Urhobo Land: Beyond Edjenu Festival Okpara Is First Among Equals

Apart from the fact that Okpara Inland is famous for its celebration of Edjenu festival every fifty years, she is also the first to have produced the first Chief Accountant in Urhobo land. See more revealing facts and feats about Okpara Inland the home of elevation, prosperity and hospitality
AN INTERVIEW WITH MR Martins Odukuye The Coordinator Of Institute Of Entrepreneurial Studies, Delsu (Asaba Campus) Mr Martins Odukuye is a Senior Lecturer in the Delta State University, He is a renowned scholar in the field of management sciences and also the Coordinator of the Institute of Entrepreneurial studies.
He is well versed in the history of the people of Okpara and Agbon Kingdom as a whole.
The Okpara people of Agbon Clan originally came from the ancient Bini Empire. There was a problem then, it was feared that the king wanted to kill the Urhobo people, so they had to run for dear life and the people ran to different places to settle. Agbon had about six children, prominent among them are Okpara, Kokori, Eku, Orhoakpor, and Igun. Igun though is a mixture of the Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw and other peoples of the Niger Delta. Igun is a peaceful place that is why ab initio the residents have been able to coexist.
The people of Agbon clan initially moved with the Urhobos and they settled in places like Evwreko, Otovwodo while they searched for peaceful settlements until finally they came to settle at a Central point at Isiokolo being the capital of Agbon. Later on the family of Agbon began to expand and the children decided to move to different directions. Okpara as the first son was the first to move to its present location. Kokori then moved backwards to where it is today, Orhoakpor went to a farther angle. Eku initially moved with Kokori but noticed that they could not cohabit at that point so, he moved towards Okpara-that is why till today Okpara and Eku share a common boundary. Later, Kokori claimed that Igun was their own, saying that Igun was their port, which is called Unuerhurhu r’whokori in Urhobo meaning sea port of kokori. This led to lots of arguments and some people came to a conclusion that the distance between that port and Kokori wasn’t realistic. Though before now, it was accepted because majority of those who traded at the port were from Kokori.
The family also expanded till Ovu who is principally the direct grandchild of Agbon and the child of Okpara. Hence, Okpara founded Ovu. It was of recent that Ovu claimed to be an autonomous kindred. The Ovu people had a function of coming to Okpara to perform the rituals that were to be done before the Edjenu festival. The sacrifice that would determine how the festival would go. Ipso facto it could be said that they perform the rites that lead to the declaration of the festivals. That is why they have a very powerful deity they worship that is called Ovughere. Which led to the erroneous belief that they should be autonomous since they possess such a powerful deity.
At a point in time the Ovu people cut off from Okpara declaring themselves independent ofOkparaand making a king for themselves, a king with his own chiefs and cabinet. The first year they did it, they had a serious crisis and they tried to find out what went wrong. The answer they got was to go back to their roots –their father and ask for forgiveness. That is how they came back and tried to settle. It was from that year that nobody wanted to be the King of Ovu, they now accepted the fact that they are the Children of Okpara and the Grandchildren of Agbon, hence, they cannot have their own king what they have isOsuvie meaning Head Chief. The current Osuvie is Dr. Salubi who is a medical Doctor by profession and whose Dad was once the Minister for transportation and who was the Commissioner for health was inaugurated during the Easter period. Coincidentally, he celebrated his eightieth birthday.
By and large, the festivals that make us thick and united is the Edjenu festival which is celebrated once in every fifty years. We also have the Eni festival which is celebrated every twenty-five years and the Okekerefestival celebrated simultaneously. The people of Kokori also celebrate the Ibi, Egba and Eni, Esemo, festivals; they also have one called the Eri festival but not the Edjenu. Edjenu is synonymous with Okpara.
For a long time, the Kingship has been in Okpara, it is just recently that someone from Kokori became the King. We had series of court cases before the court ruled that the kingship should be rotated among the Agbbon kindred because there was an insinuation that Kingship should only come from the Okpara Kingdom since Okpara is the first son of Agbon. We thank God for our new King who knows that the fact that he is the King does not mean that the capital will be moved to Kokori, so he now decided to build a palace in the centre of Agbon.
The Edjenu festival is held every fifty years and the last one was held in 1976. The scenario happens to be a fantastic one based on the fact that it is usually a once in a lifetime experience but sometimes twice for those who experienced it at a younger age. People are mainly attracted to the festival because they want to be a part of history. It also draws people from far and wide the whole Urhobo nation and sons and daughters of the Okpara Kingdom in diaspora. Many of our people who were among the elites to travel outside spoke a lot about their culture and the Whites became quite interested, so when the time for the festival drew near, they wanted to come and see it all for themselves. The aura is quite colourful and everywhere is packed full with visitors.
Chief Agorior, was the first Accountant from the whole Urhobo nation, he is from Okpara. The whole Okpara sponsored him for his studies in London and when he came back he became very useful to the people in this area. He was well received by the king then; he later moved to join his parents in Okitipupa in Ondo State. That was one of the reasons the King of Agbon then came to Okititpupa in 1963. Michael Ibru whowas also versatile in business started very young and was doing well, employed Chief Agorior to be working with him. Hence Chief Agorior became the first Accountant Ibru employed.Chief Agorior is still alive and is presently in Lagos. All of these big names attracted a lot of friends and well-wishers to the Edjenu festival which was last held in 1976 and almost became a national issue. The success of the occasion drew the jealousy of other clans and even other sons of Agbon. That is why if you can remember, at the last Edjenu, people tried to disorganize the event. Superficially it was believed that enemies came and tried making the whole thing a failure. It was very windy that period but thank God that the Edjenu did not fall, even though people came to try them. All these attractions created publicity for the festival.
One of the reasons that have made the festival not celebrated lately is that one does not celebrate amidst crises. The people have not made any particular plan for the festival due to some sort of jealousy. When you want to make that kind of elaborate plan, one begins to notice that the festival is not that of other sons of Agbon clan. We have not really made profits as such from festivals. Those that may have made at that time did that out of their own industrious nature. In Nigeria, it is mainly Argungu festival that creates a lot of fund for the host community. The rest are recently beginning to crop up or learn from it. We need to sit down as people to agree on how to adjust the date and celebration of festivals. If it is not done unanimously, it may not stand. This issue has been raised in the national forum of Okpara sons and daughters. Which made the former president lead the formation of the Agbon Progressive Union; hoping that all the sons of Agbon would unite under this one Umbrella and not hold meetings as different communities. Even when the election was planned, some people were not in favour, so they tried to sabotage the efforts of those in charge. If we can make the Agbon Union stands strong I believe that before time all hands will be on deck and the next Edjenu festival will be a success – creating revenue and hopefully not taking up to fifty years before it is celebrated.
Before now, the St. Francis hospital has been a centre of attraction because it was among the first hospitals to be established and run by the missionaries. Unlike some other neighbouring communities like Eku, the missionaries did not leave us. Those communities might have lost their glory because of such but we have not, because when government took over those communities, they abandoned those hospitals it is just recently that we are trying to refurbish the equipment in these hospitals, before Gov. Uduaghan left, he did a facelift of the project. The hospital is still there and it is functioning, the only problem is that there is lack of patronage because the sons of Okpara prefer going to Warri, Spaele, Ughelli for treatment. But when crises erupt at home, St. Francis hospital remains the first point of call. People recognise the fact that the Nurses and the Doctors are very efficient and of course, it has the best mortuary in that enclave. You even see people bringing the corpse of their loved ones to keep there and I am sure that the mortuary has been able to sustain the hospital. I cannot speak categorically of St. Claire’s but I know that she is doing well.
The people of Agbon heard that there were lots of palm trees in the West and that the Yorubas don’t climb these trees, most of us went there to start-up businesses. Some came back to pick up their younger ones to establish over there. When they got there, they discovered also that the Yorubas had a flair for education and were also very intelligent, so they began to send their children to school instead. This was with the view that the children would not suffer as much as the parents did. Eventually, when these children came back, they blossomed in the society and other people decided to join and they began to send their children to acquire education. Among other prominent names, we have Chief Agorior, the Accountant, and the Otites one of them, Prof Onigu Otite eventually wrote the brief history of the Agbon clan which was published in the first page of the brochure of the inaugural programme of the Agbon Union. We also have the Barovwes, the success of some indigenes of Agbon clan is mainly from the fact that we were exposed early education and had experience.
At a time we heard of the problems caused by the Fulani herdsmen and their ravaging of farmlands, as for me, I believe that the grazing of cattle in any community is the responsibility of that community and not the responsibility of the government. We are in the twenty-first century where we are no more supposed to be people that are drifting or practising transhumance or nomadic farming but using ranches. About fifteen years ago, the government provided facilities for these herdsmen to go to school and be educated the more about their works, they refused education and that is the major reason they are creating problem for us. They are supposed to be settled in particular areas that are enclosed with abundance supply of grasses whereby they can practise ranching. They are supposed to be there as a way of reducing the destruction of farmlands. If the grass was their need, we can as well send grasses to them as far as they don’t destroy crops.
The government at this point has to make sure that in the North, that the cattle rearing is more or less their source of livelihood should be provided with ranches. If it is made that way, it will be a motive to inspire and hasten the construction of railways from the South to the North forming a trade route through which we can send them grass and they send their cattle. I think it is a way to make them understand that life is more peaceful when they don’t crisscross communities. Communal clashes are happening without notice because these people have pounced on some of our communities and they want to claim that they are right; I think the Fulani man should be made to understand that cattle can be taken care of without mobility.