THE HISTORIC ORIGIN OF ESAN PEOPLE
Esan is one of the ethnic nationalities in Edo State, Nigeria. Primarily, they reside in Edo Central, a plateau territory which is around 136 metres above the sea level.
The name Esan refers to the people, their language, unique culture, and identity. Unlike some other tribes in Nigeria. The Esan people did not evolve into a centralised entity. Rather, Esan can perfectly be described as a loose confederation of 35 independent kingdoms.
Although, there are clans in Esan who their oral historic origin porsit; their ancestors has been in Esanland since the beginning of time. There are three waives of migration that formed the Esan kingdom of today.
First, the migration of the autochthonous Esan ( i.e., the earliest Esan people), who derived their origin from the Nok Cultural Zone. The North East of the Niger Benue Confluence. An area which extends to the south western edge of the Jos plateau before 1000BC.
These earliest Esans who moved to the savannah forest ecotone in Esanland started colonizing the forest around 500 A.D by building mini kingdoms called (Iyala).
It is important to state that, it is not only Esans who were part of this migration. Other related tribes like the Urhobos, Isokos, Degema, Epie Attisa, the aboriginal Binis, the Owan, Akoko Edo and the Etsako all derived their origin from Central Nigeria. Where our languages evolved and emerged.
The second migration is when some of the Esans who migrated southward to found Igodomigodo returned back to Esanland to form settlements alongside the autochthonous Esans, who were already settled for thousands of years.
Among those are the three children of Ojiso Owodo, the last Ojiso who reigned in Igodomigodo with their mother Queen Oakha. The first son and heir to the throne. The third and fourth son. Returned back to Esanland and settled in Uromi, Uzea and Ekperi before 10th century.
Lastly, the waive of migration to Esanland during Oba Ewuare 1, in 14 century. Like the three children of Ojiso Owodo, these Esans were originally part of the primary migration from the Nok Cultural Zone. However, they didn’t settle primarily like the autochthonous Esans. They journeyed southward to found Igodomigodo with other ethnic nationalities.
Igodomigodo was a multicultural society built by devise ethnic groups. Including the Esans, Urhobos, Isokos and others. After the collapse of Ojiso dynasty and the usher in of a foreign dynasty from Yorubaland, (OBA DYNASTY). Some Esans in Igodomigodo migrated back to Esanland to settle with the already established kingdoms in the territories due to Oba cruelty.
A Cultural History of the Uneme, from the earliest times to 1962. HB Harunah – 2003 – Book Company Publishing.
Darling, P. J. (1988). Emerging Towns in Benin and Ishan (Nigeria) AD 500–1500. State and Society. The Emergence and Development of Social Hierarchy and Political Centralization, 121-136.
Esan Native Laws and Customs: With Ethnographic Studies of the Esan People. Christopher Okojie, 1960.