The Igala People: The Tribe no one knows nothing about

Igala is a tribe in Nigeria that evolved from the ancient Igala kingdom of the pre-colonial years. The Igala people are located at the east of the confluence of river niger and benue that extends to today’s kogi state. They live north of the south eastern igbos and share a unique history with southerners.

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The Igalas believe in ojo ogbekwugbekwu – the name given to God and just like any religion, the Igalas believe in the existence of ilei and oj’ona literally meaning this world and the afterlife respectively.

Colors are symbolic to the history of the Igala people as they have deep traditional meanings. Black and yellow, as the typical Igala elder would note, explains a lot about the history of the Igala nation. Yellow, shows the esteemed companionship of the tribe and represents prosperity. Black on the other hand, is a symbol of the Igala natural riches like its mineral resources (crude oil) and fertile lands.

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I can’t stop showing my identity everywhere I go. #Igala

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Being close to the confluence – meeting point of river Niger and river Benue, Igala people are mostly fishermen most especially those concentrated at the capital in Idah. Others are farmers as their lands are blessed with fertility.
‘Attah’ is the word for the Igala ruler which means Father. So therefore, ‘Attah Igala’ means the father of the Igala nation and this is the highest title among the Igala people. The most popular rulers in Igala are Attah Ayegba Ona Idoko and Attah Ameh Oboni.

Legend has it that Attah Ayegba Ona Idoko offered crown princess Inikpi – his daughter as sacrifice to secure their freedom from the jukun tribe. Today, the statue of princess Inikpi stand at the headquarters of the igala nation – Idah.

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Igala ID

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Attah Ameh Oboni on the other hand was said to be very courageous in warfronts. He strongly resisted the colonial masters who wanted to snuff out some of the Igala ancient traditions. In this brave resistance, he later resolve to suicide as he does not want to be exiled by the British.
The history of the Igala people is often times told together with the Igbos as they are perceived to be children of Igbo migrants who wandered to the west at a time when ancient Igbo people were expanding. Their language and culture has been greatly influenced by surrounding ethnic societies like Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Bini yet traces of Igala ancestry have been found among Igbos in Anambra and Enugu.

According to historical facts, Eri, the founder of modern Igbo had five sons and a daughter. One of them called Onoja migrated northwards and founded a settlement known to be Igala nation. Some of these Igala people later returned south to live and mix together with the Igbos. This ordeal has made it hard to differentiate between the two tribes.

In language and culture, Igala tribe almost correlate with the igbos. Words like ‘Atama’ means chief priest to both tribes. The two tribes also have the same 4 market days. Words like osikapa, abacha, akpati all have the same meanings for both the Igala and Igbo people.In all, the name IGALA is derived from ‘IGA’ meaning a separation or dividing wall in Igala language while ‘ALA’ means sheep.

The name, as any proud Igala would tell you, reveals that igala people are God’s people that have found their place of pasture.

This summarises the plight of any Igala man.


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