History of Traditional Medicine
Traditional Medicine: In the olden days there were no hospitals but herbal healing – homes. And by virtue of the vegetation of Ebiraland, being typical savannah. Virtually all tropical herbs are readily within the reach of every household. Child delivery was within the individual homes. Traditional Medicine played a very important role in the lives of the Ebiras.
And up till now their roles of traditional Medicine go side-by-side with the orthodox medicine in Ebiraland. Right from our ancestral father to the present generation, it could be inferred that since we are a people, essentially prone to injuries either during hunting or farming, the need to know basic health care cannot be over-emphasized.
Our traditional first—aid lessons used to start at very tender ages of between 34 years; as soon as the child starts accompanying the father to either the garden or so. He is steadily introduced to traditional herbs such as ‘avihupahupa’, ‘Owozunava’, ‘aviagui’, ‘adedenguhi’, ‘orukonkono’, ‘ochi uku’, ‘omu avuta’, ‘osi agada kwoku’, ‘ovareyi koza’, ‘avi enyi oma nyosa’ etc. and to ascertain if the child can really differentiate these herbs well, he is occasionally sent to go and fetch them for use.
Regarding the uses of these herbs, the child is encouraged to stand by while the medicine is being prepared. Through this practical method, he steadily acquires knowledge of the uses of the various herbs too. As and when occasion demands, particularly when he is alone and something similar happens he tries his hands at these herbs; and he gets the required results naturally.
So, as the average Ebira is a potential farmer and hunter he is equally a potential traditional herbalist. All it requires is the basic orientation; right from birth! In most cases traditional medicine goes with divination powers; particularly if the herbalist takes it as full—time occupation. Through consultations with the oracles, it is pre-determined whether or not the cure of the ailment is obtainable within the reach of the herbalist being contacted or elsewhere.
Without any element of deceit, a truthful herbalist will confess if the ailment is beyond his powers. He will then refer the case to some other specialist. But not all herbalists are good diviners and vice—versa. This assertion is similar to the modern-day laboratory test carried out to ease diagnosis. All these powers abound in every Ebira person.
It is the ability to develop it that is lacking in some while others have developed theirs to be of immense applications. In this regard, the famous Ada’ai Obege (of blessed memory) comes to mind as a spiritual leader amongst others. The mystic behind his burial inside the rock (at Ohizenyi) is a great myth in Ebira history!
Traditional Technology: The age-long saying is that technology is as old as a man! The early Ebiras were not left out in the scheme of things. And back in the days of Ada’ai Ita’azi, virtually all the modern technology was in place which justifies this ascertain. Otherwise one wonders where the Ebira language has got the following terms among others ‘Ohine’ (kingpost); ‘Otu’ (support); ‘Adodo'(roof-cap).
‘Otuka’ (refers); ‘Itu’ (ceiling) etc regarding buildings. The Ebira traditional architecture had a very good place in Nigeria; particularly with the availability of abundant local building materials in the area. Such materials include timber of various sizes and types including ‘Uroko’ (Iroko tree), ‘Usechi’ (White Wood), ‘Agiga’ (Rafia Palm); ‘Oparu (Bamboo) etc.
It could also be recalled that the present—day Kuroko was so named because it was a forest where ‘uroko’ trees were commonly found, hence its shortened form from the word ‘Iriku uroko’. And with the availability of these materials the walls were no problems at all since the Ebira sub—soil Was particularly good for local bricks.
The early Walls were of the continuous layer type, each layer being laid at intervals of three to four days for this type of wall wet ‘bricks moulded into round shapes were usually used; normally dug from selected suitable locations at the outskirts of the settlement though not necessarily too far from the plot) to ease transportation problems since they were normally carried on the heads of women and children to the bricklayer.
Though some people specialize in this occupation, virtually every Ebira adult is a builder of some kind, just by practical involvement and experience, since he is often confronted by the problem of providing for himself a suitable shelter either on a farm or in the game reserve (as a hunter).
This takes the form ‘ajengwu’ (hut) which is in most cases provided with some form of the wall up to a certain height, if not fully walled and provided with a door and window at least. And for even the early Ebira settlements the traditional architectural designs even incorporated such features as a sitting room referred to as ‘abara’, a courtyard referred to as ‘Ohoje’ and a room called ‘aku’.
It could also be recalled that while the ‘Uroko’ timbers were normally specially carved into flat planks and used as doors referred to as “Ukere oze”, those who could not afford these used straws made from palm fronds referred to as ‘are’. And for the latter, they were only available from Obeiba in the Ihima district the inhabitants who specialized in this craft just as Oboroke women specialized in pottery.
Virtually all pots used in Ebiraland are of Oboroke origin. In their locality there exists the special clay called ‘Umopa’ suitable for making pots. Regarding road making and Civil engineering works, the early Ebiras were not left behind in Nigeria. Even the lone Ebira farmer will, without supervision open—up feeder roads to his farm, with provisions for drainages no matter how narrow the road or path is.
And for main access roads, he provides traditional bridges over streams and even rivers. Terms such as ‘akiko’ are used for bridges built over rivers; in this regard, a special survey is done whereby the bridge is usually built across the river where trees (suitable types) are found both at the river banks as well as along the course of the river (virtually evenly distributed). This involves special skills and technology.
No wonder the Ebira did not find it too difficult to construct the Okene Water Works by direct labour as far back as 1934 37. The Okene-Lokoja, as well as the Okene Ajaokuta roads, opened up by direct labour dating back to 191 8—22, all involved bridges of one form or the other.
It is therefore not surprising those sons and daughters of Ebira fare so well in the field of science and technology such as Medicine, Engineering and Architecture in schools of Western Education.
The traditional desire for every Ebira adult to own a suitable house of his own with all the basic comforts, which dated back to the days of our ancestors, has led to our culture of modern houses, as can be seen by the beauties exhibited by our modern settlements in Ebiraland. All the more reason why Okene is regarded as the ‘LONDON’ of Kogi State.