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The Eze Ofu Ani Factor in Igbuzo History: What is it?

In that century, Igbuzo witnessed a change in its political system from gerontocracy to monarchy, a system of government the people brought with them from their Isu original home. The Igbuzo kingdom being a tripartite society by foundation has drawn experience from this monarchy, yet the difficulty in adopting the same system still prevails among the people.  

 

Igbuzo is a town in Delta State , South-South, Nigeria with a population of 423 people (2007 estimate) Asaba, the State capital is its nearest city to the town. They speak the language called Enuani derived from Igbo and are believed to have migrated from one of the Isu towns of the present South-East. However, today’s social events are fast defining the people as part of the larger family of Anioma. The town is officially referred to as “Ibusa” but the indigenes best  and natively describe themselves as “Ndi-Igbuzo” and the town as Igbuzo although a lot of historians contend that the name “Igbuzo” might have been foisted on them by their Igbo neighbours. On this basis, it will be just right if references are collectively made to them in this work as “Igbuzo” by which they have been natively known.

 

One Ezesi claiming to have the authority as well as the blessing of the then Oba of Benin descended hard on the Diokpaship system of his people eroding what had been in place since the foundation of the community.  In what appeared to be the first coup, he violently overthrew the Senior Diokpa of the town who later gave in. Historians observe that the easiness of the coup arose out of the absence of well established traditional chiefs as can still be seen in Igbo today’s society.

 

Ezesi had ultimately romanced the Oba of Benin and reposed so much confidence in him believing that the decision of the Oba was finality in the socio-political affairs of Ibusa like in other Anioma communities especially Agbor where his majestic rights in appointing Deins for the communities absolutely manifested. A popular oral account in Edo has it that he was actually compensated by the Oba for a job well done but it was untypical for the Oba not to have officially delivered the message to the people of the town as was known. Rather Ezesi personally bore the message which he on arrival delivered and allowed to manifest like good news.

 

It was a period the war-like Igbuzo never in its entire history conquered by the Iduu ( Benin ) dreaded and believed the Iduu. Ezesi was therefore like a message man who acted upon the strength of the command of the Oba. King Ezesi soon ascended the throne and proved to be one with listening ears, always willing to attend to the many wishes of his subjects. However, the strangeness of the political system he brought with him distanced his people’s belief in him. Thus, he failed to win the cooperation of his people which is a necessary tool in leadership.

 

Although, he learnt to live with his people but in the years that followed, it turned out that the attitude of his wife’s constant interference in the affairs of the town became the end of Ezesi’s reign as the King of Igbuzo. Whenever there was a gathering to discuss issues that were of utmost importance to the town, his wife rather than observe the tradition which forbade her from becoming involved constantly interfered thus occasioning the wrath of the chiefs who one day defiled her in the presence of her husband. Her defilement is a traditional means of coup which further researches will shed more light on.

 

Ezesi, who could not stand the embarrassment but certainly a change, was necessary in the leadership of the town. He chose the option of self-imposed exile to Ejeme-Unor, a community only some miles away from Igbuzo. Ezesi’s choice of Ejeme-Unor became a major historical link between the

Community and Igbuzo for Ezesi’s descendants would later return to Igbuzo even though he never returned until his death. The link discussed here is that it was Ezesi’s descendants that returned with Ohene religious worship to Igbuzo. Ohene was the chief Priest of Oboshi stream in Oboshi. The Oboshi goddess is considered the supernatural protector of Igbuzo. In those days, Oboshi was thought to divinely guide the people of Igbuzo and Ohene usually a male was a semi-human. In fact, till today, Igbuzo cannot be discussed without the mention of Atakpo and Oboshi especially.

 

Oral traditions of the community hold that Oboshi rendered many charms of the enemies to the town impotent, causing them to flee even before finding their way into the community. There is no doubt therefore that the idea of Ohene was imported to Igbuzo from Ejeme Kingdom by King Ezesi of Umuogwu, Umuekea descendants. The last of the Ohenes the Igbuzo people would see died in January 2009 and was called Ohene Ezedi.

 

A lot of Igbuzo historians have laid emphasis on the action of Ezesi following the defilement of his wife and subsequently his rejection. Ezesi who expressed surprise following his rejection took some sand in his hand and poured it to the air with a curse that the town would never find unity because of the way he was treated having had the collective interest of the people of the town as a leader on mind. It is however another issue on whether the unity which continues to elude the people of the town can be linked to this.

 

The account of King Ezesi including the origin of Ohene in the historical life of Igbuzo is what is known as Eze Ofu Ani (King of one Land) by the people. Remarkably, centuries after the death of King Ezesi, monarchy has returned to the community with Obuzorship now in place since the 1990s.

By Emeka Esogbue 

 

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