By Engr. Lawrence Ankpa
There is an ominous disquiet in Igala land currently that accentuate the already ominous fate of the land. Politically, we have timidly witnessed a degenerate and clannish form of governance being hoisted on us as Igala people by the powers that be in Nigeria. The same powers are yet to admit their colossal failure in governance across the entire spectrum of Nigeria’s polity.
Governor Yahaya Bello and his Kogi State have both become emblematic of and sordid metaphors of APC governance of Nigeria. And as we trepidly watch the erosion of Igala’s political base by Yahaya Bello and his Ebirra clan of course with the tacit support of many scavenging political jobbers among us, the sacred Igala traditional institution is under attack by yet another group of linchpins from Igala royalty. What has befallen us as Igala people all of a sudden that our center can no longer hold? No! Please tell me how some unseen principalities have so invaded our mortal beings that our house is collapsing like a snow house on a beach?
Not only have we lost many of our prominent personalities recently; including our paramount ruler and Attah Igala, but we are also enmeshed in some macabre dance of succession to the exalted stool of Attah Igala currently.
Many had thought that the age long rivalry and fight among the four ruling houses of Igala dynasty was going to once again add to the precarious socio-political situation of Igala land. To everyone’s relief, the four ruling houses narrowed their choice to ‘Aju Am’acho’ ruling house and ‘Opaluwa Oguche Akpa’s household. It was therefore left for the surviving sons of Opaluwa Oguche Akpa to choose the most suitable person among them based on seniority, certain personal qualities, acceptability and traditional prescriptions all in conformity with extant laws on Chieftancy Affairs of Kogi State.
Exercising the prerogative devolved to them therefore, the sons of Opaluwa Oguche Akpa that were interested in occupying the vacant stool of Atta Igala indicated their interests to their clan elders. They jostled and consulted among themselves including obtaining the endorsement of all the four ruling houses.
The head of Opaluwa Oguche Akpa royal house thereafter forwarded their choices in order of preference to the Igala Kingmakers ably embodied in the ‘Etemahi’ traditional stool of Igala-Mela. Etemahi in turn invited the contestants to appear before him and other kingmakers in council for rendition of ‘proverbs’ (Igala euphemism for oral interview).
Each of the contestants appeared for rendition of proverbs according to tradition after which Etemahi’s council deliberated further on the contestants and narrowed their choice to the most suitable candidate. The kingmakers having arrived at a choice unanimously, the Etemahi communicated the choice to Igala Area Traditional Council (IATC) for perusal, endorsement and subsequent transmission to Kogi State
Government for approval. All these processes proceeded peacefully and quietly as tradition demands without any hitch. But when the IATC received the Kingmakers report, it alluded to having received many petitions that could lead to disquiet in the succession process. It therefore constituted a sub-committee from among IATC members under the leadership of the traditional ruler of Abejukolo-Ife, the ‘Ojogba of Ife’.
This is however contrary to established tradition whereby in such a case, the report with whatever petitions arose are returned to the Kingmakers for deliberation and subsequent decisions that would have addressed the petitions. The constitution of a sub-committee of IATC to review the work of Igala traditional Kingmakers is not only an aberration but also sacrilegious.
According to information received, the Ojogba sub-committee reviewed the Kingmakers report and observed that the Kingmakers followed due process in arriving at their decision. It however recommended that in the light of certain weighty petitions that arose from the succession process, IATC should return the report to the Kingmakers to revisit their decision against the backdrop of the weighty petitions.
To everyone’s surprise, the IATC did not accept the recommendation of Ojogba Ife’s committee. Rather, the Eje of Dekina in his capacity as acting Attah Igala and Chairman of IATC summoned IATC members to the Palace of Attah Igala ostensibly to deliberate on the report of the Igala Kingmakers and subsequent review report thereon. When the IATC members converged at the Palace, the Eje of Dekina neither listened to any opinion nor brooded any dissent but rather went ahead to announce the person of his own choice as next Attah Igala. This yet is another aberration in established traditional process of choosing a successor to occupy a vacant stool of Attah Igala.
It also contravenes the law of the State which relies on established traditions and customs of the peoples of Kogi State as the basis for appointment of traditional rulers in the State. This aberrant acts and impunity of the IATC is capable of bringing the exalted stool of Attah Igala to ridicule. They are also capable of breaching the fragile peace in Igala land in the face of mounting insecurity in Nigeria generally.
I therefore call on all Igala sons and daughters both at home and in diaspora to lend a righteous voice to the call on the IATC as currently constituted to redeem itself by following established tradition and law strictly in the choice of next Attah Igala. They should also disregard the current choice that it has made and any announcement thereto. I, by this write up put the Kogi State Government on notice that any decision emanating from the current autocratic pronouncement of Ejeh of Dekina and acting Chairman of IATC in relation to choice of next Attah Igala is not only unlawful but sacrilegious and unacceptable to the Igala people.
All the Igala people demand in the process of succession to the exalted stool of Attah Igala is transparency, fairness, justice and adherence to established traditions and extant laws by both the Kingmakers and the IATC. I don’t want to accept the commonly held believe of compromises amid vested interests among IATC members.
My take is that we as Igala people will not sit idly and watch our traditional institution being desecrated and destroyed by any person or group of persons. A stitch in time they say saves nine.
Lawrence Ankpa writes from Ankpa, Kogi State.
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