The agitation for a separate clan from Uwanno by Weppa people in Etsako East Local Council had been a protracted issue for over 70 years. But the people had been unrelenting in their clamour for a clan of their own.
The dream of Weppa people was eventually realised in August 2018, when the Weppa-Wanno clan, which had always been under the leadership of an Okumagbe, was separated by Edo State government.
The two clans were joined by colonial Britain, solely for administrative convenience. Hence, the title “Okumagbe” the uniting factor of Weppa-Uwanno clan. Even at that, the old Uwanno clan was then administered from Idah, while Weppa was also run from the then Kabar Province in the mid-40s. Palace Watch spoke with the traditional rulers of the two clans on the issue.
His Royal Majesty, Dr. George Oshiapi Egabor JP OON Fnim, Omoaze 1, who now goes by the new title of Okumagbe of Uwanno Kingdom
Your highness, what exactly led to the balkanisation of your clan, formerly known as Weppa Wanno?
It is better to allow sleeping dogs lie. I honestly would not want to go into all the intrigues and blackmail that took place before Weppa was eventually carved out of Wanno. I wish them all well.
I will surely tell my own side of the story sometime, some day, when the memoir I am presently working on is finally done.
I have not yet decided on the title of the book, but it is going to be something like: “An Academic In The Heart Of Tradition.”
The man that did all this evil and harm has done his worst, but the matter is better put behind me now.
What is important to me is the welfare and well-being of my people in Wanno Kingdom.
I have just celebrated my 16th anniversary on the throne, alongside the New Yam Festival. These are the issues that are of concern to me now.
Why was Weppa-Uwanno divided into two clans?
The division was politically motivated, as nothing concrete has been pinned on me up till now, other than that I did not allow myself to be sheepishly pushed around for political gains.
I am exposed and educated enough to know that as a king, I have to support any government of the day, because by extension, as a traditional ruler, I am a member of government.
So, if the government is successful at whatever level, I can also claim to be a successful traditional ruler.
I am also very much aware that if I do not support government of the day, I will end up not having anything to collect from such a government for my people.
The balkanisation came about when all manner of people started going to Benin to tell all manner of lies and gossips, which sadly, the power that be then took to heart.
Once he was told this man is not with you politically, that was it. He bought into whatever they had to say. That was what really happened.
The fact that must not be denied is that, once you ascend the throne as a king, some people who are not with you will do everything within their powers to blackmail you.
So, they told the power that be then that I belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was false.
I must not deny the fact that I gained quite a lot from the PDP government that was in power. However, the gains were not personal, as it was all done for my people.
It was the former government of Lucky Igbinedion that actually helped develop my community.
This fact I can’t run away from. We did not have a High Court before, but that government established one for us. They also gave us a College of Education.
It was during Governor Igbinedion’s tenure that I became Chairman of the Governing Council of College of Education, Ekiadolor in Benin.
It was also Igbinedion that recommended me for the position of Pro-Chancellor of Uthman Dan-Fodio University. It was also his government that made it possible for me to be given a National Honour.
And I was not expected to say or mention anything about the good that government did by extending a helping hand to my domain and me? I don’t think that is proper.
As a traditional ruler, I did not go out of my way to campaign for any political party, as I was as apolitical as possible.
Your Majesty, why are you generally regarded in and around Weppa and Uwanno Kingdoms as autocratic?
It is all part of the orchestrated blackmail. There is nothing true about all these allegations, which they have not been able to substantiate.
So, what happened between you and a pastor in your Kingdom, when it was alleged that you ordered your boys to break his head, while the church was holding a night vigil?
I have nothing whatsoever to do with that particular incident. We are a lawful society here in my domain. We have a police divisional headquarters located here.
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of this area ensures that law and order is maintained.
The incident you referred to happened, when we unanimously agreed that we were no longer going to allow night parties and other activities in my domain for security reasons.
This particular pastor is known for his defiance. Whenever we take any decision, he acts contrary to such order.
He was having his so-called night vigil on that particular night the incident happened, when the head of the quarters, where his church is located, went with his boys from that area to ask him why he was fond of disrespecting orders made by the community where he resides.
In the process, a fight ensued. I was not there physically. When I heard about the incident, I made frantic efforts to resolve the matter. That can’t be pinned on me.
How are your people reacting to the separation?
My reaction and that of my people is the same. It is not the size of my kingdom that gives me honour. I am already well known all over the country.
For this, I must thank the Lord. As a matter of fact, it is as if nothing was removed from us. My people are very happy with me. This is what matters.
Your Majesty, I am told that you are a very dictatorial king. How true is this? That is not correct. Whatever I do, or say, is for the general good of the Kingdom.
My being firm in matters of concerns to my domain doesn’t at all make me a dictator.
That impression is very, very wrong. During my 16th anniversary, the New Yam Festival and traditional New Year of the Uwanno people, the turnout was quite impressive. This is one of the ways to assess my people’s feelings.
What is your advice to your people and government?
My advice is simple. The government should learn to respect traditional institution. I am not advocating that traditional institutions should be anti-government.
No, as a matter of fact, every traditional ruler must learn how to respect government of the day.
To those in authority, it is important that leaders weigh the two sides of a coin, whenever an issue is brought before them, before reaching any decision.
That is the only way they can be seen to do justice to any matter. This is the only way to reach an informed decision in matters brought before them.
Unfortunately, some of us don’t behave like leaders. Once anybody comes to us bearing tales, that is the end.
No effort is made to verify the true position of things. This type of attitude or approach is not good for leadership at any level.
Why We Agitated And Got Weppa Clan Out Of Uwanno
— His Royal Highness Moses Akpamuka Etsu, Ogie Eppa of Weppa
Your Highness, how do you and your people feel, now that Weppa has been excised?
IT is quite gratifying and we thank God. My people’s dreams have finally come to pass in my time.
When I was growing up as a young man and when I got employed as a Civil Servant in the old Mid-Western region, I was deployed to the then military Governor’s Office, during the late Samuel Osaigbovio Ogbemudia’s Military regime.
I was posted to the office then known as administrative research and support division.
The assignment given to D.D. Patrick an expatriate and a super Permanent Secretary in the old Mid-Western region then, was to investigate the role of traditional rulers, among other things.
It was in this office, I began my career. I worked there for so many years.
By the time that office folded up, I was the person that submitted the last report about activities of the office to the government, when D.D. Patrick retired and left the service of Mid-Western Nigeria.
Thereafter, I worked briefly in the then state’s cabinet office.
Later, as if it was predestined, I found myself again as a field officer in the office of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
I ended up retiring as a Director in the office of Edo State Chieftaincy Affairs.
So, I am not at all new to chieftaincy matters. For a very long time before now, I knew what Weppa and Uwanno people were going through.
I also know that the clans were two sub-clans. During colonial administration, Weppa, Uwanno and Ekperi fell under the administrative leadership of late J.B. Ugbodaga.
When that happened, Weppa people felt they were not fairly treated and in the process, suffered some humiliation under the late Ugbodaga’s administration.
Expectedly, Weppa clamoured for its own clan head. We got the first clan head in the person of J.M. Ogbaki, who was the first clan head of Uwanno. Ogbaki came from the Weppa axis.
He told the colonial masters that our people chose him to represent the two sub-clans, as the colonial masters were unwilling to pay the salaries of two clan heads.
Although we were happy about it, but the humiliation of Weppa people at the hands of Uwanno people did not stop. The Weppa man is a proud man, who will always want to have his own identity.
In 1956, the argument proper started because we wanted our own clan, but we did not succeed then.
In 1975, the argument began again, when we had Etsako District Council.
Then, the late Colonel Shelu was Secretary to the Etsako District Council in Auchi.
I am telling you all this to let you know that the clamour for separation of the two clans had been on for a very long time.
Interestingly, the colonial masters administered the two clans separately. During that era, Uwanno was administered from Idah now in present-day Kogi State, while Weppa was administered from Kabah also in Kogi State.
In 1958, when the late Ogbaki, who was the first clan head died, Weppa people wanted to have a go at the stool, which led to crisis that made the then Bendel State to set up an administrative commission of enquiry headed by Mr. Amadi Emina, the then Permanent Secretary in Bendel State Civil Service.
Unfortunately for Weppa, instead of the commission recommending that the two clans be separated, it complicated issues further, by recommending that five ruling houses be created that will rotate among the people of Weppa and Uwanno.
When the issue got to the Cabinet office, it was decided that four ruling houses be established, two from each clan, to rotate the single clan headship.
In this instance, although the Uwanno people were large in number, Weppa had traditional superiority over them.
What I mean is that the unifying factor of both clans was the celebration of Ukpe Festival. The announcement of this festival was always done by the Olwea family from Weppa.
The Olwea family was the Chief Priest and also responsible for cleansing of the two clans, in the case of any abominable things, such as murder, suicide and adultery, among others.
It is the duty of Olwea to crown any appointed clan head. For this reason, the Olwea people are forbidden from aspiring to headship of the Okumagbe of Weppa Uwanno Clans.
It is also Olwea that announces Osta Festival, an event that controls the age group, and which holds every three years in this part of the country. It is mandatory for any true son of the soil to belong to any of these age groups to enable him know his mates.
What is your people’s relationship with the Uwanno people now?
The creation of Weppa clan from the old arrangement is nothing but a mere political expansion of the old Weppa and Uwanno clan.
We are still the same old people and still do almost everything together.
Before late 1940, when the first Okumagbe was enthroned, the Weppa and Uwanno were two separate clans, which didn’t affect our traditional oneness.
The division notwithstanding, the customs of Weppa and Uwanno remain. The Ukpe Festival, which the Olwea remains a binding factor between Uwanno and Weppa men, and the meeting at Akiwie, transcends the division.
Akiwie is the boundary market between Uwanno and Weppa. We are children of the same parents. What happened is the traditional recognition of what hitherto existed.
What are you doing to improve the lives of your people?
Immediately I ascended the throne, I conferred a chieftaincy title of Igodi of Weppa, meaning the Key that opens the door of Weppa kingdom to development, on the Chairman of Leventis Foundation.
Mr. Leventis is the Managing Director of Leventis Farms in Weppa.
That title was deliberately given to him, because he made it possible for us to have easy and frequent access to Edo State government.
Even during Adams Oshiomhole’s administration, we hadn’t the type of access we now have to Edo government.
It was Mr. Leventis that invited and brought the present Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to Weppa to come and commission the School of Agriculture he established within the large farm complex it runs here.
It was then we had the opportunity to meet the Governor one-on-one and told him all we required.
What happened to a similar school established years back in Uwanno by Governor Lucky Igbinedion’s administration?
The school you are referring to has long been closed down. The school was an arm of the school in Igweoriaki area of Edo State. What we had in Agenebode then was a branch of the school that was closed down.
In the case of Leventis School of Agriculture in my domain, the owners of the farms discovered that students of agriculture from Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma and Auchi Polytechnic, were regularly electing to come to the school for their three-month practical.
Hence, the farm management decided to establish a full fledged School of Agriculture, where theory and practicals will be taught.
And during the foundation laying ceremony of Leventis School, Governor Obaseki made it clear that part of the reasons the school in Agenebode was closed was because there were no infrastructures on ground, especially land to practice agriculture, unlike Leventis farms, where virtually everything required for modern day farming are available.
The School in Agenebode was just occupying a secondary school that was also in dispute.
Commenting on the matter, Mr. Jimoh Ijegbai, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, reacted to all issues raised.
He explained that the creation of Weppa from Uwanno has come to stay, as it has been gazetted by government and a king for that kingdom installed in the place.
He said what is paramount to government is how to maintain peace and harmony among the people of these areas.