A Frontline Aspirant for Esan South-East/Esan North-East for house of Representatives under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Prince Odi Okojie and other great grandchildren of Fearless King of Uromi between 1857 –1944 on sunday unveiled a statue in honour of HRH King Okojie Okolo N’Ogbidi.
The event was witnessed by the Ojiuromi of Uromi and other dignitaries.
“Speaking, Prince Odi Okojie said, Today we have decided to honour you for your love for people because your legacies lives on
HRH Okojie Okolo N’Ogbidi, the Onojie (King) of Uromi (1857 –1944), of Edo State, Nigeria. Okojie waged remarkable war against the British and refused to give up his traditional rights and privileges under indirect rule that he was exiled 3 times.
By the end of the 19th century when the British was unseating the traditional rulers in Nigeria and establishing British colonial system. When the British invaded kingdoms in Nigeria some rulers surrendered easily some without a fight but the Edos fought back.
The British 1st invaded Benin city and were resisted by Oba Ovonramwen of Benin. The binis lost Oba was exiled to Calabar in 1897. Next, they moved East and invaded Uromi in 1901. What the British didn’t know was that the Esans are warriors and good in military campaigns and advocacy.
The Esan military under the Benin Empire captured towns for the empire including Eko (Lagos). (Read: Edo Civilization, Esan War Machine and the Founding of Lagos.
At the time of invasion, Okojie was the crown Prince. His father, king Okolo was the Onojie of Uromi. Okojie had a son, Prince Uwagbale. The British expedition force invaded with 226 men, cannons and shot-guns but were held back by Uromi military lead by Okojie.
Unlike the Benin invasion which lasted for 13days, the Uromis held the British for 45days with only dane guns, bows and arrows. The British were overwhelmed by the guerrilla tactics of the Uromis that they called for reinforcement of 50 more soldiers and focused on capturing King.
The British later captured King Okolo who later died in captivity. This demoralized the people and most villages began to surrender. However, that did not deter Okojie and his troops. Eventually, the people called for a truce and the British demanded Okojie’s presence for a parley.
As soon as Okojie arrived at the venue of the purported peace meeting, he was arrested, tired, found guilty of inciting the people of Uromi against the British, and was subsequently exiled to Calabar on the 30th of April, 1901.
According to W. Fosbery (the Political Officer who accompanied the Expeditionary Force), he was expelled because; few months later, Okojie was brought back from Calabar, coronated as the Enogie of Uromi and appointed the President of the Native Court charged with administratively overseeing the Uromi territory on behalf of the colonial authorities.
Still, Okojie didn’t fully accept the new system of government, countering it with passive disobedience and maintaining his opposition to British rule. He ruled like a pre-colonial monarch. The British were pissed, exiled him the 2nd time to Benin City in 1919 and install his son as Enogie.
From exile Okojie protested his removal, writing petition after petition and insisting he is still the King as long he is still alive. Through his loyalist, he continued to mount tension, protests and demonstrations in Uromi for his recall even after 5yrs in exile in Benin city.
The British were worried that Okojie’s proximity to Uromi was dangerous to the peace of Uromi. They moved him further from Benin to Ibadan but Okojie was a diehard. He escape from Ibadan in 1926 to Uromi. He was later rarrested and exiled for the 3rd time to Ibadan again.
In 1927, the colonial authorities increased tax for adult males throughout Southern Nigeria, causing anti-tax riots in Uromi. The people became violent accusing Enogie Uwagbale of bringing hardship and demanded for the release of Okojie.
Enogie Uwagbale has been performing badly in administration and has proven to be a disappointment to the colonial concerns. In order to avoid crisis in Uromi the British released Okojie from exile in 1931, reinstalled him as Enogie and readmitted him to the Council.
Okojie reigned again as Enogie from 1931 until his death in 1944. He continued to resisted the limitations placed on his rule by the colonial authorities until his death.