The Niger-Delta States which had become very wealthy because of trade, seemed to provide the Olu with the opportunity for dynastic marriages.
The first of the marriages which we know about was that of Princess ILOYI to Chief BIRIAGADA of NEMBE. Nembe sources indicate that when the Princess was sent to Nembe, she took with her “a pot of juju, a seed of banana, a certain herbal medicine” which are still to be found in Nembe today.
It also occurred to Olu AKENGBUWA to give one of his Daughters to King OPUBU the Great of BONNY.
At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, BONNY had become one of the most wealthy of the City-States of the Niger-Delta. It was a prominent slave trading territory. Warri already had trade relations with Bonny and Olu AKENGBUWA therefore had adequate information not only about OPUBU, but also about his prosperous City-State.
The Olu sent a message to King OPUBU that he wanted to send him one of his Daughters in marriage. The news that he was to receive such a signal honour from the King of Warri so pleased the King of Bonny that he decided to show his appreciation in a dramatic way.
He ordered his slaves to fit out many of his trading Canoes and stock them with articles of value, English, and Portuguese goods, gold and silver plates, costly silks and exquisitely fine cloths embroidered with lace.
When the presents arrived in Warri they took the Olu by surprise; although he had heard that the Bonny King was very wealthy, he had not been aware of the extent of his riches. His imagination fired, he decided that the time had come to pay a friendly visit to the neighbouring Country to see his prospective Son-in-law.
He therefore sent a message to OPUBU telling him that he would bring his Daughter in person. This was a rare departure from ITSEKIRI Tradition.
“The Father of the bride did not lead the bride to the bridegroom. It was always the duty of the bridegroom to go to the house of his prospective Father-in-law for the ceremony, or pouring of the wine, not the other way round.”
The news that AKENGBUWA was coming in person with his Daughter was more than King OPUBU had expected and he began at once to make adequate arrangements for the reception of his distinguished guest to show him all the respect due to his person.
The state visit of the ITSEKIRI King provided an opportunity for a display of his wealth and power. The place was well decorated. The walls and roof were covered with rich and brilliant silk that dazzled the eyes.
To make sure that the people shared in the joy of the occasion, he ordered that cloth should be given to those who could not afford material for new dresses. He thus ensured that all his Citizens were gorgeously attired on the day.
The day came. The weather was good. At strategic centres in the town as well as on the beach which was also decorated with silk, cannons were mounted with gunners ready to fire salutes.
From the beach to the Palace the ground was covered with a silk carpet and strict instructions were given that on no account should the attendants allow the feet of the King of Warri to touch the ground.
At road junctions by which AKENGBUWA would pass large mirrors were fixed so that he could see himself as he went by.
The OLU’s Canoes glided majestically out of the creeks and as soon as they were sighted a messenger ran to the Palace and rumbling cannon accorded the Royal Salute.
It was always the duty of the bridegroom to go with decorated Canoes to receive the bride, using the occasion to show his position in his own society. In this case, however, it was Olu AKENGBUWA, the bride’s Father, who came with decorated Canoes to the bridegroom.
His Canoes were moored and as his feet touched the silk spread out for him to tread, the sound of cannon from all parts of the town rent the air. When he set foot in the Palace there was renewed firing. AKENGBUWA shook OPUBU’s hand in appreciation and gave the Princess to him. As OPUBU gave her his hand further salvoes were fired.
There was general merriment the whole of that day. Then came the ceremony of the pouring of the wine. The Bonny King brought out his stock of wine, gin and brandy, about twenty puncheons in all.
The girl was very young, probably sixteen years old, the age when most ITSEKIRI girls were given in marriage. The King was struck by her beauty and was happy at the union.
After the necessary sacrifices to the gods, the marriage ceremony was performed and the Olu returned to his Kingdom, having cemented a healthy alliance between Bonny and Warri.
END OF PART FOUR