Edo Civilization, Esan War Machine and the Founding Of Lagos (Expanded And Revised)
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Written  by Anthony Okosun {Last Update August 2, 2022}

The Portuguese visited West Africa at a time the Edos had an empire that was very largely in control of a very vast portion of West Africa. The empire of the Edos spread from today’s Nigeria to Ghana. The Oba of Benin, back then, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Orhogbua was represented in Portugal by an Ambassador and the King of Portugal, back then King Emmanuel was represented in Edo Empire’s administrative capital Benin city by an Ambassador sent from Portugal. The King of Portugal and the Oba of Benin agreed that international trading ports should be built in some locations along the West African coast where the Oba had influence and control. The international trading ports became the matrix cornerstones for some of today's major cities along the west coast of Africa. Lagos is one of the international trading ports built then as a result of the joint Portuguese - Edo venture. The Edos called the settlement where the port was built Eko, meaning camp in Esan Edo. The Portuguese called the settlement Lagos, which means lakes in Portuguese. Back then, there was already a city in Portugal also known as Lagos.

To have a better understanding of what the Edos did in Lagos, we should consider a modern example, very near home.  There were folks in Abuja and the other settlements that constitute Nigeria's federal capital territory. However, the genesis of the Abuja that we have today is directly traceable to the decision of the federal government of Nigeria under General Murtala Muhammed to relocate Nigeria's federal capital from Lagos to the present location. Thus the founder of Abuja as Nigeria's federal capital territory is the Federal Government of Nigeria. Today, the Federal Government of Nigeria runs Abuja. The Federal Government of Nigeria has broken up Abuja into districts and zones and has named the zones and districts. The Federal Government of Nigeria is running Abuja now.

The above is exactly, the story of the Edo people in Lagos. The Edos and the Portuguese settled on Lagos Island as a choice location to build an international trading port and thereafter, the Edos "possessed" the place. An ancient port was built, and for hundreds of years the Edos developed, controlled and managed Lagos. Research has actually shown that the Edos extended their control, influence, dominion and suzerainty over Eko from Lagos Island to all that area now known, called and referred to as Lagos State. Thus, the gist of this article is not about who discovered Lagos, but who founded Lagos. The era of the founding of Lagos is over now. This article is not about the ownership of Lagos, based on the Edos past occupation of Lagos. The British came after the Edos, they too have since left the scene. This article is about the aspects of the Edo founding of Lagos that have been forgotten or have been undetected by Historians radar.  

The experiment of the Edos and the Portuguese in Lagos (Eko) is reminiscent of the experiments that created New York, Los Angeles, London and Chicago among many other global cities. The above named locations are all cities that were built on the platform of trading ports and exploded around such ports. These cities and many other global cities all grew exponentially as a result of the development or building of ports in such locations. Chicago did not grow into a major city until an inland water-way port was built in Chicago.

Lagos which was initially a camp (Eko) established by the Edos for the development of a trading port, has now grown into a major cosmopolitan settlement. Unfortunately, the story of the founding of Lagos has suffered severe mutilation, by many who had hitherto attempted to tell the story of the founding of Lagos with a jaundiced perspective. The oral version of the founding of Lagos has been so tampered with, that the names of places in Lagos today are meaningless in any language whatsoever. These names are only meaningful if reversed back to the language of the original founders of Lagos. The language of the original founders of Lagos is the Esan Edo language. The history of early Lagos is embedded in the names of places in Lagos. A good understanding of that language, which is the Esan dialect of the Edo language will throw open the doors to the history of early lagos.

It is manifestly obvious that the early history of Lagos Island can be very easily deciphered by an accurate understanding of the names that have remained in Lagos from the time of the founding of Lagos. Eko is not a general Edo word. Eko and Idumu as in Idumota and Idumagbo and all the Idis and Idus are all specifically Esan Edo names. They are not Bini Edo nor Afemai Edo. The Benin alternative for Idumu is Idunmwun. In Lagos we have Idumu as in Idumu-Ota and Idumu-Agbo. Thus Lagos was originally founded by the Esan Edos. However, we should recognize that while the Esan soldiers were founding Eko and many other parts of what is today known as Lagos State, under the auspices of the Edo army; the Bini army was contemporaneously founding Etin Osa, Agidingbi, Oshodi et al. (All Bini Edo names).  IDU-GARRAN (Quarters of Igarra [soldiers] confirms the presence of Etsako Edos in the Eko project. Without a doubt, all the members of the Edo family i.e. Esans, Etsakos (Osakon) [meaning Dental Surgeons] were in Lagos at the invitation of Emperor Orhogbua.

 In Uromi and other Esan towns, Idumu Idis, Idus and Eko are still in vogue. Till this day in Uromi there is still Idumu Okojie, and Eko Imiokolo. In Uromi, there is Idumu Eka, Ukoni, Uromi.  That is, the quarters of immigrants from Ika. In Uromi, there is Idisaba, that is the quarters of immigrants from Asaba. In Uromi, there is Idumu Oshodi, that is the quarters of Oshodi family members that immigrated to ancient Uromi from Benin. In Uromi, there is Aga - Ausa (Hausa) quarters of Hausa immigrants. In Uromi there is Agi-Igbo (Quarters of Igbo immigrants. Agi-Yo-Oba (Aga-Azanama) (Quarters of the Yoruba immigrants). Aga is used here like Idu, Idi or Eko i.e Aga-(Enegbode) Ga Aga Accra, Ghana; which was equally founded by the Edos.

On its official web site, the government of Lagos presented its own version of the history of the founding of Lagos Island“Until the coming of the Bini's, Lagos's geographic boundary was what is known now as Lagos Mainland. Lagos Island, the seat of the Oba of Lagos then consisted of a pepper farm and fishing posts. No one lived there though. The name Eko was given to it by its first King Oba Ado during its early history, it also saw periods of rule by the Kingdom of Benin. Eko was the land area now known as Lagos Island where the king's palace was built.”

 In his piece, captioned Brief History of Lagos Island, Michael Uchebuaku, wrote on Yahoo Contributor Network “However, there is another account of Lagos before 1603 that comes from a Western visitor. In 1603, Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, a German surgeon, aboard a Dutch merchant ship, visited Lagos. According to his accounts, Lagos was a large frontier town surrounded by a strong fence and inhabited by "none but soldiers and four military commanders, who behave in a very stately manner."

The Lagos visited by Ulsheimer and his trading colleagues nearly four centuries ago was in many ways highly developed. Each day its four commanders came together as a court and each day two envoys were dispatched to take decisions back to their ruler in Benin. To do so, Ulsheimer wrote, was a common practice in all towns under the suzerainty of Benin…

Ulsheimer's accounts seem to confirm Benin oral traditions of conquest and occupation of Lagos during the sixteenth century. How Oba Orhogbua of Benin (1550-1578) occupied the island of Lagos, established a military camp there and from that base waged wars on some people described as rebels against his authority, in the immediate interior. Ulsheimer  gives the first account, documenting the transformation of Lagos from fishing camp to a trading centre, and from an autonomous settlement to a Benin tributary. Lagos Lagoon was known to European traders by 1485, when it first appeared on maps, but the town of Lagos was not included.”

 “If Ulsheimer's account is correct, then it appears that the daily gathering of Lagos governors was one of military commanders from Benin, and not heads of local settlement. Gradually, however, additions were made to that body. The vehicle via which accretion took place eventually was called Ose Iga a ceremonious meeting of Lagos held at the palace every seventeen days.”

OSE-IGA as recorded by the ancient German Surgeon Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, after his 1603 visit to Lagos is clearly ESAN EDO. OSE is from OSENOBULUA which is ESAN EDO. BINI EDO would be Osa(lobua). IGA means worship in Esan Edo. IGA is in contradistinction to EGUA (PALACE in Esan Edo) [Yorubanized in Lagos to IGA]. OSE-IGA as written by  Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, the 1603 German Surgeon visitor to Lagos means  (WORSHIP OF GOD) / CHURCH in Esan Edo. OSE-IGA as used by the Edos in 1603 in Lagos is a connotation of the spiritual instrumentality of assimilation of the local Awori’s into the politburo of state leadership in the early days of the Edo tributary of Lagos. For easier understanding by the reader of the concept of OSE-IGA, we will now consider an Esan Edo alternative for OSE-IGA. ISODELNIMI which literally means knocking on the doors of the spirits is a variant of OSE-IGA. ODE means door in Esan Edo. ELINMI means Spirits.  Members of Esan IGBABONELINMI (applauding the Spirits via clapping of hands) masquerade dance group, inducts new members through the instrumentality of ISODELINMI. The fact that the Esan Edo army commanders in Lagos as far back as 1603, assimilated the local Aworis into the institution of governance in Lagos via OSE-IGA and not ISODELINMI is a vindication of the success of the early Portuguese Catholic Reverend Fathers cum Missionaries, who originally settled in IDUN-FADA, Lagos, later Islamized and or yorubanized to IDUN-TAFA. 

In a piece captioned Erelu Kuti : A Series Of Excerpts From The Oral Records Of Lagos, the author wrote “While Akinsemoyin was ruling, Erelu Kuti married Alagba, the high priest that had predicted that her brother would become Oba”

The Esan Edo soldiers who were invited by Emperor Orhogbua to help overcome the Awori military opposition in the area now called Eko, came with their war god called Agba and his priest was the Chief Priest of Agba. Alua-Agba means the altar of Agba. The prominence of Chief Priest Alagba in the oral accounts of the founding of Lagos as corroborated by the name in the article Erelu Kuti : A Series Of Excerpts From The Oral Records Of Lagos  proves this fact. The name of Chief Priest Alagba is a latter day yorubanisation of the Uromi war god Agba. Alu-Agba in Uromi Esan means the shrine of Agba. Agba was the Uromi King that fought Oba Ozolua of Benin for about seven years till their tired and frustrated soldiers conspired to kill both the Oba and the Onojie to put an end to the war. Some historians believed King Agba of Uromi did not die immediately and that was the reason for the war between Idah and Bini under Oba Esigie. Onojie (King Agba) was deified as a God of war by the Uromi Army. The presence of Alua Agba in Eko (Lagos) is a confirmation of the fact that the ancient Uromi war machine, as an integral part of the ancient Edo empire military campaigns, played a prominent role in the founding of Lagos. Alua Agba is unique to Uromi. Based on the uniqueness of Alu-Agba deity to Uromi (god of war); it is certain that Uromi warriors were part of the reason Lagos Island acquired the name Esale Eko (Camp of the Esans) This development was the genesis of the founding of Lagos] The Uromi army had previously helped the Oba to re-conquer Akure. Esan soldiers had also previously helped the Oba to subdue and rule Ondo and gave Ondo town the title Osemawe of Ondo. Osemawe in Esan, means It is God that installed you. The Uromi army had also previously helped to defend and re-take Ekiti after an Ibadan military invasion.

 To properly understand the story of Lagos, one must try to understand the meaning of all the prominent names of the key persons, events and quarters (places) in ancient Lagos. These names make no sense and are meaningless in any language, even the Yoruba language which has now become very dominant in Lagos, Awori dialect or even the Bini dialect of the Edo language. The names that have survived adulteration or pronunciation corruption indicate that the names were originally Esan Edo names. The Portuguese were the international trading partners of the Edos. A trading camp for the exchange of goods was founded and called Esale Eko (Camp of the Esans) after the Esan Edo soldiers that founded the camp. The Portuguese called the camp Lagos (meaning settlement by lakes). The Esan Edo soldiers broke up the whole area into territorial sub-divisions or quarters called Idumus, Idus, Ekos and Idis (Idumota) (Idumagbo) in the Esan Edo dialect. Till this day, Lagos is still broken up into Eko, Idumus, Idus and Idis. Till this day, Esanland, Edo state Nigeria is still broken up into Ekos, Idumus, Idus and Idis.

 To have a better understanding of the military co-operation between the Esans and the Binis, that probably led the ancient Esan army to Lagos; this little snippet of history culled from the declassified colonial British intelligence report on the Esan people would be relevant.

“In 1485 during the reign of Oba Ozolua, Joan Alfonso D'aveiro, a Portuguese became the first European to reach Benin. He reported that during this time the Oba of Benin was having a great deal of trouble with his outlying districts. In fact Oba Ozolua was killed in a war against the Uzia, one of the smaller Ishan towns. On another occasion when the Oba of Benin went to war against Akure in present-day Ondo State, some Onogies in Ishan contributed warriors though some years later, during a war of succession in Benin Ishan Onogies were divided between the two combatant camps. The constant feuds among the various Ishan chiefdoms most probably created favorable opportunities for the Oba of Benin to impose his suzerainty over them and, this the chiefdoms either singly or collectively would cast off when the opportunity offered itself to reassert their independence.”

In the article “THE ISHANS (Irrua and Evbohimwin Connection); the author Professor Ademola Iyi-Eweka wrote: “Of the Edo-speaking group. Ishan/Esan is the closest to "BINI" ie the dialect of those who live in and around Benin City. In fact, when the people of Benin sneezes, those in Ishan/Esan develop hiccups, then and now. Riots that erupts in Benin politically, often reverbarates in Ishan/Esan land. Before 1897, the Ishans/Esans were the most avid defender of the Edo monarchy. It is not surprising, because Ishan/Esan women have produced most of Obas of Benin. Eheniuan, the first Ezomo of Benin, who later became the commander of the Benin/Edo Royal army is of Ishan descent.”

“Prince Erediauwa marched into Benin City, ahead of an Ishan/Esan dominated military. He was crowned Oba Osemwende of Benin in 1816. It was Oba Osewende who granted to the Enogie of Uromi, the right to inherit the estate of any person who died childless within Uromi district. This was his reward for supplying men and material in the war to reconquer Akure in
1818-20 rebellion and the battle in defence of the Ekitis against the Ibadans.”

An examination of historical names in Lagos, including the name of the widely popular Eyo festival, not excluding the names of some popular Lagosians by anyone who is sufficiently versed in the Esan dialect of the Edo language, will lead to only one reasonable and logical conclusion, that the defunct Edo empire created the geo-socio-political entity known today as Lagos State. As the names that dates back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries of Eko metropolitan development suggests, Lagos was an Edo mega project. Yes, the Edos and the Portuguese built a trading port on Lagos Island; then again, documented accounts, oral accounts now recently documented and name residue as relics of Edos past occupation of Lagos, which lasted for about 500 years indicates that what is today known as Lagos state was the creation of the Edos. In this regard and as suggested by the available names, still been used all over Lagos, it would appear that the Esan Edos played a very large part in the foundation and or creation of Lagos. Among the historical names in Lagos that shouts EDO very loudly as shall be explained in more details soon hereunder, are  Akiolu, Oyekan, Tinubu, Opebi, Okouromun, Esan, Akiode, Ojomon, Ojuelegba, Eyo (as in Eyo Masquerade), Onigbongbo, Igbobi, Ikeja, Ogba, Ipodo (Ikeja), Iduntafa, Idumota, Idumagbo, Agidingbi, Alausa, Idungaran, Iga Idungaran, Ashogbon, Oshodi, Odibo, Idimu, Idiroko, Araba (As in Chief Araba of Lagos), Idi Araba. These names, though often time relics of the yorubanized and or Islamized versions of the original Esan or Bini Edo names, yet help to tell the forgotten story of the birth era of modern Lagos.

What is today known as Lagos state was evidently one large Edo colony cum protectorate. The history that the names found in virtually every town and village in Lagos tells shows that the Edo Empire controlled and governed Lagos for about 500 years and more deeply so within the first 300 years, at which period there was a massive immigration of young Esan Edo men among other Edos, as Edo soldiers, workers and administrators to the Edo colony and protectorate of Lagos. How else can anyone explain the deeply entrenched Esan Edo names all over Lagos State. For Esan Edo names to become so rooted in Lagos means that the people who originally deforested these settlements that have now become big urban settlements all over Lagos state originally spoke the language that gave birth to these names. Yes, as attested to by the writings of the ancient German Surgeon, Joshua Andreas Ulshaimer who visited Lagos in 1506 aboard a Dutch ship, there were towns and other communities in the place now known as Lagos state at the time of the arrival of the Edos. What however, became the game changer in Lagos and led to the institutional dominance of Esan Edo names in what is now Lagos State, Nigeria was the military superiority of the Edo army and secured Lagos for Edo and Portuguese economic activities.

Based on the very loud silence of the writings of the ancient German Surgeon, Joshua Andreas Ulshaimer who visited Lagos in 1506 aboard a Dutch ship, on the issue of slavery; it would be safe to conclude that though Lagos later descended in slave trading, Eko or Lagos was not originally founded for slave trading. Evidently, the Trans Atlantic slave trade was an accident of history that rudely interrupted the noble project of the Edos and the Portuguese in Lagos.

 Names found all over Lagos apart from merely just confirming Edo Empire’s suzerainty over what is today known as Lagos state also tell another story; and that story is the prominent space occupied by the Esan army in the Edo empire’s military. In the era of the Edo Empire, every Esan town had an army. Uromi was and remain the largest of the Esan towns. During the era of the founding of Lagos Uromi had the largest Esan cotton based economy, and by implication had the largest military in Esan land. The Esan army was built and boosted by profits from the Esan cotton and textile industries. The perfect suitability of Uromi climate for cotton cultivation attracted a huge influx of immigrants seeking prosperity and better life for themselves and their families to ancient Uromi. Cotton and textiles attracted early European and Arab traders to Esan; in this regard, ancient Uromi was the Esan Edo flagship.  It would appear that the very large pre-colonial Esan Edo army played a very massive role in the Edo imperial military, political and economic campaigns. It would further appear that many people who today live in many of the places that hitherto were under Edo Empire’s suzerainty are actually descendants of ancient Edo soldiers.

In Esale Eko we have the Eyo festival which is organized in the hierarchical structure and organization of the ancient Esan Edo army that once occupied Lagos Island. Even the name Eyo comes from Eyo-Okulo, which is the name of the Esan Edo army.  Yes, the popular Lagos cultural and international tourist attraction, Eyo masquerade festival has an Esan Edo origin. Eyo is a short form of Eyo – Okulo. Okulo means war. Eyo means those who go to war. ESAN EDO soldiers are called EYO-OKULO. That explains why an Eyo masquerade carries a STICK REPRESENTING HIS INSTRUMENT OF WAR. Eyo masquerades are organized in the formation, hierarchy and structure of the ancient Esan Edo army that was stationed in Esale Eko (Camp of the Esans). The Eyo ceremony involves spiritual cleansing, spiritual fortification (Owo-egbe/Owegbe/ Iwo-egbe ), spiritual initiation, military parade, show of spiritual and military strength, honoring of fallen military heroes et al. The EYO ceremony was an ancient ESAN EDO MILITARY CEREMONY that was in vogue back in the era of the EDO EMPIRE. That the people of Lagos Island inherited the Eyo ceremony from their ancestors is a great and incontestable proof that Esale Eko people are descendants of ancient Esan Edo soldiers that occupied Lagos Island. Chief Anthony Enahoro was the last honorary Okalo Okulo (Okakulo of Edo land). That means the number one warrior (traditional Defense Minister) of Edo land. Two most remarkable things about the Eko Eyo festival is that the name Eyo from Eyo-Okulo and the structure, hierarchy and mass group organization of the Eyo festival shouts Esan Edo very loudly. The above confirms that Eko indigenes are actually descendants of Esan Edo soldiers.

It would appear that Ikeja which serves as the capital of Lagos state was a vast Edo military complex. Names of settlements in Ikeja, confirms the presence of ancient Esan Edo soldiers, and also confirms Bini Edo presence. IKEJA is from IKHEDIA meaning WATCH STATION. IKHEDE duty (watching out for the enemies) was conducted at IKHEDIA military station. OGBA pronounced OHGBA means boundary fence. OGBA indicates an ancient boundary between the EDOS and a neighboring power. Thus the Edo soldiers in IKEJA WATCH STATION were WATCHING the OGBA BOUNDARY GATEWAY.

ODO is old Esan for Ladies. IPODO means THE LADIES. IPODO is a commodities market during the day and at night, it becomes a RED LIGHT DISTRICT. Thus IPODO was originally a MAMMY MARKET that blossomed close to an ancient Edo military barrack. Akiode in Ikeja is a likely corruption of Okhiode. This line of thinking is encouraged and predicated on the presence of Ikhedia military watch station, Ohgba (Ogba) Boundary fence, and Ipodo (mammy market) in the same Ikeja. Okhiode is one of the three Uromi military divisions. Okhiode connotes, the first troops to jump into action. In modern military terms, that would indicate the Marines. The presence of Okhiode (Akiode) in Ikeja would indicate the presence of soldiers from the other two ancient Uromi military divisions nearby. Agidingbi is a prominent Bini name. Agidingbi quarters in Ikeja, is probably where Binin Edo soldiers were stationed in Ikeja. The nearby Alausa quarters was very likely Aga-Ausa (Hausa). Till this day, there is still Aga-Ausa in Uromi.  We should realize that anyone carrying a Muslim praying beads or the Koran was regarded as an Ausa (Hausa) in ancient Esan Edo. Anyone wearing kaftan, fez cap or from across the Niger river, was regarded an Ausa. Thus, what is today known as Alausa (Aga-Ausa)[Hausa] was probably the Quarters traders from across the River Niger and in fact, North African traders that visited early Lagos for trade.

Mende Village Maryland is probably the evolution of Amendokhian.  Amendokhian is synonymous with one of the ancient Uromi military divisions known as Obiyon. The presence of Okhiode (Akiode) persuades the perspective that Obiyon (Amendokhian) [Mende] soldiers were also quartered nearby. The Edo soldiers who were stationed in Ikeja area appear to belong to a different generation of Edo soldiers. This assumption would be reasonable, when we realize that the Edos occupied and govern Lagos for about 500 years. During those five hundred years, the Edo army that was initially restricted to Lagos Island where the pioneers Aromire (Uromire) soldiers landed and founded Esale Eko (Camp of the Esans and all the Idumus, Idus and Idis) later engaged in further conquests, occupations and community organization down to and beyond Ikeja geographical axis.

It is interesting to observe that the names of many popular locations in Lagos match perfectly with the dominant activities such places are reputed for, when such names are reversed to the Esan dialect of the Edo language. OJUELEGBA is notorious for being a haven of prostitutes. It would appear that prostitution in OJUELEGBA is as old as time itself. It would also appear that the name OJUELEGBA is a latter day yorubanization of the Esan Edo OJA-AGBILE. Ojagbile means the wonder prostitute. It should not be difficult for anyone to visualize Esan Edo soldiers coming from the ultra conservative Esan Edo country, where prostitution was strictly forbidden, encountering very independent and proud prostitutes in the Eko surburb of Suru-Lere; notoriously conducting their forbidden trade and perhaps challenging the young Esan Edo soldiers to engage them in sexual matches for fractions of the young soldiers remuneration. Thus the bewildered and aghast young and conservatively raised Esan soldiers could be visualized exclaiming “Gho Ojagbile bhe Eko” Translation: “Behold wonder prostitutes in Eko” The fact that Ojuelegba is notorious for prostitution trade is the most persuasive thinking point, that this is probably how OJAGBILE later yorubanized to Ojuelegba acquired a name based on the community’s most dominant, though notorious activity. We must also not forget that at the relevant time, the now dominant Yorubas in Lagos were not yet part of the Lagos community.

Another case in point is IGBOBI. The dominant activity Igbobi is known for is orthopedic surgery.  The name Igbobi could possibly be from the Esan Edo IGBON-NONBIBI. Translation would be: A LOST SLAVE. If we recall what happened to Kunta Kinte in the celebrated movie: ROOTS, after he tried unsuccessfully to escape; wherefore, his master amputated him to prevent him from making any further attempt to escape. From the Kunta Kinte ROOTS analogy, one can easily imagine IGBOBI as a place where escaped slaves (IGBONOBIBI) but re-captured and amputated by their owners to prevent them from attempting any further escape; were taking to, for orthopedic medical attention.

Lagos quickly became a major slave trading port, thus the emergence of names like Igboshere and Oyingbo; which are possibly yorubanized Esan Edo words for House of Slaves - Oaigbon and place for sold slaves- Igbonashelen respectively. (Please not Igbo). APONGBON Lagos is possibly a corruption of the Esan Edo name AGBONGBON, Which means NEW WORLD: That could be indicative of the part of LAGOS/EKO, where the PORTUGUESE (KPOTOKINS- in Esan Edo) set up their abode. AGBON IN Esan Edo means WORLD. OGBON in Esan Edo means NEW. Thus the possibility of the name indicating NEW WORLD connoting NEW PEOPLE, ANOTHER RACE, ANOTHER CIVILIZATION. Caveat: The presence of GBON in APONGBON could alternatively be indicative of a place that had to do with SLAVES; as IGBON (Please not Igbo) means Slaves in Esan Edo.

ONIGBONGBO (ONIGBONIGBON) in Esan Edo means a slave that remains a slave. The name is a throwback to the slavery years. The root and reasons that predicated such names have since been long eclipsed with the abolition of slavery. The name ONIGBONIGBO could be a derogative name for a settlement where freed slaves were allowed to settle. Till this day in Esan Edo, ONI-GHAN which has ONI as in ONI-GBONIGBON is used to refer derogatively to someone who was once a prisoner. Oh well, I am writing about centuries gone by, not the modern ONIGNONGBO, Lagos.

 IGA IDUNGARA means the Palace that is situated in the Quarters of the Igarra people (soldiers) An event that confirmed this name is the fact after Benin city fell to the British forces; the British war party launched out to attack the most feared, strongest and most dreaded Edo military forts. The only place the British army went to in Afemai Edo was Igarra. This fact confirms that Igarra was an integral part of the Edo empire war machine and probably supplied troops that were stationed in the part of Eko now known as IDUN-IGARRA (IDUNGARA) IGA is a corruption of the Edo name for palace (EGUA). Thus IGA IDUNGARA means the Palace that is situated in the Quarters of the Igarra (people / soldiers)

There is EBUTE METTA in Urohi, Esanland, Edo State. There is IDUMAGBOR in Esan South East. Perhaps these places got their names from the fact that soldiers from such Esan Edo communities were probably stationed in such locations in Eko. There is a possibility that IDUMAGBO is a corruption of IDUMU-AGBA. At the time of the founding of Lagos, the late King Agba of Uromi, who had been deified was a larger than life figure. It would be understandable, if one of the Uromi soldiers barracks was named after the late King Agba.

IDUMOTA would appear to have been originally IDUMOZA (IDUMU-OZA). Many Uromi soldiers of the era when Eko was founded were first, second and third generation immigrants to Uromi from Oza community in Benin. There is actually an IDUMOZA in Uromi.

IDI-ARABA is very likely, a corrupted form of IDI-ALUAGBA. The confirmation of this theory is the fact that the functions of the ARABA OF LAGOS are the same as the functions of the OHEN (CHIEF PRIEST) OF ALUAGBA –UROMI. Both perform the role of Chaplains for Lagos (Eko) and Uromi respectively.  Beside Benin itself, Uromi appears to be the largest, strongest, most dreaded and most loyal military fort believer in the Edo Empire project. This fact was confirmed when the British army launched a war against Uromi and Uzea, in 1901 when Okolo N’Ogidigan N’aba N’Eramhen was the King of Uromi. Ogidigan means the dreaded military genius, whose name struck terrible fear in the camp of the enemies. King Okolo was reputed to be a genius in the use of the element of surprise against enemy combatants. After the fall of Benin City, the British war party felt that with the Uromi and Uzea army still standing in Esanland, Benin city could re-group; thus they launched an unprovoked and a pre-emptive war on Uromi and Uzea. This British aggression confirms that Uromi was an integral part of the Edo Empire project.

IDIMU (IDI-EMU) probably derived its name from soldiers from Emu-Esan community stationed in Idimu at the time of the founding of Lagos. IDUN-TAFA is most likely an Islamized version of IDUN-FADA (fada is the Esan Edo name for Catholic Priests).  That would be indicative of where the early Catholic missionaries settled in early Lagos.

IKOYI Lagos is possibly a corruption of the Esan Edo words EKO OYI; Which means CAMP OF THIEVES. EKO OYI or IKO OYI (IKOYI) The name would be indicative of a site where an early Prison of sorts was built. Yes, some other Yoruba towns have Ikoyi. Then again, the Edos ruled some other Yoruba towns. Other Yoruba towns could have copied the Lagos Eko-Oyi example; especially as Ikoyi in other Yoruba towns means Quarter of Guards. Thus, whether used to refer to Prison or Prison Guard, Ikoyi is a Yorubanization of the Esan Eko-Oyi.

  IKURAMO EKORAMO or KURAMO is possibly a yorubanization of the Esan Edo (EKO UROMI), which means THE CAMP OF THE UROMI PEOPLE/SOLDIERS. OBALENDE is possibly a yorubanization of the Esan Edo (OBANYAN-EDE or OBAYAN-EDE), which means THE OBA OWNS THE RIVER. LEKKI is possibly a yorubanization of the Esan Edo (EKI), which means) MARKET. IDUMU/IDU/IDI/EKO are without doubt exclusively ESAN EDO for Quarter or geo-territory. Bini EDO would be IDUNWUN.

An examination of Ikorodu via the instrumentality of name relics and the history of Ikorodu reveals very strong Edo presence.  From the article IKORODU IN BRIEF, culled from the website of IKORODU OGA ASSOCIATION, UK chapter, we have the following excerpt: “Soon after, some large contingent of Benin migrants came by land through Iki in Ogun state (where almost the whole land belongs to the Olisa family of Ikorodu) to the area now known as Ikorodu. This group of Benin people was led by a wealthy and powerful man called Eregbouwa (now called Rebugbawa in Ikorodu) from the ancient royal family of Oliha of Benin City. In Benin language, Ere means king and Uwa means peace and prosperity, hence Eregbuwa mean king of peace and prosperity. The Benin people settled down amicably with the children of Akarigbo and the farm started to grow into a large settlement. This was about 1630. The institution of Obaship was conceded to the line of Akarigbo while the institution of Olisaship was conceded to the Benin settlers. In effect the Oba became the reigning monarch while the Olisa became the Kingmaker and the prima minister of the city-state. This high position of the Olisa as the next in rank to the Oba in the city state was borne out in his attribute or cogno men in the Yoruba metaphor: AJUWE Akoye Orulu egbin o ru’lamuren a worun meaning – a noble gentlemen who administers the town. This of course, is done subject to the authority of the Oba and it presupposes that the cordiality between the Oba and the Olisa should be impenetrable. This was the tradition arrangement. The institutions and deities such as the Osugbo, the Awo Opa, the Inomu and the Eluku were designed for the good administration and peace of the town.

Prior to the advent of the Benin people, Oga was the head of the establishment. He and Lasunwon lived in a hamlec called Agbele at the presence site of NITEL. Agbele was also called Egure and so Oga became the Elegure of Egure. Lasunwon was Odofin of Shagamu. But when the Binis came and Oga died. Lasunwon was installed the first Oloja of Ikorodu by Olisa Rebugbawe, the first Olisa of Ikorodu. Lasuwon and Eregbouwa (Rebugbawe) were therefore the first Oloja (Oba) and the first Olisa of Ikorodu respectively. There are two Ruling Houses for the Obaship namely Lasunwon and Rademo Ruling Houses. Traditionally Ikorodu is divided broadly into three for ease of representative democracy. These divisions are Ijomu, Aga, and Isele, which are represented, in Osugbo-the highest administrative organ in the town headed by the Olisa as chairman of Iwerefa (while Oluwo is administrative head). The smaller divisions called itun in the town are subsumed in the three major larger divisions.Obaship and Olisaship belong to the two primordial families of Oba (Lasunwon and Rademo) and the Olisa respectively. They are traditional and hereditable titles. ”

The above excerpt of the history of Ikorodu culled from the website of Ikorodu Association UK is loaded with much valuable information. From the Bini and Esan names in the story it is self evident that the Edos either originally founded Ikorodu or at the very least ruled the town. In fact, from the excerpt we learn that the Edos are still part of Ikorodu till this day. The excerpt contains facts that have been completely mixed up and haphazardly re-arranged. The mix up and mis-arrangement is understandable as the Bini Edo and or Esan Edo dialects of the Edo languaue have since been swallowed up by the Yoruba language that is now dominant in Ikorodu. The name EREGBOUWA in the excerpt is clearly a reference to EMPEROR ORHOGBUA. This shows that Ikorodu was either founded by Emperor Orhogbua or the Emperor appointed a ruler and military commanders and left foot soldiers in Ikorodu whose descendants are now indigenes of Ikorodu.

Agbele and Egure in the excerpt are evidently corrupted versions of EGBELE and EGUARE. Egbele is in Uromi. Egbele is the first and most senior village in Uromi. Eguare is the Palacde or the Quarters where the Palace of the King is located. The presence of Egbele is an indication that UROMI soldiers and probably Uromi soldiers, specifically from ancient Egbele Uromi were located by Emperor Orhogbua to hold forte in Ikorodu. EGUARE indicates that an Edo indigene and probably an Esan Edo based on the version of EGUARE in contra-distinction to IGUA was appointed King by Emperor Orhogbua over Ikorodu.

OLIHA is Benin however, the job of serving as regent after the death of the king reflects the system in UROMI arrangement where the ONIHA (OLIHA) serves as regent after the death of the King pending the installation of a new King. We must realize that the true pronunciations of these names now found on the website cannot be verified as they were only orally relayed for hundreds of years by people who are or were descendants of the original speakers of the Edo language (Esan/Bini/Afemai dialects), but who themselves have no knowledge of the Edo language.

Based on similar corruption of Esan Edo names found in other ancient historical accounts, one can safely conclude that the following names IJOMU, AGA, ISELE found in the excerpt culled from the Ikorodu Association website are corrupted versions UROMI (IJOMU), AGA means QUARTER or (AGBA) (AGA) and ESAN (ISAN) (ISALE) (ISELE)

The name IKORODU appears to be an evolved form of EKO-OHORDUA. We have seen a pattern like in IKOYI, where E in EKO-OYI (Prison) was replaced with I. Thus the first I in IKORODU is likely an E. That would make IKORODU EKO-(OHORDUA). OHORDUA is the Esan town with a name that is closest to what is left after EKO or IKO is pulled apart. Edo historical accounts identify OHORDUA and EWOHIMI as very powerful military forts of the Edo kingdom during the era of the Edo Empire. As the name of the town became IKORODU or EKO OHORDUA, one can conclude that Edo soldiers from OHORDUA and possibly soldiers from neighboring EWOHIMI, EWATTO, EWOSSA, EWOIKI, who were possibly later arrivals were stationed in this location in very large numbers, which should explain the emergence and dominance of the name EKO-OHORDUA over the town.

From the same website IKORODU OGA ASSOCIATION, UK chapter, but under the piece captioned HISTORICAL FACTS, we have the following important fact: “ETI-OSA Local Council was separated from Ikorodu District Council in 1972.”ETI-OSA means BY THE POWER OF GOD is BINI EDO.

KIRIKIRI appears to have originated from the ESAN EDO onomatopoeia IKHIRI-KHIRI, which is descriptive of military of aggressive or forceful activities.

 ODIBO which is title of a palace official in Lagos is same as the ODIBO found in every Edo palace. The title means the Kings Personal Assistant.

The surnames ESAN and OKOUROMUN which are popular in all the Yoruba towns and cities once ruled by the Edos means native of Esan and son of Uromi respectively. These names indicates that the descendants of Esan Edo soldiers remain in places that the Edos once occupied; Lagos inclusive.

OYEKAN is a corruption of OYEKO, meaning, one who travelled to Lagos. A child born to an Esan Edo soldier on a military mission in Lagos could be named OYEKO. The name is an Esan Edo equivalent of the Yoruba Tokunbo.

TINUBU is a likely Islamized version of USUNUBUN; literally meaning, the first child in a line of potentially many children. The name connotes one who is born to be a leaders or one born to have many followers.

 The later day Yorubanization of Esan Edo names in Lagos is as a result of the latter day domination of Lagos by Yoruba speakers.  Many of the names of places and persons that date back to the era of the founding of Lagos are only meaningful and reasonable when reversed back to Esan Edo. At the time of the founding of Lagos, much of Yorubaland was under the Oyo Empire. Back then, folks were not travelling freely because of the fear of Arab and European slave traders.

 Another version of the founding of Lagos that claimed that the High Priest of Alua Agba was an Ijesha man is not logical nor reasonable. The CHIEF PRIEST OF ALUA-AGBA at the very time the Edos founded Lagos could not have been an Ijesha man. Re-writing history and stating that the Chief Priest of ALUA AGBA was an Ijesha man at the very time Lagos was founded, would be tantamount to saying that the Chief Chaplain of the American military in Afghanistan is a Pakistani or an Iranian. That could not have happened then for obvious reasons; just as it cannot happen now for obvious national security reasons.

If the Chief Priest of ALUA-AGBA back then when the UROMIRES (UROMI IMMIGRANTS) (Yorubanized to AROMIRES) as part of the Esan military contingent invited by Oba Orhogbua to help secure Lagos Island and build a trading port in partnership with the Portuguese, had  only just landed and battling enemy combatants and securing their ESALE EKO (CAMP OF THE ESANS) and breaking up the land into IDUMUS, IDIS AND IDUS (Esan Edo for Quarters or territorial sub-division); the last thing that could occur then would be for anybody not directly from Uromi to be the Chief Priest of Alua-Agba. ALUA-AGBA is unique to Uromi.                                                                                              

 Based on the writings of early European visitors to Lagos i.e the ancient German Surgeon Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, after his 1603 visit to Lagos, and the admission of the Lagos state government on its website that the Edos founded Lagos; and the fact that these authorities are unanimous in their narratives that Lagos Island was a virgin land before the arrival of the Edos; it is safe, accurate and a statement of fact, to state that the people who came from Esan Edo to de-forest and help build a military camp and trade port on Lagos Island, announced their presence by identifying themselves as UROMIRE (Uromi immigrants) , later yorubanized to AROMIRE. We must realize that the Yorubas were not part of early Lagos. At the time Lagos was founded, the Yorubas were in Oyo kingdom.

The palace of the new king was called Egua (Palace in Esan Edo) later yorubanized to Iga.  Some popular and celebrated names in early Eko i.e AKINSEMONYIN is a likely yorubanization of AKHISEMONJIE (You don't provoke the King's wrath or You do not challenge the King’s word)) ICHOKUN could be a yorubanization of Izokun meaning (I have chosen to Okun (god)  

At this juncture it is necessary for us to do a reconnaissance of the factors that made the Esans generally and Uromi specifically fraternal partners in the Edo imperial military and economic paraphernalia. Monarchy was instituted in Esanland in the fifteenth century by Oba Ewuare of Benin.  From the colonial British Intelligence Report on the Esans we have the following:“The name Ishan is a corruption of a Benin word ESAN FUA meaning those who 'Jumped or fled". The word "Esan" was used to describe the inhabitants of the district now forming Ishan during the reign of Oba Ewuare of Benin. Before this period the large groups such as Irrua, Uromi, Ekpoma and Ubiaja were known by their individual names and there was no common name. Oba Ewuare, enraged by the sudden death of his two sons supposedly brought about by the wicked machinations of his brother, the Edaiken, enacted very obnoxious laws forbidding:

 (a) sexual intercourse in the land

(b) washing, sweeping of the houses or compounds, drumming and dancing

(c) and the making of fire in the land.                           

 These laws which were made to operate for about three years were to be observed as a mark of respect for the departed sons of the Oba. The hardship and disease that followed on the heels of these laws caused many people to leave Benin and when the Oba summoned a meeting of the various quarters he was told that many people had fled.”

Before this mass exodus from Biniland in the era of Oba Ewuare to Esanland, there were many other earlier mass exodus  to Esanland from Biniland. A very well celebrated earlier immigration to Esanland from Biniland was the immigration of the Princes who were children of a Bini Ogiso. They were alleged to have fled with their mother. The eldest brother settled in Uzea. The second brother settled in Uromi and the youngest brother settled in Afemai. Till this day, an Uzea man is always given the honor of breaking the kolanut at ceremonies and events in Uromi, in honor of the elder Prince who settled in Uzea. It is interesting to observe that based on the composition of Uromi, which is also a reflection of many other Esan towns, not every group in Esan immigrated from Biniland. 

The fact that every town in Esan speaks a different dialect of Esan and not a uniform Bini dialect, confirms the contention that there were people already occupying the various Esan towns before the arrival of the immigrants from Bini and other places.  Evidence of immigration to Uromi from outside Biniland are numerous i.e Idumeka Uromi from Ika, Idisaba Uromi from Asaba, beside many other groups. Immigrants from Biniland to Uromi are overwhelming, among them are the following groups Idumu Oshodi, Idumu Uwangue, Idumu Oza, Idumu Oniha, Idumu Esodole, Idigun Amendokhian all from Biniland.  We must recognize that the three brothers that founded Idumu Oniha-Efandion, Idumu Esodole-Utako, Idi Igun – Amendokhian originally immigrated from Biniland to Ewohimi and later departed from Ewohimi to Uromi over disagreement with the King of Ewohimi over the terms of their indigenization in Ewohimi. Idi-Ijie people are descendants of a celebrated traditional medicinal doctor from Udo town in Esanland to Uromi.

Against the above background, it is interesting to observe that the people who were living in the various Esan towns were not recorded to have objected to Oba Ewuare’s introduction of monarchy to Esanland in the 15th century. Before the introduction of monarchy by Oba Ewuare, the various Esan towns were run under a system that was an amalgam of gerontocracy, spirituality and parliamentarianism. This system was known as the Edion (Elders) system. The acceptance of monarchy by the Esan people, however, confirms that Esan towns were already hosting a huge Bini population at the time of Oba Ewuare. It is believed that only Benin Princes were appointed as Onogies (Kings) by Bini Obas. This is the basis of the belief that all the Esan Kings were the oldest Bini Princes in the various Esan towns at the time Oba Ewuare introduced monarchy to Esanland.

The Uromi monarchy has some unique features. Uromi came with special filial, economic, military and human resource assets that specially and uniquely carved Uromi out as the most desired ancient Edo city state to partner with the ancient Bini city state pursuant to the execution of the Eko (Lagos) project. In Chief Anthony Enahoro’s book, THE FUGITIVE OFFENDER, he talked about the Portuguese wife of a past Ogiso. (Historians trace the event to the era of Oba Ewuare) who gave birth to a half white half black son for Oba Ewuare. This son would have been Oba Ewuare’s successor as he was the Oba’s first male child. However, the people of Bini were not ready to accept a white woman as the Obas’s first wife or even as a member of the Oba’s harem.  The people were also not ready to accept the mixed race son as the Oba’s heir apparent. Oba Ewuare had to find an alternative place for the son and the Portuguese mother. Uromi was chosen for the mother and the son to relocate to.  The choice of Uromi as the choice place for the son who would have been King over the Bini people to relocate to, speaks volumes. The choice of Uromi means Uromi was an urban center by the standard of that era, such as would comfort and pacify the son who would have been the King of the Binis. The choice of Uromi also confirms the fact that Uromi already had a sizable Portuguese population at the time of Oba Ewuare. The Oba’s son and his Portuguese mother would be at home in a place, where there was a sizable Portuguese population to feel at home. The Portuguese cotton traders who come to buy cotton and cotton based textiles among other economic products from the Esans were referred to by the Esan and by implication, Uromi natives as (kpotokins). It would appear that these Portuguese traders were residing in Uromi among other early European traders, especially the Dutch that overthrew the Portuguese as Edos largest European trading partners.

The main export commodity that attracted the European traders among other international traders to Esan in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was the booming Esan cotton economy. The cotton economy was known by the Esans as EKIOLU or alternatively as AKIOLU. Yes, same as the AKIOLU in OBA AKIOLU of LAGOS. As recorded by early European historians Uromi and Uzea were the leaders in the international Esan cotton trade and Uromi and Uzea women were the leaders in the Esan cotton textile trade. Uromi’s very advanced and very prosperous cotton and textile industries predicated the Benin-Uromi / Uzea war of 1499-1504. It is believed that Oba Ozolua, who was the son that succeeded Oba Ewuare wanted to directly control the Uromi economy. King Agba who was Oba Ewuare’s grandson and the son of Onojie Ijesan, the half Portuguese half Bini eldest son of Oba Ewuare, who was compensated with the Kingship of Uromi, for Oba Ewuare’s inability to convince the Bini’s to accept a mixed race son; did not only refuse to surrender the Uromi booming cotton economy to Oba Ozolua, but also stopped paying tributes to Benin and advised all other Esan kings to stop paying tributes to the Oba of Benin, Ozolua. It is said that Uromi women started mocking the Esan kings who were still paying tributes to Oba Ozolua. Uzea town that is regarded as Uromi’s traditional elder brother backed Uromi up. Thus the stage was set for the 1499-1504 Benin - Uromi / Uzea war

It would appear that Esan prosperity from the Cotton, Textile and Pepper economy lasted for very many centuries. With the prominence of Esan names like AKIOLU as in OBA AKIOLU [AKI / EKI (MARKET) OLU (COTTON) in ESAN EDO)] in Eko / Lagos, it would appear that money from the Esan Cotton, Textile and Pepper economy helped largely to finance the expansion of the Edo Empire, and helped specifically to finance the founding of EKO/LAGOS by the Edo imperialist army. Yes, profits from the highly prized international Esan cotton trade helped to finance the acquisition of arms, ammunitions and other military paraphernalia for the Esan Edo army.

In the book, “When Men and Women Mattered: A History of Gender Relations among the Owan of Nigeria by Onaiwu W. Ogbomo, we have the following “Okoduwa’s research among the neighbouring Esan reveals they also capitalized on the trade in cloth. In Okoduwa’s words: There are hint’s in the traditions of Uromi that Ichesan [IJESAN] and Agba’s reigns and those which followed (Ca. 1439-1538) was the century of trade and prosperity. This was the era when benefits from the cotton trade and industry led to the emergence of merchant princes in Uromi.”

It is manifestly self evident from the above that the Esan cotton and textile industries brought tremendous wealth to Esanland and Uromi occupied the leadership seat in this regard.  The piece reproduced below makes clear that the wealth introduced by the successful cotton and textile industries was long lasting. To a great extent the wealth from the cotton and textile industries funded the expansion of the Edo Empire. Ijesan, the first King of Uromi was the first son of Oba Ewuare, who could not be king in Benin as the Binis were not ready for a half Portuguese and half Bini king. Ijesan became the king of Uromi since consequent to the cotton export trade, Uromi already had a very large European population at the time, and the Uromi people were comfortable with Ijesan and his Portuguese mother. This Portuguese connection and the wealth available from the cotton trade made Uromi a major asset in the Edo and Portuguese aided imperialist military campaigns. It is important to recall here that historians recorded that Portuguese soldiers fought alongside Bini soldiers during the Bini-Idah war. The ancient German Surgeon Joshua Ulsharmer also recorded that himself and his co-travellers also fought alongside Edo soldiers as the Edos were actively executing their empire building mission in all that area now known as Lagos state and beyond along the West Coast of Africa.

 A. I. Okoduwa and A. O. Odigie In their work: British Attempt at Developing Cotton as an Export Crop from Esan, Edo State, Nigeria, 1902-1925 wrote: “However, it must be said that since major spinning, weaving and cloth dying centres existed in Uromi (as in other parts of West Africa like Kano, Biu, Etsako, Nupe and Idah to mention but a few) what raw cotton found its way into the export market from the 15th century to the 19th century was the surplus production which could not be absorbed by West African industries (Nzemeke, 1985, p. 3) ”

“Esan sales were in cowries. Prices of cloth varied over the years. Ryder says that Dutch and English alike bought them in thousands for resale in other parts of the African coast in return for slaves and gold. Although several goods served the purpose of money in a non-common currency economy, Esan cloth known by the Portuguese and the Dutch as the Benin cloth had the advantage of a currency being comparatively a non-perishable commodity that was easily stored (Ryder, 1969, p. 206).”

Uromi was the largest town in pre-colonial Esan and remain the largest Esan town. Uromi’s large population evidently derives from Uromi’s attraction as an Eldorado for wealth seekers. As a major trading center with an early attraction for Portuguese (known in Uromi as Kpotokins) and the Dutch and other Europeans and Arabs, Uromi became a major attraction for immigrants seeking wealth, freedom, dignified existence, military protection and political freedom.

During Oba Ovoramwen’s reign, he elevated Irrua to the position of the primus inter pares (First among equals) in Esanland. The popular opinion in Uromi, which exists till this day, is that Oba Ovoramwen’s elevation of Irrua was a calculated military move to help keep the very militarily powerful and cotton and textile industries profits empowered King Okolo of Uromi under check. This view seemed to have been confirmed by the fact that the British army methodically picked out only Uromi, Uzea and Igarra as the towns to attack after the fall of Benin. After the fall of the administrative headquarters of the ancient Edo Empire, Benin City, the British authorities initially thought that the Edo Empire, which they had erroneously limited to Bini Kingdom, had been effectively put under control. Based on the erroneous assumption that the fall of Benin automatically translate to the fall of the already waning Edo Empire; Britain attempted to enforce its dominion over Edo land. The British authorities quickly realized that until and unless Esan land was demilitarized, the fall of Benin would not translate to a conquest of the Edo Empire. Yes, at the time Benin fell, the Edo Empire was already in her twilight years. The glory days of the zenith of Edo Empire’s military might were in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

 Intelligence gathered by the British authorities convinced the Brits that Uromi and Uzea towns were the two major military forts in Esan land that must be taken down, to effectively bring Esanland under control. In an effort to take down Uromi and Uzea, the British Empire authorities sent a contingent of army officers from England and Canada and infantrymen from Northern Nigeria to war against Esanland especially Uromi and Uzea in 1901. The leader of the British war party to Uromi was Captain Honecker, later known as General Honecker.

There were evidently many reasons while the Britain determined that it was imperative and incumbent on the British imperial army to demilitarize Uromi and Uzea, which by the calculation of the British means the demilitarization of the Esans. One thing is clear, the British military encroachment on Uromi confirms that Uromi was recognized by the British intelligence authorities as an integral and fundamental military bedrock of the Edo imperial war machine. The British authorities figured out that with Uromi, Uzea and Igarra which was also attacked; left heavily militarized, the Benin leadership could regroup.

There is evidence that the British Parliament voted to encourage the production of cotton in Esanland in the early 20thcentury:  A. I. Okoduwa and A. O. Odigie In their work: British Attempt at Developing Cotton as an Export Crop from Esan, Edo State, Nigeria, 1902-1925 wrote:  “The promotion of cotton growing in Esan during the colonial period and in the Benin Province, was undertaken by the British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA). It was founded in 1902 for the main purpose of ensuring the continued prosperity of British cotton industry by extending the sources of supply to overseas territories (Anjorin, 1988, p. 122). In collaboration with British colonial government, the BCGA sent out cotton experts to develop cultivation of the crop in Ishan Division. The first cotton experimental farm and ginnery in the area was established at Illushi the evacuation port for all produce from Esan (Osagie, 1988, p.76). From there colonial officials spread the new varieties of American and Egyptian long staples to all parts of Esan. For example, when Mr. W. Fosbery the then commissioner of the Central Division of British Southern Nigeria undertook a visit to Uromi in 1902, he emphasized the importance of cotton growing and distributed three bags of American cotton seeds to the people (Anene, 1966, p. 239).

It is self evident from all the combined references above that cotton cultivation, textile production, marketing and export thereof, brought much wealth to Esanland. The prosperity from the Esan cotton economy attracted the attention of the Benin monarchy and much later the British imperial power. Wealth from the pre-colonial Esan cotton economy helped equipped the Esan army and to a very large extent, and based on the extensive evidence of Esan military presence in pre-colonial Lagos helped in financing the building the foundation of all that area known today as Lagos state, and other locations along the West Coast of Africa. The name of the current Oba of Lagos, Oba Akiolu (Which means Cotton economy in Esan Edo) attests to the fact that wealth from the pre-colonial Esan cotton economy was the financial predicate on which modern Lagos / Eko was built.

The names Oyekan (Oyeko –Which means one who travelled to Lagos in Esan Edo) as in Oba Oyekan, Eyo (from Eyo-Okulo - Which means soldier in Esan Edo) and Akiolu –Aki/Eki-Olu as in Oba Akiolu, Which means Cotton economy in Esan Edo) and even Tinubu which appears to be an Islamized version of Usunobun, which denotes the first child many prospective children and denoting leader or one with many followers, and the names Esan, Ojomon, Obadan, Oko-Uromun used in Lagos / Eko and other Edoid yorubaland attests to the fact that descendants of Esan Edo soldiers remain and live in Eko and Edoid Yorubaland.

It is time for Historians and non historians alike, especially Edo folks to begin to research and document the forgotten histories and activities of the Edo Empire era. The Romans were all over ancient Western Europe, even up to North Africa and the whole story is accurately documented. Unfortunately, not much has been done in the area of researching and accurately telling and or documenting the story of Edo civilization vis a vis seaports and inland ports that were built by the Edos in conjunction with the Portuguese, which said ports have now blown into mega cities in many parts of West Africa.  Untold number of Edo men and women travelled to distant places during the era of the Edo Empire for state security assignments and major state projects, and the efforts of those Edo heroes have been largely ignored by Historians.

Names of places and words still used in many places once ruled by the Edos, are still reminders of the Edo presence and activities in such far flung places. Among the Ewe people who live in Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana, the word for COME is VAE.  When an Ewe person is speaking, you would think the speaker is speaking Esan.

 In Uromi, Esan, Edo, which was one of the largest military forts in the defunct Edo Empire, the word for COME is VAE. In Onitsha, where the Edo system of government is still being practiced by the traditional government of Onitsha, with Edo titles like Iyasele and Ozodi (Oshodi), the word for mother is NNE and in Uromi, the word for mother is INE. In Esanland, a young man is called OKOLO/OKOH. In Onitsha and environs a young man is called OKORO. The name OKORO has now become very well established in Iboland that it is difficult to tell whether OKORO is  a variation of the Esan Edo OKOLO introduced by Esan Edo soldiers to Onitsha or it is a name inherently germane to the Igbo language. In Uromi, Esan, Edo, the children of a deceased person whose life is being celebrated are hailed with OMAE TEGHENE. In Onitsha, the children of a deceased person whose life is being celebrated are hailed with OMA TEGETE.

In 1925, Elder Dempster Lines, which was Great Britain’s largest and most globally recognized and celebrated sea transportation company during the colonial era, named a Ship Uromi SS, in recognition of the prominent role played by the Esans in pre-colonial and colonial Nigerian political, military and economic activities. Uromi SS had 2 triple expansion engines. Uromi SS was formerly known as Kinshasha SS.  The Uromi SS was a British cargo steamer of 962 grt. The Ship was built in 1909 and was scuttled in 1936 off the coast of Lagos.

The facts that I have highlighted in this piece are thinking points for professional historians to take to the next level via research using modern tools of historical research.

Written by ANTHONY OKOSUN TonyOsun@yahoo.co.uk

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