Igbe religion, popularly known as Igbe- an Urhobo word meaning dance- was founded by Ubiecha Etarakpo in 1858 and has its headquarters at 11, Egbo Street, Kokori Inland, Ethiope East Local Government Area, Delta State, Nigeria.
It is a religion based on dance as its medium of worship to the almighty God. It began as a pure Urhobo-Kokori traditional sect, until, in the 20th century with the influx of Christianity, syncretism was infused.
The adherents of the Igbe religion are monotheists who believe in an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God called Oghene and that he rewards the good and evil alike, according to their deeds.
Dance is a core element of the Igbe. The adherents believe that by dancing, they draw on themselves the very hand of the one and only monotheistic God.
As dancing is a core element of the Igbe, there is no worship session without dancing. They sing native Urhobo songs in place of hymns. At worship services, the Igbe priest(s), always dressed in white dress and white head gears, administer(s) native chalk on the worshippers for their protection.
Igbe was birthed in 1858 when Ubiecha Etarakpo of 11, Egbo Street in Kokori, on his way back home from the farm, allegedly saw an apparition of two divine beings who "anointed" him to preach against immorality and witchcraft. After the alleged apparition, Ubiecha became eccentric and acted insanely as no day passed without him dancing. This scared the people from coming close. It was also alleged that after the alleged apparition, Ubiecha performed amazing miracles, accurately predicted the future, healed the sick and miraculously identified witches. He built a worship house called 'ogua' in his compound and, from there, ministered to the people with native white chalk; and, allegedly prophesied with stunning accuracy. This brought people from across the Urhobo country to Kokori.
After Ubiecha's death and burial. His offsprings became divided over succession. However, by tradition, his eldest son, Ibodje Ubiecha succeeded his father as chief priest and head prophet; but his half brother, Akpokovo Ubiecha, succeeded in establishing his own branch in Kokori. However, one of Ibodje's daughters, Mary Ibodje, a priestess, also, broke away to establish her own branch before Ibodje Ubiecha's death which occurred on 6 April 1986. Jackson Ibodje, his eldest son, succeeded him.
With the influx of Christianity into Kokori in the 20th century, the Igbe was corrupted by the presence and works of the Church's full scale evangelism. Another powerful Igbe organisation founded by Chief Ogbevire Ogogo evolved. This Igbe brand had some elements of Christianity infused. They observed Christmas and New Year holidays coupled with the Igbe core festival. It gained recognition and spread to many places in Delta, Edo, Ondo, Rivers and Lagos states of Nigeria. And in the first half of the 21st century, gained a platform in the UK.
Though the Igbe extends beyond Urhobo land, the bulk of adherents remain Urhobo people and the principal medium of communication is largely the Urhobo tongue. It has a population of over 30 000 adherents.
Second, non-adherents perceive the religion as idol worship and avoid identification and participation.
Third, the Igbe is criticized for the rejection of orthodox and herbal medicines for treatment of ailments. Rather the Igbe adherents believe and administer the native chalk for treatment of ailments. This, the non-adherents view as unsafe and taking chances even though some of the ill adherents allegedly confess to being healed after imbibing or externally applying the native chalk.
- Success Akpojotor, Pre-Colonial Socio-Political History of Kokori Inland. B. A Thesis (University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria). 2011
- Studies in Urhobo Culture By Peter Palmer Ekeh
- Success Akpojotor, pp.44-5
- Success Akpojotor, pp.46-7
- Success Akpojotor, p.44
- Sunday Odje, Kokori People, Ancient and Modern, Benin: Assembly Printers, 1995.
- S. Odje, p115
- Success Akpojotor, pp. 44-5
- Sunday Odje, pp.113-14
- Sunday Odje, p.115
- Sunday Odje, p.115
- Sunday Odje, p.117