The History of Uzebu Quarter, Benin City and Ezomo Ekenika

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Written by Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last Update April 9, 2022)

Ezomo palace

The EZOMO is one of the seven UZAMA nobles of Benin, the King-makers of the land who crowns the Crown Prince the EDAIKEN their most junior member as the Oba of Benin, the Ezomo was the last title to be added to the UZAMA group. His inclusion increased the membership of this college to seven. This took place only three hundred years ago. On his appointment the Ezomo enquired hierarchical ascendancy over at least of the older members of the Uzama viz the ERO, the EHOLOR N’IRE and the EDAIKEN. The EZOMO was not one of the titles carried over from the First Dynasty that of the OGISOS as the OLIHA, the EDOHEN, the ERO and the EHOLOR NIRE were. Even up to the time of Oba Ewuare a title less than six hundred years ago the title of the EZOMO did not feature in Benin narrations.

The Ezomo title began to appear in Benin narrations during and after the Coast wars of Oba ORHOGBUA four hundred and fifty years ago when the LAGOS settlement was founded. The first personage so mentioned is bearing the EZOMO title was EKENIKA, Ekenika was a commander in Oba Orhogbua’s maritime army. This army brought the lands bordering the extensive lagoon system running parallel to that portion of the Atlantic Ocean called the Bight of Benin, under the sway of Benin. .With  this maritime army, borne on a flotilla of river craft founded Lagos and it is believed explored the Lagoon system to his further westward reach through Dahomey to the Volta river basin in present day Ghana.

The personage EKENIKA until contrary evidence surfaces should be regarded as the first       EZOMO of Benin. The people of UZEBU Quarter of Benin City over which the Ezomo is the traditional head mention EKENIKA’s name first when recollecting the names of the Ezomos of Uzebu who pre-dated Chief EHENUA in the title.

Ekenika was a riverine man what needs to be determined is whether he was an Edo riverine man or a Yoruba riverine man. That he was a riverine man is attested to by his history and also by some of the objects of decoration in his shrine at the Obazuaye family house in Ugbague Quarters, Benin City the Obazuaye family being the main Benin City descendants of EKENIKA. Among the objects of decoration in the ancestral shrine are the remains of two canoe paddle. There is also a miniature carving of a man in a canoe representing the patriarch. During any celebratory gathering of the family the man in the boat artefact is placed floating in a large basin of water and its random movement encouraged by stirring the water with the Ukhurhe, the wooden ancestral totem of the family prayers are said and then each family member present is given some of the water in the basin to drink.

It is moreover believed by the Obazuaye family that since they are the children of Ekenika members the clan are immune from death by drowning in any body of water.
Ame lgbe ovhi Ekenika

A similar belief was also widely held in Edo-land for centuries until the recent Biafran Civil War, that an Edo person was immune from drowning in the waters of the River Niger: the Spirit of the great river would ensure that it did not happen. This belief was founded on the assurance said to have been given Oba Ewuare by the River Niger, called OHINMWIN by the Edos and OSHIMILI by the western Ibos during the fighting Oba’s campaigns east of the River Niger five and a half centuries ago.

Ohinmwin igbe ovbi Edo

The Obazuaye family of Benin are a branch of the EMEHI clan deriving this lineage from Ekenika. Their morning salutation is LAMEHI. The riverine people of Ughoton village the river poet of old Benin belongs also to the same Emehi clan and has the same “Lamehi” word as their morning salutation. Since Ekenika was indisputably a riverine man it would be reasonable to suggest that he was an Ughoton man, with his roots in that Benin riverine community.

If this first EZOMO of Benin was not an Edo man, then he probably was a Yoruba riverine man from ILAJE or the EPE/IJEBU Waterside in which case Oba Orhogbua must have picked him up in the Mahin/Ugbo territories or at Ijebu Ode. On page 218 of Vol. 1 of the History of Southern Nigeria. P. Amaury Talbot, who was a Colonial Resident of Benin Province, wrote:

Awrhogbua,  Oba of Benin visited Ijebu Ode in company with the Portuguese” If Ekenika was  a riverine  Yoruba man it was at this  stage in Orhogbua’s Lagoon expedition that he Ekenika must have joined up with the Benin army. He figured prominently in Orhogbua’s campaign west of Lagos in the Badagry and Dahomey stretches of the Lagoon territories (See D.U. Emokpae’s Ewuare the Great).

The Portuguese according to Talbot’s testimony quoted above were with Orhogbua in his Lagoon expedition. The same Portuguese had been forty years earlier with Esigie Orhogbua’s father, at the gates of IDAH. This is not surprising especially in the case of Orhogbua because this Oba had become, to all intents and purposes a black Portuguese having spent a number of years being educated in LISBON the capital of Portugal the European sponsor of the Benin enlightenment. At the time when Orhogbua visited Ijebu Ode the territory was still probably in dependency relationship with Benin City, a relationship which was said to have been established by Oba OZOLUA, Orhogbua’s grandfather. Ekenika could therefore have been the head of a reinforcement army provided by a dependent territory to augment the force at the disposal of the over aching monarch. 

At this period in history Bartholomew DIAZ had already sailed round the bottom of Africa continent and discovered a sea route from Europe to Asia. Vasco Da Gama had followed up this lead and had actually crossed the India Ocean to Asia successfully outflanking the Moslem world of the Middle East and Asia minor yet the Portuguese still entertained some hope that there might yet be a shorter sea-route to Asia across the land mass of Africa an oceanic passage-way dividing Africa into two or more continental island around which the waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans met. This passage way would hopefully take the Portuguese sailing ship from the Bright of Benin across Africa to surface in the Indian Oceans at the Somali Horn of the continent peradventure the Bight of Benin Lagoon System might lead at some point into this hoped for passage-way. To Orhogbua his Lagoon expedition was primarily imperial and expansionist in intention. To the Portuguese accompanying him, the expedition was largely geographical and exploratory.

Instead of an oceanic passage way across Africa’s land mass Orhogbua’s conquering expedition discovered Lagos inland. The monarch immediately recognised the importance of this discovery. The Island was the first spot since Orhogbua left the mouth of the Benin River far to the east where there was a break in the coastline of the continent a break which permitted the lagoon waters to flow into the Atlantic Ocean. This meant that sailing ships from Europe could penetrate into the bowels of Africa the mouth of the Lagos River as they had done though the mouth of the Benin River bringing trade and exposure to the adjoining lands. The early Portuguese caravels had failed to discover the mouth of the Lagos River from the Sea. They had sailed past in un-noticing because it was always obscured by high surfs and breakers.

Orhogbua occupied Lagos and made it his Field Headquarters. From there he pushed west wards to Dahomey and beyond to wherever the lagoon system led him. He later planted a Dukedom on the Island.

Sheathing his sword, silencing his guns and bringing the expedition to an end Orhogbua returned on the waters of the lagoon to Benin. When the army arrived home Orhogbua settled Ekenika in Uzebu Quarters in Benin.

The UZEBU Quarter of the City was a creation of Oba Orhogbua’s Lagoon expedition Chief Dawson Ogiemudia OBASEKI the OBARUYIEDO of Benin told one of his daughters over sixty years ago that the Uzebu Quarter was founded by Orhogbua, as a war-camp where the soldiers of his lagoon campaign were gathered and trained. The Portuguese probably lent a hand in the military training by putting the soldiers through in the art of handling tire-arms, especially the firing of cannon. The war-camp subsequently kept up a steady supply of reinforcements to the army during the years the Oba was in the waters.

The Uzebu Quarter in Benin City is therefore of the same age as Lagos, founded in the pursuit of the same purpose by their common founder, Oba Orhogbua.

The war-camp was on the western outskirts of the City and it strategically straddled the City’s gateway to the seas to Europe and to the world of the lagoon territories and peoples which had now been brought under the control of Benin.

Two hundred years earlier Oba Ewuare had settled Ezuku, the Ogogobiaga in Ogan village to monitor the traffic from the eastern lands, as mentioned earlier. It was in like manner that Ekenika was settled in Uzebu. It is plausible to suggest that this military village acquired the name UZEBU because it was the gateway to the riverine world of Benin, and the most important centres of population in this riverine world were at that time, the Ijebu towns as far west as Ikorodu, which fringed the length of the lagoon system. From these Ijebu territories came African manufacture products in the form of woven cloths, which became Indispensable items in the overseas trade carried Out by Benin with the European traders in Ughoton and the Benin River. The European traders re-traded these cloths in other ports of West Africa and in the Congo selling them in these places for slaves and gold which they then took overseas.

The new Benin City Quarter sitting astride the gateway to these riverine territories could conceivably have been known as Ode Uzebu: “Ijebu Road” or more simply Uzebu.

The military title of Ezomo with which Ekenika was ennobled could be regarded as one of the happy imports brought by Orhogbua from the lagoon lands. Some tenuous bit of evidence would localise this word to the Ijebu lands in particular in the 1930’s Akenzua II Oba of Benin conferred the title of ALARE EZOMO on a prominent son of the Uzebu Quarter of Benin City. Now, all Ijebu Ode native children in Yoruba-land are known as OMO ALARE: “Children of ALARE” ALARE is the ancestral deity of the Ijebu Yoruba sub-tribe it is said that all that an Ijebu person owns be it money land or other property is the property of the ALARE, the ancestral god of the race. The Ijebu man does not possess the freedom to part with any portion of this wealth because technically the wealth is not his to dispense with as he likes. The right to part with it belongs only to ALARE who owns it. This is said to be the secret of the apparently relative ease with which an Ijebu man accumulates wealth he can accumulate but he has no personal right to give any of it away. (See Nigerian Profiles.S.l Kale Bishop of Lagos a Biography by Folarin Coker. page 20.)

The coincidence is perhaps more than just a happenstance that it is in the Benin City Quarter called Uzebu” that the name of this Ijebu Ode god would feature in a title tied to the name of the traditional Head of the Quarter. It is conceivable that Ekenika came originally from the Epe/Ijebu Ode area and that the memory of the Ijebu ancestral god still lingered in the Uzebu folk memory until recent times.
There are many “Ijebu” place-names in the country both in Ijebu land and also in some non-Ijebu areas. Strung parallel to the Bight of Benin lagoon system are such Ijebu towns as Ijebu Ode, Ijebu-Munshin, Ijebu-Ijesha, Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Ugbo Ijebu-Remo, and Ijebu-Oru. In the non-Ijebu lands there are “UZEBU” in Benin, Ijebu-Ijesha in Ijesha-land and Ijebu and Ijebu-Owo in Owo land. The interesting thing about the Ijebu Owo Quarter in Owo town is that the traditional Head of the Quarter bears the same title OJOMO, as in Benin City Uzebu. His full title is the OJOMO-OLUDA or Ijebu-Owo. More intriguing still is the fact that the word OLUDA which features in the title of this personage is also one of the titles found in the Uzebu Quarter of Benin City (Prince Ena Eweka’s Benin Chieftaincy Titles page 154)

Ekenika’s historical links with Lagos are enduring and they remain alive to this day. His Benin City decrements claim that he was the first Benin Commander in Oba Orhogbu’s army to step on the uninhabited island of Lagos. He had to beat back a counter-attack by some natives from the mainland presumably the AWORIS, before he secured the island. The natives had noticed some discarded ebi eba leaves, which had been used as food-wraps by the Benin soldiery. floating on the water. The leaves were tropical forest leaves not found in the brackish. mangrove swamp lands bordering the lagoon. The Aworis knew then that they had aliens in their midst - and attacked, following in the direction from where the leaves were floating. (From A Short Narration on EKENIKA, written by Dr. D A. Bazuaye).

The OBAZUAYE family further asserts that a branch of their family is thriving in Lagos. This branch is the BAJULAIYE family of the Island. The Benin and the Lagos branches, as can be seen, bear the same name. The name means: Here on Earth the Oba is supreme. The Oba whose reign gave rise to the name was of course Orhogbua.

The OBAZUAYE family’s links with the Ughoton waterside village have already been alluded to a branch of this Benin family is also said to be thriving the Ijaw Kingdom of OGBA in Bayelsa State. They are to be found concentrated in the village of AKABUKA.

There are other fall-outs which are still discernible and celebrated today of the prodigious amount of energy poured out by Benin in Oba orhogbua’s lagoon enterprise of four and a half centuries ago. It was in the course of this enterprise that the Edos were introduced to the kitchen common salt, UMWEN, for the first time. This mineral salt ultimately displaced from its pride of place in Edo kitchens the organic cooking salt, Odoo which had been up to that point in time, the only available salt-seasoning the Edos had. The substance acquired its Edo name Umwen because it was an Ishan man a servant of Chief OSAGUE, who was the first Edo to sample it. He was told to taste it peradventure it might prove to be non- poisonous. He complied, found the taste to be agreeable and pronounced the substance to be all right. O bhen he announced in Ishan. It is all right. It is not poisonous.

The young of Edo land have, during the past four hundred and fifty years experienced a progressive diminution in their physical stature since the Edo converted wholesale to using the mineral common salt introduced from the coast lands by Orhogbua  the Edo elders insist today.

The OLISA family of IKORODU also a riverine Ijebu town have visited Benin City. They were the guests in Oliha Quarters, of Chief OLIHA the Head of the UZAMA group of chiefs. The Olisa family came to renew their acquaintanceship with their roots because they are a branch of the Benin City OLIHA family. There is also an OLISA chiefly family in Ijebu Ode. The family might also be able to trace its roots to the Oliha Quarters in Benin. These linkages between Benin and these Yoruba riverine communities were affected during the period in history under consideration, the same period when the Uzebu Quarter in Benin came into existence.

It was this same water-way, these roadstead to the Ijebu lands and beyond, which claimed the life of Oba EHENGBUDA, Oba Orhogbua’s son and successor. The King was on his way to visit the new Dukedom of EKO (Lagos) when a freak storm convulsed the lagoon system capsizing many of the river-craft in the royal entourage including that bearing ¡he monarch. He was said to be only two days away from his destination in a journey which was billed to last eight days. The accident probably occurred therefore in the waters washing the shores of the LEKKI Peninsula.

It should be borne in mind that the riverine territories were the backyard, the iyekowa, of Benin land, for the more than one thousand years since the City became the centre of an organised State. The riverine areas constitute the backwaters of the kingdom, where the land merged with the sea, and the world as it was known at that time ended. The face of the Kingdom was toward the north, toward the African continental land mass, and also to the sides, to the east and west, from which three direction interactions with other peoples took place. Then during the reign of Oba Ewuare white people who travelled, unbelievably, on the sea came through the backyard of the kingdom. They opened a new and important gateway into the kingdom, with its land-fall at the Ughoton water-side. The Uzebu Quarter was the entrance into the City of this new gateway.

It is surmised that Ezomo AGBAN was the second Ezomo of Benin, succeeding Ekenika in the military cantonment which was the Uzebu Quarter. This is assumed because it is known that Oba Orhogbua was still on the throne when AGBAN became the Ezomo. Agban went on to serve Oba Ehengbuda Orhogbua’s successor.

The Uzebu people, in recollecting the names of the EZOMOS who pre-dated EHENUA’S accession to the title give the list as set out below

Ezomo Ekenika

Ezomo Agban

Ezomo Eronmwon-Ebo (Eronmwon-Ebo is the Edo name for the Copper metal.)

Ezomo N’Ogun or Ezomo N’Ogun

Ezomo Ugborogun

This means that during the period of one and a half centuries which separate the reigns of Oba Orhogbua and Oba Akenzua the First five EZOMOS are remembered to have presided over the affairs of the Uzebu Quarter of Benin City. And it is fortunate indeed that the lives and deeds of some of these five chiefs are still remembered. The story of Ezomo Agban, almost certainly the second Ezomo of Benin, has been the best known and the most frequently told. The story of Ekenika, almost indisputably the first Ezomo of Benin has been kept alive by his descendants though they do not emphasise his Ezomo-ship period but only the exploits of his preceding life as the most prominent commander in the lagoon wars of Oba Orhogbua exploits which, when the wars ended, made him to assume the new title of the Ezomo in the new Benin City quarter of Uzebu.

The story of Ezomo n’ Ogun (or Ezomo n’ Igun or Ezomo na’Igun) perhaps the fourth Ezomo of Benin, has fortunately been recorded for posterity by J. U. Egharevba The story appears in his little book, Some Stories of Ancient Benin which he published in 1950. On page 42 of the pamphlet, under the long and rather obscure title of: What is the cause of the Rejoicing of These People over the Fragment Called Life? Egharevba recorded an important episode in the life of this early Ezomo. Ezomo n’Ogun was the first personage in the remembered history of Benin to have used the largest land animal a live elephant as a sacrificial offering in the propitiation of his own Head that is the Spirit of his Good Fortune or of his Self-worth. Since three hundred and fifty years ago when this larger-than-life demonstration of self- worship took place in the Uzebu Quarters there have been only two repeats of it in Benin land. Ohenmwen the Iyase achieved it about one hundred and seventy years ago. And in the fourth decade of the 20thcentury, in February 1936 Oba Akenzua II became the third personage to pull off the feat.

Ezomo n’Ogun sent his servants into the forest for a live elephant and within fourteen day they were back with one. And the propitiation took place. But it did not pass without a rap on the chieftain’s knuckles. This rap of disapproval was delivered by an old Uzebu citizen when the citizen saw the live elephant, richly garlanded and restrained with stout ropes being led in a triumphant procession through the streets of Uzebu. The old citizen gazed at the scene from the doorway of his house. He was not impressed by the prodigality of the wealth and power being demonstrated by the Ezomo. He was in fact offended by the ostentation .He made his famous comment what is the cause of the rejoicing of these people over the fragment called life?

Expressed in other words the elderly citizen was echoing the words in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible which says: Vanity of vanities all is vanity.

Dragged before the Ezomo for his perceived impertinence the citizen with all due deference to his lord explained the reason for his words. In the words of Dr. Egharevba the old man said: All I said is:
“What is the cause of the rejoicing of these people over the fragment called life? Because it is impossible to get an elephant killed from Benin City to the bank of the river Ovia from the beginning to the days of Ezomo Agban”.

What the old man was telling Ezomo n’ Ogun was that the cause of the rejoicing of the people viz the capture of a live elephant in the jungle so near to the Uzebu Quarters ought in reality to be a source of sorrow to them because the feat was conclusive proof that the Benin Kingdom was shrinking from de-population. From the beginning of time, said the old citizen right into the days of Ezomo Agban a predecessor of Ezomo ‘ Ogun the huge area of territory between Benin City and  the banks of the Ovia river to the west was one large suburban extension of the City with many towns and villages filled with huge populations. Now the populations were no more and the numberless towns and villages had disappeared and their place taken over by the jungle, jungle now so thick  as to provide habitation for the elephants so near to the Uzebu outskirts of the City.

What had happened, the old man was silently asking to the labouring food-growing wealth-creating populations of the land. The land was impoverished by sundry scarcities and by hunger. It was denuded in the unremitting battle with the jungle keeping the jungle at bay and so enlarging the available living space for human-kind the only people who were comfortable with the present circumstances were the warlords the soldiers with the means of expropriating from others their wealth, and even their liberty.

The Ezomo n’Ogun saw the point being made by the citizen and thoughtfully he concurred with it. Rather than chastisement for it had been decided that the old man was to be sacrificed to the god of war, the Ezomo rewarded him with gifts for the contrary but salutary opinion he had expressed.
The great de-population of the Benin kingdom which the old Uzebu citizen had noted with such distress was very probably due to the effects of the overseas Slave Trade which, at that period in history had been going on for more than one hundred years.

Not that the sale of slaves to European merchants had ever been popular in Benin. This trade the overseas export of human beings, and the resulting de-population of the country had from the very beginning, seemed silly in Benin. At first the commerce was restricted to only the sale of female slaves. The export of the productive fighting male was disallowed by the kingdom. Alan Ryder reports on page 59 of his seminal work Benin and the Europeans, the experience of the Portuguese merchant Machin Fernandes in Benin as early in the history of the Slave Trade as August 1522. ie only thirty years after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas of the whole cargo of 83 slaves bought by Machim Fernandes only two were males and it is quite possible that these were acquired outside the Oba’s territory despite a whole month (at Ughoton) spent in vain attempts to have a market opened for male slaves. The 81 females female, mostly between ten and twenty years of age were purchased in Benin City between 25 June and 8 August at the rate of one two or three a day.

As the centuries wore on Benin stopped cooperating with the overseas traders in this business of the overseas traders in the business of the exportation of humans On page 201 of Benin and the Europeans Alan Ryder records the experiences of yet another European merchant the French trader and Captain called Landolphe  in Benin in February 1778 This trader recorded that:
The Ezomo was the richest man in Benin owning more than 10,000 slaves noon of them was ever sold.
The author then commented:
his (the Ezomo’s) supposed refusal to sell any of his slaves is also noteworthy for the light it sheds upon the attitude of powerful Edo chiefs towards the slave trade: however numerous they might be a great man did not sell his slaves.
Said the Edos.
Vbo ghi da Oba
No na mu ovionren khien
“What need does the Oba want to satisfy by putting out his slave for sale?”
THERE was a characteristic which the Ezomo title shared with the three other tales of the ESOGBAN, the IYOBA and the EDAIKEN in old Benin. The holder of any of these four titles as has been explained earlier, had to move house on being so appointed to a designated geographical area of Benin City assigned to the title. There the new chief would build his new abode which served as his Palace for the duration of his life-time only. Since the title was not heredity except that of the Edaiken his successor was obliged to build his own Palace on taking over the title but in the same quarter of the City. This arrangement had to do with facilitating the discharging of the responsibility attached to the title the Ezomo to guard the riverine gateway into Benin the Esogban to be available for instant consultation with the Oba in and out of hours and the Edaiken and his grandmother the lyoba for the historical reasons which led to the creation of those titles.

The Ogbe Eguanran Quarter of the city opposite the UNUOGUA of the Oba Palace has already been mentioned as the area of town where a new Esogban was obliged to build his new home, irrespective of where he must live been domiciled before being appointed the Odionwere of Benin City The new Iyoba was obliged to move into her new Palace at the lower Uselu and the new Edaiken had to build his new abode in the fallow land Egune Edaiken in Upper Uselu.

The new Ezomo was constrained, on being conferred with this military title to move to UZEBU Quarters and there to construct his Palace. The Ezomo AGBAN a man whose ancestral roots were in Erhie Street, where his Shrine is situated was said to have built his Ezomo Palace on the site of the present OGBE Sports Stadium in Uzebu Quarters It was there he lived out his chiefly life. At death his shrine was constituted along with that of his contemporary Oghogiotor in Erhie, the Quarters of his family roots. Uzebu was to him a Duty Post.

EHENUA acceded to the EZOMO title during the reign of AKENZUA the First some one hundred and fifty years after Orhogbua. He moved to Uzebu and there built his Palace with much importuning from him and aided by the signal services he had rendered the Benin palace  Ehenua got Akenzua the First to make the Ezomo  title hereditary to his line. The Oba went further: probably because of the struggle he had to wage to unseat his usurper junior brother Prince OZUERE from the Benin throne, a struggle in which Ehenua played a critically important part. Akenzua promoted the new EZOMO to the ranks of the UZAMA, the seven King -Makers of the land, about the year 1713 (Prince Ena Eweka’s Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Titles p 27) the descendants of Chief Ehenua have been the Ezomo of Benin there in the. Uzebu Quarters, since these last three hundred years all ten of them, namely: Odia, Ekeneza, Erebor, Osifo, Uzama, Osarogiagbon Omoruyi, Asemota, Aiweriagbon and Okponmwense They lived, and still live, in the original Palace built by their father Ehenua a Palace which was largely destroyed by the British troops on the conquest of Benin in 1897, and rehabilitated by the Ezomo Omoruyi.

The UZEBU Quarter of Benin City sits astride the gateway to the riverine world of Benin, the gateway through which the traffic from Europe, Warri, Mahin/Ilaje. Ijebu, Lagos, Badagry and Dahomey reached the City until less than only eighty years ago. For five hundred years since the first Europeans visited, and until well into the 20th century Uzebu became the most important gateway for the Benin people, overshadowing in importance all the other ancient gateways through which the City and the Kingdom communicated with the outside world. The Edos called the route which led out of UZEBU: ode ame: “the riverine route”. Then they added:
Emwin n ‘Omo yaru Omo
Ode ame ero kerhe:

“The underpinnings of the authority and the prestige of the Oba of Benin,
all come through the riverine route”.

Through this Ughoton route, astride which sat the Ezomo and his UZEBU Quarter, came the first guns into Benin City. Through this UZEBU gateway came the iron bars from Holland for the five Blacksmith-Guilds of the city. Through it came the manilla currency which provided the bronze raw material for the historical documentation work of the Brass-workers, the cowries currency which sustained the liquidity of the economy of the land, the Roman Catholic Fathers who brought Christianity into Benin and for a time five hundred years ago, succeeded in making Benin a Christian city. And through this gateway came the flame of literacy which unfortunately did not catch on, and in the course of time flickered and went out.

The Ezomo sat in his palace in UZEBU, monitoring this civilising and prospering traffic from Ughoton and ensuring that no harm passed through to disturb the tranquillity of the City. The Overseas visitor to Benin was obliged to stop at the Ezomo palace. There his unshorn feet were ritually washed with water from a large brass basin to which some fresh leaves had been added before he was allowed to proceed further into the inner City.

On a few occasions danger did come through the Ughoton road and the Ezomo was there at UZEBU to cope with it. Take the case of Commandant Willem Hoog the resident Manager of the Dutch Trading Station in Ughoton Village.

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