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Last update (28-06-2018)

1, Oral Tradition

2. Written Sources

1. Oral traditions and oral sources are the basic in the reconstruction of Edo History and any other Nigerian history. They are the most abundant sources which exist in every part of the history. They are important for the reconstructions in any varying degrees for all periods of Nigerian history. They therefore constitute almost the only avenue of reconstructing any ancient historical facts in Nigeria.

Oral tradition can preserve information of present generation by talking about people who are now having but have done great things in their lives.

Oral tradition can also give information about previous generations. This can be ¡information in people’s memory and narrated from generation to generation. This type of oral tradition is based on folktales, religion, creative stories, litanies, divination formulae, superstitions. epic and homiletic stories (ballads, wise sayings, proverbs, eulogies, of all sorts of children stories)

Oral traditions are essentially, a bringing together of theory and practice of historical findings and research.

There are two types of oral traditions. The first is like those about origin in which the narrators or informants talk about events which did not happen in their life time but which they heard from their elders. The second set are the traditions in which the informants or narrators talk about events which they experienced directly either as actor or interested observers.

Oral traditions help us to fill an important gap in the reconstruction or the early history of any ethnic groups in Nigeria. As we know, many tribes in Nigeria such as Edo, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa. Fulani, Ijo, Eíik. Ibiblo, Nupe. Igalla, did not have written system at the beginning and there was no permanent written records before the Europeans came.

The European written records did not also focus attention on the origin or on the history of the people. They were mostly concerned on how they could rule or trade with them.

It is the face of the gap the written sources failed to cover that oral traditions have come to play a great role. Oral traditions therefore provide us great information which is not available in the written sources. Oral tradition take US back in the provision of evidence about our past and so help us to overcome considerably the deficiency suffered by ¡he absence of written sources. Oral traditions also enable us to see clearly our history from the African or Nigerian point of view due to the presentation of actions or events in different environment, like the Ogiso Dynasties.

Oral tradition help us ¡o remove some distortions in some European accounts of Nigerian past history. The ultimate objective of oral traditions are to enable us (Africans) to property reconceptualize and revolutionize our history, from a truly African perspective as well as universal one. Oral traditions help us in the proper way needed for the transformation of ideas from a proper conceptualization of cultural materials and resources. If we neglect oral traditions in finding out our origin and the past events, it will not only be disturbing the African alone but mankind generally.

We will lose our heritage really. We may not have past history to refer to as past events. We may not be able to discover ourselves even as Edo or Binis or Nigerians.

We therefore say that oral traditions are more than one sense, the key discipline par excellence subject, for the Binis or Edo people of now.
Oral traditions preserve information for posterity. The values of oral traditions are limitless. Africans like all blacks of the Diaspora can overhaul not only history but their cultural heritage.

To do this, it is an imperative demand from us. The imperative may demand from a profound confrontation that demands that we excavate, re-excavate, write and rewrite all available records and information through all available means and vigorously gift and evaluate these for truth (or the nearest approximation to the truth) about African selves and self.

I there say that this imperative had been very much behind all the concepts of my writing in this volume of Ogiso Dynasties. It is my belief that if such imperative confrontation is systematically and vigorously pursued by writers, it will logically load all tribes in Nigeria and Africa to reject some concepts of history the foreign writers have thought and written for us.

This is the only way that we can look at the Africaness in us. And I believe that the best and the only proper awareness we can create is to identify ourselves with our tradition or cultural writers and then we can liberate ourselves from the clutches of African antagonists.

We need to be aware not just of the fact that past exists in the present but how and where and why precisely our past exists in their presents.

We may also ask what value such presence and pasts hold for their future meaning existence. And this is in line with U.S. President Ronald Regan when he said:

“If we forget what we did, we won’t
Know who we are"

The value of oral tradition helps us to acquire a synchronous sense of tune which encourages as well as enables us to see ourselves co existing, PEACEFULLY CREATIVELY, HARMONIOUSLY and TRUTHFULLY in the spheres of life at all stages and times with our ancestors and our descendants and this with all our neighbours past present and the future - Bassey Andah (1990)

The Key to reconstructing our African lives is not neglecting our past as if it never happened, but in accepting the past not only as a source of generations. It is only when we properly and truly return our journey to our homes natural, social and spiritual of our yesterdays, and search for how our present will accede to merge with our past and to emerge from the past into an enlarged future

I have tried to treat all the 31...Ogisos of the ancient kingdom of Igodomigodo, dating when they had ruled whether you agreed with me or not, is not the point the point is that whether oral tradition can be used in tracing historical facts bringing out all the parts or some parts of our past discovering, our ideas actions, relationships by truly exhuming linguofacts. sociofacts. ecofacts and artifacts, all based on historical traditional and manifestations.

Like all sources of history oral traditions have their shortcomings. First and foremost is the problem of human memory, the tendency it forgets. The more distance is the occurrence of events in the past, the more difficult they are to recall. They are easily subject to alteration by informants or narrators who are influenced by the political economic and social circumstances. Or demand of the time. For example, an informant who is interested in his clan can alter the Iong standing story of origin. They can also alter the story of migrations to support their village’s claim to either seniority or to some resource like streams and land.

Traditions relating to kingship may be altered to favour particular aspirants to leadership. Oral traditions are full of distortions and contradictory versions of the same traditions creating unreliability.

Oral traditions do not give precise astronology. That is their time perspective is imperfect. As a result it is almost impossible to see how changes took place over time by depending on oral traditions.

Oral traditions can only tell us a fraction of all historical fact. The do not tell us the whole story but only a part of it.  The story could also be exaggerated to suite the informants. It could be difficult to know how chances took place over time in oral traditions.

Oral traditions should not be taken on the face value but the age, Position, interests, occupation and health of the informants should be considered.

Informants should be interviewed several times so as to know the consistency of their stories. Tape recorder, cassette should be used because human memories Can easily forget and more distance occurrences or events in the past in commutes.

Movement of village either as a result of war, and other circumstances can change traditions of origin and stories. In recent times, the creation of States and Local Governments in Nigeria (1967, 1976, 1987) can alter traditions of origin of the same people about their relationship. The same people with the same origin could be separated with the creations and after a long time, the groups could now be telling different stories of their origins and kingship because they had been separated from their kings. This is why many informants should be interviewed.

Ii was recently that the writing in Nigeria came to be. Nigerian history has been relying on oral traditions. Written sources are derived from all official and legal documents, diaries, letters, and newspapers. Industrial and commercial records, inscriptions on stones, brass, bronze, pottery, bones, mental maps, and diagrams. That of Benin (Edo) apart from NOTES by the travelers in the l4th, l5th, 16th. l7th, l8th and l9th centuries, no claim can be made of the written aspects of the history of Benin.

Although there was a type of traditional writing in Edo which was pictorial writing where art works were used to tell the history of the obas. There were other writings and these were peculiar to the worshippers of Olokun and Ogun. It was the worshippers alone that could understand and interpreted these writings or Songs.

There were other types of traditional writing in parts of Nigeria such were NSIBIDI among the Ibibios for communication in their cult society. The traditional writings had not been used by Nigeria historians because the writings were restricted to the groups of people on the secret cults. deity worshippers or the art workers.

They were also written on perishable objects like the bark of trees, calabash. Ivory, walls of shrines and painted human skin such materials were easily destroyed as a result of war, or eaten by insects. Most of these traditional written materials were destroyed by the penetration of Islam and the Christian religions.

The Islam came through Bornu and the Hausa land and introduced the Arabic script writing in the l6th century. Islamic writing became popular in the North when Uthman Dan Fodio produced large number of words which were used In the documentation of Nigeria history.

These scripts are now found at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Arewa house Kaduna. National Archives Kaduna and the Universally of Ibadan and Jos Museums.

The Roman script was introduced into Nigeria in the I5th century. The Roman scripts became popular with many travelers and trades who came to Nigeria through the Southern part. But the Roman Scripts became important in the 19th century when these traders, travellers the Missionaries and other agents penetrated the interiors or travelled across the Sahara to Nigeria area. These people included Clapperton and Bath, who wrote extensively about different aspects of Nigerian societies. Others were Mongo Park, Denhan and R. Lander. The Portuguese language and writing was felt in Benin and Warri. In the early days of 1553, English man Wyndam carne lo Benin and found that Oba (Esigie) and his subjects could speak, and write, Portuguese. They could read Portuguese books. The priests that were sent from Portugal built churches in Benin and Gwato.

The Missionaries in Nigeria started documenting and teaching people the Christian Bible and Catechism Then languages like the Yoruba. lgbo Hausa developed from the Christian and Arabic Scripts. Writing in Edo language started by the Christians in 1910 of British Colonial and administration and other activities in Nigeria are at Ibadan, Enugu, and Kaduna as well as other research centres throughout the country. Such written documents are also kept for Public Records Office in London and in other European countries such as Germany, Portugal, Holland, (Dutch) and others

Because of 0ur colonial experience, emphasis had been placed on written sources that we have almost forgotten the value of oral sources. Written sources also have serious limitations. Written sources can be easily corrupted in the process of preservation. It can easily be lost through destruction by fire, rain or insects. It can also be deliberately destroyed by Government Officers or those who ignorantly have no value for such documents. Written documents can easily be forgotten.

The written documents in the archive may have been written in certain obscured situation, wrong infuriation and biased writer. All these can cause serious limitation to written sources.

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