Ancient Benins In Diaspora
(The Itsekiri People)
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Last Update (July 5, 2021)

The kingdom of Itsekiri was founded by Oba Olua (circa 1473-1480 AD), for his son Iginua. According to the traditional story by Chief (Dr.) J.U. Egharevba Short History of Benin, Fourth Edition, Ibadan University Press 1968, page 21): “Iginua was hated by the Binis for the bad advice he had given against the people. The Oba therefore decided to found a kingdom for him by the sea. Iginua accepted the offer gladly, as he was aware of his unpopularity. The Oba did not wish the scheme to be known to his Chiefs, in order that they might send their sons with Iginua to sacrifice for him by the sea. Iginua was invested with the necessary regalia and with the title Odihi-n’ame but he became known generally to the Itsekiris as Olu of Itsekiri after his father’s name.” Continuing his narrative, Chief Egharevba, said “OIua made a big box and filled it with the necessary royal attire, etc. and to conceal the secret put the sacrificial victims on the top. He had given orders in advance for ljaw men to take Iginua and his retinue in their canoes to their destination. Thus Iginua became the first Olu, or Odihi-n’ame, and was the founder of the Itsekiri Kingdom. Being very proud and fond of wearing fine clothes he was nicknamed ‘Iginua the Proud’. “Both Benin and Itsekir√≠ oral traditions agree, that Iginua was accompanied in his journey by the sons of seventy Benin chiefs. In narrating more details of how Iginua settled down in his new kingdom, Mr. D. B. Partridge in his report earlier referred to, said that ‘Ginuwa and his party initially settled at Amatu, but later moved back to Oruselemo near the mouth of Forcados River. Here Ginuwa pick up an Ijaw wife. From there Ginuwa and his party moved to Ijalla, situated on the north side of Warri River. Ginuwa died at Ijalla and was buried there. After his death, the leadership of the settlement fell in turn to Ginuwa’s two sons Ijejen and Irame under whose leadership the party finally moved to Ode-Itsekiri otherwise known as Big Warri”. We were further told in this report that when Iginua’s descendants arrived at Ode Itsekiri, the area was already settled by one ltsekiri, who was an Umale who was supposedly to be a sub-human species inhabiting the area. This Umale readily accepted the leadership of the new ruler which the people called Olu and therefore, the Umale gave the Olu land near his (Itsekiri’s). There are other versions of the Itsekiri’s origin given in Partridge Report. According to him, he mentioned that Dr. Saburi & obaku in his book. An Historical Sketch of Peoples of Western Nigeria quoted in Ikime‘s Niger Delta Rivalry, page 33, suggests that the founders of the Itsekiri tribe were part of “Yoruba migration which came westwards from Igalla; south of the Nupe country, and breaking off from the main migration stream went down the creeks and ultimately founded a settlement.” This account we are informed was used to explain the similarities between the ltsekiri and Yoruba languages. Finally, the report (Partridge’s) drew attention to a further explanation of the linguistic similarity which he ascribed to the influence of early settlers in Gborodo, Ureju and Omadesia who were accredited to be of Yoruba origin. However, the report equally drew attention to Lloyd’s remark which said that with common with other ltsekiris, the descendants of the settlers in places mentioned know nothing of such Yoruba deities as Olorun, Obalugon, or Shango. According to Lloyd the more acceptable explanation today is that Yoruba was the court language in Benin at the time of Ginuwa’s migration and the language was therefore put into use on the arrival of his (Ginuwa’s) descendants at Ode-Itsekiri.”

Olu of warri
Olu of warri and his chiefs

Irrespective of whichever version of the origin of the Itsekiri is correct, there is no doubt that the whole area was under the direct control and within the suzerainty of the Oba of Benin whose empire extended over the whole Bight of Benin. If this was not so, it would have been impossible for the King of Benin to have sent his son to rule a kingdom which he founded for a child who was unpopular at home. Thus with the coming of Iginua was also the coming of the whole range of Chieftaincy titles exported from metropolitan Benin to a new kingdom which comprised the Itsekiri who were already settled at Ode-Itsekiri at the advent of Iginua, the large entourage of Benin people who came with the new ruler Iginua, some ljaws and Urhobo who were neighbours of the ltsekiri and some Yorubas who may have sauntered into the area through Igalla land. What was really more important to metropolitan Benin at that time was a kingdom founded for a Benin Prince. Politically, it was regarded as a sound decision because it ensured that the peoples of such an area came closer to the immediate sovereignty of the Oba of Benin or his vassal. Chieftaincy institution like other Benin customs came along with the established rulership. It is no surprise that the Itsekiris with all their linguistic differences from the main Edo streams have all the traditional Edo traits, viz. - the same names as the Benin have for important titles; royal ritual ceremonies; religious worships and finally cultural affinities. These were inherited from Benin to which they belong and derived the sovereign powers which gave them the kingdom of which, they remain very proud.
Itsekiri People
Itsekiri People
The Major Traditional Rulers In Itsekiri Land

Warri Urban District

1. The Olorogun of Warri

2. The Ologbosere of Warri

3. The Iyasere of Warri

4. The Uwague of Warri

5. The Berigho of Warri

6. The Eson of Warri

7. The Aboludero of Warri

8. The Olojuwa of Omadino

9. The Olufusi of Warri

Warri Divisional Council

1. The Olu of Warri

2. The Amakosun of Ogbe-Jjoh

3. The Pere of Isaba

4. Th Alema of Abougborodo

5. The Oloton of Koko

6. The Olunuranran of Ajagbodudu

7. The Duwe of Koko

8. The Dada of Obiteugbo

9. The Ikenuwa of Kantu

10. The Owasan of Kantu

11. The Oluye of Gbaran

12. The Orori of Gborodo

13. The Oro mokelobeyewa of Ajafini

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Benin kingdom copy right