IJAWS IN EDO STATE(brief history ).

by Ajakurama voice

Sep 23 , 2012

IJAWS IN EDO STATE(brief history).

Ijaw (also known by the subgroups “Ijo”or”Izon “) are a collection of peoples indigenous mostly to the forest regions of the Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States within the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Some are natives of Akwa- Ibom , Edo , and Ondo states also in Nigeria . Many are found as migrant fishermen in camps as far west as Sierra Leone and as far east as Gabon along the Western Africa coastline . (NOTE : No historian were able to figure out the exact place the ijaws originated from !) They are believed to be some of the earliest inhabitants of southern Nigeria. (NOTE 2 :meaning the ijaws are aborigines of southern Nigeria). The Ijaws numbering about 15 million have long lived in locations near many sea trade routes , and were well connected to other areas by trade as early as the 3rd A.D to 15 th century .
Their settlement in the delta was from the earliest of times . Unfortunately not much is known about this period ,(NOTE 3 :no time given by historian ) only that traditionally it is said that these early ancestors “ dropped from the sky” (i .e . to say the Orus were of divine origin ), and were devotees of a spiritual culture that made much use of the waters (hence the mermaid and water people legends “ Beni – Otu ”) They were later to be joined by other ancestors “ Kumoni – Orus ” from about 400 CE, and 650 CE (AD), who , after settling first in the Nupe and Borgu regions , then the Ile – Ife region, moved to the Benin region via Nupe, and Ife . In the Benin region(NOTE 4 :the place the ijaws settled at in benin was a village called IKORO ) they eventually settled and launched expeditions into the Niger Delta, where they came across remote settlements of the Orus , whom they termed “ ancient people”. But because they were also ultimately Oru, from the beginning they established communities as one people.
The Ijos were known by the two names of Kumoni or Oru up till the time of the 19 th century . European visitors noted the name Oru as a distinct term for Ijaw . “ to speak Kumoni is to speak pure Izon language” . The term Ijo (Ijaw ) or Izon evolved as the name of the whole ethnic nationality through time, even though as a personal name it derived from one ancestor who was known as Ujo(the bini peoples way of calling the ijaws ).late Chief (Dr.) Jacob Uwagboe Egharevba wrote that the binis , migrated from Egypt to the Sudan, and then migrated from the Sudan to Ile -Ife and then again migrated from Ile -Ife to the present place , and that “Tradition says that they (the Binis) met some people who were in the land before their arrival “(A Short History Benin , Ibadan University Press , 1968, P . 1 ).And the people, they met in the land were the Ijaws who ferried them across the Ovia river with their river – craft and that duty of ferrying Binis and other people across Ovia River the Ijaws continued to perform creditably over the years until a few decades when bridges were constructed across the River Ovia(also called ovia river ), the last ferryman after bridges were constructed was late chief beyor of ikoro village in ovia north local government area . It is important to state at this juncture one very important historical fact . And this is to the effect that numberless centuries before the slave trade, during the slave trade and long after the inhuman human traffic no interior tribe including the Binis dared to found any village near a river , particularly the five so – called slave rivers, namely Rio Primeriro (First River), Rio Fermoso (the Beautiful River, now the Benin River), Riodos Escravos (the slave River), the Rio dos Forcados (the Swallowtail River ) and the Rio dos Ramos (Creek River).
Dr. P . A. Talbot, acting resident of Benin Division in 1920 , corroborates this fact when he submits as follows;” the prevalence of slave-dealing raids accounts for the fact that , even now , scarcely a town of an interior tribe is situated on a river but about two or three miles inland, where there was a possibility of escape into the bush. “(Tribes of the Niger Delta , 1932 , p .6 ).
And this is why Prof . Alan Ryder stated and rightly too that :”which ever of the slave rivers the Portuguese frequented , the people they first met and traded with belonged to the Ijo tribe, which at that time dominated the coastal belt of the swamp forest extending inland to a depth of thirty or forty miles in this region. “(Benin and the Europeans 1485 – 1897 p .26 f. ).
In another context , Prof . Ryder submits ;” the Edo had been , and indeed remained , a land- faring people with a positive distaste for activities which involved travelling by water. “(Ibid. P .13 ) And there are no grounds for believing that it (Benin Edo ) ever extended nearer to the coast. In fact , at the time the Portuguese first touched the coast , Benin paid little or no attention to the sea; it was not a coastal state, and its trade and political interests drew it firmly towards the interior . Thus Prof . Ryder continues , “it was possible for the Portuguese to trade in the rivers without knowing of the existence of Benin, and they (the Portuguese ) had eventually to penetrate inland in order to establish contact with it .”(Ibid. Pp. 13 , 28 ).
In January , 1480 , Prof . Ryder recorded that “two Caravels made a voyage to the Rio dos Escravos and obtained more than four hundred slaves most of whom were subsequently bartered for gold “(Ibid p . 26 ). This and similar trade transactions were made with the Ijaws, not with the Binis or Itsekiris since at that time the Portuguese had not had any contact with Benin . It was only in 1483 (or 1486), that John Affonso d . Aveiro succeeded in visiting Benin . While 1480 was the year Ginuwa , eldest son of Oba Olua and the progenetor of the Itsekiris was banished from his ancestral home in Benin.
What we are saying in essence is that it was long after the slave trade that tribes in the hinter land, for instance the Binis , began to come nearer the rivers. In about 1887 slave trade was abolished and legitimate trade was introduced in pepper , ivory tusks , palm oil , palm kernel etc was introduced. The tribes in the interior including Binis, Ilajes and Urhobo, for instance began to come nearer to the rivers, some members of this tribes such as Urhobo and the Ilajes (Mahins) staying with the Ijaws in the latter’s communities and other founding their camps and cottages, several miles from the rivers, in order to take part in these legitimate trades:
For instance, H .F . Marshall wrote in his intelligence report on Siluko District , dated March 10 , 1939 as follows:”Since the Advent of (the British) Government there have been a large influx of Ikales (Ilajes ) into the area .”Down the Rivers , there are many Ijoh settlements , some of considerable antiquity .”We have our Peres and Agadagbas to whom we owe our loyalty and allegiance and who have over – lordship over our communities, not the Oba of Benin . The Oba of Benin is the Oba of the Binis, not the Oba of the Ijaws in olodiama , egbema , furupagha, gbar an , okomu clan in edo state , so he cannot have over – lordship over Ijaw communal lands . Unlike the Enogies of the Edo – speaking peoples and the Obi of Agbor, the Peres and Agadagbas of the Ijaw communities never receive their sceptres of office from the Oba of Benin . Their office as Peres and Agadagbas pre – dated the office of the eenogies and okaros. before the current Oba of Benin assumed office in 1979 , the Ijaws in Ovia had their Kings – the Pere of Olodiama and the Agadagba of Egbema .Pere of Olodiama. Mid-Western State of Nigeria Gazette , No . 56 , Vol. 10 dated 10 th October 1973 , N. S.L .N . 62 of 1973 , the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree, 1966 , Iyekuselu District Council (Appointment of Chieftaincy Committee) Order , 1973 gave a legal backing to the Pere of Olodiama with his seat at Ikoro , in Olodiama Clan.
The Agadagba of Egbema . The Bendel State Traditional Rulers and Chief Edict 1979 , extraordinary Gazette No . 51 Vol. 16 of September 28 , 1979 gave a legal teeth to the Agadagba of Egbema with four ruling villages . The most alarming was the attempt by the State House of Assembly to rename some Toru- Ibe Ijaw towns and villages early 2001 as a result of a memo from benin chiefs . The Ijoh villages fall into two distinct groups ; the Ekenwan group and Ofonoma group . .”After the advent of government the whole of Ekenwan District was first included in the Benin native court area but they were not directly represented on the court.”(See Marshall ‘ s Report of September, 1938 ).
In 1920 , a separate native court of’ d’ grade was established at Ekenwan”(Olodiama Clan) for Ijoh villages of Ekenwan, Ikoro , nikorogha , Iboro, Gelegele , Ugbenoba, umaleg idi , etc . “the Ijoh Court of Ekenwan will be known as the Olodiama Court and will have jurisdiction over the villages of Ekenwan, Ikoro , Nikorogha, IboroCT, Gelegelegbene , Ugbenoba , Eghudu, Evbonogbon , Ugbowangue and Shalogun. Of these villages , the last four are not Ijoh; Eghudu is of Ilaje origin, but they all expressed their wish to join with the Ijohs with whom they say they have close affinities .”
The membership of the court will consist of the ama – okosuwe and the Okosuwe of each of the Ijoh villages and Odionwele and Odion of Egbudu and the Onaraja and the Onare of the three Itsekiri villages .”
“The village heads will take in turns to sit as president of the court.”
“The court will be situated at Ekenwan but not in the present court compound.”
The Ofonama group court will be situated at Ofonoma and will serve the following villages all of which are Ijaws: Ofunama , Ajakurama . Abere , Ajanagiri, Gbelekagan , Gbeuba , binidodogha. Jamagie, Salarigha, Itagben, Ajatiton, etc . The total population of these villages is estimated at only ten million 10,000,000,0 , but in view of the isolated situation of the group , I consider it essential that they should have a court of their own .”Despite all, the ijaws in EDO state have only three wards which is nikorogha , ajaku rama and ofunama ward ! , no better roads leadding to ijaw communities in edo state, no electricity , no portable drinking water “water when we for they shit , na the same water we for they bath and drink “, WHAT HAS IJAWS IN EDO STATE DONE TO PAST AND INCUMBENT ADMINISTRATION IN EDO STATE TO DESERVE SUCH NEGLECT, OPPRESSION ?


Comr. Mingo T. F. Meshach Saya

National president of Ajakurama voice




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