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The Historical Origin of Uegwere Boue Community of Ogoniland in Rivers State of Nigeria
The community named Uegwere Boue is located in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State. They are part of a well-known tribe called the Ogoni. According to oral tradition, the Ogoni people migrated from ancient Ghana to the Atlantic coast eventually reaching the eastern Niger Delta. Linguistic calculations made by Kay Williams place the Ogoni in the Niger Delta before 15 BC, making them one of the earliest settlers in the eastern Niger Delta region. Radiocarbon dating obtained from sites around Ogoniland and oral traditions of neighboring communities also support this claim. They are one of the few tribes that survived the period of the slave trade, because they lived in relative isolation and did not lose any of their members to slavery. After Nigeria was colonized by the British in 1885, British soldiers did not arrive in the Ogoni until 1901. Great resistance to their presence continued until 1914.
Some historians have identified some remarkable similarities between the Ogonis and the Volta people of Ghana. The method of growing yams and cassava in the Volta region of Ghana is the same as in Ogoni. Both crops are their main crops. There are many villages and communities whose names are the same in both tribes, such as Elelme, Kpone and Bakpo. Also, the alphabets and pronunciation of some Volta people and those of Ogoni are the same.
Uegwere Boue is one of the towns in Boue community which consists of ten villages. There is no clear or specific date of its origin, but some historians believe that Uegwere existed during the Stone Age era of Homo-Erectus. According to oral tradition, Uegwere Boue was founded by three brothers named; Gbene-kiri, Gbene-ka-bien and Bie. The three great ancestors of the community first settled in a community called Kpong and later moved to a place called Luawii. Other historians stated that they also moved to Bara-Boue. The migration of these brothers was basically due to the search for economic trees (hard wood) to be used in the production of masks, household utensils, doors, etc. Another reason for their constant migration was the search for fertile land for planting, as they were also farmers.
It is said that Gbene-ka-bien in one of his numerous explorations discovered a land that was rich in hard wood. Excited by the viability of the land, he immediately began clearing a portion of the land. To show the selfless nature of Gbene-ka-bien, he returned to Luawii to enlighten his brothers about his great discovery. Historical records differ as to which of the brothers first joined Gbene-ka-bien. Some historians argue that it was Gbene-kiri, while others claim that Bie was the first to follow their brother. However, the three brothers moved to the newly founded land which they named Uegwere, derived from “gwere” (a solid hardwood). So Uegwere means the land of hardwood. Gbene-ka-bien cleared, cultivated and settled a part of Uegewere which he named Ee-yor-bia. And Gbene-kiri established more villages which include; Si-yormii, Eegwere, Nor-maa, Kee-dara-karabe and the land occupied by the Community High School. Whereas, Bie, who was said to be young, strong, and alive, left Kuruga to Ee-lor-lor, which is the greatest land in Uegwere. They lived in peace and harmony with their families, there was no trace of internal crisis or war.
Other notable descendants of these three great ancestors are Gbenekwo, Gbene-Nyonwa, Gbenetigira, Gbenelaga, Gboe and others. The families of Gbene-kiri, Gbene-ka-bien and Bie are the foundation and most important house of Uegwere Boue. These families must be represented at any important event in the community for such an occasion to be legitimate.
Like many people on the Guinea coast, the Ogoni have an internal political structure that is subject to community regulation, including the appointment of chiefs and community development agents, some recognized by the government and some not. The Uegwere community called their ruler “Mene-bue” and the system of government was confederal democracy. The first ruler of the community was Gbene-Bara-Kenam. He ruled for many years before the death of his wife in childbirth forced him to shift the throne to a non-native named Tor-bue. Gbene-Bara-Kenam wanted to focus on his young child and no longer had the zeal to rule Uegwere Boue. After Tor-Bue’s reign, Mene-Bue Koobee Asoo ascended the throne. He is said to have been a great warrior who escaped from Gwara after several attempts to kill him. He ran to Uegwere where he was naturalized. After the death of the great Chief Asoo, Ikpaa became Mene-Bue. The current ruler of Uegwere is Chief Te-ep Friday Koobee, son of Chief Ikpaa.
Traditionally, the Ogoni are agricultural, also known for animal husbandry, fishing, cultivation and trade in salt and palm oil. The pride of every young man in Uegwere lies in his strength and farming skills. Parents usually advised or sometimes chased their daughter to marry hardworking farmers because they believe that hardworking men will take good care of their daughters. The community produces yam, cassava, fish, palm wine fruit and various vegetables in large quantity. Before the introduction of money as a medium of exchange, people were completely engaged in trade through barter. They exchange their local products for other rare products with other neighboring communities.
Culturally, the people of Uegwere Boue are rich. It is loaded with cultural festivals that include masquerade and dancing. The ‘tee-bee’ masquerade display is a must-see, while the famous ‘Jimpie’ masquerade exhibition which occurs once every four years is a first-class tourist attraction. The community also boasts interesting and delicious delicacies that include “beeteh and akpoyaaee. The Uegwere Bouerians speak the Ogoni language as their dominant Franca language.
Before the advent of colonialism and missionary activities, the people of Uegwere Boue were pagans. It had some feared oracles such as ‘Amanikpo’, who served as deity and chief judge. Anyone accused of major crimes is taken to the oracle for judgment. Some historians have realized that like most African tribes, there are traces of killing twins, human and animal sacrifices, secret societies and cannibalism in the old days of this community. Currently, Christianity is the most dominant religion. Although there are still traditional believers, their population is insignificant compared to the number of Christians. Uegwere Boue is home to almost all church denominations in Nigeria.
In summary, Uegwere Boue is one of the oldest communities in Ogoniland. It has a democratic government without discrimination and tribalism. The community is self-sustaining with its experienced and diligent farmers, hunters and fishermen. Christianity is the dominant religion of the community and the rich cultural heritage of Uegwere is second to none.
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