The historical relationship between the Jukun and Idoma ethnic groups is shrouded in uncertainty, but recent research sheds light on their interactions and cultural exchanges. This article explores the connection between these two communities and examines their shared beliefs, rituals, and influences.
The Wukari Jukun and pre-migration Idoma, often referred to as the Proto-Idoma, shared geographical proximity. It’s worth noting that the Tiv people did not arrive in the Benue region until around 1700, which means the eastern border of Akpoto territory bordered Jukun lands. The nature of Jukun-Idoma relations, whether involving direct or indirect political domination, warrants careful examination, particularly in the realms of belief and ritual.
Studies by Rubin 1969, Erim 1975, and Meek point to striking resemblances between Jukun cults and masquerade practices and their Idoma counterparts. Additionally, there’s a suggestion that pagan Hausa culture might have influenced the Proto-Idoma. For instance, the Aba-Kwariga associations in the Aljanu healing cult and the ashama masquerade in Wukari bear similarities to the Idoma Anjenu cult and the Alekwuafia masquerade, respectively.
The Abakwariga Influence:
The Abakwariga, a group of Hausa-speaking people who coexisted with the Jukun for centuries, claim that Kwararafa, a prominent entity along the Benue, was essentially an Abakwariga city. This perspective challenges the notion of Jukun domination, which was previously accepted by scholars. Recent researchers are reevaluating the historical proportions of Jukun’s influence.
Abakwariga’s Rule in Kwararafa:
Drawing on Webster’s findings, Erim suggests that before the Jukun Coup around 1630, Kwararafa was controlled by the Abakwariga. This interpretation raises the possibility that Kwararafa may have originated as a southern extension of the Hausa states, formed by those resisting Islamic influence. Notably, there’s no Jukun conquest tradition, and some chronicles indicate Kwararafa’s military strength in the Benue valley and beyond, possibly led by the Abakwariga.
Rubin casts doubt on the notion of Jukun dominance, as Fulani oral traditions do not explicitly link the Jukun to Kwararafa. Rather, this identity seems to have been shaped by Sir Richmond’s interpretation of traditions. This new perspective challenges previous assumptions about Jukun influences in Idoma culture, emphasising that Idoma-Hausa ties could be as significant as Idoma-Jukun connections.
While a comprehensive history of the Kwararafa federation exceeds the scope of this study, it is clear that interactions between the Jukun, Abakwariga, and Idoma played a crucial role in shaping early Idoma culture. This intricate history highlights the dynamic nature of cultural exchanges and challenges conventional narratives about dominance and influence.
Extract from the archive of the late Chief Akpalla Okenyodo’s research