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By JEROME MICHAEL EBRUPHIYO/Basis/Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Origin and History of Udu Kingdom

                              
                            

The Origin And History Of Udu Kingdom
Udu is a name of Kingdom, local government and a town in Delta State Nigeria. Udu is the traditional home of all Udu people, a group of Urhobo ethnic nationality of the western Niger delta, and they speak Urhobo language. The area called Udu or Udu Clan occupies the plain land that lies between the Warri River in the west and the Okpare Creek to the east. It occupies a land of about 138 square kilometres (53 sq mi). It is bounded to the north by the city of Warri, to the north-east by Effurun, to the south-east by Otu Jeremi and to the south by Ohwahwa and Esaba and south-west Ogbe Ijaw. Otor Udu is the headquarters of Udu Local Government area of Delta State. It is about 7 km (4.3 mi) from city of Warri Nigeria.

1. History Of Udu Kingdom

Udu is said to have been founded by Olirhe, son of Edo an intimate friend of Oba Ekware the great of Benin. Olirhe left Benin in the company of a giant brother Ovo to settle temporary at Ikperha on the Ethiope River from where he moved out to form Udu. This periods opens with the founding of the first settlements and closes with arrival in the area of Ovo. According to one legend, one Uherdejo and his family migrated from following a clash with the then reigning Oba or king. The family travelled south and found a village called Orere Oheredjo near present day Oghior. Another family headed by Omiere also came to the area, this time from Uwhurun and pitched a camp near present day Owhrode. The village was called Orho Uwhurun, which is now called Orhowhorun. In order to capture the recalcitrant rebellious Benin Chief, Igbide or Igbede, two warriors named Onirhe and Ovo were sent after him. After achieving their aims, they went to Izon territory to settle in a place called Igbeni. Here Onirhe married an Izon woman called Udu. Thereafter, he and his people moved and settled at the near present site Otu Jeremi. Not long, after, Ughievwen arrived and settled by the bank of Okpare creeks. Later, Onirhe moved and settled in the present site and later named Oto Onirhe. Onirhe had three children by his Izon wife Udu. These children are Ohuvwun, Aladja and Uloho. Another tradition had that, he had one son, called Owhworhun and two daughters, Adadja the senior and Uloho the junior. It was these children later found thirteen villages and towns in Evwrirhe sub clan of Udu Kingdom. Soon Onirhe settled at the present day, his former warrior, Ovo appeared and was welcome to live with him amicably. However, Ovo continue with his war exploits, the exploit led him to found a village called Ikperha by the bank of the Warri River. He crossed over to now Warri territory, here he established the Ovo shrine in ?kurode, Agharha Ame (Agbassah). The war activities of ?vo made him to disappear from the scene after the death of Onirhe and consequent war opened territory to wars. The spirit of adventure made Onirhe was to attack Orere Uheredjo. With this information, Uheredjo and his sons fled northwards to settle by the bank of Warri River. This settlement later gave birth to the three villages of Opete, Enerhen and Okpaka. Due to Onirhe war exploits led to waves of migrants to Oto Onirhe, first to arrive was Oghior who fled from Benin Oba. He and his family who founded a place called Iyede in Isoko and migrated to the Otor Onirhe. Other families believed to have come during the period were those of Ogbe, Owhrode, Ohwase and Ovwian.

2. Tradictional Origin Of Udu Kingdom

According to Obaro Ikeme, Udu was called “Udo” by the British and as at that time, Owian was called “Owan”, it was after Udu who restored peace to the clan went to settled at Otor-udu and there the people of Urhobo clan were the one that later change the name to Udu and Owan was changed to be called Owian till date because they could not pronounce it the way the British were pronouncing it. It was because Udu went to settle in Otor-udu which means in English as “the land of Udu” and that was why it became the head quarter of Udu. Udu is an integral part of Urhobo with its local government having its head quarter at Otor-udu, where it is believed to be the nucleus from which the rest villages and communities sprang from. Thus the word “Udu” is an Edo speaking word meaning “heart”. The same interpretation of meaning is applicable to the whole of Urhobo nation.

3. Traditional Beliefs Of Udu People

The tradition of the Udu people is the belief of the people. Therefore base on this view, the Udu people believe strongly on their ancestors, deities, goddess, magic, divinities, native medicine and the existence of witchcraft(s). They believed in the supernatural happenings in their environment with vital interpretation with the gods of the land through their chief priest(s) who is an intermediary between the people and the gods. The elementary forms of the religious life is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things that is to say things set aside and forbidden. However, the role of belief system in Udu is to provide an organisational unit which makes Udu people to define their identity as well as their environment and relate to more consciously, confidently and orderly to the super natural being. i.e. the Udu people regards their dead ancestors as living people, as living family members and arrange certain ceremonies at which the dead supposedly return to eat the food prepared for them. For example the “igbe” worshippers use this method to appease their gods during their festivals. In Udu organisation of believers who are necessary to maintain common beliefs, rituals, traditions etc. Which involve prayers, sacrifices and worship exercise and are transmitted from generation to generation, yet not every individual is traditionally religious in Udu kingdom.

4.Geographical Locations of Udu Kingdom

Udu as a Kingdom is situated in the North West part of Delta State, Nigeria. It was formerly under Okpe Local Government Area but now has its own local government area. The territory is bounded by the Focados River in the south, Warri River in the west, Okpare creek in the east and lies in the south eastern part of Urhobo land. She shares a common boundary with the Okpare creek and allowed her brother Ughievwen to reside in the area close to Opkare creek known as Egwheka and Edjowphior and made them pay tenant rate to Owhorode for land occupancy. She has a population of one hundred and forty three thousand, three hundred and sixty one (143,361) with male seventy one thousand, two hundred and forty two (71,242) and female to be seventy two thousand, one hundred and nineteen (72,119) through the recent census conducted in Udu. The only Udu community out of this geographical location is ?nerhen town which is close to Uvwie, to the north and north east of Warri city. Udu is in the tropical rainforest with many water and wet land in addition to rich endowment in flora and fauna. The land is noted for oil and gas which has been the main stay of the Nigerian economy since 1960?s as the land constituted 75% of the Otorugu gas plant. There are two main seasons which are raining and dry seasons, with an average temperature of about 27oc without monthly or seasonal change. The wet season start April to October while the dry season start November to March. The rain increases to a double peaked and the two periods of a maximum rainfall is separated by a relatively dry periods in August called august break which is known as “Owanren” and “Ehuhon” (full water). April – July is called “Orhuguwia” (flooding period) While September – October is followed by heavy thunder and lightning called “Ogiribo” (heavy storm). Udu annual rainfall average like other Urhobo clan is 250mm. Although, there is dry season, but sometimes it is not totally dry as it rains in udu. I.e January which was supposed to be the driest month sometimes experience little rainfall. The harmatarn known as “Ohwahwa”. December – February is known for cool, dry and dusty weather. Due to the coastal location of the kingdom, area like Enerhen, Opete, Opaka, Ogbe – udu, Ayama, Panmi etc. Are swampy areas with swampy forest. There is palm oil trees which is used for the production of palm oil as well as banga, palm wine trees were also present to cook illicit gin called “Ogogoro”. The leaves of these trees are used purposely for one commercial activity or the other. Udu has latitude of about 6o and 5o 15? north and longitude 5o, 40? and 6o 25? east in the present Delta State of Nigeria.

5. Villages Of Udu Kingdom

The villages that made up of the present Udu Kingdom are historically grouped into three sections:
  • Evwrirhe section: These are the villages and towns: Aladja, Ovwian, Emadaja, Egini, Obubu, Ubogo, Oleri, Oto Udu, Ogbe Udu, Ukpiovwin, Ukperheren, Ayama, Ekrota, Ugbisi, Owhrode, Ekete Uburhie, Ekete Oboto, Okolo Uburhie, Okolo Oboto, Ovworhokpokpo, Erhiephiho, Egiegi, Epame, Ujevwu, Oghior and Ohwase
  • Oniere Section: These are Orhowhorun, Igbogidi, and new town founded due to the construction of Delta Steel Company (DSC) at Aladja, Steel Township
  • Uheredjo Section: These are Opete, Okpaka and Enerhen
  • 6. The Growth and Development Of Udu Kingdom

    The growth of Udu kingdom started from a tenuous position. The unity which binds the community in one socio-political units is more a result of the centralising policies of colonial and post-colonial government than an expression to share ancestor and Udu which is a big clan is supposed to be ruled by kings and not these colonial or post-colonial government. However, certain ritual and judicial practices helped to sustain the consciousness of a shared past. For example, a council of elders drawn from village councils the Evwrihe and other Udu village groups, excepting those of Orhuwhorun and Uhered used to meet at Otor-udu as occasion demanded to adjudicate over serious crimes and matters that is been brought before the elders and after judgement, the council will pronounced by the “Otota” (spokesman) who who was appointed at that time on the spot from any of the village group present at the particular council meeting. In order to compensate for the non-hereditary nature of the throne, the office of the “Otota” of Udu was established. Then the Ovie (king) stool is vacant, the ?tota becomes the defactomonarch. It was Chief F.V Oputu of Orhuwhorun that was the Otota until 1993. In post-colonial era, there was change in the socio-political organisation of Udu kingdom as the “odede” who had been the head of socio-political affairs in Udu kingdom after the removal of the Otota in 1993 he was replaced by the king of Udu known as the Oviere Udu, who was installed on the 12th of May 1994 and was presented with a staff of office by captain Ibrahim kefas, military administration of Delta State in Otor-udu on the 9th of September 1995 after his selection and election by the people of Udu and his name is his Royal Majesty barrister Emmanuel Bethel Otete Delekpe. The ovie is a kind of a priest-king acting in the dual capacity of being the chief priest of the gods, utuvwen as well as the administrative head of community and with this council of elders such as the ovie in charge which are the traditional council and the Odede Ade of Udu kingdom. The introduction of the monarchy is credited to one Okaka of Ekrovie quarters who in distance past went to Benin to obtain the title. The office is the preserve of Ekrovie quarters of Orhuvwhorun that is, succession to the throne is by the possession of recognised royal qualities said to be invested with the incumbent from birth by the spiritual power of Utuhwen. Whenever the stool is vacant, the leading (priest) of Utuhwen acts as a regent. In addition to the priest, (Irheren) the reigning ovie is assisted by title office holders such as Ilorogun (singular, Olorogun) or Igbirhue. The traditional council, followed by the various ruling houses or sub-clans, Okpako-orhere or village/community and ?ghuvie councils. All these join hand with the Oviere Udu to rule the kingdom effectively. The Ovie in council are the king makers while the Udu Council of Chiefs (U.C.C) are in charge of the administrative control reporting its activities to Ovie re Udu. The Udu Council of Chiefs under the leadership of its president general chief D.P Otirikpen and former Otota late chief Edward Gbagbeke Sido preside over administrative issues. There are elected kingmakers as members of the ruling houses while the U.C.C are made up of thirty three (33) members. In Udu kingdom, power flow from the Ovie re Udu to the Ovie in the ruling council of chiefs down to the the “Okpako-orerere udu” if there is any but if none, then to the “Okpako –re – orere” of each community. Selection of the “Otota – re Udu” in most cases is the duty of the people’s assembly and choice whose expression was a wish for more pluralistic society with provision for freedom and democracy under the umbrella of good leadership. I.e. the “Ovie re Udu”. Politically, it is divided into four district parts comprising of Urhuvwu group, which comprises of sixteen communities, Evwirhe group comprises of fourteen villages divided into seven ruling houses in order of seniority such as Owhorun, Okporua, Orhuwhorun, Aladja, Owhrode, Uloho and Owian. Succession to the throne rotates around the seven ruling houses in order of seniority according to the demise of an Ovie or when an Ovie is indisposed or died.

    7. Socio-Political Organisation Of Udu Kingdom

    The socio-political organisation of Udu kingdom is a firm basis for a unified Udu administration. Thus, the exist of the principal figures led the future solidarity of Udu in a rather tenuous position to a large extent, therefore the unity which now binds the socio – political unit is more a result of the centralising policies of colonial and post –colonial governments than an expression of shared ancestry. However, Udu kingdom is made up of villages and communities as well as the formation of age grade system of organisation known as “Itu” (singular Otu). In udu there are six Itu in all. They are made up of three male and three female.
  • Male Itu: Itu – Ekpako – 45years and above, Itu Uvwie – Ehrera – 30 – 40 years and Itu Uvwie –15years – 30 years and Itu Imitete or Emorha 1 – 15 years
  • Female Itu: Itu Eghweya – married women, Itu Emotogbe – Divorcee, and Itu Emete – small girls/maidens
  • However the Udu people are farmers, traders, hunters and fisher men and travellers who are always out in search of economic activities that will make them grow. Other tribe and even among the Urhobo people recognise their economic trade and struggle to make ends meet hence they are called the “Urhobo-igbo” due to their zeal in trading activities, they engage in both short and long distance trade with their neighbours, thereby maintaining a long distance relationship with their neighbours e.g. Chief Esiso of Agbarho had been a long lasting friend of the Udu people, they traded with the Ijaws and Itsekiris and even intermarry themselves, they also have access of trade with each other and with the European in spite of their economic activities i.e. palm oil trade. As much as the Udu people are concern, they never joke with certain words, such as taboo to the socio – political organisation of the kingdom. Hence women in Udu are taught before going to marriage not to use those words as the neck curse which says “ anuahwa kene dobbiawha” to their husband because it will bring a sudden untimely death of the male which are part of the socio – political activities. In fact, the efficacy of religion and wonders in belief system create divine sanctions which are associated with rituals and the resultant effect provide good reasoning for continuity and co – operation between the socio – political, religious and economic affairs in Udu kingdom. The Odede has been the one acting as the head of the clan that was why all matters has been brought for him to handle but now that the Udu clan has been changed to Udu kingdom, it was the king of Udu called the Ovie re udu who had been the head of socio – political affairs / organisation of the kingdom and all matter concerning udu have been solved with ?kpako re – orere (village/ community heads) and Oghuvwie councils and elders joined hands with the Ovie re Udu to rule the Udu kingdom.
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