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Adeyemi Olajide » HISTORY AND CUSTOMS OF ICHEN PEOPLE

HISTORY AND CUSTOMS OF ICHEN PEOPLE

The Ichen people are one among the Jukun people of the Kwararafa kingdom. Prior to colonialism, the Ichen people called their tribe Etkye but with the advent of colonialism and western education the British carrying out research on the Ichen people could not spell the name correctly and mistaken it for Ichen and that is how the Ichen maintained the name till date.
According to national association Ichen student “the Ichen people are popularly known by their neighbours as Kenton”.1 This derogatory name was coined by their kpazon neighbor who felt having offended the Ichen people there by pursued them to go and appease or persuade them to come back to Wukari but on reaching a certain stream near Wukari called Ton, they found out that the Ichen had crossed the Ton stream and could not be easily reached, hence stopped on the Ton stream and said “these people had crossed Ton stream” (bani kyaton ra), that is why the Ichen people are nicknamed Kenton to date.
The Ichen people are found only In Taraba State and inhabited the following local governments of Donga, Bali, Takum, Kurmi and part of Wukari local government respectively. It should be noted that unlike the Wapan and the Kuteb, the Ichen people have no single local government of their own, but incorporate with other tribes to form a local government. Infact, in some of the local governments, they are regarded as minority. The Ichen people consist of seven clans which include: Nugwi, Beekan, Buban, Benye, Ndahwa, ndedwa and Bibinu (Effdono).
In intelligence report of the Kenton mandated area by C.W. Cole, geographically, the area covers approximately1 40,000 square miles and much of it is inhabited and consists of virgin bush used for agricultural purposes. Large tracts are to all intents and purposes inaccessible consisting of rocky, boulder strewn regions, water courses and thickly wooded slopes. The region may be briefly described as a plain valley. The area also has advantage of rivers and their tributaries.
The Ichen migrated along Wapan, Kuteb, and Isala etc from Yemen-enroute Mecca, Egypt and Borno, finally to their present habitat.
According to C.K Meek2 1931 (A Sudanese kingdom), the migration of Jukun to Nigeria could date back to 900-1000 AD. 1As the Jukun pressed further with their wars southwards, they subdued minor tribes on their ways until they found a new land scope for settlement at Kwararafa (Kororofa). After the dispersal of the tribes of Jukun kingdom at Kwararafa by the Beriberi miracles, the Ichen, Wapan and Kuteb with some other tribes left Kwararafa and settled at Awe (Treasure land), from Awe they Journeyed to Akwana (Zen-nga-) means land of salt in Ichen Akwana is a naturally salt producing center for Jukuns up to date.
At Akwana (Zen-nga), there was over the dominations and sharing of salt between and among the Jukuns. The Ichen felt dissatisfied with the Wapan and resorted to leave in search of their salt. The Kuteb and Ichen left Akwana through Wukari with Kuteb as the leader. Both Ichen and Kuteb left Akwana and settled at Marikan hill (present Takum) 1 since 1510 AD (I.M Innocent 2002). After certain decades, the Ichen to continue with the adventure in search of their salt at Tsono when they saw a water fall on Beekan-hills and mist for salt. The Ichen left their counterpart at Marikan and Sojourned eastwards to cross river at Nyitu site.
The political organization of the Ichen is headed by the king (Tii) who appoints mai-Angwa to help him monitor other affairs. Ascent the king makers, there are also palace men whose duty is to advice the king. The ascendency into the throne is patrilleneal. It is pertinent to note that the ascendency into the throne of kingship among the Ichen people is base on kindred. In other words not all clans are entitled to kingship. Yerima (successor of the king) can be appointed even before the king’s demise (Saidu 2016). The wife of the king bears the title (watii).
Unlike the Wapan, the Ichen don’t have a single king that controls the affairs of the Ichendom. Each clan has it king who control the affairs of his village.
Socio-culturally, the Ichen people are very organized; they are divided into various groups depending on their age and gender. Those fall within the age grade of 20-50 are classified as the youth and task with the duty of clearing the road, sanitizing market square, the king palace etc. the women on the other hand also organizes farm labors for themselves popularly known as Adashi (Tani Usman 2016).
The Ichen also organizes cultural festivals to unite them together. One among the cultural festival is known as (JCADA) Ichen cultural and development Association. This cultural festival takes place once annually.
Economically, the Ichen people engage in farming, fishing, weaving etc as source of income. Some of the farm products produced include; cocoa, banana, sugar cane, benniseed, ground-nut, palm oil etc. women also perform vital role in the economic activities in Ichen history. This is evidenced in the production of sapulu-solo, production of palm oil, ground-nut oil, palm kernel etc. these above mentioned economic activities are purely women role.
The Ichen people had a good relation with her neighbours of Wapan, Kuteb, Ndola, Tigog etc and lived peacefully with them. The Chamba in 1845 invaded and conqurerd the Ichen people of Donga. Because the Chamber were wiser than the Ichen people even though they were not numerically equal with the Ichen people, they instituated their king and took over the control of the town up to date. Since then, the relationship between the Ichen and the Chamber is always contractual.
in the opinionated view of C.K Meek in his book “Tribal studies in Northern Nigeria” the Ichen people were the Aboriginal of Donga and Kashimbila, but with the advent and invasion of the Chamba people in 1850, war and slavery were introduced. The Chamba people invaded and conquered Ichen people and took over the control of Donga and Kashimbila from Ichen people. They instituted their ruler known as Gara (king) and the Ichen people became subservient to them. The Ichen people were chastened and paid tribute of every farm products to the Gara of Donga. Meek clearly made it known that this the reason why the Ichen and Chamba today always have a conflictual relationship.
He also noted that marriages among the Ichen people are done by exchange. A man who has a sister will give out in exchange for wife. He further added that the Ichen practices consanguineous marriage.
According to Irambiya Moses Innocent in his work “the epitomic of peace” he argued that after a sojourn in Wukari, the Ichen people left in different groups under the leadership of Kuufan (priest) who wielded both political and spiritual power and was a mediator between man and God. The first groups who came to settle in Kuteb land were the Ndegwi, Bibinu, Buban, Ndakhwa and Bekaan. A short while later, another group called Gankwe Benyi migrated from the vicinity of Wukari through the eastern bank of river Donga to settle around Donga and Mararraba Ichen area.
The Ichen and Kuteb both settled around the Mbarikam hill. Both two-brothers tribes were agriculturalists and cultivate the fertile virgin land. Ukwe (king) Andejarik-wen (1775-1815) fore saw too much pressure on the land as both two brothers were increasing in population.
One day in 1810, Ukwe Andejarik-wen called all the Icen people together and with a heart filled with compassion and love, addressed them thus; “my brothers, it was a pleasure welcoming you in our midst. The short period we stayed together was quite harmonious. As I am standing before you today, it bleeds my heart to tell you that it has become necessary for us to stay apart from each other as the land we occupy cannot accommodate all of us and the generation yet unborn. However, wherever you are, a daily intercourse exists between us.
With that valedictory speech by the Ukwe, the Ichen people felt time was ripe for them to pursue their destiny elsewhere. The Ichen people re-migrated from Kuteb land moved eastward. They settled by the eastern bank of river Donga very briefly from (1810-1820) but scared by the whirlwinds of the Islamic Jihadist spearheaded by Modibo Adama. The harmonious relationship that co-existed between the two tribes developed into what is now called, joking relationship. It is very common today to see a Kuteb man playing pranks on an Ichen by calling him a “runaway slave” (referring to the time they left Takum to Nyivu). On the other hand, the Ichen would make sarcastic remarks thus “Zompere”.
In the words of national association of Ichen students (NAIS) National body in their book titled (A brief history of the Ichen people) they clearly made it manifest that the various clans that made up the Ichen include Beckan, Buban, Benye, Nugwi, Ndahwa, Bibinu and Ndedwa the political institution of the Ichen people is headed by Tii (king) who control the affairs of the community and is assisted by council of elders who serve as king’s advisers he also appoint the Yerima succeeds him after his demise and mai angwa. It is important to note that Ichen don’t have a central king who rule over the Ichen people. Instead every clan and village has their king that represent his village and clan.
Ichen like any other ethnic group, observe cultural activities ranging from marriage ceremonies,burial, traditional, hunting, harvest, songs proverbs, food, fork tale and host of others economically, they engage in mainly in agriculture as their source of income. Things produce include: palm oil palm kernel, ground nut, benniseed, cocoa, broom, e.t.c.
The ichen are made up of only seven clans which include
1. Nugwi
2. Beekan
3. Benye
4. Buban
5. Ndahwa
6. Bibinu
7. Ndedwa or Nyido
Intelligence report on the Kentu mandated area of Wukari Division by C.W Cole, assistant director officer’ observed that the relationship between Ichen and her neighbours of Ndola, Tigong, Kuteb, Wapan etc. had been harmonious. But with the advent of Chamba in Taraba State, the relationship between Ichen and Chamba became hostile especially when Chamba invaded Kashimbila and took over the control from Ichen people. They proceeded to Takum but were not victorious and finally in Donga where they also conquered the Ichen people and subdued them.
It also stated the population of the Ichen people which is approximately 15766 as at 1930s it also spelt out the boundaries of the Ichen people it is bounded on the east by the Gashaka district of Adamawa division, on the south by the Bamenda division of the Cameroons province and on the north and west by the Donga and Takum district of Wukari division.
Having seen the above book or work, it could not address the culture, and economic history of the Ichen people. It couldn’t discuss so-political organization of people neither will it tell us the various class that made up the Ichen people. Another important weakness of the book is that, it fails to tell the various local government and village that the Ichen people of Taraba State are found in view of the above the Research aims at filling those a to Capro Research office in there book ‘the cross and the gods’ the Ichen people live in Takum, sardauna, Bali and part of Wukari local governments. Their population is 40, 000 to 50, 000. In his view, the Ichen people were known as Etkwe, but due to error in pronunciation, the name was changed to Ichen and that is the name being maintained up to date. During the dispersal from Kwararafa, the Ichen migrated together with Kuteb to Takum. They continued to the Donga river where some stayed and others continued Mararraba area. Ichen people did not have a central government (king) and that was why the Chamba people battled and conquered the Ichen people of Donga.
The language and culture of the Ichen is similar to that of Kuteb and Kpanzo. If a child reaches 4-6 months without crawling, the parents visit the seers to find out the cause and do a natural. A child who never responds when mentioned to come may be an ancestor who has returned, and the seers are consulted to find out what the ancestor wants. If the child stays up a year or two without walking will be taken to the river where rituals will be performed and the child disappears.
Traditionally, marriage is done by exchange girls for their sons. Otherwise, a boy shows his interest by bringing firewood to the girl’s parents. Once the girl is grown and has agreed, the boy pays the tsafi (the spiritual power he serves) with food and beer. This makes the marriage. If after the girls are exchanged, one of them fails to give birth, they go to the seers. A widow cannot remarry without permission from the elders. If she does, the tsafi (idol) will curse the husband and the marriage will end in disaster. Any man who marries a widow with approval is expected to pay the tsafi to drive away the jealous spirit of the dead husband. Sometimes those who don’t have girls to exchange marry from a family in the condition that when the wife gives birth to a girl, she will be given in exchange for her mother.
When elders dies, each of his wives holds up a live chick and says “if I am the one that killed you, come and take me, but if am not, protect me” she dashes the chick on the ground and put it on the grave. All the family members do same the grave is rectangular shaft with a chamber scooped out underneath for the corpse . He is buried with a calabash and a guard of water to use on his way to the ancestors. The people mourn for three days, and then gathered to find out what killed him. To prevent such thing from happening again everybody is sprinkled with water to drive away the evil spirit.
Religiously “musen” (Idol) is the several names for all the spiritual powers in this tribe. Musen has a shrine which contains a sacred pot or a carving of a human form, or fine sand, or crocks. Ancestors are believed to give rain, bring good harvest, and prevent adultery cause sickness, bring healing and help during wars. They also punish those who disobey their laws.
Ayiwa is the women’s cult. Each family has an Ayiwa shrine, and the eldest female heads the unit. Atkemo is a family cult used to keep wives from being unfaithful and to combat witch craft. A woman in her menses must not come near the Atkemo which is usually a charm or gadali plant in front of the house keep is an annual festival for Ebuje (the Ichen ancestor), in November or December for three days. The head of each family chips off a tiny portion of each item in the house and put the chips in calabash. He also puts beer in another broken calabash. A goat is taken to the shrine on the mountain by the elders and chief priest. The goat is skinned alive and jumps about while the elders make certain screams of victory. When the elders returned, the men in the village follow them and dance for two days.
Christianity was brought to Ichen land in 1930s by the Christian reformed church missionaries. Islam later follow suit. With the advent and penetration of these two elisions of Christianity and Islam, the worshiping of Musen (idol) whittle down.
The research aim at filling those saps the above author was unable to fill. These gaps include: the various clans of that made up Ichen people their local governments and villages, the socio-economic history of the Ichen people including their intra and inter group relations. The research also aim at looking at some cultural festivals any dances absence among the Ichen people.
In the observation of C.K Meek his book ‘A Sudanese kingdom’ addressed the Ichen speaking people as Jukun at Donga and linked their culture to that of Jukun-Wapan of Wukari. The book could not discuss the salient aspect of the Ichen people such as their political organization, various clans that made up the Ichen people, socio-economic activities of the Ichen people. It did not locate the various villages or local government area the Ichen people can be found in Taraba State.
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