PHOTOS 1 — Ad’Oju, Chief Egbere Ogbu (left) giving accoutrements of office to Chief Agwoke Ogah during a conferement of chieftaincy awards at Oju LG Pavillion, recently.
PHOTOS 2 — Oji Kpururu 1 Ibilla and Chairman Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) South West, Chief (Amb) Ode Ochi Emmanuel, during the meeting of MBTC and Arewa groups with the outgoing Vice President Namadi Sambo in Lagos recently.
By Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos
According to oral tradition, the Igede people are said to have migrated from somewhere around the Niger Delta. They live in their present location in Oju and Obi Local Government Areas of Benue State. There are also other Igede speaking people in Cross River State. The Igede is one of the ethnic nationalities that make up the Middle Belt of Nigeria. The other ethnic nationalities include Idoma, Igala, Etulo, Tiv, Rindere, Ngas, Eggon, Zagon Katarf, Alogo, Berom, Mada, Izere, Ibira, among others.
The Igede people share common boundaries with the Idoma, Tiv, the Ogoja people of Cross River State and the Izzis of Ebonyi State. The Igedes are predominantly farmers.
The traditional head of the Igede people used to be called Ad’Utu until the passing of Chief Ikande Idikwu, the last occupant of the throne. After his death, there was crisis over the succession to the throne. At a point, state government, as a way of restoring peace in the land and temporarily solve the dispute over the seat, created the Ad’Oju and Ad’Obi chieftaincy stools.
These stools are neither classified as First Class nor Second Class, but the occupants merely assist the Och’Idoma, who is the paramount ruler of all Idoma people, including the Igede.
Currently, Augustine Egbere Ogbu is the Ad’Oju, while the Ad’Obi is Chief Cyril Okwute. However, there is an ongoing agitation for a First Class Igede Chieftaincy stool and the people are gearing up to mount pressure on the incoming state administration for the upgrading of Igede chieftaincy stool to a First Class Chief.
New Yam Festival
Like the Igbo, Igede people celebrate the annual New Yam festival, called Igede Agba. For its significance, Igede Agba is a cultural event, which comes up every first week of September on a day locally called Ihigile. It marks the end of one planting season, when the people in very rich cultural displaying activities, give thanks to God for good harvest, and welcome a new planting season.
Traditional dancing and masquerades are also featured to add cultural value to the festival and every Igede son and daughter takes part in this ceremony.
One notable aspect of the people’s tradition strongly held onto this day has to do with the burial of some indigenes’ corpses in a special forest. Corpses of people who are killed in accidents or during a war are regarded as special and are never buried anywhere near the home, but in an evil forest.
After or before burial of such a corpse, certain rites are performed to appease the gods of the ancestors. People of questionable characters are also buried in the evil forest.
Warding off witches and wizards
Igede people have what is called the Akpan. It is a kind of men’s society endued with metaphysical powers, ostensibly organised traditionally to ward off witches and wizards from their homes. Before a new yam is deemed to have matured for harvest or ever eaten, members of the Akpan society must first perform their rites. Until that is done, any one or family who prematurely harvests or eats the new yam or buys it from another tribe’s market and brings it home, is deemed to have committed a taboo and is usually made to pay the fine of a goat, and such items. Failure to pay the fines attracts indescribable sorts of sickness and misfortune upon the offenders.
The Igede people practise both traditional and church wedding. Sometimes, traditional marriage supersedes in cases when couples are not rich enough to afford the luxury of white wedding. Thus, traditional marriage is essential.
The process can begin either when a male child, who feels he is mature for marriage, sites a girl or woman he likes. The process can also begin when the man’s father or any of their relatives, friends, think they have found a young woman they like for the man to take home as wife.
If the man likes the girl, his parents immediately go formally with kolanuts to the girl’s parents to seek their child’s hands in marriage. If the girl consents to it, negotiation as to the bride price to be paid is made.
In Igede, once the bride price is named and agreed to by the suitor, marriage preparations follow. It does not matter whether bride price is completely paid or not paid at all, the couple are allowed to go ahead and get married and the suitor has the leeway under the tradition.
Article first published in Sunday Independent