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Edo State is an inland state in the mid-western region of Nigeria, Formed from the split of Bendel State in 1991.

Brief Territorial History

The State of Edo was formed in June 1963 from Benin and Delta provinces of the Western Region originally. That region was known as Bendel State, and its capital was Benin City. It was renamed a province in 1966, and in 1967 the other provinces were split up into several states. Bendel remained territorially intact, becoming a state again. However, during the Nigerian Civil War, the Biafran forces invaded the new Mid-Western state, en route to Lagos, in an attempt to force a quick end to the war. While under Biafran occupation, the state was declared as the "Republic of Benin" as Nigerian forces were to retake the region. The republic collapsed a day after the declaration as Nigerian troops overtook Benin City. In 1976 it lost Ughelli to the new Rivers state and was renamed Bendel. In 1991 Bendel State was split into Edo and Delta states. [1]

Culture in Edo State

The ancient Benin Kingdom dates back to 900 AD. Historical evidence lends credence to the fact that the Oba of Benin used to send his sons to different parts of the Kingdom as vassals to establish and consolidate his imperial authority in these areas. This explains the cultural similarities of these people with the core Benin ethnic stock.


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The natives of Edo State are well-known for their traditional attires epitomized in the traditional male mode of dressing. A flowing Agbada made with ankara, voile, lace, jacquard or guinea cloth material is worn over a trouser and topped with either a long or short-sleeved loose shirt of the same material. Usually, an embroidered or fez cap on the head and a carved walking stick complements this dressing. Generally, many males dispense with the agbada for convenience sake, except for very important occasions. For some traditional rites, the white wrapper is usually tied around the waist. Coral beads (ordinary or ornamental) are popular among the men and womenfolk. The dressing pattern of Edo women is a mix of what is worn in some of the southern states. The women are usually dressed in Buba and wrapper or short-sleeved blouse and wrapper. The variations in dressing are dictated by circumstances and economic standing. Guinea brocade, voile, jacquard, aso-oke (hand-woven cloth) and George are very popular among the women. Particularly popular, is the George wrapper topped with artistically-tailored voile or linen blouse. Gold or silver trinkets, bracelets, bangles, earrings and chains are popular adornments for the women of Edo State. Tradition frowns at women wearing trousers, except during burial ceremonies where female children of the deceased wear their late father’s agbadas and trousers and dance around the town or village. An elaborately made head-tie complements the social dressing of the Edo woman. Of cultural significance is the Iwu traditional dress that is peculiar to the people of the Benin Kingdom. This dress mode comprises of a shirt lined on both ends and worn on top of a skirt.

Music, Song and Dance

In the music sector, Edo State has a large coterie of nationally and internationally renowned performers. Sir Victor Uwaifo leads his pack, a multi media artist who was trained at Yaba College of Technology and the University of Benin. He has performed in major cities in the world. In 1995, Sir Uwaifo was invited for a performance at the United Nations Golden Jubilee celebrations.


Others in this category include Sunny Okosun, Peter King, Felix Duke, Osayomore Joseph and many others who have flown the flag of Edo State creditably. Itinerant traditional performers who are mainly hired for burial, naming ceremonies, age-grade festivals and others abound in Edo State. Chief Omobuare, who died in February 2002 at the age of 92 years, was a leading exponent of the traditional Esan music genre called Asologun. His virtuosity on the wooden piano and his philosophical ditties won him fame in Esan land and beyond. Collins Elaiho, Segun Alile, the late General Bolivia Osigbemhe, Vincent Ugabi, Sir Waziri Oshomah, Aibor Bello, Omo Smart Idonijie, Constantinopolous Osigemhe, Benji Igbadumhe, Patrick Idahosa, Omoadoni, Adesua, Queen Orete and many others have modernized the rich folklore songs of their people into universally-accepted music forms.

The late Chief Isaac Ayeni and Anco Momodu (Anco Limited) are exponents who are largely regarded as the doyens of the traditional music genre in Edo State. In Edo State, there is no dance or song that has no satirical connotation or bearing. The songs and dances that have evolved in many communities in the state have socio-cultural backgrounds. The same with the mode of singing and the chorographical dance steps in all the areas of Edo State. Most traditional songs are accompanied by heavy beats which the dancers step in tune with. Praise-singing is also a common among musicians in the state.

The involvement of the youths in the performance of these songs and dances ensures continuity in the traditional heritage of the people from one generation to the other.

Festivals and Masquerades

Edo State has a very rich tradition of festivals and masquerades through which the people either appease the various gods and goddesses initiate men and women into age-grades or as a traditional get-together. The Igue festival takes pre-eminence among festivals celebrated in Edo State. It is celebrated every December each year by the Oba of Benin to usher in the New Year and as a thanksgiving for the outgoing one. The Igue festival attracts tourists from across Nigeria and abroad. Most of the festivals have a yearly cycle and are open to general viewing and sometimes, participation. Some others like the Obazu festival held among the Aomas of luleha in Owan West Local Government Area is strictly restricted to the men folk. Other important festivals celebrated in Edo State are Ekaba, Ukpe, Irua, Agiele, Adu-Ikukwua, Ebomisi, Eho, Ipihionua, Ugbele, Itakpo, Ofarhe, Emomorhe, Iko, Uzo, Ugozo/Ihiasa, Uba, Egbere, Owere, Ukpako, Oriminyam, Ohonmoimen, Itikiri, Ivhamen/Ororuen, Amekpe, Oto-Uromi, Ighele and Okpuge-Oro. The masquerades in Edo State are generally believed to be earthly representatives of some celestial gods, goddesses or ancestors. Masquerades like the Igbabonelimi of Esanland are very popular social entertainers whose secrets and workings are only known to initiates who are sworn to utmost secrecy. Many masquerades are linked to traditional festivals, while others are only social and have no ritualistic backgrounds. [2]


The traditional cuisine in Edo State is fairly representative of what obtains in most southern states in Nigeria. Pounded yam or eba are eaten with vegetable, melon or okra soups cooked with either bush meat (Antelope, Pig and Grasscutter etc), beef or fish. Yam and rice, which are grown in the state is also eaten with other varieties of soup and meat or fish throughout the state. Garri, which comes in white or yellow variants can be eaten or soaked in water and accompanied with beans, meat, fish, groundnuts etc. Rice and beans are popular across the state. The people of Edo State also prepare yam or cocoyam porridge in homes and restaurants. Non-indigenous foods like amala, starch, pepper soup, fufu and banga soup, have lately crept into the local cuisine. This is due to the constant social interaction of the people with large migrant community from other parts of Nigeria.