EZECHIME CLAN- AN ANALYSIS
This town lies to the Northeast of the Ezechime area close to Edo State. The Ezi people say their ancestor “Ushi” was a son of Ezechima. Another account identifies Ifite as the founder. Ezi is unique since its just a single town unlike the Issele and Onicha groups. Ushi or Ifite was said to have had five children giving rise to the five villages of Ogbeobi, Ogbeuwafu, Ogbeakwu, Umuolo and Ogbeofu. Now, from the more “stronger” towns of Issele-Uku, Onicha-Ugbo and Obior, the claim of Ezi descending from a son of Ezechima is questioned. It rather identifies “Ifite” as a daughter who was married to “Ushi” , a relative of the founder of Obomkpa called “Anagba”. Thus from these three towns we are made to understand that Ezechima had three children Ukpali, Onicha and Oligbo but the Obomkpa and Ezi people add Anagba and Ushi respectively giving the number to five. Ifite is claimed to be a daughter not a son and was born during a journey. She was married to Ushi, and they co-ruled and founded Ezi. Ezi itself is derived from “Ezi-Uzor” or good abode. Ezi seems not to be involved in the “seniority tussle” which had bedeviled the accounts from Obior, Onicha-Ugbo and Issele-Uku. It agrees that Ezechima did “come from Benin” and one of his sons founded the town.
1. Ezi is not involved in the tussle thus it would possibly have a more honest narrative on Ezechima. Unfortunately I don’t have much material on Ezi community. Comparison of the king list of Ezi (with 13 names) with Issele-Uku (now with 15 names) suggests it could be a younger settlement though we cannot be very sure of this.
2. The association of the name “Ezi” and “Ifite” is unique only to Igbo people. In fact the full name of Ezi-Uzor(as its often called) is Ezinifite(or Ezifite). I am aware of an Ezinifitte town around Nnewi in Anambra State and in Mbaise is Ezinihitte in Imo State. Ezi and Ifite are often associated with the Umueri clan and its usually used in naming several communities especially within towns in Anambra State(often used for directions). Thus, it gives some clues that Ezi and indeed Umuezechima possibly has some eastern Igbo connection specifically the Umueri people. It is therefore not suprising that in some accounts Chime is identified as migrating from Nri , settled in Benin and got married to Princess Edeleyo of Benin who is called "Eze(chi)".
Obomkpa gives an entirely new perspective to the narrative. It says Ezechime was originally of Igbo origin from Ogidi. Yes, Igbo origin. Ogidi in this account is not the Ogidi in the present Anambra State. Rather, Ogidi is identified as an autochthonous West Igbo kingdom related to Ogidi on the other side of the Niger. The narrative says that an Oba of Benin demanded for tributes from the vassal West Igbo chiefdoms. The ruler of Ogidi, Ezechime refused and for this reason the Oba declared war on Ogidi, his kingdom. After a long struggle, Ogidi was leveled and what was left of its population was deported to Benin (similar to the deportation policy of the old Babylonian Empire). In their captivity, Ezechime died of heart-break but his descendants and followers were conscious of the fact that they were never of Edo origin. However, the Oba tried to assimilate them as Bini people. Some of Ezechime’s descendants were more receptive to this. But all of them plotted to escape from captivity. They in this narrative includes Ukpali, Onicha, Anagba (the founder of Obomkpa), and Ifite all children of Ezechime and other citizens of the vanquished Ogidi kingdom.
They left Benin on the day they agreed on but some of their relatives who had been more receptive to Benin Society reported them to the Oba. The Oba got angry and sent his soldiers after them. Anagba using his magic (for he was well versed in native medicine) used his astral powers and sensed the approaching Benin army and whisked his people far from them. They got to their old town of Ogidi. It has been taken over by forests and there was no incentive for them to remain together and for this reason each of them left to found their own settlement. This was how the towns were dispersed.
Obamkpa accepts the seniority of Obior. But from the tussle-bound kingdoms of Obior, Onicha-Ugbo and Issele-Uku; the narrative is different. It rather identifies Anagba as a follower of Ezechime and not his son. They all agree that Anagba came from Nri or an eastern homeland. When HIS RELATIVE Ezechime died, Anagba decided to go back to his eastern homeland. But his wife was pregnant and for this reason, he decided to make a tent out of “Mkpa leaves”. This was how the name “Obamkpa” originated from. Thus while an account suggests that Anagba was a follower of Ezechime; another indicates that he was related to Ezechime via blood and they descend from a West Igbo homeland.
Obamkpa has three villages of Ogbeobi, Ukpatu and Ogbeonei. Ugboba , now an autonomous town used to be a part of Obomkpa putting a question to the inclusion of Ugboba as part of Odiani clan rather than Ezechima clan. Another attached town to Obomkpa is the small town of Ogodor which is related to Ugboba. Both descend from people who came from Ishan-Edo land but have been fully absorbed as Igbo people.
1. This narrative is very interesting. Simply because it gives an authentic Igbo origin to Ezechime. It also gives an alternative explanation how the title of “Eze” came about . Since Obomkpa is not involved in such squabbles, her account could be less tainted with distortions. This account confirms the documented narrative given by the American anthropologist, NW Thomas in his 1913 (earlier than any written account) work which suggested that Ezechime’s original homeland is somewhere between the present towns of Igbodo and Onicha-Ugbo(before these towns were founded there was a now extinct kingdom in the area). Could the now long extinct Ogidi kingdom lie somewhere between Onicha-Ugbo and Igbodo or somewhere in Enuani heartland? There will be need to carry out massive excavation of the entire area to verify these claims. There is already such indication already. At Ashama (in Aniocha South), ancient mud sculptures which were sadly destroyed due to poor handling indicates that many of our towns had been founded in areas which had been occupied by extinct communities. Ubulu people talk of the extinct Ozalla people; Aboh talks of the confederation of the now extinct Ewelie people. Ancient economic trees such as palm trees, kola nuts and so on were found in some of our jungles. These jungles were largely “claimed” in the twentieth century by farmers, nobody can really say who planted these trees.
Its also noteworthy that the historian, Prof Isichei noted in her book, that other versions suggesting a West Igbo homeland for the Umuezechima people actually exists and this narrative confirms it. Also, in the Onitsha-Mmili narrative which we will treat later, it suggests that Chime was the king of a kingdom called “Ado” and after losing the war with the Oba of Benin, decided to leave the vanished Ado homeland to found a new kingdom along the Niger. Since Onitsha is near the eastern Niger Ogidi, there will be naturally that tendency to talk of an ancient “Ado” kingdom rather than an ancient “Ogidi” kingdom. If they had stuck to Ogidi like Obomkpa, it would make them appear “inferior” to a “less civilized” neighbouring town of Ogidi.
2. I do however agree that Anagba may not have been a son of Ezechime. But they were related no doubt. This seems to be the reason why the town is not interested in the superiority squabble that exists between Obior, Onicha-Ugbo and Issele-Uku.
3. In some documents, Obomkpa is not included as part of Ezechime clan. Rather its included in Odiani clan where it forms a cluster of three clans namely Obomkpa itself and the dependent communities of Ugboba and Ogodor. Ugboba used to be part of Obomkpa. While Ogodor is an offshoot of Ugboba. Ugboba and Ogodor claim they migrated from Esan land. Adioge is the founder of Ugboba while a descendant called Okogboi founded Ogodor. Ugboba means “father’s farm” while Ogodor means “pond”. Ogodor and Ugboba both have Obis ; not Okpalabisis. In my opinion because of their attachment to Obomkpa, they should be placed as Umuezechime clan(but all will be considered as a single unit) or Obomkpa could be transferred to Odiani clan(where the three towns could be independently recognized) and merged with her dependencies.
4. Ase one of the early founders of Onitsha and the ancestor of Ase town in Ndokwa East was a native of Obomkpa. I will give explain the relationship in a later part.
5. Benin accounts support the idea that there were several now extinct West Igbo chiefdoms. Obuobu, the crown Prince of Benin and son of Oba Ewedor of Benin died according to Edo accounts in wars with "Igbo" people in the 1200s. Since the Benin Empire did not extend beyond the Niger to eastern Igbo land even when it was at the height of its power in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, "Igbo land" in this case could only had been in reference to western Igbo land.