The Idoma are people that primarily inhabit the lower western areas of Benue State, Nigeria, and kindred groups can be found in Cross Rivers State, Enugu State, Kogi State and Nasarawa State in Nigeria. The Idoma language is classified in the Akweya subgroup of the Idomoid languages of the Volta–Niger family, which include Igede, Alago, Agatu, Etulo, Ete and Yala languages of Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi and Northern Cross River states. The Akweya subgroup is closely related to the Yatye-Akpa sub-group. The bulk of the territory is inland, south of river Benue, some seventy-two kilometres east of its confluence with River Niger.
The Idomas are known to be ‘warriors’ and ‘hunters’ of class, but hospitable and peace-loving. The greater part of Idoma land remained largely unknown to the West until the 1920s, leaving much of the colourful traditional culture of the Idoma intact. The population of the Idoma is estimated to be about 3.5 million. The Idoma people have a traditional ruler called the Och’Idoma who is the head of the Idoma Area Traditional Council. This was introduced by the British. Each community has its own traditional chief . The Palace of the Och’Idoma is located at Otukpo, Benue State.
The history of the Idoma people precedes the history of Benue State (created 1976) and the history of the Republic of Nigeria (created 1960). Oral tradition and dance is the primary method through which history has been passed in Idomaland and is considered a central cultural institution.
From a young age, Idoma children usually learn from their elder’s stories of old and are brought up around extended families, which make multiple historical resources available. When prompted Idomas generally will proudly tell you where they are from, and it’s not uncommon for Idoma to be able to recite at least four generations of their progenitors. Historically, being unable to answer the emblematic question “Who is your father?” disqualified one from important roles and titles in Idomaland. Quite naturally, a number of villages trace origins to single ancestors and further, several Idoma groups trace their heritage to one common ancestor, considered the “father” of the different groups.
IDUH, THE FATHER OF IDOMA
According to traditional history, Iduh, the father of the Idoma had several children who each established different areas. Hence the expression: “Iduh the father of Idoma.” “Iduh who begot all the Idoma” He also begot the following children: Ananawoogeno who begot the children of Igwumale; Olinaogwu who begot the people of Ugboju; Idum who begot the people of Adoka; Agabi who begot the people of Otukpo; Eje who begot the people of Oglewu; Ebeibi who begot the people of Umogidi in Adoka, Edeh who begot the people of Edumoga and Ode who begot the people of Yala ” While there may be some truth to the above, the Idoma cannot be said to have a unitary origin. Many Idoma groups and village subsets have their own histories complete with stories about how their people arrived at their current location. The Otukpa people descended from three ancestors: Owuno, Ameh-Ochagbaha and Oodo. The first two were brothers who migrated from Idah in Igalaland while Oodo migrated from Igbo land. As one can imagine, the ever-changing movement of people through time makes it difficult to study Idoma history. There are some Idomas who are originally Igbos and heavily intermarried with the Northern fringes of Igboland.
Scholars have combined oral history with genealogical data and analysis of kinship totems to trace the roots of the Idoma people as a whole. One notable Idoma scholar E.O. Erim cites genealogical data, collected from most modern groups in Idoma suggesting that they derive from several ethnic groups, each with a different historical origin. Furthermore, the available genealogies indicate the existence of diverse ethnic groups who descended from ancestors other than Idu. In several of these cases, the claim of common descent is backed by both extensive genealogical connections and possession of common kinship totems. Erim contends that while Idu was certainly a migration leader—he was not the “father” of the Idoma in the sense implied in the above traditions. These two considerations make it difficult to simply accept the view that every group in Idomaland is descended from Idu.
Many Idoma kindred claims an ancestral homeland called Apa, north-east of present-day Idomaland due to pressures of Northern invaders as recently as 300 years ago. The historical Apa was part of the ancient Kwararafa Kingdom (Okolofa Kingdom), a confederacy of several peoples. Informants in other ethnic groups have corroborated the existence of this kingdom, chiefly the Jukun who also believe they once ruled a confederacy called Kwararafa. In the Hausa book Kano Chronicle it is mentioned that Zaria, under Queen Amina conquered all towns as far as Kwarafara in the 15th century. At present, there is a Local Government Area in Benue State called Apa and is said to be the home of those who made the first migration from the historical kingdom. For many Idoma nationalists today, the name Apa elicits sentiments of past glory, and some in the political sphere have gone as far as suggesting it should become the name of a new Idoma state.Other scholars point to historical and linguistic evidence that suggests that Idoma have ties with the Igala people to the west, concluding that the two nations came from a common ancestor. Angulu(1981) note that Igala and Igbo have important historical, ancestral and cultural relationships. Eri is said to be the original legendary cultural head of the Umu-eri, a subgroup of the Igbo people. Eri migrated from the Igala area and established a community in the middle of Anambra river valley (at Eri-aka) in Aguleri where he married two wives. The first wife, Nneamakụ, bore him five children. The first was Agulu, the founder of Aguleri (The ancestral head of Eri Kingdom clans) (the Ezeora dynasty that has produced 34 kings till date in Enugwu Aguleri), the second was Menri, the founder of Umunri / Kingdom of Nri, followed by Onugu, the founder of Igbariam and Ogbodulu, the founder of Amanuke. The fifth one was a daughter called Iguedo, who is said to have borne the founders of Nteje, and Awkuzu, Ogbunike, Umuleri, Nando and Ogboli in Onitsha. As one of the children of Eri, Menri migrated from Aguleri, which was and still is, the ancestral temple of the entire Umu-Eri (Umu-Eri and Umu-Nri). His second wife Oboli begot Ọnọja, the only son who founded the Igala Kingdom in Kogi State. Among this group, there are those who believe both ethnic groups fled the same kingdom at some point in history. Many traditional Idoma spiritual chants and “secret” tongues spoken during traditional ceremonies are actually Igala dialects and there are some Idoma themselves who assert their Igala ancestry. There are yet other Idoma groups notably in the southern regions, which claim their ancestors arrived at their present location from the Northern fringes of Igboland as a result of land disputes. Scholars believe these people had most likely fled Apa too, settled and resettled.As suggested, a number of factors make it difficult to study Idoma historical origins of the Idoma people as a whole. In any event, it could be said that despite their heterogeneous origins, trading, marriage, language and other interactions among the Idoma have cultivated traditions and shaped a rich cultural identity distinctly their own.
History and Mystery of Swange Dance of the Tiv People of BENUE State.
If you have ever lived among the Tiv people of Benue State, one noticable attribute you would hardly ignore is their love for music and dance, and especially their indigenous Swange dance.
To begin with, who are the Tiv tribe? The Tiv are the eight largest tribe in Nigeria, accounting for 2.5% of the Nigerian population. The Tiv are of the semi Bantu linguistic affinity living in the Northern and Southern parts of the middle course of the Benue River and its tributary the River Katsina-Ala. The Tiv share boundaries with Ebonyi and Cross River states to the south and with Taraba and Nasarawa in the North; to the West, they rub shoulders with Otukpo, Apa and Oju local government areas of Benue state; and the Republic of Cameroon in the east.
Like all indigenous African dance, Swange dance of the Tiv tribe takes a slow chorographic motion that intensively engages the body and soul of the participants to satisfy the rhythmic drum patterns provided by the flutes and drum and other musical instruments.
Swange dance that is well known and celebrated in Nigeria and Africa today started as a folk dance. Though the true origin is described as being obscure as a result of its changing and transitional nature,
Swange music and dance has historically gained popularity in Africa. Swange dance transcends the Tiv immediate social milieu to become a national dance.
Before chorographic dance became known in Africa, Swange was already an indigenous source of entertainment in the North Central region of the Benue basin.
Swange dance is highly functional and far beyond movements. It is purposeful; uses intentional rhythm; has cultural influences; uses nonverbal body movement in time, space and effort; communicates through locomotion, gesture, posture, stillness, the senses, music and costume. In the same vein, the dance cuts across the human physiological and emotional domain to his spirituality. Any time you hear the flutes play and the drums beat to Swange dance, it is either to express joy or grief; love or hate; or evoke prosperity and avert calamity and so on.
Dance generally has cathartic and therapeutic function to peoples’ well being, behaviour and identity. This includes both the performers and the viewers.
Swange dance among the Tiv and in Nigeria as a whole enhances the socio-cultural interactions and integration of the people and their neighbours; it facilitates the political revolutionary and repositioning movements; it aids socioeconomics restructuring, and serve as a viable tool for therapeutic and religious engagement.
Swange dance helps in boosting mental and physical health, as well as promoting social and emotional cognition. Its flexibility is discovered to help decrease muscular tension.
It is believed that the fluidity body movement of the Swange dancers no is inspired by the flow of the river, and considered mimetic, abstract and metaphorical in varying degrees characteristically.
Also, the prominent circular movement of the dancers depicts cultural continuity. In terms of its influence on the Tiv socio-economic restructuring. Swange dance as an arm of the cultural heritage of the Tiv nation, as well as an aspect of a versatile economic sector (music, dance and tourism), doubtlessly improves the economic impact of the state through direct and indirect trade system.
According to research, the indigenous Swange dance of the Tiv people is considered the most decent, popular and loved music style of the Tiv which has survived all kinds of oppositions till now. Historically, the
Swange dance is an evolution and fusion of various genres of traditional music in stages from Kwagh-alom or Kikya songs to the more choreographed Ibyamegh and Angye
songs and dance to a much more refined and dynamic stage of
Swange dance we have today.
Swange dance is classified into different major groups and subgroups which are being taught and learnt for cultural engagement and recreational purposes. Thus, adequate knowledge of the dance and all it entails is essential for outstanding performance at any time. This includes the positioning of the body- twisting of the upper and lower limbs, waist and neck and so on. Stage movement from one spot to the other, as well as corresponding gestures to a particular sound, rhythm or word. Also, the dynamics of stage interaction are taught by older members of the group standing in as instructors or teachers. Swange dance is usually presented as a choreographed dance movement, therefore, new members are taught the art of concentration and focus.
Written by Oche Onu with the help of academic materials on Swange Dance
Watch Video of Swange dance CLICK
YAM FESTIVAL: Patience Jonathan Storms Igede Land in Benue, Sues For Peace and Unity
No Peace No Development
The former First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan had paid a visit to Igede Land in Benue State to mark the annual Igede Agba Yam Festival of the Igede people. The age-long festival is celebrated annually to mark the arrival of new yam in the community.
The First Lady who graced the occasion alongside other dignitaries including the governor of Benue State, Governor Hyacinth Alia came on the invitation by the Federal House of representative member representing the Oju-Obi Federal Constituency, Hon. David Ogewu.
From left: Hon Ogewu, Gov. Alia and Mrs Jonathan
Addressing the crowd, Mrs Jonathan encouraged the communities to embrace peace and unity in order for development to ensue: “Where there is no peace there is no development. You have talked about roads. You have demanded for so , any things. You have talked to your governor you need road, you need this and that. It is only when you have peace that you can achieve this. Please remember peace. It is only on peaceful atmosphere you can drive back here; and the workers will come in and work for you. “Because if anybody awards contract and there is no peace, that contract cannot excel. So make sure there is peace, Make sure there is harmony, make sure there is unity, make sure there is love, and make sure there is forgiveness. And remember my name, Patience in everything you are doing.May God bless Igede land. May God bless Benue State. And may God bless Nigeria. Peace will remain here forever. Thank you and may God bless you,” She said.
Her plea came on the backdrop of clashes between some communities in Igede land.
Celebrating the Igede culture
What You Might Not Know About The Igede People of BENUE State
Written by Faith Ote Uchara
The Igede people of Central Nigeria are an ethnic group in Benue State. The Igedes are natives to the Oju and Obi local government areas in Nigeria, with an estimated population of 267,198 people. Although the majority of them are residents in the two local governments, however, many Igede people live in the various states across the federation and the globe. For instance, the Igede language is also spoken in Gabu, Yala in Nigeria’s Cross River State, and according to oral history, many Igede communities exist in Osun State and Ogun State. From what oral history and the earliest ancestors aver, the Igede language is a member of the Benue-Congo subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family.
Geographical Location Of Igede
It is crucial to state that Igede happens to be the third largest tribe in Benue state. It has two local governments namely the Oju and Obi local governments. If not for the advent of technology and widespread literacy, the Igedes are only known for oral history and this oral history posits that the Oju Local Government Area was created in 1976 and shares boundaries with present-day Obi, Ado, Konshisha and Gwer East Local Government Areas of Benue State, Ebonyi and Izzi Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State, and Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State. Its headquarters is in Anyuwogbu–Ibilla.
The Obi Local Government Area was said to be created in 1996 and has its headquarters at Obarike-Ito. According to the earliest ancestors, the local government area derives its name from the Obi stream that flows in the area which shares boundary with Ado, Otukpo and Oju local government areas of Benue State.
Oral Migration History
Recent surveys carried out in both local governments in Igede reveal that Igede people trace their origin to Sabon Gida Ora in present-day Edo state. The earliest ancestors stated that they are the descendants of Agba, a high chief in Sabon Gida Ora. The Igede people migrated from present day Edo State to Benue due to a skirmish between the Igede and the natives of Ora. The skirmish was said to be due to a pot which the natives of Ora borrowed from the natives of Igede.
The earliest ancestors stated that the native of Ora who borrowed the pot broke it accidentally, accepted the mistake and promised to replace the broken pot. However, the Igede people insisted on fixing the broken pot. Because it is not possible to do what the Igede people insisted, a fight broke out which led to the killing of an Ora native by the Igede people.
The feud continued for several days until the Igede people fled Ora through Nsukka in Enugu till they arrived at river Onyogo where after several consultations and sacrifices, the river parted into seven tributaries paving way for them to pass to their present place of settlement.
Occupations of The Igede People
The Igede are basically farmers who engage in peasant farming, cultivating maize, cassava, groundnut and yams. They also cultivate rice, potatoes millet but not on a large scale.
In the past, the Igedes like every tribe in Nigeria were not in support of education because they misconstrued the idea of education the Colonial masters were selling to them. However, the present Igede man is highly educated and very intelligent. So, they are not just known for farming but they are now erudite scholars, business tycoons and gurus in technology. In fact, it is very difficult to not find an Igede person in all the professions in the world.
Festivals of The Igede People
It is no news that Igede is home of the popular Igede-Agba festival, a colourful annual celebration that marks the yam harvest season in September. This festival is the Only festival that allows full participation of all Igede people across the globe. This festival takes place on the first ihigile market day in September, annually.
Although there are other festivals, the earliest ancestors stated that these festivals are only celebrated by members of the sect. Notable among these festivals are akpan and alegwu festivals.
Igede Traditional Attire
Igede traditional clothes have the blue, black, and white stripes. These colors symbolise the peaceful nature of the people as well as their agricultural progress.
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