous area now occupied by the Ijaw people but its components have oral and some written folklores indicating their origin. From Mr. D.B. Partridge’s reports, “investigation into the role of chiefs in the Midwestern state – division report of western Ijaw division “, paragraph 18, we have the following account:
“18. This theory of an eastern origin for the western Ijaw conflicts, however with other versions of history which trace the origin of western Ijaw people, or certainly of some of their components clans, to Benin. These accounts are found mainly in the government assessment reports of the 1930’s. for example, S.E Johnson in his intelligence report on the Gbaramatu clan wrote:” it is thought that Kabowe, Kumbowe and Gbara peoples are all full brothers and use the same juju which originated in Benin” thus implying that the common stock’ of the Ijaw is Benin. Another pointer in the same direction is given by fellows in his intelligence report on the Benin (Ibeni) clan, where he records: “A man called Ijaw lived at Benin a very long time ago. As there were many wars at that time he left Benin and came down to abo on the Niger”. And yet another pointer in the same direction is given by Main in his intelligence report on the main clan where he says that the original fetish of the Mein clan was “an ivory elephant tusk” brought “from Benin by Mein” who must have migrated through Aboh. In the same report, Main develops the theory of a Benin origin when referring to the Mein clans, must have come from Benin and that his grandchildren, beginning with one Kalanama, went to Benin to obtain their insignia of office as Peres.
In support of these theories of Benin Origin, the present Pere, His Highness P.O. Kalanama VII of Akugbene in his welcome address on the 17th March, 1982 to Omo N’Oba, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa (during his “thank you tour of Bendel state” after his coronation on 23rd, 1979), said in parts as follows: -
“the origin of the kalanama pereship (kingship) could be trace to benin. In brief, kalanama migrated from ogobiri where he had lived with his father, Mein and founded akugbene along the forcados river. There was no trace of human habitation along the river and kalanama was joined by five of his half-brothers fron ogobiri. Kalanama had the strong desire to obtain sanction to rule the area to rule the area FROM THE OBA OF BENIN WHO WAS THEN REGARDED AS THE ACCREDITED RULER OF THE WORLD. IN SOPITE OF THE DIFFICULT CONDITIOND KALANAMA BRAVELY MADE HIS visit to the oba who crowed him as ‘pere’ (king) and he did return with symbols of office and valuable articles.
This great visit of kalanama to Benin took place in the thirteeneth century. When khen kalanama had returned from Benin with reputation of valor and wuth the title of ‘pereship’ he was proclaimed as the ruler of the mein clan with akugbene as the headquarters. But when kalanama was informed by advance age he gave some authority to ngbele his beloved half-brother to rule a sub clan and by similar way, so also obbolu, another half brother of kalanama ruled another sub clans Ngbelebiri Mein and Ogbolabiri Mein owed allegiance to pere
kalanama I and they had to pay homage to him.
“Your Royal Highness, you can see from the foregoing undistorted history that there has been a link between your throne and that of ours (through your acceptance and creation) and it behoves on us and your people to strengthen our togetherness. It will be recalled that during the famous visit of kalanama to Benin the oba also installed some chiefs for him and hence most of our chieftaincy titles today go by bini names. For instance, we have in the palace here: iyasere, azuma, adologbo, okugbolu and awubia among other chiefs. It may interest you to know that during our traditional feast called “kalanama festival in commemoration of our great father Pere kalanama I, Bini music dominates and it has just been Bini songs all the way as you and your entourage were ushered into this kalanama square.”
The sum total of these records confirms that a good deal of Benin chieftaincy title-names remain and are currently used in area outside metropolitan Benin.
Excerpt from: Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Titles.
Source: Institute For Benin Studies
Edited by: Imasuen Amowie Ewedo