The Attah Institution:
Attah means father, he is the father of the people. The institution started only with the Igala (Attah Igala) but later became a household name with even amongst other tribes.
Attah institution was fashioned after God. He was said to have absolute powers. Just as God is supreme and his decision is final so was Attah before colonial rule. The women greet him:- Amideju, mideju, ami leku, mileku. (if Attah says I should live, I live, if he say I should die, I die). All Attahs profess this that they are creatures of God and that they themselves are gods. In the palace (court) of Attah, no false witness comes there even up till today. If they do, something mysterious happens to the person that he would be recognized as a false witness.
No witches or wizard flies over Opu Attah ( Attah’s palace). Often a time witches that tried fell down and turned into naked human beings or half human. Those who deliberately went after married women up till date cannot pass Opuata at night time; they will be bitten by a snake that will not be healed.
The institution was founded on good virtues and democratic principles: onu noja nonu (that is, the king owns the people and the people own the king). It is a seat of government of equity, justice and fair play. Being fashioned after God, they also behave like God; they command blessings rain to fall, bountiful harvest and healthy living of the people.
Just as it was written in the holy book, that God gave his only begotten son to die for the whole world, it was only in Igala kingdom that we heard that two attahs at different periods of time gave their own beloved daughters to die for Igala land in order to survive invasion by the enemies.
The daughters who willingly surrender themselves to be buried alive for the land that the people be saved were: Omodoko and Inikpi. This type of sacrifice is quite different from occult people in that the occults will never consult their victim: who are usually their beloved ones. Omodoko was buried by the Inachalo river.
This happened during the Igala/Jukun war where Igalas used what could be termed today as biological warfare. Inachalo water was poisoned knowing well that when the enemies come they could camp by the river Inachalo. Before it was morning, those who drank the water started purging and dying and Attah Ayegba falling upon them in their weakened state, was able to inflict a crushing defeat, pursuing them with the aid of Kukuruku mercenaries right back to the river Ocheku.
Here was said a truce was called of Ojogu the defeated leader of the “Ohegula Apa” (Jukun) the latter accepted this river as the boundary and renouncing all further claims to suzerainty.
Those who died at Idah were buried in a mass grave called, “Ugbugu-Apa.” Igala got Pawpaw from Jukuns as well as sweet potatoes Echi Ibo Apa shortened Echibakpa and Uchu Apa.
Igala also had a war with the Binis defeating Binis and carried the mask, which hitherto Oba of Benin used to wear. It means in the spiritual realm that Attah Igala is wearing the head of Oba of Benin. It was called, Eju-beju ailo; one other thing alien to the Igala then which was among items carried from Oba’s palace was cocoa nut was not known to Igalas. They describe it as resembling palm kernel belonging to Oba of Benin.
The second war between the Igala and Benin was the war Inikpi- the daughter of Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered herself to be buried alive in order that all Igalas should live as free borns. After the defeat in the first war, which they (Binis) suffered in the hands of the Igalas, no stone was left unturnrd in the second war. Firstly, they let loosed their beautiful girlsn to go naked into the camp of the Igala soldiers in an attempt to defile them. Secondly they hired the service of the Portuguese mercenaries who fought on the side of the Binis. The Igala soldiers who went to invade Bini retreated but could not come back home. They were afraid of returning because they did not abide by the instruction given them by their king. Then, they settled by the river banks near Idah (Iba-aji).
The Igala Idiom also resonates in the archaeological writing by Thurston Shaw in Ntri (Shaw, 1977, 98). Infact, during the 1855 expedition Hutchinson noted that the new king of Aboh had to go to Idah to consult with the Attah. In 1515, from Portuguese missionary records, we know that the Igala fought fiercely and gallantly in war that made the Oba of Benin to request the aid of the Portugal mercenaries to support the war with ammunition to describe the strength and skill of Galla people in war. Under the colonial rule, there was a conference held in Lagos to discuss the country’s problems: CONF. NO. 80/1920: DIOCESAN SYNOD OF LAGOS, MOTIONS PASSED IN 1920. MINUTE BY H.R. PALMER, DATED: 28/9/21. Please read some of these motions passed and implemented on our people; Jukun Igala and Aro. You may be bothered why some of these decisions were taken against a particular group just because they were superior to other groups they wanted to protect! (iii) “ The country I wish to refer to, more particularly is the country between the Benue and the sea.
The missions probably knew years ago a fact which the Government as Government at all events, has never recognized, and which has only recently been clearly brought to light here-viz, that the whole of this country is dominated in an ethnical and spiritual sense by one race- though that the race is called by three different names Jukuns, Igala and Aro” (vi) “the position is briefly that Igala region are derived from Wukari, is the Egyptian religion of Meros, i.e worship of Isis, Osiris and Ammon” (xvi) “the Jukuns have for many years been painted (meaning by missionaries) as an utterly decadent caste of druken and diseased type- and I was recently considerably astouned to find that the ‘elder’ of Wukari both in physical type and in intelligence compared favorably with any, and this set of Chiefs that I have seen; but like the Aros and Igala too. They must live and if we render it difficult for them to live or in other words ‘depress’ them- as was done in the case of the Aro-‘depress’ them to turn their attention to ‘chicanery and crime, – for their ability to do so anywhere between Bornu and the sea is undoupted” (xv) “ That this is not mere theory may be seen from the case of Idah- where after something like 30 years of suppression the Igala have in two years put their house in very fair order – and whereas only two months the resident proposed to leave the whole of the rail way construction between the S.P. and the Munshi country to southern provinces labour because of supposed ‘difficulty’ of Okpotos (Akpotos), yet today merely using the prestige of the Attah and asking him to visit the line, he is able to telegraph that he is able to supply all the labor wanted, and does not even need the southern provinces labor which the LGSP was good enough to offer for the work between the S.P border and Igumale”.
Please, read again carefully in order for you to see the magnitude of conspiracies against our people. Article (viii) “The jukuns (Apa) and Igala and Aro still dominate this part of Nigeria by intellectual superiority. The superiority and influence is there whatever the Government is prepared to try the policy of giving these races legitimate outlet for their ascendancy, and use them as a ‘contact’ with lower grade races, or is going to pursue a policy of repression or at events non-support”. These have been a war against our people just because of our intelligence and superiority over other races!
Colonial rule brought lots of social dislocations in many part of Africa. In Igala land, the experience was very bitter. In 1906, Igala land was segmented into two spheres of political regions. Idah the capital of Igala kingdom fell under Onitsha province of the southern protectorate while the rest of Igala land was in the northern protectorate. Attah Ocheje Onapka, whose kingdom was divided fought to regain the integrity of the divided kingdom, rather he was disgraced, banished and died heartbroken at Asaba in 1903.
The worst destruction of that time in history was that non-royals and aliens were installed in oppositions to Attah in different part of Igala land most notably Hausa men- Sherif Abu. Onu Ankpa: Umar Meliga, Onu Ajobi (Dekina); Mahmudu, Onu Abejukolo; and Mamn Lafia, Onu Ojoku. However, this event came to its peak following the tyranny of the installed Onu Dekina, Ahmodu, a Yoruba man, who was ridiculing and challenging the authority of the Attah institution even claiming a right to the Attah throne in Idah. This was the direct cause of the 1916-1917 Mahionu war in Biraidu (Abocho) district leading to the Igala fighting against their subjugation, fragmentation and tyranny.
This affair led to the resistances and agitations evoking the restoration of the Igala land as one holistic entity. In those days, an Attah does not need a boat to cross rivers; a car to travel and so on war, Only three soldiers could go and destroy a whole city in an invisible operation. Attah’s fame and influence spread so wide to many nations that we started having: (i) Attah Turk”. The traditional leader of Republic of Turkey (current title). (ii) Ata-Gala of Yemen-one of Arabian countries (current title). (iii) Ata of Oshogbo in Osun State (current title). (iv) Attah of Eket Akwa-ibom State (current title). (v) Attah Awka in Anambra State. through the relationship we were introduced to Ugba-Amoka. The only Monument left at Awka today is Attah house. (vi) Attah of Owerri Imo State. The only monument left there today is the Attah Local Government area in Owerri north and some “Onu Igbo” tittles. (vii) Atigara of Nembe – a coastal town in Rivers State (current title). (viii) Attah of Egbira land. Egbira got their independence along with the Idoma and Tivs in 1947 from the Igala kingdom. Each of them has produced three or four chiefs since then. (ix) Attah Ayede of Ekiti in Ekiti State, Nigeria (current title). (x) Atta of Cape coast in Ghana, West Africa (current title). (xi) Atta of Ugaga kingdom, Nasarawa State, Nigeria. (current title).
CC 4RM “THE FIRST NIGERIA PEOPLE” BY DR. JACOB ABDULLAHI