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I am Igala, but not proud

“It is not healthy when a nation lives within a nation, as coloured Americans are living inside America. A nation cannot live confident of its tomorrow if its refugees are among its own citizens.” – Pearl S. Buck. I am an Igala but not a proud one. Abubakar Audu (24 October 1947 – 22 November 2015), Ibrahim Idris, Idris Wada were Governors of Kogi State, at a time in its history. None was addressed by an Igala name even though these names abound: Ugbede, Ojo-Arome, Achimugu, Opaluwa, etc.

In Igala land of my era, almost everyone is a Shehu, Idris and Abubakar. Since when did we all become Yakubu and not Atuluku? We have been colonised, declustered and civilised by the original Shehu somewhere. And when it comes to leading that Shehu in prayers the Shehu says the Igala man is not Shehu enough to lead him in supplication. I am no better, I am Simon not Aiyegba but I am a little better because Abah is pronounced differently in my village.

To think that there were only five very prominent kingdoms in Nigeria before colonialisation, you wonder why the Igala hasn’t moved forward by creating a unique identity at par with these other kingdoms, empires and caliphate. These five prominent kingdoms, empires and caliphate were Sokoto Caliphate, Oyo Empire, Kanem-Borno Empire, Benin Kingdom and the Igala Kingdom. While all the others have moved forward, created unique identities for themselves defined by their ancestral values, the Igala has not. Even though the Igala Kingdom was so important then that you have the Igala scattered in Anambra, Enugu, Edo and Delta states now.

Why then the subservience to the caliphate? Why should Igala people all become Shehu, Ahmed and Jibrin? Even our neighbours, the Ibira with their rich history, culture have jettisoned their culture and identify themselves by being called Shehu,

Yahaya and Lawal.

Freedom in Nigeria is not the freedom to do right. It is one in which being a majority is considered the rule of right. You can be denied opportunities for jobs, lose jobs, lose scholarships because you are a minority. How dare they call the Igala a minority? Who would blame them. We have been fed with the ruse that Nigeria belongs to the big three, “the big for chopping majorities (apology Kenule Saro-Wiwa). Size and not skill and competence determine who sits at the national banquet. Bazaars are not for the minority and when providence makes the wind blow it to the minority, it becomes a favour.

Wouldn’t it be better if both the majority and minority  all fight for the things that move states forward and not only over how the patrimony should be shared.

Despite the discrimination, I travel to regions peopled by the majorities and one thing I learned was that in these areas, even as I write, there are no out-of-this-world bridges, no fantastic schools and hospitals, many people live impoverished lives with no water and subsist on less than $2 dollars a day. There is no abundance of  ‘Albert Einsteins’ there in comparison to other minority areas.
Simon Abah wrote from Port Harcourt, originally published in Guardian, 1 May, 2017

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