Thursday, March 6, 2014

IDOMA PEOPLE: ANCIENT WARRIORS, EXPERT HUNTERS AND ONE OF THE MOST ARTISTIC ETHNIC GROUP IN NIGERIA

The Idoma are ancient expert warriors and hunters and peace-loving Idomoid ethno-linguistic group of the larger Niger-Congo language family residing  at the lower and western areas of Benue State in Nigeria. Other Idoma groups can be found in Cross Rivers and Nasarawa States in Nigeria. The Idoma people are considered to be one of the most artistic ethnic group in Nigeria with their sons and daughters enjoying massive successes in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
Susan Peters - October 2013 - BellaNaija
Idoma woman in her traditional Idoma dress, Benue State, Nigeria

Okpeh O. Okpeh and Yakubu A. Ochefu opined that "It is difficult to ascertain for how long the Idoma have been in their present location. Evidence in the oral traditions (of the people)…indicate that the Idoma have lived within the Benue Valley from the earliest period of which we have any inkling." 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 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, and Ode who begot the people of Yala ”
Idoma man in his traditional Idoma cloth, Benue State, Nigeria
                                           
The Idomaland lies in the south of the river Benue. With a population that has been estimated to be about 3.5 million, it is the area of land located within the broad valley of the Benue river and the Cross River basin. The main thrust of the land is a contiguous belt of territory which stretches from the Southern banks of the river Benue to the Northern fringes of Igboland. This territory lies within Latitude 60 degrees and 30 degrees North and Longitude 80 degrees East and covers a total land area of approximately 5,955 square kilometres.The Idoma are bounded by the river Benue to the North, by parts of Igbo and Ogoja lands to the South, by the Tiv and Igede lands to the East and by Igalaland to the West.
Idoma tribe man and ace Nigerian musician Tuface Idibia

The head of the Idoma kingdom is called Och' Idoma and there are 22 districts and 144 clans in Idoma land. The clans and districts are administered by clan heads and district heads, who are directly under the supervision and control of Och' Idoma, the paramount ruler. He is the spiritual head and custodian of Idoma cultural heritage and deities whose official palace is in Otukpo.

Unlike in some parts of the country, where ascendancy to the throne is strictly limited to members of select royal families, in Idoma, any male Idoma holding a first degree is qualified to be an Ochi' Idoma as long as he is of a sound mind without any disability. The kingship is rotated among the people of the districts and clans when the throne is vacant.
                                          Idoma woman in her traditional dress

The Idoma are known to be warriors' and 'hunters of class, but hospitable and peace loving. The greater part of Idomaland remained largely unknown to the West until the 1920s, leaving much of the colorful traditional culture of the Idoma intact.

                             Idoma drummers

Among the Idoma`s AGILA people of Agila Town, the Traditional Home of the Agila people of Ado Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria has instituted "The Agila Economic and Social Carnival" which is a platform created to showcase the rich cultural formation of the Idoma nation and also to present  Agilaland as a tourist site thereby opening it up to business and innovative ideas. It also aspires to build a broad based dynamic and competitive economic environment that will ensure the prosperity and well being of its citizens.

                     Idoma people celebrating their annual carnival at Agila town

Geography
The physical features of Idomaland have been classified into three distinct types. The first of these is the Benue floodplains which covers the Northernmost escarpment of Agatu district extending further South to six and ten kilometres south of the Benue river which has a narrow strip latitudinally passing through Agatu territory some seventy-two kilometres East of Lokoja and the Niger-Benue confluence area. The plains are usually flooded during the months of August, September and October. The second one is to the South of the floodplains and it is an area, which is gently undulating. This covers most of Owukpa, Orokam, Otukpa and Western parts of Onyagede, Ugboju, Adoka, Ochekwu and parts of Agatu districts. The monotony of the landscape here is broken into a number of flat-topped, steep-sided ridges with an average height of between 1000 and 1,500 metres above sea level 6. The third is to the East of this region and it covers approximately 1/3 of Idomaland. This is a fairly hilly terrain with a height that averages not less than 500 metres above sea level.

The rivers and streams of the districts from the North flow into the Benue, while those from the South flow into the larger tributaries of the Cross River. In the Southern and Southwestern districts of Oju, Igumale and Agila, they flow into river Onwu, which is a tributary of the Cross River further South. In the Western parts of Idomaland, particularly in Otukpo and Orokam, surface water supply becomes scarce during some months in the dry season and palm wine is sometimes substituted for water for some domestic purposes7. The land is generally nurtured by a number of perennial streams that unite to form large rivers like Ogbadibo, Ogengen, Okpokwu, Onyongo, Ombi, Ogoli and Ogaji. Most of these rivers are characterised by strong seasonal flow and sometimes overflow their banks during the rainy season.
Idomaland is primarily made up of sedimentary rocks, which comprise of shales and sandstone of the cretaceous period. While the sand stones that are the major rocks in the Benue floodplains are coal bearing, the shales on their part contain different types and qualities of limestone. With the exception of the Benue floodplains where hydromorphic and alluvial soils abound, the remaining part of Idomaland consist predominantly of red, deep and sand loam soil. In other parts of the land like Utonkon, the sub-soil is mixed with a greyish clay soil with resultant thick cover that makes it very fertile. Towards the Southeastern districts of Otukpa, Owukpa and Orokam, the soil is very red and deep sand loam and less fertile. However, in areas of little vegetational cover, the clayed conditions of the deep sub-soil has been thoroughly weathered and extensively laterized.
As it is the case with other parts of Nigeria, Idomaland has two seasons, namely, the wet season and the dry season. Controlled by the West maritime and Southwesternly monsoon wind from the Atlantic Ocean, the wet season usually starts from the end of April, breaks briefly in August and stops by mid October. At the beginning of this season, conventional rainfall is frequent and it is usually accompanied by thunder. The heaviest rains are recorded in July and September. The mean annual rainfall has been approximated at between 1016 and 1524 mm. The dry season is characterised by the harmattan wind, which is a Northeasterly wind from the Sahara desert. This season normally starts from late November and lasts till the end of March. During this period, the daily temperature of the land drops to between 25o and 35oC and an average relative humidity of between 60% and 90%, that makes many parts of Idomaland very hot.
Generally, Idomaland is richly endowed with a lot of mineral resources. Some of these include Limestone, gypsum, kaolin, coal, bauxite, common salt, clay, building mud and stones, etc10. In fact some of these minerals were mined during and shortly after colonialism. This is particularly true of coal and limestone found in present day Ogbadibo and Ado local government areas, respectively. Similarly, geological surveys of the land have provided useful information regarding the possible availability of fossil oil in Apa local government area.
The Idoma territory extends over two ‘biotopes’, namely the forest and the savannah, which F. Neyt observes has usually been the most favourable environment for the development of original and refined iconophile cultures. In its original state, it is possible the area was heavily forested. This must have been depleted by human factors leading consequently to the preponderance of savannah woodland in the area. It should be added however that while nearly all the land is today covered by orchard bush, towards the Southern marches of the region, rain forest, which is the predominant vegetational feature of Southern Nigeria, is to be found. This again changes to grassland as one approaches the Ogoja heartland to the Southeast. Idomaland is also squarely situated within the palm belt, although oil and coconut palm trees are more abundant in the South and the West. In the open savannah lands, locust bean and shea butter and West iroko, mahogany, tropical bamboo, counter wood, cyprian oak, shingo and iron wood trees are prevalent.

Language
Idoma people speak  Idoma language, which belongs to the larger Niger-Congo language phylum. Armstrong’s study of this language identifies eight speakers of this
language, namely: Afu, Alago, Akweya, Etulo, Igede, Yatche, Yalla and Idoma within the Idoma sub-unit of the language. O’Kwu, following Armstrong, identifies four major dialectical divides which he classifies geographically as Northern, Central, Western and Southern Idoma.

                         Beautiful Idoma woman

The administrative breakdown of the districts are shown in the table below:
Table 1: The Major Dialects of the Idoma Language
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION                   DIALECTS
Northern                                                            Agatu and Ochekwu
Central                                                               Adoka, Oglewu, Onyagede, Otukpo and Ugboju
Western                                                             Edumoga, Ichama, Okpokwu, Otukpa and Owukpa
Southern                                                            Agila, Igumale, Ijigbam and Ulayi
Source: Adopted and modified from V. G. O’kwu, ‘Idomaland
Under Colonial Rule, 1900-1950’, Niger-Benue Conference, 1974, p.5.
Of the remaining five districts, two are Igede speaking, i.e. Ito and Oju. The small district of Akpa is Akweya-speaking. It has been argued that these two groups can be regarded as Idoma-speaking only in a very loose sense of the word 48. Both the Igede and Akweya like the Idoma, however, belong to the Kwa group of African languages.
Utonkon speaks Ufia, which is associated with semi-Bantu language, although it is more closely related to the Kwa language family than hitherto been presumed. O’Kwu contends that Ulayi district is largely Igbo speaking, although available evidence suggests the contrary. The people of the district claim a common origin from Apa with the rest Idoma, having migrated from there with such Idoma groups like Agila and Ijigbam. It seems from the records that they passed through Igalaland before reaching their present location in Idomaland. One fact though cannot be contested and that is that, arising from their location on the Idoma/Igbo borders, they are evidently bilingual.

                                       Idoma people

History
The history of Idoma origins and ethnicity is perhaps the most complex aspect of the people’s pre-colonial history. Idoma is the name by which the people of Idoma ethnic group designate themselves, and are addressed as such by their neighbours. Idoma is also the name of the language of the group as well as their land.
The earliest attempt to study the Idoma anchors their origins and ethnicity on the Akpoto (or Okpoto). This is an ethnic group that is presently extinct. According to a popular  view by S. Crowther in 1854, an ethnic group designated the Akpoto once occupied most part of the land now inhabited by the Igala, Idoma and Igbira. Although the identification of this group and the actual nature of their relationship with the Igala, Idoma and Ebira is still being studied by researchers, evidence exists to support their antiquity in the Niger-Benue confluence area. For example, Armstrong argues that largely arising from the relatively wide application of the Akpoto nomenclature in this general area, it is possible that a kingdom and/or people known by that name once existed. This view is further reinforced by J. N. Ukwedeh’s argument that the Akpoto should be perceived as an autochthonous group, which gave birth to or played a fundamental role in the formation of modern Igala, Ebira and Idoma societies. Then too, the evidence gleaned from the oral traditions of the Igala, Ebira and Idoma ethnic groups showed undoubtedly that the Akpoto were the earliest inhabitants of the present locations of these peoples.
The people reject the nomenclature as derogatory, insisting that it was the Igala of the Ankpa region that were known as the Akpoto and refer to themselves, their language and land as Idoma. It should be emphasised that while what is particularly derogatory about the term Akpoto still remains unclear, it would appear to have stuck to the people in the Eastern marches of Igalaland in the region of Ankpa. This is in addition to the fact that among those sections of the Idoma who sometimes trace their origins to places in Igalaland (those Erim refers to as the ‘Western migrants’), the use of the term Akpoto to describe them and their language appears to have persisted until comparatively recent times.
The Idoma unanimously trace their traditions of origin to Apa (Beipi), tentatively associated with a one-time capital of the legendary Kwararafa confederacy, which before the fifteenth century was under the Abakpawariga. That a confederacy known and referred to as Kwararafa once existed within the Benue valley area has been asserted by several leading scholars36. Similarly, that the Idoma were one among the many ethnic groups of the confederacy is a fact that is not disputed 37. All Idoma traditions of origin agree that they left Apa because of the growing state of insecurity arising from constant warfare both from within and without the kingdom. It has been suggested by some scholars that following her defeat in the hands of Ali Ghaji (1476-1503), Kwararafa could no longer give a good account of herself. Indeed the era of decline had set in, and this coupled with the dynastic tussles associated with ascendancy of the Jukun on the corridors of power, aggravated the already confused situation. The result of these processes was the disintegration of the Apa society and therefore the beginning of the mass migrations of the Idoma and other ethnic group like the Igala and the Ebira, etc.
From evidences gleaned from the oral traditions of the people and supported by available documentary sources, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Idoma had begun to spread out over large areas of the Lower Benue, mainly South of that river. The result of this pattern of migration was that, over time, they became thinly dispersed over much of the territory now inhabited by the Tiv, the Igala and the Ebira as well as the Idoma. Erim dated this first wave of Idoma migrations to between c.1535-1625. According to him, the Ugboju, Adoka and Otukpo constituted this category of Idoma migrants. These migrations continued until the late eighteenth century when the Tiv began their vigorous push into the Benue valley. The arrival of the Tiv impacted tremendously on the Idoma during this period. For example, it disrupted the peace and tranquility that was gradually evolving. According to Erim, the consequence of this was the collapse of the evolving ‘new’ Apa (or what he calls Apa I)
That Tiv migrants easily displaced the Idoma is a fact that could be attributed to a number of factors. In the first place, the people were politically fragmented compared to their Tiv neighbours. Furthermore, they were numerically smaller than the Tiv. This is in addition to the nature and character of the migration process itself, for as O’kwu correctly observes, the Idoma were thinly spread over fairly extensive territory 40. The result of all these is that the people put up a feeble resistance to Tiv encroachment, hence their displacement from ‘Apa I’. The pressure of Tiv migrations was such that they entrapped an Idoma-speaking group, the Etulo, who did not move quickly enough. Isolated from the main body of their Idoma kinsmen today, they form a coterie of non-Tiv people in Katsina-Ala, the heart of modern Tivland. On their part, Doma and Keana also lost much of their territory and were progressively pushed further North from the river Benue.
Another wave of migrations from Igalaland moved Westwards into modern Idomaland. These migrants identify Apa as the home of their ancestors, but nevertheless argue that after their departure from Apa at an earlier date, they migrated to parts of Igalaland. They were however soon compelled to leave that place for parts of Western modern Idomaland because of the political upheaval and confusion that resulted from the increased influx of migrants into the area and the rather explosive political situation of the time. Erim has contended that the bitter struggle which characterised political ascendancy in the Igala State with headquarters at Idah sent numerous migrants fleeing Eastward toward Idomaland between c1685-1715 41 . Today these migrants form the core of Western Idoma districts such as Otukpa, Orokam, Ichama and Edumoga. O’kwu reasons that these constitute the second category of Idoma migration, for among the people, it is this second migration that is remembered giving the impression that they are Igala by origin.
By about the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the process of the consolidation of new territories in which they found themselves had been completed. This consolidation was however at the expense of other numerically smaller ethnic groups like the Igede, Akweya and Ufia on whose territories the Idoma settled. While the Igede were pushed towards the Eastern fringes of the Idoma territory, the Ufia and Akweya were encircled by the Idoma and today constitute bilingual micro-nationalities in the heart of Idomaland. The point we are trying to put across here is that by the end of the eighteenth century, the Idoma ethnic group had firmly established themselves on their present location. Ochefu aptly puts it this way:
By the end of the eighteenth century, the process of incorporating social, political, religious and economic ideas that had been transmitted from their ancestral homeland with those that they had acquired during their (several decades of) migrations, and the adaptation of these ideas to their new environment, had by and large been completed43.
As we shall subsequently see, this process was most thorough in religion and politics as reflected in the norms and values of the people, as well as their world view generally.
On the basis of the above analyses we make the following conclusions on the origins and development of Idoma ethnicity. Our first observation is that the people have been involved in migrations from the Apa cradle land, which brought them to their present location. These migrations were quite a complex affair and stretched over nearly two hundred years. This makes migrations an important aspect of their pre-colonial history. It is important to note here that both the historicity and location of Apa have evolved in the context of the people’s belief as real. Thus this makes Apa, in A. M. Adejo’s view, ‘… a place (that is) larger than life, real but also invested with myth’. The second observation is that, the people moved out of Apa in the legendary Kwararafa kingdom after its collapse not as a cohesive body under a single leadership. The migrations had been in waves under separate leaders. In the legends, these leaders are referred to as both the founders of the various clans and their chiefs. This meant at least two things: (i) these clans, for the most part, were independent of each other, and (ii), judging from their contemporary populations, the clans must have been very small in size during the period of their migrations. This scenario must have accounted for the relative ease with which the Tiv displaced the people from ‘Apa I’. Similarly, it must have accounted for the thinly dispersed nature and character of the people’s settlement pattern throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries within the Benue valley.
Our last observation is that, the people did not arrive their present location at the same time. In fact, the settlement process continued until the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The implication of all these is that the people made contacts and interacted extensively with several Nigerian ethnic groups during the period of their tortuous migrations from Apa to their present location and when they finally settled. These historical considerations perhaps explain the fact that the contemporary Idoma society consists of a heterogeneous number of populations, mysteriously speaking the same language.

             Ene maya former Miss Nigeria is an Idoma woman

Economy
In pre-colonial times, the economy of Idoma hinged primarily on agriculture. Trade and a variety of local crafts supplemented this. Of these, it should be noted, agriculture was the most advanced and therefore remained the matrix in which the other economic activities were set.
Among the Idoma, V. G. O’Kwu asserts: ‘Farming was the universal and single most important means of earning livelihood. The limits of farmlands determined the extent of a clan’s territory." Similarly, underscoring the significance of agriculture in Idoma socio-economic milieu, Y. A. Ochefu observes that: "The measure of a man’s success was neither the size of his compound nor the number of his wives and children, but more importantly, the size of his farm and his yam and grain barns."
Consequently, following an annual cycle, farmers cultivate yam which was, and is still, the staple food crop, coco-yam, water-yam, sweet potatoes, guinea corn, millet, groundnut, beans, bambara nuts, sorghum, cowpeas,
benniseed and melon, and so on. Cassava and rice, two important cash crops planted by the people today, are essentially late arrivals, most probably nineteenth century crops that infiltrated into the land following contact with Europe.
Besides agriculture, commerce and trade were also important features of the economy of the land in the past and even at present. Studies have shown that these economic activities predated the people’s departure from their Apa cradle land in the legendary Kwararafa confederacy. Indeed the act of the exchange of goods and services amongst themselves on the one hand, and between them and their neighbours on the other, arose as a consequence of differences in location and physical environment and variations in the nature and degree of resource endowments. One obvious result of this is the preponderance of markets in the land. Markets of all sizes were distributed throughout Idomaland and were generally held at four-day intervals.

Commercial trade
Trade in the land was largely based on the exchange of local products, mainly food crops and a considerable amount of manufactured metal and wood works. The Idoma also participated in the regional trading and commercial activities in the Niger-Benue confluence area. It is important to observe here that trade and commerce were important and functional channels through which the people interacted among themselves and between them and other ethnic groups in Nigeria before (and even after) the advent of the British.
The Idoma also manufactured a wide range of items not the least of which were agricultural tools, weapons of war, various kinds of baskets, cloths, earthen jars, household wares and so on. The crafts that produced these items, were relatively evenly dispersed throughout the land. The knowledge of iron amongst the Idoma predated their migration from Apa. However, the development of the technology over time was greatly enhanced by contact and interactions with the Igbo and the Igala. Evidences exist to show that smiths from Igala and Igbo lands frequented most parts of Idomaland.18 Blacksmiths, Ai-Onowa were such highly respected people in traditional Idoma society that they are mentioned in the Alekwu chants and in other songs. One example of such songs is given as follows:
"Onowa nenu
enu oma nebile bog’onowaa"
(The Blacksmith makes the hoe; it is
that hoe they use in digging
his grave).
Idoma smiths manufactured many items ranging from hoes, machetes, axes, knives, spears, anklets, to mention just a few.
Cloth weaving was also an important economic activity that engaged the keen interest of the Idoma. Cloths from the textile industry scattered in most part of the Northern districts (like Agatu and Ochekwu) and parts of central Idomaland (i.e. Onyagede) were exported as far as Igalaland and Ikom. The Idoma were also great wood carvers, leatherworkers, sculptors, and basket weavers etc. it should be added that though the knowledge of these crafts is still widespread amongst the Idoma, most of them are fast declining or already moribund.
Idoma anjenu shrine figures, "Sgt. Augustine Idoma and his beautiful 
wife Elizabeth" by Onu Agbo. Okwoga district, Nigeria, 1977.

Socio-political structure
The basic building block of Idoma social and political organisation was the patrilineage or Ipoopu. In its biological and territorial setting, the Ipoopu is made up of one or more lineage, Ipooma who trace their origin to a common ancestor. The importance of the Ipoopu in the traditional Idoma socio-political milieu has been emphasised by other writers. According to Ochefu: " Besides being the basis of individual’s identity and forum for political and social rights, the patrilineage is primarily responsible for land holding and land allocation and defence of members."
He also adds that the charter for the association of the component patrilineages and settlements, vary from shared ancestry or kinship to voluntary associations between lineages of diverse origins. It should be added however that distinctions exist between aborigines and immigrants and/or strangers.
In the context of political organisation, the family or Ole may be seen as the smallest unit in traditional Idoma society. Usually under the leadership of the family head, Adoole, this autonomous structure settles disputes amongst its members. Transcending the household however, power and authority is diffused within the community creating many foci of authority and influence, all of which are essentially related and integrated.
It has been observed that the highest organ of government and ultimate authority in traditional Idoma political system was the Ojila or Ojira. This is the mass meeting of all adult males and the supreme congress of the community. It should be noted that though it is true that all adult males are members of the Ojila, it is also a fact that in practice, the elders, Ai-Onyakwuoche Ole and other persons of influence monitored the conduct of the Ojila. Young men although represented were only observers and could not speak except through their elders.
It is important to mention here that a consensual democratic principle governed the decision making process of the Ojila, making it extremely difficult for an individual or faction to control the assembly. For example, while the titled land spokesmen, Ai-Igabo and the ‘owners’ of the ancestral cult and the earth cult, Ai-Obialekwu, formed a gerontocratic class in the Ojila, they were never able in the slightest sense to convert that organ into a select council of elders. Thus, although ostensibly dominated by the elders as regards deliberations and formation of consensus, the Ojila also integrated the views and interests of the youths. Further more, instances existed where young men also had their say in the Ojila, for as Elaigwu aptly contends: ‘Quite often young men of acclaimed bravery, intelligence and reputation were allowed to speak…’. This would appear to be the intrusion of achievement into the rigid division of labour on the ascriptive basis of age. To this may be added the fact that while the concept of gerontocracy, which was a fundamental feature of the political organisation of the people entailed that elders had a monopoly of deliberative and policy-making prerogative, the actual execution of such policies depended entirely on the youth who were the backbone of the village constabulary.
Consequently, similar to R. A. Dahl’s concept of ‘referendum democracy’ was a system where by issues to be deliberated upon at the central or land Ojila were first subjected to thorough discussions at the Ipooma and Ipoopu levels. These smaller Ojilas would as far as possible settle their own affairs without reference to the central Ojila. But where such issues were brought to the central Ojila due to their urgency and topicality, the spokesmen of each lineage was expected to tell the audience the consensus of his group concerning the particular issue under discussion.
From its inception therefore, the Ojila was essentially a democratic institution of government. To solve crucial problems affecting the community, the elders of the various lineages within the community engaged in discussions, debates and negotiations in the Ojila at the end of which decisions were arrived at by consensus. Magid’s observation in this regard is instructive. In his view:
The procedure tended to register prevailing opinion, to crystallise the sense of meeting, to avoid conflict and to find a compromise.
In a society that attaches enormous significance to public opinion, the Ojila was no doubt a very powerful organ in pre-colonial Idoma and like the Tiv Ijir, all the rest organs of government revolved round it.
The origin of the Ojila in the political organisation of the Idoma has not been sufficiently explained. However, available evidence underscores the fact that it has a history that goes as far back as the Kwararafa phase of the people’s history. In this connection, the Ojila is viewed as the earliest form of political organisation among the people. It is possible the concept of Ojila may have evolved from the basic assumption among several African groups who do not have a centrally accepted ‘tribal’ authority that government was changeless and custom sovereign and that it was the elders, largely because of their age and timeless wisdom, that were the ‘true’ and natural custodians of these institutions. This explains why the Ojila in the Idoma socio-political setting, retained both legislative and judicial functions while at the same time it controlled the executive organ of government. Evidence abounds to show that the Ojila in the past made laws for the community. It also adjudicated in outstanding disputes between one social group or lineage and another. It exercised appellate jurisdiction placing the weight of public opinion behind the injured party. The Ojila also selected the Oche (King), the Ai-Igabo (graded title holders) and the Ai-Uta or Ai-Oga constabulary and arbitrated in misunderstanding arising from intra and inter-group relations, etc.
The point therefore is that the Ojila was the most powerful political institution in Idomaland on the eve of colonial conquest and occupation. As the supreme council of the people, it controlled judicial and administrative authorities. As the nucleus of traditional administration, all the other organs of government (which will be examined shortly) derived their authority from it. Besides, during the period of extreme political fragmentation that prevailed most parts of Idomaland shortly before the advent of the British, the Ojila remained the most influential political institution among the people. We hope to return to this point in due course, but it suffices here to demonstrate the significance of
the Ojila institution in the political superstructure of the Idoma society before the advent of the British.
However, the Ojila was only one form of political organisation among the Idoma, another one was the Oche or King. Like the Ojila, the office of the Oche demonstrates every sign of being ancient in Idoma and despite years of cultural weathering, still persists. The origins of this organ in the political configurations of the Idoma is not clear, for it does seem curious that in a clearly segmented and what appears to be an egalitarian society such as the Idoma, there should emerge an institutionalised leadership. In a critical appraisal of the antiquity of this institution in Idoma society, Erim has theorised that it reflects a natural phenomenon, which was built up over the years upon family, lineage and kindred ties, and emerged from the general structure of the society. He also argues that the office existed prior to Idoma migrations from Apa and that it only concretised during their many years of migrations and final settlement. Ochefu agrees with Erim’s position but adds that the ‘natural phenomenon’ Erim refers to should be anchored on specific social and economic developments that took place in Idoma society over successive epochs. As he succinctly puts it:
…the various socio-political structures and institutions that were created are in actual terms, a manifestation of efforts aimed at controlling, mobilizing, appropriating and distributing surpluses, and the co-ordination and resolution of conflicts that may arise there from. The origins of an Ocheship in the political organisation of the Idoma represents the concentration of authority in the hands of a group of titled elders in their efforts at managing the growing complexities of their societies.
Idoma lady, Ene Lawani

Among the Idoma, the Oche institution further shows that that office is rooted in religion, for the Oche is both the king and the religious head of the community. From the oral evidence available, it is clear that the Oche in traditional Idoma got his power largely from the religious aspects of the society. Indications are that the Oche was the priest-chief and presided over virtually all the cults in the community, the most significant of which were the Aje (earth) and Alekwu-Afia (ancestral) cults. These spiritual responsibilities of the Oche made the people regard him as their chief mediator between the kindred groups and their ancestors, the focus of all traditions that binds them together.
The Oche in the past was not a clan head nor was he usually even a lineage head. Although chosen by the lineage, he stands between them and his responsibility is general and to the land. It is in this regard that the Oche was seen as the highest officer within the land and although the senior lineage elders within the Ojila were (and still are) collectively higher than him, yet they were not so individually. It should be added however, that among the Idoma, the Oche was more a leader than a ruler. He was at the most only primus inter pares among the senior lineage elders in the land. His influence and authority derived from his spiritual responsibilities, his generosity and hospitality, in addition to his reputation for wisdom and courage and particularly the size of his personal following, for as the Idoma put it: ‘Ewa Oche-a’ i.e. large following makes the king. The significance of the last criteria is vividly brought out in the following passages from a famous Idoma ancient song:
Owo je loloce Oce
Owo je loloce ee
Owo je loloce, Oo gbede oo
Owo je loloce cee
(God gives kingship to
one who has followers.
God blesses the one who has people
God blesses one who has people, such
one, this is a source of joy
God blesses the one who has
people).
In order to prevent the possible emergence of an autocratic Oche, the Idoma worked out an elaborate formula to limit the authority of this organ of government. At least three basic constitutional devices regulated the authority of the Oche in pre-colonial Idoma society: (i) the supreme authority of the Ojila; (ii) the rituals of the office; and (iii) the principles of rotation and seniority which governs succession to the office. Largely because of their explanatory significance, we would attempt to look at each of these elaborately.
The power of the Oche was circumscribed by public opinion articulated in the central Ojila. At the land level, as we noted before, the senior lineage elders took precedence over the Oche who had to abide by the decision of the Ojila in all important matters of war, religious festivals, inter-territorial relations general hunts and judicial matters. On formal occasions, such as, for example, the annual sacrifice at the land shrine, the senior lineage elders remind the Oche that he is Oche because it is they who have made him so. Furthermore, while the Oche could appoint the Ai-Igabo (titled elders), his choice had to be ratified by the Ojila. This way the Oche was made accountable to the Ojila and through that, the people.
Limitations were also placed on the power of the Oche by ritually reinforcing the majesty of his office. The new Oche was subjected to elaborate installation rites, which included symbolic death and burial ceremonies. Afterwards, he became subject to a plethora of stringent taboos. The installation rites exposed him to grave sanctions of the departed ancestors should he plot or commit evil against a child of the land. In Igumale for example, the installation prayers of the Och’Apa include: ‘Land of my father hear what I say. If I do wrong to my people, may I die, if I rule them fairly, may I live’. Among the people of Ugboju, Otukpo and Ochobo, the Oche’s installation rites included symbolic death and burial ceremonies. Afterwards, the Oche among the Akpa and Otukpo was forbidden from travelling outside his kingdom. In some places like Onyagede and Otukpo, the Oche has the freedom to travel out of his domain, but was prohibited from entering the secular world of the market place. Also the Oche is not expected to see a corpse; nor must he see the Western rainbows, Onaji or Owo’hogwa, which symbolises the death of a great (native) doctor, Obochi. The point here is that, already considered ‘dead’, it was abominable for the Oche to see a corpse.
Idoma girl

The principle of lineage rotation checked the concentration of political power and authority in a single unit. In a community of say seven patrilineages, each would according to the principle of rotation, take its turn in nominating a candidate from among its group to the office of Oche in that community. This would ensure that each lineage participated in supplying the Oche in an ascending order of seniority. It would seem therefore, that the principle of lineage rotation evolved out of the people’s concept of constitutionalism, which entailed participation by all lineage groups. Elaigwu has compared this institutionalised method with the rules guiding succession to the British monarchy.
On the other hand, the principle of seniority ensured that while succession rotated among the constituent lineages, by proceeding from the most senior to the most junior (that is, the lineage whose founding ancestor was the last to emerge), political power and authority would never become the monopoly of one lineage. Above all, the seniority principle ensured that the Oche would be too old and in some cases infirm to participate actively in political affairs or even threaten dictatorship. This invariably meant the delegation of authority to the young men who in fact were the crux of gerontocracy in traditional Idoma. This would then enable the Oche to focus more attentively on his duty as the priest-chief and president of the cults.
In addition to all these, the Oche’s status was marked by certain traditional regalia, the most important of which were the bracelet of coral beads, Oka which was strapped round his wrist; the royal stool, Akpa, the staff, Okwute and the red cap, Ofula. Similarly, he is surrounded by elaborate etiquette and is addressed by a traditional title that varies from community to community and can be translated as simply ‘Your Majesty’. As a further mark of status, the Oche also received tributes which consisted of trophies of fierce game animals and other symbols of war and brave exploits: elephant tusks, lion and leopard skins, python skins, feathers of the Senegal coucal, Uloko, and captured slaves.
J. S. Boston has suggested a strong Igala influence in the evolution of the Oche institution in the pre-colonial Idoma society. Up till date, the extent of this influence has not been fully determined. Available evidence however indicates that at a point, the Oches of central Idoma polities travelled to Idah for their investiture ceremonies. Again, there is little evidence to show that these Oches were tributary to the Attah of Igalaland, rather, such royal visits has been associated with the overwhelming influence of the Attah at that time, for as Armstrong observes:
Idah came to have great prestige, and lands which certainly never paid tax to Idah would send their chiefs there for proper installation.
In another context, this development has been associated with a phase in the early history of the people, namely the period of their migrations from Apa, which took some Idoma groups to Igalaland. Agbo, for example, notes that Idah was the ancestral home of some Idoma groups, so that the people still believed that Idah was the abode of their ancestors, hence their installation was sanctified at Idah 85. Citing A. P. Anyebe who sees these royal trips as merely spiritual and not political Agbo however, concludes that it would be incorrect to completely rule out any form of Igala political influence over pre-colonial Idomaland. Whatever was the real situation, it should be noted that this political relationship was facilitated by certain variables that were then operating in both societies. As we shall eventually see in the next chapter, the scope and dynamics of this relationship was such that involved a two-way flow of influences from both the Igala and the Idoma ethnic groups.
A critical look at the evolution of the Oche institution among the Idoma also indicates that between the mid seventeenth and late nineteenth centuries, the office had declined to a point that made the institution moribund in most parts of the land. In fact, on the eve of colonial rule in Idomaland, this office was for all intents and purposes in abeyance. Analysts have propounded a number of theories about this development. The first of these theories situates the ebbing of the Oche institution within the context of the political violence that occasioned Idoma migrations and settlement. According to this view, the disintegration of their Apa homeland on the one hand, and their subsequent displacement by the Tiv on the other, left the Idoma in utter political disarray. Consequently, by the time they arrived at their present habitat, their status was no better than political
refugees. In this situation, matters pertaining chieftaincy were quickly overtaken by the exigencies of their new homeland.
The second theory suggests the corroding influence of the rather protracted process of the Idoma migrations from the legendary Apa. According to O’kwu, largely because of the long period of time spent on their migrations and due to the fact that the Idoma were dispersed over an extensive territory stretching from the upper and middle Cross River basin, the lower Benue and the Niger-Benue confluence region, the Idoma must have lost the tradition of central chieftaincy which they claim they had during the Apa period of their history.
The third and for now the last theory suggests that while wars and migrations were critical to the emergence of leadership and centralised authority among the Idoma, the reduction of these as from the mid 1850s encouraged centri-fugal tendencies in the Idoma political structure. In consequence, not only did political unity behind an Oche disappear, but in fact: …jealousy between lineage, always present becamerelatively more significant and while the ideology of chieftaincy remained strong, the lineage could never agree on the succession. In this situation chieftaincy as an operating social reality evaporated.
The decline of the Oche institution in Idoma society during this period was however modified by a number of other important political institutions that ensured the much-needed balance between the units in the society. Of these, the Ojila (already examined), the Och’olihi (market chief) the Ai-Uta or Ai-Oga constabulary and the Ai-Ekwu (secret Societies) were the most significant. In the pre-colonial Idoma political set up, the most important recipient of delegated authority were the Och’Olihi (saluted Ukpooju) and his assistants, the Ai-Uta constabulary. Appointed by the Ojila, the Och’Olihi was in charge of the administration of the market place, he collected dues and adjudicated disputes within the precinct of the market in accordance with customary laws. It was in this respect that he is aptly described as the ‘president of the market courts.’  The Ai-Uta constabulary whose membership was drawn from able-bodied young men and heads of small social units assisted the Och’Olihi. It is instructive to note that as the executive organ of the land Ojila, the Ai-Uta had no authority of its own but would be given ad hoc power for specific purpose by the mass meeting. For example, members were usually detailed to carry out the wishes of the mass meeting and sent on diplomatic missions to other land.
The Ai-Uta constabularies were in turn assisted by a number of secret societies. Some of these include Onyonkpo, Achukwu and Okpantla, and others, found in almost every Idoma community. The origin of this organ of government is still shrouded in mystery. A source claims that the idea of secret societies got into Idomaland through Utonkon. Another source however, linked the history of secret cults in Idoma society to one Anube. What ever their origin, one thing is most probable, and that is that the concept of secret society may have evolved among the Idoma out of the continuous search for ways by which the efforts of the Ojila and the various social and political institutions could be supplemented and perfected in the over all interest of society. The secret societies were secret to the extent that they were limited to official members alone and exclusively to adult males of the community. Among their many functions was ensuring that members of the community conformed with the norms and values of the society. It was in this regard that they were responsible
for carrying out punitive expeditions against social deviants and dissenters. In this sense, it can be argued that the secret societies together with the Ai-Uta constabulary constituted the instruments of coercion at the disposal of the elders who were regarded as the custodians of the norms and values of the society.
The gerontocratic structure of pre-colonial Idoma society was enhanced by the preponderance of age-groups and age-sets which were also critical organs of government. As a system of grouping all members of the community into classes on the ascriptive basis of age, age-group associations helped in fostering unity and harmonious living while at the same time encouraging socio-political growth. This is because they emphasise the gerontocratic structure of pre-colonial Idoma society Age-group associations provided auxiliary services such as the clearing of paths, construction and repairs of bridges, digging of graves for the burial of dead members of the community, etc. In all these, the point should be made, contributions by individual groups depended on their maturity and ability.
The point therefore is that the decline of the Oche institution in most parts of Idomaland on the eve of colonial conquest and occupation did not degenerate into chaos and anarchy as often portrayed by colonial writers. This was the case because, as we have demonstrated in the preceding paragraphs, many institutions of government modified the ebbing of the chieftaincy institution which, working together with the Ojila, preserved social and political equilibrium. It should be added that this does not rule out instances of discord. On the contrary, political discords mostly between generational groups did occur, but because these were subsumed in the Idoma constitutional system, they were
never allowed to develop into serious crisis such as to threaten the peace. Indeed through the mechanism of dialogue and consensus, such challenges were usually quickly resolved in the interest of the harmonious existence of groups

Idoma marriage.
Marriage in Idoma land is considered a lifelong affair, although divorce is possible on the grounds of adultery or other concrete reasons.
Idoma bride

When an Idoma man is at least twenty-five years old and has the financial and physical capacity to  raise and maintain a family, he searches for and finds a woman of his choice, who is at least eighteen years old. He reports his findings to his family which may choose a go-between,that is a person who  know  the girl's family.

Idoma groom, Tuface Idibia in his traditional Efik groom attire

The go-between investigates further the family of the prospective bride to ascertain that the family has no history of mental disease, epilepsy, or other problems. If the result of this investigation is positive, the prospective groom's family visits the woman's family with gifts of kola nut and drinks. After the first visit, another visit is scheduled for the woman to meet her future husband, after which a final visit is scheduled for the future groom and his family to pay the bride-price and offer other gifts (Omokhodion 1998).

                       Idoma couple in their wedding attire

On the marriage day,  the groom  pays  dowry first to the bride's mother and then another to the father; this involves a  bit of  bargaining,concession and honour. Also, the bride's both mother and father family members including her age mates or friends are considered in determining the dowry with the amount varying with the level of the bride's education and productivity.After this,the groom's family presents the bride a rooster and some money, If she accepts these gifts and gives them to her mother, it signifies her acceptance of the groom, but if she refuses,it  means her refusal. If she accepts him, she is showered with iots of gifts usually money, and the two families can eat and drink together.

However, before the bride is finally handed over to her husband, her age group can pose as a mock barrier to those who want to take her and extort money from the anxious groom's family.After all, the bride's mother buys her cooking utensils and food as she is not expected to go to the market for the first five market in her new home and this precedes the final handing over of the bride to the groom’s family. (Omokhodion 1998).

Ideally the bride should be a virgin at marriage, which brings pride and joy to her family. If she is found not to be a virgin, she is taken to the husband's family' ancestral shrine for cleansing. After this the Ije is put on her to invoke fertility on her. This marks the beginning of married life among the Idoma tribe
Idoma beauty and former Miss Nigeria, Ene Maya Lawani

Religious belief
Idoma people believe in Supreme being and Creator God, Owoicho and their religion focuses on honoring lineage ancestors."Thus, in Idoma land, the Alekwuafia festival celebrates the yam in what is referred to as eja-alekwu. Through the Alekwuafia, the Idoma worshipped ancestral spirits. At Alekwu communion, names of ancestors and the living dead are invoked so that through them the predator’s supplication may be conveyed to the omnipotent God (Owoicho).
The Alekwuafia is seen as a link between the living and the dead. Religiously, the Alekwuafia marks the height of communion and communication between the realms of the living. It ushers in blessings for adherents through their chants, songs and messages, thereby encouraging morality. As a code of conduct, it is a symbol of peace, order and tranquility in the society. The ancestral spirits in form of the Alekwuafia is viewed as invisible watch dog of the family and communities. It is believed that if the living failed to observe the cultural norms and values of the Idoma, the ancestors will visit them with pestilence or, even death. It acts as strong instrument for social control against vices like adultery, theft and murder.
A parallel cult that checks vices in Idoma land is the ‘Onyonkpo’. Morality among the Idoma are never compromised, hence the Alekwu cults exist to check them through warnings, followed by purification rites." Ochigbo S. Best (2008).
Funeral ceremonies among the Idoma are often quite dramatic, with greater attention afforded to members of the community who have reached a combination of advanced age and prestige. Extensive funerals are held for both women and men in preparation for sending them on their final journey away from the village to the spirit world across the river. A memorial service, or second burial, is held for the deceased some time after the original burial in order to ensure that the dead pass on to the ancestor world in proper style

Idoma woman dancing with Catholic nuns

Music of the Idoma of Nigeria
The Idoma people of Nigeria do not record a ritual whose live performance is considered taboo except at funerals. For the wake, elderly women sing and play ichicha (large gourd rattles); there is also a dance circle with at least one man on an okanga(two-membrane drum). The wake lasts all night until the actual funeral, the Urchulo Nehi (Great Ceremony), the following noon.
Source:http://www.idoma.info/tradition.php

ROLL CALL OF IDOMA ENTERTAINERS (UPDATED)
Courtesy: http://wwwcomradeonlinecom.blogspot.com/2012/06/version1.html
Within the overall picture of the Nigerian entertainment industry, it is neither preposterous nor farfetched to assert that the Idomas are one of the most gifted and productive people around. The myriads of stars of Idoma origin in terms of quality and quantity, and their the contribution to the Nigerian showbiz sector is indeed immeasurable.
Behold the roll call of Idoma entertainers.

INNOCENT UJAH IDIBIA (2FACE)
Tuface Idibia is not a Disney creation but a self-styled pop sensation, a music meteor who made the global recognition and artistic success via a defining song entitled: African Queen, a love song eulogizing beauty of the African woman.

                                         Tuface Idibia

That tender moxie stormed the showbiz podium alongside his kinsman, Blackface and Faze of the defunct Planthsun Boiz over a decade ago.  He went platinum within two years. Since then, the Implication crooner has not looked back. And he remains yet one of the biggest music artistes to emerge from Nigeria.
He’s from Okpokwu LGA.
Tuface, Idoma man

GABRIEL OCHE AMANYI (TERRY G)
He started out in the house of God, but later pitched his tent with the House of Ginja.
Terry G took the nation’s showbiz industry by stormed a few years back with his Love You Sexy single.
producer Amanyi Oche Gabriel a.k.a Terry G, Idoma man from Benue State

Born Gabriel Oche Amanyi to the family of Deacon and Deaconess Amanyi of Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State.
Each phase of his music career comes with a name –ranging from Mr Bling Bling to Swagger Master, Ginja Ginja and now he calls himself Akpako Master, a name, which only him could explain.
The cerebral music producer-cum-singer has carved a niche for himself and his burgeoning career in the music sector, having produced for top artistes in Nigeria and beyond. Prolific Oche has continued to win plaudits and encomiums from music buffs due to his creativity and sparkling attitude.
The chap has effectively distinguished himself from every other artiste in Nigeria with his kind of music, outlandish costumes, style and stagemanship.
He’s the brain behind hit songs such as: Pass me Your Love (Ay.com) Naka (Ortise Femi), Aye Po Gan (Ill Bliss) Incase You Never (2Shotz) and among others.

                           Gabriel Oche Amanyi, Idoma native

The Free Madness crooner has surely established himself as a force to reckon with in the country’s music home front.
Ask him why he left gospel - which was his first love - for secular and he would tell you  “For me, I would have been doing gospel but we just have to make a living. That is why I went secular.
 “God understands that it is just for me to make a living otherwise, I still have a soft spot for Him in my heart”.
The head honcho of House of Ginjah is no doubt a man of his own style.

                                   Terry G, Idoma man

GARUBA AUSTINE AHMEDU (BLACKFACE NAIJA)
Following the split of the defunct Planthshun boyz, little or nothing was heard from Blackface, the third voice of the trio.  Augustine Ahmedu was born in Obalende Area of Lagos in 1974.  The musician who hailed from Akpa has been away to re-organize himself.
His hit tracks include: Hard Life, Eneme.

Augustine Ahmedu aka Blackface Naija is an Idoma man

BONGOS IKWUE
He’s the acclaimed father of the Idoma entertainment industry.
Groovies music exponent, Bongos Ikwue is no doubt the successor of the musical tradition initiated by veteran forbears in Idomaland.
Born in Otukpo, Benue State, Nigeria, on  June 6, 1942. In 1956, he attended St, Paul’s Secondary school in Zaria, Nigeria, where his friends called him “Forge” because he was always making up (forging) and singing his own songs. In 1962, While at Okene Comprehensive Secondary School, he formed a group called Cubana Boys with two other young boys, after which he headed off to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), also in Zaria, Kaduna State, where he studied Business Administration.
Bongos Ikwue  the acclaimed father of the Idoma entertainment industry

While in ABU, he created his own band, called UniBello Brothers and also sang in a folk group, which was made up of university lecturers during which time, a chemistry lecturer, Mrs. Harmony taught him some Irish songs. In 1967 he founded and headed the Groovies Band, which became extremely popular in the 1970’s through to the 80’s.

Many love him for his soulful, folksy songs, the most popular of which includes: Cockcrow At Dawn, Still Searching, Amen, Otachikpokpo and a host of others.  His dedication to his music was obvious due to the high quality of the albums he churned out, and due to the sheer elegance and the electrifying energy of his live performances, where the band was always on key, and the musician himself was always true to every note. His ability to stay on the right note is an indicator of his hard work as a musician.
He started to focus more on the home front, where has a lovely wife, Josephine; and five children, four girls and one boy named, Oyankeke, Elamei (Omei), Jessica, Onyewu and Igoche, in that order. He is a devoted father and enjoys singing in the company of his children. Bongos would often call two of his daughters, Omei and Jessica, to sing in the presence of guests.
He recently clocked 70 years.

Bongos Ikwue, the Godfather of Idoma music

JOEL
Joe El got signed on Kennis music label some few months back and it’s so interesting to know he is fast becoming a household name.
His first single entitle I no mind is currently rocking the airwaves both on radio and TV stations across the country, but what would baffle one most is the similarities this fresh talent shares with African King of Pop, 2face Idibia.

                    Joe El is Idoma music star from Nigeria

According to findings, Joel discovered that apart from the fact that he has a facial look just exactly like 2face, they have almost the same voice texture, hail from the Idoma ethnic group in the Southern part of Benue State in central Nigeria. And lastly, His being signed on 2face’s former record label (Kennis Music) in which one would think all this is far beyond mere coincidence.
With all the features Joel shares with 2Baba, He’s also capable of shaking the world, like him.
    Joe El, an Idoma man

ENE LAWANI
Former beauty queen, Ene Maya Lawani hit the global limelight in 2004 when she was crowned Miss Nigeria. The longest serving beauty queen in the country.
Idoma beauty queen Ene Lawani with one of her dazzling head wrap known as Ene Maya

Before now the ex-queen kept a low profile for years, until she bounced back with the launch of her exquisite headgear called ‘Ene Maya’.
Ene Lawani, Nigerian beauty queen and Idoma woman

The Ene Maya Collection is a combination of head wraps, scarves and accessories And ever since her profile has been on the rise. She has continued to dazzle everyone with her stunning look, flawless skin and powerful dress sense. Not only that, she has also become the living advertisement of her brand. No matter what Ene adorns, she will always compliment it with her turban headgear, which stands her out.
Idoma girl, Ene Lawani

ENENCHE PETER OBONYILO (ENENCHE COMEDIAN)
Enenche Obonyilo is an outstanding comedian, MC, motivational speaker and social activist who has performed at several shows and other high profile social functions such as Nigeria National Comedy programme, Nite of a thousand Laughs, Weddings, birthdays, church programmes, Radio and Tv shows.
The Chemistry graduate of Benue State University, Makurdi is fast becoming the darling of the comedy sector.
Idoma-born and Nigerian comedian Enenche Obonyilo Peter, popularly known as Enenche D Comedian

His natural sense of humour is mixed with the flavour of a learned intellectual who observes daily human struggles and lifestyles and convert them into stomach tearing jokes that leaves his fans in the state of euphoria and experience of joy and hope.
His major influence is the late Martin Luther King Jnr who was an advocate of social justice and equality. He can recite from A-Z Martin Luther King Jnr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Born in December at Yaba Military Hospital, Lagos after the civil, Enenche attended St. Francis College, Otukpo and Benue State University, Makurdi.
On how he found himself in the comedy sector, he said: “I actually started performing right from my first year in secondary school. When I left secondary school, I actually wanted to study Medicine. I said then that I would not study any other course even when I was offered Bio Chemistry in UNIMAID. Benue state university gave me Biology while Ilorin offered me Anatomy. All these I rejected. I eventually took up an offer at Benue state university but I was still pained that I could not get the course I wanted. So on the night of the matriculation, I refused to wear the gown. On the night of the matriculation there was an event on campus and I was invited to do a joke on stage. That was the starting point. From there, other fellowship presidents on campus would invite me for programmes and I would attend. I ended up putting smiles on their faces. I found passion and a platform of expression in comedy while I was in the university. My comedy started on the streets of Makurdi especially at church organised programmes. Enenche became a household name in Makurdi. Like a joke, I found myself in the Night of a thousand laughs in 2004. This was because of a programme I performed in at Abuja where I impressed Klint the Drunk who thereafter linked me up with Opa Williams who picked interest in me. Since then, it has been glorious only that with every platform there are always unique challenges.”
He hails from Okpoga in Okpokwu Local Government Area.
Idoma man Enenche D Comedian

CHRIS MORGAN
Chris Morgan is a multi-talented gospel singer, songwriter, composer, and performer with a call from God to embark on the journey of restoring true worship to the body of Christ.
He is the brain behind “WORSHIP ON THE HILLS OF AFRICA” a vision that is dedicated to raising people to worship God in spirit and in truth.
Chris Morgan Idoma man and a multi-talented gospel singer, songwriter, composer, and performer 

The Orokam-Born Benue State singer is no doubt an accomplished music minister, whose songs are filled with the divine presence of God, with great lyrical depth and inspiration and a great message of hope for our generation. Morgan has also ministered on the same platform with great international gospel Singers like: Ron Kenoly, Lionel Peterson, Dr Panam Percy Paul and Donnie McClurkin. Since stepping into the gospel podium, the Ifeoma crooner has continue to carve a niche for himself in by marking the beginning of a new worship trend in Africa.
Chris Morgan Idoma gospel music icon from Nigeria

His popular tracks include: I do, Often As I Breath, Adakole, Ifeoma, Arabaribiti and among others.
The Abuja-based gospel artiste is happily married to Queen Eunice.

 Idoma man Chris Morgan and his Abuja-based gospel artiste is happily married to Queen Eunice.

MONICA OGAH
After a long wait, emerging songstress and winner of MTN Project Fame West Africa Season 4, Monica Ogah recently launched herself into the music market by releasing three singles entitled, ‘Below’, ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘If to Say’.

                        Idoma star, Monica Ogah

The singles from the stables of Goretti, her official management have been receiving, mass airplay on many radio station across the country. Below, techno-laced, bass-thumping number was produced by J Sleek, while If To Say was produced by veteran producer, Tha Suspect.
In Tomorrow, the magnificent singer in her language (Idoma) says ‘come rain, come shine, it is well with her.’ The track, which was produced by Tee-Y Mix strikes a resemblance with past Project Fame West Africa winner Chidinma.

                        Idoma lady. Monica Ogah

SUSAN PETERS
Delectable actress, Susan Peters is fast becoming the darling of movie buffs in the Nigerian motion picture industry globally known as Nollywood. Since her emergence in 2002, the slim-built thespian has dazzled in several chart-busting flicks.

                     Idoma-born Nollywood star Susan Peters

Although, born and raised in Kano, the Ado-born Idoma business woman-turned-entertainer has continued to open new vistas for herself and budding career, since her relocation from the north to south, in pursuit of her dream.
The self-acclaimed Duchess of Idoma is equally a scriptwriter and interior decorator with several high profile jobs to her credit.
Idoma girl Susan Peters

The third child of a family of eight children was brought up under strict surveillance of her parents. Her father was in the military and her mother owns a shop. Due to her military background, Susan grew up in many parts of the country and speaks the three major Nigerian languages (Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba) fluently.
Idoma girl and Nollywood star, Susan Peters

She attended Airforce Nursery and Primary Schools and FGGC Wuse Abuja. She also studied Computer Science at Asman English School and graduated in 1998; then further studied Tv and Film at Video Waves And Camera Film School and graduated in 2002. At school, she came out as Best Overall Female in her class. After an excursion with her classmates, she began auditioning for acting jobs amongst other Nollywood projects and started acting in 2002, the same year that she graduated.

She started modelling as well in 2003 and has appeared in many advertisements. From billboards to TV commercials, Press ads, Handbills and many more, including BAT (British America Tobacco) For West Africa Billboard, Fidelity Bank Billboard, Bank P.H.B billboard, Golden Penny Pasta Billboard, U.H.F Long life Milk Billboard, Haemeron Blood tonic Billboard, Airport Branding, Finbank TVC and Press, amongst others.
Nollywood actress, Susan peters is an Idoma lady

JOHNSON AGADA (MANEX)
Ace movie producer/director, Johnson Agada is one of the few movie practitioners that has helped project Nollywood, particularly the Idomawwod movie sector in a positive way to the world through every of his production.

  Idoma man, Johnson Agada

He has over the years been responsible for a long list of blockbuster movies such as, Ugboga K’ole, Imlanyi K’Ole, Ina Gajuche, Ohe Kole Owoicho, amongst others.
He’s from Agabha, Otukpa in Ogbadbio LGA.

ENE MILITEX OGIRI
Fair-complexioned Nollywood screen goddess, Eneh Militex Ogiri is a force to reckon with in the movie industry, globally known as Nollywood.

                           Idoma native and Nollywood actress Ene Miltex Ogiri 

She’s been the brain behind some chartbusting flicks such as, Sound of poverty (1 and 2), Bloody Tussle, My Last Enemy, Before the Rain, et al.

PAMELA PETERS
Omada, Eneh or Ihotu are the likely appellations that would come to one’s mind once her name is mentioned.  Fast rising Nollywood actress, Pamela Ochanya Peters is fast becoming a household name in the movie sector, subsequent on her debut in Izu Ojokwu’s directed Iva about a decade ago. The budding actress has being able to proved to movie buffs and pundits that she’s on course as far as entertainment in Nigeria is concerned. Since stepping into the showbiz, Pamela has continued to dazzle her teeming fans in both English and indigenous trail-blazing flicks, which enrolled her in the category of Best Idoma Actress in the Idoma Artistes Award Nite (IDAAN).
Idoma and Nollywood rising star Pamela peters

The Olahimu-born-Otukpo Benue State effervescent and charming actress who is also vice president of the African Oasis Entertainment believes that it is better to fail at what you love doing than the other way round.
He hit movies include: Adah, Ihotu, Ochanya, Ole, Iva etc.

                         Idoma girl, Pamela peters and Nkem Owoh on set

ALICE AYEGBA
Scrumptious and charming Nollywood actress-cum-model, Alice Ayegba first warmed her way into hearts of many movie lovers in 2007, when she first starred in a soap opera entitled, Out of Control in Jos.

                 Idoma girl, model, writer and actress Alice Ayegba

Ever since, the sparkling weeping thespian cum writer has continued to thrill movie buffs, especially her teeming fans in many char-bursting flicks –both English and indigenous with over 20 hit movies to her credit.
With a shapely body that many would die for, the fast rising ebony from Orokam surely has an edge over most of her contemporaries in the make-believe industry.
Interestingly, her most challenging role so far is the monster hit, Agaba Konya, (Female Warrior) a movie directed by award-wining Nollywood director, Moses J. Okpe.
Her hit movies are: Agaba K’Onya, Ochanya, Ole, Ondu Aje, among others.
Alice Ayegba Idoma lady

JANE ODOH
Down-to-earth movie star, Janet Ameh Odoh is an actress to watch out for in the movie industry. The thespian who hailed from Owukpa, a suburb of Benue has carved a niche for herself and burgeoning career.

Idoma girl, Jane Ameh Odoh

The role interpreter became a household name after her wonderful role in St. Godwin Ochola’s directed Ada (The Helpless Orphan) some a few years back. She is the initiator of the Miss Idoma beauty pageant.
Idoma actress Jane Ameh

ADA AMEH
Ada Ameh, is an inspirational lady, who refused against all odds to be relegated to the back seat or turn into a recluse after having her child - Gift Ameh - at the tender age of 14.
Undeterred by the pains of single parenthood at that age, Ada never gave up hope despite the fact that she was not privileged to have formal education.

    Inspirational Nollywood actress Ada Ameh is Idoma womwn

 This has given her the zeal to take up the challenge and help ladies and guys, who have fallen victim of the society and been driven out of school into prostitution among other ills. Interestingly, the Idoma, Benue State indigene, who was born and bred on the streets of Ajegunle, has embarked on a mission to help those who need her help urgently and more.
Her hit movies include: Aki Na Ukwa, Domitila, I Belong, Witches, Phone Swap, Chop Money, Adah, Ihotu etc.
Idoma and talented Nollywood actress Ada Ameh


DIRECTOR ABEL SUCCESS EREBE
After recording box office hit with his trail-blazing flick, Black Night in South America, Nollywood ace producer and director, Success Abel Erebe, is set to storm the movie market with yet an other movie entitled: Osuofia in Brazil.
Idoma man and Nollywood film director Abel Success Erebe

World-class moviemaker and Apostle of the Most High started out with the likes of Chris Morgan and Godshiled Orokpo. His hit movies include: Black Night is South America, Brazilian Deal, Osuofia in Brazil (in view)

Abel Success Erebe and his film crews at Brazil during the filming of Osuofia In Brazil

Godwin Ochola
Call him the “Golden Boy” of the Idoma movie industry and you wont be wrong. Workaholic filmmaker-cum-actor, Godwin Ochola otherwise known as De Black remains a mark as far as the Idoma entertainment industry is concerned.
Idoma film actor Godwin Ochola aka Golden Boy

 Ochola who is head-honcho of the Otukpo-based St. Godwin Productions has stared and directed chart-bursting movies such as Ada, Ihotu, Ofu, Ochanya and Ondu Aje et al deserved the award due to his perfect interpretation on roles and characters.
His movie, Ada was crowned the Best Idoma Movie of the year 2011


Godwin Ochola and some Idoma actress

PETER OTULU
Evang. Peter Owoicho Otulu as an accomplished Christian singer, songwriter, teacher and cleric. His mission is "to create an environment for the manifest presence of God". His kind of music style is one of jubilant praise and individual excellence on local musical instruments. He is one of the fathers of Idoma entertainment industry.

 Idoma icon Peter Otulu an accomplished Christian singer, songwriter, teacher and cleric.

GODSHIELD OROKPO
Known for his popular album, Ahama no checho released a few years back, ace gospel singer and cleric, Godshield Orokpo is a talented singer whose mission is to restore battered destiny is currently working round the clock to launch himself back into the music ministry.
Idoma`s Famous music minister and Ahama No Checho crooner, Evangelist Godshield Orokpo is now Bishop-elect

 SUNNY OKWORI
Ace Nollywood director, Sunny Okwori is one of the few directors that knows his onions in the Nigeria’s motion picture industry; otherwise known as Nollywood.
The Efekwo-born Orokam Beneu State movie director is no doubt a force to reckon with in the make-believe industry. He is a skilled producer, director and cinematography who has entertainment running in his blood. His contribution to the industry stands him out as a one of the grand masters of the movie sector.
Idoma and Nollywood movie-maker  Sunny Okwori

With over 20 movies to his credit, the workaholic director-cum producer has equally made a mark on the movie platform, having spent over two decades as a moviemaker, Okwori has been an instrumental to major productions such as Sound of poverty, Shackles of Death, Ghetto Language, Ehi (Idoma) Ofu (Idoma) starring Ogboji Abraham Ogboji, St Godwin Ochola, Janet Odo and among several others. As head-honcho of Eftown production and president of the Idomawood, a platform created for all Idoma moviemakers, the success of Nollywood today cannot be mentioned without calling his name, he would also be remembered as one of those who enacted the alliance between the Ghana movie industry, Ghollywood and the Nollywood.
Ace Nollywood director, Sunny Okwori is one of the few directors who knows his onions in the Nigeria's motion picture industry; globally known as Nollywood.

ALEX VERA
Alex Vera is a young and talented fast rising gospel artiste and one of Nigeria’s top emerging songstresses.
The fair-complexioned singer has been gaining a lot of plaudits and applauds from music buffs ever since she released her latest singles, Kocho and Beat Again.

                                  Idoma lady  Alex Vera
Born and raised in Kano, the crooner no doubt has so much to offer the music world.
Amazingly, her foray into the music industry is already giving critics the vapors as one of the most exciting and original female singers-cum-songwriters on the scene.

IMELDA ADA OKWORI IMELDA J
Award-wining dancehall queen, Imelda Ada Okwori otherwise known as Imelda J in her was recently unveiled to the world by her outfit..
Idoma-born pretty pop singer, Imelda Ada Okwori popularly known as Imelda J 

 Her first single was My Love For You produced by OJB Jezreel, who also featured on it. The song won her an award in 2010.
Idoma and nigeria dance-hall queen Imelda Ada Okwori

She followed it up with Show Me on which she featured One By One crooner, Side 1.
Show Me increased the visibility of her brand and encouraged her to do more.   Now, determined to rise to the top, she has dropped the video of Fosoke, her song, which has been making a buzz on radio and the inter-net. She also released three new singles, Love Magic, Go Ahead and Together As One featuring Mike Okri.
The promising singer-cum-actress launched her debut album in 2010 in Makurdi, capital of her state.

                                    Idoma girl, Imelda J

BEN ABAH ADOYI
When in mention of Nigeria’s promising young singers, it would be safe to say you had skipped if you did not make mention of the inspiring, dope ministerial, Aterre, real name Ben Adoyi Abah.

He began to pencil down his own songs and developed an acute sense of lyricism. He started recording his own music few years ago, but perfectionist tendencies prevented him putting them out. The Ugbugbu-born hit maker stands the chance of succeeding 2face.

Christine Acheini Ben-Ameh
Few years after winning the highly-competitive Nokia First Chance Music talent hunt, Christine Acheini Ben-Ameh is out to make a different in the showbiz  industry.
Idoma girl, Christine Acheini Ben-Ameh

The charming and dazzling songstress after launching herself into the music market with her debut studio effort, Life Under Construction few years back is not resting on her oars. Her attention-catching voice conveys messages of love, hope, strength and triumph that mesmerizes listeners.
Christine, Idoma girl

Born October 12, 1986 at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, Kent, England, (with her twin brother, Jude) to a medical-doctor father, Dr. Benedict Abakpa Ameh and a hospital administrator mother, Mrs Felicia Ameh. Her father runs the El-Shaddai Specialist Hospital and her mother, the Children Charity Home, both in Makurdi, Benue state.
Idoma girl, Christine

Origins of Idoma people (Scholarly view)
The history of Idoma origins and ethnicity is perhaps the most complex aspect of the people’s pre-colonial history. Idoma is the name by which the people of Idoma ethnic group designate themselves, and are addressed as such by their neighbours. Idoma is also the name of the language of the group as well as their land.

                               Idoma dancers

The earliest attempt to study the Idoma anchors their origins and ethnicity on the Akpoto (or Okpoto). This is an ethnic group that is presently extinct. According to a popular  view by S. Crowther in 1854, an ethnic group designated the Akpoto once occupied most part of the land now inhabited by the Igala, Idoma and Igbira. Although the identification of this group and the actual nature of their relationship with the Igala, Idoma and Ebira is still being studied by researchers, evidence exists to support their antiquity in the Niger-Benue confluence area. For example, Armstrong argues that largely arising from the relatively wide application of the Akpoto nomenclature in this general area, it is possible that a kingdom and/or people known by that name once existed. This view is further reinforced by J. N. Ukwedeh’s argument that the Akpoto should be perceived as an autochthonous group, which gave birth to or played a fundamental role in the formation of modern Igala, Ebira and Idoma societies. Then too, the evidence gleaned from the oral traditions of the Igala, Ebira and Idoma ethnic groups showed undoubtedly that the Akpoto were the earliest inhabitants of the present locations of these peoples.
The people reject the nomenclature as derogatory, insisting that it was the Igala of the Ankpa region that were known as the Akpoto and refer to themselves, their language and land as Idoma. It should be emphasised that while what is particularly derogatory about the term Akpoto still remains unclear, it would appear to have stuck to the people in the Eastern marches of Igalaland in the region of Ankpa. This is in addition to the fact that among those sections of the Idoma who sometimes trace their origins to places in Igalaland (those Erim refers to as the ‘Western migrants’), the use of the term Akpoto to describe them and their language appears to have persisted until comparatively recent times.
On the basis of the above analyses and in the context of the evidence that is presently available, whatever may be said about the Akpoto phenomenon, its place in the legend of origins of the people and the evolution of their ethnicity generally may well be conjectural. One certainty can however be risked and that is: the term ‘Akpoto’ may well be of a geographical application describing a kingdom of that name. This kingdom must have covered the entire area presently occupied by the various ethnic groups in the Benue valley region. The people of this kingdom must have also been known and referred to as Akpoto. But that this name persists till date between the Idoma and the Igala could well be an alternative explanation of the depth of wide-ranging contacts and inter-mingling between them. For, as Erim has sufficiently demonstrated, in the course of their migrations into their present location, some Idoma kindred groups sojourned and cohabited with the Igala in Igalaland. This point also finds support in Ochefu’s conclusions that the greater part of present Idoma homeland was originally occupied by the Akpoto who over the ages were assimilated by other groups including the ancestors of the Igala, Idoma and Ebira migrants. What follows from all these suggest that it is possible the Akpoto were either a proto-ethnic group which gave birth to the Igala-Idoma-Ebira ethno-cultural complex or in fact played an important role in the development of these polities.
Another perspective associates the ancestral homeland of the Idoma with the Sahara region. Expressed by P. E. Okwoli, this view claims that the Idoma, Igala and Ebira ethnic groups once occupied an area somewhere in the Sahara region. He further maintains that these ethnic groups were compelled to vacate the Sahara region for the Savannah sub-region following the desiccation of the Sahara 26 This perspective on Idoma origins and ethnicity has been attacked for its obvious weaknesses. In the first place, it appears to be an isolated view on the origin of the Idoma because it has not found acceptance with scholars on the subject. Furthermore, in addition to its failure to suggest any specific geographical area in the Sahara region which the Idoma occupied, it has not been corroborated by the oral traditions of the people regarding their traditions of origin. Moreover, the exponent of this view did not cite his sources for possible assessment nor did he give any hint as to how he reached his conclusions. This makes it very difficult to test the veracity and authenticity of his propositions. This suggests that he is merely trying to link the origins of the Idoma, Igala and Ebira to those Nigerian ethnic groups who claim they migrated from Yemen or Mecca in the Middle East. This theory of Middle Eastern origin has however not been able to stand up to the tests of linguistic, ethnographical and archaeological investigations of scholars in recent times. Some of these are revisited in the subsequent analysis.
Idoma origins and ethnic identity have also been related to the Igala. This view sees the Idoma as being of Igala extraction, itself believed to be a sub-group of the Yoruba and therefore distinct from the Okpoto. According to this thesis which was made popular by W. B. Baikie, before 1500 A D, both the Okpoto and the Igara (Igala?) occupied separate territories around the Niger, the former on the East and the latter in the West of the Niger. However, by about the first decade of fifteenth century, the Igaras were driven East of the Niger where they settled among the Okpoto. The Idoma, according to this view, are a hybrid of the Igara and Okpoto fusion 27. This view appears to suggest that the Okpoto and the Igala were originally Yoruba speaking and the present Idoma ethnic group is a synthesis of the two. This view gets reinforcement from lexico-statistical evidence, which grouped the Idoma, Igala and Yoruba under the Kwa sub-unit of the Niger-Congo family of African languages. It must have been on this basis that Erim concluded that the Yoruba factor in both Igala and Idoma cultures cannot be completely ignored.
A variant of this perspective holds that the Idoma, Igala and Yoruba formed the same social complex within the upper Benue region until about 6000 years ago when this group disintegrated. According to this hypothesis developed by R. G. Armstrong and based largely on glottochronology and lexico-statistical data, this proto-society had the same conception of time, worshipped a host of local gods as well as observed similar taboos and totems. What follows from this is that the proto-group spoke a common language but with the split, its members dispersed into different regions where today they speak dialects of the
proto-language. Thus, the spatial distribution of the people concerned would appear to correspond to the length of the period of separate developments.
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Scholars of Idoma history have identified some pitfalls in this conception of Idoma ethnicity. Erim, for example, reasons that it is not entirely correct to synthesise fragmentary evidence as pertains enormously complex historical developments with respect to Idoma origins, society and culture 30. He points out that available evidence does not support the linguistic argument espoused for the Idoma, for on the contrary, indications are that the ancestors of these groups have come from various sources and directions. This makes it analytically and historically impossible to lump every ethnic group as deriving from the ‘Idoma tribe’. On his part, Ochefu points at the methodological defects inherent in lexico-statistical data and the degree of valid inferences that can be drawn from anthropological linguistics 31. Notwithstanding these criticisms, Armstrong’s contention that a proto-Yoruba-Igala-Idoma society gave birth to the Idoma still remains, by and large, valid.
IMG_00001830
So far, what we have been trying to do is to acquaint ourselves with the variegated perspectives on Idoma origins. It is clear from the above analysis that scholars are generally not agreed on the origins of the people. However, on the basis of these divergent views a number of conclusions can be drawn from which a clearer perception about the origins of the people could emerge. The first of these is that available linguistic and archaeological data have shown the antiquity of man in the Benue valley. Archaeological evidence for example, indicates that iron-working peoples inhabited the Middle and Lower Benue valley some 2,500 years ago 32. Similarly, ethnographical and anthropological surveys have proved
that the entire Benue valley was a great cultural watershed for a multiple African peoples 33. Indeed its rich natural endowments coupled with its accessibility attracted many peoples, with the implications of the preponderance of multi-ethnic social formations in the area. Available anthropological, ethnographical records as well as oral traditions of the peoples have attested to the fact that the Yoruba, Igala, Ebira and Idoma ethnic groups were the earliest inhabitants of the Middle and Lower Benue valley. But as Ochefu rightly argues, we cannot say whether these four distinct groups were hitherto a proto culture group, as Armstrong would have us believe. What is however probable is that intensive cultural, social, political and economic interactions between these groups tended to blur true ethnic and/or linguistic identities. Given the recent advances in historical genetics, perhaps a genetic mapping and analysis of the peoples of the middle and lower Benue areas will help clarify the extent of their relationships and differences.
Arising from the above is a second point, namely, until comparatively recent times, the word ‘Idoma’ was only a linguistic and not an ethnic appellation. While various speakers of this language had before the thirteenth century consolidated themselves on the Northern banks of the Benue and were recognized by both the Arab and European worlds, others were scattered on various locations in the Middle Benue, an area identified and referred to as Apa. The point therefore is that, the evolution of an Idoma ethnicity began only in the sixteenth century when a configuration of both centri-fugal and centri-petal forces compelled the people to vacate their Apa ancestral homeland to various places within the lower Benue. How this happened is what we now turn to in the analysis that follows.
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Idoma man at Agila carnival

The Idoma unanimously trace their traditions of origin to Apa (Beipi), tentatively associated with a one-time capital of the legendary Kwararafa confederacy, which before the fifteenth century was under the Abakpawariga. That a confederacy known and referred to as Kwararafa once existed within the Benue valley area has been asserted by several leading scholars36. Similarly, that the Idoma were one among the many ethnic groups of the confederacy is a fact that is not disputed 37. All Idoma traditions of origin agree that they left Apa because of the growing state of insecurity arising from constant warfare both from within and without the kingdom. It has been suggested by some scholars that following her defeat in the hands of Ali Ghaji (1476-1503), Kwararafa could no longer give a good account of herself. Indeed the era of decline had set in, and this coupled with the dynastic tussles associated with ascendancy of the Jukun on the corridors of power, aggravated the already confused situation. The result of these processes was the disintegration of the Apa society and therefore the beginning of the mass migrations of the Idoma and other ethnic group like the Igala and the Ebira, etc.
From evidences gleaned from the oral traditions of the people and supported by available documentary sources, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Idoma had begun to spread out over large areas of the Lower Benue, mainly South of that river. The result of this pattern of migration was that, over time, they became thinly dispersed over much of the territory now inhabited by the Tiv, the Igala and the Ebira as well as the Idoma. Erim dated this first wave of Idoma migrations to between c.1535-1625. According to him, the Ugboju, Adoka and Otukpo constituted this category of Idoma migrants. These migrations continued until the late eighteenth century when the Tiv began their vigorous push into the Benue valley. The arrival of the Tiv impacted tremendously on the Idoma during this period. For example, it disrupted the peace and tranquility that was gradually evolving. According to Erim, the consequence of this was the collapse of the evolving ‘new’ Apa (or what he calls Apa I)
That Tiv migrants easily displaced the Idoma is a fact that could be attributed to a number of factors. In the first place, the people were politically fragmented compared to their Tiv neighbours. Furthermore, they were numerically smaller than the Tiv. This is in addition to the nature and character of the migration process itself, for as O’kwu correctly observes, the Idoma were thinly spread over fairly extensive territory 40. The result of all these is that the people put up a feeble resistance to Tiv encroachment, hence their displacement from ‘Apa I’. The pressure of Tiv migrations was such that they entrapped an Idoma-speaking group, the Etulo, who did not move quickly enough. Isolated from the main body of their Idoma kinsmen today, they form a coterie of non-Tiv people in Katsina-Ala, the heart of modern Tivland. On their part, Doma and Keana also lost much of their territory and were progressively pushed further North from the river Benue.
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Another wave of migrations from Igalaland moved Westwards into modern Idomaland. These migrants identify Apa as the home of their ancestors, but nevertheless argue that after their departure from Apa at an earlier date, they migrated to parts of Igalaland. They were however soon compelled to leave that place for parts of Western modern Idomaland because of the political upheaval and confusion that resulted from the increased influx of migrants into the area and the rather explosive political situation of the time. Erim has contended that the bitter struggle which characterised political ascendancy in the Igala State with headquarters at Idah sent numerous migrants fleeing Eastward toward Idomaland between c1685-1715 41 . Today these migrants form the core of Western Idoma districts such as Otukpa, Orokam, Ichama and Edumoga. O’kwu reasons that these constitute the second category of Idoma migration, for among the people, it is this second migration that is remembered giving the impression that they are Igala by origin.
By about the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the process of the consolidation of new territories in which they found themselves had been completed. This consolidation was however at the expense of other numerically smaller ethnic groups like the Igede, Akweya and Ufia on whose territories the Idoma settled. While the Igede were pushed towards the Eastern fringes of the Idoma territory, the Ufia and Akweya were encircled by the Idoma and today constitute bilingual micro-nationalities in the heart of Idomaland. The point we are trying to put across here is that by the end of the eighteenth century, the Idoma ethnic group had firmly established themselves on their present location. Ochefu aptly puts it this way:
By the end of the eighteenth century, the process of incorporating social, political, religious and economic ideas that had been transmitted from their ancestral homeland with those that they had acquired during their (several decades of) migrations, and the adaptation of these ideas to their new environment, had by and large been completed.
As we shall subsequently see, this process was most thorough in religion and politics as reflected in the norms and values of the people, as well as their world view generally.
On the basis of the above analyses we make the following conclusions on the origins and development of Idoma ethnicity. Our first observation is that the people have been involved in migrations from the Apa cradle land, which brought them to their present location. These migrations were quite a complex affair and stretched over nearly two hundred years. This makes migrations an important aspect of their pre-colonial history. It is important to note here that both the historicity and location of Apa have evolved in the context of the people’s belief as real. Thus this makes Apa, in A. M. Adejo’s view, ‘… a place (that is) larger than life, real but also invested with myth’. The second observation is that, the people moved out of Apa in the legendary Kwararafa kingdom after its collapse not as a cohesive body under a single leadership.
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The migrations had been in waves under separate leaders. In the legends, these leaders are referred to as both the founders of the various clans and their chiefs. This meant at least two things: (i) these clans, for the most part, were independent of each other, and (ii), judging from their contemporary populations, the clans must have been very small in size during the period of their migrations. This scenario must have accounted for the relative ease with which the Tiv displaced the people from ‘Apa I’. Similarly, it must have accounted for the thinly dispersed nature and character of the people’s settlement pattern throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries within the Benue valley.

Our last observation is that, the people did not arrive their present location at the same time. In fact, the settlement process continued until the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The implication of all these is that the people made contacts and interacted extensively with several Nigerian ethnic groups during the period of their tortuous migrations from Apa to their present location and when they finally settled. These historical considerations perhaps explain the fact that the contemporary Idoma society consists of a heterogeneous number of populations, mysteriously speaking the same language.


Carnival photos is by courtesy of Apa (http://www.agilacarnival.com/)

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