By WALTERS ONYEISI UGOCHUKWU EZIASHI
Historically, Idumuje people trace their roots to ancient Bini kingdom, just like most of the Enuani people that left Benin in the 18th century.
Idumuje Unor and Idumuje Ugboko are one people and members of Idumuje clan .They have no common land boundary and bear same cultural and traditional heritage.
Both communities went their separate ways though united by tradition and culture following an Odogwu title dispute . Those who felt aggrieved left and wandered farther into a nearby forest to their present location where they share boundaries with towns like Igbodo in Ika North East, Onicha Ugbo, Ugbodu, in Aniocha North and Ewohinmi in Edo State according the 1937 Intelligence Report by R.B. Karr.
Idumuje-Ugboko is the epicenter of this analysis and it must be said that to understand a people you must look at their history, their mores, social and interpersonal relationship, religion, culture and related values that shape their world view.
Hence the sage says that those who ignore the lessons of history, would repeat its tragedy. To understand the unfolding events, it is important to follow the historical trajectory of the hidden discontent and strictures in the Royal family and the Idumuje-Ugboko before the death of the immediate past king.
OBI NWOKO I’s SONS
Obi Nwoko I had nine (9) sons including: NWABUOKEI (first son), AMOJE, BIOSE, BIDOKWU, PAUL, ELUMELU, UJOMOR, NWAOBE and ESUZOR.Nwabuokei, Amoje and Ujomor are of the same mother whose name was Ehihor, one of the daughters of Oko-Onyimi Idumuzu, Ogbe-Ofu village, Idumuje-Ugboko. Biose and Elumelu shared same motherhood while Bidokwu and Paul had same mother.Esuzor was an only son and his mother another wife of Obi Nwoko I was from Atuma village, Idumuje-Ugboko. If Omorhusi was Nwoko’s son as claimed, who was her mother and where is she from?
Nwoko was the first son of Ologbo who gave birth to seven (7) sons also including: NWOKO, CHIMA, MOEMEKE (MEKE), OKOH, ODOR, ALIGBE, ANYAONICHA. Please not that Omorhusi was not Nwoko’s brother neither was he a member of Umu-Ologbo. He was a native doctor brought to the village.
Ogbeide the father of Ologbo and grandfather of Obi Nwoko I hailed from Uzebu quarters in old Bini kingdom. He first settled at Ashama in the present day Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State before he moved to Idmuje (Idumje-Uno) as one of the early settlers in the 17th century where he died and was buried.
Nwoko’s sons and brothers with their children made up the Umu-Ologbo family, but only Nwoko’s children known and referred to as Umu-Nwoko are the only members of the Royal Family of Idumuje-Ugboko.
When Obi Nwoko I, the first Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko died, his first son Nwabuokei whose mother was Ehihor the daughter of Oko-Onyimi being the Crown Prince, was to succeed him in accordance with the tradition and customs of Idumujes. That is under the primogeniture system of succession to the throne by most Anioma monarchies.
Unfortunately, that was the period of the Ekwumekwu war. Nwabuokei and his brothers buried their father before Nwabuokei who was also called Nwaoyeke) after the three months mourning period of the king as observed in most Anioma land, joined the other members of the community in the war. His immediate younger brother of the same mother named Amoje was detailed to look after the palace in the absence of the Obi designate (Crown Prince Nwabuokei) until he comes back from the war of Ekwumekwu.
Upon the return of Nwabuokei from the Ekwumekwu war, ceremonies for his official coronation as Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko commenced but on the third day news filtered into town that the Colonial soldiers were coming after Nwabuokei because of his role in the Ekwumekwu war. The ceremony was then suspended and Nwabuokei went into hiding within the areas of his farmland called Agboma.
Unfortunately, the ceremony could not continue as one of his younger brothers Paul (Obidiya’s father) compromised the family and betrayed his brother when he took the Colonial soldiers to Nwabuokei’s hideout. Nwabuokei was subsequently arrested by the colonialists who first took him to Ogwashi-Uku before he was transferred with other suspected members of the dreaded Ekwumekwu warriors including Onwuaduegbo (the legendary Idumuje-Ugboko warrior), Obi Idaboh of Issele-Azagba and Elumelu of Ogwashi-Uku amongst others to Bricksfield Wall Prison, Calabar.
While at the Bricksfield prison Calabar words came to him that his pregnant first wife was delivered of a baby boy. Nwabuokei named the child Nkanyaimegwaim which literary means in English Language” when u grow up u shall revenge”.
The name was abbreviated to Nkanya.
Nwabuokei was discharged and acquitted by the colonial court sitting in Calabar as he was found not guilty of alleged offences. The news of his impending return caused apprehension of a possible revenge against those who betrayed him. A delegation was sent to meet him in Calabar and reconcile him with his relations. Their mission left more bitter taste in the mouth with the unexpected death of the Crown Prince. Nwabuokei as the first son of late Obi Nwoko and crown Prince was buried at Idumuje Ugboko Royal Palace where his grace remains till date .
The burial in the royal resting place signified that his first son Prince Nkanya who was then a minor must succeed his father as the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko when he comes of age. But the plan would be aborted by several circumstances.
It should be noted that Amoje was never a king but held brief for his elder brother of the same mother (Nwabuokei) who went to war in defense of the community. Amoje it will further be noted had only three daughters but had no son. One of the daughers was the mother of Odogwu monye Okoh and Stephen Okoh of Ogbe-Ofu village, Idumuje-Ugboko.
HOW OMORHUSI CAME TO THE PALACE OF IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
Nwabuokei was poisoned by the same people who betrayed him on the fear that upon his return and assumption of his father’s throne he will seek revenge .He died of the poison the following day after arriving Idumuje-Ugboko from Calabar.
After Nwabuokei ‘s burial in the palace of Idumuje-Ugboko beside his father Obi Nwoko I ,Amoje was officially asked by the Royal family to act on behalf of his late elder brother’s only son Crown Prince Jonathan Nkanya Nwabuokei Nwoko until the boy comes of age to take over the throne .
Again misfortune befell the family when Amoje died within six months of this appointment. Amoje who was known to be good with drinks was also reportedly poisoned.
The elders of the town called the Royal family to present the Crown Prince or they will ask Mokobia who had contested the throne with Nwoko to become king. The first day Prince Nkanya Nwabuokei was to be presented to the elders, his Uncle Prince Biose claimed it was not possible as he sent him and his children to the farm.
Presentation was then rescheduled for the next Olie market day. Crown Prince Jonathan Nkanya Nwabuokei Nwoko was presented to the public by Prince Biose Nwoko his uncle and guardian on the rescheduled day.
The elders and the entire community with celebration acknowledged and welcomed the presentation of Crown Prince Jonathan Nkanya Nwabuokei Nwoko. However, because Nkanya was still a minor, the elders requested for a regent from the Royal family to oversee the palace and hold in trust for the Crown.
This is a common practice in all Enuani Kingdoms. Even when Nkeze who later usurped the throne in 1927 died in February of 1955, Unoju Chima a lady was regent for seven (7) days before Prince Williams Ujomor Nwoko was appointed regent by the royal family because Nkanya was already old and sickly. When Williams died, his son Charles Williams Ujomor Nwoko equally acted as regent before Umu-Nkeze organized and removed him to bring in Prince Donatus Nkeze as regent. After ten years, Donathus was removed and Obiamanagbo (Obiama) was appointed to replace him to enable Umu-Nkeze execute their plans of imposing one of them Prince Albert Okwuwadiegwu as king which they succeeded in 1981 to proclaim as Obi Nwoko III.
Prince Biose Nwoko on the demand of the elders as stated earlier presented Mr. Omorhusi who was not a member of the royal family but a native doctor in the palace brought by Obi Nwoko I . Just one of the native doctors handling his spiritual consultations with the gods as was the practice then, to look after the palace and the throne until Crown Prince Nkanya comes of age to sit on his fathers throne.
This was the situation when the CMS arrived Idumuje-Ugboko in 1902. The late Mr. Ozili Onwochei Mokobia one of the grandsons of Mokobia of Ogbe-Ofu, Idumuje-Ugboko also collaborated this as historical fact.
It must be noted here that Omorhusi was not a member of Umu-Nwoko royal family neither was he a member of Umu-Ologbo that came from Idumuje-Unor. He was an Ishan man brought to the palace by Obi Nwoko I. it should equally be noted that Nkeze was not Omorhusi’s first son. Omorhusi had two other sons Megai and Chukwuka before Nkeze was born.
Assuming but not conceding that Omorhusi was king, can the third son succeed in place of the first and second sons who were alive as at the time of his death under the law of primogeniture? Can Umu-Omorhusi or Umu-Nkeze ever explain how the third son of Omorhusi became king in place of the first and second sons if truly Omorhusi was king.
Omorhusi was not and could never have been king. Therefore both Nkeze Omorhusi’s third son and Albert Nkeze’s son purported kingship were an illegality. It is for this reason that Umu-Nwoko through Nwabuokei’s children went to court of competent jurisdiction to seek a declaration that the kingship of both Nkeze and Albert were illegal as such were never kings before the law.
As practiced in Idumuje clan, Ezechime clan, Odiani clan and in all Anioma land, a king (Obi)upon being presented by the royal family is crowned traditionally by the Onihe assisted by other elders. Idumuje comprising Idumuje-Unor and Idumuje-Ugboko with Idumuje-Unor as the head has only one Onihe resident at Ime-Ogbe Quarters Idumuje-Unor . He crowns the king Obi in Idumuje clan. Same Onihe and not any old man without traditional relevance crowned HRM Obi Charles Chukwunweike Anyasi III of Idumuje-Unor not too long ago.
Which Onihe crowned Omorhusi, Nkeze his third son and Albert Nkeze’s son?
According to a grandson of Obi Nwoko 1 , Diokpa Onwuamaonyeukwu Esuzor Nwoko who died in December 2019 at the age of ninety-three years, Omorhusi who was appointed to hold brief for the young Nkanyaimegwai refused to vacate the palace but rather threatened to kill Crown Prince Nkanya.
This led to Nkanya to relocate back to Calabar with the assistance of one of his maternal kindreds from Onicha-Uku in Ezechima clan of Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Crown Prince Jonathan Nkanyaimegwai Nwabuokei Nwoko was still at Calabar when Omorhusi died in 1926. Umu-Ologbo sent Mr. Enunwaonye Chima and Mr. Nwachi Moemeke to Calabar to recall Crown Prince Nkanya and with the help of an Onicha-Ugbo man resident in Calabar they were able to locate Nkanya who came back to Idumuje-Ugboko with them.
Again, before they returned from Calabar in early 1927, one Mr. Justin Nkeze Omorhusi a superior Colonial Interpreter at Ogwashi_uku had proclaimed himself the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko. It should be noted that Nkeze the self-appointed king first called himself Obi Justin Nkeze Orieze, then he changed to Obi Omorhusi II which he bore till late 1930s when he unceremoniously changed to Obi Nwoko II. This he formalized in 1942 when he equally changed the surname of all his children.
In a protest letter signed by the late Chief Philip Chiazor and addressed to the Resident Commissioner, Benin Province on 12th January 1948 by the Idumuje Patriotic Union, Nkeze was described as one Justin Nkeze Omorhusi who parades himself as Obi Nwoko II.
Nkeze did not refute that claim rather he used his influence with the colonial masters to subdue the protest. Let it be noted that when Nkeze usurped the throne in 1927 he called himself Obi Omorhusi II and while the protest of his usurpation raged, he was also accused of not being a son of Nwoko and had no biological lineage with Nwoko. He was reminded that Omorhusi was only a regent and not an Obi.
In 1942, Justin Nkeze Omorhusi (Obi Omorhusi II) changed his name to Obi Nwoko II and ordered that all his children’s name be changed from Omorhusi to Nwoko. Prince Richard Obiajulu confirmed this change of name in a telephone chat with Prince Solomon on 24th August, 2017 when he claimed that he was a minor living with Prince Kenudi Biose Nwoko a Police officer then in Benin-City.
According to Diokpa Onwuamaonyeukwu in an affidavit he deposed to at the Issele-Uku High Court, Issel-Uku, both him and some of Nkeze’s children were at the CMS Primary school, Idumuje-Ugboko when one morning in 1942, they were informed that Prince Martin Ezedinbu and other Umu-Nkeze children in the school had changed from Omorhusi to Nwoko as their surname.
Nkeze claimed in a document that he was a great grandson of Obi Nwoko I. The big question is: who then was Nkeze’s father and grandfather if Nwoko I was his great grandfather as he claimed.
According to Diokpa Prince Onwuamaonyeukwu, the struggle for recovery of the crown did not start now as Prince Ezenwani Esuzor Nwoko and Mr. Chukwujakwu Omezi in the 1950s organized a peaceful protest when the duo convened an Izu-Ani general assembly at the village square claiming that Nkeze was not king and meetings should not hold in his house.
They prevented Nkeze from entering the palace before the Umu-Ologbo meeting at the residence of Diokpa Meke the then Head-Diokpa at Uzebu Quarters, Idumuje-Ugboko in February 1955 . Nkeze was directed to return the crown to the rightful owner for peace to reign in the community.
Nkeze left all members of Umu-Ologbo family present at that meeting and while they were all waiting for Nkeze to return the crown, news spread that Nkeze had died. This was less than ten minutes after he angrily left them at the meeting.
Can his children deny this fact?
Let me state here for the records and for anyone in doubt of these historical facts that, in the 1970s Prince Chief Aniegboke Nwoko (current Ozoma of Idumuje-Ugboko) made unsavoury comments concerning his grandfather. The Umu-Ologbo elders then, including Egbebu, Ifejokwu, Nwachi, Ogbe Biose etc quickly convened a meeting where Aniegboke Nwoko was SANCTIONED for desecrating the royal son. Samuel and his younger brother Solomon Eziokwubundu who presently live in Lagos were appeased and pleaded with to allow peace reign. Aniegboke is alive let him deny this fact before our ancestral altars and before the gods of the land and before the Almighty God.
The throne was vacant when Nkeze usurped it in 1927. Now that his son who succeeded him also died and the throne become vacant on the 6th day of February, 2017, the Umu-Nwoko Royal family have resolved to recover their throne .
Hence the meeting held on 24th August, 2017 at the residence of Diokpa Prince Onwuamaonyeukwu Esuzor Nwoko (Diokpa of Umu-Nwoko Royal family and grandson of Obi Nwoko I . Diokpa Onwuamaonyeukwu told the history of the throne and having confirmed that Nwabuokei was the first son of Obi Nwoko I, it was resolved further that Prince Solomon Eziokwubundu Nwabuokwi Nwoko as the only surviving son of Nkanya the only son of Nwabuokei should be the Obi designate . This aligns with the primogeniture practice of royal succession in most Anioma land.
The Umu-Nwoko Royal family through Diokpa Onwuamaonyeukwu Esuzor Nwoko presented Prince Soolomon Eziokwubundu Nwabuokei Nwoko to the Obi in Council of Idumuje-Ugboko headed by the Iyase Chief Christopher Ogwu who also has forwarded same to the Aniocha North Traditional Rulers Committee since 2018.
To consolidate the legitimacy of Prince Solomon’s right to the throne, Nwabuokei’s children in November 12, 2017, filed a civil suit at the High Court, Issele-Uku Judicial Division to reclaim the throne of their forebears from Umu-Omorhusi who usurped the throne. The case is ongoing as all parties to the matter have filed their appearances and other documents.
While the matter cannot be discussed here, suffice it to say that the Aniocha North Traditional Rulers Council in their letter to the Directorate of Local Government Affairs concerning installation of the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko resolved in their meeting that until the courts make pronouncement, the issue of Idumuje-Ugboko kingship recommendation has been suspended.
These are facts that every indigene of Idumuje-Ugboko should know .We must respect our institutions and values. We must not reduce our culture to slices of drama from the home videos and make mockery of our history.
An individual cannot usurp the ancient throne of our forebears based on his own warped interpretation of history and culture no matter how persuasive and powerful he may sound.
The culture of rushing to the social media to propagate half-truths and outright falsehood cannot alter historical facts.
Those hoping to profit from evil by funding acts of banditry against our community should be mindful of their place in history and in the eyes of posterity.
WALTERS ONYEISI UGOCHUKWU EZIASHI
Grandson of Nkanya, the only son of Nwabuokei, the first son of Obi Nwoko I
IDUMUJE-UGBOKO DEVELOPMENT UNION (IUDU) 2008-2012
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