The Founding Of Okere Urhobo by Chief Bright Okumagba
The Okere – Urhobo People are descendants of Oghoro, One of the co-founders of Olomu Kingdom. Olomu people are of diverse origin.
There are two principal immigrants that constitute the present Olomu Kingdom. They are the Igboze/Olumu group from Benin and the Oghoro, son-in-law of Alaka from Kiagbodo in Ijaw land. Renowned historians have accepted that Igboze/Olomu came from Benin to settle at a spot near Eghwu which is known as Owhode or Otor-Orere-Olomu, it was when he was there that Oghoro, an Ijaw man from Kiagbodo to settle with Alaka at Otor-Orere Olomu. They settled in two different quarters: Udu – Uhurei and Udu – Oghoro. These settlements became unhealthy and as a result of outbreak of smallpox that claimed many lives, there was a great need to relocate and this gave rise to the founding of many Olomu towns and villages. The people from Udu – Uhurhie quarters founded Agbon, Akperhe, Okpe, Okparverhe and Oviri – Olomu villages while those of Udu – Oghoro founded settlements of Ovwodokpokpo, Umolo, Ovwor and Okpare. The families that emigrated from Otor-Orere-Olomu to settle at Okpare included; the families of Arhanovwe, Eribo and Oride and were afterward joined by others from Ovwian of Udu clan.
This movements and resettlement dated back to the 15th century. My investigation and interviews from prominent Okpare indigenes points to the fact that Okpeki might be a descendant of Arhanovwe family. The genealogy of Okpeki could not be traced because according to this oral source, all Okpeki’s children eventually left Okpare fror various reasons to settle in other places in Delta State. Okpeki could not be traced because according to this oral source, all Okpeki’s children and relations which included; Idama,Ohwotemu,Sowhoruvwe, Tadiemo, Ovherha, Emakro, Itifo and daughter whose name was not mentioned. Opkeki was a great hunter and a wealthy man who could afford the luxury of travelling for many days and even month outside his domain.
Chief Daniel Okumagba, leader and land right defender of Okere-Urhobo people during the proceedings of the Warri celebrated land case in suit No. W/48/68 narrated how Okere was founded by three persons namely; Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruwe. The three persons were brothers of full blood and sons of Okpeki who was a hunter and in the course of his hunting expenditure, he travelled exclusively to the area now known as Niger-Delta. On his return, he told his children fascinating stories about places he visited and as a result of these stories, several of his children travelled out and founded settlement in many places in the present Warri and Okpe areas. This was how Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruwe came to Okere, where they settled for a long time before they knew of Ogitsi’s presence. Daniel Okumagba said that information handed over by their ancestors of how they came to settle in Okere did not include information about centuries past
Another version of Okere-Urhobo history narrated by Chief M.P. Okumagba in his book, A Short History of Urhobo on page 14 stated that the founders of Okere Urhobo are; Idama, Ovberha, Tadiemo, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruvwe who were said to be direct sons of Okpeki. During one of the early inter-tribal raids, one of the Okpeki’s daughters was said to be missing or carried away by invaders, an event not found in Olomu history and the three brothers Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruvwe together with the other two brothers who settled at Ugbokodo – Okpe, were sent out to fetch their sister. They travelled and settled at a place in Okpe Kingdom later called Ugbokodo. Later on, they continued the search down towards the Warri River, when they could not continue the search; they decided to settle at present place named Okere. According to this account, by gradual growth their tracts of land developed to join other are at the waterside inhabited by the Itsekiri of the Ogitsi descendant.
While Idama yet lived, his oldest son Olodi moved further to settle at what is now Otor-Orere. The oldest of Ohwotemu called Oghorogho followed the example of his cousin and settled at the part of Okere called Uduvbuoghorogbo became very congested and could no longer accommodate the Oghorogbo family. A section of them led by one Onoriobe left to settle at another extreme end of warri on the road to Ovwian called Odion.
The land at Odion has been the source of much litigation not only between the Ogitsi family and the families of Oghorogbo, but between the various member of the families themselves. In suit W/30/1952- Aduweye, Oghorogbo and others vs Chief Ogedegbe and A.A. Ereku. In that suit Aduweye, Oghorogbo and others who were plaintiffs tried to establish that the land in dispute as well as the whole of Odion land was founded and occupied by their ancestor Oghorogbo with his brother Eyekpimi, Eraivor and Onoriobe at a time beyond human memory… They claimed that Oghorogbo settled in Odion and farmed on the land in dispute and that portion of Odion land occupied by members of Ogitsi family were given to them by Ogedegbe or among members of his family. Chief Ogedegbe and A.A Ereku (defendants) on the other hand said that Ogitsi the original ancestor, was the founder of Odion including the land in dispute and that Oghorogbo, Eyekpimi and Onoriobe came later and were granted possession. On the conflicting stories about the founding of Odion, the trial Judge Mbanefo J. declared…
“on all the evidence I agree that Odion was originally settled by the Ogitsi family but it is a fact that the members of the Oghorogbo, Eyikpimi, Onoriobe and also Eraivor family have occupied various portion of Odion land and are entitled to occupy and remain in possession of these lands”.
Sowhoruvwe settled at a place where he could to his fishing. The area is not known as Oki quarters. At a later date, two men, Itifo and Emakro who were also said to be descendants of Okpeki joined Olodi at Okere.
Chief Daniel Okumagba’s narration at the court proceeding in suit No. W/48/68 is the subsisting and accepted account of how the founding fathers settled at Okere(1). Other descendants of Okpeki from Otor-Okpare namely Itifo and Emakro who were younger children of Okpeki came to Okere to join their relations. According to Daniel Okumagba, at the time the three founding ancestors of Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families left Otor-Okpare to found Okere-Warri, their relation, Emakro and Itio did not leave Otor-Okpare at the same time. However much later at the time, some of their grand-children later came to meet their relations in Okere. They were accommodated by the children of Olodi amongst who were Eboh and Ejikor. The Emakros and Itifo were received as relations not as tenants or co-founders.
There was a recent version of Okere-Urhobo history as contained in an installation ceremony programme of pa. Dickson Esajumi Eburu on 15th September, 2012 in which pa. Eburu stated that five great-great grandfather referring to Emakro, Itifo brothers of same mother, Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu brothers of another but same mothers who are descendants of Okpeki co-founded the geographical entity now known asOkere-Urhobo Kingdom. But in a swift reaction through a rejoinder, the elders and leaders of point out that Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu were quick to point out that Olodi and his brothers were not the founders ofOkere-Urhobo and that this story was completely at variance with the subsisting facts and law as expoured judgement in suits W/48/68 and SC/309/1974 respectively and a deliberate attempt to distort the true history of the founding of the Kingdom. Apart from re-affirming that only Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruvwe founded Okere; they debunked the claim that these five great ancestors independently co-founded the geographical entity known as Okere. They pointed out that pa. Eburu’s account was a total negation which he cannot substantiate empherically.
COMMUNITIES IN OKERE
Okere consists of two different communities, Okere Itsekiri referred to simply as Okere community of descendants of Ogitsi, the son of Ekpen, leader of the Benin Warriors who attempted to rescue the seventy(70)sons of Benin Chiefs who accompanied Ginuwa. The Okere communities have five quarters viz Odekporo, Jakpa, Odeile, Ogunobite and Ajamongha. The head of the Okere community is the Ogieboro who must descend patrilineally from any of these quarters. The following head Chiefs have reigned: Nikoro, Omatsone, Edema Okoroleju Iman, Otonghoku, Atseboma, Okutsa, Bede Uku, Walker Omatsone and F.E. Esisi.(1)
The Okere-Urhobo community are descendants of Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruvwe and the relations who migrated from Otor-Okpare to settle at Okere. The community is equally made up of five quarters: Olodi, Emakro, Itifo (Otor-Orere) Oki and Ighogbadu. The Okere-Urhobo community practiced gerontocracy until recently. Gerontocracy, system of government where the oldest man, Okpako Orere with family heads governs or constitutes the ruling council. The Okere records revealed that the following Okpako-Orere reigned; Olodi Idama, Eboh Olodi, Chief Okumagba Eboh, Omosowhofa Eboh, Amoforishe Onofeghara, Okiti Ejikor, Akpatabi Timi, Ogbrugho Ovbia and Pa. Dickson Eburu to date.
The two communities are quite different, belonging to two different natios. Okere – Itsekiri belongs to the Itsekiri Kingdom under the over lordship of the Olu of Warri while the Okere – Urhobo is one of the twenty four Kingdoms in Urhobo – land with their own monarch, the Orousen. One cannot find the premises of an Urhobo man in the Itsekiri section and in the Urhobo section you cannot find any premises belonging to any Itsekiri person. The two communities have different administrative setup or government. The head of theOkere-Urhobo is the Okpako Orere until recently which is always the oldest living male amongst OkereUrhobo people and he rules with the assistance of the elders of the three families. The Urhobo section also has a war chief who is known as Olotu”. The Urhobos has its main deity or shrine. Ifie, others are Ekabor and Agadinwanyi and Oyen.
The counterpart of the Okpako-Orere in the Okere Itsekiri is the Ogieboro who is also at any time a member of Gheghemi line of Ogitsi family. The Itsekiri community of Okere and the Urhobo community of Okerehave different communal rights. The Urhobo by their custom circumcise their females.
These two Okere communities lived harmoniously and as good neighbours for many centuries to the extent that, inter-communal marriages thrived. Chief Officer Idundun who is of maternal descent of Ogitsi family of Okere is a relation of the Okumagbas. Idama begat Ologho and Olodi and Ologho is the father of the Idunduns of Okere by an Itsekiri wives and even named many of his children with Itsekiri names. The famous Chief Daniel E. okumagba has his middle name Etsofonatorinmi. Etsofonatorinmi is an Itsekiri word and a name Etsofonatorinmi is an Itsekiri word and a name given to him by his relations from the Oki family. People who reside within Okere will refer to a juju in Okere belonging to Okere juju. Many times till about 1941, Okere juju was jointly celebrated. When there was masquerade in the Urhobo section, the Itsekiri section will be invited and there was masquerade in the Itsekiri section, they invited the Urhobo. There are times, where joint meeting were held by the Okere people at a common hall burial ceremonies were celebrated in like manner. This was in the days when there was no quarrel, when things were normal.
There were two major events that are epochal in nature in the history of these two communities. In my early days at the University of Ibadan in 1981, the word “epoch” rand a bell. It was a source of disagreement between two academic titans. Professor Ade Ajayi of the History Department had established in an inaugural lecture that colonialism is an episode which means, an ordinary event in the nature of other world events which happens from time. It is my belief, that Professor Ade Ajayi was attempting to play down on the impact or significance of colonialism as it affects African heritage or traditional values. Professor Peter Ekeh of the Political Science Department did not agree with this, arguing that the effect of colonialism cut across time especially as it changed the entire way of the people of African with regards to the way our societies were transformed.
Professor Peter Ekeh further argued how colonialism affected our educational, legal, cultural values but most importantly our economy in line with previous theories establishing “How Europe underdeveloped Africa through colonialism and neo-colonialism by walter Rodney, that colonialism like slavery cannot be said to be an ordinary event.
The Okumagba land case and the 1999 Warri crisis between the Itsekiri nation and the Okere-Urhobo are epoch making events in the sense that the good neighbourliness that existed between the two Okerecommunities for many centuries metamorphosed into acts of vendetta. These two epochs making events had great multiplier effect in the social and political lives of the two ethnic divide, even the Urhobo-Itsekiri rivalry. These events are a major factor responsible for the escalation of the Warri problem/crisis.
In 1952, the then leader of the Action group party and Minister in the defunct Western Region Government chief Obafemi Awolowo established an Itsekiri communal Land Trust over Warri and with the Olu of Warri as Chairman. Before then, in 1950, the Proprietors of Hussey College under the of Socio-Cultural configuration. The officials who were F.O.N. Rwane and chief E.N.A Begho had applied to the Secretary of the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families Mr. Daniel Okumagba (as he then was) for land which was granted them. The configuration and the Okere- Urhobo families agreed on the terms of the grant and the grant was made. Early in 1961, the Socio-Cultural Configuration trespassed on to land belonging to the three families and going beyond that which the families granted them. The families through Daniel Okumagba warned the configuration for trespass and drove the configuration from the land. The configuration then sued the families at the customary court at Ajamogha Warri presided over by Chief P.O. Awani, an Itsekiri of the Ogitsi stock. The Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families applied to the High Court Warri to have the case transferred to the High Court but it was not transferred on the condition that the Warri Division Council is taking steps to acquire the land in question under section 228 of the Local Government Law Cap 68, volume 3 of the laws of the Western Region. The Warri High Court however ordered that the council must do this before on the 26th March 1961 and that after the date, if steps to acquire the land by the council was not taken, then the application of the families should come up for the hearing and determination.
Consequently upon that order by John A. Kester, Judge of the Warri High Court, the Warri Divisional Council published a notice of acquisition to acquire an area of the families’ land which was equal to the extension Hussey College required. The area was the same as the area which the Socio-Cultural Configuration trespassed. As soon as notice of intention to acquire was served on the families, the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families instituted a claim for compensation to the Warri Division Council. The council did not meet the claims of the families for compensation. The Council later wrote to say they had abandoned the acquisition proposal.
In paragraph two of that letter, it was stated that the matter has been taken over by the Warri Divisional actions and correspondence should be addressed to the Secretary Town Planning Authority. Later the Warri Divisional Town Planning Authority published a notice of intention to acquire the land in question against the families through D.E Okumagba and Pa. Amoforitse submitted their claims for compensation to the Authority. The compensation was not paid by the Authority. The Authority did not acquire the land. Even though the Authority did not acquire the land, they made a grant of a portion of the land to the Socio-Cultural configuration in 1962. When the families were satisfied that the land was not acquired, they institute suit No. W/28/65 against the Socio-Cultural configuration and claiming damage for trespass to the land.
In that suit, Chief Daniel Okumagba for himself and on behalf of the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families ofOkere-Urhobo asked among other things: The sum of 12,116 (Twelve thousand, one hundred and sixteen pounds) being special and general damages for continuing trespass committed by defendants, their agent. In a consent judgement on the 4th of October 1966 in the High Court of Justice holding at Warri by Justice A.O. Obaseki. It was agreed by both parties in the suit:
- That the first defendant, the Socio-Cultural Corporation, Proprietor of Hussey College Warri shall pay to the Plaintiff (Chief Daniel Okumagba representing Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families of Okere Urhobo, the sum of 1000 (one thousand pounds), being compensation for all crops, economic and other fees on the land in dispute.
- That the first defendant shall continue to occupy the said land in dispute provided that he pays an annual rent of 270 (two hundred and seventy pounds)
- That the plaintiff shall grant a lease of the land in dispute to the first defendant for a term of 99 years during which period there shall be no restrictions as to use to which the first defendant may put the said land in dispute and that the said lease shall commence on the first day of January, 1967.
In 1950 the Proprietors of Hussey College, Chief O.N Rawane and Chief E.N.A Begho had requested for land from the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families of Okere Urhobo which was granted them relying in the 1950 in which the Proprietors of Hussey College paid annual rents for the area leased from 1951 to 1956.
In 1956, Mr. A.D Coker on the instruction of the families surveyed and developed on their land about 53 building plots without hindrance along Upper Erejuwa Road. In 1961, the Proprietors of Hussy College wanted more land for extension of Hussey College but without approaching the Okumagba family, trespassed into the portion of land belonging to the families measuring about 3 acres. Subsequently to the said the said trespass the Proprietors sued the families for trespass on the 29th February, 1961 and having secure an interim order of injunction agaist the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families, the Proprietors extended their trespass to about 5 acres.
Chief Daniel Okumagba then, brought application for prohibition against the Customary Court joining the Proprietors of Hussey College. The proceedings were settled on the condition that the Proprietors would be permitted to retain the five acres on condition that the negotiated and obtained a further lease from the Families. On the 7th December of 196. The Warri Divisional town Planning Authority published an intention to acquire an area of land which included the land trespassed by the Proprietor of Hussey College. However, the Warri Divisional Town Planning Authority did not carry out any acquisition of the land nor did they pursue or execute the notice of intention to acquire, yet by a deed of lease dated 29th June, 1962, Chief O.N Rewane and Chief E.N.A Begho acting on behalf of the Town Planning Authority purportedly granted a lease of the area of 38.21 acres out of the Families land to the Socio-Cultural Corporation in Which Chief Edukugho represented the Corporation in the instrument of lease.
This was the prevailing circumstance that led to the celebrated consent judgment referred to earlier.
The kindred families continued to own the land in its areas in Warri and in 1968 as a result of representation made to government by the Olodi, Oki and Ighobadu families of Okere-Urhobo; the two acquisition notices by the Warri Divisional Council Town Planning Authority relating to the families land were revoked.
The revocation notices are contained in Midwestern State of Nigeria Gazzett No.1vol 04/1/68 and no.2vol 11/1/68. After this revocation, Daniel Okumagba on behalf of his families revised the Okumagba layout scheme which was drafted and submitted to the Warri planning Authority for approval. The revised scheme was approved and the development of the families’ layout was continued from early 1968.In that same year, this was challenged when suit W/48/68 was filed at the High Court of Midwest State in Warri against the Kinderd families.
The plaintiffs were: D.O. Idundun, Chief P.O Awani, A.E Hesse, C.A Lorie and J.D Oruru (for and on behalf of Ogisti Family of Okere, Warr); Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees; and Erejuwa11, the Olu Warri’’.The defendant was: Daniel Okumagba( of himself and on behalf of Olodi, Oki and Ighogbad families of Okere, Warri).
The suit number W/48/1968 at the Midwest State High Court, Warri, was heard by Justice E.A. Ekeruche and decided in July 1973. The plaintiffs asked for the following:
- “A declaration that in accordance with Itsekiri Customary Law, all that piece or parcel of land at Okere, Warri, described in plan No. WE. 2367 filed in this suit and verged pink is the property of the Ogitsi Family of Okere, subject only to the over lordship of the Olu of Warri now vested in and exercisable by the Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees by virtue of the Communal Land Rights (vesting in Trustees) Law 1959 and the Warri Division (Itsekiri Communal Land) Trust Instrument, 1959.
- A declaration that, in accordance with Itsekiri Customary Law, defendants have forfeited their right of user and / or occupation and any other right or estate in or over that part of the land in dispute marked Area ‘’B’’ and any right they may have in or over that of the land in dispute marked Area “A” in the plan No. E.2367 filed by the plaintiffs in this suit.
- An order of injunction to restrain the defendants, their servants and /or agents and any other person or persons purporting to claim under or through them from entering the land in dispute and / or interfering with plaintiffs’ rights and interest in and over the said land in dispute and in particular from granting leases or other disposition of the same to any other persons or collecting rents or any other dues from any other persons in respect of the land in dispute.”
All the claims sought by the plaintiffs were dismissed by the High Court in a judgment, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court in Nigeria. Justice E.A Ekeruche in the judgment of the High Court, delivered on the 17th of July 1973, stated as follows:
“Considering first the traditional evidence in the case, my view of that aspect
of the evidence in plaintiffs’ case whereby plaintiffs have sought to establish that the land in dispute and even also Okere Village were part of the Kingdom founded by Ginuwa 1 and also their evidence that Ogitsi owned the whole of Okere land including the land in dispute, in this case is that it is unconvincing”.
“I am satisfied and I find as a fact on the evidence before me that Okere was never part of the Kingdom founded by Ginuwa 1. I am also satisfied that Ginuwa 1 never exercised over lordship rights over Okere, and that the over lordship rights of the subsequent Olus did not extent to Okere”.
“A point which plaintiff’ and their counsel have tried to urge on this court is that because the land in dispute is in Warri and so in Warri Division, the Olu of Warri has rights of over lordship over it, because, as Olu of Warri, he has rights of over lordship over all lands in Warri Division. The whole argument or view is erroneous. The Olu, by title, is Olu of Warri, but his rights of over lordship relate only to land of Itsekiri people…”
“As between the evidence in plaintiff’s case and that in the defendants’ case, I accept and believe the evidence defendants’ case as truthfully stating how Ogitsi family and the defendants’ people came to be inOkere area.”
“I accept and believe the evidence of the defendants that three persons, namely, Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruvwe, first came to Okere and founded various tracts of land.”
“I also accept the evidence of the defendants as to how and when Ogitsi got to the waterside area of Okereand made his settlement there, and as to how the settlement and that of defendants’ people grew until they met in Okere.”
“I am satisfied and find as a fact that the land in dispute in this case, including the area where rubber plantations are shown on plaintiffs’ plan, Exhibit 2, and also where Madam Esale’s rubber plantation is, belong to the defendants and that they have been such owners and in possession of the land from the time their ancestors founded the land.”
“ Having found that the defendants own the land in dispute and that they were never tenants of anyone, plaintiffs failed on their claim for forfeiture.”
“Plaintiffs having failed on the claim as to ownership of the land in dispute and for forfeiture are not entitled to the injunction they seek.”
“The plaintiffs have failed to prove their claims in its entirely and I accordingly dismiss same in its entirely.
Note satisfied with the High Court’s judgment, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, the only appellate court at that time, in suit number SC/309/1974 reported in 1976 volume 10 Nigerian supreme Court Cases (NSCC). The justices, led by Justice Atanda Fatayi Williams, who later became Chief Justice of Nigeria with Justice and Mohammed Bello, also retired a Chief Justice and Justice Andrews Otutu-Obaseki; held in the judgment delivered on October’8, 1976, that the appeal lacked merit. Justice Fatayi-Williams and the other Justices of the Supreme Court in the unanimous judgment ruled that:
‘’On the whole, it is sufficient to say that most of the matter canvassed before us were examined meticulously and rejected by the learned trial judge for reason upon which we cannot improve and to which we do not desire to add except, perhaps, to say that whether taken separately or together, none of the points urged upon us by learned counsel for the appellants would, in our view, justify any interference with the findings and decision of the learned trial judge. Consequently, we are of the view that the appeal has no merit and is accordingly dismissed.’’
1997-2003 WARRI CRISIS
Until 1997, the ethic conflicts in the warri territory was limited to the Itsekiri nationality and the two Urhobo kingdoms of Okere and Agbarha (Agbassa) in Warri. In 1997, the Federal Government under the late general Sani Abacha created in the country, a number of local Government Areas, including, the Warri South- West Local Government Council whose headquarters is located at Ogbe –Ijaw Area of Warri. Defying reason, and as if the Federal Government was insensitive to the Warri situation, it relocated the headquarters of the same Local Government Council to Ogidigen, an Itsekiri town of Warri. That singular act of indiscretion on the part of the Federal Government Widened the scope of the ethnic crisis by getting the Ijaws involved, which assumed military dimension.
By an Itsekiri position paper presented on the 9th of April, 2003 to president Olusegun Obasanjo, the Itsekiri claimed that the Ijaws supervised by the Ijaw Congress (INC) burnt down and destroyed over thirty-five Itsekiri towns and villages in the three Warri Local Government Areas, resulting in loss of thousands of lives and enormous properties Worth over a billion Naira. They also claimed that, oil installations in Itsekiri land were razed to the ground Important among the Communities and installation are Madangho (Centre of Shell Installation and Chevron s’ Modern Hospital), Ogidigben (Shell Oil Company Fields), Arunton Community, Chevron‘s Tank farm at Escravos, Gbogbodu (Oil Company Communication Centre), Tebu, Tisun, Kolokolo etc.
The Itsekiri leaders agreed that the cause of the prolonged fighting between Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic militias was the creation of an additional Local Government in Itsekiri kingdom. The Ijaw under the auspices of Concerned Citizens of Warri Ijaws (CCWI) also petitioned the International community to intervene on the Itsekiri-military genocide on Warri Ijaws under the supervision and logistics support from the Delta State Government
A publication in the vanguard newspaper (August 25th 2011) confirmed that the first phase of the Warri crisis’ was Ijaw/Itsekiri War. In that publication with the headline;`Itsekiri to immortalize victims of Warri crisis”. The Itsekiri National Youth Council led by Nigeria Delta Activist, Mr. David Tonwe inaugurated a 15-man committee to immortalize fallen heroes of the seven years Warri crisis in Delta State. Mr. David Tonwe made this announcement at one of the remembrance party of the one of the fallen heroes of the Itsekiri nation. Late Omuro at Okere Warri in August of 2011. He stated that“ the time had come for Itsekiri to immortalize those who died during the Ijaw/Itsekiri War of 1997-2003 to give their beloved ones a sense of pride in the struggle to defend their father land.
It must be noted that these ethnic war continued to wreak havoc on the economy and people of the territory hence successive Governments of Delta State had made strenuous efforts to find a lasting solution to the Warri problem. In this regard, some credible commission of inquiry including those of Justices Agu, Idoko and later General T.Y. Danjuma (Rtd), had turned in voluminous reports on the possible causes of the Warri situation and suggestion or recommendation of its elimination. Unfortunately, the reports of these commissions had been thrown into the dustbin as if some persons in and outside Delta State, benefitted from all these unfortunate crisis.
This was the prevailing war situation in Warri when the Itsekiri versus the Okere-Urhobo crises erupted in 1999. The remote cause was not unrelated to the Warri problem but the immediate cause would be very difficult to ascertain because, no commission of enquiry was set up to investigate the cause of the new dimension of the crises which has given room for various versions as to the cause of the hostilities between the Urhobo of Okere and the Itsekiri nationality in which more than (25) persons were killed, property including many Okere-Urhobo houses were razed down including the Okumagba Estate, the Popular Idama Hotel, Total filling Station, Avenue Police Station etc. according to Rev. David Otofia, a youth activist in 1999. The Itsekiri perceived that the Ijaws were intending to lunch attacks from the Otor-orere and the Okumagba layout. It was also rumored that many Itsekiris kidnapped by the Ijaw warlords were kept at Otor-orere hence an Itsekiri-military genocide on Okere-Urhobo was said to have been contemplated, any little skirmish among the youths of both communities was a source of potential danger.
This went on for a long time and it was obvious that ammunition for war were being mobilized, Again, according to Rev. David Otofia, it was a little palaver between some youths from Ekpan accused of “stealing at the market” and beating up by some persons at the front of Ogwan R’ Olodi on July 3, 1999 that triggered off the hostilities. It must be noted that before the crisis escalated to full scale war, the Army and other security personnel were deployed to ensure that there was no breakdown of peace but it was right before them and to some extent, they were involved in the crisis.
In a press release by Chief B.O. Okumagba (JP), The Otota of Okere-Urhobo (as he then was) titled “Premeditated Unprovoked.
BLOODY ATTACKS ON THE DEFENCELESS PEOPLE OF OKERE URHOBO KINGDOM OF WARRI METROPOLIS PLANNED AND EXECUTED BY THE OLU AND HIS ITSEKIRI PEOPLE.
He narrated how on Friday 4th June, 1999 the Itsekiri youths launched an attack with highly sophisticated weapons on his people in the early hours of the said Friday while the people were still having their sleep, killing six persons and wounding countless number of houses as well as burning and destroying over thirty houses. Among those killed were; Mr. Edward Eburu Master T. Eburu, Victor Omosowhofa, Oghenemine, Innocent and Mr. Nkem.
According to Chief B.O. Okumagba, Itsekiri resumed their attack in the early hours of Sunday 6th June, 1999 and according to this account, the Okere Urhobos had no option than to resist the attack in order to defend themselves. He narrated to the Press how one of the sons, Wing Commander J.D. Eburu of thr Nigerian Air Force, who had come to Warri, following the news of his uncle’s death, Mr. Eburu, to appeal the Army to exercise some fairness in the handling the situation. He was making frantic effort to contact the Army Barracks in Effurun at Otor-Orere during the fighting when he was accosted by some policemen. He was still explaining while he was at the Otor-Orere when he was shot and killed on the order of an officer.
MATTERS ARISING FROM
J.O.S. AYOMIKE’S EDITED BOOK. WARRI:
A FOCUS ON THE ITSEKIRI
The book, Warri A Focus on the Itsekiri edited by Mr. J.O.S Ayomike was published under the auspices of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thoughts (ILOT). The goal of the book is to keepItsekiri history, as already copiously recorded over the centuries from scholarship. The book tries to point out, that recent Urhobo authors particularly Professor P. Ekeh, Chairman, Urhobo Historical Society (U.H.S) attempted to revise the Itsekiri history through unacceptable methods of distracting hatred, they alleged. The book, quoted Ambassador Preston A. Egba, OON as saying,
“what we need to appreciate to live together is empathy and it is what we should use our learning to promote. We hope this book will tell Itsekiri history as it is and clear the way for harmonious interrelations”.
All the contributors to this book viz; Mr. J.O.S. Ayomike, Mr. E.O. Ekpoko and Chief I.O. Jemide pointed out and were emphatic in expressing their mindsets that their papers were presented up to a decent point and season of integrity. The emphasis according to the three Itsekiri stalwarts is to put the records ‘straight’, to keep the Itsekiri history as recorded by great and continent historian particularly Professor Ubaro Ikime. In the prologue to the book, it is stated that the intention is to make a true efforts to truncate the Urhobo Historical Society(U.H.S) crusade to put a false history of the Itsekiri across to the reading public. While I acknowledge that the effort of the three Itsekiri stalwarts was a great scholarship impressive and captivating, I expected to find in the book Itsekiri position on many controversial and sensitive issue such as the establishment of the Itsekiri Kingdom, interregnum and the various disturbances in Warri, the Okumagba land case, Ometan vs Dore litigation etc.
In their attempt to achieve their objective or in their effort to keep the history of Itsekiri, the entire book shifted its focus from the original theme to writing rejoinders as if they were contributing editors of a weekly magazine. The book, writing of Professor P. Ekeh in his capacity. References were also made to the writings in national newspaper, particularly, in The Guardian by Professor G.G. Darah, Late Chief J.E. Ukueku, Late Professor Frank Okoli, Professor Onigu Otite and Mr. Daniel Obiomah also of the Urhobo Historical Society. While I agree with Chief I. Jemide to a very great extent that Major General David Ejoor’s book should not have presented Itsekiri history the way it was documented (Provocation in nature) especially as it was an entirely Urhobo history book. The three Itsekiri stalwarts have a right to react to the alleged bastardization of Itsekiri history but it should not be the purpose of a book with such a captivating title. If a book must have value, then it must be interesting to read by the reading public irrespective of class.
This book, is a re-incarnation of the Itsekiri – Urhobo rivalry, at the book writing platform, it became a contradiction in its entirely, at one breadth, the three Itsekiri stalwarts accused the Urhobo authors mentioned earlier of bias, manufacturing stories without checking its accuracy, making bogus and false claim. Chief I. Jemide summarized General Ejoor’s book to be completed strange and untenable because of its many falsehood and having a lot of gaps. The goal of this book was thrown to the wind-
It is my firm belief that the three Itsekiri stalwarts grabbed this opportunity to malign the OkereUrhobo and Agbarha (Warri) people with stories that are false and self-satisfying. The purpose of this comment is to point out some various falsehood of Okere-Urhobo history. No attempt will be done to do otherwise.
Ayomike mentioned in the book:
“sometime ago, members of an in-law family were said to have come from Okpare, their homeland to settle with Oki in Okere, where they were given some land to farm within Idimi-Sobo. The World knows that Oki, one of the three families involved is Itsekiri; Olodi and Ighogbadu are the Urhobo among them’’.
This is the first time this statement is being made by any historian. Okere-Urhobo was not founded by the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu. They were descendants of Idama, Sowhoruvwe and Ohwotemu respectively who migrated from Okpare to settle in Okere. They were direct sons of Okpeki of Okpare-Olomu. As said by three Itsekiri stalwarts, if Olodi and Ighogbadu came to settle with Oki in Okere, what they are inferring is that Oki founded Okere-Urhobo.Where did they get this falsehood from? The Oki family who are descendant of the Sowhoruvwe (Sowhoruvwe is an Urhobo word) are joint judgment in suit W/48/68, the trial judge, Justice Ekeruche stated very clearly the following:
…as between the evidence in the plaintiffs’ case and that of the descendant case, I accept and believe the evidence in the defendants’ case as truthfully stating how Ogitsi Family and descendants’ people came to be in Okere area. I accent and believe the evidence of the descendants, that three persons namely Idama, Sowhoruvwe and Ohwotema first c ame to okere and founded various tracts of land as said… I also accepted the evidence of the descendants as to how and when Ogitsi got to the waterside area of Okere and made his settlement there.
It is true that the Oki speaks and have adopted the Itsekiri culture but they are paternally Urhobo. Sowhoruvwe is among the three full blood brothers who migrated from Okpare. Sowhoruvwe begat Ejiyere who begat Nikagbashe, Ukueguya, Deduru, Akekeren & a woman. The mother of the Oki’s an Itsekiri from the Ogitsi stock of Okere and there is nothing strange about this since I had explained that inter-communal marriage thrived between the two communities. Justice F. A take is an Urhobo from Orogun kingdom, Chief Gabriel Mabiaku is from Ologbo after Oghara town and before Benin City to mention a few but these two men choose to adopt Itsekiri as their ethinicity.
Daniel Okumgaba (later Chief) who defended the action, did so in the name of the three families of Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu of Idimi-Sobo Okere Warri and NOT for the Urhobo of Okere community in Warri and NOT for the Urhobo of Okere community in Warri as erroneously claimed by the Urhobo Historical Society.
The Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families are in Okere-Urhobo kingdom. There are numerous other familes in the kingdom which includes the Itifo, Makro, Akapa, Oghoteme, etc. Daniel Okumagba defended the action in suit W/48/68 in the name of the families because the families are the exclusive /joint owners of the land involved in the suit. The ancestor of the three families founded the land; settled many centuries before other relations from Okpare came to Okere to live with their relations. Idimi Sobo is the name the Itsekiri choose to call the Okere Urhobo people till date. The people are Okere citizens; Urhobo is added to Okere only for the purpose of proper identification, since the Ogitsi descendants also call their section Okere. Olodi Oki and Ighogbadu families have become synonymous with Okere Urhobo kingdom just as the general public refers to the entire people as the Okumagba family.
“… The Okumagba land case merely confers a possessory title of 281.1 acres of land on the three kindred families of Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families of Idimi Sobo Okere Warri…’’
The Okumagba land was founded by their ancestors, it was not obtained by permission or gift. It is not possible for 281.1 acres of be given out as gift by Itsekiri people to an Urhobo tribe or people as farm Okumagba layout constitute about two-fifths of the present area of the oil city of Warri. It is popularly known to the general public as Okumagba Layout Warri. Rejecting the claim of the Olu`s over Lordship right over the land in dispute the trial Judge (w/48/68) held:
“….I am satisfied and I find as a fact on the evidence before me that Okere was never part of the kingdom founded by Ginuwa1.I am also satisfied that Ginuwa1 never exercised over lordship right over Okere and that the over lordship right of the subsequent Olu`s did not extend to Okere…”
The trial Judge also clearly stated in his judgment that…” I accept and believe the evidence of the defendants that those three persons namely; Idama, Ohwotemu and Sowhoruvwe first came to Okere and founded various tracks of land as said. I also accept the evidence of the defendants as to how and when Ogitsi got to the waterside area of Okere and made his settlement there.”
“… The 281.1 acres of land adjudged as being in possession of Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families of Idimi-Sobo, Okere in the Okumagba land case, at best, is an Urhobo settlement outside the Urhobo homeland and there is nothing strange about it. We have settlement, of Obontie in sapele Local Government Area, Ugbolopkoso in Uvwie Local Government Area. The Itsekiri have never used these settlements outside the Itsekiri homeland to cause trouble in Urhobo land simply because they are the owner of the land”. The Itsekiris of Ugbolokposo in Uvwie Local Government Area for instance, have never demanded that the title of the Ovie of Uvwie be changed to Ovie of Effurun since Ugbolokposo is in Uvwie Local Government Area, as Urhobos are demanding over the title of the Olu of Warri because of the so- called judgment in the Okumagba land case. They have never demanded a Local Government of their own neither have they asked for a Community Development Committee to be set up for them. Why can’t the Urhobo behave likewise in Warri?”
In December 1951, the Itsekiri Central Council passed resolution that the Olu’s title be changed. The change was approved by the Western House of Assembly in 1952 when the name of the province was still Warri province. The Urhobos, Ijaws, Kwales and others living in Warri province felt the new title of Olu of Warri suggested paramountcy over the whole province. There were protests. On September 8th 1952, a proposed visit by the then Hon. Minister of Communication, Chief Author Prest to Warri was cancelled due to negative security reports thus if the minister had insisted on entering Warri Township, he would have been assassinated. The tension and crisis hen moved to Sapele, Abraka and other towns in which Itsekiri were sacked and property worth millions of pounds destroyed. Immediately, after the disturbance in Warri, and to restore normalcy, the name of the province was changed to Delta Province. The rest of this is history today. At every point, during the negotiations to resolve the crisis of 1952, the authorities, especially the then Minister of Local Government, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo pointed it out, that the change did not in fact imply any extension of authority. This glamour for a change of the Olu’s title died many years ago. It is no more relevant. Okere-Urhobo is one of the twenty- four Kingdoms in Urhobo- land situated in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. Okere Urhobo and the Agbraha (Agbassa) Kingdoms are constituents of Warri South constituent II with a set at the Delta State House of Assembly.
It is a fact of history and law that Okere Urhobo have always been in possession of the land founded by their ancestors without disturbance from their neighbour from time immemorial except for one or two instances where they were challenged in court in suit No. W/48/68 filed by the Ogitsi (Itsekiri) family of Okere joined by the Olu of Warri in the celebrated of Warri land case which they won from the Warri high Court to the Supreme Court in Lagos. And also the land case between the Okere-Urhobo people and their Ugborikoko neighbour in suit No. W/111/71 between Chief Onoge Inuwogho and two others versus Amoforishe Onofeghara and others which they also won from the Warri High Court in Warri to the Supreme Court in Lagos.
Okere Urhobo Kingdom shares common boundary with Ughorikoko & Oghoroke Communities, both in Uvwie Kingdom as well as Edjeba, Okurode Communities and Agaga family of Igbudu in Agbarha Kingdom of Warri and the Okere also of Warri.
Okere- Urhobo Kingdom boundary with Ugboroke stretches from the Ugboroke link road on the left axis when coming from Ogunu up to NNPC Housing Complex road junction. The land, part of which houses the College of Education Warri, Dom Domingos College and the A.D.B Water project were among the land forming part of the vast land compulsorily acquired by the Midwestern Government for the proposed Warri Stadium but was later converted as College of Education, ADB Water project and Dom Domingos College Warri.
On the right side of Airport Road from Ogunu the boundary terminates at Ovwievwie Street just immediately after the First Bank on Airport Road, Warri. While on the other side of Arubayi road, it terminates at Eriewor-Bazunu layout by Ejewor Street in Okumagba Layout.
Okere-Urhobo Kingdom also shares a common boundary along the Ugbogboro stream which terminates at Willie Street by Olodi Park on the Ogbogboro stream, opposite the Robinson Plaza on Okumagba Avenue. At the Okere-Ugbogboro, it terminates at the bridge end at the Ugbogboro stream to the right coming from Okumagba Estate, while that of the Emebrien Street ends at the Omovie Street culvert in Ugborikoko.
Agbarha (Warri) Kingdom
Okere Urhobo Kingdom boundary with Edjeba in Agbarha Kingdom stretches from a point in the Edjeba Shell Housing Complex on the left coming Warri through the School of Nursing, Warri to kosine Street.Okere Urhobo land also stretches to a point on the left hand side and opposite College of Education land its extension are part of Okere-Urhobo land acquired by the Bendel State Government refers to earlier. Willie Street is the natural boundary between the Okere-Urhobo people and the Agaga family of Igbudu, Agbarha-Warri.
Okere – Itsekiri
There no straight lines, singular or stretch boundary between the Okere Itsekiri and Okere – Urhobo people. The boundaries are land marks at Okere Market area, Ekpen Street and Word of Life Bible Church Premises at the Ajamimogha end.
Okere – Urhobo as described cannot be referred to as a mere settlement outside Urhobo homeland especially as Okere – Urhobo is adjacent to Uvwie (Urhobo) Kingdom. The Okumagba Layout which is part of OkereUrhobo land is considered by environmental design expert as the best planned area in the city of Warri.
Hitherto, Okere Urhobo practiced gerontocracy, a system of government in which the oldest man Okpako-Orere with family heads governs. This system dated back to the latest part of the 15th century and continued till even after independence in 1960.
As a result of the victory by Chief Daniel Okumagba, the doyen of the radical land rights as in suit W/48/68 and suit SC 309/76 exemplified in the court case gave our community the status of a kingdom. The kingdom leadership decided to step up from gerontocracy to monarchical system of government. To this end, a formal application was made to the Delta State Government for a formal recognition presentation of the Staff of office to the Ovie (Orosuen of Okere-Urhobo). The person of Chief Owens Satti Olodi was unanimously selected for the position of the Orosuen of Okere Urhobo Kingdom in Warri South Local Government of Delta State. This monarchical institution was approved and established by the then Military Governor of Delta State, Navy Capt W.Fahabor under section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chief Edict of 1979 and the existing Delta State Traditional and Chief Edict of 1996.
It is therefore a misnomer, to call Okere-Urhobo a settlement comparing it with. Obantie and Ugbolokposo which settlements cannot metamorphose into Kingdom. This example is wrong in its entirely especially where there is no contention or rivalryhttps://www.notjustwarri.com/school-leak/founding-okere-urhobo-chief-bright-okumagba/https://i1.wp.com/www.notjustwarri.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/IMG_20170718_132047_679.jpg?fit=669%2C1024&ssl=1https://i2.wp.com/www.notjustwarri.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/IMG_20170718_132047_679.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Education InfoNews