Al’igede (The Igede People) History, Culture And Traditions

The Igede people or ‘Al’igede’ as they are popularly called are great people with integrity and great history, with love we joined hands together in oneness to make things.

Igede people are the third largest ethnic group/tribe in the present-day Benue State of Nigeria, with a population of over 1 million people. The Igede people live in Oju, Obi, Konshisha, and Gwer West West Local Government Areas of Benue State, Yala in Cross River State, Osun, and Ogun States, Nigeria. Benue State is one of the Middle Belt states in Nigeria and is home to more than five ethnic groups of which Tiv, Idoma, and Igede, are the three major tribes in Benue.

 The Igede people are believed to have migrated from Sabon Gida Ora, in Owan West local government area of present-day Edo State over 400 years ago through their forefather known as “Agba”, who is said to be the 11th son of Orhiakpen 12 children.

A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF AGBA

Agba was a traditional medicine man, an herbalist, and a businessman, who had followers playing musical drums called “Ogede”.

This drum had a double side and as a result, Agba was nicknamed “Obo-Ogede” which is interpreted as a native doctor that plays the Ogede drum, from which the Igede people must have derived their name.

It is also noted that Agba was a renowned trader and tourist who traveled as far as Asaba, Ile-Ife, and Old Kwararafa kingdom which covers the Benue, Taraba, Kogi, and part of Nasarawa State today and beyond the River Niger. It was also believed that on one of his trips to the Kwararafa kingdom, he decided to marry and settle there.

THE JOURNEY EASTWARD

The Igede people are believed to have been led by one “Irumanyi” as they traveled eastward until they came to the bank of Oyongo River with seven tributaries. The river parted ways for the people to cross after they performed some rituals as demanded by the oracle.

They crossed to the other side of the river called “Utukenge”, where the Igabu, Opirikwu, Anyogbe, and Ikwuro people of the present Ogoja in Cross River State, who were part of this migration, parted from their Igede kith.

Al’igede continued their journey to Ipinu Igede, their present abode from where each clan moved to its present location.

THE ORA VERSION

The Igede language is a member of the Benue-Congo subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family.
History has it that, the IGEDE people formally settled around Sabongida ORA in the present Owan West Local Government Area, Edo State, in the South-South region of Nigeria.

The popularly known account (known as the Ora version), asserts that the migration of the IGEDE people can be traced to a ceramic object (clay pot) known as OTA (pot) in the Igede language.

History had it that an ORA woman borrow a clay pot from an IGEDE woman and went to the stream to fetch water. The pot accidentally fell off and broke into pieces and when the Ora woman returned and pleaded with the owner (IGEDE) to allow her replaced the clay pot, The Igede woman insisted to collect her original pot and not a replacement. She was forced to replace it with the same pot instead of a new pot. This resulted in an escalated dispute between the two women.

Igede Woman with her Ota (pot)

The ORA woman apologized and accepted to bear the responsibility of replacing the pot, but the IGEDE woman insisted that she must be given her original pot. This is the bone of contention that ultimately forced the IGEDE people out of their original homeland.

Contrary to the popular myth that the Igede people were chased out of Ora from war due to a fight over a broken pot. Their father AGBA who was a far traveler only decided to settle where the Igede’s are found today.

It is a known fact that all Ora people are direct descendants of Oba Ozolua the emperor of Benin Kingdom who reigned between 1481 and 1503 AD. This means that Agba and all his Igede children ‘Al’igede’ are of the Royal Blood of the Oba of Benin Kingdom.

THE PEOPLE’S LANGUAGE AND RELIGION
 
The Igede tribe communicates in one language, “Igede language”.

They are predominantly Christians, though they have traditional worshippers among them.

In time past, every family had their own form of worship and the deity to which they paid homage. There is no known deity among the people.

MAJOR OCCUPATION AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

Al’igede’ are predominantly farmers, hunters, potters, blacksmiths, and warriors.  Although the Igede Nation unarguably has attained enviable heights in all ramifications in recent years.

Yam, cassava, rice, Beniseed soup (African sesame seed), groundnut, guinea corn, soya beans, millet, maize, palm, and palm oil are their agricultural products. The people also like Hunting, Fishing, and Livestock keeping.

Today, the blacksmithing sites called ‘Utyo’, still exist in their communities. These sites are where the Igede people made their own farm tools and weapons of war.

The most popular crop produced by the Igede farmers is yam, which is considered the best food that is befitting to the best stranger, especially when pounded. It is often eaten with Beniseed soup (African sesame seed) called ‘oroho nya ehia in Igede’.

Although the relevance of pottery and hunting expedition in Igede culture appears to be waning and losing its value in an unprecedented dimension in modern times. The clay pot (OTA) is very significant in Igede’s history and culture.

Besides, the Igede man does not look for trouble but is ready to welcome it when it comes. This is why it is believed in some quarters that we have unforgiving nature.

IGEDE  COMMUNITY ARRANGEMENT  

The Igede live in compact settlements in village and clan arrangement with the oldest male being the head of the family group.

Their own system of social control revolved around Achukwu and Akpang which were believed to punish those who violated the native laws and customs.

They had various festivals like Igede Agba (New yam festival), and Evo which they used to accentuate their cultural heritage.

THE IGEDE CULTURAL/ TRADITIONAL ATTIRE

The Igede people have traditional cloth called “Ogodogodo” which they wear on special occasions like festivals, the coronation of a chief, weddings and burial ceremonies, etc.

Read more about the Igede Cultural Attire (Ogodogodo), mode of dressing, the meaning, and importance behind the colours here.

MARRIAGE CUSTOM

An interesting piece of the Igede culture is their marriage custom. This custom necessitates that the group of the bride and groom start the marriage arrangements early with one individual from every family addressing the whole family as a spokesman.

This spokesman negotiates on behalf of the groom’s family and reports to the family and the spokesman from the bride’s family relays decisions of the family to the groom’s family. The fathers of both the bride and the groom have no say in the process.

The method begins with the first introduction during which palm wine and kola must be made available by the groom’s family. Another date is fixed for the celebration with the bride’s family if the marriage proposal is accepted.

DOWRY PAYMENT IN IGEDE CULTURE: The dowry payment is the key proof of rightful marriage, not a wedding. Wedding is a western culture in line with church however women thought that wedding ceremony is the ultimate. In Igede culture, dowry payment is the head, due to the fact it involves notifying kinsmen and meeting up with vital requirements, blessings, and handing over the girl to the husband in the presence of both parents. It is more legitimate and traditional than a wedding. Without a wedding, you are rightful and completely married under dowry payment.

After this, on a set date, the family of the bride, led by the spokesman, takes the bride to the groom’s family where she is now taken in amidst celebration as the wife of the groom. This celebration isn’t finished without the presence of “Ihite” the respected dried bush meat.

To seal the marriage, the next day, local gunshots must be fired by the groom’s family. This welcomes the whole local area to come and witness the marriage and join the celebration. This discharge likewise solemnizes the marriage and makes it binding such that it becomes taboo for any other man to have an affair or marry the new bride.


At last, the bride plays out her first obligation as a spouse by cleaning the whole compound and bringing water from the stream with her ladies.

THE PROHIBITION OF MARRIAGE TO THE TIV PEOPLE: Marriage is an institution ordained by God and is regarded globally as a matrimonial relationship and or union of the person(s) who most frequently are normally of the opposite sex.

The ban on marriage by an Igede man or woman to a Tiv man or woman is some other distinct culture of the Igede people.

This is rooted in the belief that the Tiv indigenes do not forbid sexual relationship between relatives.

This ban on marriage is earnestly adhered to, such that when the groom is a Tiv man, no one collects the bride price of the lady. When a man insists on marrying a Tiv woman, she is publicly mock by other Igede ladies throughout festivals and community gatherings. This is the same for an Igede woman who insists on marrying a Tiv man.

IGEDE AGBA FESTIVAL CELEBRATION

The Igede people celebrate a significant festival called ‘Igede Agba.’ This festival is celebrated to remember their father “Agba” and history.

Igede Agba celebration comes up annually between the 1st and 5th of September (usually on the 1st ‘Ihigile Market Day’ of September in the Igede market calendar which comes up after ‘ihiokwu market’ in September month.) and is a cultural anniversary commemorating the progenitor of the Igede people; thanksgiving to God (Ohe) for the bountiful harvest of new yams and further petitions for ensuing better yields.

The new yam which means ‘ijwu inyewe ‘as one of the numerous crops produce in abundance, fowls, goats, cows are slaughtered as well hunters do their best to provide several varieties of bush meat ranging from antelopes, glasscutter, rabbits etc. The women prepare any of these with Egwusi soup  ‘Oho nyibehyi’ or Beni seed soup ‘Oho Nyihia’ in Igede dialect, and related desired soup by celebrants are served with the pounded yam significantly thanking gods of harvest.

The festival is generally mistaken for the new yam festival because it is celebrated on the first ‘Ihigile’ market day in September which is coincidentally the same time new yam is harvested.

Ritual before the celebration on the expression of gratitude, jubilation for bounty harvest, and Life to witness the celebration. It is however now, dependent on whom you are been thankful to as regards your belief.  

The highlight of the festival is the display of traditional fashion. The Igede fashion showcases different forms of dressing in the ‘Ogodogodo’ attire.
The Ogodogodo attire is a fabric of three colours; blue, white, and black which represent the Igede flag.

Al’igede festival also involves eating yam, drinking palm wine, and more. The Igede people are known to enjoy pounded yam with either melon or sesame seed soup.

There’s music and various kinds of dance. The young men perform the ‘Aita’ dance, the warriors perform the ‘Oginrye’ dance, and the women perform the ‘Ihi’ dance, which is based on gossip and complaints.

The festival is completed with visits by the young ones to the homes of the elderly ones. They go with food and drinks which they present to the elders and sit around to listen to tales of their history, heritage, and culture.

The aim of the Igede Agba Festival terms to unity, bringing peace to clans (upuma) in igede dialect, village (epweji), lineages (imwuahu), families (ugbiyegwu)

The goal of the Igede Agba Festival terms to unity, bringing peace to clans (upuma) in Igede dialect, village (epweji), lineages (imwuahu), and families (ugbiyegwu).

Below are the relevance of the Igede Agba festival and its significance to the Igede people

  • It is an occasion that brings unity among the Igede people.
  • It is a day of thanksgiving to divinity.
  • It is a peace-keeping festival.
  • It is a season and festival for reconciliation, harmony as farm produce, food is shared with individuals who do not have enough to eat, on this day, they are no point in eating alone. A true son of Igede must share between one, two, or more people to attain a standard of a hospitable attitude of Igede people.
  • It is a day of visitations as such, one is expected to visit one another being thankful to gods of the yam for the bountiful harvest, demonstrating by giving to the needy and practice of genuine love among Igede people and none Igede at the festive time.
  • It is a day and time for cleanliness. Foot pathways to farm, bush around houses are cleared before the day of the festival for guests to have a sense of the beauty and neatness, uniqueness of the festival.
  • The relevance of this festival is also drawn by seeing the festival above a tradition, and as marking the season as the end of the yam farming cycle and the beginning of another.

Maybe it is why Igede’s cultural settings towards the event are open to the general public, neighbor’s, and relatives to join the celebration mode.

Also Read: The first edition of Igede Agba festival

IGEDE TRIBUNAL

The Igede tribe is generally known for honesty. This has been instilled in the people by their traditional tribunal. This tribunal holds at the ‘Ojya,’ the community square. The tribunal becomes necessary whenever disputes arise.

Al’igede learned to be honest at the tribunal because dishonesty at this tribunal is always visited with a mysterious death. Owing to this, honesty became second nature to the people.

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