There are at present FIVE major communities
that make up Umunede Kingdom, and these are:
(1) Obi, consisting of
the following quarters: Idumu Obi, Oro Egweachime and Ikweme (Isokwe).
(2) ILEGE, consisting
of Uhiere, Idumu Afor, Umuojobia, Iba, Ogbeisere and Ogbe Ohun
(3) OBA, consisting of
Isiukwa, Ogbeakun and Idumu Ugbo;
(4) ILE, consisting of
Ayomuroko, Esegbena and Ozoba; and
(5) NEW ROAD SETTLEMENT
made up of recent immigrants to Umunede and younger generations from other villages, of Umunede and to some extent, people
from other village of Umunede.
1.2 Administrative Structure
At the general/town level,
Umunede is governed by THE OBI-IN-COUNCIL.
The Council is made up of:
(1) The Obi of Umunede who is
the Chairman at all meetings and deliberations brought before the Royal Palace. He
also presides at all disputes brought to the Palace for members of the Royal Family to settle.
(2) Royal Family: Members of the Royal Family in the Council include adult princes and princesses. The senior members are also supposed to act as advisers to the Obi on matters relating to custome and tradition.
(3) The Ndiches: By tradition, the Ndiches are the oldest men who hold the Staff of Office (called Okpukpu) in their respective
recognized communities in Umunede. When they meet in the Royal Palace, they sit
according to the seniority of the office which they hold and not by the age of its individuals in Umunede. The Ogele is the leader of the Ndiches. He is also the king-maker. Idumu Oro in Obi village has the highest Okpukpu in Umunede. At the death of an Obi it is the Oro Community that arranges and performs all rites pertaining to his burial. There are about 14 Okpukpus in Umunede.
The Olotus: There are FOUR Olotus in Umunede- The Iyase of
Obi, The Odogwu of Ileje, The Okita of Oba, and The Arum of Ile. Their tenure
in office is terminated by death, as the post is not hereditary. At the death
of the holder, the post is passed on to another community in that village. The
Olotus work closely with the Obi in all festivals when they too perform some traditional rites and rituals for the progress
of the town. The Olotus are the first people to be invited to the Obis Palace
in any emergency. They also serve as the mouthpiece of their respective village. The Iyase of Obi village is their leader.
The Omus: Each of the original four villages has her own Omu. The Omus are important traditional women leaders in Umunede. They are selected on the basis of their maturity and on their assumed ability to perform traditional rites
as Olotus and also perform rituals and make sacrifices as Ndi Dibie and Ndi Uzu in order to protect the Obi and his people
against evil forces. The position is not hereditary. The Omus and their advisers are generally called the Odozi Obodos.
The Titled Chiefs (Traditional/Social)
Chieftaincy in generally conferred on deserving citizens of Umunede
and other worthy non-citizens who meet the Obis requirements. In Umunede this
class of Chiefs do not perform specific traditional rites as the Olotus. Some
of the titles, especially those of Benin origin, are hereditary. Until the reign
of the present Obi, the Eson was the only female titled Chief in Umunede; the
title automatically going to the Obis first wife. The functions of the chiefs
include, among others, promotion of peace, unity and development of Umunede. The
chiefs may also represent the Obi on political/social matters.
Ndi dibie and Ndi Uzu: Ndi dibie group is led by Eze Dibie. Dibie is
conferred on any male (old and young) who can afford to take
the title and during the conferment he undergoes the formalities laid down by the Ndi dibie.
Every qualified dibie is greeted Ogbuebulu and to practice as a qualified native doctor, and is supposed to be a dibie. The Ogbuebulus are supposed to detect and counter the evil forces of witches. On the other hand, the Ojogwu is conferred on any deserving male who wishes to worship
the god of iron. Any person who has completed the formalities laid down by the
Ndi Uzu is greeted Ojogwu. In Umunede, IDIGU represents the god of iron.
Umunede Progressive Union (UPU)
Members of UPU consist of adult Umunede persons of either sex
residing in and outside Umunede and any female married to an Umunede person. The
UPU initiates and proposes most of the economic and social policies of the Obi in Council.
Although the Union is not a political entity, it has an overwhelming influence in any policy decisions affecting Umunede. It has Executive and Development Committees which monitor the implementation of major
decisions of the Obi-in-Council.
CUSTOMS AND CULTURE
Customs relate to beliefs and usual practices of
people dating to the living
memory while culture relates to general way of life of
people. Since the two topics somehow overlap, they are discussed together below.
Umunede language continues to develop after centuries of existence
of the Kingdom. Originally, there were two languages in Umunede-Bini and Igbo;
later, with inter-ethnic marriages and social interactions a mixture of Bini and Igbo languages emerged and produced the Umunede
dialect. However, in the past five decades
Bini has almost completely disappeared from Umunede dialect. Again, because
of the Kingdoms nearness to predominantly Igbo-speaking areas, Ibos dominate other groups in her famous market and hence Umunedians
are fast evolving a language, in recent times, that is getting closer to Igbo language.
Worships and Beliefs
Umunede people have always believed in monotheism, that is, in
One Supreme Being, OSELOBUE. Before the coming of Christianity, they prayed to
their ancestors to intercede for them before Oselobue. Thus, the worship
on One Supreme Being which are the principal tenets of Christianity are implied in their beliefs and worships. Admittedly, their method of reaching God might be different
from that of Christians, nonetheless, they believed firmly in one God. However,
Christianity has spread so rapidly in Umunede during the past thirty years that most Umunedians are now Christians.
The following traditional festivals are observed in
Irua Nmor: During the period of Irua Nmor, the Obi, the Ndiches,
Omus and the Olotus try to appease our ancestors so that they
may intercede for us before God to protect Umunedians from danger and evil forces.
Irua Fajeoku: It takes place on the eve of the new yam festival,
Nkwo day. On that
day, the heads of families/communities bless all the
Instruments used for farming in that year and also thank God,
on behalf of the
Community, for good harvest.
Iwaji: It is a formal celebration of the arrival of the new yams;
no ritual or
fetishness is attached to it.
It is an annual festival as other festivals.
Igwe: It is also an annual festival.
Originally, custom dictated that the
Iwge festival should be celebrated after clearing the bush and
all the trees are felled in the new farm. It was an abomination for anyone to
set fire on his farm before the Igwe festival was celebrated. During the Igwe
festival Umunedians thank God for their success in clearing the bush and felling the trees in their farms without any mishap. They also pray to God for good harvest in the new farming season.
Mode of Living
Housing: Until the last four decades the mode of building our houses
The type of buildings which we had in Umunede were inherited
mainly from the Benin Kingdom. The houses in ancient Umunede were mud houses
built in three stages, by communal efforts, before roofing with thatches. These
much thatch houses have almost disappeared for modern houses in Umunede.
(2) Diet: Originally,
yams were the major food consumed by Umunede people
while garri was regarded as inferior and was shunned by umunedians. However, the short spell of famine in 1946 brought into focus the importance of cassava
(which was elegantly described as (oismebele me nni) and since the garri has become an important food item. Standard diet consists of pounded yam taken with egusi/vegetable or okro soup adorned with bushmeat, mushroom,
beef or chicken.
Occupation: Farming, trading and the modern professions such as banking,
Teaching, architecture etc.
ECONOMIC, COMMERCIAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
It is not possible
to give full exposition of the above topic given the space allowed for this publication.
However, a summary, through uncomfortable, is presented below.
6.1 Development in Agriculture
Agriculture is a major occupation of Umunede people. The mode of farming
remains essentially by shifting cultivation. Due to rapid growth in population,
Umunede farmers go beyond the kingdoms boundaries to buy or hold land on lease for farming in an effort to increase food production. The farms have multiple crops, consisting of yams, cocoyams, maize, cassava, melons,
okro, cotton, groundnuts, tomatoes, etc. Each of the crops is planted according
to its own season and harvested according to its own maturity pattern. For example,
maize can be planted twice and harvested twice in a year. Also, Umunede produces
palm oil and palm kernels in commercial quantities. Although the town has not
experienced general agrarian revolution, tomato farming has, in the recent years, been mechanized. The recent method of tomato farming has made it possible to produce tomatoes in commercial quantities,
at least, three times in a year. Umunede area alone, presently, accounts for
about 25% of fresh tomatoes in Delta State.
The decline of agriculture in Umunede has resulted from rapid
expansion of education; the aging population of farmers; the social status attached to farming in the society and the rapid
increase in population which reduced arable land for farming. The population
of male farmers in Umunede had declined from about 90% in 1940 to 40% in 1980 and 30% in 1998.
Although the kingdom has abundant raw materials for industries,
large resources of manpower and big commercial center enjoying excellent location, yet she has no modern factories or industrial
establishment. It is generally believed that the late entry of her people into
party politics might have denied her the location of well-deserved agro-allied
projects such as oil mills and food processing plants by successive governments in power.
Small scale or cottage industries prevailed in Umunede over several generations.
For example, she was self sufficient in textiles, soap-making, cosmetics, etc., have gradually disappeared from her
economic life style. The decline of cottage industry is attributable to lack/inadequate
finance to expand the cottage industries and the emergence and craze for superior imported goods.
Development In Commerce
The history of Umunede people as a dynamic people is most adequately
In the field of trading and commerce. The kingdom was a commercial center long before Nigeria came into being.
For example, in about 1890, the Royal Niger Company (RNC), the then Government/Administrator of the Southern Protectorate,
established a trading post in Umunede and, with this significant event; the Kingdom was opened to the outside world. She exported palm reduce through the Asaba port of the United Kingdom while she imported
textiles, assorted drinks, tobacco, among other things. When the Charter of RNC was revoked on December 31, 1899, the British
Government later replaced RNC by the United African Company Limited (U.A.C. Ltd.)
The new company was quickly followed by John Holt Brothers. The presence of these two giant companies attracted traders from all over Nigeria
to Umunede market which was held (is still held) once in every four days, i.e., on Nkwo (Ogbe) day.
Umunede soon became a big center for production and collection
of palm produce. Between 1945 and 1965 (the heydays of agricultural export commodities),
it was estimated that 100 tons of palm kernels and 60 tons of palm oil were lifted weekly from Umunede to Asaba port for export.
Umunede market also became famous till this day because the town
supplies abundant and cheap food-stuff all the year round. Umunede and its environs
remains a major producer of a variety of major important food-stuff such as yams, cassava, garri melon, palm oil and tomatoes. Many people from all parts of Nigeria patronize this famous market because of easy
access to Umunede. The fame of Umunede market is further sustained by hard working
and virile women population who have to comb all the neighboring and far-away markets for food-stuff in order to ensure their
uninterrupted supply to customers at affordable prices in Umunede market all the year round.
64. Social Development
(1) Education (Human Resources Development)
Human resources development in Umunede has undergone a radical
transformation in the last four decades and has become more dramatic
in the last
Firstly, credit goes to the early Missionaries particularly the Roman Catholic
Mission which pioneered, established and sustained early education including the establishment of the first secondary grammar
school without government assistance. It is not surprising that pioneers of education
and most elite of Umunede origin attended Catholic primary schools and in the recent years Catholic secondary schools in umunede. It is also pertinent to acknowledge the role of the Anglican and Baptist Missions
in education in Umunede. Awolowo who introduced free and compulsory primary education
in the them
Western Nigeria in 1954 without which rapid expansion
of education would not have been possible.
By 1990, Umumede already had the largest enrolment in
primary and secondary schools (outside Boji Boji Agbor and Owa) in the two Ika Local Government Areas. She has a large number of private nursery and primary schools which have also helped to improve the quality
of education in Umunede. There is
scarcely and institution of higher learning in Nigeria today in which Umunede students are not in attendance. Although Umunede produced her first graduates in the early sixties, she has however, by the last decade,
lost count of the number of graduates in all fields of endeavor in Nigeria.
(2) Social In fracture and Interaction
The revolution in infrastructure which started after
the civil war created the enabling environment which makes Umunede a pull center. For
example, as a result of improvement in transportation, Umunede market continues to sustain the supply and the distribution
of abundant food-stuff at affordable prices to all parts of Nigeria. The rapid
increase in health-care delivery services, both public and private, has contributed immensely in lowering infant mortality
and death rates generally in Umunede. The NITEL and the GPO located in Umunede
render important services to all the villages and towns around Umunede. Other
institutions located in Umunede include NEPA, a Divisional Police Station, magistrate and Customary Courts.
Umunede dialect is spoken by the Ibos, Yorubas, Hausas
and other ethnic tribes living in Umunede. Finally, the friendly disposition
of Umunede people is also adequately reflected by the good gesture of allowing foreigners or non-indigenes to acquire land
freely and build their own houses without hindrance.