Adibe Emenyonu writes on the homecoming of the children of two brothers from the Ihama N’Igun family of the famous Igun bronze casters who were presumed dead after the great Benin massacre of 1897
For the family of Chief Kelvin Oduagbon, the Ihama N’Igun of Benin, their joy knew no bounds as his relations long forgotten and declared dead came back from Delta State to identify with him and his entire household.
After the massacre of 1897 which saw the exit of Oba Ovoramwen N’ Ogbaisi to Calabar, an epidemic ravaged the entire kingbdom of Benin which resulted to a lot of unexplained deaths within the area.
In order not to be caught up with this epidemic, three siblings, two boys and a girl left the royal Ihama N’ Igun family of Benin and travelled eastward towards Abudu and Agbor to escape the calamity.
Unfortunately, one of them which happened to be the only sister among them died not as a result of the ravaging disease. She was buried at Agbor, now Delta State.
With the two of them remaining, Agidigbi and Okoro were steadfast and continued their journey into the hinterland. While Agidigbi who is the senior settled at Abavo present day Ika South LGA of Delta State, where he got married and started having children, Okoro pitched his tent at Idumuesaa, Ika North East LGA of the sane state.
Since their relations could not trace their whereabouts, they were either considered dead, sold into slavery or that something strange might have happened to them which accounted for their disappearance.
Although they (Agidigbi and Okoro) are long dead, their bones resurrected January as their children traced their origin back to Igun. Okoro, who was the junior, died in 1973 at the age of 110, while the senior, Agidigbi died in 1980 at the age of 130 years.
Narrating the sojourn of his forebears, one of grand children, Felix Agidigbi, a staff of THISDAY, disclosed that they found themselves in the present day Delta State because of the migration of their great grand-fathers, Agidigbi and Okoro who left Benin kingdom because of circumstances beyond their control.
According to Felix, Agidigbi, Okoro and their only sister were forced to leave Benin kingdom after the 1897 massacre. According to him, “there was an epidemic that saw many people dying mysteriously.
“Not wanting to be caught by the strange disease, Agidigbi and his brother Okoro decided to run for safety and took along with them their only sister and headed eastward and found themselves as Agbor. Unfortunately, they encountered a great challenge when their only sister with them died. Shortly after morning her, they buried her at Agbor but that did not truncate their journey as they went further into the hinterland where they finally settled.
“Agidigbi settled at Ekwuoma Abavo, present day Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, and Okoro went furthermore to Idumuesaa in Ika North-east.”
Speaking further, Felix said, “While at Abavo, Agidigbi, a great farmer had only two children, a boy and girl in spite of the many wives he married. He died in 1980 at the age of 130 years. On the other hand, Okoro before he passed on in 1973, had seven children. Before his death, Agidigbi was the Oliha of Abavo for 20 years.
“Unfortunately, Agidigbi never disclosed to his own children his place of origin unlike his younger brother, Okoro was said to have told his own lineage where he came from before he died in 1973.”
Felix said but for the constant interaction he and his brothers and sister have with their cousins at Idumuesaa (Okoro’s children) they would have not been able to trace their origin to Igun, Benin City.
“Our grandfather, was the Oliha of Abavo for a period of 20 years and died in 1980 at the age of 130 years. All that period he was alive, he never told his children or his grand children he is from Benin. However, his brother Okoro told his own children that they are not from Idumuesaa, but from Benin. So it was from the children of Okoro that we knew we are from Igun because we are always in constant touch with them having identified them as our relations.
“We would have long came but for the discouraging words of one of the wives of Okoro who told us that we cannot meet up with the rituals involved to fully reintegrate back to Benin. However, through the efforts of one of his grand sons, Israel Bamidele, fondly called “Zulu Nwamama” who said he was in a dream when his own direct father told him he is the only one who will bring back the whole of Agidigbi and Okoro back to Benin, their root.
“So all that we are doing here today is his personal sacrifices to ensure that that dream become a reality which is the final burial rites of those two men who left Benin shortly after 1897 invasion,” Felix said.
Corroborating Felix narratives, Israel said his father told him that his own direct father (Okoro) confided in him where he came from, adding that when his grandparents died, there was so much poverty in the family to return their corpses back to Benin as well as the palace sacrifices involved being children of the royal Benin palace.
“When these men died, their children decided to bury them secretly without allowing the palace to know their sons have passed on. They eventually paid the price as their children were dying one after the other. Even after that, the second generation of children, were also dying in turn.
“Six months ago, I was able to trace this place with my brother, Richard Okoro, who also has the record from his own father. So we came to the Ihama N’Igun to tell him who we are and he acknowledged they have been looking for us. We asked that they forgive us for not coming back early enough as children of the Oba. We feel very happy and great to be back home,” Israel said, an indication that east or west, home is the best.
Tracing the origin of the returnees, the Ihama N’ Igun, Chief Kelvin Oduagbon, said Azuwa is the first Ihama. According to him, Azuwa gave birth to Igbiya who is grandfather to fathers of those who just came back from Delta State.
He said Igbiya was followed by Osemwegie, then to Enabulule, to Osariagbon before the title got to him as it is from father to son.
His words: “As the sixth Ihama N’ Igun, I am happy they came back during my time. They have been away for years.”