Friday 17 December 2021


"...That the people of Igala have a traditional link with the Benin kingdom is indubitable. There abound theories for instance, that support a Benin origin of Igala kingship. However, there was already in existence indigenous Igala people with their kingship systems before the arrival of the Benin kings. But it must be understood that at some stage of Igala history, the Benin people wielded some power of influence over them. The difference in their system of government alone is enough reason to prove that it is never true to say the entire Igala originated from Benin..."(Rev. Fr.Fidelis Egbonu,2001).



History can be refer to the academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyse a sequence of pastevents, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. IGALA AND YORUBA Historians sometimes debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as end in itself and as a way of providing “perspective” on the problems of the present.There is no doubt whatsoever that Oduduwa is the progenitor of the Yoruba people. Controversy about the origin of Oduduwa should be clarified using the Igala oral history. According to Acheneje Alfa ,,,Oral history is passed from generation & generation through story telling (alo ), songs (eli) and proverbs (ita or akpo ). The fact that the white settlers initially wrote our history for us, made it very clumsy and unbelievable , the level of distortion came from the person that narrated the story . Because of the varying opinions about the personality of ‘Oduduwa’ , there is therefore a compelling mandate to put the facts on the table of public opinions for accurate and intelligent assessment of these bare pieces of information.


Oduduwa is believed by the Igalas to have originated from Benin the present Edo state capital (Bini Kingdom ). His real name was Ekaladeran. Igala Kingdom share boundary with Benin. Infact , it is the River Niger that separated in parts the two great kingdoms .

Instances of Igala / Bini Kingdom relationships are too remarkable to be ignored. Taking into account the difference in the two languages , a closer study of the two courts at Idah and Benin would reveal more evidence to prove the connection of the two kingdoms.

Special class of notables directly appointed by the Attah under the title of Edibo : at Benin it is almost exactly the equivalent class of confidential servant of the Oba known as Eghaivbo. Another significant tie is to be found in the titles given to Oba-elect and his counterpart the Attah -elect. The next in succession to the reigning Oba at Benin held the title of crown Prince or Ediaiken . No such position is accorded to the successor to the reigning Attah, but on the death of an Attah, his successor is saluted by a special title; until such time as he has been ceremonially installed as Attah he is known as the Adokanya.

Turning to the great officials who formed the immediate entourage of the Attah Igala and Oba of Benin, there is a marked similarity in the titles that can be hardly accidental.

Igala Kingdom Benin Kingdom

Achadu Oshodi

Ondoma Attah Ojoma

Amana Attah Imara

Omakoji Attah Ojiame

Omalogba Ologboshere

Ochai Attah Iyashe

Even more apparent in their connection is the title given to the chief festival of the year , IGU at Benin and EGU at Idah. The events which led to Oduduwa’ s escape from Benin was that; he was earmarked then , to be the next Oba of Benin , but the other contestant to the same throne seems to be stronger than him . And Oduduwa felt that his life would not be saved staying in the land . The battle for leadership as it was in those days even today in some traditions was and is always a fierce battle.

Actually, he was a prince from the Benin ruling class (royal family ). For this reason, he had to prepare and escape for his dear life.

Oduduwa had a fearful mind and that may be the reason why many Yorubas do fear . He crossed the river Niger to the Igala land located towards the northeastern part of Benin. He was found wandering in the bush by hunters and was brought to the palace. His appearance was not like that of a poor but of a noble and rich person. When they tried to find out about his origin, he refused to disclose it. As it has been in the tradition of the Igalas , any stranger or strange thing(s ) found must be brought to the palace of the supreme ruler of the land , at the headquarter of the Igala kingdom (Idah).


For at least about a thousand of years preceding Attah’ s institution was Igalamela ’ s dynasty. This means that nine Igala Chiefs or Judges meet to take decision concerning any matter. It is very interesting to learn about this democratic setting as at that primitive age. This nine juries vote on certain matters with a clear winner emerging . A monument put in place in remembrance of these historical facts was the creation of Igalamela / Odolu Local Government Area with the headquarters at Ajaka in the present Kogi State of Nigeria ; and after which was the establishment of Attah’ s institution . Attah means father and is the only supreme authority in the kingdom . Oduduwa was led to Attah’ s palace were the Attah also tried to establish his origin but he did not disclose his origin. Then Attah passed a verdict that he should be allowed to stay in the land and gave him a name “ Oduduwa”. ‘ Oodu’ means (Lord ). “ Duwa ” means (Bring). That is “ The Lord brought him ” or “ he was brought by God ” . While Igala says muwa for a moving object. “ Mu” is “ catch ” . “ wa ” is “ come ”. “ Muwa ” is “ catch and bring”.

The plural of “ duwa” is “ kowa ” or “ koma wa ” while that of “ muwa ” is “ muma wa ” (catch them and bring). Oduduwa to be regarded and accorded the type of acceptance given to him then , suggested that he must have displayed some level of spiritual power or he was just being favoured.

If you ask any Yoruba man about the meaning of “ Oduduwa”, he finds it difficult to explain in vivid term the meaning . Oduduwa then settled in a place, which he named “ Ife ”. Ife is a District in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State in Nigeria with the headquarters at Abejukolo . Abejukolo (iba aji kolo) means , “ a town or place located near a river and surrounded by other rivers .

He named the place, stayed in the place, married Igala wives and gave birth to many children. Ife (Ola m ’ ife), meaning “ I am clean” “ my body is clean”. Since he was the only person that left Benin to Igala land , the first thing he did was to learn the language in order to communicate with the people . Oduduwa then spoke Igala language with his wives, children and the people . This is the reason why Igala words constitute about seventy five percent (75 % ) of Yoruba spoken words.

The people of Ife are mostly dark in complexion . Strong , averagely tall intelligent and musically talented . The title of the chief of Ife is called “ OJOGBA” . It was only that chiefdom that attempts to forcefully overthrow one of the Attah’ s through war . It should be noted that the making of an Attah is never done through war or conquest but through a peaceful selection and rotation between the royal families or ruling classes. This Chief made attempt and almost succeeded. If the war had continued a day longer , maybe he would have won, hence the “ Ojogba” which means it was God ’ s intervention or it was God that saved Attah’ s throne if not he would have become Attah.

There was another instance, when one of the Attah’ s was touring Ife District were hoodlums under the cover of an early morning dews attacked him . That made the Attah to curse the district against having dew and up till date the area has never witnessed any dew . He is the only chief that does not bend down for an Attah.

Oduduwa could not stay in Igala land to achieve his royal ambition and for that reason, he then decided to relocate to another area where he could establish his own dynasty and rule his people . Oduduwa moved with his people to the West and dwelt in a place, which is also called ‘ Ife ’ . It was later referred to as Ile – Ife meaning gain from Ife because of his achievements from Ife land (ile = gain in Igala Language). Just as we have Ibadan in Oyo State located towards the West of Ile – Ife in Osun State, there is also an ancient town called Ibado (Ibadan ) located towards the South- West of Ife in Igala land ; it is also called Ibado – Akpacha because it grew in size to meet another town called Akpacha.

Oduduwa was a nobleman, an embodiment of spiritual power. He left Benin because of fear but at the time of his stay in Igala land he acquired a lot of spiritual powers. The soil composition , natural vegetation and the weather of Ife in Igala land and that of Yoruba are almost the same.

They also share common farm produce and economic trees like Iroko (uloko) and other timbers, palm trees (Ekpe ) although fewer in the west. Common farm produce like yam (uchu), cocoyam (ikachi), banana (ogede), cocoa, coffee, kolanuts (obi ) and so on.

He ruled his people well and peole liked him. He stood against any opposition and led his people to victory in the period of wars (ogwu ). As time went by , he was taken to be a ‘ god ’ because his name means ‘somebody that came from the Lord or God ’ , and also for that fact he was not linked with an earthly father, that is no paternal or even maternal linkage. Earlier on he decided not to disclose his identity because he feared being deported .

All these accounted for the people’s belief that Oduduwa descended from heaven with a chain and landed at Ile – Ife. These were just human imaginations of a man without an earthly background . The strongest reason could still be the meaning of his name . “ Oodu- duwa” “ Odu ” in Igala refers to “ Masters” as in slave and master “ My Lord” Odumi. Using bio chronological dating, these event took place at about 2 , 000 (two thousand) years ago. The belief by some Yorubas that Oduduwa descended from heaven and landed in Ile – Ife was a myth , which should be discouraged. It is unrealistic for the story to be told and believed by anybody.

If it were possible , Christ and Prophets (Messengers of God ) would have come from heaven the same way it was said Oduduwa came . There’ s nobody on earth that ever descended from heaven , even Satan ; and all his spiritual beings only manifest in darkness or in secret because the whole world was given to the sons of man to dominate and inherit .

That is why other spiritual beings chosen to come to the world through man or carry their activities through man. One of the reasons why the people believed he came from heaven apart from the fact that his name depicted a man that came from God was that, his name was the only name , which is impossible to establish his father’ s name .

The people spread so vast and were so blessed . Oduduwa’ s reputation also spread all around . They were never defeated in any war . His vast knowledge in the use of ifa (originally an Igala invention ) was of a great help to him, because it is believed that Ifa foresees or discerns the future and provides solutions to many problems . As time progressed , his people (Binis ) heard about his fame and sent delegates to Ile – Ife . They recognized and confirmed that it was Ekalederan, the prince of Benin royal family who ran away from home many years ago . Surprisingly , the name has changed from Ekalederan to Oduduwa.

He had many children. The first – born was Okobi meaning in Igala that “ I gave birth to him on the farm ” (Oko ubi ). Anybody that ran away from home is referred to by our people that he ran into the farm or bush . Another one called Oramnyan (Olami nyo) meaning , “ my body is good” . This was to describe how favoured and lucky he was in foreign land . 

His people begged him to come Benin and rule them again in order to regain the chance he lost to becoming the Oba of Benin. He refused on account of old age. However , he agreed to send one of his sons Oraminyan (the last born ) to rule them as Oba of Benin.

Oraminyan then left Ile – Ife and became the Oba of Benin. This was under a mutual understanding and cordial arrangement in compensation to the same position he lost. It was not done through any war . But when he came to Benin as the new Oba , the first problem was communication. There was a serious language problem.


The new Oba could not speak Bini (Edo ) language . The story making news was the language he was speaking. The echo of answers to the query was that “ he was speaking the mother’ s tongues ” that is; it was “ Iye Oba’ s language ” . The mother of Oraminyan was an Igala woman (oduduwa wife ). Bini (Edo ) word for mother is “ Iye” language (ewo ), Oba (King). When we combine these Bini (Edo ) words together , – “ Iye” “ ewo ” “ Oba” , we then have Yoruba.

Yoruba people call themselves ‘YOOBA’ having the same sound with Bini words. This is how Yoruba language came about . Up till today Bini (Edo ) still call Yoruba people as Iyoba (Oba ’ s mother). The Igala call Yoruba as Iyaji from an exclamative reaction; Iye ajji ! Meaning ’ “ the mother cannot ” .

After the abolition of slave trade in 1807, by Williams Wilberforce , slaves were returned from Europe and America to Africa. They were dumped at the coastal lines of West Africa. The Government of Great Britain set up British Royal Navy to monitor the stoppage of slave business . Since 1807 to 1831, the Royal Navy was on the Atlantic Ocean to enforce compliance of the abolition . Some were liberated from the human cargo ship on their way to America and Europe . The returnees were so large that they formed a country called Liberia with its capital at Freetown. Those they dropped around areas like Ghana , Ivory Coast and others on the shorelines formed the various countries we have in West Africa today . Those that were dropped in Badagry and Lagos areas infiltrated into Yorubas and made the population of Yorubas higher than any other ethnic group in Nigeria therefore becoming a threat to the Igalas , the only most powerful kingdom in Nigeria after defeating their brothers; Jukuns and Benin Kingdom . Rumours started carrying it that Yorubas would invade Idah because of their massacre population , the response was that , we are their mothers, mothers cannot do that! (Awa chiyema ; Iya ajji ). Interestingly, Hausa , Nupe and Egbira called them Iyaji or Eyagi. That is to say Hausa later had contact with Yorubas after Igala had named them. Iye (mother) is common to Igala , Yoruba and Edo .

This research work took our team to the palace of Alafin Oyo where it was confirmed that the mother of Oraminyan was an Igala woman from Nupe land . Oraminyan continued to rule Binis until he was dissatisfied with them. Apart from the language problem he discovered that the people were full with many troubles . He (Oraminyan ) left Benin to Oyo where he founded the Oyo Empire then became the Alaafin. Alaafin stool is number one ruler in the whole of Yoruba land .

It is not in contention that Yorubas are the most populous single ethnic group in Nigeria . Yoruba language is spoken in some countries in West Africa. Yoruba culture spread in Nigeria and even far into the Caribbean country of Cuba. Ile – Ife is regarded as the spiritual home of Yoruba race . Oduduwa transferred and conferred the mantleship of leadership to Oraminyan and back him up spiritually from Ile – Ife before he died .

There was a war which he needed assistance for full confidence of victory. He had to contact his brother Sango to come and help him fight the war . Sango came , assisted him in fighting the war to victory and he was being worshipped as a ‘ god ’ . The wife of Sango ’ Iyemoja meaning in Igala ; “ the mother of large group of people ”, became river goddess .

There are indigenous Igala in Lagos state called Isaleko. Their major occupation was fishing . They were Igalas from Nupe land . In fact , each time I meet with them, I felt being at home with my people . I saw love and brotherliness in them.

Nobody told them about all these before. They didn’ t know what Igala means . They thought it was just a name of the town. They admitted that these events took place very long time ago .

Igalas are also called; Gara , Agalawa , Gala, Igarra , Egarra , Igira, Ibaji , Akpoto, Koto, Angola , Lingala , Dan garra, Gaa , Gana, and so on . Other Igala groups bearing different identities are ; Idoma , Egbira (Ebira ), Agatu, Igede , Agilla , Ogoja (Iyalla) Itshekiri , Nupe , Bassa . The Igala senior brothers , with whom Igalas had a very strong tie, were Jukuns (Apa) and Binis . At one time or the other, these groups provided some leadership roles before Igala ’ s Independence. Bachama of Adamawa State and Tarok of Plateau State are some of our close brothers . Most of the ethnic minorities of the whole Middle belt and North and Southern regions related with one another.

Compiled and written by Isaiah Achenejie.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...