Obiaruku town is the headquater of Ukwuani Local Government Area (LGA), Delta State, Nigeria. It is one of the major homeland of the Ukwuani speaking(akashiada) people. The Okpala-Ukwu of Obiaruku is the oldest male in the town.
In Ukwuani language, Obi means "the heart, the center, the point, the main", while Aruku is the local name of the trees found in the area. These trees are big and have canopy shades which made it comfortable for the founders of the area to settle under. Put together "ObiAruku" means "the settlement founded around the great tree" or a "great work" or a "great event".
History of Obiaruku (Ekpemili) people of Ukwuani
A well grown town extending 18 kilometers north of the River Ethiope and a predominant trade zone found in the southern part of Nigeria. It shares borders to the north with the Benin division (fondly called the Idus by Ukwuani), on the south by her inherent brothers (the Akashiada clan), on the west by her neighboring Edoid settlers (the Urhobos) and the south east by fellow Ukwuani’s, Umukwata. The geographical position of Obiaruku, places the town at a focal point of trade between her boundary counterparts, the Akashiadas, the Urhobos, the Ikas and her former heritage the Idus. The town is a growing rural centre and head quarters of the Ukwuani local government council area the last in three local government areas given to the second largest ethnicity in delta state of Nigeria. Obiaruku settlers are inherent farmers, yams and cassava are cultivated for subsistence and export, and the men are both farmers and fishermen. Other variety of cash and domestic crops are cultivated such as the melon, Pumpkin leaves, local beans, Maize and other crops. The women also assist their husbands and have the rights to trade produce that are meant for cash income at the market (Afia ogbe). During the early 20th century, Obiaruku was a dominant commercial region for palm produces, Rubber and timber hence the location of the African Hardwood Company just across the River Ethiope in Okuzu quarters of the town during the mid term of the 20th century. At the time of the arrival of the colonial masters Obiaruku was already a fully integrated town and reports have it that there were five recognized quarters at the time: Ogbe-Obiaruku (Ogbe-aka and Ogbe-ofu ), Umu Edede, Okuzu(Obodoagu), Obi-Ugbe, and Umu Esume clans.
Traditional Historical Line of Origin
Though there’s no controversy on the heterogeneity of the Obiaruku clans in tracing their very foremost heritage through the Benin kingdom. However from varying accounts and information’s from elders across constituent quarters of Obiaruku it is of paramount importance and need that we discuss the very sole father of our origins. As it is known and invariably undisputed the first wave of migrants from Benin to settle in the Ukwuani nation were the Umu-Akashiada, Ebedei and the Akarai clans occupying the best parts of the country with no disputes. This migration was said to be around the 13th to 14th century during the reign of the Ogiso’s of Benin. Among the early settlers, the Umu Akashiada claim to be the earliest settlers in the Ukwuani land. Akashiada was said to be a warrior then and was the father of Okpo, Ezie and Ebu while there was a fourth son called Ovilli from the second wife usually recognized as the unfavoured wife. After the death of Akashiada around the early 14th century, the first settlement at Umuoshi in now Eziokpor became too congested for all the settlers. And hence as it is traditional and customary of the Ukwuani’s, Okpo the eldest son was betrothed with the inherent centralized geographical settlement, while Ezie was given the lands to the east and Ebu being the youngest was given to the west and Ovilli being the unfavored son with his mother whom is very much believed to be of the Urhobo Extraction migrated further east to the current Abraka inland and integrated vehemently with other settlers there. After these migrations, Okpo’s settlement became known as Eziokpor, Ezie’s settlement became known as Ezionum and Ebu’s settlement became known as Umuebu literary meaning the descendants or children of Ebu. It should be noted that Ebu settled at first in Obi Agbuluga then moved to Obi-ata before finally settling at present site called Umuebu just an Opposite of Obiaruku. In Eziokpor history holds it that a section of the next Aboh conquering party stopped and founded the Umu-Esume quarters of Eziokpor. Also a group of people from Ogume joined and linked up with the infamous Ebo-odu family of ogbeiso quarters in Umuebu still.Today current and unfounded literature holds it that one Nmorka founded Obi Aluku(Customarily called Obiaruku) in the middle of the 19th century during a hunting expedition from Umuebu and that he hails from umu Ojugbeli in Umuebu. This fact is widely disputed by the Okuzu and Umu-Esume quarters of Obiaruku. Though there is not much to contemplate further as Okulugbo, 2004 mentioned that the then Morka (a man whose very origin has been disputed seriously and much acclaimed to have hailed from our Ika neighbors) founded the Ogbe-aka quarters of present Obiaruku hence he is right because such hunting expeditions were not uncommon, but what holds wrong in that fact is that he definitely had met already settlers at the more centralized Okuzu region. Because the whole current region referred to now was known as Obi-Ugbo and Obi-Nkwu strectching from Okuzu present site to the very ancestry boundary near present day Owa-Abbi. Now let’s take the whole table historically to during the reigns of Oba Evwuare the great and later Oba Esigie. According to elders of the Umuebu and Eziokpor clans, legend, history and even prominent folk tales in the whole clan hold it that during the famous invasion campaigns of the Oba’s around the 16th century, the Monarchy of the Benin regularly sent in intimidating parties to frustrate the various Akashiada clans into paying homage through reputable hospitality and recognition measures and failure to meet up with such expectations such clans were immediately subjected to sudden annexation. It was recorded in the Benin archives and also evident in folk tales all over the Akashiada clans that Umuebu being the strongest and most populated of the Akashiada clans withstood the Edo warriors and refused to pay tribute forcing them to flee. Hence the saying “Umuebu ekule ne nye Oba Idu” meaning that Umuebu refused to be subjugated by the Benin Monarch. This refusal was immediately visited with an annexation and conquering expedition by the Benin warriors to the Umuebu clan during the late era of the 16th century. Umuebu being a predominantly warring and strong clan then and even to date had its composition of warriors breed from the Okuzu quarters in Umuebu. The Okuzus were said to be the most powerful, stubborn and front line warriors of the Umuebu clan. To stop the approaching Idu conquering expedition the Okuzu led defensive warriors(Igbu’s) will mount in their then southern residence in Umuebu to resist the approaching Idu annexation force. Several failed conquests had been sent to conquer the very famous resistant Umuebu clan led by her two most prominent warriors Agbuluga and Izebu whom were both Okuzu’s. After several failed attempts by the Benin monarch to subjugate the Umuebu clan she was poised to send in a spying team into the Umuebu settlement to sculpture out the way to defeating the so called resistant army of Umuebu. It was the very infamous Ebo-odu family of Ogbe-iso quarters that had to betray out the Umuebu warriors comprising very much of Okuzu’s. The next expedition of the Idu conquering party were to come along with an unwrapped or unclothed new born baby that had just left the mother without being in touched of any female folk in front of their battle line. This saw to the total annihilation of the Umuebu warriors and entire populace at home, burning down their houses and leaving any thing standing to perish. Legend believed Agbuluga which was referred to as the most powerful vanished and was never seen again while Izebu was killed and taken away. But the Benin monarch archive and the national archives in Ibadan has it that Agbuluga was killed in action, while Izebu the second most powerful and second in command was captured and taken back to Benin for interrogation and possible extraction of secrets of the superiority of the Okuzu fighting force to be used to the Idu advantage. But it was recorded that Izebu being a very devoted warrior to the Okuzu deity refused to break and he was further allowed to stay hoping that one day he would give out the secretes. He married and his lineage began to multiply in Benin asylum, where today we have the current Ukwuani speaking Izebu quarters in Benin. Back home it was time for the most prominent Ikenge festival of Umuebu, only an Okuzu man was to be able to stand in front of the deity and worship it (Ika Nmor), but the whole Okuzu male lineage were killed in that fatal destruction and as such the community was in a position to be doomed forever. But there came an out cry that a woman was with pregnancy of an Okuzu man, gracefully she gave birth and the child was named “Obodoagu” meaning a lineage or town can never be totally wiped out. This child was brought to the front of the oracle and the rituals were performed. Soon afterwards the rebirth of the Okuzu nation now referred to as Umu-Obodoagu multiplied exponentially. Obodoagu gave birth to six sons in Alebue, Ozoma, Uti, Enefe, Utamedua and Owotemi comprising the very six family nukes of present day Okuzu. After the second generation growth of the Umu Obodoagu around the late 17th century, the lineage decided to adopt a measure of guarding its warrior ship secrets and traditions during the main ritualistic and ancestry worship that occurs during the Ikenge festival (A festival that cuts across the Ukwuani nation commemorating the war victories of independent clans). As thus nine days after the okpala-uku of Okuzu must have consulted the oracle which only him has the solemn rights to do, else there will never be such festivity as earlier mentioned above, the Okuzu people in the very day that preludes the climax of the festivity called Inwu-Olie guard off warders and strangers from entering into the defined landscapes of okuzu so as to preserve its sole inherent secrets against the woes of its enemies or contemporaries. This act of defense is referred to as the “oge ewolor” (Action day) in which a kind of locally prepared danger and alarm system is sounded from the hours of 6pm to about 7am the next morning. During this very secretive and solemn period non okuzu indigenes, female folks and strangers in general dare not venture into her territory or will be visited with sudden arsenic and lethal charges, such are the traditions of the land which still prevails till date. It should also be known that despite these preventive measures to secure their heritage, the Ebo-odu family in the middle of the 18th century resulted to the poisoning of most of the okuzu family wells that they made domestic use of. This act of tyranny resulted in the mass fatality of the okuzu lineages once again. Alas this situation of insecurity could no longer be accepted by the okuzu brethrens and a compromise was met that saw to the whole Okuzu lineages led by their ancestor Obodoagwu migrate out of present day Umuebu to its present site called Okuzu quarters(or Umu Obodoagwu quarters) during the late 18th century. This present site was formerly known as Obi ugbo in Umuebu as earlier on mentioned though it still encompasses present day “Ata” region in Okuzu Quarters. This same location can be traced back as the second settlement of Ebu during his migrations and also is said to be that boundary land in which only the Okuzus are accustomed to living and venturing into. After the settling of the okuzu migration party at the core centre of present day Obiaruku she was re visited by a sister party from Umuebu as well, said to be led byone “Morka okpo” (disputed to have hailed from our sister Ika lands) who was said to have discovered the land during one of his such hunting expeditions in the middle of the 19th century. There is no strong dispute to the naming of Obiaruku, as there is a great difference between a founder and a namer; which is accredited to the man Morka but not to be confused as the founder. He is said to have named this very large land filled with huge aluku plantations as “OBI ALUKU” literary meaning the home or land of great aluku plantations or probably a land of great deeds. As thus was the name Obialuku officially coined and is still in use till date. This was changed to Obiaruku customarily as is evident in modern names of towns and villages across the Niger. It should be noted that before then the whole preset day Obiaruku was refereed to as “Ekpemili” by her inherent Obodoagwu citizens and her ancestry kinship in Umuebu, this name Ekpemili literarily referred to those that dwell by the water side. This name stood internally and was used to refer to the emigrated Okuzus in Umuebu as both Umu obodoagwu and Umuebu as a whole were still virtually in touch with one another most especially in traditional ancestry rites and obligations binding the Okuzus to Umuebu. After the arrival of the Morka party who settled at the right in alienation of the more centralized already existing okuzu, they needed arable lands to farm on. This was given to them freely on the traditional lease system of the Akashiada clan, that is why until the late 20th century most of Ogbe Obiaruku farm lands were owned by the Okuzus even those that seem more geographically located in present day Ogbe obiaruku are virtually Okuzu lands. Morka and his descendants were allowed to farm gracefully on Okuzu lands behind the River Ethiope. As at 1897 or there about the Ogbe Obiaruku quarters of present day Obiaruku still reported to the Okpala-uku of Umuebu as they were still not a founded independent clan on its own, but Obodoagwu (Okuzu) had operated in the full customary Ukwuani autonomy of the Ikolobie up to the Okapla-ukwu age grouping since its inception. As at that time the Ogbe obiaruku only had an Onotu Ukwu reporting directly to the okpala ukwu of Umuebu. Both quarters lived in a very good harmony and relationship, with the Ogbe obiaruku descendants being privileged of early western education due to their co-inhabitation and mixing with some Urhobo factions of Ovilli, Orogun, Oria and Edede origins who brought in the Whiteman’s contact. This gave rise to such very influential families like the Dafe’s, Emeni’s and the Odigiri’s etc. From such dates on these families directly or indirectly influenced both the positive development of the clan and negative disunity experienced across the town till date. These were later joined by the Umu-Esume quarters of Eziopkpor and a number of people from Ezionum mixing up with the Umu-Esume and Obi-Ugbe quarters of Obiaruku. Thus Obiaruku is usually referred to the Hybrid of all the clans of Umu-Akashiada. It should be known that texts propounding the history or the peoples of Obiaruku is very uncommon, this is usually due to the fact that Obiaruku is not an entire single entity on its own but rather a settling or cosmopolitan home of all the Children of Akashiada living in one common ground generally referred to as the industrial and administrative seat of the whole Akashiada clan. As such there is usually a much more available thes is or literature on contemporary works in the history and peoples of the independent clans of Eziokpor, Ezionum and Umuebu.
- Amaize, Emma (2005-05-28). "Story that touches the heart: Families rendered homeless as youths set villages ablaze". Online Nigeria (Devace Nigeria). Retrieved 2007-10-07.
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