By Bogor Uholo
Our Ughelli correspondent examines the tolls the dreaded Igbe society that are predominant among the Urhobo, Itsekiri and Isoko speaking people of Delta is having on the lives of our young women who live in the communities.
The Igbe Society, an indegenous Urhobo cult group in the oil rich Niger Delta region, South South Nigeria is believed to have been formed in the 19th century as counter poise to the dreaded Ogboni secret cult in Yoruba kingdom in Western Nigeria. It is said that the Urhobos formed the Igbe secret society to rival their Itsekiri neighbours who were being supported by the Ogboni dominated Western Nigerians in the running battle for land with their Itsekiri neighbours.
This unhealthy rivalry is said to be responsible for the choice of Law as a profession for the Urhobo elites who were privileged to embrace Western education as a means of ensuring that their Itsekiri neighbours who were being supported by the Yoruba elites who were mostly lawyers.
The Igbe Society over the years has developed into a very powerful cult group in Urhobo land and present day Delta State to the extent that who so ever wants to attain commanding height in politics, business, the legislative and judicial arm of the government must be a member of Igbe society.
While some elites who are not members of the Igbe society say Igbe society is a feltish group involved in idol worship. However, the Urhobo elites who are members of the cult group counter them, telling the people that the Igbe society is an indegenous society comparable to the Ancient Mystical Order Rosicrusie (AMORC) and the Freemonsery (the Lodge) in the western part of the world.
While these western mystical orders are modernising their practices to conform with the realities of the twenty first century, the Igbe Society is still holed up in dehumanising practices that are not in turn with modernity and anti- human rights practices.
One of such practices is the dehumanisation of widows. When a woman looses her husband, the members of the community make their widows pass through a lot of dehumanising ordeals. The members of the powerful Igbe cult group assist to see to it that the widows are not spared and use all manner of evil devices to ensure they’re not able to enforce their fundamental human rights, even in the courts as most members of the bar and bench belong the Igbe society and want these practices entrenched.
A case in point is that of one Mrs. Ejiro Ogheneroroh who lost her husband in 1998 at Jesse in Ethiope Local Government Area of Delta State. The husband, Michael Ogheneroroh who had a petrol retail outlet on the Benin-Warri road died in a brief illness and survived by his wife and two little daughters.
The younger brother of Michael Ogheneroroh, one Ejaife Ogheneroroh a member of the Igbe society in connivance with some highly influential members of the Ogheneroroh family made the widow to go through dehumanising experiences. The widow’s attempt to resist through some members of her family was resisted by her late husband’s family, using the members of the Igbe society amongst the family members.
Though the matter was reported at the Oghara Divisional Police Office, the elders of the community who are all members of dreaded Igbe cult group went to withdraw the matter from the police station for family settlement.
However, they gave a very pervert judgement as it was resolved that all the properties of the late Micheal Ogheneroroh be inherited by his younger brother, Ejaife Ogheneroroh.
On why they the two little girls were exploited of their late father’s properties, the eldest man in the community said: “they are girls, they don’t belong here. They’ll leave this family for their husband’s family when they overcome their minority.”
Mrs. Ejiro had met a lawyer to file the enforcement of fundamental human rights in the High Court, but an elderly family friend advised her to put a halt the legal battle saying he was privy to the plans of Ejaife and his cohorts.
Another issue that’s generation concern among the Urhobos in the operation of the Igbe cult group is the tradition of marrying the first daughters of every family to the local priest of Igbe society. This practice which has been circumscribing the girl child’s right to freely choose a would be suitor of her choice has been condemned by well meaning individuals. However, the plight of victims of this barbaric and dehumanising treatment is exacerbated by the realisation that most of those who condemn the practice during the day meet with other members of the Igbe society at night to perfect it’s implementation strategies.
The challenges poised by this practice is compounded by the fact that most influential members of the Delta Central and Delta South Senatorial District of Delta State are members of the dreaded Igbe society, including members of the clergy, some Christian leaders.
The cult group according to a source who craved anonymity, ” members of Igbe society can trace a recalcitrant member of the community who refused to bow to their whims and caprice to other states or even the West Africa coast. Most of our brothers and sisters who are Christians also profess the Igbe society just like the Ombatse cult group of the Nassarawa- Eggon in Nigeria’s middle belt region.”
Our source who told us he’s eighty six years old relayed a story of a lady Igho Akpodonor who was supposed to be married to the Igbe priest at Kokori Inland Waterside escaped to Gold Coast in early 1952 to escape the forced marriage.”
A young lawyer and Urhobo man who practices law at ughelli who does not want his name in print gave a story of how the young man who impregnated one of the girls who was bethrothed to an Igbe priest at Agbara-otor died mysteriously at Iguobazuwa in Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo where the girl and her lover eloped to.
According to the legal practitioner, “some of our young men and ladies have been forced out of our local communities because of this outdated and uncivilized practice. Some of our boys and girls have been forced into exile in Cameroon, Ghana, Corte De’voire and even some Arabian countries.
The legal practitioner noted that girls from poor families are more often than not are victims of these practices as the rich men and influential members of the cult group put mechanics in place to insulate their daughters from these evil practices.
On what should be done to stop these evil practices, Bishop Goddey Akpomiemie, a fire brand pentecostal pastor called on Christian leaders to intensify evangelism and preach the Kingdom of God and shun preaching prosperity. According to the bishop, “Christians must be true converts and disciples of the gospel and not those seeking after material things.
He called for prayers to change those conservative elements in the society to change their mind and realise that the world has moved past these barbaric and uncivilized styles of communal life.
How far this king of moral suasion to stem the evils perpetrated the Igbe cult group is a matter of wait and see.