The overall traditional ruler of Ebiraland, that oversees the affairs of the entire Ebira community is known as the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland. Similarly, some communities or villages had a village head whom we call Attah, which is a chieftaincy title. The Ohinoyi are greeted as saaki while Attah as taaru.
In Ebiraland, there are what we call clans, which comprise of a group of certain groups of people believed to be closely related and share mutual interest. Each clan are expected to have a clan leader. Almost all significant clans held chieftaincy title, and those that did not, were led by the clan elders. This did not exclude a clan from seeking guidance from some traditional leaders, especially those who belonged to clan-related organizations. In contrast to the Emir in the Northern States or the Obas in the Western States, clan leaders or clan chiefs in Ebiraland were generally not in charge of administrating the affairs of the community. Additionally, chieftaincy among clans in Ebiraland are inherited or passed down the family tree.
Roles of Traditional Chiefs in Ebiraland
Clan chiefs are very respected and influential people in the community. It is customary that clan chiefs who are well revered in the community and with great depth of influence may be given certain roles and tasks to play in their community. Of course, these roles extend beyond their primary duties and obligations to their clans. These duties can be administrative or spiritual, which they have to fulfil to the communities once they assume such appointments. They are:
They take charge of supervising and directing the affairs of tradition festivals. Of course, they accomplish this task not without the aid of the traditional diviners (Aneva). The local Government Authority were in charge of overseeing the traditional festivals in the early 1950s but when were political party came into existence and nearly all the traditional festivals and rites in ebiraland became heavily influenced by political sentiments, the clan chiefs partially took the task over from them and till today, the chiefs are still in charge of directing the festivals. Despite the influence and intervention of the traditional chiefs, the politicians still succeed in using the traditional festivals to accomplish their political goals and objectives.
We can also say that they are in charge of upholding and preserving the culture of Ebiraland and this can be seen in how they oversee certain rites in Ebiraland such as the annual Eku rites performed for the masquerades.
In case there is an attempt of external oppression on the community, the traditional chiefs are also in charge of doing all they can to protect the community. This include consulting diviners, appeasing the dieties (ori), drawing strategies to sway the external conflict or aggression.
Ebira traditional chiefs are also believed to have certain supernatural gifts and divine powers from Ori. They sometimes serve as priests or diviners for their clans and their community as a whole. Some of them are gifted in the art of divination and fortune telling. They are also the custodians of traditional rites as mentioned earlier. Recently, they are only partially engaged in this function as they appoint people under them to carry out the task for them while they oversee other important functions.
Another very important one is their administrative roles in the community. Before the colonial era, the traditional chiefs had already established themselves, and everyone recognised their influence on affairs affecting the clans and the community as a whole. Although there were seldom contentions between the chiefs and the elders over affairs of the community, however, the ruling of the traditional chiefs usually took position. And after settling the matters that concerns the community, which comes first, resolving the contentions between the chiefs and clan elders comes next which usually takes place in the compound of the traditional chiefs. Each of the traditional chiefs had a council of clan elders that assists him in performing his duties on a secular or spiritual level.
Although their primary duty is to their clan but once they assume overseeing the affairs of the entire community, they have to put both first. But it is not every time they community needs them. It takes a disciplined and committed leader to take over the role of a traditional chief efficiently.
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