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THE ORIGIN OF IKA AND NRI/BINI FACTORS BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF IKA CLANS

Nov 4, 2023
onyekpezeCHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

THE ORIGIN OF IKA AND NRI/BINI FACTORS BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF IKA CLANS

Ika lacks archaeological works, and it is grossly deficient in ancient written records, myths, legends, or fantasized oral tradition towards her history, culture and origin. For example, no part of has been studied by a professional historian or anthropologist neither has any part of Ika villages been visited by one. The loose fluid history of all the clans in Ika therefore, are ‘recall of the various schools of thought’ on the origin of the people derived from oral sources in addition to the scanty writings of the Colonialists.

As in most parts of the State, the majority of the clans of Ika Nation claim to have migrated from the ancient Benin Kingdom between the 12th and 14th centuries AD in various waves. The first wave is believed to have been headed by a man called Eka, and the land he settled on was called Ekaland. Fact to substantiate this claim of the origin of the clans is buttressed by some colonial documents including the Intelligence Reports on each clan. Agbor, the first settlement became the Headquarters of the Government Area. This was the situation till 1991 when Ika was split into two Local Government Areas, and Owa-Oyibu became the Headquarters of the second Local Government Area.

Briefly, Abavo clan traces her origin to the ancient Benin Kingdom in the 12th century AD. According to the Intelligence Report on Abavo clan, the founder was Avo, who had an Ibo title of Eze. There are distorted facts about whether they came from Benin or elsewhere. However, Avo had three descendants who formed Udomi, Igbogili and Azuowa. Paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Intelligence Report state that Osaigbobu was the Obi and father of Jegbefume the line of the hereditary Obi.

Note: In the first instance, Mr. J.M. Simpson embraced the wrong pronunciation of the name, Awu. The similarity in the number of letters and the pronunciation of the two abbreviations Awu and Avo, indicate a close parallel between them. It can be inferred from simple reasoning therefore, that the error occasioned was that of the cook/steward of a magnified ignoramus with his junky, who stood as the interpreter. It is Awu not Avo. However, enquiries led to the view that Avo came from Bini and that his full name was Avbavbo.

Agbor: An ancient school of thought based on myth and folklore traced the origin of Agbor to the migration of the Patriarh, Ogene (Ogelle) some centuries BC. The narration added that among those who migrated with Ogene from Ife were two brothers, Ogiso and Eka. Ogiso founded Benin Kingdom while Eka founded Agbon (Agbor).

The second school of thought is that people of Agbor migrated from the Ibo hinterlands, East of the River Niger and settled at Agbor.

The third school of thought, perhaps, enjoys more acceptability than the earlier two. This believes that the Agbor people and the Benin people have a common origin, though the Agbors are not Benin per se. The exact time the migration to Agbor took place is however not certain.

Paragraphs 1 and 3 of the Intelligence Report on Agbor show that Agbor is a clan. Paragraph 9 of the Report quotes Talbot on page 168, Volume 1; Southern Nigeria Provinces quotes Dutch historian-traveller, Nyandael as having written that Agbor came from Benin.

The following other Ika clans- Akumazi, Igbodo, Mbiri, Otolokpo, Umunede and Ute-Ogbeje, from oral sources, claim their origin from the ancient Benin Kingdom. These claims are buttressed by their Intelligence Reports, viz:

Akumazi: Paragraph 8 of Akumazi Intelligence Report shows that the founder, Unona and his wife, Akumazi came from Benin and settled at the present position. The Obiship is hereditary.

Igbodo: The Intelligence Report on Igbodo was written on lines as indicated by the Secretary of Southern Provinces Confidential Report Memorandum No. SP: 6752/200 of 2nd October, 1959.  Anikpekwu, Anieyime and Ndobu claim to be a descendant of Benin. Paragraph 5 of the Intelligence Report refers. During the War of Agbagwala in Benin, Chima, Anikpekwu and Anieyime migrated, and while the latter two founded the present Igbodo, the former Chima founded Ezechime. Paragraph 16 of Igbodo Report refers.

Mbiri: Mbiri tradition has it that the clan was founded by a man known as Airen in about 45 B.C Airen was said to be a prince from one of the Ogisos in the ancient Benin Kingdom, who migrated from Benin and became the first person to settle in the place known as Mbiri.

Otolokpo: The founder, Gboba and his wife Okpoko, came from Benin. Paragraph 5 of the Intelligence Report refers. Paragraph 10 of the Report shows that the title of the Obi is hereditary.

Umunede: The Intelligence Report was written on lines as indicated by the Secretary, Southern Provinces Confidential Memorandum, No. SP. 6752/200 of 2nd October, 1935. The founder Ede, came from Benin, according to Paragraph 17 of the Intelligence Report.

Ute-Ogbeje: Paragraph 11 of the Intelligence Report states that Ogbeje, the founder of Ute-Ogbeje, who was the brother of Oba of Benin, came from Benin.

However, some of the clans in Ika claim to have come from other places. Notably among them is the Ute-Okpu’s claim to have come from Nri, East across the River Niger as per the version of the origin of Ute-Okpu in the Directory, National Archives No. AG334/2 of 30th June, 1936. But the version of Ute-Okpu origin narrated by one Monye Omordia [literate] born in 1888 traced the origin of the clan to the ancient Benin Kingdom. According to Mr. M. Omordia, ljueh was the founder of Ute-Okpu. His second son Okpu, became the Obi after him.”

The mythology of Owa people claims that they came from Nri. However, some schools of thought have fingered the ancient Benin Kingdom as the possible origin of the Owa people. Paragraph 25 of the Intelligence Reports on Owa and Idumuesah clans state that only Oyibu, Alizomor and Owa Alidinma with part of Owanta came from the same stock of Igbo. The remaining villages are people who have settled in Owa land.

Paragraph 14 of the Intelligence Reports of Owa and Idumuesah states that Odogwu and Okpu, the sons of Ijueh came from Nshi in Awka Division. Odogwu, on his return from Benin where he assisted the Oba during a war, met that his position as Obi of Ute-Okpu had been denied of him, thereby, he went and found Owa Kingdom.

The seven villages of Idumuesah clan do not lay any claim to a common origin. While some villages trace their origin to Ezi and Onicha Olona in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, others claim to have come from Ugboha and Uromi in Ishan of Edo State, and Aboh in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State. Paragraphs 70 and 71 of Owa and Idumuesah Intelligence Reports state that the founder, Ibile, came from Ugboha, joined Abu who came from Aboh to found Idumuesah.

IKA ORIGIN AND NRI FACTOR

Uche Ikeanyibe in his book, “The Quest for the Origin of Igbo People”, observed that there has been an attempt in recent years, on the part of Ika community to deny their identity as Ndi-Igbo. F.C. Ogbalu was recorded in the same book as encouraging the people of Ika, and indeed, all that marginalize themselves from their Igbo originality because of one bias or the other as they have no cultural or linguistic justification to do so. The language they speak betrays them indivisibly as tribal colonies of the most rated egalitarian, individualistic and enterprising people of the world known as Igbo.”

As a matter of fact, a historical background study of the Ika people seems to have some traceable evidences of Igbo origin. For example, Colonial documents and eminent scholars of history have pointed out copiously to the fact that some Ika Kingdoms, specifically Ute-Okpu, Owa, Abavo and Agbor, have traditions of Nri origin.

M.A. Onwuejeogwu asserted that during the Nri ascendancy of (12th-18th) centuries AD, Nri lineages proliferated all over Ika Igbo areas. On the West of the River Niger, they founded the following settlements… Abavo in 17th century. Secondary and tertiary movements took place from the core of Nri settlement western upland (Ogboli, Issele-Uku and Ute-Okpu), further into the heart of Ikaland, for example, such places like Abavo, Owa and possibly Agbor Nta. “This must have taken place before the rise of Benin Kingdom.

“…Abavo in Ika retains proto-Igbo archaic features in distinct nasalization and incipient aspiration.” Thomas asserted that Abavo migrated from Nri, or that Abavo claims mixed Nri and Edo origin. Nwachukwu Ogedengbe observed that within the Ika and Aniocha zones, Abavo, Ogwash Uku, Okpanam, Owa, Ibusa, have traditions of Nri origin.” Asserting that the Ikas are of Igbo origin, T.E. Oseme states. “Agbor, Awu (Abavo), and the rest of Ika clans were the names of the Benin soldiers who conquered the respective clans He maintains that, that is the reason why centuries after, the people of Ika maintain their mother tongue. He attributes the relationships in names, customs, tradition, etc., with the Benin as a result of total annihilation of the Ika people by their conquerors”

The second school of thought has it that people of Agbor migrated from Ibo hinterland, East of the River Niger and settled at Agbor. Ute-Okpu claims to have come from Nri.” The mythology of Owa people claims that they came from Nri, Isichie (1976) hypothesized that the present Ika region may have been inhabited by a group of people of Igbo origin. “The dual claims of the origin of Owa clan appears to indicate the presence of an original Igbo group before there was contact with other groups of Benin origin.” C.I.C Ogbonna and Ezekwere asserted. “… From the implication of the history, Ute-Okpu people are Igbos since they speak Igbo Language, are part of their parent stock, the Igbo of the Eastern Nigeria” and so on.

The subject of Ika and Nri origin has continued to attract attention in recent times. In fact, no time in history of Ika people has this subject occupied a prominent place in ordinary, social and cultural discourse as it is today. Hence an attempt is made to match the clans of Ika with Nri cultural traits and discover how appropriate Nri relates to Ika people’s past and present. In the discourse, it is pertinent to state that the relationship between the history of Benin and Igbo is far beyond the scope of this discourse.

Suffice it to say that it is recognized that “there certainly was more to Benin Igbo relation than Military ‘conquest and subjugations’ in 400 years before British conquest. Probably, the more enduring contacts and Interrelations between the two predated the rise of Benin to imperial greatness, going back to those quiet days when Nri priests moved from ‘one corner of the globe to the other, spreading the gospel that they came down from the sky”.

To be continued…

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