OKPA – ATA (THE SCEPTER)
Posted by rex at June 1st, 2013
The scepters are commonly known as a decorated rod or stick usually carried by a reputable king or queen as a symbol of their power and authority. Universally, it is one of the oldest insignia of office. Today, the use of scepter has dramatically extended beyond the sphere of kingship. For instance, in a democratic set up, the senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives and speakers of various state assemblies use the scepter which they call mace as symbols of power and legitimacy.
Origin of SCEPTER in Igala Kingdom
The use of the scepter seems to have emanated from the remotest period of human history. And its origin universally has strong connection with the divine source. For example, great prophets of God ‘peace be on them’ were said to have used scepters as staff which they performed miracles with. The story of Prophet Moses ‘Musa’ and king Pharaoh bears ample testimony to that.
In a similar development, the use of a staff as a magic wand was a common feature with genuine men of God as the noble Prophet of Islam was said to have graciously introduced the use of staff during his prophethood. And interestingly, this noble prophetic tradition has tenaciously held on to the Islamic faith despite the passage of several millennia, hence the continuous use of staff as a support by the Imams while delivering religious sermon ‘khutbah’ every Friday.
However, in Igala kingdom, royal artifacts include items of robe or ornaments like intricately designed royal gown with a befitting cap and other sacred objects of traditional relevance. This implies that Ata Igala’s various forms of insignia of office cut across revered objects and totemic animals. But amazingly, the use of scepter as an object of royalty is relatively new in Igala kingship. Historically, Igala traditional institution did not in any way reflect the use of scepter as a symbol of authority in the early phase of kingship in Igala kingdom. Traditions available to us indicated that the use of scepter in Igala kingship is a derived culture. Its tradition of origin in Igalaland is traced to the early decades of the 20th century which precisely occasioned the hey-days of colonial rule in Nigeria. It is pertinent to note that, the first Ata Igala in history to use scepter as an insignia of office is Ata Obaje Ocheje.
Cultural significance of OKPA – ATA
The great significance of the scepter is derivable from the fact that it is widely recognized as one of the important paraphernalia of office for all senior members of the ruling elite in Igala kingdom. The cultural and social relevance of this sophisticated single item of royal regalia ‘scepter’ can scarcely be over stressed because of its tremendous elevation of the traditional stool in the political sphere.
In a nutshell, its great significance is derived from the fact that in recent times, it is usually presented to deserving chiefs in a prestigious way by the state government as a symbol of authority. And it is the only regalia or staff of office to be presented by the state government.