By Dr. Ejiro Imuere
In 1928, a group of visionary leaders, led by the esteemed Late Chief Ayomanor Evwida, embarked on a remarkable journey to establish what would become the thriving heart of Orerokpe. Their names resound with authority: Chiefs Egbele, Temisan, Eche, Akalusi, Esobiebi, Edjeba, Okpedia, Echerusi, Agbaifo, Omarin, Kogoro, and Aga. Together, they formed an indomitable force, driven by a shared vision for progress.
Yet, this extraordinary tale traces back even further. Nestled on the site of Modern Orerokpe lies the ancient town of “Adane Okpe.” Founded by four families—Orhue, Evbreke, Orhoro, and Ezezi—their unity and resilience shaped the town’s destiny. Each family found solace in their quarter within the grand streets bearing their names, converging at the focal point known as the “Adane.”
However, the glory of Adane Okpe’s original magnificence is now lost to time. A regicide in 1780, resulting in a devastating crisis, forced the Okpe inhabitants into a painful diaspora. The town stood abandoned, its boundaries blurred, and its former glory a distant memory.
Before the arrival of the illustrious Chiefs in 1928, Orerokpe lay desolate, inhabited by a mere three souls. Two of these men, Idiavwore and Ajokperiniovo, were non-Okpes seeking refuge, their hearts yearning for peace. In a remarkable twist, the third man, Akalusi, represented the Okpe clan. Idiavwore, a chieftain from Ophori Agbarho, arrived after seeking refuge following a grievous family tragedy. His spirit of vengeance pushed him to clear the Esezi quarter and establish his village, known as “Oko Idiavwore.”
Not long after, Ajokperiniovo, a fellow kinsman, joined Idiavwore, and the two men found solace in their newfound haven. In 1925, the arrival of Chief Akalusi from Mereje Town added a significant chapter to the unfolding tale. As the head of scattered Ezezi descendants, Akalusi carried an oracle’s divination, compelling him to serve “Okpe Edio” in Edion at Orerokpe on behalf of the Okpe Kingdom. He spearheaded the reunification of all Okpes and advocated for the restoration of kingship to the Esezi family in Orerokpe.
In 1925, Akalusi convened a momentous meeting of Okpe elders, inviting representatives from the four families. However, only the descent group from his own family attended, as opposition from elders of the other families hindered the grand vision of Okpe reassembly and the appointment of a successor to Esezi I. Undeterred, Akalusi chose to remain with Idiavwore and Ajokperiniovo in the Esezi Ward, forging a powerful alliance that would shape the future of Orerokpe.
Although these three men never resided near the revered Adane, considered the town’s epicenter, the deforestation of Adane in 1928 signaled a turning point. Several factors influenced the 13 chiefs’ decision to reclaim this sacred land:
- The Oha Ovu land dispute and the consequential provincial court judgment in 1924 dealt a heavy blow to Orerokpe. A significant tract of land was lost to the Ovus, exacerbating the town’s challenges and inspiring a desperate need for change.
- Chief Agbaifo, guided by oracular divination from the Edion Shrine, echoed the growing sentiment. Orerokpe had suffered a series of land losses to the Ovus since 1912, beginning with Olukobare Village. The Edion Oracle’s message resonated deeply: it was time for Oha to cease its fight for control and realize that the land and the struggle belonged to the entire Adane community. The four family heads had to unite to reclaim their beloved town.
- Intelligence and assessment reports, penned by British colonial officers Fellows and Kerr in 1928, further emphasized the urgency of revitalizing Orerokpe. Their recommendations call for the restoration of the Okpe SOBO clan court, the ancient Odogun Council, within the ancient capital. This would enable the British to indirectly govern the entire Okpe community. Their report painted a vivid picture of the potential rebirth that awaited Orerokpe.
And so, the stage was set for the remarkable resurgence of Orerokpe. The first chief among the thirteen chiefs to lead the charge in deforesting the Adane, after its abandonment for over 150 years, emerged. His name, forever etched in the annals of Orerokpe’s history, and the demands of the Edion Oracle would soon be revealed.
To uncover the answers to these pressing questions and immerse yourself in the captivating story of Orerokpe’s journey, stay tuned for my upcoming book, “The Chronicles of Orerokpe Town.”