Africa: Ika the reserved Tribe of Nigeria – Through the eyes of a Palmwine Tapper
Hidden South and the North East of the oil producing corner in Nigeria Delta State lies a tribe yet visited.
Ika language is like a sweet pudding drizzled with chocolate and honey – a mystery
Unlike the famous tribes of Nigeria – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba – Ika Tribe is almost unknown and so are hundreds of tribes in Nigeria, now I intend visiting 3 of the hundreds, one Tribe at a time.
Comprising of Agbor, Owa, Orogodo, Umunede and many other small communities, Ika is home to many prominent Nigerians such as Godwin Emefiele (governor Central Bank of Nigeria), Jim Ovia (founder Zenith Bank), Nduka Ogbaigbena (Nigerian Media Expert).
There is an unending crisis naming the tribe “Ika” as an Igbo Community due to the language similarities with the Igbo Language. According to a local Emeka “Indigenes continue to agree they are from the Benin while foreigners continue to disagree while peppering their connection with the Igbos.” Long Story short – It’s like an argument that only adds fuel to the fire.
However, aside language, Ika people share so much in terms of culture and lifestyle with the Benin people and most of the Ika communities were discovered by Benin Prince’s and chiefs.
Ika is home to the sweetest African Palmwine. I for ones have explored cities, villages in Nigeria and I have come to realize that the best Palmwine is tapped from this impeccable tribe of Ika.
The village – Ani Efuna meaning this land won’t get lost, probably one of the smallest villages I have ever visited with a population of about 100 people. Here, I tasted a freshly tapped Palmwine locally called “Manya Okete” and more luckingly tasted from the home of the most popular Palmwine Tapper in the Village – Simple, trust me I went further asking why he is called Simple.
Personally from an outward judgement, I percieved him to be arrogant and proud. He doesn’t look that simple to me, he has a presence enough to intimidate another.
Apparently it is the direct opposite Simple was given to him by his friends who described him to be very friendly and cheerful and yes he was.
I arrived Ani Efuna at 1.30PM and had to wait an extra 2 hours for Simple and his family to arrive from the farm. When he finally arrived, it was merry till the end as we were taken on a tour and a drinking feast with the ever cheerful Simple. Time spent learning how to cut palms, placing bottles and creating funnel holes for tapping palmwine.
In every village in Ika tribe there are atleast 15 palmwine tappers, tapping for commercial purpose or personal consumption, with at least one palmwine bar onsite at every 5 minutes drive.
Simple happens to tap for business and has six robust Palmwine palms right at the back of his well constructed mudhouse.
Visiting Simple and learning the art of Palmwine tapping was an eye opener and an entirely new experience for me being a huge fan of this tasty African drink.
Now I can say proudly I am a child of the soil Haven tasted an uncontaminated Palmwine and like I expressed to Simple – I was the luckiest girl on Earth the moment the Palmwine gulped down my throat, such moments are rare and I Cherished it.
A little more chat with Simple, I learnt he engages in a little Oil (palm oil) business and he is also into farming.
The people of Ika tribe are majorly Farmers and the wealthiest engage in Palm kernel business with red oil extraction or other forms and Simple is one of them.
According to him, “Red oil business is not for little children, you need a lot of money to do it that is why most people don’t venture into such, they would rather stay focused in their farming, because they can’t afford the finance and stress needed to run such a business.”
Simple tricked me a little with the Ika language which they cherish so much so that some part of the Bible have already been interpreted into Ika language and some books have also been written in Ika.
Ika language according to locals is coined from two separate languages the Benin and the igbo due to the Igbo and Benin elements found is so lovely it tricks everyone from either of the tribes (Benin, Igbo) trying to understand as they hear a word or two of their languages from an Ika speaker. Ika language is like a sweet pudding drizzled with chocolate and honey – a mystery.
Simple gulps a little Palmwine and pours to the ground with a little force chasing away evil spirits and inviting to our midst good gods. I didn’t need to be told simple is a traditionalist and so are many other people in the small village of Ani Efuna.
According to simple, he has a sister in Agbor, a Christian, not only is she a Christian but her husband is a pastor. So a majority of Ika people are christians
But in most villages, they believe and worship their ancestral gods.
My experience in Ika tribe was an astonishing one through the eyes of a Palmwine Tapper – Simple.