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This work is a study of the socio-political system of the Owhe people from AD 1896 to AD 1962. In recent years, there has been a crisis of leadership controversy between the office of the Osewho and that of the Odiologbo in Owhe clan.This leadership controversy is blamed on the interference of the colonial government on the traditional political institution of the Owhe people. Pertinently, this work examines the precolonial traditional political system and political structure as necessary prelude to ascertain the changes, alteration, and the challenges it underwent during our period of study. Investigation into the Owhe socio-political structure reveals that the leadership controversy is engendered by the imposition of colonial administration through the instrumentality of the Native Court System and the introduction of party politics into the socio-political life of the people. This largely more than any other factor, subverted the indigenous political organization. This seems to have provoked the rivalry, between the office of the Osewho and that of the Odionlogbo as most of the relevant observable in the smaller politics of the pre-colonial time has disappeared in the colonial arrangement. The research methodology used for this work includes the narrative, descriptive and analytical methods. Primary sources such as archival materials and oral interviews were conducted, as well as secondary sources were subjected to the above-mentioned methodology.












SOURCE: Isoko Noth Local Council Ozoro, 2014.






Background to the Study

Over time, man has been confronted with the problem of knowing whom he is, how he has come to be where he is, what factors have affected and influenced his situation, his identity and his association. Consequently, man is constantly challenged to find solution to these situations. This can only be achieved through the study of his past. As Sir Sidney Philipson and Chief Simeon Adebo, in (Olaniyan,2003: xv) puts it “…Every situation has its root in the past…the past survives in the present, the present is indeed the past undergoing modification”. Therefore, “a study of history is essentially a study of change in society overtime” (Ikime,2006: 151).

It is against the above backdrop that a study of the political history of the Owhe clan of the Isoko ethnic nationality in the Western Niger Delta is seen essentially as a study of the changing patterns in their socio-political organization overtime. The Owhe people evolved their own political system, which was initially gerontocratic in nature. The society was stratified into various age-grades called Itu, which were saddled with specific responsibilities.

In this precolonial arrangement, the highest among the age-grades was the Edio (the elders) age-grade. This age-grade was the highest decision making body in the society and it was headed by the Odio (the eldest or oldest man), who in consultation with the other members of the Edio age-grade ruled over the people. The Oge / Ivrawha (Youth) age-grade executed the decisions taken by this age-grade while the Ekpako (men) age- grade supervised them.

At a point in their history, the Owhe people opted for a more centralized system of government, perhaps as a response to societal needs and aspirations. This new political system had the Osewho and the Odio-Edhe, which metamorphosed into the Odiologbo at the centre of the political affairs. In today Owhe, the Odiologbo an equivalent of an Ovie or king is the clan head and the traditional ruler, while the Osewho functions as the Kingmaker. However, leadership controversy has been thrown up between the Osewho and the Odiologbo as to who should be the head of the centralized system of government at its inception. Various schools of thought have emerged each postulating various claims of paramountcy. The Osewho school of thought maintains that the title of Osewho was conferred on one Osue of Iluelogbo, (now Owhelogbo) one of the communities that make up the Owhe clan, by an Oba of Benin to rule over the Owhe people. The power of the Osewho was usurped later due to Osewho’s old age and the imposition of colonial administration in the area (Kolo, 2008). The Odiologbo school of thought on the other hand argues that the centralized system of government was never stimulated from outside neither was there any conferment of any title that suggests paramountcy on any Owhe person by an Oba of Benin. This school posits that the Owhe people evolved their own system of government in response to the challenges and aspirations of the time and the Odiologbo was the head of government (oral interview with Romanus Inana, 2013).

The British incursion into Owhe clan could be traced to 1896, when a treaty of protection was signed between the British officers and some Owhe chiefs (Ikime, 1972: 155). This was suppose to be a trade protection treaty, which was later interpreted to be a total surrender of the people’s rights, privileges and sovereignty to the British officials. Although the Owhe people detested of it they had not what it takes to sustain a stiff resistance. From this moment henceforth, the political history of Owhe became a story of the struggle between the indigenous political system and the colonial political administration, which was imposed on the Owhe people in the form of the Native Court System. The said treaty of protection brought Owhe clan and by extension, the whole of Isokoland under British sphere of influence (Ikime,1972: 155). The British susequently established the Native Court System of government in the area. The Native Court was judicial and administrative in nature.

The Native Court Ordinance of 1901 was the legal instrument that established the Native Court. The ordinance forbade the Edio (Elders) council from arbitrating and adjudicating (C.O. 558/1, 1901). The Owhe and the other Isoko people who were therefore unwilling to submit to the British authority resented this vexed issue. At this time, the Owhe people attended court at Kwale, Iyede, and Ase as there was no Native Court in Owhe. The disobedience of the Owhe people to the British constituted authority provoked the British punitive expedition on Owhe in 1911 (Ononeme, 1969: 17). Apart from the vexatious ordinance of 1901, the high handedness and the over bearing attitude of the court officials was another reason for the resentment of the Owhe people towards the Native Court System of government (Hubbard, 1948: 74, N.A.I. C.S.O 26/2. 11857, Vol. IV, 1906, also Ughelli papers file 26/1919). However, British rule was firmly established in Owhe after the punitive expeditions of 1911 and 1914, and the establishment of Native Court in Owhe. The people were thus coerced into accepting the alien rule, and they started taking their cases to the Native Court for hearing. The people’s will was therefore suppressed; and the traditional leadership subverted.As it were there was no other instance of open rebellion in the area until that of 1927.

Trouble broke out again in Owhe in 1927, when direct adult taxation, (the British government mechanism of generating fund internally) was extended to the Delta (Warri) Province (N.A.I. C.S.O. 26/2,11857.Vol. V, 1927). The protest that accompanied this tax regime is generally referred to as the Anti-Tax Riot. The manner in which the protest was coordinated beat the imagination of the British. This compelled Rutherford, the British officer incharge of the province to order an investigation on the Anti-Tax Riot. The investigation revealed that the indigenous political structure was still powerful, effective, and influential on the people. Consequently, the power of the pre-colonial political organization was restored but to operate in the dictates of the British administration. In the re-organization that followed in the 1930s and 1940s, traditional heads were appointed as members of the Native Authority. This was to a great measure, a revival of the pre-colonial political organization.

As Nigeria marched towards political independence, and the implementation of the Macpherson constitution, there was the need for elected representation of the people both at the federal and at the local levels. In this regard, some Owhe indigenes were elected into the Isoko District Council and at the Regional levels on political parties’ platforms. The dominant political party in Owhe at this time was the Action Group (A.G) and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (N.C.N.C). As usually, competition brought rivalry, thus, between 1955 and 1962, Owhe witnessed politics of bitterness and rivalry. The clan was divided along the lines of political parties, loyalty was shifted from the people to political parties and party men, support, and empowerment was no longer based on laid down procedures and merit but on political lineage. This new order of things adversely affected the indigenous political system of Owhe clan (CH.47/2,1968). The climax of this political rivalry was the politicization of the Odio-Edhe title and the promotion of the succession dispute into the Odio-Edhe position between Ogbaifo Agbroje and Okpewho Atunu in 1958. This succession dispute was however given a political resolution in 1962, when Ogbaifo Agbroje was recognized as the Odiologbo of Owhe by the Western Nigeria Regional Government (Western Nigeria Gazette, No.23, Vol.11,1962).

From the forgoing, it become imperative to study the political history of Owhe clan in the period under review, 1896 -1962 toascertain the socio-political melodrama that engendered the crisi of relevance and rivalry in the post colonial political institution of the Owhe people and the attendant implication for the future of the people.There may have been a noticeable element of internal rivalry and subversion in the political hierarchy of the Owhe people, much of the changes and challenges were colonial creations. To this end, one can not over emphasize the dislocation and erosion colonialism inflicted on the sociopolitical life of the Owhe people. As Olaniyan puts it “Indeed colonialism seriously subverted the political life of the people thereby making a revert to the pre-colonial arrangement at best a tantalizing possibility” (Olaniyan, 2003:XV). Although a profound awareness of the political history of the Owhe people may not necessarily revert to the precolonial political arrangement, it is hoped that it would help to mould human attitude and human action (J.H. Plumb, in Ikime,2006:144).

Structurally, this work has five chapters. Chapter One is the Introduction this consist the background to the study, the statement of the problem/justification of the work, scope of the study and limitation to the study. Chapter Two of the work deals with review of related literature. This exposed this researcher to the related works of earlier researchers toidentify the gap to be filled. In chapter Three, there is the location of the study; and the history of the area. It includes the type of survey carried out, how the data were monitored, collected, and analysed, or the nature of sources: both primary and secondary and how they were collected.The materials and the methodology with which this work was carried out is discussed. Chapter Four is the main body of the work. This chapter using the pre-colonial political organization as a necessary prelude to the study, the socio-political organization of the Owhe people is examined with a focus on the changes and alteration it under went between AD 1896 to AD1962. Chapter Five is the conclusion, which deals with the findings and recommendation, contribution to knowledge and conclusion.


Statement of the Problem

The Ọdiologbo and the Ọsewho are the two major prominent position in the political organogram in Owhe political organization.  The Ọdiologbo as we have it today is the head of the structure while the Ọsewho is the king maker (He crowns the Ọdiologbo). Both personalities complement each other. Unfortunately, the synergy between the duo has collapsed consequent upon the claim that the Ọsewho was the paramount ruler of the Owhe people before his power was usurped

Two schools of thought have emerged, the first holds that the title of  Osewho was confirmed on one Osue of Iluelogbo (now Owhelogbo) by the Oba of Benin to rule the Owhe people, but his office and powers were usurped by the Odio-Edhe (now Odiologbo) during the period of colonial rule. The second school of thought argues that the Owhe people evolved their own political system without external stimuli and the Odiologbo was the head. This controversy portends great danger for the peaceful coexistence of the clan, as the Owhelogbo comunity has requested the creation of an autonomous Owhelogbo clan from the extant Owhe clan, where the Osewho can reign.

This leadership controversy and the 1957 succession dispute erupted  because there is paucity of literature on the socio-political organization of the Owhe people.      The desire therefore, for a detailed study on the evolution of the socio-political organization, the alterations, and changes it had undergone over the years is imperative and thus, makes this work compelling.


Aims/Objectives of the Study

The aim of this research is to identify the socio- political organization of the Owhe people and the alterations and changes it had undergone over time. The overall objective of this work is to provide a basis for the understanding of Owhe political history.

The work provides a source material to future researchers on Owhe history.

This work also serve as a reference for the eligibility and the procedure for the enthronement of the Odiologbo.

This work emphasizes the ties between all the communities in the clan with a view to promoting the spirit of oneness and peaceful co-existence.


Scope of the Study

This work is a study of the political history of Owhe people from AD 1896, when the British signed a treaty of protection with Owhe people, to AD 1962, when the OdioEdhe (now Odiologbo) was recognized by the Western Regional Government of Nigeria vide the Western Nigeria Gazette Vol. II No. 23 of 29th, march, 1962.

It focuses on its socio-political organization and changes over time.  As a necessary prelude to this study, the traditions of origin and the socio-political organization of the people in pre-colonial times are examined, with a view to highlighting the fundamentals of the evolution of the political system of Owhe clan during this period.


Significance of Study

This work provides a new source material for future researchers on the political history of Owhe. This work puts Owhe history in another perspective as it promotes understanding and emphasizing the bond that exist and so as to reduce rancour among the Owhe people.


Limitation of Study

A study of this nature can not be without challenges and limitations. Some of such limitations are the hoarding, distortion and the interpolation of information and issues by the respondents. It is a truism that most Africans record historical events in their memories and these cannot be recalled accurately after a long period, given that most of the elders we have today were born during the colonial era. It is also very difficult to periodize oral evidence. Most historical events are rather narrated in a holistic manner with out recourse to periods. The existing intelligence report is also problematic as some issues were misrepresented and reports were written from certain perspectives geared towards specific interests and authorities. There was also the problem of reconciling claims in some secondary sources with oral claims from respondents. In the face of these limitations, this researcher collected his information, sieved them, analyzed, and reconciled them to make this work an interesting reading.


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