The Igede are a peace-loving people, found in central Nigeria in Benue and Cross River States. In Benue State, they occupy Oju and Obi, and parts of Konshisha and Gwer Local Government Areas. Their closest relatives in Nigeria are the Ikuro (Bekwarra) and Idum (Obudu) people but they also share some filial relationships with the Idoma (Benue), Doma (Nasarawa) and Yala (Cross River) people. Early records erroneously classified the Igede as Idoma, possibly due to the fact the second paramount Chief of Idoma (the Och’Idoma), His Highness, the late Dr Abraham Ajine Okpabi, was of Igede origin. The Igede have also been involved in community projects alongside the Idoma in the past due to the proximity of the two nations both on the ground and in filial terms. The creation of Oju and Obi Local Government Areas in 1976 and 1991, respectively, also stimulated the global knowledge of Igede as a separate nation.
The Igede are hardworking, fair-minded and deeply religious people. They are traditionally crop farmers, producing yams, cassava, rice, guinea corn, sweet potatoes and other food crops. Most families also own sheep, goats and poultry. Most farm activity is at a subsistent level, although the land is used extensively and intensively. Like most farmers in central Nigeria, the produce is sold raw, which reduces the return to the farmers and hence poor economic security. The Igede are highly educated, a situation that has created an enormous number of teachers, which on its own resulted in even stronger educational development. Across the country and the world are good numbers of Igede who have excelled in various educational fields. In spite of their small population, the Igede have received meritorious awards and appointments in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Notable sons and daughters of Igede have been appointed diplomats and directors, and even as special advisors to Nigerian Presidents and Governors. The Igede nation boasts of a healthy number of academic professors in various fields and a sizeable number of academics with postgraduate qualifications, including PhD.
In spite of their contribution to Nigeria’s national development, the Igede believe that they are marginalised. Although they are represented at State and national parliamentary levels, there is no Federal social amenity such as a tertiary institution or hospital in the area and the Federal road that runs through the area from Benue to Cross River has never been fully sealed. The portion from Otukpo to Oju was sealed in 1987 but is now nearly not motorable. A State road runs from Awajir to Oju and another road linking this through to Utonkon has not been completed. No work has started on other State roads that were planned for the area.
It is in the realization of this marginalization that a group of Igede came together to float the idea of a development foundation. This may not be the first time that the Igede have come together in this way. From pre-colonial times, the Igede constructed and maintained roads linking their villages.
Village boundaries were clearly defined by the points where young men who worked on the roads would meet with their counterparts from the other villages. They would sit together to share palm wine and other local drinks, and in this way, make friends or even find life partners. Our forebears worked with missionaries to build primary schools before and after Nigeria’s Independence, culminating in the establishment of the first community secondary school at Okileme-Ibilla in the late 1970s. Other community schools sprang up across Igede land. Markets were built through the same community spirit and effort.
The people of Igede feel disappointed by governments at various levels, and feel left behind as the rest of the world speeds on. Communication and transport are the drivers of modern development. A major reason that the agricultural endeavour of the Igede people is not yielding much fruit is the lack of roads, to transport farm produce to near and distant markets. The agricultural value-chain cannot be developed in the absence of this infrastructure and investors stay away from the region. The farmers still sell raw produce as their progenitors did in the past centuries and decades. Primary and secondary schools are dilapidated, as are the few medical facilities in the area. As a matter of fact, there is death currently ravaging the land, mainly due to poor medical facilities and poverty. Igede land has witnessed notable epidemics in the recent past, which resulted in high mortality.
We are still optimistic that Federal and State governments will come to the aid of the Igede people, to upgrade our infrastructure, improve health care delivery and reduce poverty through improved marketing of our agricultural produce. However, we have decided to create this Foundation, to harness our human and material resources and complement the efforts of the government. This is a non-political and secular effort, which we believe will not only raise funds for development but will also advise on the needed infrastructure. We call on all Igede sons and daughters across the world to rise to the occasion. We welcome the support of philanthropists across the world and companies who can provide facilities for us on a build-operate-and-transfer and other private partnership models.
We pay homage to our progenitor, Igede Agba, and his sons, the fathers of our 14 Clans – Ada (Iyeche), Ocheche (Anchim), Ugbodu-Adikobia (Oye), Amono (Ukpa), Ogbagba-Okpalegwu (Oboru), Ochimadu (Owo), Okpago Laganyi (Ibilla), Olelega (Uwokwu), Adinu (Ainu), Adoto (Ito), Aditakpa (Itakpa), Okpalotu (Igabu), Onyodum (Idele) and Okpogo (Oju). We greet our relatives across the land.
Long Live Igede Nation. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.