Oza-Nogogo, The Road Ahead
Anthony Imudia MD
COIMF Executive Director, Board Member
Oza-Nogogo is a boundary community in the Delta North Senatorial District of Nigeria. History has it that Oza-Nogogo is the oldest community in Agbor Kingdom. Agbor was originally named Agbon, an Edo word, until the British anglicized it to Agbor.
Oza is the language spoken by the people of Oza-Nogogo community. It is a variant accent mixed up with Bini, Ishan, Isoko, and Owan tongues.
Oza-Nogogo is a community of six villages which together constitute the “chiefdom.” The villages in order of seniority are: Uvbe, Owuwu, Evboebi, Ewan, Ebudo, and Iduneha.
Oza-Nogogo has an official population of more than 100,000 people at home and abroad. Orhionmwon River separates Oza-Nogogo from its sister community, Oza-Aibiokunla in Orhionwon, local government area of Edo State.
The chiefdom of Oza-Nogogo is headed by the Ojisi. The Ojisi is the Odionwere of the oldest village, Uvbe. The Ojisi position is non-hereditary. The oldest man in Uvbe becomes the Ojisi, and heads the chiefdom council made up of the Odionweres (elders) from the six villages of Oza-nogogo. The functions of the traditional chiefdom council are as follows:
- Judicial responsibilities
- Collection of levies
- Organization of traditional festivals
- Performance of sacrifices for the good of the community
- Delegation of representatives to consult with diviners
- Relations with central authority or government bodies
Agriculture remains the main occupation of Oza-Nogogo people living at home. Yam are the subsistence crop of men along with tree crops such as kola, coconut, and oil palm. The planting of crops like maize, pepper, melon, beans, and okra are essentially set aside for women. Palm wine tapping is another occupation of the male folks. In short, Oza-Nogogo palm wine is arguably ranked among the best palm wines in the World. It is sought for everywhere in Nigeria, except for the fact that preservation in terms of developing the palm wine value chain at Oza-Nogogo has not been addressed.
Today what has not been harnessed at Oza-Nogogo is the large deposit of Kaolin – a natural resource for many industries. Because of mistrust among its people, it has been difficult for members of the community to sustain development efforts for the industrial mineral. Today, mining and rudimentary processing is limited to mostly women who dig and shape it into different sizes of “native chalk” known as “orhue” in Oza language. Orhue plays an important ritual role in the religious and traditional matters of the Oza-Nogogo people. Trade in orhue even produced at rudimentary level was huge for the women and buyers came from faraway places to Ogogo market. However, due to lack of good road to the community, trading has been drastically reduced in the last decades.
As mentioned above, the road leading to Oza-Nogogo is so bad that it has discouraged traders from participating in the traditional every other five days “ogogo” market. When late Clifford Ojeriakhi Imudia died in 2011, with the help of the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, the road was graded to the “Ogogo” market square. The Oza-Nogogo Elite Foundation raised money to complete the road grading through all six villages. In less than three months and with the coming of the rainy season, the graded earthen roads were washed off again, making driving to and from the community challenging.
So far the people of Oza-Nogogo have been failed, as in other minority communities of Africa. Hence, COIMF focuses its work in Oza-Nogogo and neighboring communities.