Published On: Sun, Jun 20th, 2021

Urhobo People, Brief History And Socio-Economic Development

By Oduse David
LAGOS JUNE 20TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Definitely, the Urhobo people are of one of the most interesting ethnic groups in Nigeria. They are one of those few ethnic groups without a properly documented history. The reason is because there is almost no presence of European affiliation in their history records, unlike some other groups.
However, oral tradition and folklore tells us that the history of the Urhobo people started from the indigenous Edo territory. Their migration to the various geographical locations they now regard as home, started towards the end of the Ogiso dynasty.
Their exodotic migration wasn’t like that of the Bibilical Israelites where the whole tribe moved once and for all, not at all. In this case of the Urhobo ethnic group, the people moved in various groups: with each group moving at its own pace, while searching for homely territories.
With over one million Urhobo Indigenes and several hundreds of communities distributed across Delta state, the Urhobo people are said to be one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Although, they’re the majority group in present Delta state, they are not the only ethnic group inhabiting the state.
Due to the riverine nature of the local environment they occupy, which is very near to the mouth of River Niger, most of their mythologies, beliefs and histories are water-related.
I believe this explains reason why the 2-day Ohworu festival, which is celebrated annually in Evwreni; a southern part of the Urhobo group area, where the Eravwe Oganga and the Ohworhu water spirit are displayed.
Futhermore, another heritage of the Urhobo people is the yearly fishing festivals that include swimming contests, fishing, masquerades, and dancing.
The king in an Urhobo kingdom is usually called the Ovie. The wife to the King, the queen, is called Ovieya and the children to the King are called ?m? Ovie (the princes and princess).
However, it’s worthy of note that there are few exemptions to this. Examples of such exceptions are the Okpe people that call their local traditional ruler “Orodje.” Okere-Urhobo people call their royal monarchs “Orosuen.” Agbarho people uses “Osuivie,” while the Orogun people uses “Okpara-Uku” (due to their close proximity with the Ukwuani people).
However, as a result of being descendants from the same ancestors, most of their traditions and customs are homogeneous, and are even the same, in some certain; such as the breaking of the kola-nut, presentation of prayers and blessings before the sharing of the kola and drinks, burial rites, payment of bride price, and so on.
It never be refuted or denied that the traditional marriage rites of the Urhobo ethnic group, is not unique in nature.
Based on local tradition, when a male suitor is interested in any Urhobo lady, he courts her initially. Then, once she accepts to marry him, the marriage process begins.
It’s also worthy to note that their marriage process is different from other ethnic traditions, where the lady would first inform her father about the intentions of her groom. In Urhobo people’s culture, the reverse is the case.
In Urhobo land, the lady would inform her mother first, who is her primary guardian, of course. Then, the mother would go to the father to inform him of the situation on ground, after getting necessary details. The father of the young woman would, in turn, ask the young intending groom to be invited.
During the first visit of the intending groom, Urhobo tradition requires that he comes alone, to introduce himself formally to the parents, with a bottle of gin.
As decided by the father of the lady, the intending groom would come again, on a later date. This time around, he’s expected to be come with his parents and few other relatives that will speak on their son’s behalf.
With reference to the Urhobo tradition, this process is known as “Ghore-Etse” which simply means ‘to knock.’
At the end, formal approval for marriage is granted by the bride’s parents, or by whoever is representing the bride’s family. Futhermore, traditional marriage rites of pouring the gin brought by the intending groom, as a petition to the father’s ancestors to bless the couple with wealth, health and children.

Religious Beliefs
“?gh?n?” (Almighty God) stands as the main Supreme being of the Urhobo traditional religion. He is often regarded as the Supreme One, while Edjo and Erhan (divinities) are also recognized by the Urhobos. According to them, these two deities are seen as personified attributes of the supreme being — “?gh?n?”.
The beautiful Urhobo people also worship the Almighty God, with (white chalk). If an Urhobo man feels threatened by anyone, he make appeals to ?gh?n?, who is believed to be an impartial judge, to do justice between him and his oppressor.
Last but not the least, it is pertinent to note that the fundamental factor and manifestation of all other deities in the religious belief system of the Urhobo ethnic group is “?gh?n?” (Almighty God).
Thanks for reading. I hope you learnt something new from this article of mine? What other interesting things do you know about Urhobo people? Let me hear your contributions in the comments section.
Oduse David is a Digital Journalist that writes content based on national and social issues.

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