By Gabriel Omonhinmin.
The Igala Kingdom in Kogi State, North Central Nigeria, is also known as the Kingdom of Idah, “Ane-Igala.”
This ancient kingdom is located in an area of land about 8,000 square kilometres to the South of the lower River Niger which stretches from the Benue and East of the Niger River near the confluence of these two great rivers of Nigeria.
This Kingdom was founded by the Igala people, with the “Attah” as their king. The Attah of Igala is the spiritual head and traditional father of the Igala people. Since the creation of the ancient kingdom, centuries ago, Idah has remained the capital of the Igala people worldwide.
Although, very many Igala indigenes have over the years migrated to other places in the country to settle, especially in present day Eastern Nigeria such as Enugu and Ebonyi states. Majority of the Igala people both home and abroad still regard Idah, which serves as the spiritual capital of the Igala Kingdom as their ancestral home.
It was therefore not a surprise, that Idah and its environs became agog, days before the coronation of His Royal Highness, Mathew Alaji Opaluwa Oguche Akpa, as the 28th Attah of Igala Kingdom. The pomp and pageantry cum cultural display made up of colourful masquerades and dances by the Igala people, before, during and after the official coronation exercise of the new Attah of Igala land last week Friday, was a show to behold for a very long time to come.
What most people did not quite realized is that the new Attah of Igala, His Royal Highness, Mathew Alaji Opaluwa Oguche Akpa’s selection, announcement and ascension rites to the ancient throne of Igala Kingdom, had traditionally taken place between 9th to 118th November 2021.
The official coronation exercise, which took place on Friday, March 4th, 2022 at Idah was just the icing of the cake in traditional matters like this.
For example, some of the traditional rites during the new Attah’s coronation and ascension to the throne are never done in the open. To buttress the importance of traditional rites and their colourfulness during ceremonies like this, Mr Armstrong Idachaba, once wrote, “Boasting of a tradition that has lasted about four centuries, the Igala Kingdom undoubtedly remains in the annals of history as one of the greatest royal civilizations in Africa.”
The array of traditional rulers from the North, West, East and South of Nigeria, and other dignitaries, that graced the occasion, was a clear confirmation of the fact, that history was being made.
One of the traditional rulers in the country, who was a Special Guest of Honour at the Attah of Igala’s coronation ceremony, is the young and dashing Olu of Warri Kingdom, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III. He paid the State Governor Yahaya Bello a courtesy visit in his office in Lokoja on Saturday 5th March 2022, a day after the Attah’s coronation exercise.
While on a courtesy call on the state governor, The Olu of Warri said, “Yes indeed! We are here to celebrate and support the new Attah of Igala. It is, however, interesting to note, that we are in the Confluence State. Two of the major rivers in this country meet here. I’m sure as everyone knows here, my appellation is the ‘King of Waters.’ Immediately Olu of Warri subjects at the meeting shouted ‘Ogiame! Ogiame!! To the amusement of Governor Yahaya Bello.
The Olu of Warri continued with his remarks, “so, since this is where the two great rivers in this country converged, I use my authority, my good office to declare that Kogi State is a prosperous state!! It’s a blessed state!!! And it will be a productive state!!!
The blessings of God will begin to emanate from here and re-echo across the nation!!! As the Olu of Warri prayed, his subjects kept on shouting on top of their voice, “AFOMASHE!” While the non-Itsekiri speaking people present at the occasion kept on shouting, Amen! Amen!
The Olu of Warri Kingdom is the spiritual leader of the Itsekiri people worldwide. He then went on to emphasise the importance and reverence with which the average Iwere man holds Kogi State because of the symbolism of ‘confluence’ in the state.”
At exactly 1 p.m. on Friday, March 4, 2022 the new Attah of Igala land officially took his oath of office and oath of allegiance amidst cheers and thunderous ovation from thousands of Igala people, who thronged the venue of the ceremony.
After the new Attah of Igala was presented with his staff of office by the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, he thanked the Governor and the Igala people for their support, The Trumpet gathered.
He said, “The era of imposition of traditional rulers on the people was long over.” Thus expressing his satisfaction with the mammoth crowd that gathered at the occasion. He thereafter made the following pledges “I have always prayed to God to put me in a position where I can act my service. And now that God has given me this opportunity, I will not disappoint you, the Governor and my people. I, therefore, promised to work with my Governor and for my people.”
The Kogi State Governor, had earlier in his remarks at the event, charged the new Attah of Igala, to endeavour to unite the people of his Kingdom, for the socio-economic development of the state and the country as a whole. Governor Bello, urged him to reach out to those people, who contested the stool with him and extend his hands of fellowship to them. The Kogi State Governor, however, warned that his government will not tolerate the politicization of the Attah of Igala stool.
He commended the new Attah of Igala, for his gentlemanly conduct and the exceptional qualities he displayed during the selection process, which eventually culminated in today’s event.
Governor Bello said, “The new Attah of Igala kingdom, HRH Mathew Alaji Opaluwa Oguche Akpa, is a man of impeccable character. He is a fulfilled man, who is highly respected within and outside his domain, and across the world. We are very proud of him.”
The Attah of Igala stool is rotated among four ruling houses of the Ayegba Oma Idoko bloodline in the order of seniority – Aj’Ameacho, Aj’Aku, Aj’Akogun and Aj’Ocholi. Once a family’s reign is over, the next family in seniority is made to produce the next Attah of Igala land.
The immediate past Attah of Igala land, HRH Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II, joined his ancestors after a brief illness in an Abuja hospital on August 27, 2020. He was 72 years old and reigned for seven years. The vacuum his passage created at that time, as the President of Kogi State Council of Chiefs needed to be filled almost immediately. But, it took almost three years for a new Attah of Igala land to be officially enthroned.
HRH Attah Oboni II predecessor, HRH Alhaji Aliyu Obaje, reigned as the Attah of Igala kingdom for 56 years and he was considered to be one of the longest serving monarchs in Igala history.