Sunday, 2 November 2014

Creation of Traditional Chieftaincy Positions as proposed by the Benue State Government would be at Variance with the Idoma Traditional Institute.

Historically, the people of idoma lived within the kwararafa Confederacy in about 500 AD as a single Clan going by strict Dictionary definition of term. The family was the basis of the scalar organisation of the Traditional Institution.
In their Independent segments of Sub-Clans, the Head, who was often the eldest, and was seen to possess occult powers, a traditional factor that was convenient in the exercise of the Spiritual Authority as well as Political Authority took charge of the entire family/subclans as the OCHE (King), who exercises jurisdiction over a Territorial Land Area and whose authority is vested in and derived from the Land (Aje), Sceptre (Okwute) and Royal Beads (Oka). Therefore, a unique feature of a Traditional Chief in Idoma Land is the possession of the Oka, Okwute and the Aje in addition to a compulsory observation of a 7 or 14 days seclusion as the case maybe, followed by the coronation/public presentation to the people.

The intrinsic belief of the Idoma people is in the ALEKWU, the essence of which does not only involve the physical manifestation in the form of Masquerades (Ancestral Spirit) but also the domain of philosophy and religion. The Head of the sub-clan doubles as both the Chief Custodian of the people's custom and culture and the Chief Priest. Due to increased population and modernity that greatly tasked the Head's stamina and time, the sub-clans metamorphosed into clans while kindred heads took up some of their roles. Thus, the existing 102 clans in Idoma Land were adopted by the Colonial Administration and grouped in 1928 to form the 22 Districts. The Districts so created were Administrative Units of Authority.

Prior to the 1928 grouping of clans into the 22 Districts, the Colonial Administration established Zones and Zonal headships to serve as appellate judicial bodies for the various districts in Idoma Land, and to perform such function as Tax collection. Four zones were thus, created and known as the "Intermediate Areas" and Zonal heads were arbitrarily appointed, but because their authority and power did not grow out of the culture and tradition of the people, the operation was chaotic and created more problems for the Colonial Authority. The remaining clan Heads did not offer their cooperation readily to the one among them who had, through administrative fiat, suddenly became a District Head who Lorded it over them. With time, the favoured Clan Heads became overbearing and corrupt, particularly in the collection of poll tax. In a considered restructure, the administration designated all the segmentary sub-clans Districts and their rulers District Heads. The Power to collect poll tax was then vested in the hands of the new District Heads, who were then given Staff of office and answerable to a Divisional Officer directly instead of the hitherto problematic Area District Heads. This arrangement resolved the socio-economic problems but created an administrative one. This was however, the beginning of Administrative and Legislative interventions to structure the Idoma Traditional Institution over the years, aimed at resolving internal conflicts on one hand and meeting the colonial authority's desire for uniformity in Her Majesty's Indirect rule in the country as a whole.

The arrangement by which Idoma land were overseen by classified numerous District Heads but not centrally coordinated, creating the need for a centralised system of Traditional Rulership. The position of the Och'Idoma was therefore established in 1947, given the Land the look of a Federation of Chiefdoms with the Och'Idoma as Paramount. Despite this restructuring, the roles of traditional rulers remain largely unchanged until the introduction of the Local Government reforms of 1976 by the Federal Government. Some functions hitherto performed by traditional rulers such as Land administration were taken away from them. The 1978 Land use Decree further usurped the authorities of the traditional rulers on land issues.

In 1991, the Benue State Government promulgated the edict No. 4 of 1991, which established Local Government Traditional Councils whose functions included among others:
(A) Advising Local Government Councils on general policies and religious matters.

(B) Assisting in the assessment and collection of Community Tax.

(C) Maintenance of Law and Order.

(D) Mobilising the rural people for active participation in community development programmes.

(E) Determining issues relating to chieftaincy matters.
Although this is not happening, traditional rulers, particularly the graded Chiefs by the intention of this edict, should now form a part and parcel of the administration of the Local Government areas of the State. The edict No. 4 of 1991 also created the position of Second class Chiefs and Ward Heads, seemingly with inadequate consultation with the Idoma Area Traditional council and thereby introducing problems into the polity.

1. The Idoma Nation is a confederation of clan units which traces it's genealogy to one ancestry, had initial rulership system of eldership (ie Onyankwoche) a situation where the eldest person in the Clan/family unit was the Head and whose authority was supreme. He served as the Chief Priest (Ad'Alekwu) and the custodian of the people's custom and tradition.

2. The people believe in the existence of the ancestral spirit. They also hold the elders between the living and the ancestral world.

3. The eldership system later metamorphosed into the appointment of a central figure as the King (Oche) who exercised jurisdiction over a territorial land area of the people and whose authority is vested in and derived from the Earth (Aje), Scepter (Okwute) and Royal Beads (Oka).

4. A unique feature of a traditional Chief in Idoma Land is possession of thr Oka, Okwute and Aje in addition to a compulsory observation of 7 or 14 days seclusion for purification rites, as the case may be, followed by the coronation/public presentation to the people.

5. The stool of Och'Idoma remains the rallying point of the Idomas and their symbol of unity.

6. The intrusion of Government, politics into the Idoma Traditional Institution has adversely affected the Idoma Chieftaincy System.

7. The 1984 Local Government law and the 1991 Chieftaincy Edict No. 4 created Chieftaincy position where there were none.

8. Some of the Chiefs appointed to fill the new positions suffered credibility problems. For a Chief to have credibility in the eyes of the people, such a Chieftaincy position ought to be backed by History.

9. Formulation of unified laws for traditional institutions in Benue State where the ethnic groups have dissimilar traditions and origin, with differing philosophies and ideologies have not helped matters.

10. The creation of more 1st class Chieftaincy positions/institutions in Idoma Land, if based on the 4 geographical areas might split the Kingdom. It might equally debase the sanctity and sacredness of the stool of Och'Idoma.

11. Creation of Chieftaincy positions as done by government currently is at variance with the custom and tradition of Idoma.

A) The Committee of the Idoma Area Traditional Council observes that the Chieftaincy Institution of the Idomas originates from their ancestral heritage. Undue interference into the system is bound to have a devastating effect on the lives of the people and should be carefully avoided or precautious about the ethics.

B) The occupant of the Office of the Och'Idoma since 1947 has been the paramount ruler of the Idoma Kingdom. No new pronouncement after 66 years will give the paramount rule of the Och'Idoma any additional legitimacy, nor will it enhance the status.

C) The traditional institution in Idoma land is not opened. It is not an all comers' affairs. To be regarded as a traditional chief in Idoma land, the three paraphernalia of 'OKA; 'OKWUTE' and AJE; must be present. 

D) The stool of the Och'Idoma was the creation of the people out of their yearnings to have a central Chieftaincy Stool. Fragmentation will rob the people of this much needed central rallying point.

E) The Idoma Traditonal Institution is deeply rooted in rituals.

F) Proliferation of Traditional Chieftaincy positions is not synonymous with development. Often times, it brings conflicts.

G) The content of the 1991 Chieftaincy Edict No. 4 has not been fully implemented in Idoma Land with special reference to Apa and Agatu where the people view the creation of non beaded Chieftaincy seats as been at variance with their custom and tradition.


a) There is need to maintain the uniqueness and sacredness of the Idoma Traditional Institution.

b) For any Leader to be regarded as a Traditional Ruler in Idoma Land, he must satisfy all the Traditional rites and rituals unique and acceptable in his people's custom and culture.

c) If creation of more First Class Chieftaincy positions must be done, the present nine 2nd class Chiefs should have been upgraded to First Class positions which may necessitate the upgrading of the remaining 13 Districts Heads to Second Class status is order to bridge the gap between the Two categories of Chiefs since the would be First Class Chiefs were originally upgraded from among the 22 District Heads.

d) Due to the importance attached to the original Clans that evolved with the people, it is pertinent to recommend for the upgrading of the existing Beaded Clan Heads to 3rd Class status.

e) For uniformity in the system, it will be a welcome idea if it is made mandatory for the entire Local Government Areas in Idoma Land to have the structure of kindred Headships entrenched in their traditional structure.

f) Finally, in view of the peculiarities of the Two Traditional Institutions in Benue State Government should avoid uniformity when promulgating laws for the Institutions. It is recommended that separate laws should be promulgated for the Two Institutions.

This Research Work of mine (Engr. Daniel Atayi Edoache), is based on public Analysis and traditional commentaries plus views that could stable the relationship of both Democracy and Monarchy in Idoma Land. And the Fact that Christianity that I belong, entails that Peace must be among Men of the Earth who are of good wills. Thank u all.

Research facts was gotten from Chief Augustine Ogbu, Chief Dr. John Ochai, Chief Emmanuel Ode, Chief Abel Adulugba and the Last but not the Least is Chief Joseph O. Adah.

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