The Okuns live along the Niger-Benue confluence area. In the southern area, they are surrounded by Nupe, Ebira, Gbagyi, and Igala whereas the Igbomina, Ekiti, and other Yoruba groups surround them on the west.
They constitute 20% of the entire Kogi State population occupying six local government areas namely Ijumu, Yagba-West, Yagba-East, Mopa-Muro, Kabba-Bunu, and Lokoja Local Government Areas.
As with many other tribes, there are variations in the history of the Okun people. Oral history records that at a time when Yoruba descendants were leaving Ile-Ife, the founder of Okun left with them. Before they left, their royal head gave an instruction to return to Ile-Ife yearly for a meeting.
While others reported yearly, the man who led the Okun people did not return. There is a documented history that records a war between the Nupe and the Okun people. During this war, the people of Okun were captured and taken to Nupe as slaves.
Years later, when the man went back to Ile-Ife, he explained to the elders how much of his territory had been taken by invaders and migrants. The elders responded that if he had heeded to the instruction they gave him, he would not have had that experience. He accepted the blame and said in Yoruba, “Iya agba lo je mi”, meaning that his predicament was caused by his lack of elderly support.
From that time, when the elders at Ile-Ife wanted to send a message to him at his location (currently Yagba), they referred to him as “Iya Agba”. That phrase has now undergone morphological processes and has become ‘Yagba’.
However, at the influx of geopolitical zoning and marginalization, the Okuns were faced with different challenges. In 1967, they were merged with Ilorin to form old Kwara State, due to the abolition of the provincial and regional administrative units. In 1991, the Okun people were merged with Ebira; Igala that was formerly merged with Benue State was also removed. These two tribes along some other tribes were taken to form Kogi State.
The Okun speak Okun dialect. This dialect, however, has other sub-dialects which are Ijumu, Owe, Bunu, Iyagba, and Oworo. They speak a language similar to Yoruba language. Candidly, they bear Yoruba names and many of their settlements are named in Yoruba. Some of these settlements are Egbeda, Ayegunle, Oke-aba (Kabba), Odo-Eri, Odo-ere, Ife, Iyamoye, Ayetoro, Igbo nla, Ikoyi, Obajana, Kajola, etc.
Besides that, their language is influenced by the other states (Niger, Nassarawa, Kwara, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Abuja, Anambra, Enugu, and Benue) that share boundaries with them.
The Okun men were known for farming and hunting while their women stayed at home to take care of the home and children. Abunu women of one of the Okun groups weave and trade aso-ipo, a red textile used for burying the dead and also for making masquerade dresses.
They worship Sango and Ogun. They also consult the Ifa oracle. In addition, they believe in the worship of ebora and egungun. Although the masquerade cult groups are left exclusively for men, the women have their own group called ofosi.
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