Apart from the Tivs and the Idomas, the Igede people are also a large ethnic group in Benue State. The people are found in two Local Government Areas of the state which are Oju and Obi Local Government Areas. The total population of the people is over 2 million which are dispersed across the state and the nation. Apart from Benue State which is their home, they are also found in parts of Cross River, Osun, and Ogun States. Igede is the main language spoken and they are also related to other ethnic groups such as Tiv, Idoma, and Etulo. The people practice Christian and traditional religion.
CULTURE AND TRADITION
The traditional head of the Igede people used to be called Ad’utu. These days, the people are led by the Ad’oju and Ad’obi. These titles were created after the series of crisis that occurred for the succession of the last Ad’utu. The Ad’oju and Ad’obi serve as assistants to the Och’Idoma who is the paramount ruler of all Idoma people. The current Ad’oju is Augustine Egbere Ogbu, while the Ad’obi is Chief Cyril Okwute.
The people celebrate the annual New Yam Festival just like other ethnic groups, such as the Igbos. The New Yam Festival here is called ‘Igede Agba’. The festival is being held annually in the month of September. It marks the beginning of new yam planting every season. The people who are predominantly farmers see yam as the most palatable of all the food crops. The festival is an opportunity for the people to display their rich culture; give thanks to the gods for a good harvest, and welcome a new planting season. Traditional dancing and masquerades are also featured to add cultural value to the festival. Every Igede sons and daughters, home and abroad, participate in this festival.
Based on the people’s religion, they do both church and traditional wedding. The traditional wedding involves the man asking out a woman he likes when he is matured enough for marriage. The wedding process can also begin with the man’s father or any other relatives choosing a wife for the man. If the man likes the girl, his parents immediately go formally with kola nuts and palm wine to the girl’s parents to seek their child’s hand in marriage. If the girl consents to it, a negotiation starts as regards the bride price. Marriage preparation follows the payment of bride price (it does not matter if it is paid partially or not at all). The wedding goes ahead and it is always a beautiful ceremony. The Igede attire is displayed which is a combination of white, black and blue woven stripes.
One of the notable aspects of the people’s tradition is the burial of the indigenes’ corpses in a special forest. People killed with arms or during a war are regarded as special and are never buried near homes but in a forest. Certain rites are performed to appease the gods on behalf of the corpses. People of questionable characters are said to be buried in the evil forest as well.