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Published On: Thu, Jun 14th, 2018

Causes And Merits Of Proliferation Of Kingdoms In Urhoboland

By Young Erhiurhoro
LAGOS JUNE 14TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Proliferation of kingdoms as used in this discourse simply means multiplicity, increasing, expanding or creating more and new kingdoms from the original or ancient kingdoms in a particular tribal or ethnic group especially in a plural society. Proliferation of kingdoms in Urhobo land in recent times had expanded Urhobo in traditional leadership but not in geography and population.
I want to look at the issue of proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms or clans as a healthy social order and a welcome developmental or social change among the Urhobo people. I don’t want to think otherwise since it is already accepted by our traditional and political leaders and also culturally entrenched in Urhobo traditional institutions as part of our general culture and public life. It is a welcome and healthy cultural development among the Urhobo ancient kingdoms.
In the first place, let us look at some root causes why kingdoms are being proliferated or multiplied every now and then in Urhobo land. First and foremost, we must know that Urhobo is a pluralistic and heterogeneous society which is quite different from the homogenous societies of the Yoruba, Bini and Itsekiri. In pluralistic societies, according to the researched work of Professor Onigu Otite (2002) done on Urhobo migrant groups in Yoruba of Ondo state and published in his book, “On The Part of Progress”, there are bound to be multiple or different traditional institutions, including family units (nuclear and extended families), simple and complex kindred, communities and full grown clans or kingdoms in a single tribal or ethnic group.
This according to Nzimiro, I. (1976) in his book, “Classes and Class Struggles” was as a result of grouping the people into different social classes which will now result into class struggles among them. This also mean survival of the fittest among the weak ones. To buttress the above point, Urhobo as at today is having 24 independent and indigenous kingdoms or clans spread across the four cardinal points of the ethnic region and also politically recognized by the government of the day. They have both political will and traditional tools to operate as independent kingdoms. In the case of Yoruba, Bini and Itsekiri, they have a single or homogenous society of a central or supreme kingdom before having subordinate kingdoms in the form of kindred, family or community that give their allegiance to the supreme or central traditional government. For instance, the Alafin of Oyo controls over fifty percent of the Yoruba people, Oba of Benin controls the entire Benin people as their supreme Lord, Olu of Itskeriri also controls the entire Itsekiri ethnic region etc.
Secondly, the issue of classes and class struggles is very much prevalent in the topic of discussion. In African pluralistic societies, classes lead to class struggles and it is a dominant cause of proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms in Urhobo land. By economic and social classifications, people are naturally grouped based on their social status and in so doing, there is struggle among themselves of who to be a leader of such social class or group. Today in Urhobo land, apart from the three kingdoms of Ughelli, Agbarha and Ogor of the Oghwoghwa Dynasty that have well established traditional primogeniture (father to eldest son); the rest twenty-one kingdoms have porous and weak system of inheritance to their thrones. Apart from Orogun kingdom also of the Oghwoghwa group where the eldest man in the kingdom becomes the traditional head, the rest Kingdoms have royal family house system of inheritance. The cause of instituting this royal family house system is not also far from class struggles among the royal families. This had led to the disintegration of some kingdoms in Urhobo land which are also cases of litigations between two or more royal family houses in the various law courts at the moment. For instance, the case of Udu and Ughievwen kingdoms where four kingdoms sprang up from the original two. The case of Abraka having two kingdoms, the case of Mosogar disintegrated from the old Oghara kingdom and many others. All these multiplicities stemmed up as a result of class struggles among royal families that have the traditional right to man traditional institutions of the various ancient kingdoms in Urhobo land.
Thirdly is the oppression and greediness among traditional heads. Even though the Urhobos don’t operate a central traditional leadership like the Yorubas and the Binis, but in every kingdom in Urhobo land, there are communities or villages which are closely knitted in ancestral bond to the kingdom’s headquarters. In fact, without subordinate or adjoint communities or villages, there is nothing like a kingdom or clan. For instance, Uvwie Kingdom has Etches in the different major quarters making the kingdom, Evwreni has Odion’Rode and Odion’Esiri as assistant traditional heads in the kingdom, Uwheru has Edion in each of the major quarters of the kingdom as assistant traditional heads etc. However, in many cases, the central traditional heads do not carry along their assistants in decision making or accord them the expected honour that befit their traditional titles in terms of financial support and other benefits to the throne; knowing fully well that such traditional stools and their holders are not recognized by government. This had led to so many crises among the different kingdoms in Urhobo land. It is one of the root causes of proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms in Urhobo land.
Fourthly is the jealousy and seeking for political recognition by some influential indigenes in our original kingdoms. Today, political participation of the Urhobo people in the government of Nigeria have made many to know the political power and the numerous political benefits attached to royal thrones. In order to seek for political recognition or relevance in an original kingdom, coupled with the sheer avarice of jealousy, many Urhobo political leaders agitated for the creation of new kingdoms with political power or government gazette as if it is a senatorial district or electoral state or federal constituency. And in this instance, some kingdoms were created in Urhobo land through political power in some past governments in the state without following the precepts of Urhobo ancient traditional institutions or cultural values.
Fifthly, to seek government attention over the needs of some oppressed communities or families in a particular Kingdom. This is another reason why kingdoms are being proliferated or multiplied in Urhobo land. In a kingdom where the needs of every family or community are not effectively or fully represented, some people that feel oppressed or aggrieved, one way or the other, may decide to go on their own to form or create a new kingdom in order for government to also attend to their needs promptly. In a situation where traditional heads oppressed some communities in their kingdoms which they feel are insubordinate, they are only creating a loop hole for such people to agitate for the creation of their own kingdom. As the same Urhobos would put it, “A child that is already crying, and you again give him a knock on the head.” In other words, it would be advantageous and beneficial if both the original kingdom and the warring parts understand themselves and agree for a new kingdom to be carved out of the original one. In this case, they stand to benefit more from government projects and programmes than those on a rival ground. For instance, anything the federal or state government is sharing in Nigeria based on Kingdom or clan, Abraka stand the chance of having two why other kingdoms are having one each in Urhobo land. Why? This is because they understand themselves and also know the political benefits of sharing their ancient Kingdom into two.
On a general note, the few points above are some of the root causes of proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms across Urhobo land. There are other ones but time and space would not permit us to write them for now.
Having said that, we shall conclude the article by arguing objectively whether to encourage the proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms in Urhobo land or not? For my personal opinion and from different studies done on plural and migrant societies in Africa by notable scholars like Gulliver, (1967), Hill, (1963), P. Mayer, (1962), Mitchell, (1956) etc in the fields of Sociology, Anthropology and Economic Geography; I want to argue and support the motion that, proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms should be encouraged in Urhobo land. Like what I rightly said in the beginning of this discourse, that proliferation of kingdoms is a social problem but I viewed it as a healthy social order and a means of drawing government attention to the needs of our people.
Though proliferating our kingdoms is not as a result of population wise or increase in geographical location but an impressive increase in traditional leadership. Today, in terms of infrastructural and human development, the Ijaws are ahead of us because of the meaningful use of proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms in their ethnic region. They always support each other to drag government to create more kingdoms in their land.
Another reason why I support the proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms in Urhobo land is that, electoral wards and units: the two major political grassroot entities that are closer to the people, are shared not primarily on population indices according to the constitution of the country but based on kingdom lines and political connections. For instance, the electoral wards in the entire Urhobo land are not more than forty. But let’s assume we have up to thirty kingdoms, the Urhobos would have more electoral wards and units. This is to say, the Urhobos would produce more members of house of assembly in the state and more members in the house of representatives. With the above reasons in my points of argument, I seriously plead with Urhobo lawmakers, Urhobo academia, Urhobo traditional rulers and the UPU leadership to support and encourage the proliferation or multiplicity of kingdoms across Urhobo land.
Young Erhiurhoro; Kjc is a reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.

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