Isekirian Pride: Isekirianism and Isekiriocentricity: The Oyoekoro Annual Show.
Table of Contents
The book you are about to read is on the “Isekirian pride.” Within the pages of this book, you will learn the cultural uniqueness of the Isekiri people, how closely packed, how rich! How rich and how packed is of importance because this determines the view of many Isekiri neighbours as the people glide on the eagle wings of the cultural ingredients. Reactions of these neighbours determine the renewed determination of Isekiri to pin the show to the sky, like Apollo 11.
In summary, you will read the following: Oyoekoro actuality, witnesses of the wider world to Isekirian glory and the Isekiri socio-cognitive innovativeness, a miraculous combine of Isekirio-religio-socio-cultural adroitness in repartee and quick wittedness in emergency.
Agharowu Eyebira Emmanuel(Honsbira)
Oritseweyinmi Oghanrandukun Olomu (St Ifa)
For their roles in one way or the other, the following, in addition to many, are duly acknowledged.
1. Rexon Golly (Prince)
2. Ireyefoju J.E. ( PhD)
3. Cecilia Toritseju Pwol (PhD)
4. Prof. Jennifer Alao (PhD)
5. Wilson Alatsha (Barrister)
6. Comrade Omabuwa Anthony
7. Blessing Tuoyo(Isekiri face 2015 – 2017)
8. Hon. O.J. Nanna
9. Simeon Brikkins
10. Margaret Ichibor
11. Ayoyibo Oritsetinmeyin
12. Comrade Omolubi Newuwumi
13. Comrade Johnbull Edema
14. Hon. Dr. Godwin Boyi Ebosa
15. Luis Aboyowa Popo
16. Anirejuoritse Oghanrandukun (nee Ikomi)
17. Abilavi Gagar
18. Hon. Gbubemi Kpenosen Ikollo
19. Hon Emmanuel Esimoteboyewa Kpenosen
20. Comrade Aduge Okorodudu
21. Prince Moses Fregene
22. Johnson Anirejumi Awalla
23. Victor Eburalolor
24. Joseph Jakpa ( Barrister)
25. Solomon Adekanmi Esiegbuya ( Barrister)
26. Debi Fregene (Mrs.)
27. Lilian Fregene( Mrs)
28. Comrade Laoye Sanda
29. Alhaji Adegboyega Arulogun
30. Oladotun Okanlawon Dada ( Obatala of Ile Ife)
31. Tony Egbe (Clergy
32. Kenneth Ekwejunor Etchie
33. Evangelist Godwin Oko Etuwewe
34. Adeline Oti Adetunji
35. Choji Tosanwumi Pwol
36. Capt Paul Oko Etuwewe
37. Comrade Aduge Okorodudu.
38. John Okorodundun
39. Frank Efurhievwe(COPEM Mosogar)
40. Tony Nanna(curator, Koko Museum)
For VICTOR KOJO ORITSETIMIEYIN WOOD (CHIEF)
Isekirianism: The Warri Kingdom and the Oyoekoro
The true taste of the tune of the Oyoekoro action cannot be fully had without the acquaintance with how the people came to be. There are diverse stories about the origin of the Isekiri people (Boah, 1973).
F. K. Buah (1973) decided that Isekiri is a mixture of people whose origins are not clear. Sagay ( 1A982) feels that most Isekiri claim that they came from Ode, but abysmally lack the capacity to determine the locus or focus of the said Ode. Ediyekio (2005) frowns at Isekiri claims of 1480 as the date of its origin, since “those Ijaws who migrated from Warri to the central Ijaw areas did so around 1200”! In a similar reasoning, Professor Alagoa (1972) feels that Isekiri is older than 1480 since ‘’ Finally, a number of royal refugees from the Isekiri Kingdom of Warri (Iselema) arrived the Eastern Niger Delta in about 1460’’.
Olumide Lucas (148) submits that Isekiri was a personality in the Ancient Egyptain civilization and argues that some refugees must have escaped the smoking ruins of the fallen Egypt about 30 B.C., engaging in an east-west movement. The Kisra Legend in Honsbira and Olomu, 2011, is an applicative demonstration of this position.
Gerrald Massey (1881), Gerrald Massey(1883) and Gerrald Massey(1907) are of viewpoint that Isekiri lived in Egypt where, like in Israel, many gods were worshipped (Babara, 1936). That Isekiri was in the Pre-30 B.C. Egypt, and that it is possible that this and kindred peoples engaged in east-west migration is corroborated by the view of Wallis Budge(1891) not only that Isekiri was in Egypt, but also that the gods worshipped by same in Egypt in the period under discussion – Sami, Adumu , Ippi etc – were also worshipped in Warri; that the last, worshipped in two forms in Egypt as Ippi of the North (long head Ippi) and ippi of the South(short head Ippi) Budge,1895 : cxxiii) are the two Ippi forms in Warri of today, worshipped as Ippi Adigo and Ippi ameorigho!
The argument of Honsbira and Olomu that Isekiri migrated from the ruins of ancient Egypt to found Warri in about 30 B.C. is flamingly kindled by the find of Chief (Barrister) Rewane that the peoples who left the enormous, decaying corpse of ancient Egypt to the west include not only the Yorubas, Ebus, Olukumi, Igala, those in Onitsha, Kanuri but also Isekiri (Rewane, O.N., 1987, May 2). Ogbobine (1976) maintained it was this people that the esteemed kingdom founding Olu met in Warri (1480).
Taking the clue from the aforesaid, it will be hard to agree with those who erroneously argue that Isekiri started in 1480 without getting engaged in a head-long confrontation with some wall-hard Egyptologists and their arsenal - Archeology.
To shrink from this risk, we will conclude that Isekiri started its existence, in this part of Africa, in circa 30 B.C.
Oyoekoro Festival, Defined.
The issue of the origin of the Oyoekoro festival (in pre-colonial times) is a matter of historical speculations, baffling both ancients and contemporaries alike. While some feel Oyoekoro started with the installation of the first Olu, others feel that it started with the reign of the Olu Abejoye. Jemigbeyi (Bebeyi) Channomi (1966) agreed that it stated with Omoluyiri, though feared that most people would talk, instead, of Abejoye. Honsbira and Olomu in “The Cultural Life of Isekiri From 30 B.C. to 1480”, submit that Oyoekoro did not begin with Abejoye. They explained that because Abejoye was begged to become king, kingness grew into his small head and he started doing one strange thing after the other. One was the insult/humiliation he gave his elder brother, who, too rich, begged him to become king. The other? The rejuvenation, revival and recolouring of the Oyoekoro festival. It could have begun deep before the sixteenth century when Esigie reigned; but became prominently coloured in the 17th, when Omoluyiri and Abejoye reigned.
Others reasons deep in the view that Oyoekoro was begun by the Olu Ginuwa II, wedging his reasoning with the further reasoning that the idea bursts forth in him as an expression of joy in the capacity of Isekiri to break the horns of the interregnum that had maliciously gnawed Isekiri so hard(1848 to 1936). The opinions are diverse, really. So, the real position is still being researched.
Organization of the Oyoekoro Festival.
For the proper conduct of the Oyoekoro festival, a special committee is created, variously referred to as Oyoekoro Committee, Oyoekoro Group, Oyoekoro Execution Committee etc. Put in place by the Warri Traditional Council in league with the Olu Advisory Committee (O.A.C), its membership requires no previous chieftaincy title, economic stances, educational qualification, or strength. It considers integrity, creativity and, in the words of a sage, ‘’high measure of Isekiri temperamental homogeneity.’’
To effectively see the Oyoekoro, through and through, several sub-committees are put in place, some of them, the following.
Financial Committee: The duty of the financial committee is not to create money needed for the organization of Oyoekoro. It receives money from the monarchy for onward distribution to the committees for the celebrations.
Lecture Committee: It organizes lecture for the festival by selecting suitable topic and engaging an efficient academic for this.
iii. Entertainment Committee: Its chief duty is to ensure that guests invited are duly entertained.
iv. Church Service Committee: Its function is to see that the whole activities are done in accordance to the taste of God.
v. Ukueke Committee: It organizes Ukueke Acts as a necessary ingredient in the dishes of activities as far as the Oyoekoro festivities go.
vi. Regatta/ magic Canoe Committee: In Oyoekoro, there is always a regatta under the kin supervision of the regatta committee. It sees to the smooth running and safety of the course, from start to finish - as life on water might not be as safe as life on land.
vii. Invitation of Guests/Committee: People must be invited through the printing and giving out of invitation cards. The celebrations are so colourful Isekiri cannot do it without drawing the attentions of the world to it. This explains why some peoples of the world are kind of copying the show, especially the Magic Vehicle displays. Others, however, opt for attack, a way of arresting the inroad of Isekirianism – Isekiri culture, expanding, Isekiri sociology, over-flooding, Isekiri universality, most universal (Honsbira, US-China Education Theories, Volume 2 April, 2012:432 available at email@example.com an International Journal!
viii. Environmental Sanitation Committee: Isekiri, by nature and culture, are unique, a uniqueness people call arrogance; but which Isekiri, themselves call ‘’ The Isekirian Pride’’(Honsbira and Olomu, 2008). To give the kingdom a befitting shape that is of immense tourist attraction, and to ensure the scene is hygienically okay for the weight of the product, there is the environment sanitation committee. Flowers, both natural and man-made, are everywhere in full bloom. Their growth are so luxuriant, in sync with the aura of the Olu, that one guest, Danladi Daniel Jang, noted, 1998, “Here we are like kites and lions in a paradise of beautifully decorated cage’’.
Course of the Oyoekoro Festivity.
“Course” does not mean cause. Course means ‘’How’’, while “cause” means ‘’ Why’’, by course of Oyoekoro, we mean how the Oyoekoro festival is carried out. It is the organization of the festival. Following are the major segments of a given Oyoekoro.
- Church Service (Opening)
Before the commencement of the Oyoekoro festival, there is always a compulsory church service, held at the Four-Square Gospel Church the aim of this service is to invoke the peace of God to enwrap the show.
A church service to secure the peace of God to attend the celebrations, from start to finish( Olu of Warri Coronation Anniversary Celebration Magazine : 5).
- The Oyoekoro Eve
The Oyoekoro Day of the present Olu is ay, 2nd; thus, Oyoekoro Eve is the day pre Oyoekoro day – May 1st each year. Its features include show of people of all ages and dresses, singing, dancing, praying, telling stories , chatting, meditating; and those around water bodies, can even swim, passing the day happily like those engaged in the Isekirian Walls of Jericho Fall Down”, today, today. The Ogunmaja festival, Inorin, less than 20 kilometres from Ode Isekiri, in Warri, is close to the Oyoekoro Eve Night!
3. The regatta/Magic Vehicle Show.
The regatta is the displays of canoes of all sizes and dresses to look like moving houses. All canoes from Gere, near Warri Township to Ode Isekiri are in groups and positions – not in order of prominence, but in order of tradition, in order that the status quo rules, some at par, some , following. It is an annual decoration of the Warri water to become beautiful. General Yakubu Gowon attended the Oyoekoro Regatta a long time ago and concluded that real beauty and entertainment lies in the hand of Isekiri, corroborating the view of the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that Warri really wins, symbolized by “Warri Wins Dance” (1956).
1. Though like the “The General Clinton Canoe Regatta, … the World's longest flat-water race that takes place each year in Bainbridge, New York, on Memorial Day Weekend, the Oyoekoro Regatta covers a less distance than the General Clinton’s; though, again, the distance covered, divided by time the taken is more than the General Clinton’s. Also comparable to the Oyoekoro regatta is the Great Australian canoeing regatta championship around the great West Australian desert in the south Indian Ocean;SimilarYou +1'd this publicly. Undo
The Labrador Canoe Regatta, a “dynamic event held annually on the first weekend in August, on the Gosling Lake and the Delaware annual regatta in North America.
A substitute, at times and an activity that may co-live with the regatta is the Magic Vehicle show. Motor Vehicles are decorated to look like canoes. Men and women, beautifully decorated, with well-made paddles, pull the canoes on land; these canoes are land vehicles converted to canoe-like things to move on land.
A substitute, at times and an activity that may co-live with the regatta is the Magic Vehicle show. Motor Vehicles are decorated to look like canoes. Men and women, beautifully decorated, with well-made paddles, pull the canoes on land; these canoes are land vehicles converted to canoe-like things to move on land.
In these “canoes”, young men and women act exactly the way they do in canoes along the Warri River!
- The Inter-Village Dances.
The dances and songs, ancient, youths and non-isekiri are at times unable to understand their literature. Notable among these are those of Orugbo, Ugbege, Omadinor, Deghele, Obonteghareda, Ureju etc.
5. Lecture Day
Important topics that are reflective of the mood through which Isekiri is passing are selected and given to suitable academics to deliver. The topic for the Oyoekoro, 2009 was ‘’ the Role of Arts in the 21st century Isekiri’’. That for 2008 was the Warri Kingdom Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: The Way Forward’’.
6. Inter-group, Inter-village Ukueke.
Ukueke is a show of love , friendliness and commitment. It is a call for, and entertainment of, friends for joy in sober reflections(Awake, Nov. 2006). Villages and groups are called in to display beauties and philosophical etiquettes during the Oyoekoro festival. The aims are many, chiefest, to exhume some of the long-gone events, philosophies, consciousness and thought forms in Ancient Isekiriology – the analytical study of Isekiririanism. Things like the Ukueke, things that send people thinking are, really, emphasis of Consciousness ( David Bohm, 1984 ih Honsbira, 2012:6-7; Herbert, N. (1993).
“Ukueke Figures are always in complete silence during which each participant seeks God’s guidance” for him/herself, for the Olu and for all Isekiri. Thus, it is true, the idea that the portion of the Isekirian constitution that stipulates Ukueke action is a portion of Isekiriocentricity – Isekiri consciousness.
Isekiri Creed of Pride
"It seems that the Itsekiris have
arrogated themselves as the sole
purveyors of wisdom in Nigeria"
(The Council of Ijaw Associations, Abroad, 1997; Aug., 1999, 10 am.).
The neighbours of the Isekiri feel the Isekiri are proud or even outrightly, arrogant. Is it true they are arrogant? Is it not only that they appear so? Indeed there is something in the people. Is it pride? Or uniqueness?
A. Traditional Practices
Although Isekiri, socially, are very similar to the Urhobos and the Ijaws, as they are homohumans (Honsbira in Honsbira, et al: 1999), they differ in traditional values. For instance, the marriage ceremony of the Isekiri and those of the Ijaws and the Urhobos share many similarities. The Isekiri are peculiar in the sense that there is always an elaborate well-adorned priesthood in the marriage ceremony. This priest is usually in charge of prayers and he deliberates in the marriage ceremony. Among the Isekiri neighbours, this flamboyance is not usually portrayed. When the Isekiri flamboyantly display this rich cultural attribute, the neighbours, and even outsiders, will complain of them being proud. But is this pride or uniqueness?
Also, the native attire of the Olu of Warri is far removed in glamour, from those of his neighbours. It is a mix of pre-1480 Egyptian attire and post-1480 kingly regalia. Pride-provoking, really! His new crown, which Dom Domingos got from the King of Portugal (1608), is the only one of its type in Africa. And in the world, only the king of the United Kingdom has the type. Even the traditional bead crown of the Olu is much superior to those of his neighbours. This is because among the neighbours only the Isekiri had enough wealth in those days to evolve a kingdom (Ikime 1980; Ikime 1982; Alagoa 1987; Talbot 1926; Roth 1903; Captain Leonard 1968; Michael Omolewa 1980 etc). All the other Neighbours were decentralized, except Aboh (Ikime 1980: 96). When the Warri monarch displays his wealth in his annual coronation carnival, the neighbours take offence and call him a proud man. But the truth is: Is he really proud; is the whole matter not that of uniqueness, peculiarity? Or should the Isekiri man stop displaying his inborn culture so as not to be seen as proud? Again, the Isekiri have elaborate praise names for each family group. These praise names double as family greetings (Omoneukanrin, 1942).
Another thing in Isekiri which makes Isekiri look proud to its neighbours is the Quaker System (Honsbira, 2000, 20). To begin with, we shall look at how Ukueke arrived Warri. The first way through which the Ukueke burial practice reached Warri was EGYPT, where it was a cultural part of the ancient Egyptian civilization. It was one of the cultural uniqueness that Isekiri brought from Egypt. There it was called “Egua- oku”.
The second way through which the Ukueke system came to Isekiri was through the Roman Catholic Missionaries. The second church in Nigeria was built in Warri, 1530AD (Talbot 1926). The Roman Catholic burial practice came to Warri through this means. It is all about bringing out good things about the dead and its burial. Rome captured and occupied Egypt for centuries. And it is no wonder, then, that the practice could have been exported from Egypt to Rome - in those days. This contestation becomes more valid, if one remembers that a good part of the Holy Bible, the greatest arsenal of Catholic Rome, was copied from the ancient Egyptian social fanaticism (the African Bible, 2000).
The third lane through which the Ukueke system reached Isekiri was the Quakers of America.”The traditional date of the origin of the Society of Friends is 1652”. It got to America as a socio-religious system when Roman Catholicism and its hard fanaticism griped America in its missionary days.
Something inhered in the Quakers' System as it came from America among Isekiri (Ukweke System); and judging these "Cultural congruencies"(Rewane, 1987) as a cultural superiority of the Isekiri, Isekiri neighbours could pounce on them each time the Quakers (Ukwekes) are at show. Some of these similarities are:
a. "Quakers' Meetings" were essentially periods of group silence during which each person sought God's Guidance; and during which those who received divine messages could speak up. Also Ukwekes were/are usually a silent lot. From start to finish of the Kweke's parade, Ukweke dared/dare not talk. Though an Ukweke who receives good suggestions/messages could say them,
b. Quakers did not discriminate against women in the ministry of God. All should share in the ministry. Ukweke also believed in the equality of men and women, believing each gender as a representative representation of the divine mind of God. Hence both men and women could be dressed as Ukwekes.
c. Quakers were simple and nonviolent. Ukwekes are also simple, non-noisy and would never quarrel or fight during the Ukweke Parade.
d. Quaker started as a society of friends (1652) (Awake: Nov, 2006). Also, Ukwekes at a particular show see every other partaker as a close person who is to be taken closer to the gathering of the ancestors and the spirits of the dead, by the Ukwekes Socio-religious consciousness.
e. Quakers (Ukwekes) show during burial ceremonies serves as man's acceptance of the will of God in allowing the death to happen. From the theological point of view, the Ukwekes, in their glory, honour, beauty and message, represent a divine comfort and consolatory mechanism to those with eyes full of tears as the spirit of the dead finally departs. In the same way, the Quakers were founded by George Fox (1624 - 1691 ) in order to discuss directly with, and seek comfort from, God without human medium.
All these high things of the Quakers of America, with its origin in Rome, with its origin in Egypt, prevalent in the Ukweke system of Isekiri, itch some Isekiri neighbours who see Isekiri at show as proud.
Pioneers of Ancient Civilization
The Warri Kingdom, home of the Isekiri, has been renowned as a centre of indigenous civilization in the Niger Delta. There are various aspects of Isekiri civilization: cloth weaving, bead manufacturing, pottery, iron smelting etc. These various aspects of civilization make the Isekiri man stands unique amidst his neighbours. When, like a peacock, he flaunts the embers of this unique civilization, his neighbours say "He is proud and outrightly arrogant",
The ancient civilization of the Isekiri gave them the economic impetus to control long distance trade routes. The economic mechanism to control the long distance trade route evolved the Warri kingdom. In the Western Delta an area spanning Isekiri, Urhobo5 Isoko, Ukwani, Aboh and Ijoh there were only two kingdoms (monarchies): Warri and Aboh (Obaro Ikirne; 1990). Since the evolution of a kingdom means a group is more organized and centralized, manifestation of these monarchical tendencies, even in modern times, is judged by the neighbours for arrogance or pride. Is this pride? Is it not the uncontrollable manifestation of the unique attribute of the people? (Obi of Owa, 1987).
Warri is also unique in that it is the only people among all her immediate neighbours, with the exception of Benin, to have evolved a kingdom. Even at the time, llaje was not a kingdom, though an ancient mini state, perhaps senior in her group. This is why Obayemi (1977:220) remembers that "their political history revolves around the better known centres of Ijebu Ode, Ode Ondo, Idanre, Ile-Oluji, Ode Isekiri, Owo (Ogho) and the smaller towns of Ikale and llaje". The smaller towns are the 'provinces and mini states'. The Ikale and llaje provinces are ancient, no doubt. In fact, a section of Ugborodo, Ureju and Omadino belong to the same historical process with the llaje and Ikale mini states. Herein lies the justification of Obayemi. The establishment of a kingdom in the Niger Delta makes the Isekiri unique, but their neighbours think they are proud.
Cross border trade (Prof Alagoa: Trans Deltan trade; Prof Ikime :Cross Deltan Trade)
The Isekiri occupies the terminus of a long distance trade route that connected the Ijaws of Bassan in the central Delta, through Kalabari in the eastern Delta and regions west to Ijebu and beyond, to the Accra region of Ghana. Fage believed that Akori beads (the beads manufactured by the Isekiri) were traded by the Portuguese to the Gold coast following established routes by the natives (PAGE: 1969, 60). Being in control of such ancient trade routes makes the modern Isekiri man to have some unique attributes, like being in possession of ostentations goods such as gold, silver, diamonds, beads etc. When the Isekiri man of today displays the wealth he had as a result of this ancient trade in his traditional "Ukueke" (Quakers) during burials, his neighbours see him to be proud and arrogant. Is it really a question of arrogance? Is it not that of one displaying his inborn history and culture? As Sanda will say, "The Isekiri are not proud. They only unconsciously display their nobility, God has made them that way; they cannot unmake themselves. They are a part of the Yoruba race" (Sanda: 2005).
The control of long distance trade routes is the most significant factor in the evolution of kingdoms. Robin Horton opined that there are many things in common between the monarchies and the decentralized societies, but the most significant difference between the monarchies and the decentralized societies is that no decentralized society occupied the termini of long distance trade routes (Robin Horton: 1977). From time beyond human memory, there had been trade channels linking Warri to the far west of west Africa . He also remembered that trade route which linked the west of the Niger Delta to the east connected the area to the Niger-Benue Area of Nigeria, and beyond (Prof Irim university of Calabar 2005).
In the Western Niger Delta, only the Warri and the Aboh Kingdoms occupied long distance trade routes, and only they developed kingdoms (Monarchies) (Ikime: 1980). But of these two - Warri and Aboh - Warri was the most developed and famous. Alagoa , corroborating Ikime , says:
The Isekiri kingdom of Warri (Ode-lsekiri) was the most important political and commercial centre within the Western Delta from the fifteenth century to the early nineteenth century. The more numerous Ijo to the east and West of the Isekiri did not develop centralized polities of a size to offer effective competition. In the immediate hinterland, the Urhobo and Isoko were also largely organized in decentralized communities, and served as the producers and suppliers of slaves and later palm oil and Palm Kernels to the Isekiri middlemen (Alagoa 1989: 726)
Traditional Religious Pioneers
Isekiri had a unique native religion that is well organized. This unique religion and its spread among the Delta peoples make them stand apart from others. Some of the others look at the Isekiri as proud and arrogant. The native religion of the Isekiri spread to the Urhobos-Isokos, Okpes, Ijaws and even the Ogbia group,
The main linguistic groups in Southern Nigeria, around the Delta, include the Yoruboid (llaje, Ebu Olukumi, and Isekiri), the Ibo group (Ukwani; Ndoni, Ikwerre etc), the Edo group [Bini, Urhobo, Isoko, Okpe, Egene, Epie, Atisa and Udekama (Degema); then, the Abua group (Abua, Odual, Mini (Abureni), Ogbia and Abuioma)]. There is also the Efik-Ibibio cluster, comprising the Andoni, Efik and the Ibibios. Lastly, is the Ogoni cluster, comprising the Kana, Gokana and the Eleme. The Isekiri native religion has spread to all of the clusters, except the Efik-lbibio and Ogoni. No wonder Alagoa describes them as 'pioneers of religion in several of these places'. Whether the Warri native religious system spread to the Efik and the Ogoni peoples is a matter for further researches.
Pioneers of Christian Religion
Christianity was first introduced into West Africa by the Portuguese. The first Portuguese effort to introduce Christianity to West Africa was recorded in Rio De Oro (River of Gold) in 1446 (Daniel Offiong 1980: 86). They came first as slave dealers. The names of the two ships they brought to the place were "Jesus" and "John the Baptist". That incidence revealed that slave traders were deeply connected with the Christian enterprise. Prince Henry, the Navigator, proposed several expeditions to West Africa. Before his demise in 1460, a large part of the West African coast, from Rio de Oro to Senegal, had been charted. In 1472, Fernando Gomes had been contracted to chart the Benin (Fermosa), Escravos and Forcados Rivers By December 1479, the Portuguese reached the Rio Dos Esclavos and collected slaves which were sold in Elmina, Ghana, by January 1480 (Blake: 1450 1560 Vol. 1,9 10).
The Portuguese must have travelled from the Escravos to Ghana using well established trade routes. Isekiri legends are replete with ample evidences of their ancestors trading bead along the West African Coast that would have reached the site of Ghana and beyond (Atigbiofor Atsuliaghan 1990). Talbot mentioned that Portuguese traders bought beads from a place, Huela (Ijala) now in Modern Warri metropolis in (the site of the NNPC Jetty) in 1505 and 1522. The reports of Cyril Punch, Eve De Negri (1976), Talbot (1926), Ling Roth (1903) etc revealed that the bead trade was carried out by Isekiri of Warri. Alagoa supposed that there might be trade routes that linked the Nigerian Coast, especially the Niger Delta, to the Gold Coast (Alagoa 1977). Fage agreed that the Portuguese used routes that were well established to trade from the Nigerian Western Region (now including Edo and Delta) to trade Akori to the Elmina area (Fage 1969: 60). Honsbira (2006), quoting M.G Oteghele (1977), is of the view that the beads from Warri, in exchange for gold in Ghana, were a major cause of the Asante-Fante military encounters of the 19th century.
With trade well established, the Portuguese soon commenced with religion. The first church in the Nigerian region was built in 1516 in Benin during the reign of Oba Esigie. In Warri, a church was built in 1530, during the reign of Olu Erejuwa I (Talbot. 1926). The catholic world knows about this; a reason why Bishop Burke, bishop of Warri diocese, persistently calls on the Isekiri for a dialogue and interaction. This initial Christian enterprise blossomed from 1597-1760, when nine Olus became baptized Christians. During this period, Olu Atorongboye was baptized as Sebastian, while Olu Atuwatse I was baptized as Dom Dominoes. He attended the University of Coimbra in Portugal and became the first graduate from Africa South of the Sahara, 1608. In Nov 20th 1652, Antonio Dominos wrote the oldest surviving letter in Latin script, the oldest letter in modern Nigerian geopolity. Dom Domingos wrote a letter in 1608 , documented by the Portuguese(Kenny 2003), though the letter is not surviving. In 1697, the first church monastery was established in Nigeria, in Warri. The monastery is a university equivalent; this is actually the oldest higher institution in Nigeria. Reverend Father Canon Joaz Alvarez (an Isekiri) was baptized as a priest and an Isekiri became bishop of Sao Thome (Kenny in Honsbira and St Ifa, 2008).
These various developments even affected the language of the Isekiri. Portuguese words filtered into Isekiri which neighbouring people have now copied. Such words include Oro (Gold), Esete (plate), midaka (cassava) etc. The neighbours of the Isekiri do not have this long impact of Christianity on their culture. This long Christian influence stands the Isekiri apart from his neighbours.
Isekiri looking like proud people emanates from many other factors- Isekiri, taken as one man, is simply an empire - builder. The extent of his empire stretched from Ramos and Dodo rivers in the east, to beyond Awoye in the West. It houses the facts about such rare Delta people like Princess Udorulisan lye, the only woman in Nigeria after Queen Amina (Zaria) who founded a territory of over 200 villages and these include Ajimai, Ugbogbodun,Ajokpele, Ajedema-Edema, Ugboma,Ajimami,Ifiegha,Ajopia,Ajisani,Ajomo,Ugbogheye,Ugborighoeran,Ugboisabatu,lkokoyo,Ajalikperi, ebimangoro.ltakulaJtakula^balabod^Ubadisele, Ubilaba, Abiteye etc(souce lye Descendeants Union:Dispatch to the King, 2007). Her effects on the Western Delta Politics were immanent. Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Decenber, 1979) once said "when lye drummed in Deghele, they all danced in Warri".
Professor Alele Williams is the first woman Professor of Mathematics in Africa below the Sahara. She is also the first Nigerian female vice-chancellor in Nigeria.
Olomu fought over twenty-seven wars and won all, a feat which even Samori, the Bonaparte of the Sudan (Ojelabi: 1970), and Napoleon Bonaparte, whose presence at the battle front equaled 40000 soldiers, could not do (Peacock: 1976; Richards: 1974). Olomu [Aluma) is the first man to use corrugated iron roof in West Africa. He was the first person to found a town whose streets were as broad as Piccadilly in London. Olomu is the only person in the Niger Delta whose houses were more polished than those of the Oba of Benin. They were like marble (Roth: 1903). All these attributes are surely enough to create an aura of pride in a people. But is this the case, in Isekiri?
Nana's resistance to the growth of imperial incursion into Africa is the longest after that of Samori (Igbinawanhia, 1 983). Nana's role in the Isekiri British relation in the period pre 1900 has been reduced to Algebra by an earlier writer. Hear him:
= 2x +2y-2y
(Honsbira: , 1988; Honsbira, 2008; Honsbira, 2012 – firstname.lastname@example.org).
This position likens Nana of Isekiri ( not Nana Aforiata of Ghana) to the escapade of Dan Fodio of the Jihad fame whose roles reduced to Algebra and Arithmetic, through Geometry and Topology, is = 2y ( Honsbira in a thesis published in US-CHINA pg 232-239Educational Review, July, 2002). You only Know it and are scientific, if you can say your thoughts in the language of Mathematics,” Honsbira writes, following Lord Kelvin. (See chapter 3).
The first female Mayor of England is an Isekiri, Mrs. McFarland (nee Edukugho). Prof O. Thomas is the first Nigerian Vice-chancellor in Nigeria.
Isekiri as a people is the first in the Niger Delta to mine salt and sold to others within her reach. She is the first to procure and use beads as body adornment (Roth: 1903); (Adeyemi: 1977); (Eve, 1976; Talbot 1926); PC. (Lloyd: 1957). O.J. Nana 11/4/06; Roth 1903:142) Prof. Alagoa 1989:729; Honsbira and St Ifa, 2008).
Prof Alagoa (1977) is of strong view that the growing of cassava and the production of farinha (feniyen) as well as the tech of Pottery all started with the Isekiri.
It is also important (in the study of "The Isekirian Pride") to add that the art of cloth weaving (as a matter of the Niger Delta) started with the Isekiri. "Leleji" and Ekpo" is woven entirely from silk treads ... (Eve De Negri: 1976: 80 89; Sagay1980). Isekiri also wove a type of cloth, “Akpasa, woven by two to fit one”.
Another thing which is enough to make Isekiri proud, which Isekiri doesn't even know, which her neighbours know, and feel could make her proud, is this: Egypt as we all know is a cradle of world civilization and if as has already been hinted, Isekiri was an active partaker in this civilization process, this fact alone is enough to make a people lose its level headedness to become arrogant. Because it is, arising from this locus in History, that Isekiri is the first to do this and the only person to do that as aforesaid. The reason that it was here in Warri (and here only) that Pyramids, serving the same purposes as those of the Pyramid Age of Ancient Egypt, were constructed in West Africa (Roth 1903, Talbot 1926, Sagay: 1981) bears a horrifying witness to the validity of this contestation. What is more? Many of the social and political practices prevalent in the customs of Ancient Egypt are right in Warri: burial (Babara: 1967), religion (Gerald Massey: 1901,1881,1883 and Olumide Lucas: 1948).
Ebeji Olomu, (Nana's elder sister) was the first in the colonial history of West Africa to have shot a canon in defense of African traditional sovereignty, September 23rd 1894 (Abeji Iroro Olomu: 1970; Eburadumi Olomu: 1990). The second was Yaa Asantewaa of Asante, 1901 (Nwabara, 1982). Ebeji’s store of nationalistic drive also ranks her with Joan of Acre of France of the middle Ages, Maria Theresa of Vianna, the Zarina Katharine the Great of Russia and Queen Amina of Zaria! Is this not pride-provoking, really?
In 1620, Pedro Da Cunha refer to Warri as a town of Christians. The only one so referred in West African coast. Hear:
“Besides these three islands, there is a town of Christians on the continent in the kingdom of Warri, called St. Augustine, because its people first received the Faith from religious of the Hermits of St. Augustine. One of them, called Brother Franciscus a Matre Dei, baptized the present king at the time he was still a prince and successor designate. He gave him the name Sebastian, after the then king of Portugal”
Warri kings were the only kings in Nigeria with diplomatic alliance with the king of Congo hear this:
“There is another king of what is called Rio Forcado, which is in alliance … Congo, who is already Christian. He also calls for priests so that they can do baptisms in his kingdom.”
They were the first kings in Nigeria to write to papal authorities. Hear this:
“The king of Warri, a Christian kingdom lying on the African coast next to the kingdom of Benin, about eight degrees this side of the Equator, wrote last year to the late Pope Innocent X, asking him urgently to send him evangelical ministers for his own spiritual good and that of his whole kingdom”
1-6-1655 Giovanni Francesco da Roma to Propaganda Fide: Proposal of a mission
The buildings of Warri and Benin were superb . hear:
“Their buildings are more refined than those of Congo.” And Warri was referred to in the mid 17th century as the greatest kingdom in Negro Africa . Hear:
“Among the many kingdoms that are found in Africa, eight degrees north of the equator are two in particular: Benin and Warri, … where the Portuguese go with their ships every two or three years to carry on trade in slaves and other merchandise that these kingdoms offer. ”
Warri kingdom had the best Navy in the Niger Delta as contained in many documents, one of them being:
“Regarding his military power, he can put in arms 60,000 men, but most of these operate in water with canoes. In the water he is stronger than his neighbouring enemy kingdoms”.
In 1682 only Warri among all the ethnics in the delta was independent of Benin, a position borne by this document.
About two leagues within its mouth are two branches, two English miles from each other; upon one of which is a Portuguese lodge and chapel, at the town of Awerri(Warri), belonging to a nation independent of Benin, and only an ally and neighbour of it.”
The Blacks of Rio Fermoso and the circumjacent
country for a great way up compose many small territories and petty kingdoms,
each of which has its peculiar governor or king, but all vassals to him of
Benin, except those of Awerri(Warri)… Awerri men have always kept themselves free
form the jurisdiction of the king of Benin(1678-1682 John Barbot, A
description of the coasts of North and South-Guinea; and of Ethiopia Inferior,
vulgarly Angola :being a new and accurate account
the Western maritime countries of Africa in six books London,
In 1682 the Isekiri was described as trading with the Kalabari, the Ghana(Volta), Lagos , Cameroons and the Far East of Africa. Hear:
“The Portuguese tell us, there is in this country a land-road to Calabar, and a passage yet more convenient by water for canoes to go form hence into the neighbouring rivers, and to Rio Volta and Lagos west, and to El-Rey, Camaron and others east, which, as to Rio Volta …”
Warri and Isekiri was also known to the ancient antiquarians. One of them wrote:
“The kingdom of Ouwere or Oveiro, lies along Rio Forcado, which falls into the ocean about eighteen leagues south south-east of Rio Fermosa or Benin river; the inhabitants were by the ancients called Derbici Aethiopes Barbot” (1732)
In 1682, Isekiri was described as the neatest and best mannered of blacks in West Africa 1682 hear:
“The capital town Ouwere, which gives its name to the whole country, lies on the river Forcado, about thirty six or seven leagues up from its mouth, and is near two miles about, being encompass'd on the land-side with groves and thickets, the ordinary residence of the king of Ouwere. The houses are generally pretty fine and neat, for a country of Blacks, particularly those of the persons of rank and wealth, the shells being all of clay or loam, and painted red or grey, and the roofs cover'd with palm-tree leaves.”
Warri was the first place on West African coast to have a fort (Landolphe 1786).
Warri the fort served both as a port and an entrepot, too. She, also, was the first place to defeat Anglo-Bini-Lagos alliance (Landolphe, 1786).
Warri was the first on the west African coast to send a prince (Budakan ) to France to be educated in the 18th century (Landolphe 1786).
Way back in 1682, the Isekiri rulers were described as literate and intelligent by contemporaries, a qualification rare among Negroes. Hear this:
“Merolla, in his voyage to Congo, informs us that about the year 1683 two capuchin ministers, called F. Angelo Maria d'Aiaccio and F. Bonaventura di Firenza, arriving from the island of St. Thome, in this country of Ouwere, were courteously received by the then king. That prince says he, was better bred than ordinary, having been educated among the Portuguese, whose language he was perfect in, and could read and write, a qualification very rare among Ethiopian princes.”
Other kings could not write; for:
“The king of Calabar wrote to me through a ship captain. The king of Pharahu sent me his baton, and the king of Poppoós sent me a kind of a basket curiously woven from palm branches because he does not know how to write in letters, [explaining] that they desire me and have provided me with everything regarding lodging and will embrace the teaching that I will preach to them! Therefore I wrote urgently to Angola asking for two missionary fathers to come whom I am expecting any day. When they come, I will leave them in this hospice and I will go with Father Bonaventura da Brescia to those kingdoms” (29-3-1692 Francesco da Monteleone).
“According to the Augustinian bishop of Sao Tomé, Pedro Da Cunha, the Warri people know how to read and write and are eager for Portuguese books, pens, ink and paper. (Kenny 1983).
This corroborates the idea of Olomu (2008) and that of Honsbira (2010) that the Isekiri were the first people in West Africa to have the art of writing.
Olu of Warri was first to receive international custom duties in West Africa because:
NEW TOWN(sic Eghoro) + is placed about eighteen miles from the mouth of the river, and is in the territory and under the jurisdiction of the king of Warré, and Wacoo(sic Uwankun) the captain of the river derives his power and consequence from being placed there to receive the king's duties”
(1795 John Adams — Sketches taken during ten voyages to Africa between the years 1786 and 1800 (London, 1822); also in Remarks on the country extending from Cape Palmas to the River Congo (London, 1823; Cass reprint 1966), pp. 109-8 `).
Ìsekiri was the first to display state sword on national and international days.
“On the third point, concerning the arms he requests, it is best to write to the Governor of São Tomé, recommending him to have good communication with the said king of Warri, but without promising anything. But Dom Domingos should be given for himself a complete set of steel armour, a visor, an axe and a sword”. (11-2-1609 King Philip's reply: Provides for Domingos' return)
Isekiri were first to receive international scholarship, in this part of the world, too.
“Reverend Bishop Count etc.: Dom Domingos, son of the king of Warri, requested of me that, since he has not yet receive payment of the 200,000 reals that I ordered to be paid from my account each year, and he is in dire need, my Court should look into the matter. And since he desired to finish his Latin in this city and acquire other good learning within three or four years, unless his father, the king of his country, calls him back earlier, he asked me to have the 200,000 reals paid to him and to be given other things contained in his petition”. (17-7-1604 King Philip to Vice-King of Portugal, Bishop Afonso de Castelo Branco: Domingos transferred to Colégio de Santo Agostinho in Lisbon)
Isekiri were free from diabolical practices, unlike other Negroes of that era (1682) Hear:
“The religion of the country (SIC Warri) differs little from that of Benin, except in the point of sacrificing men and children to their idols, which these people are averse to, alleging that to shed human blood properly belongs to the devil, who is a murderer from the beginning. Nor are they all fond of idol-worship or pagan priests, nor addicted to poisoning, as is practiced among the other people of Guinea (sic West Africa).”
The Isekiri were influenced by the Portuguese in West Africa. Urhobos, Ijaws, Isokos, etc learnt Portuguese culture, names, dressing, drumming from Isekiri. Hear: “The Portuguese missions above-mention'd seem to have made deeper impression on the people of Ouwere (Warri) than in other parts of Guinea” . Alarmed at the height of this influence, Ekeh, at a loss as to what to further do to undo the Isekirian glory, named Isekiri as a Portuguese invention.
Isekiri was listed as some of the most civilized on the West African coast. Hear the sources:
Warri people, more diplomatic than Benin – respected by neighbours. Hear:
“Nevertheless the case should not be given up as lost, according to the opinion of prudent persons, who suggest that the strategy should be to gain the confidence and good will of the king of Warri, neighbouring the kingdom of Benin, since he can sufficiently speak and write Portuguese and one can talk with him. If he once heard from mere curiosity our dogmas, he would easily be persuaded by way of arguments to detest idolatry. Since he is gifted with diplomatic sense and his neighbours respect him much, he would not only allow missionaries into his own kingdom, but would introduce them also into that of Benin. ... The only difference among them (though all over they profess the same religion) is that the people of Warri at least do not confuse God with so many imagined gods, while the Benin people, with a more detestable impiety, openly associate him with the wickedness of their very many gods.” .( 1654 Ángel de Valencia to Propaganda Fide).
The Warri People as Religious in Sao Thome.
An Isekiri was the sacristan and was sent by the governor of Sao Thome to the Olu in 1654.
(c. January 1954 Alphonse de Toulouse: What happened in Benin).
In addition to all this could be added that the first institution of higher learning in Nigeria was built in Warri – a Catholic Seminary – described it as a university equivalent.
The contention in most social and academic quarters of the world that the Isekiri are Yorubas is another reason why Isekiri should be proud and another cause of anger of its neighbours (that Isekiri are proud). The Yorubas are usually acclaimed as the largest ethnic and the most educationally forward group in Nigeria. So, the identification of Isekiri as Yoruba (Obayemi Prof. 1977; Rewane 1987; Awujale of Ijebu land 2005; Obaluru Obatala of Ilode, lle-lfe; the Obalufe of lle-ife Kingdom, 2005; Prof Omamor, 1982; Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor, over a thousand times; Gani Adams, severally in OPC meetings) is enough to make peoples who are minorities, and 'envious emulators', vex. For the idea removes the Isekiri from the status of microcosm to that of macrocosm. They feel that already, the Isekiri is being proud, but failed to know that the official circles of Warri have not even conceded to this position.
Why They Are Not Proud.
Naturally, it is expected that, all these should make a people proud, located side-by-side with those who do not have them. But it is not proud or to be more truthful, it is not more proud than Urhobo, Okpe, Isoko, and the Ijaw etc.
One reason Isekiri is not proud is racial. Egypt as the beginning of civilization is not known to be proud in any way
in History her superior Architecture, Science, Agro-technology etc notwithstanding. In spite of her strong Army, Navy and Police forces, Egypt hardly aggressed upon other nations as she was aggressed upon. During the siege and attack by Assyria, 760 BC Babylon, 688BC; Babylon 625BC; Persia, 525BC; Greek, 332BC; Greek, 325BC; Roman, 55BC; Roman, 31 BC; Roman, 30BC etc, Egypt never felt the urge to counter-offend in order to forestall invasions. She opted for defensive battles. It is a further pointer to its Egyptian origin that Isekiri, like Egypt, rather than encroaching on the territories of her enemies, chose to wage defensive wars during the Warri Crisis! (1997, 1999 and 2003-2004), a device which cost Isekiri about 102 towns/villages. Now (2007) some of these are still occupied by the invaders.
The role of Isekiri in the stage-to-stage growth of the Egyptian civilization process is well known and this, which shows that the Isekiri language was a vehicular language in Egypt, in the aforesaid process, also shows that the language of the people (at least, in its ancient form) has its origin in Egypt.
Another reason why Isekiri is not proud in her position as the distributor of the civilization of the Niger Delta is psychological. Conscious always of its numerical size, it chooses to believe that "Emi Ogun ek' ogban", "Twenty cannot withstand thirty," and would not go to war with those who are far numerically stronger than it is. Priding itself over the abundance of wit and wealth (in the way the Asante prided themselves over the golden stool) would provoke war!
Isekiri seem to be aware of the consequences of fanning their enviable socio-political attributes. "The Hungry cannot be happy when the billionaire displays his sacks of dollars." Following this epigram, the people with vacant history will envy, if Isekiri displays to full measure its treasure of culture and pride-provoking things. The Agbassa-lsekiri clash of May 1992 is an eloquent witness to this fact.
One hidden cause of the Isekiri not being proud in spite of its position of pride is psychoanalytical. Isekiri, in its Egyptianity, is too wise to be proud. Rich in wisdom, Isekiri see such vices as arrogance, wickedness, vanity and imperialism, which promote encroachment and imposition, go with stupidity and alienation from God. Isekiri association with, and devotion to the services of God has its origin in Egypt; and now the liberal mind of the people is represented with the equation:
X= A+P+8+L/+f, where
X= lsekiri as an average human being
A= Atlantean experience
P = pyramidal wisdom
B = Bini trado-cultural practice
U = Inspiration from Orise-Udeji
R= Reality of cultural immortality.
(Honsbira in Honsbira and Olomu: 2006).
This is why to their neighbours "the average Isekiri is not a hard worker, he lives only on his wit". This is why they are in many ways cleverer than the people of Benin (Dapper 1668). It is why Obaro Ikime reports that during the working of the indirect rule system, prominent Isekiri were sent inland to teach the Urhobos and other less enlightened tribes the use and importance of the court system. This accounts for the Obi of Owa (1987) seeing Isekiri as "The Israelis of Nigeria, in terms of courtesy, tactics and strategies..." It is why Matthew Isekure felt that it is not difficult to pick out the Isekiri when in midst of ten or tens of non Isekiri in terms of civility, intelligence, cultural uniqueness, reverence for the king and so on (Isiekure: May 1st 2007).Jhis is why the late Orodje of Okpe, Ororho I, thanked the Isekiri as the only people in the Niger Delta with high reverence for their king, and wished the Okpe copied suit. (Ojere Ogunli: Ogun-Aja town, 2007). Are all these enough, or not enough-for a people to be proud?
One other important factor that causes Isekiri want of pride, despite its beautifully packed culture and pride-provoking history ignorance of its rare qualities. The Knowledge of Isekiri in the history of Isekiri ends in 1480. It is certain that there were a people in Warri before this period. But who they were, where they came from, how and why, are not known. How pathetic! A pitiful fact (We know this well by survey.) is the abysmal disinclination of Isekiri scholars to pick up History as courses of study. It is most Pathetic that Isekiri as a representative of the Ancient world in this geo-polity do not see History and its study as an essential spice of their life. Studying Business Administration, Accountancy, Economics, Agro-Economics, Agro-technology, Biology, Physics or Chemistry, Law, Medicine, Political Science etc naturally take the place of History among Isekiri scholars. Erroneously feeling that studying these subjects as against History can make one rich and that the knowledge of Political Science will make one a successful politician, they shrink from the orchard of History. Thus, the interesting things about Isekiri are not known by Isekiri. One can only be proud of his glory, if he is aware of it. Non-lsekiri professionals (of the Niger Delta) are uninclined to flash the glorious and rare things about Isekiri. However, a few do: professors Obaro Ikime, (Isoko), E.J. Alagoa (Ogbia), Augusta Omamor (Urhobo).
The fact is, the Isekiri are in no way proud or arrogant, but only unique. The Isekiri ethnic group is unique in several ways. It is unique in developing an ancient civilization; it is unique in evolving a kingdom; it is unique in being the pioneer of Christianity in the Niger Delta region. It is unique in the whole coast of West Africa for having a long line of nine kings in a row baptized in the Roman Catholic Church from 1597 - 1760 (Father Kenny, 1983). The Isekiri ethnic group is also unique among its neighbours for being the pioneer of traditional religion. It is unique in surviving a joint attack by two larger ethnic groups for the periods, 1997-2000 and 2003-2004. If it is considered that Isekiri were in no way aware of the military mobilization by the combined forces, and also unaware of government nod to this mobilization, then the uniqueness of the people to have survived the resultant attack can better be imagined than said.
That is not all! That Isekiri a positive innovator is well on the records of academics. Isekiri was the first (in the history of the world) to discover that Pure Mathematics – Algebra and Number Theory – can be used as an effective instrument of teaching Art subjects in schools – History, Religion, Literature, Social Studies, and even Languages. Another discovery made by Warri is the fact that the theory of Osmosis could be engaged as a para-disciplinarity in the teaching of non-science and science disciplines email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.ajsc.leena-luna.co.jp/AJSCPDFs/Vol.1(2)/AJSC2012(1.2-17).pdf).
We will do well if we have a glance at one of these Isekirian innovations, please. Read it below.