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Ethnic Groups in Nigeria: The Alago People

Background and History

The Alago ethnic group are people with common linguistic and cultural identities. The people are of Benue-Congo speaking group found around the defunct Lafia Native Authority in the present-day Nasarawa State with their settlements at Keana, Doma, Obi, Assakio and Agwatashi among others. Today, Alago people are found predominantly in the following Local Government Areas of what is now Nasarawa State Doma, Keana, Obi, Lafia-East, Azara, Giza and Nasarawa. They can be found in the settlement areas of Doma, Keana, Obi, Ribi (Ibi), Agaza, Alagye, Aloshi (Ole’shi), Agwatashi (Olosoho), Assakio (Owusakyo), Kadaerkop, Owena, ankani, Ajkpanaja, Okpata, Ediya among other small settlements including Amaku (Olonya) in Nasarawa Local Government Area.

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By all standards, the Alago group is one of the largest if not the leading group of the whole of present-day Nasarawa State with their population of about 712,712. This is the status the people enjoyed even before the split of the former Plateau State which gave birth to the new Nasarawa State on the 1st October 1996.

The Socio-Economy of the Alago People

The sub-Saharan Alago speakers raise the food their families need, including guinea corn, maize and millet grain. For those living in rural areas, meals, usually cooked outside, frequently include dodo (fried plantains) and foufou (pounded yam or pounded grain) with well-spiced soup made from vegetables and leaves. They enjoy lush tropical fruits like oranges, melons, grapefruit, limes, mangoes, bananas and pineapples year-round.

The Belief System of the Alago People

Many Alago people practice traditional religion deeply rooted in ethnic identity, sacred kingships and hereditary political office. Conversion to Christianity means new cultural assimilation, yet 35 percent claim Gospel faith. The area has over nine Christian denominations. About 10 percent of the Alago follow another major world religion.

When Bible translation work began among the Alago more than 30 years ago, few people were interested. Today, however, Alago speakers are committed to developing their heart language. They want to share with family and friends bound by legalistic religion or perpetual fear of capricious spirits. (Believers need mother tongue Scripture to effectively understand and share Christ).

Food and Delicacies of the Alago People

Their several palatable local delicacies made the tribe stand exceptional in the league of other tribes in the country. And one of these delicacies is, Madidi (or alternatively called Agidi)- it is a porridge made with flour from corn. Madidi can be served with either moi-moi, beans or vegetable soup.

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The Odu Festival

The distinctive symbolic festival and the heart of traditionalism in Doma, Nasarawa State, the Odu cultural play is a symbol of unity for the Alago people. The Odu cultural festival is the major festival celebrated by the Alago people of Doma to celebrate victory over enemies and also usher in the rainy season. Although Odu cultural festival is also celebrated in Assakio, another Alago settlement, that of Doma remains unique as it is characterised with fanfare. The Odu annual cultural festival attracts spectators from far and near, and other Alago neighbouring towns, who come out in their numbers to celebrate culture. The annual cultural festival normally takes place in March, specifically on Mondays and Tuesdays. The first day, Monday, is usually for the subjects, while the second day, Tuesday, is for the traditional ruler, the Andoma of Doma, to show up, well dressed in Alago traditional regalia, where he will sit and admire his subjects exhibiting their different dancing steps.

The climax of the annual Odu cultural festival is when the Ekwu (masquerade), will also exhibit some dancing steps and somersault in the presence of the Andoma of Doma, then the Ekwu and the Andoma, will retire to the palace and that marks the end the annual cultural festival.


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Featured Image Source: StateGo

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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