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BN Presents Beyond The Three: Proudly Idoma As Told by Emiene



Beyond The Three is a new series on BellaNaija where we celebrate and spotlight every tribe and ethnic group that is NOT Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo. We invite ALL BellaNaijarians to be a part of this initiative. We’re kicking off the series with the Idoma people. 

BellaNaijarian Emiene Odaudu has kindly offered to tell us about the Idoma people of Benue State.  Idomas are found mostly in Benue state, but there are some other tribes that speak variants of the Idoma dialect in Nassarawa, Enugu, Cross River states. Emiene is from the Otukpo local government. 

What does your name mean?
Emiene is derived from Emiene Owoicho miowu, meaning God has the final say.

What is your language called and do you know how to speak it?
My language is Idoma and I speak it fluently. The Idomas are mostly found in Benue state. But there are tribes that speak variants of the Idoma dialect in Nassarawa, Enugu and Cross River states.

Tell us about some of the unique rites and cultures about your ethnic group

The Idoma people are very hospitable people. In Idomaland it is believed that only a stingy person will ask someone if he/she wants to eat. If you want to give someone food you just give him.

Our weddings are very simple ceremonies. When a man has found the woman he wants to marry, he informs his mother, who in turn is at the forefront of convincing the woman and her family that her son is the “best”.

Where the mother of the man does not lead the way, it is assumed she is not in support of the marriage. She may, however, be excused if she is indisposed or too old. But she then has to appoint someone to act on her behalf.

The staple food is pounded yam and the soup of choice is “Okoho”. Okoho is a very slimy soup made from a plant called Cissus populnea (Google helped me on this one as I did not even know it had an English name). It is also called Dafara by the Hausas and Ajara or Orogbolo by the Yoruba. Okoho is the soup of choice at ceremonies and is prepared with “Ichanyi” or egusi balls (Yum!) Any self-respecting pot of Okoho soup knows it is not complete without assorted bush meat and dried fish. The soup is usually prepared without oil and best eaten with pounded yam, any other swallow would simply desecrate the sanctity of the soup.

Idoma men, as part of their culture, do not allow women to pound yam.

Death & Internment
In Idomaland, when a person dies, an inquest is usually held as part of the burial ceremonies. During the inquest, all sides of the deceased family are usually represented. If the deceased is a woman and she was married, she is taken back to her father’s compound to be buried and that is where her inquest is held. There is usually a go-between during the ceremony who goes back and forth to state the position of each side.
If there is any suspicion that the deceased did not die a natural death, anyone suspected of having a hand in the death is usually requested to swear to an oath usually the Alekwu ancestral spirit for people from Otukpo where I come from. This is however not mandatory as some people who were accused failed to swear to the oath. It, however, means that the person will always have that cloud of suspicion hanging over his head.

Age grade system
The age groups help families during festivities like marriage and even burials with the women cooking and the men helping to pound yam which is a staple food.

What’s that thing that you love the most about your tribe?
I like the simplicity.

What’s that thing you don’t really like about your culture?
I do not like the fact that some parts of our culture, like the Alekwu tradition of the Otupko people, is restricted only to men. I wish it were more open.

What do you wish more people knew about your people?
I wish more people knew about our food because it is delicious. I also wish people knew how hospitable and welcoming we are.

Share a proverb/folklore that is native to your people
It is only when a blind man steps on a stone he starts to insult you.

Thank you Emiene, we appreciate you for taking time to introduce us to the Idoma tribe. 

If you liked this story and would like to tell us about your ethnic group, find out how you can be a part of the series HERE.


  1. Charles Nwolisa

    July 2, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks Emiene, it is such a beautifully written piece. You should write more often. As Peak would say, “It is in you”. Writing is in you, bro.

    I am an Igbo man engaged and about to be married to a damsel of Idoma extraction so this piece was enlightening but brother wait o, you said, “Idoma men, as part of their culture, do not allow women to pound yam.” Since I am not an Idoma man, shey my future wife can pound yam for me…lol

    I don’t mind more information on Idoma people. Interesting tribe.

    Thanks again.

    • ProudNigerian

      July 2, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      Lmaoo! The ladies pound too. Idoma people are the most hospitable people on this planet earth. Yes I said it quote me anywhere hehehe

    • Ehi

      July 2, 2018 at 6:43 pm

      ladies hardly pound o! quite a few. i go to otukpo and aokpe literally every year for christmas. na our men dey pound!!!

    • Chuwa

      July 3, 2018 at 9:17 am

      She is actually female, so sis… However I couldn’t agree more, that she should write more, she does write and speak eloquently. So proud of you..

    • didi

      July 3, 2018 at 11:15 pm

      I like the creative and innovative ideas bellanaija is bringing into his space, so much to learn.

  2. Eby

    July 2, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Beautiful…looking forward to more posts

  3. Ehi

    July 2, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Beautiful piece my idoma sisturr!!! The fact that men don’t leave the yam pounding for the women has to be one of my fave parts in my culture lol. Also, our simplicity. Okoho is great but Ijangada (sun dried okro soup) is bae. lol.

  4. Kosi

    July 2, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you Emiene and thank you Bella Naija. We need to learn more about other tribes in Nigeria. I am particulary interested in the food.

  5. The Real Oma

    July 2, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Laudable initiative, well done BN!

  6. Tincan

    July 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    I love this. If possible, it would be lovely to include pictures of events such a small weddings, coronations, trad outfits etc. Well done guys!

  7. Ada

    July 2, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    Yes o. I’m proudly idoma. Our bushmeat is the best!

  8. tunmi

    July 2, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    this is really cool BN

  9. nnenne

    July 2, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Lots of familiarity with Igbo culture.
    1). Not asking visitor’s if they want to eat before you serve them

    2. Making an inquest when people die and asking people to take an oath, when there’s a suspicion about people’s death.

    3. Age grade system

    4. Use if a go between /witness, during marriage. The witness is also used during resolution of marriages, or ammendments,if any issue arises during the marriage.

    5. Daughters were also sent back to their father’s house to be buried when they die.
    Today ,some people merely take the body there for viewing before burial in her husband’s home.

    Thanks for staying.

  10. q

    July 3, 2018 at 9:10 am

    the writer forgot to add that the MOST BEAUTIFUL women on planet earth are from Idoma. i am speaking from experience.

  11. K

    July 3, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Lovely piece!

    I’m a Yoruba lady married to an Idoma man, My husband is a very kind and hospitable man, so I believe you.

    Please i need Idoma names with meaning, both male and female.


  12. Echeune

    July 3, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Yaaaaaah…..nice one. Thanks

  13. Joy

    July 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

    Beautifully written…..proudly Idoma….I agree that we are one of the most peaceful and accomodating tribes…any1 i meet always tells me that about Idoma people

    I grew up in Lagos and missed out a lot on experiencing the rich culture first hand…bt watching series like Ajoche just makes ne feel very proud….
    Some of those actors on Ajoche need to research the Idoma accent though….*sideye to Hilda Dokubo

  14. Ene

    July 5, 2018 at 12:19 am

    Beautifl initiative BN. As part of the culture it sucks that women are taken back to be buried especially that it is based on the premise that they married a living person-but in death they relinquish “ownership”

  15. Ene

    July 5, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Looking forward to my other side….Ogori…#Eminefo

  16. True Talk

    August 31, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Nice update for me on the Idomas. Do you still bury the dead with their valuables?

  17. Abah Gabriel Onoja

    December 26, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    beautifull higlite of our culture thank you Emiene for your accuracy in this brife explanation. nice one

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