The Kogi State government recently lifted the ban and the jinx placed on some cultural practices in Igala land, leading to various feelings and reactions. While some people commended the government for taking a bold step in rooting the traditional institution in the political practices of the state, others, mocking the government, questioned the intelligence or the benefits inherent in the cultural rebirth. In every growing society, divergent opinions on salient issues are rational. It is on the basis of those who received the cultural rebirth of the government of Kogi State with jubilation that I present this article.
We shall go through the prickly thicket of old memories to present the importance of traditional institutions in the political set up of a state or a country. Before the coming of the Europeans to African shore, the traditional rulers, especially among the Hausa/Fulani were of paramount importance, and these rulers enjoyed the enormous loyalty of their subjects. It was therefore not difficult for the colonial masters to govern the people when they took over the mantle of governance of the country to establish continuum through indirect rule system using the established governments of the traditional rulers. The Igbo rejected the indirect rule system because they had no central traditional rulers. All that they had was age grade system, where every man was as equal as his neighbour. This forms the reason the Hausa/Fulani wields a very big political influence on the rest of the major ethnic groups in the country and decide the political fate of many Nigerians today.
Back home, owing to the existence of different views and assertions on the settlements before the Attah Dynasty in Igala Kingdom, and due to lack of adequate historical records, it is impertinent to give the origin of the settlements before the Attah Dynasty any definite date. What is certain is that it dates far to the dim past. Historians, anthropologists, Igala indigenes, Europeans and the government administrators have attempted to fill in these historical gaps and to put the record straight, but their efforts have left it and pushed it even more controversial. From Ukwedeh’s account, it is at least clear that, “the remoteness of the settlements before the Attah Dynasty has not been properly determined historically, but oral tradition, archaeological and anthropological records point to dates about the 8thor 9thcentury A.D.” Six settlements had existed before the emergence of the Attah Dynasty in Igala Kingdom. These are as follow:
A chief is defined as “a person whose authority and control is recognized by a community and is appointed or graded in accordance with the law on chiefs and traditional officeholders for the state or any other law applicable in the state.” And a traditional ruler, on the other hand could be adequately described as “a person who by virtue of his ancestry, occupies the throne of an area or who has been appointed to it in accordance with the customs and traditional authority over the people of the area.”
As can easily be inferred from the above descriptions, chiefs and traditional rulers are traditional title holders. As the case may be, they occupy ancestral stools. And as a matter of fact, their offices carry out some customary and traditional practices such as ritual sacrifice on behalf of the people.The functions of the Igala Chiefs or traditional rulers can never be overemphasized, and it ranges from the socio-cultural and economic aspects to the spiritual and religious.
In the socio-cultural aspect, they act as custodians of the tradition and culture of the people and they explain the customs of the people to the younger generation; they are the link between the living and the dead and are fathers of the community. They preside over festivals and important public gatherings of a town or community. They are the custodians of the land and they take care of the land for the people. They help in making laws in their respective communities; they also maintain peace, order and security in their communities and check any threat to peace in the community. They assist the government in political education and socialization of the rural populace.
Economically, they assist the local and state governments in the collection of taxes for their subjects. They also assist the government in mobilizing the rural populace for rural development and from the spiritual angle; they maintain religious harmony in their domain.
Similarly, the traditional rulers are the government at the grassroots. They live closer to the people than the local government chairmen. They therefore enjoy the loyalty of their subjects, and in some cases, direct the people’s affairs. These rulers know their subjects and can sometimes influence their decision. A traditional ruler can declare a subject a persona non-traditional if he sees the subject as a nuisance.
It is in this benefit that the recent Kogi State Government’s decision to rebirth the dead and buried traditional practices is welcomed with all funfair by those who know the value and influence of traditional rulers on the political fortune of a society.
In some districts, communities and towns in Igala land, these rulers are either weak or not available altogether. While many of them had their political and governmental power whittled away by the past governments, some of them are dead and their thrones are vacant. For example, Alloma in Igalaogba district, the district that had its province as old as Kano Sate lost its district head, and the throne is vacant till date;HRH.Simon, Yakubu Shuaibu Onu of Ejule was murdered, and his throne has not been filled till date; the head of Ojikpadala Egume, HRH. Isah Edime, was murdered, and the throne is still vacant;the Ejeh of Ugwolawo’s seat is vacant, the Ejeh Olamaboro’s seat is vacant, the Ejeh of Ankpa’s seat is still vacant, and many other places where the heads are long dead and replacements have not been made since then. The appointment and replacements are awaiting government’s actions. The emphasis of this writing is on the Ejeh of Ankpa Throne.
Historically, The Ejeh of Ankpa’s stool was established as a result of Jihadists’ invasion of Ankpa in1804. During this period, Hausa men were selected as rulers of Ankpa Kingdom at the expense of Igala natives. An indigenous Sarki, Adaji om’ Itodo Akpa was installed after a series of Hausa rulers. After the death of Adaji Om’Itodo Akpa, a long battle followed, and then the throne was recreated in 1968 by the then government of Kwara State as a measure to resolve the lingering crisis between the Hausa and Igala people. Alhaji Yakubu, the only son of Adaji Om’ Itodo Akpa of Atiyele Dynasty succeeded his father, and the title of the throne was changed from sarki or emir to Ejeh in order to have local flavor (Igalanised) and also as a sign of the perpetuation of the name of the founder of Igala Kingdom, Abutu Ejeh of the Jukun descent.
With the government’s decision in 1991, the Ejeh stool was proliferated to the rest of Igala clan to head the local government traditional councils in Dekina, Ofu, Olamaboro, etc. The office of “Ejeh” came into force after the government’s decision. The Ejehs then were classed as first class and second class respectively. The Ejeh of Ankpa was placed in the first class status because of it long establishment statue and the importance of Ankpa to Igala land .
Ankpa is one of the largest local governments in Kogi East, and its influential political disposition places it on the pedestal of unequalled status and supremacy. Ankpa is non-partial and non-bias, especially in politics thanks to its heavy reliance on Islamic religion which guides the people and the land to always do what is right. The people of Ankpa are akin to the traditional Hausa/Fulani people who value their leaders much as they value their lives and religion. History has it that Ankpa people have some ancestral linkage with the Hausa. This means that Ankpa relies on the comfort of exercise of power of traditional rulers, Ejeh precisely, to take some decisions that have formative social, economic and political effects.
If the current government must attain victory at the polls, garnering votes from Ankpa, the need to explore the immediate benefits of installing the Ejeh of Ankpa as a matter of urgency should be prioritized. The Onus and Ejehs of other towns, communities and districts should also be enthroned by the government in order to derive the benefits inherent in them for the betterment of the society at large. As the people support their rulers, so shall they support the government that birth them. That will also give peace and tranquillity a chance in each of these towns and local government areas.
Chief Edward Onoja, Achuba Simon and other thoroughbred Igala sons and daughters who respect the elders and know the value of traditional institutions should impress on the government so that Igala land may derive the benefits inherent in these rulers. Since the processes leading to the installation of a ruler is tedious, involving consultations, selection and approval by the government, we implore the government to expedite actions that may lead to the quick enthronement of these rulers within the shortest time possible. While the subjects of these towns and villages await the government’s decision, many of them are willing to subject their coronets to any governor that institutionalize them. It is a golden opportunity for the current government of Kogi State to enthrone these traditional rulers following his earliest good gesture of cultural rebirth so that he may take the glory and the support of the people forever.