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The rich culture of Ijaw people

The Ijaw people of the forests of the Niger River delta in Nigeria comprising a large number of formerly autonomous groups. They speak languages of the Ijoid branch of the Niger-Congo language family.
It is believed that one is always being watched by the spirit of his ancestors and must show appreciation to the dead and pray to them for future well being. Before each meal, one offers a bit of their food to the ancestors by tossing it to the ground and calling out the names of his ancestors, and every eight days, food and drink are set out specifically for them.
Every seven years a goat’s blood is sprinkled in front of images or pillars representative of the ancestors. It is against tribal law to speak badly of a spirit. If someone does speak ill of the dead and refuses to apologize, the insulted family retaliates by speaking against his dead family. When apologies are made, they all perform an atonement ceremony.
West of the main Niger outlets each group occupies a cluster of villages linked by loose ties of cooperation, mainly against outsiders. Its members claim descent from a common ancestor. At group and village levels government is by assemblies of elders, often presided over by priests. The economy is based on fishing, palm oil collecting, and flood and agriculture.
Formerly, when the economy was based primarily on fishing, each group claimed a distinctive culture and political autonomy. After contact with European merchants about 1500, however, the communities of Bonny, Calabar, and Nemke began trading first in slaves and then in palm oil. Wealthy traders became very powerful and governed in council with a hereditary king. Each trader purchased numerous slaves for incorporation into his own section of the community; if the trader had no suitable heir, an able slave succeeded him. Competition with other groups over hinterland markets and an emphasis on cultural separation rather than on links of common descent meant that ability was valued more than pedigree, permitting the emergence of such slave-born (i.e., non-Ijo) leaders as George of Calabar and Chief Jaja of Opobo.
It covers approximately 14,000 square miles (36,260 square kilometres) and has its origination in the highlands of the Fouta Djallon Plateau in western Guinea 150 miles (240 kilometres) from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ijaws are a nation of more than fourteen million people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the most populous indigenous inhabitants of the Niger Delta and constitute the fourth largest ethnicity within the borders of Nigeria.
The term Ijaw is the anglicised version of Ijo or Ejo, a variation of Ujo or Ojo, the ancestor who gave the Ijo people their name.
Some anthropologist say that the Ijaws came from South Africa, some say from East Africa. Some say they are from a district around Nupe province in Northern Nigeria and some say that the Ijos came from Benin. The Ijaws themselves believe that they came from Benin and in fact, most of their traditional stories and folklore refer to Benin.
Ijaws speak 9 Niger-Congo languages originating from the Ijoid branch of the Niger-Congo tree. Approximately 1 million people speak Izon which belongs to the Eastern Ijo division of the language. The second most prominent sub-language, Kalabari belongs to the Western Ijow division and is the mother tongue of 500,000 speakers.
The first migration out of Otu-Ife (or Ile-Ife as it was later to be known) was led by Prince Ujo (alias Idekoseroake) mentioned in theancestral tradition as being the first son of King Adumu. Prince Ujo along with the warlord Ogu (Ogun) were war commanders in the military alliance, who took part in the battles that were fought to subdue the hostile Ooyelagbo communities and establish the Yoba Kingdom. Between 650 -700 AD Prince Ujo led his migration out of Ife to the Benin region, where he encamped and established a settlement (Uzama) that later was to become the basis of Benin City. At this time other ORU people, as well as the EFA people were settling the Benin region.

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