The Ancient Benins In Diaspora
(Ika People)
Bookmark and Share
Last Update (June 27, 2021)

The various early written records related to the historical origin of the area vary. Chief (Dr.) Egharevba’s Short History of Benin recorded that during the Ogiso era (probably before the year 1100 A.D), Ovio who was one of the richest persons in Benin was forced to migrate eastward because he had a quarrel with the royalists in Benin. He (Ovio) thereafter found the Obio clan in present day Asaba Division of Delta State. We were however fed with Dr. P. Amaury Talhot’s story in his book, ‘People of Southern Nigeria”, that migration to the Ika area occurred shortly before D.V. Nyendeal (the Dutch traveller) visited Benin in 1702. The difference in time, between Chief Egharevba’s account and that of Talbot requires a close examination. In order to solve, the mystery of the difference of 600 years in these two accounts, one has to look back on related events in the whole area so as to ascertain the probable period of migration of people into it.

We are by now familiar with the military activities of Oba Orhogbua (1550-1578) who returned from Eko (or Lagos area) only to find that Agbor people had revolted. This led to the dispatch of the warlord Ezomo (Agban) to put an end .to the rebellion. Furthermore, there was a time during Oba Ahenzae’s reign (1641-1661) when two “brothers of Agbor royal family appealed to the Oba as their emperor, each claiming to be the rightful person to succeed to the stool of Agbor. They both came to Benin City, accompanied by a large retinue of people. The first Obi of Agbor had been sent Agbor by Oba of Benin to be the ruler of the people. The Oba heard the case in council and decided in favour of the rightful heir, who he installed as Obi Eze (or Ogie Agbor) and sent him away with an escort to Agbor. To prevent civil war between the two claimants the Oba on the advice of Chiefs, ordered the other Prince to remain in Benin City under the care of Ihama of Idumwihogbe where he remained for several years. As he had no children, Ihama by order of the Oba, inherited his property and slaves. This unexpected inheritance changed the position and wealth of Ihama. From these account it appears that the founding of the Ika area is much earlier than ‘shortly before Nyendeal’s visit to Benin in 1702” as suggested by Talbot.

To assist in determining the period of migration, let us cast our minds back on the conquering periods of Oba Ewuare, Oba Ozolua, Oba Esigie and Oba Orhogbua which was between 1440-1578 - a period of over one hundred years. We know that during that period, a considerable portion of the Eastern part of the empire experienced military activities which have resulted in further “waves of migration”. There is no doubt that earlier migrants from Ovio’s time (i,e. before 1 100 AD) must have experienced a great influx of newer migrants who had come to settle in the area before the Dutch traveI1e (Nyendeal) visited Benin in 1702. To have a better picture of the founding of the Ika people, one is therefore forced to examine the component parts of the area.

Ika People
Ika People
(a) Agbor Clan
The Partridge’s report account talked about one man called Chime who was expelled from Benin. We are informed that he travelled eastward, crossed the Niger and settled at Onitsha where he had nine children out of which only a daughter called Olomu survived. According to the story, Chime who believed that he had been bewitched, left Onitsha to settle at a place called Ozarra in Agbor area. It is understood that this daughter of Chime had a son called Igbudu who succeeded his grand- father chime (or chieme). Igbudu we are told had five children who gave the clan the language, and “certain kingly characteristics” of the area .The first child (a son) called Agbor gave his name to the town or settlement, the second child, Ika gave the name of the language. We are further told that the third child, Ede meaning, “elephant” in Esan language, signified kingship. The fourth child (a daughter) was called Ottar and the fifth child (a son) was called Oganbor. According to the legend, for the purpose of protection, Ika was sent to found Otolokpo, Ede to found Umunede (to protect them from Aboh invasion). On the other hand, Ottar was to protect them from Ishan invasion while the fifth child was sent to the West bank of Ossiomo River where he founded Oganbor.

This story appears to be too fluid for any serious historical admission. For example, what was the name of the language the people spoke before the child Ika was born? Was the child, Agbor, the first settler of Agbor? Could he for that matter have settled or founded a place before he was born It is even understood that Umunede certainly does not accept that their founder comes from Agbor. According to our traditional historian, Chief Egharevba, “The early people of Eka (Ika) migrated from Benin wave by wave. The first wave was headed by a man named Eka the founder by whose name the land is known. Eka was the founder and first settler or Evbo Eka, afterwards Agbor, according to the name of its conqueror, Agban the Ezomo of Benin. Agbor, the first settlement, is the capital town of Eka then followed others in successive waves. But the language of the Ibos, their neighbours, especially those who migrated from Iboland to settle with them, .ultimately predominated over their original Benin tongue or speech. They however, still retain some of the customs, institutions, style of dress, etc.; the’ same ways and methods of worshipping the gods. The first Obi was sent to Agbor by the Oba of Benin to be their ruler likewise the other towns in Eka respectively. All the Obis of Eka were installed in office by the Oba of Benin at Benin City in the early days and also given the sword of office, Ada, on special application. They owe allegiance to the Oba of Benin, their overlord at Benin City”. A close look at the circumstances prevailing at the peak of the empire when the Obi was first appointed to the area, suggests that it is most unlikely that the Oba of Benin would entrust the area to a stranger across the Niger let alone make him an Obi of Agbor which has once rebelled against Benin. Even with Onitsha across the Niger, the Oba did not entrust the Obiship to an easterner and so he sent his own son there to be the Obi of Onitsha, With the position of Lagos in mind, Oba Orhogbua must have sent his own son to rule Agbor after the conquest in 1577 in much the same way he appointed Ashipa for Lagos or Eko).

The first Eka settlement “Igidi” probably would have been founded during the migration of Ovio who eventually founded Abhior (or Obior). Partridge quoting Talbot said, “Two families appear to have left Benin at the same time, one of which settled at Agbor while the other went on to Abbior”. From these facts, one can conclude that Agbor was founded long before 1702 when Nyendeal visited Benin.

Obi of Agbor
Playing homage to the Dein of Agbor
(b) Umunede Clan
According to the traditional history of the place, the founder was called Ede who was sent from Benin by the Oba to obtain medicine from Ubulu-Uku but later sought the Oba’s permission to settle at the place which he found to be a beautiful spot. This place eventually was named after the founder Ede, hence “Umun-Ede, It is said that Eka and Ede were brothers who left Benin at the same time to settle in their various areas. Whichever way one looks at these varied stories, one comes to the conclusion that the migration began from Benin. The Ovio story during the Ogiso era together with the mass movement of people during the 14th  and 15th  centuries in retrospect, lend credence to the early migration from Benin into these areas.

(c) Otolokpo Clan
It is said that this small clan had its origin from the agglomeration of Akuma, Ute-Ogbeje, Ute-Okpu and Owan clans.

(d) Mbiri Clan
It is believed that Mbiri was founded by Arun who came from Ewaise quarter of Benin City. They belong to the guild of traditional royal doctors of Benin. According to the story, Arun whose name is correctly Aren, is said to be the “father of an Ezomo and not the title of Ezomo himself”. Local history says that the first son of Mbiri settled al Mbiri while other Sons settled at Ake (in Igbanke) and Ewohimi in Ishan.

(e) Abavo Clan
The clan’s founder was Avbavbo who migrated from Benin City. The word Abavo is shortened from Avbavbo. It is said that Awu the wife of Ogboirie fled Benin after his brother was killed apparently for ritual sacrifice. By 1914-16, there was a clash of opinion as to whether Abavo should be administered froml Benin or from Agbor. As a result of this situation, there was desire that the people be administered from Benin because they claim to originate from Benin City. Consequently, in 1914, Abavo was administered from Benin but by 1916, a further agitation brought them back to Agbor. In 1924, there was trouble between the Obi and the elders of Ighogili village when more than half of the village migrated to settle near Ugoneki in Benin Division. The village is known as Igbogiri.

(f) Akumazi Clan
According to legend, there was a civil war in Benin known as “Agbagwala” which caused a great migration. The war is probably the Ezomo Agban war to suppress the insurrection of 1577 when Oba Orhogbua returned from the West Coast of the Empire. Among those who left Benin at that time were Chima (not the same as that who founded Ezechima or Onitsha), Ikpaku and Eni Eyime the founder of Ndobu, Anikpaku and Ani.

(g) Igbodo Clan
The village was founded by Ekezue who is said to have migrated from Akumazi to found Irabor. The term Igbodo is derived from a tree (The Igbodo tree) found widely in the area. Other migrants like Oshai Ugbade, came into the area from Obior. It is aid that Oshai Ugbade was an lyase of Obior who left Obior because he vied for supremacy with the Obi of Ovior. Oshai and his followers settled in an area near Igbodo and this has given rise to the two quarters now known as Idumuobior and Idumuozie.

(h) Ute-Ogbeje Clan
It is said that the clan was founded by a man called Ogbeje (probably Ogbegie) who is said to be a brother to an Oba of Benin. According to the legend, “Ogbeje and the Oba were travelling in a canoe looking for a place to settle when a bird called Ukpoha flew over Ogbeje’s canoe and dropped a snail. Ogbeje threw it overboard where upon it formed land on which Ogbeje decided to settle leaving the Oba to travel on”? This story is similar to the creation legend in Benin but it appears to be like the relayed history which has suffered much change due to the effluxion of time. It is said that Ogbaje was succeeded by his son Ute who in turn was followed by his son, Inoi, who was so cruel that fugitives from his rule founded Ute-Ukpu clan (denied by Ute-Ukpu people) and Ani-Ogba, Unugba (in Otolokpa Clan), Ogbegbe-Ute, and Ugboro-Okiti (in Onitsha Ugbo Clan in Asaba

(i) Ute-Ukpu Clan
The claim of Ute-Ukpu is that it was founded by Ute who came from Nshi in Awka Division (in former Eastern Nigeria) who left there after a quarrel with the Eze of Nshi. They also claim that they are the founder of Ute-Ogbeje and that Odogu who founded Owa came from Ute-Ukpu clan. However, this story is strongly refuted by the Obi of Ute-Ukpu and his chiefs who said that they did not come from Nshi but from Utezei which is eleven miles or about eighteen kilometers from Owa. The story claims that the clan-head was known as Eze but this title was changed to Obi by the Oba of Benin who visited the area and gave the then Eze, Ijuwe (probably Iduwe) an Ada. This event was said to have been commemorated by the planting of an Abosi tree under which an elephant head was buried by the Oba. The claim also said that the Obis of Agbor, Abavo and Owa were created by the Oba of Benin.’ This account appears to support Chief Egharevba’s account of the whole ¡ka area which appears to have been founded before the 11th century.

(j) Owa Clan
According to some account Odogu and Okpu were sons of Ijie the Obi of Ute-Okpu who originally migrated from Nshi in the Awka Division in the former Eastern Nigeria. This version is not supported by Obi and Chiefs of Ute-Okpu who say that they migrated from .Utezei near Owa. According to the story, the Obi of Ute-Okpu was called Ijuwe. Igie or Ijuwe is said to have sent Odogu, his eldest son, to Benin to serve the Oba in his wars. Before he left for Benin, his father gave him a belt to protect him and this is now preserved in the Aja-juju shrine in Ute-Okpu, a branch of which also exists at Oyibu. When Odogu returned home (Ute-Okpu), he could not dethrone his junior brother Okpu who became Obi at the death of their father Ijuwe. Odogu had no choice than migrate to Oyibo which was already a part of Ufie already settled by an emigrant Ufie from Benin who was under the Oba’s instruction to settle at the place. ‘

Delta state traditional rulers
The Dein of Agbor with other Delta state traditional rulers

(k) Alizomor, Ufie and Oyibo
However, when Odogu was moving to Oyibo, his younger brother Ezomo also moved to a place a little beyond Oyibo which is the present Alizomor.
It is said that when Ufie was celebrating the Ekenga festival, he invited Odogu to join him but later Odogu insisted on performing the festival at Oyibo himself and thereafter invited Ufie to attend. Ufie consented but on getting there, there was no one present except Odogu who said his children and servants had gone on errands. Ufie was persuaded to perform the sacrifice but as no one was present Ufie held the goat which Odogu killed. Odogu took the goat’s head because he killed it. Ufie now performed the job of sharing the goat’s head for Odogu to partake. In all these acts, Ufie performed the job of serving Odogu. Odogu then proclaimed himself the overlord of Ufie when all his sons and servants rushed out at the proclamation. The matter was reported to the Oba but as Ufie had already made himself servant of Odogu, it was upheld that the latter was now the Obi. Ufie thereafter became Odogu’s subordinate and his people lost their land to Oyibo.

(l) Aliro
According to the story, Omi with his wife Iro migrated from Benin and settled on Odogu’s land. Iro had many children and the place was named after her Aliro. However, in their ancestral worship, Omi’s name was usually called first at their ancestral shrine of Ani-Omi. Ugbah came from Benin to join Omi and thereafter founded Idumu Aliugbah. It is said that Iragboh with his wife, Oye, came from Uromi in Ishan Division and their descendants founded Idumu Aloye. The other Idumus were founded by the descendants of the sons of Omi.

(m) Owanta
According to the traditional account of the people, the first settler at Owanta (which means “small-Owa”) was called Okue who migrated from a nearby village called Ute-Ogbeje. Owanta was founded on part of the area already claimed by Odogu. Consequently, Okue rendered all services to his overlord Odogu. As time went on, other immigrants notably Osimi from Benin moved into the area to form the quarter now known as Idumu Alisimie. In like manner, Adie migrated from a nearby village Ute-Okpu to found the quarter now known as Idumu Adie. All these series of migration would have occurred during the restless period of Oba Ewuare, Ozolua, Esigie and Orhogbua (between 13th and 16th centuries) when there were considerable military expeditions in the area.

(n) Owekei
The settlement was established by Ekei from Benin. It is said that after the establishment of the young village, the Obi of Owa (called ¡se) killed a man from Owekei which made some of the new migrants to move to another place now known as Owanike in Benin Division. It is said that after some time trouble arose amongst the Owanike and a portion of the people returned to Owekei. Although those who later returned to Owekei regarded themselves as the Oba’s subjects yet they were forced to serve the Obi of Owa as they were within his immediate jurisdiction. Up till this time, these people maintain a link with Owanike in Benin Division of Edo State.

(o) Alidima
This is a settlement which grew up during the present century as a result of trade with the Kwales and the Urhonigbe. Most of their farming is done on Benin soil.

(p) Boji-Boji
The settlement was as a result of troop movement in 1906 after the British succeeded in the military invasion of the Benin Empire in 1897. The whole of Boji-Boji is made up of all ethnic groups in Nigeria. Originally, these ethnic groups were allotted land by the District Commissioner but they later came under the jurisdiction of the Obi of Agbor. According to records, in 1926 there arose a dispute as to who should control Boj¡-Boji and it was decided that the Southern portion of the settlement is under the Obi of Owa because it lies within Owanta and Owekei. Although people of Oyibo, Alizomor and Owa Alidima are of the same stock in the sense that they have a common origin, yet later settlers in the outlying villages are really of Benin stock. The most unfortunate people are the Ufie who lost their land to the Oyibo by tricks.

(q) Idumuesah Clan
It is said that Alugbome was founded by Ibile from Ugboha in Ishan Division. On the other hand, Alugbo was founded by Abu reputed to have migrated from Aboh while Abioje and Alitor were founded by Oje and llor who came from Uromi respectively. From the name of the clan itself, there is every indication that they originate from Ishan hence the word Idumuesah would have been derived from the compound word Idwnu (or Idumnwun in Benin language) which means “quarter or street,” and Esah (or Esan in Benin language) refer, to Ishan or Esan.

The Major Traditional Rulers In Ika Land

1. The Obi of Agbor

2. The Obi of Owa

3. The Obi of Abavo

4. The Obi of Umunede

5. The Obi of Akumazi

6. The Obi of Ute-Okpu

7. The Obi of Igbodo

8. The Obi of OtoIokpo *

9. The Obi of Mbiri*

10. The Obi of Ute-Ugheje

11. The Clan Head (Okpara) of ldumuesah

Comment Box is loading comments...
Benin kingdom copy right