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Most Nigerians are familiar with our country’s three major ethnic groups; Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo – and some minority groups  like the Ijaws. However, few know of the Igalas of Kogi State. This group interestingly boasts of a population size of more than two million natives, and a rich culture worth learning about. Here are a few fascinating facts about the Igalas: Origin: They have been linked to the Igbos, Jukuns, Yorubas, and even Fulanis. Click here to read the fascinating story of their history with Asaba, Delta State. They have also been linked with Igbira, Bini, Idoma and Itsekiri ethnic groups. The Igala kingdom was founded by Abutu- Eje in the 7th century. The kingdom was ruled by nine high officials called the Igala Mela, who were the custodians of the sacred earth shrine. The kingdom survived well into the 19th century, and became a British protectorate in 1901. The name, Igala is said to be a derivative of the Yoruba name for antelope (Igala) by some scholars. These scholars believe that there were many antelopes during the early migration of the Igalas into the land; hence the name. Language: The Igala language belongs to the Yoruboid branch of the Defoid languages (a constituent of the Benue Congo languages). This is the same group the Yoruba and Itsekiri languages belong to, hence, their similarity. Dialects include Ebu, Idah, Ankpa, Dekina, Ogugu and Ibaji. To learn the language, visit Means of livelihood: Some of the locals are fishermen – especially those in the riverine Idah area. However, the larger majority are farmers. Crops grown include yam, cassava, maize, melon, groundnut, guinea corn, beans, millet and benniseed. Leadership: The people are led by a figure called the Attah (“Father” in English). Female rulership is recognized and Igala has had female rulers in the past. In fact, the first Attah was Ebule-Jonu, a woman; she was succeeded by her brother, Agana- Poje. Among the most revered Attahs of the Igala kingdom are Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko and Attah Ameh Oboni. His Royal Majesty, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II currently holds the distinguished position, after succeeding his father in 2013. Tradition: For the purpose of identification, infants from some parts of the kingdom, like Ankpa, receive three deep horizontal cuts on each side of the face, slightly above the corners of their mouths. According to oral tradition, Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered his most beloved daughter, Inikpi to be buried alive in order to ensure that the Igalas win a war of liberation from the Jukuns’ dominance. Presently, her statue stands gracefully in Idah and the Igalas are always quick to point to her as their heroine. Another tradition worthy of note is the belief in the existence of ilẹi (this world) and the ọj’ọna (the afterworld). The ọj’ọna is the world of the ancestors. For the Igala people, the ọj’ọna is a continuation of ilẹi. That is why it is believed that a king in this world is also a king in the hereafter and a slave in this world is also a slave in the hereafter. Religion: The Igalas believe in the existence of Ọjọ ogbẹkwugbẹkwu (“the great God”). This God and their ancestors (Ibekwu) are worshipped diligently with the latter being second in rank. Divinities or mini gods come in third, with Ikpakachi (“river gods”) as a notable example. These deities are celebrated during special festivals. Proverbs: Among the Igalas, many proverbs are used to teach life lessons. Some of them are: alu ma mujon ya fufon (if the lips do not come together, there can never be successful whistling);  omowo katete anyoji adina-n (no single finger can bring lice from the hair); ema tito jugbo katete-n yaw u wowon (if you do not urinate on one spot it would not foam); owo awoto agwawohi, awohi lagwawoto (the right washes the left hand and the left washes the right hand or true love is never one-sided; one good turn deserves another).       About the Writers: Ify Halim is a young Creative and a promoter of values through the force that is writing. Follow her on twitter @MissHalim Ejura Salihu is a writer and editor at Connect Nigeria. She is passionate about Nigeria and impacting lives positively. Connect with her on twitter @icyquin_msc  

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This article was first published on 29th April 2015

Comments (8)

8 thoughts on “7 Interesting Facts About the Igalas You Should Know”

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  • am impressed. nice write up. am a proud igala girl. good to add more knowledge about my origin. cheers. would like to connect with my igala sisters.

  • Thumbs up madam Halima. This write-up is highly fascinating.

  • This is good information but it would have been lovely if we are told of some of their delicacies and perhaps their local wears too. But on the whole, well done.


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