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URHOBO PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Urhobo is a group that belongs to the people whose written history is largely undocumented. There is almost an absence of European record in their history. The early European was preoccupied with economic interest on the coastal communities. However, in 1505, Pereira observed that in the hinterland beyond the Forcados River, lived the Subou or Sobo a name that is corrected to Urhobo in 1938. It is significant to note that the traditions of the origin of the various Urhobo groups do not contain any specific reference to their ancestor other than that ' we are or we know are Urhobo’. The history of Urhobo people generally began from Edo territory where the ancient town of Udo and Benin City are currently located. At the end of the Ogiso dynasty, many Urhobo and Edo-groups left Udo in different directions, each at its own pace, in search of more peaceful territories. It was natural that in those compelling circumstances, peace-loving and less powerful Edo-groups had to leave the territory to seek fortunes in less populated but more economically resourceful territories.
Historically, Urhobo people's origin is rooted in their oral tradition. They believe in migration from Aka -present day Edo territory. Although all 22 kingdoms have distinct dialects and traditions that reflect slight variation in origin and migratory patterns, there is a universal Urhobo language.
Urhobo: A Niger Delta Tribe
Over the years, so much has been said and heard about the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. From the youth agitations for a better dividend of democracy to the Niger Delta youth insurgency, it has been clear to all that little is known about the proud inhabitants of that region. Politics aside, the Niger Delta is home to a race of well outline ethnic groups who social and overall existence can form the basis for comprehensive studies.
Origin of Urhobo
It is important to note that the traditions and origin of the various Urhobo groups do not contain any specific reference to their ancestors other than that, we know are Urhobos.
The history of the Urhobo generally began from an Edo territory supposedly around where the ancient town of Udo and Benin City are currently located. At the end of the Ogiso dynasty, many Urhobo and Edo-groups left Udo in different directions, each at its own pace, in search of more peaceful territories. It was natural that in those compelling circumstances, peace-loving and less powerful Edo-groups had to leave the territory to seek fortunes in less populated but more economically resourceful territories.
Geography of Urhobo
The Urhobos are a people of southern Nigeria (the old Midwestern state), near the northwestern Niger River delta. The Urhobos are the major ethnic group in Delta State, Nigeria They speak Urhobo, a language in Niger-Congo group. They are closely related to the Isokos and the Okpes, these are ethnic groups in the same region, with the same traditional practices but speak a different variant of the Urhobos language.
Many live in the Ughelli local government region and in Warri and Ethiope, while the Okpes live in Okpe and Sapele Local Government Areas with Sapele as their major town, thus covering all areas of Delta state. Their language is also called Urhobo is believed to share similarities with the neighbouring Bini or Edo tribe.
The Urhobos live very close to and sometimes on the surface of the Niger River. As such, most of their histories, mythologies, and philosophies are water-related. They have an annual fishing festival that includes masquerades, fishing, swimming contests, and dancing.
The king in an Urhobo village is called the Ovie. His wife the queen is called "Ovieya" and his children "Emọ Ovie" (children of the king). The speaker of community is called "Otota", while community elders are called "Ekakuro", addressed collectively as Ilorogun (singular: Olorogun). Other title holders are the executioners (Ekarikpokpo) and warriors called Igbu.
There are other political titles peculiar to the different kingdoms. The judicial aspect of government among the Urhobo places a clear distinction between civil and criminal offences which ensure justice to the parties concerned.
As with most tribes in Nigeria, a certain food is considered to belong to or originate from a particular tribe as in pounded yam and egusi soup from the Igbos, Eba and Ogbono soup (sometimes referred to as Ogbolo soup by people of Esan or Ora descent). For the Urhobos, there are two foods considered Urhobo in nature. They are:" Ukodo (a yam and unripe plantain dish sometimes cooked with lemongrass and potash) and "Usi" Starch (actual name of this staple is not often used) and "Owo evwri" Oil soup (the starch being that of the cassava plant. It is heated and stirred into a thick mound with palm oil added to give the starch its unique orange-yellow colour. The "Owo evwri" soup is composed of smoked or dried fish, unique spices, potash and oil palm juice). Also, "Eba" made from Garri and "Amiedi" Banga soup, made out of the squeezed liquid from palm fruit, is a major staple food.
The Urhobos are very social and fashionable people. The spectacle associated with their traditional celebrations; festivals, marriage ceremony, chieftaincy conferment and burial ceremonies are a sight to behold.
Pronunciations and spellings of the above names and titles may differ from clan to clan.
Geographical background of Urhobo land and people
Continent: Africa Region: West Africa Area: Western Niger Delta
Area: 5000 Square Kilometres Climate: Humid subequatorial
Natural Vegetation: Rain and swamp forest. A significant percentage of which has been destroyed by pollution and other petroleum-related activities.
Natural Resources: Urhobo people left their Petroleum and Natural Gas under separate leaders in different directions to find white collar jobs in the different governmental organization. When some of the emigrants left Benin, they found in their destinations in Urhobo territory some Edo-speaking settlers. Each 22 socio-political unit was called a "clan" by earlier writers especially by British Colonial Officers in their various intelligence/assessment reports. The word Urhobo is used to describe the Urhobo group
Traditions among the Urhobo are replete with assertions of original dwellers and owners of their territory. This tradition is without documentary or archaeological evidence. The distinctive characteristics of the various Urhobo and Isoko tribes are a result of the superimposition of Ijaw, Ibo and later Edo immigration upon on aboriginal strata already speaking Edo-type dialects'
Population: 2.0 - 2.5 million people in Nigeria while allowing for the absorption of immigrants and their language as well as for the impact of routes and group sojourns on the history of the Urhobo. Linguistic evidence provides a strong principle for integrating and validating other traditions of Urhobo origin. The absence of archaeological and prehistoric evidence gives credibility to the above traditions of Urhobo origin. The structure of Urhobo ideas and language, as well as their culture and other institutional forms, imply historical links between them and their neighbours, particularly the Edo-speaking peoples, and other socio-linguistic groups in some yet undefined areas in the Sudan/Egypt
Main Towns: Abraka, Effurun, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri
Main Rivers: Distributaries of River Niger including Kiabodo, Ethiope and Warri
Urhobo has always strived to maintain good relations with her neighbours from the North-East is Ndokwa, to the South-East is Isoko, to the North is Bini, the West is Itsekiri and the South is Ijaw's. All of them share a common origin according to tradition.
Urhobo 22 Kingdoms and Headquarters
As Well As Official Administrative Affiliations
(Local Government Areas [LGA]) As of 2004
|KINGDOM||HEADQUARTERS||L. G. A|
|Okpe||Orerokpo||Okpe & Sapele|