His Royal Highness, Oba Emmanuel Deji Seriki II JP, is the 21st Otaru of Igarra in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State. In this down-to heart interview with WESTERN POST, the Otaru of Igarra speaks about the town, its people, origin, neighbours and challenges of the average ‘Igarra man’. The traditional ruler also talks about the festivals and shrines in the ancient town. AGENE AKHERE brings here the full interview…
The Otaru title is the same as Oba in Yorubaland, I guess?
Of course, Yes, Otaru is the King of Igarra.
Let’s talk about Igarra.
I am aware and was told that the person who led our ancestors to this place is called Ariwo Ovejijo. He came around here in the 14th Century and getting here he met some people who were the Aborigines of this land and this people were known as Onafuas. TheseOnafuas, they are the aborigines and they have a king called Uno and when the first Otaru Ariwo Ovejijo came in, there was no crisis between the Igarra people that followed him down with the Onafua but it was the wish of the aborigines that they will surrender the land here to Ariwo Ovejijo. This was accepted but with some little sacrifice, which the king ofOnafua, Uno, demanded and it was met by Ariwo Ovejijo the leader of Igarra that came. And after that the soil of this land was handed over to him around 14th Century.
Ariwo Ovejijo had five children, these five children were Andede, Eshinagada, Eshinogun, Eshinavaka and Andiba and after the demise of Ariwo Ovejijo, the kingship of this town now began to rotate among his children in other of seniority and that is what we are still doing up till now.
In the order of succession, what position are you?
I am the 21st Otaru of Igarra.
What is your relationship with the people?
To the best of my knowledge, Igarra and its neighbours have lived very peacefully. They lived together without quarrels and it will interest you to know that Igarra is the only ethnic group that is different from other languages in Akoko-Edo because we migrated from Idah now in Kogi State.
What is peculiar about the Igarra people apart from the language?
What is unique about Igarra that other villages have no clue into is that in Igarra, we have a system of running the administration of the town. We rule through the age groups, which are seven that other towns and villages don’t have in this local government. Each of the age groups all have their duties in the town. In Igarra, we are predominately farmers until very recently when some of our boys are migrating to look for white collar jobs. When I said we are farmers, I mean we grow first food crops and cash crops. Any good farmers must have yam plantation. We have yams.
What about festivals?
There is Ubete festival, which is peculiar to Igarra community. It is celebrated annually and the cause of the celebration is to thank God and that that was the day Igarra soil was handed over to Ariwo Ovejijo, the first traditional ruler of this town. And we still celebrate it. Here in the palace we have a portion of the soil given to Ariwo Ovejijo. Since that day we pray for the peace and tranquility of Igarra. We have so many festivals, there is also the Aba festival, which we celebrate once in seven years by the Igarra calendar but six years by the western calendar. It is a big ceremony in that it is the period that age groups are formed. The first one that will come up we call them the Opafuafu that is the manhood age group will spring up. The others who were before them will now move up gradually and that is how the system is run. And like I said each of this age group, they all have their respective duties in town.
How have you lived here all your life?
I was born and schooled in Igarra. I left Igarra in 1960 for Lagos. It was in Lagos where I worked at the University of Lagos that I was called upon to come and ascend the throne in 1997.
How was it growing up as a child in Igarra and what is the difference now?
Now it appears that things are getting shaped. In the past, we used to follow our fathers to the farm but nowadays most of our boys don’t do that. Some of them have gone into other trades. But we still have reasonable number of farmers still around.
Tell us about how the hills have served as security to the community.
It is true that when you are in Igarra you find rocks around. It was used by our forefathers as a security cover during those years of tribal wars. They used them as hideouts before they descended to settle in the mainland. We have so many caves. There were buildings inside that when you are inside you will not remember the open place like where we are now. So we use it as a security guide.
Any spiritual attachment?
We have many shrines that each family sacrifices to every other time. We have many shrines in the hills owned by different groups of families.
Who does the Igarra man worship?
In Igarra we have this shrine popularly called Idakoriko. It is a shrine that every Igarra indigene respects. And if you are going somewhere or looking for anything or you want to do something big, you will call on Idakoriko and pledge that he should help you achieve what you want and that after you may have secured that position or whatever you have asked for that you will come back and pay homage.
Any peculiar challenges of Igarra?
The major challenge that we have is that the roads are not too good. We have so many mineral resources that we are expecting investors to come and buy into. We have granite, gold and so many others that I can’t mention to you now.
What is the relationship between the throne and town unions?
In any other town or villages, we have unions of various associations. These associations we have in Igarra do come to inform the Otaru of their operation and they work in cooperation with the Otaru for the development of the town.
What is your take on the security challenges in Nigeria?
As regards to security problems that the country is going through, my candid opinion is that it looks more political otherwise the emergency rule that is placed on three states in the North-east should be total. Should be total in the sense that, all the civilian governors should be removed and sole administrators appointed there preferably retired military men so that the military can actually have control of the situation otherwise some politicians will still try to do other things negatively on the issue. Elections are coming next year and my advice will be that in these areas where emergency rule has been declared, they should avoid holding any elections there for now.
How do you assess Governor Adams Oshiomhole?
I must confess to you that the present administration headed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole is one of the best I have ever witnessed since I ascended the throne. He started well; he is trying to spread all over the place even though he has not given us 100 per cent of what we deserve in this local government. But I must confess that he is trying and he has promised that he is going to do a lot of things to open Igarra up and the entire local government. So I will give him a past mark.
Who are your neighbours?
We share boundary with some states. Akoko Edo has a boundary with Kogi and Ondo states.
In Igarra our immediate neighbours are Owan, Uneme-Nekhua, Egbigere and we have Okpe and Somorika.
Do you inter-marry?
Why not? You know in Nigeria you can marry from anywhere.