By: nationalglint

Okun people are Yoruba descendants in Kogi state. Kogi is a multi ethnic state and Okun people are up to 20% of Kogi State population, smaller than the other two major completely different tribes, Igala and Ebira. Okun people spread across six local government areas in Kogi State, known as Kabba-Bunu, Yagba-West, Yagba-East, Mopa-Muro, Ìjùmú and Lokoja local government Areas.

They speak varied dialects…Owé, Ìyàgbà, Ìjùmú, Bùnú and Oworo, but their language is generally called Okun, Okun has become a form of greeting among them.

They understand one another to a greater extent and large numbers of them speak Yoruba. Their dialects are influenced by various factors. Such factor is that Kogi state shares boundaries with Kwara, Ondo, Ekiti, Niger, Benue, Nassarawa, Anambra, Enugu, Edo and Abuja. Also, The Nupe wars of the 19th century and interaction with the Hausas due to geographical zoning left an indelible mark on the Okun people and their dialects.

According to oral source, Okun people migrated from Ile Ife when Yorubas were spreading to occupy more lands, before spreading out, each and everyone was instructed to report to Ile Ife for a yearly meeting. The man, that led group of young people to a location (now called YAGBA) in Kogi state did not return over a long period of time.

When eventually returned and explained that he lost larger part of his acquired land to some other migrants. He was blamed for the loss and said in yoruba, ”ÌYÀ ÀGBÀ LÓ JEMÍ” meaning that invasion of his acqured land was due to lack of having elderly people with him. Since then, they started mocking him at Ile Ife, calling him Iya agba . They associated this name with him whenever they wanted to send messages across to him after returning to his occupied area, now called Yagba.

Okun people faced lots of challenges, ranging from geo political zoning, marginlisation and problem of identity. Their problem started during the colonial era when they were politically ceded to the Northern protectorate by Lord Lugard, the Governor-General of Nigeria. The abolition of the provincial and regional administrative units in 1967 led to their merging with Ilorin to form old Kwara state. Then, Igala was merged with old Benue State. However, on 27th of august 1991, Okun people was removed again and merged with Ebira, Igala from Benue state and some other tribes to form Kogi state.

Okun indigenes moved against merging them with completely different tribes but they were forced into this marriage. Since then, Igala and Ebira have used high population to merginlise Okun people politically and in resource allocation. When an Igala man tells you ‘Omi na kaye, ma joje ma mu du’, he is telling you he would consume whatever available in his surrounding. And that is exactly what is presently happening to in their resource allocation. Their efforts to break away and form Okun State, which could make it possible for them to be more closer to their Kiths and Kins in the South West, failed to materialize.

Concerning Identity problem, The Yorubas in South West are trying to link the identity of Okun people to their Kiths and Kins in South West going by history and shared traits but their counterparts who want Okun people to remain a minority tribe in the entity called Nigeria, claimed that Okun people are not Yorubas and Yoruba is only trying to expand their Kingdom. Okun people bear Yoruba names like Edo people, lots of them speak yoruba and many of their settlements are named in yoruba language such as Kajola, Egbeda, Egbeda Ega, Okedayo, Odo Ere, Odo Eri, Ife, Iyamoye, Agbaja, Igbo Nla and Obajana. Even, groups that make up Bunu people of Okun are Okemeta, Okemesan, Akumerindinlogun and Kiri groups.

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