The Chiefs in Ekuku-Agbor in Delta State, Nigeria, from the pre-colonial era to the colonial period and even up to independence, experienced changing roles. Their source of authority was an indigenous one1.
In the past Ekuku-Agbor and her neighbours have always maintained peaceful and friendly coexistence without any war or conflict but in recent times this has not been so2.According to record on the intelligence report on Ekuku-Agbor, Ekuku-Agbor has been in existence since the colonial era3.
Ekuku-Agbor is one of the communities in the modern day Ika. Ekuku-Agbor people speak Ika language to include Agbor people; engage in Ika customs, culture and traditions. Ekuku-Agbor happens to be a part of what is known currently as Ika Federal Constituency which Alidinma is part of which is a friction by law, a political construct of the present society and larger country of Nigeria. Most people generally believe that Ekuku-Agbor is a geographical area but this is truly so4.Iduwe emphasized that as far as every Ekuku-Agbor man, woman and child is concerned that Ika as a language is a political creation, and the time for confusing the good and peaceful people of Ekuku-Agbor about their origins, traditions, culture, customs and language have come and gone5.
Ekuku-Agbor is located in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria and in the Niger Delta region. Ekuku-Agbor is located on latitude 060 41 51.3111 North of the equator and longitude 060 181 28.1211 East of the Greenwich Meridian6. Ekuku-Agbor is a populated place and is located in Delta State. The estimate terrain elevation above sea level is 166 metres7.Agbor which gave birth to Ekuku-Agbor is one of the largest and biggest towns in Delta State. It is found in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State. Neighbourhoods in Agbor to include Ekuku-Agborare Boji-BojiAgbor, Emuhui, Agbor-Nta, Alihami, Ewuru, Alifedeke, Alizomor, Alisemien and a host of others8.Ika speaking people such as Ekuku-Agbor and others are found in the North-west region of Delta State. The kingship institution of Agbor is headed by the Dein of Agbor while that of Ekuku-Agbor is headed by the Uboh of Ekuku-Agbor9.
The kingdom of Ekuku-Agbor covers an area of 73square mile (189km2) and is surrounded by rivers from every corner yet far from the core city (main town). By origin, some folktale had it that the people of Ekuku-Agbor migrated from Ime-Obi (also known as Agbor-Obi) in the present Agbor metropolis without any wars or agitations. The major crop of immigrants from Ime-Obi (now known as Agbor-Obi) were joined by a number of others from Egbudu village (now called Egbudu Akan) and together, they sought for a good and favorable yet unoccupied land to settle until they reached the present day Ekuku-Agbor town10.
This version had it that after settling down, the issue of leadership came up and heads of families were vested with the responsibility of running their families affairs. However, due to incohesion in government, the need to have a ruling body arose leading to the evolution of their chieftaincy institution. There was now a situation whereby chiefs were vested with the social, economic and political responsibilities of government. These chiefs were known as Uboh Chiefs. Chief Ine, who was the oldest man who led them into settling at Ekuku-Agbor (with Ojeh and his friend Atupah), was thrust with the responsibility of appointing chiefs. He therefore invited the heads of families and put them to various tests such as intelligence, endurance and physical tests. Those who were picked were picked by merit. It was made clear from the beginning that heir positions were not inherited at the demise of any of them11. A ceremony of conferment was held and their various staffs of office were handed over to them by Chief Ine who automatically became the most senior chief; a position which made him the most senior of all conferred chiefs12.
Generally, members of the traditional council of chiefs (Uboh’s) served as custodians of the people’s culture, maintained law and administration as well as the security of the community. However, these functions carried out by the chieftaincy institutions were tempered with by the British as the lost absolute political, economic and administrative control which they had hitherto to enjoy. The British with the introduction of indirect rule system ruled through some of them. It was against this background that a kingship institution emerged in the 19th century since there was need to form a single institution of kingship called the Uboh who could present them at all levels of government to foster development for the community.
One of the major problems facing the Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution, and which this work will be addressing, is that this institution is not well recognized. Often times, alot of people think that the Agbor monarch (the Dein of Agbor) is the one incharge for the direct leadership of Ekuku-Agbor. This to a very large extent is not true because the Uboh of Ekuku-Agbor and his chiefs in council are the ones who presides over major issues affecting the community. Although there is an extent to which the Uboh of Ekuku-Agbor is answerable to the Dein of Agbor. It is this affiliation which the Uboh has with the Dein that this work will be examining to a very large extent.
Again, since the emergence of the Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution, there has been numerous problems facing the community among which is the recent discovery oil in the Ekuku-Agbor community which led to clash between the Ekuku-Agbor and Boji-BojiAgbor. This to a large extent nearly bridged/hindered the peaceful co-existence and good relationship existing between these two communities. Thank God for the interference of the Delta State Government in the issue. All efforts by the State Government and prominent individuals in both kingdoms to restore peace back to the communities, have proved abortive and yielded no result as theEkuku-Agbor community still claims the disappearance of the royal crown from the Uboh’s palace is a humiliation on their part as the Deinof Agbor did it deliberately to spark up trouble. Hover ever,Chief Philip Igumbor, spokesman to Dein of Agbor Palace, who led a high powered delegation of the Monarch tosettle the dispute, said it was wrong for anybody to insinuate that the revered Monarch of Agbor kingdom directed any person to steal the royal crown of Uboh13. Chief Imudia while stating that Ekuku-Agbor remained part of Agborapplauded the Ekuku-Agbor people for their peaceful disposition to the resolution of the issue.
Despite all these challenges facing the Ekuku-Agbor community, a huge development of the Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution. This huge success recorded is not only due to the peaceful nature of the community but also its strong and viable economy and political stability in its administration as the Uboh relates very well with his Chiefs. This notwithstanding does not mean that currently the Ekuku-Agbor community is not facing problem as every kingdom must be passing through difficulties and challenges. This study therefore seeks to address these problems and make appropriate recommendation therefore.
The aim of this project work is to examine the emergence and development of Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution as well its function and changing roles and status from the emergence to independent Nigeria.
This study will cover the whole of Ekuku-Agbor and will critically examine the emergence and development of Ekuku-Agborkingship institution. It would offer suggestion (s) on the problems emanating from the development of Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution.
Therefore, the study will help to unfold the huge development that has taking place in Ekuku-Agbor kingship from the time of its emergence to the independent Nigeria period (recent time). The study will also take a deeper view on the changing roles of the Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution and some of the challenges hindering the development of the kingdom in recent time; especially the crisis that affected it is kingdom during the discovery of oil in the communities.
It is therefore hoped that this research work basically produced for academic purpose will go an extra mile to educate and enlighten indigenes of Ekuku-Agbor who were born and breed up elsewhere to know the history, culture, traditional values and other relevant information concerning the kingship of Ekuku-Agbor. The findings will also provide useful background information to future research in the contribution of history towards nation’s building and preserving the culture and historical development of Ekuku-Agborkingship institution.
Kingship and chieftaincy institutions of Ekuku-Agbor kingdom have not really been researched upon by scholars and so there are no much books or published materials to consult. However, there are a number of published materials on native authorities and the relationship which they had with their subjects and the British colonial masters. Thesecontributions which serve as secondary sources are made as general statements about kingship and chieftaincy institutions in Southern Nigeria. Such generalization may not apply in every kingdom of Southern Nigeria and will be tested by this study.
In Southern Nigeria, there is a clear hierarchical placing and stratification of the chieftaincy institution14. Each position in the order of hierarchy is accompanied by its roles development and function. Among the Southern Nigerian kingdoms, the order of hierarchy tends to be similar and the operations of the chiefs seem to be alike. For important deliberations as opposed to daily administrative functions, there was a state council of chiefs. These council of chiefs made laws of general applicationto their subjects and was vested with both executive and judicial power15. Though inspite of the seeming similarities in Southern Nigerian kingdoms, research has still shown that a certain degree of variation exists among them16.
On the kind of relationship that existed between the chiefs and the British17. In the old Oyo Empire, Atanda discussed the arrest of Ibadan chiefs as well as chief Ogedengbe of Ilesa by the British colonial masters17. This shows that a rather unpleasant relationship existed between Southern native authorities and British colonial masters18. This kind of relationship may not have existed in Ekuku-Agbor kingdom19. Atanda further stated that with the British taking over trade and governance and the unfavourable weather condition they met in Nigeria, the system of indirect rule was introduced20.This was a system whereby the British colonial powers ruled the indigenous people through intermediaries who were the native authorities, who were in turn answerable to the British District Officers. Due to various clauses that existed between the Southern chiefs and the British in their relationship, series of depositions took place21.
Baker writing about “urbanization and political change” laid emphasis on the seemingly obvious impact of the colonial rule on the status of the chief22. Because of the rising power of the native authorities, there arose a scramble for succession at the exit or demise of a chief or king bringing about the politics of succession. To properly threat the issue of kingship, Crowder, asked several questions and attempted to provide answers to these questions: where the people who ruled the legal owners of the throne they occupied? How far did the colonial powers interfere in the selection of candidate for kingship? What was the relationship between the chiefs, the king and British? How far did the king retain his legal powers as dispense of justice and the one responsible for the maintained of law and order23.
In conclusion, taking Ekuku-Agbor as a case study, it can be seen that although colonialism spread across every kingdom of Southern Nigeria, it did not follow the same pattern. While in some kingdoms and empire, there was no recorded cordial relationship between the chiefs and the British; on orders the reverse seemed to be the case. Also while the indigenous people struggled with the politics of succession in some kingdoms, the British were responsible for appointing chiefs who would play to the time of the District Officer. Therefore, even as there are similarities, some variations still exist. It is therefore not proper to speak generally about these kingdoms rather each kingdom should be treated on its own.
The scope of this study was strictly based on the emergence and development of Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution; and to offer suggestion on the problem associated with the emergence and development of Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution.
This research work was based mainly on primary and secondary sources. The primary sources comprise of information gotten from oral interview personally conducted by the researcher within the three (3) major quarters (Oroma, Ogbeikoro and Ugbagidi) of Ekuku-Agbor village. Though response to questions by the respondents were similar, the researcher was able to use the ethics and codes of deducing facts to bring out concrete facts from the interviews which was used in writing this work. Secondary sources was also consulted so as to corroborate evidence from the primary sources.
This study encountered a lot of limitations among which are financial constraints, time, communication and language barrier as well as inability to access some remote areas which almost affected the extent to which the interview was conducted. Also non readiness and non availability of secondary material were among the limitations. The time was also short to carry out the research work coupled with academic work.
These limitations notwithstanding, the information gathered from this study and research finding will be of valuable assistance to the study of the emergence and development of Ekuku-Agbor kingship institution.