Day Edo community ushered boys into adulthood
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