During the reign of King Agorkorli around the early parts of the 17th century, an unfortunate incident happened which changed the course of our history. Among the elders were the king of Notsie Torgbui Agorkorli, Amega Wenya and his nephew Torgbui Sri, Amega Tegli, Kugboaka, Gemedzra, Setsi, Torgbui Takla, Kponoe Sri I, Adela Adzoma, Tsali Akplomada, Torgbui Asogli, our mothers in tsibla, husbands and children. These elders played various roles to set the stage for the miraculous escape from the walled city of Notsie.
Setting the scene
‘HOGBETSOTSO’ is derived from the word ‘HOGBE’ or ‘HOHO GBE’ the day of exodus, the moment in time when the Ewes in the Dogbo quarter of the walled city of Notsie fled to their freedom.
According to historians, the original home of all Ewes of which the Anlo people form part, is traced traditionally to Oyo in Western Nigeria from where they migrated to their present country in the early part of the seventeenth century. There is ample evidence to prove that the Ewes stayed in Nigeria. Cultural traits of the Yoruba people can be traced among the Ewes of Anlo which is clearly evidenced in musical forms i.e. the Ganu (Anago) dance, ancestral worship, the worship of deities and divination (Efa kaka) an art perfected by the Ewes while in Nigeria. Other historical accounts have linked Ewes to roots in Mesopotamia, Middle East, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
In fact, today some Anlo elders refer to Egypt as their fatherland (Fofo ƒe) and identify themselves as the sons of Adza (Ham). Some local historians have even said “Ewes are from Adzatome” or they were once under Hams Jurisdiction.
According to oral historical accounts, in the beginning the inhabitants of the Notsie enjoyed relative peace under various rulers until Torgbui Agorkorli emerged on the scene. He subjected the Dogbo-Ewes to force labour and made the people build a wall around his city which measured 24 feet tall and about 18 feet wide in certain places to allow patrols with horses on them.
Scene One: The conflict
Oral tradition have it that one day the king’s fovourite son Ekpe and Atsifoza the son of Sri I, were engaged in aquatic sport during which Epke almost drowned. Torgbui Sri I conspired with his elders to falsely accuse Atsifoza of drowning their son. They sent word to King Agorkorli about the supposed death of their son to get Agorkorli’s son killed for the alleged murder, a good opportunity to punish King Agorkorli for his wickedness to the Dogbos. The plan of the feigned death of the Dogbo royal was executed expertly and Ekpei was taken into hiding while someone who bore resemblance to Ekpe was killed and laid in state to make their case. After the funeral, King Agorkorli released his son to be killed under his tough laws similar to the Mosaic Law of “an eye for eye, and a tooth for tooth”
Secret of the feigned death revealed
Sri I was drunk one day and publicly boasted that “Miawoe nye Adza viwo tso Adzatome, Amemakumaku ƒe Hlorbialawo” translated “We are the children of Ham from Ham’s jurisdiction (Egypt), the avengers of the living dead” At long last the secret of the false death was revealed.
Scene Two: The Secret Meeting
King Agorkorli became incensed when he was informed about the Dogbo’s deception and ordered the killing of all Dogbo elders in revenge and then punished the Ewes through a regime of tyranny through the demands of impossible tasks.
Torgbui Tegli was taken into hiding in a sacred groove in the forests and his son Kelemu who did the job kept the secret and Tegli was consulted from his hideout. Only a few Dogbo heads visited him whenever the need arises. He was the only advisor left among the Dogbo-Ewe people and his solution to problems was without comparison at the time.
The wall of Notsie was later reinforced to prevent any possible escape of the Dogbos and the bodies and blood of King Agorkorli’s enemies were used to spiritually fortify the wall. In fact, any escapee was executed. Many Dogbos died because the Notsie supervisors under instructions from King Agorkorli were asked to mix the clay with thorns, sharp cutting instruments, and broken bottles apparently to exterminate the workmen.
The king next ordered the Dogbos to provide him with twine made of clay and the penalty will be mass execution if this difficult and impossible demand is not met. A powerful delegation went to Torgbui Tegli to seek his advice. He told the delegation to go and demand a sample of the clay twine from the king to help the workers to make an excellent pattern out of the old one, “Ka xoxoa nue wogbea yeyea ɖo.” The king was overwhelmed at the demand of the Dogbos to have a sample of the clay twine which he could not provide. His authority was threatened and he instituted harsher policies that often led to the death of many in his kingdom.
The leaders then went into hiding and held secret meetings to devise a means of escape from Agorkorli’s tyranny.
Scene Three: The Washing
The Dogbo people planned a bloody escape during which the royal guards at the gates to the city would be killed and when the word of this plan reached Torgbui Tegli, he asked them to drop that plan for an alternative peaceful and tactful flight. He advised that a section of the wall should be mapped and women were instructed to pour household water and water contaminated with human waste, particularly that of women to a portion of the wall. This was to neutralize the mystical powers that were supposed to have made the wall super-hard because of the infusion of human blood and dead bodies of the king’s enemies during its construction. Mostly at night during the drumming sessions the Dogbo women kept the secret and over a long period weakened and desecrated the wall with the dirty water.
Scene Four: The Soothsayer
On the day of departure ‘Hohogbe’ the Dogbos organized an all-night drumming and dancing session as they often did and at midnight, Torgbi Tegli with the ‘Adekpui’ or the dagger of liberation, was whisked into the city. He was spiritually shielded from the eyes of enemies as he possessed mystical powers and spirits of the forbearers.
Scene Five: The Pouring of Libation
Before the departure, Togbi Tegli, poured the libation and called upon their ancestors to lead them out of Notsie to a new homeland.
He then asked Togbi Asogli to thrust the dagger into the wall and the men brought it down with a nudge. The people fled to freedom under the command and leadership of Torgbui Tsali.
Scene Six: The Exodus
In other to deceive the King and his warriors, it was decided to walk backwards to give the wrong impression of people walking into the town rather than leaving it
Torgbui Tegli was too weak to undertake the long journey.
He did not die in the hands of Agorkorli but rather vanished "Etsi Amlima dodzi" and relocated himself in a distant land where he died and joined the ancestors in the land of death (Tsieƒe)
Amega Wenya then led his people on the journey from Hogbe after his uncle Torgbui Tegli departed to join his ancestors at Tsieƒe, Wenya founded many communities along the route and on reaching Anloga at an advanced age, Wenya could not continue the journey any longer. He then told his tribesmen that ‘Meŋlɔ’ which was cascaded down to the masses that ‘Torgbui be Yeŋlɔ’ literally meaning ‘the old man says he has recoiled or is tired to continue’ and therefore cannot move on hence the name Eŋlɔ which was corrupted to Anlo or Awuna by the early European merchants and slave traders.
The forebears of the Dogbos, after wandering, entered their present homeland and finally broke into smaller states namely Anlo, Asorgli, Gbi, Akpini, Tornu, and Hokpe. With time other traditional areas were established. We have two main groups, the southern Ewes which include the Anlos with their traditional headquarters and King at Anloga; the northern Ewes, referred to as the Ewedomeawo who inhabit the central belt forming the Asogli State and the sword which was plunged in the wall at Notsie is currently being held by Togbui Asogli at Ho………..The end