Igala is a minority ethnic group domiciled in Kogi state, Igala people people are among the ethnic groups that make up what is known today as North Central sometimes called Middle Belt.
With the population of two million people they occupy a geographical location that is considered to be the center of NIGERIA in NIGERIAN map.
Igala is traditionally led by an Igala Paramount ruler known as Attah Igala formerly known as Attah Idah before his conversion by colonial government.
The topic “IGALA THE MINI NIGERIA” might be confusing to many people but it’s a fact Igala has proved to be a Mini NIGERIA indeed.
Today’s Igala people are fusion of people from different ethnic groups Igbo, Yoruba, Jukun, Nupe, Benin, Hausa and Fulani people.
These aforementioned ethnic groups not only formed what is known today as Igala but also influenced Igala people in various ways.
In 2017 Attah Igala Ameh Oboni Michael idakwo was interviewed by Punch Newspaper, when he was asked about the origin of Igala.
He said “Igala origin is traceable to Yoruba land, Igbo land, Jukun and Benin lands”.
These were the words of Attah Igala which further proved how Igalas are ancestrally connected to Igbos, Yorubas, Binis, Jukuns, Nupes, Hausas and Fulanis.
How these ethnic groups birthed and influnces Igala:
Igbo has a lot culture influences on Igala, southern Igala land which constitute of Idah, parts of Ibaji, parts of Igalamela/Odolu and Olamaboro were once occupied by Igbos.
Igbo influences is still felt in southern Igala land till today. Before I go further it’s noteworthy to know that Nsukka, Nri people of Omambala region, Enuani, Ukwuani and Arochukwu migrants were majorly the Igbos who birthed majorly the Southern Igala people and their influences are felt in this place (Southern Igala). The words Igala and Idah suggest that it has it’s root from Igbo language, the word “IGALA” has no meaning in Igala language, coming to Igbo language, Igala is corruption of “Ha Gala” meaning they have gone. This section of Igbos might have left the present Igbo land in search of new land for settlement and agricultural purposes. Ha Gala was later corrupted to Igala due long disconnection from Igbo land. “IDAH” is another Igbo word, present Idah was named after invasion of Jukun migrants, these Jukun migrants were vicious and needed land to settle. in the process of this invasion the Igbos named it Idah meaning “It Has Fallen”, today Igalas will tell you that Idah means “The End” which still points to it’s original meaning in Igbo language. Picture 1 and 2: Shows the report Population of each ethnic group in Southern Nigeria as of 1909. This population was calculated by the Intelligent Department in 1909. And was published in Royal Colonial Institute Journal. According to the report related dialects were used to trace their ethnic identity. From the report we can see that it was stated clearly that Igbos were indigenous to Idah. These were not the works of Nigerians rather they were the works of the British. Well it’s not surprising that Igbos were indigenous to Idah since Igbos were the first settlers in Idah. Achadu Oko Attah clan in present day Idah are Igbos ancestrally, Achadu Oko Attah, the occupant of Achadu Oko Attah throne is the Traditional Prime Minister of Igala land and also doubles as the “TRADITIONAL HUSBAND” of Attah Igala. Whenever a new Attah is crowned the occupant o Achadu Oko Attah throne MUST perform a ritual. RED CAP: Red cap in Igala land is not culturally tied to Igala culture, it was just an adoption because they fancied the glamorous Igbo Red caps. Igala people adopted Red cap attire during colonial era, before 1950 Idah, Igalamela and Ibaji districts were under Nsukka division and Nsukka division was under Onitsha province. Southern Igala land as listed above was once in defunct Eastern region before the colonial government carved them(Igalas) and some Igbos into defunct Northern region. It was during this period that Igala men adopted Red cap attire from their Igbo counterpart and added it to their Igala attire. An Igala cultural activist popular known as Igala Teacher stated that “Red cap” was borrowed from the East and Turbaning attire was borrowed from the North, therefore none of the attires is indigenous to Igalas. The statement below were his words “It seems to me that anyone who condemns the use of the royal turban by Igala traditional rulers because the turban is adopted from northern traditional rulers must also condemn its replacement with the thick red cap; as the red cap was also adopted from the eastern south. Both attire are not originally ours, we can either adopt or we cannot. Stop supporting selective adoption.” Igala Teacher. Picture 3 : Shows Eje of Olamaboro and some Igala men on Red cap. The famous Ikenga is known in Igala land as Okega, Okega is almost a replica of Ikenga. picture 4shows : Ikenga(Igbo) picture 5: shows : Okega(Igala) Another one is Ofo, Ofo is as important aspect of Igbo culture, Offor is equally an important aspect of Igala culture especially in southern Igala land. Ogu which is accompanied with Offor is known as Ule in Igala. Igbos say Ofo na Ogu, Igalas say Ofo kpai Ule. There are Igalas of Igbo ancestry bearing Ofo as a surname just like we also have it in Igbo land, the immediate past local government chairman of Ibaji goes by name Offor Thomas. Importance of Kolanut in Igala culture and traditions can’t be neglected, Jukuns,Hausas and Yorubas don’t put values in Kolanut as much as Igbos do. This still points that Igalas of Igbo descents didn’t forget what their Igbo ancestors practiced. Ogbuefi title is predominantly used among Southern Igalas Okpara/Okpala a title reserved for the most elderly person in an Igbo clan, this practice is extended by these Igbo settlers in Igala land, Okpara title is well practiced in southern Igala land. Ijele masquerade the biggest West African masquerade according to the records of UNESCO is found in Southern gala land. Igbo market days weren’t left out as we have it so do Igalas have it. Igbo market days: Eke Orie Afor Nkwo Igala market days Eke Ede Afor Ukwo There are numerous Igbo words still found in Igala today they are: Eze meaning king corrupted as Eje today we have Eje of Olamaboro, Eje of Ofu and Emir of Ankpa (Eje of Ankpa). There are no S and Z in Igala lexicon which gave way to the replacement of S and Z with J and ts sounds making Eze to be Eje. Nnenne an Igbo goddess, Nnenne also is used in referring to grandmother and great grandmothers is corrupted as Inene in Igala. Okorobia/Okolobia is another word found in Igala, okorobia means a man in his youth, Agboghobia/Mgboghobia is a woman in her youth. Ndi Ntorobia are youths while Igalas use okorobia/Okolobia for young males unfortunately the Igbo settlers couldn’t maintain the use of words Mgboghobia(Young female) and Ndi Ntorobia (Youths). They lost them as they were being absorbed by Yoruba-Igalas, Jukun-Igalas and Hausa-Igalas. In Igala land today Oma Igbele is a young woman while youths are called Ama Agbadufu. other words are:
Igbo Igala English Akpi Akpe Scorpion Ewu. Ewo. Goat Oshimiri/. Ohimini River/Ocean Ohimini Bia. Lia. come Ugo. Ugo. Eagle Onicha. Onicha. Onitsha Ma. Ma. To know Ezi/Ehi. Ehi. Pig Ijiji. Achichi. Housefly ogbe. Ogbe. Settlement/Quarter Ogu. Ogwu War/Fight
Igbo names still maintained in Igala till today Achor, Achonu, Anazodo ( corrupted as Anejodo), Akor (gotten from Akor n’uche), Ossai (corrupted as Ochai), Osaji, Ofili, Okoro/Okolo, Agbo, Otene etc In the aspect of entertainment, Igala seems to be dependent on Igbo culture in order, good number of Igala actors, movie producers and even musicians have always try to mingle with Igbos in order boost Igala entertainment. Igala movie, script writers, directors, producers, comedians and musicians have always borrowed some elements of Igbo Culture in order brighten up their content. Last year an Igala movie named “OJOMA” needed a pre-colonial environment for it to suit the movie, the Igala producers and directors of Ojoma couldn’t who don’t the necessary settings and needed equipments to perform the movie. They had to move down to a village in Umuagwo in Ohaji/Egbema local government all in Imo where they got exactly the movie setting they were looking for in Igala land. This shows that Igala pre-colonial village must have looked like that of Igbo especially Southern Igala. Another Igala movie with an Igbo content is “NWA JACKIE CHAN” a movie where Chinese, English and Igala languages were spoken but with Igbo and Chinese title. MC Comedian Jetman is a popular comedian and musician in Igala land, he’s very popular for always being in Isiagu and Okpuagu attire while doing his comedy. He made song titled “OGENE IGALA”, ogene music genre needs introduction in Igbo land, ogene music genre is Igbo and Igbo is ogene music genre. In his song titled OGENE IGALA he sang in Igala with an okpuagu on his head while the sounds were purely ogene sounds. Agbaka dance in Igala land has it’s root from Igbo land, Agbaka dance is as energetic as Nkpokiti dance. fast jiggling of legs, fast sounds produced by musical instruments etc are major features found in Nkpokiti dance (Igbo) and Agbaka dance (Igala). Igbo delicacies are not left out, Okpa and Ofe nsala now called Obo afu by Igalas are cooked and enjoyed Igala people.
Yoruba influence on Igala people is very visible, linguistically Igala speaks at least 50-70% Yoruba language that’s why Igala is classified as “YORUBOID LANGUAGE”. Greater percentage of Igalas are Yoruba migrants who met Igbos at the Southern gala land. The large population of Yoruba settlers resulted to absorbing of Igbo language. The Ile Ife people in Osun state settled in Ife in Omala local government of Kogi state, Ooni of Ife in Osun and Onu of Ife in Kogi should look inwards and see the connection between the two. Both are descendants of Oduduwa. Bishop Ajayi Crowther who was on historical adventure in Igala land once referred Igalas as Yorubas who live close to River Niger. Apart from linguistic relatedness Yoruba tribal marks is found among Igalas. Picture 6 and 7: show Yorubas and Igalas with similar tribal marks. Also Ase which is the traditional Amen among Yorubas is pronounced as Ache among Igalas, the missing of S and Z in Igala lexicon resulted to ASHE pronunciation.
JUKUN Jukun influence on Igala centers on Attah Igala throne, Attah Igala throne has its origin from Jukun land. The word ATTAH is a Jukun/Akpa word, Attah means father in Idoma, Igala, Ebira, Etulo, Kuteb, Chamba, Jukun etc these ethnic groups are all connected to defunct Kwararafa union through the Jukuns. Aku Uka of Wukari Paramount ruler of Jukun people was the leader of defunct Kwararafa union. Abutu Ejeh the founder of Attah Igala throne was a Jukun migrant from Wukari, the name Abutu is common among Jukuns and Igalas. Whenever the new Attah is crowned Aku Uka of Wukari must send Jukun delegates who performs some special rituals. It’s a way of showing respect to the Jukuns for being the originators of Attah stool. In 2019 Attah Ameh Oboni Michael idakwo was in Wukari, in his words “I have come to my ancestral land to see my father (Aku Uka of Wukari)”. In November 2021 the new Attah Igala was crowned Attah Mathew Opaluwa, few Jukuns could be spotted doing the needful. Picture 8: At the arrival of Attah Mathew Opaluwa Shows a man in Jukun native attire sprinkling water on the ground for the Attah to step on Picture 9 : Shows another man in a Jukun native attire entering inside a hut to make some preparations where the incoming Attah will stay for sometime to communicate with his ancestors. Note: The incoming Attah is addressed as “AIDOKO ANYA” until he’s crowned before he can be addressed as Attah Igala It’s important to also know that while Aku Uka of Wukari is hailed Abaga N’Idu, Attah Igala is hailed Agaba-Idu, Ochidoma also is hailed Agaba-Idu, the Kwararafa link doesn’t lie. MASK: A look like Jukun mask is found among Igalas Picture 10: shows Jukun Helmet mask, Aku Washenki found in Arufu village Picture 11: Jukun Helmet mask, Aku Wa’uwa found in Chinkai village. Picture 12: Shows Egwu Attah(Attah’s masquerade) with same Jukun mask. Picture 13: shows an Ibaji mask with same looks of Jukun masks The two Jukun helmet masks are Royal masks in Wukari, Egwu Attah means Attah’s personal masquerade, the same Jukun royal mask is the mask of Egwu Attah and Ibaji mask. Egwu Attah means Attah’s personal masquerade, it’s a royal masquerade. These factors have proven that Attah Igala’s throne is connected to Jukun people.
HAUSA and FULANI Hausa and Fulani are two different ethnic groups that are fused into each other because of Longtime relationship. Hausa and Fulani have great impact on Igalas when it comes to Islam especially the Northern Igalas (Dekina, Ankpa, Omala and Ofu LGAs), Ankpa people are the most affected. Idah even though it’s part of Southern Igala land has Igalanized Hausas, in fact Angwa in the Idah was the first place in the whole of Igala land where Hausa people first settled about 400-600 years ago. The name Angwa is an Hausa word meaning settlement or quarter. These Hausas were led by an Hausa man named Aliyu migrating from Bebeji in Kano to Idah. They were the first People to bring Islam to Igala land and they have a festival called Oganyi festival. Ankpa is another place with good significant Population of Igalanized Hausas and Igalanized Fulanis. Hausa and Fulani settlements in Ankpa is a century plus, this time they were Islamic jihadist who found Ankpa worthy of living. Today they have intermarried with the Igalanized Igbos, Igalanized Yorubas and Igalanized jukuns. Due to the intermarriages some Royal clans in Ankpa find it hard to state their exact ancestral identity. For instance Emir of Ankpa is sometimes addressed as Eje of Ankpa. Any occupant of Emir of Ankpa throne must be in touch with the Sokoto caliphate and Kano Emirates. The occupant of the throne always dress like Emirs found in the Core Northern states. Islam is predominantly practiced by Ankpa people thereby making their culture to point towards Core Northern states. Ankpa entertainment adopts Hausa/Arabic culture in order to survive, for instance Ankpa musicians always emulate Hausa genre of music. It’s not surprising why Ankpa has the richest number of Igala men and women, “the power house” keep feeding their descent loyalists. Picture 14: shows immediate past Emir of Ankpa who died in 2016 Picture 15: shows the current emir of Ankpa Picture 16: shows Emir of Ankpa and Emir of Kano Picture 17: shows Emir of Ankpa and Emir of Zauzzau The Hausa/Islamic days of the week is used by Igalas though the corrupted version.
Hausa/Arabic Igala English
Lahdi Aladi. Sunday
Litinin. Latini. Monday
Talata Talata Tuesday
Laraba Laluba. Wednesday
Alhamis. Alami Thursday
Juma. Ajuma Friday
Asabar Aseberi Saturday
The Royal Okakchi trumpet is blown during an important event at Attah Igala palace, Okakachi trumpet has it’s origin from Hausa trumpet known as Kakaki. Okakachi is Igala corruption of Kakaki, Kakaki trumpet is also blown at the palace of Emir of during importan. Picture 18: shows Kakaki trumpet being blown at Idah and kano
BENIN and NUPE
Benin and Nupe influences on Igala is little compared to that of Igbo, Yoruba, Jukun Fulani and Hausa influence.
The Igala royal mask is connected to Benin mask, was imposed on Attah Igala after he Idah people lost to Benins in Benin-Idah war of 16th century.
Some historians equally argued that Attah Igala’s pectoral mask must have come from Nri, Eze Nri’s pectoral mask was made by ancient Awka blacksmiths.
Benin majored in bronze production while Awka majored in brass production, Eze Nri and Attah Igala have on their neck a brass material while Benin mask is a bronze material.
Awka blacksmiths must have gone to Idah to replicate what they have been doing in Igbo land.
Note: Eze Nri stool started in 10th century while Attah Igala’s stool started in 13th century
Apart from the mask very small Benins settled in Ibaji.
Picture 19: Shows Benin mask
picture 20: Shows Attah Igala wearing the mask imposed on him by Oba of Benin.
Picture 21: Shows Eze Nri with his Awka made mask
NUPE were mere settlers without much influence, the Nupe people in Bassa local government of Kogi also spread into Dekina and Omala LGAs.
These have shown how Igala emerged as a separate ethnic group, by borrowing from major and minor ethnic groups
Jacob Apeh an Igala historian in his book titled, “Ibaji: The Land and The People” made it known that Southern Igala land parts Ibaji in particular have some Igbo culture, the women always dance like their Igbo counterpart with a white handkerchief.
Michael Achile Umameh in his article titled IGALA-HAUSA/FULANI RELATIONS: PAST, PRESENT AND WHAT FUTURE? ( 1818-2018)” said and I quote “There are many Igalas in Idah and Ankpa who are of Hausa descent and trace their origin to Kano itself”.
in 2019 Nigeria Television Authourity(NTA) reported the unveiling ceremony of Ane Igala Restoration in Abuja.
During the unveiling ceremony Attah Igala, Ameh Oboni Michael idatkwo unequivocally said and I quote “WE ARE A MIXTURE OF SO MANY PEOPLE, WE CAME TOGETHER TO FORM IGALA, WE ARE THE TRUE NIGERIANS”.
With the evidences above I come to the conclusion that Igalas are not just the MINI NIGERIANS but also TRUE NIGERIANS.