Prince Ademola Iyi-Eweka

 ---------- Forwarded message ----------
 Date: Tue, 06 Jul 1999 21:52:16 -0500
 From: ademola iyi-eweka <aiyiewek@facstaff.wisc.edu
 To: edo-community@egroups.com
 Cc: naijanet@esosoft.com, naijanews@egroups.com
 Subject: Edo Tribe 3

This piece is dedicated to all those people  who have lost their lives  in the unfortunate, tragic killings and destruction of valauble properties  in Warri and its environs.  MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PEACE. AMEN

People tend to put the blame of Warri crisis on the various Fed Govt's  neglect of  that part of Delta State,  in terrms of development.  While it  is true that, that part of Nigeria was neglected in view of the revenue  Nigeria is getting from  the natural resources harvested there, part of the  blame goes to one basic statement---" If you do not know where you are  coming from, you may never know where you are going."    This translates to  the inability of the Izons/Ijaw, Urhobos and the itsekiris to define who  they are.   If they had taken the trouble to look back at their shared  ancestory and history, there would have been no need for them to be killing  themselves.  They would have directed their anger at the Fed Govt of  Nigeria.  The seed of the present crisis in Warri, could be traced the  administrative arrangement , put in place by the British Agents after the  fall of Benin in 1897.  To punish Benin and curtail the power of the Oba of  Benin, Warri Province was created out of the remnant of the ancient Empire.  Dore/DOGHO NUMA became a defacto ruler of the pronvince.   He was given the  power to create "warrant chiefs"  in Urhoboland, a power formerly exercised by the Oba of Benin.   He was  ruthless in the way he dealt with issues regarding land belonging to the  Urhobos.   When the monarchy was restored in Benin in 1914, these newly  created warrant chiefs came to Oba Eweka II for their traditional staff of  office.    Dore Numa stopped those who have not gone to Benin and told those who have gone, that Urhoboland was now under his jurisdiction.  The Urhobos got the chance to fight for what they have been looking for all  their lives-FREEDOM.

They knew that Dogho was not a traditional ruler.    While they were  fighting for freedom from Dogho,  the Itsekiris were also fighting for the  restoration of the Oluship of Itsekiri which Dore( Dogho) Numa has almost  converted to his own.    When the Oluship of Itsekiri was later converted to  WARRI,  Urhobos were already on the war path, demanding back their lands,  which Dore NUma has illegally acquired and given to the British authorities.

Can  you imagine an Urhobo man speaking a variant of Edo language and at the  same time saying he his not Edo?  It is like a human being running away from  his shadow.   That shadow will always follow until he/she dies.  The Urhobos and many of the Izons/Ijaws on the western side of Niger, speak  a dialect of the Edo language.  The Itsekiris speak a mixture of Ijebu-Anago version of the now standardized  yoruba and Edo language.

In short they are Edos, not necessarily modern "BINIS."   Their traditional  histories point to a common heritage-Igodomogodo.   Urhobo traditional  history, point to a wave of migration from Benin City, some time in the  distant past, settled first at a place they named ABRAKA ,  in remembrance  of when and how they migrated from Benin City and from there  dispersed to  the various communties where they  are at now.     The Urhobos call Benin  City, AKA and the king,  OBARAKA.   We also know that , the oldest dukedom  in Urhobo areas was UGHELLI, from Benin/Edo historians.   The BINIS call the  Urhobos, UHOBO.   They are best remebered for their success in harvesting  and processing palm oil.  There is a category of oil any Bini man would  quickly identify as OFINGBON UHOBO-Uhobo (Urhobo oil) .  Sometime  derogatorily, the BINIS call them UHOBO OMEN-Uhobo of the palm fronds, an  inference to their main profession .   Many Ijaws/Izons communities on the  western side of the Niger, are an extension of that wave of migration  towards the east and then swinging southwards at Abraka.

While the Iteskiris claim in one breath that they are yorubas, who inter   married with the Urhobos and Izons/Ijaws, two Edo-speaking clans they met at  Warri to survive, they lay claim to Benin/Edo heritage only when it is  convenient.   If the Itsekiris are yoruba migrants to where they are right  now, then they are aliens and therefore settlers with no right of ownership  to the land on which they settled.   This is the claim Urhobos have been  making since the beginning of this century.   The Izons/Ijaws say as much.  The truth of the matter is that the itsekiris are not yorubas.   It is true  that the itsekiris migrated from ODE, a community at Ijebu waterside.   They call themselves the CHILDREN OF LENUWA OF ODE.   It is also on record that " a LENUWA of ODE," in an interview it was reported he granted in the late  1950's, said that everybody in ODE migrated from Benin to that place at a  point in time.  But that a group decided to return home.   It was that group  that finally made it to Warri and its environs.  They are the ancestors of the present day Itsekiris of Warri.   Then about six hundred years ago, the  Oba of Benin, Oba Olua sent them their own duke in GINUA I with the title  ODIHI NAMEN/ OGIAMEN-DUKE OF THE WATERS.    In his entourage, were an influx  of new group of Edo-speaking people from Benin City.  The Urhobos  already had their Duke  in UGHELLI.    It is significant to note that , the  present Olu of Warri want to be addressed as simply OGIAME, which was the  original title his father gave him.

The importance of this history is that, while the ancestors of the modern  Urhobos moved eastward and then swung southwards at Abraka, those of the  Itsekiris headed west to ODE only to return through the creeks to Warri.  Sometime ago, a rampant called EREDO was found in the Ijebu-Ode area.  People were already linking it to the Queen of Sheba.    It will not  surprise me if an archeaologist , links it to that movement,  west into  Ijebu territory,  by the Edo-speaking people.    In fact, one has already  hinted that  it might be so .   Chief Egharevba,  though not necessarily  pre-occupied with writing Ijebu history, stated as a matter of fact that,  Ijebu was conqured by Benin under by Oba Ozolua,  c1473, the war lord, who spent most of his life in Akoko and Owan areas. Could the settlement at ODE be a remant of a military post by Oba Ozolua  fighters?  No one can tell for now. But we are waiting.  It is doubtful that,  if the Federal Govt of Nigeria were to give the whole  revenue accruing from oil to Urhobos, Ijaws and Itsekiris, that they will  not continue to fight until they all understand one thing-" they are all Edos.  There are no squatters and no tenants in that area."    This is was  what some people had in mind when a peace conference was conveyed in Benin  City recently.   TAKE EVERYBODY BACK TO THEIR ROOTS.   HOPEFULLY COMMON  SENSE AND PEACE WILL PREVAIL.   The things that bind them together are more  than what separates them.  Everybody has a stake in the development and peace in that area.    There  can be no development without peace. They should stop destroying the few properties they have, while the rest of country is swimming in their oil

I hope the organisers of the Peace Conference in Washington are listening.  The Urhobos/Ijaws,Itsekiri need a common front to get what is rightfulLY  theirs from the Nigerian Govt.  They do not have to be at each other's throat.

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