Among Isobo people: The Indigenous Igbo of Cross River State

Not much is known about some of the Igbo communities in Cross River State, few days back I visited Isobo land, one of the Igbo sub groups in Cross River State… Remember when I wrote about my Afikpo trip that I mentioned I was supposed to take a boat from Ozizza to Ofrekpe and from there to Isobo but couldn’t make it for some reasons.. Well, I finally did and spent three days among the people.

Isobo is An Igbo community in Cross River State, They are mainly found in Obubra Local Government Area with Three communities, Otaka (Isobo Otaka), BikoBiko (Isobo Biko Biko) and Ezomezo (Isobo Ezomezo).. The Isobo people are predominantly famers, their major farm produce are Rice and Yam. The Isobo people are also found in Yakurr and Abi Local Government in Cross River and Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State..

After so many months of wanting to visit Isobo and searching for someone who would give me directions to the community to no avail, few months back I met someone from the community on facebook by name Osita Ndubisi and after much interaction he told me he isn’t based in the east and gave me his dad’s number and ask me to contact him for direction to the community..

I spoke with his dad and arrange a date for my visit…

Few days back I visited the community and I must confess, Isobo people are one of the most charming people have I come in contact with, They are very homely, welcoming and caring… This trip was really an eye opener… I arrived the community on Friday evening with some of the Village who came back for a burial… I was housed by Osita dad in Izoda village because there isn’t any hotel in any of the Isobo communities, Izoda is one of the Seven Villages that make up Otaka, others are: Ndi Omeji. Ndi Mgbogidi.. Ihorikpa.. Ndi Onwuzu.. Ndi Utuma and Ndi Nkasi…

Because of my late arrival there was nothing I could do that evening and Osita’s dad who happens to be the oldest man in Izoda had to attend a meeting, although we chatted briefly and he asked me to join them or go to the venue of the wake keep but I was too exhausted from from the long trip so I went and freshened up, rested a while before coming out again to see see what was going on in the community.

The next morning he arranged a bike to take me to the beach and other neighboring communities Which were mostly Mbembe communities and Igbo communities of Both Izzi and Ikwo extraction. We visited, Okpechi, Iko, Ofumana, Ofunama, Ebiom, Owakande, Obubra town and others, while there are many Igbo community of Izzi extraction in Obubra, to closest to Isobo people are Okputumo people, Nwoji Idda, Ida Ida and Ebora people of Ikwo extraction…

On coming back, I had a little chat with my guild (Moses) who gave me a little insight on their practices especially their Aji Festival and Irinji (New Yam) Festival After which I took off on my own, visited Biko Biko community and Ezomezo Community…

One sad reality about the Isobo people is that they are neither here no there…. Because of their identify their Mbembe neighbors don’t consider them one of them and because of their location their Ikwo neighbors don’t consider them one of them too.

But the Isobo people are proud Cross Riverines and Proud Igbo people too, one thing that seems not to go hand in hand in this country.. It’s either you are from Cross River or you are Igbo…. You can’t be an Igbo and also be from Cross River so most of their neighbors believe.

One thing I observed is that they never seem to shy away from who they are and that seems to be their greatest undoing, they seemed to hold unto their identify and Cross Riverines and Igbo at the same time which is something that doesn’t go together in this country as far as most people are concerned, you can’t have it both ways, it’s either you are Igbo or you are from Cross River, you can’t be Igbo and at the same time claim to be from any of the South South or North Central States.

Isobo people are not the only Igbo speaking people in Cross River State, but unlike the others especially those of Izzi and Ikwo extraction who can claim to come from Ebonyi at anytime because most of their people are from their even though their own community is under cross river, the Isobo people don’t have that luxury because most of their people are in Cross River State..

There is No basic social amenities in this community, No portable and safe drinking Water, No motorable road and No electricity.. The health center in the community isn’t functioning, it’s only being used during immunization.. The borehole in the community spoiled over two years ago and the community rely on muddy pond water for their daily use…

I hope that Cross River State government will do something to alleviate the suffering of the people.

After exploring the community on Saturday I Joined the people at the burial venue to see how they perform their burial rites which isn’t different from the way we do it in my own part of Igbo land… After the burial, Osita’s dad took me to some of the Chief’s place to enlighten me more on some of the cultural practice of the people and history, First we went to one of the chief place there in Otaka, But he was in a meeting when we came so he asked us to come in the morning… The next day we visited Biko Biko but couldn’t get much from the chief, He asked me to come back during their Aji Festival in April to witness how the festival is celebrated…

Although the people of Biko Biko and Ezomezo celebrates their Aji Festival in April, their Otaka brothers celebrates in June.. According to the people, the Aji Festival is a fattening room ceremony, a rite of passage festival that celebrates womanhood… In the olden days, when young girls come of age, they undergoes circumcision after which they are kept in isolation for three to five month, During this time they are not expected to do anything or go anywhere. They will undergo series of training while being taken care of to usher them into womanhood after which they will be presented to the community during the Aji Festival.. although the Aji Festival is still celebrated by the people of Isobo but that of circumcision is not practiced anymore..

After my visit to Biko Biko, it was time for me to leave but not before I was invited to break bread and drink wine with Izoda people and also interact with them.. After a friendly interaction with them, they asked me to join their Aji Festival publicity team which I will gladly be doing for them from my end.. After our interactions, they arranged a bike that took me to Noyo in Ebonyi State where I picked a vehicle that took me to Abakaliki and from there back to Enugu..

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