Ogane and the Nupe Overlords: Ile Ife and Benin were Vassal to Nupe

In 1486 the Portuguese explorer Joao Affonso d’Aveiro visited Benin and was told by the Oba that Benin is vassal to a powerful emperor called the Ogane whose kingdom is further inland from Benin. Most European mapmakers and explorers had assumed that the kingdom of this Ogane must be the Kingdom of Organa earlier on depicted on Italian maps as being located around the general area of today’s Niger State in Nupeland.

But Benin history revitalized at the end of the 19th century maintained that Benin was founded and was vassal to Ife. So, Nigerian historians simply assumed that modern Ile Ife in Osun State must have been the Ogane recorded by the Portuguese explorers.

In 1965, however, Professor Alan Ryder disproved claims that modern Ile Ife was the kingdom of the Ogane. He submitted that the Ogane kingdom was instead a prehistoric Nupe kingdom located around the Niger-Benue Confluence.

In this paper we add the weight of Nupe traditions demonstrating that the ancient Nupe Kingdom of Gara or Gana was the Kingdom of Organa or Ogane.

14th century Italian maps, including the 1276 Catalan map, repeatedly depicted a Kingdom of the Organa on the River Niger. In 1486 the Portuguese explorer Joao Affonso d’Aveiro visited Benin and was told of the Ogane Emperor. In 1502 the Cantino Atlas depicted the Kingdom of Ogane inland from Benin. Later, in 1507 the Dutch explorer Duarte Pacheco Pereira who had visited Benin four times also published the story of the ‘Hooguanee’ and its neighbouring ‘Licosaguou’. That year, 1507, Martin Waldseem Uller published a map depicting the Kingdom of Orguene. Then in 1552 the chronicler Joao de Barros compiled reports, including that of the ambassador of Benin to Portugal in 1540, mentioning the Ogane.

In 1614 the Portuguese cosmographer Manuel Figueiredo published a navigational guide mentioning Ogane as Agare and Licosaguou as Miosaque. In 1623 the Dutch writer Dierick Ruiters and in 1627 Alonso de Sandoval mentioned Agare and ‘Mosaico’.

In 1654 a Dutch manuscript now at the University of Leiden mentioned the Kingdom of Agara. In 1665 Arnout van Leers also mentioned Agara. Then came Olfert Dappart in 1668 who mentioned Isago (Miosaque, Licosaguou) but didn’t mention Ogane or Agara.

In 1722 the Italian Capuchin Domenico Bernardi da Cesena visited Warri and was told about ‘Miosaquo’ and Agare among whom were Christians.

In the first half of the 20th century most Nigerian historians and academicians presumed the Ogane was the Oni of Ife. But in 1965 Professor Alan Ryder remonstrated that the Kingdom of the Ogane was the Nupe Kingdom on the Niger. Professor Lawal Babatunde also demonstrated that Ogane was not today’s Ile Ife. In 1988 Professor Thornton suggested that the Igala Kingdom was the kingdom of the Ogane and that the Isago/Licosaguou/Miosaque was the Nupe Kingdom.

Organa was Ogane
From early 14th to late 16th centuries European maps located the Kingdom of Organa east of Mali downstream the Niger in the very general area where we have Niger State today. But from the late 16th to the 17th century this Kingdom of Organa was replaced by Zegzeg or Zaria on the European maps. And after the 17th century Zegzeg became reduced in size as most of its territories became divided into several daughter kingdoms including Guber, Guangara, Zanfara, Ghanara, Casena, and others.

At the end of the 14th and beginning of 15th centuries two Portuguese explorers, Joao Affonso d’Aveiro and Duarte Pacheco Pereira, separately visited Benin and were told that Benin was vassal to a supreme potentate called the Ogane whose kingdom was further inland. 16th and 17th century European explorers, writers and mapmakers subsequently identified the Organa as the Kingdom of the Ogane.

To European explorers the name Ogane was known with many dialectal variants including as Organa, Organe, Orguene, Hooguanee, Agare, Agara, etc.

Ife as Ogane
At the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century Benin and Yoruba traditions began to appear narrating that the Benin Kingdom was founded by the Yoruba Prince Oranmiyan from Ile Ife. Most historians and academicians in the first half of the 20th century subsequently identified modern Ile Ife as the Ogane of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Ogane was Nupe
From 1965 onwards, starting with Professor Alan Ryder, several scholars began to reject modern Ile Ife as Ogane. Professor Alan Ryder and Professor Lawal Babatunde both identified Nupe as Ogane.

Professor Thornton also identified Nupe as the Yufi of the Arabs and the Organa of the Europeans. Nupe history, in the same 14th to 16th century period, also located a Gara or Gana Nupe kingdom in the same place where the European maps located Agara or Organa.

The Nupe traditions are that Gara was the paternal kingdom of Tsudi the Nupe Founder. Professor S.F. Nadel was repeatedly told by the Nupe people that the Gara Kingdom from which Tsudi came was located around the Borgu-Yauri-Zugurma axis of Northwestern Nupeland.

The Isago/Licosaguou/Miosaque kingdom which many authorities identified as a Nupe kingdom also corresponds in location and time to Nupe history’s Yisako or Nyizagi Nupe kingdom known to European mapmakers as Zegzeg or Zaria.

Ogane Christian
Oral traditions collected by Professor Leo Frobenius shows that there was once upon a time a powerful Nupe Christian kingdom located in the general area of the Agara/Organa/Ogane kingdom. Nupe traditions specifically narrated that the Old Gbara or Gara Nupe kingdom was Christian at a time. And bronze statues of Cross-bearing, cat-whiskers tribal marked Nupe messengers of the Ogane to and fro Benin dating from period have been discovered in both Nupeland and at Benin.

Ife and Benin
Even though Benin traditions maintain that Benin was founded by a prince from modern Ile Ife in Osun State, documentary and circumstantial evidences available don’t support such a claim. Instead the documentary evidences point to the existence of a prehistoric Old Ile Ife in Kakanda, Nupeland, from which both Benin and today’s Ile Ife originated.

The pre-17th century Regnum Organa was also known to the Europeans as Agare or Agara and was evidently the same as the Gara Kingdom of the Nupe traditions. In fact, Europeans identified the Kingdom of Organa in Nupeland as the Ogane of the Benin records.

But the British conquest of the Benin Kingdom in 1897 led to renewed interest in Benin history which revealed that Benin was vassal to Ife. Historians then erroneously mistook today’s Ile Ife in Osun State as the pre-17th century Ogane to which Benin was vassal.

Accordingly, throughout the first half of the 20th century historians assumed that the Benin Kingdom was founded by the Yoruba Prince Oranmiyan from today’s Ile Ife in Osun State. In 1965, however, Professor Alan Ryder controverted this claim. He proposed that the Kingdom of the Ogane must be some now extinct Nupe kingdom located around the Niger-Benue Confluence area east of Benin.

Interestingly, the British explorer Sir Richard Burton was told back in 1864 by the Yoruba people at Abeokuta that there used to be a precursory Old Ile Ife located at Kakanda in the Nupe area close to the Niger-Benue Confluence. Apparently Professor Alan Ryder was correct in his submission. That prehistoric Ife in Kakanda, Nupeland, must have been the Ife of the Benin history.

That powerful Old Ile Ife Nupe kingdom at the Niger-Benue Confluence in Southeastern Nupeland was a successor to the pre-17th century Kingdom of the Organa or Agara. The Regnum Organa or Agara Nupe Kingdom to the immediate east of Mali on the Niger was the Gara Kingdom which was located in today’s Northwestern KinNupe.

Nupe traditions are that over the centuries Gara, the European Ogane or Agare, migrated downstream along the Niger to Central Nupeland where it became known as Agaranye or Agaie. And that from Central Nupeland Gara migrated further downstream to its eventual settlement in Southeastern Nupeland where it became famous as Old Ife.

But by the time Gara or Ogane arrived Southeastern Nupeland as Ife it was no more Christian. There is no record or tradition of an almighty prehistoric Christian kingdom on the Niger-Benue Confluence. But the works of many like Professor Leo Frobenius and the Middle Belt traditions abound testifying to the existence of a superpower prehistoric Christian kingdom in Central and Northwestern Nupeland. This explains the Cross associated with the Ogane in the 1486-87 Benin records.

Also, the Isago/Licosaguou/Miosaque of the documentaries was initially a small neighbouring kingdom to Agara or the Kingdom of the Ogane. But with the decline of Agara or Gara Isago/Licosaguou/Miosaque expanded to appropriate the former territories of the Kingdom of the Ogane in the post-16th century era.

This Isago/Licosaguou/Miosaque was actually known to Nupe traditions as Yisako or Nyizagi or Zagi. It was Zagi or Sagi that was pronounced in its repetitive form as Zagizagi or Zegzeg. This Zegzeg was also known as Zozo or Soso or Shishi or, as we pronounce it today, Wushishi.

In the pre-17th century era the capital city of the Ogane or Gara Kingdom was located in Borgu-Yauri-Zugurma axis of Northwestern Nupeland. In the post-16th century era Ogane or Gara migrated downstream along the River Niger through Central KinNupe to the Niger-Benue Confluence part of Southeastern Nupeland where it became popularly known as Old Ile Ife.

In the pre-17th century era it was from its initial capital of Old Gbara at the Borgu-Yauri-Zugurma axis of Northwestern Nupeland that Ogane or Gara initially ruled over several vassal kingdoms including Benin. But in the post-16th century era it was from Agaie in Central KinNupe and later from Old Ile Ife at Kakanda in Southeastern Nupeland that Ogane ruled over Benin and others.

Early 20th century mistaking modern city of Ile Ife in Osun State for its precursory Old Ile Ife in Kakanda, Nupeland, have been rightly controverted by people like Professor Alan Ryder.


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