Igala Kingdom in Perspective
Posted by John Jibo Idakwoji at September 23rd, 2015
(1) The Geography of Igala Land
The Igala Kingdom lies between Latitude 6° 30′ and 8° 40 north and Longitude 6° 30′ and 7° 40 east, occupying a total land area of about 13,665 sq. km. (Oguagha, 1981). Officially, it has a population of 1,409,000 as per the 2006 head-count. The Igala Kingdom shares boundaries on all sides with non-Igala-speaking ethnic groups, namely : the Bassà Ngéẹ̣̣̀ ,̣̣̣ Bassà Kómo, Àgàtú and Ìgbìrà Mózùm to the north and north-east (see Àbachà ; Ìbarà ) ; the Ìdọmà and Ìgbò to the east and south ; the Èbìrà-Ìhímá to the west and the Étsàkò to the south-west.
Prof. Mohammed Sani Abdulkadir (1990) states that the physical environment of Igalaland includes the Údì range of hills, covering areas like Ànyìgbá, Dèkína, Ègwúmé,̣̣̣ Ólllamábóḷ̣̣ ọ, Ògwùgwù, Ímáné, Ójokwu, É ̣̣̣jẹmà and Òkwùlà. He states further that “The plateau serves as a water-shed and the numerous rivers and streams contribute to agricultural productivity of the Igala people… The Niger and Benue rivers and, to some extent, Anambra River, serve as natural highways of communication and commerce. Other important rivers Òkùrà, Òwe, Ájuná, flowing westwards to the Niger and Ónúkpā, Àmàrà, Ùgé and Bàgánà, which flow northwards to the Benue…Some of these rivers, which over-flood annually, give rise to alluvial soil, particularly, in Ídáh, Ìbàjí, Bassà Ngé ̣̣̣ and Bassà Kómo areas. This water-logged condition gives rise to excellent rice cultivation.” (p. Tone-marking mine). Ìbàjí area is particularly endowed with rich alluvial soil that favours the cultivation of giant-sized yam tubers (see ọ̣̣́nyọ̣̣́kwu) for which (in addition to fishing) the area has no rivals.
Ígáláà is among the West Benue-Congo languages, which are a sub-group of the Niger-Congo language phylum. It falls into West Africa’s Kwá group of languages comprising Éfffff̣̣̣̣̣ ìk, Èdddddó, Égede, Ìdọmà, Yorùbá, Ìtsèḳ̣̣̣̣ írí, Gwari, Èbìrà, Nupe, Àlágó and others, including Àkán, Àshàntí and Gá of Ghana. Among these, Ígáláà is more closely related to, and shares a common ancestry with, Yorùbá and Ìtshèḳ̣̣̣̣ írí languages ; hence it is further classified in the Yoruboid group.
(3) District Administration
In 1918, following the return of Ata’s complete territory to him by the Colonial Administration, after it had been partitioned for years, the Igala Native Authority (N.A.) was established. It was headed by the incumbent Àtá-Igáláà at the time, Ògwùché ̣̣̣̣̣ Akpá. That year, the Igala N.A. created new Districts in addition to the
ones earlier created by the Administration, as follows :
(i) Dèkína Division
In addition to the three (3) existing districts created by the Colonial Administration (Dèkína, Bassà Kómo and È ̣gwúmé ̣ or Òkwùlà Districts),
Bìraidù (Èbìladù), Mózùm and Bassà Ǹgéẹ̀ ̣ Districts were created, Bringing the total districts in Dekina Division to six (6).
(ii) Ánkpa Division
Four (4) Districts (Ánkpa, Ìfè,̣ Ògwùgwù and Ímáné) had been created by the Colonial Administration. In 1918, É ṇ jẹmà and Ólamábórō ̣ were created ; and, Ójokwu District, which had been in Bójù Division (Idomaland), was brought back into Ánkpa Division, thus, bringing the total number of districts there to seven (7).
(iii) Ídá Division
The following districts were created in 1918 : Ídá Waterside, Ìbàjí, Òdóḷ ú, Ójóko (now Ígálámeḹa) and Ọ́máta (now Ùgwọlawó) Districts. However, in 1930, Àtá Òbàje Òchéje carved out Ítobè District out of Ùgwọlawó District ; while Ígálọgbá (Àlóṃa) District was carved out of È ̣gwúmé ̣ or Òkwùlà) District. Thus, Ídá Division had seven (7) Districts in all.
In 1959, nineteen (19) Districts were created to replace the twenty (20) that existed during the reign of Àtá Ògwùché ̣ Akpá. Ídá District was created later to bring the total number back to twenty (20) as follows :
|3.||Bassà Ǹgéẹ̀ ̣||Gboloko|
|6.||É ̣jẹmà (Éṇ jemà)||É ̣jẹmà (Éṇ jemà)|
|11.||Ígálọgbá||À̀ lóṃ a|
|18.||Òkwùlà (Ègwúmé)̣||Ègwúmé ̣|
|19.||Òdóḷ ú||Òdóḷ ú|
- African Traditional Religion (ATR.)
African Traditional Religion (ATR.), the indigenous religion of the Ígáláà, comprises the broad spectrum of inherited cultural beliefs and practices, mores, taboos and values that had been passed down from generations. It also involves the belief that ancestors, even though departed, play a significant role in ensuring the spiritual health of their living relatives, on the one hand, and their infant protégés through whom they reincarnate as personal gods, on the other. In the practice of the ATR, totems, songs, dances and incantations are actively employed, especially during cultural ceremonies and festivals. ATR. also covers the area of herbal and curative medicines, through which both the body and spirit are ministered to and healed together, with the aid of the magic seeds of the alligator pepper. It, however, abhors the negative practice of witchcraft to punish the innocent and multiply human tragedies in families and clans. ATR. involves the belief in nature- gods (ébọ) as a sanitizers of society through their spiritual cleansing functions, which, in the main, includes arresting and punishing indicted witches and wizards. African Traditional Religion (ATR), known as ‘Ìchẹbọ’ or ‘Ògwùchéḳ wọ̀,’ has been demonized as a ‘heathen’ culture but it is still widely practised by many, including some adherents of the other faiths. The latter are torn between the two worlds, as it were; and they still derive genuine services from occasionally meeting certain obligations dictated by the indigenous religion, even though in strict secrecy.
ATR. is founded on the knowledge of, and absolute reverence for the Supreme Being Who they call ‘Ọ́ jó’̣ and with whom they commune directly. In view of the highest esteem in which they hold God, the Ígáláà give their children various names reflecting the various supernatural attributes of the Supreme Being. Such names include ‘Ọ́ jọ́chide’ (God is the ultimate security) ; ‘Ọ́ jọ́dāle’ (God has judged appropriately) ; ‘Ọ́ jọ́nimi’ (Only God owns life) ; ‘Ọ́ jọ́nọ̀kà’ (God is the greatest expert) ; ‘Ọ́ jọ́agò’ (God is watching over us) ; ‘Ọ́ jọ́mà’ (Only God knows), etc. There are several ‘Ọ́ jó–̣ related usages in the lexicon. (See Ọ́ jó).
Deities (Ẹ́bọ) and other divinities constitute an important element of Igala traditional religious practice. These deities are the spiritual watch-dogs in clans and families and are believed to arrest, afflict and, finally, kill whoever goes contrary to the moral norms of the society. Deities are not seen by the Ígáláà as independent entities competing for supremacy with God ; rather, they are looked upon as divine agents through whom man accounts for his deeds, good or bad, to merit admittance into ‘Ẹ́ré-̣ Ọjó’̣ (Heaven). Ọ̀ fọ́, therefore, signifies two things : a wall of protection for the righteous and blameless, being a weapon against ‘ìnàchà’ (malevolence) directed at him ; and, at the opposite extreme, it is the oppressive burden of liability for an unrepentant evil-doer. Each deity has its devotees, who are priests or priestesses. Sacrifices are offered to them regularly ; and, every year, they give their deities a special treat, in form of sacrificial offerings coupled with an all-night music and dance session, (íyá-ẹbọ), which usually takes place within the enclosure of the ‘Ẹ́bọ’ shrine.
Truthful adherents of the ATR believe that a clear-conscience is required by an individual in order to be at peace with God; hence, they emphasize the possession of the imaginary sceptre, ‘Ọ̀ fọ́ kpàí Úle,’ as a weapon for obtaining retributive justice (see ọ̀fó)̣ . Ideally, the ‘Ẹ́bọ,’ the deity, balances the general conduct of the holder of Ọ̀ fó,̣ who is usually absolved of guilt because of his clear, transparent inter-personal relationship with others.
The ‘Ífá’ Oracle plays a central role in the practice of ATR. Consulted in virtually all situations of Igala cultural life, the Ífá is believed to see and to know everything about everything, and everyone, their fate and destiny inclusive. It is the medium through which a client peeps into the past, examines the presence and tells what is to happen in the future. Through an Ífá priest or priestess, the client gleans information on the health of his moral responsibility to himself, his ancestors (see ìbégwú ; àmiìbégwú), and his spirit being (see ódé-ojī); his marine wife or husband (see ọ́yáà or ọ́kọ ì̀ kpàkáchi) and his personal god (ọ́jó)̣ . There are many divination objects through which the Ífá speaks. While some of its priests/ priestesses use cowry shells to divine, others use lobes of native kola-nuts (see óbíì; óbí-Igáláà). The most commonly-used methods are ‘Ànwà,’ the flat seeds of Mahogany bean tree (Sci. Afzelia Africana). Others prefer to use ‘Èbùtù’ (dry sand), preferably obtained from the soil on the bank of a river, ocean or sea.
The Ígáláà have a strong belief in ancestral spirits – spirits of departed relations who are believed to live elsewhere in the void called ‘Éfọjèégwú,’ (Land of the Dead), from where they are said to visit their kith and kin on daily basis and share their evening meals with them. In traditional homes, the unseen presence of ancestors is mostly acknowledged when the head of a homestead drops a morsel of swallowed food (see ọ̀jè)̣ on the floor for them before he takes the first morsel of his own supper. To facilitate early meals and timely dinner, there is a standing instruction to the harem in any traditional homestead that under no circumstances
must evening meals be served late. This is to forestall a situation where ancestors
eat late or are kept waiting. They are more infuriated when a man refuses to eat his evening meal for any reason whatsoever, thus, depriving them of partaking in the meal. They are believed to, as punishment, afflict him with ‘ọ̀gá ámiìbégwú’ (ancestor-induced sickness), which involves the swelling of the limbs and stomach. More often than not, the patient never survives the sickness.
The Ígáláà believe in re-incarnation, as a deceased member of a family or clan is said to return in form of a new-born baby, to whom he/she serves as a personal god (see ọ́jó;̣ è g̣ wéḷ è)̣ . (See Postscript: Sources and Meanings of Igala Names).
In Ígáláand, there is a clan called ‘Àmọma Egwú-àfìà,’ whose membership spreads across the land. The clan is associated with the ‘Égwú’ or ‘Ìbégwú’ (Ancestor) Cult. Every year, the clan celebrates the ‘Égwú’ Festival, which is dedicated to the spirits of deceased family members and clansmen. On this occasion, the male relatives that died last in the family or clan are formally welcomed to the membership of existing ‘ìbégwú’ (ancestors) who are physically represented as ‘‘Égwú-àfìà’ masquerades. Special rites are performed in a sacred grove called ‘Òkwúláà’ in the morning. In the afternoon, the enigmatic masquerades thrill the community with enchanting magical performances. In the night, the newly- initiated ‘égwú’ addresses the clansmen and women, emphasizing peace and harmonious co-existence in the clan. At Ídá, the traditional capital of the Ígáláà, annual festivals are celebrated by the Àtá-Igáláà (see Ócho, Ọ̀ ganyiganyi, Íníkpi) in line with age-old traditional festivals calendar.
Another cultural festival that is celebrated during the year is the ‘Ánéẹ̀ ’̣ Festival, which is devoted to the Earth Spirit. Land, to a typical Ígáláà, is treated with great reverence, being the source of food and wealth and provider of a final resting place for the dead. Therefore, on the day of the festival, rites are performed to the spirits of the land for its ritual purification from all forms of spiritual impurities that it has put up with throughout the year. The constituent clans converge at the ‘Ẹ́ré-Anè’̣ (Earth Shrine) and perform various appeasement rites and, thereafter, make supplications for peace and prosperity, good health, a fertile soil to farm and continued fertility in the womenfolk, so that more and more children would be born within the year that follows. The Earth Shrine is usually situated at the tomb of the founder of the community concerned. Apart from the communal rites, there are also mandatory, individual sacrifices performed by each head of family usually at the family shrine.
(b) Foreign Religions
It is not easy to say precisely the period that Islam made its in-road into Igalaland but the facts of history show that it was long before the coming of the first Europeans stepped on Igala soil. For instance, Àtá Áyé ggg̣̣̣ bà Ọma Ìdoko, at about the close of the 17th Century, enlisted the support of “an itinerant Nupe mallam,” Èdégí, in the wake of the Igala-Jukun War. (See ógwu ; Ógwu Àpá ; Áyé gbà ; Íníkpi). During the three Niger Expeditions to Ídá in 1832, 1841 and 1854, Hausa “mallams” were all over in the Àtá’s Court performing administrative duties. Today, Hausa communities are found in isolated enclaves called ‘Àngwa’ in different towns in Igalaland, including Ídá, Ánkpa and Ìyàlè. During the reign of the immediate past Àtá-Igáláà, Ágábáìdù, Dr. Àlí Òbàje (MBE), Islam received a big boost in Igalaland, as he himself was a convert and devout Muslim.
The first seed of Christianity that was sowed in Igalaland was in 1841 when the Commissioners of the second Niger Expedition, led by Captain H.D. Trotter, presented an Arabic Bible to Àtá Àámé ̣ Óchēje. Handing it the Holy Book to his “Head-Mallam,” Reverend Samuel Àjàyí Crowther, on behalf of the Queen, had said: “Tell the King that God’s word is contained in this book and that it will be left with him. Say to the King, that this Bible is God’s book ; that teachers will come and instruct his people, and when they do come, he must treat them well.” The Ata’s mouth-piece, responded : “Attah is willing.” The interpreter on that occasion was William Johnson, an ex-Ígálá slave and a descendant of the Ájú-Ákwù ruling house at Ídá, who was later re-captured and trained to be a catechist by the CMS) in Sierra Leone (see Footnote on Ídá).
(4) Church Missionary Society (CMS): Samuel Àjàyí Crowther
Duke Kamisòkó, in his book, Samuel Ajayi Crowther in the Lokoja Area (2002), states that Bishop Crowther returned to Ídá in 1867 and Àtá Ákwù Òdìbā was anxious for him to set up a mission station there, “not possibly from any particular love for the gospel but because it would bring the merchants and stimulate trade.” (p. 41). Crowther set up a primary school at Lokoja (then the Àtá’s territory) in 1865. That school was the first in which secular subjects were taught in the whole of the Northern Region. In 1867, a children’s Sunday school was opened in Ígbóbè. Crowther believed in the supremacy of formal education over and above material things. Kamisoko, quoting the CMS CA3/04/87 Crowther Report of 11th June, 1868, attests to the value that Crowther placed on knowledge- based education when he said :
“Knowledge is an inseparable possession ; a man may possess lands, houses, ships, cannon and goods, and may soon lose them ; and, by such losses, he may soon become a poor man. But knowledge, you can never lose as long as life exists and your mental faculties are healthy. Wherever you go, it is ready to do you service.” (p.43).
In 1867, Rev. Crowther was again at Ídá and, by this time, Rev. Coomber, assisted by M. Philip, a catechist, had started evangelical work at Ídá. By 1880, some
places in Bassà Ngé ̣ area, like Kpátákpàlì, Ajijido, Àshàgbá, Gbolóko, Ákabe, etc.,
had manifested strong enthusiasm for mission stations to be established for them.
(5) Crowther’s Kidnap
In the course of his missionary activities, Bishop Crowther was once kidnapped by a king called Àbọkò ̣ who felt that the preacher did not bring him business and gifts. “When negotiations for his release failed, military force was used to set him free. In the process, Mr. W. Fell, the Consul at Lokoja, was shot with an arrow and later died before reaching Lokoja.” (p.47).
- The Qua Iboe Mission
In 1919, the year Àtábọ Ìjọ̀ mì was enthroned as the Àtá-Igáláà, the Qua Iboe Church made its debut in Igalaland. Rev. Peter Sunday È ̣jèbá, in his book, “The Qua Iboe Church of Nigera in Igalaland (1994), states that “…its work was still in the incubation period, without churches, schools or evangelists.” The Qua Iboe Church of Nigeria started consultations with the Àtá’s palace in 1929, to explore the possibility of setting up a church in Igalaland. In 1931, a couple, Rev. and Mrs. Herbert Dickson, and Rev. David O’Neil, were appointed to start a ministry in Igalaland. The former joined Rev. O’Neil at Ùgwọlawó, where they first opened a church. From there, they moved to Òdóḷ ú in 1932 to establish a new station. It also built a leprosarium at Òc̣ hadamù, where, in addition, dispensary services were also obtained by the poor at affordable costs. The history of the Qua Iboe Church evangelisation efforts in Igalaland cannot be complete without the mention of
the efforts of the amiable Reverend Paul Gross, called ‘Ípọ́lù Ọ́ mẹnẹfu’ (Paul the son of a white-man) by the natives. His impeccable knowledge of Igala language baffled the natives and endeared many to him. His command of Igala language was, for him, a powerful instrument in his entire evangelical career in Igalaland.
The Roman Catholic Mission (RCM)
In 1902, the Roman Catholic Spiritans (Congregatio Sancti Spiritus (C.S.Sp) (a.k.a. Holy Ghost Fathers) sent a priest, Rev, Fr. Joseph Liechtenberger to oversee the fledgling mission at Ídá. He was the first priest ever to be sent to Ídá Diocese. Later, Bishop Joseph Shanahan joined him and together, they strove to open a Catholic Mission at Dèkína but were prevented by the hostility of the largely Muslim natives that lived there. The biography of Bishop Shanahan reveals that the natives pelted him with missiles, even as he ran and climbed to the safety of a mango tree. The hostilities continued till 1905 when the mission was finally closed down. Later, Fr. Anthony Konrath, a German Spiritan, re-opened a Catholic Mission in Dèkína area but was operating from Útòṇ kọn in the present-day Benue State. He was also engaged in pastoral work in Ánkpa, Ójokwu and Ímáné areas. He also celebrated masses for the soldiers of the Military Barracks at Ánkpa and
for other Catholic residents and traders, particularly the Ìgbò community in the
town. It will be recalled that the Barracks was stationed at Ánkpa from 1900 to 1933; then, later moved to Énúgu.
In 1934, the Catholic Church, undaunted in the pursuit of its objective of gaining a foothold in Igalaland, set up a mission at Ídá, through the efforts of Fr. Konrath and his associates. Ídá was then the headquarters of all Catholic operations in Igalaland. St. Boniface Cathedral at Ídá was named after one of the hard-working German missionaries. In liaison with their home office, the missionaries trained many seminarians and priests for the diocese. However, their activities dwindled during the World War II, when they returned home and were later replaced with British and Irish priests.
In the 1940s and 1950s, two Nigerian priests of Ìgbò extraction, Reverend Fathers (later Bishops) John Cross Anyógu and Anthony Nwéḍ ō, pioneered missionary activities in Igalaland. The early 1950s witnessed the posting of some Spiritan (Holy Ghost) French-speaking Fathers from Canada to Ídá Diocese, which comprised only a handful of parishes (i.e. Ídá, Ànyìgbá, Ánkpa and Ìbàjí). Leopold Grimard, who had been a priest in the Diocese, was elevated to the position of Monsignor and assigned to the diocese ; later, he became a Bishop. The pioneering Canadian priests included Fathers Larose ; Roberge ; F.C. Coté ; Gerard Bouthillette ; Pilon ; Labreche ; Dube ; Mackay ; Lupien ; Wallet ; Rivest ; Brassard ; Beulieu. Brother Conrad – a multi-talented engineer, architect, quantity surveyor and more – who executed several engineering and architectural projects for the Catholic Mission in the land, was resident at the Ànyìgbá Mission. A few years to his return to Canada, he was posted to the Sheria Station, on the bank of the Benue, north of Igalaland.
Guided by high ethical standards, these white Fathers penetrated deep forests to access villages and hamlets. They were given to spending one or two days with their new converts in their villages and running Christian Religious Instruction (C.R.I.), which was the starting point for kindergarten pupils across the land. The number of primary schools increased and post-primary schools began to come on stream, the first being Our Lady of Schools Teachers College, Ànỳigbá, in 1957, with Rev. Father Murphy as its first principal. Holy Rosary Teachers College, Ídá (for women) was founded in 1962. St. Peters Secondary School, Ídá, followed in 1963 and St. Charles Secondary School, Ánkpa, in 1967. Several under-privileged Igala students benefited from scholarships offered to brilliant students from indigent homes. In terms of healthcare, the existing Grimard Hospital, Ànỳigbá is a major manifestation of Catholic effort to provide affordable, pro-poor healthcare services to the Ígálá people while providing the critical infrastructure for further development in healthcare delivery in Kogi State.
With the appointment of His Eminence, Bishop Ephraim Silas Obot as the Bishop of Ídá Diocese in December, 1977, their numbers depleted gradually until indigenous priests began to fill the vacuum left by their French Canadian
reasonable number of young, brilliant and focused Ígálá priests. By the time
he passed onto greater glory in April, 2009, the total population of Catholics in Igalaland had risen to 188,617 (13% of the entire Igala population as per the 2006 head-count). His achievements are too numerous to mention here. He was succeeded by the first-ever Igala Bishop, Most Reverend Anthony Adáji, who was formally named by the Holy See as the substantive Bishop of the Ídá Diocese on June 1, 2009.
(7) The Church Missionaries in Many Lands (CMML)
The Church Missionaries in Many Lands (CMML) arrived in Igalaland during the reign of Àtá Òbàje Òchéje (1926 – 1945) who encouraged them to set up schools in his domain; but he had warned: “Do not to use your religion to split my people.” The missionaries trained Igala natives to read the Bible.
- Pre-Colonial Economy
The Ígáláà, in the past, engaged in different occupations and carried out various economic activities outside their regular peasant farming, hunting and fishing. They included :
• Textile Production
The Narrative on the 1841 expedition states that “…the most common manufacture is that of cotton cloths, practised by a great number of females. In spinning, the primitive distaff is used, such as is usually seen in Italy.” The calico (àchì) cloth produced from this process varies in terms of quality, colour and cost. The ordinary off-white, loosely-woven cotton calico (àchì-ọ̀gbọ̀dò)̣ was used by
children ; while the more compact, multi-coloured ones were (and are still) used on formal occasions by women and respected elders. Our research into the tempo of ‘àchì-éhí’ (calico-weaving) in Igalaland by women has revealed that it has declined.
(b) Dyeing (Ànúnú-Ényí)
One of the most forgotten occupations in Ígáláland is dyeing. Up to the 1960s, dyeing was a lucrative trade, as dye-pits were scattered all over the land, with each town having many dyeing-compounds. (For details of the dyeing technology adopted by the early Igala dyers, see ànúnú).
Leather-works, which was practised in pre-colonial Igalaland, involved the tanning and plaiting of sheep-skins and goat-skins, using the latex from a particular tree (possibly Pterocarpus Senegalensis). The hides and skin were usually cut into
stripes to produce necklaces, armlets, belts, whips, fly-fans and cushions. The
hides obtained from larger animals were usually tanned and used to construct leather soles of sandals worn by the rich in ancient times.
Fishing is carried out in riverine communities, like Ídá, Ítobè, Sheria, Ògwùmà, and Ìbàjí. According to the Anthropological and Historical Notes on the Igala People (p. 212-213), fishing was carried out at Ídá in ancient times “chiefly by slaves” who used “nets made of the twisted fibres of the plantain leaf…” Sometimes, they used a vegetable poison (see ùgà) to stupefy the fishes before catching them.
(e) Solid Mineral Deposits
The nature of Igala soil, particularly in the rocky terrains covered by the range of Údì Hills, gives rise to solid mineral deposits in different parts of Igalaland : from Ídá to Ánkpa, where kaolin exists in commercial quantities and Òḍdù Ògboyàgà and Ọ̀kábā where industrial coal is also found. Nature’s gift of minerals to Ídá and its environs is reflected in the Narrative on all the three Niger Expeditions that visited the Àtá-Igáláà in 1832, 1841 and 1854. According to the geological report of the expedition, the cliff upon which Ídá sits is made up of “…sandstone, from 12″ to 6″ thick, and composed of pieces of quartz, with a few lamella, of mica and feldspar…On the right bank, where exactly the same formation exists, I saw, in the specimen collected for me, a combination with oxide of iron. The surface contains a layer of farraginous sandstone or iron conglomerate about 4 feet thick, which forms the table-land of the country.” (p.212-213) :
(4) Iron Technology
It then follows that Igala ancestors seized the opportunity of these mineral deposits, especially iron, to engage in iron-smelting (the melting of ‘òkwúta-ọmú) into liquid form, which later solidified to form metal. Historical sources reveal that iron technology was prevalent at Ídá in ancient times at about the same period that the Ìgbò-Úkwú metal-working tradition existed. The authors of the 1841 Narrative stated that, even though metal-workers depended entirely on supply from the coast for basic iron-smelting tools, they were able to produce abundant ore, which enabled them to produce native implements… swords, spear-heads, arrows, described as “well-tempered and not badly finished…”
(5) Rubber, Groundnut, Cotton Shea-butter, Castor-oil beans
It has been observed that, for over half a century, rubber-tapping (àrè-ékọ) and cotton-growing have ceased in Igalaland; while there has been a sharp decline in the cultivation of groundnut, (ọ̀pá), ‘ùgbá’ (Parkia clappertoniana) and ‘ùgbá-ógìlì,’ castor-oil beans (Ricinus communis). The processing of shea-butter (òkwùmé)̣ has also fallen and it takes great effort to revive it. These crops, including cotton, contributed significantly to the revenue of the defunct Northern Regional Government during the colonial period. The Igala Native Authority, at the time, also contributed substantially to the famous groundnut pyramids of Kano in northern Nigeria and, after Kano, the next richest Native Authority in the north then was the Igala N.A.
British Expeditions to the River Niger in Central Africa (1832, 1841 & 1854)
(4) The Richard Lander Expedition of 1832
In 1832, Her Majesty’s Government, in conjunction with British merchants, fitted out an expedition to the Central Africa via the River Niger under the command of Richard Lander. The purpose of the expedition was to introduce legitimate bilateral trade with African coastal chiefs as an alternative for slave- raiding and trading, which the British described as “…a debasing and demoralising traffic, which has, for centuries cursed that unhappy land,” a land “upon which Nature had so profusely bestowed her choicest treasures.” In addition to the humanitarian sentiment that informed the voyage, there was also the economic advantage of “new and unrestricted markets” for raw materials – palm oil, ivory, indigo, shea-butter, etc. – required by British industries, which had observed that they were being unduly short-changed by coastal middlemen. Àtá Ẹkèlè-̣ Àgà, who was on the throne at the time, received Mr. Lander and his team in his palace at Ídá towards the last quarter of 1832. He was, thus, the first Àtá to set eyes on Europeans. The Narrative on the 1832 Expedition, written by Macgregor Laird and R.A.K. Oldfield, attested to the fact that the Àtá Ẹkèlè-̣ Àgà was “the… most powerful king between the sea and Fundah (Panda), and carries on a considerable trade in slaves and ivory…” (See Postscript : Dynastic Sovereigns of Igala History).
(5) The Trotter-led Expedition of 1841
The next expedition that was sent to the River Niger was the 1841 Expedition, which was under the command of Captain H.D. Trotter. The Commissioners were Captain William Allen and T.R.H. Thomson, MD Surgeon, all of the British Royal Navy. They were received at Ídá by Àtá Àámé ̣ Óchēje, the successor of Àtá Ékélè-̣ Àgà in 1835 after the latter’s brutal assassination the previous year. (See Postscript: Dynastic Sovereigns of Igala History).
This expedition, unlike the previous one, was successful, in the sense that, after long sessions of deliberations and negotiations, the Treaty on the Abolition of Slave Trade was signed by both parties. Also signed was the Treaty on the Cession of Lokoja to the British to be used as a model farm. It was sold for 7000 cowries, the equivalent of about £45.00 at the time.
The members of the 1841, voicing their impression of the Igala people, stated that “It must be admitted that, from all we saw, the Eggarah people are industrious… Their grounds are much better cultivated, manufactures more encouraged, and their social comforts increasing. The people are generally well made, and of middling stature… Their lips protrude, but are less thick ; the forehead ample, though retreating. Altogether, they have a look of superior intelligence.” (p. 241-245).
(c) The William Balfur Baikie-led Expedition of 1854
In 1854, a third and final expedition was sent to the River Niger in Central Africa under the command of William Balfur Baikie, accompanied by Reverend Samuel Àjàyí Crowther (who was on the 1841 Expedition) and other members. According to Baikie’s Narrative on the Expedition, Ídá town was experiencing a decline, compared to what it was when the previous expeditions visited. Baikie writes : “Iddá is the capital ; formerly a place of great importance but, of late years, on the decline.” Àtá Àámé ̣ Óchēje was still on the throne and had already attained almost fifty years of age. About him, the Bakie reports that “The Attá was, at one time, a ruler of great consequence. Many countries were paying tributes… but his authority, even in his own proper dominions, is now feeble.” (p.63)
(8) Partitioning of the Igala Kingdom
During the reign of Àtá Oboni Akwu (1905-1911), the Colonial Administration severed Igalaland into different fragments, which it ceded to existing neighbouring territories. Ídá District (comprising Ígálámēla, Òdóḷ ú and Ìbàjí areas) was ceded to Ọ̀nìtshà Province in the Southern Protectorate ; while the remaining parts of Igalaland were merged with the Northern Provinces. It was not until 1918 that the kingdom was returned to Àtá Ógwùché-Akpā. (See Postscript : Dynastic Sovereigns of Igala History : Òch́ éje Àámé ̣ Óchēje (Ọnókpā) ; Ógwùché-Akpā ; Màhíónú).
(9) Wars Fought By the Igalaa
Ígáláà, as a nation state, has fought two major wars, namely: The Igala- Benin War (1515-1516) and the Igala-Jukun War (about 1690). She also fought internal wars, such as the Bassà Kómo Uprising (about 1856) and the Màhíónú War (1916-1917).
(a) The Ígálá-Benin War
The Ígálá-Bìní War of 1515-1516 (see Ógwu Ìbìní) during the reign of Àtá Áji or Àji-Àtá, the founder of the Benin) Dynasty. (See Postscript: Dynastic Sovereigns of Igala History).
(ii) The Ígálá-Jūkùn War
The second major external war that Igalaa had fought in her long history was Igala-Jukun War, which is said to have taken place at the close of the 17th or beginning of the 18th Century. (See ógwu; Ógwu; Ógwu Àpá).
(iii) Bassa Uprising (See Àbachà ; Ógwu Àbachà; Ódomà Abáláká Postscript: Notable Igalas in Pre-Colonial and Colonial Period).
(iv) Màhíónú War (1916-1917) (See Màhíónú ; Ógwùché–Akpā).
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