If there is anything that epitomizes the decline in the esteem of the Igala race, being one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, then the derelict state of the Ata-Igala’s palace speaks loudly to it.
That our Attah’s palace has been allowed to fall into such disrepair is an indictment of the political leadership of Igala land and Kogi State in general.
It took the annoyance and public spiritedness of Dr Abubakar Adama to rally other well meaning Igala sons and daughters to raise funds and embark on emergency repairs to the palace to make it habitable once it became apparent that Agabaidu was on his way back from his hunting expedition.
That the home of the father of all Igalas could be so disrespected is a huge embarrassment to the Igala nation and the cry is that such a state of affairs must not be allowed to stand and the Igalas must hold accountable those who have shown such poor leadership and indifference to our commonwealth. More galling is that some of the culprits are Igala sons and daughters allegedly.
It would appear that the actions of Dr Abubakar Adama and his motley group which include some Igala sons and daughters at home and abroad, particularly members of Igala UK, helped to instigate a reaction by those whose statutory responsibility it is to maintain the palace in good order and may have caused an apparent scramble to start carrying out emergency repairs to the palace.
A shameful and unexplainable dereliction of responsibility. Even at that, there is no guarantee that these last minute and apparently face saving measures would amount to a great deal other than superficiality.
Whereas the structural integrity of the buildings appear in good order, the general unsatisfactory state and overall rundown appearance would suggest that the palace has not received the deserved attention as and when required.
With a coronation in the offing and important visitors expected, it is imperative nigh exigent that the palace is in a fit and ready state. That our collective resolve that the Igala reclaims lost ground and rises like a phoenix in the pantheons of the Nigerian state during the reign of Agabaidu HRM Mathew Opaluwa Oguche Akpa II is apparent to all and sundry.
All hands must therefore be on deck for the sake of our posterity.
Once the outstanding works are complete, a routine maintenance regime must be put in place to ensure that we never find ourselves in such an unenviable position.
Igala UK and its membership remain committed to supporting all reasonable initiatives and ideas to raise the profile of our people and to stand shoulder to shoulder with all people who mean well for our father, Agabaidu and the Igala Kingdom.
ATA-IGALA’S PALACE. A RIGHT ROYAL ESTATE —
By Godwin Omale Ebenehi
We, the Igala people have a very ancient background dating back to many centuries and as we all probably know, our past is full of many historical accounts and on several issues. Stories of war and migration as well as many other issues. Our culture and traditions are so rich and interesting on many levels compared with that of many of the early civilizations across the world. In fact, in Nigeria, where we are located today, it is quite possible for us, the Igala people to claim to be one of the earliest and most indigenous tribes. The Igala people are on record to be settled in almost every state in Nigeria and that is not settled as new comers but as bonafide indigenous clans. In this spread across the land, be it in Nigeria or in other African countries and all over the world, we have taken our culture and traditions with us. This has aided in influencing other groups we have met and lived with along the way.
In this essay, I would like to discuss the palace of Ata-Igala, and in fact not as a historian, because I am not one, but as an interested son and member of the Igala nation. So, I want to please let that be known and that this amateur write up should be seen and read in that context and hopefully as work in progress, in which anyone of us can add and subtract, all be it in good faith and for the development, the improvement and for benefit of those who yearn to know and our future generations.
Ata-Igala, as you probably know is an embodiment of many entities. He is the father, a leader of his nation, he is a spiritual leader and the one that intercedes between his people in this world and the ancestors before him, he is a judge, he is a teacher, he is almost everything to his people and that is why the Attah is seen as a deity by his people. All Igala people are sons and daughters of the Attah. HRM does not have any grandchildren as everyone is his child. He does not have personal property as all properties are vested in the Attah. This is why before ascending the throne, as recently witnessed in the ceremonies in Ugwolawo, the small thatched hut, the symbolic earthly home of the Attah designate was set on fire before embarking on the journey to his ancestral residence, now referred to as the Ata-Igala’s palace in Idah.
The reference to the residence of Ata-Igala as Palace, is a new and foreign term to us, just like many things modern in our lives, a borrowed tradition from other cultures. The Attah's home traditionally was variously referred to as : Ologbo, Anukwu, Eti-Ofe etc. The residence of Ata-Igala was built at Opu-ata and it was built through the communal efforts of the clans of Igalamela and Igalagba, the first group of Igala people reportedly to arrive on the soil of Igalaland from Kwararafa. The first palace was built around 500BC, the current one is a re-build carried out by HRM Abutu Ejeh in the 14th Century, in the period before the Benin - Igala war. We know this because, the palace tower was used as the observatory post for surveillance over the encroaching enemies from across the River Niger. The palace has many functions aside from being the residence of the royal father. The estate is divided into about five wings and each serves different purposes and for different occasions. The entire estate is sacred ground for many reasons and only permitted activities are allowed to take place on the grounds.
The various wings of the palace are:
1. The Residence wing, as it connotes, is the section where the royal father and his immediate family live.
2. The Administrative wing, again as it says, this is where all the administrative work and court sessions take place. Palace admininistrative staff, ministers, courtiers and other support traditional chiefs and elders come to carry out the work of the palace.
3. The Odo-goo (Odogo) wing, is an elevated post, the spiritual centre where the Attah performs traditional rites and prayers or sacrifices. It is the most sacred place on the palace grounds. This is also the part of the palace where the royal father's earthly remains is kept and preserved for three months pending the final rites and eventual ascension to join the ancestors at Oja-Ina. At the top of this section is the observatory post earlier referenced.
4. The Common ground is where most public ceremonies take place. It can serve as a reception ground during the visits of special dignitaries, at Christmas, sallah, oganyiganyi festivals etc.
5. The Museum & Library section is the section that holds several historical records and objects of importance and interest. Anyone can apply through the Administrative section to visit and study or research.
The Attah's palace is home to all Igala sons and daughters the world over. It’s a place of refuge for those escaping maltreatment and oppression, and injustice from other states and Kingdoms. Our royal father was so powerful and respected from many corners of the world and many smaller and weaker tribes that were suffering oppression would seek refuge from their oppressors in the Ata-Igala’s palace. The palace is therefore an extraordinary secretariat of sorts and the functions are almost limitless. Most of all it is the home of all Igala sons and daughters, a connecting spot with our past, and our present, our kith and kin at home and in the diaspora. It will however be a failure on my part to end this story without mentioning the state of affairs as it relates to this all important edifice. The historical inheritance from our past. This point of unity between us and our ancestors and this piece of near indelible presence and reminder of our history great great great fathers, the warriors that conquered many nations, that gave us the pride and honour we crave and hold so dear, the pride that we bear in our traditional marks on our faces, our clothes, our food and many unique other ways. The pride that was threatened by wars which our fathers fought gallantly and emerged victorious. That pride is once again threatened by a new adversary, a new enemy from with in and from without. This new enemy, the faceless enemy of politics and selfishness among ourselves and at times from our neighbours, even our subjects in the past.
Our unity and our respect as a people is not in grandiosity or the opulence and beauty of the palace. The palace is our father's home and no matter how small it is and how wretched it looks, in symbol and in reality, that is our home, our centre of unity. We must never allow the selfishness of any individual or group to undermine the significance of the palace to us.
Mr Godwin Omale Ebenehi, RGN, LLB, Member Law Society England & Wales. Founding Member Igala-UK. Resides in England. Hails from Inye, Enjema, Ankpa LGA. Proudly Igala in this life and hereafter.