Owa Afrika

Why Attractive People Can’t Find A Partner

People think if you’re attractive,
you’ll naturally end up in a happy
long-term relationship

Owa Afrika

These Violence Against Women Go On

Women suffer in silence and go
into all manners of depression.
Men should show sensitivity


Edonaze website was created
for everybody to write Edo
as they speak it

Owa Afrika

Celebrating Igue African Festival

Christians have CHRISTMAS,
Muslims have FEAST OF RAMADAN,
and the Edos have IGUE

Owa Afrika

Igun Street in Benin City is a
UNESCO World Heritage Site
advance economic growth

Owa Afrika

Observe Igbo-Bini language,
you see there must had been sometime
in the past they existed as one

Isekhure and Pope

Benin Kingdom Visit Pope In Vatican

No religious knowledge or
practice is superior to the other
Isekhure of Benin said

Benin origin of man

Benin Origin Of Man Mythology

The idea of biological evolution
was around long before Darwin
Men should show sensitivity


Edo People And Unique Culture

Festivals and others should be
held in high esteem as this
is what has made Edo culture rich

Edo and akure

To Appreciate Role Of Edo-Akure

Many parts of modern Ondo
and Ekiti states were part
of the Great Benin Empire

Owa Afrika

Evidence Ancient Japanese Originated In Benin

This shouldn't be shocking question
All humans (Japanese) originated
in Africa from where they dispersed

Edo marriage

In Defence Of Edo Womanhood

Marriage in Edoland
When prostitutes appeared in Benin City
1940s and 1950s, most were Igbos speaking

Edo Film Industry

Edo Film like hollywood and bollywood

Edo movies have increase audience
in Edo language movies and commedy
in and outside Nigeria

Edo nation

Edo People And Unique Culture

Festivals and others should be
held in high esteem as this
is what has made Edo culture rich

Edo Civilization

Edo Civilization And History

The immediate Idu family that
could trace their ancestry to Pa Idu, grew
after hundreds and thousands of years

Edo and portugal

In About 1472, First Portuguese Came To Benin

Oba Esigie incorporated
into the palace rites, some of usages
of the Roman Catholic Church



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In Defense of Edo Womanhood – A Rejoinder

In Defense of Edo Womanhood – A Rejoinder
Philip Obazee

I. Introduction

Prince Iyi-Eweka argued in his piece [“In Defence of Edo Womanhood -- Edo Culture and Traditions” 8/15/03 and recently reposted] that there is no indigenous Edo word for prostitution, and as subsequently pointed out by Erevbenagie Osadolor, there is, and it is called “Igbi aza” [or Igbiaga]. The evolution of the word for prostitution from Igbiaga to “Osuka” represents a change in the sources of the trade in Benin City, which were mainly women from Nusuka and Orlu areas of the former Eastern Region. The word “Asewo,” popularized by I. K. Dario highlife music in mid 1960, marked the beginning of the social acceptance of prostitution related word in the everyday communication among Edo people. It was common then to refer to a lady with excessive facial make-up, particularly the pink-like talcum powder called “pancake,” as Asewo. And it was also common for mother to chide a daughter by calling her Asewo, particularly if she was caught engaging in an activity that has the appearance of promiscuity.
While it is conceivable to assert as Prince Iyi-Eweka did that prior to 1897 “it was unthinkable for an Edo woman to rent an apartment and sell herself for money,” however, the inability of Edo women to rent apartment does not explain why prostitution was not in existence in Edo land. More plausibly, the reason prostitution existed in a very limited basis, if it did, are

(1) the barrier to entry was onerous;

(2) the social penalties for the woman and her extended family was greater;

(3) the prevailing social and cultural institutions offered reinforcing mechanisms that prohibited decadency;

(4) social engineering that pitches women against men was a heresy;

(5) liberty was constrained, and power was centralized in the Oba; and

(6) effective judiciary system that derive it authority from the centralized power used moral suasions and sanctions to mitigate the risk of socially dysfunctional behaviors.
To understand why Edo women got where they are in the prostitution trade, it is important to examine the sociological history, and because the history is less than 50 years old the evidence lay bare for anyone to constructively draw upon in offering more than anecdotal insights. What I attempt in the next few paragraphs is a recollection of some the sociological evidences that suggest that prostitution among Edo women could be explained partly by the social reengineering that began in 1897 in Edo land, and exacerbated by post independence “Hippies” counter culture that found expression in a society, with weakened social and cultural institutions, which was incapable of putting in check the dysfunctional acculturation processes.
Here are some of my briefly recollected notes from the field.

II. Post Independence (1960-1967) Period

Broadly, Edo women that were involved in the prostitution trade did so;

In far away cities, mainly, Ikorodu Road in Lagos,
As divorced women, particularly those whose divorces were occasioned by the act of adultery in which case it became a common knowledge among the men in the community that she can be “gamed” into pleasure services, and
As promiscuous secondary (modern and high) school girls that “hopped” from the taxi driver’s bed, to Forestry Road (Benin City) apparel trader’s bed, then to Barclays Bank (later became Union Bank) clerk’s bed, and finally to her high (or modern) school “love-letter- writing” boyfriend’s bed. In this case, the taxi driver provided mostly payment-in-kind in form of transportation, the apparel trader provided payment-in-kind in form of latest attires, the bank clerk provided some spending money and provisions, and the high school boy friend provided the cover; he was the one that would show up with her in most birthday parties, and other outings (e.g. inter-house sport) where her friends and contemporaries were expected.
The 1960 – 1967 period was relatively tamed, as the women were more indiscreetly involved in the prostitution trade, and if one use the census figure for Mid-West Region of 4 million people as a base, it is convincible that no more that 0.002% of true indigenous Edo women of this population census were involved in the “core” prostitution trade.

III. Nigeria Civil War (1967 – 1970) Period
1. During the civil war “beer and palmie” parlors owned by Edo indigenes grew in larger numbers as they replaced the Igbos and Mid-West Igbos ownership, clearly many of the owners of this businesses were not involved in prostitution, however, those that were involved saw a new profitable opportunities because the new client base, which comprise largely of military men were more willing to pay more for their services.

2. Military Contactors, some of the “beer and palmie” parlor madams became military contractors roaming the corridors of various ministries (e.g. Ministry of Works and Transport (former PWD) along Sapele Road in Benin City), and were open to servicing senior military and ministries’ officials.

3. “Pay-and-Roll boys” these were military officials that were responsible for salary payments, and these salary payments were in CASH. Indeed, more than any group that would be mentioned in this piece, the Pay-and-Roll boys, and it era in Edo States provided the impetus for Edo women to boldly engage in the prostitution trade. The group of Edo women that took this route was not the “beer and palmie” parlors’ madams, military contractors, divorced women, or promiscuous secondary school girls that hopped from bed to bed, rather it was a new breed of aggressive girls (school drop-outs, seamstress, etc.) that saw the Pay-and-Roll boys as a source of “get-rich-quick.” The Pay-and-Roll boys were very generous, and eager to spend their loots.

4. Gangs and Drugs, some of the secondary school boys started forming gangs (for example, the S-20) and with the gangs came initiation rights and drugs (e.g. Midras). The initiation right for some of these gangs involved “gang raping” of a secondary school girl drugged with a concoction made from “Fanta drink” laced with a substance called “Midras.” The innocent girls that went through these ordeals trying to avoid been exposed became “groupies” for the gang, and some of the girls later ended up in the prostitution trade.

5. Polygamous home and Competition, in many of the polygamous homes in Benin City the mothers were responsible for their daughters, even though the fathers lived in the same households, this amounted to “single parenting.” And the competition among siblings were exacerbated during civil war as easy money from the Pay-and-Roll boys meant one of the daughters that is “street smart” was able to build a house in “Second Circular or New Benin” areas in Benin City, while the other daughter is sweating it out through secondary school. Without conviction (call it, faith) or strong parental guidance the daughter in secondary school would likely succumb and become a victim of the “get-rich-quick” mentality that permeated the society.

VI. Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (1971 –1976) Period

The civil war rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts were in effect, and Mid-West Region was booming economically, and the state government under the leadership of Governor Samuel Ogbemudia was able to orientate the youths to Education, and Sport (e.g. Afuze Sport Complex). Implicitly as it were, the combination of the challenges and competition offered by education and sport activities provided aptly a social engineering mechanism, which attempted progressively to deescalate the dysfunctional acculturation processes that were the hallmark of the civil war era.
Unfortunately, the seeds for the prostitution trade were already sown and the “fading away” of the ”Pay-and-Roll” era ushered in the “Sugar Daddies” (military officers, commissioners, businessmen etc.). This breed of “Sugar Daddies” made their money either during the civil war or in the rehabilitation and reconstruction period, they were ready to out-spend and out-do the “Pay-and-Roll boys.” Sadly, most of the Sugar Daddies’ offensive moves where directed at secondary schools, polytechnics, and university girls. Though, the madams remained in the mix, their roles were relegated to cooking pepper soups, and vegetable soups endowed with the best “bush meats” served with steaming pounded yam, in part, as a way to counter the assault of the younger and educated girls.

One witnessed the proliferation of prostitution houses in Benin City in this period, these were bigger and better than one ever saw in the city before now, names like Tommy Guests House at the junction of First Circular and Sapele Roads, Noruwa Hotel in Igun Street, were spawning prostitution establishments owned by well-known families in the city. Although most of these establishments housed prostitutes that were largely non-Edo speaking people, the fact they were allowed to proliferate unchecked signaled to many Edo women that this profession had become socially and economically acceptable as means of making a living.

During this period, the “Pay and Roll” era women, overtaken younger and educated girls, had fallen out of limelight, and to maintain their lifestyle they began to travel to Lagos, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt. Because the services of Nigerian Airways were remarkably excellent, and you could purchase a flight ticket at their office on Forestry Road for thirty (30) Naira for a flight to Lagos the same day. Edo women were on the air, initially, visiting their old “Pay and Roll” and military friends, and later hanging around Dubar hotel (Kaduna) and Federal Palace Hotel (Lagos).
As if to fuel the situation, this was also the “Udoji” Award era, were Nigerian workers received increase in salaries and wages, as well as windfalls, which came from the retroactive nature of these salaries and wages increase. The windfalls from Udoji award together with the spillovers from the rehabilitation and reconstruction effort worsened the situation for Edo women, the young men rather than settle down, and get married immediately after secondary schools decided to go into universities, and many of these universities bound young men choose to study aboard leaving behind their girl friends. These girl friends desiring to sustain their newfound standard of living, for example, movies, concerts, drinking and dancing at nightclubs, brunches at Leventis Grill Room, lunch at Motel Benin Plaza, etc. have to look elsewhere. Some of them began to travel to Lagos, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt in search of ways to keep up their standard of living.

For some of these girls traveling to Lagos, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt became euphemism for parading themselves in Dubar and Federal Palace hotels.
This period also saw the beginning of evangelical churches and spiritual unions in Edo land. I would submit that evangelical churches and spiritual unions helped to some extent in thwarting social decadences, it however failed to seize on the opportunity to speak against the proliferation of prostitution houses in Edo land.

V. Post Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (1976 - now) Period

What is worth noting here is we saw in the Second Republic, Senators and House of Representative members transiting Edo women from traveling to Lagos, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt to traveling to London, and other European countries. Expatriate workers, particular Italian oil and construction workers helped the transition along, by providing accesses to their consulates for visas for the initial set of Edo women whose motivations were to import goods from Italy for sale in Nigeria. Some of these women quickly found out it was more profitable for them in the prostitution trade than to deal with the hassles of Nigeria Customs officials in clearing their imported goods, and opted largely for the former. By mid 1980, these Edo women having went through a very steep learning curves decided to franchise their activities, by hiring and influencing people to help them enlist other unsuspecting Edo women to come to Europe and work for them. Indeed, it was very
easy for these women to find other unsuspecting Edo women given the economic hardship that Edo State was facing together with the fact that these women were eager to display their new found wealth in Benin City by building new homes, and driving expensive automobiles. They became very influential members of Edo society, and they were revered in every turn without regards to the sources of their wealth.

VII. Lesson Learned
Here are some take-away:

· After 1897 the social and cultural institutions, which offered reinforcing mechanisms that prohibited decadency was non-existence in Edo land. Moreover, the effective judiciary system, which derive it authority from the centralized power (Oba) and used moral suasions and sanctions to mitigate the risk of social dysfunctional behaviors vanished.

· Social reengineering that began in 1897 in Edo land was exacerbated by post independence “Hippies” counter-culture, that found expression in a society, with weakened social and cultural institutions, which was incapable of putting in check the dysfunctional acculturation processes.

· The civil war ushered in commercialization and social transformations that the frail cultural and moral institutions could not support.

· Effective legal institutions that would have put gang and prostitution activities in check were non-existence.

· Polygamous homes abdicated to single parenting homes, and competitions among siblings were fostered in way that rewarded dysfunctional and unethical behaviors --- the ends only counted!

· Proliferation of prostitution houses in Edo land signaled to many Edo women that this profession had become socially and economically acceptable.

· Christian evangelism in Edo land was narrowly focused in wining converts rather than providing moral basis for social issues.

· Lack of sustainable economic policies by the state government lead to wild swings in wealth formations, which resulted in several false starts, mirages of improving standard of living, and it concomitant effects of dependency and hopelessness.

· Lack of indigenously codified moral principle, whose epistemology is derived from a divine or primitive doctrine.

As we profess solution or at least, attempt to understand how Edo women got where they are in the prostitution trade, it is very important that we don’t explain the problem away. One thing that is clear to me is the social reengineering that began in 1897 in Edo land, and exacerbated by post independence “Hippies” counter-culture are the leading culprits. As the social reengineering was charging ahead there were no moral principles in place to guide the acculturation processes. This apparently exposes the direction we should be heading in trying to solve this problem; we need (1) a new social engineering methods that has as it basis moral principles derived from divine or primitive doctrine, and (2) effective institutions that act as agents of moral suasions and sanctions to mitigate the risk of socially dysfunctional behaviors. The task is enormous, however, thinking through issues carefully, critically assessing solution paths, and avoiding
hasty conclusions and “sound bites” are the only ways I know to solve foundational problems, albeit social engineering problem.

Original version Posted to the web - Sun Aug 17, 2003.



In Defence of Edo Womanhood
Edo Culture and Traditions

I posted this article to Edo net sometime ago. I have reworked and added a few things in view of the ongoing debate over prostitution by Edo girls. 

The expanded form of the word Ogiso is Ogie-iso, which when tranlated in Edo means, king of the sky. The word Ogie means king, Iso means Sky or Heaven. Thus the Edo people believe that thieir kings come from the sky or more appropiately, from Heaven or from God. It is belief which explains why the Oba or king is the embodiment of the culture of the Edo people. The story of the people of the people cannot be written without reference to their king or Oba. Indeed, everything revolves round the Oba. For example, a matured man would be appropriately referred to as Okpioba(meaning Oba´s man)Conversely, a woman would be referred to as Okhuoba (meaning Oba´s woman).

The salutions or greetings of the Edo people have not excluded their Oba. Thus for "Good morning" Edo man or woman would say Oba Owie(meaning King of the Morning) "For good afternoon" they would say Oba Avan (King of the afternoon) and for "good evening" they would say Oba ota (meaning king of the Evening). The origin of the word Oba has been a subject of controversy.

The early kings in Benin were known as Ogisos. The succcesors were the Obas which began with Oba Eweka1. Some writers claim that the word Oba is a yoruba word which means King. Others insist that the word must have been derived from the Benin word O baa meaning "it is difficult hard or dificult or probably from an abbreviation of the original name of the first Ogiso Obagodo(Oba godo: Oba-King godo. high; thus High king). The long history of Edo people is reflected in their uniquely rich cultural heritage.

By Okorho-Prince Ena Eweka (Evolution of Benin chieftaincy Titles)


The Edo-speaking people of West Africa, especially in Southern Nigeria, have lived where they are now, for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. The beginning of Edo history is lost in antiquity-in a mythical timeframe work. Edo history did not begin from the 7th century A.D. People have moved in and out. The Edo people did not migrate in mass from Sudan, Egypt, Babylon, or Greece. It is doubtful if they even emigrate in waves. 

For thousands of years, Edos have been getting married. It is unfortunate that, there is no more powerful corresponding word in Edo lexicon than ORONMWEN that captures the meaning of the word MARRIAGE, as in the Anglo-Saxon sense. The closest word we have is ORONMWEN. All we have are descriptive phrases about marriage-" Okhia ye omo ye oronmwen,"-he wants to give the daughter away in MARRIAGE. 
" Okhia rie Okhuo,"- he wants to marry a woman. 
" Okhia romwen odo," she wants to marry a husband. 
But sometimes an Edo man/ person would say," Ma khia du ugie oronmwen," we want to perform the festival of marriage. 

Incidentally, there is no indigenous Edo word for PROSTITUTION as practiced today all over the world. 
The modern Edo word, OSUKA is Igbo derived. ASEWO is a Yoruba word. Before 1897, it was unthinkable for an Edo woman to rent an apartment and sell herself for money. There were just no apartment to rent. Tenancy as we know it today came with COLONIALISM. There were of course some who women were flirts. They were simply described as OVBAN OGHE OGHE ( Ovb''oghe )-somebody who flirts. Whether they do it for money or were just promiscuous is another matter altogether. 

The word OSUKA is Igbo derived as a corrupted Bini version of the name NSUKKA. When prostitutes appeared in Benin City in the 1940s and 1950s, most of them were Igbos speaking. They took abode at UGBAGUE QUARTERS in Benin City. When asked were they came from, they said Nsukka. That name became corrupted to OSUKA-PROSTITUTES. I was born and raised at no 8 Ugbague street, Benin City. It is the only place you can get" suya suya meat" 24 hrs. a day. Their descendants or successors are still there still practicing the "oldest profession" known to mankind. Just go Chief Aluyi house on the side street. Therefore prostitution among Edo women is new, may be 30 years old, exacerbated with the presence of the military and the civil war ( Biafran war ).. 

The International prostitution is very, very new, may be 5 years old. The effect of the economic crunch is there for all to see.

Before 1897, girls were generally regarded as ready for marriage between the ages of 15 through 18. Courtship can begin among the individuals during the trip to the river to fetch water or during the moonlight play-EVIONTOI. But sometimes parents actually go looking for a wife or husband for their children. This led to the BETROTHAL SYSTEM where marriage were conducted with or without the consent of the individuals involved. Sometimes such betrothal, took place when a baby girl was born. Suitors would begin to approach the parents by sending a log of wood or bundle of yams to the parents of the child. You are likely to hear statements such as -"Imu' Ikerhan gboto"-I have dropped a log of firewood. When a boy decides to get married and the parents have accepted the bride as a prospective daughter-in-law, messages go up and down between the two families. This is called IVBUOMO-SEEKING FOR A BRIDE. Series of investigations are conducted by both families-about disease, scandals and crimes which may affect the families. 

The term of the marriage which of course may include the DOWRY would be settled in some families. Gifts for mother of the bride and IROGHAE- members of the extended family would be part of the settlement. Then a date would be set for the ceremony, which would take place in the home of the woman's family. This was called IWANIEN OMO in the old days. The go-between for the two families must be somebody well known by both families. There would of course be a lot of merriment on the day of marriage when the bride and the bridegroom are presented openly to the two families. Kolanuts and wine are presented. The OKA EGBE of the woman's family would normally preside over the ceremony. Prayers are said and kolanuts broken at the family shrine. 

Rituals vary from family to family and clan to clan. The woman always sit on her father's lap before she is given away. Amidst prayers, laughter and sometimes tears, the woman would be carefully hoisted on the lap of the OKA EGBE of the bride's family. Many years ago, the woman would be sent to the bridegroom house about thirteen days after IWANIEN OMO and gingerly hoisted either on her husband's lap or the OKAEGBE of his family. They are done immediately nowadays in the home of the bridegroom. The bride, now known as OVBIOHA would be led by her relatives to the husband's house with all her property Meanwhile the family and friends of the bridegroom are feasting, drinking, singing and dancing while waiting for the bride to arrive. As the family and friends of the bridegroom awaits the OVBIOHA, messages will arrive suggesting that there are UGHUNGHUN-barriers on the road. The bridegroom has to remove the barriers by sending money to the party, bringing the wife to him or else the wife will not arrive. As they approach the house of the bridegroom, you can hear the echo of OVBIOHA GHA MIEN ARO-ARO, meaning "Bride! Be proud/ the Bride is proud." Arrival at the bridegroom's house is immediately followed by the ceremony of IKPOBO-OVBIOHA-washing of the bride's hands. A bowl of water with money in it would be brought out. A woman in the bride's family, sometimes his senior wife would bring out a new head-tie, wash the hand of the Ovbioha in the bowl and dries her hand with the head-tie. Both the new head-tie and the money in the bowl belong to the bride. 

A few days later, the bride would taken to the family altar and prayers are said for her. She undergoes what is called the IGBIKHIAVBO ceremony-beating of OKRO on the flat mortar. This would be followed by a visit by the bride's mother-in-law and other female members of the family to the newly wed, if they were not living in the same house. She would demand the bed-spread on which they both slept when they had their "first sexual relationship" after the wedding. If the bed-spread was stained with blood, the bride was regarded as a virgin and she would be given many presents including money. If it is proven that she was not a virgin, then the preparation for the ceremony of IVIHEN-OATH TAKING ceremony would be set in motion. First, she has to confess to the older women, the "other men" in her life before she got married. The husband would never be told of any of her confessions. Then, she would be summoned to the family's shrine early in the morning, without warning to take an oath of FIDELITY, FAITHFULLNESS, TRUSTWORTHINESS, HONESTY ETC, to her husband and family. 

This ceremony is the equivalent of the oath people take in the church, mosque or marriage registry. Once the oath taking ceremony is over, she would be fully accepted into the family. She immediately becomes married not only to her husband but to the family and sometimes to the community. 

Christianity, Islam and Westernization have already weakened the Edo traditional system of marriage. The traditional ceremony is sometimes done the same day with many of the rituals avoided in the name of Christianity or Islam. Many women would rather die than take the oath we described above. It was the oath that kept our women out of prostitution for many years. Edo women were regarded as very faithful, trustworthy, and honest with strong fidelity to their husbands. Neighboring tribes wanted them as wives. It made divorce on the ground of adultery, less common in those days. The scourge of prostitution which has eaten deep into Edo women's life (as reported in the news media) should be placed on the shoulders of Christianity, Islam, Westernization and the attendant economic mess Nigeria has found herself.




From: P. Obazee....

Dear Lady joan.Osa:

Your points are well taken. My fear is we worry too much about what people say about us, so much so, that we expend more energy trying to explain our position.

I recall that my dad’s middle name is Otakho, which literally means that "bad talks never hurts or kill a King." I also learned a song, in primary one, in the 50’s, which goes like this: If you are tailor, people talk of you, if you are teacher, people talk of you… The moral here is: people are going to talk about us no matter what we do, and no matter who we are . Some of those talks are going to be positive, and others are going to be negative. If we expend all our energy defending the negatives, we are going to lose our focus away from those things that are important to us.

I agree with you that the foolhardiness that links prostitution among Edo women to our genetic make-up need to be challenged, and that impression needs to be corrected. However, in doing so; we should avoid explaining the problem away.

My Best,


From: joan.Osa Oviawe

Hello Dr. Obazee,

There appears to be two strands in this prostitution debate: that there are a disproportionate number of Edo girls engaged in, and being trafficked for international prostitution is an uncontested truism. However, the part that is contentious or that requires due vigilance is the attempt by opportunistic researchers, ethnic bigots and the ill-informed to make prostitution synonymous with Edo girls. It is this attempt to mischieviously label us that ought to be challenged with diligence and vigor. Prostitution is a complex and universal phenomenon that is not only within the purview of some girls from Edo State.

Stereotypically labeling a group of people became proliferous at the advent of colonialism; when the Europeans needed to de-humanize indigenous peoples in their bid to justify the pillaging that occurred in the name of Empire. As was recently discovered, cannibalism was practiced in Europe, at the same time Europeans were labeling others Cannibals! The same racist adventurers who tagged others "lecherous," conveniently forgot the fact that in their own societies women were wearing chastity belts. What for? If not to control infidelity, prostitution and promiscuity.

In Victorian era European societies, rape was a common practice. Reading books from that era, one wouldn't know this because rape is disguised in a more proper term: "ravish." Men were ravishing young girls indiscriminately. A practice that is often glorified in period romance novels.

Like you rightly opined, the outbreak of prostitution amongst our people is still so recent that the narrative is for the most part still intact. This is why we cannot allow folk in academia and bigots in society to pin this one solely on us! I concur that it is "May day" and yes, indeed: "Houston will have a problem." However, it is a fact that Edo girls did not invent prostitution and they are not the only ones engaged in this 'ignoble" act.

"lady" joan.Osa
------------ -----
"Miss Boss, I sing to you"
~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~
"Existence preceds Essence"
'Wa gia gha zedo!'
*.*.*.*.*.*. *.*.*.*.* .*.*.*.*. *.*.*.*.* .*.*.*.*. *.*
Oba gha t'okpere Ovbi' Ekenekene ma deyo,
Ovbi' Ada, Ovbi' Eben, Ovbi' otolo n'olomi;
Ologberonmwon nei rie iruen,
ebo, ayemwinre eminiminimini,
Ovbi' Adolo no dolo uwa dolo utomwen
Uku Akpolokpolo

("`-''-/")._ __..--''" `-._
`o_ o ) `-. ( ).`-.__.`)
(_Y_.)' ._ ) `._ `. ``-..-'
_..`--'_..-_ / /--'_.' .'
((!.-.-'' ((!.-' ((!.-'

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail


On Sun, Dec 13, 2009 at 4:42 PM, P. Obazee wrote:

My Dear Nowa:

A précis narrative you offered in support of Uyi’s points "provokes" one and only one sincere question: What happened to our rich culture to allow for the social and economic acceptance of prostitution? As the famous saying goes: Houston there is a problem! My fear is we as people are not acknowledging there is a problem. And as a result; failing in our civic duty to understand and/or trace the root of the problem unashamedly, which only do more to damage the "centerpiece of our culture" we are, so ever, struggling to defend.

The record of history is clear that Edo Kingdom was one of the most rich in tradition and culture in the West Africa region. Evident of that facts abounds in museums, and center of learning around the world. Credit for all of the hard work is due our forefathers and mothers, and in their days, the social dynamics were different. Each one of them learned to cope, and learned to live among each other governed, as it where, by the institution of “Homo-Hierarchicus,” with the Oba at the apex providing political, social, and moral guidance. With the punitive expedition of 1897, that earn Benin City, the nickname “City of Blood,” the social dynamics of our people began to change as the assimilation and acculturation processes that ensued, ushered in a new social experiments and social reengineering.

What I find very disturbing is most of our brothers and sisters attempt to avoid discussing and acknowledging role of the new social experiments and social reengineering in “grafting” of our social institutions. And how the “grafting” of our social institutions overtook and weakened our "apriori" social and cultural norms to the extent that they were incapable of putting in check the dysfunctional acculturation processes. As I noted in the piece I posted yesterday (My Unique and Unquestionable Edo Self), there is a metamorphic aspect to every cultural trait, and it is generally attributed to the part of our attitudes, values and practices, resulting from multiple points of contacts outside of the structural symbolism of one’s indigenous language and institutional infrastructure. The problem is the post-punitive expedition of 1897 metamorphism of our social institutions was dangerously fast and furious, and it centrifugal force has, as it
now appears, remains palpably as a destructive element in our social psyche.

I have always wondered if the reason that this issue gets replayed does not have something to do with the “high esteem” that some of our neighbors held the richness of our tradition and culture. As if to say; “Cry Thy Beloved Edo Kingdom!” The onus is on us not deny that we have a problem, and not explain the problem away; we should educate ourselves contextually how we got to where we are today. Our great grandparents would not want it another way, and singing their praises celebratory, and attesting that in the “era gone-by” prostitution never existed in our culture is a relatively easy cope out, that is, an affront and a disservice to our great grandparent. Prostitution may have not existed in their time because they have the social infrastructure in place to prevent it. What they would want to know or hear from you us is; what we have done to perpetuate that social infrastructure given the dynamics and evolutionary
considerations of our time.

We have survived more onslaught than this in the past, and how we survived it is neatly written in the core of our cosmological and material beliefs. We went to war when it was necessary; as dictated by our material belief that a “transaction cost” needed to be imposed as a way of policing opportunistic behaviors that violated our social norms.

We as Edo people have always and continue to individually see ourselves as creation of Osalubua, and the morality of Edo people rest on the social order of hierarchy, and the emotion of guilt and shame. The role of social order of hierarchy undeniably provides a policing mechanism for the management of impulses, for the social processing of tensions, and for the renunciation of instinctual gratification.

Thank you for all you do in promoting the cause of our people.

God Bless,


From: Dr. Nowa Omoigui

Hello Phil

Thanks for that rejoinder

I concur with Uyi. Divorce was practically unheard of except in cases of infectious diseases like TB, Leprosy etc..., impotency or death. This was one of the social mechanisms for regulation of behavior.

Those who want further light shed on Benin customs and laws regarding marriage, divorce, adultery, ilegal acts (like incest), etc can get a copy of Jacob Egharevba's "Benin Law and Custom" published 1946, 1947 and 1949. He places the advent of British laws in perspective, relative to our customs.

Prostitution was unknown in Benin custom/culture.

Adultery was SEVERELY punished - including whipping, ritual propitiation and death penalties, which were abrogated and other punishments reduced by the British after 1897.

Even extra-marital pregnancy and birth were regulated. Children born out of wedlock to a man to whom a girl was not married, were adopted by the impregnated girl's father unless the man marries her. So there was no such thing as "Single parent"

Customs and laws guided the upbringing and training of children for all kinds of occupations. Deviant children were sent to the Palace for rehabilitation. Adoption was well established and reflected n Edo words like Ayakhion omo (adopted child), Ayakhin erha (adopted father), Ayakhin-Iye (adopted mother).

In light of visits by european traders ec.. it was established in Benin custom that marrying a white man was repugnant. We think of nothing these days when we refer to rare Ipotoki Edos (and Itsekiris) whose ancestors were impregnated by Portuguese sailors, but it was a very shameful development which could lead to exile and other sanctions. Needless to say, there was no such thing like europrostitution to Portugal when Benin had Ambassadors there, even though prostitution was already well established in Europe.


--- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sunday, December 13, 2009, 2:15 PM

In response to my rejoinder Mr. Uyilawa Usuanlele, who was then the Coordinator of Institute for Benin Studies has this to say:

My brothers and sisters,

Permit me to add a brief one as I am in a hurry .I will respond fully when am more settled. I align with Price Iyi-Eweka that there is no Edo word for prostitution and it was unknown before colonial rule, but it did preclude existence of promiscuity and concomitant adultery.

The word Igbiagia or igbiaza introduced by our brother Erevbugie and Obazee are NOT ORIGINALLY EDO WORDS(my emphasis).Research has shown the etymology of the word to be of Yoruba origin derived from a IGBILE OJA i.e. something put up for sale in the market. Before migrant laborers of various ethnic origins and prostitutes from Nsukka started plying their trade in Benin in the late 1910s and 1920s, single ladies of Yoruba origin who had followed Yoruba rubber prospectors and traders into Benin on the heels of British conquering forces had been engaging in this trade in the Lagos street area, which had earlier been settled by a Lagos Yoruba fugitive Prince Olojo. It was from this development that the word igbiagia or igbiaza entered the Edo vocabulary. Remember the Edo have no letter J in their alphabet. In place of letter j, they substitute with either
letter z or g. hence the word igbiagia or igbiaza.

Another word the Edo use for prostitute is Efieria .This word was also adopted in the 1930s from the forestry terminology FREE AREA i.e. an unlicensed or unreserved forest area which was open to any indigenous prospector to exploit. The timber laborers adopted the terminology for the free women who thronged their timber camps in search of patronage.

Prostitution might be the oldest profession in the Judeo-Christian or western world as they say that it is cited in the Old Testament. PROSTITUTION IS ALIEN TO EDO CULTURE. Its origin and development among the Edo is recent and traced to the colonial period. PROSTITUTION ORIGINATED WITH THE INTRODUCTION AND LEGALISATION OF DIVORCE BY THE COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE PROLETERIANISATION OF EDO PEOPLE DURING THIS PERIOD AS WELL AS THE INFLUX OF MIGRANT LABOUR INTO EDOLAND(my emphasis). Prior to colonialism, Edo people rarely practiced divorce. Remember the Edo saying A i gie omo oronvben na we re rere re meaning you do not send a child into marriage and wish her a quick return. Marriage was a valued institution contracted for life between families.

Our modern day women might frown at the practice now, but then a woman who lost her husband was inherited within the husbands family and the woman and her children were well taken care of. The children of the
deceased were children of the new husband. As a result, the widowed woman did not have to go into prostitution in order to raise her children from a deceased husband.


Uyilawa Usuanlele,


------------ -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In my reply to Mr. Usuanlele, I wrote:

Dear Uyi:

Thanks for confirming that the word “Igbiagia” had in fact been used in Edo language, and for tracing the etymology of the word to Yoruba.

Interestingly though, while one would always remain committed to preserving the sanctity and inviolability of our culture, it is obviously the case, that the nonexistence of a word in Edo language for prostitution does not explain why the profession did not exist in Edo land. You would concede that “core” Edo vocabulary was very limited, and as one moved farther from the heartland, the vocabulary became enriched with words that purist would contend are not indigenous to the Kingdom. I would submit that discussing matters related to human sexuality was considered a taboo in Edo Land, and this may partly explain why proper word for prostitution never existed etymologically. For example, there is no proper word for adultery in Edo; rather what we have is a “twisted” phraseology that apparently disguises the act.

Dating the origin of the word “Igbiagia” to about 1910, somehow, learnt support to my thesis that “prostitution among Edo women could be explained partly by the social reengineering that began in 1897 in Edo land, and exacerbated by post independence “Hippies” counter-culture that found expression in a society, with weakened social and cultural institutions, which was incapable of putting in check the dysfunctional acculturation processes.” The key point is the social acceptance of prostitution began with the social reengineering that was introduced by the British in 1897.

It is interesting you raised the issue of economic cycle in your rejoinder, particularly the role of Rubber. As I understand it, there were Rubber booms around 1910, 1920, 1940, and 1960, with these booms came influx of people, mostly, from the Eastern Region. And it would be an excellent scholarship to examine the role of “Rubber Rush” (cf. Gold Rush) in the socioeconomic development of Edo land. Indeed, we have the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN) at Iyanomo, Mile 13, Benin/Sapele Road to mark the importance of this commodity in Edo land.

My brother Uyi, I will urge that we refrain from sound bites when addressing critical issues; for you to say and I quote, “prostitution is alien to Edo culture” suggest that Edo culture is static, and more importantly, it is an attempt on your part to avoid the issue or explain it away. The issue of prostitution is wrecking havoc to the social creditability of Edo people and "her" learned Morales. The pertinent issue for contemporary Edo scholar like you should be how did Edo women got where they are in the prostitution trade, and the transparency one gets from addressing the question correctly would hopefully provide clues to how we can begin to solve this problem.



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