THE history of Igala people is as old as its people.
The present Attah-Igala, Agabaidu Alhaji Aliyu Obaje says the Igala came from Southern Yemen, passed through Ethiopia and then moved and became part of the ancient Mali Empire before arriving at Jukun land and finally settled in their present location. Irrespective of whatever historians might have recorded on the origin of Igala people, what is of paramount importance is that the Igala people have come a long way. They are a people who have chosen to live harmoniously and as a formidable ethnic group in Nigeria. The Igala people have one cultural identity with the traditional nomenclature of Attah Igala as its revered traditional head.
Since the evolution of Igala people many Attahs have headed the traditional institution. History has it that the first Attah Igala was Agabaidu Idoko. Eleven other Attahs reigned without recorded dates. The first Attah whose reign was recorded is Agabaidu Akwodiba 1854-1870. After his reign the nine others that succeeded him from 1870 to date have their years of reign on record. The current Attah Igala, Agabidu Alhaji Aliyu Obaje was coronated on November 2, 1956. Since his installation, Alhaji Obaje has remained a rallying point for the Igala race. It is also on record that his reign has witnessed peace and monumental development of the Igala people.
Like Hon. Attai Aidoko, the Chairman of the 53rd year reign of Alhaji Obaje ceremony put it “the revered Igala Monarch, Alhaji Aliyu Obaje has conquered colonial rule, military rule and the current emerging democratic dispensation. ” The current Attah Igala is therefore one of the longest serving monarch in Nigeria if not in sub-Saharan Africa. The celebration of this year’s 53rd anniversary of Alhaji Aliyu Obaje’s reign is therefore very unique. The monarch is today a reference point in terms of the maintenance of peace in his domain. The Kingdom has also remained a revered institution which has not witnessed any serious social upheaval.
The history of Igala people is very unique and would be incomplete without giving due respect and reverence to Princess Inikpi who was said to have been buried alive by the then reigning Attah Igala to wade-off the invading forces on Igala land. Her sacrifice is very symbolic because it saved the Igala people from defeat and possible annihilation. Her statue is conspicuously erected in Idah for generations unborn to have a sense of history on the existence of Igala people. The celebration of the 53rd anniversary of Alhaji Aliyu Obaje on November 2, 2009 climaxed series of activities that heralded the occasion.
In giving reverence to Almighty God, prayers were held in various mosques across the state on Friday October 30, 2009. The Christians also prayed for the continued peaceful reign of the Attah Igala on Sunday November 1, 2009. The Chairman of he Central Planning Committee of the 53rd anniversary celebration, His Royal Highness Ojofe John Egwemi who doubles as the Onu Ibaji acknowledge the resourcefulness it took members of his committee to make the occasion a huge success. According to him “both capital and human resources were marshalled for several months to make the occasion a huge success.” Ajofe Egwemi at the occasion applauded President Umaru Yar’Adua who sent a representative in person of the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Humphrey Abah to honour the invitation. He also acknowledged the understanding of the entire Kogi Traditional leaders in making the occasion very eventful. The Onu Ibaji commended the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, His Royal Majesty Alhaji Ado Ibrahim , Northern Emirs, Western Obas and the Eastern Obi’s for gracing the occasion. He declared that their attendance added a very unique colour to the 53rd anniversary of Attah’s reign.
One traditional ruler who stood out during the celebration is the Akuh Akhe, His Royal Highness Chief Suleiman Nyefa from Nassarawa State. He graced the occasion with his council of Chiefs. His Presence signified how the Attah Igala is held in high esteem outside the shores of Igala land. As has been the tradition of past anniversary celebrations, the occasion could not take-off without the breaking of kola nuts. The Attah Igala Alhaji Aliyu Obaje therefore broke the kolanut and blessed the entire Igalaland and it is people. He proclaimed, peace, unprecedented development and continued unity for Igala people. The mammoth crowd that graced the occasion kept re-echoing a huge “amen” as the Attah Igala prayed for the land.
Many speeches were also presented at the occasion. The Chairman of the occasion Hon. Attai Aidoko who is also member representing Omala/Ankpa Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, applauded Igala people and their well wishers for gracing the unique occasion. Hon. Aidoko reminded Igala people that the traditional institution eternally remain the channel of peace in the country. He declared that he would support any move for constitutional amendment that will give traditional rulers defined roles in governance. The National Assembly member also called on Igala people to be very conscious of the dire need to always rejuvenate their cultural identity. He stressed that Igala people should emulate the virtues of other ethnic groups in the country who have a very formidable cultural identity. He gave the example of the Hausa/Fulani who have Arewa, the Yorubas-Afinefere and the Ibo’s the Ohaneze Ndi’gbo as their cultural identities.
Hon. Aidoko maintained that the time has come for Igala to strengthen her cultural identity to pave way for harmonious co-existence and speedy development. He applauded the Attah Igala Alhaji Aliyu Obaje for piloting the affairs of his kingdom in the last fifty three years without rancour. He also prayed for the Alhaji’s continuous good health, peace and development in Igala kingdom. The representative of President Yar’Adua who is also the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Humphrey Abah declared that the President whole heartedly identify himself with the reign of Attah Igala in the last fifty three years. Mr. Abah assured the Igala people that the seven point agenda of President Yar’Adua would have meaningful impact on the development of Igala land. He also called on Igala people to remain peaceful and united in the quest of developing the nation.
The Attah Igala, His Royal Majesty Alhaji Aliyu Obaje in his speech read by the Chairman Central Planning Committee His Royal Highness Chief John Egwemi Applauded Igala sons and daughters for making the occasion a huge success. He emphasized the need to consolidate on the current exiting peace and unity in Igala land. The Attah Igala also applauded the seven point agenda of President Yar’Adua. He commended the President for the take-off project of the dredging of River Niger, citing of River Port in Lokoja and Idah and the rejuvenation of the rule of law in the country.
The 53rd anniversary of the reign of the Attah Igala was also crowned with the conferment of chieftaincy titles to distinguished Igala sons and other patriotic Nigerians across the country. Among those conferred with chieftaincy titles by the Attah Igala were Chief Vincent Ogbulafor PDP National Chairman as Agbane Attah, Chief Rochas Okorocha-Ogah Attah, Yusufu Aiyutogun PDP National Vice Chairman, North Central as Ogu Attah, Dangana Ocheja, and Chief Ignatius Ahmodu, as Omachi Attah Igala. Others are Mallam Abubakar Adama Commissioner for Works and Housing as Ogah Attah-Igala , Mr. Egwu Onoja Eganya Atta, Commodore Usman Jibrin as Ogah Attah-Igala and Benue state Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswan as Ochalla Attah-Igala.
Speaking on the significance of the occasion former National Assembly member representing Idah, Igalamela-Odolu, Ofu, Ibaji Constituency, Hon. Frank Ineke expressed joy on the existing relative peace in Igala land. Hon Ineke attributed the peace in the land to the good reign of Alhaji Aliyu Obaje. He prayed for good health on the life of the Attah Igala land urged Igala sons and daughters to contribute their quota to the development of their father land. The recipient of the chieftaincy title of Eganya Attah Igala Chief Egwu Onoja revealed that he was humbled by the honour done to him by the Attah Igala. He said there are many Igala sons and daughters in various vocations across the country noting that it was therefore a great privilege for the Attah Igala to single him out for the chieftaincy title of Eganya-Attah.
Chief Onoja said the chieftaincy title has gingered him to invest more of his resources to the development of Igala land. He called on prominent sons and daughters of Igala land to make Igala land a better place for all.
The 53rd anniversary of the Attah’s reign on the throne of Igala kingdom was climaxed with dances by various masquerades in Igala kingdom. The masquerades which were led by Ekwe the revered Attah Igala masquerade expoused the rich cultural heritage of the Igala kingdom.