Her name, Chief (Mrs.) Ene Edache, has become a household name in the Idoma Kingdom, following the active role she played to ensure that the Idoma people got a common attire to enhance their culture.
That was sometime in 1988, after the then paramount ruler of the Idoma nation, the Och’Idoma, Ajene Okpabi, saddled her with that responsibility.
Not willing to fail her traditional ruler and her people, Mama Edache, a one-time councillor (the first female councillor in Idomaland) who recently turned 74, in a chat with our correspondent in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State, said she immediately went to work and began to make drawings of different colours and designs and eventually came up with three.
She added that, before then, an ad hoc committee had been set up by the Och’Idoma for the same purpose and the committee, which had the likes of Supreme Court judge, Justice Ejembi Eko, among others, as members, also set to work.
Mama Edache said, after she presented her colours and designs to the Och’Idoma and the Idoma traditional council, the black and red attire was endorsed and she immediately contacted one of her friends in Idah, Kogi State, to assist her get people to mass produce the traditionally woven attire from Kogi.
“After the reign of the first paramount ruler of the Idoma people of the world HRH. Agabaidu Chief Ogiri Oko Ochi’Idoma I, from 1947 to 1960, the second paramount ruler was HRH Agabaidu, Chief Abraham Ajene Okpabi, Ochi’Idoma II, in 1985.
“The Agabaidu held a meeting with the entire chiefs from all the districts of the Idoma area traditional council to discuss extensively the direction of development of the Idoma nation at the Idoma area traditional square (the Ochi’Idoma’s palace).
“Among issues discussed was the issue of the need for a unique colour that would be generally accepted by all Idoma people of the world, irrespective of their clans and dialects.
“They wanted a colour that they could be identified with, that would also represent the true nature and spirit of an Idoma man or woman anywhere in the world.
“The Och’Idoma, Chief Abraham AJene Okpabi, being an objective and visionary leader, invited illustrious sons and daughters of Idoma to a meeting and I was also privileged to be among, as a result of my immense contributions to developmental activities in Idomaland.
“An ad hoc committee was formed to handle the selection process of the assignment of presenting a unique colour for the Idoma people. Members of this ad hoc committee included Chief Ogo Okpabi, Dr. Edwin Idoko Obe, Chief Adakole Adama and Alhaji Amodu Ogwu, with Justice Ejembi Eko acting as secretary.
“I was given the assignment to research and bring to the council the colours and attire that would serve the purpose. I humbly accepted and travelled out of Benue in consultation and search for what has turned out to be the pride of the Idoma people and the most beautiful traditional attire in Nigeria and one of Africa’s finest, colourful outfit.
“I came back from my expedition with three options of colours and attires: red and black, red, gold and black as well as red.
“When I presented this colours to the Och’Idoma, Chief Abraham AJene Okpabi, Och’Idoma II, he called his council and the ad hoc committee to finally choose the right attire from among the three and it was unanimously agreed to use the red and black as the generally accepted colours of the Idoma people of the world.”
She added that the red represents royalty of the Idoma people as regards to the lion, which is the Agaba of the Idu Kingdom and strength that binds together, while the black symbolizes the dignity and unity that binds the Idoma people together, irrespective of their various dialects and clans.
“The Och’Idoma then declared that the attire be mass-produced immediately. He delegated me to start the mass production and also asked that some Idoma elite and stakeholders give me some money for the mass production.”
Among the stakeholders that were asked to give her money for the mass production of the attire, Mama Edache said Adakole Adama (now late) gave her N5,000, which she later paid back.
Looking back, Mama Edache told our correspondent that, if given the opportunity again, she would go the same extra miles again and again for her people, adding she has been in the vanguard of ensuring that the attire is used by the younger generation of Idoma people, especially during traditional marriage and other ceremonies.
“It is pertinent to note in the historical record of Idoma that the red and black colours of the Idoma people do not have any traditional meaning other than to instil in the minds of the generation now and those to come that our black and red beautiful attire did not just pop out of the heavens into the hand of Idoma sons and daughters.
“Let them know that it is a significant means of identity that was born out of the general Idoma area traditional council and elders of the Idoma people from 1985 to 1988, during the reign of the second paramount ruler of the Idoma kingdom.
“They should know that it was made manifest through the effort and sacrifice of a woman whose reputation of sincere hard work and love for her fatherland is hardly measurable; a woman who as at the time of writing this piece is a mother, grandmother, matron of many institutions and organisation pressing for the development of the Idoma people, home and abroad.”
Also corroborating Mama Edache’s position, Justice Ejembi, who spoke with our correspondent on telephone, confirmed that he was the secretary of the ad hoc committee that was set up to source for an attire for the Idoma people in the 1980s.
Justice Ejembi, the only living member of that ad hoc committee, added that the committee was dissolved after Mama Edache’s attire was accepted by the Idoma traditional council.