HISTORY AND CULTURE OF OGBONA – AVHIANWU CLAN”
History of Ogbona. 1
Age Grades and Age Sets Nomenclature and
Their Importance in Ogbona in particular and in
Avhianwu Clan in General. 11
Avhianwu Culture, Past, Present and Future. 26
HISTORY OF OGBONA
The sources of history’ arc oral tradition, archaeology and written records.
Oral Tradition consists of oral information, folklores, songs, dirges and common customary practices of a people. The common disadvantage of this method is that the oral information is usually grossly exaggerated and sometimes affected by the disposition of the teller. Before the information gets to the final stage of acceptance it has been manipulated with a lot of pluses and minuses.
Archaeology is the digging into the ground for evidence of a forgotten civilization. This is somehow difficult as it may involve a huge sum of money and sometimes the excavation may result in some findings that are not worth the labour.
Written history is the documented record of the most important events of the past. Emphasis is laid on the importance of the events. Here again the writer’s disposition also affects the history because he could be biased to take side and report on an event that demands objectivity.
In writing the History of a place one is expected to rely on one or some of the methods in the foregoing paragraphs. Our study of the History of Ogbona cannot be an exception to the rule. We have indeed taken to the path of the least resistance, which in this case is the oral tradition. We are however pleased to resort to the work of Aha Idokpesi Okkhaishie ‘N1 Avhianwu which is very rewarding and informative. We have also referred to the papers presented by Chief T. A. Osigbemhe JP, the Okphe Ukpi of Ogbona on several occasions, on matters of much cultural value and also to Mr. P.S. Eleta’s thesis on age-groupings in Avhianwu land.
MIGRATION FROM BENIN:
The events that led to the migration from Benin in the later part of the 15″‘ century form the basic background in the study of our own history. It all happened in the reign of Oba Ozolua 1481 – 1504. Before that time, the ruling Oba Olua 1473 – 1478 was very much interested in peaceful adventures. His administration gave the citizens the dividends of a peaceful administration, which included good earth roads, promotion of arts and craft, abundant food supply, palace organization, and the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. Oba Olua died in 1478.
There was an interregnum of only three years before a new Oba was installed. It was a phase described by Chief J.P. Egharevba, the Benin Historian, as “an experiment in a Republican Government” by which he meant “a change in the method of appointing the Paramount Chief so that in the place of a hereditary succession within a family, a choice was made by the whole body of Chiefs from among their own number”. In this period, characterized by palace intrigues, law and order had broken down and civil disobedience became the order of the day. It was in the midst of this chaos that Prince Okpame was hailed as both the deliverer and the Oba of Benin as Ozolua in 1481. He saw the situation confronting him as one that required drastic measures in order to restore peace and good governance both at home and abroad. He had to subdue the nobles who already had grown republican tendencies. He developed his armies to restore order and discipline. He also wanted to expand the frontiers of the kingdom which he inherited from his fore fathers.
He conquered Ijebu Ode, Ondo and some parts of Ishan. Under him, the armies of Benin were kept in constant activity, sometimes fighting two campaigns in the course of a year. He suffered at least one major defeat but on most occasions, divisions among the opponents, the superiority of his own force and his reputation as an invincible warrior gave him the victory. In all his wars Oba Ozolua was an active leader of the Benin armies and he has been described as a “devotee of battle.”
On the domestic level his reign was characterized by suppression and oppression of his subjects and nobles alike, misappropriation of funds by the ruling class and general civil unrest. His subjects were conscripted into the army. These policies made him unpopular among the nobility who did not like to continue living under a tyrant of Oba Ozolua’s calibre.
The oral tradition did not spare’ him either. It was said the reigning Oba lost a Prince (name not known) and he asked his subjects to go into mourning for three years within which period, no new male child should he born. Here again, those whose wives were already pregnant were faced with insoluble and difficult problems. It was in this period of oppressive circumstances that one Azama and his family migrated from Benin, in 1485. It was a period of mass migration in Benin History. Other family units which made up the Benin kingdom and who saw that freedom had become a mirage took to their heels. They decided to leave Benin at least to escape from pains and further conscription into the army. They wanted to leave for areas beyond Benin kingdom where they could enjoy a large measure of fundamental human rights.
Our next point is to know who this man Azama was. Azama must have been a notable Bini Chieftain who had a large followership. He seemed to be a well-recognized man among the ruling class, which was very much involved in palace intrigues and the experiment at republicanism, lie could be someone who disliked the policy of the ruling Oba and who would not like to be treated like a common man by the Oba who was relatively junior to him in age. Like someone who was neck deep in politics of the day and who feared that his activities ran counter to the wishes of the new regime he had no other option than to bow out of the kingdom.
It is also good for us to have the knowledge of his family. Azama had two wives. The first wife was Ughiosomhe who gave birth to four male children, Imekeye, Ikpemhi, Anwu and Omoazekpe. His second wife, a divorcee from her marriage, was Etso. She had two children for Azama, Eppa and Ano. Her first marriage was blessed with her first son, Uneme. Her marriage to A/a ma was short lived for she soon left Azama to marry a third husband where she produced a son, called Ekperi. From this background, it could be seen that Azama was migrating not only with the children of a nuclear family but also with his stepchildren. All the children and stepchildren who today comprise lviera in Etsako Community migrated with their families and became the founders and progenitors of the clans that make up Etsako today.
Imekeye, Ikpemhi and Omoazekpe became the great patriarchs of most of Uzairue clan and Eppa and Ano became the great ancestral patriarchs of Weppa Uwanno. Their stepbrothers Uneme and Ekperi became the founding fathers of Uneme and Ekperi respectively.
Anwu had married a woman called Aleukoko for” whom he had seven children. Unone, Arua, Egwienabor, Okpolimhi, Adaesor (Adachi) Iraokhor and Imhakhena. He left lien in with his brothers and half-brothers in 1485, the year that marked the end of the middle ages in England (Tudor period) and the exploration of West Africa by the Portuguese. The first Portuguese to reach Benin was .John Alfonso. He introduced the coconut (Uvi-Oba) and the arquebus, “the gun that inspired the most profound respect.”
Anwu and his children took a bush path, which was described to them by Imekeye and Ikpemhi who had earlier run away from Benin to find a safe homeland. They got to the present day Owan Clan after a tedious and wearisome journey. As (hey were running away brigands pursued them from Benin kingdom who had meant to deal death blows to the fleeing rebels and remove their belongings.
A LOG ACROSS THE WATER
Anwu and his followers came to Edion River (nicknamed Oboarekhor) in Owan area. The river at that time was in flood and it became a problem to the emigrants. They thought that they had reached the end of their journey because their enemies would not spare them if they were caught. Some of his children went out to inspect the foaming stream to see if there was any fortiable path unknown to them. Suddenly they saw what looked like a log across the stream. They rushed back to report to their father who with haste gathered all that was gatherable to cross the river on the feigned log. Their pursuers were very close at the time of (heir crossing. No sooner had they crossed than the enemies arrived. Their enemies took advantage of the feigned log, jumped upon it and started crossing over. As they were at the middle of the river, the log was observed to shift and all the pursuers perished in the river. Alas; Anwu and his children were safe. They observed that what looked like a log was a long python. This episode meant not much to them until very much later.
A kind of epidemic struck on these Anwu’s children and so they consulted an oracle, which revealed that the killing and eating of the python affected (hem. The oracle revealed (hat the female python, which had saved them from drowning in river Edion, was reacting (o their ingratitude. Repentantly the children of Anwu with their mother, Aleukoko, vowed and declared the python as a sacred creature and hailed her as their spiritual mother. They vowed never to kill the python nor to cat it “to kill and eat of the flesh of a python has since then become a taboo.
Some people had argued that it was the time of Nupe invasion that the python gave the protection to the children of Anwu. This cannot be true because the Nupe invasion came in 18311s, four hundred years after Anwu’s children had settled in present day Fugar with their established laws and customs. Secondly, the Nupes and Hausas came via Agenebode and Okene to Akoko Edo and the hinterlands for slaves. Thirdly the Anwus were not running from Idah or Ukpilla to their present area pursued by their enemies. Lastly the journey from Benin to the present homeland was begun at the end of the 15 century (1485) and not in 1830, when Nupe arrived on the scene.
Anwu and his children came to settle at Afashio (The forest of wasps- Ikphamiyo) at the end of the I5lh century. He lived briefly and died at Afashio leaving behind his wife to take care of the children. The first son of Anwu took care of his brothers and had two settlements at Afashio Ivhi-Unone and Ivhia-Arua. Their settlement at Uzairue flourished because they had laud to farm and bush to hunt. They also had their customary practices of Age-group, Agbe and Olu, tribal marks and age long practices in marriage and burial ceremonies.
No one could have thought of leaving Uzairue for fresh homeland but for the appearance of Omoazekpe on the throne. Both the oral tradition and written records arc silent on how Omoazekpe, the 4lh son of Azama came to the throne. However, he was acknowledged as the reigning Oghie of Uzairue at the early part of 16″‘ century, He was notorious. He had wanted to build a formidable palace with mud kneaded with palm oil, a feat which would surpass all palaces ever built in this world. He wanted to boost his personal ego by so doing. The people of Uzairue including the Anwus were compelled to comb and roam about in the forests in search of the palm oil to satisfy Omoazekpe’s wishes. To freedom lovers who wanted to safeguard their fundamental human Rights Oghie Omoazekpe’s reign was one of suppression and oppression equivalent to what prompted their migration from Ileum kingdom.
The children of Anwu embarked once more on a further migration to further east of Omoazekpe’s empire. They arrived at Ogio River for a new settlement. Up to this day, people still point to an old palm tree, in that area said to have been planted by the children of Anwu. Their new settlement was a few kilometers away from Afashio, which was within the domain of Oghie Omoazekpe who continued to press for tributes in form of palm oil for the building of his palace. This prompted the children of Anwu to move further North East to completely free themselves from the grip of Oghie Omoazekpe who for all intents and purposes was an absolute monarch worse than the Bini Obas.
They were joined by the children of Eppa and Ano in (his third attempt at migration. Also following them were the children of Akhavho the founder of the present day Apana and those of Aviugwi the founder of the present day Ayogwiri. Anwu’s children finally arrived at the present day Fugar after passing through Iyora, Apana and Iraokhor locales. At last they had reached the much needed homeland free from the watchful eyes of Oghie Omoazekpe.
Here in the present circumstance they all settled down to begin a new life of farming, hunting, carving and such manageable occupations that kept life going. The population started growing and at one time it had become very tight for all of them to live together. The children of Arua; Adoko, Okpo, Avhe and Okhile moved from their joint place at Ulumhoghie to the north for a better settlement. Imhakhena moved with the children of Arua and settled at Iviukasa and being a fondling of their mother, Aleukoko moved along with him. Unone and his other brothers lived together in their settlement and spread South wards, Iraokhor stayed with them at First before he decided to Find a new home. (You now see why Ogbona people usually identify with Ivhiarua while Iraokhor, with Ivhinone in all matters of common cultural practices in Avhianwu Clan.
IMHAKHENA FOUNDED A NEW HOME
It was from Iviukasa settlement that Imhakhena migrated to the present day Ogbona. At that time, the present locale was a thick forest suitable for hunting and farming. At Iviukasa, (Aran’s children and Imhakhena were said to be feeding from a common pot in Aleukoko’s kitchen). As a hunter and farmer, Imhakhena was fond of staying too long in the bush without coming to the base. He would however come to the base at his own wish after spending many days in the bush. He was accused of not coming home frequently and as it were no food was reserved for him on many occasions. There was that fateful day when he unexpectedly arrived from the bush and there was not enough of corn bread of which he was very fond. He became very bitter on hearing that his favorite meal was cooked that morning but there was nothing reserved from him, he cried and angrily went back to his farm. From that day on wards, he was no longer the same again. For several days he remained in his farm. His mother, brothers and nephews searched for him for many clays and later lie returned and his brothers hailed him Uvie vhie Eko meaning who cried over a piece of corn bread (Eko Oka). Imhakhena continued to stay in the farm and when questioned why he would not come always or frequently he answered, “Ugo nun” Meaning the farm is far away. (Ugo is a Word for a farm).
Another versions of the story according to oral tradition is that at one time when Imhakhena had stayed too long in his farm, his brothers and nephews went to look for him and brought him home, he was given his favorite food but he expressed dissatisfaction and angrily bolted away to his farm. The brother humorously remarked that Imhakhena, “Ogbona”, and meaning he has run again. This statement appears to be more accepted than the first one but whatever way you look at it, the decision is yours.
At one time it was reported that Imhakhena was ill, His mother went to visit him in the new homeland. He recovered and Mother Aleukoko decided to remain with him. Mother Aleukoko later fell ill and died tint Imhakhena did not report to his brothers at Ivhiarua and Ivhinone. He buried her with the small vessel with which she usually rubbed cam wood (Akpheume). When his brother later knew of this, they became annoyed in the course of which they allowed only that festival of rubbing camwood with Imhakhena (Ogbhe) and all other festivals they shared between themselves (Ivhinone).
Imhakhena had two children Okhua and Omiorele. Neither the oral tradition nor the written records made mention of any other children before or after these two ones. But we know that Omiorele was the father of Osua and Anaga, that Osua was the father of Oroke and Ozima, while Anaga was the father of Uluagwa and Overa. We also know that Okhua was the father of Oche and Udo, and that Udo was the father of Etso and Obiri, while Ochie was the father of Orevhor, Itse, Osano and Obore. These children and grandchildren of Imhakhena are the great patriarchs and fathers of the present day kindred of Ogbona. The story so far narrated covered the era of the Oba (Agbo Oba).
The next stage of our development usually referred to as Nupe/Hausa Era (Agbo Izanama) (The Monster that God created) started with the invasion of Nupe. The invasion started in about 1830. After the jihad of Othman Dan Fodio, Nupe and some Hausa war lords came to this part of the world to capture slaves to enrich themselves. They did not come principally to spread Islam but to capture slaves. The first Nupe invasion was at the time when Obakhire ruled all Avhianwu. His other contemporaries in Avhianwu were Oghie Itsuoko of Ivhinone, Oghie Odior of Ogbona and Oghie Aseghiemhe of Iraokhor. Obakhire haled from Ivhiokhile in Ivhiarua. He paid the Nupes 2000 cowries and a girl of marriageable age to ransom all Avhianwus. By the time the Nupes came the second time, it was a woman, Egho, who paid 24,000(N1.20), to the Nupes, and two girls of marriageable age and a goat to ransom all Avhianwus.
During the 3rd and the 4th invasions many of our people ran to Weppa and Ekperi respectively. In the last raid was 1830’s Oghie Omiawa of Ivhiarua, Oghie Iza of Ogbona and Oghie Ogege of Iraokhor reigned Omiawa decided to offer 25 slaves to the Nupe invaders every year from each of the four villages. At a later date, they decided to allow the Nupes keep liaison officers in each of the four villages in order to collect taxes and slaves. These liaison officers were known as Azenis.
The consequences of these Nupe invasions were not very felt in the spread of Islam as they were felt in our social life. The adoption of Nupe names was more on our social life. Hence such names as Yakubu, Adamu, Momodu Fatima, Asana, Mamuna, Yagiua, etc. found their ways in the naming of our children. Some words of Nupe derivation are still found in Avhianwu vocabulary e.g. “ama” for Gwena (but) Dandu for Idolebho (uduevho) and Zaki or Seriki for Chief Oghie. We are also told that the name given to the regions of Etsako, Owan and Akoko Edo, Kukuruku, was derived from the guttural noises of these people during the Nupe invasion. As guests the Nupe/Hausa children taught our children rhymes and games such as “Tutu tutu, Tutu Eagelo”. The Nupe era came to an end when the British colonial administration appeared on the horizon in 1897.
In 1897 the Royal Niger Company handed over the administration of Kukuruku Division to the British government. The white men stayed at Bida from where they paid constant visits to Avhianwu clan. That was at the time of Emokhor in whose reign the first primary school was founded at Fugar in 1900. His contemporary rulers were Oghie Aduku Ebagba at Iviukasa, Oghie Ototo of Ogbona and Oghie Aghiamalo of Iraokhor. At a later stage the white men started coming from Idali to Avhianwu. It was Oghie Aduku Ebagba that built a residence for them at Iviocha. The British put an end to the slave trade and ushered in a new political, social and economic transformation in Avhianwu Clan.
POLITICS AND ADMINISTRATION AT OGBONA
The administration of Ogbona did not in any way differ from what obtained at Ivhiunone, Ivhiarua and Iraokhor. As you might have noticed from the story of Anwu’s children, they all loved freedom and did not like to deviate from the pattern or system of government that ensured their liberty. In the pie-colonial period, they embraced the traditional government in which the elders had a great say. In each kindred the four eldest males Edior n’ Edie formed the traditional council which interpreted the customary laws. These customary laws were made by a council known as Ekwe which was summoned at the instance of the oldest man at either Ivhiarua or Ivhiunone. The Ekwe was composed of the eight oldest persons, from each of Ivhiarua and Ivhiunone. The oldest ones at Ogbona and Ivhiraokhor readily agreed with the decisions made at the Ekwe as a matter of course. Such customary laws dealt with matters bordering on funerals, inheritance, murder, arson, marriages, fundamental human rights and traditional festivals.
They also dealt with the duties and obligations of the citizens. It must he made clear that the Ekwe was not an institution in each of the villages that make up Avhianwu Clan. The interesting aspect of Ekwe was that it did not meet regularly as the modern parliament. It could meet once or twice in a century when there was need for it especially when a new customary law was to be made or an amendment to the existing law was to be affected. In such a situation, the council was summoned by the eldest man of either Ivhiarua or Ivhiunone and the venue was Ukwe-Ulomogie or the oldest man’s compound. All the Ikphe-lkpi in all Avhianwu must be in attendance. Whatever the laws made must be announced in each of the villages the following market day after the Ekwe’s meeting.
Such were (he laws interpreted by the four oldest men in each of the kindreds at Ogbona. Besides the customary laws, the Okphe-Ukpi and his council of ministers (lduevho) could make social laws that deal with petty stealing, land
Ownership, unguarded utterances or malicious gossips and .such like ones that regulated (his day to day activities of the people. The Okphe-Ukpi was not expected to be a dictator because the Elders controlled his decisions if they violated the customary laws or the Iduevhos could boycott his palace if he would not compromise with them. He implemented the laws by making use of the age groups or sometimes through the masquerades at night.
In judicial matters all cases of customary practices were usually referred to the four eldest persons in each of the kindreds. They usually imposed such, Tines as a goat or fowl to appease the ancestors most especially in cases of adultery or willful murder or unguarded utterances. In other social matters the Okphe-Ukpi in council would investigate thoroughly before imposing fines and punishments depending upon the gravity of the offence.
When the Nupe arrived they found the existing system of government very helpful as it helped them to get the slaves and tributes, which they wanted. What the invaders did was to strengthen the position of the traditional rulers by giving them the titles of Seriki (Zaiki) to the Okphe-Ukpi Daudu (Daudu) to the Iduevhos. Then of course, in their courts, or Chiefs palaces they placed their liaison officers, the Azeni.
The British administration swept out the Nupe administration. The British abolished the slave trade and suspended all the traditional or Ukpi holders because they were all involved in the external and internal slave trade. In (heir stead, they imposed warrant Chiefs on our people. A warrant Chief was the one appointed with a certificate to rule even though he was not a traditional ruler. They were appointed through the intelligence report of the District Head at Auchi or directly from gatherings of all the people in their village meetings during the visit of the white man. Such appointees were those found to be very vocal among the natives. Such warrant Chiefs included Alemoh of Ivhinone, Emokhor of Ivhiunone, Akhenavianwu of Ivhiarua. They helped the colonial administration in stopping the domestic slave trade at Aki avhe (Jattu) and the external one carried out by the Nupe invaders.
From 1918 to 1931 the British administrators revisited the issue of the Ikphe-Ikpi and revoked the appointment of the warrant Chiefs. They soon discovered that the warrant Chief did not enjoy the legitimacy of the people and as clever administrators they realised that they had violated a strong constitutional convention. At this period it was only Chief Aleghe of Ogbona that was the traditional Ukpi Holder. Through him, a thorough investigation was conducted and the following traditional rulers were appointed as the Ikphe-lkpi in Avhianwu land; Chief Ayaosi of Ivhinone, Chief Imiegbai of lraokhor and Chief Adelebe of Ivhiarua.
Here at Ogbona Chief Aleghe ruled until his death in 1938. He was succeeded by Chief Atsegwasi in 1941 and his reign was very brief. Chief Okozi took over after the death of Atsegwasi in 1941 – 1953. It was in Chief Okozi’s reign that political parties started to affect the appointment of leadership at Ogbona. It was also in his time that Chief M.C.K. Orbih was elected member of the local District council Auchi. In 1954 following the operation of the Macpherson’s constitution in Nigeria in 1951.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for listening to me and also thank the organizers of this Day once more. In subsequent celebrations I hope to go into details of our political, economic and social life through similar stages of the Oba’s era, Nupe invasion and colonial periods up to our independence and Republican Status.
Paper presented by MR. A. I. ENABERUE-CLE (Rtd.)
At the f Seminar organized by OGBONA COMMUNITY as part of OGBONA DAY CELEBRATION, – 29th and 30th March 2002
AGE GRADES AND AGE SETS NOMENCLATURE AND THEIR IMPORTANCE IN OGBONA IN PARTICULAR AND IN AVHIANWU CLAN IN GENERAL
Age stratification of males and females is an important feature of social organization in Avhianwu clan as well as in all Edo speaking groups. The degree of complexity and the importance attached to them vary considerably from one ethnic group to another:
The age groups and age sets are determinant factors as to who is the most elderly man in a village or as to who is qualified to be crowned a village head other conditions are satisfied. The male population is divided into three categories.
(a) The first is the un-initiated adolescents (Ekpe and Iwogo)
(b) Adults (Ogore)
(c) Elders. (Ikpisa)
There is some variation, however, with regard to the degree of formality with which age sets are inaugurated. Whereas among the Ibos, informal inauguration is the rule rather than the exception, formal ceremonies, such as will be discussed in succeeding chapters are a characteristic feature of the age group organization among most of the Edo speaking people.
Children pass through the stages of ‘Ekpe’ and ‘Iwogo’ before being initiated into named age groups which in most communities, are formed every other year. In Avhianwu clan, the males are initiated into age groups every other year while the girls are initiated into womanhood every year. These males and females are ascribed names which in most cases bear the pre-fix ‘ Uma’ and a sentence with some historical back ground e.g. UMA OTSEMOBO (meaning I am in control of the empire) this name was given in 1945 at the end of world war II which the British won and as part of the British Empire, the age group of that year was ascribed the name. It readily recalls to mind the end of the war and its result.
Females initiated between two different male age groups have no names as such they are referred to as Otu Igbo-efo meaning (in between age groups). Those initiated with males are referred to as Otu-Emo meaning (age group of men).
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION INTO AN AGE GROUP SET:
A man’s precedence in the affairs of his village depends on the date of his admission to the association of age group to that of other members. This means that the ‘age group’ age rather than chronological age in years is a principal determinant of social status. Although males born during a period of two consecutive calendar years are supposed to be in the same age group bracket, other factors Viz: custom, parents’ wishes and the size of the adolescent male are sometimes determinant factors. In Avhianwu clan, custom has it that unless there is a male adolescent in Iviocha to be initiated into manhood, no initiation can be effected. Hence now a days such an Iviocha Initiate though chronologically may be the least in years of birth, he becomes the most senior member of the age group. In the past, girls who had no finance or proposed husband were never initiated into womanhood. This meant that girls could remain uninitiated even at the ripe age of between 20 and 25 years generally, initiates were to be between the age of 18 and 20 year for boys and 15 and 16 years for girls. In the past, boys neither paid taxes nor get married in Avhianwu clan, until they have been initiated into age-group.
In the past, any age group member would neither watch his Comrade die nor see his corpse. This also made it difficult for persons of the same age limit to be initiated the same year in a patriarchal family where there were many male adolescents. It is on record that a non-initiate, be he the first born surviving son or not, cannot inherit the father’s property at death. The most important of the rule is that no son or daughter of a proposed Era-Otu shall be initiated into the age group set to which he shall be an age-group father (Era-Otu). This is to perpetrate the fact no one can give birth to one and the same person twice.
From the above, one assumes that initiation into age-group is mainly at the discretion of the patriarchal head of the family, the customary yard stick having been challenged by the happenings of the present age.
APPOINTMENT OF ERA-OTU (AGE-GROUP FATHER)
It is rotational. It is either the turn of Ivhiunone or Ivhiarua. For the purpose of and others not connected with this narration, Ivhiunone is divided into three (I) Ivhigieghe, comprising Ugieogwa (Iviagbanaku inclusive), Ivioromhia and Iviavia; (ii) Ivbikhinya comprising Iviochia and Ulumhogie; (iii) Ebadi comprising Iviadatsi, Ebadi and Iviegwienabo (Iviegwi). Ivhiarua is divided into two namely Uloma and Ulagwa. Uloma consists of Iviokpo, Iviukasa, including Iruru, Iviapa and Ivhiadoko. Those that belong to Ulagwa are Ivhiokhile and Ivhiavhe. If it is the turn of Ivhiarua, the two sections meet to know who had it in the last round. If it were discovered that Uloma had it, then it would fall to the turn of Ulagwa. Quarters in Ulagwa meet to discuss bearing in mind the quarter/kindred whose turn it is to produce an Era-Otu. Then the kindred is asked to produce a candidate. When a candidate is selected the Odior, the most elderly person in the kindred, delegates and two others to present the nominated candidate to the senior Era-Otu.
The Era-Otu pronounces the word ‘Amiele’ meaning you are accepted. The nominee sends presents ranging from palm-wine, meat, fish and yams. Demands depends upon the demanding propensities of the senior Era-Otus. When the senior Era-Otu is satisfied with the nominee’s presents, he sends for all other existing Era-Otus better known as (Inuotu) and introduces the nominee in absentia. All the members of Inuotu accept his candidature and ask for their presents (prescribed fees which varies but not yet above (200 Naira). When this demand is met the senior Era-Otu fixes a date (always on Ewo day) for the nominee to jubilate round the town.
On this day he dresses in his best soro and agbada, wears beads round the neck with a red cap to match and holds in hand a gong known as Akpogho. Having dressed in these regalia he proceeds to the senior Era-out’s house with a big keg of palm wine. The senior Era-otu sacrifices with the wine, beats the drum seven times and hands over to who so ever is to beat it round the town. Next he shakes the gong seven times and gives to the nominee and pronouncing the words “Umoko” seven times before placing an eagle feather on the nominee’s head, while pronouncing the word. A ‘Abalu ya mhe, lyi lune na’ meaning as performed for me so I perform for you. Members of the nominee’s kindred and his well-wishers sing and dance in his company round the town making calls at every Era-otu’s house and the house of every member of the nominee’s own age group.
His approach is heralded by the beating of a big base drum. While the nominee calls on his age group name, the followers sing in praise of their kindred’s greatness “Egie bo mhe lo gwe mi ro bomhe lu, gwe-gwe!” This first outing serves as a sort of self-interaction to the populace. The celebrant is not expected to fall while performing this ceremony. He collects presents from all people visited e.g. Daudus or Ikhaemhos, village heads, age group members, the Edios and relations. With these presents he is able to defray some of expenses.
Next is the first meeting of all existing In ‘Otus in the nominee’s house. On this day which is usually the day set aside for the hiding of Uni (aru.ni vhe) the nominee is formally introduced to his comrades. This ceremony is significant because it is the first appearance of the nominee as a comrade among the other member of Ini ‘Otu (age group fathers).
DUTIES OF AN ERA-OTU TO HIS AGE GROUP SONS AND DAUGHTERS AND THE DUTIES OF THE AGE GROUP TO ERA-OTU IN AVHIANWU CLAN
The first meeting of the age group in their foster father’s house is the night of killing ‘Uni1. It is the duty of their Era-Otu to provide spacious accommodation with maximum security. This is done to prevent the age-group from molestation which is always the order of the night. He must provide sufficient palm wine and keep vigil with his sons.
During fattening Igera (a period of complete relaxation and merry making for both girls and boys), all foster sons and daughters visit their father who shows them coconut and orange trees from where the age-group by custom collects a-lot of coconut and oranges. In the event of the foster father having no such trees he buys or the age group collects from any in the kindred at the Era-Otu’s expense. While in Igera the Era-Otu pays visits to his sons and daughters who in turn entertain him and make merriment.
During fattening, if one commits a crime against the age-group, such an offender offers a goat which the Era-Otu kills on the 7 day before the Otu disperses. If no one commits a crime, the members hold any goat to ransom and the Era-Otu kills it. An Era-Otu acts as an adjudicator during periods of disagreement amongst age-group members, lie sees that there is no division and he imposes a line on anybody found guilty of planting seed of disunity amongs age-group members.
Age Groups have also some customary obligations towards their Era-Otu. During “Aduikukwa” New Year, they send presents “Isomele” to their Era-Otu in a group. Such a day is always a day of reunion and a day of great merry making. Apart from the presents to their Era-Otu, the Era-Otu buys drinks at his expense which keep his sons about four hours at his residence.
When sick the age-group members go in a group to see him and watch over him. If he eventually dies, they wash and dress him, buy a white cloth, gun powder and drinks. In group they sing some of the following tunes beating two one sided drums called ‘Agha’ some of the songs are “Eloesomhi mheleye, Eloesomi so in ha cc\ meaning: we are not in good mood today, etc. All the songs depict deep feelings for a lost father. They run round the town cutting down tree branches, carrying fresh leaves, destroying many things at random. There is always actual pillage and willful destruction of livestock, houses, sitting materials, cooking utensils etc. They cut down a tree by name ‘Ukhu’ or ‘Ukhue’ and carve out a canoe like coffin called ‘Uko’. The children of the deceased Era-Otu present a goat and a fowl which the most senior member of the age group offers as a sacrifice to the carved out ‘Uko’ by chopping off the head of the two animals with a very sharp cutlass. It is when this is done that the body is finally buried and the ‘Uko1 placed by the side of the grave.
During the second burial ceremony which may lake place after about a year or two the age group members tax themselves and raise money for the purchase of gun powder, which they shoot while running round the town. They disturb any dancing group and it is common for a dancing group that hates disturbance to bribe them off to keep peace. On reaching the market they seize any ‘thread netting1 (aga) they lay hands on and while holding it, they run round the market and bring it to the dugout canoe-like coffin ‘Uko’.
On the 2ml day, Ekhue they dress the ‘Uko’ with the net, good clothes, red cap and an eagle feather disguising it as their age-group father. They carry this ‘Uko’ singing war like songs – Enegbudu – ya he, meaning: we are the courageous and almighty people, any person who challenges should come near. With this they run round destroying things just as was done on the day of first burial. With the supposed corpse, they visit other Era-Otu,
Elderly men-Edio, collecting presents in form of money. In the event of the age-group reaching the residence of a member of (heir Era-Otu age-group, they don’t enter the house hut wait far off to collect presents. At dusk they hand over the ‘Uko’ to corpse hearers ‘Ikhagha’ and disperse.
AGE GROUP INITIATION – TIME, STAGES, OFFICE/OFFICERS
The exact time of initiation into age-group sets differ from clan to clan. In Weppa-Wanno clans, it takes place in January/February; and in Auchi clan it takes place mostly during the big Salah. In Avhianwu clan it spreads over a period of five months, June-November.
The intended scope of (his essay and the laborious attempts would not allow a narrative on how each of the three clans mentioned above organize and initiate members into age group. I will however attempt to give in some details what obtains in Avhianwu clan. And summarize in a little way the similarities and: difference between age-group organization in these clans.
For the purpose of this age-group initiation ceremonies, it will be appropriate to give to the reader an idea that four villages in Avhianwu. Viz: Iraokhor, Ogbona, Ivhiarua and Ivhinone. Left Afashio or Akiugba in Avhianwu clan. The villages are divided into sub-administrative units comprising one or more groups of families pertained descent. The nucleus of each family unit is “Adi”. Each of the villages is divided broadly into two and each sector further divided into sub units.
Age group initiation ceremony runs through many stages which I intend to run through briefly putting on record the most salient points.
1st stage – Umhomhe. (June/ -July) Umhomhe is the name given to a dance organized and staged by a group of both adolescent boys and girls. The dance is accompanied by songs taught to the adolescent by renowned composers called (IKAMOTSE). The songs may be in form of insults, abuses on those who transgress the norms of the community or in praise of people in the community who satisfy the norms of the society, Vices as stealing, adultery, laziness, self-induced poverty and drunkenness are abhorred and those who indulge in those vices are tamed or re-educated to their responsibilities in the community by being brought up for public ridicule. The whole process is a two-edged affair, or is a weapon cutting both ways. Those without-standing qualities are also praised and exalted in public places. This dance starts on the very day the elders make sacrifice to a mountain called “Okhui-Ozibo” on the last big “Ewo” in the month of June, or the first in the month of July. The significance of this dance is that it brings all the different villages adolescents together. Ivhiarua and Ivhinone adolescents come to Ogbona .while Iraokhor and Ogbona go to Fugar in exchange.
The songs serve too us traditional history. They reflect a cyclic evolution of town-clan. Through the composed songs, some youths hitherto ignorant of some aspects of the history of the clan are introduced to the norms and values of the society as past happenings/events are reviewed and revealed.
This ceremony takes place on different days in different villages but it is cither on Ewo or Ekhue day. It involves the selection of the new initiates (Otu) from the non-initiates (Ekpe and Iwogo), while no fees is paid by initiates in Ivhinone and Ivhiarua a fee between 2d and 4d (now INS) is paid to elders by all the initiates and the elders alike are made aware of those initiates that arc abroad. All initiates start wearing baggy capes from this date. Failures to wear at subsequent meetings are fined and disciplined. After selections, the initiates shake hand with one another a sign comradeship. (Girls who come out publicly to shake hands with their male counterparts arc there (hen known to be women initiates. (Girls pay no fee).
Offices fall to the turn of sub-units in villages and the elders of each sub-unit ascribe persons to the offices. Each village has its own set of officials although when and where they meet, they know their order of seniority.
Offices are ascribed by the unit’s elders on the eve of shaking the earth-(Uzighi-Oto). They are: The main four Big Brooms. (Itsatso) four Gongs (Ho) corresponding to the brooms and two Messengers (Ikeminare).
THE 15 ROOMS
The holder of the 1st of these brooms is the most senior member of the Age group and automatically is the President or Chairman at all gatherings of the Age group. Next is the Vice President or Vice chairman (Agba- Edio). He also has 2nd broom. There are also two other brooms in order of importance. The Big Cong (Ulonokhua)
The holder is usually from the same section as the holder of the big broom. In position he is the 5 in rank but senior to other gong holders. The remaining three gong holders as in the case of the big gong holders come from the sections corresponding to the section of origin of the three other broom holders. The main idea here is that of an Age-group set (males) only S seniority position are predetermined. The president and his vice who choose them into positions determine order of seniority of other members.
THE MESSENGERS (IKEMINARE)
These arc two per village and chosen from particular lineage groups of the village. If lucky, they can combine the office of a gong holder to this. They also act as treasurers to their age set. At meetings they act as speakers. In consultation with other member, they pronounce judgement over any erring member.
THE STAFF (ADANO)
Anyone who fails to hold any of the offices enumerated above is a floor member of the set and falls within the group of Staff holders. They are whose position of seniority the President and his vice determine.
KILLING OF UNI- (AGBU-UNI)
Uni is a small creature squirrel-like with big eyes and tail, it is recognized as the owner of the forest hence it plays a significant part in this ceremony. It is usually the duty of the senior member of the age group from Ivhiokhile Quarters in Ivhiarua village and those of Ivhiotsia Quarters in Ivhinone village to get at this creature and present it to their age-group father on the morning of the selection. (Ewoh-day) in the past, they run round the town with the creature with premeditated minds to crush any rebellion on their way. It was a common place for organized groups to waylay them and snatch the creature from them. Where they were dispossessed of the creature they paid ransom fees to regain possession. Members of Inu-otu gather to hide the Uni (Aruni vhe) in the age group father’s house and fix a day for pounding and sharing of Ukhumhi – (lluagho)
The ceremony starts in the evening after selection. Under the pretense that they are going to kill Uni, the new initiates, the adolescents and previously or already initiated persons move to a place called “Iniwato” to pitch a battle. The adolescents and previously initiated persons fight against the new initiates. Those new initiates who were very vocal during Umhomhe dance or who have been hostile to others or younger ones are dealt with severely. In the past this battle that involved the use of whips, sticks and other dangerous weapons ended with many casualties.
The struggle continues until the initiates find their way to their Age-Group father’s house for protection. A weakling who fails to go on this expedition are usually fined heavily. In their Age-Group father’s house, they remain drinking, dancing and singing all the night while at intervals; they hold the creature (Uni) and run around the town.
Early in the morning, a young child is brought and lured to say USAGBE (Unity). If this is said, they would then be free to move away and free from molestation of the older Age-group and adolescent members. From this date to the date of shaking the earth, they visit age-group members’ house drinking wine in male’s houses and collecting money from girl’s tattered caps or huts. Females wear nicely woven calico loin cloth called Igbogane and leave their heads bare. It is very common to see all male initiates holding brooms, which is turned into weapons of war or defiance during the sharing exercise. Males mask their faces with charcoal to hide identity. They pay a prescribed fee of 6d each.
When all initiates arc gathered, the senior Era-Otu and the New Era-Otu advance towards the medicine and cutting, the senior Era-Otu sings ‘Iluagho1. The mortar containing the medicine is then thrown open to the initiates. A struggle ensures as relations of initiates try to cut for the initiates especially girls who can’t withstand the struggle. If convinced that all initiates have all be anointed with the medicine, the senior Era-Otu tunes a second time and in full “lluagho Aghozaza za Agho.
The Initiates take over and in a single file they race round the town (Akhievho) an exercise I think is designed to test stamina. During the race, no one is expected to fall. The race ends in Akinokhua Adelebe’s backyard where the members divide themselves into seven groups and take oath of loyalty, and allegiance to members. They rehearse past norms, rules and regulations and decide on those to waive or retain in view of past experiences.
Some of such rules and regulations may be “will not marry our daughters1′. This has never changed. We will not divorce a member’s wife – (open to debate).
We will neither sec ourselves at death (open to debate nor shall we participate in any form during the funeral rites). We shall only visit and express sympathy to the bereaved after seven days from date of death. Children of our age-group are our children. We shall treat them with equality. We shall not sue ourselves in any court of law. All disputes shall be settled under the chairmanship of the Age-Croup father. We shall release comrade if met in chains.
These statements are usually answers to questions put to the age-group members by a selected elderly person. At the end of this questions arid answers exercise, members disperse. On this Ewo day or early next Ekhue, all Initiates shave completely their hairs which symbolizes a departure from the adolescent age to a new adulthood.
EXHIBITION OF MATERIAL WEALTH AND NAMING OF THE AGE GROUP
Customarily, every age group is given a name. This is usually on the Big Ewo (Ewo Nokhua) succeeding lluagho day. Male and female initiates alike wear different types of dress and parade round the town and change to new ones at intervals.
Girls are dressed in both male and female customs by the parents of their fiancées. All types of English dress, suites, knickers, trousers and Nigeria dresses such as baggy trousers popularly known and called Sokoto, Ibadan are matched with voluminous, gown. In these dress initiates of both sexes from Iraokhor and Ogbona move to Fugar to attend the naming ceremony after consultation with the gods and are joined by their comrades from Ivhiarua and Ivhinone.
They move about jerking their respective families. They receive presents from admirers.
Meanwhile, all the Inuotu, the senior Ukpi holder (Okphe-Ukpi nokhua) plus his other three village heads and the Daudus get seated at the Age-group fathers’ house. They sound the drum inherited from Edo (Benin) Ukpi.
All the Otus, dressed in full regalia, sit in order of seniority. Before this time the Otu and senior Ukpi holder must have agreed unanimously on an appropriate name for the Initiates. The most senior member of the Age-group father’s steps forward to pronounce the name which is then echoed round in great applause and with joy each village age-group files out. In lines they with their new name thus:
SOLO: Udumha, ona udu evho
CHORUS: Udumha K’h Edo, Udumha
Ona udu evho. Udu mha kh’s Edo.
Meaning: – “My heart is stronger than that of any other tribe
Chorus: Our hearts are Edos” With this song they go around the town (Akhievho) with Iraokhor age-group members leading. They gather at Aki Nokhua and get divided into seven groups as on the day of sharing medicine.
They again rehearse their vows and disperse. Those from Ogbona and Iraokhor race home to give the good news to their counter parts who were not able to get to Fugar. All those Initiates who stayed at Ogbona, arc expected to see the Iraokhor group who stayed at Ogbona, are not expected to see Iraokhor group so they go into hiding (ill the Ogbona group returns from Fugar.
THE SLOW MOVEMENT ROUND THE TOWN AND MERRY MAKING (Mhe okolo; me oko bin)
Having returned from Fugar, the Age-group members of both sexes in Ogbona dress gorgeously in the morning of the next day (Ekhue) and assemble at their president’s house. From there they move to the market square and in a single file trek meandering forward and backward, in a chameleon’s style round the town1 with the following songs, in two verse.
Solo Mhe Okolo
Chorus Mhe Okolo bia
– Mhe Okolo, Mhe Okolo bia
Solo Egbemhe Okpisa
Chorus Mhe Okolo bia etc.
Solo – Ogai ikhe ze
Chorus Mhe Okolo bia
Solo – Izo Otsuemhi
Chorus Mhe Okolo bia
Solo Ige gbe Evhio
Chorus Mhe Okolo bia
2nd Stage Solo – Ga ga da
Chorus – Gaga ga da.
The first verse meaning: I, am adult I, am an adult I now contribute yams I now pay tax I now contribute maize I no longer kill rabbit etc.
This ceremony which takes place only at Ogbona is very significant for two reasons
The movement round the town punctuated at intervals with backward paces when the second verse is sung, signifies that an adult walks/moves with care and with backward glances.
The meaning of the first verse is self-explanatory but for the avoidance of doubt I explain the historical significance. It was and is still the practice in Avhianwu clan that new Initiate are the additions every other year to every village tax assessment list. It was the practice for all initiated adults to contribute yams and maize to visitors to town as a mark of hospitality for which the Africans are well known. On the other hand, it is the practice that homage is paid in words and in kind to the eldest of sub-units or village.
It has been a development of late for these young initiates together at the Market Square after the morning ceremony to receive gifts from relations, fiancés and fiancées. This ceremony is a form of reception marked with dances and booming of den guns. It inculcates into the adolescents the virtue of goodness and kindness because it serves as a miniature judgment for the Initiates. Those that have led good lives side by side with their neighbours receive the great honour in cash and in words while those that have been arrogant, proud and wicked receive less applause and gifts.
So, one could gather that apart from the significant historical importance of this ceremony moral and corresponding goodwill have played a magnificent role in the peaceful life of the village, This age old custom amplifies the modern trend of thought of goodwill, loyalty to government, subscription of one’s quota (in terms of tax) to the upliftment of governmental development plans.
FATTENING IN AN ENCLOSURE (IGERA)
The period of fattening usually last for seven days. The initiates construct a sort of enclosure with wrappers and remain secluded from the general public and abstain from all forms of physical exertion. They remain there from dawn till dusk eating rice, pounded yam, foo-foo, and beans in fact nourishing foods. It is all singing, eating and no work. Their songs sound sentimental. The following is one.
Ukhekho no lo mha ye e e e
Ka gho mha gho o
kabu no se o gho
“My faraway fiancée/fiancée
Come and see me
As I majestically tune some songs
As if I were the king of chimpanzees
Slinking the morning note”
The youth move round in the evening along farm paths collecting farm products from farmers. They also enter gardens to pluck oranges, coco-nuts, pears, and plantains. Messengers may hand over a single plantain to a co-female initiate. This means that the female initiate is expected to bring a basin full of fried plantain the next morning. Whatever foodstuff is handed over to a female initiate presupposes what is expected from her the next morning, flic practice of singing and eating which is a sort of picnic continues for a period of seven days. It is on the seventh day the final ritual is make with a big she goat and kola-nut.
THE KILLING OF A GOAT AND THE BREAKING OF KOLA
The ceremony lakes place on the seventh day. Previously, any person who offends the initiates provided the goat, or the initiates get hold of any she goat that come their way. Nowadays, the Age-group father provides in the event of no erring person during the initiates stay in the enclosure.
The oldest man slaughters the goat. Before he cuts the throat he repeats…. “As from this day you are reckoned with as virile men and women of our land, you are now full-fledged members of the society, subject to the payment of taxes etc. He breaks the kola and the young initiates disperse to their respective homes to prepare for the next age.
This initiation ceremony into womanhood does not end with fattening in an enclosure as with men but extends to Ogbhe feast and ends with it.
Ceremonies are many and varied. The significance of this feast is that it marks a period when all marriageable girls and who have finances were given out in marriage.
On the actual festive day, all the girls are led in a procession to the Ogbhe Shrine. The Ogbhe priest signs the girls with white chalk on her forehead and back. She is given a white piece to take home. As the priest signs the girls he prays that her marriage with the husband be fruitful. In the past, girls went to the Ogbhe shrine naked completely. The idea is to prove to the world that girl’s attendance at the shrine are pure, standing as at birth before the shrine.
No girl that has not been signed with chalk customarily at this shrine is expected to be put in a family way. If such happens, the pride of such a girl and the members of the family flicker to disrepute. Women who lead these girls to the Ogbhe Shrine plays some note on the gong, they strike the gong saying the following: “Who does not know my girl, come and see her. Don’t go home to tell lies. Angelina the princess is passing. I have full salt and not half; etc.
All are directed at singing the praise of the girl. To say that she is well behaved well-mannered and to crown it all that she is a virgin.
In the evening, members from quarters of fiancés of these girls, dance to their girl’s houses to ask for the release of these girls for marriage. After the fulfillment of all financial obligations the girl’s one after the other arc handed over to their respective husbands. Girls know their age-group because they are usually married out the same day. But this idea changed when in 1945 soldiers inundated the clan with money demanding their wives at random. Girls can now be given out at any time negotiation between the two families are completed. Age-group is now reckoned for this purpose from one New Year (Aduikukwa) to another. All girls who are given out in marriage within one year (native reckoning) form one age-group for girls.
It is perhaps pertinent, at this stage to say something about the order of seniority in women age-groups sets. Unlike the men age-group sets, seniority is not predetermined. It depends purely on luck. The first woman to get a surviving child becomes the senior. In any gathering of the age set, she acts as president. The unfortunate one without a child becomes last but not the least on the seniority list.
The feast of Ogbhe takes place between the months of November and December hence age-group initiation ceremonies is deemed completed after this feast.
TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS
The clan is known for its belief in and respect for traditions and customs. Each of the lunar months has a corresponding native feast. Some of the feasts are movable while other are immovable. Below is a table showing some of the feasts and the months in which they are celebrated.
JANUARY – FEBRUARY UKI UKPE
FEBRUARY – MARCH UKI ADUKUKWA (NEW YEAR)
MARCH – APRIL UKIAVA UKPE
APRIL – MAY OKIALAI UKPE
MAY – JUNE UKI UTU
JUNE – JULY UKI OKHUI OZIBO
JULY – AUGUST UKI ESI
AUGUST – SEPTEMBER UKI OGHIE
SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER UKI AGHIE
OCTOBER – NOVEMBER UKI OGBHE
NOVEMBER – DECEMBER UKI UGHUE
DECEMBER – JANUARY UKI ATALIMI
Paper presented by SIR P. S. ELETA at the Is Seminar organized by OGBONA COMMUNITY as part of OGBONA DAY CELEBRATION, – 29″‘ and 30″‘ March 2002
TOPIC: AVHIANWU CULTURE, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
AVHIANWU is one of the: 3 clans constituting the present Etsako Central Local Government Area of Kilo Stale, others are Ekperi cIan to the South and South Uneme Clan to the South Last.
It occupies the gently undulating land washed from North West to South east by the River One which joins the River Niger through Ekperi to South Uneme Clans. The vegetation varies from semi-tropical to savannah. Once rich in forest resources, indiscriminate and uncontrolled exploitation has reduced the land areas of Avhianwu to mainly grassland savannah with patches of forest along the Obe River Valley. Agriculture has remained the main occupation of the people.
From the 1963 Census for which reliable estimates for the various clans arc available, the population of Avhianwu was 11,994. It is reasonable to assume that the population of the whole of Etsako having more than doubled from 135,135 in the 1963 Census to 274,829 in the 1991 Census, that of Avhianwu is now well over 20,000 1. With the pressure of this largely agrarian population on the restricted land area the productivity of the land is now very much reduced and (here is a struggle for the patches of land (hat still retain their original fertility. It is not surprising therefore that there are now migrant Avhianwu farmers in other Clans and Local Government Areas such as Uzairue, Anwain and Aviele in Etsako West Local Area and Ihievhe and Warrake Clans in Owan East Local Government Area.
The question now arises: who are the Avhianwu people? Like all Nigerian non-literate societies, sources of the early history of Avhianwu people is derived from oral tradition and the records of early European administrators, traders and missionaries.
According to such tradition the ancestor of the Avhianwu people, named ANWU -after whom the clan is named – came from Benin in the I5lh Century with other refugees. The Uzairues, the Weppa-Wannos – fleeing from the extortion and oppressions of the reigning Oba. He first settled in the area now occupied by Apashio in Uzairue Clan. From among the refugees there arose one Omoazekpe who modeled his demands on that of the Oba from whom they had fled. Anwu and his people revolted against (his new oppression and emigrated eastwards settling at a place called Ukulumhoghie. the nucleus of today’s Fugar. His four sons Unone, Arua, Uralo and Imhakhena founded the four contiguous villages of lvirione, Ivhiarua (Fugar) Ogbona and Uralokhor (Iraokhor) which make up the present day Avhianwu Clan. (Avhianwu is a derivation from Ivhia-Anwu – meaning the children of Anwu).
As their early history shows, the Avhianwu possessed the same culture and traditions as the Minis from among whom they emigrated. They had basically the same language, economic, political and social institutions and religion (ancestral worship). For over two centuries after their migration from Benin the Avhianwu maintained tics with their root in Benin and the culture, remained the same save for modifications and enrichments occasioned by their later association with other non-Benin neighbours. The lgala, the Ibo (Ebu from where they introduced the Okhe title system).
Some significant aspects of their culture are:
1. Their political organization based on the Ukpi drum.
2. The Okhe title system.
3. The monthly festivals from which their calendar is based.
4. The Age Group System on which most of their social and military organization is based.
RELIGION AND FESTIVALS
Their Religious organization revolved around the Elder (Odion plural – Edion) of each family group who keeps the family shrine (Adi) and presides over family worship during festivals. The most senior of these elders Itadi in each village presides over meetings of the Itadi. They act as the custodian of the culture, taboos, and tradition of the people and any infringement is reported to them for the exaction of the required penalty. They worship the ancestral spirits on behalf of the people and proclaim the appropriate time for the monthly festivals based on a lunar calendar. They consult the oracle and offer communal sacrifices to solicit and appease the ancestral goods for the welfare of the people. In short the Itadi perform a priestly and judicial function.
According to Avhianwu tradition, Cod created the world in 4 (four) days. Hence an Avhianwu week has 4 (four) days:
Each day is reserved for special activities. Evhia and Elumhi days are generally reserved for farm work while Ewo and Ekhue are reserved as market days, festivities and ceremonial burials. Since Avhianwu months are based on lunar (moon) calendar and not the Gregorian calendar the approximate Avhianwu Calendar is as follows:-
1. January – February – Uki Ukpe.
2. February – March- Uki-Aduikukwa (literally – month for sweeping away
the old years refuse. In short New Year)
3. March – April Ukiava Ukpe
4. April ~ May Ukialai Ukpe
5. May – June Uki Utu
6. June-July Uki Okhui Ozibo
7. July – August Uki Esi (New Yam Festival)
8. August – September Uki Oghie
9. September – October Uki Aghie
10. October – November Uki Ogbhe
11. November -December – Uki Ughue
12. December – January – Uki Atalimi (month for ceremonial burials)
Some social functions can only be performed during the appropriate months. For example formal marriage ceremony for mature girls is done communally during Uki Ogbhe while ceremonial burials is only allowed during the month of Uki Atalimi. These have since undergone drastic changes due to the inroads of Western European education and culture.
Politically each village Ls divided into kindreds (Groups of families descended from a common ancestor). The political head of each village is the Okphe-Ukpi who holds the traditional drum, Ukpi with which he summons meetings of the village. The Okphe Ukpi is chosen in rotation from among the ruling houses in each kindred, usually a capable man that is not yet old enough to be an Otadi or Elder. When the four village heads meet the oldest of the Okphe Ikpi presides. This was before the introduction of Clan Headship System.
The Okphe Ukpi presides over a council of subordinate Chiefs and Elders. When matters dealing with culture and tradition such as adultery, inter kindred quarrels etc. are under discussion the most elderly of the Itadi presides. The subordinate Chiefs were selected from each Adi and were usually in the hierarchy leading to the Okphe Ukpi. After the Nupe invasion of Avhianwu Clan such Chiefs were given the name Daudu.
A division of labour in the exercise of authority is exemplified during the period of war. Although only the Okphe Ukpi and his Chiefs can take a decision on whether or not to go to war, only the Itadi can decide when actual hostilities can begin, after consulting the oracle.
AGE GROUP SYSTEM
The social organization that knit Avhianwu (Ian into an organic whole more than any other institution is the Age Group Systems. Age stratification of male and female is an important feature of Avhianwu society and attained a high degree of complexity and sophistication, too elaborate for this short address. So well developed was it that it could manage the affairs of any village in the event of breakdown of the political organization.
The age group system determines the most elderly man in the village or the Otadi of the kindred or Adi. It is used to determine the order of seniority at every gathering, who assumes the position of leadership in war or peace time.
The male population is divided into three categories:
1. The Ekpe and Iwogo or uninitiated adolescents 1-18 years.
2. The Initiated adults 20 – 50 years
3. The Elders (Edio) 50 years and above.
There is division of labour among the categories. The Ekpe and Iwogo are responsible for the menial communal duties such as sweeping the village squares and (he shrines. The initiated adults perform the more difficult communal duties; building and maintaining inter village roads, taking active part in war and communal farming. The Elders take charge of administration. Eldership is not a function of age only. A male adult can become an elder above his age group if by accident he becomes the oldest male adult in his Adi or Kindred.
In Avhianwu cIan males are initiated into age groups every other year while the girls are initiated into woman hood every year. Each male age group with their female counterpart initiated with them bear a distinctive name throughout the cIan by which they recognize themselves whenever and wherever they meet. The initiation is done centrally in the original spot where Anwu settled, and so it was easy for all male adults of the same group in Avhianwu cIan to known themselves intimately. It was customary for children born within one age group initiation and another to be initiated into the same age group.
Each age group has its own father or guardian. The ceremonies are elaborate and the taboos numerous. No child brought up under the system can be undisciplined, immoral or unorganized. So thorough were the norms and order of precedence inculcated that they stamp themselves indelibly on the character of every Avhianwu man. As a character building institution, Western Education is a mere sham beside Avhianwu Age Croup System. The year of initiation is usually the year the initiates get married and it was usual for the male initiates and their fiancée to be in the same age group. This provides the opportunity of initiating both of them into the values, taboos norms and history of the clan together, a shared knowledge that will make for family understanding and stability.
Education was informal. Children accompanied their parents in all their economic activities and learn on the job. The age group initiation terminates the learning process for the young adult.
Before the coming of the Whiteman economic activities in Avhianwu were not specialized. Each family produced most of the goods and services they needed directly. Most of their food they produced in their farms and forests. Fish was obtained by barter from the neighbouring Clans of Ekperi and Weppa-Wanno. They built their houses by themselves while the woman planted cotton, spun and wove them into cloths for (heir use. Cowries’ shells were used as money in the few transaction where barter would be cumbersome and unsuitable.
Trade was carried on with neighbouring clans in specialized goods: pots from North Ibie, fish and agricultural implements from Ekperi and Weppa-Wanno and sleeping mat from Uzairue. These were obtained by baiter with yams and other foodstuffs. This trade was carried on mostly by women and the Iwogo who accompany them. It was always done as a sideline to the main occupation of farming.
THE OKHE TITLE:
One important institution the Avhianwu embraced through their contact with Ebu people on the Niger is the Okhe Title system. Like the age group system it provided one bond of unity for all the people of the Clan; at least in the form it was originally practiced.
All male adults who have the means take this title. Their fathers can make it for them or their mother’s family can make it for them where the father lacks the means to do so. In the latter case the man becomes a member of his mother’s family from where he can inherit property or rank. In this sense it is true to say that Avhianwu Clan practiced the form of patrilineal as well as matrilineal form of family inheritance. Elaborate initiation rites lasting one Avhianwu week were performed in the shrine of one Obotsu – the most senior Okhe title holder in the Clan or kindred. Okhe title holders are distinguished by their red caps.
Non initiates are never allowed to wear this cap in the Clan. Any Avhianwu adult male who aspires to any political position must be an Oboh – an Okhe title holder. It is a symbol of a symbol of authority and wealth.
In recent years the Obotsu shrines have become so fragmented to the extent that every family group or kindred now performs its own Okhe title. This has seriously eroded its original worth and value. It is worthy of note that with the exception of Weppa-Wanno Clan who introduced the title from Avhianwu Clan, the Okhe title is a distinguishing cultural practice which marks Avhianwu out as a distinct group among other Etsako Clans.
INFLUENCE OF NUPE INCURSION:
The cultural practices sketched above received their first major jolt about 1830 when the Nupe carried the Fulani Jihad into Etsako land and invaded Avhianwu Clan. Intelligence reports written by early European visitors have it (hat when the Nupe invasion struck through North Ibie the people of Avhianwu lied and sought refuge with their neighbours of Weppa-Wanno. Later they returned, after accepting the demands of the Nupe, especially the supply of slaves, and re-occupied (heir villages. The Nupe invasion did not influence the hard core of Avhianwu culture to any significant extent. They introduced the religion of Islam and tried to impose it on the people especially the Chiefs. But so strong was Avhianwu culture that it resisted the Islamic influence. The extent of this resistance is very visible today for unlike Auchi, and Aviele Clans that have almost completely lost their indigenous culture to Islamic influence Avhianwu has retained its own almost totally intact. Today Avhianwu dances and songs, even in their modernized forms have become the universally recognized Etsako tunes. Its musicians – Bolivia Osigbemhe, Benji Igbadumhe and others have raised the traditional Avhianwu Agbi Dance to national fame.
However, Nupe invasion did introduce some innovations into the traditional scene. Avhianwu people began to wear the babariga and Sokoto of the Hausas. Even those who did not adopt Islam as a religion found it convenient and a sign of the new civilization to adopt Moslem dress and names. They have remained as family names in Avhianwu. The Momohs, Musas, Momodus, Sameatus, Salius, Ahmeds, the Alius and Almhakars etc. are all relics of the Nupe invasion.
Politically the Nupe tried to change the system by changing the order of rotation in the Chieftaincy system to primogeniture. Though they were partially successful in some places like Uzairue, Aviele and Auchi, they failed in Avhianwu Clan. The coming of the Nupe introduced new nomenclatures and practices at Chiefs palaces e.g. the habit of drumming in palaces especially on Fridays. The use of the term Daudu as a title for addressing subordinate Chiefs, and Zaiki (a corruption of the Hausa word ‘Seriki’ for Chief) to address the village Chiefs. It is not often remembered that the word ‘ama’ meaning ‘but1 is not an indigenous Avhianwu word. Ancient Benin Chieftaincy titles like lyase gave way to their Nupe equivalent like “Chaba” Yamah etc. The Nupe invasion cut off all contact between Avhianwu and its ancestral home, Benin City, turning its attention and world view to the Muslim emirates of the North with its Islamic way of life and education.
In 1897 when the British invaded Bida, (lie capital of Nupe and captured it, The Nupe invaders of Avhianwu withdraw (o defend their homes. The British emancipated the large army of slaves they found in Bida, some of whom were young Avhianwu adults. One such returnee at Ogbona lived to a grand old age becoming the most senior elder in the village before his death in the 1970s.
It would appear that the Nupe did not stay long enough to stamp (heir influence indelibly on the culture of Avhianwu. Ancestral worship, initiation into age groups taking Okhe titles etc. continued unhindered in Avhianwu.
The coming of the British followed on the heels of Nupe withdrawal. The British, with their knack for reorganization and adaptation, were to make a more permanent mark on the culture of Avhianwu, a process that is still continuing. This period 1897 to the present day can conveniently be regarded as the present modern period of Avhianwu Culture. When we speak of British influence we must remember (hat it came through three sources. (The Christian missionaries, Traders and British Administrative Officers – (Government). Except in the case of administration (he British did not force (heir culture on the Avhianwu except where the indigenous Institutions involve inhuman practices. It however introduced Western education, which is one of the most dynamic agents for societal changes in the modern world. They encouraged Christianity and allowed these two agents to assail the traditional culture making it more dynamic and adaptable.
While the Christian religion and British judicial system made their inroads into (he traditional religious practices, (heir Western education removed the young adults from (heir villages to foreign lands in search of more and more education. The age-group initiation came to receive less emphasis. It is now a mere symbol. Most of the adults initiated nowadays-live abroad and merely come home to know (heir age group. Having not taken part in the various riles and elaborate ceremonies, their significance is lost on them.
It is true that the Okhe Title system stilt maintains its significance. But like the age group system (he various ceremonies and rites, even (he duration, have been drastically reduced and de-emphasized. One good development however is the unintentional abolition of matrilineal inheritance element of the Okhe Title system. Even elderly people who originally made their Okhe Titles in their mother’s families now transfer them to their father’s families, making Avhianwu Clan essentially patrilineal. In spite of these changes and adaptations (he Okhe Title system as a door to recognition and ladder to social and political mobility has survived.
The changes introduced by Western Education have been slow but more subtle and profound. The British built a Primary School at “Ukphabobe’ about 192(1 but it was abandoned before Fugar ceased to be the Headquarters of Kukuruku Division in 1926. It was the Missionaries who built the schools that were to have the greatest and more permanent influence on the culture of Avhianwu. The Catholics followed by the Anglicans established Primary Schools in Fugar, Ogbona and Iraokhor, later a Grammar School in Fugar in I960 and Community built Grammar Schools in Ogbona and Fugar in 1982.
These Schools have provided Avhianwu sons and daughters avenues for cultural and social changes. Products of these schools with others abroad have, by their devotion to modern development altered the cultural landscape. Avhianwu now has a tarred road, electricity in all the four villages, pipe borne water system and modern banking facilities in Fugar.
Politically the British took over the traditional system of village and clan administration and brought it under its supervision and control. Although it retained its structure it reduced its powers. The administration became a mere agent of British colonial government. With independence the Federal Government inherited all the powers of the British colonial government with the result that although the Okphe Ukpi, the Daudus, the Itadi, the Oboetsu are still there their powers, even in matters of culture and tradition, are now circumscribed by the powers of Focal Government Councils, Traditional Courts (where even the Chiefs may not be members) the State Government and the almighty Federal (Government.
With all these developments radical changes and adaptations Avhianwu has now been drawn into the national orbit. Its culture is becoming more and more reflective of the overall Nigerian culture. Most of the functions of its purely traditional Avhianwu culture have been monetized and the national currency is now the means of exchange and store of value. Its economy is no longer purely agricultural. It cannot now produce enough (bod (o feed itself. There is more specialization and with a monetary economy, the people need to produce all their needs directly themselves. Even the old indigenous Avhianwu dialect we use to know is now adulterated with English, Yoruba and words from other Clans. The old proverbs and adages are going out of us. Time there was when an Avhianwu speaker was easily identified by his dialect; his rich idiomatic turn of phrase and proverbs; among other Etsako peoples. It is sad that those are going out of vogue. This is an aspect of our culture that should not be allowed to die. The solution lies in our hands.
From the above there is no doubt that the pristine glory of Avhianwu culture is no more. There is much talk even where in Nigeria today about the need to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Avhianwu (Ian. In 1985 Chief A. A. Itsueli gave an address on this topic to the members of Avhianwu Club in Benin City. He exhorted us to assist the preserving this heritage by writing books in the indigenous language. I am hereby passing on this message and challenge to you.
Culture is a dynamic institution and no people can preserve its culture undiluted. But some aspects of any culture is always worth preserving because it is culture that distinguishes one group of people from another. We arc Avhianwu because we have a distinct culture and those things that make for that distinct personality arc worth preserving.
I am confident that with your awareness of this need, your exposure, and contacts as well as your level of literacy you will accept the challenge to learn the Avhianwu alphabet and orthography, write books in Avhianwu dialect, and so help in your own small way to preserve all that needs preserving in Avhianwu culture. On (his, more than on any other effort depends the future of Avhianwu culture.
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of Ogbona Imhakhena Asama Federated Union thank you for giving me this opportunity of addressing you.
Thanks and God bless.
By CHIEF T. A. OSIGBEMHE (J. P.) THE OKPHE-UKPl OF OGBONA
At the Seminar organized by OGBONA COMMUNITY as part of OGBONA DAY CELEBRATION, – 29th and 30th March 2002