History of Echori In Ihima
Origin of Echori (Ori) of Ani Ihima, An unnamed man (from the descendants of Ochiga, the founder of “Ireba” Ihima) and his brother’s son went on a hunting expedition and during the course of their hunting, the boy saw a supposed “Dwelling place” even though there were no people.
The boy was so baffled that he immediately drew the attention of his uncle to the scene who declared unequivocally that the dwelling place must be a “Temple of god“, They went home hurriedly and in a panic to give the news of their experience.
The elders of the kindred consulted able fortune-tellers who told them that the place was “ori” and that if sacrifices were made for it periodically, the god would look after the entire locality. This gave rise to yearly worship at a feast called “Echori’” (god’s feast or a feast for god) when the Ihima people eat new yams popularly known as the New Yam Festival.
Ani-Emani, comprising seven kindreds, are the well-recognized owners of “ori” Ihima. These kindred (clans) are Atta (Ogagu, Adobosi, Inyahu, Ajimi, Egiri) and Ava (Edema, Epi). Obobanyi of the Emani clans controls all rituals of the Echori Festival. He appoints the prefects (called “Onutu ori”) which mean messenger of the gods, for the yearly rituals and worship.
Recommended Song: Mp3: Madam Anima Ogegere – Echori (Ebira Traditional Song)
Only males from the seven kindred of the Emani Clan are eligible for the “Onutu oriship” and a person can be appointed as “onutu ori” three times in his lifetime (of course, not consecutively).
The “ori” of Ihima seems to be in existence for quite a long time for it was this “ori” who voluntarily supplied bees (on the courtesy request of Ani-Emani with a ram) to drive away the Fulani/Nupe invaders in 1857 and again in 1876! “Ori” Ihima was probably discovered in the first few decades of the 19th century. The celebration of Echori could be conceived in two degrees: the technical and highly ceremonial rituals at the temple of the god and the singing and dancing Echori singers.
The first is very interesting but highly secretive and therefore libellous (at least to Ani-Emani clans) to discuss them here. It is enough to say that there are three shrines and different sacrifices are made at each stage (shrine) during the yearly worship.
The last stage may be reached by only the “onutu ori” for the year accompanied by the preceding One. The Second degree can be enjoyed by only the people of Ihima origin, but recently people from other areas are permitted to the Echori Festival after the intervention of Atta Ibrahim. It is believed in Ihima that if the yearly worship is acceptable to the god, the rain will start to fall immediately after the rituals are been ended at the top of the hill.
In the past, “strangers” were not allowed into Ihima during the Echori festival which normally takes three days. In addition, black dogs and women who have “beautified” themselves with “ukokori” could not go to Ihima. Indiscriminate gun salutes in Ihima were forbidden.
All these taboos seem to be in abeyance today. Any person (either of Ihima origin or otherwise) who contravened the taboos was fined- one he-goat plus 65k (ewureta). Drastic measures were generally taken against offenders who refused to pay the fines.
Such measures were believed to be “spiritual” and it was claimed that after the measures, the offender(s) would die! During the 1974 Echori Festival, some Moslems contravened one of the taboos by bringing into the market new yams when the Echori was not yet celebrated. This negative attitude prompted some “ori” celebrants to defy the Muslim rites by wearing complete “Hajj Outfits” to the shrines an action which is viewed in a Muslim society as grave and offensive! This matter resulted in outstanding disagreements between the Moslems and “ori” celebrants… This is cited here to show that people now flout the authorities of Ani-Emani openly and indiscriminately which would be unthinkable in the past.
At the end of the Echori festival, the priest for the year (usually in a certain type of outfit and holding the “ori” staff) and accompanied by the preceding one, goes from one area to another in the district proclaiming the “message” of “ori” to the people and also “blessing” them. This may go on for 14 days. The priest may also receive some gifts from the local people. At Ihima, the Echori festival celebrations have definitely overshadowed those of Ekuechi and the Ihima people (wherever they may be) who go home for the festival.
Although the Echori Aneganyi in the Ajaokuta local government of the state has in no way any connection with that of the Ihima Echori Festival, its celebrations are identical. Echori Anihima is usually celebrated in May/June while that of Eganyi is celebrated two months later.