Esan Not An Ethnic Group But Benin(Edo)

The orthographic composition of Esan dialect are or were taken from the Benin(Edo) alphabets and double consonants a b d e ẹ f g gb gh h i k kh kp l m mw n o ọ p r rh rr s t u v vb w y z [as published by Ministry of Education, Benin; entitled Report of the Seminar on Edo Orthography 1974] except few of its double consonant, like bh and mh. Many words in Esan grammar are same with Benin.

“The Ancient Benin(Edo)s were one in origin, yet they are one in diversity.
Based on current trend of some Esan politician, scholars and Nigerian pseudo writers with the motive to separate and disorganise the Edo people of Nigeria with the continuation of weakening the ever respected Kingdom of Benin (Edo) (Nation), Southern Nigeria, it becomes imperative to educate the gullible and less informed researchers of the truth fact of history. Again, proper education of true facts of Edos common history, ancestry, language, culture and tradition will not only unite them but help build the mental preparedness for their future national growth and development.

Reading through the author on Esan people of Nigeria on WIKIPEDIA, few points were highlighted, (1) that Esan is one of the major ethnic groups in Edo State, South-south geopolitical zone of Nigeria. (2) that they existed on there present location pre-Benin influence. (3) that Oba Ozolua was killed and buried in Esanland (4) that Esan people are the ancestral parents of the be Benins. While the author have some eloquent facts made of lazy research and incomplete oral history, it is good to note that all of above claims are false and should be written off or ameliorated, or be deleted from one of the most respect and acceptable internet dictionary:WIKIPEDIA. This paper have attempted to answer most pressing question on how the Esan people are not other ethnic group but Edo. What makes up a nation is a shared common values, culture, language, tradtion, religion and teritorial boundaries.

ORIGIN :
According to James B. Webster and Onaiwu.W.Ogbomo in Chronological Problem in C.G. Okojies Esan Narrative Traditions, Esan traditions, all the ancestors of the people, royal commoner alike came from Benin(Edo) and are basically Benin(Edo) people. Itua Egbor, S.J on African Proverb of the Month, stated that the Esan originated from the Benins (the Edo-speaking people of the ancient Benin Kingdom) and a schism in the distant past resulted in the migration and resettlement of the Esan people in their present geographical location. Dr.Jim Akhere on a keynote address at the ENA convention, head in Hilton Seatle Airport and Conference Center, Seatle.

Washington. 2007, said, Esan people exodus was mainly jumping into forest and finding their way throuh the bush to where they are today. While some writers are relating to Egharevba and Okojies books, that Esan has always been where they are presently, or that Benin in fact migrated from Esan to their present abode is not only a distorted history but a deliberate attempt to create a separate kingdom and Nation out of the already shrink and encroached Edoland. Jethro Ibileke on his recent article raise a clarion also calling to the Benin(Edo)s who would want to usurp Esan position as the speaker of the Edo state house of Assembly, to remember that the history of Esan traditional relationship and the linage are deep rooted in Benin. He went further to explain that suppressing Esan people would be like a father fighting his son.

The Agbazilo group account of Esan ancestry, says the Esan came into being when one of the children of Benin’s Queen Oakha and Ojiso Owodo, Prince Uzia Asokpodudu (Ojiso Owodo’s crown prince and heir apparent) founded Uzea in about 1188 AD after they fled their father’s (the Ojiso’s) palace following the death sentence passed on their mother, Queen Oakha, who was alleged to have committed adultery with a Benin chief, Ovior. The duo of Ozogbo and Oigi, Asokpodudu’s younger brothers, escaped along with him and the mother. It is believed that not only did Prince Asokpodudu (the founder of Uzea clan) escape with the mother, Oakha, relations and some palace servants, he also left with his father’s (the king’s) royal trident, ‘Uziziẹnghain’, the Ojiso’s heir loom. Here, the Agbazilo group still comfirming that the Esan mother of creation is and was a Benin mother.

Oba Akenzuwa Nironorho 11 once said that Emotan is the mother of Esan people. In other words without Emotan who helped Prince Ogun to regain the Edo throne and was crowned Oba Ewuare N’Ogidigan there wouldn’t have been no Esan today. Notably, Oba Ewuare the great, during his time, enacted laws that was unbearable to some Edos which led to emigration in the core of the Empire. Most settlers, know as Esan today migrated to their present location during the time. The greetings of the Esan ancestors who left the benin couldn’t have been lagiesan-La Ogiesan before Oba Ewuare because there was no Esan before Ewuare as presented by Nosakhare Idubor. According to Ademola Iyi Eweka, the Ishans/Esans were the most avid defender of the Edo(Benin) monarchy and their women have produced most of Obas of Benin. Eheniuan, the first Ezomo of Benin, who later became the commander of the Benin/Edo Royal army is of Ishan descent.

Esan history is a branch or part of Benin(Edo) history, an integral fellowship of the Benin monarch. Her tale is like the story of an extended son from a very large family, who have travelled far from home married and had own family with a different name. This also brings to mind how it relate with the African Americans history and Africa. Though some dispute they are not Africans inspite of the obvious history of trans-atlantic slave trade, many still trace their ancestral lineage to West Africa including the Great Benin Empire. Larry Uklai Johnson-Redd in his book: Journey to Motherland, From Sant fransisco to Benin City, explained the experience of enslaved Africans to the America and how his ancestral parents hail from Benin.

Rulership, Tradition and Culture:
What is represented as the Esan monarch are not monarch or separate kingdom per ser, as the Benin(Edo) monarch but dukedoms. This also extends among many villages and towns across territories of the Great Benin(Edo) Empire, Geographically touching South-South, South-East, South – West and South – East. To this day the Esan chiefs and traditional rulers, the Enogies(Enogie is the Esan title for a king), sometimes called kings of the Esan people are crowned by the Oba, the supreme head or king of the Benin Empire. The Onojie of Uromi and the Onojie of Irrua are direct sons of the Oba of Benin

Prof. Iyi Ademola Eweka on his Irrua and Evbohinmwin Relations to Benin-Edoland of Nigeria, explained that the people of Irrua are not only from benin but Benins. Irrua (Iruwa), he said, was named after the Benin princess who married the first Enogie of Irrua, with the people of Evbohimwin belonging to the Ishan/Esan clan, of the (Benin)Edo-speaking group. In the last hundred years, the Enogie of Irrua suddenly became the leader of Enigies in Ishan/Esan land. Whenever the Ishan/Esans are gathered, the Irrua man would normally demand the right to break the almighty kola nuts, but not without a fight from other Ishans/Esans and the reason for this phenomenon can be broken into these parts: a) Although the dukedom of Evbohimwin is probably the oldest, it has always been a haven for Edo princes fleeing from the oba of Benin after a protracted succession struggle. It was also a sort of military out post.

Everybody wanted the control of military outposts of Orhodua and Evbohimwin to be in their hands. Obanosa was the Oba of Benin, 1804-1816. When he died, his two eldest sons, Princes Ogbebor and Erediauwa slugged it out for the throne. Prince Ogbebor won and Prince Erediauwa ran to Evbohimwin for safety. His mother was an Ishan/Esan woman from Evbohimwin. Prince Ogbebor, now the Oba of Benin, tried desperately to dislodge Erediauwa from Evbohimwin. He sent messegers to Ishan/Esan, loaded with coral beads and money, to encourage the Enigies in Ishan/Esan to turn over Prince Erediuwa to him or have his head brought to him in a box. Unfortunately, the supporters of Prince Erediauwa waylaid the messegers to Ishan/Esan, killed many of them and carted way the loot to Prince Erediauwa. Prince Erediauwa now distributed the loot to the Enigies in Ishan/Esan begging for their support and protection. In the ensuing civil war, the army of Oba Ogbebor was defeated. He killed himself, after blowing the palace to pieces with gun powder. He reigned for only eight months. Prince Erediauwa marched into Benin City, ahead of an Ishan/Esan dominated military.

He was crowned Oba Osemwende of Benin in 1816. It was Oba Osewende who granted to the Enogie of Uromi, the right to inherit the estate of any person who died childless within Uromi district.This was his reward for supplying men and material in the war to reconquer Akure in 1818-20 rebellion and the battle in defence of the Ekitis against the Ibadans. b) During his reign, he noticed there was an intrigue, to prevent his senior son nicknamed ” Ogbewekon,” from ascending the throne when he passes on. Prince Ogbewekon and Odin-ovba who later became known as Oba Adolor were born on the same day.

Prince Ogbewekon was born first but reported last to the palace. Oba Osemwende found out that Prince Ogbewekon´s mother had been misled by the Edo chiefs at Ogbe quarter in Benin City, tired of Ishan/Esan (Queens) mothers of Obas. Added to that, was the intrigue of Princess AGHAYUBINI, the most senior daughter of Oba Osemwende., the mother of the Osulas and Aiwerioghenes of Benin. She had become very wealthy by trading with the Itsekhiris. This is the popular Itsekhiri factor in the Benin Royal family. When Oba Osemwende passed on, Ogbewekon bypassed and Odin-ovba installed as Oba Adolor, there was another civil disturbance.

Prince Ogbewekon ran first to Evbohimwin and finally settled at Igueben were he raised an army with which he wanted to invade Benin City. From his hide out at Igueben, he made life uncomfortable for Oba Adolor in Ishan/Esan land. The Enogie of Evbohimwin was also involved. The Amaho uprising of 1853/54 in Ishan/Esan land, had Prince Ogbewekon signature all over it. It was General Ebohon of Ova, the same general who stopped Ogedengbe of Ilesha at Irhuekpen, who put down the uprising with alot of bloodshed. c) When Oba Adolor passed on, Oba Ovonramwen was installed as the Oba of Benin in 1888, but not without a fight from his brother, Prince Orokhoro. Prince Orokhoro lost and ran first to Evbohimwin and then to Orhodua in Ishan/Esan land. His mother was also an Ishan/Esan. He was busy raising an army in Ishan/Esan when the British army struck in 1897. These were some of the factors responsible for the defeat of the Benin army by the British army in 1897 .

To punish Evbohimwin and the Enogie for supporting rebellious Edo Princes, Erhumwunse (Eromosele), the Enogie of Irrua, the son of Enogie Isidahome 1, the son of Enogie Ogbeide, who commited suicide for ordering the death of a pregnant woman between 1830 and 1847, was made Okaegiesan by Oba Ovonramwen in 1895. He was given ADA, the Sword of Office. He therefore became Ogie ada. This elevated him far and beyond the Enogie of Evbohimwin. The people of Irrua and Uromi down to Ekpoma were so involved in th 1897 war, that when Enogie Eromosele of Irrua visited Benin City in 1917, after the restoration of the monarchy, he was received with pomp and pegeantry in Benin City by Oba Eweka 11 and the chiefs. His son and successor Enogie Momodu was always at Benin palace. Enogie Isidahomhen who succeded Eromosele , followed his father´s footstep. He too was always at the palace. He actually stayed and studied Native Administration under Oba Akenzua 11. Oka-Egiesan of Ishan/Esanland, occupies the position of Primos inter pares in a gathering of the Ishan Enigies. It is also important to note that Oba Osemwende , whose mother was an Evbohimwin lady, had given Odia, the Enogie of Evbohimwin an Odigba-a bearded neck collar of Edo nobility.

He also gave him two flint-lock guns, which can still be seen at Evbohimwin today. Those guns are fired ceremonially once a year When Oba Ovonramwen made the Enogie of Irrua Oka-Egiesan, he virtually took seniority from Evbohimwin and gave it to the people of Irrua for loyal service to the Edo nation, as they saw it then. This is why the people of Irrua would always demand that, they break the Kola nut whenever the Ishans/Esans are gathered. but, but and but, Evbohimwin has been fighting back, to regain its lost position and will continue for sometime”

The Benin – Uzea war some are holdng as their bed rock to enforce seperatism, have it that Oba Ozolua (1481-1504 CE).Ozolua invasion of Uromi/Uzea was as a result of the disobedient of some of the village heads and rebelion of some sort against the Benin monarch and to bring them under the lordship of the Benin kingdom. Ozolua, was a predicted king makers before he became king, aggressive and war-like in nature, Oba Ozolua reintroduced the process of first son succeeding to the throne, with Dukedoms carved out for the other princes.

The older of his two remaining sons, after he had lost two sons to the slave trade, was Osawe, who was named the Edaiken (Oba-in-waiting). Idubor, the junior to Osawe, was appointed the Duke of Udo, the home town of Oba Ozolua’s mother, and the second largest and most important town in the kingdom at the time. Idubor, known as Arhuanran n’Udo (the giant of Udo), was not happy about playing second fiddle to his senior brother, Prince Osawe. In a feud between him and a powerful mystic called Elekighidi of Ogbelaka quarters, he enticed Elekighidi’s wife, Eyowo, to betray her husband and then married her after his triumph over Elekighidi. Then Oba Ozolua beheaded Eyowo out of fear that she could betray him too in future.

Ozolua left his son call Ugan to be the Enojie of Uromi, which the people recieved and welcomed being his reunion peace plan to bringing the people of Uromi/Uzea [early emigrants from Benin, during Ogiso and Ewuare strong rule] back again to their ancestral lordship of the Benin Kingdom. The Portuguese made strong efforts to convert Oba Ozolua to Christianity with preachments. He had no respect for white gods and deities and even for the Portuguese items of trade, which were being offered to build close links between the kingdom and Portugal. He was, however, impressed with their guns, a weapon strange to warfare in the West African region at that time. Oba Ozolua introduced bronze casting to Benin. He did it through Iguehae, a great bronze caster, whose descendants have continued the tradition through the guild of bronze casters at the present day Igun Street in Benin City. While Oba Ozolua was on his way back to Benin after the war at Uromi/Uzea, he was ambush and killed by some ungrateful radicals, who disagreed with his policies.

LANGUAGE RELATIVE:
Esan people are Benin(Edo)s. It is true that the word or name ‘Esan’ (originally, ‘E san fia’) owes its origin to Benin (meaning, ‘they have fled’ or ‘they jumped away’). ‘Ishan’ is an Anglicized form of ‘Esan’, the result of colonial Britain’s inability to properly pronounce the name of this people, who had a slight different in turn and pronunciation from the Central Benin. With this it is clear the name Esan was never borne by any earlier group pre-Benin. The orthographic composition of Esan dialect are or were taken from the Benin(Edo) alphabets and double consonants a b d e ẹ f g gb gh h i k kh kp l m mw n o ọ p r rh rr s t u v vb w y z [as published by Ministry of Education, Benin; entitled Report of the Seminar on Edo Orthography 1974] except few of its double consonant, like bh and mh. Many words in Esan grammar are same with Benin. Esan speak Benin(Edo) language but with little different in ascent and some grammatical compositions.

Reason for slight difference perheps, may have been, lack of a structured and standardized language institution and documentation of the Benin language in early history of the great Benin Empire. Understandable, language variations wasn’t a problem as chiefs and traditional leader including the king’s subjects could communicate perfectly. The lack of a developed common (Benin)Edo language at least by writing during the early history of Great Benin(Edo) brought lots of today confusion and mistaken identity among many nations that were part of the Benin(Edo) ancestral lineage. Brothers of same father or mother are now enemies or strangers because, for over decades apart with children born and grown outside Benin(Edo) territories, inter-marriage with other ethnic nationalities, travelling abroad, use of foreign language [English in the case of Nigeria as national language] , Many have now eventually find or see the central Benin(Edo) City, people and language as distance or probably other nationality in his entity.

Sad but true some scholars and politicians are standing on this ground to break or separate a civilization that have thrived for centuries and scores of years.
Africa today wasn’t how it was in pre-colonial times. Cheik Anta Diop did some justice to that reality in his book Pre-colonial Africa. Others like Dr. John Henry Clarke, Moleku Asante, Naiwu Osahon, Prof. Iyi Eweka and Patrick Edobor Igbinovia also presented a clarified version on Africa and Edo history. Slavery, colonialism, Western cultures, religion, language and education have had a great impact on what is now known today as Africa and Nigeria. Uyilawa Usanlele of the institute of Benin studies, on his paper “Colonial States and Education: Benin Division 1897-1959” shared some light on the devastative effect and marginalization of the colonial administrative rule on the Benin people, education, land and politics. And despite all attempts to undermine it, the ancient city’s winning card today is the monarchy as that has survived for centuries upon centuries. “A democratic monarchy, whose monarchy depends on mystique and the tribal chief in his hut” quoted- David Attenborough, an eminent anthropologist, {Commenting once on why the privacy of the British monarchy should not be intruded upon by way of unnecessary publicity} by Mike Jimoh on his paper “Benin and its Mystique”.

The Great Benin(Edo) complex of cultural and linguistic connection and relations abound in Esan, Igbankes, ika, ekpeye, afemai, urhobo, itsekiri, degema, isoko, ghotuo, epie, okpe, delta ibos and part of Yoruba. Great Benin Civilization touched far and wide many southern states of Nigeria. Their common values and linguistic relations in dialects around the Edoid group of language, including the Esan or Ishan (being the closest ) makes their strong connection and affirmation obvious. In fact, the words “Edoid” directly related to “Benin language”. The lack of a common language among the edoid nation is one of major reason, some Esan now doubting their direct origin from Benin.

And the lack thereof, if actions are not taken to save the Benin(Edoid) language [which belong to the esan as well] from extinction, will result to more separation or dialect erupting in near future [i.e. if not totally colonize by external language like English or more dominant ethnic language]. And in-spite of brave works of some Edo linguistics, like Agheisi, Alex Igbineweka, Uyilawa Usuanlele: institute of Benin Studies, Naiwu Osahon, Eguaevoen, Ehimwenma Aimiuwu, director Edo folks.com, Tina Iyare and organisations like Umagbae, Edo leadership Assembly, Benin National Congress of Nigeria(BNCN), more works, books and lectures need be encourage on Benin(Edo) language.

LAND AND TERRITORIES
Here, Prince Ena Eweka narrative of the Esan land better explained their direct descendant from Benin. See extract:

Ekekhen: The story of this place started during the war years (i.e. Oba Ewuare, 1440-1473; Oba Ozolua, 1483-1504; Oba Esigie, 150401550 and Oba Orogbua, 1550-1578). When a group of traders moved out of the metropolitan city of Benin to found settlements probably on the war front to sell their wares to Benin soldiers. At that time, there was a large garrison od Benin warriors settled at Igueben from where they prosecuted the Idah war of 1515-1516. As a matter of fact, the trade route to the far north and towards Idoma area had to be kept opened in spite of the war and Ekekhen provided the answer then. As time went on, many of those in the out-lying villages like Emu, Uromi, Ogboha, Oria, and Irhue who either had grievances in the various villages or who found lucrative trade with the Benin soldiers, moved into the new settlement to establish their permanent homes. By the time of Oba Ahenzae, 1641-1661, Ekekhen had grown to a position of an independent village. It was at this Oba Ahenzae accorded it full recognition which enabled its people establish their corporate ancestral staff (Ukhure Edion) now housed at the village shrine.

Ekekhen is a typical village in Ishan area which has nearly everything the metropolitan Benin City has. Its festivals are the same as what you have in Benin City. Such festivals like Eho, Igue, Ewere are common features. Ekpo dance (masquerade) is performed in the like manner as you have in Benin City areas. Culturally, they left no stone untouched. Their family greetings which identify all Benin people with their family roots are common phenomenon in Ehekhen.

Thus, many people in this village maintain their family greetings such as Lagiesan (which belongs to Ezomo family), Labo (commonly associated with Idunmwebo -Royal physicians and diviners), and Lavbieze (associated with Iyase family; this particular family greeting originated from Iyase N’Obodoiken who came to Benin from the Eze-Chima in and around Obbior area in Delta State). Of the prominent leaders remembered in the settlement of this village are such people like Osa, Emokhua, Ogbeide N’Emamwen and Odukpaye. At present, Ekekhen has really grown out of a mere village to become a suburban settlement. We now have three quarters, viz: Ukpogo, Odeze, and Ukpo constituting the modern Ehekhen. The paramount head of this town is the Odionwere who is in charge of the ancestral shrine.

Uromi: The people of Uromi came originally from Benin.Both their language and culture are based on that of Benin.Their Einigie owe their origin to Benin.It is said their united in their allegiance to the Enogie,their head Chief,whose family is reported to have come from Uzia, a village on the Ishan-Kukuruku boundary though the title was bestowed by the Oba of Benin.Like any other Ishan area,Uromi’s Chieftaincy system have the usual Ekhaemwen(or what the Ishans call Ekhaemo)or chief as distinct from the Enogie who is the supreme head of the clan and direct representative of the Oba in the area.Normally,such a person derived his ultimate authority from his over-lord who was the Oba of Benin.

Ewohimi: Traditional history indicates that Ewohimi was founded by three sons of the Oba of Benin.The names of these people are given as Alah,oron and Oisa…The first name Anan or Alah may have been derived from Benin word Avan(meaning daylight)The second Oron may well be the Benin word Oron(meaning world hereafter)while the last name Oisa may be the benin word Ei-hiosa(meaning You cannot decieve God). originally the early founders of Ewohimi hailed from Uzebu,the home of Ezomo.Ewohimi ancestors were the true and indisputable replica of Benin culture throughout Esanland.In Ewohimi clan which originally consisted of Ewohimi,Ewatto and Ewossa,one finds women kneeling down in the morning to give the morning”salutation of Lajiesan,the salutation of Ezomo of Benin. Evbohimwin, from what we know , is probably the oldest Dukedom in Ishan/Esan land. The Enogieship of Evbohimwin is a descendant of one of the Ogiso of Edo history.

Ubiaja: This town traces it’s origin to Benin.It is closely linked to Udo.it is said that the first Enijie of Ubiaja and Udo were brothers born of the same Benin parents.Traditionally,the Oba’s sanction is required for any heir in Ubiaja to succeed.The founder of Ubiaja or Ubiaza as the Benins call them was Edeikholo who came from Udo-Arhuanran near Benin.This man was a treasurer to the Oba.He stole the treasures -hence the expression Ogbu Ubi Aza(committed the crime looting treasury);from which the expression we derived Ubiaza.

Reading through account of Prince Ena Eweka on Ekehen, Ewohimi, Ubiaja, Uromi, and Prof. Ademola Iyi Eweka on Irrua and Evbohimwin relation to Benin, it is therefore obvious to note that The Esan clan of Benin (Edoild race) is not a separate ethnic group but Benin.

References:
Egharevba, J.U. 1968. A Short History of Benin. Ibadan: I.U.P.
Eweka, E.B. 1992. Evolution of Benin Chieftaincy Title. Benin City: Uniben. Press.
Okoduwa, Anthony. 2006. ?Tenacity of Gerontocracy in Nigeria: An Example of the Esan People in Edo State.?
Okojie, C.G. 1960. Ishan Native Laws and Customs. Lagos-Nigeria: John Okwessa Publishers.
Omokhodian, J.O. 1998, The Sociology of the Esans. Tropical Publication Ltd. Ojeremen, Stephen. 2007. ?Esan Youth Rebirth Movement.Esan Not An Ethnic Group But Benin(Edo)

 

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