The short History of Ogbe Quarters
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By Ekhaguosa Aisien {Last Update March 31, 2022}

The OGBE half of the Inner City houses the Oba Palace which in old Benin was a town in its own right, surrounded throughout its whole extent by a perimeter wall four feet thick. The perimeter wall had a wall-roof to itself which protected its thickness from the rains. What remained of the Ogbe district, after the delineation of the Palace sorted itself out into six segments grouped around the Palace. The six segments are:



*Iwebo or Ogbe Eweka


*Ogbe Ewuare

*Ogbe Ezoti

The OGHITODIN Quarter survived until the middle years of this century, but is now no more having been wholly swallowed up by the expanding emporium that the Oba market. The Oghitodin was the portion of OGBE which skirted the Uroghotodin High Street which divided the inner City into the two political and cultural halves of the Ogbe and Ore-Nokhua. The Oba Market once only a portion of the Oghitodin has nowadays taken over the whole of that section of the Ogbe. But time was in the olden days when a sizeable portion of the citizenry of Ogbe had their homes grouped around the Oba market both to its sides and at its back. They constituted the natives of the Oghitodin Quarter.

The ABEHE Quarter once housing the premises of the lyase Ekpenede has recently been made more definable by the fence which runs along the back of the modern Oba Market. The Quarter has its own Odionwere.

The IWEBO Quarter sometimes also known as OGBE EWEKA is behind Abehe Quarter the Oba EWEKA referred to here is EWEKA the Second, the grandfather of Oba EREDIAUWA. In that Quarter was his personal house which he built and in which he lived when his father was in exile in Calabar He built the house when he was the guest of Chief Osonaye Chief Osonaye had hosted him when the Prince finally returned to the City in 1898-1899, bringing his fugitive existence to an end with the acceptance of the fact of his father’s deportation, and of the reality that Benin City had slipped under new management

The AGBODO Quarter separates the OGBE EWEKA from the frontage of the Palace. The important feature of this Quarter in Old Benin was the AGBODO POND, which was a source of muddy water-supplies to the Ogbe citizens. It was the body of water across which Oba Ozolua’s children, namely Idubor, Osawe and Prince UGIABI, later made the Enogie of Idogbo Village, exhibited their athletic prowess five hundred years ago When pipe-borne water finally came to Benin City in 1910 the overhead Reservoir for this river water-supply was appropriately sited by the banks of the Agbodo Pond, and it is still there today, sharing the same ground with the Edion-Edo Shrine.

With pipe-borne flowing from standing taps in the street of Benin the Agbodo Pond had come to the end of its centuries of useful service, and it was time to fill it in, and so reduce the mosquito population of the City The Contract for its filling-in was won by Crown Prince AIGUOBASINMWIN later Oba EWEKA II. He executed the contract, in conjunction with one other Contractor-citizen, and obliterated for ever one of the longest-lasting landmarks of Ogbe and Benin City.

The Works Department of the Oredo Local Government today sits upon the filled-in Agbodo Pond.
Plymouth Road, now Adesogbe Road, constructed and named after Lord Plymouth of Great Britain who visited Benin City in 1935, nowadays provides a proper demarcation between the Agbodo Quarter and the Oba Palace

The OGBE EWUARE Quarter is the heart-land of the Ogbe half of Inner Benin City. The ALAKA Section, next to the western wall of the royal Palace is a pan of Ogbe Ewuare though it has a distinct personality of its own. Alaka is in fact functionally a portion of the royal Palace, though outside of its encircling walls.

It was Oba EWUARE who, five and a half centuries ago created the Ogbe Ewuare district as we know it today He did it when he carried out the awesome Civil Engineering project of the digging of the Inner Moat of the City. The Oba probably began the digging of the Moat by starting at the rear of his Palace, that is, the portion of the Moat we would nowadays call the NIGERIAN OBSERVER MOAT Oba OguoIa’s Moat, the Outer Ring of Moat, which was about two hundred years old at that time, was many kilometres away towards OKOO village, hugging the Ogba river valley and leaving the rear of the Palace naked and undefended. The digging of the Ewuare Moat less than a kilometre from the rear of the Palace gave the king the necessary feeling of security he required for his household.

The abodes of chiefs and other important persons in Benin always had a large rear area included in the premises. This rear area, called the iyeke-ogbe, was usually pressed to sundry uses. Houses of servants and for dependent relatives were sited there. The shrubbery of the area was the fodder for any cattle or domestic animals possessed by the household. The area of Ogbe which is today OGBE EWUARE functioned before the reign of Ewuare, as the Iyekeogbe of the Benin Palace But with the digging of the Ewuare Moat the extent of the lyekeogbe of the Palace, which earlier had been infinite, extending into the surrounding forest now became finite recognisable circumscribed by the new Moat.

Oba Ewuare created the area into a new settlement, an organic self-sustaining unit, by the planting of an Ikhinmwin tree for the new community. The spot where the ikhinmwin tree was planted became the ARO OTO, the land Shrine”, for the new community it became the Shrine where the soil of the circumscribed territory of the community was henceforth worshipped and propitiated by them.

The planting of an lkhinmwin tree for a new community in Benin land was the equivalent of a Deed of Occupancy to the land, given to the community by the competent authority. The AVBIOGBE guild of Isiuhe Quarters usually carried out the task, on instructions from the Palace This Land Shrine had to be created for the new Settlement before the community could settle down there to normal daily living. Men could not safely co- habit with their wives in the territory unless the ARO OTO lkhinmwin tree had been properly planted for them. To do so would constitute a transgression against the land. Such transgressions would usually result to a series of unfortunate incidents befalling the community. Wild animals would constitute a nuisance to the settlement leopards would feed on their goats, sheep and cattle, and elephants would despoil their farms. Also the herbal medicaments elaborated to cure ailments would lose their potency. In addition the ritual strengthening of the community and his individual members against known and unknown dangers through the use of botanical potion would remain ineffectual.

Ewuare put Chief AVAN, a courtier whom he had recently conferred with the new title of OSUMA  in general charge of the new Ogbe Quarter, The Ogo n ‘Erhie, a huge area of shrub- land enclosed within the perimeter wall of the Palace continued to provide forage for the Palace domestic animals, and farm-land for the Palace denizens.

The Ogbe Ewuare Land Shrine” became known as (ARO) OTO OGBE. The Osuma, put in charge of the Shrine obtained permission to choose a sub-chief from the IWEGUAE Royal Society and another one from the IWEBO, to assist him in the management of the Shrine.

The lweguae Chief informs the Oba about any need for propitiation at the Shrine, and then collects the prescribed propitiation objects. These he hands over to the Iwebo Chief who carries out the propitiation on behalf of the Osuma.

The best-known praise-name of the Osuma of Benin today remains:
AVAN d’ Ogbe yi

“Chief AVAN, securely in charge of the OGBE Quarter”
THERE is a community in Ogbe Ewuare which is functionally nor a part of Ogbe, though it shares the security of the rampart of the Moat with Ogbe. This is the AHORHAN community which lives hugging the inner City side of the “NIGERIAN OBSERVER Moat”. The community lives with then turned; paradoxically, towards the Moat. Their backs are therefore towards the town, or the rest of Ogbe Ewuare their neighbours.

The Ahorhah were exorcist. They were said to have been an Ora family brought to Benin Oba ESIGIE when a severe earthquake -took place Benin. The earthquake split open the ground Oto gbohio, resulting in a great chasm at the Unuogua, the large open space in front of the Benin palace, occupied today by the National museum complex. Quite a number ‘of houses in the City were destroyed and some lives were lost. This family, said to be experts at dealing with such naturally occurring disasters, was said to be from the ORA/OWAN town of IMODU.

Ahorhan was said to have succeeded in closing up the gully. On completion of the assignment he got fourteen stalwart to dance a vigorous dance on the healed spot, to test the strength of the healing of the ground satisfied with the result the herbalist laid a heavy chain across where the chasm had been. He drove huge iron spikes-Aban, into the ground on either side of where the gully had been and with these spikes the ends of the chain were held down across the healed portion, as a precaution against the ground opening up again.

The family prospered and multiplied by the side of the lofty rampart of Ogbe Ewuare Moat. Later in the search for more living space, a branch moved to Ogbelaka Quarters, to the Street now know by their name near the shrine of the ELOWE N’ UGBOHA of the Igun N’ Ugboha Blacksmith guild, the personage who was said to have brought the family in the first instance to Benin. Later still, in the search for farmland another branch settled beyond OKA village, in the settlement now called USENI-EVBORHAN.

The Ahorhan people are propitiators of the soil. They keep the physical earth in good humour, so that geological cataclysms do not befall Edo-land. Any transgressions against the physical earth by the citizenry are reported to the Ahorhan. The guild cleanses the land in atonement rituals, protecting Benin from any repercussions which might otherwise have flowed from the act. Such acts include suicides and serious sexual transgressions.

In old Benin the Ahorhan enclave was a haven for any fugitive fleeing from whatever and whoever would seek to apprehend him. In this connection the territory of the guild functioned in the same manner as the Ogbore, the outer courtyard, of the premises of any Benin Chief. Once the succeeded in gaining entrance into the Ahorhan Quarters he was safe from further pursuit, as the Ahorhan Quarters he was safe from further pursuit, as the enclave was never violated. It was thereafter the responsibility of the head of the guild who, performing the role of the justice of peace, acted as a go-between the contending parties concerning the matter at issue, when an appropriate resolution of it would be obtained.

The OGBE  EZOTI is the portion of the Ogbe district which skirts the back of south wall of the Benin palace, and occupies the territory  between the wall and the Ewuare Moat. The Quarter has got its own Aro Oto, and its own Odionwere.

Oba EZOTI, after whom the area was named, lived there with his household as a prince. He succeeded his father Ewuare, but he reigned for only fourteen days before succumbing to the injuries he sustained in an assassination attempt on his life as he returned in procession from USAMA to Benin City on the day he was crowned.

It was said that the UGHA EZOTI was built there by Oba OLUA. The UGHA was a Temple, in the form of a Quadrangle, which was usually built for the departed Oba by his successor, and where the Spirit of the departed was periodically propitiated. A pictorial record of the historical events of his times was etched on the carvings made on the ivory tusks, and on bronze artefacts decorating the alter in the temple. Oba Olua, Ezoti’s successor, must have been obliged to build two UGHAS when he ascended the throne: one for the father Oba Ewuare, and the other for his elder brother and king, Ezoti.

The Ikhinmwin tree planted by Oba Ewuare the Great to create the Oto Ogbe Shrine, which constitute the Iyantor or “Land Ownership” shrine of the natives of the Ogbe Ewuare Quarter, withered and died during the early years of the first decade of the 20th Century. In the year 1916, two years after the Restoration of the Obaship in Benin, another Ikhinmwin tree, obtained in the village of IGOO on the Ughoton Road was planted on the spot, in place of the one which had served the shrine for four hundred and fifty years before it withered.

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