HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS OKOJIE OKOLO, 33rd ONOJIE OF UROMI – [Season Two] By Kingsley Ohens
In our season one of this story, many questions were asked;
* Why is it that there is Idumokolo in Amedokhian, did king okolo ever reside there?
* Tell us how his reign was in two parts; 1900-1918 and 1932-1944?
* Was Prince Okojie okolo Crown the onojie of Uromi before taking to Calabar?
Hummmmmmm, great questions, now follow us as we take you through the next part of this great history to see if the questions will be answered.
With the death of Onojie Okolo Aitua of Uromi who was murdered by the British troops, the heir apparent to the throne, Prince Okojie was exile to calabar and Uromi people were left without a king. You should know that in Uromi, other part of Esan land and in the great Bini Kingdom, ascendancy to the royal throne was and is still hereditary, the first son steps into his father position after customary ceremonies. The old age custom still stand.
When Onojie Aitua Okolo died in 1900 and his first son Prince Okojie Okolo exile to calabar, the Uromi royal throne was left vacant. The white men initiated a new form of administration, Uromi was completely under their(whitemen) control. A man from owa near Benin called Ebohon a warrior was appointed by the oyinbo to rule over Uromi. This was the beginning of the British concept of indirect rule. Hummmmmmm.
NOTE: The Uromi people hate ebohon with passion……………………
Prince Iyoha was the second son of Okolo Aitua and his mother was of Obaseki Agho of Bini relation. Iyoha grew up as one of the business men of Obaseki Agho. He was often called Ojiuromi in other to differentiate him from other agents of the Bini chief. He became rich through the trade with Coast-Ozigono. Following the death of his father and the exile of his brother, Prince Iyoha was optimistic that he could be Crown the Onojie of Uromi. The British overlord soon realized that if they left Iyoha on the throne of Uromi in succession to Okolo Aitua, they would not be able to establish their position properly. Nonetheless the Uromi people need a high-handed man that can bring down their temper after the murder of their king Okolo and the arrest and exile of their great and fearless Prince Okojie Okolo to calabar.
For Prince Okojie Okolo, the long walk to the seat of power (throne) was not bed of roses for him. Apart from the fact that their was now a regime in Uromi under the white men rule, there was a serious, stronger contender to the throne, that’s his younger brother, Prince Iyoha. You would recall that the race started from the womb. Iyoha contended that he stayed in his mother’s womb for 9 months and Okojie 7 months, though born second place but he was the first to enter his ancestral home in spirit and that Prince Okojie Okolo was only usurping his position, right and chance to be Crowned Onojie of Uromi, so the struggle continued. Hummmmmmm.
When Prince Okojie Okolo returned from Calabar, he first stayed at Ebhale’s house in Ebhoiyi while the ruins of the palace was being built. He then went to Idumuewele a quarter between the palace and Id-Ekhere and began the customary burial ceremonies of his late father, Okolo Aitua before he was installed the Onoji towards the end of 1900.
NOTE; The return of Eben to the oba of Benin, which was the case in all enejie that ever ruled Uromi from Ijesan to Okolo Aitua, ended with the installation of HRH OKOJIE OKOLO. no Eben was return to Bini during installation. It is so for the rest Enijie that ruled after him. The Ebhoiyi people are purely responsible for the burial rites. A date is taken and burial rites are fulfilled in the customary manner. As the burial last, every village comes in turn to play its part as tradition dictates bringing various homage items,, dances and these climax with matured girls marching nude from the village to and fro the royal palace in procession (Ukpukpe). This is nude beauty parade, and here the Onojie can cause a string of coral beads to be put on the neck of his desire would be Queen. This causes no dispute for as it is said, it is done. The Prince now proceeds to pay homage to traditional shrines in some villages; Egbele is the first village in Uromi taking the lead follow by Efandion, and others.
This is climaxed by the real crowing, which done by the second in command, Chief Oniha of efandion who lays the crown on the Onojie’s head. This action ends Chief Oniha’s stay on the throne as the acting Onojie of Uromi.
This crowing of the Onojie by Chief Oniha was an old age tradition handed down from generation to generation. This was repeal by the Ebhoiyi elders during the crowing of the present Onojie of Uromi, His Royal Highness Zaiki Anslem Aidenojie ll in July 1991. Before the crowning of the Onojie, the agitation to change this age long custom by prince Dixon Okojie caught fire and had wide acceptance. The promoter of this change explain that the second in command to the Onojie of Uromi is chief Oniha who traditionally is trusted with the right to crown the onojie of Uromi. It was said that if a stubborn Oniha who refuses to perform this traditional rite, he would have succeeded in holding the throne to ransom, and if he connived with some imposters not to have an Onojie crowned, there would be a deadlock. It was unanimously resolved that as from then only Odionwele of Ebhoiyi should lay Crown on the prince head, the heir apparent to the throne. The first to benefit from this arrangement is the Onojie of Uromi, HRH ANSELM AIDENOJIE II.
Back to our story, so;
Onojie Okojie Okolo, the Onojie of Uromi on his installation was given a mode of rulership very Strange to him. This strange of rulership was INDIRECT RULE unknown to him and he resented it. In dealing with it, he maintained passive resistance. The old order had change and gone, giving way to the new one. He was no more overlord but still the head of all the customary court in Esanland. The appeal from these courts was no longer with the Oba of Bini who was always ready to uphold such appeal. The Onojie excesses were curbed. He don’t longer have strong grip and could not rule the Uromi people the way his late father did. He was uncomfortable and very unhappy. The slave trade had long been abolish, but he still did not take his eyes away from it. The Uromi people had transferred their allegiance to the British overlord who was the lord and master. The white men where not comfortable with his continued flouting of the authority and the Uromi people were also not comfortable with the way he continued to rule them with iron hand. Hummmmmmm.
The indirect rule. He was no longer in full control, there was the District Officer, the army and the police. Orders no longer flow from him except indirectly. In 1903, three (3) years into his reign, his third son Prince Ugege Okojie was murdered at Arue, Chief Anthony Anenih’s village. The Onojie, Okojie Okolo was so enraged and bitter that he forget it was police case. He ordered able bodied men in other parts of the town to March on Arue.
The village was plundered, houses set ablaze, barns, goat, sheep, name it, were carted away. Those who survived the attack, including chief Anthony Anenih’s grandfather re-located and took refuge in neighboring towns in Esanland. It was in the village that his wife gave birth to a child who he name ‘Anenih ‘ meaning “you run away to survive “. The father of our great son, Chief Anthony Anenih.
So for all these, His Royal Highness, Onojie Okojie Okolo was deposed and exile a second time in 1918 to Bini and from Bini to Ibadan. Hummmmmmm.
The British overlord were they able to break the the great fearless and powerful Onojie Okojie Okolo?
What about Chief Ezomo who tricked him and his people?
What will become of his younger brother, Prince Iyoha Okolo?
So many scores to settle!!
SEASON 3 WILL TELL.