In Igede, bad people are still buried in evil forest | Independent Newspapers Limited
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In Igede, bad people are still buried in evil forest

Posted: Apr 26, 2015 at 12:08 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos


According to oral tradition, the Igede people are said to have migrated from somewhere around the Niger Delta. They live in their present location in Oju and Obi Local Government Areas of Benue State. The Igede is one of the ethnic nationalities that make up the Middle Belt of Nigeria. The other ethnic nationalities include Idoma, Igala, Etulo, Tiv, Rindere, Ngas, Eggon, Zagon Katarf, Alogo, Berom, Mada, Izere, Ibira, among others.

Igede Agba masquerade

Igede Agba masquerade

The Igede people share common boundaries with the Idoma, Tiv, the Ogoja people of Cross River State and the Izzis of Anambra State. The Igede people are predominantly farmers.

Traditional institution

The traditional head of the Igede people used to be called Ad’Utu until the passing of Chief Ikande Idikwu. After his death, there was crisis over the succession to the throne. At a point, state government, as a of restoring peace in the land and temporarily solve the dispute over the seat, created the Ad’Oju and Ad’Obi chieftaincy stools.

These stools are neither classified as First Class nor Second Class, but the occupants merely assist the Och’Idoma, who is the paramount ruler of all Idoma people, including the Igede.

Currently, Augustine Egbere Ogbu is the Ad’Oju, while the Ad’Obi is Chief Cyril Okwute. However, there is an ongoing agitation for a First Class Igede Chieftaincy stool and the people are gearing up to mount pressure on the incoming state administration for the upgrading of Igede chieftaincy stool to a First Class Chief.

New Yam Festival

Like the Igbo, Igede people celebrate the annual New Yam festival, called Igede Agba. For its significance, Igede Agba is a cultural event, which comes up every first week of September. It marks the end of one planting season, when the people in very rich cultural displaying activities, give thanks to the gods for good harvest, and welcome a new planting season.

Traditional dancing and masquerades are also featured to add cultural value to the festival and every Igede son and daughter takes part in this ceremony.


One notable aspect of the people’s tradition strongly held onto this day has to do with the burial of indigenes’ corpses in a special forest. Corpses of people who are killed in accidents or during a war are regarded as special and are never buried anywhere near the home, but in an evil forest.

After or before burial of such a corpse, certain rites are performed to appease the gods of the ancestors. People of questionable characters are also buries in the evil forest.

Warding off witches and wizards

Igede people have what is called the Akpan. It is a kind of men’s society, ostensibly organised culturally to ward off witches and wizards from their homes. Before a new yam is deemed to have matured for harvest or ever eaten, members of the Akpan society must first perform their rites. Until that is done, any one or family who prematurely harvests or eats the new yam or buys it from another tribe’s market and brings it home, is deemed to have committed a taboo and is usually made to pay the fine of a goat, and such items. Failure to pay the fines attracts indescribable sorts of sickness and misfortune upon the offenders.


The Igede people practice both traditional and church wedding. Sometimes, traditional marriage supersedes in cases when couples are not rich enough to afford the luxury of white wedding. Thus, traditional marriage is essentials.

The process can begin either when a male child, who feels he is mature for marriage, sites a girl or woman he likes. The process can also begin when the man’s father or any of their relatives, friends, or neither think they have found a young woman they like for the man to take home as wife.

If the man likes the girl, his parents immediately go formally with kolanuts to the girl’s parents to seek their child’s hands in marriage. If the girl consents to it, negotiation as to the bride price to be paid is made.

In Igede, once the bride price is named and agreed to by the suitor, marriage preparations follows. It does not matter whether bride price is completely paid at or not paid at all, the couple are allowed to go ahead and get married and the suitor has the leeway under the tradition.

Interview with Chief Ode Ochi

The Chairman of the Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) in the South West Nigeria, Amb. Ochi Emmanuel Ode, the Ojikpururu 1 of Ibilla, Oju, Benue State, is a prominent Igede man. From his base in Lagos, he oversees the affairs of people of Middle Belt in the South West states. An Igede High Chief, he holds the people’s customs and tradition in high esteem, as he shows in this encounter with this reporter.

On core values 

Ochi Ode said: “Igede as a people, their core value is integrity. Igede is the third ethnic nationality in Benue State. We also have the Tivs, Idoma and Etulo. Among the tribes that constitute Benue State, ask what they consider the core value of an Igede person, they will not waste time to mention integrity. That is why in Igede today, if you  misplace you handset and a typical Igede man finds it, he will not take it for use. He will announce to all that he found a misplaced handset, or even money, for the owner to claim it.

“In Igede we don’t celebrate success that has no roots. That is why we don’t honour riches that do not have a clear bearing. People celebrate your success when the source is clearly ascertained. No matter how infuential you are, you are not recongised if people do not know your source of success.”

On celebration of death:

Ochi Ode stated: “Death is celebrated in Igede with a lot honour, especially if you lived clean and your life is based on integrity. That cannot be said of a pewrson whose wealth has question mark.

“Such a person’s death is treated with ignominy. There is no gun shots, no singing, no dancing, no celebration. Such a person is buried in a forest designated for such people. Such a death and burial is not announced.”

On the notion that Igede youths serve as house helps:

The High Chief said it is true. But he said that the practice has something to do with what he said about integrity.

“Like in the western world, between 20 and years, you hardly have money. You are regarded as a man under the tutelage of parents. But, with civilisation, people go out to make money any how.

“But a typical Igede man does not easily go out to work under people make a living. So, people go out to make a living. An Igede man cannot sacrifice a child or relation for money ritual. So, a typical Igede man is a peasant farmer and depends on his sweat and does not live on easy money.

“Holding to this core value of integrity seems to be a disadvantage to an Igede man. But, it is a disadvantage with honour. That is why you see many of them as house helps.

“But now, things are changing. People are now helping others to succeed. For instance, I have a Foundation which assists Igede sons and daughters, sponsoring people up to tertiary institutions. Some other people too are helping indigent students. When they come up, they will help others.

“My advice to some well-to-do Igede sons and daughters, who have not been helping others, should wake up and take it upon themselves to help others. Those who are helping are not doing it for personal gains or even for rewards from God, but to ensure that our people develop and improve.”

The Ibilla Town Hall Meeting 

As a High Chief of Ibilla in Igede, Chief Ode hosts a periodic Ibilla Town Hall meeting during which socio-political issues affecting the people and communities and area are resolved. What is the state of the that Forum?

His response: “This is an issue of leadership. Issues of leadership are involving ones that are seen to be done on daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis. If a leadership is stagnant, there will not be growth. A leader must have dreams of how to improve.

“Leadership is a continues process of doing things, rebranding and reinvigorating. Today, you call a town hall meeting. If the method used attracts continues followership, you continue to apply that system. But, if not, you change to another method.

“When we started the town hall meeting some years ago, the repose was encouraging. But at a time, we observed that attendance started to decrease and we started to ask questions. A leader must always ask questions like: ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ ‘How?’

“When you find answers to these important questions, you have arrived at a solution. If you can’t find answers to these questions, you are no longer a leader. That is how to keep the followers in constant zeal and hope in believing in what you are doing.

“A leader must explain the goals and objectives of what he is doing. Once this done, the people will stand by you. That is what we are doing as far as the Ibilla Town Hall Meeting is concerned. We are restructuring and rebranding. Very soon, it will bounce back.”