Day Edo com­mu­nity ush­ered boys into adult­hood

Weekly Trust - - News - Us­man A. Bello, Benin

Osh­iobugien­oya Age-grade of Ik­abigbo, a com­mu­nity in Uzairue clan in Edo North Se­na­to­rial District of Edo State, re­cently per­formed one of its cus­toms to usher young boys into adult­hood.

“To­day is the happiest day of my life be­cause I’m now qual­i­fied to sit with the el­ders at the com­mu­nity square and chief ’s palace to dis­cuss is­sues af­fect­ing the com­mu­nity.” Those were the words of 28-year-old Aziz Yakubu dur­ing his ini­ti­a­tion to adult­hood at Ik­abigbo com­mu­nity in Uzairue Clan, Es­tako West lo­cal gov­ern­ment of Edo State.

Aziz was among over 60 young men and women of Osh­iobugien­oya age-grade who trooped out to the ini­ti­a­tion ground on De­cem­ber 26, 2016 to cel­e­brate adult­hood. The ageold tra­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to El­der Yakubu Asekomhe, be­stows on the age grade a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and recognition by the com­mu­nity, tra­di­tional ruler, and el­ders.

Pa Asekomhe, in his 70s, said the tra­di­tion was es­tab­lished over a cen­tury ago. “Once you per­form the ini­ti­a­tion, you would be rec­og­nized as a full grown man and be given re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” he said.

Young men born within a pe­riod of be­tween three and four years con­sti­tute an age grade, ac­cord­ing to El­der Asekomhe. “When it started sev­eral decades ago, it was par­ents who de­ter­mined the age grade of the chil­dren. They brought their first sons to the chief palace where they would be ad­mit­ted into the age grade un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the chiefs and el­ders of the vil­lage.”

“As it was then, the youth can­not re­ject who­ever was brought to them by their par­ents and if any age grade proved stub­born by re­ject­ing any­one, the el­ders would ad­mit such youth into the age grade ahead of them,” he said.

Asokomhe said: “In the late 80s, the process of con­sti­tut­ing the age group changed as it is now done by the youths them­selves based on play groups and years in schools but it still does not ex­ceed the pe­riod of be­tween three and four years.”

“It was at this point that women were in­tro­duced into the age grade, but they hold sep­a­rate meet­ings and would only join their male coun­ter­parts dur­ing ini­ti­a­tion and can’t be asked by the com­mu­nity to ex­e­cute any com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment project.”

Af­ter they have been ad­mit­ted, a day is fixed for the ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony, said Asokomhe. “On the day of the ini­ti­a­tion, the age grade ap­pears in the same at­tire, beads, red cap and horse tail, and be­gin a pro­ces­sion from their cho­sen fa­ther’s house at about 12am. They go round the en­tire com­mu­nity, visit the palace as well as houses of four el­derly men to seek prayers and bless­ings from them. He said dur­ing the pro­ces­sion, the males line up be­hind their ‘fa­ther’ while the women do so be­hind them with their cho­sen ‘mother’ lead­ing them too. Upon com­plet­ing the pro­ces­sion, they move to the ini­ti­a­tion arena where a musician is al­ready wait­ing to en­ter­tain them af­ter the ini­ti­a­tion. They later dance with friends and rel­a­tives who spray them money. The event does not ex­ceed evening, and there is no for­mal clos­ing time. The ini­ti­ates are free to leave when­ever they feel like,” he said.

Fe­male mem­bers of the age-grade in a pro­ces­sion.

The age-grade wait­ing for prayer from the el­dest man in the com­mu­nity. PHO­TOS: Us­man A. Bello

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