YORUBIC INFLUENCE IN THE NIGER DELTA: ISEKIRI COLONISATION OF OKPE
A direct reply to fiction as history in Ekeh Peter(2008); Michael Afe(2015) ; Obioma ; Okumagba MP, Ejoor, and a host of other mis-representers of Isekiri-Urhobo Relations
This is an article on the Okpe and Isekiri people. The Isekiri are sometimes referred to as Yoruba (Talbot1927; Lloyd 1957 etc) sometimes they are referred to as Yoruboid; the Okpe are sometimes referred to as Urhobo (Onigu 2003), sometimes as Edoid (Osume 2005). At times the Isekiri resent being called Yoruba; sometimes the Okpe resent being called Urhobo. By linguistic analyses the Isekiri are most related to the SE Yoruba – Ilaje, Ikale, Ondo etc and to Olukumi in Anioma area of Delta state, when judging by lexicostatistics; while by accent they are most similar to Igala, Ebu and Olukumi. The Okpe are most similar to Uvwie, Isoko, Agbon , etc. These people are referred to as Urhobo , sometimes as Urhoboid. However Isekiri and Okpe are neighbours. Most Okpe speak Isekiri; they intermarried and shared a lot of things together. In this discourse, we shall show how the Okpe are an Isekiri colony and thus they have a lot of Yorubic influences from being an Isekiri colony. Okpe is 72% similar to Urhobo(Osume 2005), while Isekiri is 82% similar to Ikale – a SE Yoruba dialect.
Overview of Okpe and Isekiri cultures
1. Isekiri was a kingdom(Talbot 1927; Roth 1903; Egharevba 1948; Kenny 2003 etc) ; Okpe was a republic or a public(Ekeh2008; Horton 1977; Obayemi1977;Ryder 1968;Ikime1969etc)
2. Isekiri had a bead industry(Lloyd 1957) Okpe did not(Osume 2005)
3. Isekiri had a cloth industry (Kenny 2003, Lloyd 1957; Talbot 1927) ; Okpe had no cloth industry.
4. Isekiri had a bronze industry (Lloyd 1957); Okpe had none.
5. Isekiri had metallurgy (Lloyd 1957, Okpe had none.
6. Isekiri controlled long distance trade route (Alagoa 1977; Irim 2003; Fage 1969) Okpe could not.
7. Isekiri and Benin had diplomatic relations with European powers – Portugal, Spain, France, Dutch , England etc, Okpe did not.
8. Isekiri had diplomatic contacts with Ife; Okpe did not.
From the picture and the references drawn above, it is clear that the Isekiri would have subjugated the Okpe if they came in contact in ancient times. Because they were and are still neighbours, they came in contact and the Isekiri subjugated the Okpe .There are about 4 periods of the subjugation and colonization of the Okpe people by the Isekiri. These periods are – the ancient period and the formation of the Okpe state; the Ogoni revolution and the growth of pseudo kingdom; the Akengbuwa-Olomu era of a full colony; and the post Akengbuwa-Olomu era of everlasting colonization. These periods fall in two eras – The pristine period of Benin; the fall of Benin
GENETIC MAKE UP OF ISEKIRI AND OKPE
1. Isekiri – like all Yoruba had counter melanone metastasis gene: which increases IQ by 20 points;(Olubunmi 2007; American Institute of genetic Studies)
2. The Okpe are weighed by keratin cluster near 17Q12 and FLD6, which reduces IQ by 20 points.
3. The Isekiri - like their Yoruba siblings - had a resistance to Lassa fever, the Okpe have not (professor Christian Happy (http://nationalmirroronline.net/new/yoruba-genetically-immune-to-lassa-fever-virus-don). LARGE is the name of this gene.
4. Isekiri had Neanderthal gene which supports intelligence, the Okpe had not; Reichs findings (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature12886)
Without doubt, this favorable genetic factors make the Isekiri – and by extension their Yoruba brothers – way smarter than the Okpe, the Delta-Edoid and all other Negroes for that matter. It is desirable to look at the stages of Okpe colonization by the Isekiri and how they have been civilized by Yorubic influences through Isekiri colonization.
Stages of Okpe colonisation
1. THE FIRST COLONISATION OF OKPE(Pristine era of Benin )
Unknown to the whole world, the Okpe state was formed due to Isekiri imperial power. About 1520-1540 Olu Irame rose as a power. He drove Olague and Amapotu from Ode-Isekiri (Ilaje Intelligence Report: RA Ajetumobi(Ph.D)( http://www.edoworld.net/THE_BENIN_FACTOR_IN_THE_HISTORY_OF_LAGOS.html). In the same period, Irame commissioned his son to be the first Ovie of Agbarha-Otor. The name of his son, the noisy prince who came from the Benin River, was Ebelle(Moore 1936; Onigu 2003; Honsbira and St.ifa2011;2013). Irame’s activities also reached Isoko land and great was the shake. Ebelle left Isoko came to where Orere-Okpe now situates and was the first person to live there. The popular Otomewo family of Orere-Okpe is descended from this Prince Ebelle(Moore 1936).
FALL OF BENIN
Kenny 2003 and Adlimina Report (Catholic Documentary) reports that by 1644(The era of Dom Antonio Domingos) the Isekiri was independent of Benin. Alagoa(1977) claims that by the mid 17th century direct Bini influence faded in the western Niger delta, and Isekiri were having more direct autonomy to control the western Niger delta where the Okpe belong . Roth 1903, Bradbury, Cyril Punch etc also talked of this Isekiri influence. Whitney Foster 1969 went as far as saying that the history of the lesser known peoples – Okpe inclusive – cannot be known unless Isekiri history is placed in a better chronology. From 1650 to 1700 there was a direct weakening of the Bini state and the Isekiri were rising at the same pace that Benin was being decimated (Alagoa 1977, Obayemi1977, Ikime 1969). At this period, the Isekiri did the natural thing. They took the Okpe state under them. Some children of Olu Irame first settled in Elume(where they are chased by 1997). Isekiri were the first settlers in what is now Okpe clan.
2. OGONI – THE SECOND COLONISATION OF OKPE
About seventeen fifty, the Okpe came to the present site of Orere-Okpe. The Isekiri were not unconnected to this development. The Mehini war of Olu Atogbuwa which included the Ijaws of Kabo, Kumbo, Mein,etc, on the stretches of the River Niger, also reached the territories of the Isoko. It was due to this war that the Okpe moved from Okpe in Isoko towards Orere to found Orere-Okpe( Honsbira and St.Ifa 2011;2013; Ogbobine 1976). The upheaval led four Isoko men – Orhue( a hunter), Orhorho, Evreke and Esezi – who claim to be brothers, to migrate to Orere-Okpe. Another who claimed to be the ancestor of the Uvwie people joined the group in the great migration (Onigu 2003). Sources say these people were escaping from the heavy tribute levied by Olu Atogbowa in the whole area. About 1770 when Oguni(Ogoni) became a man , after being prevented from being Olu ran towards his mother’s side Orere in Okpe to colonise the new intrants. Ogoni was born during the Mehinni war fought by his father Olu Atogbuwa, the 14th Olu of Warri. He naturally became a leader there. His descendants are about ¼ of the Okpe state. He settled at present day Aghalokpe, where he chased the Binis away with his canon power (St.Ifa2016 online).
THE GAINS OF OGONI CIVILISATION TO OKPE
a. The wearing of the costume of the Order of Christ given to Dom Domingos by the Catholic authorities in 1608 became worn by the Okpe for the first time, during the Oguni(Ogoni) revolution.
b. The first semblance of a pseudo-kingdom appeared. Ogoni being a prince from a far more civilized polity raised the quality of the Okpe. The Okpe saw bead and cannon for the first time in their existence. Ogoni did not let them have it however. Only his descendants had it.
c. Okpe entered the pepper trade for the first time, hence the name of Aja-Ogolo; whose name has now being changed. A shame to historical relics.
d. The evolution of the sword of power from Ogoni(Kerr intelligence Report).
e. The evolution of Okakuroship, brought by Ogoni
f. The growth of semi-kingdom, controlling not only Okpe but most of the Urhobo polities. Ojokor, the founder of Ughrughelli in Agbarho was a direct son of his.
g. The final subjugation of Benin power in the core Delta by the chasing of Bini worshippers from the Aghalokpe tree.
3. THE THIRD COLONISATION OF OKPE – AKENGBUWA-OLOMU ERA
Okpe suffered a third colonization in the hands of Isekiri during the reigns of Akengbuwa to the period of Olomu. Erejuwa(the 16th Olu) who drove out Ogoni seems not to be interested in the Okpe area. His pre-occupation was mostly the Ijaws. He might have neglected them because of the cannon power of Ogoni. But Akengbuwa the 16th Olu had interest in the Okpe enterprise. He was more particular about the Aghalokpe area. Amakatse, Ofokunije etc were regents he placed between present Sapele and Aghalokpe. At Olomu’s period, he made Sagay his adopted son, regent in the whole area, and along the length of the Ethiope River (Sagay undated). Olomu defeated Ogiegba( part Okpe ,part Isekiri)(Sagay undated ; Ikime 1969) and he used Sapele as his farm and trade depot . Olomu ordered Ogiegba(through Sagay) to bring the present people claiming Sapele to work in his farm. These people are the amorphous chiefs (WACA 1943). Since the people were menial workers, they could not marry Isekiri women. They – of different stock ( Badagri, Ishan, Yoruba, Calabar, Ghanains etc) – married from nearby Okpe community particularly Amukpe(Amuokpe – where Okpe are captured). Their descendants are today claiming to be Okpe. After Olomu’s death, his son Nana, who came into his power by ascending as the Olori-Ebi continued his ruling of the Okpe. Dore standing on the same power leased Sapele by December 3rd 1908. Ikomi became a warrant chief in Sapele. Imele of Aja-Imele was also given warrant chieftaincy title, but it was handed to his younger brother , Natiku(Reuben Imele 2015 oral interview)
4. THE EVERLASTING COLONISATION OF THE OKPE
Today there is an everlasting colonization of the Okpe. These are
1. The adoption of Isekiri attire. Kingsley Mary (1898); Eve de Negri 1976 confirm Isekiri as cloth weavers , who gave fabrics to others in the Delta of the Niger , Okpe inclusive.
2. Adoption of Isekiri names of both individuals and towns. The present change of place names cannot alter the old maps. Sapele is the main deity of Eghoro, Urhiapele-Ame in Laboard road in Sapele is new, coming only after the civil war, archaeology will confirm this statement.
3. Adoption of Isekiri religion. Igbe is a caricature worship of Umale-Okun(www.globalpeacearithmetic.blogspot.com) .
4. Adoption of Isekiri food type. Cassava was first given to Isekiri by the Portuguese. All Okpe based cassava meal is therefore got from the Isekiri, since they had no Portuguese access.
5. Adoption of Isekiri leisure style. Okpe masks – Oki, Ipi, Adumu etc are very recent as recent as 2005 and they are not organised in the Trinitarian fashion of the Isekiri masters.
6. Adoption of Isekiri ways of life
The work shows how Yorubic influences from Isekiri sources infiltrated the Okpe and made them perhaps the most civilized of the Edoid cluster( Esan, Afemai, Ora, Degema Epie, Isoko etc) apart from Benin with a direct colonization of Ife.
Augustine Oritseweyinmi Oghanrandukun Olomu(St.Ifa)