Culture zone

One Igala, multiple identities

Igala is a language and a tribe, and one of the most powerful kingdoms in Nigeria during the pre-colonial time. The headquarters of all Igala people is Idah, Idah Local Government Area in the present-day Kogi State. Idah is also the headquarters of the Igala people of Ajaokuta, Adogo and others in Kogi East. The supreme traditional ruler of Igala Kingdom is Attah Igala. The present Attah Igala is HRM (Dr) Idakwo Ameh Oboni II, who ascended the throne of his forefathers in 2013.

Idah (Ona Imuda: the road has ended) is the root of almost all Igala people across the world with some having Ife (Ugbo kife: Clear ground or place) in Omala Local Government Area as their root. Idah is where the seat of the Attah Igala is located, and where general Igala cultural festivals are held. Many Igala people migrated from Idah many centuries ago to various locations across Nigeria and beyond where they pursued their sundry occupations such as farming, fishing, trading, hunting, and herbal medicine. They established new territories, and also became mercenaries, among other things. Some of these people are presently in Kogi State outside Idah while some are in various states across Nigeria as indigenes of those areas. Indigenous Igala people are presently in about twenty-three states in Nigeria: Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Borno, Benue, Cross river, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Taraba including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, according to Ayegba A. A, in his “Discover and Reconnect Indigenous Igala People Across Nigeria Project” in 2019.

With this development of Igala people being indigenes in about three-quarters of the 36 states in Nigeria, coupled with the long partial disconnection between the Kogi State Igala people and those outside, as well as the intermarriage between these Igala people and other tribes around them, and who were in a larger number than the Igala people in their midst then, the children and grandchildren of these Igala people started adopting the languages and names of these other tribes around them. And after many decades in these locations, some of these Igala descendants started forgetting their own language, culture and even Igala names or had them mixed with names from those other tribes.

Today, it is common to see some Igala people with Igbo names, Kanuri names, Idoma names, Alago names, Nupe names, Hausa names, Yoruba names, Jewish names, Arabic names, Persian names, Esan names, Ijaw names, and Berom names, among others.

But in as much as some Igala people have other tribes’ identity, they still maintain some core Igala cultures and festivals till today, which is exclusively for Igalas, an example of which is the Egwu-Afia festival. Egwu-Afia festival is exclusively for Igala people and anywhere the feast is celebrated in Nigeria today, they must be Igala people, though not all Igala people are of Egwu-Afia clan. Also, most of the things forbidden among Kogi Igala people are also forbidden among the indigenous Igalas in other states in Nigeria. And irrespective of their locations, Igala people remain hardworking, courageous, brave, well-built, have facial resemblance, and the blood in their body remains Igala blood forever, and this makes it very easy for Igala people to identify one another easily in any place. The United Igala Day that will be held in Idah soon will reunite all Igala people again as one people but different identities and one Igala blood, and that is the strength Igala people, they said.

  • Ayegba, a historian and researcher, sent this piece from Abuja

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