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The Founding Of Oguta and the Founding Of Ikwerre (Port Harcourt)

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Written by ANTHONY OKOSUN (last update 21/06/2018)

The above is the caption of a chapter in the soon to be released book


Olauda Equiano in his book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London, 1789) wrote:

"[Page 4] That part of Africa, known by the name of Guinea, to which the trade for slaves is carried on, extends along the coast above 3400 miles, from the Senegal to Angola, and includes a variety of kingdoms. Of these the most considerable is the kingdom of Benen, both as to extent and wealth, the richness and cultivation of the soil, the power of its king, and the number and warlike disposition of the inhabitants. It is situated nearly under the line, and extends along the coast about 170 miles, but runs back into the interior part of Africa to a distance hitherto I believe unexplored by any traveler; and seems only terminated at length by the empire of Abyssinia, near 1500 miles from its beginning. This kingdom is divided into many provinces or districts: in one of the most remote and fertile of which, [Page 5] called Eboe, I was born, in the year 1745, in a charming fruitful vale, named Effaka. The distance of this province from the capital of Benin and the sea coast must be very considerable; for I had never heard of white men or Europeans, nor of the sea: and our subjection to the king of Benin was little more than nominal; for every transaction of the government, as far as my slender observation extended, was conducted by the chiefs or elders of the place. The manners and government of a people who have little commerce with other countries are generally very simple; and the history of what passes in one family or village may serve as a specimen of a nation."

Oguta was founded during the reign of Oba Ewuare. Oguta is named after the Edo General Oghu who revolted against Oba Ewuare when the international trade in Edo slaves commenced between Benin and Portugal. General Oghu led Bini soldiers who were opposed to the slave trade across the Benin moat and led them to the settlement then known as Egbelle (Uromi) founded by earlier Bini migrants who relocated during the Ogiso era. Egbelle is now known as the first village in Uromi.

After Emperor Ewuare crowned his son Ijesan, which translates to Governor of Esan as King of Uromi, after reconciling with the Bini rebels who migrated to Esanland; General Oghu who was the de facto military leader of the people was relocated to Oguta on a military mission. Many Edo history pundits believe that Ijesa Tedo in Lagos was originally a Barrack named in honor of Ijesan Nedo (Ijesan the Edo)

Ekpeye in Rivers State, Agbelle in Ikorodu were founded by soldiers who travelled from Egbelle to such places during the reign of Emperor Orhogbua.

Ikwerre evolved from the name Ikivabhojerre who was the King of Uromi during the reign of Emperor Orhogbua and by virtue of which position he was the head of the army code named Rome by the Portuguese military partners of the Edos, which said name was corrupted to Uromi by the natives.

The name Rome was taken to far places and appears in names found in some of the settlements founded by Orhogbua's Edo army i.e Aromire,(First settlers on Lagos Island) Lome et al

Ahoada is a corruption of Ehuda by the British colonialists, which itself is a corruption of Afuda by the neighbors of the Esan Edo soldiers. Afuda is in Uromi

Till this day, Etche (Eichie) is a prominent name in Uromi, which suggests that the Etche people in Rivers State are descendants of a military leader who was known as Eichie

Ogba means boundary fence, which suggests that the people now known as Ogba people in Rivers State, who claim Edo heritage are descendants of ancient Esan Edo Customs and Immigration officers.

Ogbako Ikwerre translates to - General meeting of Ikwerre people. Ogbako in Uromi mean - General meeting

The four most senior elders in Uromi carry a spiritual staff during meetings known as Okpor. In Ikwerre, Ogba, Ekpeye and Etche villages, the four most senior elders carry Okpor (Ohwor) spiritual staff during meetings

In Ikwerre Port Harcourt, the city, like Esanland and Lagos (Eko) is broken up into Idumus (corrupted to Rumus) The ancient Esan Edo soldiers identified themselves by their King Ikivabhojere, (which said name evolved into Ikwerre in Port Harcourt) who was the fourth King of Uromi and a contemporary of Emperor Orhogbua, who trained in Portugese military schools and abolished the trade in slaves during his reign as the Omo'no Oba N' Edo.

Esan Edo soldiers in what is now known as Port Harcourt started identifying themselves with their leader Ikivabhojerre after the coup that killed Emperor Orhogbua's son, Emperor Ehengbuda by some Edo traders who wanted to re-introduce and actually re-introduced the trade in slaves after Emperor Ehengbuda's death. There was much protestations by Esan Edo Generals during this period. This was the era when Esan Edo titles like Oloto of Otor (Literally, the one who acquired this land of this land) came into existence as Esan Edo Generals were distancing themselves from the coup plotters. During this era Esan Edo Generals started declaring suzerainty over areas that were under their control.

Many Edo history enthusiasts hold strong opinion that it was Ojuromi Ikivabhojerre as the military leader of the army that identified themselves as Romire (Aromire) [original founders of Lagos island, that broke up Lagos into Idus, Idis, Idumus, Ekos and Agas and same for what is now known as Port Harcourt, especially as the soldiers identified themselves as his soldiers.

In Oguta messengers and message are known as Ukor. In Uromi, messengers and message are known as Ukor

In Oguta age groups are known as Otu. In Uromi, age groups are known as Otu

In Oguta one of the names for a woman is Odo. In ancient Uromi, women were known as Odo. Some people in Uromi still name their daughters Odo.

In Oguta, there is Idumu Ozua which translates to the quarter of warriors in Esan Edo.

In Oguta there is Odibo means Senior Servant / Senior Friend / Senior Personal Assistant in both Oguta and Edo generally

In Oguta, there are still Edo titles like Iyasara, (Iyasele) [Prime Minister in Edo, Ndaniken (Edaiken) Crown Prince in Edo, Osere (Osara) and Osuma which are general Edo traditional titles.

The Esan Edo founders of Oguta and Port Harcourt were part of the Edo army and ancient colonial officers that extended the Edo Empire to Eastern Nigeria, just as confirmed by Olauda Equiano in his book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London, 1789)

ANTHONY OKOSUN (TonyOsun@Yahoo.Co.Uk.)                                                                                             

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