BRIEF HISTORY OF EGBURA PEOPLE

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Who are Egbura People?

THE PEOPLE
The people known presently as the Egbura is said to have belong to the ethnic groups in kwararafa with whom they had cultural link in one way or the other. They are the Jukun, the Igarra, the Agatu, the Alago and the Idoma. Others are the Nupe, the Eggon, the Gade, the Gomai, the Akye, the Oworo and many more. These peoples are said to have lived together in the old kingdom of kwararafa before the Kingdom disintegrated, forcing the linguistic group to migrate to the rivers Benue and Niger confluence areas and beyond. Record written by some historians reveal that the Egbura, a version of a name used in the 19th century traveler records, and in the official records from colonial days to early 1974, are believed to have their areas occupied by mono-cultural group referred to as Akpoto. Others in this group are the Igala, and the people in the areas which became Nasarawa Emirate and Keffi, said the have been occupied by this monocultural group.
According to Greenberg’s classification, all of the said people under the umbrella of Akpoto mono-cultural group are under the Kwa Group of the Mega Niger-Congo linguistic group. Some Scholars believed that the Mono-cultural group had a proto-language in close affinity with the Yoruba and Igala as accounted for by Samuel
Crowther. As a clear indication of the early mono-cultural group belonging to Akpoto there is a clan
greeted Onyebu of Akpoto origin who live among the Egbura community in Koton-karfi,
Umaisha, Toto, Abaji and Mozum areas. Furthermore, the Egbura living in these areas
are various known by their neighbours like the Hausa, the Fulani, the Yoruba and others,
as Koto and Kwotto. Thus, in Koton-karfi the word Koto has historical connection with
Akpoto, for the Egbura in Igu were mistakenly referred to as yet Akpoto (Koto) the
strong (Karfi), by the Hausa/Fulani who made first contact with them as stated in a record
in the Kaduna National Archives.
The word Egbura Koto were used for those of the communities that lived in the Kotonkarfi, Abaji, and Mozum Areas. The word Kwotto was used to described the Egbura
communities living in the old Opanda Kingdom which now comprises the present
Umaisha and Toto Areas.
Ebira or Igarra, trace their origin from Bira, a city or territory in the Upper Gongola
valley down the middle and the lower Benue River region, in the old Kwararafa kingdom.
In their migratory movements they emerged as a distinct people in the middle Benue
region in the area now occupied by the Tiv and the Idoma, and it is in this area they
identified themselves, and were recognized as people from Bira, hence they are called
Ebira.
In the course of their movements they intermingled with other peoples particularly the
Akpoto, acquiring their cultures and traditions.
Like many other peoples, the Ebira made their migration down-ward movement to Igala
land and consequently upwards movement to their present abodes, the Egbura crossing
the Benue to their present abodes in Koton-karfi, Toto, and Umaisha areas while the
Ebira and Igarra crossed the Niger to their abodes in Okene/Okehi and Igarra areas.

THE LANGUAGE
This has been split into two main dialects. One dialect is spoken by the people in the
Koton-karfe, Umaisha, Toto, Abaji and Mozum areas where the communities are
popularly referred to as Egbura.
The other dialect is spoken by the people localized in Okene and Okehi Local
Government area where they are referred to as Ebira. This dialect, Ebira, is also spoken
by up to about ninety-nine percent of it by the Igarra in Akoko Edo Local Government
area of Bendel State.
The differences in the two dialects, Egbura and Ebira are mainly in the sounds of Speech.
THE CULTURE
The Egbura as a people have very rich culture which constitute every aspect of their life.
From all available written records and experiences, the undermentioned groups of people
that in the past lived together in the Lower region of Benue, comprising the confluence of
River Niger and River Benue, and even beyond, have cultures which are very similar to
those of the Egbura.
The groups are the JUKUN, the IDOMA, the IGALA, the AKYE, the NUPE, the
AGATU, the EGGON, the GOMAI, and others which coexisted or interacted with the
Egbura during migration. The Egbura, however they may have their abodes, have
inherited cultures common to all of them, as handed down from their ancestors.
They have common occupations such as fishing for those along the rivers, and farming
for those living in the upper regions. They participate I handcrafts of similar kinds, for
example, weaving, dyeing, blacksmithing, carpentry, etc.
The Egbura and even the Igarra, have traditional forms of chieftaincy which are similar.
Their most respected and exalted traditional rulers are central authorities in their areas,
for example, the Ohimege Opanda in Umaisha and the Ohimege Igu in Koton-karfi, all of
whom are greeted Agaba Idu ( the wolf and the lion ) and as incidence of history, the Attah of Igala, the Aku Uka of Wukari, the Och-Idoma, etc, in the Benue region are
greeted Agaba Idu too.
Their Subjects which form smaller clans have their respective greetings and titles. Below
the Ohimege is his regent the Ondaki-ogbani, that is, the Madaki, greeted Wari who is the
head of kingmakers, below whom are title holders and other smaller chiefs, each called
Ohinoyi. They have their greeting too.
In Ebiraland the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland is the central authority, although in the past,
Ebiraland, then known as Igbirra Tao country, used to have no central authority, but
priest chiefs, in various clans. Below the Ohinoyi the highest title next to his is that of the
Ohindese, greeted Taru, and followed by title holders of nearly similar status or rank. In
Igarra where the language, Igarra, is spoken in nearly ninety-nine percent of Ebira dialect,
there is a traditional ruler and central authority known as Otaru, greeted Taru.
This greeting also applied to various chiefs in Koton-karfi, Umaisha, and Toto areas, as
well as in Okene and Okehi Local Government areas. The Igarra word Taru means
“Owner of the land”. The title next in rank to the Otaru is Okomayin. Each of the
traditional rulers is chosen according to age-old existing traditional methods, most of
which are through kingmakers. The title of rulers themselves rotate among ruling houses.
In the towns and villages controlled by them are ruled by heads of clans, or chiefs, called
Ohinoyi in some areas.
The Egbura as a people, have periodic cultural festivals, nearly all of which are seasonal
evens. Some festivals mark historical events while others mark harvest or planting
seasons, or even are for entertainments only. For example the Ogani festival in Umaisha
is celebrated yearly to mark the independence and sovereignty of the old Opanda
kingdom from Igala kingdom of the past.
The Akuki in Igu Koton-karfi, celebrates seasonally or as occasion demands, to fix prices
of foodstuffs newly harvested, while also playing the role of establishing social corrective
behaviours by stamping out evils, immorality, sins and other vices. The Ekuechi festival
in Okene/Okehi areas plays the same role of riding the Ebira society of evils, bad social
behaviours and vices.
In the cultural heritage of the Egbura/Ebira and even of the Igarra, mention has to be
made of their folklore embodying areas such as arts, customs and traditions

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ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
The Egbura as a people are naturally economically self-reliance, for their economic
activities more than cater for their domestic needs. They have long been known as
dedicated farmers, active fishermen, great traders, and able craftsmen. In fact, they have
engaged themselves in everything that can sustain life.
As a result of geographical spread of their abodes, the Egbura specialize in their various
activities reflecting the types of areas they are located. Those of them in the upper land
region engage in farming activities for the production of foodstuffs such as guinea corn,
millet, maize, rice, beans, cassava, cotton and other tropical products.
The Egbura who live in the rain-forest areas cultivate lands for paddy rice, maize etc, and
they are great fishermen. In Koton-karfi and Umaisha areas the fishermen go on annual
fishing expedition whereby they stay out for months on end during the fishing seasons.
They congregate in large groups at fish ponds all over the areas, and the expeditions take
place during a particular Egbura lunar calendar months. It is usually busy period, when
fishermen and traders live in make shifts tents of leaves, grass or mats, at one fish pond
after another.
In the field of crafts, the Egbura people are skilled weaver using various fabric produced
locally. They are engaged in dyeing cloths, for in nearly every community there are dyepits from which many methods of dyeing, for example, dye-tie, stenciling, and stitching,
are employed. Cloths are embroidered and some are worked in images of animals and
birds in coloured thread of indigo, red, yellow, dark, blue, white, and striped-blue.
The Egbura people are skilled silversmiths and blacksmiths, for they can produced earring, bungles, hoes, steel doors etc. when Mac-cregor laird visited the areas of Egbura
land in 1833 he talked of Egbura brass/bronze works. The “Urekpa” a stool which old
Ohimeges used as their seat, was produced by skilled silversmiths using clay and silver.
The Egbura are great wood carvers and carpenters. They produced wooden doors, plates,
utensils, handles for knives and hoes, spears, bows, etc.
The Egbura are great leather workers, efficient hunters, able pottery makers and even
brewers of native beers “ekye”. They are well known for painting and decoration, for on
the walls of their residential buildings types of decorations are seen hanging or fixed, such as artistically produced utensils, and others works of arts. They paint pots, doors,
plates, etc.
The Egbura people build mud houses of thatched grass roofs, with most building
structures being of round shape. There are usually a cluster of rooms making a compound
within which there is space provided for as a lobby for relaxation and meeting. In the
compound there may be as many families as possible. On the whole the Egbura people
are naturally creative, so that most of their activities connected with arts determine their
quality of life.

THIS AIRTICLE IS WRITEN BY: ISA HUSSAINI

REFERENCE/COPYRIGHT

BY: ISA HUSSAINI

The Culture of Egbura/Ebira (Including Igara Etuno)
Volume One

THE PEOPLE The Language The Culture Economic Activities

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