Significance Oji-Udene Heritage in Iyano

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Iyano is an agrarian Kogi community known for the cultivation of yam, rice, cassava, maize, etc. The community is also visibly situated in the midst of lakes, namely, Ohimini, Ofe, Iyore, Oyima, and Itamiyo. These lakes do not only serve as sources of water supply but economic as well. Equally, the town is bordered by the villages of Inemeh, Abujaga, Ikaka and Ishi. It is estimated that the population of the community hovers around 9000 people.

“The origin of this monument, Oji-Udene cannot be exactly known but its existence is as old as the community. Oji-udene, sometimes pronounced as Ojiugene by the younger generation, was conceived to serve as a post for vigilante member of the community. According to elders of the community, the idea became necessary due to constant incidences of raids from neighbouring communities in search of slaves and other challenges posed by thieves and fire outbreak.

For efficient performance of duty by those appointed to secure the community, when other members may have gone to their farms, a central place was prepared for security men. It is the point of convergence after a surveillance walk around the village.

The building of Oji-Udene is usually done through a communal labour mainly by youths. The youths will go to the bush to fetch log of woods that are strong enough to warrant durability. Trees that are mostly used for the building of Oji-udene include, uloko (iroko) obulu and akpa.

It is usually centrally located in the community in order for the men on security duty have unhindered view towards detecting security breaches. Over the years however, Oji-Udene has assumed other functions in Iyano community. According to Anthony Inelo and Stephen Atule, “the heritage became a place where men gather to relax while waiting for dinner to be ready as well as share some jokes and sundry matters”. Again, Oji Udene provides a rallying point wherever there is community labour like environmental sanitation. All those involved in the communal labour will be addressed by the ‘achimere’, the King lieutenant before departing to their places of assignment. At the end, they return to the place for final briefing.

My respondents further hinted that Oji Udene apart from its social roles is culturally considered as a sacred place. It is said that when pursued by masquerade and one runs to the place the masquerade will refrain from flogging the person.

Oji udene is built to accommodate reasonable number of people at any particular gathering or functions. It is usually arranged in rolls horizontally with wooden props serving as support to keep it firm in position. Whenever men gather there for whatever reason, elders sit at the most elevated rolls. Except permitted, a younger person cannot sit above his senior.

Today, this ancient traditional practice, still provides rest for everybody, including the young ones in the community. It is the people’s place of breaking their stress.

Mrs Jane Attah,
Museum of Colonial History,
Lokoja, Kogi state

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