By Opaluwa Ogacheko
I hardly join the cacophony of voices bemoaning the current plight of Igala people in Kogi State in particular and Nigeria in general because some of us had warned our political gladiators so-called afore hand.
I remember a visit that I once paid to late Ad’oja, the great Prince Abubakar Audu in his country home. I was drafted unwillingly by default into embarking on that fateful journey that happened to be my first and only meeting with the late politician.
My friend, a consumate banker and fringe politician at the time had been asked by one of his budding political aspirants to accompany him to the late political scion in his country home to ask for his blessings to run for an office.
I am neither a politician nor a follower of any yet, my friend deemed it sanguine to have my company on that uneventful Sallah day journey. We arrived the ‘big man’s residence safe and sound and were ushered into seats after requisite homilies and exchange of pleasantries (contrary to what I heard that those that visited the late politicians were made to sit on the floor).
Then began mission statement. The late Igala political scion listened to the aspirant and my friend attentively and pledged his support to them. And turning in my direction, he enquired who I was. My friend came to my rescue before I could blunder any response, telling him my name, where I came from in Igala land and my profession.
He wondered why I, a person so highly placed in my profession was not known to him neither had he heard of me. I said it was because of my own personal style and the nature of my profession. Adding that he should not bother if he did not know any of his younger brothers or sisters as all of us knew him compulsorily as it were.
I made to sit down after those words but my friend urged me to say a word or two of advice to both the nubile politician that had come for anointing and the political godfather. I replied that I wish I knew how to advise politicians generally and Igala politicians particularly.
All the same, I encouraged the lad in his political ambition stating that the time was theirs. Turning to Ad’oja, I began to extol his past achievements because I knew from experience that it would have amounted to political perfidy if I glossed over those especially with overly egoistic Nigerian politicians.
I however, urged him to clear the stage for the youths as he and most of his ilks had outlived their political usefulness in Igala land, Kogi State and Nigeria at large.
Instead, I pointed him in the direction of the Nigerian Senate Chambers where spent old military and political forces assemble routinely for midday meditations on behalf of all Nigerians.
I cited late Nelson Mandela as an example and urged Ad’oja to mobilize his political clan to emulate the sterling qualities of the late South African freedom fighter. Was the old man impressed? I doubted. But he nonetheless thanked me and said he had decided to quit the stage for younger politicians ever before I even suggested it.
I was elated but looking round the room, I discovered that others that were present with me betrayed no emotions. They were either not impressed by his remarks or simply swallowed their doubts in silence.
Back in the car on our way out of the late political godfather’s place I re-ignited my enthusiasm over the old man’s response to my advice. My friend looked at me in the face and said, ‘read my lips, the old political horse will run for office of Governor of Kogi State again.’ For the second time, he betrayed no emotion as he spoke. ‘ Ad’oja was only deceiving you in particular with those words’ he concluded. If my friend’s words hit me hard in the face, the drooling remark of one of the political sycophant that we met in the house who wished my friend belonged in a particular religion to step into the shoes of Ad’oja gave me an indication that there was little hope for progress in our land with the crop of Igala politicians that I was seeing.
True to my friends predictions, Ad’oja ran for governorship of Kogi State and was coasting to victory over another Igala man and the incumbent Governor before disaster struck.
He translated before he could be declared winner of the gubernatorial race thereby leaving the prize for political scavengers of all sorts.
Before his demise, the late Ad’oja was said to have pitched tent with Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (and rightly too as his close friend) against the then popular candidate Muhammad Buhari in the race for APC’s presidential ticket.
And in case you don’t know, the Fulanis hardly forgive or forget an offence their soft spoken mien notwithstanding.
Therefore, one can safely conclude that Igala politicians laid the foundation of the current infamy in Kogi State and the national neglect of the race despite the overwhelming support that they gave to President Muhammad Buhari throughout his presidential bids.
Whatever the case, enough of what Igala politicians did or did not do for now. At least, all of us are bearing the brunt of their morbid greed and characteristic treachery.
My main concern at this point is the subtle move to destroy the sacred traditional institution of the Igala people. And no other person than some highly placed Igala sons are behind the evil plot.
We all can recall that the stool of Attah Igala is an exalted one that has existed from as far back as early 17th century. Not only has the sanctity of the clannish succession throne been preserved till date, it has also commanded global respect and adulation thereby making an average free-born Igala man or woman to pride in his ancestry.
The recent hunting journey of the last Attah Igala, HRH Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II is however giving certain Igala political hawks opportunity to desecrate the Attah stool through political manipulations.
Precisely, Chief Edward Onoja, Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s deputy has seen an opportunity to turn the tables and install an unqualified acolyte of his as Attah Igala. He is currently using his exalted office to cow, cajole and manipulate some king makers and traditional rulers in Igala land into adopting the candidate of his choice.
This is to enable him complete the conquest of Igala kingdom that he began several years ago on behalf of Anebira.
However, unbeknownst to him (or may be he is pretending not to know) there is an established procedure for selecting an Attah from the existing 4 ruling houses of Igala royals on rotational basis.
By tradition, a potential Attah must be the eldest male child of a former Attah and must belong to the ruling house whose turn it is to produce an Attah.
Nothing however precludes the eldest son from abdicating for his next older sibling either by mutual consent or on grounds of ill health or if the eldest son is considered unfit to occupy the seat on account of being a social misfit.
In the absence of a male child from a qualified ruling house, the eldest son of the brother of a former Attah could be considered and in the absence of such, a grandson of a former Attah is qualified in that order up to great grandchildren.
Providentially, all these are currently gazzetted under Kogi State Laws in support of established custom and traditions of the Igala people. While the Igala kingmakers are currently busy trying to select the next Attah Igala based on established and documented procedures, Chief Onoja is hell-bent on using his office and money to subvert the procedures for certain selfish reasons.
This portends serious breach of peace and order in the Kingdom as Igala people will surely resist his antics this time around. He may have succeeded in manipulating the political process in Kogi State for personal gains, I can assure him however that he will not succeed with the Igala traditional institution.
This is why I am joining a lot of voices to advise Alhaji Yahaya Bello to watch his deputy carefully before he draws needless bad blood of the Igalas to his administration beyond the one that he orchestrated which Alhaji Yahaya Bello is hard put to manage currently.
I can assure whosoever cares to listen that the Igala nation is in array on this and will defend its sacred traditional institution at any cost within the bounds of the laws of the land. Alhaji Yahaya Bello is an Ebira man and knows what the stool of ‘Ohinoyi’ means to Anebira.
I therefore urge mischief makers, outsiders, politicians and those that do not wish the Igala people well to steer clear of our traditional institution. Again, let Chief Edward Onoja know that as the Igala saying goes, ‘akpanę oñw anę akpai oh.’ Let him that have ears listen to what our ancestors are saying please.
Ogacheko is a Community Mobiliser and Freelance Journalist based in Abuja.
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