There are over 250 ethnic groups that are scattered around Nigeria, and all these groups have different lifestyle and culture. Many of these tribes are minor both in land allocation and population. Taking time to learn about these different Nigerian ethnic groups will help you appreciate them better. In this review of the lifestyle and culture of Nigerian tribes, our focus is on the lifestyle and culture of Idoma people of Benue State. Join me as we explore this Nigerian ethnic group from the Kwararafa kingdom!
Facts About Idoma People
The Idoma are people that primarily inhabit the lower western areas of Benue State, Nigeria, and kindred groups can be found in surrounding states in Nigeria. Majority of their territory is inland, south of river Benue. Idoma people are known to be ‘warriors’ and ‘hunters’ of class, but hospitable and peace-loving. A greater part of Idoma land remained largely unknown to the West until the 1920s, leaving much of the colorful traditional culture of the Idoma intact.
The population of the Idoma is estimated to be about 3.5 million. The Idoma people have a traditional ruler called the Och’Idoma who is the head of the Idoma Area Traditional Council. Each community, though, has its own traditional chief. The basic social unit is the extended family, usually a man, his wives, their children, and the wives and children of his sons. Descent and inheritance are in the male line, and lineages are settled on identifiable tracts of land.
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The land inhabited by the Idoma is nearly all tropical uplands with open woodland, sometimes becoming open grassland or rain forest. Idoma economy is characterized by rainy-season agriculture and dry-season hunting. Large and small markets are held in rotation within the various districts. Within the general area, crafts such as the weaving and dyeing of cotton cloth and blacksmithing have been developed.
The traditional colours of the Idoma people are red and black stripes. This has only been around since the 1980s to foster a distinct Idoma identity. These colours are featured in their traditional attire popularly called, “Apa” by many parts of Idoma land. The black colour on the Idoma attire signifies the “earth and burial shroud,” while the red colour signifies “royalty or red feather.” The Idoma attire is worn during major events like burial ceremonies, weddings, festive periods and local meetings. This attire can be complemented with beads, horse tails, caps, shoes and so on.
The Idoma attire is well respected and it is a significant symbol in local meetings. It is important for every member of these local meetings must wear either a muffler, cap (for the men), or head gear (for the women), failure to appear in the regalia attracts fines or sometimes penalization. Idoma attire can be sewn in different forms: it can be sewn into wrappers, gowns, skirts and blouses, Kaftan, caps, mufflers. It can also be used as decorations during any festivities.
Another Idoma traditional attire is “Opa” which is also worn during burials. This Opa is mostly worn by chiefs and those who are buried. The black signifies mourning and the red signifies Alekwu, which means, the dead must be respected. Idoma people will always be known for their uniqueness with their cultural colours, Black and Red.
Idoma Traditional Food
The main traditional food peculiar to the Idoma people of Benue State is Okoho soup. It is a soup made from the Okoho stick which is very slimy after preparation. Usually, it is prepared with bush meat, and best served with pounded yam (aka Onihi). Sometimes, it can also be eaten with semolina, garri and yam flour. This soup is usually prepared without the use of oil. Okoho is the most served food in Idoma events like traditional weddings, burial ceremonies, birthdays and other festivities. Okoho soup is highly medicinal and also known for its ability to aid digestion.
Just like the other tribes in Benue State, the Idoma people love to have a taste of their traditional cuisine very often. If you want to taste what this Okoho soup, why not pay a visit to any Idoma family? I am sure you will be treated to hospitality at its very best!
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Idoma Traditional Festivals
The ‘Aje Alekwu’ festival – is a festival where traditional religious worshippers commune and make sacrifices in to their ancestors across the land. Idoma people have strong attachment to the worship of Alekwu-spirit of the ancestors. This spirit is believed to stand as an invisible watchdog of the family and communities, while also checkmating evils like adultery, theft and murder.
Idoma International Carnival is an annual event held in Otukpo in Benue State, Nigeria. This carnival was initiated by Prince Edwin Ochai in 2013 to showcase the rich social, cultural and Economic endowment of the Idoma Nation through art, craft and social exhibitions. This carnival is usually held between December 23rd to 25th annually, and it features parades, processions, burn fire and musical performances. On the last day, the carnival features the Face of Idoma beauty pageant, and a migration of the people from Apa to Otukpo.
Indeed, the lifestyle and culture of Idoma people of Benue State is very attractive and colourful. There are other cultural activities not mentioned in this article, like the Idoma traditional dance and marriage rites. You may click here to read more about other cultural events common with the Idoma people. I believe you will also enjoy learning more about them.
If you have any thoughts or additions about the lifestyle and culture of Idoma people, you may drop your thoughts in the comments section below.