1. The attention of Igbide Clan has been drawn to a book by Mr. Endurance O Edafewotu titled, ‘The Isoko Ethnic Nationality: In Time Perspective’. While we commend the author for his effort in attempting to reveal some aspects of the roots and customs of Isoko people, we are constrained to point out some glaring and unacceptable inaccuracies and assumptions in the history of Igbide Clan which, if not challenged, may be erroneously quoted by future generations as authentic history.
2a. While introducing his perspective on Igbide, one of the nine earliest, and therefore oldest clans in Isoko – the others being Iyede, Owhe, Emevor, Enwhe, Olomoro, Okpe, Uzere and Erowha (TJ Southern, Isoko-Sobo Assessment Report 1929, Para.32), Mr. Edafewotu, on page 57 of his book, claimed that “The history of Igbide is confusing and finding a focal point is problematic”.
This introduction of Igbide history using the words ‘Confusing’ and ‘Problematic’ in the face of copious public documents and books that carefully detail Igbide history, is quite unfortunate and deceptive. It portrays the author as one who deliberately set out to confuse and deceive his readers by muddling up the history of Igbide Clan that has been well-documented, aeons ago, by reliable, credible and authoritative sources such as Isoko-Sobo Assessment Report, 1929, by T J Southern (DO); the 1931 Intelligence Report on Igbide Clan by PV Main (ADO), The Sobo of the Niger Delta by JW Hubbard; James Welch, “The Isoko Clans of the Niger Delta” – Cambridge University Doctoral Dissertation, 1935; “The Isoko People: A Historical Survey”, by Obaro Ikime (1972); the Partridge Report, (Isoko Division)1974 and many other credible sources warehoused in the National Archives.
2b. Also worthy of mention is the Justice Ighodaro Judicial Commission on Chieftaincy Titles Review (1978) that stated that Igbide history is one of the most documented amongst all Isoko Clans. Indeed, the Justice Ighodaro Judicial Commission on Chieftaincy Titles Review (1978) at page 315 of its verbatim report declares as follows:- “The affairs of Igbide are not new to the Commission because a lot has been written in the past, particularly by Chadwick, Southern and other administrative officers who were there around 1928 and 1930 before some of us were even born. They have carefully documented the History and Tradition of the place at a time when there was no politics and nobody had any reason to tell lies or complicate issues for selfish ends”. (Italics ours). Yet in 2019, Endurance O Edafewotu, an accidental writer, as he calls himself, claims Igbide history is confusing based on a recent (1988) pseudohistory written by Emede community without referencing authoritative documents on Igbide and Emede history that are available in the National Archives.
3a. Curiously, while the author copiously quoted the Intelligence Report on Okpolo/Enwhe by E.R. Chadwick, ADO (1931) in writing the history of those communities in his book, he dishonestly set aside the Intelligence Report on Igbide by PV Main, ADO (1931) that recorded the history of both Igbide and Emede. Rather, he referenced fictional oral tales in a 1988 unpublished document in which Emede and Igbide history was concocted, in a vain attempt to twist the known and documented history of both communities. (N.B: The 1988 document is titled, “Emede-Igbide Land Dispute – A Summary of ‘The Case of Emede Community’, Submitted to The Panel of Isoko/Urhobo Traditional Rulers”.)
3b. The discerning public should ask why was the Intelligence Reports on Okpolo/Enwhe and other communities good enough to be referenced, but the Intelligence Report on Igbide Clan jettisoned by the accidental author. Didn’t the author see paragraph 21 of Chadwick’s Intelligence Report on Okpolo/Enwhe Clan that confirms convincingly and most unequivocally, the ancestral and blood relationship between Igbide and Emede? Isn’t it obvious even to the unwary that the author was on a mission to confuse, deceive and hoodwink the gullible public on the genuine history of both Igbide and Emede?
3c. A graphic proof of his intent to confuse, deceive and hoodwink the gullible public of not only Igbide history but also its geographical location is in the Isoko map on page 110 of his book, where the accidental author removed Igbide from its location in Isoko South and placed it in an area that is loosely between Isoko North (Aradhe) and Ndokwa East (Awa/Lagos-Iyede)! Need we say more about the intention of the writer?
4. Neither Igbide history nor Emede history is confusing as these have been well-documented in authoritative sources of history available in the National Archives. What is strange is the attempt by younger Emede generations to deny their origins by re-writing history that was documented as told by their forebears. For instance, on page 51 of his book, Endurance O Edafewotu admitted that just recently, “In 1995, according to Prince Dennis Etene, Emede successfully traced their lineage to Agoro-Amede in Edo State”! (Italics ours). The question is: What is the motivation of our Emede brothers re-writing their history and embarking on futile journeys to trace their history that has been well-documented by credible and unbiased Colonial Government Officers, Clergymen and Academics who gathered such information from their grandfathers and great grandfathers during the colonial times?
5a. Section 22 of the Igbide Intelligence Report (PV Main, 1931) states in part that “Eru (the founder of Igbide) had four sons Eheri, Ekpo, Uruwhre and Okpohro. The three present quarters of Igbide (main town) are named after the three younger sons”. The eldest son Eheri founded Emede.
5b. This is the one and consistent history of Igbide and Emede supported by TJ Southern, PV Main, ER Chadwick, RE Bradbury, JW Hubbard, James Welch, Obaro Ikime, the Patridge Report, the Justice Ighodaro Judicial Commission on Chieftaincy Titles Review (1978) and all other authentic history sources of both communities. These sources are uncontroverted and indeed, incontrovertible. There is no record known to history that says anything different.
5c. Therefore, it is the history of Emede that is ‘entangled’ with that of Igbide and not vice versa as the amateur writer tried in vain to claim. As proof that the history of Emede is ‘entangled’ with that of Igbide, Emede does not have Intelligence Report of its own, unlike the earliest Isoko clans. Their (Emede) history is well-documented in The Igbide Intelligence Report of 1931.
6. Permit us to itemize, vide infra, some of the deliberate distortions of the author who is obviously on a mission to re-write history and distort documented facts to favour his Emede community.
6(a). On page 48 of his book, while quoting J.D Ogbinaka (1988) (also a native and former President-General of Emede), the author placed the date of founding of Emede clan around 1490 or earlier. This claim is bumf and cannot be supported by any authoritative historical source.
6(b). The author in pages 48-52 of his book claimed among others:
6(b1). that Emede’s father was called Oniha from Benin.
6(b2). that Emede is one of the oldest clans in the area.
6(b3). that “Eweri’s journey to Emede was not a straight path from Benin. He and his family first stayed at a place called Elele in present-day Rivers State. When there was unrest, they moved to a place called Oruzu, a small triangular point between present day communities of Emede, Uzere and Igbide, near Uruwre village”
6(b4). that “According to a 1988 document on the state of the Emede community, the members of the community moved to Oruhe (a community close to the Urie Lake) due to excess flooding”
6(b5). that “while they journeyed through, a stream turned out to be a major lake. He named it Urie (Expanding), and it has since become a religious site that is still revered till date” that “It is the site where Emede’s ancestral deity, – oni-oyise -, is regularly worshipped”.
6(b6). that “Some distance away from Urie is present-day Emede where the community later settled” and that “It is believed that while at Oruzu, Emede began interacting with Erohwa, Umeh and Okpolo /Enhwe communities”.
7a. In all of these unsubstantiated, therefore bogus, spurious, fraudulent, misleading and deceptive assumptions, the author claimed to have relied on oral tradition, a “1988 document” and some other tales by moonlight told to him by others; but made no attempt to consult or reference any of the reliable sources of Igbide and Emede history well-documented by British colonial masters, clergymen and academics: T J Southern (DO), ‘Isoko-Sobo Assessment Report 1929’; Intelligence Report on Igbide, (PV Main, 1931) and world renowned books like ‘The Sobo of the Niger Delta’ by JW Hubbard; ‘The Isoko Clans of the Niger Delta’ by James Welch; The Isoko People: A Historical Survey”, by Obaro Ikime, etc. Yet, the author quoted the Intelligence Report on Okpolo/Enwhe by ER Chadwick in his perspective on the histories of the two communities but conveniently forgot paragraph 21 of the same Report that confirms the ancestral relationship between Igbide and Emede! It can be confirmed, even by the unwary, that the pseudohistory of the author is a sponsored attempt to re-write history which has been documented, with the help of their progenitors, almost 100years ago.
7b. As at 1929, Igbide was already a Clan with Emede as its village (TJ Southern, 1929; PV Main, 1931). Emede didn’t become a clan until 1955 (The Partridge Report, paragraph 12 & 13). The Partridge Report, paragraph 12 listed the Clans in Isoko (as at 1929) as follows:- ‘Usere’, ‘Owe’, Okpe, ‘Enwe’, Igbide, Iyede, ‘Arokwa’, Emevor, Olomoro. By 1935 when James Welch wrote ‘The Isoko Clans of the Niger Delta, Aviara had been added to the list of Isoko Clans (page 9).
“By 1955 there was an increase of four in the number of officially recognized Clans. The increase being reflected in the Isoko District Council instrument (W.R.L.N 217 of 1955) which was published after an official inquiry to ascertain the wishes of the people on the application of the Local Government Law (1952) in the area, had been conducted. The four Clans created are as follows: Emede, Okpolo, Oleh, Ozoro.” – The Partridge Report, Para. 13.
8. History is unlike science where advances in technology render earlier inventions obsolete. For modern-day historical works to be free from factual distortions, formulations or fabrications, they must be anchored on facts sourced from documents known in law, government circles and public affairs as public records or Intelligence Reports. Whatever inferences or conclusions the authors of such works may draw; whatever rationalization they may make must be similarly anchored if they want to be taken as credible writers. To do otherwise is to run foul of credibility, authenticity, validity and reliability. In this regard, any writer on the traditional history of Igbide Clan who cares and who is neither indolent nor averse to the truth will have no problem. This is because Igbide Clan has substantial ancient documentation of its traditional history – origin, traditional governance and Ovieship – which any scholar worth his salt must rely on. Unfortunately, Mr. Endurance O Edafewotu did not rely on any public records or Intelligence Reports in writing what he claims to be Igbide and Emede history.
9. IMPORTANCE OF INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
In talking about the importance of Intelligence Reports in traditional history, the relevant and illuminating views of Gwam of the National Archives, Ibadan (1961) must be recalled. According to him: – “The importance of these reports cannot be overstated. They are records of a people without literary tradition and were compiled at a time when the forces of modern economic and social change had not made their full impact on this country. In the circumstances, the writers were, to a great extent able to record the facts about our traditional society from what they saw and heard. With the rapid changes brought about by this impact, the facts of our traditional society have become dim and may only be reconstructed from materials in Intelligence Reports. In sum, these Reports have become indispensable source materials for objective studies of Nigerian peoples” – Gwam L.C. ‘A Preliminary Index to Intelligence Reports in the Nigerian Secretariat Record Group, (Ibadan National Archives, 1961) P 4/5.
It is evident from the above, that any statement or claim not supported by facts from Intelligence Reports, aptly described by LC Gwam as “indispensable source materials for objective studies of Nigerian peoples”, is bound to pass as a myth or fairy tale, and therefore unreliable and unacceptable.
10. SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT
10(i). It would interest the public to note that Oruzu, which Endurance O Edafewotu mentioned in his book is an Igbide land. For over 30years, (beginning from the early 1920s to 1952) the ownership of Oruzu was disputed by our Uzere neighbours. The legal cases started from the lower courts to the apex courts of Nigeria and West Africa viz Suit No. 3 of 1931 Supreme Court of Nigeria Holden at Warri; Suit No.3/31 West African Court of Appeal (WACA) Holden at Lagos; Suit No. W/12/1948 Supreme Court of Nigeria Holden at Warri and finally the West African Court of Appeal (W.A.C.A 3708) Holden at Lagos were ALL decided in favour of Uruwhre Community of Igbide. The last case was disposed of in 1952 and it authenticated Igbide as bonafide owners of Oruzu land. It is noteworthy to mention that some Emede elders stood as witnesses for Igbide in the course of the trial.
10(ii). Let us examine the writer’s claim (see 6(b6) above) that “while at Oruzu, Emede began interacting with Erohwa, Umeh and Okpolo/Enhwe communities”. The question is, where is Igbide Clan that is geographically in-between Okpolo/Enwhe and Emede in this claim? Could this be to reinforce what J.D Ogbinaka (1988) said in his fictional oral history that Emede shares boundary with Okpolo/Enwhe? The discerning reader can now tell with ease, why the writer removed Igbide from its geographical location in Isoko South and placed it, in his Isoko map (on page 110 of his book), somewhere between Aradhe in Isoko North and Awa/Lagos-Iyede in Ndokwa East? Isn’t this mischievous and laughable?
11. All the above credible historical sources are in unison as to the origin of Igbide and Emede: that Eheri the first son of Eru, founder of Igbide, founded Emede. The memory of the bloody conflict between Igbide and Emede of 1985-87 occasioned by Emede laying claims to Ewokpaso land and Urie-Igbide lake, on the bank of which Owodokpokpo-Igbide sits, is still fresh in our minds. We hope this new fictional book by Endurance O Edafewotu is not an attempt to re-open old wounds. That would be most unfortunate.
12a. AUTHENTIC HISTORY OF IGBIDE AND EMEDE
P.V. Main who collected information on the history of Igbide and Emede was a Colonial Assistant District Officer (ADO). According to Appendix I of Intelligence Report on Igbide, PV Main and his crew visited Igbide (October 16-22, 1931), Owodokpokpo (23-25 October 1931) and Emede (November 19-23, 1931) and collected information from the elders in each community. The interpreter to PV Main was an illustrious son of Isoko from Uzere, Mr. W.E. Otobo, an “Accounting Clerk who gave valuable assistance in elucidating details of native custom”.
Please permit us to quote copiously from the Intelligence Report on Igbide (P V. Main, 1931) to prove that as at 1931, Emede was a village of Igbide whose King and Edio were subordinate to the Ovie of Igbide.
Section 54 of the Igbide Intelligence Report says, “The title of the Ovie of Emede is not so interesting. After Eheri’s quarrel with Eru and the separation, Emede preferred to have its own titles even if subordinate to that of the Ovie of Igbide. Thus in the 4th generation of their settlement they followed the example of Igbide and appointed an Ovie for themselves from among the descendants of Eheri”. (Italics ours).
Section 36 (Seniority in Odion Society)
“The senior Odion of Igbide, possessing the Evo fetish, and thus representing the Clan eponymous ancestor Eru, is the senior man of the clan. The Odion next to him is ex-officio otata (spoke man) for the Edion and for the town; if unsuitable he appoints a deputy. The Edion of Igbide rank higher than those of Emede, who in spite of their descent from the eldest son of Eru can only receive the title from the senior odion of Igbide”. (Italics ours).
Section 39 (Occasional Meeting of Odion of Clan)
“Both Emede and Igbide state that the Edion of both villages used at one time to meet in Igbide for matters of clan importance (e.g warfare) and therefore formed what was in fact a Clan Council”. (Italics ours).
Section 40 The Evo Fetish
“The Evo fetish is not interesting in itself, it is housed in the porch of the senior Odion’s compound and consists of (1) six rudely wrought bracelets or anklets of brass (not Benin) each twisted into a narrow coiled snake like ornament without any attempt at carving upon any of them; (2) two ancient wooden sceptres about a foot long with tiers of cowries tied around them. The whole assembly forms the symbol of authority for the senior Odion and is the “fetish” upon which litigants swear in the Edion Court”. (Italics ours).
Its Younger Brother Eweri, Emede
“Emede is also allowed to possess an Odion fetish of its own, it is called Eweri and it is the younger brother and replica of Evo. This has to be taken to Igbide whenever a title of Odion is given and must be carried back to Emede on the head of the new Odion”. (Italics ours).
The above confirms that Eweri wasn’t the founder of Emede as Endurance O Edafewotu would want his readers to believe. Indeed, Eweri was not a human being but a replica and junior of the Evo of Igbide as the Intelligence Report clearly states.
It is also gratifying to note that some key facts of Igbide history and tradition, carefully and elaborately documented as indicated above are not isolated, rather they have collaboration or confirmation in the Intelligence Reports not only of the then four surrounding clans of Olomoro, Okpolo/Enwhe, Erowha/Umeh, and Uzere (ER Chadwick, 1931) but also in the Intelligence Report on Evwreni Clan by FM Woodhouse (1931).
Additionally, E.R. Chadwick (1931), at paragraph 21 of his Intelligence Report on Okpolo/Enwhe Clan and paragraph 42 of his Intelligence Report on Uzere Clan confirms convincingly and most unequivocally the ancestral and blood relationship between Igbide and Emede, notwithstanding the fact that the two communities are today autonomous and independent of each other.
Furthermore, RE Bradbury in his book, “The Benin Kingdom and Edo-Speaking People of South Western Nigeria”, London: International African Institute, 1957, noted that the founder of Emede was the son of the founder of Igbide.
13. In conclusion, we state, most emphatically, that irrespective of the ancestral ties and historical links between Igbide and Emede, the former has no objection to the latter re-writing her own history to suit her modern-day preferences and fancies. However, in doing so, Igbide history along with its established traditional and legal ownership of land must not be tampered with.
14. Contrary to the writer’s claim in page 62 of his book that, “There are few materials and evidence from which we can draw conclusions on the origin of Igbide clan”, another loud hooey, it has been proven that Igbide has copious ancient documents of its history as mentioned above that can be sourced from the National Archives and Libraries in Nigeria and across the world. We challenge the author to provide historical documents in the National Archives that detail Emede history!
15. Finally, we are burdened that with a glut of highly read Isoko people including historians of note, Isoko Development Union (IDU), without due diligence in these modern times, could offer its respectable platform on November 09, 2019 to endorse and publicly present pseudohistory that distorts or misrepresents historical records that were meticulously and conscientiously documented by unbiased Colonial Masters, Clergy Men and Academics as narrated by our forebears in our respective Clans, at a time when there was no politics, rivalry or any need to distort history. This is most regrettable!
We encourage the Isoko apex socio-cultural organization to be more circumspect in the future before throwing its weight behind seemingly innocuous historical books and such others that enhance local struggle for sphere of influence. Such works possess potentials for igniting inter-community conflicts. This is not what Isoko need at this time and age.
Isoko is one. Therefore, we need to learn to live in peace and unity while we respect our boundaries and histories.
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Dr. Patrick Oboghor Mr. Joseph Oghene-Ovo
President General Secretary General