Ogale and Ogales
By Samuel O. Onungwe
Ogale is the traditional headquarters of Eleme land and serves as the local government administrative nexus of the area. The natives of Ogale are peaceful, industrious and generous. Ogale land presents beautiful scenery; relatively a tableland yet Nsinsin-Oken, Olele and Nmu-Okun lie downhill while Mbaala, Okanwenmu and Okaesen are located uphill.
Although, there is hardly a virgin land at Ogale, their cultural practice of shifting cultivation leaves their farm land to regenerate into pseudo forest state enriched with animals of various species hence, even at present, a good number of Ogales still practice hunting while a limited number practice seasonal fishing activities using their natural fresh water pond.
Nationally, Ogale is reputed for her rich liquid gold reserves as discovered as far back as mid ’50s on the other hand, Ogales prefer to see themselves as agrarians despite the fact that oil and gas activities have negatively impacted the land as corroborated by the UNEP Environmental Assessment on Ogoniland, they still practice subsistence farming. Some of the natural resources in the land are oil palm, palm wine trees, and bamboo trees, soft and hard wood of different kinds for lumbering. Ogale is blessed with laterites at uphill locations like Okaesen and abundant clay for earthen work at Nsinsinoken.
Recreational and Educational Centres
Millennium Motels, Blue Ville and Graceland Hotels are among the facilities providing catering, recreational and accommodation services.
Those seeking quality education for their children and wards can take advantage of the famous Ranjenys, Lion, Victor-Obarine International and De Living Proof Group of Schools as well as the Government own schools in the land. The Industrial Unit, Ogale is a certified technical education centre providing quality technical/vocational education.
Ogale in History
Several decades ago, Ogale was the most densely populated clan in Eleme until Yorgbaah – an idol anguished the land, killing many natives for cultivating or encroaching into its territory. However, in unity and heroic audacity, the people dislodged the strange spirit.
Ogale the Land of Peace
There is an undying love among natives of Ogale from antiquity such that they had rejected the request by Adanran, an oracle which demanded for a specified indigene to be offered as sacrifice in exchange for a saline water tributary enriched with aquatic creatures across its land. The people chose to offer a bought slave with comparable features in lieu of their son. Unsatisfied at the offer, the oracle rejected it and the people remained at ease with their fresh water gift from nature.
Ogale is distinguished for peace and over the years, has remained the most tranquil clan in Eleme land. Ogale like number one among numbers is the foremost clan in Eleme (Osaro-ebo-eta) and maintains its fatherly role like a son whose father is late and must assume the leadership status of a husband to his mother and a father to his siblings, Ogale has always played a stabilizing role in the affairs of Eleme land.
Ogale Exchange with Aleto
Hundreds of years ago, during the rivalry between Aleto and Ebubu clans of Eleme, it only took the timely intervention of Ogale people to achieve peace between them. Jiokpor of Onne in collaboration with some Ebubu men had many a time terrorized Aleto clan, killing their people by the day. Only Ogale heroes could tear down those cannibals. Egbere Ngajo of Ogale ordered his people in 1670 to vacate their original settlement in exchange with that of Aleto, to save the Aletos from suffering the same fate with Ajoor. After several attacks were launched at Jiokpor, he could not die until he was forced to confess what could slay him. It was then; he revealed that akpikpen was the only thing that can destroy him. Ogales beheaded him using akpikpen and its head was taken to the vanished Ejor araba mimor temple of Ngajo kindred. It was said that Ejor araba mimor was full of might such that, right at Ogale, it would sight invaders into Eleme land and like a remote sensor; it alerted the natives to action. In those days, it was that same Ejor araba mimor at whose name, a kite would fall from the sky to the ground together with the chick it had snatched and the chick would be let loose. It was also, mentioned that during the civil war, at the mention of its name and a silent walk could keep the Eleme assailants momentarily blind and by this some Eleme natives were speared.
It was noted that at the exchange between the Ogale and Aleto, the families of the Land Priest of both clans did not move with their people. This means the Land Priest of Ogale is of Aleto descent while that of Aleto is of Ogale descent.
Ogale Receives Ajoor Returnees
After the obliteration of Ajoor community, Ogale natives did not only receive the migrants from Ajoor with empathy but also, cherished them. Ogale natives offered them accommodation and integrated them into their clan. In addition, they offered their children in marriage and in turn, married their daughters.
As a people who had from immemorial adopted leadership by merit or meritocracy over hereditary, most of the traditional leaders of Ogale have been heirs of Owa-Ekara of Ajoor.
Known to be proactive people; during the reign of HRH, Emere Oji Awala, the people mobilsed and chased away the strangers who had occupied their land only to constitute themselves into a different community within Ogale rather than integrate into the existing ones.
Meaning of Ogale
The word Ogale is probably a derivative from the Eleme native word, Ngale meaning ‘I will preserve’ or simply termed ‘preserve’ and ever since then, it has continued to play a custodian role of protecting its people and preserving its culture.
Two prominent Ogale sons who have worked hard to preserve some Eleme cultures which were at the verge of extinction are HRH, Amb. Dr. Appolus Chu, Egbere-Emere Okori-1 of Eleme Kingdom who revived Ogbo-nja and Okon-esa festivals and HRH, Emere Sir, Godwin Bebe-Okpabi, the Emere Ogale who revived Obe-aken annual festival.
Emere Bebe-Okpabi may have remembered one of his forebears, Emere Chujor Ngogboe of Ejii who had during his reign as Oneh Eh Eleme had to him Ochu-Aken Chujor, an annual traditional wresting ceremony day dedicated to himself, different from the general traditional wrestling contest.
Sir Mbasca Chindo a multitalented Ogale artiste and artist through the legendary Eleme Concert experience is a shining star in both music and film industries promoting the Eleme language and culture. Correspondingly, R. Engr. Samuel O. Onungwe and Prince Nwafor Oji have taken to writing and publishing also, to preserve the stories of Eleme land.
Even before the assault on Ekporo clan by the neigbouring Ogu community, Ogale had and continues to serve as their home away from home.
In the spirit of Ogale, Pi-Saa Obele Te-Nwaji, the composer of the famous Nno b’eta Eleme, the adopted Eleme Anthem had taken a risk in consulting oracles against his faith in his research to finding the history and origin of Eleme and Eleme language. He had taken that decision having faced the dearth of documentary evidence on the subject.
Ogales have always being at the vanguard of championing the benefits of education and ensuring that the youth are correctly educated. The days of HRH, Emere W. Gbute Ngegwe, Oneh Eh Eleme VIII saw him rallying round the entire Eleme people and ensured that they contributed money to sponsor deserving Eleme sons whose parents and guardians could not afford formal education.
HRH, Emere Oji Awala, Oneh Eh Eta Ogale X who held sway between 1970 and 2007 was the first university graduate from Eleme land to be selected and installed as Paramount Leader of a clan and in spirit of illuminating the world and philanthropy Mr. Moses Oluka the father of Barr. Walter Oluka Ochen was the first person in Eleme land to single handedly built and handed over to Ogale clan, a modern Town Hall at Aluebo, Ogale in the early 1970s. Emere Josiah Ngogboe Chujor, the father of Barr. Princeley Emeka Chujor took it upon himself to pay annual tax of all taxable adults from Ogale clan and therefore, removed the tax burden imposed by taxmen on his kith and kin. The benevolence of Elder Fred Ngawala of Alueken, Ogale remains fresh in memory as he voluntarily donated (borrowed) the roofing sheets he acquired for his personal house to his church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church School Nchia – Eleme when the school needed class room for its Standard Six Class which qualified the school to have a Standard Six examination centre many years ago.
Ogales in Limelight
Certainly, Ogale did not produce the first University graduate from Eleme as Onne did in the person of Justice Solomon Akara Wai-Ogosu in 1946, and remotely followed by Emere Gideon Obo Ngofa of Aleto who obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Modern History and Politics (University of Swansea) in 1963. However, when Ogale joined the slowly moving train of university education in Eleme, as if it was divinely programmed to have a graduate once in every two years, it naturally facilitated the speed of tertiary locomotion in Eleme and at some points, it was reported that Ogales were the most learned people in Eleme. Ogale produced the Eleme’s 3rd graduate in the person of Emere Sir, Festus Ngochindo Ngochindo in 1965 when he obtained a degree in Economics (UNN), Eleme’s 4th graduate – Elder Gomba Humphrey Osarollor in 1967 (Plant/Soil Science, UNN), Eleme’s 5th graduate – Dr. Friday Osaro Nwator (Medicine and Surgery at Guy’s Hospital, University of London) in 1969.
After a window of 30 months Civil War which ended in 1970, Ogale lost the 6th position to Agbonchia’s Engr. Jike Jike Wai, a renowned production engineer in 1971 (ABU, Zaria) but quickly gained the 7th position as HRH; Emere Oji Awala (Political Science, ABU, Zaria) had not only graduated in 1974 but also inspired a dozen of Ogale townsmen to graduate between 1975 and 1980.
Ogale produced the first and second medical doctors in Eleme being Archbishop F. O. Nwator and Rev. Can. Bebe Cornelius Ngochindo (Hungary). Although, Dr. Ebenezer Johnson Chuu of Eteo was the first in Eleme to bag a Ph.D., Prof. Raphael I. Ngochindo, a chartered chemist, is the first Professor of Nchia land and continues to champion the cause of environmental protection for the people of Eleme and Niger Delta. He comes second in Eleme to Prof. Andah Bassey of Onne, a renowned anthropologist who like the older sons of Wai-Ogosu had always identified themselves with their maternal home, Calabar. Pastor Simeon Job Okochi of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a veteran educationist and administrator transited into Soul winning, later became the first Bishop in Eleme had M.A. in Religion from Andrews University, USA in 1986 and arguably a Saint in the Christendom.
Mrs. Atonsemi Eson Teetito is the first female Permanent Secretary from Eleme. Hon. Princess Evg. Pat. Ajudua, Ph.D. is undisputedly the most influential Eleme woman and this is being followed by Archbishop Elizabeth Paul Obelley JP all of these hail from Ogale.
At present, Asoo Ogale an age grade of Ogale elites still mobilizes and provides scholarship to deserving sons and daughters amidst other developmental endeavours in land.
At a time when water was a major challenge in the land, the people of Ogale taxed themselves in unison and dug a king-size well called Mu-Ngbala which served not only the people of Ogale but also the neighbouring clans such as Alesa and Agbonchia especially, Alode for several years before it was sealed due to aging and caving in. Recently, the people adopted a parallel measure to establish a Community Secondary School, Ogale.
In religion, although, the ancient people of Ogale were primarily traditionalists, over a century now the people have fully embraced Christianity and have donated all its sacred forests and shrines for the building of churches. Some of the churches sitting on such lands are the Seventh-day Adventist Church district headquarters, Ogale, the First Baptist Church, Ogale and the Assemblies of God Church II, New Covenant Anglican Church, Ogale, Church of Christ, Craft Road, Ogale and in recent times, most family and community halls are serving as worship centres to growing Christian community is budding churches in the land.
The unity at Ogale remains unbroken and truly speaking a mystery, no wonder whenever a native dies, all other members of the nine communities that make up the clan would refrain from their farming activities in honour of the diseased and in compassion with the immediate family for a minimum of one day while distance and close relatives contribute financially and materially to support the burial rites.
Elder Walter Dee Olaka, Emere Gomba Isaac Chu, Elder Meshack O. Onungwe JP, Mr. Meshack O. Onungwe JP, Rev. Olaka Ntobari Olaka, Sir Abel K. Olaka, Elder Samuel Onungwe, Rev. Engr. Ezekiel Osarolube, Rev. Gomba Oyor, Ph.D., Hon. Joseph Olaka, Emere Godwin Chu, Elder Wilson Gwegweson, Mr. Promise Gomba, Emere Thompson Osaronwaji, Walter G. Ndo KSC, Mr. Ejire Ejire and Evg. Jonah E. Chujor are eminent personalities from Ogale.
Ogale and Neighbours
Ogale maintains a cordial relationship with their neigbouring Ebubu, Oyigbo, Alode and more significantly Agbonchia people which shares common farm land with her for instance, Olele is found in both Ogale and Agbonchia. The same applies to Mbaala and Okanwenmu. At the Ebubu end, they share Darbor or Ekpandarbor and Ajen Okporri.
However, Ogale has a stronger bond with Agbonchia because they inter marry more than other clans of Eleme. In fact, If you find an Ogale man and an Agbonchia man in a war of words, raining abuses and curses on each other, hold your peace, it is not a fight that you should separate but a comic satire known as Ogwelagwa whose history is as old as Eleme land itself and intended to correct or draw the attention of each recipient to his flaws or that committed by his kin in order to forestall the repeat of such grievous or heinous act.
The relationship between the Ogales and the Agbonchias can be likened to that of a quarreling couple in which your interference may not only get you hurt but also, get you burnt while they relish in romance. A songlike owinwi Agbonchia ojun akai pii ro jun akpe is one of the songs that represent such phenomenon.
For the purpose of marriage, across the entire Eleme land, Ogale girls remain the most sought after for their good manners with a large number of them at Agbonchia and closely followed by Alesa.
Some of the historical identities at Ogale include: Ngbala Forest Reserve, though it is thinning out by the day, Oken Ogale, Nsinsioken, Shell BP’s manifold which is arguably the largest in West Africa, oil wells drilled in the late ’50s, which are still commercially viable, Council Secretariat Complex, Eleme Civic Centre, General Hospital, Daughters of Charity, Palm plantations and lately the Okori-Eleme magnificent Palace.
Alueken, Ekpangbala and Aluebo were the main sub-clans that make up the ancient Ogale clan. From Aluebo emerged Aluebo, Adama, Okori-Ogale, Akara and Ejii communities. The current Ogale clan has a total of nine traditionally recognised communities with the rest being Mbuma-eta, Alueken, Ekpangbala and Agbi. Interestingly, Mbuma-eta was carved out of the old Alueken and Agbi in the vein was carved out of Ekpangbala. These are spread across the nine polling units of Okori: 32/09/03/001, Aluebo -002, Awala/Adama-003, Osaroluka -004, Echieta -005, Ekpangbala -006, Alueken -007, Olele -008 and Agbi -009, together making Ogale Ward 3 in the Eleme Legislative Assembly.
Ogale people have always cherished their Kings in fact, in the pre-Christian era, once the Land Priest had done Olo Ajija ceremony which is to declare the beginning of a new farming season and planted Mgba to ward off strange spirits where applicable, the entire natives would fix a date to plant crops for their King. Once this is done, all others would be at liberty to cultivate their own crops. During those days of Abolona, in which young men and women would form a union to jointly work in the farm of a member’s parents or guardian and on a later day, continue the exercise for another member akin to osusu contribution. These were some of the many cultures that created communal bond among the people of Ogale.
Security and Heath Services
In health care, apart from the general belief that nja be mbie – a term translated as good nutrition is medicinal, Ogale has a Primary Health Care Centre and General Hospital to cater for the medical needs of residents and together with a Divisional Police Headquarters which works in synergy with the Community Security Watch to ensure the safety of life and property. The Akpoeh Central Market at Ogale is always open seven days a week to meet the shopping needs of willing members of the society.
The King of Ogale bears the title Oneh Eh Eta Ogale and the stool is of Second Class status according to the official gazette Number 8, 26th May, 2015, Volume 51 and revalidated on September 13, 2019 by the Rivers State Government. The occupant of the stool is HRH, Emere Godwin Bebe-Okpabi, KSC, JP; Oneh Eh Eta Ogale XI whose reign began in 2008 upon his selection and installation after the passing of HRH, Emere Oji Awala, Oneh Eh Eta Ogale X in 2007. It was Emere Oji Awala who succeeded, HRH, Emere Walter Gbute Ngegwe, Oneh Eh Eta Ogale IX. Emere Awukwa Okpabi Ejii, the grandfather of HRH, Emere Godwin Bebe-Okpabi was the Oneh Eh Eta Ogale VIII.
Although, the names of all the Kings who had overseen the affairs of Ogale may not be remembered incluing the time of their reign, Emere Egbere Ngajo can be termed to be the first King, followed by Emere Oluka Ngelale, Emere Oluji Okochi, Emere Ngochnido Lorlor, Emere Osaro Ngwian, Emere Ejii Nnorom was succeeded by Emere was succeeded by Emere Chujor Ngogboe. Emere Nkiken, Egwe Ogborowa succeeded Emere Chujor Ngogboe when he voluntarily withdrew from leadership following the untimely death of his son. It was Emere Awukwa Okpabi Ejii who succeeded Emere Nkiken, Egwe Ogborowa.
Just as the regency of Emere Nkiken Egwe Ogborowa cannot be said to be substantive Oneh Eh Eta, the same may be said about the reign of Emere Benson Obe of Ejii who held sway during the Biafra War and briefly thereafter and that of Emere Ejii Olaka of Alueken (2007 -2008), a tranisition period between the death of Emere Oji Awala and the selection of his successor.
Names of the Traditional Leaders of Ogale include:
- Emere Egbere Ngajo
- Emere Oluka Ngelale
- Emere Oluji Okochi
- Emere Ngochindo Lorlor
- Emere Osaro Ngwian
- Emere Ejii Nnorom
- Emere Chujor Ngogboe
- Emere Awukwa Okpabi Ejii n.d. – 1935
- Emere Walter Gbute Ngegwe 1935 – 1970
- Emere Oji Awala 1970 – 2007
- Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi 2008 –
At the absence of the Oneh Eh Eta, the Oneh Nkporon Eta, which is the Second in command, presides over the affairs of the clan as he chairs the Ogbo Nkporon Eta – Council of Traditional Leaders and Eldersand oversees the affairs of the of the clan. At the passing of the Oneh Eh Eta, the Oneh Nkiken or Emere Nkiken takes charge after the burial of the Oneh Eh Eta until a new Oneh Eh Eta is selected by the kingmakers. The Emere Nkiken (Land Priest) then crowns him during his installation process and hands over the reins of power to him. That marks his ascension and it is always in accordance with the custom and tradition of the land and the wishes of the people.