Bookmark and Share

Legal decree of annulment of marriage scarcely had a place in pure Esan custom. A woman once married tended to live in that family until death. No one else in a community of same patrilineage could take a wife from another. In fact it was adulterous even to touch the cloth of a married woman. Neighbouring villages were likely to be under the Okoven system. Therefore if a woman wanted to leave her husband she might run to her parents, but anyone who married her had virtually .declared war on the family of the former husband, in particular, and the whole village in general. A head or two might drop for this careless act of love. No, the consequences were such that a wise woman would think seriously before deserting her lawful husband For instance, once she left that village it was goodbye for her and her children! She was sure of being seized if she succumbed to the torments of returning to see them, let alone, that it would be tantamount to adultery for her to return to her former husband’s compound. To crown the episode that was bound to follow careless switching of husbands, if a life was lost as a result of her desertion, custom decreed that she herself automatically became the Onojie’s wife.

The truth then was that divorce was unknown, If a woman bolted and the husband was a weakling or without a family, she was a total loss. if he was bold but without a family, he sought out the whereabouts of his ex-wife and went head-hunting in that village. For example, round about 1890, lyinbo, the beloved wife of Akhimie, heir to the renowned lkhunmun of Imule, Illeh, Ekpoma, deserted her husband and went to marry Eroanga, the brother of Okougbo of Akho, Irrua. Okougbo himself was an equally valiant man and an Okakulo of his village. One day while the Illeh Inotu were in a meeting, Okougbo bluffingly walked in with a loaded gun and fired it aside. Someone in the gathering told Ikhunmun that what Okougbo implied was that they had seized his son’s wife, and so what. This very much wounded the pride of the great Ikhunmun, and that night he and a few dare-devils of Imule went head-hunting in Okougbo’s village of Akho. They cut iheir way into Okougbo’s. Compound and a bloody free-shooting followed. Eroanga, the man who seduced lyinbo, was shot by a man called fknefua, who then fled for his life since he had accomplished the major aim of the expedition; in the excitement, he collided head-on with a palm tree, and passed out, but he recovered in time before he was discovered by the enemies; he then made his way home, but died seven days after, and I can safely say, from cerebral hemorrhage.

The avenging lkhunmun, now satisfied, also ran for his life but running at night in a strange village infested with gun-toting enemies equally thirsty for his head, fell into a pond and was picked up next morning drowned. Thus, for the reckless action of one woman, two villages, llleh and Akho, Iost some of their finest head-hunters. The author grew up to find Akhimien, heir of the great lkhunmun, Odionwele of Imule, Illeh.

That was not all Eromosele’s long arm stretched out to fish in troubled waters. lyinbo, for whose sake a life had been lost in his domain, automatically, according to Esan custom became the Onojie’s property. Such a frivolous woman was not fit as a wife for the great Eromosele and so iyinho in trying to have a change of husbands got sold as a slave.

What followed attempt to leave a husband could be more sweeping depending upon the standing of the first husband  Where he was a man of a great affluence, it was war between his people and the village that gave refuge to his wife. The case of OMANMOJE, the mother of the great Eromosele’s heir - Momodu or Osobase (Akpakpa Ayonbe) which led to the great lrrua - Uromi war of 1892 makes this point clear.

Comment Box is loading comments...