The people of Idoma unarguably 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 preserved many of their ancestral 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 are 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 distinctive behavioural traits.
The Idoma people are also known for their love of food, as there is an annual food festival in Benue State to celebrate women and the various traditional cuisines. Most popular among their delicacies is the Okoho soup which is made with the peculiar Okoho plant, bush meat and many other ingredients.
1) The Idoma people are not only found in Benue state
The popular idea is that the Idoma are an ethno-linguistic group primarily found in the western areas of Benue State, Nigeria. This is because they are the second largest group in the state and occupy nine local government areas (L.G.A.’s) which include: Ado, Agatu, Apa, Obi,Ohimini, Ogbadibo, Oju, Okpokwu and Otukpo. Aside from the western parts of benue, this tribe has settlements in other parts of the country, including Nassarawa and Cross Rivers States. The men are obliged by tradition to pound yam for their wives. Unlike other cultures where the woman is expected to perform all culinary chores, the Idoma men are not always exempted.
2) The people strongly believe in the ‘Alekwu spirit’
With the advent of Christianity and other foreign religions, the traditional belief systems of most ethnic groups in the country have been influenced by western practices.
However, a majority of the Idoma people still believe strongly in the Alekwu, which is seen as a link between the living and the dead. They host an annual ‘Aje Alekwu’ festival where traditional religious practitioners commune and make sacrifices in worship of 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.
3) The groom and the rooster
While the marriage rites and customs of the Idoma people are not unlike that of the Igbos and some other south-eastern cultures, there are specific aspects that clearly distinguish their tradition.
One of those specific aspects 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 she accepts, it is a sign of approval and disinterest if she rejects the gift. While there are no certain reasons to justify the need for a rooster, it remains an interesting part of the ceremony.
4) Language Diversity
Classified as a minority ethnic group and often mistaken to be part of the Igbo tribe, the Idoma people are known for one language – Idoma, which is classified in the Akweya subgroup of the Idomoid languages of the Volta–Niger family.
With a population estimated to be about 3.5 million, varied dialects have over time emerged from the umbrella of this mother-tongue and they include ‘Western Idoma’ chiefly spoken by the Okpokwu and Ogbadibo local government areas; ‘Central Idoma’ spoken by Otukpo and Ohimini people; ‘Southern Idoma’ largely spoken by Ado communities and ‘Northern Idoma’ spoken by the Agatu & Apa regions.
5) The Okoho Soup
The Idoma people are known for their love of food, as there is an annual food festival in Benue State to celebrate women and the various traditional cuisines. Most popular among their delicacies is the Okoho soup which is made with the peculiar Okoho plant, bush meat and many other ingredients.
6) The Colour
The traditional colour of the Idoma people is the red and black.