My authority comes from my forefathers who were friends to Ogwangguzi . In particular I recount the story as told to me last by my father James Orima (RIP), my uncle the late Apwony Nua Obongo (RIP), son in law to Ogwangguzi and another uncle Eng. Wilson Aguma Obot (RIP) me Barr.
When the British moved from their original Headquarters located at Nambyeso, they used the usual indirect rule method by identifying the local Chiefs/Leaders through whom they could work.
The British arrived at the present Lira in 1914. When they inquired about the name of the location, they were told the place was the land of the Alira people. The Muzungu simply called it Lira and hence the name coming from jo Alira.
The notable Chiefs within the vicinity then were Rwot Olet Apar me Oki me Ogwang Koltum kede Rwot Oki Awani me Oki me Bura. Olet Apar and his people remained around Lira to date. However, pol ajo Oki me Bura onwongo bedo ipaco me Abonyo Otingere ame tye i present day Adekokwok subcounty returned eastwards to Barr and Aloi. Oki Awani was the son of Ogwal Abura who led the first expedition to help Kabalega.
The British, using their agents from Nambyeso, approached Rwot Oki Awani to see if they could work with him. Oki Awani was a prosperous chief with 11 wives (something normal for people of his stature in those days). He was willing but the British gave him condition to divorce all his other wives and remain with only one. He found it unacceptable but sought to buy time and see what would happen.
In the meantime, he talked to his friend/Dyere mere Rwot Olet Apar about introducing his friend’s son, Ogwang, who later became Isaya Ogwangguzi, to the British to stand in for him while he considered the proposal to divorce all but one wife and Olet Apar accepted. Ogwang, born around 1875, was an agile young man, married with three wives at the time (he was to add more in later years).
Rwot Oki then took Ogwang to the British who found him fit but also gave him the condition to divorce all his other wives but one. Ogwang was more shrewd. He didn’t waste time to ponder on it but simply accepted that he would do it. All he did was to ensure that all the other wives kept low profiles except one the British would see. He never divorced any and the British eventually got to know about it when it was too late. Rwot Oki Awani never returned to the British, moved back to Barr where he died at the age of about 103.
By 1914, there were only five counties in Lango one of which was Erute. Ogwang was baptised Isaya and appointed Rwot me Erute.
The British wanted to train Isaya on basics of administration. They took him to Entebbe where he was to stay until about 1918.
He returned with a bicycle, something most Langi had never seen and set up administrative structure in Lango. People used to line up to watch Isaya ride his bicycle.
Rwot Isaya served as Rwot Erute until 1951 when he was appointed Rwot Adwong me Lango. When Rwot Isaya retired in 1953 he was replaced by Rwot Yakobo Adoko Yamo Okutu as Rwot Adwong me Lango. Rwot Adoko retired in 1956 and was replaced by Rwot Tom Otim who served till 1960 when that post was abolished. Rwot Tom Otim, one of early Langi to attend Makerere graduating with a Diploma in Agriculture, reverted to civil service as Agricultural Officer.
Between 1914-1918 when Isaya Ogwang was away, his father Rwot Olet Apar naturally became a very stressed person. He thought the British would never allow his son to return. People who had suspicion about the colonial intentions mocked him.
As was the practice in the old Lango parents/relatives often used “wang otem” to mourn/lament about their misfortunes. Olet Apar did the same.
Every evening he would sit at his “otem” lamenting Ogwang’s disappearance. The song went:
“Ogwang Owoto inam pe dong dwogo, Ogwang Owoto inam pe dong dwogo….., pe dong dwogo pe dong dwogo, Ogwang Owoto inam pe dong dwogo”.
He sang this always and the song spread like wild fire throughout Lango. By the time Isaya returned in 1918, the song had become part of the Lango folklore.
Written by Eng Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem
(CHAIRPERSON, MAKERERE. UNIVERSITY COUNCIL)