Benin Empire was one of the greatest of the time. They were said to have migrated from Oduduwa Empire of the Yorubas. The Obas had little regards for human beings. They were taken as the ancestors and thereby were honored as gods.
At about 1542 AD, during the reign of Oba Awuarre, his atrocities were so severe that his subjects could no longer bear; hence, they planned to assassinate him. The plot was revealed to the Oba who instantly became very hostile to the people. The hostility resulted to a great exodus of people from the Benin Empire for fear of being killed.
Amongst the brave soldiers of the Oba and also of the royal family, was a man called Akalaka. He had a son called Ekpeye. He also has a sister who was one of the noble ladies of the palace of the Oba. As was the custom for Oba’s pleasure, beautiful ladies were drawn from noble families in the kingdom to serve in Oba’s palace.
Akalaka was a very close general to the Oba. Incidentally, the Oba suspected that the assassination plan must have been masterminded by his nearest men of which Akalaka was one. The accusation was revealed to Akalaka’s sister. To save the life of her brother, she secretly told him. In order to escape the danger ahead, Akalaka fled to Agbo with his family and there he married a second wife to gain the love and favor of the people. The wife gave birth to a son who he named Ogba. Still at Agbo, the first wife, Ekpeye’s mother, gave birth to another son and he called him Ihruoda (Ikwere).
Akalaka became very prosperous; his warrior’s nature could not be hidden. He was a great hunter and notorious herbalist. After sometime, he was hated by the people for his bold approach to issues which resulted to open confrontations. The Obi of Agbo planned to mobilize the able men of the kingdom, for his services, Ekpeye was listed as one of them. Akalaka having had his experience in his home in Benin kingdom, stealthily left Agbo with his family.
He moved southwards, following River Niger. After many years of wandering, he came to the Orashi River. Because Akalaka had waxed old in age, Ekpeye then took over the leadership from his father.
Along Orashi River, Ekpeye found a creek on the eastern side of the river. They stopped and stayed for a while, that was where Ikodu Ekpeye is situated now.
The inhabitants of the area called Ikpachors were very wicked and hostile. Ekpeye and his people planned to move to the hinterland, but the Ikpachors opposed them and this resulted to a war between them. The Ikpachors were aggressively defeated. Those of them that survived fled to the western side of the Orashi River.
Ekpeye and his entourage entered the hinterland through the creek (Utu) and landed at a lake called Odhulle in the swamp between Ula-Ubie and Ogoda villages, and it is now Ude (lake) Ubie. Though dried up, the relics of the creek at Ikodu-Ekpeye can still be seen today, the shrine (Utu) is being worshipped at Ikodu Ekpeye. They settled at the Odhulle lake for a while after which they moved northwards and founded a good arable land where they settled and called the place Ulobe, meaning, a good place for dwelling. At Ulobe, they celebrated the victory over Ikpachors and thanked their gods for their safe arrival to the place. That is the festival of Ogwu-Ukpukpumini, celebrated annually by Ubie communities at the beginning of farming season.
Ekpeye was the first of the three sons of Akalaka who migrated from Benin Kingdom in the 15th Century. He was born in Benin (Edo) and married a Benin girl called Iyavaeme. He lived permanently at their last settlement (Olube) now called Ula-Ubie.
At Ulobe, his wife bore him four male children namely Ubie, Akoh, Okobo and Upata. As the first son of a great general, Ubie was brought up also as a warrior, a brave hunter, a notorious herbalist, a farmer, a trader, a juju priest and all other attributes of a great man. He was the Nye-so-eja-eleof Ulobe and the chief priest of his father, Akalaka shrine Ogbolo now Ogbolo-Imaji brought from Benin. He conquered many tribal wars including the Ikpachors and drove them away from the land now called Ekpeye land.
The children spread themselves through the length and breathe of the land between Orashi and Sombriero rivers. Ekpeye had to his credit seventy-six towns and villages.
UBIE Clan | AKOH Clan | IGBUDUYA Clan | UPATA Clan
Occupation & Craft
Ekpeye people, both men and women, young and old are generally known as one of the most hard-working ethnic groups within the Niger Delta region. According to views expressed by the people, it is basically contingent upon economic lifestyle exposed to them from their formative years. The land is richly endowed with mineral resources, part of the reason being its unique and enviable geographical location.
To be precise, it is located in one of the most fertile regions of the delta. The water that baths the coastal fringes of the deltaic region also supplies nutrients and minerals to the fishes and other living organisms in the rivers (Orashi and Sombreiro), lakes and swamps. As a result, farming and fishing are the predominant occupations of the people. Other occupations are: palm cutting, hunting, trading, weaving, carving, tapping of palm wine, and brewing of illicit gin.
CULTURE AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE
The Ekpeye people have aged long hierarchical and stratified social structures from the families to the communities and clan, possibly due to their migration from a land of well-organized people like the Benin Empire.
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One cultural trait of the people is the agglomeration of housing that forms a concentric compact pattern. The early families founded their housing quarter consisting of a family home for husband, wife/wives, and children. Thus, a family is made up of people of common ancestral lineage.
In the social structure of Ekpeye, the smallest political/social unit is the house called Elezhi or Udho and is headed by the eldest man called Nye-nwe-elezhi of Nye-nwe-udho. A number of such houses (udho) in a contiguous geographical area constitute a larger political unit or communal ward called Obodo. There are no physical or visible boundaries such as walls, fences, etc. to separate these obodos, in a particular community. A number of such obodos in a geographic area is called Ula, ruled by the Nye-new-ele or Nye-new-ul.
With the change in the administrational context of the present day, rulership is vested in the hand of an elected head, called Eze-new-ula.
Compiled by Egbe Buduzhi
For EKPEYE TV © 2020