BENIN-URHOBO RELATIONSHIPS

By Nowamagbe Omoigui M.D

REPLY TO PROFESSOR PETER EKEH

ON BENIN-URHOBO RELATIONSHIPS

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THE WORD "AKA"

It is true that Urhobo clans of the Edoid (or Edo-speaking) race call the people of Benin "Aka". The significance of this is a potentially fertile area of research for any young historian who might be interested. However, it might interest you to know that the word "Aka" remains in Benin-City until this day. According to Aisien, there are three contexts:

1. Ogbel'aka - which is a section of Benin-City which houses the Royal Musicians. They also play an important role during coronations. 2. Ogbe n'alaka - a section of Ogbe adjoining the Palace to which Oba Akengbuda (1750-1804) retired in old age after abdicating the throne in favor of his son Obanosa.

3. Eze n'Aka - (the AKA stream) which was a tributary of the Ikpoba river exclusively dedicated to supplying drinking water to the Benin Palace (at its present location) from time immemorial.

One very interesting detail is that the Benin Palace has not always been at its present site. The original Ogiso Palace was along the UTANTAN in Ugbeku. UTANTAN is now called Sakponba road. The address of the ancient Palace is 163 Upper Sakpoba Road . The second Ogiso (Ere) moved it to Uhunmwindunmwun where it remained until the end of the Ogiso period. Eweka I, as well as his sons Uwakhahen and Ehemihen operated from a new Palace at Usama. But it was Ewedo (circa 1260 AD) that moved the Palace to its present site.

SOURCES: 1. DN Oronsaye: The History of the Ancient Benin Kingdom and Empire, Jeromelaiho 1995

2. Ekhaguosa Aisien: Benin-City: The Edo State Capital. Aisien Publishers 1995

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THE WORD " EDO "

The capital city of our race only became known as " Edo " during the reign of Ewuare the Great (1440 - 1473). He renamed it after a faithful slave called " Edo ". Indeed, the word " Edo " remains a bona fide name still in use today among many (but not all) of the Edoid clans. [It is interesting too that the original name of the trader from Kokori who succeeded Iyase n'Ohenmwen and became known as Iyase n'Oduhobo, was Edo .] Since Edo (Benin-City) only became known as Edo in Ewuare's time, what was it called before then? During the era of the first Ogiso Igodo - also known as Ogiso Obagodo - [circa 601 AD] it was called "Igodomigodo", capital of Ogu-dugu (the ancient name for the Benin Kingdom ). From the time of Ogiso Ere (son of the first Ovie of Ughelle ["Ughelli"]) until the last Ogiso Owodo [circa 1092], it was called "Ile". It was still called Ile during the period of republican rule between 1092 and 1180. (I might add that this period of instability witnessed several waves of outmigration) From the time of Oba Eweka I (circa 1180 - 1246) until Oba Ehenmihen (circa 1250 - 1260) it was called Ile Ibinu. Beginning with Oba Ewedo (circa 1260 - 1274) until the end of Uwaifiokun's reign (circa 1434 - 1440) it was known as "Ubini" until Ewuare changed it. Interestingly it continued to be called Ubini by a segment of the population as late as the reign of Olua (circa 1475 - 1480) because his son Iginua (who founded the Itsekiri Kingdom ) perpetuated it as the name of the " Benin Kingdom " among the Itsekiri. It was not until the beginning of the reign of Eweka II in 1914 that the anglicized name Benin-City became "official" for Edo .

SOURCES: 1. DN Oronsaye: The History of the Ancient Benin Kingdom and Empire, Jeromelaiho 1995

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URHOBOS AND THE OGISO ERA

Several authorities [Otite, Salubi and others] cite the waves of migration of "Urhobos" from " Benin " during periods of both peace and unrest (related to justice or injustice) in the latter part of the Ogiso era as well as during the interregnum and later on. For example, the reign of Eweka I was relatively peaceful but there were still migrations. But there is also some evidence that very early in the reign of the first Ogiso Igodo, the monarchy of Ughele was established. Indeed, it is said that the eldest son of Esagho, the wife of Igodo became the first Ovie of Ughelle (who was installed by Ogiogbon, a high priest of Amon). The first son of the Ovie (Ere) returned to rule Igodomigodo after Igodo's death, while other sons migrated to establish rule over other early Edoid principalities in the modern delta area (who had been part of the same general migration). This aspect of the history does not suggest a combative or servile relationship with Benin . What it says is that in addition to the "people and culture connections" you brilliantly described, Edoid monarchical systems have the same ancestral stock and that in terms of dating Ughele (Ughelli) is extremely old, going all the way back to the earliest part of the Ogiso period.

After the Ogiso era, as you have observed, Urhoboland (and other areas) continued to gain mixed migrants who were traders, warriors and escapees from " Benin " justice and injustice. Such waves included well documented disgruntled departures during the latter fascist phase of Ewuare as well as the second republican period [1480-83] after Olua's death and before the recall of Prince Okpame from Ora. But such migrations and resettlements were also bi-directional as Prince Eweka has pointed out. Come to think of it, if everyone "left" Benin , but no-one came back into it, it would have been depopulated unless there is evidence that the reproductive capabilities of the Benin people were boundless.

Be that as it may, is it not true that the traditions of origin, migration and ethnic mixing of the following Urhobo-Isoko village groups are as follows?

1. Agbarho (Agbadu or Otovbodo) - mixed Urhobo-Isoko

2. Ujevbe - Mein Ijaw origin (note that Mein Ijaw is Edoid)

3. Udu - Mein Ijaw origin

4. Evbreni - Igbo origin

5. Olomu - mixed Igbo, Benin and Mein Ijaw origin

6. Ewu - Mein Ijaw and Benin

7. Arhavbarien - Igbo origin

8. Okparabe - founded by Kumbuowa Ijaw Man with Benin Title

9. Owha group (Ughele, Agbarha, Ogo, Orogun) - Tirakiri-Ijaw and Benin

10. Agbon - mixed Urhobo, Itsekiri and Benin elements

11. Abraka - ?early Benin migration of proto-Edoid group

12. Okpe-Urhobo - founded by Igboze, a son of the Oba. Later joined by Olomu, an Igbo

13. Uvbie - migrants from Erohwa

14. Oghara - settlements on land of the Benin Kingdom

15. Idjerhe (Jesse) - settlements on land of the Benin Kingdom

16. Arokwa (Erohwa) - aboriginal Benin (Edoid) speakers

17. Okpe-Isoko - sons of Igboze, mixed with Igbos

18. Ozoro - founded by Okpe-Isoko who absorbed some aboriginal groups;

another account says it was founded by a son of the Oba of Benin

19. Ofagbe - founded from Ozoro

20. Aviara - founded by Eze Chima movement from Benin , joined by

Erohwa and later migrants from Benin

21. Iyede - founded by "three men from Benin ".

22. Emevo - founded by migrants from Benin

23. Enhwe (Okpolo) - mixture of Igbos and Evbreni people

24. Igbide - founded by Igbo from Awka (mixed with Uvbie people)

25. Emede - founded by a son of the founder of Igbide

26. Uwheru - founded by Mein Ijaw (Amassuama)

27. Owe - migrants from Benin .

28. Elu - broke off from Owe and absorbed Edoid aborigines

29. Olomoro - broke off from Olomu

30. Usere - founder fled from Benin through Issele-Uku

31. Iri - split off from Usere

32. Ole - split off from Usere, and then mixed with some Okpe people

SOURCE: RE Bradbury: The Benin Kingdom and the Edo speaking peoples of South-Western Nigeria; London, International African Institute 1957.

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DIALECTS

When you use the phrase "Urhobo language", are you referring to the Agbarho dialect? I ask this because I am aware that there are at least five sub-dialects of generic "Urhobo-Isoko" - Agbarho-Urhobo, Isoko, Okpe, Erohwa and Evrho - all considered somewhat mutually unintelligible Edoid. Of these, Erohwa is thought (by Hubbard) to be the oldest.

As it is, the dialect that is closest to modern generic "Bini" is the Okpe dialect.

At this point, I'd like to make two observations:

A. Although the example you gave (Okhuo/Ikhuo in Bini/Esan versus Ohwo in "Urhobo" (I presume Agbarho dialect) was interesting, there are many cross words in Bini and Urhobo. In fact, if you used Okpe dialect or Iyede-Isoko/Urhobo in particular, the overlap is even greater.

EDO (BINI) ISOKO-URHOBO (IYEDE)

1. Owo Ovo

2. Eva Ive

3. Eha Erha

4. Ene Ene

5. Isen Inyoli

6. Ehan Esan

7. Ihino Iwule

8. Elele Elele

9. Ihini Izili

10. Igbe ikwe

11. Oworo Iwovo

12. Iweva Iwive

13. Iwera Iwera

14. Iwene Iwene

B. Within the so-called modern Bini dialect of the Edo language, there are three other sub-dialects: Ibie - spoken by the Iwebo society in the Palace, Iha Ominigbon (used in the Oguega Divination), and the old Uhe (Ife) dialect of Yoruba used in certain circles since the time of Eweka I. (Reference: Ikponmwosa Osemwegie: Midwest Weekly, Vol. 2, No. 39, August 1965)

In addition, there are many other "ritual" mini-dialects that mix various Edoid, Ika and Ukwuani dialects, depending on the specific ritual. The Ovia ritual for example, uses a curious Edoid dialect that is certainly not pure Bini.

Indeed the similarities and differences (as a whole) between Edoid dialects are no less than those between dialects of say Yoruba or Igbo. I can find similar examples of words in Ijebu or Ekiti or Egba that have either no meaning or mean something different in other Yoruba dialects. But the Ijebus, Ekitis and Egbas have no difficulty seeing themselves as Yorubas.

And yet, we (the Edo (id) speakers) have not been able to agree on a common modern dialect. It seems to do more with politics than anything else, as I observed in my conceptual comment about "Ethnicity" last week.

I am particularly curious about the peel off of Isoko from Urhobo just as I find the artificial distinctions between Urhobos and so-called "Edos" perplexing.

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POLITICAL POWER OF OBAS

I agree 100% with you that common cultural and linguistic ties among Edo speaking people are ancient and unmistakable, independent of the Obaship system, and should dominate our modern-day focus, particularly since perceived emphasis on "power" can easily be misunderstood if taken out of context. But for record purposes, and to avoid creating the impression that those who make purely historical reference to it are hallucinating, there IS a quote in Bradbury's book that suggests that many Urhobo-Isoko communities were indeed part of the Obaship system at one time. [I recognize that there were also republican elements perhaps indicative of those communities with mixed non-Edoid heritage]. The frantic activities of the British Resident of the Warri Province to suppress linkages with Benin after the restoration of the monarchy in Benin City are well documented in British Administrative reports since 1914. Is it not also true that in the 19th century, another name for the Oba of Benin (in addition to Oba r'Aka) was "Orovwa Akpo", and that the world was viewed as "Akpo r'Oba"?

The Bradbury quote is as follows:

"At some unknown date much of the Urhobo-Isoko country came under the rule of the Oba of Benin. Many of the ivie or "Kings" of Urhobo and Isoko tribes had to seek confirmation of their titles from the Oba and some still express an intention to do so; the Orodje of Orerokpe (Okpe-Urhobo) received ceremonial swords from the Oba as late as the autumn of 1953. In most tribes, however, this practice has long been discontinued, though the Oba still retains some spiritual prestige in the area. The ivie of some other Isoko tribes owed allegiance to the Obi of Aboh."

MAIN SOURCE: RE Bradbury: The Benin Kingdom and the Edo speaking peoples of South-Western Nigeria; London, International African Institute 1957. Page 129 & 130.

OTHER SOURCES:

1. J.W. Hubbard: "The Sobo of the Niger Delta; Zaria : Gaskiya Corporation 1952"

2. British administrative (Intelligence) reports

3. JW Welch: Ph.D. Thesis on the Isoko Clans (Cantab)

4. Salubi A: "The Establishment of British administration in the Urhobo country (1891 - 1913)." J Hist Soc. Nigeria , 1, 3, Dec 1958, 184-209

http://www.urhobo-world.org/Edo-Urhobo%20Relationspage.htm

 

RECOMMENED READING:

 

- Abolish Edoid Group of Race for One Edo Nation or Edoid Nation!

- Contesting the History of Benin Kingdom By Peter P. Ekeh

- Benin - Urhobo Relationship By Dr. Nowa Omoigui

- Language and unity of Edo people By Uyilawa Usuanlele

- Benin_Igbo_Yoruba Historic relations (Onitsha, Orisha) By PHILIP EM...

- Esan Not An Ethnic Group But Benin(Edo) By Uwagboe Ogieva

- Ogiso and Eweka times: A prelimnary history of Edoid Complex of cul... By Peter P. Ekeh
- Let Boko Haram have their own country, says Omoruyi By Omo Omoruyi

- Crisis in Belgium:If Flanders Secedes Wallonia Disintegrates

- Edo-African heritage within the context and the dynamics of Nigerian culture

- First European Contact With Nigeria Was 1485 By The Great Benin Emp...

- Greatness of an African Queen Mother: IDIA By Uwagboe Ogieva

- Excellence in education and culture for the new millennium By Chief Oje Aisiku, PhD

- Bini Names in Nigeria and Georgia By Roger Westcott, Professor Emeritus, Drew University

- Nigeria: The Edo of Benin By Osamuyimen Stewart, Ph.D.

- THE CORRECT HISTORY OF EDO By NAIWU OSAHON

- Agbor link with Edo people "Origin of Agbor - Agbon" By By Emeka Esogbue

- Benin (Nigeria) and its Mystique By MIKE JIMOH

- Benin History and the Museum's Benin Collection From the museum.upenn.edu

 

RECOMMENDED BOOKS:

 

- Benin and the Europeans, 1485-1897 by Alan Frederick Charles Ryder
Product details: Hardcover: 388 pages / Publisher: Prentice Hall Press; 1st Edition edition (July 1969) Language English / ISBN-10: 058264514X / ISBN-13: 978-0582645141

- Graham Connah. 1975. The Archaeology Of Benin: Excavations and other researches in and around Benin City, Nigeria. Clarendon Press : Oxford. Pages - 266 (plus photographs) ISBN - 0 19 920063 7 http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-archaeology-of-benin

- Kings, Magic,& Medicine " by Chief Dr. Dayl Peavy JD. An African American that has an Esan Chietaincy title (2007). An Ob'oguega as well as an Ob'orunmila. Have been conducting research in Edo State since 1997 and published in a book titled: "Kings, Magic & Medicine". http://ihuanedo.ning.com/forum/topics/new-book-on-great-benin

- Evolution Of Benin Chieftancy Title (Very specific facts on Edo and Edo's in Diaspora). $25.00

- Benin City Pilgrimage Stations (Detailed Edo History). $25.00

- Benin City- Edo State Capital (More details on the colonial Era).

- The Edo Man of the 20th Century (Oba Eweka 11 life history). $10.00

- Erediauwa, Prince of Benin. (About the Price and not this Oba).$10.00

- Iwu- The body marks of Edo People. $10.00

- A DVD on Edo History from Ogiso to current. Concluded by an address by Omo N'oba himself. $10.00

[Contact Tina Iyare tinaiigho@yahoo.com Tel:610-563-9131 Tel:610-873-6842** TO PURCHASE ANY OF ABOVE BOOK WITH PRICE TAG]


TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT:

 

- The Portuguese National Archives in Lisbon

- British Museum

- National Museum Benin City

 

LINKS:

- THE IMPERIAL ARCHITECTURE OF GREAT BENIN.

- EDO NATION PREMIER WEB

- EDO FOLKS HISTORY AND LANGUAGE

-

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Comment by Otedo News Update on February 19, 2015 at 2:26pm

"A large Urhobo population are in Warri City . The Urhobos are an Edoid people who have no problem existing in Edo State. The Urhobo presence in the Benin country side is significant, with some local government areas traditionally featuring key Urhobo elected politicians. The Urhobo presence in Benin traditional politics is also strong. The last civilian governor of Edo State, John Oyegun, is Urhobo on his maternal side. We were recently told by a Benin Prince that the present Iyase, the second highest office holder in traditional Benin politics, is an Urhoboman by ancestry. Nor is he the first Urhobo to be an Iyase in the history of Benin politics. " - Peter Ekeh (1999)

Comment by Otedo News Update on March 18, 2014 at 7:04pm

Ethnic Urhobo man and ace Nigerian Nollywood actor Richard Mofe-Damijo in his traditional Urhobo dress. The Urhobo people of southern Nigeria speak Urhobo language, one of the sub-group of Edoid languages that belong to the Niger-Congo family. The Urhobo and Isoko are related in language and culture, leading to the missionaries erroneously labelling both peoples as Sobo. This name was strongly rejected by both tribes.
Urhobo has a rather reduced system, compared to proto-Edoid, of seven vowels; these form two harmonic sets, /i e a o u/ and /i ɛ a ɔ u/.
It has a conservative consonant inventory for an Edoid language. It maintains three nasals, and only five oral consonants, /ɺ, l, ʋ, j, w/, have nasal allophones before nasal vowels.
For example:
(1) "Die ye ode we?" Pronounced like: "Dee-ay- yay- odeh- weh" ?
Meaning: "What is your name?"
(2) "Die wo rue ?" Pronounced like: "Dee-ay-woe-roo-eh" ?
Meaning: "What are you doing?"
(3) "Die wo cha re ?" Pronounced like: "Dee-ay-war-char-ray"
Meaning: "What do you want to eat ?"
(4) "Die wo cha da ?" Pronounced like: "Dee-ay-war-char-dar ?"
Meaning: "What do you want to drink?"
(5) "Die wo ruru ?" Pronounced like: "Dee-ay-woe-roo-roo ?"
Meaning: "What did you do?" (or What have you done?").

Now for the answers to the above questions:
(1) "Ode me Shadie" Pronounced like: "Odeh-meh-Shadie"
Meaning: "My name is Shadie"
(2) "Mi i riemu" Pronounced like: "Me-ee-ree-ay-mu"
Meaning: "I am eating". (or "Mi i se ebe" Pronounced like: "Me-ee-say-ebb-ay") Meaning: "I am reading" (or "Mi i gbeha" Pronounced like: "Me-ee-gbay-her" Meaning: "I am dancing" etc. depending on what you are doing).
(3) "Me cha re igari" Pronounced like: "May-cha-ray-igar-ree"
Meaning: "I want to eat gari"
(4) "Me cha da ame" Pronounced like: "May-cha-dar-amay"
Meaning: "I want to drink water"
(5) "Me hwe re" Pronounced like: "May-whe-ray"
Meaning: "I laughed" (or "Me vie re" Pronounced like: "May-veer-ray"
Meaning: "I cried/wept"). The answer can also be something like: "Me yan ra ne ti yi" Pronounced: "May-yearn-rah-nay-tee-yee" Meaning: "I walked away from there" (or "I left there"). http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2013/07/urhobo-peop...

Comment by Otedo News Update on May 22, 2011 at 1:58pm
Yes, you are free to post but always relink or add the original link.. Thanks. Obokhian
Comment by Irene Omafuvwe on May 22, 2011 at 1:45pm

This is excellent thank you for this great study.  If you do not mind, I will post on my Urhobo Ning Site ...

Great Benin Bronze

EDE N'ERHENA VBE EDO

"

These anti-Edo political organizations you folks went to join are the most anti-African - and Africans - in the world.

They're worse than anything; we obviously can't stop you though, even Ewuare II's manifest destiny lies in our own regional party.

We have egba Omo Oduduwa and so on, NPC, AG, the forerunner of them all NCNC and then now these cancers of today.

Stay "with them", but register for your most important election first: your local election, register Edo Political Front, and if you don't, vote the front.

No self respecting Edo will - in the future - find themselves the flag bearers and cheerleaders of foreign parties with indirect rule political and economic mandates, it just doesn't work.

No sane Edo person lives to "have the ear" of someone who doesn't have Edo at their heart.

The Supreme Court is the place to remove the frustration of these lethargic and "periodic" additions to the voting rolls; here - where I live - you can fill in the forms regarding changing your voter registration at the post office and other easy access places.

At the rate things are going we're going to find ourselves truly in decline as our populations suffer from simple things like protein deficiencies in children

" - Reggie Akpata

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