List of Isoko Kingdoms in Delta State

Nuelson Penuel Monday, May 1, 2023 Basis


Isoko Kingdom

The oral history has it that the first group of Isoko ancestors migrated from Benin Kingdom in about 1600 AD at the same time as the ancestors of Aboh. The ancestors in the first group were Erowa (the senior) Uzere, and Okpe. Isoko oral history told that the second group led by ancestors of Iyede left Benin about 1650- 1700 AD during the reign of Oba Ozolua, the Oba of Benin. After, a short while the ancestors of Ughelli, Ogor and Agbarha- Otor (3 brothers) in Ughelli North Local Government area followed the trail of Iyede ancestors and settled in their present sites. Between 1600-1700 AD there were many migrations from Benin kingdom to many parts of the present Edo and Delta States as a result of incessant internecine wars coupled with the unbridled wickedness of the princes of Benin Kingdom. There were further migrations by some of the first and second groups and in some cases their children moved from their parents settlements to settle in virgin lands. Most Urhobo historians, linguists and cultural anthropologists are of the opinion that Isoko is but only a dialect and a cultural unit of Urhobo. In fact, this was upheld by the British that these two ethnic groups were once referred to as the "Usobo" people, a term largely refuted by both groups. Later on the Isokos were called the Eastern Urhobos but more on this will be treated later on. Till now, some people are of the belief that these two ethnic units are but one due to similarities in culture, language, food and virtually everything. The Isoko and Urhobo names for most items are mostly the same. They greet the same way ( Urhobos say Meegwo and Isokos say Deegwoo ), marriages are in the same tradition, traditional religion and philosophy is akin and even dressing is the same. However the Isokos are of a different opinion. The Isoko historians are of the opinion that most Urhobo clans migrated from their land. The Isokos are a unique people found in Delta State, the heart of the Niger Delta. It is a district ethnic group made of seventeen (17) clans with a total of about 2.1 million people. The Isokos are a peaceful people as there are no records or history of conflicts or wars between them and their neighbours in the past.

Migration from Benin Kingdom

The oral history has it that the first group of Isoko ancestors migrated from Benin Kingdom in about 1600 AD at the same time as the ancestors of Aboh. The ancestors in the first group were Erowa (the senior) Uzere, and Okpe. Isoko oral history told that the second group led by ancestors of Iyede left Benin about 1650- 1700 AD during the reign of Oba Ozolua, the Oba of Benin. After, a short while the ancestors of Ughelli, Ogor and Agbarha- Otor (3 brothers) in Ughelli North Local Government area followed the trail of Iyede ancestors and settled in their present sites. Between 1600-1700 AD there were many migrations from Benin kingdom to many parts of the present Edo and Delta States as a result of incessant internecine wars coupled with the unbridled wickedness of the princes of Benin Kingdom. There were further migrations by some of the first and second groups and in some cases their children moved from their parents settlements to settle in virgin lands. The ancestors of Effurun-Otor in Ughelli local government area, LGA, came from Erowa in Isoko South LGA, whilst Effurun in Uvwie clan migrated from Effurun- Otor. Ekpan and Ugborikoko towns moved from Effurun to settle in their present sites. Irri came from Uzere whilst Oleh and Agbon clan in Ethiope East LGA migrated from Irri, Agbon consists of Kokori, Okpara, (Inland and waster-side) and Eku towns. The present Okpe clan in Urhobo land, i.e. in Okpe and Sapele LGAs migrated from Okpe in Isoko along with Ozoro. Ozoro settled in their present site whilst Okpe went further to Orerokpe their present settlement. Ofagba clan came from Okpe. Emevor and Owho clans migrated from Iyede and Ibrede and Iyede- Ame in Ndokwa LGA are direct descendants of from Iyede to settle in their present sites. Ellu clan, i.e Ellu, Aradhe and Ovrode are descendants of Owho. The ancestors of Aviara migrated from Benin and came to its present settlement through the River Niger. The only Isoko community that migrated from Urhoboland is Olomoro clan which descended from Olomu clan in Ughelli South LGA about 1750-1800 AD. The ancestors of all the clans in Isoko migrated from Benin with the exception of Igbide, Okpolo/ Enhwe and Evwrheni now Ughelli South, which came from East of the river Niger, i.e. the present day Anambra, Bayelsa and Rivers states. They came through the river Niger to Isoko creek (a tributary of river Niger) near Patani, and advanced in land to settle in their present sites. Late Professor Obaro Ikime elucidated on the historical facts of Isoko nation. Umeh ancestors came from Onya on the River Niger opposite river Nun, a tributary of river Nun, a tributary of river Niger and came through Isoko creek near Patani and advanced in land to settle on the banks of Isoko creek where they are at present. There was further movement of Owhawha ancestors from Igbide in Isoko South LGA to settle in Jeremi clan, Ughelli South LGA. The re-migration of people from Isoko to Urhobo land was due to insufficient choice of land for settlement and also due to constant flooding during rainy season and also due to river Niger flowing its banks. Before the advent of the British to the Niger Delta the communities in Isoko were frequently engaged in conflicts between and amongst themselves owing to disagreements resulting from ownership of land struggle for crude power to have dominion over others. The salutary point however, was that wisdom prevailed in the long run, and as a result the leaders initiated and entered into covenants between themselves to ensure sustainable peace. Some of the covenants are still in existence today and they are respected by the communities that covenanted as they were respected in those days. For example, the covenant between Erowa and Iyede and Aviara is highly respected and feared. It promotes peace and understanding among the people of these communities; no evil or harm is done to each other under any circumstances. The one between Igbide and Oyede is also highly respected. The Seventeen Clans in Isoko are: 1. Aviara 2. Ellu 3. Emede 4. Emevor 5. Enwe/okpolo 6. Erowha/umeh 7. Igbide 8. Irri 9. Iyede 10. Ofagbe 11. Oleh 12. Olomoro 13. Okpe 14. Owhe 15. Oyede 16. Ozoro 17. Uzere

Language of the People

The Isoko ethnic group is one of the smallest minority ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in West Africa, occupying an area of about 1,200 square kilometres, with a residual population of over 750,000 by 2001 census. The language spoken by the Isoko people is the Isoko language. It is linguistically similar to that spoken by the neighboring Urhobo people.


The Isoko people are predominantly Christians. Traditional worship still thrives despite the strong onslaught of Christian principles. ?gh?n? is the word for God. Although it can be generally termed as traditional religion, there are however some practices that are peculiar to some Isoko community. For instance in the town of Emevor, some important festivals like "idhu and owhoru" which are celebrated annually and bi-annually. Food of the Isoko People Cassava is the source of most of the foods consumed by the Isoko people. Garri, starch meal (Ozi), Egu are cassava derivatives.

Marriage Ceremony of Isoko People

1. The First Visit The groom to be and his family members (about 5 -10) visit the bride’s home to introduce and make known their intention to the brides parent. They mostly use words like, “we saw a beautiful flower or a she-goat and will want to take it along with us, sir we need your permission”. On arrival on a specific day, the girl’s family entertains their guest with drinks and kola nut, and then the girl’s father gives his guest money for their trouble finding their way to his house. The groom family will reciprocate by offering the girls family their own drinks and kola nut, then paying back two times the money they gave them earlier. They will be merriment with a lot of food and drink, then after entertaining his guest the girl father will bring out all his daughters, sisters even older women for the groom to identify his future wife. This is done to test if he actually knows who he wants. If the girl he seek is not among the ladies brought out for him, he can demand for the particular person he seeks. When she comes out and he identify her, there are applauds and singing all over the place. 2. Second Visit At this second coming the groom presents his gift (different type of drinks and kola nut), the girl will be summoned and she will be asked if she knew the man and want to marry him. She has to agree to the proposal before his gift will be accepted and for the ceremony to processed. The girl’s father introduce the man to some of his family member about 5-10 and about 5-3 of the mother’s family. The groom must visit these people one after the other and he must fulfill every request they ask of him.

The Bride Price

Then a date is fixed where all the parent family will meet with the prospective groom, this is done to join both family ones more, the bride price is negotiated and agreed on. List of required items needed by the girl’s parent is given to the man to buy or pay the equivalent. Traditional Wedding Ceremony The tradition wedding ceremony is filled with funfair and celebration, with a lot of food and drinks to go round. The peak of the occasion is when the community represented by the elders comes to make their own demands, a certificate is presented to the couple after all requirements are meant. The document will be signed by the couple, these certificate authenticate the union.

Common Festival of the Isoko People

OYISE-OWHE Among the Owhe people there was a great belief of reincarnation. They also believed in ceremonies and festivals. Owhe clan is rich in festivals. The most important of all being the Oyise-Owhe festival. Azagba having suffered deprivation arrived Emede where he took a wife “Owhe” a daughter of the place. They left Emede of their present abode. Owhe gave birth to three sons namely, Ogbe, Ovoh and Uthatho who later founded Owhelegbo formally known as Illuelogbo, Otor Owhe (Uruovo) and Akiewhe respectively. At Owhe, something miraculous happened that brought about the OyiseOwhe festival. The tradition holds at a particular day, Ithato the wife of Unuafe, descendants of Uthatho went to farm. And with great amazement saw an eagle feather that fell erect on the ground shaking so speedily as if it had life. She ran home to inform her husband who later went to the farm and took the feather home. That night Oyise (goddess) appeared to them and revealed itself to them as a goddess sent by Oni-Oyise at Emede to protect and bless Owhe (a daughter of Emede) and her off-springs. An oracle was consulted and the goddess claimed same. In line with the instruction given by the goddess, a shrine was erected and in it (the shrine) three images were moulded representing the founder of the clan and the wife with the head servant. A woman carrying a child on the hand was also moulded, the implication of this is probably that an adherent believer never suffers. Some other objects associated with the shrine are the Ivri and three ancestral boxes.

Preparation for the Festival

Owhe clan has nine prominent gods:- Aghaluwe, Oworu, Ovo, Otor, Orietor, Oturohogbo, Gbator, Ogbelueh and Oyise-Owhe, in which Owhe is the senior of the nine gods. The Oyise Owhe festival is so honoured so much that elaborate preparation is usually carried out before it is celebrated. The festival takes place once in every three years and last for one week. When it is getting to the time of the celebration the “Oyise gods” which serves as the symbol of unity, peace and progress appears to people in various ways. A day is normally fixed by the Odion who performs the duties of the Prime Minister at the Ogbodu quarter of Akiewhe, for the clearing of Edheide (groove). The traditional road Oyise (Owhe gods) passes to visit his children. The clearing starts in the morning from the quarter of Ovo followed by Uruogbe and Uthatho. During the process of clearing, there are chanting of war songs and dancing. Cutlasses are thrown to the air and caught up by their owners. The clearing of Edheide is a day that the people try themselves if the gods of Owhe is still in active existence, because she is a goddess of war. After clearing, the three quarters will have to meet at the shrine where the Oletu Okpikoko will lead the troop to the Oletu Olegbo Palace. That day cutlasses and swords are used in reckless abandon, to gain entrance to the Oletu-Ologbo compound. At this state if any person is able to enter the compound and kill the Oletu Ologbo, such a killer becomes the new Oletu Ologbo because the Oletu Ologbo is supposed to be the strongest warrior to lead the people to war in times of crises. But today this battle is just a mock battle to show what used to be in practice in ancient times. After clearing of Edheide, the Oletu have to meet and fix a date for the celebration of the Oyise-Owhe festival.

Celebration Day

The Oyise Owhe festival is celebrated April of every four years. The last celebration was done in 1999. The Oyise Owhe festival is performed by all villages that make up Owhe Clan. The festival involves much artistic decoration. It is a Seven day business. The first day, all the quarters move to Otor-Owhe with singing and dancing. This day is usually the most colourful day during the celebration period. The day of celebration is usually ‘Uje’ (a day after the market day). It is a day full of various activities from morning to night. Owhelogbo (formally called Ihuelogbo) procession arrives first at the shrine followed by Otor-Owhe. They move in large numbers in decent dresses with their elephant tusks being blown by their followers, singing and dancing wonderfully. The priestess who carries the “Ekpeti” (the god’s box) follows the processions as they dance towards the groove where the god lives. Uthatho which is Akiewhe the youngest of the children arrive last. As soon as Akiewhe, the youngest son arrives with the procession, the service begins. The climax of the festival starts as soon as the Chief Priest arrives at the arena with volumes of enthusiastic cheers and jubilation from the priest and priestesses and the entire spectators. The three structures representing the three quarters of Owhe are carried down to the groove surrounding the shrine building from the various quarters. These gods’ boxes are carried by the “Izere” (Priestess of the gods) well dressed in “Ibosu” (white wrapper). The first one to arrive at the groove is the “Ekpeti Owhe” (Owhe gods box) followed by Owhelogbo and lastly “Ivri” which is the most interesting aspect of the festival. After the arrival of the three structures, the Chief Priest performs rituals on the offering as people present them. It is at this stage that men and women show their riches through gorgeous dressing everyday for seven days. During this time, different cultural dances feature for the period of seven days.

Isoko Kingdom

Burial Rite of Isoko People For the Isoko people death is not the end for a person and his relationship with family and loved ones, its considered a change from a physical life form to a spiritual form. The premise of ancestor worship is based on understanding that the course of life is cyclical not linear. Those who are dead may not be seen physically, but are alive in a different world. Ancestor worship in various forms can be found in many parts of Isoko culture and is very strong. They believe that the living co-exists with the dead and the dead have supernatural powers over those in the living world, that the dead have the ability to bless, curse, give or take life. In the Isoko culture the worship of ancestors is important and making offerings of food, money, clothing, drinks and blessings. The ceremonies performed are organized to show the everlasting relationship between the living and the dead. The Isoko people believe that death can happen because of old age, witchcraft, accident or illness and abomination. But, generally speaking the Isokos think that there are only two kind of deaths - good death and bad death. Good death is associated with people who are 70 or more years old, had a moral life and are not members of some secret occult. Bad death, is associated with people who died prematurely, members of witchcraft, evil people, those that died an abominable death (died with pregnancy, died in the bush or water, suicide etc), people who died such death are not given good burial, they are thrown into the evil forest. This is done to prevent their reincarnation. Some criteria that differs good and bad death can be changed. The Isoko people believe that young people cannot die. For them these deaths are caused by someone who killed them. Establishing the cause of death is crucial for the deceased, the family and the community as a whole. Before the burial the people communicate with the spirit of the dead and the gods. They want to know the causes of death and according to them, organize appropriate burial. This tradition still exist despite the fact that most Isoko people are Christians. If a young person who died prematurely, but lived a morally right life is buried, in the coffin of the deceased people put some “weapons”, such as example cutlass, knife, broken bottle etc. These objects should help him to fight and avenge his death. The people believe that burial rites and ceremonies are needed because without them the spirit of the deceased won't be able to join the ancestral spirit. The dead are buried in line with culture and tradition. Also, the belongings of dead are either given away or kept, among his spouse(s), children and kinsmen. In this study, we found that the people believe that unless the proper funeral rites and ceremonies are performed in tune with cultural heritages and practices the spirit of the dead will not be able to join the spirits of his ancestors. But if proper rites and ceremonies are performed, then he would be welcomed. Therefore, non-performance and compliance poses a threat to the living, the dead and the relationship that exist between them. Specific examples of funeral rites include death bed confession s and recitals, bathing and dressing the corpse, keeping vigil, lying in state, elaborate ceremonies, frequent visits to grave site etc.

Georaphical Location

Isoko occupies a space of land in South East of Delta State of Nigeria; bounded by Kwale to the North, Urhobos to the West, Ndokwa Osimili/Aboh to the East; and Ijaws to the South while the Delta Igbos and Itsekiris are not left out. Isoko people are an ethnolinguistic group that inhabits the Isoko region of Delta State, Nigeria. The Isokoland is one of the most densely populated areas in Nigeria, with about 500 people per square kilometre compared with the average of 198 for Delta State and 130 for Nigeria. The consequence has been a shortage of farmland which is accentuated by oil exploration activities in the region. Many of the (estimated) over 475,000 Isoko people migrated to other parts of the country, living in Ughelli, Warri, Sapele, Benin, Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Lagos and Kano just like every other ethnic group in Nigeria and predominately in the rural agricultural land areas of Benin, Ondo and Ijebu-Ode. Also, some 300,000 Isoko people are permanent indigenes of Ndokwa East of Delta State and Sagbama local government area of Bayelsa state.

Local Climatic Conditions

Isoko region is in 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.

Economic Activities

Isoko land is essentially rural with no urban and semi-urban centres. Isoko land is within the economic shadow of the vibrant industrial, commercial Warri metropolis and the result has been largely of backlash effects, with most of the young men and women in addition to available capital in Isoko land graduating to Warri suburban area. The residual population is mainly involved in agriculture, small-scale commercial and industrial enterprises. Against this background of the petty economic activities, massive unemployment of youths is very high, the quality of life is low and below the standard of living recommended by the United Nations Development Organization and poverty is rife in Isokoland. The main economic activity is food crop farming. And the staple food crops include cassava and yams. 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 Isoko women peddling their assorted goods around neighboring villages. Food crop production has been declining rapidly recently. This has been largely attributed to soil damage resulting from frequent crude oil spills from pipelines belonging to some of the major oil producing companies (including Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), whose pipeline network transverse the landscape). This has led to large-scale frustrations with Shell Petroleum Development Company, and has resulted in skirmishes and, recently, kidnappings for ransom in some neighboring communities.


Several secondary schools and post-secondary schools exist in the region. The Isoko people know the value of education and encourage their young to attend school. The Isoko people have been known to be very passionate about location of education infrastructure in their communities, believing it is a mark of progress. Early emphasis was on teacher-training schools and this led to a glut of teachers in the community. This is rapidly changing as opportunities offered by other professions are recognized. Major post-primary educational institutions in the region include Notre Dame College, Ozoro; James Welch Grammar School, Emevor; Saint Joseph's Teacher's College, Ozoro; Saint Michael's College Oleh; Bribina Grammar School, Ozoro, Ofagbe Technical College, Ofagbe, and several more. Post-secondary schools include a campus of the Delta State University at Oleh and a Polytechnic at Ozoro. They thirst for education and they are directly progressing in these areas of specialization. It is of record that today Isokos can be found in most of the sensitive professions in Nigeria like Lawyers, Accountants, Economists, Engineers, Doctors, Estate Surveyors, Journalists and general business contractors. Isoko land houses a campus of the Delta State University at Oleh and a state polytechnic at Ozoro. Popular mode of transport is the motorcycle and bicycle. Inter-city travel is by bus or car.

The Creation of Isoko District Council

In 1951, the Richards constitution came into operation in Nigeria. The Western Region Delimitation Commission created two constituencies from Eastern Urhobo Native Authority (NA) , and elections to the Western House of Assembly were conducted by electoral college system on individual or personal basis although political parties were behind the candidates. Late Chief James Otobo from Uzere kingdom for Isoko. Chief Mowarin for the other side of Eastern Urhobo, NA. They both contested and won their elections to the Western House of Assembly, Ibadan. Late Chief James Otobo for NCNC and Chief Mowarin for Action Group. At the 1954 general elections, Chief James Otobo again contested, this time under the platform of NCNC party and won and was returned to the Western house of Assembly. In 1957, Isoko was given a modicum of Independence of Isoko District Council from Eastern Urhobo. Chief James Otobo influenced the creation during his tenure as a member representing Isoko at the Western house of Assembly, Ibadan. This marked the beginning of Isoko as a recognised distinct ethno-linguistic group as opposed to its previous categorisation as an Urhobo dialect

Notable Sons of Isoko

Some of the highly intelligent and bravery Isoko sons and daughters who have one way contributed largely to the sustainable development of the region in likes of Chief Ufuoma Edwin Ozah, Chief (Mrs) Rita Ozah, Hon Raphael Okelezo, Hon Fineboy Dickson,Prince Frank Egbodo, Hon Benjamin Essien, Chief Paul Eriri, Felida Essi. Otunba Isaac Emiyede, Engr Okpithe Solomon, Chief Oke Akpojene, Stella Omu, Owho Ovuakporie, Archbishop Apena, Chief John Okih, Evang Saviour Ede, Cordelia Okpei, Barr Ejaita Otouniyo , Iduh Amadhe , Barr Akporero, Alex Ogbomudia, Felix Ogbaudu, Ben Oheri, Goodluck Orie, Goodluck Ofehe, Paul odhomor, Hon Osiga Oghale, Hon Mike Ogwah, hon Obi Eneruvie, Apostle Joseph Ovedhe, Comrade Samuel Macaulay, Elder Peter Erebi, Prince Obaro Unuafe, who contested for 2011 Delta state governorship election, Prof Stephen Akpavie, Emmanuel Omojefe who donated ?10 million to recent flood victims in Isoko, Zeb Ejiro, Barr Jonathan Okiogbero and just mention but a few . Many Isoko sons and daughters have done so well to salvage the region while some still believe in traditional system of leadership which no longer in vogue. Credit and Source: Jessa Omokiniovo Morrison (Snr)

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