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BENIN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL RELATIONS WITH IKA

Nov 25, 2023
onyekpezeCHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

BENIN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL RELATIONS WITH IKA

On the other hand, many schools of thought tend to trace the origin of Ika people, almost entirely to the old Benin Empire.

The ancient Benin Kingdom is believed to have existed about 900 AD. Because of the ancestral connection of Benin with the other parts of the then Midwestern State, personal names Okoro, Okoh and others could be found among the Igbo-speaking Midwesterners, Isokos Urhobos.

People from Benin migrated to some of these places. Nearly all the paramount rulers in the Delta and Edo States have ancestral connections with Oba of Benin. The Chiefs of Benin have their equivalents in the other parts of the two States. For example, the lyase of Benin, who is the traditional Prime Minister to the Oba of Benin could be found in identical position in Asaba, Aboh and Ika Divisions. The Ika and Igbo-speaking people of the west bank of the Niger, Aboh and Urhobo, Isoko and the people of Onitsha all are emigrants from Benin. All the Igbo-speaking people on this side of the Niger were early Benin emigrants to the various towns or places.

The Language of Ibos on the other side of River Niger who settled with them through bartering and adventurous instinct predominated over their original Bini Language. In these areas also, Benin influence has affected some indigenous political administration where the chieftaincy principle has been finally planted. In several places, for example, Ubulu-Uku, Issele-Uku, Agbor, Abavo, Akumazi, Ashama, Nsukwa, etc., there exist Obis, occupying positions comparable to the Enigies in Benin.

“The early people of Ika migrated from’ Benin wave by wave. A man named Eka, the founder by whose name the land is known, headed the first wave. Eka was the founder of Evbo-Eka afterward Agbor, according to the name of its conqueror, Agbon, the Ezomo of Benin. Agbor the first settlement is the capital town of Eka.

The following are the chief towns in Eka, during the period of the mass movement out of Bini Kingdom.

1

2

3

4

5

Agbor

Ibiri

Abavo (Avbavbo)

Owa

Umunede

6

7

8

9

10

Igbodo

Utokpo

Akumazi

Otolopko

Emuhu

(Numbering and spelling as from the source).

In addition, the Benin origin of the Ika clans was mentioned in colonial documents and oral traditions. For example, the District Officer in charge of Agbor District, J.M. Simpson in 1932, observed that of all external influences, which affected Ika society to any extent, that of Benin has been the most powerful. For a period estimated at three hundred years and up to the advent of the British Government, the Benin Empire held sway from Benin to the River Niger. The whole of the District were under Benin control, and was administered in large area by ‘Governor Ohaime, appointed by the Oba. The Assistant District Officer also stated that the Obiship is the highest office in Ika organization. There is little doubt that its origin in all the clans of the District can be traced to the direct influence of Benin. It was the Benin custom to see an Ohaime, or title- man to govern any village brought under the Obi’s control either by conquest or by assimilation. If the village came under the Benin sway by conquest, it was usually placed under the rule of the leader of the victorious army; if by assimilation, the villages placed themselves under the tutelage of one of the more important Ihaime in Benin City through whose good offices the Oba conferred the title of Obi on one of their clansmen, usually an Olotu or war captain, who was then raised to the position normally held by a regularly appointed ‘Benin governor.

Paragraph 9, Vol Southern Nigeria Provinces quotes Dutch historian – traveller, Nyandael as having written that Agbor came from Benin One Monye Omordia (literate) born in 1888 traced the origin of Ute-Okpu clan to the ancient Benin Kingdom. Tradition fingers Benin as the origin of Owa Kingdom. Abavo tradition points to Benin Kingdom as its origin. “All clans followed waves of magration from Benin, but the Language of Igbos, the neighbours, especially those who migrated from Igboland to settle with them ultimately predominated over the original Bini tongue or the customs or speech. They however still retain some of the customs, institutions, style of dress, ways and methods worshipping the gods, etc,”

Beside the basic data available, other evidences can also be used to cross-check oral tradition in the study of the origin of place of. “Historians do not only depend on oral traditional stories an old document. There are many other sources, which they can safely rely upon to find out the truth. To find out the origin of a town, the language, the arts, the crafts, the cultural heritage, the physiognomy, the ethnology, the songs, the dances, the religion the system of marriage, the government, the land tenure, the archaeology… all these are found in the workshop of the historian and when some of these tools are used, the truth comes out to surface. The above are definitely invaluable repositories of useful historical information, which are indices an investigator of the lka past cannot help giving serious considerations.

Some of the clans linguistically bear Bini features and meanings. For example, Agbon (world) is anglocized as Agbor Avbavbo, anglocized as Abavo, are common Bini methods of naming people. The meaning of Avbavbo in Benin Language is ‘can back ‘ or ‘can support’. Other such names are Ovbiagele, Egharevba Specifically, such words like Osiwu which the Ika call Osigu are women who are perfected in giving tribal marks in Benin. In fact, Edo and Ika people, use similarity of words and names. Igbo Language won certain supremacy among the neighbouring communities, and the knowledge of it spread to Ika. Consequently, Ika seems to have lost her language of Bini tongue after a lapse of generations, a variation after centuries of separation.

SEE ALSO:FEATURE: IKA WORLD BY CHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

Ika people traced their origin of kingship to the ancient Benin Kingdom. They inherited the succession to the throne of the crown prince immediately the incumbent joins his ancestors, as an Oba of Benin. The crown prince so installed immediately after the announcement of the call to higher glory of the former incumbent, by tradition like in Benin, must be a male not a female, and this must follow strictly the sacrosanct law of primogeniture, which is a right going to the first surviving male child.

The antiquity of Ika Obis and their Chiefs gives reference to Benin tradition of immigration into Ikaland. All the Obis of Eka were installed into office by the Oba of Benin in the early days.” Ika oral tradition has it that the Obis of Ika country received their Insignia of kingship, Ada and Ebeni from the Oba of Benin as a mark of recognition and support, and the Obis in return, paid tributes to him. In addition, the Obis’ regalia is similar to that of the Oba’s wears in profusion, coral beads and necklaces wrapping. Except Idumuesah Kingdom, all Ika Kingdoms have traditional kingship institution and their Obis and Chiefs are identified with heavy coral beads as the Benin Obas and Enigies. Like the Obis in Ika, Benin Obas have Ada and Ebeni as swords of office, while like Benin Chiefs, Chiefs found in Ika Kingdoms have Ebeni. The Obis in Ika, like the Obas of Benin, are not themselves the officiating priests of their ancestral gods.

Like in Benin, elaborate circumlocutions are used to avoid saying that an Obi is dead. Phrases like “a mighty tree is fallen, the chalk has broken, it is night, the house is broken, the lion is at large”, and many others, are often used. The Obi like the Oba thus becomes apotheosized at death and enters the rank of the clan’s royal ancestors. In the after-world, he is thought of as enjoying royal rank still, and hence the sacrifices made on annual or special occasions are to increase his retinue, send him messages about his family and clan on earth to ensure his continued favour to his children.

The Benin system of principal order of Chieftaincy shares common features with those found in Ika Kingdoms. There are categories of chieftaincy in Benin Kingdom as in the ten Kingdoms in Ika nation. Councilors of State or the Kingmakers, which originated in Benin in 1200 AD during the reign of Oba Eweka 1, known as Uzama Nihinron, and which are hereditary, have their equivalents in Ika Kingdoms. The other groups of Chiefs found in Ika are the Clan Chiefs and the Palace Chiefs, the latter of whom are appointed by the Obis for specific duties in the Palace are also found in Benin Chieftaincy formation. Uzama Nihinron category of chieftaincy are found in many Kingdoms in Ika, and they have almost the same name and similar functions. For example, in Abavo Ndichen Awu perform the same function as the Uzama Nihinto and in Ute-Okpu, Wuzama, corruption of Uzama Nihinron, perform the same functions like the Uzama Nihinron in Benin Kingdom Olihe is the leader of Uzama Nihinron in Benin Kingdom as he, Olihe leads Ndichen Awu. Olihe also leads Wuzama in Ute-Okpu, Olihe crowns the Oba in Benin as he, Olihe crowns the Obi of Abavo and that of Ute-Okpu, Uzama, Ighaigho, Ifiorkpo, are found in Agbor Kingdom. Ovia in Agbor and Owa Kingdoms is taken in place of Olihe and he heads Uzama and crowns the Dein of Agbor and the Obi of Owa, respectively, etc.

Benin influence is most apparent in the existence of hierarchy of hereditary or non-hereditary officials and Chiefs found around the Obi. This group of ‘nobles’ is known in Ika by the collective name of Ihaime (Ohaime singular). Every Ohaime has definite ceremonial duty to perform, in the day-to-day running of the palace and the operation of Obi’s affairs. In addition to the ceremonial duties, each Ohaime is an ex-officio member of the inner Council, and acts in the nature of a ‘Privy Councillor’. It is through the Ihaime that the Obi or Okparan-Uku administers his Kingdom as does the Oba of Benin.

In short, all the traditional Chiefs in Ika Kingdoms have similar names and functions as they have in Benin Kingdom. Apart from the Social Chieftaincy titles, which are creations of recent in Ika Kingdoms, the following titles found in Kingdoms of Ika nation have Benin origin. Olihe, lyase, Obas Ojei Obanyagban, Ovia, Unwague, Oweh, Ojeba, Isogban, Orodu, Ohefi, Ozomor, Okem (Ononwun), Osula, Eribo, Osume, Osho Isph, Ihaza, Osazejobu, Ihama, Nobore, Asuen, Osehen, Adolor, tigun, Obazuaye, Obazuniyi, Eleme, Obaraisiagbon, Obaseki, ruejetor, Ogene, Obamedo, Obanedo, etc.

Besides, Ute-Okpu, Owa, Abavo, and Agbor Kingdoms, those past Obis bore Bini names, are indisputable and gentle touch and romance of Benin descent. It should be noted that most of those ancient names in the boxes below are abbreviations of the original names. For example, Awu is an abbreviation for Avbavbo, which was the original name for Abavo. Also, many of these names are currently being Igbonized.

 

1st

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Ute-Okpu

Okpu

Ohue

Iyama

Oro

Ila

2nd

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Ute-okpu Dynasty

Alikwe

Mokobia

Ugbebor

Aghaulor 1

Aghaulor 11

 

Owa Obis Are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abavo Obis are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agbor Obis are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The identical cultural heritage in kingship institutions Benin and Ika Kingdoms is indeed, a pointer to the historical fact that a smaller group of people (Ika) were in primordial times part and parcel of larger group of people (Bini), and therefore, a summation that Ikas took off from the Bini Kingdom. It appears historical jargon that some parts of Ika came from Igbo after, comparing the corresponding names of the Obis, Chiefs, names quarters such as Ihogbe, Ihaikpen, Ogbe Akina or Ogbeleka found in Agbor Kingdom, Idumu Agbado, Iwase and Adisiogbe in Ogbe Ohulor village of Abavo Kingdom and similarity of other Benin cultural ideology, which are not lost among the Ika people.

Many aspects of Ika culture are of Benin origin. Festival and ceremonies celebrated in public in Ika Kingdoms are in many ways, closely related to those of Benin Kingdom. For example, lgue and Ikaba festivals in some Ika Kingdoms have their equivalent in Benin Kingdom. The festivals are celebrated by feasting and dancing in both places. Igue festival forms a common arena for social and political life, and also serves as religious functions of purification of the land, and the people from both Kingdoms through Ubi rie “bad spirit go”. Other festivals like Okwan feast in Okpe village in Abavo was introduced from Idumwigun in Benin. Generally, the cult worship is the predominant form of Benin religion. The worship of the dead kings and ancestors is practised in Benin and Ika Kingdoms. Both Benin and Ika Kingdoms have identical funeral obsequies.

The Benin forms of element are preserved in Ika forms of address. This specifically and identically are seen in the origin of tribal marks and appellations such as Okpioba and Ohuoba in Benin. These are found in Ika right from the beginning of times as Okenye-Oba and Okpoho-Oba, with which an adult male and adult female are identified, and not nwoke or nwanye as found in Igbo cultural appellations. In Benin where a daughter remains unmarried and stays in the father’s house for the purpose of raising children in his name, thus putting her in the position of a son, to succeed her father’s landed property is also applicable in Ika Kingdoms.

Also, some people like in Abavo opt to greet their Obi domo, which is a salutation for the Oba of Benin. Ika people know Bini as Idu, and a lot of stories, tales, sayings, etc. refer to Idu in Ika community. There is a saying in Ika that “he, who kills any animal for tribute sends himself to Idu”. There is hardly any story told in Ika community without involving Ogiso and Ilahin (llafin) Ogiso’s wife.

In addition, the writer conducted a survey in the nerve centres of the traditional villages of Abavo, Agbor, Ute-Okpu and Owa, in which more than 98% of those questioned were in agreement that their Kingdoms originated from Benin. A few, especially from Ute-Okpu, however, said that they heard from people that they came from Nri, East of the River Niger.

In a summary, the great influence or relation of Benin and Ika is both political and cultural. This is seen most in the rise of town Chieftaincies and monarchy. It is evident in the regalia of the Chiefs during the performance of ‘court’ ceremonies and even in the lanes of the title. They also show in the highly developed cultural cults with well-established codes of moral and legal norms, which are vital instruments of social control in Ika community. Ika names, rituals and functions, which denote something of the Benin origin, play very prominent roles in political and social matters in Ika societies. The articulated age- set and age grade systems with formal rites of passage, which are well established in Ika clans have Benin origin.

In addition, there are many other examples of Ika social organizations, mode of dressing, music, arts and craft, which have Benin background and which no doubt, mirror the source of origin of the Ika people. Visit the great palaces, historical centres and shrines of the Ika people, read their traditional literature, and listen to their folklores, folktales, folksongs, folkmemories, etc. All bear witness to the cultural riches, which Ikas have drawn from Benin Kingdom. Indeed, there exists no further ground of justification for the original Ika stock to seek from anywhere else for their tribal heritage and consciousness, but from Benin.

 

(To be continued) ….

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