THE HISTORY OF THE UVWIE PEOPLE OF THE NIGER – DELTA BY GODWIN ONAJITE ESHAGBERI

Today, I shall attempt to bring to our notice the history of the uvwie people. There are several versions of the history of the uvwie people and how they got to their present location.

According to one version, uvwie was the last child of a man called urhobo. His mother was an ijaw woman. Uvwie was a strong man liked by his father to the envy of the other children. Urhobo had many wives, his forefathers were said to have migrated from Egypt at about 13th century and initially settled at Ife where urhobo was born.

At Ife, urhobo became prosperous and he was blessed with a very large family.But due to intertribal conflicts and oppression by the yorubas, his children could not continue to remain there after his death. In company of the Binis,Isokos,Ijaws and the other children of Urhobo, uvwie and his children left Ife. Uvwie was said to have died at some stage in the journey from Ife.They migrated eastwards and settled in Benin. At Benin, the situation was no less different.The Benins being more in population wanted to exercise authority over other tribes. The urhobos were maltreated and oppressed. They therefore decided to migrate southward out of the influence of the Benins. However, Binin warriors pursued them until they crossed river Ethiope into the present Abraka territory. The warriors could not cross the river, the Urhobos were able to stop them there, hence the place was called Adakaji meaning ‘ the Binins were stopped ‘.

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When the Urhobos gained their freedom, there was a struggle for land by different tribes. This brought about a lot of misunderstanding. The result was that each tribe decided to separate and search for a virgin land she could call its own. The children of Uvwie left with the Isoko people and settled at a place called Urobi. They later moved to Erhohwa on the patani creek where they lived happily. This state of peace did not last long.As the population began to grow, things became different . The Uvwie people because of their small population came under heavy pressure. This resulted in mass killings of each other by the two tribes with the Uvwie enjoying the support of the ijaw people who were then settled at Arugbo along the creeks in the present Ondo state. It should be remembered that the mother of Uvwie was an ijaw, hence the friendship between the two tribes. When the situation became unbearable, the Uvwie people left Erhohwa for the Isokos and settled at Arugbo with the ijaws. Here they were happily received and land was made available to them. Their stay at Arogbo was however not without the characteristic tribal differences. The Uvwie people were said to be very difficult to live with because they were war -like and quick tempered. They could not subject themselves to the rules, norms and values of the ijaws and consequently had to leave.

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They migrated hinterland passing through river Forcados and finally settled in a virgin land , which they called Uvwìéròró, but is known as Éphrón – Òtó by the other Urhobo tribes. It is now commonly called Effurun- Otor. They believed this was their land and will therefore live in peace .They consequently decided to appoint a King who was known as OGIE whom everybody could look up to as a unifying force. He reigned about the middle of the 15th century. It was rather unfortunate that this King became a curse on the people……

He was very powerful and tyrannical.With the aid of his henchmen he subjected his subjects to hard Labour. One day, the King ordered a section of the town to cut an Iroko tree and hold it mid – air as it falls and carry it to his palace. Some version says it was a palm tree.

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The Uvwie people did not want to experience this. So. one night there was a mass exodus from Uvwìéròró into the surrounding forest in search of a new land.

Those who left Uvwìéròró migrated southward and a group came to a virgin land, which they called Édjebarè from ‘ Madjebare’ meaning we have come to the end of the race.The name Édjebarè is still being used by the town crier during public announcement in Ekpan. It was when they found the place fertile and close to a river that news went round to the other migrants and people started arriving. The location occupied by the first settlers was later called Ekpan. The name Ekpan was derived from ‘ Emekpa ‘ the name of a kind of fish which was very common in the surrounding streams and river.

Some of the late arrivals did not get to Ekpan , they settled at the present day Effurun. The people of Ekpan refer to this new territory as ‘ Evwo- kpokpo ‘ meaning a new town. This was later shortened to ekpokpo and this is the name Ekpan people call Effurun till today.

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