The Anioma people are a subgroup of the Igbo ethnic group and the second largest ethnic group in Delta. It consists of communities that span nine Local Government Areas. They speak different varieties of Igbo; Enuani, Ukwuani, and Ika-ibo. They occupy the Delta North senatorial district. Anioma literally translates to Good Land. The regions that make up the area are Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika, and Oshimili.
They are known for wearing their traditional clothes called Akwa ocha which translates to white cloth during special occasions like weddings or funerals. There are some Anioma people in Edo state, Anambra State, and Rivers state. They are known to be very peaceful people.
There is a red cap-wearing institution in the Anioma ethnic group, these people are called the Omu. The Omu of Okpanam is a red cap (okpu ododo) wearing obi, a female traditional leader who is in charge of women, markets, ancestral shrines, and business. This is a very unique culture practiced by only the Anioma people. It has been in existence for 822 years and has evolved with time. It is the assigning of traditional leadership to a woman in a community, principally known as the spiritual guide.
The name Omu translates to palm fronds which signifies fertility for without the palm fronds there will be no palm trees and a woman is all about fertility and that is why this institution is akin to women.
Whoever becomes the Omu leaves her marital home and comes back to her father’s home to reign. A palace will be built for her in her father’s home and she would go through certain rights and rituals. After these rites and rituals, at the point of the coronation, she will be bestowed with both male and female rights
The reason for the male and female rights bestowed on her is so that she can break kola-nut during her meeting with her chiefs. She has her own palace therefore she has her own chiefs. The Omu has two sets of chiefs; the spiritual and the executive chiefs. The executive chiefs are Iyase Omu and Odogwu Omu. The spiritual chiefs are the Aka-omu, the one who does things for her, Onu-omu, the one who speaks for her, Ani-omu, the one who sees tomorrow, Afo-omu, the one who makes sure that she eats, Okuje-omu, the one who runs errands for her.
In some communities, the title of the Omu is hereditary, in some other communities it comes from a particular quarter and in others, it rotates from quarter to quarter. The Omu title is not by election or by selection; the ancestors are the ones that determine.
The Omu title entails a greater part of spirituality, looking after women, settling issues, and looking after the market. The Omu is the market queen, she presides over the market and serves the shrine in it. She enforces orders, collects dues, and controls the prices of goods for sale.
The Omu reserves the male rights to marry other women and have children, this is called the adoption of a wife. She appoints a man for the purpose of reproduction or the adopted wife is given the free will to pick a man for the purpose of reproduction; however, the children belong to the Omu.
One of the reasons why the forefathers set up this institution is so that the women can contribute their two cents to the development of the community.
The process of quitting the Omu title is so tedious but in the 822 years the institution has been in existence, no Omu has ever quit. An Omu cannot be impeached either because the forefathers placed a curse on whoever tries to impeach an Omu. They are one of the institutions that reserve the right to wear a red cap.