Expository: Ohafia, And Her Age Grade System

Ohafia Age Grade System

By Precious Chidinma Ukoha

Ohafia is a Clan in Abia State, Nigeria that is made up of 26 villages.

There is an age grade system which operates in Ohafia, and some of the other villages which surround her namely, Igbere, Item, and Abiriba.

This age grade system which is also known as Uke, is formed according to the year of birth of indigenes. People born within 1 and 3 years gap usually form an age grade.

When age mates(ndi Uke olu) reach 10 years, they perform their first assignment as a show of strength, energy, and industry. This is called Igba Nnunu (bird hunting).

These young people shoot birds with their catapults, and take their spoils of ‘war’ back home where they are celebrated. Their parents and families can throw parties to celebrate their bird hunting.

The next thing that is done for age mates is called Ike Oba (tying yams to barns). This is done by their parents to show that they have come of age.

By the time age mates (one age grade) are in their forties, they are officially named. This is called (Izara Afa). They answer the name they are called by performing a task for the village. This can be as little as painting a community hall, or building a market for the village.

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When they are in their fifties, they do what is called Igba Ekpe. This is done sectionally, i.e age mates born in each section of the village, go round the village in a uniform, and are celebrated by their families.

The hallmark of the age grade system in Ohafia, and the other villages which practice it, is the traditional retirement which is known as Igba Uche, or Izu Uche depending on the village.

It is done when age mates are in their sixties, and have retired from the different occupations and offices they held in the cities.

At this time, the people they have blessed in their lifetime, their children, family and friends, gather to celebrate them.

They celebrate life.
They celebrate achievement, and the priviledge of retiring with their age mates.

On their part, the age grade that is retiring engrave their footprints on the sands of time, by performing a laudable project for the village.

They dance round the village in their beautiful uniforms with their family members as they go to present their project to the village.

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Afterwards, they receive their guests who bring gifts to celebrate them. They dance and eat with their family and friends.

As you can tell from this write-up, the age grade system’s primary focus is development through the unity of indigenes born within set age brackets, and has no fetish activities.

In fact, it instils a spirit of friendly competition within age mates as each one aspires to excel in his or her field of endeavour.

This tradition has been in place for many years, and has helped to birth certain projects such as markets, civic centres, street lights, tarred roads,etc.

I am proud of Ohafia, the land of my birth and have written this to explain our tradition to my friends who are ndi mba.

Ohafia kaa ni wo

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Precious Chidinma Ukoha


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By Kalu Odinakachi
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