INE FESTIVAL AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ISSELE UKU. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

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CHAPTER ONE

1.1 INTRODUCTION

 Benin-city and Issele-Uku are historic places in former Bendel State of Nigeria. Benin city was the capital of the state while Issele-Uku is a town in Aniocha Local Government Area. The distance between the two towns is about 90 kilometres – 54 miles.

 Right from the 13th Century Isi-Ile-Uku (Issele-Uku) has had connections with Benin “Bini” and the Umuezechima. Oba Esigie in giving the royal broze mask to Obi Oligbo on his enthronement at Benin-city in the early 16th century, re-emphasized that Issele-Uku was the Oba’s representative on the Eastern extremity of the Benin Empire.

 This was testified to by his Royal Highness Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Akenzua II on the 11th of February, 1976. when he said;

The Bronze mask was given out by Oba Esigie to Obio Oligbo of Issele – Uku to symbolize his position as the Oba’s authoritative representative in the Eastern extremities of the former Benin Empire. The bronze Mask is the face of Oba Esigie, while the festac Ivory Mask still in London, is the face of Queen Mother Idia of Beinin.1

Historically, it is said that as far back as the 13th century, the Oba of Benin, Oba Eweka I appointed the first Ogie “king” of Isi-Ile-Uke (Issele-Uku) kingdom to take charge of the Eastern extremities of the former Benin Empire, to ward off any suprice attack from enemies and check foreign invasion from across the River Niger – (Ohim), and also establish Edo’ presence in the area. Oba Eweka I is said to have crowned Ogie Uwadiei and sent him along with other group of Edos to rule Issele-Uku. There were warriors, statesmen and women, including their children, wards and servants from Ogbe Enaekpan, Ogbe Eribo, Ugbeka, Idumu Inele Ibiwe, Idumu Igun, Idumu Iken of Uselu, Idumu Oliha, Idumu Ezemo Nuzebu.2

The quarters they occupied are still existing in Issele-Uku till this present day, and they are known as: Ogbeofu, Ishiekpe, Ogboli, Ogbidibo, Idumuinei, Idumuzu, Idumu Ozoma and Idumu-Onishe.

At the same time, the Binis came along with their ways of life; – Culture, Religion and Worship, Administration, kingship system and BiniArt. The influence is still very evident in the language of Issele Uku-people.

The Issele-Uku people speak a language that is very close to that of the Igbos. And what has not been understood by so many people outside and even the Issele-Uku people, is how the Ibo language gained dominance among the Edo-people of Issele Uku.

 This research work will clear the air on this issue.

1.2 Statement of problem

Just like it has been said above, the people of Issele – Uku migrated from the Benin-empire, which means that they are Binis. They are like an extension of the Benin kingdom in the eastern extremities.

 They share similarities in culture with the Issele –Uku people. The people of Issele-Uku have similar events, such as festivals, land tenures systems and even societies with the Binis.

  The Issele-Uku people speak the Ika-Ibo language, which we call the “Enuani”. The Enuani has more similarities with the Ibo language, than it does with the Benin language, but this does not mean that we have any thing to do with the Ibos. As we all know, the Ibos in their adventurous nature, in the ancient days established friendly contacts with the people of Issele-Uku kingdom more especially the Anams and the Aguleris, mainly through trade and commerce. The constancy of the association with the Ibos helped and influenced the change of Edo language among the Issele-Uku people to  the present day – Ibo – Issele – Uku language of Enuain or the Ika-Ibo dialect, which is  still full of Benin words.