The Afemai people, also spelled Afenmai are a group of people living in the northern part of Edo State south geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Afemai 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.
Afemai is a geographical enclave located in the northern part of Edo State in Nigeria. It is located north – east of Benin City, the State’s Capital and it is the North Senatorial District of Edo State.
Structurally, Afenmai is made up of six Local Government Areas. The six Afemai Local governments and their administrative headquarters are: Akoko-Edo (Igarra); Etsako Central – Fugar, the Administrative Headquarters of the defunct Kukuruku Division until 1920; Etsako East – Agenegbode, a town located on the bank of the River Niger; Etsako West – Auchi, the Administrative Headquarters of all Afenmai from 1920 to 1963; Owan East – Afuze; and Owan West – Sabongida Ora
History has it that the six Local Government Areas which makes up Afemailand once existed as a single division which was first known as Kukuruku division. It was formally renamed Afemai Division in 1956 by the then Western Region House of Assembly.
Afemai Fathers are believed to have migrated from Benin between the 13th and 15th centuries. The only exception is Igarra (Etuno), a clan that traces its descent to
Igalaland of which Idah is the seat. And with the exception of Igarra, Afemai Fathers form one of the Edo-speaking groups.
However, differences abound between the dialect of Afenmai and the Binis on one hand and between the peoples of Afenmai on the other. The peoples of the various sub-regions, as dictated by proximity, however, speak closely related dialects and have a common culture.
Afemailand is rich in culture and tradition. The people are a mixture of traditional worshipers, Muslims, and Christians groups. Their marriage and death ceremonies are streamlined alongside these religions. Traditional Festivals are held throughout Afemai at various times and in various places.
The Afemai are also known as the Afenmai, Etsako, Estakor, Iyekhee, or Yekhee people. In Benin, they are also known as Ivbiosakon people.
The Afenmai language is a Ghotou-Uneme-Yekhee language, belonging to the North-Central branch of Edoid languages. Afemai is closely related to Edo.
Afemai has several documented dialects:
Afemai is made of several kingdoms and clans (large villages/townships ruled traditionally by monarchs) and many of them seem to have their own oral history versions of the origin of Afemai as well as its own starting point in history. 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 Afemailand prior to the migration from Benin City.
Some of the most celebrated sons and daughters of Afemailand, past and present, are
Most people are hunters, farmers and fishermen.
The Afemais do not have a central traditional ruler, but some of the prominent traditional institutions and rulers in Afemai land are the Okumagbe of Weppa Wanno (Agenebode), Ogieneni of Uzairue (Jattu),Aidonogie of south Ibie, Otaru of Auchi, Oba of Agbede, Otaru of Igarra, Ukor of Ihievbe, Oliola of Anegbette, Okumagbe of Iuleha clan, Okuopellagbe of Okpella etc. Afemai have produced many illustrious personalities in both national and international levels.
Tourist attractions, which span the expanse of Afemai, are exemplified by the Ise Lake in Agenebode (Weppa Wanno clan) Etsakor East, the Ososo hills (featured in an edition of Gulder Ultimate search), the famous Kukuruku hills and the Somorika hills in Akoko Edo. Somorika hills consist of an extended expanse of hills crowned by massive boulders perched precariously on the summits of hills and alongside seemingly inadequate locations on the sides.
Some of the most important towns/clans in Afemai land are Agenebode(Weppa-Wanno), Weppa,Oshiolo,Emokwemhe Iviagbapue, Auchi, Ihievbe, Afuze, Warrake, Iviukwe,South Ibie, Agbede, Sabongida Ora, Igarra, Ekperi, Jattu, Fugar, Aviele, Okpella, Uneme Ehrunrun, Uneme Osu, Iviukhua, Ososo, Uzanu, Uzebba, Iviukhua, Weppa, Okpella, Okpekpe, Somorika etc.
The autonomous clans, towns, villages and kingdoms in Afemai land are currently administratively arranged as follows under the current six local government areas:
Aviawun (Iviawu) is one of the popular clans in Afemai. It comprises 1 Unone 2 Arua 3 Ogbona 4 Iriakhor
Awun is the father of Unone Arua Ogbona Iriakhor and Awun migrated from Benin Kingdom and settle in the present Fugar. Unone and Arua make up the present Fugar.
Awun is said to be migrated from Benin Kingdom during the 15th century and he left Benin Kingdom because of the iron hand the Oba of Benin was applying on its subjects. He first settled at Jettu and the natives of Jettu did not welcome him, so he further migrated eastward and settled in the present Fugar. It was said that when he arrived at Fugar, he did not see any big trees and the only tree he saw that could shade him and his family was not big enough. This particular tree still exists to the present day. The tree is named Agbabo. It is a traditional tree and no Awun descendant dares cut it. It is also considered a tourist attraction
The Etsako people were originally practitioners of the African Traditional Religion. However, with advent of Christianity and Islam, many got converted to those religions. Etsako people are predominantly Christians and Muslims today, perhaps due to largely the arrival of the early missionaries at the Waterside in Agenebode. However, high concentrations of Muslims can be found around Auchi, Agbede and perhaps, the Okpella axis.