The Great Trek

The Igarras (Etuno), the Igbira Tao and the Igbirra Kwotos were believed to have migrated from the same area – Igala Land; the exact place is not yet known but it is believed not to be too far away from Idah – the headquarters of Igala Land.

As said earlier the Igarras (Etuno) are descendants of Igala/Okpoto union. They left the place because they were rated second class citizens and were therefore not accorded the same status as the Igalas. They had lived in Igala land for more than a century and had to leave because of the aforementioned reasons. This was early the 5th century about 1400 AD.

According to the dictates of the Oracle, they journeyed northwards so as to avoid the over-flooded Rivers Niger and Benue. Their first stop-over was in a place believed to be the present village called Oguma, near the bank of River Benue. They settled here for a reason awaiting the recession of the River Benue.

They later crossed the River Benue through a place believed to be the present Umaisha. They did not settle here but those that could not continue with journey as a result of sickness and harsh weather were forced to settle in the present sites of Oguma, Umaisha, Kotonkarfi and their environs. These were mainly in the third group of the migration believed to be the Igbirra Kwotos. They now journeyed Southwest-wards as dictated by the oracle and finally arrived a place where two big rivers meet believed to be the present day Lokoja. This was about 1401-1402 AD. Lokoja was then a very small trading centre where fishing was done also and a small scale. The Nupes and the Fulanis were then trying to expand their Kingdoms and so there were frequent raids. The migrants now mainly Igarra (Etuno) and Igbirra Tao were not just push-over.

The Menace of Nupes and the Fulanis

They were able to contain the menace of the Nupes and the Fulanis. They subdued most of their opponents on their way, the Nupes in and around Lokoja inclusive. The Nupe invasion of Igarra (Etuno) and areas around the Kurukuru hills in the mid-19th century might not be unconnected with the promise of revenge by the Nupes. This was after about two hundred years of their encounter.

From Lokoja, they journeyed Southwards, to the promised land. Ariwo Ovejijo and his followers were intact. The third group of the Igbirra (Kwoto) had discontinued their journey before and after the crossing of the Niger at Kotonkarfi.

The Southward journey from Lokoja by the remaining two groups – Igbirra Tawo and Etuno was not an easy one. Apart from the reduction in the population there were other problems of food and water shortages, diseases like Malaria, Measles, Small-pox etc. They were exhausted from this long and arduous journey, hence there was growing dissatisfaction in the leadership and increasing urge to discontinue the trek.

The migrants made a brief stopover in the present Ajaokuta, the place their forefather worshipped the god of Idakoriko. Here Ariwo and his people took some soil and piece of the stone at the shrine of Idakoriko and brought it to the present Ekuto (Igarra). From Ajaokuta they went westwards as instructed by the oracle (Eva) to another site. The site apart from the undulating nature of the lands, was fertile for the growth of beniseed (Igorigo). At this point, there was division among the migrants. Some members favoured settlement and the party that favoured settlement on side did settle.

The site also favoured hunting because of its large population of buffaloes (Une from which Okorune meaning the circle of buffalo dwellers was derived). It is now corruptly called Okene.

The Final Settlement

In Okene (Okorune) leadership as well as loyalty was divided. One Otakareyireyi was believed to have spearheaded the group remaining behind. Ariwo Ovejijo continued with members loyal to him – mainly the Igarras and some faction of Igbirra Tao, in consonance with the dictates of the oracle (Eva). Some Igarras also remained behind. They hence journeyed southwards. The entire regalia of their traditional ruler – Arigede drum, Ofa (Spear), Crown, leopard skin, white-horse-tail etc., were all under the custody of Ariwo Ovejijo and he brought them along with him and these have since remained in the custody of every reigning Otaru.

They finally settle down at the present site as favoured by the oracle. Their journey to this place was very smooth. There was no opposition here as it was an expanse of virgin land with few or no human inhabitants.