Uneme in Nigeria

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People Name: Uneme
Country: Nigeria
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 38,000
World Population: 38,000
Primary Language: Uneme
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 33.00 %
Evangelicals: 7.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Guinean
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Bishop Itegboje (1984) wrote in his book "The History and tradition of the Uneme" that a curse was placed on the Uneme by His Royal Highness Oba Egbeka of Benin during his reign (around 1370 AD). His Royal Highness Oba Egbeka got tired of constant war between the Uneme tribal houses and Benin Kingdom. The Bishop stated that the charm for placing the curse was prepared for His Royal Highness Oba Egbeka by His Royal Highness Oba Ogiebo of Igbo-Orumila now known as Ijebu-Ode. His Royal Highness Oba Egbeka used the charm to scatter the Uneme tribal houses and prevent them from further united action against him. The Oba's warriors chased the Uneme from one location to another in Edo area until His Royal Highness felt he had defeated them completely. This partly accounts for the dispersal of Uneme tribal houses in the northern part of Edo State and a small section of Awka in Anambra State. The five Uneme tribal houses make up ten towns and villages in Edo State. These are Uneme-Anegbette, Uneme-Nekhua, Uneme-Akiosu, Uneme-Ekpedo, Uneme-Erunun, Uneme-Akpama, Uneme-Udochi, Uneme-Uzanu, Uneme-Imiava, Uneme-Ayetoro

It is worthy of note that the Uneme are said to have descended from five sons in the marriage between Princess Inemi, the first daughter of His Royal Highness Oba Eweka I(who ruled Benin between AD 1200 to the middle of the 13th Century) and Ogunola, who was then the Ogieniromo of Benin. These five sons make up the five tribal houses in Uneme today. The twin brother of the first son is the father of the Uneme who settled in Awka. The relationship between His Royal Highness Oba Eweka I of Benin and the Ogieniromo was reputed to have been very cordial even before His Royal Highness gave the Ogieniromo his daughter in marriage.

Bishop Itegboje further narrates, "On the 10th of April, 1955, I led an ad hoc-committee of Uneme to the Oba of Benin, {HRH} Oba Akenzua II, and fortunately for our noble mission, the curse was revoked the same day, April 10th 1955, in my presence. Thus, the committee succeeded in shielding the Uneme populace against the (further) destructive effects of the curse." His Royal Highness Oba Akenzua II ruled Benin between 1933 and 1978.

The above is not to undermine the reason for the concealed persecution and hatred of the Uneme by the descendants of tribes and clans who perceived them as a threat during the inter-tribal wars the 19th Century. This was when the Uneme were supposed to have made weapons of war for commerce and friendship. These events happened in the days of ignorance and any tribe who had a means of escaping attacks particularly by the Fulani used such means to advantage. The Uneme were no exception.
It should be noted too that the elders of Uneme who forbade their daughters to non-Uneme men had genuine reasons for doing so.

Bishop Itegboje throws more light on the issue, "Owing to their profession-Blacksmith, they (Uneme) were highly respected and regarded by their customers." While they (Uneme neighbors) waged war between themselves freely none of them dare wage war against Uneme. In fact, Uneme were always contacted for war weapons.

If a Uneme agrees to marry any of these peoples' daughters, she is always given out without dowry; because that will enable her family to enjoy the generosity of Uneme in offering them farming tools to farm. However, no non-Uneme dare go to any Uneme daughter for marriage. Uneme girls were very beautiful, but secluded for Uneme men alone.

It was this respect and lack of opportunity to war freely with Uneme or to marry their daughters at will that degenerated into great fear by these Uneme neighbors. They were so afraid of Uneme that it eventually turned into the younger generations saying: we forbid Uneme.

Also, during wars Uneme are always called upon to salvage any nation {tribe} that is ravaged with war. Uneme will go there, when called upon, and help the neighboring villages. But Uneme as at then had a law, that no Uneme fighter should make love with the woman they are aiding in war, in order to win the war. Hence such neighbors of Uneme always warn their ladies and women not to have affairs with Uneme so that Uneme shall win the war for them.

This 'desist from Uneme, to win war' ranged on to what was later changed to 'forbid as if war still lingers on. '

Bishop Itegboje was the Chief President of Uneme Descendants Union in 1955. He narrated in his book, 'The History and Tradition of the Uneme' that His Royal Highness Oba Akenzua II in revoking the curse on the Uneme on April 10th of that year said,

" 'Oba never dies. It is the person who wears the crown that dies. Hence, whatever be the curse of my predecessors against Uneme, as an Oba on the same throne, I have the authority to revoke the curse.' His Royal Highness Oba Akenzua II then revoked the curse. He prayed that Uneme should regroup and unite together for peace and progress. "

Where Are they Located?

They are located in the northern part of Edo state. In Akoko-Edo local government area, the area is a basement terrain with lots of exposed granitic origin.

What Are Their Lives Like?

They are homely, sociable and a good number of them are very well educated, they are fair in their dealing with people.

What Are Their Beliefs?

"Uneme" has an emblem of Uneme culture, it is called "Ogbamati," a symbol of prowess, brawl and brain, courage and fearlessness in doing what is right without fear or favor. Their courage and fearlessness in doing what is right account for their strong belief that, that nobody fashion evil against them and succeeds to this they have a saying in their language thus "ogbuneme iitoo".

What Are Their Needs?

There is a need for good roads, tourist centers, and most importantly awareness for their younger generations.

Prayer Points

Pray that the almighty God will strengthen and uphold hold them firmly and preserve their existence through Christ our Lord.
Pray that God will enable the Uneme to help their neighbors and not destroy them.
Pray that God will establish the Uneme firmly and bountifully on earth.

Text Source:   Hadiza Oyarekhua