HISTORY OF UNEME
(by Prof Aashikpelokhai)
Uneme was born about the middle of 15th century (about 1450 AD) to a man named Uka by his only wife Esohe. Esohe was then popularly known as Eso, a name which has been corrupted to Etso. Uka was among the leading Blacksmith inner caucus of the then Benin Empire that produced Military and Farm Equipments for the then Benin Empire.
Uneme as the first born to Uka and Esohe naturally followed his father’s footsteps by learning the Art and Science of Metal Technology. Oral tradition and folklore had it among the elders that the despotic nature of the rulership in the Benin Empire made Uka to take his wife, his first son Uneme along with their two other younger children who passed on along with their father at the time of migrating to the expected Promise Land.
They left Benin along with other Newfoundland seekers. Nothing much was heard of Uka and the two children who could not make it to the Newfoundland now known as Etsako. However, according to the elders, it was being sung in Uneme folklore of the Uka who lovingly struggled to carry two children, at the same time fighting forest fever which eventually claimed his life and the two younger children. Thus leaving his only wife Esohe and the first born Uneme who eventually made the journey.
The order of the Oba of Benin at that time was that Uka must be brought back to Benin alive and in good health. The reason for this is that the Oba cherished the safety of every member of the Technological cult to which Uka was a prominent member. If he falls sick, according to the Order, he must be cared for by the messengers. Uka’s decision to leave the Empire was in the main initiated by his maternal uncle who the Oba slighted in words at a Palace meeting.
Military and Farm Technology
Uneme eventually continued his father’s technological work until the coming of the new white men (Probably the British) who banned the Art and Science of Gun production throughout Bini land by
classifying the practice among illicit activities. Uka had along with the Bini Technology cult as they called it in their time derived and developed the gun technology from the early, now primitive guns supplied to the empire by the first white men (likely, Portuguese) that brought the guns and Agricultural tools.
Uneme’s first child was a girl named Uzanu. The sons of Uneme, according to their seniority are:
(i) Ava: He was born during thunder and lighting. This made Uneme his father to name him Ava. All the descendants of Ava today are called Imiava. He established Anegbette.
(ii) Oguluka: By resemblance in form to his late father (Uka), Uneme named his second son Oguluka. Oguluka in latter years passed on in the heat of war.
(iii) Uzoshi: He was the third son. He established Udochi.
There are various versions. However, as diverse as they are, a common denominator has it that Uka’s death was in the first 3 months unknown to the Oba of Benin; what was known to the Oba was that Uka left with the precious secret Technology and must return. Uka was given sharp ultimatum in absentia to return to Benin from wherever he was else himself and his seeds would forever scatter. When Uka was not forthcoming after 3 fruitless months, the Oba obtained a fully ripe palm-fruit and had it dropped from the palm-tree top, pronouncing that as the palm fruits scatter, so shall Uka and his seeds scatter.
Since Uka died and had only one seed Uneme alive, naturally, though Uneme produced his own children, Uneme’s descendants scattered.
According to the folklore and oral tradition, these events surrounding the birth of Uneme’s children took place in Ugboha where Uneme himself stayed, died and was buried. However, the Benin war threat made latter generations of Uneme to move to Oghomeze. This according to the elders explains why the most senior Uneme from Ugboha had the right of kola nut breaking where other Uneme were in those days.
According to the folklore, Uhi a traditional community near Ehor is one of the major resting places of Esohe, his son Uneme along with the other Newfoundland seekers on the way out of the Bini Empire. Ava and his generations to come eventually settled in what is today known as Anegbette. The name Anegbette came to be on the day the then District Officer (D.O), a white man, visited Imiava and asked the chief of Imiava, pointing all over the direction around him, what these people are called by name. as was common in those days of language interpretation, the interpreter misunderstood the question to mean who owns all these lands. The chief told the interpreter to tell the D.O that it is not a land for one kindred but that we are all pushing one another to possess whatever quantity each one can control. The
interpreter then told the D.O; meaning we are struggling for space. The D.O then recorded the community’s name as Anegbette.
Generations of Uzoshi children moved to what is today known as Udochi. Generation of Uzanu the female child of Uneme moved to the present location called Uzanu. Other large but mixed Uneme parties moved to virgin lands where they could find what they called ROCKS-MELTABLE-TO-IRON. The excavation for Iron ore, iron smelting and usage of Iron ore to produce farm implements and local guns determined the movements to new virgin lands. This movement gave rise to Uneme settlements such as Imiava both in Etsako valleys of the hills in Anviawu area of Etsako, Akpama, Uneme-Osu, Ekpedo, Erurun, Enekhua, Aiyetoro all in Akoko-Edo LGA, and Ekpedo in Okene.
At Oghomeze during the dispersion, seeing that the Bini troops did not come down in the way they
expected them, some of the mixed groups comprising Imiava, Uzanu and Uzochi, and upon also hearing about the CURSE, went back to Bini to live their lives as Binis that they had always been in Bini land, saying after all our various opinion leaders here and rulership are tending to be more despotic than the Oba of Bini. To Bini, therefore this small went and they were restored joyfully. However some of this mixed group joined their forefather Uneme at Ugboha. So to this day, those who know it regard Uneme Ugboha as senior.
Effects of Dispersion
There are as many marriage and social rules, regulations and rites as there are Uneme communities except those communities that live close to one another. Even in the case of those Uneme communities that live close to one another, variation still exist. Since this concise history is not on analysis of the reasons for such variations, it is obvious that since Uneme began as a person, indeed the first and only surviving son of Uka, apart from metal work technology Uka had sparsely settled down enough tobuild up a culture and social norms for Uneme and his descendants before the dispersion. Because of the scattering and non-existence of any opportunity to gather for long in a single location before dispersion,
the summary below shows the main dispersion effects.
i. Blacksmithing technology is the main cultural heritage.
ii. Each Uneme settlement has its unique definition of various social norms, and rites, though
similarities obviously exist.
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