The Etsako people are a group of people living in the northern part of Edo State in the south south geopolitical zone of Nigeria. These people occupy six local government areas of Edo state: Etsako West, with headquarters in Auchi, Etsako Central, Etsako East, Owan East, Owan West and Akoko Edo. These make up the Edo-North Senatorial District. The Etsako People are also known as the Afemai or Afenmai, Etsakor, Iyekhee, or Yekhee people. In Benin, they are also known as Ivbiosakon people.
Previously the name used by British colonial administration was Kukuruku, supposedly after a battle cry “ku-ku-ruku” (now considered derogatory). Another tradition has it that the name was derived from the Kukuruku Hills which was a defence barricade for the people during the inter-tribal wars and the historical Nupe invasion.
Historical accounts claimed that they migrated from Benin, during the tyrannical rule of Oba Ewuare, the greatest warrior legend and the most outstanding king in the history of Benin Empire. “The title Ewuare (Oworuare), meaning “all is well” or the trouble has ceased and as a result the war is over. The title symbolizes an epoch of reconciliation, reconstruction and the return of peace among the warring factions in Benin between 1435-1440 AD.
Shortly after this critical period of war, Akalaka and his two sons Ekpeye and Ogba migrated further southeast to first settle at Ula-Ubie, and subsequently other groups moved out of Benin City and migrated north. However, it has recently become clear that there were people living in Etsako or Afemai land prior to the migration from Benin City.
Before the advent of Christianity and Islam, the Etsako people were originally practitioners of the African traditional religion. But with the arrival of the missionaries, many got converted to those religions, this accounted for why Christianity is predominant in this region followed by a large concentration of Muslims mostly in the Auchi, Agbede and the Okpella axis.
Some Other Facts about the Etsako People
- The word ‘Etsako’ is quite an interesting name. The name literally means: ‘people who have chopped off their teeth’.
- Customarily, it is expected of men who married young women to inflict some bodily mark as a means of identification. This they did by chopping off part of their incisor with either a knife or a chisel. Though this was a painful procedure, it was however worth it to them given that it was a form of proclamation regarding their statuses as virgins.
- The coming of westernization, a greater part of Etsako has become one of the most vital commercial hubs in Edo state.
- Auchi is home to one of the best the best tertiary institutions in Nigeria. There is also a strong stone mining industry and cement factories as well.
- With 60% population of farmers, farming is the predominant occupation of the Etsako people. However, the presence of water also creates room for fishermen.
- There are also hunters as well as specialist blacksmiths.
Ifeoha Azikiwe (2013). NIGERIA: ECHOES OF A CENTURY: Volume Two: 1999-2014. AuthorHouse. p. 270
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