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Igbanke is an Igbo town in Edo State. They are of the Ika people family stock in Delta State, Nigeria, which also constitutes Agbor, and up to the border towns of Alifekede (Ala Ifekede) down[clarification needed] to Umunede. Today's Igbanke village is constituted by Umoluah, Obiogba, Idumuiru, Igbontor, Idumodin, Ake, Olije, and Ottah, all of which have different histories of migration. The original name of the town is "Igbo Akiri", but it has recently been misspelt Igbanke. The people have organized various movements to change the name of the town back to "Igbo Akiri", which is its true name.
The government of Igbanke is presided over by Enogie (Anochie), Dein (Dee, Deede), odiowere (ndi owere), Ndichie, Dikens (Dike), okhiolors (okenye ulo), and Okhialis (okenye ala). Each of these heads has his jurisdiction. The jurisdiction could be stratified into three: The family level, the clan or hamlets and the villages. At the family level, the okhilor (he is usually the oldest man in the family) presides. At the village quarters, the okhilor is the head, while the eze rules over the entire village. Igbanke is chiefly a patrilineal society and as such its women are seen as performing passive roles. The language spoken in Igbanke is the Ika dialect of Igbo.
Levels of conflict and their modes of resolution in traditional Igbanke society
Before any conflict could be managed or resolved, its cause is examined. In traditional Igbanke society, most conflicts have been triggered off by issues regarding Land, Power, and Money. Land is a primordial asset of the Igbanke people and so, there is often the die-hard feeling of ownership and attachment to it. The quest for power is mostly common amongst title holders and seekers. Power struggle could also be found within families. The causal factor of money cuts across all strata of the Igbanke society.
Conflict management among Igbanke families
In traditional Igbanke society, three major levels of conflict abound: cases of divorce, cases of witchcraft, and land disputes.
Marriage, in traditional Igbanke society, is considered a very sacred institution. However, the culture permits polygamy. Cases of divorce are not rampant due to the patrilineal nature of the society. Nevertheless, cases of divorce are resolved with a great degree of traditional protocol which ultimately forestalls the practice of divorce. Procedures for divorce settlement are as follows:
Most of the time, the woman goes back to her family at the height of a crisis between her and her husband. Her refusal to go back to her husband has little or no effect to the divorce process. Except for cases of murder a woman will always be forced to go back to her husband’s house.
For settlement, the man’s kinsmen usually summon the woman’s relatives to the man’s house. The woman is asked first to narrate her case. She is given ample opportunity to "cry out" her emotions. The husband is thereafter asked to give his own side of the story. Depending on the degree of the conflict, the eldest in both families mediate the issue. In Igbanke, emphasis is placed on the values of society which glorify peace and harmony. Their minds are drawn to Iyiolor (a family deity that promotes peace in the family). An interesting aspect of conflict resolution at this level is that the couple is not asked whether they want their marriage, rather, they are told (by the mediators) why their marriage should continue. At the instance of a resolved conflict (divorce settlement) the woman is expected to prepare pounded yam with Ujuju soup (this is a special of the Igbanke people). Often, it is expected that her husband feeds her while she kneels in front of him under the watchful eyes of the elders. At the end, they are bound by nso (abominations) of Iyiolor; they are also bound by the sanctity of their marriage and their joint upkeep of their children – this becomes the agreement for peace.
Witchcraft is a metaphysical phenomenon that has no scientific proof. Traditional African society, such as Igbanke, confidently handle cases of witchcraft. This type of case is strictly resolved through divination. Before a case of witchcraft is investigated and eventually proven, there must have been repeated cases of havoc wrought in the family. Most of the time, the accused tends to be very quarrelsome and indifferent to the ordeals of the family. This gives way for suspicion and eventual summoning of the accused before the traditional priest or oraclist. The accused is compelled to confess. Her resistance will lead to Ira’nzun (the consumption of native chalk). Upon consuming the native chalk, if she turns out to be the antagonist, as the divination proves, she begins to spin until she faints and starts confessing unconsciously. Having confessed her evil machinations, she is banished from the village. She eventually “goes off” and becomes a lunatic. Consequently, peace will be restored in the family again.
Conflict management at the village level
Land is said to be a major asset in traditional African society. Conflict over land could arise as a result of problem of inheritance, farmland, settlement and boundary dispute. A major war that ensued between the Igbanke and Agbor people in 1895 was as a result of land. Omorogbe Nwanwene narrates the story accordingly:
"The genesis of the war dated back to early 1895. It started like a grain of mustard seed. It started due to accusations of land encroachment by the Agbor indigenes at the border lands. All these got to the apogee the moment an Igbanke woman on the border land(s) was abducted."
An Igbontor man known as Mgbako went to Agbor to get back his wife who went to farm and never returned. On getting to Agbor, he also was taken captive. The cause of this tragic phase of man’s inhumanity to man – taking a man’s wife illegally and then taking the husband prisoner for daring to ask for his wife is on something material: land. The news of this high-handedness spread over Igbanke with incredible rapidity.
First of all, an Igbontor general, Ojei, nicknamed Orimatun, went to Agbor on a friendly mission to get the release of Mgbako. He too was caught. Unable to kill him by any means, the people of Agbor asked Orimatun to go back to his people and tell them that they would never gain the release of Mgbako. All Igbanke leading men met and took a decision to send all Nwobu (untouchable) priests to Agbor to secure Mgbako’s release. But the people of Agbor killed them all. All overtures of peace from the Igbanke people of Agbor were turned down by the Obi of Agbor – Obi Osagbobu. Cosequently, the Igbankes regrouped with their warlords and war was declared on Agbor in 1895. The tumultuous war raged on until both villages saw the need basically for some reasons: The sacredness of life in the traditional religion; the intermarriage that exists between them; the long relationship that had existed between long before the war, and the need for peace.
The move for peace started with the Obi of Agbor extending fresh palm frond leaves to the Eze of Igbanke. Usually, the item is dispatched by a young lad (believed to be very harmless), clad with Ekwo-ochan (white traditional apparel). The lad is escorted by two warriors up to the boundary where he is left to deliver the item to the emissaries of the king at the other camp. If the other king is in support of peace, he accepts the fresh palm frond and sends the lad back with two of his servants bearing a white dove or a cork. But if he refuses, the lad will be sent back with a red cloth, or he could be killed. But in the case of the Igbanke-Agbor war, the peace move was taken. The moment the white dove was sent to Agbor, the war stopped. Delegates of both kings met at the boundary, performed the necessary sacrifices, killed a he-goat, spilled the blood in a hold right there at the boundary and planted a kola-nut tree right there. Till date, the area is still called Ogidon (a corruption of Ogi-udon: kola nut of peace).
The new yam festival which often celebrated between August and September starts with the traditional clearing of roads in the town by the youths. these roads are believe to be used by the spirits of the dead (Ndi Nmo) who are visiting the town for the festival. Also these roads are used by the title holders in going to the town shrine to offer sacrifices to appease the gods of harvest and for peace of the town. The next step heralding the festival is the traditional painting of the walls with native chalks and red earths, (in this time all homes in the village are painted) and then the "Okika Nmo" ceremony, the traditional announcement of the commencement of the new yam festival. Okika Nmo ceremonies are held at the palaces of the enogies of Ake, Idumodin, Omolua and Igbontor, on this day, the enogie invites sons and daughters of the town to witness the occasion, during the ceremony he announces the beginning of the annual festival and the announcement gives the title holders the permission to eat from the new yams. (Before then, title holders are not allowed – permitted to eat from the new yam)
During the Okika Nmo ceremony, different musical groups are invited to entertain visitors. One of the features of the Egwu new yam festivals is the "Uroko Dance", this is a group of traditional dancers made of men from all works of life and of all ages. This dance group goes from house to house in Ake and Obiogba and in each compound dances are held for a few minutes and the householders offer presents, ranging from palm wine to kolanuts and money as the occasion demands. The Uroko dance is the highlights of the festival as it is the delight of both old and young. At the last dance night where the stars do not sleep, all the dance steps are repeated and the audience are keep in awe until day break.
Another major feature of the festival is the communal eating together called the "Nni Ogwa", in this day every household cooks pounded yam with different type of soup decorated with meats and dried fish. The villagers go from house to house eating and offering prayers, among the meat presented by the household, a part is taken to the home of the oldest man of the town where everybody assembles in the evening to share it among one another according to age, it is an abomination for the man who is sharing the meat to leak his finger in the process. If by mistake he does, he needs special sacrifices to cleanse him of any anger of the gods.
The "Nwan-Obu" priest after the traditional announcement of the festival do not sleep in his normal room but outside in a hut built for this purpose until the end of the festival (on the Iha Ogugu day). This hut is decorated with native chalks and all sorts of carved images, here he receives his visitors and family members. Nwan-Obu is a god of harvest and the protector of the children of Igbanke town. (Nwan-Obu nigbon, Ori Nkehian ni Eriwenke). The other highlights of the festival events is often on Saturday "Eke Market day", this day the town is agog with activities and different faces are seen along the road and in different houses, almost every compound is filled with sons and daughters of the family, visitors from far and near, this festival acts as opportunity to meet old friends who are in Orun-Oyibo in far away land.
The priests are to travel to the "Land of the Unknown" to appease the god of the spirit of the deaths, but before they embarked on this "hard" but joyful journey dances, exchange of native chalk powder (Nzun) and offering of prayers are held. The drummers bring out their best drums and entertain visitors and men and women dance to their satisfaction. The children are not left out of the show as they add colours to the day with the fire work "Kakados", a wooden stick with iron filled with matches like gunpowder. The priests leaves the shrine at about 4.00 p.m. and before this there is a little shower of rain an indication that the gods had washed their hands and accepted the offering given to her. The priests and their family members and visitors alike walk to a certain point and then only the priests have to go further to the "heart" of the valley where they bring back native chalks believe to be the heart of Nwan-Obu god. This native chalk is believe to be the protector of the people of Igbanke.
Igbanke in Edo State
The location of Igbanke in Edo State has continued to generate endless controversies. This is because the people are of Ika (Anioma) stock with homogeneous cultures and traditions with their kith and kins in (Delta North), Delta State. Critics of the location of the people of the community in Edo State have described this as anomaly while citing the marginalization of the people which has left the community grossly underdeveloped as an after effect. Several Anioma historians and organization have continually called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to cede the community to Delta State or at least accept it as part of proposed Anioma state. The location of Igbanke is believed to be responsible for its woeful state which explains why a large number of its population rely on Delta State, government-owned facilities such as hospitals for survival.
In recent times, "From the way the relationship is degenerating, the message is getting clearer by the day that the ‘Binins’ may not integrate the Igbankes into the mainstream of Edo politics. But political analysts say the Binis pretend during politics but once politics is over, the Igbankes are tagged Ika-Delta Ibo. The Igbanke people are perceived as brothers only when they can be used to perpetuate election rigging, exchange ballot boxes on their way to the collation centres among other crimes, says John Ede, a Benin-based political scientist..."Yes, that was then. Today, the truth is gradually unfolding. The present generation is beginning to understand that they are not brothers after all. They are to be known and not to be heard. They have been used and dumped." The Igbanke people have once again renewed hope in their inclusion in the proposed Anioma State.