From Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
Orring is one of the minority ethnic groups in Nigeria. Though found majorly in three states of Benue, Cross River and Ebonyi, the Orring people are not well known. In fact, within Igbo land, they are seen as a strange tongue since they do not speak Igbo.
Orring people speak a unique language known as Korring. They have three distinct communities scattered in the three geopolitical zones of Nigeria. In Ebonyi, they are found in three local government areas of Ishielu, Ohaukwu and Ezza North consisting of Ntezi (Eteji), Okpoto (Lame), Effium (Uffiom), Amuda (Idzem) and Okpolo (Okpomoro). In Cross River State, they are in Ukhelle communities of Yala Local Government. In Benue State, they are found in Utonkon (Ufia), Ado Local Government.
Aware of their linguistic and historical ties, the Orring said they are one people merely separated by geography. It was on that note that Orring from their different places of abode gathered at Central School, Ntezi, Ishielu LG, Ebonyi State, on December 30, 2021, to celebrate their rich culture.
It was an uncommon unification. For the first time, Orring people from Benue, Cross River and Ebonyi states gathered to reminisce on their history and celebrate their common ancestry. The event, put together by Orring Historical Society (OHS) had “Celebrating Our Ethnic Identity and Rich Cultural Heritage,” as its theme.
Chairman of OHS, Dr Peter Okey, said the event would be holding every year: “The choice of this theme is informed by the fact the Orring culture and history is often underappreciated, uncelebrated and mostly undocumented. The lack of appreciation for our culture and history has led to a rise in identity crisis and dilemma amongst many of our people.
“Today, Orring language and culture are on the cusp of extinction, especially among our younger generations, where for various reasons, the proportion of our young people with knowledge of our language and culture continues to decline.
“There are patches of information and documentation about the origin of the Orring people, when and why they are dispersed in various parts of Nigeria, and the relationships amongst the Orring communities. However, the attempts that have been made to some of these questions through serious study and documentation, interestingly, have come from non-Orring people.
“While efforts to resolve these questions are welcomed from anyone, it is clear that if we leave our story to others to tell, we risk having our stories distorted. The annual Orring Day is an excellent opportunity to call to mind and celebrate the rich, diverse and cultural heritage of the Orring People.”
Regent of Eteji community in Ishielu LG, Oliver Bentley, explained that Orring Day was aimed at inculcating the cultural heritage and values of Orring people to their younger generation. He described Orring as peaceful and hospitable people who are interested in peace, unity and progress of every state they found themselves.
He dismissed the idea that Orring belong to the Igbo ethnic group: “The significance of this event is to remind ourselves of our root and history. It is important to emphasise that because we are found among the Igbo does not make us Igbo. We have our language and our cultures different from that of the Igbo people.
“We are not antagonistic to the Igbo but we are not Igbo. We are Orring and we speak Korring language. It is an accident of history that we are found among the Igbo. Note, however, that Orring people are also found in Benue and Cross River states.”
OHS secretary, Dr Patrick Aleke, claimed that the Orring were the first inhabitants of the area known today as Abakaliki before the coming of the Izzi and the Ezza. He told Daily Sun: “When we say that we are from Ebonyi State, the first question they will ask you is, so you are from Ebonyi State? The answer is no. They will ask again, but you said you are from Ebonyi State? We are not from Ebonyi. But we are indigenous people of Ebonyi and if you have read some historical documents, you will see that Orring people are the Mbembe people in Cross River State; they were the first inhabitants of this place called Abakaliki. It is documented. If you go to google report, it is there or the intelligence reports in the federal archives in Enugu. Why we are doing this is to show who we are so that people wouldn’t be surprised when we say who we are. One thing unique about Orring is that we are found in three states, Ebonyi, Benue and Cross River. If you go to the African language classification, the Igbo language and Korring language are from different routes. Because if you go to the families of Benue Congo; we have two families, namely the East Benue Congo and West Benue Congo. Orring belongs to the East Benue Congo whilst Igbo is West Benue Congo. When I speak, no Igbo person will understand me except if the person has lived among us.”
President, Ntezi Town Union, Ude Frank Orji, said: “We have realised that it’s good we know ourselves and come together. Today’s event is the maiden edition. Subsequently, it will be holding every year and it will be rotating to all the communities of Orring across Ebonyi, Benue and Cross River states.”
Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Dr Kelechi Igwe, represented by Coordinator, Ishielu Development Centre (IDC), Mrs Ngozi Ofia, congratulated Orring people for the reunion to celebrate their culture and unique history: “Government places high premium on culture and will continue to do everything within its power to support the preservation of the unique cultural heritages of all the communities and clans in the state.”