Ebira Tradition

How and Steps Involved in Choosing Asema Chieftaincy In Ebiraland

How and Steps Involved in Choosing Asema Chieftaincy In Ebiraland

There appears to be a diversity of opinions on the origin of the Asema title, which three of the sons or Adavi took. The one discussed here seems to refer to Asema of Ezi-Ezuka and only a reference was made to other kindreds who cannot be confirmed as being factual. Uka, one of the sons Of Adavi, initiated the title but he was never installed as Asema. He had three sons Otumi, AJOO, and Asema (in order of birth). The first two were full brothers and Asema was their half-brother.

Uka was said to have produced two different crowns gave one to Otumi and Ajoko and the other to Asema and further told them that they should take the Asema title. He feared that if he gave one crown, the two brothers might exclude Asema and his descendants from holding the title. Thus there are two different Asema titles in the Ezi-Uka clan.

The brothers of Uka later took the title “Asema”. These were Aniku and Upopuvete. These Asema titles were all regarded as equals, but at the time of Atta Ibrahim, Asema Mayaki of Aniku was installed as the District Head of Adavi thus superseding the other giving rise to “Asema of Adavi”. This was probably the reason why people thought that Asema Aniku was more important than the others. The typical situation seems to have been restored now.

According to another tradition, Ogagu (Upopuvete) was the initiator of the Asema title and all his Brothers (Ezuka, Uhuami, Adeika, and Aniku) allowed him to be installed as the first Asema in Adavi. If this story is true, it means that Asema’s title was one of the eldest traditional titles in Ebiraland! Upopuvete had four sons and these are the ruling families for Asema Anupopuvete.

IKO was a very young man when his father died and so did his. senior brother, Ejemora brought him up, but he did not hold the Asema title before he died. Consequently, his two sons – Ovini (the senior) and Itaazi Were not allowed to hold the Asema title on the grounds that their father did not hold it. Ovini then went to Eganyi (his maternal grandfather) to seek a title and he was installed as Okara.

Recently, the descendants of Iko petitioned the Ebira Traditional Council for their exclusion from The Asema title – property of their great grandfather. The matter was settled in favor of the Iko families and they are now preparing to be installed as the 11th Asema Anupopuvete. But this didn’t materialize before Alhaji Ado Ibrahim was appointed the new Ohinoyi,

The new Ohinoyi reversed the former and a new candidate emerged and he was installed as the 11th Asema of Upopuveta. The Iko family has gone to Court for redress! It is believed that Iko (Emani) was “technically” excluded from the Asama Anupopuvete title from time immemorial and this may continue indefinitely.

Qualification for Candidature:

  1. Customary chieftaincy is heritable but it does not pass from father to son. It simply rotates within a hierarchical group (clan) among only the male descendants. Women are completely excluded. In the Ebira Ehi community, the inheritance of a traditional title is only through paternal relation (father’s line). It is therefore untraditional and impossible to inherit or take a title through the maternal relation.

Mallam Y.A. Ibrahim argued (without real substance) in his unpublished and published works that a man can inherit a title through a maternal relation and gave the Atta title to substantiate his claim. As discussed in the last Paragraph, all the landed properties of. a clan was controlled and used by the clan chiefs and to accept Ibrahim’s theory will mean that landed properties could also be inherited through maternal relations.

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This will seem to an Ebiraman not only impossible but also ridiculous, Ibrahim thinks that a man can sit down in his house and assume the title of another Clan.

  1. To take a title in Ebiraland, one must be from the hierarchical groups, Physically Inherit all the kingly materials (regalia), and must be given the crown and staff of office at the coronation by the most elderly man (or his Deputy) in Kindred. The Ebiras’ traditional title institutions are so made that it is even almost impossible for any person to usurp another clan’s title.

Therefore it is very improper and highly impossible to take inherit a title through maternal relation. It had never happened and it may not happen by accident. For instance, my maternal relation (Anupopuvete of Adavi) has an Asema title, which I cannot inherit in life. I can only inherit the Otu title (my paternal title).

  1. Any candidate to be installed, as a traditional chief in Ebiraland must be born a free man; Slaves or other people considered to be Of low caste (Ezinehi), irrespective of Social standing or position in the society, cannot be installed as chief.
  2. The presence of a candidate’s mother may disqualify him from holding the title, although his mother could be removed from the compound once the candidate is installed and he is forbidden to see the mother again. He is not even allowed to attend the funeral ceremony if the mother dies. This dispensation is only given if there is no other suitable candidate and it is very rare.
  3. The candidate must be a man of good honor and with high ideals. A man associated with grave crimes like stealing and incestuous activities may be disqualified from holding any title.
  4. In the case of Ohindase, a person with a deformity of any kind is automatically disqualified. The main reason for this is that the “ete inirapa” had a wound when it was uncovered from the ground at Irikuete (as discussed above).

Generally, the selection of a candidate is normally done by the elders of the clan(s) after obeying the above. “Eva” diviners do the final piece. When this is done the selected or accepted candidate is officially notified and then fixes his coronation with the help of diviners. Strictly speaking, the most elderly man in the clan is never installed as a traditional chief of the kindred – such a man is required to give the chief his crown at the “coronation”. The work of this elderly man is just like that of a Governor presenting a staff of office to an Emir in his domain.

King Makers:

This is a simple matter but people seem to have mixed it up so much that a detailed discussion here may be necessary. Before discussing the matter, let us look at certain areas where there are kingmakers. In Ebira Igu, Panda, and Toto, the four Traditional Holders of Ondakiogbani, Ohimoziogbanim Asanyaogbi, and Ogazaogbani are the kingmakers and the chief advisers of the traditional chief. In Igala land we have a similarly constituted body. Any person within this hierarchy automatically becomes a kingmaker, chief adviser of the Atta, etc. Nigeria Magazine reported that:

soon after his installation, Ayegba set about organizing his

kingdom. He made Umepa, the Ashadu, his chief Minister on

account of his personal friendship with him and his local

influence and knowledge. He instituted a corporate body

comprising the Ashadu and the nine traditional elders (Igala

Mela) on whom he bestowed titles and recognition as the

fathers of Igala and as an advisory council with the job of

forging a link bctwccn him and his subjects and the

for the installation and funeral rites of Attas

(Nigerian Magazine Nun)ber of 1 964, Page 20 & 21 i)

Mall YA IBRAHIM observed that the Ebiras have kingmakers comprising the elders and the “Eva” diviners. Ibrahim (1974:8) wrote: “Mr. Ahmadu does not seem to realize that the clan elders and diviners constituted the kingmakers”. Mallam Ibrahim does not realize that an “Eva” diviner or some diviners at Eika, Ihima, etc. could be consulted for Ozumiship, Ohindaseship, Otuship, etc. to find out the eligibility of the candidates.

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Can these diviners be regarded as the kingmakers who know very little or nothing about the chieftaincy titles? Certainly not. Mallam Ibrahim seems to be forcing certain customs on Ebiras unduly and perhaps illogically too. The Ebiras system of selection, installation, and burials of their traditional chiefs do not need specialists and hence we appear not to have real kingmakers.

However, if an author wants to say that the clan elders and Eva” diviners constitute the kingmakers, it is very necessary to describe vividly his line of thought and in addition, should decorate the kingmakers with ** to show that he is deviating from the normal usage! Instead of acting in this seemingly improper manner, one can safely say that the Ebiras have no kingmakers in the true sense of the word, which is perfectly correct.

The Ebiras had/have a well-established system of circulation of their clan chiefs and there appeared/appears to be no real disputes over succession. The clan amicably settled any disputes, however, it is obvious from the discussion on Adeika that the procedure to install any Adeika rests fundamentally with the ANUBOBO clan and so this clan can be accorded the status Of a kingmaker as in other areas of Nigeria. There is no other Ebira traditional chieftaincy, which is being controlled by a group like “ANUBOBO CLAN”


Because of the importance of the Ebira clan chiefs, the candidate to be installed as chief is fully prepared in all aspects of “juju” practice and witchcraft, About nine months or so to the coronation, the chief-to-be Will begin to Wear “inyaka’ (a symbol depicting a chief-to-be) on the neck. About two or three days before the installation, the chief-to-be has to leave his house and travel to an “undisclosed” destination.

Strictly speaking, only very few People would know the actual whereabouts of the chief-to-be, and diviners normally determine such ‘people prognosticators also determine the place he has to go to and such places may be the house of a customary chief, an elderly man/woman’s house, the house of “onoku” or any other sacred or powerful places.

This is the usual time for the candidate to be surrounded by powerful men and women to advise the chief-to-be in the “invisible” world or supernatural life. It is also the time for the candidate to fast and pray in order to have a successful, notable and prosperous term of office; a time to make himself for the arduous and important task he is about to assume that of a “leader” of the Clan.

Within the three days, the chief-to-be will have sexual intercourse with his queen-to-be (called “epahi”). This woman must be a widow and should be related to the chief-to-be agnatically. The selection of the queen is through diviners. On the night before the coronation, the “epahi” is shown all the secrets of “eku” rites and henceforth she has equal rights with men in this sphere.

Furthermore, the “epahi” has to tell the chief-to-be all the secrets of witchcraft. After the installation of the chief, she becomes the wife and only death may separate them. This queen will live with the chief inside the “abara” while his other wives live outside the “abara”. In the past, it was impossible to install a chief without an “epahi” but this is not so today. While the chief-to-be is busy preparing himself spiritually, other sophisticated preparations including arrangements for dances and plays before and after the installation will be shouldered entirely by the clan(s).

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The preparation may also include the “making” of “ekuoba” masquerade to install the chief. The preparation for this alone may take several months. All the necessary burial ceremonies according to an elderly man are staged and the entire kindred shoulders all the expenses.


On the eve of the installation, “night” masquerades will come out to stage dances and plays and search for the chief-to-be now missing from his house! On the “coronation” day, dancers including “ekuechichi” masquerades will continue the search until the chief-to-be is found out.

This type of dance is called “wowo” which is very vigorous and warlike. Women may take part.

The person to find the chief-to-be has been selected by diviners. masquerade, etc. This and only this person will show the searchers the whereabouts of the chief-to-be. When the announcer presents him to the public, he will be inside a canopy and in the midst of dancers and escorted to his house. During the procession, the dancers and all-powerful women around the chief-to-be will be singing “Enesio umama wenesio mama dere” and/or “Erimi o erimi o”. Such a procession is usually very slow, involving and highly ceremonial.  During this time he will not talk and he is not yet a chief but he will be so in the next moment.


When the chief-to-be reaches his house, he sits in the place already directed by fortune-tellers, and a ram or a cow is slaughtered to “open his mouth”. Special utterances of great achievement(s) (Called oga”) are made by the women folk, and the chief-to-be may now talk. Then the most elderly man in the kindred (or someone appointed by him) gives the chief-to-be the crown (“omu”) usually a bush cow’s tail containing some charms after telling him the aspirations and expectations of his Clan(s).

He further admonishes him to do justice and to be fair and open-minded to all people. the chief-to-be accepts these counsels before receiving the crown. Immediately, the “Ekuoba” installed with the chief greets the chief who has now been enthroned. Others follow this. the chief is greeted “Taru” (a greeting for only the customary chiefs). The ceremony is thus brought to a successful end. From the moment of receiving the crown, the original name of the chief is usually not called but only chieftaincy title or simply “Otaru” which is a common name to All Ebira Clans Chiefs.

It must be emphasized that all the ceremonies are carried out in public and there are no secrets about them. Furthermore, all the necessary burial ceremonies are carried out at the installation and when the chief “dies”, these may not be repeated. Thus, the burials of Ebira traditional chiefs are not usually ceremonial but were buried in the past before “formerly” announcing the “death” and they were buried in their “abara”.

The regalia of Ebira traditional chiefs vary considerably as already discussed above. But the following are common to all of them: “omu”, “ireta”*, and “ede except for the latter, which is a personal property, the rest were “created” during the inauguration or the title. Consequently these kingly symbols are the property of the entire clan(s) and are moved from one clan or “abara” to another according to the mode of circulation. Before the removal of these symbols from the deceased chief’s house, a grace of nine calendar months (the normal mourning period) is always allowed.

The kingly symbols and regalia are normally kept by the most elderly man in the clan until the appointment of a new one. These materials are removed from the deceased chief’s house only after performing certain rituals. It is only after nine months that another person could be enthroned.


A young tech savvy man, always interested in bringing Ebira to the Map and shows the world how Rich our Culture is.

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