Ora: Home Away from Home

In any Ora town or village, a stranger needs not yearn for home. As thousands of non-indigenes, who have had to live in the communities of this major tribal group in Edo State, have found out over the years, Ora towns are ever a home away from home. The people of Ora take pride in this fact. The average Ora man's sense of hospitality is not only exemplary but also well known. It is often said that among the major communities in Edo State, of which Ora is one, none could boast of harboring more strangers than Ora. Ora communities consist of six major
clans which include Ohia, Ovbiokhuarin, Evbiobe (Sabongidda-Ora), Uhomora, Oke (Both old and new) and Eme-Ora. Of all these, Ohia is the highest ranking but the one with the least population. Ohia is followed by Ovbiokhuarin which is at present the traditional home and palace of the Oje of Ora, His Highness M.E. P Imonah. Sabongidda-Ora is the third in order of seniority in the community followed by Uhomora, then Oke and finally Eme-Ora which is regarded as the 'youngest town' in the community. It is also called Ofebe. Happenings in Sabongidda Ora, the biggest of all Ora towns, reflect what goes on in the other Ora towns and outlying villages. It has the largest concentration of non-indigenes some of whom have lived there for several decades. There, they have given birth to children, trained them, established business and taken part in several socio-cultural activities. Others have chosen to claim Sabongidda Ora as their place of origin, an emphatic affirmation that the people and the land are peaceful and accommodating.

An average Ora man is very hard working. He is full of strength, agility, resourcefulness and an acute sense of responsibility to see to the provision of basic amenities for himself and his family.

At the stroke of dawn, he wakes up, puts on the lantern and takes out his cutlass. He spends the next few minutes sharpening the cutlass, after which he prepares for the farm which may be about three hours trek from his home. He takes along a chewing stick with which he cleans his teeth as he strolls down to the farm.

In the eye of an Ora person, all men are equal and thus should be treated with equality. Little wonder that there has never been any recorded incident of unrest in Ora land. There is also no record of inter tribal conflicts among the various communities. This is why Ora is regarded as one of the most peaceful communities in Edo State. The Ora's sense of fairness is deep and that perhaps is responsible for the wonderful performance of its sons and daughters in different fields.

That sense of fairness more than anything propelled a young man in the then colonial Nigeria to fight the British colonialists even at the risk of his own life. Now deeply revered by Nigerians and labour activists in particular, 110-years-old Pa Micheal Imoudu, a prominent Ora son is also the oldest person in Ora. He distinguished himself well in the struggle for the emancipation of Nigerian workers. The desire to see that the lives of Nigerian workers are not put under servitude, undue exploitation and oppression informed to Pa Imoudu's crusade. He is popularly known in Nigeria and Ora as "The Number One labour Leader".

Apart from the fact that Pa Imoudu put an indelible mark in the history of Nigeria, his achievements to the development of this great country is still being remembered today and celebrated everywhere. But today he is old and tired even though he still has the zeal to keep on the fighting spirit, a characteristics of an average Ora man. But age is no longer on his side. According to one of Ora Chiefs-in- council, Chief M. A Ozowuro, an ex-First Bank Manager, the fact that the likes of Pa Imoudu live long shows that the Ora's are very strong and virile in all their dealings, " if he was not a transparent and honest person he would not have lived up to this time.

Oras are people who are known to always live long, My own father lived for almost 100 years and so it is for so many others. These can be attributed to their high level of honesty, and they extend this to every area in life they find themselves".

Still on honesty, Chief Ozowuro, said that in Ora, if you meet goods displayed outside be it in a store or in an open place whether the person selling the items is there or not, what the buyer simply does is to drop the money on the table after collecting any item. "This to a very large extent shows that the Oras are very honest". He however lamented the moral decadence among the youths, advising that the youths should take after the elders of the land to do what they are known for.

History and origin of Ora cannot be discussed without talking about the Binis, who according to history and customs have a very close relationship with the Oras; this is why Ora men are treasured in Binin kingdom. But Ora-Edo relationship slid, because of the battles of 1810-1840 and Ogendegbe's invasion of 1879.

One unique thing about the relationship between the Ora -Edo is that, of all the chiefs in Edo land, it is only the Ora chief who does not bow or prostrate before the Oba of Binin, the reason for this, according to Chief Ozowuro, is that the Oba still regards the Ora as his first son and "if any one challenges you, the Oba will tell them that you are right that they should not molest you in any way. "

In the area of marriage, the process of giving out a daughter's hands in marriage and getting a wife for a son is the same in all Ora communities. If a man is of age and ready for marriage, he tells his parents who will in turn search for a decent girl from a good background. Good background here means a good family with no rogues and witches or bad record.

However, in Ora traditionally, a man cannot marry without the consent of his father and mother, because they are the people who will determine whether the girl would be a good wife or not.

But more importantly, the idea of marrying from the same quarter is prohibited especially in Sabonigidda Ora. A man from Oyano quarters cannot marry a lady from that same quarters, this is because they are seen as siblings.

Marriages in Ora are still done by observing some customs. At times the bride price may not be considered too serious by some families to the extent that they can give out their daughter in marriage to any man of their choice freely, without collecting anything but such a man will be required to serve the family by farming, fetching firewood and doing some sort of work for the bride's parents.

Ora as a community takes delight in culture and morality. The traditional settings have measures for the society as moral standard is supposed to be followed. Offenders or those who fall short of the standard as required of them are tried according to the customary laws of the land.

In Ora, respect and obedience to elders is mandatory.

Traditionally, youths respect their elders even if the elders are wrong, they still obey them, and elders are respected and served like gods. It is hardly so any more, yet the society despite the effect of western education has managed to retain and preserve the moral treasures of the people. That is why any unusual act of insurbodination by a younger person to an elderly person is not only frowned upon seriously, but also considered sacrilegious, sometimes appeasable after cleansing rites

Predominantly, the Oras are known farmers and hunters; they grow cassava, plantain and little of cocoa. A thing they enjoyed with all form of excitement, although they did not lose focus in sending their sons to school. This shows that the Ora's have great regard for education. That is why in this contemporary era there is hardly any sector of the economy that you will not find at least an Ora man performing a particular function or the other, they discharge their duties creditably well. These areas include politics, banking, trading and other forms of business.

Like other traditional African societies, the Oras also have a multiplicity of deities but they believe in a Supreme Being.

The reason for the high number of Christians in Ora is that Christianity made an inroad into Ora, early.

Ora received Christianity sometime in 1895. An Anglican Church and primary school were sited in Sabongidda-Ora and the institutions later produced the first Anglican priest in Ora, Late Rev. Aig Imoukhuede.

Amongst other clans in Ora, Sabongidda Ora is one of the most developed this is because it has a council headquarters. It is the only Ora town connected to the rest of the world via telecommunications technology.

If there is anything the Ora's are known for it is their regard for unity. There is this sense of belonging whenever various Ora communities meet both within and outside their immediate locality. An observation given weight by the fact those Ora chiefs perform all their traditional rites together. No Ora man becomes a chief without all Ora chiefs being privy to his selection.

As for her neighbours, Ora is bounded by the Ishans, Iulehas and the Etsakos. And true to type, Ora, over the years has maintained friendship with all her neighbours coexisting with them peacefully

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