Edo History: Benin Esan Relationship (Part 1)

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…

2 Comments

  1. The following assertions are distorted versions. As stated in the post here:

    “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.”

    Both assertions were distorted based on the three questions I want to raise here and answer:
    1. Between The Onojie of Uzea and Onojie Agba of Uromi who amongst them died first?
    2. Who amongst the two Esan Onojies committed suicide when surrounded by Ozolua army?
    3. Why was the slogan Esanigbedo was use by the Esan to exonerate themselves to promote unity between the Benin and Esan?

    Answers-1:
    1. Between The Onojie of Uzea and Onojie Agba of Uromi who amongst them died first?
    In about 1503, Agba, the Onojie of Uromi, rebelled against his overlord Oba Ozolua, and asked all Esan to support him to war against the Benin. After several warnings from the Oba, Onojie Agba refused. Then Oba Ozolua was compelled to declare the war on Uromi with a sharp operation, but the Onojie of Uromi had gone to the Attah of Idah for help. The Idah treated him with indignity and discourtesy. He thereafter returned to face the consequences of the war. The Oba marched on Uromi through Uzea, having defeated Uzea and executed the Onojie of Uzea, made a war camp there. From where the Oba surrounded Uromi.

    2. Who amongst the two Esan Onojies committed suicide when surrounded by Ozolua army?
    Answer-2:
    As the Oba marched with Benin royal troops on Uromi, they encircled the vicinity, that by starvation and depopulation of his town, the Onojie of Uromi Agba committed suicide, because he refused to be compelled to surrender. His body was not found to be taken to Benin to be cast in brass. Only the head of the Onojie of Uzea was cast and place in the museum today.

    3. Why was the slogan Esanigbedo was use by the Esan to exonerate themselves to promote unity between the Benin and Esan?
    Answer-3
    The two Onojies of Uzea and Uromi died before Oba Ozolua. On his return journey from Uromi to Uzea where the left the war camp, Oba Ozolua was poisoned by his soldiers for his ungratefulness and selfishness meted out on the troops. Then he died. His remains were brought to Benin. When the Esan people saw what happened they raised their voices that they were not responsible for the death of the Oba as a fashion of the troops were trying to put blame on the Esan people. That was how Esan exonerated themselves. Then forged ahead with the unity to avert a reprisal attack.

  2. The Binis do not have exclusive rights to Edo History. Those of us from Owan and Esan in our history have it that Ozolua was killed in a counter attack in Uzea. While Agba vanished after been seriously injured. Ozolua was captured and executed by a combined forces of uzea – uromi made up of some women who distracted the royal guards in a counter attack. Stop talking down the heads of other Edo indigenes, You been a Bini man does not make you the sole custodian of benin history that has been twisted not trusted and led to a crisis of identity. I wont be surprised that you a yoruba man one of the slaves that Oranmiyan brought to Benin from Ife.

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