7 ACID TESTS OF EKPEYE BENIN RELATIONSHIP by Ugbe Ajugo
1. THE TWO LANGUAGES
Engenni, just like Degema, Epie, Attisa, Isoko and Urhobo, has the same language system with Edo-Benin and shares a large volume of BASIC vocabulary with Edo. Their languages prove that their ancestors abandoned the Edo upland when Kingship took root there. Ekpeye and Engenni people are very close neighbors living together along the Orashi for centuries. But Ekpeye and Engenni languages are so different it is impossible that Ekpeye could have come from the same Edo area that Engenni came from, and spent centuries as neighbors. Since Engenni is undoubtedly Edo, Ekpeye cannot be Edo, if one looks at their languages.
2. EKPEYE'S ORIGINAL STORY
When Ekpeyeman Ashirim-Unoshi and Englishman W. Newington asked more than 500 Ekpeye Elders of 1932 about the ancient origin of Ekpeye, NOT a single elder was recorded to have mentioned the word Benin. When Newington enquired of same amongst Ogba, there too was NO mention of Benin. That means the original oral history of Ekpeye did not claim Benin origin. If Benin was Ekpeye's origin, that would have been the popular story when all Ekpeye elders were still illiterate. In fact, the Elders claimed NO SPECIFIC ORIGIN. Ekpeye origins must be so ancient, no Elder had any idea where the ancestors came from. The present Benin Origin story in Ekpeye must have circulated later on, AFTER 1940, when the newly educated class in Ekpeye and Ogba began reading history of Benin, following the publication of the book "A SHORT HISTORY OF BENIN" in 1934.
3. MONARCHY VS DEMOCRACY
Monarchy is Benin's No. 1 identity. By 1900, it's Kingship was already 1,000 years old. But in Ekpeye, by 1900, Kingship was about a mere 5 to 7 years old. It was started less than 10 years earlier by Nworisa ny'Ogbele, who saw opportunity in the British policy of dealing with a single Leader per ethnic group they came across. The British signed a Treaty with King Nworisa, Lord Izuogwu ny'Ubio, and 7 others, on Ekpeye's behalf, in 1895. That's how monarchy came to Ekpeye. But Ekpeye so hated monarchy that immediately Nworisa and Izuogwu died, in 1898-99, Ekpeye returned back to its ancient democratic-republican culture until 1960. This time, 1960, it felt cheated if it did not have a seat in the newly created Eastern Region House of Chiefs. By now, though, Kings had no absolute powers. So, there's no trace of monarchy, Benin's No.1 identity, in Ekpeye's inherited culture.
4. NATIONAL GODS
The national deities of Benin are Osalobua N'iso (God Almighty of the Sky), Olokun (deity of the oceans and of wealth), Orunmila/Ominigbon (divination or wisdom), Ogun (wars and iron), Esu (great messenger), Osun (medicine), Esago (fire, lightning), Eziza (medicine). All except Osalobua N'iso are same name and function in Yoruba. Osalobua N'iso of Edo is the ONISO (God Almighty) of Engenni. But none of these is found in Ekpeye. Not a single one. Ekpeye's Highest God was originally probably called Iyeuwa, or Uwa (as the word "uwa" for soul/spirit suggests) and later renamed Ebikpabili. Other deities were Ubochi (of rains and sunlight), Egbuluka (deity of men), Ebilika (deity of women). NB: earth deity was common to most Nigerian ethnic groups. So, Benin religion has no trace in Ekpeye religion.
5. OGBA ARCHAEOLOGY
Ekpeye were one people with Ogba except for a minority (about 25% of today's Ogba) who migrated into Ogba from River Niger Ibo speaking areas, just 200 years ago. Archaeologists Derefaka and Anozie reported in 2002 that people were living in this Ogba-Ekpeye land from about 5,000 years ago, and that by that time when the Romans scattered the Jews, by 200 AD, Ogba-Ekpeye people were already making iron goods and living civilized life. At that time, according to archaeologists, there was nobody living where we find Benin today. So, Ogba-Ekpeye land is older than Edo land in terms of occupation. Therefore it is impossible for Benin to be origin of Ekpeye and her relatives Ogba.
6. BENIN'S OWN ORIGIN LEGEND
Ekpeye and Ogba trace their origin to the name AKALAKA (also called Kraka in Ogba). It's actually the old name of their land. The name Aka/Akaraka also occurs in Benin people's stories, but as the OLDER brother of IDU, the ancestral father of Benin people. Many Ekpeye historians appear not to know this. The legend says that Idu and the SONS of Akaraka came from their original home and founded Iduland, which was later renamed Igodomigodo, then Bini, then Edo. Benin legend of origin never tells of Akalaka leaving Benin to another place, but of his SONS coming to establish Benin. So, while the original Akalaka (Ekpeye-Ogba) people's story knew nothing about Benin, Benin's own story holds that some elements of Benin people originated from amongst the Akalakans.
7. ORIGIN OF BENIN KINGS
It is well known that out of the 36 Obas that ruled Benin before 1900, the names of about 25 of them are not in Edo language and not in Yoruba. Interestingly, of those mysterious names, 10-15 are clearly in Ekpeye language. How could this have happened? This is possible only if the founders of the Eweka (1190), Ewedo (1260), Ewuare (1440) and Ewuakpe (1690) dynasties of Benin, and the next 2-3 generations each of them, must have spoken Akalaka language and not Edo. This obviously fits perfectly into the Benin legend which says that the sons of Akalaka co-founded Benin with Idu (the YOUNGER brother of Akalaka) and Idu's sons.
Based on the above acid tests, can we REASONABLE say that all Akalaka people went from Benin to Akalakaland or can we say some Benin peoples, especially their Rulers, went from Akalaka land to Benin?