Meet Okun, the Yoruba-speaking tribe in Kogi state

Meet Okun, the Yoruba-speaking tribe in Kogi state

By Promise Eze

Kogi State, firmly situated in the North Central region of Nigeria, is popularly known as the “Confluence State” due to the fact that the confluence of the River Niger and the River Benue occurs next to its capital, Lokoja.

It is named for the Hausa word for river (kogi).

It is interesting to note that there are three major ethnic groups and languages in Kogi which are Igala, Ebira, and Okun. 

While Igala and Ebira speakers continue to hold sway in the state, very little is said or known about Okun, who are the Yoruba-speaking tribe in Kogi state. 

The Okun people make up over 20% of the entire population of the state, which is about 700,000 out of 4 Million residents, according to 2016 census figures. But they continue to face a high level of marginalization.

Here are six things to know about the Okun people:

1.They Speak Yoruba: The word “Okun” is a general term used to describe the Yoruba people in Kogi state.

The average Okun person is fluent in the common Yoruba dialect.

They also communicate in various Yoruba dialects such as Owé, Ìyàgbà, Ìjùmú, Bùnú and Oworo. However, they are generally called Okun irrespective of the dialect spoken.

2. They share the same history with Yoruba in the Southwest: Folklore has it that the Okun people in Kogi migrated from the ancient town of Ile Ife, the origin of the Yoruba race.

Okun people bear typical Yoruba names and many of their towns and villages are named in Yoruba language.

3. They occupy six local governments and even more: Okun people spread across six local government areas in Kogi State, which are; Ìjùmú Kabba-Bunu, Yagba-West, Yagba-East, Mopa-Muro, and Lokoja local government Areas. They can also be found in some states like Kwara, Ekiti, and Ondo.

4. Cuisine: The Okun people have delicious delicacies which include soups such as gbegiri (black-eyed bean soup) ora soup (ground dried okra), akuku, ewedu and tankelekon soup. These are usually eaten with pounded yam or amala.

5. They are marginalized: Problem began during the British colonial era when they were politically fused to the Northern protectorate by Lord Fredrick Lugard, the then Governor-General of Nigeria.

In 1967 they were again merged with Ilorin to form the old Kwara state.

However, in 1991, Okun people were separated from Kwara and merged with Ebira, Igala from Benue state and some other tribes to form the present Kogi state.

The perceived continual marginalization of the Okun people in Kogi state has made them to call for the creation of a state or be merged with their kith and kin in the Southwest geo-political zone.

The Okun people of Kogi state are less represented in politics and remain the only area lacking a university.

6. Some popular Okun indigenes are: TY Bello, Eyitayo Lambo, Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Smart Adeyemi, James Faleke and Shola Amoebi.

Promise Eze is a creative writer and can be reached via


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