*A detailed analysis of the movie ‘ADESUWA’ produced by Lancelot Imasuen

The movie ADESUWA is quite an interesting film and it portrays the epic story of the war between Benin kingdom known to all Enuani people as ‘Idu’ and Ubulu kingdom. The choice of actors, the cast and production was perfect but the story was tailored to massage the ego of Mr. Imasuen, a Bini man.
As an ancient proverb posits, “as long as the story of hunting is always told by the hunter, it will never portray the heroism of the hunted”.

The story portrayed an Idu version of what actually happened which is a sharp contradiction of the Ubulu version of the war.

In the midst of these contradictions, we will carefully pick out points of convergence of the two versions of the story.

First, the two versions of the story believe that the war was fought around 1750. In that epoch, Oba of Benin as was Oba Akengbuda while the Obi of Ubulu kingdom was my great, great, great, great, grandfather Obi Olisẹ́.
We, the descendants of Obi Olisẹ́ are known as Ụmụ-Olisẹ́.

Secondly, all Oba of Benin from the Ogiso era often undertook a three day journey to Ubulu-Uku for a fortification ritual.
So, in that year a new Oba had been corronated but he failed to undergo his fortification ritual leading to a sickness. This sickness became very severe and calls were made throughout the Benin kingdom for any doctor who could cure the Oba of his ailment.
Of course this was done without the knowledge of general population.
The Obi who is a father of traditional doctors in Ubulu Uku, and sworn member of all the traditional cults decided to personally visit the Oba with a team of traditional healers.

So, Obi Olisẹ́ embarked on a visit to the Oba and on his was stopped by see his friend the Ezomo of Benin and there he saw his beautiful daughter called Adesuwa (an alternative Ubulu version suggests that Adesuwa was the daughter of the Oba).
When Obi Olisẹ́ indicated his interest to marry the young damsel, the Ezomo dismissed it claiming that she had been betrothed to the Oba.

They left the Ezomo’s palace and moved to the Oba’s palace and the Obi accompanied by his most powerful herbal doctors, treated the Oba and nurtured him back to life.
The most important of all the charms prepared for the Oba as part of his coronation is the charm for longevity known as ‘idayi’.
The Idayi was prepared for the Oba to guarantee his long reign on the throne. Even unto the Oba Akenzua, Ubulu-Uku people continued to prepare Idayi for the Oba of Bini.
This has created a relationship between both kingdoms as allies as Ubulu was never a subject of the ancient Bini kingdom.

After resuscitating the Oba, the grateful king obliged the Obi to demand for anything as a mark of appreciation. The Obi noted that he was only interested in Adesuwa who he saw at the Ezomo’s palace. The Oba who had an interest on the same maiden could not rescind on his promise and he ordered the Ezomo to allow his daughter to the given to the Obi which the Ezomo reluctantly accepted.

When the Obi left; it was gathered that the Bini chiefs led by the Ezomo gathered around the Oba and told him that yielding to the Obi was a diplomatic blunder no matter what the Obi had done.
And noted that even if the girl was brought back to Benin and the Obi cannot fight Benin for any attempt to do that will lead to the total destruction of Ubulu-Uku. The Oba agreed with his chief and asked the Ezomo to go fetch Adesuwa. It was not difficult for the Ezomo to organize a group of soldiers to match eastwards. Then, the Obi and his entourage had barely travelled beyond the sphere of the Benin kingdom. It was easy for the Ezomo to catch up with the Obi and demanded his daughter return.

The Obi agreed and Adesuwa was asked to return to her father. But when the Obi got to Ubulu-Uku he employed the wizardry of “mpụpụ” to spiritually whisk Adesuwa down to Ubulu-Uku.
Initially, the Edos were indifferent, to them Adesuwa ought to be in Ubulu-Uku after all, she was the price that had to be paid in order to save their king who was already dying.
But this did not go down well with the Ezomo, who felt he had lost the opportunity of becoming the Oba’s in-law. Also, he saw the whisking of his daughter unceremoniously as a personal affront and insult to him and silently vowed to revenge whenever the opportunity came up.

Adesuwa turned out to be a very arrogant wife. Records had it that she Insulted and disrespected the Obi of Ubulu at will but the last straw that broke the carmel’s back was when she did so in the presence of the traditional council.
Narrating this story, Mr. Benard Isichei, a descendant of Ije, a Prince of Idu who came to Ubulu for the war but settled after his troop was defeated has this to say…
“Adesuwa had told the king that his palace was not as big as her mother’s kitchen.
“Then he asked the ‘idolomas’ to take her away.
In Ubulu, take her away means nothing but the ultimate price.”

When the news of this sad event got to Idu, the chiefs led by the Ezomo urged the Oba to declare war against Ubulu Kingdom. The Chiefs were convinced that it would be an easy victory for them but the Oba understood that it wasn’t going to be an easy war. They suggested that the Obi had mischievously stolen the Oba’s lover and had her killed because she her heart was for him.
And as such, it was an insult to the Oba and the Bini people. They also noted that if the Obi had any issues with his wife, it was unjust to kill her considering her noble birth. For this reason, the Ezomo was mandated by the Oba to lead the Bini(Edo) army to war. Messengers were sent to Ubulu to convey the message to the Obi formally.

When the people of Ubulu Uku heard of the impending attack, the Obi summoned the entire kingdom and suggestions were made. A delegation was sent to the cradle home of Ubulu-Uno to inform them of the development.
It was adjudged by the Obi and Ubulu people that the Obi acted within the laws and customs of the land. He was innocent and they vowed to defend their land against the Edo army. The Ubulus knew that they could use their strong mastery of African sciences bequeathed to them by Ezemu, their knowledge of the country and the strong ties they have with all the neighboring west Igbo towns. In fact, the action of the Oba and his army was in the eyes of the west Igbo states was considered to be that of a bully. And some even took a blood oath (Igbandu) to pledge their support for Ubulu-Uku.

The messengers from Benin according to both accounts (Bini and Ubulu) lost their way to Ubulu-Uku and the cause was attributed to be special magic used by the Ubulu medicine men which had neutralized the charms used by the Bini messengers and transformed them into wanderers in the jungle. After waiting for weeks and months, and no reply, the Edos knew that their messengers had be lost and had wandered to their deaths, and without any delay they sent for support from the Esan area. And through Urhonigbe, the Bini army would attack from the south while their allies from Esan would attack from Ewohimi in the North. The invading Edo army, fortified with more potent charms, it was aimless for Ubulus to repeat such acts. They had to figure out a counter strategy.

As part of the strategy, it was agreed that every native of Ubulu except those in Ọkwa-Iyase including
soldiers and warlords led by the Iyase himself should relocate.
This heralded a wave of migration of Ubulu town now living in other parts of Delta, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Anambra.

Soldiers from Idu attacked Ubulu in about 1752 and were soundly beaten off and decimated. The Ezomo was almost a victim and to make matters worse, the wells in Ubulu-Uku and the vicinity had been poisoned. When the Edo soldiers drank from the poisoned wells, many more of them met their deaths. The western Igbo chiefdoms round Ubulu were very co-operative and assisted the Ubulus in so many ways. Such as logistics, intelligence, charms and weapons. The Edos had weapons which they sourced from the Europeans; but apart from that they were deficient in the other parameters especially the required war charms which would neutralize the resistance from the Ubulu and her Enuani-Ika allies.

When they returned to Benin, it was agreed that a change of strategy was needed to defeat the Ubulu people. But the biggest puzzle was how the crack the secret of the magical acts of the Ubulu army. It was in the course of their assessment of the war so far, that they realized that they could use the knowledge of the OGIUGO or Agbogidi of Ugo. Ugo is a state within Benin kingdom with its own duke, the Ogiugo. Until the reign of Ewuare, there is evidence to suggest that it was completely independent from the imperial and centralizing power of the Benin kingdom. Agbogidi which was the was the name of the Ogiugo at that time was brought up at Ubulu-Uku. Where he was inducted into the traditional Onicha-Okpe medicine guild and learned much of the magic of Ubulu people.

The man Agbogidi was born deaf and dumb and efforts to cure him failed. Thus, his father who was then the Ogiugo sent him to Ubulu-Uku to be treated. After many years of treatment, he was cured but Obi Olisẹ́ had developed a fondness for the boy.

In the culture of Ubulu-Uku, only a descendant of Okpe can be initiated into the sacred cult of Ezemu’s magical powers, for it was Okpe who inherited the pot of charm of the man described as the 3rd most powerful occult grandmaster of the universe.

So, Agbogidi underwent the ‘ịcha-aka mkpọlọgwụ’ and was initiated into the guild of traditional doctors in Ubulu-Uku. He was also married to an Ubulu wife. But as part of the initiation rites, it was forbidden to break the trust and bond of the initiates. Which of course the Ogiugo had sworn to.
This connection to Ubulu Uku including the knowledge of the country, knowledge of the magical acts, as well as language and customs of the Ika and Enuani people were what the Idu army needed.
And he fought by the Oba to save the pride of his people.

Motivated by promises and greed to achieve fame and power, Ogiugo accepted to lead Idu army this time betraying the oath he had taken. With a larger army they launched yet again on Ubulu-Uku around 1754.
The war this time was very tough. The Idu came very prepared and had gained experience from their defeat as well as backed by the Ogiugo (and his Ubulu wife) spiritually.
The Idus in fact claimed victory some of the battles. But the resistance took a longer time than they had thought. The Ubulus were able to secure arms from all their allies which gave them the psychological boost they needed. It must be noted here that core among the “Ọkwa-Iyase” class of war chiefs in Ubulu-Uku is a group of migrants from Nri, known as Ụmụ-Ikem and their work is to fashion all kinds of weapon. Their role in the success of Ubulu-Uku army can never be overemphasized.

Ubulu-Uku were also supported by her neighbors and there’s no account of betrayal from even her closest neighbos at Issele-Uku who are till date strong allies of Idu.

The Idus too believed they would win. But what Ogiugo never took into account was that even though he knew a lot about the native magical acts and warfare tactics and norms of the Ubulu people, it does not in any way suggests it was enough to counter whatever the Okpe magicians would do. He was never introduced into deeper things for he was not a bloodline.
Even till date, only bloodlines from paternal lineage are entitled to such secrets of Ụmụ Okpe.

After nearly a year of siege, the Idu army were demoralized. They were running out of ideas as well as supplies. Do, they sued for peace.
Prince Ije, one of the leaders of the Idu army married Amisha, a younger sister of Obi Olisė as part of the peace deal and his descendants are still living in Ubulu till date as Ụmụ-Idu.

One of the biggest source of losses for the Idu army was the expertise of Ubulu (and her allies) warriors in archery and sniper attack. They quickly collected the guns of the fallen Idu army and beefed up their Arsenal.
It is believed that the word “Ekwumekwu” originated from this war. It was a kind of password used by the valiant Ubulu and west Igbo soldiers to identify themselves as they secretly and diligently strike down their enemies.

When the Ogiugo realized that he would not win, he sent a message across and sued for peace, accepting defeat and surrendering of the Idu army. They had been humiliated and defeated once again. The Iyase and Odogwu of Ubulu-Uku sent word to the Obi, still at is believed to have taken asylum with the descendants of Ogwezi at Obetim to return home and be the final arbiter of the terms of disengagement.
When the Obi arrived, he expressed his disappointment by the action of the Ogiugo and demanded that the Ubulus be compensated for the unjust hostility of Idu and their Oba. The Ogiugo who was ready to sue for peace demanded to know the kind of compensation. The Obi demanded for a great deal of livestock especially cattle and European luxuries which the Idu had access to such as guns, cloth and so on. Some of the demands were met especially the livestock.

In addition, the Ubulus demanded that a pact be made with Idu barring them from ever engaging in a war with Ubulu or Ika-Enuani people which the Ogiugo promised to discuss with the Oba of Benin. Then they were asked to leave Ubulu Uku but many of the Idu soldiers who were not sure of their fate if they returned to Bini, pleaded with the Obi Olise to allow them settle and assimilate into Ubulu society.

The bravest of the men were chosen and till this day their descendants are still in Ubulu Uku scattered in settlements uniquely called Idumu-Idu and Onije villages.
Some of the Idu soldiers settled in other western Igbo communities where they were also assimilated. By the end of 1755, the war ended and in about 1760, Obi Oliseh peacefully joined his ancestors at a ripe old age and was succeeded by his son, Obi Dieze.

With the defeat and imposed terms of agreement by the Ubulus, it would be a challenging task for Ogiugo to convey such news to the Oba. With the suggestion of his wife, an old slave with some similarities with Eze Ubulu was killed and head presented to the Oba as the head of the Obi of Ubulu-Uku.
Initially the Idu people believed his lies that that was the head of ‘Ogie-Ubulu’ the name they call the Obi Ubulu.
However, on closer inspection, they discovered that they had been scammed and some of the soldiers confessed that the Ogiugo apart from being defeated had a pact imposed on him by Obi Ubulu.

The Oba demanded that Agbogidi should come explain to him and his chiefs and how he had attempted to deceive them. All the messengers sent to Ugo, were brutally killed by the Ogiugo and he refused to come to Benin and respect his Oba. For this reason, the Oba declared war on Ugo. The war was as expected very tough because of the same mastery of magic which the Ogiugo had learned from his Ubulu adopters. But the attack kept on coming. The Oba had vowed to get the head of the Ogiugo instead for daring to bring to him, the head of a slave which he had claimed to be that of the Eze Ubulu. But the Ugo posed a strong force against the Bini army and the Oba had to consult with magicians from other places. It was suggested that the Bini army should put on special red attires which will render the Ogiugo war charms useless. When the Ogiugo learned of this new strategy, he sent message across to the Ubulu and pleaded for help. But they declined to offer any help. He had broken the oath and as far as they are concern his predicament is a manifestation of that. After some weeks, the Ogiugo was defeated and his head was sent to the Oba.

To be continued

Re-written by – @followers Onwordi Ngozi Fortune

First posted by Osita Mordi; written with help from Onwordi Ngozi Fortune.

By osibanews

Eliel Otote A is an Actor and Filmmaker, with a bias for journalism. He was a freelance feature writer with the Nigerian Observer in the 80's in Benin City, he also presented programmes on both radio and television. Eliel is the Editor and Publisher of OSIBAnews Network Magazine, of which this blog is an affiliate.

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