Esan (Ishan) people are ancient militaristic, highly homogeneous vibrant agro-fishery and Edoid-speaking people living in the Edo State, South-south geopolitical zone of Nigeria. Esan people who are said to be positive in outlook, creative, industrious and highly educated are one of the Nigeria`s major ethnic groups and live primarily in Edo Central Senatorial District in Nigeria.
Esan people in Edo State,Nigeria
The people of Esan have a common language, custom and tradition. The homogencity characteristic of the Esan people has been aptly described by Okojie (1994): According to him:
"The key to a people’s character or personality can be found in their music, dances and folklore. Take a look at two typically Esan dances: AGBEGA and OBỌDỌIRIBHẸFE and you will see what a proud race ESAN people are. Their vivaciousness and the fact that they descended from warlike ancestors can be seen in the commonest Esan Dance – juju dance (EGBABỌNẸLINMIN),
OLEKE, OHOGHO, etc. ASONO combines with the proud movements and agile figures of a warrior. Unuwazi’s AYELE in addition teaches individualism and self-reliance. No two dancers
can be seen doing the same steps."
Esan land is bordered to the south by Benin, to the south-east by Agbor, to the north and east by Etsako, to the west by River Niger. The land is about eighty kilometers North East of Benin City. By this factor of proximity and the fact that they share a basic cultural substratum, they are regarded as neighbours to the Bini (Bradbury, 1973: p. 48). From Ewu to Benin City, the State capital, is 100kms long. The people populate areas such as Uromi, Ewatto, Igueben, Iruekpen, Irrua, Ubiaja, Ebele, Ehor, Ekpoma, Egoro Eguare, Ewu, etc all in central Edo State, South-South Nigeria.
Historically, Esan traces their ancestry to the Bini (Edo) people of the powerful pre-colonial African kingdom of Benin in Nigeria. Esan grew initially as farming settlements, which were peopled from the Savannah north. These nuclear settlements expanded by internal growth and through recorded migrations from Benin about five centuries ago. Such migrations into the area were believed to have even occurred earlier and was led by banished princes or chiefs, criminals etc. who had deserted Benin City for the uninhabited forests lands “long before 1460, that is Ewuare’s time (Oba of Benin) either through the selfishness and atrocities of some of the Obas, or following the catastrophic civil wars over succession….” (Okojie, 1960: p.35). Recorded migrations out of Benin City took place during Oba Ewuare’s reign in the 15th century when the Oba lost his two sons and enacted some harsh laws including forbidding the citizens from cooking, washing or having sexual intercourse for three years. It was the resentment of people against the new life-style in Benin City that made people to migrate into the forest (Okojie, 1960: p.32). The Oba waged war against the culprits but failed. Oba Ewuare’s bellicose nature according to Jacob Egharevba (1968) led the Oba
into conquering 201 towns and villages, some of them in Esan. But for many of the scattered
settlements in the Esan forests, the Oba had to use diplomacy to bring them under Benin hegemony. He invited Esan leaders or their representatives to Benin for a truce. He dangled
attractively before them an attachment to Benin City. He was ready to recognize and honour his
visitors with the title of Onojie; meaning king.
There is no record of those who might have received the invitation but ignored it. They have
disappeared from history, for the future Esan rested on those who went to Benin and took the
title of Onojie. The decision among Esan leaders to go or not to go to Benin was not easily taken. Many of the leaders dreaded Oba Ewuare but did not want a fresh wave of military attacks of the area. Instead, Benin promised military support for the Onojie to enforce authority over insubordinate subjects (Eweka, 1992: pp. 83-84). Only three of the leaders actually went to Benin
in person. All three were apparently men who had nothing to fear from the Oba due to various
reasons. The first was Ekpereijie, the son of Oba Ohen’s daughter and a sister to Oba Ewuare. She
had been given to Amilele the leader of Irrua. Relations between Irrua and Benin must have been cordial. The second was Alan of Ewohimi, the son of Ikimi who had left Benin prior to the reign of Oba Ewuare and as such was not considered as one of those who fled the city by the Oba. The third was Ijiebomen who left Benin for Ekpoma after the Oba had granted him leave (Eweka, 1992: p.169, 174).
Sir Tom Ikimi, former Nigerian foreign minister and an illustrious son of Igueben, an Esan town in Edo State where he used his privileged position in the highest decision making body of the land as a minister to attract a lot of development to the land. Here is a cerebration of his 70th birthday.
In contrast to those mentioned above, the chief of Ohordua, Okhirare, “had especially offended the Oba and would not risk his neck, so he sent his heir Odua” to Benin (Eweka, 1992: p.272). His brother and leader of Emu also sent his son rather than risk his life. Three other Esan leaders dispatched brothers as their representatives to the meeting in Benin. Ede “felt he was only less than the Oba by degrees” and as such refused to honour the call. He then sent his junior brother to listen to what the Oba had to say. The leader of Ubgoha, also asked his junior brother to go on his behalf. The leader of Uromi sent his junior brother to find out what the Oba had to say.
Ewuare concealed his anger at the impertinent leaders in Esan. He was a smart diplomat. During
the meeting, he told the visitors how they had migrated from Benin. He enthroned the Benin
court traditions in Esan. The name ESANFUA, meaning those who fled from Benin City into the
jungle became a pejorative connotation from where the word Esan was derived. The Oba
bestowed the title of Onojie on those that were present at the meeting. Instantly, the Oba made
them rulers of their communities and subservient only to the Oba and above all, this noble title was
not transferable to father, brother or master, and once an Onojie, always an Onojie until death
(Okojie, 1960: p.37). Where Oba Ewuare had enthroned a proxy except in Ewohimi, Irrua and Ekpoma, strife and hatred followed as the new leaders began to assert authority and control over the elders. Thus the Oba wielded the numerous villages into large political entities that hitherto became known as chiefdoms ruled by the Onojie. R.E. Bradbury explains that “The Chiefdom might consist of one or several villages loosely knitted”(1973: p.48).
Esan are fun-loving people who have various festivities and ritualistic traditions.Their folktales and folklores serve as forms of learning and entertainment, like the famous Igbabonelimin. They have prominent traditional rulers who keep order and sanity in a complex society where beauty and manners are intertwined.
A handful of Esan families are known to possess Portuguese ancestry, resulting from links dating back to the 16th Century when Portuguese sailors and tradesman first entered the Bini Kingdom via the coast. British arrived Bini in the wake of the Portuguese numerous expeditions to, and intercourse with, Bini.
Esan people believe in community of people and "man" is very important to them. Man, in Esan ontology, is 'Oria '¹ or ‘Oria no ri wi usuagbon‘ or ‘Oria no ri wi agbelo‘- a communal being with-others; and he is created by the Supreme Being. In Esan ontology, he is considered as next to the Supreme Being since he is at the central point of everything in nature. Hence the Esan beliefs
that everything in the universe was created for him. For the Esan, man is very complex being and he is as mysterious as the universe in fact, for them, man is a ‘being-with’. For the Esan people, 'Oria ' refers to both male and female. But categorically, an Esan male, is called '0kpia' while a female is called "Okhuo". For the sake of relevance to Esan linguistic analysis, let us mention other few but delicate points about the Esan people such as; 'Owanle' which refers to elders.
Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, Esan man and Nigerian politician and former minister of Works and Housing
Esan people have a unique festival known as Esan Day which is celebrated at the Tafawa Balewa square, Lagos every December; there, names of all prominent Esan people are read to loud ovation. Esans believe in self help, thus assisting to reach villages and towns to achieve development. Prominent Esan are Ogbidi Okojie, Onojie (king) of Uromi (1857 - February 3, 1944) a great Nigerian Nationalist, freedom fighter and arguably the greatest ruler of the Esan people in what is now Edo State in Nigeria, Chief Anthony Enahoro, who raised the motion for the independence of Nigeria; Peter Enahoro, who wrote How to be a Nigerian, Anthony Anenih, a top Nigerian politician and former minister of Works and Housing. Other names include the late Prof. Ambrose Folorunsho Alli, Governor of Bendel State and the founder of Ambrose Alli University; Bishop Patrick Ekpu, Festus Iyayi, writer, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, late first lady Stella Obasanjo; musician Sonny Okosun and writer Aba Aburime I.
Also included are Chief Tom_Ikimi, former foreign minister, Fidelis Oyakhilome, former Lagos state police commissioner and formal governor of Cross river state; Augustus Aikhomu. Admiral in the Nigerian Navy, who served as the de facto Vice President of Nigeria during the Ibrahim Babangida-led military junta, Vincent Airebamen, former deputy commissioner of Lagos state, Wilfred Ehikametalor, Former Kogi State Commissioner and former Assistant Inspector General of Police, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, an international renowned evangelist and founding president of Believers' Love World Incorporated also known as "Christ Embassy", a Bible-based Christian ministry headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, Esan man and an international renowned evangelist and founding president of Believers' Love World Incorporated also known as "Christ Embassy"
Origin of the Name Esan
It is believed by many historians that the name 'Esan' (originally, 'E san fia') owes its origin to Bini (meaning, 'they have fled' or 'they jumped away'). 'Ishan' is an Anglicized form of 'Esan', the result of colonial Britain's inability to properly pronounce the name of this ethnic group. It is believed that similar corruption has affected such Esan names as ubhẹkhẹ (now 'obeche' tree), uloko (now 'iroko' tree), Abhuluimẹn (now 'Aburime'), etc. Efforts have however been made to return to status quo ante.
Esan is located at Longitude 60`5′ celcious and Latitude 60`5′ celcius. It has boundaries on the North West with Owan and Etsako on the North-East; on the South-West with Orhiomwon and Ika, while on the South and South-East with Aniocha and Oshimili, all areas that were controlled by ancient Benin especially from the 15th century (Patridge, 1967: p.9). The people populate areas such as Uromi, Ewohimi, Ewatto, Igueben, Irrua, Ubiaja, Ogwa, Ebele, Ekpoma, Ohordua and Ewu in central Edo State, South-South Nigeria. It has a flat landscape, lacking in rocks and mountains, and good for agricultural purpose.
Esanland lies between the fringes of the Savannah to the north and the forest (marginal forest) to the south. The plateau on the northern fringes had the forest vegetation, which thinned into the northward Savannah. It is made up of sandy topsoil that could be easily cleared and cultivated, relatively weed-free. The reason for the sandy nature of the topsoil has been partly due to “the widespread occurrence of sedimentary, granite and gneissic materials the downward elevation of clay; differential soil erosion due to the high kinetic energy of rainstorms tending to remove fine particles in run-off water; and the possible chemical destruction of kaolin in the topsoil” (Kowal and
Kassami, 1978, p. 116). The topsoil is also mixed with laterite, various clays and free metal oxides
often coat the quartz and clay particles, immobilized phosphate, and help to cement or compact the soil not only at the surface but also in the lower layers where clay accumulates to form a pan-like horizon (Kowal and Kassami, 1978, p. 26). This area according to Darling have been very fertile for agriculture(1984, p. 26).
The position of Esan land in a favourable climatic zone enhanced the initial agricultural development and the entire economic structure of the area. Climatic position determines the natural environment, within which an ecosystem affects agricultural and economic activities. The skill in which climatic elements were manipulated for production purposes enhanced the development of Esan agriculture. Esanland is influenced by seasonal winds. These are the Southwest and North-East winds. The former blows from the Atlantic Ocean. It is warm and humid. The wind prevails over the land and brings in its wake heavy rains that caused the wet seasons. Wet seasons were periods of much human activity when the planting of various crops by farmers was done. When rainfall stops by mid – October a period of dry season sets in following the Northeast winds. This usually lasted from November to March when there was virtually no rain in Esanland. The climate at this time is hot with a temperature of about 230 –250 centigrade at mid-day. From around mid –
December to January the weather became harsh and it was referred to as the harmattan or
okhuakhua. These seasonal variations according to Akinbode could have been from the “latitudinal
migration of the tropical convergence zone (ITCZ)” (Akinbode,1983, p. 3). Sometimes light rainfalls were recorded in the months of December and January. Also, strong winds and high air
temperatures could be recorded between the months of January and March while the lowest are usually recorded during the months of June and July. In general, the altitude of the Esan plateau modified the temperature to such a level of eliminating extreme weather conditions. It was therefore not surprising that the relatively flat tops of the plateau remained much cooler than other parts of the land throughout the year. This perhaps explains partly why the plateau land was the first to be settled in Esan.
Esan Local Government Areas in Edo State: The autonomous clans/kingdoms in Esan land are currently administratively arranged as follows under the current five local government areas:
(1) Esan North East LGA, Uromi: Uromi, Uzea
(2) Esan Central LGA, Irrua: Irrua, Ugbegun, Okpoji, Idoa, Ewu
(3) Esan West LGA, Ekpoma: Ekpoma, Urohi, Ukhun, Egoro
(4) Esan South East LGA, Ubiaja: Ubiaja, Ewohimhin, Emulu, Ohordua, Ẹbhoato, Okhuesan, Orowa, Ugboha, Oria, lllushi, Onogholo
(5) Igueben LGA, Igueben: Igueben, Ebele, Amaho, Ẹbhosa, Udo, Ekpon, Ujorgba, Ogwa, Ugun, Okalo
There are 35 clans each of which is headed by a traditional ruler called "Onojie".
1. Irrua 2. Ekpoma 3. Uromi 4. Ubiaja 5. Egoro 6. Ekpon 7. Ewohimi 8. Emu 9. Ewatto 10. Wossa 11. Amahor 12. Igueben 13. Idoa 14. Illushi 15. Ifeku 16. Iyenlen 17. Ohordua 18. Okhuesan 19. Oria 20. Onogholo 21. Orowa 22. Opoji 23. Ogwa 24. Okalo 25. Ebelle 26. Ewu 27. Ogboha 28. Uroh 29. Uzea 30. Udo 31. Urohi 32. Ujiogba 33. Ugun 34. Ugbegun 35. Ukhun
Health Facilities The Ambrose Alli University Teaching Hospital is at Ekpoma, along with various public health centers, private and public hospitals, clinics and maternity homes; The Irrua Specialist Hospital, the School of Nursing and Midwifery, as well as public primary health centers, public and private hospitals, clinics, and maternity homes; The General Hospital,Uromi; and The General Hospital, Igueben.
Educational Facilities In addition to the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, there are 48 primary schools and 12 secondary schools, including the Christ the King Nursery & Primary School, Ekpoma; Mousco International School, Ekpoma; Cosmopolitan Church Primary School; Christ Foundation Nursery/Primary School; and Christ Adam College; Needs more detail information on educational facilities in Irrua Uromi and Ubiaja; Famous secondary schools such Igueben College and Ewu Grammar School are located here, as well as Adult
Education Centers, which were set up to provide education for adults without formal education;
Tourist Centres/Attractions Commemorative Statue of Prof. Ambrose Alli, Ibiekuma River, and Oba's Palaces; Lake Obiemen, Obiemen Shrine, the Ogirrua's Palace, and the Ugbalo Spring; and The Okomu Udo National Game Reserve, and the Amahor waterfalls.
Esan speaks Esan, a tonal Edoid language which is a Kwa language that belongs to the larger Niger-Congo language phylum. Dictionaries and grammar texts of the Esan language are being produced, which may help the Esan appreciate their written language. There is a high level of illiteracy among the Esan, and a large number of dialects, including Ẹkpoma, Ewohimi, Ẹkpọn, and Ohordua. Most annual Esan Kings' Council meetings are largely conducted in English for this reason.
Festus Iyayi (born in Ugbegun in the year 1947 in Esanland, died 12 November 2013) was an Esan man and Nigerian writer known for his radical and sometimes tough stance on social and political issues.
Esan has various dialects all of which stem from Bini and there is still close affinity between the Esan and the Bini, which leads to the common saying 'Esan ii gbi Ẹdo' meaning, Esan does not harm the Ẹdo (i.e. Bini). Esan are great poets, writers, singers, carvers, farmers, scholars, storytellers, etc. The folklore and history of the Esan tribe is worth re-visiting and attempt should be made to research the various ways that the villages are related to the Ẹdos, and others who may have occupied Ifeku Island many years ago. The Esan heritage is unique despite the variation of dialects.
Linguistic finding has shown the word ‘gbe’ to have the highest number of usages in Esan, with up to 76 different meanings in a normal dictionary. Names starting with the prefixes Ọsẹ; Ẹhi, Ẹhiz or Ẹhis; and Okoh (for male), Ọmọn (for female) are the commonest in Esan: Ẹhizọkhae, Ẹhizojie, Ẹhinọmẹn, Ẹhimanre, Ẹhizẹle, Ẹhimẹn, Ẹhikhayimẹntor, Ẹhikhayimẹnle, Ẹhijantor,Ehicheoya etc.; Ọsẹmundiamẹn, Ọsẹmhẹngbe, etc.; Okosun, Okojie, Okodugha, Okoemu, Okouromi, Okougbo, Okoepkẹn, Okoror, Okouruwa, Oriaifo etc. To any Oko-, 'Ọm-' the suffix of the name can be added to arrive of the female version e.g. Ọmosun, Ọmuromi, etc.
BODIAYE How are you?
OFURE/ ODIAMENMEN It is well
EGBE DAEN? Are you ok?
BU WA KI LU What are you up to?
OKHIN BUE Good bye
OBO KHIAN Welcome
EA YE No
ME WA KHA I disagree
MUDIA FO Hold on!
KHAN MUN Go on!
DO O TUA Sit down!
KPA NO Get up!
NO WEH Sleep
The Esan people migrated from the Bini Kingdom in Nigeria. The word Esan is a Bini word meaning "they jumped away, or they have fled." The name became the accepted name of the group of people who escaped from the reign of Oba Ewuare of Benin in the middle of the 15th century. During the 15th century, the Oba Ewuare of Benin had two sons that both tragically died on the same day. Oba Ewuare then declared for mourning the death of his sons to the whole kingdom that there shall be no sexual intercourse in the kingdom; no washing, sweeping of the houses or compound, drumming or dancing; and making of fire in the land. Oba Ewuare insisted that these laws be strictly adhered to for a period of three years as a mark of respect for his dead sons.
According to Jacob Egharevba, author of A Short History of Benin, the Oba conquered 201 towns and villages but he had to use diplomacy for many of the other scattered towns and villages in the forest in order to bring them under Benin rule. Thus, Oba Ewuare invited Esan leaders or their representatives to Benin for a truce. He enticed them with the idea of having an attachment to Benin City and of their having the honour of being called "Onojie", which means king. The future of Esan rested on the Esan who went to Benin and took the title of Onojie. It was not an easy decision for the Esan leaders to decide whether or not to go. Many feared Oba Ewuare but also did not want more military attacks against them. To reduce their fears, Benin promised military support for the Onojie to enforce authority over insubordinate subjects (Eweka, 1992: pp. 83-84). Only three leaders actually went to Benin in person.
All three were apparently men who had nothing to fear from the Oba due to various reasons. The first was Ekpereijie, the son of Oba Ohen's daughter and a sister to Oba Ewuare. The sister had been given to the leader of Irrua. Ekperejie came without fear because relations must have been cordial between Irrua and Benin.
Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, pictured above greeting guests at the Vatican
Some Esan Proverbs
Esan, like many of the tribes south of the Sahara, is rich in proverbs. ‘Itan’ is the Esan word for proverb (plural: ‘itanh’). Being a polysemous word, ‘itan’ also means insinuation or innuendo. To differentiate which one is being employed in a speech, the verb that precedes the Esan noun would always be the deciding factor: “kpa itanh” means “speak in proverbs”while “fi itan” means “insinuate, make allusion.” This collection of Esan proverbs is by no means exhaustive, since the use of proverbs is a common feature among nearly all Esan. When placed beside any of the proverbs below, the acronym ‘LIT’ means Lost in Translation, which is to suggest that that particular proverb couldn’t be translated to be true to its original meaning. For instance, the proverb “Ojie kha la le ọ’ ki zi ọgbọn” is a short form of“Ojie kha la le ọ’ ki zi ọgbọn ọhle ojie Udakpa da yọ ni Aah khue alogbo rẹkhanọle.” If translated, it would be “A king’s ascension to the throne is initially followed with fundamental changes, which was the reason the king of Udakpa ordered to be escorted with musical instruments.”). Besides being lengthy, the reader who has little knowledge of Udakpa in South-East Esan – and the many political changes that have transformed it – will fail to grasp the message in the proverb. When rendered in Esan language, however, the proverb offers some literary appeal and reminisces the distant past of that ancient community. Also, italicized phrases in the English translations are additional information which is meant to aid easy understanding, especially of non-Esan and those who aren’t so good at appreciating adages. Where a proverb has an English equivalent, it is given and preceded with the conjunction ‘Or’ and the abbreviation cf (compare).
Ose ii gba ni usẹnbhokhan. ( A young man's beauty is never without defects.)
Eji Aah nyẹlẹn ọhle Aah khọ. (People resemble where they live.)
Udo ni Aah daghe ọ' vade ii degbi ọrhia bhi ẹlo. (A missile that one sees coming does not blind one.)
Eji ọboh da gui otọ ọhle ọle da horiẹ. (A native doctor disappears only where he is used to.)
Aah ii ri ebi Aah nanọ bui awa re. (You don’t tempt a dog with something to lick, since dog is an avid licker.)
Aah gheghe yọ ni olimhin kha mhẹn bhi ẹlo, ọhle Aah da ri ukpọn bhọ. (Clothing a corpse is simply to beautify it.)
Aah ii fi ini bhi otọ kha khin oha-ọtan. (Do not go hunting for squirrel while you have an elephant as a catch.)
Aah ii di isira ọnọ khin eni khin ẹkpẹn. Or, Aah ii khin ẹkpẹn man ọnọ khin eni. (You don’t change to a tiger in the presence of one who can change to an elephant.)
Amẹn ni ọrhia la muọn ii gbera ọle a. (The water one would drink can never flow past one.)
Aah ii yi ọbhẹnbhẹn khui ọkhọh. (Do not ask a mad man to chase fowls away, since he would do it madly.)
Ene wwue bhi uwa kha yyọ ele mmin okpodu, ?bi ene wwuẹ bhi ole ki da ta yẹ. (What would they say who slept outside if those who slept inside complained of harassment?)
U’u ii ji Aah gui na. (Death is impervious to appeal.)
Ẹwa’ẹn Aah rẹ gbi efẹn nọ ribhi ẹkẹ akhe. (Killing a rat that is holed up inside an earthen pot requires wisdom.)
Ufẹmhẹn si obhokhan kha na, Aah ki yọ owualẹn kkaniọhle ni ọle. (When the arrow from a child’s bow travels far, an adult is suspected to be responsible.)
Ọnọ gbi ọnọdeọde ọhle ọnọdeọde viẹ bhi itolimhin. (In a funeral each mourner mourns the fate that befalls him, not the deceased’s.)
Ọmọn nọ yyu ọle mhọn ose nẹ. (It is the deceased child that is always the prettiest.)
Ohu bha lẹn ebialẹn si ọhle. (Fury does not know its owner’s strength otherwise a weakling’s rage would be tempered with restraint.)
Agbọn khi ese. (It is human beings that do disguise as supernatural forces.)
Ọnọ ii ribhi eni, ọle Aah ri enyan si ọle tọn bhi egbi era’ẹn. (It is the absent one whose yam would always be kept beside the fire.)
Eto kha rẹ re, Aah yẹ lẹn eji ukẹhae nae. (No matter how hairy the head becomes, the forehead remains distinct.)
Aah kha yọ ni Aah sikoko, Aah bha yyọ ni Aah simama. (A call to gather together is not an invitation to muddle together.)
Aah kha khin ẹkpẹn fo, ebi Aah khiẹn ki fo. (After changing to a tiger, you simply have no other thing to change to.)
Aah kuẹ ri ikhilẹn khin ẹgua’e ọba, ọba kuẹ nyẹn uge. (The king need not tiptoe in order to peep at a dance coming to be staged at his palace.)
Ọni Aah bbhobholo ii bhobhi ọrhia. (The one who is carried on one’s back cannot back someone else.)
Oẹ ọkpọkpa Aah zẹ bhi okọ-ẹdin. (In a palm oil dish, you take one step at a time.)
Irẹlobhegbe zzẹ ni ọkhọ bha da lli afiamhẹnh. (But for forbearance, the chicken would have taken into eating birds.)
Ose ba ni emiamhẹn. (Beauty is more painful than infirmity.)
Ọnabhughe ọ’ min olimhin ni Aah ri izagan mun. (It is the truant that comes in contact with a corpse wrapped in basket.)
Aah ii ri ẹbhe ni oruan ọrhia rẹmhọn. (To ensure a lasting relationship, do not offer a goat to your in-law for safe-keeping.)
Aah kha kha gbi ugan bhi evele, Aah ki ri ukpọn bhọre. (If it is being debated, a man should undress to counter claims that he is suffering from penile bloat.)
Ebi Aah bha mmin Eboh, Aah bha rruẹn ebeh-ọghẹdẹ. (Prior to the arrival of Europeans, no one wore banana leaves, but clothes.)
Ẹnyẹn ni otuan ọkpa miẹn ọhle khi ubhiọ. (It is the serpent seen by a single person that is called a lizard.)
Uhọmhọn na ji ikọ ọ’ ii gbi ikọ. (An envoy isn’t punished for the message he conveys.)
Ọkhin ẹkpẹn ii khin eni. (He does not change to a tiger one who changes to an elephant. Or, Everyone has an area where he is talented.)
Aah kha rui ẹlo, Aah ki kha ri ẹwua’ẹn khian. (Blindness demands caution. Or, When one is blind, one learns to walk with care.)
Afiabhẹn ni Aah ri igẹnh si ọhle lui emhin, ẹjẹje Aah min ọhle ele. (The bird whose feathers are treasured must walk circumspectly.)
Ebe bha ji ọrhia rẹ lẹn egbe, ọhle ọrhia da tẹ. (Disgrace is sure to come from that over which one cannot exercise self-control.)
Ebe yi okhuo zẹ bhi ileghe re, akun ọ’ ye. (That which compels a woman to reduce her waist beads lies in her waist.)
Ọ’ ii yi ọta ni ekhẹnh ta yi ẹki, ọ’ ii yi ọhle ele ta vae. (Traders’ subject of discussion to the market differs from their homeward discussion.)
Ọ’ ii yi ẹdẹ ni Aah muin ure ọ’ ii yi ẹdẹni Aah riọhle zọ ese. (It is not the same day a snail is found that it is offered as sacrifice to an idol.)
Eji Aah tan sẹ, ọhle Aah da ji uhọmhọn. (A person’s head must grow where his height stops.) nearly LIT
Ure kha lo bhi ẹbọ, ọ’ ki khin ẹbọ. (When a snail inhabits a shrine, it becomes an idol.)
Ọsakọn Aah lẹlẹ, Aah ii lẹli ọmeto. (It is the dentist that can be tricked, not the hairdresser.)
Odin ii talọ, ọta ri ọle bhi unu. (Although speechless, the mute has something to say.)
Ojie ii gbo yọ ni Aah ri ojie tọ bhi itikun. (A king never asks a king to be buried in a refuse site.)
Okhuẹlẹn nẹko kpe. (A grass-cutter’s plumpness is achieved in hiding.)
Ẹmhọn ri ọdan ba bhi egbe, ọhle rri ikpea do bhi omin. (LIT)
Ọbo ii bọ bhi ebi ọle lẹ’ẹn. (A native doctor doesn’t consult his oracle concerning that which he knows.)
‘Nine’ bha jji Ebo llu. (Despite his ingenuity, the white man could not create the number nine.) nearly LIT
Elamhẹn n’ọ ii mhọn akọn, ọhle ki odalo bhi ishi oyi. (It is the toothless beast that is always the first arrival at the orchard.)
Usẹn bi usẹn ko yi egbe ‘halo’. (It is age mates that greet each other with ‘hello’.)
Ẹdebe ọhle Aah rẹ ye ọkha’e re. (A hero is often remembered on a bad day.)
Ọ’ ii yi ọnọ ka kha khọmhọn ka yu. (The first person to fall sick is not always the one to die first.)
Ọbo kha wuo ni ọbo, ọ’ ki ri ọbo khuọn ẹkpa. (LIT)
Ogun bi ogun kha min egbe, ughamhan ele rẹ tui egbe. (When blacksmiths meet, both salute each other with iron.)
Aah kha kha viẹ, Aah yẹ daghe. (Even in tears, it is not impossible to see.)
Ẹghe ni Aah bha rẹ llẹn ẹlo ikpakpa, ọhle ikpakpa ki rẹ ggbi ọrhia. (Men only died of toxin beans when they lacked knowledge of the food.)
Okhuo ii yi okhuo biẹre khi ọmọn fui ọlle bhọ. (A woman doesn’t ask a fellow woman to put to bed that she herself is childless.)
Ẹruẹ ii yi ẹruẹ ọyabhihue. (English version: ‘A kettle does not call a kettle black.’)
Ebi Aah miẹn ofẹn ii muin uki, ?bi ọhle ii da bha ọsi adamhẹn. (If not for fear, why doesn’t the moon shine in the daytime?)
Ẹlo ọriọbhe bhia’e, ọle ii rẹ daghe. (Although he has good eyesight, a stranger doesn’t see with his eyes.)
Ọnọ rẹre, ọle Aah da ọle obọ. (It is the generous person that would always be approached for assistance.)
Ọriọbhe giẹrẹn lumhin eman, ọle bha lẹn eji Aah ri ubhokọ gọ. (Although a stranger pounds pounded yam well, he lacks knowledge of where to keep the pestle.)
Aah ii ri emhin ni ọkhian re mhọ’ẹn. (You don’t give something to a traveller to keep.)
Ẹdẹ ni okhuo rẹ nyin eman ebe, ẹdẹni ọlle rẹ le nẹ. (It is on the day a woman cooks a bad meal that she eats best.)
Elamhẹn ọbhebhe ii ni isọn emẹdin ebeiyi uriẹi. (Except porcupine, no other animal has palm waste in its excreta.)
U’u bha gbi iban, ọhle di khin ẹdin. (The flower of a palm tree will eventually become palm nuts if death spares it.)
Oghian ọrhia zẹ ni u’u da ba bhi egbe. (It is one’s enemy that makes death hurtful.)
Obhokhan kha ni isọn ebe, Aah ki ri ebe ugbolimhosaka gbo ọle uwedin a. (If a child defecates repulsive excreta, the leaf of a spiky plant will be used to wipe his buttocks.)
Aah kha kha gbi ugba, ọtẹtẹh rie. (At the repeated shaking of the calabash, insects find their way out.)
Aah bha min ebi Aah khin ọkhọmhọn yẹ, Aah ki zaghiọle era’ẹn a. (If because of his illness you can’t hurt a sick person, you can at least extinguish the fire that keeps him warm.)
Aah bha min ebi Aah khin ojie yẹ, Aah ki si ọle bhiẹbho re. (If because of his power you can’t challenge a king, you should quit his kingdom. Or, cf. ‘If you live in Rome, do not strive with the Pope.’)
Ẹghe ni Aah rẹ llui ẹmhọn, Aah rria ọhle a. (The time spent on lawsuit is time wasted.)
Aah kha ri egbe yi isi ojie, ọshọ folo. (When people take themselves to the king’s palace for lawsuit, they cease to be friends.)
?Ji uzo ki ri aho ọ ni ọhle da rẹ bi iweva. (From where has antelope got the strength to give birth to twins?)
Ukpokpo ni Aah rẹ ggbi ẹwobi, Aah bha refia, Aah ki rẹ gbi ọbhata. (The whip that was used on a stupid person, if it is not disposed of, will be used on an innocent.)
Aah ii min ebe khi ọkhọ ebeiyi akhokholẹ. (Nothing resembles a chicken as does a bush fowl.)
Ese kha la zi emhin, ẹkẹn-ọkhọ ki va udo a. (When supernatural forces are at work, it is not impossible for a hen’s egg to crack a stone.)
Ebe ka llui ọkhọ di yẹ lui ẹbhe. (A goat will by no means escape the fate of a chicken as long as feasts last.)
Ọkpọkpa Aah gbe ni okhọ’ẹn da lọ. (A war is sustained till the end by gradual killing rather than by outright annihilation. Or, cf. English version: ‘Rome was not built in a day’ or ‘One thing at a time.’)
Aah ii dunu bhi igbanaka. (LIT)
?Ji ehọ ni Aah la rẹ họn, ọhle Aah nẹ emhin na. (The very fact that certain things are offensive to the ear is the reason they are considered taboos.)
Ojie kha la le, ọ’ ki zi ọgbọn re. (A king’s ascension to the throne is initially followed with fundamental changes.)
?Bi Aah la le ẹlẹna, ?bi Aah la le akha, ọhle ukhumhun rẹ fo. (The question of today’s meal and tomorrow’s provision is how a famine abates.)
Aah ii ri afe nani umhẹn. (You don’t start licking salt simply because you are wealthy.)
Aah ii nọ ọnọ mhọn igho bi ọle la dẹ. (You don’t ask the moneyed man what he will buy with his money.)
Ẹsọn ka ggbi enefe. (The rich once suffered hardship.)
Ẹbọ kha kha to, ọhle mhọn ohẹn si ọhle. (No matter how austere an idol is, it has its priest who pacifies it.)
Ọkaleteh ii kpọ. (Heroes are hard to find.)
Ughe ughulu da ho ukhuọ ọhle ni Aah kha yọ ghe khiẹkẹ ọhle mun ni ọhle. (That hawk makes love to its wife in the open sky is to debunk rumours that it impregnated her out of wedlock.)
Aah ii ri ugbele si Akogho loli ugbele. (LIT)
Uhẹn-ẹlẹ zẹ ni Aah ii da nẹ bhi ẹki. (Don’t defecate in a marketplace because it will be there for you to see on the next market day. Or, cf. English version: ‘The evil that men do lives after them.’)
Ẹwa’ẹn Aah rẹ gbi udia nọ timan bhi ikpẹkẹn. (Killing a tsetse fly that perches on one’s scrotum demands wisdom.)
Uhọmhọn ni Aah bha ji obhokhan ele, ọhle kha gbi ache bi uwawa bhọ, ọhle ki ha osa. (A child must pay for the destruction of items that results from carrying out a task that was never assigned to him.)
Uzehia kha zẹ bhi eji obọ ii sẹ, Aah ki yi ọhle lala a. (If one has boil in a part of the skin beyond reach, the boil is advised to rot.)
Esan man, Cardinal Okogie
Aah ii gẹn ọmọn bhi isira ọle. (Don’t sing praise of a child in his presence.)
Emhinh erebhe ne ribhi omhọn ti egbele itata. (Every ingredient in soup likes to be seen as meat.)
Ọ’ ii yi ẹlo ni Aah rẹ lie man, ọ’ ii yi ọhle Aah rẹkha elamhẹn. (The attitude with which food is eaten differs from that with which meat is shared amongst the eaters.)
Ese kha la zi emhin, omhọn ni inodẹ ki oto obọ a. (It becomes possible today for yesterday’s soup to burn one’s hand once supernatural forces are at work.)
Ọ’ ii yi ẹlo ivin ivin rẹ ni udẹn. (A palm kernel would never produce palm ointment unless under the searing heat of the pot.)
Aah ii ni ọnọ wuẹle gbi ugan si ebhohiẹ. (You don’t argue about a dream with its dreamer.)
Ọbhẹbhẹn yyọ ghe khi ena ọle rri era’ẹn fiọ, ghe ọnọto khian ni ọle bha lẹn ẹlo bhọ. (A mad man only knows of the spot where he dropped fire but cannot account for the offshoot ravaging the forest.)
Aah kha rẹkhan ẹkpẹn khian, Aah ki li elamhẹn; Aah kha rẹkhan ẹbhe khian, Aah ki li ebeh. (A companion of tiger will feed on meat but a companion of goat will eat leaves.)
Ebale kha sike ebgi unu gbe, ọ’ ii ji Aah le. (Food that is too close to the mouth is difficult to eat.)
Ọba ii de Esan, Ọzọloa ii ri Ẹdo. (No Benin monarch visits Esan land, just as Ọba Ọzọloa who was slain in Esan will never return to Benin.)
Ọgbihiagha bhi uhọmhọn nain ọka yyọ ghe ọhle lẹn otu si ọhle. (The dreadlocked maize insists it knows its age mates.)
Evẹkpẹn kha vi ẹkpẹn fo, Ibhioba ki bi ebeh. (The people of Ibhioba clear the leaves after the butchers of tiger are done.) nearly LIT
Eni ediọn kha le, enai ẹlimhin ki khọn. (When the elders eat, the spirits are full.)
Ọnọ ii mhọn ọmọn ii mhọn oruan. (The one who has no child cannot have an in-law.)
Ọnọ ri ebeh bin uwa kha dia khẹ efi. (He who builds a house with leaves should expect the storm.)
Aah gbudu yi ọba ‘họ’ọ’! (Even the king can be reprimanded.)
Ebi Aah gbe bha yu, Aah ii mun bhi ẹkpa. (Until the animal you are killing is dead you don’t put it in a sack.)
Ebi Aah ko ta, ọhle khi ẹmhọn ni inẹdeso. (What was discussed earlier is what can be cited as a previous discussion.)
Aah ii tti egbe emhin, ọhle enele da tto uwa a. (That the house was gutted by palm waste was due to disregard for something.)
Ẹdẹ ii tughu ọ’ bha sẹn. (A river must become crystal-clear after being upset.)
Ijan ọkpa ọmọle feọ n’ọ da hu. (If a man’s urine must foam, he must urinate on one spot. Or, cf. English version: ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’)
Aah bha min ebe re n’ọ ii fo. (There’s nothing without an end. Or, Whatever is in vogue ultimately expires.)
Ukpọn ni ahoho sabọ, ọhle ọ’ re bhi ifi. (The wind only picks the dress that it can take off the rope.)
Ebe ii yi emhin ọhle ho alo. (It is the insignificant thing that struggles over the forefront.)
Ọnọ mhọn ivie bhi uru bha lẹn si ọ’ ghanmhin. (He who has a gold necklace round his neck does not know its worth.)
Etin kha di oya, Aah ki ri abọ eveva fi ọhle. (When a blow becomes a challenge, the two hands will be used to apply the blow.)
Osẹ ko eran ni ọnọ ii mhọn uze. (It is God who provides firewood for the one who has no axe.)
Ebe ba bhi egbe ii ni ara’ẹn re. (A painful experience does not necessarily bring out blood.)
Ohuẹ ii tie bi ọle miẹn bhi ikhẹeran. (A hunter never discloses the happenings in his hunting expedition.)
Omhọn n’ọ mhẹn bhi unu ii si eman. (Delicious soup is often inadequate for a meal.)
Ẹbho ni Aah ii da min ahiẹlẹkpẹnh ọhle ọkhọh da lui mama. (It is in the land where there are no hawks that chickens have leverage.)
Aah ii tọni egbe bi eji egbe rẹ tọnọ. (Do not scratch your skin just the way it itches you.)
Unẹ bha sẹ khin unẹ ọhle okhuo da ri obọ muin inyẹ’ẹnh mhọ’ẹn. (A woman holds tight to her breasts only when a race has not assumed seriousness.)
Aah ii walan si u’u bhọ. (Man is senseless before death.)
Ese ii muin ẹdẹ. (No amount of trouble can prevent daybreak.)