By Chuks Agbotaen.
Ika is definitely not Igbo and it can never be, and that is why her citizens reject being Igbo or going near Igbo with a long pole, language is not the only criteria for knowing where a person or tribe come from and as for language our language now is called Ika and not Igbo , it is a mix of both Edo and Igbo words and sentences and we have carried out researches to know which word is Igbo and which word is Bini.
If you look at the core culture of the main Ika people ,and if you go back in time say 500 years or more what you will find are Bini names that our people bore, you will see in the naming of our villages and most towns Bini names and if you come to what we worshipped traditionally , you will find they are mostly edo deities like Olokun, Ovia, Ake, Ohunweeden, Ohointe, Ogun(Idigun),Ojuwu( satan),Ikpai( fire),and others with the exception of ikenga and ifejiokun that are Igbo deities.
As for festivals our ancient festivals are mainly Bini related like Ikaba,Ugbose, Osiezi, Inneh,Ogbanigbe,Uje and Igue -which still remains the most famous in ika and bini land.
Our kingship style was not taken from nri or any other Igbo land ,but from bini using the Uselu and Edaiken system and chieftaincy with a Dein/Obi and three levels of Chieftaincy called Ohaimen – the palace ,town and hereditary chiefs which mostly go by Bini names like Obazuaye, Obaseki, Ozomor, Ologboshere,Owangue, Esama,Isekure, Ihama, Ihaza, Ihondon, and others these Bini titles are the important ones , vested with traditional authority ,but right now we have igbo titles occuring in the last hundred years like Ogifurueze,Ezenweanali and others but very few and less significant.
The dressing of the chiefs and kings in Ikaland attest to the fact that they look exactly like a replica of the Oba of benin and Bini chiefs.
Due to our culture of property rights , marriages and other things which relate us to the Bini ,if there is any cultural problem in Ika and average Ika chief will look towards Bini and that is a fact ,because we share same cultural space.
What i see we also share with Igbos is a nearness in language ,but basically an Ika man has a different world view from an Igbo person and it is easy to see that even today.
Owa has been given many meanings by different people or elders some say owa -means house in edo language,some said it means owari as we speak in our dialect- wari means to hide,they said odogun hid in owa, some says it means owari enwen( he seperated himself) ,but for whatever it means owa was founded about 500 years before odogun was born .
Ika people made their stand known to the British authority in 1930 when they said Ika is part of Bini and our ancestors rejected it and said we are Ika and we do not belong to any other ethnic group than Ika.
Benin based their account on oral history that says Agbon now Agbor was founded by Ogungunagbon a Bini warlord,which the Agbor people also acknowledge as one of their founders but other people too have migrated to Agbor and therefore changed things,so Agbor and Ika is separate from Bini.
As I am writing am still in Boji-Boji Owa , I came for the burial of a relative and as i also went to greet a relative in Owa-Alizomor , they announced the death of the Okpanran/Odion of idumu-Ogbe in Alizomor town and he was 96 years old and his names were pa Osunde Ovia Ohen ( this names were all Edo names and he could easily pass for an Edo man ) and that is the uniqueness of Ika and some times an Ika person can have a name like Nduka Irabor (both Igbo /Edo names) or even Onyeka Okorie but that does not change him to be an Igbo man ,he is still Ika.
The British checked Owa history and culture in 1913 in their intelligence report they said Owa has Bini and Igbo migration pattern,in 1932 they also said it and professor Owuenjeogu said Owa has both Nri ,Edo and Ika cultural patter in 1972, but he said Owa has Nri pattern from 13th century, that of Edo in 17th century and Ika pattern of 4000 b.c, the proff .said Ika civilization is older than both Igbo and Edo pattern,and this calls for more research.
Owa elders and 5 professors and chiefs wrote in 1999 in their book Owa and her monarch that after their research the found out that Edo and Igbo have influenced Owa language,culture and way of life via migrations and other things but they concluded that it was Edo or Bini that is more ancient in Owa or has a more ancient past in Owa that the Igbo is more recent.
We should also not forget that there are some Agbor and Ika elders who believe that Agbon or Agbor was the cradle of civilization and that it has existed since about 8000 years and that all Ika and even Bini people came from Agbor ,and there was a time a Bini professor was working on that theory but the Benin royal palace came out to say that Bini is older than Agbor and that Agbor came out from Benin.
But one thing is sure Ogiso era was witnessed by Bini ,Agbor, Owa and most Ika people as the first word for king in Ika and Bini is called Ogiso ,and we have lots of stories in Owa about Ogiso .
in our local parlance nothing is wrong or confusing about a tribe have two migration theories as some Igbo propagandist
always like to paint about Ika or Anioma as Itsekiri-say they are Yoruba plus Bini, while Isoko who share similar language with Uhrobo say they are Isoko,and Esan who share similar language with Bini say they are Esan as an ethnic group, so we assert our Ika ethnic nationality as Ika people separate from Igbo or Bini.
the obi of owa kingdom is shown in this picture with his chiefs who are carrying an insignia called eben or eberen in benin and ika language, this is for chiefs or kings that share lineage or affiliation with the benin monarchy and benin people. but no one is denying igbo migration or igbo influence in ika ,but we want to be respected as a people who are of a seperate ethnic group called ika , we dont want igbo appendage or benin appendage we are just ika nation, we love our culture and tradition and we would defend it to the last.
I am from owa kingdom and my family is one of the original founders of owa kingdom and we are fierce warrior, these people tried and failed –
In 1906- the British invaded Owa kingdom with their cannons, guns and muskets and soldiers Owa warriors confronted them and killed Captain Crewe Reade in Owanta ,he was the assistant district officer for Benin area , and he was beheaded by an Owa warrior called Tete Okunbor Osagie,that war lasted for 55 days and the british suffered casualties and they had to call for reinforcement with the soldiers and battalion of west African frontier forces and they defeated and captured our obi , Aigbodi Igbeoba -Agbihaga( the king with dreadlocks) and exiled him in Warri ,where he died and his son Obi Okundaiye became king of Owa .after that the British respected Owa and Ika people that was why the colonial governor said he was afraid to go to Agbor area where the people are war like and hostile.
The former Obi of Agbor around 1900 , Obi Osaigbobu challenged Oba Eweka the second of Benin to a wrestling match and he refused to put down his eben and ada when Eweka came to Agbor and it was a tradition for all Ika or Anioma kings to put down their ada when they see the Oba as a sign of the Obas seniority.
In 1966 during the civil war the Igbos too lay such claims but trust Ika people they quickly helped the federal troops to expel them.
so if all this things have happened i wonder why some people will be pushing an agenda that is already dead before delivery to Ika people .finally I will like to say we are Ika people and we belong to Ika nation and nothing will make us any other tribe except Ika and Benin , we can never be Igbo but Benin.