Situated in the eastern part of the river Niger and Benue confluence, and also extending across the Niger in Lokoja, Kogi state of Nigeria, lies the homeland of the Igala people.
The ruling figure of the Igala ethnic group is known as the ‘Attah.’ The word Attah simply means 'Father' and the full title of the ruler is 'Attah Igala', meaning, the Father of Igalas (the Igala word for King is Onu).
Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko and Attah Ameh Oboni are two of the most revered Attahs of the Igala kingdom. Legend has it that Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered his most beloved daughter, Princess Inikpi by burying her alive to ensure that the Igalas win a war of liberation from the Jukuns' dominance.
Princess Inikpi statute presently stands with grace at Idah (Igala nation headquarter). She is ever pointed as a heroine.
And, Attah Ameh Oboni is known to be very brave and resolute. His stiff resistance against the British and his struggles to uphold some ancient traditions of the Igalas stands him out. He died by committing suicide in other to forestall the plan of the British who wanted him deposed and exiled.
Also, in Igala tradition, 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, as a way of identifying each other. This practice which was prevalent during inter-tribal wars in the 17th and 18th century has now become less common.
What is the belief system of the Igala people?
The Igala people believes in the supremacy of Ojo Ogbekwugbekwu ( God Almighty). They also worship the deities of their ancestors with diligence. River gods and goddesses are celebrated among others during special festivals.
In addition, the Igala people also believes in the existence of Ilei (this world) and Oj’ona (the afterworld). The Oj’ona is the world of the ancestors and it is also believed that the Oj’ona is a continuation of ilei.
The marriage procedures commence after the agreement between the husband and wife to be. Then after, both families run a background check on the family of their in-law to be. This is done because they believe any trait found in his/her family will most likely be part of him/her.
And after a satisfied check, the family of the man selects some well-respected members of the family to go and ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. The lady’s family will be informed about their coming through their daughter.
Following this is the introduction, which is done in three phases namely; the introduction for her paternal family, that of her maternal family and the lady’s introduction. The introduction of the paternal and maternal family is the same, the only difference is just the name.
On the day of the marriage, the two families and their loved ones assemble to witness the matrimonial bonding. In accordance with the marriage rites, a mat is laid and a new wrapper spread on the mat. The bride will then come in the group of her friends.
They will come dancing to the music been played and greet the families. They will go back and she would change cloth and repeat the same greeting and go back again. She would come back again but this time only with two of her best friends and stand on the mat.
They would be asked to sit and her friends will say her waist aches her and so, they can’t sit. The groom’s family will then keep spraying money on them until they feel like sitting.
The groom, on the other hand dresses in the same cloth that the bride is putting on, comes with two of his friends. They will at first refuse sitting waiting for the bride family to spray them with money but of course, that won’t be happening; rather, it is his own families and friends that will do the spraying. they will sit down on their own mat with a wrapper also spread on it.
Thereafter, the groom’s family spokesperson will come with kola nut, bride price, and drinks and present them to the mediators of the bride family asking them to give them their daughter for their son. The bride family would now ask their daughter if they should accept it and she will affirm to it.
They will now accept it telling their daughters they don’t eat kola nut twice and counsels the groom’s family that the feeding, clothing, and health of their daughter will be their responsibility henceforth. They would also warn them not to turn their daughter into a punching bag. They would now formally give their daughter out for marriage.
With this, the celebration will now commence in full.
What is the traditional wear of Igala people?
One interesting thing about the Igala traditional wears is that, instead of focusing on the nature or style of the attire, colours are used as a traditional symbol.
According to the elders of Igala tribe, black and yellow colours means a lot to the history of Igala Kingdom. Black colour shows the richness of Igala land. It's connected with minerals, crude oil, and fertility of the land. Black colour symbolizes prosperity and wealth for Igala people. Yellow colour symbolizes hospitality of the tribe. It also represents gold as a symbol of prosperity and richness.
Brief history of the Igala people
It is essential to state here that Igala and Igbo have important historical, ancestral and cultural relationships. Eri who is said to have migrated from southern Egypt through the Igala area, settled, and established a community in the middle of Anambra river valley (at Eri-aka) in Aguleri where he married two wives. The first wife, Nneamakụ, bore him five children.
The first was Agulu, the founder of Aguleri (The ancestral head of Eri Kingdom clans) (the Ezeora dynasty that has produced 34 kings till date in Enugwu Aguleri), the second was Menri, the founder of Umunri / Kingdom of Nri, followed by Onugu, the founder of Igbariam and Ogbodulu, the founder of Amanuke.
The fifth one was a daughter called Iguedo, who is said to have borne the founders of Nteje, and Awkuzu, Ogbunike, Umuleri, Nando, and Ogboli in Onitsha. As one of the children of Eri, Menri migrated from Aguleri, which was and still is, the ancestral temple of the entire Umu-Eri (Umu-Eri and Umu-Nri). His second wife Oboli begot Ọnọja, the only son who founded the Igala Kingdom in Kogi State.
ALSO READ: History and culture of the Itsekiri people