DETAILED DEFINITION OF “ESANIGBEDO”
By Saintmoses Eromosele.
In the war between Uzea and Benin in the 16th Century when Ozolua was Oba of Benin, two then very powerful and competing monarchs lost their lives. Onojie of Uzea was beheaded and the model of the bust of his head is cast and preserved in the Benin Museum till date. As a reprisal, the soldiers of the slain Onojie of Uzea went after the Oba and killed him at Uromi. This version is supported by Dr Okogie’s account.
A Benin version by Professor Egharevba, has it, understandably out of pride preservation, that it was not the Uzea or Uromi warriors that killed Ozolua but the betrayal of Ozolua own soldiers who were weary of the many wars of Ozolua. Bottomline was that Oba Ozolua was killed and buried in Esanland.
The original word, after the death of Ozolua, was “Esan Gbe Edo” meaning “Esan defeated Benin”. This even became family names and lasted for many years until Benins restored diplomatic relationship with Esans when they needed the Esan war machines to conquer their enemies and acquire new lands overseas (across the Benin river, note that Benin were hitherto forbidden to cross the sea out of Benin City for fear of slaves excaping) in the reign of Oba Orhogbua who had Esan connections (It is believed his mother was Esan) and used Esan, mostly Uromi/Uzea, warriors and sailors in his expansionists campaigns overseas (Delta, Akure, Eko and Dahomey).
You will notice that although it is said that Benin conquered and founded Lagos in the time of Orhogbua, but the soldiers who actually did the founding of Lagos were led by Generals Isidahomey and Agba of Uromi and mostly Esan and Urhobo soldiers raising the Benin flag. That explains why the socalled Edo names noticed in Lagos are actually Esan names; Eko (Lagos), Idumu (Idumagbo(Idumu-Igbon), Idumota, etc), Ogba (Garden), Eki (Yorubas later corrupted it to be Ile-Eki or Lekki which was where slaves were sold), Ido (means stones – Benins calls stones Ugbe, not Ido or Udolo – where they found rocks), and other names.
At this time, during the expansionist period of Oba Orhogbua, both Esan and Benin people decided to bury the hatchet and restore their ancient fraternity. It should be noted that in reference to Benin here, what is meant is the area where the Oba is which is today Oredo LGA. That was the Edo and all others including other areas which speak Benin language where Isi (the same as Ekpoma, Uromi, Ewu, Iguobazuwa, Orhionmwon, Ovia, owab, etc.
Then came the truce period, the Treaty of Peace, which Esan calls ‘Ukoven’, which was done and sealed by planting the Ohimi trees, what may be today at Ewohimi, and they pledged, on the Ohimi Oath, “Esan I Gbedo” meaning “Esans would no longer attack Benin”.
One thing that could be deduced here is that Esan people were warriors and mighty in battle. They however consider themselves as a part and parcel of Benin but never servants or slaves but royal part and stake holder in the development of Benin. Most Esans left Benin in the time of Ewuare whose policies were insensitive and unreasonable. The warriors in Benin and nobility left the kingdom for Ewuare to go found their own kingdoms.
TO BE CONTINUED…