When Attah Ameh Oboni became Attah Igala in 1946, he started making some moves and pronouncements that will change the Igala land for the better. He commanded that everyone should have money from any business he or she was doing, and that they should start to build modern houses (mud and Zink roofed) instead of the common thatched houses, and it began to happen immediately. There was a particular sickness called jigger or chigger (ikpelikpe) which eats up toes and making people unable to work and walk, he commanded that every infected person be healed and that the sickness be out of Igala land. It happened as stated. There was an animal, wolf (Otinya) which used to come home and carry children including sleeping adults sometimes from the room which was made of grass wall. He cursed the animals never to come to Igala land again. That was the last time wolf was seen in Igala land. Attah Ameh was invited for a meeting at Nsukka and on reaching Egabada river where they were to cross from Odolu, he was told that the ferry that would take his car across the river had gone, but he asked his driver to driver on top of the water with his eyes closed for them not to be late for the meeting, and they crossed as stated, He built aerodrome in Idah where small airplanes can land, he facilitated the establishment of telecommunication means in Idah, he commanded that no woman would be barren in his kingdom, and it started happening, and so on.
The news of these works was spreading far and wide, making him famous more an more and some enemies started coming up even from within the Igala people as well as some external agents including some tradition rulers who are now jealous of him for his fame and power. They started thinking on how to stop the works which they now attributed to as the power of “devil”.
Attah’s stool has many dos and don’ts, and these laws or traditions can never be comprised no matter the situation as every defaulting has its own consequence. For instance, Attah Igala does not see a dead body, he does not see a baby that is less than three months old, he does not shake hand with women, he does not remove his cap in the public or in the presence of people, etc. Unfortunately, some of these laws would cause Attah Ameh Oboni some problems later.
In a particular meeting held in Kaduna which consisted of all paramount traditional rulers in Nigeria and which had the queen of England in attendance, Attah Ameh was forced to remove his cap to greet the Queen of England as others had done though he refused until they said he should leave the meeting if he would not remove his cap. But Attah was not like others, or was he?
Anyway, as it was/is a taboo for Attah to remove his cap in the public, the entire hall where they were staying was occupied by bees from the cap of Attah Ameh Oboni which he removed in order to greet the Queen. The Queen of England as well as other rulers in the meeting ran helter-skelter except the friendly Oba of Benin who was asked by Attah Ameh to go out before he removed his cap. The hall became empty as some were stung by the bees. The meeting ended.
According to some sources, he was asked to be arrested and hand curved by the security people, which they did, but the hand curve fell off his hands. He was later locked up in a room on the instruction of the Queen and guarded by the security personnel but only to find out later by the personnel that he had left the room. Yes, when the security were taking him to be locked up, he told his driver, Amanabo of blessed memory to take the car and be going to Idah while the secury locked him in the room. He then warned Amanabo not look back until he felt a cool breeze in the car. Though Amanabo argued a little that he cannot leave Agabaidu there but later obeyed and started driving back to Idah from Kaduna, and after some time, he felt the cool breeze in the car, and Attah Ameh was inside the car already.
This incident in the meeting made many traditional rulers which were mostly northerners to be angry especially making kings run in such a manner because of bees. This became one important sin, and it was like “one sin too many”. The queen of Englnad was also not happy and they (the Queen and northern leaders) started looking of way to remove him from the throne since he was getting tougher and uncontrollable like others as well as searching for an obedient replacement.
Igala has various cultural festivals, one of which is Ocho. Ocho is celebrated before farming starts, and it is the time that Attah Igala prays to God for sufficient rainfall, bountiful harvest, success in hunting. It is celebrated in the bush and the venue is called Ere-ocho where the Attah will hunt until he kills a Buffalo or a strong animal. The community in Idah where Ocho takes place is called Ogo-Efa. He performs little sacrifice to the ancestors using a fowl in the process too, and this was to find out if there will blessings or problems in the land after the Ocho.
Before this time, the enemies at home (among the Igala people) especially those having connections with the leaders of the northern region were working hard to get any evidence either true or false which can be used remove him from the throne. The blood of the animal used as sacrifice at Ocho ground now became what the enemies would use against him.
Petition was written by these two Igala people to the Queen and some other Northern leaders that Attah Ameh was sacrificing humans during the Ocho festivals. Since they were looking for any evidence to use for removing him, the judgment was quickly passed that he must be dethroned even when the investigation was not yet concluded.
In addition, all the Igala cultural festivals including the Ocho were immediately banned and this remained for almost 63 years until Governor Yahaya Bello unbanned based on the appeal of the present Attah Igala.
Already, before this time, the Oba of Benin who had such friction with the British had already been dethroned and banished from Benin. So, Attah Ameh Oboni knew that at that point, no matter what spiritual approach applied, it can only postpone the evil day as his enemies will never relent until he was removed by them.
The result of the blood sample which was taken from the Ocho venue and taken to University of Ibadan for analysis had arrived and it was proved that it was the blood of animal and not human. Sadly, the revered King, Attah Ameh had gone to the other world before the result was brought.
But Attah Ameh been very sure that he was wrongly accused and framed up by his enemies, especially those from Igala who wrote the petition against him, that petition been the beginning of his planned dethronement, he made some pronouncements before his death. He was allegedly quoted to have said that the person who wrote the petition against him would have that hand dried up, and that the leader of the move or petition would be buried three times. And it all came to past. While the hand dried as said, the other was buried as stated, first was the leg, second was his hand and the third was himself, all buried at various times.
In addition, as this information of his dethronement was given to him in a meeting from where he was supposed to go back to Idah and prepare to leave the throne, he stopped on the way in another Igala land called Dekina. That was where he committed death or simply put, committed suicide. Before taking his life, he was allegedly quoted to have said that the town, Dekina will be popular but its development will not be as much as its popularity. He was also quoted to have said that for Igala to be the genesis of his ordeal, there will be disunity among the Igala people until the reign of his own blood (son) as Attah, and all Igalas irrespective of their locations will be reunited again. I think from the reconnection and reunification of Igala people across Nigeria and beyond which has been going on and still going on under the reign of his son, Agabaidu Idakwo Ameh Oboni II, the present Attah Igala, that pronouncement of reunification of Igala people is also coming through.
But why did he have to chose death over dethronement?
From my investigations, some of the reasons are listed below:
- The dethronement letter had already been signed, and he would be removed sooner since the Oba having similar case had been removed.
- After dethronement, the pain and thinking will make someone of such caliber leave this world before his time.
- After been dethroned, he will not be buried in a royal way again whenever he died.
- After dethronement, he will be banished to another land (strange town) where he will be under the rulership of another King (You remember the recent case of Former Emir Sanusi of Kano who was sent all the way to a small/rural community in Nasarawa state; humiliation there, isn’t it?)
- If dethroned, even after his death in the other land, his body can never be brought to Idah for burial but will be buried in that land.
- If he did not die as Attah and buried as Attah, none of his descendants beginning from his son will be Attah forever as that was the laid down rules.
And behold, immediately after his passing to the other world, another Attah was taken by the British people and some northern rulers, bypassing the Igala kingmakers and all installation process of Attah, oral and documented sources revealed. It was allegedly stated that the Attah (HRM Agabaidu Alih Otulukpe Obaje) was initially of Christian faith but was asked to change to the same religion (Islam) of most northern leaders, and he did. According to Umameh, M.A (2012), “By early November 1956, Prince Christopher Ocheja Otulukpe Obaje, overwhelmingly supported by the Northern regional government was fully Islamized and haphazardly installed as HRM Alhaji Aliyu Obaje.”.The reason may be probably because Attah Igala is part of Northern traditional rulers even though there are many Igalas in the south than in the North.
God bless Igala kingdom
Credit: Amb Ayegba A.A
Reference: Oral sources
Michael Achile Umameh (2012): IGALA-HAUSA/FULANI RELATIONS: PAST, PRESENT AND WHAT FUTURE? (1818-2018) (Accessed online)
© Ayegba A. A, 2020, United Igala Kingdom.