The whole Kingdom was unsettled when the death of Olu AKENGBUWA was announced at the Capital on June 14th, 1848.
The Chiefs were still making arrangements for the Funeral Rites and the Installation of a Successor when OMATEYE, the Man whom everybody believed would succeed him, collapsed and died three days after his Father’s death.
#The suddenness of this gave currency to the belief that it was a result of his Father’s curse.
*He had a brother who could take his place and the Chiefs hurriedly summoned him. This was EJO.
=The arrangements for installing him had not been completed before this young Man also fell ill and died within three months.
THE REVOLT OF THE SLAVES
If EMAYE’s DESCENDANTS thought at first that the death of OMATEYE was an accident, that of EJO reminded the ITSEKIRI People of the curse of the IFE Medicine Man who had declared that if his blood touched the ground, there would be a vacancy in the ITSEKIRI Throne for three generations.
Such superstitious beliefs were made popular by the enemies of the EMAYE matrilineal groups. Naturally, the EMAYE group did not accept this. Unfortunately, the Children of both OMATEYE and EJO were too small to take over control of the situation and so it was left to the loyal slaves of the EMAYE HOUSEHOLD to take the offensive against all those whom they suspected of being involved in some foul-play.
Of these slaves, those whose names have featured prominently were Ebrimoni, Okorodosu, Okube, Abelaga, Akwara, Akebo, Ugbodudu, Ebelele.
The Leader of the group were Ebrimoni and Okorodosu who had made much money and had the resources to sustain a reign of terror.
Ebrimoni was the slave of IYE (Princess Udolorolusan) who had given him as a present to her junior brother OMATEYE. When OMATEYE was Governor of the Benin River, he delegated most of his function to this trusted slave who probably accumulated wealth from this.
Beecroft was later told that while Olu AKENGBUWA was alive, Ebrimoni was his own trumpet or mouth-piece, a messenger, visiting the Vessels on their arrival and to receive the Custom and Comey. But Ebrimoni, unlike the slaves of the Eastern Delta, was a very loyal slave who allowed himself to be transferred from one member of the Family to the other.
=We shall see this aspect of his life later. After the death of OMATEYE, in spite of Ebrimoni’s apparent wealth, he was taken over by IYE from whom he took direction.
It was the loyalty of Ebrimoni and his group to their EMAYE Masters that made them declare that they would see that none of the other Sons of Olu AKENGBUWA succeeded to the Throne
Princess UWALA another of the EMAYE Daughters who, as we have found earlier, had offended Olu AKENGBUWA over the OMAGENE affair was in BATERE with her Son PEDRO and could not take any active part in the events in ODE-ITSEKIRI.
IYE however, remained in the Capital and with the help of Ebrimoni and his group, was able to take up her station at OKERE which provided her a refuge.
#All the Descendants of EMAYE were afraid of their lives. Summoning up her courage, IYE was able to bring order into the Kingdom after the initial period of crisis. So powerful did she become later that the Europeans called her Queen DELE.
Under her influence, Ebrimoni was able to visit the Merchant Ship to collect the Customs and the Comey as he had done earlier when Olu AKENGBUWA was alive.
Beecroft’s assessment of Ebrimoni’s power and disposition in 1851 may be a little exaggerated, but there is some reason to believe that the slaves, alive to their new found power, imposed for some time, a reign of terror in the Capital before they left.
“I am perfectly convinced,” wrote Beecroft, “that he had been the instrument of nearly all the outrages that have been committed for a series of years. Combined with three or four other rascals.
We are perfectly well acquainted with each other since 1839 and 1840, the time when I passed the town of Warree, for the Niger in the Steamer, ETHIOPE.
I am perfectly satisfied that the said Abrimony (Ebrimoni) had been the means of having several men murdered.”
He and his slave supporters joined UWALA at BATERE which became the EMAYE Stronghold.
*Before they left WARRI, they may have killed many people and driven others to seek their fortune in small settlements in the Benin River.
Those who were strong enough to remain in the Capital formed with IYE, a Council of State.
*Why IYE made Ebrimoni and his group leave the Capital to settle in BATERE was not clear. Probably they were themselves frightened to remain there after all the atrocities perpetrated by them.
END OF PART I
Click HERE for PART TWO