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Idoma Land: Where men pound yam for wives

Pounded yam is the staple food in most homes of Benue State. It is a delicacy eaten with relish by both city and village folks. Its preparation is however, not so cherished. Pounding the mounds of boiled yams into soft palatable white paste is a task that Idoma women especially, find difficult to do, and they turn to their macho men for help.

ams tubers are produced in large quantities in Benue state and the major ethnic groups of Tiv, Idoma and Igede love to treat their guests to pounded yam served with tasty native soups peculiar to their domains.
The Idoma people in particular, savor pounded yam served with their traditional okoho soup and like to entertain their guests with same.
When the women peels, slice into pieces boil the yams, they then look for men to do the pounding. Strong young men are called upon to take pestle and pound the cooked pieces of yams dropped into the mortar by the women. Where young, unmarried men are not available the husbands themselves take up the duty. The husbands especially carry out the task with relish hoping that the servitude will endear them more to their wives.
The male folk of Idoma land so cherish their wives, that they consider them too fragile to do the hard, tedious act of pounding which often leaves the palms coarse. It is then expected that, by so doing, the women preserve their supple beautiful bodies for their husbands.
Mama Adijah, 81, said the practice existed before she was born into the Ogwu family of Obotu-Icho, Ugboju in Otukpo local government area of Benue State.
“The practice has long existed and I think it is safe to say that it is a custom among the Idoma. I was born to see men pound yam for the family in the area to relieve their women of the stress it takes to turn the yam in the mortar paste.
“The idea is stemmed from the fact that the woman does not have the energy required to pound yam for a very large family. Families in those days when we were growing up, were extended families and generally communal living was practised so it was not possible for a woman returning very tired from the farm, maybe with her baby strapped to her back, to go through the ardoks process of  fetching water; wood, cooking and then pounding the yam.
“If you imagine the scenario, you will understand that a caring man would naturally come to his wife’s rescue by offering to pound the yam for her, so that she can reserve her energy for other domestic matters,” Mama explained.
Traditional Head of Otukpo, Och’Otukpo, John Eimonye stated that the job of pounding yam is one of the masculine chores when considered from hygienic, social and cultural viewpoints.
“I tried to investigate this issue in my formative years and my father told me that there were several reasons why men pound yam. Firstly, pounding yam is a masculine chore.
“Secondly, you don’t talk or sing when pounding yam to prevent spit from entering the food and you know women will like to do all of these. There are so many other things involved which we take for granted.
“Also, men do the pounding of yam to prevent sweat from entering the food. A woman will not be able to do this quickly as the man would do to avoid contaminating the food”, the royal father added.
Sunday Trust gathered that Idoma men see this duty as a way of expressing their undying love for their spouses and to them the act of service perhaps explains better their appreciation of gender sensitivities.
An Idoma man, Bernard Adama simply said, “It is part of our culture and I do it because I have grown to see other men do it.  In Agatu, the women pound yam but in other places in Idoma land, we (men) pound the yam as you see me doing right now,” he said.
Adama who lives happily with his wife in Ogobia town stressed that he would continue pounding yam for his wife to uphold the culture until such a time his own male children would be old enough to take over from him.
His wife, Peace Ashetu Adama confessed that each time her husband engaged in the kitchen work, it spurs her love for him as she feels very comfortable about the culture.
“It is a good culture. It doesn’t reduce my respect for him. I feel loved each time  I see him help me do the pounding, aspect of my kitchen duties. If I had married another man from other ethic groups where women are required to do the job, I wonder how I would have coped,” she said.
Corroborating the womans points, Audu Okopi, a resident of Otukpo expressed pleasure that he shares the responsibility of preparing the dish with his wife by doing his own part of pounding the yam.
“I’m happy pounding yam for my wife. Idoma men do it generally because they love their wives. It is my duty to harvest and bring the yams home for my wife to peel and cook, when it gets done; she helps to put it into the mortar while I pound into a soft paste”.
Okopi noted that serving his wife in that capacity does not hurt his ego in any way, but instead increase his spouses, appreciation of him and makes him feel like a super macho man.
For Sunday Audu, the culture has come to stay. “Where the husband is not available to pound the yam, the woman can call on any young man within the vicinity who would gladly help her to pound the yam. I don’t know if our young men in diaspora practice it, but we hold this culture in high esteem in Idoma land”.
Mike Ogelekwu, an indigene of Otukpa living in Makurdi with his family of four said, though his wife prepares the meal most of the times before his return from the day’s job, he however helps her to pound the yam when at home as well as do other household chores to ease her stress.
On his part, the Chairman/National Coordinator of Idoma National Youth Congress, Adah Anthony Adah, apraised the virtue as it distinguishing the Idoma men from their counterparts in other parts of the country.
“It is not an issue to see Idoma men pounding yam for their wives. It is a common thing like seeing a white man carrying his wife’s basket for shopping. Idoma see women as the weaker sex who should be protected by their men.
“The act of pounding is  hard labour; therefore, we don’t allow our women to do it, men should do the strenuous work. In Idoma land, the men also harvest crops. We are very considerate of our womenfolk and we’ll do everything to preserve such values”, Adah maintained.


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