The Ebira people are outspoken and very hard working. Farming and cloth-weaving are the occupations Ebiras are known for. The Ebira (igbira) people speak Egbira, a Nupoid language belonging to the larger Niger-Congo language phylum.
Egbira is spoken by about 2 million people in Nigeria especially in Kogi State. Many Ebira people are from Kogi State, but some can be found in Kwara State, Nasarawa State, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and Edo State.
Okene is said to be the administrative center of the Ebira-speaking people in Kogi state. Ebira (Igbira) people uphold their traditions. Unique features of their culture can be appreciated most in the event of traditional marriages.
Ebira traditional marriage custom
In Ebira tradition, a man cannot walk to the parents of the lady he intended to marry to disclose his intentions; his parents or elders mostly the women do this by going to the lady’s parents to introduce themselves and also to inform them of their reason for coming to the house.
When a man sees a lady he wants to marry, he discusses his intentions with her, if she likes him and also interested, she tells him to bring his people to express his intentions to her parents.
After this is done, the parents of the lady then carry out their private investigation on the upbringing, background, and family history of the intending groom.
This is done to know if there is madness, terminal diseases or criminality in the man’s family. No parents want to give out their daughter to a family with a bad reputation in society.
After all investigations and no fault found, approval is given to the man to visit the bride-to-be from time to time to get to know themselves properly.
A date is picked for the formal introduction of both families this is known as “Ise Ewere” meaning the secret is now in the open. During the celebration, there is a presentation of a gift item by the groom’s family to the family of the bride.
The gift items include; tubers of yam, dried fish/bush meat, 10 liters of palm oil, a bag of salt, assorted wines and kola nut. The groom may decide to present 2 wrappers to his soon-to-be bride, but this is optional.
On the day of the introduction, the man doesn’t need to attend the occasion as his family members do the necessary things on his behalf. It is the turn of the bride’s family to entertains the groom’s family with food and drinks.
The families network with one another and properly introduce every member of both families. The tubers of yam and other items brought are shared to neighbours and every member of the extended family present of the bride, no matter how small.
This is done to request for their prayers for a happy married life as well as to ensure the acknowledgment of the community that the lady now has someone she plans to get married to. After this is done, the date for the traditional marriage is then fixed.
Ebira Bride Price
The bride price is also agreed upon by the parents of the bride and it depends to a large extent, on the financial strength of the man. Apart from the bride price.
There are other things like “ozemeiyi” meaning “I am attracted to her” which a certain amount of money is attached to, and “otanuvogei” is “joining hands together” which has its own amount attached. There is also “idoza” meaning “farming price” paid to the bride’s family because Ebira people are predominantly farmers.
In the olden days when a young man had to farm, the groom and his friends choose a day to farm for the bride’s parent but this day many young men don’t farm any longer, so they pay money instead.
On the traditional marriage day, women (young and old) from the man’s family are seen singing and dancing carrying tubers of yams on their heads to the bride-to-be house.
The singing and dancing last till their arrival at the lady’s house where the ceremony kicks off. Other items to be taken are cans of palm oil, groundnut oil, dried fish, some clothing materials in some boxes, etc.
The ceremony is marked with a colourful display of dances by maiden groups mostly the bride’s friends and by women groups. The parents of the couple offer prayers to bless their marriage and if a clergyman is present he prays for them and hands over a certificate to them to acknowledge their marriage.
The lady is thereafter, escorted by her friends and other women to her husband’s house with her belongings.