Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A brief history of the Igede people of Benue state

Igede people are predominantly farmers and Historical Warriors, with enriched cultural heritage, one of the cultures: The Igede Agba which attracts international audience will be our focus.
The celebration of Igede Agba (New yam festival) is deeply rooted in this firm belief in patience. Igede Agba celebration marks the beginning of the harvest season. It is celebrated annually on the first Ihigile market day in the month of September, hence the date oscillates between the 1st and 5th of September. Yam which is the most prized staple food item in the locality is used as a symbol to mark the celebration. Hence harvesting of new yams before it is declared free for harvesting is tabooed. Various villages make this declaration earliest about a month or latest a day to the Igede Agba celebration. Thereafter new yams can be harvested freely.
The ideas behind this culture are numerous. For the Igede man to celebrate Igede Agba, he must have something to celebrate with. He must therefore have his own farm to harvest his yams else he will go begging for food on that day. This is deeply abhorred.

One must learn to conserve and preserve foodstuffs and diversify ones farming else cultivating yams alone may keep you in hunger until the next Igede Agba period. This has taught the people to be good food processors and developed numerous preservation methods for yams (so as to have seedlings for farming in the next season) and other food products. Yam being given the honour of place shows that they Igede man believes in leadership and standards, for it takes a dedicated farmer to have enough yam seedlings for cropping in the next season.

During the celebration awards and honours are bestowed on the farmers who have cultivated the largest farms or have the biggest yams or the most number of yams in their barns. This is a very open, free and fair competition and it helps to stimulate hard work and development.

Igede Agba is a time of peace, reconciliation and sharing. No one eats alone on Igede Agba day. You must have a friend to visit or one to visit you. Hence as part of the preparations, it is mandatory you clear the foot path between your’s and your neighbour’s house. This is saying you are welcome to visit or branch and eat. Exchange of gifts and food is done with enthusiasm and joy. The Igede man is truly at his best during the Igede Agba period.

Today these ideals and standards are being eroded and replaced with the pomp and pageantry that goes with all celebrations in Nigeria. It is those who have no farms that celebrate Igede Agba the most. They drink and get drunk, fight and cause troubles in the communities denying us the peace and values that Igede Agba stands for. It is not being suggested here that we should all farm. Some of us have our jobs, trades, education or training as our farms. Just as the local farmer expects to have yams to celebrate with during Igede Agba, we should also strive to have something remarkable which we have done or plan to achieve by every Igede Agba period.

It is wrong to live year to year without any achievements, jobs, expansion or logical plans for a better tomorrow. We should learn to save, if not yams in barns or grains in bags, but monies in banks so we can have enough to keep us going till the next harvest season. Civil servants should learn to manage their salaries till the next pay just as the Igede farmer has learnt to cope till the next harvesting period.

The community should use the period to honour not just farmers but all other sons, daughters and non-indigenes alike who have excelled in their own areas of endeavour. It should be a time for sober reflection and planning. To achieve this, public lectures, seminars and symposia can be organized to mark the occasion.

We should learn to forgive others for ills done to us and also seek for forgiveness if we have wronged anyone. The celebration should be carried beyond boundaries and borders via sending of gifts to neigbours, neighbouring communities and local governments.

As children come home for the celebration, parents should sit them down and asses the progress made b the children in the cities over the year(s) and recall home those who are on the decline in terms of productivity and character.

Since the celebration comes up before schools re-open, it can also serve as a forum to recognize our siblings who have gained admission into tertiary institutions and those who have graduated from such schools.

The government and the community actually works hand in hand to support agriculture through the provision of fertilizers, agrochemicals and other farming incentives. For without farming there wouldn’t be Igede Agba and no celebration for the leaders to thump their chests and dance to the musical drums singing their praises.

Igede Agba marks the end of a long and painful season of hunger for the Igede man therefore we should make this year’s celebration the end of a very long and very painful poverty era for the Igede man. This I believe will be in perfect synergy with the present government’s poverty alleviation programme.

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