IN EDO LAND
Ademola Iyi-eweka, Ph.D
marriage in Edo land would definitely require a definition of the
Edos, especially in view of discussions that are taking place right now.
Who are the Edos? Where are they located? Where did they come from?
lot of theories have been propounded by different scholars and academicians
in this regards. Put briefly, the Edo-speaking people are the
founded an empire on the coast of West Africa, stretching through the "
whole of the then Midwestern part of Nigeria, parts of the southwest region
of modern Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti and Lagos states. The eastern end
stretched across the Niger River into the commercial region of Onitsha. It
was bounded in the north by the Igala kingdom now Kogi state on the
confluence of the Niger and Benue. This empire was bounded in the south by
the Atlantic Ocean, and as far west as the ancient kingdom of Dahomey, now
known as the Republic of Benin, " ( Introduction in IBOTA: A
Folk tales from Benin By Ademola Iyi-Eweka) This empire spilled into the
Izon (ijaw-speaking areas) of Bayelsa and River states of Nigeria especailly
Ogbaland and DIOBU areas of modern day Port Harcourt and Ghana ( the Gas
Remember that the second son of the Enogie of Brass in modern Balyesa state
became the Iyase of Benin. He is fondly remembered as IYASE NE OHENMWEN.
Chief Egharevba took a shot at the origin of the Edos. He simply
and agreed with the theory of Rev Samuel Johnson, author of the History of
the Yorubas, who desperately trying to write the history of the yoruba with
UNITY in mind, simply crafted the history of the yorubas in the form of the
HAUSA/FULANI FLAG BEARER THEORY. Chief Egharevba was wrong.
the Edo nationalistic politician, Chief Oronsaye tried to undo what he
termed as Egharevba's damage. He too went overboard. Chief
taking the RELIGIOUS ROUTE, simply compiled what looked liked fairy tales,
without any proof whatsoever, and turned it into the history of the Edos.
Here is my comment about Chief Oronsaye's theory in the introduction to
OKHOGISO, A COLLECTION OF FOLKTALES FROM BENIN, NIGERIA by Ademola Iyi-Eweka:
" This brings us to the question of who the Edo people are and where they
came from. Although some contemporary historians, tend to associate the
people with the migration theory of people who came from the Middle East, we
have to point that there is no evidence in Benin or anywhere else to support
that theory. Again, Chief D.N. Oronsaye, apparently using religious
lumped the EDO with the Greeks, Persians, Medes, Egyptians, Nubians, and the
Sudanese. He linked the Edo religion to the ZOROASTRIAN TEMPLE of ancient
Persia, the BROTHERHOOD OF BABYLONIAN( CHALDEA), the secret cults of the 5th
and 4th century B.C. Greece. There is the tradition that Benin City
CRADDLE OF MANKIND, the center of the universe, or a place where the creator
God sometimes came down in a chain ladder to get involved in the affairs of
mankind. This is shown in the title borne by some chiefs.
There is a
sizeable group, though, who can trace their origin to UHE which is
identified as modern day ILE-IFE. They came with legendary Oranmiyan
Omonoyan) , the father of Oba Eweka I between 1000 AD and 1200 AD."
This group is represented by the CHIEFS EDIGIN OF USE, BAMAWO OF BENIN AND
ELAWURE OF USEN. Infact Edigin is a corruption of the yoruba
OLIGI-THE HEAD OF THE FIREWOOD CUTTERS in Oranmiyan's entourage.
left to take care of the infant boy who became Oba Eweka I.
And I commented further: " We have to point out again that the appearance
similarities between Edo religious thought and practices to that of
civilizations of 5th to 3rd centuries B.C or older time is most likely a
mere coincidence. The Edo language according to linguist belongs to
KWA group of the Niger-Congo family. The greatest influence on Edo
religious thought and practices could be traced to the Portuguese, Spanish
Roman Catholic Missionaries and European traders who were very active in
Benin Religion, wars and political systems between the 14th and 19th
centuries A.D." Besides, religious
concept spread like wild fire. You
do not have to be conquered or occupied for neighboring communities to copy
religious practices of one another. You do not also need a wave of
R. Bradbury, the author of BENIN STUDIES was right when he wrote the following:
" There are many villages in the Benin Kingdom whose inhabitants have no
tradition that their ancestors came from elsewhere. Some informants
vaguely of general migration from the east and others trace everything back
to IFE---a tendency which may simply follow from the fact IFE is the
accepted origin of the present ruling dynasty. In Benin City,
wards claim to have been on the spot from the beginning, but of the
remainder say that their founders came from Ife as followers of the father
of the first Oba or at a later date.
Therefore, despite the diggings by archeologists in and around Benin City,
none had said with certainty that the Edos came from Egypt, Sudan or
elsewhere. We have the EDO ORE ISI OGHE AGBON (Edorisiagbon) school
UHE school of thought. The Mid-east theory is an
attempt to link the
African tribes to the biblical ADAM AND EVE.
Edo-speaking people of West Africa, especially in Southern Nigeria, have
lived where they are now, for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. The
beginning of Edo
history is lost in antiquity-in a mythical time frame work.
Edo history did not begin from the 7th century A.D. People have moved in
and out. The Edo people people did not migrate en-masse from Sudan, Egypt,
Babylon, or Greece. It is doubtful if they even emigrate in waves.
Jacob Egharevba in chapter one of his book BINI Titles (1956), quoted his
source as P Amaury Talbot, " According to P.Amaury Talbot in his Book
Peoples of Southern Nigeria," Vol.II Chapter. Paragraph 6 and 7: "
Considerably later, perhaps about the seventh millennium B.C., a further wave
of Sudanese People began to pour in , first the Edo ( Benin) and EWE (Popo)
and then the Ibo, followed may be about the second millennium B.C.by the
earliest Yoruba." Then he gave his own
interpretation-" Perhaps in a more
correct phrase, " The Sudanese, therefore come first-Yoruba, Popo, Edo
(Benin), Ijaw and Ibo, then the Semi-Bantu Ibibio, Ukelle and other tribes
of the Northwest followed by the Boki, Ekoi, and Bafumbu-Bansaw; and finally
the Bantu." Almost every African tribe came from the Mid-east.
For thousands of years, Edos have been getting married. It is
that , there is no more powerful corresponding word in Edo lexicon than
ORONMWEN, that captures the meaning of the word MARRIAGE,
as in the
anglosaxon sense. The closest word we have is ORONMWEN
All we have are
descriptive phrases about marriage-
" Okhia ye omo ye oronmwen,"-he wants to give the daughter away
" Okhia rie Okhuo,"- he wants to marry a woman.
" Okhia romwen odo," she wants to marry a husband
But sometimes an Edo man/ person would say, " Ma khia du ugie oronmwen,"
want to perform the festival of marriage.
Before 1897, girls were generally regarded as ready for marriage between the
ages of 15 through 18. Courtship can begin among the individuals
the trip to the river to fetch water or during the moonlight play-EVIONTOI.
But sometimes parents actually go looking for a wife or husband for their
children. This led to the BETROTHAL SYSTEM where
marriage were conducted
with or without the consent of the individuals involved. Sometimes such
betrothal, took place when a baby girl was born. Suitors would begin
approach the parents by sending a log of wood or bundle of yams to the
parents of the child. You are likely to hear statements such as
Ikerhan gboto"-I have dropped a log of firewood. When
a boy decides to
get married and the parents have accepted the bride as a prospective
daughter-in-law, messages go up and down between the two families. This is
called IVBUOMO-SEEKING FOR A BRIDE. Series of investigations
by both families-about disease, scandals and crimes which may affect the
families. The term of the marriage which of course may include the DOWRY
would be settled in some families. Gifts for mother of the bride and
IROGHAE- members of the extended family would be part of the settlement.
Then a date would be set for the ceremony which would take place in the home
of the woman's family. This was called IWANIEN OMO in the old
go-between for the two families must be somebody well known by both
families. There would of course be a lot of merriment on the day of
marriage when the bride and the bridegroom are presented openly to the two
families. Kola nuts and wine are presented
The OKA EGBE of the woman's
family would normally preside over the ceremony. Prayers are
kola nuts broken at the family shrine.
Rituals vary from family to family. The woman always sit on her
lap before she is given away. Amidst prayers, laughter and
tears, the woman would be carefully hoisted on the lap of the OKA EGBE of
the bride's family. Many years ago, the woman would be sent to the
bridegroom house about thirteen days after IWANIEN OMO and gingerly
either on her husband's lap or the OKAEGBE of his family.
They are done
immediately nowadays in the home of the bridegroom.
The bride, now known as OVBIOHA would be led by her relatives to
husband's house with all her property Meanwhile the family and
the bridegroom are feasting,drinking, singing and dancing while waiting for
the bride to arrive. As the family and friends of the bridegroom
the OVBIOHA, messages will arrive suggesting that there are
UGHUNGHUN-barriers on the road. The bridegroom has to remove the
by sending money to the party, bringing the wife to him or else the wife
will not arrive
As they approach the house of the bridegroom, you can hear the echo of
OVBIOHA GHA MIEN ARO-ARO, meaning " Bride ! be proud/ the Bride is
Arrival at the bridegroom's house is immediately followed by the ceremony of
IKPOBO-OVBIOHA-washing of the bride's hands. A bowl of water with
it would be brought out. A woman in the bride's family, sometimes his senior
wife would bring out a new head tie, wash the hand of the Ovbioha
bowl and dries her hand with the head tie. Both the new headtie and the
money in the bowl belong to the bride.
A few days later, the bride would taken to the family altar and prayers
said for her. She undergoes what is called the IGBIKHIAVBO
of OKRO on the falt mortar. This would be followed by a visit
bride's mother-in-law and other female members of the family to the
wed, if they are not living in the same house. She would
bed-spread on which they both slept when they had their " first sexual
relationship " after the wedding. If the bed-spread was
blood, the bride was regarded as a virgin and she would be given many
presents including money. If it is proven that she was not a
the preparation for the ceremony of IVIHEN-OATH TAKING ceremony would be
in motion. First, she has has to confess to the older women,
the " other
men " in her life before she got married. The husband
would never be told
any of her confessions. Then, she would be
summoned to the family
shrine early in the morning , without warning to take an oath of FIDELITY,
FAITHFULNESS, TRUSTWORTHINESS, HONESTY ETC, to her husband and family.
This ceremony is the equivalent of the oath people take in the church,
mosque or marriage registry. Once the oath taking ceremony is over, she
would be fully accepted into the family. She immediately
not only to her husband but to the family and sometimes to the community.
Christianity, Islam and Westernization has already weaken the Edo
traditional system of marriage The traditional ceremony, is
the same day with many of the rituals avoided in the name of Christianity or
Many women would rather die than take the oath we described above. It was
the oath that kept our women out of prostitution for many years. Edo women
were regarded as very faithful, trustworthy, honest with strong fidelity to
their husbands. Neighboring tribes wanted them as wives.
divorce on the ground of adultery, less common in those days. The
of prostitution which has eaten deep into Edo women's life ( as reported in
the news media) should be placed on the shoulders of Christianity, Islam and