Monday, 28 May 2012


by Godwin Eigbe

Museum Garden Calabar
There is a city blessed with an amazing mix of beautiful and receptive people, intriguing landscapes, clean and green environment, dynamic and embracing culture, warm and welcoming smiles freely given by neat and smartly dressed people and of course a wide range of sumptuous and delicious cuisines. These and many more attributes encapsulates the city which is synonymous with hospitality. Hospitality that you can feel, see and touch! A home for all, the bonding ground for all Nigerians and the New Port for African Merchants and leisure travellers.

It is a city where your tribe and tongue does not count. A city that wakes up early and go to sleep late without disturbing the peace and tranquility that are its trade marks. A city of light, colours, carnivals and unending fun. The home of Africa’s biggest street party.

Business or Leisure, welcome Home. The people and the city bid you to Come And Live And Be At Rest.

With an estimated population of over 1.2 Million residents, Calabar is truly the Tourism Hotspot of Nigeria. The ancient city which is watered by the Cross River and the Great Qua Rivers has a long history and a fascinating heritage. Nearly after a century of contact with European sailors, Calabar gained recognition as an International Sea Port in the 16th century. From 17th to 19th century, Calabar became a major slave trade port. Although Calabar seating in the Bight of Biafra does not have the impressive forts found in Ghana and Senegal because the estuary was a safe haven for slave traders and the people on its shoreline were cooperative and acted as trading agents to the slave merchants creating a buffer from inland attacks, the region accounted for approximately 30 percent of Africans carted away to the new world (America) as slaves from Africa, representing the largest exit of slaves from a single point in Africa.
Millennium Park Calabar

The ancient city of Calabar was the first to utilize money as means of mercantile in West Africa. This ancient money in Efik was called ‘Okpoho’. This money was later known as the manilas. With the abolition of slave trade in South Eastern Nigeria from 1820 - 1850, Calabar’s main export became palm oil.

Calabar is truly a city of firsts and the ancient city is credited with developing one of the first African alphabets and scripts for communication called the Nsibidi. It is a set of traditional ideographic symbols developed by the Ekpe Society a traditional association responsible for protecting and defending the kingdom against all foreign influence.  Nsibidi is still in use today by the Ekpe Society.

On the chronicle of the city’s firsts, is the fact that Calabar was the seat of the Government of the Oil River Protectorate and then the Southern Protectorate, the building that is today known as the Old Residency Museum was ordered by Consul Hewett in 1882 from Britain and it arrived Calabar in 1884 where it was assembled. It became the residence of the Consuls and High Commissioners that administered the Protectorate.

As an international trade route and colonial administrative headquarter, Calabar housed the earliest of military barracks in the country. It was the first kingdom to embrace Christianity and the first Presbyterian Church (Church of Scotland Mission) was built in 1846. The first Roman Catholic Mass in Nigeria was said at 19 Bocco Street, Calabar in 1903. The city also has the oldest secondary school in Eastern Nigeria, Hope Waddell Training Institution established in 1895. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the First President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a student of this school.

The first monorail in Nigeria was built in Calabar and the first modern road network was also constructed in the city. In the health sector, the first public hospital St. Margaret Hospital was in this city. In this hospital also is the first Medical Records Office in Nigeria. Calabar also houses the oldest post office and one of the first two Botanical Gardens in Nigeria.

Old Residency Museum Calabar which served as administrative centre for the Oil River protectorate and later the Southern Nigeria Protectorate
Calabar has also produced prominent figures in the nation’s history. They include King Eyamba V of Duke Town and King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town who jointly wrote to the King of England to send missionaries to Calabar to educate their people and King Archibong III who was the first King in Southern Nigeria to be crowned with the regalia sent by Queen Victoria of Great Britain in 1878. Other prominent figures include Professor Eyo Ita, the first Nigerian professor and first Premier of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. He was also a member of the Nigerian team that negotiated Nigeria’s independence in Britain. Louis Edet is Nigeria’s first inspector General of Police, Margaret Ekpo, first woman Special Member of Nigeria’s Eastern House of Chiefs and later Eastern House of Assembly and Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey first Nigerian World Boxing Champion. Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo, premier football administrator and first Nigerian to be elected into FIFA executive committee (1980-1988) and the first African to be made Honorary Vice President of Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) for life since 1988. Incidentally the first football match in Nigeria was played in Calabar.

The mantle of traditional political authority which rests on the Obong, is hinged on a political tripod whose legs are Duke Town, Old Town and Creek Town. Each leg of this tripod was at one time ruled by a separate Obong. However through a gentleman’s agreement, the three towns agreed to merge the crowns for one titular head that is today referred to as the Obong of Calabar. The title rotates among them. Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu IV is the present Obong of Calabar.

The development of post colonial Calabar is closely tied to the development of the country Nigeria. On May 27 1967, South Eastern State was created from the existing Eastern Region and in 1976 the name was changed to Cross River State after the river that flows across the State and Calabar remained the Capital City. In September 1987, Akwa Ibom was carved out from the State by the General Ibrahim Babangida administration. The major towns in Cross River State are Calabar (its Capital) Akamkpa, Ikom, Obubra, Odukpani, Ogoja, Ugep, Obudu, Obanliku, Akpabuyo and Yala.

Obudu Mountain Resort Gate
Calabar has a Sea Port, an International Airport and a good internal road network. There are many attractions and a warmness of spirit that creates an insatiable desire to return in every tourist who steps on the shores. All around the city are several sculptures, relics and artifacts that tell of the people’s strength, industry, craftsmanship and rich culture. Communication is easy in Calabar as English Language is well spoken by all old or young. Calabar is a peaceful haven, a true paradise adorned with several good hotels offering services of international standard.
When you are in Calabar, the city gets into you and you feel and become part of it… Calabar is truly one city, one people… a paradise indeed! 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


By Godwin Eigbe

In most part of West Africa, coral beads are true signs of royalty. It adorns kings and members of the royal household. Nobles in many West African kingdoms distinguish themselves with beads.
The beads are of different varieties and come in various shapes, sizes and colours. In most kingdoms, any man sent a bead by the king is automatically made a chief while coral beads sent by a king or prince to a young single girl makes her his betrothed and she is bound by tradition to accept them. Also in many parts, commoners and royalties do not wear the same type or shape of beads.
Coral beads have strong presence in traditional marriages in many West African cultures. It is common to see a bride’s hair adorn with beads while she wear some as necklaces. In some culture, a beaded sleeveless blouse is worn by the bride. The grooms are not left out. Most cultures provide for a single long bead necklace dropping to upper abdomen while others allow for more.
In some kingdoms of West Africa, the bead you wear with accompanying staff of office tells your royal status. In some more, the cloak which in some cases is hand-weaved cloth is also of great significance.
In most African culture, a person is celebrated thrice. When he is born, when he gets married and when he dies. For burial ceremonies most cultures provide for the children of the deceased to wear beads over their black or white attire as the case may be, in honour of their departed loved one especially those who are elderly or of royal standing.
To ex-communicate or suspend a chief in some West African kingdoms from the Royal Council headed by the king, their royal beads along with their staff of office (if there is any) is taken from them. In others, the king can pronounce a ban on certain citizens forbidding them from using their royal beads which means they have be suspended.
In Benin Kingdom two types of beads are prominent; they are IVIE and EKAN which belong to the coral family PHYLUM COELENTERATA. EKAN has a sharp shining appearance. Though grayish, it reflects like a prism. IVIE the other species is described by some people as Precious Coral and is mostly won by Kings and Chiefs in Yoruba Kingdoms and Benin.
Coral beads are mined from coral stones in the oceans and polished as jewelries. The Mediterranean Sea was a major source of coral beads found in Africa between 1200 AD and 1800 AD. More recently the Sea of Japan has been found to have a lot of coral growth along its bed.

Oral tradition credits Oba Ewuare as the man who brought coral beads to Benin. About 1400 AD he had engaged the Portuguese and Spaniards, who are likely sources, in barter trade.

Monday, 19 March 2012



 There is a folklore in some part of Esan Land in Edo Central that talks about a beautiful damsel, the most beautiful in all the land under the Ogiso rule, who got attracted to a man who was deaf and dumb and went ahead to marry him because of the regular sound from yam pounding in the house of the physically challenged. The man had six wives already but she went ahead to become the seventh wife. The beautiful damsel told her parents that she would prefer to be a well-fed seventh wife than to be an only but hungering wife.
 Sadly for her, the other wives conspired against her and made sure all she got was peelings from their kitchens and she bore the pain in silence for fear of being lynched. Their husband being a hard working farmer was hardly at home during the day and it was difficult communicating with him at night. Ironically, the other wives all married the deaf and dumb because of his wealth in terms of yam and other farm produce which was a viable measure of wealth in their time. Her sorrow was not to be forever as a palm wine tapper watching the compound closely from his trees soon revealed the ordeal she was made to face everyday. Though the watch was initially kept by the palm wine tapper out of lust and admiration for the beauty goddess it later paid off in good coin when he reported the young woman’s ordeal to the husband. The dignity of the young wife was soon restored as the husband’s youngest and favourite wife and she got the biggest and largest hip of yam tubers at the family’s weekly ration. From this event, a song evolved among maidens which became their favourite moon light play chant and the day the first harvested tubers were brought home reminded the people of the “Beauty” who got “married to yam” as the event was described and it became a time for great merriment.
The story is not the same through out Esan land, but the yam crop is central to all Esan people. They take pride in their yam farms which they tender with utmost care and devote attention. Till date, the Yam crop remains one the highest income earner for Esan farmers. Yam meals such as pounded yam, Yam Porridge, boiled or roasted yam are always a delight to the people. And so it is said that an Esan man would not admit to have eaten unless he was served a yam meal which to his delight should be Pounded Yam with gbl, Egusi or black herbal soap.

In early times, it was forbidden for anyone to eat the new season yam until after the celebration of the New Yam Festival which was observed between the full moon of the ninth lunar month and the tenth lunar month. The movement of the feast depends on how early or late the rains came that year. In the celebration of the New Yam Festival, fourteen days were expended in preparing the community and homes for the festival. General clearing, sweeping and cleaning of the villages were carried out by the middle age groups with the elderly but none title holders supervising. Canopies were built with palm fronds in public places around the community and the masquerade chiefs put finishing touches to masquerades that would appear on the festival day. The young maidens and boys took the last two weeks before the festival to put finishing touches to new dance steps and tunes.

The festival is well attended by sons and daughters of the land abroad. Many of them come home each year amidst a large company of friends anxious to experience the festival which today, moves weekly from one community to another across Esan Land beginning in September and running through the third week of November just before the Igue Festival activities begin in Benin City.

 Less work is done during this period and frequent bath and polishing of the skin with traditional coconut oil or palm kernel oil is encouraged to repair whatever damage the tropical sun must have done to the skin. This is evidenced in the robust and shining skin of dancers on the great day. For the palm wine tappers however, this period is most busy as they work extra hard to meet the high demand occasioned by the festival. Significant to the festival is the public roasting of yam tubers on which prayers are offered and everybody in the community eats a piece. Thereafter, Pounded Yam served with gbl soap is brought to the elders at the village square or shrine as the case may be and it is eaten after prayers have been said and the symbolic feeding of their ancestors was done with two mussels of pounded yam rubbed in soap and thrown away. These ceremonies pave way for the seven day festival and eating of the new yam.

  The advent of Christianity many thought would weaken the people’s tenacity to the events marking the festival but as it turned out, many Christians bought it and had it placed on their Christian calendar as the Community Harvest Thanksgiving. The festival has been able to accommodate people of all religion and the celebration brings all together as one family. Population explosion has made it impossible today to gather everybody to a central feeding point, rather special ceremonies connected with the day according to the peoples’ culture are observed at the extended family units.

The first day of the festival mostly Saturdays begins very early with the slaughtering of  domestic animals such as goats and sheep that would be used as complements to the assorted dry fish and dry bush meat which are the main constituents of the day’s cuisine. As the women embark on cooking, the young men engage themselves in communal sweeping, putting finishing touches to sun shades or canopies. Among most families who see themselves as custodians of the peoples’ heritage, the traditional roasting of yam is still done for breakfast. This breakfast period is exploited by teen cultural groups to showcase themselves from one family compound to the other. In large communities, designated locations are chosen for this breakfast parade by the young who soon disperse as the morning masquerades “salute” to the elders begin. Only masquerades coming out for the first time ever take part in the outing. At every house, the masquerades call on the elder member of that family who comes out to give his praise and blessing. The masquerades in turn do little dance to the admiration of all which is sometimes appreciated by members of such family by throwing money on the ground which is picked by the men following the masquerades. This outing terminates in a brief dance that morning by the Igbabnlimhin masquerades at the public ground.

The dancers retire home to face mountains of pounded yam served with gbl Soup or Egusi Soup. This meal is generously available to anyone who stops by and choice drinks are available to wash down the mussels of pounded yam. As is customary to the people, so much more than the immediate family can consume is prepared and friends and well-wishers from other communities not yet celebrating come to help out with the excesses and the host shows his gratitude by ensuring a free flow of palm wine and other drinks as may be requested by the much appreciated guest.

Amidst the eating and drinking, the Asonogun dancers rally themselves to one point which may be their leader’s house, the dinwele’s (Head Chief) house or any other point where a continuous flow of wine is guaranteed. The gathering which begins with a few singers and dancers soon attract other performers and a crowd of spectators. As their voices serenade the atmosphere, quick and vigorous steps follow the rhythm. The Esan Asonogun dance is so powerful and demanding as it requires a lot of strength to sustain the tempo and continued performance.

The Asonogun dancers continue to entertain their audience well into the night and in return spectators freely paste currency notes on the fore heads of dancers. However as the sun sinks lower in the west, other groups begin their performances which gives spectators varieties to choose from. These sunset groups include the Kokoma and Kpegbegbe dancers. The Kokoma group is dominated by women and their main instrument of music is the bongo (drum) and ukoese which is a musical piece close to the maracas. It is a whole calabash with stringed beads on its body. The dance steps are not so fast like in Asonogun dance but it follows a pattern in its back and forward sways. The entire movement is so rhythmic and patterned that it can pass for a choreographed performance.

Kpegbegbe on the other hand is a circus group of the Esan people. This group comprises young children some about seven years old, teenagers and young adults. They build human pyramids and sky scrapers; they walk on ropes, walk like crabs and so many other supposedly impossible actions. Unlike the Western circus where they have foamed floors when climbing, all these performances are done on the hard brown earth which leaves onlookers shivering from fear of a fall. Nightfall eventually puts an end to the Kpegbegbe performance and later the Kokoma group leaving the Asonogun Group to claim monopoly of the night.

The entire community wakes up to great entertainment on the next day. Rising early, the acrobatic Igbabnlimhin masquerades go about a sort of promotional dance giving the people a hint of what to expect in the evening. Most importantly the cooking, eating and drinking continues. The evening of this second day is the high point of the festival when the main Igbabnlimhin dance takes place. It is the chief cultural attraction of the Esan people and the display leaves every on looker electrified. Guests visiting for the first time without their video cameras have always regretted it.

Beginning at about 4.00pm, all the Asonogun groups congregate at the house of their most ranking leader and there they change into their Igbabnlimhin customs and the music and dance train moves slowly to the town’s square which is an open public ground that also serves as congress ground for the community. It is said that to be a good Igbabnlimhin dancer, you have to begin with Asonogun where flexibility is learnt. As the dance group which consist mostly singers and instrumentalists draw closer to the square, masquerades begin to emerge from different directions with each displaying some thrilling acrobatic moves. This multiplicity of view overwhelms the crowd and they burst with excitement as the masquerades coming out from several directions in their beautiful new costumes make daring moves with some doing triple somersault and landing yet on their feet.

After the initial thrill, the dance becomes more organised as the masquerades take turns to display their unique dance steps and gymnastic abilities with great flexibility. The experience is truly exhilarating and can never be described in words. The Igbabnlimhin dance comes to a close at about 7.00pm when the sun finally goes to sleep in the West. The entire town then relaxes for a moment as dinner is served. Before the meal could settle in, earth shocking sounds from various loud speakers across the town mostly from Bars and venues for open air parties take over the airwaves. This is where the Western touch to the festival begins. Compared to the New Yam Festival in Esan Land especially among the people of Ahia in Ubiaja, Esan South East Local Government Area, Edo State Christmas is only a work free Sunday.

The Festival has become a major event in the tourism calendar of Edo State and it attracts tourists in their thousands to the State in the ten weeks that it runs. Many are attracted to the cuisines which they are generously served wherever they go and others are cut in the web of the people’s rich culture.

The New Yam Festival is a living legacy amongst the Esan speaking people that will remain as part of the spiritual and material content of their culture forever.




Africa with it's peculiar history has many relics of its glorious and bitter past.

From Cape Flora in South Africa through the Pyramid of Giza in Egypt to the Medina of Tunis, Tunisia and the Forts and Castles of Ghana, Africa has 112 World Heritage Sites. However the vast continent has lots more to offer.
Africa is known to be the centre of ancient civilization and is blessed with monumental arts and landscape designs that bear testimonies to its cultural traditions and civilization of which some are still living. According to Dr. Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, many of Africa’s monuments have not been discovered and those found are not being taken care of. “We have found only about 30 percent of Egyptian monuments…70 percent of them still lie buried underneath the ground. You never know what the sand will hide in the way of secrets,” he said. Besides Egypt, names like Ethiopia, Mali, Zulu, and many others have been for a long time and have so much artifacts and monuments to tell their story.
The continent is not less in natural endowments. Wildlife sanctuaries like those found in Congo, abound across the land. As the world moves to conserve species and prevent the extinction of those currently threatened, Africa is for sure one direction that can not be over looked. From the coasts through the hinterland, Africa is blessed with natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity. Many of these contain threatened species of outstanding universal value. The Cross River National Park in Nigeria is one of such natural properties that deserve the status of a World Heritage Site. The Park is a bio-diversity hot spot and is home to the Cross River Gorilla, Chimpanzee and 17 other primates. Also present within its rich flora content are highly medicinal plants endemic to the forest.
Africa has a wide spread of tourist attractions from golden/white sand beaches, great water falls to cultural festivals and monuments.

  1. Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad
  2. Tassili n’Ajjer
  3. M’Zab Valley
  4. Djemila
  5. Tipasa
  6. Timgad
  7. Kasbah of Algiers

  1. Royal Palaces of Abomey

  1. Tsodilo

  1. Dja Faunal Reserve

  1. Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park

  1. Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve *
  2. Tai National Park
  3. Comoe National Park

  1. Virunga National Park
  2. Garamba National Park
  3. Kahuzi- Biege National Park
  4. Salonga National Park
  5. Okapi Wildlife Reserve

  1. Memphis and its Necropolis
  2. Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
  3. Nubian Monument (Abu Simbel)
  4. Islamic Cairo
  5. Abu Mena
  6. Saint Catherine Area
  7. Wadi Al-Hitan

  1. Semien mountains National Park
  2. Rock-hewn Churches, Lalibela
  3. Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region
  4. Lower Valley of the Awash River
  5. Tiya
  6. Aksum
  7. Lower Valley of the Omo
  8. Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town


  1. Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda
  1. James Island and Related Sites
  2. Stone Circles of Senegambia *

  1. Asante Traditional Buildings
  2. Forts and Castles


  1. Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve *
  1. Mount Kenya National Park
  2. Leka Turkana National Park
  3. Lamu Old Town
  4. Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests

  1. Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna
  2. Archaeological Site of Sabratha
  3. Archaeological Site of Cyrene
  4. Rock-art Sites of Tadrart Acacus
  5. Old Town of Ghadames

  1. Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
  2. The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
  3. Rainforests of the Atsinanana

  1. Lake Malawi
  2. Chongoni Rock-Art Area

  1. Old Towns of Djenne
  2. Timbuktu
  3. Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)
  4. Tomb of Askia

  1. Banc d’Arguin National Park
  2. Ancient Ksours

  1. Medina of Fez
  2. Medina of Marrakesh
  3. Ksar of Ait-Ben- Haddou
  4. Historic City of Meknes
  5. Archaeologies Site of Volubillis
  6. Medina of Tetouan (formerly Titawin)
  7. Medina of Essaouira (Ancient Mogador)
  8. Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)

  1. Island of Mozambique

  1. Air and Tenere Natural Reserves
  2. W National Park.

  1. Sukur Cultural Landscape
  2. Osun- Osogbo Sacred Grove

  1. Island of Goree
  2. Niokolo-Koba National Park
  3. Djoudji National Bird Sanctuary
  4. Island of Saint-Louis
  5. Stone Circles of Senegambia *

  1. Aldabra Atoll
  2. Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve

  1. The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park
  2. Robben Island
  3. Fossil hominid sites of Sterkfontein
  4. Drakensberg  Park
  5. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
  6. Cape Flora Region Protected Areas
  7. Vredefort Dome.
  8. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape

  1. Gebel Barkal and Sites

  1. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  2. Ruins of Kisiwani and Songo Mnara
  3. Serengeti National Park
  4. Selous Game Reserve
  5. Kilimanjaro National Park
  6. Stone Town, Zanzibar
  7. Kondoa Rock-Art Sites
  1. Koutammakou, Land of the Batammariba

  1. Medina of Tunis
  2. Site of Carthage
  3. Amphitheatre of El Jem
  4. Ichkeul National Park
  5. Punic Town of kerkuane and its Necropolis
  6. Medina of Sousse
  7. Kairouan
  8. Dougga/Thugga

1.      Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
2.                  Ruwenzori Mountains National Park
3.                  Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

1.      Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas
2.      Great Zimbabwe National Monument
3.      Khami Ruins National Monument
4.      Matobo Hills
*Trans-boundary Properties


By Josephine Ofoegbu

In Igbo land, marriage is taken very seriously. A woman whose bride price has been paid is treated differently especially, when a situation arises from another woman who just packed in with a man. For example, respect is accorded to a woman who was married properly whereas a woman who just moved into a man’s house is treated with little or no respect by the man’s family. This is why every parent wants his/her daughter to be properly married.
What then is involved in the traditional marriage? When a man meets a girl he believes will make a good wife for him, he first proposes marriage to her. If she accepts, she will go to her parents and inform them that someone has asked for her hand in marriage. Usually, the parents will ask such questions as ‘which village is he from’, ‘which family is he from’, ‘what does he do for a living’ and so on.
However, it should be noted that it is not only the bride’s family that ask questions. Questions will be asked the groom by his parents when he tells them of his plan to marry a particular girl. They will ask such questions as ‘which village and family is she from’, ‘is she a troublesome person’, ‘can you live with her for the rest of your life’. The mother will ask ‘is she a neat person’, ‘can she cook’ and so on.
Even when the bride and the groom gives satisfactory answers to their parents, further investigations will still be made. The bride’s parents will send people to the groom’s village to go and ask questions about the groom’s family while the groom’s parents will also do same. The people sent will bring reports on how the parents in question live. Are they living together or are they separated? Do they eat from the same pot? Are they in peace with their neighbors? Are both families related by blood in some way?
These steps are taken by the parents on both sides because they have the responsibility of making sure their children marry the right person. If the reports brought back are good, then a go-ahead is given to the children. But, if a bad report is brought back, it is then left for the parents to advice their wards. For example, if the investigation reveals that both families are related by blood, then the parents will advise their wards to look for another person to marry.
However, in the absence of any bad report, a date is fixed by both families for the first visit. This first visit by the groom and his parents is called Ịku Aka N’ụzọ in Igbo and it means to knock on the door. On this visit, the groom’s family will present a bottle of Schnapps and a keg of palm wine to the bride’s family. The purpose of this visit is for both families to meet each other and for the groom to collect the list of requirements to be fulfilled before the bride can be handed over to him.
O n the list are things to be bought for the bride’s parents, the brides kinsmen and women, the single ladies in the village, the children in the family and the most senior son in the extended family. It has been said that the enormous requirements to be met by the groom is the reason there are increasing number of single ladies in Igbo land. However, it should be noted that these requirements varies from one village to another and is usually contested to a lower cost.
The groom with a few members of his family and a few friends come on the second visit to fulfill the requirements in the list. The parents of the bride send out invitations to their kinsmen and women prior to that day. It is either the groom buys all that is in the list or he buys some and then pays for the rest in cash. Once the bride’s people are satisfied, a final date is fixed for the main marriage ceremony called Ịkporo Nwanyi in Igbo.
The traditional marriage ceremony (Ịkporo Nwanyi) starts around 8pm and can end towards midnight. After both parties arrive and are seated, kola nut is given to the guest and the oldest amongst the guest says the prayer. The kola nut is then broken and passed round amongst the men to be eaten. Representative of the groom’s family called onye aka ebe in Igbo and meaning witness meets with that of the bride’s family to know how much is to be paid as bride price. Communication to both sides is done through the representatives. When the bride price has been paid, the bride then comes out dancing with her maidens to greet her would be husbands people. She is dressed in a one piece wrapper tied at her chest and in her hand she holds a container of powder which she pours into the hands of her guests as a way of greeting. After that she goes in again.
The second time she comes out is to show everyone the person that is her husband. She is handed a gourd of palm wine by her father which she carries around to look for her husband. When she finds him in the seated crowd, she kneels before him, drinks a little of the palm wine and gives the rest to her husband to drink. This is greeted with applause from the crowd. After this they come out dancing and kneel before the bride’s father to be advised and blessed. When he finishes, he hands his daughter over to her husband and the crowd explodes with cheers.
As the couple dance with their well wishers and refreshments are served, the gifts bought for the bride by her family to help her start her own family are brought out for all to see. Varieties of household items like bed, foam, stove, pots, box, pestle and mortar, plates, baby things, e.t.c are given to her. A hen and a tuber of yam are equally given to her. The hen is to keep her company until her own children come while the yam signifies fertility. With these, the bride is sent forth to her husband’s house.
It should be noted that nowadays, people have the option of conducting what is known as Ịgba Nkwu which is also a marriage ceremony. The only major difference between the two is that Ịgba Nkwu starts in the afternoon and ends in the evening.
As the husband and his people prepare to go home, the bride is also preparing to leave with them. Goodbyes are said. She is now a married woman and belongs with her husband and his people.  

Traditional Marriage in Igbo Land is as published in EXECUTIVE TRAVELS NIGERIA MAGAZINE, ISSUE NO. 19, 2010. EDITED BY: GODWIN EIGBE

Thursday, 8 March 2012


Many centuries ago, (about 800 A.D.) the geographical area now known as Benin, was called Igodomingodo. It was the hob of a conglomeration of little towns that developed into modern Mid-West Region and later Bendel State. Throughout that period, Igodomingodo made steady progress especially in the area of spirituality, philosophy, craftsmanship and administrative development.

The focus of Igodomingodo was largely concentrated on the arrangement of human order so that by the advent of the Europeans in 15th century, the people had already established an administrative system which baffled the Europeans and earned for the capital the appellation ‘City’.

The nucleus of this great civilisation was the monarchy which the Binis perfected steadily from the 12th century, after a series of experimentation with the Ogisos and Ogiso-Obas. They also introduced a monarchical system based on the principle of primogeniture.

This system of direct ascension has endured making the Benin Royal Family one of the oldest families in Africa. Its history spans more than 1400 years. The present Oba of Benin, Omon’Oba N’Edo Uku-Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediawa, who is 30 years on the throne, is the 38th Oba in the line of succession from Oba Eweka I who reigned in 12th century A.D. Before Eweka I however, 31 Ogisos and Prince Oronmiyan, a grand son to the last (Ogiso Owodo) reigned. In all, 70 Kings have sat on the Benin Throne.

A mention of Benin City, to many, brings to mind the Benin-British war of 1897 popularly known as the Benin Massacre and Expedition. At the end of it all, Oba Ovonramwen was deported to Calabar on September 13, 1897.

Before Oba Ovonramwen (1888 – 1914), the people of Benin had an organized society vast in the Act of War, Astronomy, Medicine, Travels and Craftsmanship. Among the many crafts, Bronze Casting was paramount.

It is said that a man called Iguerra, who came from a Nubian City on the River Nile in Egypt introduced the art to Benin in AD 900. The Bronze Casting Families have preserved the art and have today formed themselves into a guild which is based on Igun Street, Benin City.

Through the First Dynasty, (the Ogiso era) casting was done solely to create jewelleries and other ornamentals. However by the Second Dynasty, beginning with the reigns of Oba Eweka I (1200 A.D.), more serious casting was done for the royal house. Further progress and development was made during the reign of Oba Oguola about 1280 A.D. At this point, tin took the place of zinc in the copper mixture to give a dark reddish brown metal called Bronze.

In the quest to protect the city, and her treasures, Oba Oguola ordered the digging of the first Benin Moat.

The return of Prince Esigie from Portugal, where he studied Arts and Crafts, to become king about 1504 A.D., brought about the formal institutionalization of the various crafts known to the kingdom. Besides being a great craftsman, Esigie was an astrologist and linguist. He spoke Portuguese fluently.

After becoming King, Oba Esigie set up schools of Astronomy (Iwoki), and of Arts and Crafts. The crafts school had several departments called Ugha. Some of them were, Working Tools, Bronze Casting, Carving and Weaving. The Oba appointed Chiefs to head the departments.

The Bronze Casting Department had seven chiefs appointed to oversee its activities. They were led by Chief Inenigun assisted by Chiefs Ihamanigun, Ehanire, Akenuwa, Olague, Obazogie and Chief Obadolayi.

From this point, bronze casting became a full time occupation to the appointed families and they were called sons of Iguerra after the initiating craftsman from Nubia. This period also witnessed the casting of three-quarter head figure of past Obas of the kingdom in solid bronze.

Furthermore, major events were now cast in bronze, which now became a medium of documenting the history of the people. The Eguerra Chiefs who witnessed all major events were given charge to carry out this documentation through bronze casts. Their descendants are still in the business today on Igun Street.

Even the art of Bronze Casting had some administration segmentation as the responsibility for sourcing the raw material, copper, tin and zinc was carried out by the Owinas who were expert miners.

By the reign of Oba Akenzua 1 in 1713 AD, the documentation of past Obas and events during their reign was being executed in bronze. This was however truncated by the British in 1897 who waged war on the Benin Kingdom and looted treasures surpassing the hieroglyphics found in tombs below the Egyptian Pyramids. To this date, this documentation of events in bronze can be executed by the guild of artists now led by Chief Ine, a direct descendant of Chief Inenigun circa 1504 AD.

The Bronze Institution was reconstituted by Oba Eweka II (1914 – 1933) who was himself an expert carver in Ivory and wood and also a clever blacksmith. He was the father of Oba Akenzua II (1933 – 1978).

The era of Oba Akenzua II witnessed intellectual, cultural, social and economic development. Benin Divisional Council Museum opened in 1947 and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II visited Benin on 9th February, 1956. He was appointed Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria on 9th March, 1966. His son Oba Erediawa ascended the throne in 1978 and is the Monarch to this day.

Benin as conservative as it appears today, actually fathered many cities and town across its borders. Prominent amongst these are Eko (Lagos) and several towns in Dahomey and Ga which now are in Benin Republic and Ghana respectively. This expansion took place in 1299 AD during the reign of Oba Udagbedo.

The Urhobos migrated from Benin about 1370 A.D. during the reign of Oba Ogbeka. Hence, they refer to Benin as Ikhuo’roka (the people of Eka after the King). Another nation that traces its origin to Benin is Itsekiri. Iginuan, the son of Oba Olua (about 1473 A.D.) left Benin to settle at Ode-Itsekiri and later became the Olu of Itsekiri.

About 1481 A.D. during the reign of Oba Ozolua, some of his sons left to become Kings in other lands. These include, Alani of Idoani, Olokpe of Okpe, Olowo of Owo, Eze of Aboh and Uguan of Ora. Legend has it that a camp called Eko now Lagos was created by Oba Orhogbua about 1550 A.D. and one of his grand sons was made the Eleko of Eko. More recently, about 1713 A.D. the son of Oba Akenzua I became the Obi of Issele-Uku.

The unique geographic position Benin found herself by occupying mid-way between what the early Europeans referred to as the ‘Yoruba Country’ and the ‘Igbo Country’, no doubt broadened the outlook of the Binis.

After about 800 years of interacting with the Yorubas, the Binis accepted many Yoruba gods like Sango and Olokun while the Yorubas accepted several socio-cultural reforms introduced by the Binis. These include a monarchical system based on primogeniture and an organised traditional ruling council.

Contact with the Yoruba people was first made by Ekaladerhan the son of the last Ogiso (Owodo) who was banished from Benin. He got to Uhe (Ife) and changed his name to Izoduwa. A name which means, ‘I have chosen the path to prosperity’. He is said to be the legendary ancestral hero of the Yoruba race – Oduduwa. He is the father of Oronmiyan, who is the father of Oba Eweka I.

About 1440 A.D. a great warrior, traveller, craftsman and physician rose to the throne. He was Oba Ewuare the Great. He was the first to come in contact with the Europeans and renamed the land EDO.

Today, there is a slight dialectal change among the Edos which identifies them and the major dialects are; Edo, Esan, Etsako and Owan. There is so much to learn about Benin or Edo land but a visit to the Ancient City tells it better. A personal experience of the rich culture of the Edos will definitely amaze you.

Various forms of cultural events and festivals exist in Edo, each with several unique dances. Edo North treats you to spectacular tunes and dances with great agility. The harmony produced by a combination of great Altos, Sopranos and male voices is most remarkable. The echoes remain a long time in the mind after the performance. And also in this part are mountainous land forms and caves all with great historic significance. At the top of one of the mountains in Ososo, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area is the Ososo Resort Centre where the weather can only be compared to that of Jos in Plateau State.

In Edo Central, among the Esan speaking people, a series of New Yam Festivals from one community to the other will thrill visitors from September to early December. Amidst the celebrations, guests are treated to traditional dances which include the Atilogun or Asonogun dance, Igbabonelimhin dance, Kokoma, Kpegbegbe and a host of others. Among these, the Igbabonelimhin masquerade dance is exceptional for the masquerades in their unique and beautiful costumes treat guests to various forms of Acrobatic steps. Their gymnastic display is unparallel and unsurpassable anywhere in the world not even in the Olympics.

From the swift steps in the central region, the spotlight falls on the slow but calculated steps of royal dancers in the south. Benin City has the Igue Festival ceremonies which begin in early December and runs through to the first week of January. Chiefs in their royal regalia come to the Oba’s palace in their numbers to pay homage and celebrate Igue with the Oba.
In their colourful aggregate, they dance the Ugie-Oba dance. It’s a sight to behold! Kings in all the affiliate towns and villages also come in their royal convoy to pay homage and celebrate Igue with the Oba who is the head of the traditional ruling council in Edo land.  The entire event is so colourful that you can never be satisfied with a single experience.

Much of the Benin story is told in Bronze and these you can find at Igun Street, home to the Benin Bronze Casters and their families.  Past Obas of the kingdoms are well represented in bronze statues both at Igun and the Royal Palace.

The legendary Benin Moat is still in place, visitors can access it from various point within the city as it is no longer outside the city wall but in the heart of modern Benin. The various War Lords and prominent battles are well represented in sculptures at strategic locations all over the city.

Benin also boasts of a wild life sanctuary at the Okomu National Park which holds various species of animals with most of them on the endangered species list. Animals found in the forest include Elephants, Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Buffalos, Apes, Gazelles, Reptiles and countless others with different species of birds. There are tree houses within the sanctuary where guests can quietly observe these animals in-situ.

The history of the Benin people is so long and impossible to abbreviate. The people are proud of their heritage and are always willing to recount to anyone who wishes to hear, but the story is never ending… YOU HAVE TO EXPERIENCE BENIN TO KNOW BENIN.


This article as written by Godwin Eigbe was first published in Executive travels Nigeria (ETN) magazine Edition 18 (2009)