HISTORY OF EKPOMA:
- EGUARE (2,961; 6,159: 1963):
This consists of:-
- The Royal Family and families that grew into quarters out of servants who traditionally lived in Ikokogbe.
- UKPUGHE which was founded by Isidaehomen, the second son of Udawe.
- UWENLENAFUA which was founded by AFUA, a junior brother of Udawe and second son of ODIA and
- UWENLEN – OIBO which was the very first settlement of the Binis who deserted the City during the Oba Ewuare the Selfish reign. Their leader was Ijiebomen: from here the ruling family moved to present Eguare.
(2) UHONMIDUMUN (2,748 – 2461):
This is described as the very first settlement of Ekpoma and as a unit in Ekpoma, it consists of the following quarters:
(a) IGBE- IBHIUASE
(d) ISIBHI – ENELO
Ihonmidumun or Uhonmidumu is the centre for all major and serious meetings in Ekpoma and in the olden days when INOTU assembled there, the exact spot being UGHE – ORIEMUN, the matter for discussion was grave. With this traditional importance, it is necessary for one to go into the history carefully.
I have been given several reasons for why Ihonmidumun is so called and why it is first in Ekpoma, Eguare taking precedence because it is the seat of government. Many elders maintain that Ihonmidumun became first after UDA had rewarded its founder, UASE for his sacrificial services. That would mean that before Uase there was no settlement in Ihonmidumu and since Vase was a servant to the Onojie in Eguare, Eguare in theory and practice, was senior to Ihonmidumun. But all elders are agreed that in theory, Eguare came after Ihonmidumun.
Some elders told me that Ihonmidumum came to be so called after the Ora Warrior, Idimu, was killed. The Ora people fought even more bravely to prevent the head of their leader falling into the hands of the enemy, but in the struggle, Ihonmidumun got the head (UHONMON) while the brave Ora fighters could only recover the valueless body. Where the head was finally buried came to be known as VHQNMQN-IDIMVN. This story has not got us far as regards the history of the village. It only emphasizes the fact that before this battle there was already a settlement at the present Ihonmidumun.
What then is the truth about this important village of Ekpoma? The truth is that as usual, the original or indigenous settlement is often overshadowed by the new-comers who were either superior in number, talent, might or hostility. Before Vase and before any other settlement in Ekpoma there was a primitive and humble settlement called OWON-ONA; the actual enlargement of this settlement came during the second dynasty of the Ekpoma Ruling House.
When Uda returned to resuscitate the extinct Ruling House round about 1845, he was so impressed with the selfless services of Vase, his grandfather’s great servant that he decided to share all Ekpoma with him. Uda chose Eguare, ENE, and EMAUDO while Vase chose OWEN-ONA, IRUEKPEN, UJEMEN, UHIELE and IGOR. Uase, now a man of authority, withdrew from Eguare and went to settle at Owen-Ona. This great reward, merited only from utter disregard for his own personal feeling is –I expressed today in Ekpoma as “UASE NON GA OJIE TUE EKUE- A!” (Uase who served his King up to the point of burning his male organ!).
Now here was “a man second only to the ruler of the land – any wonder that he and his descendants soon imposed themselves upon the originaJ settlers of Owen-Ona? Soon, Vase’s family began to enlarge. He- had the following sons, in order – ABIE, OGO, OMOFUA, the founder of IKHIDEV, and a host of younger ones that had not separated from their father before he died. Isibhelua headed these younger ones. This name ISIBHELUA came to be the name of the originaJ settlement of Vase and is today, the first quarter of Ihonmidumun. Ogo founded IDVMOGO and Omofua’s Ikhideu later migrated to Egoro.
Abie, Vase’s heir, himself had the following children: OIDE, founder of Idumuoide, Ama, Oakhen, founder of Idumuoakhen, Osumen and Odu. The quarter founded by the son soon came to assume political importance in Ihonmidumun, and till this day when a new Onojie comes to the throne, he must come to Ihonmidumun for installation as the owner of not only Eguare, Ene and Emaudo but to assume ownership of the original Uase territory. Where he stays is at OHEN OWIA, this priest being the direct descendant of Abie.
- Ishibhi – Enelo:
A majority of the settlers were descendants of Enelo who hailed from IDUNEGBON in Benin City. These descendants were quite distinct in that they forbade carrying dead bodies, since according to the old tradition anybody who had carried an IYIE-OBA (Oba’s mother) never soiled his head carrying another dead body in his life time. The founder, Enelo, had the dubious honour of carrying the dead body of an Iyie-Oba!
- Isibhua and Isibhohi:
Once the great Uda was having his annual UJE at which several heads were to fall. One of those whose heads were destined to fall on that day was the wealthy but homeless IZANOGHA, who later passed into Esan legendary because of his bravery and excellence in medicine and magic with which he mesmerized his opponents. When the executioners started at the head of the line of condemned men, Izanogha made up his mind that he still had many, many days to live and enjoy this world. While all eyes were fixed on the executioners as they danced themselves into a state of frenzy before dealing the fatal blow on their next victims, Izanogha made a bid for freedom; the power of his legs was his saviour! Rather than upset the whole ceremony for the sake of one escaped condemned man, a few chased him and as he disappeared round the comer, they gave up the chase. Reaching his house, he gathered up his family and fled. Somewhere in the jungle, his first son, UHI, remained behind and thus founded ISIBGUA, one of the quarters of Ihonmidumum. The second son, ISELUA founded ISIBHUA. At Egoro area another son called EBO, Another son called ABIA was the founder of a quarter in the present ABIA IRUEKPEN. Near the present lruekpen market brave Izanogha felt he had put sufficient thick impenetrable forest between himself and Uda, and so he settled down to found the first settlement of IDUMEBO, lruekpen. One of the children who followed him founded IDUMEHONLEN.
The only reminder of the original settlement founded and dominated by Uase and his descendants is that when OTO – EKPOMA needs purification, people of OWEN – ONA in ISEBHELUA do the worship. This is in accordance with Esan tradition – the first settlers in a new district were the worshippers of the EARTH.
- UJOELEN (710 – 1054)
One of Oba Ozolua’s daughters called UOELEN was so beautiful that all the great men of Benin fought to secure her hand in marriage; the battle was so much that the girl who combined beauty with wisdom, decided to shun the contestants with their wealth, and to spite them, she chose a nonentity as a husband. This was an unprecedented insult on such great Binis as the lyase, Ezomo, Uwague etc. To humiliate the princess they demanded the head of the innocent man. Uoelen fled with her Romeo, seeking safety in the jungle. They founded UJOELEN and they expressed thanks to God who delivered them safely to their hideout by worshipping OJIEBIUDU, which actually was no juju but just an expression that they were then in existence by virtue of the Onojie who owned the land and on their own strength of evading the jealousies of powerful Benin Chiefs.
- UKPENUN (1,169 – 1,688)
Ukpenun Ne Eka was founded by OLOWEMEN, an Ekpoma Prince who lost the fight for succession. The rest of Ukpenun descended in the main from Ihonmidumun.
- UKE (1,963 – 493) and IDUMEBO (1963 – 923) were by and large, extensions from Ihonmidumun.
- UHIELE (3,868 – 6,281):
This is the generic named for:
- UKPOKE (1963 – 1,247)
- AKAHIA (1963 – 1,(02)
- IDUMUEGAN (1963 – 332)
- EHANLEN (1963 – 1,720)
- EBHOAKHUALA (1963 – 771)
- IDUMIGUN (1963 – 332)Founded by a blacksmith from Ugbegun and a man from Iruekpen and
- IKHIRO (1963 – 390) Founded by settlers from Urhonigbe.
- UKPOKE: OJOLE was an Oba’s son who committed a crime so grave that the Binis were after his life. He fled into the jungle and after many days of wandering, tired and worn out, he fell asleep under a tree. The unforgiving Binis who had been tracing his footprints located him in a thicket but before they could get to him, a cuckoo cooed near him thus waking him. Hearing the excited noise of men round him, he knew he had been caught by his father’s long punitive arm. Resistance was pointless and running impossible – so he went on his knees and begged for his life. His. Life was accordingly spared after his passionate pleadings, and in gratitude to this bird which is honoured by nearly all the Uhiele villages today, he settled in the place where he was found; this settlement became UKPOKE.
Ojole soon began to grow in importance and the Onojie hearing of him sent for him to visit him and he would make him a chief. The proud Benin man felt his accepting a title from an Onojie infra dig particularly as he was an Oba’s son, irrespective of the rumour that he left Benin City in a rather undignified haste. He therefore declined the offer and sent a servant instead. That servant was created EDOHEN who later founded AKAHIA, wedged between Ukpoke, Ehanlen and Eguare. Later, he Ojole was made the Eson, quite fittingly as this gave him a position of a guardian to the Onojie.
- IDUMEGAN was founded by one of Uda’s sons called EGAN. He had fled from Eguare to escape punishment at the hands of his influential father.
- EHANLEN: Ojole had a very serviceable slave called ORENMENU who was so impressed with the thick grove of oil palms nearby, that he used to be a day or more away collecting palm nuts for his master. He was later given a little girl slave to bear him company as he used to be several days before he got back home. Soon nature had its way, and Orenmenu pregnated the girl in the bush during their off-duty hours. Fear made him keep away for quite a long time but later he saw the childishness in hiding so he came home to report his lapse to his master, Ojole, who was shocked and thoroughly angry at thoughtless Orenmenu going to foul such a virgin soil. He was however given the necessary things to go and purify the grounds and the little girl was given him as a wife. Where they stayed in this palm grove became EHANLEN from the purification of the soil HANLEN – To purify). The, wife was forever nagging at him that he brought her away from her home at Ukpoke where she was happy. To please her, harassed Orenmenu built her a house first, but whenever it was raining she drove out the poor man. To guide against this cruelty he decided to build himself a house but whenever he began work on it she would begin to sob that Orenmenu just wanted to add to her misery by leaving her alone in her house. The result was that Orenmenu succeeded in building a house for his wife but he had to live without a roof over his head!
Ehanlen soon grew into a large village but a large migration took place when Uda persistently raided the village for slaves. A large body of men in search of freedom founded EHANLEN ONIHA in Ewu.
- EBHOAKHUALA was founded by an ORA man called AKHUALA.
- IKIDRO founders were partly from Urhonigbe and partly from Eguare.
EMUADO (1,232 – 1,653)
The first settlement here was the one founded by a Nupe called IDUBOR. Some warriors lumped together as “Hausas” later stayed behind with him but most of these really were from the Northern part of IFEKU (IHEKU) Island on the Niger. Many of the Emaudo quarters are quite distinct and have no blood relationship whatsoever. They form the same village just because of the nearness of the quarters. Thus marriage is possible amongst members of two adjacent houses.
Many of the early inhabitants left during the Eguare-Ikeakhe War of 1850. Some of these refugees founded IDUNWELE of Ewu, IDUMU OLOGHO in Ubiaja and UDOWO, Irua.
EMUHI (2,064 – 2,944)
This is a group name for the eight quarters which in order of seniority are:
(i) EBHOJIE – whose founders were people stationed on the western side of Ekpoma by the Onojie of Ekpoma to stem human and slave movements on the Benin road.
(ii) OKE (864) – Founders were from Uhiele.
(iii) IGOR (1,455) – Founders were from Ojieghudu and Ora. For many years the whole area known today as EMUHI went as Igor.
(iv) IDUMUNEGBQN – Founders were from Ukpoke.
(v) UVUE – Founders were partly from Eguare with some being of the same stock as Ekougbo of Uke.
(vi) UDO (369) – Founders were from Uhi, Urohi and Eka (Agbor area).
(vii) EDUIKI (252) – Founders were mainly traders who finally settled in the area to make trading between Benin and the Esan country easy. Some of them founded Ugbiokho now in Uhonmwode Local Government Area.
(viii) UWEHIMIN – Founders were from Idumisi, Urohi. The four quarters of Ebhojie, Igor, Oke and Idunmunegbon are united in their worship of the goddess of the lake Amanhanman whose hereditary priest comes from a particular quarter in Oke.
For some fifteen years these eight quarters that had lived and operated as one village, had been at each other’s throat because of a name. Igor, a virile village with many industrious and important sons and daughters, situated right on the main road and the most accessible, had overshadowed all the others and came to replace the original name of EMUHI. There are several examples of group names in Esan, ready examples being ILLEH which covers Imule, Ukhiodo, Ebhorua, Uguoben, Uwene, Idumeakon, Ekunanlen, Ihonmidumun and Enogban. Uhiele covers Ebhoakhuala, Idumegan, Ehanlen, Akahia, Ukpoke, Idumigun and Ikhiro. In Ugboha Emaudo is the generic name for Idumuabekhae, Idunzenebi, Idumu – Iyasele, Afuda, Iduenema, Idumuoso and Idumu – Ihaza.
The amount of destruction and bad blood that occurred in 1985 can “only leave a visitor flabbergasted as houses, market and schools were built with no boundaries over the years. St. John Anglican Primary School, Emuhi Ekpoma, now known simply as Emuhi Primary School, caused no disruption to the community who used it with gratitude to the Anglican Mission. It needs charity to understand the emotional feeling of seven out of eight villages today resenting the name Igor by which all of them were known even to the British when they arrived the area in 1901 and when I was gathering materials for the first edition of this book in 1953.
ENE (2,241 – 3,210)
This is the group name for nine villages stretched along the Ekpoma – Ewu road and consists of:-
viii. IHQNMIDUMUN and
Most of the early inhabitants were natives of IBHIARO in the old Kulrurulru Division now Etsako Local Government Area. IDUMUENUELE made famous by the prolific ENEARU, was founded by people from ARUE – UROMI, while a part of Ukhiodo came from Idunwele of Ewu.
This is a large district populated by very industrious, shy and gregarious people. It consists of:-
- a) ABIA: A quarter which was founded by one of the great Izanogha’s sons named Abia.
- b) IDUMU-OZA – which is where the Oniha of Ekpoma lives
- c) IDUMU – AGBEDE is the blacksmith quarter
- d) IDUMU-EMALUA
- e) EBHOKPE – which was founded by a man of Benin extraction called OKPE
- f) OGBOMON – which in full is OGBOMOIDE
- g) IDUMUOGO – founded by Ogo, one’ of the many children of Uase
- h) UGHODIN
- i) IKHIN
- j) IDUMUEKE – founded by another Benin man called Eke.
- k) IDUMUEBO – which was founded by the fleet-footed Izanogha himself.
- l) IDUMUEHONLEN was founded by one of Izanogha’s children. It is unsafe for anyone to be dogmatic about the origin of many of the quarters making up a place like Iruekpen because as a result of admixture of population, the different places lost their early distinctive affiliations. Many settlers came from Benin City and adjacent districts like Eho, Ojieghudu etc. Traditionally the different quarters were grouped as follows:-
- Idumuogo and Idumuoze
- Ughodin and Idumuemalua
iii. Idumuebo, Abia and Idumuehonlen
- Ogbomoide, Ebhokpe and Idumeke
- Ikhin which has some blood affinity with a quarter called
- IKHINERARA of Emaudo Ekpoma.
(11) UJEMEN (1,734) is closely linked with lruekpen and is closer to Idumebo, Abia and Idumuehonlen than to any of the other quarters.