The Saga of the Early Warri Princes: A History of the Beginnings of a West African Dynasty, 1480-1654

The Saga of the Early Warri Princes: A History of the Beginnings of a West African Dynasty, 1480-1654

by Chris O'Mone


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"A fascinating read ... history that has never before been revealed. I highly recommend this book to the young and old who thirst for true knowledge of African ancestry."

-Lisa Haywood

The Saga of the Early Warri Princes narrates the circumstances and time of Prince Iginua's exile from the Edo Kingdom in West Africa in the late fifteenth century and the establishment of the Iginua Dynasty. With vivid details, author Chris O'mone delivers the intriguing story of this little-known piece of African history.

By the order of the Oba, young Prince Iginua was sent to establish a subordinate kingdom in the riverine settlements of Itsekiri near the Edo Kingdom. He was also charged with controlling and supervising the Portuguese trade. Effectively banished from his country in the midst of an economic upheaval caused by European trade, Prince Iginua nevertheless took his loyal followers with him to the settlements. Here, he established a dynasty that survived and prospered in adverse environmental circumstances.

Remarkably, the Iginua Dynasty rivaled the Edo Kingdom by embracing the same European trade, religion, and education that had so disrupted the Edo Kingdom. But perhaps even more remarkable was how Prince Iginua's descendants came to be related to the Royal House of Braganza, which ruled Portugal and Brazil for centuries.

The Saga of the Early Warri Princes offers a detailed historical account, ideal for general readers and scholars alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462084272
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/18/2012
Pages: 108
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.22(d)

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The SAGA of the Early WARRI Princes

A History of the Beginnings of a West African Dynasty 1480–1654
By Chris O'mone

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Chris O'mone
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-8427-2

Chapter One

The Ginuwa Dynasty

Dates of the Enthronement of the Warri Princes

Early: Pre-Christian

ca. 1480 Iginua (Ginuwa) Odihi n'ame ca. 1500 Ijijen (Ogbowuru) The Unheralded Prince ca. 1525 Irame ca. 1550 Ojoluwa ca. 1570 Esigie


1597 Sebastian aka Eyomasan; Aronrongboye 1625 Dom Domingos 1643 António Domingos, aka Oyenakpagha; Omonigheren (Prince with the Golden Skin)

Later Christian

1654 Matthias Ludivico (aka Omoluyiri) 1674 Luigi (aka Abejoye) 1701 Sebastian II (aka Akenjoye) 1709 Miguel (aka Omagboye) ca. 1710 Dom Agostinho (aka Akengboye) ca. 1735 Atogbuwa (Non-Christian) 1760 Manuel Otobia (aka Erejuwa) 1807 Joao (aka Akengbua)

1848–1936 Interregnum

ca. = about ± 5-10 years

Adapted from: J.O.S. Ayomike, 1993 and Sunday Tribune (Nigeria), March 1,1987.

Edo Origins: Iginua, Exile from Edo Kingdom and First Warri Prince

This story is a narrative of a Prince, the loyalists that accompanied him into exile and descendants who joined the people of a marginal Itsekiri land to create a kingdom and establish a West African dynasty. Our saga begins, if it could be said to have had only one beginning, in the ancient Kingdom of Benin or the Edo Kingdom as the purist might choose to call it. The Edo Kingdom lies inland from the eastern portion of a bay in the mid- Atlantic Ocean known as the Bight of Benin, which washes over the West Coast of Africa. The kingdom never extended to the Atlantic shoreline because the costal predominantly mangrove marshlands of the riverines and the Niger Delta separate its southern rain forest environs from the sea. It reaches inland in a north to north easterly direction of modern day southwestern Nigeria to a section of the western bank of the lordly river Niger and contiguous Kurkuruku Mountains. The flat, forest landscape of the south changes gradually through beautiful, thinly forested hills and valleys in the midlands to the scrublands of the hills to the far north and east. In such diverse terrain, farmers, hunters, lumbermen, and a few fishermen flourished. Commerce developed to market their products and created a middle class that in turn demanded sophisticated artisan goods made from wood, iron, bronze, and terra cotta.

The organized multistratal society that evolved became the Edo Kingdom. It founded a civilization with its center in Ubini, a city that became known to the external world as Benin City. Seven centuries after the city was first described by early Portuguese explorers, the city remains famous for traces of its original wall and moat, its street grids, and Palace Square.

The title of the leader of this structured society remains Omo n' Oba' n' Edo uku Akpolokpolo. In peace, the leader headed a Court that maintained the law and order that secured the stability and the kingdom's vibrant economy. In war, the "Oba", as in the title Omo n'Oba n'Edo, led the Edo Army into battle to defend the integrity of the kingdom.

Iginua: Exile and First Warri Prince

In approximately 1473, Oba Olua succeeded to the title and its responsibilities. He ruled for eight years. In the preceding decade, the kingdom's commerce had acquired a new dimension. Portuguese explorers reached Benin City, whose existence had been rumored in Europe for more than a century. The explorers navigated the riverines with the help of the Itsekiris, whose early ancestors are thought to have arrived in successive waves from the Ijebu hinterland. Peppers, bronze objects, leopard skins, and elephant tusks were exchanged with the Portuguese for silk, coral beads, and other personal items that initially became popular among the elite and then the general populace. Between 1475 and 1480, direct trade between the parties suffered a setback, and the Portuguese traders were satisfied to drop anchor in the riverines and designate the Itsekiris as their middlemen. It was not long before the consequences of the Portuguese traders' withdrawal reverberated throughout the city and beyond. While the increase in prices of the foreign items imposed by the Itsekiris was an outrage to those from all sections of the society, the families of Court Officers also could cite a personal impact of declining purchasing power resulting from a shortfall at the Treasury.

During this period of public and social discontent, a Prince was coming of age. Intelligent but unpretentious, Iginua had distinguished himself as an affably mannered scholar whose good nature made him popular among his peers, siblings, and supervisors at the Palace School. He had become a city-smart Prince. His personal attributes had apparently transformed a small circle of Court friends and admirers into an overt and sizeable following inside and outside the palace. The Oba and his Court were preoccupied with pressing matters of State that were compounded by the inflationary pressures on the economy, which were precipitated by the trading activities of the otherwise friendly Itsekiri neighbors. The unexpected increasing popularity of a charismatic junior Prince of a Dynasty, without a primogeniture tradition of succession was of grave concern. Legend held that succession struggles were divisive; their aftermaths were characterized by enduring rancor. Not many in the hierarchy wanted to witness one such event during their watch.

The commemorative ancestral rites of 1478 were exceptional. The crowds were thrilled by the performances of the dancers and drummers; the sacrificial ceremonies were clean and classic; the festive boards sagged under mounds of food. But before the acclaim abated and the good will generated by the offerings forfeited, the Oba and his Court acted.

The adolescent Prince Iginua was summoned to an audience, before which the strategy for resolving the kingdom's economic crisis was outlined. The riverine settlements would become a subordinate kingdom, and Iginua had been nominated as its ruler with the title of Prince of the Rivers, "Odihi N'ame." Some members of the Edo Court had accepted the privilege of accompanying and helping Iginua to establish a Court in the Edo tradition. A limited number of friends and confidants in the city were allowed to join his entourage. The Prince's primary duty was to control and supervise the Portuguese trade in the riverines. He would levy and collect taxes on the foreign goods. Half of the revenue was to be transmitted to the Edo Treasury at each harvest to compensate, in part, the families whose members were "volunteers" in his retinue.

In his proclamation, the Oba announced he was confident that the young and energetic Prince would accept the challenge of an assignment designed to enhance the long-term stability of the kingdom. The safe completion of the project was entrusted to Olokun, the Sea God, who had been generously appeased at the successful ancestral rites. Members of the Court who had given their support to the Oba commended the altruism demonstrated in the decision to send the Prince into service of the nation and end the Court's involvement and responsibilities in the Portuguese trade. Others loyal to the Prince maintained that his exile, and in effect theirs, had been masterfully disguised as an appeal for service and sacrifice for the sole purpose of removing a popular and potentially viable succession candidate.

The Prince had no choice; the Oba had spoken. Palace traditions expected unqualified obedience to the Oba's commands. He and his loyalists could now concentrate on the preparations necessary for launching their mission—one that fortuitously enabled the emergence of a new Dynasty and this Saga of the Early Warri Princes.

There was a sense of purpose, even urgency, at the various worksites where teams of artisans fashioned and assembled gear. Volunteers sorted and arranged donated or acquired material and supplies, ready for transportation. The eagerness and dedication was attributed in some measure to Prince Iginua's personal involvement in the supervision and coordination of the components of the preparatory activities. This was a contrast to a retreat of sulking or brooding in the isolation and safety of the Palace which would have been legitimate. It was also an inspiration that boosted the morale of his supporters. They had now become totally committed in their loyalty and enthusiasm; they completed all of their assignments by the projected time of departure from the river port of Ughoton early in the rainy season of 1479.

The preceding dry season had facilitated outdoor construction work without significant interruptions from rain. The consequent early accomplishment of the volunteers' tasks coincided with a favorable time for departure. The early rainy season assured a high water level sufficient to provide favorable floating conditions of the loaded watercraft, wooden trunks, and other containers in the flotilla. The downstream swiftness would enable early arrival of the mission at its destination camp and therefore avoid the predictable muddy ground working conditions of the late rainy season.

These were the circumstances at the departure of Prince Iginua and his volunteer" retinue of young and old, courtiers and priests, journeymen and volunteer guards when they bade their obligatory farewell at the Palace and embarked on their voyage to a de facto exile in Itsekiriland.

Loyalty and Success; Survival and Severance

For centuries, the Itsekiris occupied their homeland settlements on the banks of the Benin, Escravos, and the Warri Rivers and their tributaries or on various islands located in the riverines. Because the language of the Itsekiris contains numerous words or their modifications in the modern Yoruba-Ijebu language, a linguistic marker has been advanced as the most viable indicator of their origin as is illustrated by the following basic time frame table:

English Yesterday Today Tomorrow Yoruba-Ijebu Ola Oni Ojumo Itsekiri Ola Onuwe Ejuma

According to this thesis, the majority of early Itsekiris arrived as successive new waves of immigrants from Ijebuland. Aside from an undeniable accommodating and friendly nature that speaks to their immigrant origins, the uniformity and absence of dialects in the Itsekiri language, despite the apparent isolation of settlements, favors a single origin concept.

This latter characteristic also reflects the freedom of movement among the changing or generational populations that was encouraged by a uniform taboo of marriages among members of individual settlements, who probably emigrated as a group of family members. The favored intersettlement marriages required unrestricted movement and relations. It also encouraged a sharing of values, customs, and language. Eventually, and without conflict, it fostered the creation of one people with a common heritage in a loose federation of autonomous settlements.

A taboo is, in essence, an unwritten law. Compliance with the proscription of marriage between natives of individual settlements through successive generations implies a law-abiding way of life. Indeed, order and discipline in the settlements were overseen rather than enforced by the Olori Aja (settlement head) and his circle of Elders. The legitimacy of the Elders was based on the community's deference to age. That deference was coupled with a charge to accept responsibility for ensuring continuity.

One settlement of this predominantly aquatic environment of isolated small communities had been chosen as the Prince's destination. Ijala interrupted its routine briefly to welcome Prince Iginua and his entourage as a special wave of immigrants from the Edo Kingdom. The settlement then returned to its usual way of life while their Elders negotiated details of the immigrants' stay. Only a relatively small, in Edo terms, viable piece of land was available for assignment to the new immigrants. It was obvious some adaptation needed to be made in the lifestyle by the new settlers. The residents paid no special homage to the Prince, and certainly no acclamation. No landmass was available to be appropriated nor a populace to be governed in this supposed subordinate kingdom of the Oba's proclamation to which Iginua had been exiled or, more accurately, expelled.

With time on his hands, as the camp took form, Prince Iginua contemplated his past, his present, and his future. In the changed circumstances of his life, it seemed that his survival depended on the preservation of the sense of kinship, unity of purpose, and, above all, the loyalty that had emerged in his supporters since they were brought together by fate or forces beyond their control. To his way of thinking, it would be prudent to conduct the forthcoming trade operations with the Portuguese in a manner that would bring significant benefit to his supporters. And, in that manner, he would demonstrate that their partnership, rather than their participation, was essential for their survival and success of the mission. On a personal note, the Prince knew that sometime in the future,—a very distant future perhaps— he would seek a consort and begin a new family.

Achieving these goals, however, required action in the present. This included adopting the Edo Court Calendar and its related observances or rites that celebrated their common heritage. Work timetables, and descriptions defined individual responsibilities and contributions to the advancement of the community. They also combated boredom, encouraged camaraderie, and stabilized his people's beginnings in a foreign environment. This organized appeal to Origin and commitment to active participation came from the Edo Court Volunteer members of the Retinue who, in some instances, were descendants of Edo hierarchal lines. These loyal Elders were able to adapt the traditions and culture of centuries of interdependence in city life as well as their familiarity with functioning constituted authority to the challenges at hand.

With little difficulty, a capable and suitable candidate for the position of First Minister, Confidant, and Guardian of Access as well as Custodian of the Camp was nominated. A Minister of Finance in charge of the prince's purse, inventories, and their valuation, as well as a Minister of Works responsible for camp maintenance and construction projects was also nominated. Working in harmony with the men, the ministerial team quickly duplicated its Edo environment that produced a community ready to meet the Prince's next challenge.

On their return to the riverines in the early years of the 1480s, Portuguese merchants found a community ready for trade and the cultivation of good relations. Its resources of merchandise included peppers, elephant tusks, leopard skins, and terra-cotta. These items were desirable enough for the community to become an economically viable stop in the Lisboa ("Lisbon" in Portuguese)-São Tomé leg of the voyage from Portugal to the East Indies.

The profitable calls made Prince Iginua's Ijala the premier Portuguese trading destination on the Bight of Benin. As trading continued to grow, so did the steady accumulation of wealth in the Itsekiri homeland—first by the Prince and his community and then by the native Itsekiris. Within the exiled community, the new economic status of its members raised morale and strengthened their loyalty. It became increasingly evident that if there had been any previous or secret considerations of a return to Ubini, these were now increasingly negated by the circumstance of a newly attained affluence.

The success of the Prince was mirrored by the fleet of vessels he commissioned for the expanding commerce. His maturity and continuity were marked by the birth of his first son. At a ceremony to celebrate the event, he conferred on himself the title of Ogiame (King of the Seas). Undoubtedly, he intended to send a message indicating independence of the land-based Edo Court. He also ordered seven days of festivities to honor Olokun, the Deity of the Seas and Patron of the mission, and Ibrikimo, the Royal Guardian Land Spirit who had brought great success to the workings of the camp.


Excerpted from The SAGA of the Early WARRI Princes by Chris O'mone Copyright © 2012 by Chris O'mone. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Ginuwa Dynasty....................1
Edo Origins: Iginua, Exile from Edo Kingdom and First Warri Prince....................3
Loyalty and Success; Survival and Severance....................8
The Rock Prince Ijijen: The Unheralded Prince....................20
Birth of The Warri (Itsekiri) Kingdom Ojoluwa Court's Triumph: Union of Settlements....................28
A Secure Kingdom, Trade, and Religion Prince Sebastian: Warri's First Christian Student and Merchant Prince....................36
Dom Domingos in Portugal—at Seats of Higher Learning....................44
Dom Domingos in Portugal: In High Society....................54
António Domingos Omonigheren: Prince with Golden Skin....................71
Appendix 1 Points of Memorandum to King Philip & His Reply to Dom Domingos....................88
Appendix 2 Part of Olu Oyenakpagha's (António Domingos's) letter to Pope Clement X in 1652....................91
Appendix 3 Inscription on the Headstone of Nuno de Santa Maria....................93

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