It is no longer news that the Egbira speaking people of Nigeria are scattered all over the world. But what is yet to be ascertained is how they are able to preserve their cultural identity as a people.
Recently, the Egbira speaking people from Kogi, Nasarawa and Edo states gathered in Okene, the commercial nerve-centre of Kogi state and one of the largest Egbira concentration areas, to celebrate. Our Kogi state correspondent, MOMOH OBANSA, who witnessed the occasion, capture the frills, the thrills and glamour in this piece.
The Egbira nation whose origins can be traced to Jukun in Kwararafa kingdom, consists of the people known today as Ebira Tao people of Kogi Central, the Egbura of Kotonkarfe and Mozum also of Kogi State, the Egbura Toto and Umaisha, (Opanda) all in Nassarawa State, the Egbura of Abaji in the FCT and the Etuno of Igarra in Akoko Edo area in Edo state.
Even though the association was formesd almost ten years ago, the convergence of the people at this point according to Alhaji Musa Ahmodu, the immediate past SSG to kogi state government, is historic being the first ever Egbira Ohiku day celebration to be held.
This day is expected to symbolize the oneness of all Egbira people wherever they may find themselves. According to the president Mallam Bukar, the Egbira day celebration shall now be an annual event where the people shall come together to demonstrate their oneness, display their rich cultural heritage and to reflect on the memory of a wonderful past existence anchored on love and the rich history which is fast fading away.
The Speaker of the Kogi state House of Assembly who also received an award from the union during the occasion, said the event is important and historic, as according to him it was a celebration of a common history and heritage, culture and commonality, aspirations and interest and the great men of courage of Egbira extraction.
He said it is not out of place given the socio-cultural affinity and common historical background to establish Egbira ‘empire’ or nation in Nigeria to provide a common forum for the disintegrated Egbira descendants all over the country, saying that this will propel them to adopt the Philosophy of late Dr. Kwame Nkuruma of Ghana “An injury to one is an injury to all”.
Alhaji Bello added that due to the geographical location and population strength, the Ebira Tao where he hails from remained the center for this large Empire, saying they cannot afford to fail their other brothers.
The lawmaker opined that the name Egbira never rang bell in any negative form in the past, but rather the name symbolizes excellent character, behaviour and performance, adding that this was the time when the presence of an Egbira man or woman in any gathering was viewed as a sign of good luck to the entire gathering by other ethnic groups across the country.
He stressed that the people must always respect and revere the traditional institutions of the Egbira people as the custodians of the peoples cultural heritage as well as the traditional rulers waking up to their functions and the numerous challenges confronting the people.
Perhaps one unique feature and bond which was clearly revealed is the similarity in culture and the ability of the people to understand each other despite their geographical differences.
One other common feature among the people is the similarity in cultural displays and dance steps which thrills the people as all joined in the merriment making it looks as if there were no differences.
The custodian of the tradition of the people of Ebira Tao, who is also thé Paramount ruler of the people of Ebira land His Majesty Alhaji, (Dr.), Ado Ibrahim the Ohinoyi of Ebira land who presided over the occasion said the main aim of the organization is to acknowledge the fact that the people are of the same ancestry.
The royal father noted that the coming together of all the Egbira speaking people would help rekindled the fast fading culture and values of the people.
He dwelt extensively on the previous unsuccessful attempt made by the people to secure a state where there would similarity in language and cultural affinity. According to him, the people have been involved in the creation of states based on historical factors, but have not come out strongly to potentate a successful end.
The Royal father noted with pains the incoherent political consideration given for the merger of the defunct Kabba province to Ilorin province to form the then Kwara state, adding that the incoherence became obvious when the Igalas opted from kwara state to join Benue state.
King Ado stressed that this move by the Igalas was not based on their consideration of political convenience, this time, but on the remnants of ethnicity.
He said that the creation of kogi state was not laid on a Strong foundation which has now rendered the structure very weak to hold the three different zones together giving room for perceived marginalization by one.
“It became clear that there was too much sand in the cementation of aggregates which rendered the structure weak, so weak that our brothers, the Igalas from the former eastern part of Nigeria became the strongest leg and the political egg head of the old tripodial Kabba province now kogi state” he said with pains.
The paramount ruler thanked all those who worked tirelessly for the success of the inaugural Ohiku day celebration, saying that peace and unity which is the bedrock of development should be the watch word of all Egbiras.
In conclusion he said, “We the Egbira speaking people of blessed country have resolved with very strong ethnic voice supported by factors of economic viability, human and intellectual resources and those among us, with whom we share in mutual respect and aspiration, to unconditionally form, by the power of the constitution, a state through which run that mutual respect and linguistic affinity to be named the confluence state of Nigeria”
Also speaking, Barrister Sam Obaro, the Oshireku of Etuno land in Igarra in Edo state said the occasion has made them to re-discover their lost rich cultural heritage. He pointed out that coming together as one will guarantee the Egbira race the needed unity and give them their rightful place in the scheme of things.
The Oshireku which means war commander, noted with great emphasis that though the Egbira people are warriors, but said they are very peaceful and law abiding people.
He said the recent violent act in some parts of Egbira land was alien to the people, saying with such periodic coming together, the matter could be put to rest.
In his speech at the occasion, General Chris Alih former chief of Army staff call for peace and unity among all the Egbiras irrespective of dialectics and geographic difference saying they should work against surrendering their uniqueness.
He urged them not to lose their culture which has been the identity of Egbira people worldwide saying that if ” one loses ones culture that person is dead” he counselled.
On the education of the women folks, the general maintained that it is the only way to keep connecting this generation with the incoming ones while advising for urgent attention for equal opportunity for the women like their male counterparts.
While reaffirming the commitment of the Egbira people to the Nigeria project, they advice those talking loosely or even seriously about the breakup of Nigeria to realize that the Nigeria project has one of the greatest futures of all African countries.
According to the president the Egbira shall continue to do everything within their powers to keep Nigeria as one entity.
He warned the agitators of the breakup of the country of dire consequences as he said the people have resolved to defend the country with the last drop of their blood.
The most important reason for the gathering according to Ahmed Bukar was to arrest what he described as the pull, the suction and the drift of the various Egbira groups towards and into the bigger ethnic groups in their location.
The high point of the occasion perhaps was the proclamation of a single name for the people, Egbira by the president of the association, Isah Ahmed Bukar. He said with the agreement of the people and the decision of the Board of Trustees and backing of the royal fathers, the people who were formerly and differently known as Ebira, Egbura and Etuno would now have a single name EGBIRA.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. It is obvious that the people need a lot of work and consultations to be able to reach their destination.
But according to various speakers at the occasion this was not the first time a step like this is being taken. Now that the whole process has kick started once again, how far they can go remains a function of time.
Filed Under: Nation