IJO – IZON HISTORICAL DOCUMENTATION (IHD)
The Ijo (Izon, Ijaw) People are one of the oldest peoples of Africa and one of the oldest in present day Nigeria. Language studies indicate that the Ijo (Ijoid) language is one of the oldest languages of Africa and differentiated from a parent language at a very early period at least 5000 years before the birth of other neighbouring language groups.
Based on language studies, thousands of years ago, the ancestors of the Ijo People originated from a north eastern location, around Lake Chad and beyond to the Sudanic Nile Valley. This north eastern and Sudanic origin is also traced to the ancient aquatic civilization that stretched across middle Africa on the ancient waterways linking West Africa River Niger and Benue with the Lake Chad Mega Sea and Nile Valley. Using these language studies, it is proposed that the ancestors of the Ijo People, the ancient ORU (H)ORU people, migrated in ancient times following the waterways and rivers that connected the Nile valley with the Lake Chad inland sea and the Niger/Benue river systems. Some also would have followed overland routes that traced through the waterways of antiquity. Consequently they were one of the first and aboriginal (autochthones) peoples of the West Africa region of the Niger/Benue.
Based on ancestral tradition, the ancestors of the Ijo People referred to as the ORUS or ORU People mythological descended from the sky or emerged from the sacred waters and settled the Nupe, Ife and Benin Regions, Lower River Niger and Niger Delta in antiquity as the ancient autochthones or aborigines.
Based on ancestral tradition, the Ijo People are named after the ancestor known as Father Ijo, who was an ORU ancestor, and son of the Great and Mysterious King ADUMU, also referred to as ODUDU, who founded his Theocratic City State confederacy at Ife during ancient times. Ijo ancestral traditions mention Ife and Benin regions as points of immediate origin, therefore these places are worthy of investigation as to their link to Ijo historical origins. It has been established by historical research that there are at least two dynastic periods for the ancient City states of Ife and Benin (Ado-bou) or Igodomigodo (Igede-me-Igodo). That the first period started before or about 600 AD (CE), and ended about 1190 AD. After this was the second period, starting from about 1190 AD, and maybe a third from 15th century AD to colonial times; the various aboriginal people such as the ancient ORU and others, living in these regions come together to establish centralised autonomous city states, and confederacies, before people started migrating from them. Ijo ancestral traditions mention these two regions as points of immediate origin, and therefore they will be considered for investigation. Any references to Ife and Benin in Ijo traditional history refer to the first aboriginal period that started before 600 AD, when the ancient ORU once inhabited the Ife and Benin regions.
Based on archaeological research the Ijo Niger Delta was settled at least by 800 BC (BCE), and some ancient towns archaeological records can be traced to 700 AD. There is indirect evidence of human activity in the central Niger Delta going back to about 800 BC. While further direct evidence from archaeological expeditions in the Niger Delta takes us back to about 700AD. This does not contradict the ancestral oral traditions. This gives us a time frame of approximately 3000 years of human settlement of the Niger Delta. Further work may provide more ancient data.
In summary, Ijo is Oru and Oru is Ijo, what do we mean? In the beginning the ancestors of the Ijo people were the ancient tribe or aboriginal people known as the (H)ORU. The ORU were the ancient inhabitants or dwellers of the waterways and riversides of Africa. The spiritual initiates into the divine principles symbolised by the water. The (H)ORU inhabited during ancient antiquity the Nile Valley, the Lake Chad region and the Upper Niger, before settling and becoming the aboriginal inhabitants of the Benin, Lower Niger and Niger Delta.
The aboriginal ORU people or autochthones, ancestors of the Ijo People, also referred to as the Ancient People (TOBU-OTU), and Water People (BENI-OTU), THE SPIRITUAL INITIATES of the divine principles symbolised by water, began to settle the Niger/Benue region in antiquity at least prior to 1000 BC. They came mainly through the ancient waterways that linked up the Nile valley with West Africa. Others come through overland routes. These migrations into West Africa were in phases over long periods of time.
The Ijo People are the majority inhabitants of the Niger Delta and its outskirts. The ancestors of the Ijo People have inhabited the Niger Delta since antiquity, and the timeframe for settlement is still being researched. The ancestors of the Ijo People settled the Core Niger Delta and specific islands along the deltaic coast. As the people started to spread and migrate through the many islands and waterways they formed various clans and kingdoms as autonomous aboriginal communities. Starting from the 15th Century AD, other people from the hinterlands of the Niger Delta starting settling the delta fringes, due to trade and internal wars. These people settled both the western and eastern fringes amongst the aboriginal Ijo People. They constitute the ethnic neighbours of the Ijos in the Niger Delta.
The ancestral mythological narrative by S K Owonaro published in 1949 (The History of Ijo and Her Neighbouring Tribes in Nigeria) gives us a broad outline as to how the ancestors of the Ijo People settled the Niger Delta. In summary following the narrative, the ancestors of the Ijo People arrived from the hinterlands of ancient Africa, and were known as the ORU people, they had a previous abode within the Borgu/Nupe and Ife regions. They became the aboriginal inhabitants of the Benin region and Lower Niger. They first penetrated the Niger Delta from the western Niger Delta fringe through the ancient Benin waterways (Warifi and Warigi sites), and also the northern delta apex, and had permanent settlement. From western delta fringe ancestors made their way along the coastal creeks and arrived in the central delta making their way up the main outlets of the River Niger before founding a central city state complex in the central delta remembered as Agadagba-bou (Agadagba-bou, Isoma-bou, Opuan-bou, Orubiribai, Oru-bou, Boupere-bou) situated on what is now known as Wilberforce Island of present day Bayelsa State. From here subsequent ancestors dispersed to both the east and western Niger Delta establishing settlements in the rivers and creeks and at the mouth of the major estuaries of Oporoza Toru (Escravos) Iduwini Toru (Forcados) Akassa Opu Toru (Nun). Brass Toru, Kula Toru, Ke Toru and Asarama Toru of the Eastern Delta.
The ancient Oru people that settled along the banks of the lower River Niger to just above the delta apex integrated with some of the upland people (Igbo-Otu), and became known as the Oru-Igbo amongst the Igbo people.
THE ANCESTOR FATHER IJO (IZONOWEI) REFERS TO BOTH OUR SPECIFIC ORU ANCESTOR SITUATED IN A SPECIFIC TIME FRAME, AS WELL AS A SYMBOL OF THE ORU ANCESTORS WHO CAME WITH HIM TO ESTABLISH A CITY STATE IN THE CENTRAL DELTA. PRIOR TO FATHER IJO, THE ORU PEOPLE EXISTED AS AN UNIQUE ETHNIC NATIONALITY AND SOME OBVIOUSLY HAD PENETRATED THE NIGER DELTA PRIOR TO FATHER IJO AND HIS PART OF EXPLORERS. NEVERTHELESS THE IJO PEOPLE TAKE THEIR NAME FROM FATHER IJO AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND AS A UNIQUE NAME FOR THE ABORIGINAL NIGER DELTA PEOPLE. THE NARRATIVE BELOW EXPLORES THE ANCESTRAL TRADITIONS CONCERNING THE ORIGINS OF FATHER IJO AND HOW HE CAME TO THE MAIN NIGER DELTA.
NARRATIVE OF HISTORY BASED ON ANCESTRAL TRADITION
VERY MANY CENTURIES AGO PRIOR TO 600 AD (CE), THERE EXISTED OTU-IFE, WHERE THE GREAT AND MYSTERIOUS RULER KING ADUMU (ALIAS ODUDU), THE FIRST AND ANCIENT KING OF IFE, AND FOUNDER OF THE KINGSHIP AT OTU-IFE, REIGNED SUPREME. LEGEND HAS IT THAT HE DESCENDED FROM THE ANCIENT KINGS OF THE ANCIENT NILE VALLEY (NUBIA KUSH AND KEMET). MYTHOLOGICALLY AS A SPIRITUAL INITIATE HE CAME DOWN FROM THE SKY (SENT FROM HEAVEN OR FROM ANCIENT ORU COUNTRY) TO ESTABLISH KINGSHIP IN THE NEW LANDS.
PRINCE ADUMU OF THE ANCIENT ORU PEOPLE ARRIVED IN THE IFE REGION AFTER TRAVELLING THROUGH LANDS AND RIVERS WITH HIS PEOPLE. LEGENDS HAVE IT THAT HE ARRIVED IN THE NIGER BENUE REGION AND FIRST MADE SETTLEMENT WHERE THE OLD CITY OF BUSSA ONCE STOOD. IT WAS FROM THIS PLACE THAT HE DISCOVERED THE REGION OF IFE. AT THE TIME OF HIS ARRIVAL AND NEW DISCOVERIES ANOTHER PEOPLE KNOWN AS THE UGBOS HAD ALSO ARRIVED AND SET UP CAMPS IN THE AREA. FURTHERMORE OTHER ANCIENT PEOPLE ALSO ARRIVED IN THE AREA AND IT INCREASED IN POPULATION.
AFTER SOME YEARS OF PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT, BEFORE LONG, DISCONTENT BROKE OUT AMONG THE VARIOUS PEOPLES DUE TO COMPETITION, TYRANNY AND MALADMINISTRATION. PRINCE ADUMU AND HIS WISEMEN CONSULTED THE ORACLE, AND IT ORDERED THAT IT WAS NOW TIME TO SET UP THE NEW KINGDOM. A NEW CONSTITUTION WAS DRAWN UP WITH PRINCE ADUMU AT THE HEAD OF A NEW THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT. AND SO PRINCE ADUMU FORMED AN ALLIANCE WITH SOME OF THE DISCONTENTED COMMUNITIES OF UGBOS TO DEFEAT THEIR ENEMIES. THIS WAR IS RETOLD IN THE ANCESTRAL LEGENDS AS THE WAR BETWEEN ADUMU (AKA ODUDU, ODUDUWA) AND OBATALA AND THE BIRTH OF THE 15 OR 16 DEITIES. IN REALITY IT WAS A THEOCRATIC AND POLITICAL WAR BETWEEN MEMBERS OF THE TEMPLE OF THE GREAT MOTHER GODDESS (WOYINGI) AND THE GODHEAD (OBATALA).
THE ALLIANCE OF THE GREAT MOTHER GODDESS OBTAINED THE VICTORY AND PRINCE ADUMU, WHO WAS ALSO AN ADUMU (ATUM) PRIEST INITIATE WAS INVITED TO CONSTITUTE A VIABLE GOVERNMENT. FOR HIS SERVICES PRINCE ADUMU WAS REWARDED AND PROCLAIMED THE FIRST AND ANCIENT KING WITH THE TITLE ADUMU-ALA (ADUMU THE LORD) AND ALA-AFIN (LORD OF THE PALACE OR FORTRESS). THEREIN KING ADUMU AND HIS ADVISERS PROCLAIMED THAT THE VARIOUS ANCIENT PEOPLES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES RESIDING IN DIFFERENT SECTIONS OF THE CITY SHOULD INTERMARRY AND FORM ONE NATION SO THAT PEACE REINS SUPREME, AND THIS WAS HOW OTU-IFE BECAME THE FIRST CITY STATE AND THEOCRATIC CONFEDERACY IN THE REGION (IFE).
MANY OF KING ADUMU’S COMPANIONS HELPED HIM CONSOLIDATE HIS REIGN AS KING, THESE INCLUDE, PRINCE OGUN, PRINCE IJO (IZONOWEI), PRINCE IGODO AND PRINCE NANA. EARLY ON MANY OF THESE PRINCES DECIDED TO LEAVE IFE FOR OTHER LANDS FARAWAY AS A PART OF GREATER EXPLORATION AND OPPORTUNITIES OF DISCOVERING NEW LANDS AND PLACES TO SETTLE DURING THE GREAT MIGRATIONS.
AFTER DISAGREEMENT AND SETTLEMENT WITH HIS ELDEST SON AND COMPANION PRINCE IJO (IZONOWEI), KING ADUMU SENT PRINCE IJO (THE KALASUO-ORU, THE ETEKURO-SERIAKE OR IDEKOSEROAKE) WITH A LARGE RETINUE OF ORU PEOPLE ALL THE WAY FROM IFE TO GUARD THE COASTAL WATERWAYS AND ESTABLISH A KINGDOM IN THE PRESENT DAY BENIN & NIGER DELTA REGIONS. WHILE HE KING ADUMU REMAINED REIGNED AND DIED AT IFE. HE IS REMEMBERED AS THE GREAT ODUDU (ODUDU-OWEI, ODUDUWA, ADIMULA, ODUM’LA) IN ANCESTRAL TRADITIONS.
THE LEGEND OF IJO (IJON, IZON) (ADAPTED FROM S. K. OWONARO, HISTORY OF IJO AND HER NEIGHBOURING TRIBES IN NIGERIA, 1949)
“…THE MANHOOD OF PRINCE IJO.
PRINCE Ijo grew up to be a stalwart man of exquisite physique. He was very powerful, warlike and brave. He gallantly fought with his father in many a battle to subdue their enemies. For such acts of valour, courage and power coupled with intelligence and amazing personality, Ijo became very important and respectable in the city.
As KING ADUMU was becoming somewhat old, he desired his son Ijo whom he dearly loved, to understudy him in the management of the affairs of the city and the art of its government. KING ADUMU thereon entrusted some of the important duties of the city to Ijo. At this Ijo became elated and began to pose as the Lord of the city, and he desired the people to recognize him as such.
His house was by the gate of the city, WHICH WAS A GREAT FORTRESS, As the citizens both male and female left and entered the city, he ordered them to remove their headdress and kneel down to salute him before passing. He made many such efforts to get the people to pay him obedience and homage as if he were the king of the place, he even went to the extent of monopolizing the use of the water of the spring of the place.
When his father King ADUMU heard all that, he sent for Ijo who appeared before his father with all the airs of defiance characteristics of a warrior. His father seriously reproached Ijo for those unbecoming acts and told him that he could only rule the people after the death of his father the king, and as such Ijo should wait meekly for his time. Ijo replied his father that he (the father) was getting rather toO old and could not efficiently manage the affairs of the city and as such his father should step down and allow him who had the stamina and virility to rule the people more efficiently. This enraged King ADUMU and a fencing duel between father and son ensued. Sharp arms were freely used in the combat but as both combatants were expert fencers no bodily injuries were inflicted on either of them before they were successfully parted. The priests and some elderly people in the town intervened in the matter and settlement was later made.
KING ADUMU’S COMMAND FOR PRINCE IJO TO LEAVE IFE (PRE – 650 AD).
After the incident King ADUMU gracefully seated himself at his majestic palace (THE AFIN OR FORTRESS and sent for PRINCE Ijo. Ijo buoyantly appeared before the king, but this time with sobriety and reverence, and humbly enquired at the purpose of the call.
His father the king, then said to Ijo –
“My dear son, you are a powerful and warlike fellow. You have a fervent desire to rule, a burning love for authority and AVIDITY for water and the living creatures therein. I have a majestic river (the lordly Niger) with numerous tributaries running most in a downward direction to a fathomless deep, the waters of the river, myriad of fishes abound and in the woods around its banks can be found abundance of wild animals for your food. Go and guard the mouth of this magnificent river with its beautiful sand banks, its graceful delta and the valuable extensive land through which it glides down. For if this river is not guarded, foreigners will come to seize it and possess it. I give you nine days to prepare and leave the city and proceed to that part of the country and rule there.
Ijo accepted the order with a nod, but asked for a sceptre to rule and as heir to the throne, he demanded the submission of the crown to him before setting out on such a far journey to an unknown destination. The king replied that his word was the sceptre and that a city such as his could not be without a crown and as such the crown could only be sent to him after the death of the king. The king also told him that the place of his final settlement would be indicated to him by the presence of cowries spread over the ground and at that place he would also find a crown to rule that part of the country.
KING ADUMU blessed PRINCE Ijo and wished him to wax more and more in strength and endowed him with gifts of great powers to vanquish his enemies. He however cursed him to receive no respect nor submission from his children who should be stubborn obstinate and unruly as he (Ijo) had been to his father. He pronounced that war and strife should haunt Ijo wherever he should go. The curse is believed to be responsible for the unruly behaviour of the Ijos and their insubordination to kings, but the endowment of power on Ijo by his father, King ADUMU gave the Ijos that enviable strength mentally and physically.
THE DEPARTURE FROM IFE.
After the expiration of nine days, Ijo left the GREAT city of Ife with a large retinue and a seer as a guide. They continued for several days, and the first place of encampment was the site where Benin City now stands Here ACCORDING TO LEGEND mysterious change in their dialect came upon them and as a result, at the time of departure, some people out of the retinue with the most perculiar of dialects remained behind. Those that remained behind became the first settlers of the place and these were the people whom ORANMIYAN AND HIS PEOPLE met when they immigrated to the place OVER FIVE HUNDRED YEARS LATER FROM THE HINTERLANDS IN ABOUT 1190 ad, and whose language they later spoke. What actually happened was that some of the Ijos people the Orus stayed behind and intermarried with the Efas, which centuries later caused the modification or mysterious change in dialect, other explanations include the arrival of other immigrants.
From here PRINCE Ijo and his retinue wended their way southwards and taking a more easterly direction they got to the Sapoba river, the first of the lateral creeks and tributaries to the Benin river. Here the difficult task of crossing the streams confronted Ijo and his party as they could neither return nor proceed. At this juncture Ijo with his supernatural powers endowed on him by his father, simply pronounced some words of incantation and land appeared across the stream. Along that land Ijo and retinue gleefully walked over to the other side of the stream and the land across the stream immediately disappeared. That same sort of power enabled Ijo with his people in overcoming other difficulties in his arduous and circuitous journey till they reached the banks of the main river Benin ESTUARIES. Here at a spot the weary travellers sojourned [encamped stayed for some time]. Through the advice of the seer, they undertook the manufacture of wooden crafts for their tour of exploration on the Niger. That gave birth to the art of canoe making in Nigeria.
The spot where the trees were felled and carved was called Wari-Igi and where the finished canoes were floated and fastened was called Wari-Ife. The two Urhobo towns of Warigi and Warife derive their names from these two words- Warigi from Wari-Ige and Warife from Wari-Ife. Wari means house or home, Ige is an obsolete word for trees, Ife means bubbles in the Ijo language….The explorers on leaving the place never returned and PRINCE Ijo’s follower who remained there with his wife became multiplied and founded the Urhobo race…..” END OF ADAPTATION
EXPLAINING FURTHER AT THE MOMENT OF HIS DEPARTURE PRINCE IJO’S FATHER, KING ADUMU CONFERED ON HIM, THE MYSTIC POWERS OF AUTHORITY TO INVEST HIM WITH ABSOLUTE POWER AND RIGHT OVER THE LANDS AND RIVERS THAT SHOULD COME UNDER HIS OWNERSHIP THROUGH EXPLORATION. THEIR FIRST ABORIGINAL HABITATION AND SETTLEMENT WAS THE SITE OF UZAMA (UZON-AMA, MEANING IJO-AMA), WHERE BENIN CITY NOW STANDS. SUBSEQUENTLY PRINCE IJO AND HIS PEOPLE SET UP THEIR FIRST SETTLEMENT. OTHER ABORIGINAL ORU PEOPLE HAD ALSO SETTLED THIS PLACE COMING IN FROM THE ANCIENT WATERWAYS THAT CONNECTED UZAMA WITH THE ANCIENT RIVER NIGER, WHICH HAS SINCE DRIED UP.
PRINCE IJO LEFT SOME OF HIS PEOPLE AT HIS FIRST ABORIGINAL SETTLEMENT OF UZON-AMA (UZAMA) IN BENIN SITE (ADO-BOU) TOOK SOME OF HIS BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN AND CONSTITUTED AN EXPLORATION TEAM TO EXPLORE THE WATERWAYS. THEY PROCEEDED TO SAIL DOWN THE MAIN RIVERS LINKING BENIN TO THE COAST. THEIR FIRST SETTLEMENT ALONG THE COASTAL ESTUARIES WAS THE SITE OF WARIFI AND WARIGI. HERE SOME SETTLED. FROM THIS SITE THE EXPLORATION TEAM MOVED ON TO EXPLORE THE COASTAL REGIONS WITH SOME SETTLING IN THE OPOROZA AND IDUWINI ESTUARIES, WHILE THE FINAL JOURNIES TOOK THEM UP TO THE CENTRAL DELTA. HAVING DISCOVERED AN ANCIENT ISOLATED COMMUNITY OF ORU PEOPLE LIVING IN THE CENTRAL DELTA, RULED BY THE PRIESTESS OR QUEEN ORU-YINGI, FATHER IJO AND HIS PEOPLE DECIDED TO SETTLE AT THIS SITE REMEMBERED AS AGADAGBA-BOU AND TOGETHER WITH THE OTHER ORU ANCESTORS (TOBU-OTU – THE ANCIENT PEOPLE) UNDER THE RULERSHIP OF THE ORU-YINGI, FORMED A CITY STATE KNOWN AS IJO CITY OR AGADAGBA-BOU. LEGEND ALSO HAS IT THAT THE ORU-YINGI PRIESTESS OR QUEEN GAVE HER AUTHORITY TO PRINCE IJO BY HANDING HIM HER SACRED CROWN OF COWRIES. HE THUS BECAME THE FIRST PERE OR KING WITH THE TITLES, THE KALASUO-ORU (KALA-SUO) THE INDO-ORU, THE OGULABIOWEI AND ETEKURO (ETEKURO-SERIAKE). ONCE THE NEW CITY STATE WAS FOUNDED MORE AND MORE ANCESTORS MIGRATED TO THE CENTRAL DELTA FOR THE PURPOSES OF COMMERCE, INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITIES, FISHING AND FARMING AND ENHANCED COMMUNITY LIFE. THIS CONTINUED UP TO ABOUT 1050 AD, WHEN A GENERAL DISPERSAL FROM IJO CITY (AGADAGBA-BOU) SET IN.
THE ORU PEOPLE THAT REMAINED BEHIND AT UZAMA (BENIN) MULTIPLIED AND WERE JOINED BY MORE PEOPLE FROM IFE LED BY PRINCE IGODO. THESE PEOPLE TOGETHER CONSTITUTED THE ABORIGINES OR AUTOCHTONES OF BENIN. PRINCE IGODO TOOK THE TITLE OGI-SUO (OGISO – PRINCE OF THE SKY, MEANING PRINCE OF THE REALM) AND WITH HIS FOLLOWERS, AND THEY EVENTUALLY ESTABLISHED THE FOUNDATION OF THE OGISO KINGSHIP AND SOVEREIGN NATION OF IGODO-MI-GODO (IGEDE-ME-IGODO – QUARTERS, PLACE OR LAND OF IGODO). ORIGINALLY UZON-AMA (UZAMA) AND IGEDE-ME-IGODO, WERE TWO SEPARATE SETTLEMENTS BEFORE FUSING TO BECOME THE FOUNDATION OF ANCIENT BENI KINGDOM. ALSO NEARBY LIVED THE EFA PEOPLE AND THEY INTERMARRIED WITH THE ORU PEOPLE, WHICH THROUGH TIME CAUSED THE LANGUAGE CHANGE AND MODIFICATION, ALTHOUGH THE SAME LANGUAGE OF ORU (IJO LANGUAGE) CONTINUED TO BE SPOKEN AT UZAMA AND IGEDE-ME-IGODO WELL UP TO THE 16TH CENTURY AD. THOSE ORU ANCESTORS THAT INTERMARRIED WITH THE EFA BECAME THE FIRST ANCESTORS OF THE URHOBO (FROM ORUBO, AND SOBO FROM UZOBO). THROUGHOUT THIS EARLY PERIOD FOR A 1000 YEARS PLUS, THE IJOS OR ORUS OF THE CENTRAL DELTA HAD COMMUNICATION WITH THEIR BROTHERS WHO LIVED AT UZON-AMA (UZAMA) AND IGEDE-ME-IGODO (ADO-BOU REFERRED TO AS BENIN).
THE FIRST IFE DYNASTY FOUNDED BY KING ADUMU LASTED FOR OVER 500 YEARS. THE ORU PEOPLE THAT REMAINED BEHIND IN IFE WITH KING ADUMU, CONTINUED TO LIVE IN THE ANCIENT CITY AND OCCUPIED THE SECTION THAT IS REFERRED TO AS IGBO-OLOKUN. EVENTUALLY THEY INTERMARRIED WITH THE OTHER ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES AND LATER IMMIGRANTS AND GAVE BIRTH TO WHAT IS NOW REFERRED TO AS IFE PEOPLE OR YORUBA. THE FIRST DYNASTY CAME TO AN END AND WAS REPLACED BY A NEW DYNASY LED BY ORANMIYAN FROM THE HINTERLANDS IN ABOUT 1200 AD.
(LEGENDS OF IJO ADAPTED FROM S. K. OWONARO, HISTORY OF IJO AND HER NEIGHBOURING TRIBES IN NIGERIA, 1949)
“…EXPLORATION ON THE NIGER BY IJO AND HIS FOLLOWERS.
Ijo and his followers commenced their exploratory journey IN the newly manufactured canoes in a southwesterly direction. After a long and arduous cruise, they were ushered as if by a magic wand, to the extreme northern end of Lagos lagoon. As they drifted listlessly along the lagoon, their peeping eyes caught sight of a graceful archipelago. The Iddo island, the Lagos island and other adjoining isles stand as relics of that once picturesque archipelago. Being attracted by that scenic sight, they made their way to the island immediately following the mainland. This island the Iddo island they so-journeyed and the temporary settlement became known as Ijora, being a corruption of Ojo-Orun ( OR IJO-URAU) the original name of Ijo. The title of chief Ojora of Ijora as a nomenclature for the head of Ijora family is simply reminiscent of THE Ijo’s (or Ojo’s) first settlement at Ijora.
From Ijora, Ijo crossed over to Lagos island and on rising land he settled and cultivated a pepper farm. This farm became known as Idumu Iganran, meaning the land of pepper – Idumu being an old Ijo word for land and Iganran for pepper. Iga-Iduganran the famous palace of the king of Lagos was a contraction of Idumu Iganran. The chief attendant of the farm was known as Opu Odubo meaning great servant in Ijo language. The word Odubo is still retained and used as one of the titles of the chiefs in the palace. After some time Ijo entrusted this farm to the charge of some of his able men and left with others for the eastern region of the Niger. Those that remained in Lagos took to farming and fishing and flourished there. In the course of time Benin hunters and farmers filtered into Lagos. These were friendly and the Ijos willingly ferried them to and from the island across the lagoon. When the Benis [Benin kingdom of the 16th century] immigrated to the island in overwhelming numbers, some of the Ijos migrated to the creeks near by, these include the Ojos in Badagiri creek, the Ilajes and other Yoruba speaking people in the creeks near Lagos. Those who stayed on the island of Lagos were later absorbed into the early settlers and original Yoruba inhabitants of Lagos [i.e. mainland].
When the new Benin KINGDOM rose to power IN THE 16TH CENTURY AD and started to harass ABORIGINE settlers in Lagos, a valiant grandson [descendant] of IJo named Arigbo- THE ARIGBOS was sent by his father Gbaran [GbaraUN] from EscRavos (OPOROZA TORU) River to stem their agression. The spot where Arigbo established his depot was Idumagbo (in Lagos) which is a corruption of Idumu-Arigbo, meaning the land of Arigbo. Arigbo fought gallantly against the BeniN ARMY at Lagos and along the creeks up to Benin River and succeeded in stemming the advance of the BeniN KINGDOM to the eastern region of the Niger DELTA.
On leaving Lagos Ijo endeavoured to trace his course back to Warigi with a view to reuniting with his brother the ancestor of the Urhobos, but unfortunately this could not materialise as that eventful journey was destined for further discoveries and further higher service…..”
“…Along tortuous creeks Ijo and his followers rowed and through weedy swamps they pulled till they got to the estuary of the ExcRavos river. Here Ijo AND PEOPLE settled for some time and founded along the river, villages, the people of whom are known as Tobu Otu (ancient people) among the Ijos. After some time Ijo placed his son Gbaran in charge of this place and pursued his adventurous journey. Leaving this place Ijo continued his journey eastwards along the littoral zone….. Leaving his brilliant son Ogbo with a few other people at Warri, Ijo with his COMPANIONS and retinue set out on a further exploration of the Niger. The appearance of numerous openings of various creeks along the route presented a rather tough and contesting task in the choice of the right course to take, however, the wise seer ASSAIN was alive to his job and ably guided the way.
Through sinuous creeks highly clothed in dense vegetation they rowed and against impeding weeds, and adverse tide they plodded northwards till the got to a certain confluence in the Forcados branch of the Niger. There they found the water fresh and flowing in one downward direction, there they gazed at the branches of the river and observed them enclosing a graceful little delta like a giant mother fondly embracing a child, and the main river was seen to stretch far north and to be lost to sight in a hazy mist.
PRINCE Ijo was apt to maintain that they had reached the main river and felt inclined to settle there, but the discovery of the river Nun which was the main branch of the Niger to the sea at the time was bound to come, and on the advice of the seer, they pulled on. Coursing in a south-easterly direction they rowed from one river to the other of the deltaic rivers through the numerous inter-connected creeks till they emerged at the estuary of the Nun branch of the Niger. At a suitable spot in the hinterland in the vicinity of Ibiama they settled. A pepper plant that was planted there then it is said lives to this day and has grown up to the size of a very large Kapik or wild cotton bearing tree.
PRINCE Ijo was not to rest until his promised land was reached. Consequently, after staying for some time he left there with his people and journeyed north-wards up the Niger. As they advanced up the river the advantage of moving occasionally with the tide got lost to them and they were forced to face a forceful current flowing in only one downward direction. At certain projections the force of the current of the current was to strong for them and their canoes were forced backwards many a time but with dogged determination they plodded on. They had to improvise some bamboo poles which greatly assisted them in pushing on their canoes faster when rowing along sand banks and other shallow water.
The journey carried them to Emete creek where at the present site of the village Emete in Boma clan they settled. After some time they set out again on their tour up the Niger. The journey was directed northwards till they got to the site where the Aboh town of Onyan now stands. Here a wonderful confluence of the Niger was found. At this confluence four rivers namely the Niger flowing from the north, the Nun, the Ofoni-toru and the Forcados met.
From here Ijo sent some of his followers to tour up the Niger. Those went and founded towns and villages along the banks of the Niger up to Atani. These are the Ibos of the lower Niger who now speak the Aboh dialect. Aboh was founded by Assain the accredited seer of Ijo. Like other Ijos and Urhobos these people now claim direct descent from Benin city though a few who immigrated to this part later are right to make such claim. The apex of the massive delta of the Niger was just at a point opposite the present site of Onyan but it has been washed further down by the forceful current. The stream known as Ofoni-Toru was a large stream rising from the apex of the Niger and running between the Forcados branch of the Niger and the Nun which was then known as Ikolo-Toru. It is a wonder to see this Ofonitoru so completely silted up that navigation in it is absolutely impossible for even the tiniest fish during the dry season. It now leaves only a trait of its mouth in the form of a ravine near the Isoko town Canaan, and its course inland is just a chain of little lakes and ponds.
Into this Ofonitoru Ijo and the rest of his people entered. Along the stream they glided down till they got out to the Igbedi creek. They moored alongside a spot at the banks of this creek, and as they wandered about the bush, they discovered some cowries lying scattered along the ground and at this spot the crown too was found as promised by King ADUMU (ALIAS ODUDU). Here in the bush known as Agadagba Bou [ie the place or forest of Agadagba – bou=place] they settled. Legend has it the other way, that after their settlement at this place, PRINCE Ijo seized the crown from water mermaids (PRIESTESSES OF ZIBARAU) who were found dancing at a meadow on the bank of a river.
FATHER IJO AT HIS SETTLEMENT –
Here FATHER Ijo AND HIS PEOPLE prospered and became greatly multiplied. THEY beget many children and had many grand and great grand children. FATHER IJO’S children honoured him and wished him to live long. This they expressed in the Ijo language Indo O and Ujo became nicknamed “Indo” by some of his children while the Abohs call him “Indo Oru”. At times Ujo’s children called him “Kalasuo” meaning “Small God” and at times they called him “Ogulabiowi” at other times they called him “Kumoni”…..”
AT AGADAGBA-BOU FATHER IJO AND HIS PEOPLE JOINED WITH OTHER ANCIENT ORU SETTLERS AND ESTABLISHED THE FIRST CITY STATE IN THE CENTRAL DELTA KNOWN AS IJO – CITY (IJO-AMA, UZAMA, EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE ONE IN THE BENIN REGION) THIS CITY STATE BECAME REMEMBERED AS AGADAGBA-BOU BECAUSE IT WAS ONCE THE BURIAL GROUND OF THE EGBESU PRIESTHOOD.
AT IJO CITY, FATHER IJO NOW PERE-IJO, THE IBENANAOWEI AND IBEDAOWEI OF IJO-IBE (IZON-IBE) SENT THE ANCIENT ADUMU (SUPREME INTELLIGENCE SYMBOLISED BY THE SACRED GREAT PYTHON) PRIESTHOOD TO THE EASTERN DELTA TO GUARD AND SETTLE THAT REGION. THIS PRIESTHOOD WAS LED MY THE ADUMU PRIEST KENI-OPU-ALA, STATED IN THE LEGENDS TO HAVE DESCENDED FROM THE SKY AND SENT BY ADUMU HIMSELF. KENI-OPU-ALA AND A SMALL RETINUE WENT AND FOUNDED THE ANCIENT TOWN OF KE IN THE EASTERN DELTA. FROM KE OTHER ANCIENT SETTLEMENTS WERE FOUNDED IN THE EASTERN NIGER DELTA.
FATHER IJO DIED AT HIS IJO CITY STATE OF AGADAGBA-BOU. AND AFTER HIM THE IJO-CITY CONTINUED TO FLOURISH FOR MORE THAN 400 YEARS. IN ABOUT 1050 AD MALADMINISTRATION, CONFUSION AND COMPETION SET IN, AND COMBINED WITH THE NEED FOR NEW LANDS TO ACCOMMODATE GROWING POPULATION, ANCESTORS DECIDED TO MIGRATE OUT OF AGADAGBA-BOU. DURING THIS PERIOD ANCESTORS LEFT AGADAGBA-BOU AND ESTABLISHED ISOMA-BOU IN THE SAME GREATER ISLAND AREA NOW KNOWN AS WILBERFORCE ISLAND. OTHER ANCESTORS WENT AND SETTLED FURTHER DOWNSTREAM IN THE NOW OPOROMA AREA OF BOUPERE-BOU, AND OTHERS DOWN TO FORM THE APOI OR KALASUO KINGDOM.
FROM THE ANCIENT IJO CITY STATE OF AGADAGBA-BOU, ISOMA-BOU, BOUPERE-BOU, ANCIENT APOI AND KE, DESCENDANTS OF THE FOUNDING ANCESTORS MIGRATED TO BOTHER THE EASTERN AND WESTERN NIGER DELTA TO GIVE BIRTH TO THE IJO NATION AS WE KNOW IT. THEY WERE LATER TO BE JOINED BY IJO (ORU) DESCENDANTS, IGODO (OGISO) DESCENDANTS AND EFA MIGRANTS, WHO MOVED INTO THE MAIN NIGER DELTA AT THE TIME OF THE COLLAPSE OF THE OGISO GOVERNMENT OF ANCIENT BENIN, AND ALSO ESCAPE THE TYRANNY OF THE NEW OBA RULERS DURING THE 16 CENTURY AD.
(LEGENDS OF IJO ADAPTED FROM S. K. OWONARO, HISTORY OF IJO AND HER NEIGHBOURING TRIBES IN NIGERIA, 1949)
“…THE BENIS – PRINCE IGODO OR GODO, the ancestor of the OGISO-BENIS was the forth son of THE GREAT ADUMU (ALIAS ODUDU), king of Ife. At the death of KING ADUMU, PRINCE Igodo was also sent to look for PRINCE Ijo the eldest son, to succeed their father on the throne. After a long and futile search, Igodo returned only to tell the citizens of Ife the unpleasant story of the failure to find Ijo. The priests and lords of the city sent Godo again to call back Lufon, the second son, from Oyo to assume the reigns of the place in place of his elder brother, but Lufon refused the offer and simply sent back Godo and his followers with a cow for the funeral ceremonies of their father. On his return to Ife, Godo was upset to find that his father’s estate had already been shared off by his other brothers and sisters and that nothing was left for him save an aged widow of their father. The old woman invited Prince Godo to her house but, as he loathed her company, he refused. The old woman riddled, “Good and bad things often go together,” Being curious of that saying, he followed her to her house; on getting to the house, she riddled again, “It is a person that closes a door and it is a person that opens a door,” “and I have opened your door for you,” With these words she unveiled a screen at the corner of her house and there Prince Godo was amazed to find the mystic regalia of authority and conquest of King ADUMU (ALIAS Odudu). During the fracas which followed the disorderly disposition of the king’s property the old woman sneaked into the palace and removed that regalia to her house. The regalia of authority and conquest was something like a piece of wood with a string hung at lintels of doors of some native homes in keeping doors closed. The old woman suggested to the prince that she would hand over that powerful regalia to him if only he would consent to marry her and maintain her. To this proposal Prince Igodo readily consented. He thereon left Ife with the old woman, A RETINUE and the regalia of authority and conquest to found his own kingdom. He migrated southwards till he got to the present site of Benin City where he met the remnants of Ijo’s followers (The Orus) who remained behind during Ijo’s journey with them from Ife and these people with WHOM PRINCE Igodo settled along with the Efas gave birth to the Benin language. Prince Igodo was installed the king of the place with the title “Ogiso” and his was remembered centuries later as Obagodo (the prefix, Oba being a Yoruba word for king during the times of the Eweka Oba dynasty, even though Ogiso Igodo and all other Ogisos never bore that Oba title).
With the gift of conquest believed to be inherited from his father through his only heirloom, the regalia of authority and conquest, Ogiso-Igodo conquered all neighbouring settlements in battle or they agreed to form the Igede-me-Igodo confederacy.
Later centuries when the Ogiso rule collapsed, many of the descendants of the Ogisos, including Ogiso Igodo descendants fled into the main Niger Delta and joined their ancient Ijo kin or brothers in the central Niger Delta”
END OF ADAPTATION
This is the man account of the Ijo ancestral tradition regarding the ancestors settling the Niger Delta and the relationship between Ijo, Ife and Benin.
Father Ijo and his people, first made permanent settlement at this place remembered as Agadagba-bou and built it into a City State. It was here that they discovered his crown (given legitimacy and authority to rule) and also he met some priestesses (the mermaids or mamiwater) through which he also gained legitimacy to rule the Niger Delta.
These journeys by waterways in huge canoes did not take very long, temporary settlement may have been months or years before getting to the final settlement. As recently as the 1940’s people still travelled by canoe from the central Niger Delta to Lagos by hand pulling canoes. It took them 18 days with stops on the way to do the trip. So ancient Ijo people could travel from the Benin region to the central delta with enough foodstuff and fishing on the way in a similar timeframe. Because of water transportation, ancient Ijos could travel long distances and penetrate the most isolated of environments.
Under the administrative authority and jurisdiction of Father and Pere Ijo of the ancient ORU People and with administrative headquarters in the central Niger Delta at a place remembered as Agadagba-Bou (the lost City of Ijo) 9 families or lines of descent (the Isena-Ibe) consisting of the original exploration families and other Oru aboriginal settlers came together and gave birth to the Ijo nation, with Father Ijo (Ijo, Izonowei) as the first Pere (King) titled THE INDO-ORU, THE KALASUO, THE OGULABIOWEI and THE ETEKURO (ETEKURO-SERIAKE, corrupted to Idekoseroake, the title he was remembered by at Old Ife). Organised into nine lines of ancestral descent (family lines), they all come under the authority and traced descent from the main ancestor Father IJO as the direct sons or children, either actually and symbolically (for the purposes of unity). These nine lines of descent are remembered and represented by the following primary ancestors; they are the primary ancestors who helped establish the new political and social entity of IJO.
- GBARAN (GBARAUN)
- OPU-OKUN & KALA-OKUN
- OPORO & OLODI (IGBEDIGBOLO)
- OGULA & KURU
- ORU (TOBU)
- OPU-OGBO & KALA-OGBO (OGURU)
THE LOST CITY OF IJO 650 – 1050 AD APPROXIMATELY
After establishing at Igbedi creek (the lost city of Ijo or Agadagba-bou), Father Ijo sent for more of his people who were at WARI-IFE, WARI-IGE, OPOROZA, and ADO (BENIN). The city-state founded in the central delta area of Igbedi Creek remembered as AGADAGBA-BOU, is now inhabited by the Kolokuma Ijo. Other towns established as a part of this extant kingdom include ORU-BOU, and ISOMA-BOU in the same vicinity and KE in the eastern delta coast.
Ancestors converged into this new city-state with the common objectives of taming the wild Niger Delta environment and utilising the natural resources for their daily living. Centuries later all these ancient towns were eventually abandoned accept Ke because of several reasons such as erosion, civil strife, fishing expeditions and population migration.
The lost City of Ijo and other settlements within the Igbedi Creek area (Wilberforce Island) and central delta under one central unified authority (The Pere, The Indo-Oru) appears to have existed from upwards 400 years starting from about 650 AD to about 1050 AD, but built on earlier foundations. During this time the ancestors evolved the Ijo ethnic identity, and the ancestors formally adopted the name IJO as representing the emerging ethnic nationality. By the time they started to disperse, 400 years later, the ethnic identity had become fully established; customs and culture had evolved in harmony with the delta water environment, so that their descendants described themselves as such, ‘THE IJO PEOPLE – IZON OTU, even though they were also formally known by our ancient names of ORU, and KUMONI. Lastly the proto-ancestors of the Ijo People were also referred to as the “water people” (BENI-OTU) and by ethnic neighbours such as Itsekiri, as the “spirits-ancestors of the sea” (UMALE-OKUN).
AGADAGBA-BOU (Prior to 7th Century AD): Nine families (The Isena-Ibe) of the ancient Oru-Ijos eventually came together and gave birth to the first Ijo City State in the Niger Delta remembered as AGADAGBA-BOU, situated in the Wilberforce island region of present day Bayelsa State (although the first City State, it was not the first or only settlement at the time). Furthermore during this period they also established coastal settlements as spiritual centres and guard points in the following ancient sites – Oporoza (Gbaranmatu), Amatu (Iduwini), Kula and Ke, all directly linked to the Ijo City State of Agadagba-bou.
Early on, the Priests of Adumu Lodge went and founded Ke, led by the High Priest Keni-Opu-Ala, while Egbesu Lodge priests were in charge of the Oporoza-toru and Iduwini-toru coastal estuaries. It was at Agadagba-bou that Father-Ijo was formally crowned as King/Priest PERE IJO (THE INDO-ORU) having been conferred the powers of the ORUYINGI Priestess of the primordial titular Divinities representatives of ZIBARA WOYENGI, The Supreme Mother Goddess, to rule with authority and power over the Niger Delta regions. He became known as Father-Ijo (Izon) and ancestral founder of the Ijo Ethnic Nation in the ancestral tradition lodges.
Main Niger Delta – 7th to 11th Century AD: The Ijo City State of Agadagba-bou existed for about 400 years or more up to about 1050 AD. Due to internal strife, and environmental factors, the descendants of the founding ancestors abandoned the ancient city, taking with them their various family and royal symbols of office and Titular Divinities, the main ones being ADUMU, BENIKURUKURU, EGBESU (SUO-EGBESU), OPUOGULA, OBOROWEI, DIRIMOGBIA, and traditional titles such as KALASUO, INDO-ORU, PERE, AGADAGBA and AMANANABO (AMAYANABO). Traditional historians maintain that Gbaraun inherited the sceptre of Ijo and Gbaraun descendants took with them the Agadagba title being members of the Egbesu Lodge. Meanwhile the descendants of Opu-Ogbo took the Opu-Ogula lodge with them and set up their own autonomous community in Isoma-bou.
11th Century to 16th Century AD – From Agadagba-bou, Isomo-bou was founded. The ancestors that took OPUOGULA titular divinity went and founded an ancient town remembered as Isomo-bou (Isoma-bou or Opuan-bou); also in the central delta Wilberforce island vicinity. From Isomo-bou descendants went and founded Obiama (Ibiama) led by ancestor Obia (Ibia or Ibi). From the demise of these two ancient settlements many ancestors left to establish their own towns and villages giving birth to a number of Ijo clans and kingdoms in the central, eastern and western Niger Delta.
From Agadagba-bou demise or even before the demise, ancestors went and established an ancient town remembered as Bou-pere-Bou taking with them the Egbesu and Boupere Titular Divinities, amongst others, and from the demise of this ancient town ancestors left to establish their own towns and villages giving birth to a number of Ijo clans and kingdoms in the central, eastern and western Niger Delta.
From Agadagba-bou a second Agadagba-bou was founded taking with them Egbesu and Oborowei Titular divinities and others. At the demise of this second ancient settlement many ancestors left to establish their own town and villages giving birth to various clans and kingdoms in the central and western Niger Delta.
Also during this period (12 century AD to 16 century AD) Ijo aborigines of Benin, due to the insecurity and other factors left Benin and joined their relatives in the main Niger Delta. They settled amongst the ancestors of the various sub-groups, but are also chiefly represented by the Mein (Meinyi) Clan or subgroup.
Thus we can see how most of the Ijo Niger Delta was peopled by the primordial communities that once lived in the ancient City state (remembered as Agadagba-Bou) situated in the now Wilberforce Island of present Day Bayelsa State, and the aborigine Ijo inhabitants of the Benin region (Ado-bou).
THE FLIGHT OF THE IJOS FROM BENIN CITY (UZAMA AND IGEDE-ME-IGODO)
The Ijos or Orus are the aborigines of Benin City and riverine (waterways) environment. The ancient Ijo ancestors lived at two main towns or settlements, these were Ijo-ama (Ujo-ama, Uzon-ama, Uzama, Usama, meaning the town of Ijo) and Igede-me-Igodo (Igodomigodo, meaning the quarters of Igodo, now land of Igodo). Igede-me-Igodo further become the name of the ancient Beni kingdom or confederacy. All this is prior to 600 AD.
Now, Father Ijo left some of his people at his first settlement which became known as Uzama, and they with other Oru became the first aborigines or autochthones of Benin region. They were soon joined by Prince Igodo and his retinue from Ife, and also the ancient Efas who migrated from the immediate northern hinterlands. They are lived side by side autonomous communities before Prince Igodo organised them into a confederacy with allegiance to him due to his prowess in warfare and battle. Prince Igodo was given the title the OGI-SUO (prince or ruler of the sky, meaning ruler of the realms, also pronounced OGISO, both SUO AND ISO mean sky in Ijo and Benin language). After the death of Ogiso-Igodo he was succeeded by his grandson Prince ERE and after Ogiso Ere at least 30 Ogisos ruled the Benin confederacy for at least 500 years before internal confusion and external invasion ended their rule.
During the time of the Ogisos Beni city state made up of Uzama, ruled by the Ondo (Indo) Oru, Igede-me-Igodo, ruled by the Ogiso (who also was the overall ruler) and Efa territory, ruled by the Ogi-Efa, became an urban centre and the surrounding outskirts was settled by many different immigrant groups. Many of these people emigrated to different parts of West Africa after the collapse of the Ogiso government.
About 1190 AD, one Oranmiyan (Oranjan) the son of Laro from the hinterlands arrived in the Ife city state and conquered the inhabitants. He was driven back and he retreated to Okuland, where he became king dwelling in Oduma-Ushe (Uhe). From Oduma-Ushe (Uhe) and not Ife, Oranmiyan made war on the Beni confederacy, which was going through a crises of government with the collapse of the Ogiso dynasty. Many of the Ogiso descendants had by this time emigrated into the main Niger Delta to settle with their ancient kindred Ijo in the central delta and coasts.
Oranmiyan or Oranyan, on his first attempt to conquer Beni confederacy, encountered stiff resistance at the Ovia River by the local Ijos autonomous communities at Ikoro. After several attempts Oranmiyan circumvents the Ovia river route and infiltrates Uzama (the aboriginal Ijo settlement of Beni) to try and settle peacefully. It is at Uzama that he sets up base, but due to stiff opposition from the aborigines he is forced to leave. By the time he has left with his forces, he has formed an agreement with some of the Uzama chiefs (the seven Uzama) and also some of the leaders of the Efa (i.e. Ogiefa). It is whilst here that Oranmiyan has a son by an Efa (Egor) woman. This son is named Eweka. Eweka does not grow up in Uzama, and some traditions maintain that he grew up in Ugbo in old Ilaje territory. Once a man, Eweka is assigned to conquer Beni Confederacy. He and his troops also encounters stiff opposition in trying to establish a foothold over the Beni Confederacy but is restricted by the Uzama Ijo aborigine chiefs. There is continuous struggles for power between Eweka descendants and the Uzama aborigines up to the fourth generation of Ewedo. It is only after the forth Oba Ewedo that they gain some success in establishing dynastic control over the half of Benin towns and settlements (the confederacy) under the control of the Uzama aborigines. Which is to say that before Ewedo, the previous Obas did not exercise monarchical power over the entire Beni confederacy and had to contend with the Uzama aborigines? The Uzama were the aboriginal Ijos of Benin, along with their relatives the Ogisuo (Ogiso) descendants (Ogiamen).
Ewedo also encounters major resistance from the Ijo aborigines of the Ovia river complex and also the inhabitants of Igede-me-Igodo (the Ogiamen). It was during one decisive battle that Ewedo captured the royal stool of the Ogisos from the Ogiamen. In the ensuring peace treaty there was the ritual division of the land between the Oba Ewedo and the Ogiamen (Ogiso descendants), and this is known as the treaty of Ekiopagha. The remnant leaders of the Ogiamen, custodians of the Ogiso stool and the leaders of the Uzama were then invited to form a government and administrative jurisdiction with Ewedo at the treaty of Ekiopagha. The treaty specified the division of the confederacy into two regions, one ruled by the Oba and the other ruled by the Ogiamen. On the death of an Oba, the new Oba had to pay a token fee to the Ogiamen on the right to rule over his domain.
Therefore the 2nd EWEKA Benin dynasty was established not be peaceful invitation, but by force of arms, combined with the crises of government of the Ogiso dynasty. The 2nd Benin dynasty established the Obas as the new rulers and the Beni confederacy was changed to an autocratic kingdom. It was because of these factors during the long struggle between the new imposter kings (Obas) and the indigenous Ijo (Oru) and Efa inhabitants that many ancestral Ijos left Benin for the Niger Delta, between 12th and 16th century AD, because the Obas started to confiscate the lands of the aborigines. But resistance was still put up by some sections of the kingdom. The Eweka dynasty was not fully accepted. From time to time the leaders of the Uzama presented resistance to the illegitimate regime at Benin. The Eweka dynasty only becomes fully accepted when Ogun (Ewuare) ascended the throne.
Ewuare (Ogun) it is stated was the child of a noble woman who descended from the Ogisos, i.e. to say she was an Ogiso princess, an Ogiamen so to speak, he could therefore claim matrilineal descent from an aboriginal indigenous princess. This may have been a deliberate process on the part of the indigenous element to put in place a ruler who was favourable to their interests. As a young man Prince Ogun was banished or forced into exile, but with the help of some of the aboriginal elements of Benin (the Ijos), Ogun ascended to the throne after a great battle that lasted two days and two nights. Because of the services rendered to him by his aboriginal loyalists he renamed the kingdom officially ADO, the nickname of the aborigines by the Obas, due to their greeting form ADO O’ DOLO O’ DO TEME’ They were also further rewarded for their services. So Ogun ascended the throne of the Ogisos and united in himself the two dynasties (the older indigenous Ogiso dynasty and the younger Oranmiyan-Eweka dynasty. It was during Ogun’s time that the trouble ceased. But they still had to keep to the terms of the Ekiopagha treaty. It was from his time that the monarchy became semi legitimate and stabilised by Ogun Ewuare creating a state council integrating the Indigenous chiefs in a power sharing arrangement.
We have learnt that the aboriginal Ijos (Oru) and Efa population of Benin (ADO-BOU) were remembered as the UZAMA and the OGIAME (OGIAMEN), also called the Ados (corrupted to Edo), while the new settler dynasty were the so called Yorubas or Iweres. With the ascension of Oba Ogun Ewuare, the process of the integration between the remaining indigenous aboriginal inhabitants the IJOS (ORUS), the EFA, summarised as the remnants of the ADOS (OGIAME and UZAMA) and the later emigrants (IWERE-YORUBA) was completed. But by this time the Ijo speaking element of Benin had become a minority in the Benin region, due to intermarriage with the EFA amongst other things. This intermarriage gave birth to some of the Orubo (Urhobo) clans so to speak. Subsequently the Oranmiyan-Eweka dynasty started a tyranny of rulership, confiscating the land of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Benin region (the ancestors of some of the Urhobos and Isokos and sections of Ijos), which led to massive migrations out of Benin.
We have learnt of the power struggles or battles between the new ruling Oba-Eweka dynasty (Iwere) and the Ados – the Uzama/Ogiame indigenous population of Beni, descendants of the ORU and EFA aborigines of ancient Benin kingdom (IGEDE-ME-IGODO). The battles and the following tyranny led to sections leaving Benin for the Niger Delta. Herein is the reason for the Ijo narratives which attest to such actually occurring.
Many of these people moved into the main central delta and coast to join their kith & Kin already established in the region. This is the reason why between the 12th to 16th centuries, a large section of the Ijo ancestors who once lived at Benin, migrated into the Niger Delta. Lastly the civil war between Prince Oru-Ayan (who appears to have been an Uzama Prince) and Oba Esigie was the final catalyst that led to the last remaining Ijo elements to leave Benin and move into the main Niger Delta. The route of migration was Aboh, then central Niger Delta, or western Niger Delta first, on to the central delta coast and up to Aboh.
Nothing is known much about Prince Oru-Ayan, who was he? Was he another descendant Prince of the Ogiso dynasty or Uzama aboriginals that attempted to reclaim the throne of the Ogisos? Further historical investigations should throw more light on the above.
So where did the Ijos of Benin go when they settled in the Niger Delta with their ancestral kindred? During the early phases of the collapse of the Ogisos (1190 AD), the Beni-Ijos moved first to Oporoza near the Atlantic coast (Escravos) and then eastwards (1400 AD) to the central delta. These people founded sections of the Kalabari Clan. During the time of the civil war at Benin (1500 AD), others moved first to Aboh, which was still Ijo speaking, From Aboh they moved into the central Delta and settled with the ancestors of the Tarakiri, Kolokuma, Opokuma, and Ogbein, to collectively give rise to the Tarakiri, Kolokuma, Opokuma, Ogbein and Beni (Oyiakiri) and Mein and Kalabari clans or sections of Ijo and maybe others. Hence the tradition of Benin origins from these clans citing civil war and tyranny as the reason for leaving, even though Benin is not the place of ultimate origin.
FORMATION OF THE CLANS AND KINGDOMS
The primary clans and communities under the names of their founding ancestors are the most ancient of the Ijo communities. From these primary clans and communities in the central delta, western delta, eastern delta and Benin region, and interaction and migrations between the related communities between 800 – 1800 AD, the Ijo Ethnic Nation came into existence. These primary ancestors are –
The ancestor GBARAUN, ancestor of IJO-GBARAUN (Southern-Ijo), GBARANMATU (OPOROZA I), AROGBO, TUOMO, KABO, KUMBO AND GBARAN & (EFFERUN, UVWIE, OKPARABE AND OLOTO URHOBOS. And other Ijos
The ancestor OPU-BENI, ancestor of the MEIN, IBENI (OYAKIRI), OBOTEBE sections of KALABARI and other Ijos
The ancestor OPU-OKUN, ancestor of the OPUKUMA and other Ijos
The ancestor KALA-OKUN (alias ALUKU-DOGO), ancestor of the KOLOKUMA, APOI, IBANI and sections of NEMBE, TUNGBO, BUSENI, OKODIA and other Ijos
The ancestor APOI, ancestor of the APOI, UKOMU & AKASSA CLANS and other Ijos
The ancestor TARA, ancestor of the TARAKIRI, & ANDONI and other Ijos
The ancestor OPU-OGBO, ancestor of the EKPETIAMA & SEIMBIRI, EPIE-ATISSA, OBIAMA, and sections of WAKIRIKE & NKORO and other Ijos
The ancestor KALA-OGBO (alias OGURU), ancestor of the IDUWINI, sections of OGBE-IJO & EGBEMA and other Ijos
The ancestor OPORO, ancestor of the OPOROMA & OPEREMO, sections of BASAN, FURUPAGHA, sections of OGBE-IJO & EGBEMA and other Ijos
The ancestor OLODI (alias IGBEDIGBOLO), ancestor of the OLODIAMA and sections of NEMBE and other Ijos
The ancestor OGULA, ancestor of the OGULAGHA and other Ijos
The ancestor KURU, ancestor of the KRUS’ of Liberia and sections of Ijos
The ancestor OYAN, ancestor of the OGBO-OYAN (OGBEYAN or OGBIA) and other Ijos
The ancestor BOMOU, ancestor of the BOMA and other Ijos
The ancestor IBI (OBI, OBIAMA), ancestor of the OGBOIN, BOMOU, sections of TARAKIRI CENTRAL, WAKIRIKE, and sections of NEMBE and other Ijos
The ancestor ORU, ancestor of the KE, KULA, TOBU, and hence sections of KALABARI and other Ijos
The ancestor KENI-OPU-ALA, High Priest of Adumu, ancestor of the KE and hence KALABARI sections and other Ijos
Some Secondary ancestors
The ancestor OPOROZA II, ancestor of the KABO, KUMBO AND GBARAN
The ancestor MEIN, ancestor of the MEIN & sections of KALABARI
The ancestor PEREBO-KALAKEBARI (KALABARI), the grandson of MEIN, ancestor that gave name to KALABARI
The ancestor KALA-BENI (ALAGBARIGHA), ancestor of the IBENI (IBANI, OR BONNY)
The ancestor OPUBO-PEREKULE of IBANI, ancestor of the OPUBO (OPOBO)
ANCESTRAL IJOS & OTHERS founded ZARAMA, EPIE-ATISSA, ENGENNI and other neighbouring peoples
From ancient times up to 1000 AD nine (9) ancestral lines gave birth to 19 communities that were the primary clans of Ijo. Between 1000 – 1800 AD, these 19 clans also combined and interacted with each other and gave birth to a further 40 + clans/kingdoms. Combined they make up the Ijo Autonomous Communities or Ijo Ethnic Nationality.
The Ijo Ethnic Nation inhabit the Niger Delta, and the individual communities, clans and kingdoms functioned as autonomous communities for centuries as their own sovereign entities, but defended and allied together against external threats from time to time. This was the state of affairs up until the arrival of the Europeans in the 1400’s AD, where the Niger Delta was engulfed in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that destabilised the Niger Delta. After the slave trade era there was the period of trading in raw commodities, and then the British colonial subjugation. Towards the end of the colonial period, Ijo Ethnic Nation was organised under the Native Authority system. During this period of colonisation, the Protectorate and Colony of Nigeria were divided into provinces for the purposes of administration. We had the Northern Provinces, the Western provinces and the Eastern Provinces. Of the Eastern and Western Provinces, the Ijos were aboriginal or indigenous to the following provinces. West – Ondo, Benin and Warri (Delta), while in the East we had Rivers and parts of Calabar Provinces. For the purposes of administration the following Ijo (Ijaw) Native Authorities were established under the Native Authority Ordinance of 1943. These Native Authorities affirmed the traditional and natural boundaries of the autonomous Ijo Clans and Kingdoms, as well as the traditional and natural boundaries of the Ijo Ethnic Nationality in relationship to its neighbours in the Niger Delta. We have the following:
WESTERN IJO (IJAW)
- Ijaw-Apoi District Native Authority (Comprising also of Ukomu and Furupagha)
- Arogbo District Native Authority.
WARRI (DELTA) PROVINCE:
- Western Ijo Central Native Authority (Comprising Gbaranmatu, Ogbe-Ijo, Isaba and Egbema, Olodiama and those below, subordinated to the Central Native Authority)
- Benni Clan Area Native Authority
- Iduwini Clan Area Native Authority
- Oporoza (Kabo and Kumbo) Clan Area Native Authority
- Mein Clan Area Native Authority
- Ogula Clan Area Native Authority
- Oporomor (Operemo) Clan Area Native Authority
- Seimbiri Clan Area Native Authority
- Tarakiri Clan Area Native Authority
- Tuomo Clan Area Native Authority.
- Opobo Town Native Authority
- Andoni Native Authority.
- Eastern Ijo Central Native Authority
- Akassa Native Authority
- Apoi Native Authority
- Bassan Native Authority
- Bomou Native Authority
- Ekpetiama Native Authority
- Gbaran Native Authority
- Kolokuma Native Authority
- Ogboin Native Authority
- Okordia-Buseni Native Authority
- Zarama Native Authority
- Opokuma Native Authority
- Oporoma Native Authority
- Tarakiri Native Authority
- Tungbo Native Authority
- Epie-Atissa Native Authority,
- Nembe Native Authority
- Ogbeyan (Ogbia) Native Authority
- Ayama Native Authority
- Emeya Native Authority
- Oloibiri Native Authority
- Bonny Native Authority
- Kalabari Native Authority
- Odual (Saka) Native Authority
- Okrika Native Authority
REFERENCES ON REQUEST