By Adakole Ijogi
I began this journey by conversing with history Professors, reviewed available cultural and traditional antiquity, researched relevant literature and recounted oral historical Ufia and Idoma accounts on migration, settlements, genealogy and socio-anthropology.
I came across various accounts of the history of the Idoma people, while reviewing some I took the liberty to study the common and uncommon ones. The oral account of Idu, the son of Oma as the father of the Idoma nation, narrates that Idu begot Agabi who is the father of Otukpo People; Olinaogwu, the father of the Ugboju People; Ananawoogeno the father of the Igumale People; Idum who is the father of Adoka People; Eje the father of the Oglewu People; Ode the father of the Yala People; and Edeh the father of the Edumoga People. This version is rather ambiguous, incomplete, insufficient and possibly misleading. While this oral historical account might have some pale validation, migration trends, settlement patterns and other oral accounts makes it a single story without concrete deductive conclusions.
The contradiction of this account raises so many pertinent questions, like asking rhetorically, how about the Apa – Agatu people and the Akweya in Benue State, the Yache in Cross River State and the Alago in Nasarawa State? Secondly the name “Idu” is circumspect, as the Attah of Igala is addressed as “Agaba Idu”, which means “Lion of Lions” in Igala language, a people with long standing culture and heritage. It also has the same meaning in most cultures around the Niger and Benue valley. Therefore making the “Idu” version is rather a disingenuous attempt to validate the single story.
There is the also oral historical account of Idu from the Igala extraction, who migrated from Ankpa to present Idoma lands, in searching for this brother of theirs, the Igala’s began to ask in context “Idu Oma”, meaning where is Idu?
There is another account that also recounts the Otukpa people as a single unit migrated from Igala land and settled with Igbo people, and that the Otukpa and Orokam people have three ancestors, Owuno, Ameh-Ochagbaha and Oodo, the first two migrated from Igala land and Oodo their third brother migrated from Igbo land.
Some other account also puts the Akweya (Akpa) found presently in Otukpo Local Government Area in Benue State and in Yala Local Government in Cross River State, to have in the 15th century settled in eastern Cross River State, till when Okennachi, the first Igbo Eze Aro invited them (Akweya) to assist the Arochukwu to overrun the Ibibio’s. Prince Osim and Akuma Nnubi (Akpa aborigines) heeded to the call and joined forces with the Igbo Arochukwu’s in the Igbo/Ibibio war.
The Akweya, Akpa people then migrated northwards to settle in their current location in Benue state in the early 16th century. They too also trace their history to Kwararafa and Igala. Evidential and verifiable history points to the fact that Akweya (Akpa) were the first to settle in this present lands, migrating from Cross River State, to Igbo lands of Arochukwu and then to Benue State sometime in the 16th century.
All these accounts point to the fact that migration to these land were not in one fell swoop but in batches, groups come one after the other. History puts the Akweya (Akpa) as the first to arrive, then the Igede, followed by the Ufia people, then others, the Igumale group were the last to settle in, oral history has it that the Ufia and Agila people had to shed some of their lands to accommodate their brothers and sisters the Igumale people.
OTUKPO ALEKWU PEOTRY,MIGRATION & SETTLEMENT IN CURRENT LOCATION
In the Otukpo Alelewaafia masquerade tradition, this poetry renders in chronological term the genealogy, linage, sojourn and conquest of the Otukpo people. Professor Idris Amali in his account “Alekwu Poetry as a Source of Historical Reconstruction” affirms that the “Otukpo people” alekwu posits in poetry that “we went and lived at Okpaele, where these Umogidi people had remained, we left Okpaele eee! We went to live at Okwutachi, then the war broke out between us and Adoka people”. Meaning the Adoka people were already settled in their current location before the Otukpo people. The alekwu also narrates “Oko” as the progenitor of all Otukpo people, also contradicting the “Idu” as father of “Agabi” the father of Otukpo people. Can Alekwu be wrong?
The Alekwu also narrates the Otukpo people to have migrated from Apa in Kwararafa. Reviewing historical text from Kwararafa shows no historical mention or documentation of a town or village in modern or ancient times around the Benue valley upper or lower named “Apa”. This historical account of the Jukun and the Kwararafa kingdom has no mention of Idoma BUT has Igala well documented, during the Igala resistance and rebellion from Kwararafa. However, the Jukun’s call themselves “Wapan” people of Apa maybe.
Besides, the Kwararafa was a confederacy of many tribes, Kuteb, Igala, Alago, Eggon, Gomai, Idoma, Nupe, Gwandara, Gbagyi, etc.
The point is Kwararafa is not a place of origin but a point of reference in the time of the Jukun Kingdom, the Junkun’s even trace their origins to Yemen. More so, the Jukun language has no similarity with any of the languages spoken in Idoma land.
On language, Dr. Samuel Johnson, an American author in 1773 made a profound statement in reference to language and genealogy by stating that “there is no taking the connection of ancient nations, but by language”. The Idoma has multiple dialects, versions and variations, namely: the western Idoma dialect (Okpokwu and Ogbadibo), Central Idoma (Otupko and Ohimini), Southern Idoma (Ado) and Northern Idoma (Apa and Agatu), the Oju and Obi variation, Idoma Nokwu found in Keana and Doma in Nasarawa State, Iyala, in Ogoja, Cross River State and Etilo variation.
In expanding investigations on who is Idoma, kindly pay attention to what our fellow Middle Belters (in the upper and lower Niger and Benue Valley) and what they call the people who speak the language spoken by the Edumoga and Otukpo people. The Igala’s call them “Akpoto,” people, the Nupe’s call them “Akpoto”, the Alago calls them “Apoto”, same for the Habe Hausa, Gbagi, Jukuns and Gomai people. In fact the Ufia people also call that language “Akpoto”. In local parlance Igala conversations, the people of Ankpa in eastern Igala land are humorously referred to as “Akpoto” people.
However, there are some historical literature which postulate that “Akpoto” can be considered as an autonomous group that fabricated the creation of the Igala, Idoma and Igbira groups in the early 12th century; that they are essentially one people with migration and settlement influences in their language variations.
Fact: There is no word or meaning for “Idoma” in any of the dialects or variations of these languages in reference to a people. Each dialect or variation calls each by who they are. Akpa people, Otukpo people, Edumoga people, Igede people, Agila people, Agatu people, Ufia people, Adoka people, Ijigbam people, Ekle people, Apa people, Otupka people, Orokram people, Okpoga people, Ichama people, Owukpa people, Oglewu people, Iyala people, Alago people, Eggon people, etc.
More so, there was no central ruler in Idoma land until 1947, owing to the multiplicity of ethnicity and language variations of the people. The Ochi’doma was a creation of the British for colonial administrative purposes. Hitherto main traditional title and chiefs were homogenously tied and connected to the Igala traditional rulership of the Attah of Igala. Kindly note that he is NOT “Attah of Idah” but Attah of Igala.
In fact, in pre-colonial times there were only two notable chiefs/rulers in the whole of what is called Idoma land: the Olong Wu’fia and the Och’Otukpo. Note that you had Oche of Otukpo (King of Otukpo people), not Oche (King) for Adoka people. Same goes for the Olong Wu’fia (King of Ufia people), not Olong (King) of Akweya people. In all of my sojourn I have come to the conclusion that: Idoma is NOT a Language but a PEOPLE. The Idoma People Consist of: Benue State, Nasarawa State, Cross River State, Ebonyi State
Alago People – Igede People
Ukelle People – Apa People
Etulo People – Uffiom People
WHO ARE THE UFIA PEOPLE?
The Ufia people are situated in Utonkon, Ado Local Government Areas of Benue State. The Ufia language is linked to the East Benue Congo Bantu languages group, said to be slightly related in linguistic context to the Ekoi (Ejagham), Ukelle, Atam, Boki, Mbembe and Yako in Cross River State and Uffiom in Ebonyi State. Available history narrates the Ufia to have migrated from northern Cross River State to Ebonyi State and then to Utonkon their current location.
As it is with most tribes in Nigeria, origins of their ethnicity and migration is sketchy, however the Ufia people trace their migration from northern Nigeria and settled in present day Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State, bounded by the Ejegham to the east and Effik to the south. After hundreds of years, some Ufia groups left their kith and kin, found in present day Yala LGA, the Ukelle people who speak a dialect of the Ufia language, and migrated to current day Ebonyi State.
The Ufia people in search of their fellow sojourners, better lands, living conditions and due to the series of conflicts with the Ezza and Igbo people, further migrated northwards to settle in the their current location in Utonkon, Ado Local Government in Benue State in early 16th Century.
The Ufia people also left some of their kith and kin in Effum in Ohaukwu LGA, Amuda, Okpoto, Ntezi, Nkalagu in Ishielu in Ezza LGA in Ebonyi State, they also speak the Ufia language.
The Ufia people are ancestrally linked to the Ukelle (KuKelle) people who make up roughly half of the population of Yala Local Government in Cross River State. The Ukelle people are bounded in the north by Igede people of Benue State, in the south and west by Izzi people of Ebonyi State and Yache of Cross Rivers State. (See Amauray Talbot “Peoples of Southern Nigeria” Volume 2, 1969.)
The Ukelle’s refers to a village assembly as “Ojilla” and Funeral as “Kulu”, same in Ufia, but has a 26% linguistic similarity with the Ufia language.
The Britannica Journal and other verifiable accounts links the Ufia language to Kukelle and the Kukelle to the Ekoi (Ejagham) language, one of the Bantu languages, in Nigeria. This group migrated from the North in the 9th Century and lived in proximity with the Effiks of southern Nigeria. The Ekoi people in Cross River State can also be found in southern west Cameroon. They were divided by the German and British colonial holdings in Africa. (See German/Ekoi War, 1891. Many Ekoi where taken to Cuba and Brazil as slaves.)
There are some words and cultural similarity with the Ekoi (Ejagham) people in Cross Rivers State and the Ufia people, like “Ekpe” meaning the same thing in both languages. The Ekpe Leopard Secret Society of the Ekoi People, thrived for hundreds of years and developed Nsibidi an indigenous symbol writing system, invented over 1,000 years ago pictograms, early forms appeared on excavated pottery, ceramic stools and headrest that dates back to 400AD – 1400AD.
In Lexicostratigraphy tracing the geographical location and linguistic change in the Koring (Oring) language by the Journal for African Studies, investigated the Koring and Igbo languages and settlements in Ebonyi State, using the 1,000 words link parameter, established that the Koring people were the first to settle in current day Ebonyi State, which is the last place the Ufia were before migrating to their current location in Ado local Government in Benue State.
The settlement in Yala LGA in Cross Rivers State bring to close proximity the historical linkages beween the Igede, Otukpo, Edumoga, Agila and Akweya people in present day Benue State. Yala is populated by four ethnic languages: Iyala, Igede, Ukelle and Yache people, this settlement is a microcosm of the inhabitation of the greater Idoma lands in Benue State. The Iyala in Cross River State is closely related to the Otukpo/Edumoga people in Benue State, the Igede in Cross River is closely related to the Igede in Benue State, the Ukelle in Cross River State is closely related to the Ufia people in Benue State and the Yache closely related to Akweya (Akpa) people in Benue State.
On the genealogy of the language the Ukelle dialect has been mixed with the neighboring Effik and Ejagham language, while the Uffiom, Okpoto, Ntezi, Nkalagu and Amudah dialect has also been over the years infused with Ezza and Igbo languages. The Ufia people in Utonkon have, to the larger part, kept their dialect undiluted, they have spoken this dialect for over five hundred (500) years.
My Humble Position: If Idoma is a language then the Ufia people are NOT Idoma, BUT if Idoma is a people, as I have pointed out THEN the Ufia People are Idoma.
▪︎ Ijogi, an Ufia man from Benue State, lives in Abuja