Little Known Facts About the Ijaws #14

AGADAGBA-BOU (THE EXTINCT CITY STATE OF IJO)

Based on the ancestral narrative outlined by the late S K Owonaro in his classic book The History of Ijo (Ijaw) And her Neighbouring Tribes In Nigeria (1949).

In the chronological account of events, Owonaro outlines that sometime prior to 700 AD the early Ijo explorers of the Niger Delta led by Ijo himself arrived in the central Niger Delta. They establish a settlement city state at a place in the central delta remembered as Agadagba-bou in Igbedi Creek (Wilberforce Island of present day Bayelsa State). By 1050 AD we have the first dispersals of the descendants of Ijo from Agadagba-bou, and then about 50 years later in 1100 AD we have a second dispersal where the children of Kala-Okun leave Agadagba-bou. Agadagba-bou is then returned to within the same period and inhabited up to about 1600 AD. This may also be a different site, and not the original ancestral city. Further research indicates that after 1600 period, the second Agadagba-bou is abandoned permanently and the whole area becomes a sacred site used by the ancient priests of Egbesu.

In settling the Niger Delta it is commonly believed by academics that the ancient ancestors arrived from the main River Niger and sailed down through the northern delta apex, but this is not borne out by ancestral tradition. Although some ancestors may have arrived in this way, the bulk came in through an indirect route, using both land, felling trees and watercraft such as canoes via Benin route. This would have been because of the nature of the ancient Niger Delta itself, with its dense swamps and impenetrable swamp forests and floodplains. So the ancient ancestors settled the Niger Delta as it became more hospitable, by coming down the coast using the ancient Benin estuaries which were connected to the main River Niger, then following the coastal fringes to settle some of the islands, and then moving up the main outlets of the Niger Delta to settle the central delta in Basin Island now called Wilberforce Island. The indirect evidence for Wilberforce island is that it may have been inhabited as far back as 800 BC (BCE).

The main narrative that establishes Agadagba-bou is retold in ancestral tradition. It appears as one short story, but in reality the events spanned at least 500 years. As follows, some sections are omitted and terms modified to allow for easy understanding and free flow of the main points:

  1. “…The journey carried them [i.e. the Ijo exploration team] 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….”
  2. “…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….”
  3. “…Here in the bush known as Agadagba Bou they settled. Legend has it the other way that after their settlement at this place, Ijo seized the crown from water mermaids [water priestesses] who were found dancing at a meadow on the bank of a river…”
  4. “…IJO AT HIS SETTLEMENT- Here Ijo prospered and became greatly multiplied. He beget many children and had many grand and great grand-children. His children honoured him and wished him to live long. This they expressed in the Ijo language Indo O and Ijo became nicknamed “Indo” by some of his children while the Abohs call him “Indo Oru”. At times Ijo’s children called him “Kalasuo” meaning “Small God” and at times they called him “Ogulabiowi” at other times they called him “Kumoni”….”
  5. “…One of the sons of Ijo named Beni who, was later became known as Ibani, was a good hunter, he was such a good marksman that he was nickednamed Alagbaarigha meaning, “weapon never misses”. This nickname was later shortened to Alagbarigha. Alagbarigha went out on a hunting expedition down the Niger Delta and discovered the Bonny River. He returned and reported his discovery to Ijo his father, who was exceedingly pleased with his son over the discovery. Ijo blessed Alagbarigha, offered him one of his Sea Gods (represented by the boa-constrictor) known as Adimu and dispatched him to that part of the delta to guard and rule there. That instilled into the other sons of Ijo a keen lust to go out to rule places; and thus after the departure of Alagbarigha, Ogbo one of the sons of Ijo and the founder of Ikibiri [Isoma-bou], fled with one of Ijo’s chief deities and a few followers to the thick forest and settled there. That was followed by the flight of (Kalabeni) Ibeni, Okpo (the founder of Okpoma) and Bumou or Boma with their families taking with them Ijo’s important deities to their present settlements. The desire of each of the children of Ijo to rule made them to become unruly and insubordinate to their father….”
  6. “…THE CHILDREN OF IJO – Ijo had many direct and grandchildren [descendants] of whom mention can be made of the following: Gbaran, the founder of Oporoza and other sections of Ijo, Opu-Okun, the founder of Opokuma, Kala-Okun, the founder of Kolokuma, Tarakiri, the ancestor of the Tarakiris, Opu-Ogbo, the founder of Ikibiri [Isoma-bou], Opu-Beni, the founder of Ibeni, Kala-Beni, the founder of Ibani (Bonny), Bumou, the founder of the Boma clan, Ogboin the ancestor of the Ogboins, Kuru, the ancestor of the Kroos in Liberia, Ogula the founder of the Ogula Clan, Kala-Ogbo or Oguru the founder of Iduwini Clan, Igbedigbolo or Olode the founder of Olodiama, Obi or Ibiomaowei, the founder of Ibiama, Opuamaku, the elder brother of Beni the founder of Bonny, Oyan the founder of Ogbeyan.
  7. “…After the departure of Ijo from Agadagbabou, his younger brother assumed the reign of the place….”
  8. “…Following the death of Ijo’s brother, a confused state of affairs prevailed at Ijo’s settlement, in other words pandemonium ruled supreme among the Ijos. Strife, civil wars and rivalry among the children of Ijo caused them to separate from one another and to scatter away to different parts of the country and even to other countries such as the Gold Coast and Liberia….”
  9. “…Tarakiri, Opu-Okun and Kala-Okun with a few other brothers were the last to leave the settlement founded by Ijo. They became so linked that they alone could tell that they were children of one father who was known to them as Indo as stated in a previous chapter. Opu-Okun and Kala-Okun who were born of the same mother named Yeitariere became more attached than others. However, after some time, the best three brothers parted. Tarakiri left for a certain creek in Western Ijo, Opu-Okun moved afield and settled at a creek known as Ofonitoru but Kala-Okun remained and settled at their father’s settlement of Agadagbabou…”
  10. “…The different names, nicknames and titles of Ijo, such as Ijo, Ojo, Orun, Oru, Ogulabiowei, Kalasuo, Indo, Kumoni, Izon and Uzon will, it is hoped, enable some sections of Ijo to tell whether they are direct children of Ijo by knowing one of these names to be a name of their ancestor……”
  11. “…Kala-Okun settled within the vicinity of Ijo’s settlement and the settlement which Kala-Okun founded became known as Kala-Okun-ama which was corrupted to Kolokuma. Kala-Okun desired to rebuild their father’s LOST CITY, and with that objective in view he sent out expeditionary forces to those his brothers who eloped away with Ijo’s important deities…”

Being an ancestral tradition story told in the language of ancestors, the various Ijo ancestors and descendants were personified, thus Ijo is the personification of all the ancestors before and during his actual time who explored the Niger Delta and made it their home. Other ancestors mentioned also personify their actual descendants depending on the context of the narrative. This is because ancestral tradition can only be remembered orally and recalled from memory and dreams or pictures in the form of a story narrative.

Points to come out of this ancestral narrative is are as follows:

Founding autochthonous ancestors came up the main outlets of the River Niger and settled at place remembered as Agadagba-bou. Here they formed an aboriginal community that eventually became a city state.

Reference to Adimu (Adumu, Odum) shows that the Priests of Adimu were the first to leave Agadagba-bou and be sent to the Eastern Niger Delta establishing Ke and other ancestral settlements that preceded Ibani (Bonny).. Ke is thus the foundational mother settlement in the eastern delta giving birth to others. The Ke dialect of Ijo is the main dialect that later Ijo immigrants adopted as they moved into the eastern Niger Delta.

Oduma magazine vol 2, No 1, August 1974 states; 

  1. “…A further evidence of the ancestral nature of the god Keni Opu Ala is the fact that the cult really refers to the worship of Odum, Adum or Adumu (the African python) one of the most widespread cults in the Eastern Niger Delta. The informant expressed the python base of the Keni-Ala cult in various ways; that the ancestor Keni-Opu-Ala and the others had been brought down from the sky by Odum [Adumu] that “the sacred totem of Keni-Opu-Ala was Odum…”

Isoma-bou (referred to as Ikibiri) another ancient extinct town once situated on Wilberforce Island was also founded from Agadagba-Bou. The Opuogula priests were the founders. It was from Isoma-bou that many other Ijo settlements were established.

Updated research on the above is as follows

Niger Delta AGADAGBA-BOU (Prior to 7th Century AD): The ancient Oru-Ijos from the ancient hinterlands settled the Central Niger Delta and were joined by their relatives from Ife and Benin region during remote times.  Prince Ijo was the founder of the Ijo Nation by centralising the newly formed communities and organising them into the first city state in the central Niger Delta. Nine exploration 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.

The Priests of Adumu (Adimu) went and founded Ke, led by the High Priest Keni-Opu-Ala, while Egbesu priests were in charge of the Oporoza-toru and Iduwini-toru coastal estuaries. It was at Agadagba-bou that Prince-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 represented by ZIBOARA an attribute of 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.

Main Niger Delta – 7th to 11th Century AD: The Ijo City State of Agadagba-bou existed for about 500 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).

11th Century to 16th Century AD

From Agadagba-bou, Isomo-bou was founded. The ancestors (named as Ogbo or Opu Ogbo) that took OPUOGULA titular divinity went and founded an ancient town remembered as Isomo-bou; also in the central delta Wilberforce island vicinity. From Isomo-bou descendants went and founded Obiama (Ibiama) led by ancestor Obia (Ibia). 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 and 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 peoples 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 other ancient settlements such as Ke, Oporoza and Amatu.

From about 1050 AD onwards the unified political and social entity began to give way to more autonomous communities, which became the clans and kingdoms of Ijo. This was due to internal strife, military expeditions and economic necessity. Some of the Clans or autonomous communities were founded or established by the founding ancestors who are referred to as the ‘direct sons of Ijo’, while others were established or named after secondary ancestors, i.e. descendants of the founding ancestors. The autonomous communities maintained relations with each other, but became politically independent of one another, still helping each other within the framework of their Ijo ethnic identity. These communities where organised around spiritual initiation institutions, namely EGBESU, ADUMU (ADIMU, ODUM) and ZIBO-ARA or ZIBA), with WOYINGI-TAMARA as the HEAD.

The Ijo City State of Agadagba-bou existed for about 500 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).

These primordial Ijo communities were organised under lodges of the divinities, the main ones being ADUMU, EGBESU, OPUOGULA, OBOROWEI, ZIBA (ZIBARAU OR AKASO) AND DIRIMOGBIA. The various Ijo clans and communities can be traced to being descendants of original members of these various spiritual realisation lodges.

SUMMARY

IJO ANCESTORS (ORUS) SLOWLY SETTLE AND EXPLORE THE NIGER DELTA STARTING FROM A NORTHERN AND WESTERN NIGER DELTA PRIOR HABITATION. THESE INCLUDE THE SITE OF BENIN CITY ITSELF (UZAMA AND IGEDE ME IGODO), WARIFI AND WARIGI, IDUWINI, OGULA AND OPOROZA ANCIENT SITES ACCORDING TO TRADITIONAL HISTORY

FOUNDATION OF IJO CITY STATE – AGADAGBA-BOU

FROM AGADAGBA-BOU WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING ANCIENT COMMUNITIES FOUNDED:

KE & OTHERS (LODGE OF ADUMU)

ISOMA-BOU (LODGE OF OPUOGULA)

BOU-PERE-BOU (LODGE OF EGBESU)

OGBO–OYAN (OGBEYAN)

FROM KE & OTHERS (LODGE OF ADUMU, ODUM) WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING ANCIENT COMMUNITIES FOUNDED

KE & KENGEMA RELATED COMMUNTIES, WHEN JOINED BY LATER IJO SETTLERS – TO GIVE BIRTH TO ANCIENT KALABARI, KULA AND OTHERS

FROM ISOMA-BOU (THE LODGE OF OPUOGULA) WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING ANCIENT COMMUNITIES FOUNDED

OBIAMA (IBIAMA) – TO GIVE BIRTH TO BOMA (BOMO), OGBOIN, TARAKIRI CENTRAL, SECTIONS OF NEMBE, WAKIRIKE (OKIRIKA) BILLE

ISOMA-BOU (OGBO) – TO GIVE BIRTH TO EKPETIAMA, SEIMBIRI, EPIE-ATISSA AND OTHERS

FROM BOU-PERE-BOU (THE LODGE OF EGBESU) WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING ANCIENT COMMUNITIES FOUNDED

GBARAUN I – TO GIVE BIRTH TO IJO-GBARAUN, GBARANMATU, AROGBO, TUOMO, KUMBO, GBARAIN, KABO, (URHOBOS – EFFURUN, UVWIE, OKPARABE)

OPOROMA – TO GIVE BIRTH TO OPOROMA 2 (OPEREMO) SECTIONS OF OGBE-IJO AND EGBEMA, SECTIONS OF FURUPAGHA & BASSAN

OLODIAMA – TO GIVE BIRTH TO OLODIAMA WEST (VICE VERSA)

FROM OGBO-OYAN (OGBEYAN OTOKOLO) WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING COMMUNITIES FOUNDED

ANCIENT OGBIA COMMUNITIES

THOSE THAT REMAINED AT AGADAGBA-BOU FORMED THE FOLLOWING COMMUNITIES

TARAKIRI – TARAKIRI WEST AND ANDONI

OPUKUMA  

KOLOKUMA – TO GIVE BIRTH TO APOI, IBANI AND SECTIONS OF NEMBE & OGBIA, IJO-APOI (WEST), UKOMU, SECTIONS OF OKODIA AND BUSENI

All the above ancient clans and communities received settlers from the Ijo aborigines of Benin and together formed further clans and communities which are not mentioned above.

FROM 12TH TO 16TH CENTURY IJO AND EFA MIGRATIONS FROM BENIN TO THE CENTRAL DELTA, WE HAVE THE FOLLWOING

MEIN – CENTRAL AND WESTERN MEIN

SECTIONS OF KALABARI

BENI (OYAKIRI)

OBOTEBE

EPIE

ENGENNI (EGENI)

ZARAMA

OKODIA

SECTIONS OF NEMBE

SECTIONS OF OGBOIN

SECTIONS OF OGBIA

FROM 12TH TO 16TH CENTURY MIGRAIONS FROM THE EASTERN REGIONS INTO NIGER DELTA WE HAVE MIXED WITH IJO ANCESTORS

SECTIONS OF ANDONI (OBOLO)

ABUAN

SECTIONS OF OGBIA

REFERENCES

Owonaro S K (1949) The History of Ijo (Ijaw) and Her Neighbouring Tribes in Nigeria

Oduma magazine vol 2, No 1, August 1974

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