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ibegwu of ogugu people

The History, Culture and Traditions With Ibegwu (ancestral spirit) of Ogugu People.

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Ogugu is a community of Igala speaking people in the Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi State, Nigeria, with an Igala version tagged as Akporto due to the phonetic/tone of the people inhabiting that part of Igala land.

Ogugu community consists of lineages like Okwatobida (Okwa) lineage, Odu-Ogidiga (Emodu) lineage and Ayegba Oma-ofo (Ofante) lineage with over twenty (20) sub-clans; Emoli, Emomoka, Emojo, Emonugo Emoriko, Emogodo, Emohiowa, Emakpe, Emuja, Emomonyi, Emenenga, Emokoina, Emabodu, Emododa, Emakwuracha, Emonyokwu, Emogene, Emagaba, Emobida and Emonoja and over fifty (50) villages including Ogugu centre (OG Town) around Ogugu Community.

Ogugu people have a culture that has been misunderstood by other Igalas, it is called “Ibegwu”, literary meaning ancestors or ancestral spirit of the people. It is believed that ancestors watch over their progeny to stop them from doing mischief like; premeditated murder, adultery, unwarranted abortion, etc. otherwise, he/she will be arrested by Ibegwu via mysterious ailment, the cure to which is public confession and performance of the necessary rituals for cleansing.

Ibegwu is an ancestral spirit in Ogugu which can be seen only by those that violate the laws of the land as regards fidelity.

This has been in existence even before the 17th century and it was instituted by the founding fathers of Ogugu land. It was instituted for many reasons, even as it is of benefit for all Ogugu sons and daughters.

The laws guiding the people and the land of Ogugu under the traditional rulership of Ogugu people is very strict. Any violation of such law or laws was met with hard and severe punishments. As a result of this, there was total peace and tranquillity in Ogugu land. Ogugu people have lots of cultural heritage which will remain forever binding on any child of Ogugu, meanwhile, most of these laws and culture are natural laws that guide humanity, which are also found in the law of Moses (Bible). But the most serious of them all that can even lead to death is this (Ibegwu) issue. Which involve premeditated murder and extra-marital affairs with another man wife and unwarranted abortion are all taboo in Ogugu.


Ameh, B.O.A (1973), said that the progenitors before joining their ancestors, instituted this traditional law in Ogugu land and made it binding on all indigenes of the land, till date, if one commits murder, adultery, he or she must confess same publicly and only the eldest man (Anokwute) in the clan has the right to handle the matter. Apart from punishments that followed the violations of the laws and the fear of the effect, the Ibegwu have often put every Ogugu man or woman always under checks and balances. This law is binding on all Ogugu descendants even outside the shore of Ogugu land and on any Ogugu woman married to any part of the world.

It is established that all religion creeds forbid adultery and murder. However, should one fall into occasion of sin, there are ways of reconciliation and penalties.


Originally, Ogugu tradition came into existence in the late 16th century at Unyi-Ogugu Erogwu when the progenitors of the people came and settled in the tick forest of owls (Unyi-Ogugu) on the eastern land boundary between Kogi, Benue and Enugu States.

According to Ameh B.O.A (1973), Odu and Okwa who are the first settlers in the land (forest) of owls (Unyi-Ogugu) instituted a shrine and constituted the rules that will guide the people against doing any form of mischief.

In Ogugu tradition, there was a mysterious Ogugu masquerade called “Agana Ochogwu” under the control of the Ane-Okwute (Anokwute) of Ogugu at Unyi-Ogugu Ereogwu, the centre of Ogugu traditional honour and cradle of the Ogugu history. This mysterious Agana Ochogwu was used to create the stool of Onu-Ochogwu at the shrine of Unyi-Ogugu Ereogwu.

The masquerade appears only on serious ceremonies days and occasions, such as the day of installations of any of the Onu-Ochogwu that was properly installed. According to Marshal M.A Agbo (2012), such an Onu-Ochogwu was Chief Ameh Otobo who was the first Onu-Ochogwu of Ogugu and Chief Ameh Igo Okwoli from Emodu and Emomoka clan respectively. These were the only Onu-Ochogwu that their installation and oath of office as well as visited the traditional shrine at Unyi-Ogugu Ereogwu and have their tenures blessed by the Agana Ochogwu.

The shrine and Agana Ochogwu was initially instituted by Odu-Ogidiga for the protection of Onu-Ochogwu who was the chief of Odu-Ogidiga representing Odu and Ogugu people in most official duties with the colonial master. The Onu-Ochogwu stool was created at the advent of colonial master in 17th century, when Odu, Okwa and Omoka came to settle in the land of the owls (Unyi-Ogugu) in the 16th century years after Unyi-Ogugu was founded by them. Therefore, it has remained dangerous and suicidal according to Ogugu traditions for any Onu-Ochogwu who was not properly installed to visit the shrine at Unyi-Ogugwu Ereogwu, where Agana Ochogwu had disappeared into ad-infinitum. Now in Ogugu, those who become Onu-Ochogwu could assume the throne through the instrumentality of politics and not the original bases of installations.

Traditionally, Ogugu people have unique cultural festivals; The Ote-Egwu festival literary means the feast to celebrates the dead ancestors (ancestral spirit), it is the feast to remember the dead and the departed souls of Ogugu people and their communion with the living. The Ote-Egwu festival is held twice in a year, as an occasion for mass merriments and to mark the seasons of scarcity and plentifulness of food. It is therefore held in dry season (Ote-Egwu Uwo) and rainy season (Ote-Egwu Oloji). It is the time the elders devote their time to give honour to God and the dead for making their families and the entire land in general to prosper throughout the past years with less deaths and misfortunes and more births of children.


The first Ote-Egwu festival is celebrated around the month of April and it is called Ote-Egwu Uwo, while the second one is celebrated around September and it is called Ote-Egwu Oloji /Egorigo, this marks the time of surplus of food. The Ote-Egwu celebration is often done with great activities and mass merriment with the appearance of many different types of masquerades as they are always believes to be the representative of the dead ancestors. Such masquerades are; Akitakpa, Elechi, Ukpokwu, Ajamalede etc depending on their group categories. They are regarded as the great grandfathers’ ancestral spirits and they are thus given great honour and respect. Nobody dares to uncover their heads in dishonouring them. While Odane festival is celebrated to marks the hunting season in Ogugu land.

Meanwhile, in Ogugu tradition, Kola-nut, palm-wine and goat are very important elements in all the ceremonies of Ogugu people. The tradition of the breaking of Kola-nut before and after the advent of the colonial master had remained very strong and important in Ogugu land and even up till date.

In Ogugu tradition, kola-nut could only be broken by the most elderly person (man) in the group, or at occasion. Also, the present of palm-wine (Ote-Ekpe) is very crucial in Ogugu tradition at most ceremonies. Likewise, goat is a sacrificial animal in Ogugu, therefore it is very important in Ogugu tradition, especially for burial, marriage, meeting, festivals and others ceremonies in Ogugu land.

Marriage in Ogugu is a honourable thing in Ogugu, when a young man is ready for marriage and he sees a young girl he like, the young man would approach the girl personally or through his parent/relatives with great caution, if the girl agreed to the young man proposal, then the young man and his parent would approach the girls parent to seek her hand in marriage by carrying of kola-nut, keg of palm-wine and money to the girl’s parents. Then a day would be set for the full traditional marriage, the occasion was always started in the early evening around 6 O’clock pm to the following morning the next day with a great ceremonies, biding of bride price, pounding of yams, cooking of rice, killing of goat and drinking of wine etc.

During the over-night discussions, the dowries and other necessary things such as the rules and regulations guiding the marriage had to be discussed and finalised by the both parents of the bride and the groom who are coming together as husband and wife. Meanwhile, the bride price of an educated girl is relatively higher than that of uneducated ones depending on the level of her education. This practice is to encourage girl child education among the people.

In Ogugu traditional marriage, there is what we called ‘Agarama Ata Oma’ meaning the kola-nut of the girl’s father. This portion of Ogugu marriage is very crucial and can be dangerous, because it is the oath taking where by the girl’s parents, especially the girl’s father goes into an oath and place his daughter on oath of covenant that the girl would not have any sexual inter course (extra-marital affair) with any man except her husband and report any sexual misbehavious(s) of any man with her to her husband. And any case of failure of the girl to honour this covenant could result into the spirit of the ancestor (Ibegwu) to arrest her with mysterious ailment until she confesses and performs the sacrifices. This rules of “Agarama Ata Oma” goes further to state that, the wife would not give or receive any property without telling her husband, even if the person is her relatives, she must tell her husband without keeping secret from her husband.

Nowadays, many parents in Ogugu do not take it kindly in allowing the traditional “Agarama Ata Oma” to be paid on their daughters because of the serious dangers of the resultant effect of the old covenants even though it has some good aspects of keeping the Ogugu women under control, checks and balance from doing mischief.

Generally, Ogugu women are expected to be submissive and supportive to their husband in all aspect and everything she does must be with the consent of her husband. Ogugu women have been known to be of good behaviour in their husband houses, because of their upbringing in their various families that had made the fear of the spirit of the dead (Ibegwu) that existed in the land before and after the advent of colonial master, the Christianity and Islam religions to be replaced with the fear of God Almighty/Allah Subhana-ta-allah. Meanwhile, the rules remain the same. Though, most Ogugu traditional norms and values could not be change by Western civilization because most of these laws are in line with divine and natural laws that guide humanity. Therefore, the people are always proud of their descent way of life.

The story of “Ibegwu” as regard Ogugu women marital fidelity has been the subject of discussion among people from different clans of Igala kingdom. This has led to an unprecedented rush by eligible bachelors outside Ogugu to seek for prospective brides from Ogugu Communities, marrying an Ogugu Women are as a natural antidote against marital infidelity. All these traditions make Ogugu a unique people and ethnic group among the Igala’s Nation.

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