The Traditional Life Of The Igala Tribe (Part 1)

Good day, our esteemed readers. This piece would focus on the Igala tribe, one of the ethnic groups prevalent in Kogi state, their traditional life and everything other thing that relates to them. As well, this would be the first of this series as regards to this work. We hope you spare us the time to go through.


Kogi state was created on 21st August,1991, by General Ibrahim Babangida administration. It lies to the south of Nigerian`s federal capital territory Abuja and shares boundaries with Nassarawa, kwara, Ondo, Ekiti, Benue, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Niger and Anambra states, a unique feature which no other state in Nigeria has.
Kogi state, otherwise known as the confluence state, once formed the then Kabba province .Lokoja, the state capital is former administrative headquarters of Nigeria. After the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria by the then British colonial government under Sir Fredrick Lugard between 1901 and 1902. It is located on the confluence of Nigeria`s two largest rivers Niger and Benue. The ancient city is just two hour’s drive from Abuja.

Kogi State has a population of over 4 million people. The geological features promotes agricultural activities, the main stay of the economy with the cultivation of yam, cassava, rice, maize, guinea corn, cocoa, coffee, cashew, oil palm, melon and sugar cane in commercial quantities.

A miniature Nigeria with several ethnic groupings; the most prevalent are the Igalas, Ebiras and the Okuns. It also has 21 council areas which are Adavi, Ankpa, Ajaokuta, Bassa, Dekina, Ibaji, Idah, Igalamela/Odolu, Ijumu, Kabba-bunu, Kogi, Lokoja, Mopamuro, Ofu, Yagba west and Yagba East local government Areas.

Now, it is only when one considers the magnitude of cultural mistake which has already been done that such a thing like this purposeful work of research becomes almost a necessity. Depressing enough not to be mentioned let alone discussed, but the long-standing debacle about how some of the Nigerian communities had wrongly jettisoned most of their cultural values and historical heritage which would have, otherwise helped shape their society into a more sophisticated one than what is obtainable today. Taking a more distinct look at homogenous states like China, India, Egypt, the latter of which embodies everything about culture in an emblematic mode. The Chinese, strict custodians of culture are people with almost an unshakeable belief on anything culture-related and its potency – the Indians are quite of course, so similar. From the traditional Chinese arts; calligraphy, painting and picture galleries to their unique system of entertainment, the operas, games and arts, the foods and drinks like rice, tea, not forgetting their universally acclaimed medicine and medication; Literature (Classics, Poetry, Modern prose), martial arts, music which include the folk and the traditional, instruments inclusive, religion, of which ancestral worship is mostly revered, Buddhism and Daoism, Industry which undertake massive production of Silk, Jade, Ceramics, Pottery and Porcelain, Bronze and Lacquer and above all, Language and its development – all these generally embrace the notice of a solidly built traditionalist state. So, it is following this back drop of cultural demise which sticks out derogatorily – like a sore thumb, that one can come to the inevitable conclusion that harm, on a macro-scale has been done.

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One thing is certain, the igala appear to be somewhat of an appropriate yard stick in measuring the success of these afore mentioned countries in respect to embracing cultural consciousness.
This tribe, a close-kitten group, who their stronghold of their cultural norms would become a more closer quintessential example to us need not to be overlooked. For instance, the manner in which they had embraced their language and tradition makes it more endearing. What more? It is all the more remarkable when one consider this group a minority but their culture has far more greater implication and very substantial value to them, more than the supposedly major ones.
This piece would take us to looking into some of their ancient traditional practices and the potency it bore with it, its merits and as well, its demerits. It is only hoped that the discoveries  would go a long way to correct some short-comings done elsewhere.

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Dekina, 28th May, 2017.

Before the advent of the British  colonial administration, the Igala kingdom was traditionally ruled by the Atta and his council of Chiefs. This primitive system of administration was dated as far back as the early mineties. So it was only when the very first group of British colonizers who stepped foot on Igala soil- that was when the Igala divisional evolution began. When the colonial administrators took over the Igala province, they created an unorthodox system of governance. The Igala Native Authority was created, which was headed by the British Authority. The Native Authority was headed by the Atta of Igala himself. He was charged with the task of performing native functions and acting as an intermediary between the British and the Igala populace.
In 1968, the Native Authority was initially split into three main local government councils, Idah, Ankpa and Dekina. Thereafter, in 1977, Bassa was further carved out from Dekina Local Government council and then in 1989, Olamaboro Local Government followed and it was carved out of Ankpa Local Government council and finally Ofu was carved out from ldah Local Government council. And so the local Government councils at that time totaled up to six: – Bassa, Ankpa, Dekina, Idah, Ofu and Olamaboro. These were the very first local Government councils that were mapped out in Igala kingdom during the time of colonization.
It was when the British colonial administrators still held sway that Amana-bogili led the first recorded revolt against some of the stringent and cumbersome rules and regulations of the British. A stoic traditionalist and an ardent custodian of the Igala culture, he was ruled by one passion – to hate virtually everything about the colonial masters. He found fault with their mode of rule and the influence they brought with them. But he was not so successful with the rebellion he had instigated. This colonial friction was evident, not just in Kogi but equally in most parts of the western Ibo states.

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Amana-bogili`s hot-headiness landed him into many chaos with the British administrators but somehow, he always found a way to wriggle out and set himself free. It must be noted that he was not without some supernatural powers. Perharps, it would be note-worthy to mention the spectacular activities of this extra-terrestrial being. With mere proclamation, it was alleged that he could cause a heavy storm to break out or even extinguish one with one magical ware of the arm. He would go about prophesying to his people, he cured the ailing with mere words and killed troublesome ones.

Some even believed he could turn into a wolf to perpetrate some of his nefarious deeds. As such, normalcy was far from his activities and it might unarguably be true to say that his breed was the last of its kind.

It is utter nonsense to believe in the idea that the white man had superior powers over the Blackman. Even in the time of slave trade, Europe was a thousand years behind African civilization in many respects. By his special psychic powers, the Blackman was able to order the physical movement of a load from any part of his land to another to summon rainfall and disappear at will with were incantations”

— Abe Shed, {Daily Times}, August 14, 1974. P15.


And we would be stopping abruptly here, for now. Do keep an eye on our site and be on the lookout for the next part of this article which would bring to you their traditional practices and the roles they play in their different communities.


The Author

Emmanuel Chinaza

Hi! This is Emmanuel Chinaza. A seasoned content writer on all things necessary(it just helps that creativity spurs me on) . An optimist who is very willing to take risks, a big fan of Marcelo Biesla. With my pen, i just might change the world and lest i forget, nothing beats a plate of pounded cassava and Egusi soup!

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