History of Ogbekenu

The community of Ogbekenu was formed by migrants from the great Benin Kingdom. The warrior class that got to settle in Ogbekenu were called back on ultricasies arising in the Benin Kingdom on occassion even after they had migrated from the Benin region to the present location. Thus cultural similarities can be found between the Ogbekenu people and the Benin people.

Ezechime clan comprises of nine towns in Delta State and one in Anambra State. The towns are Onitsha(Onicha Mmili) in Anambra State and the following in Delta State: Issele Uku, Issele Azagba, Issele Mkpitime, Obior, Onicha Ugbo, Onicha Ukwu, Onicha Olona , Ezi and Obomkpa. The Ezechima movement also influenced the following clans namely Agbor, Illah, Igbodo, Ase, Aboh, Oguta , Obosi and Onicha-Ukwuani(possibly). In all of these communities the migratory story of Ezechime is recounted with the versions differing from town to town.

Ezechime was an Nri priest originally. Having assimilated into the Bini population, he led a revolt against the Oba (after the Oba’s mother had trampled on his farmland) and this led to his expulsion from Benin. Obior and Obior elements now fully integrated as Igbodo people also claim that Ezechime came from Benin after a quarrel with the Oba. The Oba was claimed to have been envious of the wealth of Ezechime and had plotted to have him killed. Ezi also claims a Benin origin though it seems to be more emphatic on its claim to one Ifite who is claimed to be one of Ezechima’s sons. But Onicha Ugbo, Issele Uku and Obior claim that Ifite was not a son of Ezechime but a follower whose origin was from an eastern homelend and he was related to Obomkpa. Obomkpa people claim that their ancestor, Anagba migrated from Ogidi in Anambra State and that Anagba was a relative of Ezechime and his spiritual consultant. This will put the origin of Ezechime at least according to this account to Ogidi.

There are strong reasons to believe that Ezechime came from Nri. In Umuezechime , the Ozo title system( called Okpala or Ichimmor) is well developed . Also bear in mind that in Issele Uku are Ogboli and Ogbowele communities that still hold on to their claims of migrating from Nri.

The Ezenri based at Oreri worships in Onitsha shrines (Henderson, 1972) yet another reason to believe that Ezechime possibly had Nri origin.

1. Issele group.
2. Onicha Ugbo.
3. Obior and Igbodo
4. Ezi
5. Obomkpa
6. Onicha Olona and Onicha Ukwu
7. Onitsha in Anambra State.
8. Aboh , and Ase
9. Agbor
10. Illah and Oguta
Now lets go through the questions
1. Who was Ezechime?
The Issele people who are the most emphatic of a Benin origin claim he was a son of the Oba of Benin. This may not be true since the migration occurred during the reign of Oba Esigie (c.1504-1550) and there is no evidence that Ezechime was the son of Esigie or even Ozolua , Esigie’s father. So , a claim like should not be taken literally. It only meant to emphasize the strong connection the Isseles have with Benin. The Onicha Ugbo people on the other hand say that Ezechime was an Nri priest originally. Having assimilated into the Bini population , he led a revolt against the Oba ( after the Oba’s mother had trampled on his farmland) and this led to his expulsion from Benin. Obior and Obior elements now fully integrated as Igbodo people also claim that Ezechime came from Benin after a quarrel with the Oba. The Oba was claimed to have been envious of the wealth of Ezechime and had plotted to have him killed. Ezi also claims a Benin origin though it seems to be more emphatic on its claim to one Ifite who is claimed to be one of Ezechima’s sons. But Onicha Ugbo, Issele Uku and Obior claim that Ifite was not a son of Ezechime but a follower whose origin was from an eastern homelend and he was related to Obomkpa. Obomkpa people claim that their ancestor , Anagba migrated from Ogidi in Anambra State and that Anagba was a relative of Ezechime and his spiritual consultant. This will put the origin of Ezechime at least according to this account to Ogidi.
Aboh and Ase as well as other Ndosimili towns claiming to belong to the Aboh party claim that they migrated with the Umuezechime from Benin but parted ways when they got to Agbor. The Illah group claim that Daike ( derived from the Bini title of Edaiken ) was a son of Ezechime who led a large group of people from Obior or Onicha Ugbo and moved towards the Niger. On reaching Illah , these Ezechime elements helped the Nteje and Nri aborigines of the town to expel an Igala slaving raiding party and Daike was persuaded to settle with the title of Iyase ( Prime Minister). After a while some of those who settled with Daike began to move to their settlements . Three “brothers”, Oreze, Diei and Chimaevi moved and founded Onitsha ( they were joined by Odoje a son of Anagba of Obomkpa) while the Oguta people led by one Ameshi moved southwards. In the cause of moving southwards , many more groups joined the Oguta party. A good example are the Umutogwuma who joined them from Ogume in the Ukwuani country. They settled for a while in Aboh before crossing the Niger settling near the Ogbuide lake and absorbing the aboriginal Igbo speaking people ( Obeagwe, Amozua and Obutu villages) they met there. For Agbor , it emphasizes that Chime originally came from Alisimien-Agbor , thereafter moved to Benin and after settling a while in Benin returned to Agbor as a wealthy man. It was claimed that with the wealth acquired from his soujourn from Benin , he had sought to overthrow the then Obi of Agbor ( identified as Adigwe or Ogwade) but was defeated and he fled to Obior. The defeat of Eze Chima in Agbor is re-enacted in the Agbor royal festival of Osiezi. It was also claimed that chima tok with him Agbor royal symbols of authority like the Ufie gong. Onitsha claim that Chima was a native of Ado( possibly Udo , then as large and cosmopolitan as Benin City) and that the Oba’s mother had trampled on his farmland leading to the Queen mother being assaulted. This led to the flight to Agbor and thereafter to Onitsha town.
From these accounts its quite clear that there Ezechima as much as its claimed to have migrated from Benin have other versions putting his origin to such eastern Igbo towns like Nri and Ogidi. The people of Agbor insist on a western Igbo origin for Chime and this was noted by the historian Prof Elizabeth Isichei. Its apparent that there was a migration from Benin but what is being disputed is where he originally came from. Obomkpa insist on Ogidi , Onicha Ugbo on Nri while Obior and Issele claim Benin. One account tries to emphasize that Chime was originally derived from the Edo name Ikhimen. Fine , lets accept it but they should also tell us how the Igbo title of Eze came from ! . It should also be noted that none of his children claimed to be Onicha(first son and founder of Onicha Ugbo), Ukpali( first child a daughter and settler of Obior), Ifite( second son or daughter and founder of Ezi) nor Oligbo(beloved last son of Chima and founder of Issele Uku) had Edo names. That of Ezi is very interesting. Across the Niger are such towns like Ezinifite or Ezinihite could there be a connection? While should an Anioma town with the name Ezi have Ifite as its founder corresponding more or less with several communities east of the Niger? Its quite apparent that Eze Chime though may have migrated from Benin was of Igbo origin. Its even more interesting that Onicha Ugbo descendants of his first son insist that he originally came from Nri. It is quite possible that in the course of migrating to the west of the Niger he was joined by two brothers Anagba and Ifite who came from Ogidi. Hence that connection. Its also possible they first settled in Agbor then moved to Benin , had problems in Benin yet again in Agbor before settling in Obior.
2. Which of these towns should be regarded as the “clan head “ of Ezechime clan ?
This is disputed between Issele Uku, Onicha Ugbo and Obior. Obior claims as descendants of the first child of Ezechime, they should be considered the clan head and they being the occupant of the “Okpuno” or “Mbana” Ezechima. There is a monument/shrine in Obior ( and indeed the section of Igbodo occupied by people from Obior) which has sculptures depicting Ezechime and his family. The shrine is believed to have developed from the original homestead of Ezechime. The Onicha Ugbo people do not agree with this. They say Ezechime first settled at Ani-Ami which is now fully integrated as part of Onicha Ugbo territory before moving moving to Obior. Onicha the first son merely returned to Ani-Ami. This was referred by the American anthropologist NW Thomas in 1913. Issele Uku founder , Oligbo was the last son. It was claimed that Onicha quarreled with Ezechima his father and for this reason, Oligbo was bestowed the clan headship but Onicha Ugbo denies that. It was Issele Uku that Issele Mkpitime( from Ogbofu and Ogbowele villages) and Issele Azagba emanated from. A son of Onicha called Eku founded Onicha Eku( now Onicha Ukwu). Onicha Olona mainly descends from Onicha Ugbo, Benin(Agba village), Ogwashi Uku(Ishekpe) and Idumuje-Unor communities. Idumuobior village in Igbodo came directly from Obior while Agba village in Onicha Ugbo are later arrivals from Benin. Obomkpa and possibly Ezi came from Ogidi and were absorbed while the founders of Illah(Umudaike) and Onitsha (Oreze, Diei and Chimaevi) came from Onicha Ugbo. Personally , I think the three communities have strong rights to claim the title of “clan head” but I think Onicha Ugbo’s claim is the strongest of these three. This is just a personal opinion.
3. Did Ezechime migrate from Arochukwu originally?
I have already explained the possible Igbo communities Ezechime came from : Agbor, Ogidi and most likely Nri. Personally I do not think it’s Arochukwu. Bear in mind that the Umuezechime arrived from Benin between 1520 to 1530. Arochukwu was not founded at that time from all available records. Arochukwu kingdom from all available records was founded in the 1600s. There are strong reasons to believe that Ezechime came from Nri. In Umuezechime , the Ozo title system( called Okpala or Ichimmor) is well developed . Also bear in mind that in Issele Uku are Ogboli and Ogbowele communities that still hold on to their claims of migrating from Nri. In such towns like Onicha Ukwu or Issele Mkpitime , it is such title holders that provide leadership. The most senior called the Okpalabisi.
4. How homogenous is the Umuezechime clan?
It is far from being homogenous. There are 10 towns that belong to this clan. We know Ezechime had three children. Ukpali( first daughter), Onicha(first son) and Oligbo(last son). Ifite(Ezi) and Anagba(Obomkpa) came from Ogidi . The Ezi people often try to dissociate themselves from their eastern origin but there are enough evidence to dismiss such counter claims. In Onicha Ugbo are five villages namely Ogbekenu, Ogbeobi, Agba, Umuolo and Ishekpe. Ishekpe is derived from Ihaekpen ( a ward in Benin City) an evidence that Ezechime settled in Benin City (or Udo) possibly in Ihaekpen ward. Agba came later from Benin City hence they have their duke called Eze-Agba. Ogbekenu is of heterogenous origin with familes originating from Ibusa, Ukwunzu, Ute Ogbeje and Mbiri. While Umuolu, Ogbeobi and Ishekpe directly descend from Onicha. In Issele Uku , Ogboli and Ogbowele villages came directly from Nri. Idumuinei village descend from a blacksmith who came from Benin and had married a lady who had transformed from a brown antelope (Ene) , a reason for that name. Idumuahaba village was founded by sojourners who were partly of ex-slave origin. Ogbutu, Ogbofu and Umuezeisei descend directly from Oligbo while Ukpai people came later from Obior. From Ogbofu and Ogbowele villages of Issele Uku arose Issele Mkpitime , a settlement founded near a lake , Mkpitime. While Issele Azagba is a fusion of two communities , one originating from Issele Uku( via Azagba) and the other from Ubulu Unor. This is why Issele Azagba has two monarchs one representing the Isseles and the other representing the Ubulus(Abualo). Only one reigns the other dormant until the reigning monarch dies and the dormant one takes over. In Onitsha across the Niger , are 9 villages . This is why it’s called Onitsha Ebo Itenani. Three villages namely Oreze, Umudei and Chimaevi(Umuezearoli) directly descend from the founders. Obior village in Onitsha came from Obior town and this is why the Ada of Obior is a kingmaker in Onitsha( a reflection that Obior was founded by a woman). The Egbema people from Imo State founded Ekenubene. The aborigines of Onitsha were the Mgbelekeke people originally from Igala. The Odoje people who form the core of Ugwunabamkpa section of Onitsha came from Obomkpa. Other villages were founded by migrants from such places like Nando(in Anambra State) , Aseand Adiai ( in Ndokwa land) and Igala kingdom. The Ezenri based at Oreri worships in Onitsha shrines( Henderson, 1972) yet another reason to believe that Ezechime possibly had Nri origin.
5. What were Agbor influences in Umuezechime clan?
Prof Onwuejogwu identified the prominence of the “Dei” lineages in Umuezechime as evidence of connection with Agbor. In the list of Agbor kings we saw that the first Obi of Agbor took the title of DEIN. Thus descendants of Dein or royals call themselves Nmudein(Umudei) and occupy a quarter in Agbor called Ogbe-Nmudein. In many Ezechime towns , such Dei lineages also exist and interesting are associated with kingship. In Onitsha town ( Anambra State) is Umudei( Nnamdi Azikiwe’s village) which is one of the two quarters allowed to produce Obis in Onitsha. Aboh founded by a related migration have its royals called UMUDEI too. In Ogwashi Uku despite its Nri origin also calls its royals UMUDEI indicating an Agbor influence. However in places of great antiquity like Ubulu Uku such Dei lineages do not exist. The royal quarter of Ubulu Uku is called AKPAMA. Another evidence is the Ufie gong which is a feature of Agbor and the Umuezechime communities. Umudei also exists in Oguta as well and they also produce kings as well.
6. Could there have been Benin elements when Ezechime was moving eastwards?
Yes. There were Bini elements. Records suggests that the earliest settler of Igbodo, Ikpekwu was a member of the group that founded the Umuezechime clan. No evidence suggests that he was not of Edo origin. It is also through this same migration that led to the founding of Ase and Aboh , however some of the names in this Aboh migration suggests west Igbo elements. Ozoma( the founder of Ashaka), Etim( founder of Obetim) and Osuntili( founder of Ossissa) suggests that they could only have joined Esume at/from Agbor and moved southwards with him. The Idumujes of Idumuje Uor and Idumuje Ugboko are believed to have followed the trail of the Umuezechime. They were of Edo origin sent as soldiers by the Oba to retrieve the fleeing Umuezechime party. They failed and were absorbed into the population.

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