The tragedy at Odimboro’s funeral was one of the saddest events in Ebira history. Odimboro who was a very wealthy and influential man in the society was an Ezuka by clan. He was also said to be mystically very powerful. It is popularly held that before his death, he had foretold that when he dies, many people would goto eternity with him.
Then came that fateful day in 1903, hundreds of people had gathered inside the side grass-thatched compound of Odimboro in Okunchi for his funeral rites.
The pot-drummer (ogumahi) was pounding away rhythmically on his “anuva” and both the old and the young were dancing the traditional farewell to the departed soul. Horror struck just then – the whole compound suddenly and mysteriously caught fire.
People scrambled for the only exit which was soon blocked by the heap of fallen bodies. The fire raged on burning hundreds of people beyond recognition.
Only the royal masquerade (eku-oba) that was guarding Odimboro’s corpse and a few people escaped. Surprisingly enough, his corpse and the winding sheets used to cover it were not burnt by the fire.
Another version was that the fire incident was the handwork of Esimi, the Ohiomahi of Uhwodo who had some grievances against Odimboro.
This sad experience has made the Ebira to hold all traditional social functions like marriages and burial ceremonies in the open rather than in enclosed spaces.
Culled from “The Heritage of Ebira Tao,” a book by S.S. Salami
Also on: Ebira Reporters