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Beyond The Three: Discover the Esan People as Told by Eseosa



Beyond The Three is a new series on BellaNaija where we celebrate and spotlight every tribe and ethnic group that is NOT Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo. We invite ALL BellaNaijarians to be a part of this initiative.

In the first edition of this series, we were introduced to the Idoma people. {Click here if you missed it.} Today, we’re turning the spotlight on the Esan people of Edo state, thanks to Eseosa. Eseosa describes her people as a general force to be reckoned with, having talents in bronze making.
Let’s find out more about the Esan people, shall we?

What does your name mean?
My name is Eseosa Ebhohimen which means Eseosa-God’s gift; Ebhohimen- I’m supported by people.

What is your language called and do you know how to speak it?
My language is the Ishan language. I’m not very fluent, though

Tell us about some of the unique rites and cultures about your ethnic group
Naming ceremonies
This is done on the 8th day of birth where the religious elders are called and a feast is made. In the village, when a woman gives birth, a relative applies a white native chalk or ‘orue’ on their forehead as either a line (one child), two lines (two children) etc. The woman wears a bright cloth to signify happiness that a child is born and goes to the market on market day which is every 5th day to announce the arrival of a child.

During engagement/introduction, the bride is adorned with coral beads and a wrapper tied around her with the top left bare while the groom brings items on a list that had been provided by the bride’s family before the engagement day wearing white singlet and ‘igbu’.
The bride is told to sit on the groom’s lap 7 times after which she is seen to be married to the groom. The bride price is usually a meagre amount of money such as 5 naira which is paid before the bride sits on grooms lap 7 times.

Ruling class/Governance
This is the Oba of Benin, who is supreme authority in Benin kingdom, with several chiefs that occupy hereditary posts.

Death and Internment
When a woman dies, her body is taken back to her father’s house and buried there. When a man dies, he is buried in his compound or right inside his home.

General dressing
apart from the wedding day attire mentioned above, the woman wears two wrappers and a blouse while man wears wrapper, on the lower part of his body and a shirt on top.

This is ogbono and pounded yam

What’s that thing that you love the most about your tribe?
We are a very hard working and industrious people that are very uncomfortable with laziness. We can toil the land for food, if that is the only option we are left with. We are also very neat people that love to keep everywhere neat and tidy. It is safe to say that an average Edo person hates dirtiness.

Share a proverb/folklore that is native to your people
A person is not told not to have slanty or ‘shovel’ teeth, but the person should still be able to use his/her lips to cover it up if need be. This means that a person should be able to bear consequences of one’s actions.

What’s that thing you don’t really like about your culture?
Lack of cooperation amongst the people. Also, the fact that some parts value male child over female child irrespective of the child’s talents.

What do you wish more people knew about your people?
that we are an industrious people that prefer to do any thing but beg to survive and really love education with a passion.

Eseosa, thanks for sharing parts of your culture with BellaNaija.

Find out more about the series HERE. Click HERE to read more entries in the series.


  1. gbaskelebo

    July 6, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    “…the fact that some parts value male child over female child irrespective of the child’s talents…” That is not true… If it was so they wont give these names to the their daughters Edeomo (You don’t buy children) and Omozele (for the love of children), it is against the quoted statement above that the names came to be.

    In addition you did not talk about the dances asonugo, igbabonelimhin (Dance of the spirit) which is also a part of the culture…, then about the Ogbono and pounded yam, you did not add the distinguishing factor from other ogbono specifically “the okpan leaf” which it is garnished with ! lol… then the various beans ikpakpa,, olenlen iyeghe, ikpeki having a good laugh here. Thanks BN

    • Adesuwa

      July 7, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      This comment is spot on. Especially *okpan leaf* used to garnish ognono soup ?. Ogbono soup without okpan, is that one ogbono soup ???

  2. Asabi

    July 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    This is really cool… Well done Bella naija

  3. Clement OSEOAMEN

    July 6, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks eseosa, l am esan and wish to make a quick correction .The Oba of Benin is the traditional ruler of the Benin people while most villages in esan land have their respective traditional rulers called the ONOJIE . The esan people respect the Oba of Benin but their alligiance is more to their ONOJIE and he exercises his authority over the esan people and his geographical kingdom.

    • Aerons

      November 19, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      Very right… Oba is the ruler of Benin kingdom not Esan kingdom… Ppl shud learn d difference..wel don

    • Ehidiamhen m. o Joseph (a. K. a. Apostle Joe)

      April 12, 2019 at 1:28 am

      Correct ?

  4. Sisi P

    July 6, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Esan akugbe oye!!! Oye!! #EsanAkugbe

    • Sisi P

      July 6, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      But we have individual kings called ‘Onogie’ that rule different villages.

  5. Nope

    July 6, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    U got something wrong though. Esan people normally work together nd help themselves. It does not matter if they r strangers. The secret code is usually “onagbe?”which means ‘how are u?’.
    This singular trait is what another tribe has against them.

    U also forgot 2 add something………their women r usually very beautiful.?

  6. B

    July 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Nice work Eseosa. However, you got it wrong wig the Oba of Benin talk, Oba of Benin is the head of the Binis, we aren’t part of their kingdom.

    Also, we are excellent orthopedics among other great things.

    Nice initiative though @Bellanaija

    • Reime

      July 6, 2018 at 7:28 pm

      Very true, about being orthopaedics. “Esan Oye!”

  7. philadel

    July 6, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    just a suggestion Bella, it would be nice to have pictures alongside these interviews to provide visual representation e.g pictures of a what a typical Esan wedding would like or an Esan bride and/or groom; what general dressing looks like, naming ceremonies etc. it would nice to be able to identify these in the future.

  8. Tracy Edward

    July 7, 2018 at 1:13 am

    Welldone Ballenaija. I am from Esan and I love my people and above all Edo is the heart beat of Nigeria. God Bless Nigeria in Christ Jesus Amen.

  9. Dani

    July 7, 2018 at 2:18 am

    I thought our naming was done after 3 months and not 7 days

  10. OO

    July 7, 2018 at 3:19 am

    I am so happy to see this, he did not lie about the neatness part one bit!
    The women also have extremely long hair and are beautiful. I see you brother

  11. ogeAdiro

    July 7, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Very nice initiative. Some of us that have known nothing but the Igbo-land are learning.
    Esan oye!

  12. HighlyFavoured

    July 7, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Love this BN. I am not Ishan but I lived in Ekpoma in Edo State for a good number of years. My observations, ishan people are very warm and accommodating. Their women are also beautiful and can be very light skinned. The women are also hardworking so you find them farming, trading ( in a typical market, you would find the women everywhere from the pepper stalls to the meat stalls) and doing all kinds of jobs to sustain their families. Ishan people bear interesting names like Ekhiomo (market baby. Lol. I guess for children born on market days) and Amen (Water) etc. My favorite Esan delicacy is Ema and Oriwo (black soup), yum. Lol.
    However, one of the challenges of the esan people is/was (at least as I remember) portable water. Accessing portable drinking water was a herculean task. So the people rely a lot on rain water.
    Esan people are generally easy going and peace loving. I had a memorable time growing up among them

    • Mercy Adaghe

      April 10, 2020 at 10:43 pm

      Thanks Eseosa for the piece on Esan. Like some of our people have pointed out, we are not under the Oba’s ruler ship, the Binis are. We have several Onojies, ruling the various Esan communities. Also, our language is Esan not ishan. Ishan came about as a result of the whiteman’s inability to pronounce Esan. We are esan and speak Esan.
      In addition to our delicious pounded yam (Ema) and ogbono soup, we have the omoebe popularly known as black soup. You need to taste this when prepared with correct bush meat (lol).
      We are a great and hospitable people.
      Thank you.

  13. o

    July 9, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    My mum was full Esan so I am half Esan. My maternal grandparents were both from Iruekpen. My mum was very beautiful and had very light complexion. I only went home once but can never forget the succulent mushrooms in the ogbono soup. Yes they are very hardworking and industrious and also look out for one another. Anytime we went out and my mum saw an Ishan person, they went on like they knew each other before. They also like pounded yam. Re death, you have to meet the elders and pay some money if you don’t want to take your loved one back for burial

  14. Tincan

    August 2, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    How did I miss this? Thank you Eseosa for the facts about the Esan people. My Mum is from Ubiaja and my fondest memory of visiting was definite pounded yam and the very light but very tasty Ogbono soup. That thing was magic. They also have extremely soft featured very beautiful women. They are generally easy going and give their ladies rather beautiful names like Itohan, Eghogho, Edose, Osetohanmwen etc . I especially liked the masquerade dances they have on on special occasions. One such occasion is conferring of chieftaincy, I believe also known as Igbemina.

    Lastly, I definitely concur with the fact that their loyalties lies with ’Onojies’ rather than the Oba of Benin. Ishan folk, onegbe?

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