The oral tradition on the present generation talks proudly of our descent and origin from “Aka N’ Ubini” as the Great Benin Kingdom is fondly referred to our people.
Oral tradition has it that our great ancestor and founding father, Opute whose mythology depicts that of a great warrior and his wife Ozoro, migrated from Ancient Benin. Mythology woven into our oral tradition has it that Opute the son of Ethi, had the same grandfather, Oba Ozolua with Ogwaran. Opute and Ogwaran were of the same father but different mother.Their mothers had a quarrel in the market place that resulted into a fight. Opute mistakenly shot an arrow which blinded Ogwaran’s mother. Opute feared the wrath and anger of Ogwaran; a giant with a legendry strength. Before Ogwaran returned from his war campaign, Opute fled Benin kingdom with his wife Ozoro, his brothers from the same mother namely: Esume Osumiri, Ozormo and Etimi, and a retinue of followers.
Opute left the shores of Benin around the 11th century armed with a plethora of magical power for victory in warfare and success in life endeavors. He carried a magical staff (“Usu”) the seed of a possession tree and the artifacts of his father’s deity. In Opute’s flight from Benin his magical “Usu” was used for his testing for a favorable place of settlement. If he successfully pulled it out, such place had failed the test. After so many suns and moons in his journey of destiny, after crossing so many rivers and streams, subduing both attacking beast and men, and after “testing” many other places which he rejected, he arrived in an upland in the heart of Niger Delta. Here he thrust his Usu into the ground at the exact location where Eri Okpe the community deity is housed today. At this fortuitous spot, he could not pull the Usu off the ground as was the case in previous “ unwanted” settlements. The powers that followed, made him to know that he had chosen and approved his divine settlement! He planted the procession tree at this place and built an alter to posses the place and named it after his wife “Ozoro” and set up a shrine for the ancestral deity in same place. His eldest son, Okpe was choosen by the ancestral deity as its high priest. This accounts for why the deity became known by the name Eriokpe, i.e Okpe deity, and as at today, the age-long family that produces the deity’s high priest is known and called the Okpe family or “Olua Okpe.
Opute gave birth to five sons, who settled in Uruto, Erovie, Etevie, Urude, and Uruamudhu in seniority order, and who fanned out and settled in star fashion in five (5) roads leading to their sub-settlement in five (5) direction of space, in a manner very reminiscent of the present ring road in Benin City. The brother who left Benin Kingdom with Opute founded their own settlements, Opute founded Ozoro,lsume (Esume) founded Aboh; Ossumiri founded Ossisa; Ozormo founded Ashaka and Etimi founded Afor clan.
Location and demographics
Ozoro is situated on longitude 6°25′E and latitude 5.5°N. it is situated in Isoko North Local Government Area. In fact Ozoro is the headquarter of Isoko North Local Government Area of Delta State. Her immediate neighbours include Idheze, Oleh, Akiewhe, Owhelogbo and Ellu.
Ozoro Kingdom is ruled by the Ovie, who is a recognized, gazetted traditional ruler in Nigeria. There is no definitive population census figure for Ozoro and, indeed, all of Isoko. However, Ozoro is one of the largest communities in Isoko land, both in terms of size and population. The town has several primary schools owned by a government and private individuals, a general hospital, local government secretariat, good motorable roads. The community is a notable link between Delta North and Delta South. The community is rich is crude oil and gas which is evident in the presence of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
Ozoro lies within the tropical rain forest area of the Niger-delta. The region experiences high rainfall and high humidity most of the year. The climate is equatorial and is marked by two distinct seasons. The Dry and Rainy seasons. The Dry season lasts from about November to April and is significantly marked by the cool “harmarttan” dusty haze from the north-east winds. The Rainy season spans May to October with a brief dry spell in August.
Custom and culture
The language spoken by the people of Ozoro is the Isoko language. It is linguistically similar to that spoken by the neighboring Urhobo people. But as a result of globalization and development of the community and to enhance effective communication, the English Language is also used especially “Pidgin English”.
Worships and beliefs
Although the predominant religion in Ozoro is Christianity, many natives still practice pagan worship. This is evident in the several ancestral shrines that can still be seen in Ozoro. A critical appraisal of the belief system of the average Ozoro indigene will reveal a combination of both Christian and pagan leanings.
The major festival of the people of Ozoro is called the Eriokpe festival which is the most celebrated festival in the history of Ozoro Kingdom which is celebrated once in every seven years. Eriokpe festival “attracts people from all walks of life especially places where the people usually flock to Ozoro. It is accompanied with much fanfare, music, cooking and eating of delicious native food. It also includes masquerade display.
The major food eaten by the people Ozoro is garri, yam, akpu and starch. Cassava is the source of most of the foods consumed by the Isoko people. Garri, starch meal (Ozi), Egu are cassava derivatives. Standard diet consist a bowl of Garri taken with egusi/ soup adorned with fresh fish or bush meat.
The mode of dressing of Ozoro people is usually tying wrapper round the waist with a silk shirt, walking stick, cap for men and while the women with wrapper and blouse.
The people of Ozoro are predominantly farmers and fishermen. The economy is tied to fishing, farming and trading. The major crops are cassava, plantain, yam, and corn. As a result of rapid development, several white collar jobs like teaching and civil service jobs are also present in the community.
Until the last four decades the mode of building our houses and the type of buildings which we had in Ozoro community were inherited mainly from the Benin Kingdom. The houses in ancient Ozoro were mud houses built in three stages, by communal efforts, before roofing with thatches. These thatch houses have almost disappeared for modern houses in Ozoro community giving way to brick houses with corrugated roof houses.
The of Ozoro are colourful in their dance especially the “Opiri Dance” by putting on a uniformed costume with bead on their head, waist, hands and legs. The dance requires physical exertion and it is very interesting.
Ozoro people forbid the marriage to a close relative or any form of incest. The eating of snail is also forbidden. Another taboo is adultery.
Health status of the community
Factors affecting health
- Son preference: This form of discrimination and one which has far-reaching implications for women is the preference accorded to the boy child over the girl child. They believed that the son is the one to carry on with the linage of the father when he dies. This practice denies the girl child good health, education, recreation, economic opportunity and the right to choose her partner, violating her rights.
- Early marriage: Early marriage is another serious problem in which some girls are given away for marriage at the age of 11, 12 or 13, after which they must start producing children. The principal reasons for this practice are the girls’ virginity and the bride-price. Young girls are less likely to have had sexual contact and thus are believed to be virgins upon marriage; this condition raises the family status as well as the dowry to be paid by the husband. In some cases, virginity is verified by female relatives before the marriage.
- Wife inheritance: The practice of wife inheritance where a woman who lost her husband is compelled to get married to his brother or close relative. This affected the psychological and mental health and in some cases, the spreading of sexually transmitted disease as a result of the presence of polygamy.
- Food taboos: several cheap, proteinous food and meat are forbidden for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers as a result of food taboos. Specifically, children are not expected to eat “big” meat and eggs because it is believed that this will indulge them and they may start to steal. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are forbidden from the consumption of snail for they believe that their children will salivate excessively.
- Violence against women: So many women suffer from domestic violence from their husbands and relatives, inflicting in them several injuries.
- Malnutrition: This is mainly associated with children due to lack of awareness of their parents on what constitute a balanced weaning diet, lack of knowledge and skill about the best use of locally available foods, making frequent necessary and unnecessary journey and leaving the child behind or stopping breastfeeding before the child is at least year of age.
Resources in the community used to solve the problems
- Social and infrastructural development: Ozoro has a general hospital and numerous private hospitals and clinics. The rapid increase in health-care delivery services, both public and private, has contributed immensely in lowering infant mortality and death rates generally in Ozoro.
- Rich agricultural land: As a result of the presence of fertile soil in Ozoro, there is availability of food from the farm. There is also the widespread production of palm oil and palm kernels. Limited amount of hunting and fishing is also done. Women form a large proportion of the farming population. They also engage in trade of food crops for cash to meet other basic household needs. On market days, it is common to see Ozoro women peddling their assorted goods around neighboring villages. The present of good agricultural land make necessary food available in the community and helps in solving the problems of malnutrition.
- Educational infrastructure: The people Ozoro know the value of education and encourage their young to attend school. The people have been known to be very passionate about location of education infrastructure in the communities, believing it is a mark of progress. Schools serve as a major means of educating the people in the community on issue bothered by lack of adequate knowledge, malnutrition and general awareness of this people and at the same time improves the health status of the people. There are numerous public and private schools in Ozoro. They include: Notre Dame College, Saint Joseph Teachers College and Anglican Girls Grammar School. Post-secondary institutions include a campus of the Delta State Polytechnic and the new Film and Broadcast Academy.
- Industrial development: Ozoro is blessed with crude oil. It is one of the largest oil producing communities in Delta State. The community is also known for the production of cassava, farm oil and fish and this has greatly contributed to the development of the community.
- Law enforcement agents: The community leaders such as the Ovie, Oletus, Odios, Council of Chiefs, police etc. help in the enforcement of laws and ensure that the rights of people are not violated and at the same time ensure that the people in the community enjoy good health.
- Development in commerce: The people of Ozoro are dynamic people which is adequately reflected in the field of trading and commerce. The town its environs remains a major producer of a variety of major important food-stuff such as yams, cassava, garri and palm oil.