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EBONYI STATE

Brief History

Ebonyi State is a Nigerian state, located in the southeast region of the country with 13 local government areas. Ebonyi state was carved out from parts of Abia and Enugu States in 1996. The capital and largest city of Ebonyi State is Abakaliki (The word “Abakaliki” originally means “Aba Nkaleke” and is the name of a community in Izzi land (Nkaleke); the city is mainly dominated by Igbo. Modern-day Ebonyi State has been inhabited for years by various ethnic groups, primarily the Igbo people with significant minorities of Orring people in the northwest and Agbo people along the Cross River. In the pre-colonial period, what is now Ebonyi State comprised part of medieval Kingdom of Nri and later, the Aro Confederacy before the latter was defeated in the early 1900s by British troops in the Anglo-Aro War. After the war, the British incorporated the area into the Southern Nigeria Protectorate which later merged into British Nigeria in 1914. After independence in 1960, the area of now-Ebonyi was a part of the post-independence Eastern Region until 1967 when the region was split and the area became part of the East Central State. Less than two months afterwards, the former Eastern Region attempted to secede in the three-year long Nigerian Civil War with Ebonyi as a part of the secessionist state of Biafra. At the war’s end and the reunification of Nigeria, the East Central State was reformed until 1976 when the state’s north became Anambra State and the south became Imo State. Fifteen years afterwards, Anambra and Imo states were divided with their eastern parts becoming Enugu State and Abia State, respectively. It was not until 1996, when Enugu State’s east and Abia’s northeast were split off and joined to form Ebonyi State. Of the 36 states, Ebonyi is the 33rd largest in area and 29th most populous with an estimated population of over 2.9 million as of 2006 census. Ebonyi state is named after Abonyi (Aboine) River which run through the state’s interior, and nicknamed as “The Salt of The Nation”. The major ethnic groups living in Ebonyi State are primarily the Igbos and minorities are Korring and Agbo. Economically, Ebonyi State is based around agriculture, mainly of yams, rice, oil palm, and cassava crops. A key minor industry is mining due to lead, zinc, and limestone deposits around Abakaliki, and locally hand-made baskets of various sizes at Ntezi. Ebonyi has the joint-twentieth highest Human Development Index in the country and numerous institutions of tertiary education.

Festivals and Traditions

There are different festivals in Ebonyi state, aimed at celebrating their culture and heritage. These include;
• Masquerade Festival: According to traditional Igbo beliefs, masquerades represent images of deities or relatives. The identity of the masquerade is a well-kept secret and the roles are performed exclusively by men. In Ebonyi, the festival features dozens of masquerades that thrill spectators in annual festivals and other events. The masquerades dress in colourful robes and masks made of wood or fabric. Although most of the masquerades appear at every festival, some are particularly special and only appear once.

• Igba Mgba (Wrestling Festival) Festival: Igba Mgba is a competition in which strong and young men engage in combat sport which involves grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, joint locks and takedowns, throws, pins, and other Grappling hold. It usually takes place in any main event in the southeast part of Nigeria such as the Iri Ji festival, Nmanwu Festival, etc. In some communities, it is an annual event and prizes are given to the champions. In the olden days, most kings choose suitors to their daughters through the Igba Mgba festival. This is a wrestling festival in which strong men exhibit their muscular superiority by contesting in wrestles and come out champions.

• Iko Festival (Gastronomic Events): This gastronomic event is a festival of reconciliations and love sharing. During this festival, families are expected to prepare a delicious meal (usually our native white soup prepared with moulded melon), such that can serve the family members, friends and well-wishers. The aim is to afford the opportunity to the community members to eat and dine together so as to reconcile with each other and to foster a formidable love amongst us.
This festival just as the Ikeji festival is also extended to the neighbor community for a stronger relationship. This is an annual event that takes place in Afikpo, Ebonyi State of Southeastern Region Nigeria from the last week of November to the second week of December. Iko Okochi is described as a friendship festival incorporating ceremonies of rites of passage.

• Okosa Fishing Festival: The Okosa Fishing Festival is an annually event observed in the month of February in a lake called OKOSA. This lake harbours different varieties of fishes ranging from Tilapia, catfish, scarfish, prawn, crab etc. This fishes are allowed to grow and reproduce (that is from the end of the festival to the beginning of another). During this festival, great fishermen from the community compete with each other in all day and night fishing thereby making
available excess fresh fishes for consumption at a token price. 

• Okumpo Masquerade Festivals: This festival is used to expose the evil deeds of the evil men in the community. The whole community gathers at the village square to watch concert displays by the masquerades. These masquerades convert the evil deeds of people in the community into songs and sing it even in the presence of the evil men at the festival venue. Before the event, the masquerades will go out very early in the morning and move from house to house, to wake the community up and to greet good morning to the village elders. They can also be found
along the roads were they greet people and beg for arms. This is one of the finest festivals in the community.

• Edda Ezza New Yam Festival: The annual New Yam festival is celebrated at the beginning of the planting season (in August of every year). Known as Joku, lhejoku or Njoku-ji, it is marked with pomp and pageantry in the state as it is a cultural feast with deep significance. Each community has its specific days of celebration during which a range of festivities mark the eating of new yam, an action symbolic of enjoyment after the end of the cultivation season. Mark the eating of new yam, an action symbolic of enjoyment after the end of the cultivation season.

Tourists Attractions and Locations

  • Abakaliki Greater Rice Husks
  •  Abakaliki Green Lake
  • Golden Sand Beach
  • Okposi Salt Lake
  •  Ancient Kano City Walls

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