UBULU-UKU – NDOKWA RELATIONS IN PRE-COLONIAL
This work seeks to examine the relationship between the Ubulus in Aniocha and the various Ubulu Communities in Ndokwa in pre-colonial period, tracing their origin to the same ancestor (Ezemu and Obodo). Emphasis would be made on the unique features of their relationship in terms of political, economic, diplomatic and socio-cultural relations.
The history of the Ubulu communities in Ndokwa East Local Government Area and that of the Ubulu’s in Aniocha South Local Government Area both in Delta state could be said to be intertwined. Though by virtue of ethnicity or nationality, they differ. The Ubulu Communities in Ndokwa belong to the Ukwuani nation, while Ubulu-Uku belongs to Aniocha nation, but there exist a high degree of socio-cultural similarities between these people. For instance their linguistic similarity cannot be overemphasized, the presence of the “shi” sound in their dialect make the Ubulu in Aniocha different from all other Aniocha speaking people.
Records from existing literatures show the link between the movement pattern, trade, marriage, culture, traditions, etc. of these people. Traditions trace the origins of these people to an ancestral link or some founding fathers (Ezemu and Obodo) who left Afor in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State with an instruction from their parents to settle down wherever the pot of power which they carried along with them fell. They passed through Abbi, Amai, Ogume and finally settled at a place called Ubulu-Unor. Today Ubulu-Unor is seen as the ancestral home of the Ubulu people, while Ezemu is seen as a deity and worshipped in Amai, Afor and Abbi and Obodo worshipped in Onicha Ukwuani.
Evidence also has it that the Ubulu-Uku people and the Ubulu in Diaspora leaned towards each other to solve common problems such as warding of infiltrators from their territories, an example could be seen in the case of Umubu in Amai who sought the help of Ubulu-Uku, Ubulu-Unor and Ubulu-Okiti to fight against their enemies and regain their territory. According to an existing work on Ubulu Communities, Ubulu-Uku, Ubulu-Unor and Ubulu-Okiti are three fingers of one hand sharing most things in common, ranging from culture, traditions, religions, etc. They share the same root path in ancestral origin and no matter where their fruits are found, no matter the conflict, the value are from the same ancestral root.
Until recently, not much had been written on the various Ubulu-Uku Communities in Ndokwa and the Ubulu-Uku People in Aniocha and this has sustained the peoples belief that there seems to be no relationship between the Ubulu people in Aniocha and the Ubulu in Ndokwa except in language. Just like everyone is putting heads together to try and link up the past life with the present in order to determine what the origin might be, my attempt on finding the relationship between the Ubulu-Uku and Ndokwa people will also go a long way in adding to the documentations of the life of the Ubulu people and also cover the gap in knowledge.
In Nigeria, Ubulu towns are located West and East of the River Niger, covering a large landscape with a population of about nine hundred thousand in the Northern part of Delta State, Nigeria. This work will examine the relationship between the people of Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State and their kins in Ndokwa towns of Okwelle in Abbi, Ndokwa West Local Government Area, Amoji in Onicha Ukwuani, Ndokwa west Local Government Area, Obetim in Afor Ndokwa East Local Government Area and Umubu in Amai, Ukwuani Local Government Area respectively from their origin of migration to their political, socio-cultural, diplomatic and economic aspect of their relations in the pre-colonial period.
1.2 Traditions of Origin
A people are defined by their culture, history and geography. More importantly, a people are defined by how they perceive themselves, in effect, a people are who they say they are.1 History notes that the Ubulu people though having various accounts of their origin are of one lineage, Elizabeth Isichei in her work, notes that where population becomes too great and towns divided by serious disputes, a section would migrate and establish a new home, preserving the memory of its origin.2 Such is the Ubulu Communities in Ndokwa. Historians and scholars have often treated the Ubulu’s in Ndokwa and their kin in Aniocha as two distinct Nation. This chapter would however look at their traditions of origin and migratory pattern.
1.3 The Umubu People
The Umubu makes up one of the five quarters in Amai namely Nge, Umuekun, Umuoselle, Umubu and Ishikaguma. Various accounts have been given about the migration of these people. According to oral source, the Umubu people migrated from Igala in Kogi State, passing through Aboh, they had a brief stay at Aboh, from Aboh, they went down to Umuebu, very close to the present Abbi junction, they settled at umuebu and started increasing in numbers. A point must be made at this juncture that Umuebu was the first settlement of the Umubu people before they moved to their present site.
Different accounts have been given by different scholars who have written extensively on the relations between the Umubu people and the Ubulu-Uku people who with the help of the latter were able to fight their enemies and regain their land. Another source rightly agrees with this. According to this source, the founder of Amai, named Amai had four sons who later founded the Umu-ekwum, Ama-Nge, Ishikaguna and Umuosele quarters of Amai. The fifth quarter was founded by an Emigrant from Ubulu in Asaba divisery although he married an Amai woman.
1.4 The Okwele People
Okwele makes up one of the three quarter in Abbi, the thid quarter according to E.O. Okohigbo was founded by a group of hunters who stayed on their journey southward from Benin.5 These hunters are presumed to be Ezemu and Obodo in the course of their migration where they passed through Abbi, Amai and Ogume. Another account claims that the founder of Okwele was one Okpalla Ogwezi who is said to be the son of Ekei who migrated from Ubulu-Uku after having some disputes with the king of Ubulu-Uku for a treachous act. He however came to the area of Abbi where he settled. He first settled at Azu Oji (Ukwuani) then to Ogbe nkpu and thereafter resettled in the area known as Okwele one of the quarters that makes up Abbi. An interesting oral history at Abbi, has it that one Ogwezzi Okwelle Ekei, left Ubulu Uku after having carnal knowledge of his father’s wife. Ogwezzi is said to have wandered to a point between Abbi and Orogun where he settled. He later married a daughter of the Urhobo clan of Orogun thereby establishing a relationship with Orogun. Today, the Okwele of Abbi relishes their Ubulu-Uku antecedents and tell people that the Obi of Ubulu-Uku attends their annual Ukwata Festival. These various accounts of the people of Okwelle in Abbi boils down to one thing that the founder of Okwele was an Ubulu-Uku person. This goes to show the strong ties between the people of Ubulu-Uku and Okwele in Abbi, Ezemu is also recognized as an important deity and worshipped by these people.
1.5 The Amoji People
Legends on the origin of the Amoji people and their migrations have often led to a number of controversies as to its founder. The people of Amoji claim to be descendants of Ezechima who migrated from Benin during the Benin upheavals in the sixteenth to seventeenth century which led to a migration by Ezechima. According to this account, the founder of the Onicha-Ukwuani people is Ezechima but another version regarding the founder of the Amoji people strongly disagrees with this account. This account has it that Obodo the elder brother of Ezemu gave birth to two sons namely Chichi and Ozar. Chichi later got married and gave birth to a son and named him Ata. The Umuata are recognized as the Okpala Uku in Ubulu-Unor till date.
Evidence has it that the three major streets in Onicha-Ukwuani are named after the sons of Obodo. The people of Amoji also worship the Obodo deity. The respondent went further by stating how he was approached by some Amoji people who were bothered on how to serve the Obodo deity. According to these men, they were instructed to get an Umuata person to teach them what to do so that their offerings would be accepted. This alone shows a great link between the people of Amoji and the Ubulu Unor people who are seen as one with the Ubulu-Uku people.
1.6 The Obetim People
The Ubulu-Uku people trace their origin to Afor. This was the first settlement of their founder in the person of Obodo, Ezemu Aniga Ekeli and their parents. As a result of a strong siege in Afor, they were persuaded by their weary and aged parents to avert imminent extinction by waring army. They were also given a pot of power (Ududu) with an instruction to settle wherever the pot fell and broke. Obodo, Ezemu, Aniga, Ekelie escorted by relations, domestic servants and their wives left Afor, journeying through Umubu and leaving some people behind. During the war which led to the death of many Umubu people, in order to avoid being wiped out, migrated from Umubu, some went back to their original home Afor while others migrated to Ubulu-Uku. Those who went back to Afor are those who make up the present Obetim.
1.7 Ubulu-Uku People
The origin of the Ubulu-Uku people has been accorded various accounts by different people and scholars. Obi Anene in an interview claims that the Ubulu-Uku people migrated from Ife. According to him, one could link the Ubulu-Uku people to the Yoruba, as certain traits shows the interaction with the Yoruba, Ezemu staff is still referred to as the annals of the life palace till today. It is only in the Ubulu dialect of the Igbo language that one finds some Yoruba’s derivationof works, for example the Yoruba word of “cat” is “ologbo” in Ubulu-Uku is “onogbo” among other Igbos, it is called “pussu”, “ewa” which means beans in Yoruba is called “iwa” in Ubulu-Uku. In the claims of Benin origin on some segment of the Ubulu-Uku Community, Chief Ikeji in his words stated that Anugwe led a group out of Benin with the Oba’s assignment of tract and deal with a fiercing rebel group. Anugwe and his group failed in their assignment and mindful of the anger of a wrathful Oba decided to settle around their present location which was rich in soil. This assertion might be true as Ikemefuneh and Anene in their book claim that Anugwe sought the help of the Oba of Benin to mobilize troops against Ezemu, pleading that his farm work had prevented him from contesting the Obiship with Ezemu. The Oba gave him a matchet to further his farming trait, saying that since Anugwe rejected kinship and accepted yams, he would become the head among farmers. Today, Ubulu people talk of them as those who rejected the monarch for yam, “ndi julu eze shali ji”. The matchet is still in a sacred place in Ubulu-Uku called “fejokwu Eshumeshu.
According to Oral history told, Ezemu and his brothers were persuaded by their weary and aged parents to depart their village Afor, located in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State to avert imminent extinction by warring army on a siege by their reigning monarch of Idu land, and to preserve the steaming guardian pot of power “Ududu”. The people who departed Afor were Obodo, Ezemu, Aniga, Ekehe, and other families to survive the first siege. Escorted by their wives and relations, Ezemu and Obodo left and journeyed Eastward passing through Abbi, Amai and Oguma. They got to a place where “Ududu” fell and broke and so Ezemu and his brother Obodo, Ekehe and Aniga settled there and set up their first home about one hundred and twenty kilometer from their original home Afor. This new place of settlement became known as Ani-Obodo, now Ubulu-Unor and is seen by all Ubulus as the ancestral home of the first settlement of Ezemu and Obodo.
Another account has it that there were a lot of controversies which transpired between Ezemu and his brothers, when they got to their new place. It went further to state that during the process of Ima-Ani” (a practice where a tree is planted as a symbol of who first settled in a particular place) Obodo as the senior had insisted on holding the bottom of the stick to be planted while Ezemu held it at the top. When it was time to appease the gods under the tree, Ezemu wanted to pour libation to which Obodo refused, insisting as a senior, he alone had the right to pour libation and besides he was the one that held the planted tree at the bottom, while it was put into the ground and as such, the land belonged to him. And so, Obodo addressed the place as Ani Obodo to the dismay of Ezemu. Ezemu wanting to have a place of his own took his own family and journeyed inward towards the big tree where he had often gone to hunt but not without a portion of the broken calabash and egbo tree. Ezemu while under the “ubulu” tree sighted smoke at a distance, he became curious and traced the smoke. Just by the edge of the present Isho quarters of Ubulu-Uku, Ezemu met Oza who showed him the road to Ani-Ekei, on the west side of the Ubulu-tree. Ezemu met these blacksmiths living in a land they called Ani-Ekei and ruled by Obi Ekei and befriended them. On the east side of the tree, Ezemu ventured deeper and met some farm settlers who identified themselves as Umu Anugwe.
These two clans Ani-Ekei and Ani-Anugwe were probably unaware of each other until Ezemu brought them together. Their meeting soon developed into friendship. Ezemu continued to visit his friends and soon gained their confidence so much that he suggested an alliance to enable them become lord to give final verdict at deliberations. The two friends Ekei and Angwe rejected the offer with the excuse of being very busy or old. Ezemu thus became the first king of Ubulu-Uku. At this point, one must not forget Ani-Obodo which was the first settlement of Ezemu and his brothers (Obodo, Anigai and Ekelie). An account has it that when Ezemu was given the go ahead to become the king of Ubulu-Uku, he went to Ani-Obodo to tell his brother about the good news. The brother in return shaved his busy hair to make him look neat on the day of his coronation. Today, every Obi of Ubulu-Uku must go to Ani-Obodo (Ubulu-Unor) to have their hair shaved by the descendants of Obodo.
According to E.N. Nwogwonwe, though any other person could have visited the Ubulu tree before Ezemu, Ubulu orogin is certain that it was until Ezemu named his new settlement after the Ubulu tree that the tree became of significant importance. “Ubulu” with its shady leaves and trees tends to symbolize plenty to Ezemu who saw the name Ubulu as welcoming for a young developing village and by adopting it then began the legendary Ubulu clans. In conclusion, though the Ubulu Communities trace their migration to different route, they all accept Ezemu and Obodo as their forefathers, Ezemu is seen as an important deity in the lives of the Ubulu people both in Aniocha and Ndokwa. The presence of the Ezemu and Iyi-Agor shrines, festival, songs are all in the praise of Ezemu as the great one, giver of children, preserver of lives we all found in the Ubulu communities in Ndokwa with the exception of Onicha-Ukwuani who worshipped the deity Obodo, shows the link between the various Ubulu Communities in Ndokwa and Ubulu-uku who see themselves as one from one lineage and are welcome in any part of Ubulu they find themselves.