The word “Okun” is a general term used to describe the Yoruba people in Kogi state, Nigeria.
Kogi is a multi-cultural and diverse state, and Okun people make up over 20% of the entire population of the state, which is about 700,000 out of 4Million residents, according to 2016 census figures.
Okun people spread across six local government areas in Kogi State, which are; Ìjùmú Kabba-Bunu, Yagba-West, Yagba-East, Mopa-Muro, and Lokoja local government Areas. They can also be found in some states like Kwara, Ekiti, and Ondo.
They communicate in various Yoruba dialects such as Owé, Ìyàgbà, Ìjùmú, Bùnú and Oworo, but they are generally called Okun irrespective of the dialect spoken.
One amazing fact is that, if you are not an Okun person, you might not be able to figure out the slight differences in the various dialects because every speaker flaunts his/her dialect at will, with the confidence that the other Okun listener person will understand without stress. Which is true.
More so, every Okun person speaks the common Yoruba dialect fluently even without ever stepping foot out of Kogi.
Okun dialects and way of life is largely influenced by various reasons. Such as:
Diversity of Kogi state
As a result of abundant culture and ethnic diversity which makes Kogi state a unique cultural hub with a large number of ethnic groups such as Ebira, Igala, Hausa, Bassa, Igbo, and other minorities like Bassa, and a small fraction of Nupe people mainly in Lokoja and Bassa Local Government Area. Other tribes in Kogi state are the Ogugu sub-group of the Igala tribe, Kakanda, Gwari, Oworo people (A Yoruba Group), Ogori, Bassa komo, and Magongo.
Also including the Eggan and community under Lokoja Local Government Area.
The history of Okun People cannot be completed without mentioning the geographical factor, because it is an important factor that may have shaped the dialect and culture of Okun people. Considering the fact that Kogi state shares boundaries with ten other states which are; Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Enugu, Anambra, Edo and the Federal capital territory.
Historical factors have played its part in influencing the Okun identity. The Nupe wars of the 19th century and interaction with the Hausas due to geographical zoning have left a remarkable mark on the Okun people and their way of life.
According to oral history, Okun people in Kogi migrated from the ancient town of Ile Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba race. The migration occurred as a quest by the Yorubas to spread and occupy more lands.
Before spreading out, there was an agreement that everyone would report to Ile-Ife for a yearly meeting.
The man who led a group of Yoruba people to a location (now called YAGBA) in Kogi state broke the rules and did not return for the yearly meeting after several years.
When he eventually returned, he explained that he faced challenges and had lost a larger part of his acquired land to some other migrants.
He was blamed for his incompetence which led to the loss, so he lamented in Yoruba language, ”ÌYÀ ÀGBÀ LÓ JEMÍ” which means the invasion of his acquired land by immigrants was due to lack of having elderly people with him.
Since then, everyone started mocking him at Ile-Ife. They nicknamed him Iya agba, associating this name with him whenever they want to send messages across to him while he’s at his occupied territory, now called Yagba.
For many years, the Okun people faced numerous challenges, ranging from geo-political zoning, disunity, marginalization and problem of identity.
The challenges started during the British colonial era when they were politically ceded to the Northern protectorate by Lord Fredrick Lugard, the then Governor-General of Nigeria.
Abolition of the provincial and regional administrative system in Nigeria in the year 1967 led to their merging with Ilorin to form old Kwara state.
Their neighbor, the Igalas were merged with old Benue State.
However, on the 27th of august 1991, Okun people were separated from Kwara and merged with Ebira, Igala from Benue state and some other tribes to form the present Kogi state.
Initially, Okun people agitated against merging them with completely different tribes but they were forced into the marriage.
Their persistent efforts to break away and form a new Okun State, which could make it easier for them to be closer to their Kitts and Kin in the South Western part of Nigeria have failed to materialize.
Okun people bear typical Yoruba names and many of their towns and villages are named in Yoruba language.
Some popular Okun towns and villages are:
- Egbeda Ega
- Oke-aba (Kabba)
- Odo Ere
- Odo Eri
- Igbo Nla
- Obajana and
Some popupular Okun indegenes are:
- Eyitayo Lambo
- Pastor Sam Adeyemi
- Smart Adeyemi
- James Faleke and
- Shola Amoebi
- Chief Kola Jamodu
- Others include;
- Tunde Ednut
- John Obaro
- Dino Melaye
- Nike Davies Okundaye
- Sam Alle
- Bayo Ojo
- Ty bello
- Dare Art Alade
- Suday Bada, etc…