ADESUWA WAR: What Ubulu Kingdom Did To Benin Kingdom_ Osita Mordi.


Some years ago we watched a movie titled “Adesuwa” produced by Lancelot Imasuen.
 It’s a good film and it tells the story of the war between Benin and Ubulu-Uku kingdoms. The film however deals with the Edo version of what happened which contradicts the Ubulu version of the war. Though there are some differences in details from what I had gathered so far from my Ubulu friends as well as the written accounts of the Ubulu version, the following seem to be a more acceptable narrative of the Ubulu version.
1. Both Ubulu and Benin sources agree that the war was fought around 1750. While the Edo identifies the Oba of Benin as Oba Akengbuda, the Ubulus identify the Obi of Ubulu-Uku to be Obi Oliseh.
2. According to Ubulu tradition not long after the Oba was installed, he became very sick and calls was made throughout the Benin kingdom for any doctor who could cure the Oba of his ailment. Of course this was done without the knowledge of general population. Through the guild in Benin City some of whom partly descended from Ubulu-Uku doctors and artisans settled in Benin-City, the Obi of Ubulu-Uku was notified. The Obi who is the patron of traditional dpctors in Ubulu Uku, decided as a mark of respect to the Oba to personally visit Benin-City.
3. He decided firstly to visit the Ezomo of Benin who by the way was his friend and in the course of visiting the Ezomo, he saw the beautiful daughter of the Ezomo called Adesuwa (an alternative Ubulu version suggests that Adesua was the daughter of the Oba). When Obi Oliseh indicated his interest to marry the young damsel, the Ezomo dismissed it claiming that she had been betrothed to the Oba.
4. They left the Ezomo’s palace and moved to the Oba’s palace and the Obi accompanied by his most powerful doctors, treated the Oba and nurtured him back to life. Apart from that, the Obi prepared the IDAYI medicine for the Oba to guarantee a long reign for him which was for some generations past a practice that bounded both kingdoms.
5. Having resuscitating the Oba, the grateful Oba told the Obi to demand for anything as a mark of appreciation. The Obi noted that he was only interested in Adesua who he saw at the Ezomo’s palace. The Oba who had an interest on the same beauty could not rescind on his promise and he ordered the Ezomo to allow his daughter to the given to the Obi which the Ezomo reluctantly accepted.
6. When the Obi left; the Bini chiefs led by the girl’s father gathered around the Oba and told him that yielding to the Obi was a diplomatic blunder no matter what the Obi had done. And noted that even if the girl was brought back to Benin and the Obi cannot fight Benin for any attempt to do that will lead to the total destruction of Ubulu-Uku. The Oba agreed with his chief and asked the Ezomo to go fetch Adesua his daughter. It was not difficult for the Ezomo to organize a group of soldiers to match eastwards. Then, the Obi and his entourage had barely travelled beyond the sphere of the Benin kingdom. It was easy for the Ezomo to catch up with the Obi and demanded his daughter return.

7. The Obi agreed and Adesuwa was asked to return to her father. But when the Obi got to Ubulu-Uku he “spiritually whisked” Adesuwa to Ubulu-Uku. Initially, the Edos were indifferent, to them Adesuwa ought to be in Ubulu-Uku after all, she was the price that had to be paid in order to nurture their king to health. But not the Ezomo, who felt he had lost the opportunity of becoming the Oba’s in-law. Also, he saw the whisking of his daughter unceremoniously as a personal affront and insult to him and silently vowed to revenge whenever the opportunity came up.
8. Adesuwa turned out to be a very arrogant wife. Insulting and disrespecting the Obi of Ubulu even the presence of his other wives. Of course, this was understandable since she has been made by fate to be the wife of an aging king of a smaller kingdom rather than being the beautiful trophy wife of a larger and more powerful king. It was insult galore according to Ubulu traditions and she even threatened to use her influence and connections to bring the Ubulu kingdom and his chiefs to vassalage. This scornful declaration, she made right in front of the Obi and his chiefs. For this reason, the Obi and his chiefs declared right there in the palace for her head. She was subsequently executed.

9. When the Binis learned of this, the chiefs led by the Ezomo urged the Oba (who was by the way reluctant) to declare war on Ubulu-Uku. The Chiefs were convinced that it would be an easy victory for them. They suggested that the Obi had mischievously stolen the Oba’s lover and had her killed because she her heart was for him. And as such, it was an insult to the Oba and the Bini people. They also noted that if the Obi had any issues with his wife, it was unjust to kill her considering her noble birth. For this reason, the Ezomo was mandated by the Oba to lead the Bini(Edo) army to war. Messengers were sent to Ubulu-Uku to convey the message to the Obi formally.
10. When the people of Ubulu Uku heard of the impending attack, the Obi summoned the entire kingdom and suggestions were made. A delegation was sent to the sister town of Ubulu-Uno to inform them of the development. It was adjudged by the Obi and Ubulu people that the Obi acted within the laws and customs of the land. He was innocent and they vowed to defend their land against the Edo army. The Ubulus knew that they could use their strong mastery of African sciences bequeathed to them by Ezemu, their knowledge of the country and the strong ties they have with all the neighboring west Igbo towns. In fact, the action of the Oba and his army was in the eyes of the west Igbo states was considered to be that of a bully. And some even took a blood oath (Igbandu) to pledge their support for Ubulu-Uku.
11. The messengers from Benin according to both accounts (Bini and Ubulu) lost their way to Ubulu-Uku and the cause was attributed to be special magic used by the Ubulu medicine men which had neutralized the charms used by the Bini messengers and transformed them into wanderers in the jungle. After waiting for weeks and months, and no reply, the Edos knew that their messengers had be lost and had wandered to their deaths, and without any delay they sent for support from the Esan area. And through Urhonigbe, the Bini army would attack from the south while their allies from Esan would attack from Ewohimi in the North. The invading Edo army, fortified with more potent charms, it was aimless for Ubulus to repeat such acts. They had to figure out a counter strategy.
12. As part of the strategy, it was suggested that the every citizen of Ubulu except the soldiers led by the Iyese of Ubulu-Uku should relocate from the town (including Ubulu-Uno). This how many Ubulu people began to diffuse into several places. The Obi was said to have stayed in Afor (Obetim) where till today a large community, called Obetim claim descent from Ubulu. Many relocated to places like Ogwashi-Uku, Ibusa, Umuezechime , parts of the Ika and Ndokwa area and different locations east of the Niger. This is possibly the reason, some Ubulu villages speak dialects laced with the dialects of other towns.
13. The Edos attacked Ubulu-Uku in about 1752 and were soundly beaten off and decimated. The Ezomo was almost a victim and to make matters worse, the wells in Ubulu-Uku and the vicinity had been poisoned. When the Edo soldiers drank from the poisoned wells, many more of them met their deaths. The western Igbo chiefdoms round Ubulu were very co-operative and assisted the Ubulus in so many ways. Such as logistics, intelligence, charms and weapons. The Edos had weapons which they sourced from the Europeans; but apart from that they were deficient in the other parameters especially the required war charms which would neutralize the resistance from the Ubulu and her Enuani-Ika allies.
14. When they returned to Benin, it was agreed that a change of strategy was needed to defeat the Ubulu people. But the biggest puzzle was how the crack the secret of the magical acts of the Ubulu army. It was in the course of their assessment of the war so far, that they realized that they could use the knowledge of the OGIUGO or Agbogidi of Ugo. Ugo is a state within Benin kingdom with its own duke, the Ogiugo. Until the reign of Ewuare, there is evidence to suggest that it was completely independent from the imperial and centralizing power of the Benin kingdom. Agbogidi which was the was the name of the Ogiugo at that time was brought up at Ubulu-Uku. Where he was inducted into the traditional Onicha-Okpe medicine guild and learned much of the magic of Ubulu people.

To be continued.

With help of Onwordi Ngozi Fortune. As well as Obinna Okparuba, Isaac Chukwuemeka, Pst Chris Chinedu, Chukwujekwu Anyika, Onyem
e Ejime Paul.
Images from the Movie, Adesuwa by Lancelot Imasuen.

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