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Marriage in Edoland



Discussing marriage in Edo land would definitely require a definition of the Edos, especially in view of discussions that are taking place right now. Who are the Edos? Where are they located? Where did they come from? A lot of theories have been propounded by different scholars and academicians in this regards. Put briefly, the Edo-speaking people are the people who founded an empire on the coast of West Africa, stretching through the " whole of the then Midwestern part of Nigeria, parts of the southwest region of modern Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti and Lagos states. The eastern end stretched across the Niger River into the commercial region of Onitsha. It was bounded in the north by the Igala kingdom now Kogi state on the confluence of the Niger and Benue. This empire was bounded in the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and as far west as the ancient kingdom of Dahomey, now known as the Republic of Benin, " ( Introduction in IBOTA: A Collection of Folk tales from Benin By Ademola Iyi-Eweka) This empire spilled into the Izon (ijaw-speaking areas) of Bayelsa and River states of Nigeria especailly Ogbaland and DIOBU areas of modern day Port Harcourt and Ghana ( the Gas ). Remember that the second son of the Enogie of Brass in modern Balyesa state became the Iyase of Benin. He is fondly remebered as IYASE NE OHENMWEN.


Chief Egharevba took a shot at the origin of the Edos. He simply concluded and agreed with the theory of Rev Samuel Johnson, author of the History of the Yorubas, who desperately trying to write the history of the yoruba with UNITY in mind, simply crafted the history of the yorubas in the form of the HAUSA/FULANI FLAG BEARER THEORY. Chief Egharevba was wrong. In reaction, the Edo nationalistic politician, Chief Oronsaye tried to undo what he termed as Egharevba's damage. He too went overboard. Chief Oronsaye taking the RELIGIOUS ROUTE, simply compiled what looked liked fairy tales, without any proof whatsoever, and turned it into the history of the Edos.

Here is my comment about Chief Oronsaye's theory in the introduction to OKHOGISO, A COLLECTION OF FOLKTALES FROM BENIN, NIGERIA by Ademola Iyi-Eweka:

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"This brings us to the question of who the Edo people are and where they came from. Although some contemporary historians, tend to associate the Edo people with the migration theory of people who came from the Middle East, we have to point that there is no evidence in Benin or anywhere else to support that theory. Again, Chief D.N. Oronsaye, apparently using religious motifs, lumped the EDO with the Greeks, Persians, Medes, Egyptians, Nubians, and the Sudanese. He linked the Edo religion to the ZOROASTRIAN TEMPLE of ancient Persia, the BROTHERHOOD OF BABYLONIAN( CHALDEA), the secret cults of the 5th and 4th century B.C. Greece. There is the tradition that Benin City is the CRADDLE OF MANKIND, the center of the universe, or a place where the creator God sometimes came down in a chain ladder to get involved in the affairs of mankind. This is shown in the title borne by some chiefs. There is a sizeable group, though, who can trace their origin to UHE which is identified as modern day ILE-IFE. They came with legendary Oranmiyan ( Omonoyan) , the father of Oba Eweka I between 1000 AD and 1200 AD." This group is represented by the CHIEFS EDIGIN OF USE, BAMAWO OF BENIN AND ELAWURE OF USEN. Infact Edigin is a corruption of the yoruba word OLIGI-THE HEAD OF THE FIREWOOD CUTTERS in Oranmiyan's entourage. They were left to take care of the infant boy who became Oba Eweka I.

And I commented further: " We have to point out again that the appearance of similarities between Edo religious thought and practices to that of ancient civilizations of 5th to 3rd centuries B.C or older time is most likely a mere coincidence. The Edo language according to linguist belongs to the KWA group of the Niger-Congo family. The greatest influence on Edo religious thought and practices could be traced to the Portuguese, Spanish Roman Catholic Missionaries and Europeam traders who were very active in Benin Religion, wars and political systems between the 14th and 19th centuries A.D." Besides, religious concept spread like wild fire. You do not have to be conquered or occupied for neighboring communities to copy religious practices of one another. You do not also need a wave of migration.

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R. Bradbury, the author of BENIN STUDIES was right when he wrote the following: " There are many villages in the Benin Kingdom whose inhabitants have no tradition that their ancestors came from elsewhere. Some informants speak vaguely of general migration from the east and others trace everything back to IFE---a tendency which may simply follow from the fact IFE is the accepted origin of the present ruling dynasty. In Benin City, certain wards claim to have been on the spot from the beginning, but of the remainder say that their founders came from Ife as followers of the father of the first Oba or at a later date.

Therefore, despite the diggings by archeologists in and around Benin City, none had said with certainty that the Edos came from Egypt, Sudan or elsewhere. We have the EDO ORE ISI OGHE AGBON (Edorisiagbon) school and the UHE school of thought. The Mideast theory is an attempt to link the African tribes to the biblical ADAM AND EVE.

Ademola Iyi-Eweka