The Place of Odogo in Igala History (Pt1)

Another view of odogo

By Atâyi Babs

Odogo, a historical edifice, located beside the living room of the Attah Igala in the palace at Idah, Kogi state, is a tall tower used by the Attah’s security details as watchtower for war surveillance against enemy invasion on Igala kingdom. It is arguably the first storey building in Nigeria because the popularly acclaimed first storey building in Nigeria located in Badagery Lagos was built in 1845, under the supervision of a missionary named Reverend C.A. Gollmer, while Odogo located in Idah has existed for almost 600 years now.

The 16th century building, made up of local materials has survived the hazards of the sun, rain, and wind and it is still standing very strong within the palace. Though some of its properties like the roof was replaced in 1995 during the reign of Attah Aliyu Obaje under the supervision of the then Kogi State Military Administrator, Col Paul Omeruo following a rainstorm that ravaged parts of Idah, the ancient seat of Igala kingdom.

Historically, Igala Kingdom is known for its military strength. The kingdom, has in the past, successfully engaged other kingdoms in warfare for territorial control. Notable among these kingdoms include Bini and Jukun with Princesses  Oma’doko and Inikpi being sacrificed at different points in history to achieve these successes through a spiritual disarmament of its enemies, 

According to 0ral tradition, the Odogo is also used as a hideout. From there the soldiers had a full view far over and across the cliff near the River Niger. By this means, they were able to detect enemy troops afar. A river is also believed to have changed its course or totally dried up around Ọkpakpala-Ukwaja. This river also served as another shield against enemies.

The Odogo also plays a significant role in the life of every duly installed Attah Igala. The precinct of the ancient building offers the Attah an avenue to commune with the spirits of all former Attahs, his ancestors. Each day, the first task an Attah performs upon waking up is to enter the Odogu where he prays for prosperity and good health for all his sons and daughters scattered around the world while communing with his ancestors and seeking directions for the day.

The Odogo is inextricably linked to the spiritual make-up of the Attah and can be used interchangeably in reference to the King. When an Attah translates to the land of his ancestors, the message conveying such transition is usually couched in the statement: “odogo m’ubu” (meaning Odogo has glided). This is not only hinged on the fact that its an abomination to say Attah l’éku (Attah is dead) but to underline the ancient belief that the Odogo epitomises the Attah and vice versa. It also reinforces the belief that even in the realm of the spirits, the Attah continues to be the Attah. He is regarded as Attah in both worlds (Attah ach’emi ki ya ché omo).


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