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Background to the Study

This work centers on the cultural activities of women in the Otukpo clan in Idoma land in the 20th century. However, a brief origin of the Idomas is imperative at this stage. This introduction therefore is intended to go into the polemics of the origin of the Idoma nation. Tamuno in his essay on the people of Niger Benue, asserted that”with the exception of the Iyala, the Idoma claimed that their ancestors had a Wukari (i.e Jukun) origin. Such passive comments on the Idoma nation ran throughout almost all the historical works existing, until recently, when Professor E.O Erim of University of Calabar delved into origin of the Idoma nation in his book “The Idoma Nationality”.

According to Erim2, the Idoma people claim their ancestral home to be Apa, the region that harbours their historical neigbours the jukuns within the plains of the lower Benue. The Idoma nation is made up of twenty-two districts with sixteen Idoma proper and six non-Idoma speaking people comprising of Igede, Etulo, Akpa, Utonkon and Ulayi3. On the other hand, another theory on the origin of the Idoma added Ishake on the southern side living side by side with the Igbo settlers.

However, what is today known as Idoma that lies south of the River Benue with a population that has been estimated at slightly over one million by 2006 census figure, and it’s  area of land located within the broad valley of the Benue River and cross River basin has remained home for the Idomas over the century. The main thrust of the land is a contiguous belt of territory, which stretches from southern banks of River Benue to the northern fringes of Igbo land. These territories lie within latitude 600-300 north and longitude 800east and cover a total land area of approximately 5.955 square kilometers5.

The River Benue bound the Idoma people to the North, by parts of Igbo and Ogoja to the South, by the Tiv and Igede to the East and by Igala land to the West. The Idoma unanimously traced their traditions of origin to Apa (Beipi) tentatively associated with one time capital of the legendary kwararafa confederacy, which before the 15th century was under Abakpawatiga. The term Idoma is used to describe the decedents of a migration leader, Idu6. Informants from various ethnic groups for instance Adoka, Ugboju of Otukpo local government among others terrace their genealogies back to certain Idu who was their “putative founder” and the founder of different groups in Idoma land.

The king lists of this distinct trace their genecology to the mystical Idu or Idom. There is no doubt that Idu was a historical figure. A typical Idoma genecology shows that Idu is the “father” of the different groups that came to their locations from kwararafa and at different phase of migration

Objective of the Study

This study is chosen because of the significant role played by women in Idoma land particularly their cultural responsibilities to the Otukpo clan.

What stimulated the researcher to embark on this writing is to contribute to knowledge. Nothing much has been written on the significant role played by Idoma women in the area of their cultural responsibilities particularly in Otukpo clan. This study focuses on the cultural responsibilities of women to the Otukpo clan in Idoma land which form a large bulk of the economic activities of the present day Benue state of Nigeria. The study aims at an evaluation of the specific roles of women in Idoma land. It is for the purpose of this work to focus on the various developments achieved by women in Otukpo local government of Benue state which include socio-cultural development, economic development and to bring such significant role played by women into lime light from the period under review

Attempt shall be made in this essay to give some knowledge of the nature and diversity of the role of women in the cultural developments of Otukpo clan. The researcher shall also assess the religious, cultural and other factors shaping their various roles and examine policies that have attested the position of women in Otukpo clan during the period under review. Basically, emphasis would be placed on gender relation in the society and how this might have influenced the various activities involving women.

This essay focuses on women mainly because their cultural roles have not been sufficiently emphasized in historical writings. They are rather discussed most times as passing references. It is important to note that unless one goes into the field to specifically find out about the cultural contribution of women, there is the tendency of not pursuing in detail the role played by them.

Scope of the Study

This essay would endeavor to look at women and their socio-cultural and economic responsibilities in Otukpo local government area of Benue state in the 20th century. Therefore, the study covers the period from 1900 till date. Women activities in Otukpo Local Government will be discussed which will include societal view on women in Otukpo Local Government area of Benue state. Women in economic activities will be discussed, the socio-cultural and economic development of women in Otukpo will be highlighted which include the socio-cultural responsibilities of women in Otukpo, the position of women in the family, the role of women in community service, the role women in festivals, women in commerce and other factors shaping their various roles. It will examines polices that have affected the position of women in Otukpo during the 20th century.

Research Methodology and Problems

Since this study is aimed at identifying the role played by women in Idoma land to the Otukpo clan in the 20th century, it is therefore mainly based on oral source and fieldwork, since secondary source materials often deals with activities in the region without specific reference to women. Group inferences were also conducted with those in the same ward in other to determine the various roles played by women in Otukpo clan. Information was also gotten through individuals interviewed.

The secondary sources that are consulted for this work are either on things written on the area of study, reports, journals and textbooks from the Archives and libraries.  As might be expected, all the source of information had their limitations. It is found out that there are little or no reference to the cultural activities of women in Otukpo clan and where materials are found on women it centre’s more on feminism and their liberation, and those found relating to the work are not of great relevance to the work.

At the Archive, most of the files and textbook asked for on women are not available and at times when found it is of no importance or some pages were completely torn off. The fact that a large number of people is interviewed does not eliminate problem from the oral source, the reason being that the women could not spare their time for interviews even though previous arrangements has been made for it. It is found out that the information contained there are the same as those already gathered. There is also problem in the area of provision of dating for specific events, and also, on how much profit they do realize from their economic ventures.

Literature Review

There are no doubts that several literatures abound on Idoma economic and socio-cultural history, with a handful of them on Otukpo Local government in particular. Anthropologists who are not skilled in the discipline of History, and other well renowned historians did not put some of these works together. Our review of literature however aims at presenting a variety of some views put together by different scholars on the subject of our research with the aim of bringing out specific issues that are considered imperative to this wok. It is pertinent to assert that there are certain areas, which these literatures did not cover which this research sought to cover.

In Okpeh’s contribution “Studies in the History of Central Nigeria vo11” Okpeh in 10th chapter: “The Pre-Colonial Organization of the Idoma People,” dwelt more on the pre-colonial setting evolving his analysis around the Ojira which according to him was no doubt a very powerful organization in Idoma land7. This author also was able to give us the Idoma setting in pre-colonial period. On the other hand, his work while shedding light on the part of women and their contributions in pre-colonial period, did however, not cover much on our aspect of research.

In V.G. Okwu’s book; “The Establishment of Colonial Administration in Idoma land 1921-1930,” Okwu8 started by tracing the origin of Idoma land and went on to discuss the government attitude towards the Idomas in his works and with reference to Otukpo Local    Government area. In this book, he was able to give the origin of Idoma land, which is useful to this research. On the other hand, it did not mention any activities of women in his analysis.

Another book consulted in the course of this study was the book of E.O Erim9 who is one of the foremost writers of Idoma literatures, spent more time of his book ‘Idoma Nationality’ tracing the origin, migration and settlement pattern of Idoma people. He also devoted his time to their ways of life and traditional institution. It is important to note that his work inspired subsequent writers of historical work or literature on the Idoma nation. Hence almost every Idoma literature has his masterpiece referred to. Again given the large ovation that has been generated by his work, the work does not cover every aspect of this research work but was helpful when giving the background of the Idoma people and their origin.

Another book that was reviewed in the course of this research was ‘Women Marginalization and Politics in Nigeria’ by Jibrin Ibrahim and Amina Salihu. The book is about women in politics in Nigeria and their achievements as far as Government offices,10 are concerned.  The work went further to talk of how women were being marginalized in Nigeria politics in this regard the book was able to give useful information in the aspect of the role played women in politics in relation to the changing roles of women in Nigeria. However, the book is of limited use to this work because the setting of the work is based on Nigeria as a whole with no reference to Otukpo Local Government of Benue State.

Another book consulted was “Studies in Igede Development” volume I, (eds) Adagba Okpaga, Indu O. Ode and Godwin E. Ogah11. This book talks about the various developments that have taken place in Igede community of Benue state. While this book is relevant to this study it is limited because of its setting which had no particular reference to Otukpo Local Government Area.

In the book by Bernard Obeya Nelson and Prof. J.I. Elaigwu12, tilted “Ucholo kal’ Idoma, A compendium of Apa Heritage. In this book, we were able to see the origin and foundation of Idoma kingdom and in general have been able to provide us with information concerning the Idoma Heritage which is useful in the course of this research and also provided information on the Idoma political development in Benue State. On the other hand this book has omitted some information especially the activities of women in Idoma land and where there is available information much reference is not placed on women activities in Otukpo Local Government area of Benue State.

Another book consulted is “Women and Politics” written by Vicky Randall13, published in 1982. The work centers on women participation in politics, impact of polities on women in relation to policy making, their social position in politics and political behavior of women. This work is of limited use because the setting of the work was based on Britain and United States and not on Nigeria it however provided useful insight into women administration and governance in political position.



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