Today I rejoice with the great People of Okpe kingdom,in Urhoboland, of Delta state, on their historic victory over the Itsekiris on the ownership of Sapele Township.
It was on this day 75 years ago on the 30th of April 1943, that the West African Court of appeal (WACA) sitting in Lagos, confirmed emphatically that Sapele Town belong to the Okpe Urhobo clan.
It was a hard fought battle that spanned a Period of 19 years.
Today the Okpe Kingdom has benefitted immensely from the Proceeds of the Leases of those lands Popularly called ‘’Okpe land Trusts’’ and other Lands controlled by the Sapele Okpe Community.
So one had expected a sort of Carnival or festivities in the whole of Urhobo or Okpe land, Sapele Town in Particular to mark this Historic victory…..Such Carnival ought to have been given with Memorial lectures singing the heroes of this battle so that the younger ones Urhobos and Itsekiris alike will be reminded of their Proper status in Sapele Town……unfortunately our People are so egocentric and Myopic that they are concerned only with the Momentary gratification of Today…..but it is not too late the Diamond Jubilee can still be Celebrated any time this year. The Judgement of the High court in Warri by Judge Jackson was on May 5th 1942.
Many Okpes and Urhobos do not know that Sapele Township was officially known as an ‘’Itsekiri Town’’ Between 1924 till 1943,…first under the control of Chief Dore Numa, the Itsekiri Regent after Nana, who died in 1932 and Ginuwa 11 who was crowned in 1936. Monies realized from the Leases of Lands in Sapele Township were Paid into the ‘’Itsekiri Land Trust’’.
So who were the Heroes and the Villains of this Epic Battle??
(1) CHIEF AYOMANOR EVWIDA….First on the List is Chief Ayomanor Evwida whom to me is the greatest Okpe man that has ever Lived, Dead or Alive, if you know of any other one, tell me and let us debate it. Chief Ayomanor Evwida was at that time the ‘’Head of the Okpe Clan’’. The Okpes had no king then, there was an interregnum, and as far back as 1928, he led 12 okpe chiefs to refound Orerokpe Town which was abandoned 150 years earlier. By 1929, he had constituted the odogun Council again in Orerokpe,…the last Odogun Council before this one sat in Odjedi Village in 1897….it was dissolved by the British when one Chief Eyaju a high ranking member of the odogun council murdered a woman. The British forces marched on Ojedi, dissolved the Odogun and exiled Chief Eyaju to Calabar.
By 1934, This restored Odogun under Chief Ayomanor, had gained Government recognition and was Gazetted as a Council and a Clan Court in 1934, with Chief Ayomanor as President. By June 1934, Chief Ayomanor Summoned all Urhobo Chiefs to Orerokpe and these Warrant Chiefs Together with the U.P.U formed the Urhobo General Council, with Chief Ayomanor as President , Chief Agofure Ovwanuedo as Vice President and Sir Jereton Marierie as Secretory. A very Prominent Urhobo Chief and a Founding Member of the U.P.U Chief Mukoro Mowoe(Who became the President of the U.P.U later in 1938), was elected as Chairman Urhobo disputed lands Committee and high among these Lands were Oghara, Ajagbodudu and Sapele under the Control of the Itsekiris.
Chief Ayomanor was thus able to involve the entire Urhobo Nation in the Struggle to recover the Sapele lands, because the Okpe Union, could not fund the battle at all…..and if not for this wisdom, Sapele lands like the Agbassa Lands would have been lost. The Okpes would have been declared Customary Tenants in their own Land.
Chief Ayomanor had Every right to be concerned and attached to Sapele lands WHY?? Justice Rhodes-vivour J. of the High court in 1968, had traced the ‘’root Title’’ to most Sapele lands to one Chief Evwida, who of course was Ayomanor’s father. The Early Okpes actually settled in Amuokpe and were known as Amuokpe People. Their Father was Chief Orholor, son of Owhere who fled Orerokpe during the desertion of 1780, about 40 years after this incident the Okpes organized themselves to build another Capital call Ugolo near Agbarho and Idiemor son of Eruohwo of the Evwreke ruling house was made the Leader of all Okpes. Unfortunately Orholor head of the Amuokpe People refused to recognize this Government, and War broke out between the rest of Okpes and the Amuokpe People,and Orholor was killed. This made his People to be the More defiant , and still refused to recognize theUgolo Government. So the Other Okpes decided to March on to Amuokpe. But Odjegba and Orisedere both sons of Orholor asked their Younger brother Evwida to take all the Women, Children, Sick and Elderly, deep into the Bush of Amuokpe(Egborode) and Camp them there until the War was Over……So Evwida took all of the above mentioned Persons, including his Pregnant Wife, Umuvwu deep down into the Forests of Amuokpe (Part of Sapele today) deforested the area, and set up a camp…..it was in this War camp that Chief Ayomanor was born, by Evwida and Umuvwu in 1845. When Peace Returned Evwida decided to Stay back and build his home on that Place. Chief Ayomanor Evwida was the 1st Plaintiff in the Sapele land case.
2) Chief Edwin Asan Omarin…Chief Edwin Asan Omarin was the Otota to Chief Ayomanor and thus the Otota of the Odogun Council. He was the first Okpe Chief to be educated, and He kept most of the records that happened in Okpe period during this times. He was a tactician, highly disciplined and cerebral, his intelligence was above average. While not from the Owhere or Orhoro House, nevertheless he had many lands in Sapele which he inherited from his ancestors. Before he became the Otota of the Odogun Council in Orerokpe, he was the the Otota of Aghalokpe via the Ogoni Family. At the desertion of Orerokpe in 1780, Evbreke had 3 sons. These Where Okpo, Eruohwo and Ogoni. Ogoni begat Ijighere, Ijighere begat Asan Omarin, Omarin begat Chief Edwin Asan Omarin. They were Aghalokpe People, but had vast lands in Sapele How??
There was a time in Amuokpe that there was a Pestilence and increase in crime rate and so Odjegba invited a Popular Juju Priest to come and cleanse the Land, and so one ONOJE a Juju Priest was invited, the Juju Priest came with 3 of his Colleagues who were Ijighere, Ovwighodua and Onokuta. Following the Success of their Spiritual cleansing, they were requested to stay and the Udumurhie quarter was given to them as an ‘’absolute gift’’……And so Ijighere one of this Juju Priests begat Asan Omarin, Asan Omarin begat Edwin Omarin.
Edwin Omarin demonstrated his tact, when in 1928, Chief Ayomanor ordered him not to lease any land in Sapele to any stranger anymore, since Chief Dore Numa had ordered the Itsekiris who had previously secured leases not to pay any money anymore to their Okpe Landlords, because those Lands are now Itsekiri Lands. Chief Omarin in his tact Sued Chief Ayomanor to a Court Presided Over by Chief Dore Numa himself. Chief Dore Ruled that ‘’since the Lands were family and not Communal lands, Ayomanor had no right to stop Chief Omarin from Such Leasses……So Omarin Continued to make such leases, based on that Judgement, even though he was not being paid by the Itsekiris annually…..But he Surprised Chief Ayomanor in the court Room in 1942, when he brought out Dozens of those Leases that Itsekiris had made from him since 1920 till 1938, and that same Judgement where Chief Dore Numa sat as a Judge between 2 okpes sons(Himself and Chief Ayomanor) in 1928, where he Chief Omarin, an Okpe man to continue to lease his lands as family lands. It meant that Chief Dore Numa was aware that Sapele was Okpe land, but yet claimed it to be Itsekiri land. Chief Omarin was a Colossus. He was the genius behind the scene. Judge Jackson smiled throughout during his examination and cross examination….’’There was no question that he could not answer’’. He was the second Plaintiff in the case.
(2) Amuna Aparo…..Amuna Aparo was a man that was about 90 years old in 1942. He was one of the Oldest Juju Priests in Sapele but later Converted to Christianity. He was among the few Persons to have be born in Sapele who knows the Story of Sapele Very well. According to Him, he was there when the first whiteman arrived in Sapele when he was a small boy, ‘’Then they came to trade, they were looking for Palm oil and they met our Chief, Evwida who they gave ‘’Dashes ‘’ in the form of Mirror, Powder and clothes. Evwida used to share these dashes among all our People in Sapele. After Evwida died, Ofotokun became our Head Chief. It was When Ofotokun was our Head Chief that the Itsekiris came as refugees. They came because their Chief, Nana had been captured by the White People. So they became afraid and fled the Town. They were led to Sapele by One Igbubemi, who used to be the Chief Servant to Nana. Ofotokun received them and settled them were they are now,…When the Government of the Whiteman later came , many of them started Pouring in to Sapele. The Judge described his Story as Highly Convincing……..To be Continued Tomorrow with the Testimony of Itodo Ogodo, .I.T Palmer and of Course the story of the very early struggle for those lands as far back as 1913 by the Great Colossus Chief Ogodo Okubor Obilifo, who started the fight, but as a Personal struggle. A great man,….then I will also tell you the role of the U.P.U, Chief Mukoro Mowoe, Chief T.E.A Salubi. Then after that I will tell you of the villains…. But a thorough detail of everything that transpired is in my book ‘’the Chronicles of Orerokpe Town’’ Price N3,000… Get a Copy Now. Ochuko Davis Imuere Mevi Ayomanor Festy Abugu Ejiro Etaghene Otamere Ahanor Oniyama Monday Avwioroko Solomon Odibo Jefferson OO Oritsekpabor Sapele Promise Mitchell Efe Amrohore Efe StRaw Tega Pleasure Edu Anvil Dornell Amrasan Frederick Rorobi Ufuoma Atsiangbe Henry Unuajohwofia Imoyi Henry Victor O Etaghene Bruno I
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