THE ISHANS (Irrua and Evbohimwin Connection)
Professor Ademola Iyi-Eweka
The people of Irrua (Iruwa), named after the Edo princess who married the
first Enogie of Irrua, and the people of Evbohimwin belong to the Ishan/Esan
clan, of the Edo-speaking group. Ishan/Esan is the closest to "BINI"
the dialect of those who live in and around Benin City. In fact, when the
people of Benin sneezes, those in Ishan/Esan develop hiccups, then and now.
Riots that erupts in Benin politically, often reverbarates in Ishan/Esan
land. Before 1897, the Ishans/Esans were the most avid defender of the
Edo monarchy. It is not surprising, because Ishan/Esan women have produced
most of Obas of Benin. Eheniuan, the first Ezomo of Benin, who later
became the commander of the Benin/Edo Royal army is of Ishan descent.
The family greeting is "LAGIESAN-La Ogiesan."
Evbohimwin, from what we know , is probably the oldest DUKEDOM in Ishan/Esan
land. The Enogieship of Evbohimwin is a descendant of one of the OGISOS of
Edo history. But with in the last hundred years., the Enogie of Irrua
suddenly became the leader of Enigies in Ishan/Esan land. Whenever the
Ishan/Esans are gathered, the Irrua man would normally demand the right to
break the almighty KOLA NUTS, but not without a fight from other
Ishans/Esans . Why is this so?
The reason for this phenomenon can be broken into these parts:
a) Although the dukedom of Evbohimwin is probably the oldest, it has always
been a haven for Edo princes fleeing from the oba of Benin after a
protracted succession struggle. It was also a sort of military out post.
Everybody wanted the control of military outposts of Orhodua and Evbohimwin
to be in their hands. Obanosa was the Oba of Benin, 1804-1816. When he
died, his two eldest sons, Princes Ogbebor and Erediauwa slugged it out for
the throne. Prince Ogbebor won and Prince Erediauwa ran to Evbohimwin for
safety. His mother was an Ishan/Esan woman from Evbohimwin. Prince
Ogbebor, now the Oba of Benin, tried desperately to dislodge Erediauwa from
Evbohimwin. He sent messegers to Ishan/Esan, loaded with coral beads and
money, to encourage the Enigies in Ishan/Esan to turn over Prince Erediuwa
to him or have his head brought to him in a box.
Unfortunately, the supporters of Prince Erediauwa waylaid the messegers to
Ishan/Esan, killed many of them and carted way the loot to Prince
Erediauwa. Prince Erediauwa now distributed the loot to the Enigies in
begging for their support and protection. In the ensuing civil war, the
army of Oba Ogbebor was defeated. He killed himself, after blowing the
palace to pieces with gun powder. He reigned for only eight months.
Prince Erediauwa marched into Benin City, ahead of an Ishan/Esan dominated
military. He was crowned Oba Osemwende of Benin in 1816. It was Oba
Osewende who granted to the Enogie of Uromi, the right to inherit the estate
of any person who died childless within Uromi district. This was his
reward for supplying men and material in the war to reconquer Akure in
1818-20 rebellion and the battle in defence of the Ekitis against the Ibadans.
b) During his reign, he noticed there was an intrigue, to prevent his senior
son nicknamed " Ogbewekon,"
from ascending the throne when he passes on. Prince Ogbewekon and Odin-ovba
who later became known as
Oba Adolor were born on the same day. Prince Ogbewekon was born first but
reported last to the palace. Oba Osemwende found out that Prince
Ogbewekon's mother had been misled by the Edo chiefs at OGBE quarter in
Benin City, tired of Ishan/Esan (QUEENS) mothers of Obas. Added to that,
was the intrigue of Princess AGHAYUBINI, the most senior daughter of Oba
Osemwende., the mother of the OSULAS and AIWERIOGHENES of Benin. She had
become very wealthy by trading with the Itsekhiris. This is the popular
Itsekhiri factor in the Benin Royal family.
When Oba Osemwende passed on, Ogbewekon bypassed and Odin-ovba installed as
Oba Adolor, there was another civil disturbance. Prince Ogbewekon ran
first to Evbohimwin and finally settled at Igueben were he raised an army
with which he wanted to invade Benin City. From his hide out at Igueben,
he made life uncomfortable for Oba Adolor in Ishan/Esan land. The Enogie
of Evbohimwin was also involved. The AMAHO UPRISING of 1853/54 in
Ishan/Esan land, had Prince Ogbewekon signature all over it. It was General
Ebohon of Ova, the same general who stopped OGEDENGBE of Ilesha at
Irhuekpen, who put down the uprising with alot of bloodshed.
c) When Oba Adolor passed on, Oba Ovonramwen was installed as the Oba of
Benin in 1888, but not without a fight from his brother, Prince OROKHORO.
Prince Orokhoro lost and ran first to Evbohimwin and then to Orhodua in
Ishan/Esan land. His mother was also an Ishan/Esan. He was busy raising
an army in Ishan/Esan when the British army struck in 1897. These were
some of the factors responsible for the defeat of the Benin army by the
British army in 1897
To punish Evbohimwin and the Enogie for supporting rebellious Edo Princes,
Erhumwunse (Eromosele), the Enogie of Irrua, the son of Enogie ISIDAHOME 1,
the son of Enogie OGBEIDE, who commited suicide for ordering the death of a
pregnant woman between 1830 and 1847, was made OKA-EGIESAN by Oba Ovonramwen
He was given ADA, the Sword of Office. He therefore became OGIE ADA.
This elevated him far and beyond the Enogie of Evbohimwin. The people of
Irrua and Uromi down to Ekpoma were so involved in th 1897 war, that when
Enogie Eromosele of Irrua visited Benin City in 1917, after the restoration
of the monarchy, he was received with pomp and pegeantry in Benin City by
Oba Eweka 11 and the chiefs. His son and successor Enogie MOMODU was
always at Benin palace. Enogie Isidahomhen who succeded Eromosele ,
followed his father's footstep. He too was always at the palace. He
actually stayed and studied Native Administration under Oba Akenzua 11.
Oka-Egiesan of Ishan/Esan land, occupies the position of PRIMUS INTER PARES
in a gathering of the Ishan Enigies. It is also important to note that Oba
Osemwende , whose mother was an Evbohimwin lady, had given ODIA, the Enogie
of Evbohimwin an ODIGBA-a bearded neck collar of Edo nobility. He also
gave him two flint-lock guns, which can still be seen at Evbohimwin today.
Those guns are fired ceremonially once a year When Oba Ovonramwen made
the Enogie of Irrua Oka-Egiesan, he virtually took seniority from Evbohimwin
and gave it to the people of Irrua for loyal service to the EDO NATION, as
they saw it then. This is why the people of Irrua would always demand
that, they break the KOLA NUTS whenever the Ishans/Esans are gathered.
BUT, BUT AND BUT, Evbohimwin has been fighting back, to regain its lost
position and will continue for sometime.
Ademola Iyi Eweka.