In order to understand the nature and dynamics of social relations in Isua, history of origin is briefly discussed. One of the central themes in the traditions of origin and evolution of Akoko is migration. This is due to the fact that Akokoland served and still serves as a meeting point for different migrants from different parts of Nigeria, especially Ife, Ekiti, Benin and Iyagbaland.

Although, there is a migration account that groups Isua as part of an Akoko group that migrated from Benin, the concern of this paper lies with the account that claims Yoruba origin through Benin. This is argued from the premise of ancestral or blood relationship with Oranmiyan’s son, Prince Agberuma . According to the tradition, when Oranmiyan departed Benin, Agberuma, his eldest son, was supposed to be crowned the king instead. However, the kingmakers refused to crown him mainly because his mother was not a Benin citizen. Thus, his younger brother, Ewedo , who had a Benin mother, was made the King.(Oyolola III & Olisua). This betrayal angered Agberuma , who left Benin and was followed by a large number of sympathisers and aides. After a long period of movement, they finally settled at Idoani. Thus, Idoani community got its name from the corruption of the phrase, ibi ti Ini do si, meaning, where Ini (Ini was another name for Agberuma) settled. Further migration, however, made him and his supporters to settle at Isua. It was from this process that Epinmi, Ipe, and other Akoko communities along this axis were later established. (Oyolola III & Olisua). According to the King of Isua, Olisua: ‘blood is always thicker than water’ and since they were descendants of Oranmiyan, a prominent Oduduwa son, they, Isua could be regarded as bona fide Yoruba people.(Interview with Emmanuel Anjorin, 2018).

Justification as a Yoruba community is provided in the socio-political organisation that could be likened to Yoruba structure. For example, the political structure of Isua community is arranged in hierarchical order of the indigenous Yoruba political structure of Oba in the centre, to the Ijoye in the suburbs, Bale of the extended family, etc. A cultural argument is the adoption of Yoruba language as a mutually intelligible means of communication among the Isua people.(Interview with Emmanuel Anjorin, 2018) . Despite the Uhuami dialect, the people still speak and see the general Yoruba language as a bridge of communication with other Akoko communities. This is used to prove the Yorubaness of the community.

In the first instance, it is argued that the geographical location of these Akoko towns in Yorubaland has made them to view and imagine themselves for a very long time as Yoruba. This was later consolidated by the modern politics, which has always earmarked them within the ‘political spectrum and governance’ dominated by the Yoruba speaking people. Having lived and adjusted under these circumstances for so long and strong cultural interaction with core Yoruba groups, the people now perceive themselves as Yoruba, though without forgetting their history. In all, the nuances of historical affinity outside Yoruba partly explain the reason for significant difference in the social relations of Isua and Yoruba.


In Isua, there existed gender delineated roles between the sexes from birth to death. One of the most glaring gender stratified roles lies in the Age Group. While the group was clear cut among the males from age 10 or 15, marriage accorded status on woman, from which her status changes as her child/children gave birth to more children/offspring, otherwise, an unmarried woman may be regarded as Uvisi: unmarried girl throughout her life time.(Samuel).

 Below is tabulated male age group in Isua.

 Table 1

Name of age group

Estimated age gap


Above 15


Above 20


Above 25


Above 30


Above 35


Above 40


Above 45

Efueru – Ekeka

Above 50

Efueru didi

Above 55


Above 60

Source: S. K. Ogidan, Isua Past and Present (Lagos, Datanomic Publication, 2013), 43.

In same Isua, there is significant distinction in the names and age of age group in Irobo and Ereva quarters. Therefore, second age group of the quarters is presented below:

Table 2

Name of age group

Estimated age gap


Above 10


Above 15


Above 20

Udulah (only Irovbo)

Above 25


Above 30


Above 35


Above 40


Above 45

Efueru ekekah

Above 50

Efueru didi (obevah)

Above 55

Efueru didi (obesah)

Above 60

Efueru didi (obenih)

Above 65

Efueru didi (obishie)

Above 70

Source: S. K. Ogidan, Isua Past and Present (Lagos, Datanomic Publication, 2013), 44.

 Representation of families in the age group is central to its configuration. Generally, the parameter for the endorsement of membership is the number of male children in a family. In other words, if male child from a family is absent in a particular age group, a younger son could be catapulted to the such age group. This was to allow for representation of every family in the group.(19. Interview with Chief Ojo Olanrewaju, 2017). This makes it herculean to assign age limit to each age group, since age is not as paramount in the group representation as family.

 In all the age groups, adulthood was always celebrated. The age of initiation to adulthood in both tables 1 and 2 was Iyiengba, 45 years. After the ascension of this grade to adulthood, they became the backbone of their communities.(Samuel). The age bracket between 25- 40 was responsible for execution of community projects like clearing of bushes from road paths, renovation of palace and construction of bridges. Meanwhile, it should be noted that nobody graduated from the last age grade: Avade or Efueru didi because it incorporated all later ages from 60 years and 70 years respectively. In fact, old men of over 120 years were found there. This group served as advisory council to the king and entire community.

 Since females were not accorded any age group but classified after marriage. The female classification is presented below:

 Marriage and Social Classification of Women

 Uvisi: Unmarried girl

 Orkwufa: From the day of marriage

 Ere-dede/Edede: After the first birth of first grandchild

 Ikooshi: After the birth of great grandchild

 Idasaboh: After the birth of great, great, grandchild

 Aaniseh: After the birth of great, great, great grandchild.(Samuel).

 After a lady gets married and became Orkunfa, she was celebrated as she produced offspring. Since only marriage promoted female and not age like male classification, they married at early age, in order to be promoted and earn societal respect. An Aaniseh of Isua attests to this:

 The easiest route for which a woman could get to Aaniseh age grade is to have an early marriage; have female child very early and marry away the female daughter very early. These children in turn are expected to have female children early. Adopting the custom of a very early marriage enabled the women to quickly attain the “Aaniseh” age grade.(Interview with Madam Juliana Agbogija, 2017).

 This underlines why women celebrate the birth of first child by their children in marriage. In fact, this was celebrated by all the females in the families of bride and groom as it stipulated automatic promotion to another high cadre in the society. The mothers of both wife and husband would sing around the community to their delight and confidence for the successful marriage of their adult children and the fruitfulness of womb. Expectedly, the women gained automatic promotion to another class.

 Also in marriage, married woman must not commit adultery, known as Osi in Isua. It was (and still) forbidden for a woman in marriage to attach herself to another man in a relationship. Although, divorce was rare, the woman must engage in a traditional discharging process prior to divorce. Unlike the conventional marriages where death detaches couple, death of the husband was not enough to discharge the woman, the cultural discharging must occur.


In lieu of the above, any woman or man found culpable was regarded as an act of infidelity punishable by gods which included: mysterious sickness till death such as mouth tearing or sores, shadow boxing and crowing like cock.(Samuel). Again, punishment could be extended to the children and or generation of the culprit. Meanwhile, a repentant culprit could appease the gods of Osi through its priest, Oku-Oya. Items like white big cock, kolanut, cowries and old coins must first be presented. However, this did not guarantee total cleansing of the culprit as it could still be visited on the offspring.(Samuel).

 Traditionally, a girl must remain virgin until five days after marriage to her husband. A girl must not engage in any amorous relationship with her would-be husband or fiancé. In cases of violation, punishment including mysterious sickness leading to death on the man and woman or the woman alone could be penalty. Again, appeasement did not always mean forgiveness, in fact, the culprit would still have a bite of the sickness after appeasement. Therefore, preservation of virginity was viewed as a matter of life and death or was preservation of life.(Interview with Chief Victoria Imisi). In all, this might be regarded as mythical, but the belief was mechanism used in checkmating anti-society cultures and to preserve the sanctity of Isua.


Not all Orkunfa (married women), became biological mothers, hence even a woman old enough to attain Aaniseh delineation but could not procreate may not move to another class and probably remained stagnant till death. In other words, marriage was the parameter for societal classification and promotion for women.

However, owing to the polygamous nature of marriage in pre-colonial Akoko, husbands proceeded to marry another wife for child procreation. While the new wife attained a new class at the birth of her children, the old wife without children was expected to care for step-children and adopt them to fulfill the yearnings a married adult is expected to have for nurturing young ones. (Interview with Cecilia Olanrewaju). In some cases, this was used to enlist the barren woman into the social classification hierarchy. These children were culturally bound to perform a befitting burial at demise of the barren woman.(Interview with Emmanuel Anjorin). This way, some barren women were compensated in the social rank.

 Meanwhile, there were cases, barren women refused adoption of step-children probably due to polygamy wrangling. In such occasions, the barren woman was labelled derogatory names like witch, who has sacrifice her children in the spirit world of witchcraft. In spite of this, some of such women soar beyond societal labelling and filled this lacuna by earning respect and status through industrious activities especially in the economy. For example, Efunsetan Aniwura, a barren Yoruba woman became popular through her hard work and doggedness such that encompassing Yoruba women history may not be complete without her.

 Apart from this category, some women became childless, due to the fact that their child(ren) died before them and they could no longer produce any offspring. Such women like Ojo Amope from Eberi quarter became the responsibility of her maternal lineage at old age,(Interview with Elijah Ojo)since a wife without offspring and social status (wealth terms) was not significantly reckoned with. In other words, child(ren) and wealth were the parameters of ascribing relevance to women in precolonial Isua Akoko.


Widowhood in Isua Akoko was unique, it bore no significant similarity to Yoruba culture in some climes. While the woman was inherited by a relative of the deceased in Yoruba culture, the woman was discharged (if she so pleases) in these areas. However, prior to this discharging process, the traditional mourning period must be observed by the woman. Here, the woman’s hair and children’s hair were shaved to reflect soberness.(Interview with Madam Christianah Olanipekun).

 However, in cases where the husband did not attain Avade age grade before his death, the husband’s family could refuse discharge of the woman until all doubts are cleared. Where the woman was found guilty beyond doubts she was required or must present goats or cocks depending on the gravity of her offence.

 On the other hand, mutual exclusiveness was not inherent in this practice. In cases, where the wife died before the husband, the husband was never investigated or proven guilty, neither did he require any discharging process. In fact, the society merely viewed such as destiny or fate and advised the man to marry another wife.38 This of course reflects the patriarchal nature of Nigerian society.

 In the community, a widow who was old and unable to fend for herself could return to her parents’ home, where proper care awaits her:

 Iya Julie… had only one daughter who had also died… The woman had a sore in one of her legs. The husband of this woman died long time ago. The woman returned to Odoso after many years of marriage at Isiah in Eberi. This was of course a common practice in Isua. Once a woman was too old to fend for herself at the husband’s place, the woman returns to her quarter of origin.(Samuel).


 Oluwasola Ibitayo Daniels (2018)  Gender Specifics and Social Relations in North-Eastern Yorubaland: Isua Akoko Example, up to 19th Century Canadian Social Science



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