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Political Institution and Organisation

In Igarra, the organs of administration before and after the arrival of the Western Culture are as follows:

  1. Otaru – Prescribed Authority and Paramount Ruler
  2. The Town Council / Council of Chiefs
  3. The Council of Elders (Azebanis)
  4. The Opozes (Legislators)
  5. Individual Age Groups Headed by Opoga.

The meaning of Otaru is the owner of the land.  He is the sole ruler of Igarra and he is the village head. The title is an equivalent of Oba, Emir, Ovie, Ohinoyi (Igbirra) Oshinoyi (Etuno) etc. Succession to this throne rotates among five ruling houses in Igarra. These ruling houses are as follows:-

  1. Andede
  2. Eshinagada
  3. Eshinogu
  4. Eshinavaka
  5. Andiba

This order of rotation is strictly followed. A deviation from this order is possible if the house to provide an Otaru fails to do so, either due to failure to get a competent man or due to any other cogent reasons. Failure to adhere to the norms of the institution always lead into chaos.

They, (the Eshimozokos) were said to have masterminded the raid. That unless these 10 people were returned to them, after being cleared by the oracle, they would henceforth cease to crown the successive Otarus. The then Otaru’s claim (Aibobo) was that the fine of 10 people imposed on the Eshimozoko family was as  result of their refusing to crown successive Otarus since the time of Otaru Igodi adding that until they comply with the fine they will be prevented from crowning successive Otaru. In his ruling (Judgment) the presiding ‘judge’ fined the Eshinmozoko family the sum of two pounds ten shillings (£2.10s) in place of the 10 people demanded by the royal family. The fine was paid and their right to crown the Otaru was then returned to them.

In 1968, another inquiry was set up by the then military government under the Colonel S. O. Ogbemudia to enquire into the disputed declaration in respect of the Senior Village Head of Igarra, following a protest letter written by J. M. Apeji on 24th of February 1967 against the recognition of Otaru as the King or Senior Village Head of Igarra. This protest letter was supposed to have the backing of a group called Eziobe group of families, in which, Ezioga, Eziodu, Eziakuta, Anona Anoseri, Anonyete families were signatories. An enquiry was earlier on set up by the then Western Region Government in 1957 which led to the recognition of Otaru Idanage as the Village Head of Igarra. This commission of inquiry was headed by Justice E. C. Halim. After thorough investigation in which all families were fully represented, Halim confirmed that there are five ruling houses in Igarra (Andede, Eshinagada, Eshinogu, Eshinavaka and Andiba).  He (Halim) went further to suggest the order of rotation. The report was accepted by the then military government.

It was as a result of this that the 19th Otaru of Igarra  His Highness Okuo Luse II. He was installed on 8th May, 1971 as the Otaru of Igarra. He was then given a staff of office by the government of the state.

Another commission was set up by the military regime under Brigadier Abubakar Waziri to review the Halim’s commission of inquiry in 1979, under Justice Ighodaro. He also confirmed that the Otaru of Igarra is the clan head or Oba of Igarra. This was gazzetted in Traditional Rulers and Chief Edict of 1979 B.S.L.N 151 page B. 203.

The Otaru administers the community through the various organs shown above. He has supreme authority but not a dictator. He can be equated to chief executive, in presidential system of government. His authority over Igarra people can be further supported by the following:-

  1. Whenever an Igarra person kills a leopard, the skin is sent to the Otaru.
  2. The Otaru is the first to be greeted on important occasions.
  3. He is the only person in Igarra who is owed by Kingmakers.
  4. Otaru was the only one who can be buried in a house in a coffin.
  5. A certain amount of money is sent to Otaru to announce the death of any member of an age-group or family.
  6. All chieftaincy and azebani titles are conferred by the Otaru or the regent to the throne if he (Otaru) is indisposed (That is Irepa and Ipoje titles).
  7. The head and legs of the cows killed in Igarra during burial ceremonies are sent to the Otaru.

The institution of Otaruship is very sacred and it is well respected in Igarra.

The Otaru does not sit on ordinary stool without first spreading the skin of a leopard (Ezu).

The Otaru does not sit on ordinary stool without first spreading the skin of a leopard (Ezu).

He does not drink water from the pot especially water fetched overnight. He drinks fresh spring water always. The mere uttering of the statement: … Otaru Kima vadeyin by his messenger who holds an Inori (cane) to scare every other person away from the spring, and allows him/her fetch Otaru’s water first. Nobody touches the person who fetches his water when he or she carried it on his/her head. He does not to go out of the Ivishe through the same door he entered it.

When an Otaru dies, he is the only one that a horse must be killed for as part of the burial rites. Other rites which are not accorded any other person in Igarra from an Otaru are not meant for public consumption/

This is another arm of government in Igarra, through which there is smooth administration of Igarra. It is made up of chiefs and heads of all families in Igarra. It is headed by the Otaru. (during the Nupe invasion when more than one Otaru reigned, it was headed by the most senior Otaru). The town council can also be regarded as the council of Chiefs. It has both judicial and executive functions. This town council also deals with external relations e.g. visiting and receiving of government officials on behalf of the community.

The Otaru being the chief executive and head of the council in conjunction with his chief assent to any bill brought to them from Opozes through the council of elders (Azebani) after necessary amendments. It therefore becomes law which is then communicated to the community through the town-crier (chosen by Otaru) and reinforced by the various representatives of each family in the Town Council.

As mentioned earlier, the town council or council of chiefs also has judicial functions. They deal with cases which cannot be settled by selected elders of the parties concerned. Among the case that could be referred to them include: inter-family quarrels which involves land dispute and inter-age group quarrels. Inter-family quarrels are easily settled by the head of the families concerned. Inter-age-group dispute are settled by the customary fathers of the age-group (Opadopa).

The people that make up the council are as follows including their family titles:-

  1. The ruling or reigning Otaru –  Presiding</li>
  2. Andede family –  Most Senior Okomayin
  3. Eshinagada family – Most Senior Okomayin
  4. Eshinogu Family –  Most Senior Okomayin
  5. Eshinavaka Family –  Most Senior Okomayin
  6. Andiba family –  Most Senior Okomayin
  7. Eshimozoko Family – Most Seniior Ukana
  8. Eziakuta family – Most Senior Ose
  9. Eziodu family – Most Senior Ose
  10. Ezioga family –  Most Senior Ose
  11. Anoyete family – Most Senior Azebani (Oshemdase) now
  12. Anoseri family – Most Senior Azebani or man
  13. Anoverewa family – Most Senior Man or Azebani
  14. Anunoroye family – Most Senior Man or Azebani
  15. Eziakaja, Anupayi, Anupata – Most senior man from each family; though they no more exist
  16. Anona family – Senior Saiki – The title Saiki has since given way to “Otu” coined from a nickname (blacksmith) and is now regarded as the head of this family.

Since the advent of Western civilisation, the representatives in some families have changed. It is no longer compulsory that a representation has to be the most senior people from the family. In the event that the most senior man from a particular family cannot read and write; the family has the choice to nominate a literate person to represent it. It is in this event that some families coin out different name like; Oshidu, Otu, Oshemi etc. Whatever name a family decides to coin to suit them, it is blessed and conferred by the reigning Otaru provided it does not conflict with the norms of the tradition or that a particular family does not bear a name from another family.

This is made up of all those who have graduated from Opoze age-group. They are all called Azebani irrespective of the age-group one belongs to before ascending to this last stage. All the families are represented but not on equal proportions as this is not done on quote basis. Some families like the Eshinavakas, Eshinogus and Eziakutas are many and likely to top the list of each graduand. This has nothing to do with legislative or decision taking proceedings as the interest of the Igarras as a whole is their watch-word.

The Azebanis advise the Otaru and ensure that peace reign supreme in the town. They can also settle disputes between members of their families on individual basis. Any recommendation or bill passed to the Town Council by the Opozes is sent through the Azebanis, who would re-evaluate and moderate it before the onward transmission to the Town council presided over by the reigning Otaru for assent.

The peace and stability of Igarra at any point in time is attributed to the efficiency of this law-making body – Opoze in power. For decades now, most members of this age-group do not stay at home on permanent basis. They are mostly people who leave Igarra for Urban cities in search of white collar jobs. This can be one of the reasons why there are dents in the tradition of Igarra today. Those who are supposed to make laws had left home long ago and have lost touch with the tradition. Majority of these people don’t even know the culture. In the same manner, the failure and upheavals in Igarra at a particular time of an Opoze in power is a sign of weakness and lack of co-operation in the group.

This is the fifth in the age-group hierarchy of Igarra. Members of this age-group graduate from Opoga which is fourth in the hierarchy. To get to this stage, one must have attained the age of fifty to fifty-five years of age minimum. The Opoze age-group is drawn from all the families in Igarra; they are the law makers. Before anything becomes law, it is passed to the Town Council through the Council of Elders (Azebanis) for assent.

This body is so powerful in Igarra that it can even banish anybody in Igarra who goes contrary to the laws of the land. An example of this was during the time of one Chief Momodu Ajayi Okomayin, who was his father’s messenger – then Otaru Ede Aiteka who went contrary to the laws of the land. He misrepresented the town on some occasions and even sought for the title of “Oshinoyi” which has never existed in Igarra history. He was disciplined along with his collaborators by the then Opozes.

“OPA” is a system of age-grouping in Igarra. Each group is made up of men of almost the same age-bracket elevated into a group at one time or the other. The Men’s age-group (Opa) activities are the system of Government in Igarra. It is well carved out system of native administration inherited from a group of people “Anafua, Aniva and Andokoni” whom the Igarra people met as the aborigines of Igarra (Etunos) land.

Numbers of Age Group

There are usually seven (7) age-groups for men in Igarra at any given time. They are designated as follows in Table 1.

Ser. NoAge-Group DesignateGroup CadreGroup Rating
1Opa-OperewunIntending GroupPrimary
2Opa-AjoruwpaPreparatory GroupSecondary
3Opa-EnabeteJunior GroupLabour
4Opa-EneteniokuAdult GroupForemen
5Opa-AturopogaSenior GroupSupervisor
7OpozePolicy Formation GroupDirectors

The above table shows the order of enrolment and placement of age-group in Igarra, it is just like classes in a school system. The tenure of a group in any position is six years (Roman Calendar) while it is seven years in Lunar Calendar. Responsibilities and functions are delegated through the various age-group beginning from the second age-group.

The six/seven yearly system of graduation from one age-group to another involves age-group one to seven before culminating into Irepa celebrations. This six yearly Festival is performed by the reigning Opoze group members of who will be elevated into Azebani (Council of Elders) after the Irepa celebrations. Azebani (Council of Elders) is not an age-group, every Opoze age-group member is elevated into it, after being an Opa-Irepa (Irepa-group) and haven performed in the fixing of the new yam festivals for six years.

At the end of each Irepa Festival (Six yearly celebration) a new age group usually comes into being known as Opa-Operenwu (an intending age-group). Which is the first age-group but primary in rating (see table 1). This group is to fill the vacuum created by the outgoing Opoze age-groups graduating into the Azebani (Council of Elders).

There are various women age-group called also Opa, theirs has no specific number, designation or duties. They are like social organization and almost the same age-mates.

Membership of Men’s Age-Group

Age varies among members in an age-group; it depends on seniority and relationship in a house or section of each member’s Kindred. Brothers of the same Father but not the same mother could be in one age-group, but brothers from the same mother cannot be in the same age group except if they are twins.

A man is free to join an age-group at any time provided he is qualified, fit-in and fulfills the requirements of his intending age-group.

A man is equally allowed to move from a lower group to the next higher age-group suitable for him either as a new entrant or to fill the vacuum created by the death of a relation representing his house or kindred.

A brief initiation ceremony (usually feasting) is performed by a man who is promoting to a higher age-group (Okikashire) or a person just joining an age-group (Omimopa) for the first time

In all cases a man must seek the blessing and approval of his house or section to join or move into a new age-group.

Categories and Functions of the Diffeent Age-Groups (Opa)

A man passes through seven different age groups before finally graduating into Azebani which can be likened to the Elders Council. As a new age group is formed it is given a name by the reigning opoze.

Age-Group One (Opa-Operewun)

This is an intending age group and the lowest in rank. It is usually made up of young boys/men between the ages of 16 and 21 years old. They are simply called Opa-Operewun (literally the gathering age group). This group is sometimes jokingly called opa fauafu, that is, the nude age group because it has no name.

Members of this group assemble during the annual new yam festival called Enuh and they are expected to parade themselves showing physical fitness through traditional wrestling among themselves at the market square or open places located at each quarters, to know who is able and fit for membership. This exercise takes place during the said yam festival for a period of six years preceding Irepa festival celebrated by a reigning Opoze age group which will graduate to Azebani (council of elders). This age-group one is not formally given full recognition by the community for the first six years until the members are elevated to age-group two.

Age-Group Two (Opa-Ajorupa)

This group is responsible for the clearing of public places, foot paths and covering of grave dug after burial or interment of dead persons.They are under the close supervision of the forth age-group members who are the traditional fathers (Opadopa) of this group two.

On satisfactory behavior of this group by physical fitness and loyalty to the entire Igarra community, they will request for or suggest a name to the Opoze age group seeking for their consideration or approval of a suitable name for this age group. This name is quite different from their official designated name used at the early state of this age group on the second position. On the approval of a name by the Opoze, this age group is formally given recognition with the name.

An age-group name is foremost and very important because, it is use to identify the past and present age – group in the community.  Meanwhile two leaders Odovidi – Opa (age – group leaders) will emerge from this group precisely from Okhoro – Ebah (up – hill group) and Okhoro – Uvete (down plain group) as first and second leaders respectively. All age groups are organize in the same manner, the same name and exist in each quarters i.e. Ubobo, Utua and Uffah. They do things in common and in turn with Ubobo as first, Uffah second and Uttua third.

This age-group usually perform the dancing of Ututanagbe (age-group fitness dance),  Oshishirida (ascension of rock) and Ozizagagana (Carrying of Cactus). They will finally perform the Eze-Anova (transitional dance) at each quarter on a different days beginning with UGBOBO in all occasion. All these ceremonies are perform as initiation to Manhood and these events marked the first transition of an age – group or elevation of age – group two to three position and recognize as a full – fledge group in Igarra.

Age – Group Three (Opa – Anabete)

This age-group is responsible for the digging of grave of any dead man or woman for burial or interment. The group oversees the first age – group. With their status, this age- group members are qualified to take Ipoje (a junior title) if any of them desire to do so. The group members are entitle to share from proceeds of any traditional ceremonies, festival and burial ceremonies.

Age – Group Four (Opa-Otenioku)

This age – group is responsible for the dressing of corpse of the dead and carrying same to and from public places and to the grace –yard. This group oversees and co-ordinate the activities of the second age-group. They are regarded as an Adult group in the community.

Age – Group Five (Opa-Turoga)

The fifth age group supervises and coordinates the activities of age one to four which are below them. This age group under study and assist the sixth age-group in performing their legitimate duties. This age group members are responsible for the dressing of corpse of title holders who passes on.

Age-Group Six (Opoga)

This age-group members are responsible for the sharing or dividing of anything for all age-group, in each kindred and for the whole community in a gathering. They are the age group managers who arrange sittings in any general meetings and kindred’s/family meetings. They maintain Law and order in any meeting they are present.

Age Group Seven (Opoze)

This is the highest and last age-group in Igarra. They take the responsibility of the day to day administrative functions in the community. They are involved in the traditional legislative Process of the town and execute all bye-law passed by the council by the council of elders (Azebani) and as assented to by the Otaru in council.

They supervise all occasion, ceremonies and festivals in Igarra. All their legislation, policies and propose bye-law are convey to the council of elders (Azebani), either for consideration, support or advise where necessary and thereafter all proposals are forwarded to the town council for the Otaru’s assent. After their tenure as the Opoze, they will celebrate Irepa festival which is a graduation ceremonies and entry into the council of elders (Azebani).

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