Olukumi: An Interface Of Yoruba And Edo Kingdoms
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Written By Osawaru Usbi Princess {Last Update August 15, 2022}

Delta State of the federal republic of Nigeria is made up of 25 Local Government Areas (LGAS) and like every other state, it is represented in the Nigerian senate by three senators; Delta Central, Delta South and Delta North.

Delta Central comprises eight LGAS and is inhabited by the Urhobos while Delta Stouth also comprises eight LGAS and is home to the ethnic Ijaw, Isoko and Itsekiri while Delta North is home to the Ika, Enuani, Ukwuani sub-groups who are spread across nine LGAS.

The principal towns of Delta North are Agbor, Asaba (the Delta State capital) Ogwashi-Uku, Issele-Ukiu, Ibusa, Ubulu-Uku, Obiaruku, Kwale, Ashaka, among others. Its peoples are predominantly farmers, fisherfolk, businessmen, academic, bureaucrats and members of the defense and security forces. It is on record that at the dawn of Nigerian Independence on 1st October 1960, nine (9) of the fifty-eight (58) Indigenous commissioned officers of the Nigerian Army were from Delta North alone. Most famous of these was major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu who led the first military coupd’ etat in Nigeria in 1966.

As of April 2010, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Nigerian Armed forces and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service both hail from Amiodia North LGA of the said Delta North.

It is also on record that the Ekumku peasant rebellion against white domination (akin to the mau mau rebllion in Kenya) mounted by the people of Delta North under Agbogidi Oligbo, the Issele Uku monarch and against the British colonialist ensured that Aniomaland was arguably the last part of Nigeria to be completely subjugated by the British colonialists. The Ekumeku war spanned the period between 1898 and 1929. Even the Sokoto empire fell in 1903, the defiant people of Delta North were still at the barricades.

Today, the predominant speaking language in the area is a hybricized dialect of Ibo but the people somehow do not refer to themselves as Igbo for the simple fact that over eighty –five percent (85%) of Anioma people are said to have emigrated from Bini empire during the 14th and 15th century reigns of Obas (Kings) Ozolua, Ewuare and Esigie of the Benin empire which lies immediately to the west of Aniomaland. The festivals language, kinship systems of the people of Delta North appear to bear testimony to this fact even to this day. Possibly they may have lost their mastery of Edo Language on account of loud separation from the Benin Empire and became subsumed in the dominant Igbo culture as a result of the fact of greater proximity to Igboland. 

Delta North also, has albeit unbelievably, an indigenous and living community of Yoruba and Igala speaker.

Aniocha North Local Government Area is the smallest, most northerly and most rural in the Delta state. It consists of 16 communities grouped into the three clans of Ezechima Odiani and Idumuje.

Odiani clan comprises 8 communities which are said to have historically emigrated from the Akoko area of Yoruba during the wars which raged in that part of precoloncoil African, during the 18th century when they arrived at their present day Delta State, the Yoruba Edo (Benin) émigrés and Ibos from the east of the Niger river had been on ground for a minimum of three centuries. Unable to communicate with the hostile people all around them, they courtesied all had Sunder who they came into contact with “Olukumi” a word in the Akoko of Yorba language which means “my friend”.

To this day, the variant of Yoruba Language spoken by my people is called Olukumi by neighbouring communities further east at Ebu, a migrant community of Igala who came from central Nigeria in search of prime fishing grounds had developed and to this day, the people of Ebu still speak Igala Language.

Deep in the heart of the Igbo. Speaking people in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State are Ugbodu and three other communities where Olukumi, a derivatiue of Yourba language is the language of the people. BANJI Aluko, who visited the communities, examines how close Olukumi actually is to the Yoruba language and traces how the people came about the language.

While knocking at the door, a young lady, emerging from the building replied, ta niyen? When the writer heard the reply, he taught it was a mere coincidence or that his ears were deceiving him. Of course, he had every reason to be surprised since he was not anywhere near the Yoruba enclave where such a reply can only be anticipated.

After all, he was more than 100 kilometer away from the nearest Yoruba community He was in Ubodu town in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta state.

While trying to decipher why the lady gave such a reply a young girl of about five appeared and said “mofera biscuit”. Perhaps, the people are part of the Yoruba community living in the town, the writer guessed he tries to find out from the lady and was reluctantly directed to the palace for further explantion as she didn’t have the right to answer any of such questions.

At the palace, the elders still would not talk about the similarity between their language and Yoruba. They asked the writer to wait for the king, who they said can only speak on the people, their language and their history.

The period of waiting for the king afforded one time to listen to the conversation and the discovery was nonetheless remarkable.

It was discovered that the Olukumi speak similar language with the Yorubas.

History give it that the Ugbode Olukumi speaking people migrated from Owo/Akure axis in the present Ondo state between 9th and 11th century AD to settle down in Benin during the reign of king Ogiso of Benin. It was this period in the history of the Benin kingdom, the most neglected of the wife of the Ogiso gave birth to the heir apparent to the throne. After the woman gave birth to the child, a male, the nobles consulted the oracle and said that the oracle told them that the child should be killed for peace to reign in Benin kingdom. At the end, the child was not killed as it was said that the child was too handsome to be killed, so a fowl was killed in his place.

According to Ochei, this was the reason the Ugbodu people left Benin. “They felt that if a crown prince could be ordered for execution just like that, they could do worse things to strangers in their midst. As a result, they left Benin and came to Ewohimi, an Ishan speaking community in Edo state. Due to intra-tribal wars, they later left the place to settle down in Ugbodu which is a shortened form of Ugbodumila means bush saved me in English language”.

With the movement of the people, there was a consequent change in their language as shown in their names. According to records compiled by Prince Humphrey Ojeabu Ochei, the immediate Olihen of Ughodu, the first six Olozas bore Yoruba names namely Adeoda, Aderemi, Ariyo, Odofin, Adetunji and Oyetunde. These early kings bore typical yourba names years and decades after the establishment of the Ugbodu kingdom.

As the people gradually lost contact with their kinsmen back home, they began to gravitate towards the Benin and Edo communities. The resulting acculturative process gradually led to the adoption of Edo names among the people.

Hence names such as Ogbomon, Ozolua, Izebuwa, Ogbelaka, Izeedonwen, Osakpolor, Esigie Igbinadolor, Osaloua, Osamewamen and Ebor emerged as Olozas.

Since Ugbodu is surrounded by the Igbo-speaking Aniomas, it did not take much time before the Igbo language started to interfere greatly on the people’s language. Accordingly Igbo influence steadily and progressively made what has now become permanent and considerably impact on the socio-cultural life as well as linguistic orientation of the Ugbodu people. With this, the Edo influence began to wane, resulting in the adoption of Igbo names in preference to Edo names.

Thus from the middle of the 19th century, the general shift was from Edo to Igbo names. This can be seen in the names of Olozas, who ruled between the middle of the 19th century and late 20th century such as Dike, Ochei, Ezenweani and Isinyemeze.

Investigations conducted revealed that Ugbodu is not the only community where Olukumi is spoken in Aniocha North Local Government as the language is also spoken in Ukwu-Nzu (Eko Efun) Ubulubu and Ogodo.

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Benin kingdom copy right