The most anticipated even in Idah at the moment is “Abayi Idakwo”, or better still, Idakwo’s Abayi.
As preparations are in top gear for the colorful event, it becomes necessary to answer the pertinent question being asked by many Igala people in search of knowledge and preservation. The question is: what is Abayi?
Abayi procession is one of the last events during the funeral of a beaded chief, especially, a chief occupying any of the stools reserved for the four houses of the Atta dynasty. The new person occupying the stool the deceased chief was occupying must leave Idah as one cannot witness the Abayi of his predecessor.
The object called Abayi is a dummy dead body, representing the deceased chief. It is then covered with a thick and colourful floor-mat-like material called “Alicheba”, which connotes royalty.
It is typically carried by two men on the head with several others fanning it with colourful hand fans.
It is then followed by relatives, descendants, friends and well-wishers in a heavy procession from the family house of the chief, which is usually Oyifu-Idah. The procession which is usually followed by several masquerades will see followers chanting praises of the deceased chief, under intense sun all the way through Inikpi road to Ega market. Inikpi and the Ohimini or Idi-Okoliko river will be appeased and the procession will move back, this time through Ayegba road all the way to the starting point. Ceremonial gunshots will also be fired at intervals. This procession can only be done on an Ega market day.
Worthy of note however is the fact that an Atta’s Abayi procession is different from that of other chiefs. While all other Abayis are led from their family house to Ega market, that of an Atta is led from the palace to “Aja Ina” forest, the sacred cemetery reserved for only Atta.
Another difference is the presence of royal masquerades in Atta’s Abayi. The magnificent Ekwe will accompany the Abayi Idakwo from his palace to Aja Ina, his place of burial.
Meanwhile, all those seeking to succeed Atta are expected to; and have actually gone out of town, sight and hearing. They must go very far, such that they cannot hear the sound of the guns.
PSCome to Idah on Monday, 2nd November, 2020 to witness this procession or remain glued to Igala Teacher.