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Edo - Akure Question
From: DR NOWAMAGBE A OMOIGUI
The heritage of Edo-Akures is both military and commercial. Many parts of modern Ondo and Ekiti states were part of the Benin Empire and thus many Edos traded within the territories, often living in "quarters" (like sabongari). Also, victorious soldiers often stayed behind to rule over small dominions, leaving behind descendants born of local yoruba mothers. Those who remarried Edos retained their links. Those who did not, tended to get assimilated into the Yoruba tribe - preferring to benefit from the status of a majority tribe as the influence and power of Benin declined. Prior to recent developments, this interaction resulted in the development of a unique language (a cross between Akure-Yoruba and Bini) which is almost lost.
To appreciate the role of Edo-AKure (or Bini-AKure) one must first understand that there were two main axes of trade within old Benin. One was called "waterside trade" focused along creeks and the Benin River involving Itsekiris (as middle men) and white men. The other was called "upcountry trade" which occured along three axes: (a) Ekiti-Ilorin (b)Ishan (c) Afemai. Each group was organized into trading associations with the Oba as patron. The traders of the forest (called "Ekhen-Egbo" were the group that operated in Ekiti country all the way to Ilorin. Their main bases were at Usen and Akure. Each trading association was highly organized and even had its own Odionwere. Ilorin beads were particularly valuable in exchange for brass carvings, salt, guns, matches, tobacco, necklaces, palm kernels, woven cloth, leather, ivory etc.
In Benin there was also a small group of so called Akure-Bini
chiefs. The role of this community of Bini-AKures has been significant. For example, when Ovonramwen signed the treaty in 1892 with Vice Consul Gallwey, the sole interpreter was a man called Ajayi who spoke 'Akure' dialect of yoruba and translated to Edo.
Before that AKure played an interesting role in providing
one of the first challenges to Ovonranmwen in 1889 when the Deji tried to make ceremonial swords without approval. A warrior was dispatched to settle the issues - which was done. [Oba Adolor earlier intervened in a dispute between Ekitis and Oyos - based on historic alliances between Benin and Ekiti]
The role and regimental seniority of AKure-Bini chiefs came under scrutiny during the trial of Benin chiefs in 1897. One of them called Osague had been identified as the individual through whom Ovonramwen allegedly sent a message to Ologbose and others in Ugbine not to kill Phillips and his party. But in retort another Benin chief claimed that no-one could take orders from an "Akure-Bini" chief. The British rejected the plea.
But more importantly, in April/May 1897, when Ebohon and Ologbose were organizing resistance to the British a large number of Akure refugees enlisted to support Ebohon. In the period after the deportation, the Usen-AKure axis was the focus of intense competition between Lagos traders and Benin based British officers who had long term plans for the development of Rubber plantations.
Later on when the monarchy was restored in 1914 the Benin community in Akure made strenuous efforts to reestablish ties with the Oba. They were stopped by the British. A tribute they had sent to Benin was actually returned!
However, the role of "Akure" in Benin politics was to show itself again and again. In 1918, for example, when Iyase Agho Obaseki had a fall out with Eweka II, it was widely rumored that arrangements had been made to import poison / juju from Akure to eliminate the Oba. Again, in 1937/38 during the serious water-rate crisis in Benin, Chiefs Oshodi and Ezomo were accused of conspiring with one Fagbemi (a native doctor in Idanre, near Akure) to make poison for the purpose of liquidating Akenzua II. As a matter of fact, correspondences were discovered (by telegram) necessitating a full inquiry authorized by Bourdillon. Oba Akenzua ..
initially hired the services of a Yoruba lawyer called
Alakija - before the matter was settled out of court.
One of the most famous Iyases in Benin history was called
Okoro-Otun. His original name was Omokhua. He was born in Benin in
1819 but moved to Ekiti land very early, where he became highly
successful as a trader. He, however, visited Benin in 1904 and
predicted that Aiguobasimwin would some day become Oba. His prophecy
came to pass. During the period before he finally returned to Benin in
1915 as the Esama, he fought in the Ibadan-Oyo conflicts and Ijaye
wars. In 1921 he was appointed district head of Ehor. When Akenzua II
became Oba he made 'Okoro-Otun' Iyase in 1928.
Unfortunately, Okoro-Otun clashed with Akenzua II over a number of issues one of which had to do with wearing beaded head dresses of Yoruba origin. This summary is meant to illustrate how and why
Akure-Binis (with a heritage dating back to the trading association days) were generally successful, politically well connected and wealthy. Many families re-emigrated back to Benin bringing not only their skills and business contacts but also (in some cases) their new religion - Islam, acquired through contacts with Nupe jihadists. This 'community' became known as 'Edo N'akhue' - to connote the link to a great migratory commercial (and diplomatic) heritage.
Hence the names like Yusuf, Bello, Giwa and Dawodu - along with other Yoruba names (and arabic influences from Ilorin). Dawodu, for example, is a corrupted form of Daoud - the Arabic translation of David. Of course it is entirely possible that in old deep Bini (or "acure" dialect) it had an acquired meaning - such as "first son". Note that "pure" Edo names typically begin with the letters A, E, I, O, U. But of course there are many modified Edo names that begin with other alphabets.
Although the description "Edo N'akhue" may be perjorative (when used to describe someone whose behavior is stereotyped as slippery and unreliable), the Edo-Akures are the equivalents in Benin of the descendants of prominent American families, for example, who spent most of their lives abroad as diplomats and multinational businessmen. They are a vital and bonafide part of the complexity that is Benin.
In modern Nigeria, certain administrative delineations reflect these old historical links with the Ondos/Ekitis. The Benin-Owina River Basin Authority, for example, covered old Bendel and old Ondo states. Until it was disbanded, the old 4th Infantry Brigade of the Army was similarly deployed. Most recently, one of the zonal offices of OMPADEC based in Benin-City covers Edo, Delta and Ondo states.
Note the following in the attached write up:
a) Chief Okoro Otun was made the Iyase of Benin by Oba Eweka II after the death of Chief Agho Obaseki who died in the early 20's. He was born at Uvbe village near Abudu. He was one of Oba Eweka's II "foot soldiers " in the struggle for the restoration of the monarchy. He is fondly remembered as OBA MU IYASE KOMI-the Oba has given me the title of the Iyase ( a mixture of Edo-Bini and Akure- Yorubaialects. His house is at Sakponba Road, Benin City, opposite St. Mathew's Cathedral, Benin City. His descendants simply go with the surname IYASE or Iyasere.
b) At the restoration of the monarchy in 1914/15, Oba Eweka II encouraged and lured many of the Edos in Akure and other Yoruba land to return home and help him rebuild the remnants of the ancient Empire. Chief Okoro Otun was one of the "returnees".
C) Oba Akenzua ascended the throne in 1933/4
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