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CULTURE AND HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE OF ALEIBIRI AND WHAT

THEY ARE KNOWN FOR

Aurthored by: Dr. Sunday Doutimiariye Abraye

Aleibiri town is a community settled in the Bolou Toru Creek in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The community’s origin is traced to Moyai, the legendary founder of Ogbosuware. It is claimed that he is the direct son of Oyakiri. Monyai moved from his father’s settlement, Toru-Ebeni, to settle in a new place called Ogbosuware. In Ogbosuware, Monyai gave birth to Ebiegberi (a male child) and Ebiegberi grew up in Ogbosuware, but he took a wife from Isaba. Ebiegberi and his wife gave birth to two children, Akpenzia, (a male child) and Piokiri (a female child). Piokiri being a woman, got married to a man named Temeziba from Okpokunou town in Isembiri clan, when she came of age. At Okpokunou, Temeziba and Piokiri gave birth to a son whom they named Alei. Alei grew up under the care and guidance of his parents. Akpenzia, Piokiri’s brother and Alei’s uncle who lived in Ogbosuwari, decided to move camp and settle in a new place. He eventually found a village called Tietiegbene, not far from Ogbosuwari.

Alei on his part grew up in Okpokunou, his place of birth. He was a powerful man who grew to become a great wrestler and hunter. Alei was also a highly gifted strategist. These talents were not noticed in the life of the young man until trouble started between Isembiri, the clan of young Alei’s parents and Mein, a neighbouring clan. The hostilities were said to have been caused by the people of Mein clan, who manhandled a son of Isembiri clan. The trouble escalated and eventually degenerated into a full scale inter-clan war.  As the most populous of the Isembiri towns, Okpokunou led the offensive. It was discovered quite early in the war that the young Alei was talented in the craft of warfare, so he was given the responsibility of leading the Isembiri war canoes. Although the Mein clan had the advantage of being more populated and had greater strength, they were not able to subdue the smaller clan because of the superior war tactics of Alei of Isembiri. At every open battle, the Isembiri army dealt with the Mein army; severe blows that always left the Mein army groaning in pain. This continued for some time before the Mein army was able to make one or two retaliatory maneuvers that dealt devastating blows to the Isembiri army at the peak of the fighting.

While the fighting was going on between Mein and Isembiri, a military force from one of the Mein towns, Okoloba, out of frustration went under cover of darkness to attack Tietiegbene, a village in Oyakiri clan that was far removed from the fighting. This was because the Isembiri war lord Alei’s maternal uncle, Akpenzia, was the founder of that village. When news of the attack on his maternal uncle and his settlement got to Alei in Okpokunou, the war took a different dimension. Oporomor and Tarakiri clans came into the war, taking sides with Isembiri because from their point of view, Isembiri was fighting a just fight. While all this was taking place in the war-torn zone, Tietiegbene and its founder, Akpenzia, were left to suffer. Oyakiri towns did not come to the rescue of Tietiegbene. This attitude of the other towns angered Alei, who moved from Okpokunou to the rescue of his uncle, Akpenzia. On getting to his uncle’s place, Alei discovered that at Tietiegbene there was no room for expansion, and the place was not accessible by the numerous rivers that crisscross the Lower Niger. So, he started the search for a more suitable place to relocate his uncle. Having found a place, he invited his uncle to join him. The first place he settled was Ikibiri but he later moved to Eremotoru. He moved this far because he wanted to keep his uncle away from further attacks. It is suggested that it was because of the ongoing war between Isembiri and Mein.  Alei moved his uncle further Westwards to Eremotoru, a location between Ojobo and Peretorugbene both towns in Oporomor clan in Delta and Bayelsa states respectively.

At the new settlement at Eremotoru, however, raiders from Ukubie came and kidnapped Alei’s grandson, Okidi. It might be that Alei and his kin could neither rescue Okidi nor attempt to retaliate because they felt they were in an isolated area. Thus, they decided to move forwards to arrange themselves in the middle of other communities for protection. This move took them to the present day Bomadi creek, which is also known as the Boloutoru creek. They came settled with the people of Isampou town in Tarakiri clan in the present site of the Isampou people.

After settling there for a few years, the people of Isampou became so hostile to Alei and his kin that, after bearing their hostility for some time, Alei decided to move the camp from Isampou to the site of the present day Aleibiri. One day it happened that an Isampou man named Orogbala threw a grandchild of Alei into the river, but for God’s mercy, the baby would have died. The mother of the baby had trained the baby to float on water, thus the baby did not die in the river. She was rescued some two hours later by members of Alei’s family who were fishing in the river. The child was brought out of the water and restored to her mother safely. In his anger Alei placed a curse on any female child of his that ever married from Isampou. So, the age long tradition of unsuccessful marriage between the descendants of these two neighboring communities started. This curse was only reversed in recent years. This was the scenario when Alei decided to move to the present site of Aleibiri and put up emergency huts to get away from his hostile Isampou hosts. They left Isampou unceremoniously one night and settled in their huts. At the time Alei and his people moved into their huts, there were only nine huts constructed to accommodate the whole kindred, so they were given the name “Isenaware Otu”, meaning “nine huts” by their neighbours. The neighbours their former hosts the Isampou people and other older neighbours. They used this name as a derogatory expression, the name has since been replaced by a more befitting name, using the name of the founder of the town as its prefix Aleibiri meaning, “the abode of Alei”

Having founded the town, Alei invited his maternal uncle, Akpenzia’s children to come and settle with him. By this time his uncle, Akpenzia, was dead. So Akpenzia’s children responded to their cousin’s invitation and so settled in with their families. It was the children of Akpenzia that founded Akpenzia-Idumu.

Aleibiri was initially an extended family unit but with time the population increased which led to the families splitting into three different Wari or lineages. The three family units otherwise known as Wari grew into what is now known as Idumu (kindred/ political unit). One of these Idumu’s later split into two units for administrative purposes owing to the rapid increase in the number of people in the kindred. The eldest of these kindred units is made up of the descendants of Akpenzia, Alei’s maternal uncle and they are called Akpenzia-Idumu.

Alei, according to records, gave birth to only one son, Angoawemo. Angoawemo on his part gave birth to Okidi and Afekuro. The Idumus are arranged in order of seniority in the town. Akpenzia is the oldest and is so respected. Akpenzia is followed by Okidi-Idumu, named after the first grandson of Alei. The third Idumu which was supposed to be named Afekoru Alei’s second grandson was later split into two and called the names of Afekuro’s son and wife, Opuokede (son) and Gbugba (wife). So, they are called Opuokede-Idumu and Gbugba-Idumu, respectively. Although Akpenzia’s children were the last of the founding fathers to settle in Aleibiri, Alei and his children respected them because of the seniority of their father. Hence, the Idumu which is named after him is regarded as the Senior Idumu in Aleibiri.

The people of Aleibiri are mostly known for Education, Politics, Fishing, Farming, Wrestling, and their prowess in Sports, especially Football. The town is equally considered a business and industrial hub by her neighbours. People come to Aleibiri from far and near to buy and sell.

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