The people of Idoma perhaps have one of the most fascinating cultures in Nigeria (West Africa). They are a people exceptionally proud of their native heritage and are known to have the preserved many of their ancestors’ traditions – a number of them present in their mixture of elaborate traditional tales, artistic expressions, music and varied culture elements.
Known to be the second largest ethnic group in Benue State (Middle belt – Nigeria), these people can be found in parts of Nasarawa (Middle belt) and Cross Rivers States (South South).
Like any other society, Idoma people reveal their customs, traditions, beliefs, norms and lifestyle through the distinctive behavioral traits. So, Ibiene brings you these notably peculiar facts that have now marked out the Idoma among other ethnic groups in the country.
The first thing that sets the people of Idoma apart is their love for the red and black colours- red signifying royalty and black strength. History has it that in other to foster a distinct identity, the people, during the 1980’s, decided to start using the red and black stripes colours as their traditional colour.
Popularly known for the love of good food, the Idomas usually hosts an annual food festival to celebrate and showcase the cuisines they have to offer. Among the various cuisines, the most popular is the Okoho soup (a meat rich slimy soup) usually eating with Eba, fufu or pounded yam (swallows). The soup is made with the peculiar Okoho plant, bush meat, and other local ingredients.
Still connected to food, the men are obliged by tradition to pound yam for their wives. This is unlike other cultures where the woman is expected to perform all culinary chores. Well the idoma men are not included in the exemption list. According to history, the job of pounding yam is one of the expectations of the Idoma men and serves as a masculine chore. This still sounds strange to men of other cultures.
Apart from Christianity and other new religions which majority of the people practices, the traditional people strongly believe in the ‘Alekwu spirit’, an ancestral god seen as a link between the living and the dead. Annually, they host an annual ‘Aje Alekwu’ festival where traditional religious worshippers commune and make sacrifices in to their ancestors across the land. The Idomas have strong attachment to the worship of Alekwu-spirit of the ancestors which is believed to stand as an invisible watchdog of the family and communities while checkmating vices like adultery, theft and murder.
The marriage rites and customs of the Idoma people are similar to that of the Igbos (Easterners) and some other South-Eastern cultures, yet there are specific aspects that clearly distinguish their tradition. One of them is the fact that the groom and his family have to present the bride with a rooster and some money on the marriage day after the dowry has already been paid. If the bride accepts, it is a sign of approval and if she rejects, disinterest.
The people of Idoma are ruled till date by a traditional ruler (although due to democracy they have political leaders). The leader is referred to as Och’Idoma and he resides in a palace in Otukpo (one of the major cities).
Alphabets and Numbers:
While everyone else counts in tens, the Idomas counts in twenties. Their alphabets are a b gb d e ē f g h I j k l m n ng o õ p kp r s t u w y ch gw kw nw ny mn.
One more thing you should know about the Idomas is that it is considered rude to ask a guest if thy will eat something. According to their culture, it is expected that the host presents the food and leave it to the guest to accept or reject.
What a beautiful culture!
What else have we missed about the people of Idoma? Please share with us in the comment section.