The Royal Return of Attah Igala: A Call For Unifying Visionary Leadership

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In Idah, the royal hunt is over. The rude wind’s wild lament has ended. The high-pitched and melodious soft song of dawn is heard in the royal courts. The great ancestorial night watch and the slumber of the drums and fires are ending. Attah Igala-designate; His Royal Highness Aidoko-anya Matthew Alaji Opaluwa rises to the throne of his ancestors. Igala land rejoices!

Igala land has been at war of succession in the last year, due to a protracted return from the sacred hunt. During this period of royal interregnum, usurpers and contendersencouraged by the backings of some compromised royals and the financial war-chest of their political patrons have led to malicious rivalries and furious feuds. The princes from the four royal ruling houses have been at warwith the kingmakers. Political interventionists kept stoking the conundrum; hoping to win some political advantage from the appointment of a new Attah.

Thankfully, on the 18th of October 2021, the Kogi State Executive Council finally approved the selection and appointment of HRH Prince Matthew Alaji Opaluwa as recommended by the Igala Area Traditional Council.

It is a historic and epoch-making appointment. Traditionally, the order of succession has a clear line of hereditary and rotational ascendance of the male descendant of Ayegba Oma Idoko involving the four ruling houses of Aju-Ame Achor, Aju Akogu, Aju Akwu and Aju Ocholi.To ensure fairness and justice, in the appointment of future Attah Igala, Igala area traditional council (modification of native law and custom) Order 2015 procedure and Regulation for the selection and Ascension to the stool of Attah Igala was approved by the state executive council under the administration of, Capt. Idris Wada and became operational on the 27th  of April 2015. It was gazetted as Kogi State Legal notice no 2 of 2015 Vol.1 at Lokoja on 21st of May 2015. This appointment has addressed once and for all the injustice done to the Ame-Achor ruling house. Ame-Achor lineage returns to the throne after 102 years hiatus.

The coming to the throne of HRH Prince Matthew Alaji Opaluwa is momentous. And a reason for added celebration. The Igala dream of making Igala land a place of quality and equality, justice and fairness is being realised. While we congratulate the new Attah-designate, there will be no time to linger for far too long in a celebratory mood. Igala land and the future of its development and growth is in the balance. The Attah-designate, as soon as the installation ceremonies are over, needs to rally around himself, seasoned Tink-tanks to rescue the sinking ship of Igala land, its development, and its disconnected and absent leadership.

In the past centuries, generations of Attah Igala have been revered as sagacious, clever, and shrewd administrators, smart managers of people, warriors, people of impeccable integrity, diplomats, and great nationalists. Given the curriculum vitae and civil service experiences of the Attah-designate, his appointment is timely.  Beyond his installation will be the beginning of a search for a unifying team of selfless Igala sons and daughters who will lead Igala land to face the challenges of the 21st century and tap into the opportunities it holds for the Igala Kingdom.

Over the decades, the Igala kingdom has suffered from diminishing unifying leadership, a diminished socio-economic power, increasing irreconcilable internal rivalries, rising cases of violence, robbery, kidnaps, and unrest. In addition, there is gross underdevelopment and poverty on all fronts across Igala land and a sabotaging of Igala political efforts by people of Igala descent. The Igala kingdom suffers from external political interventionists who sow seeds of discords and support perpetual bickering within the land. The new Attah offers us a rallying and a golden opportunity; to enable us to reconcile, make amends and close ranks for a unified Igala cause.

Several issues confront the Igala land that the new Attah and a unifying team of visionary and selfless leaders to take on right away. Some of these issues and challenges are worth noting.

First, there have been several conversations on leadership in Igalaland. But no progressive and sustainable approach has been deployed towards the implementation of the outcomes. Our very well-structured traditional leadership and political leadership advantage in the state has brought us nearly nothing.The radical activisms of Igala traditional and political leaders; and civil societies are always full of rhetorics, but short on action. There is a sickening proliferation of Igala groups: full of big talk but lacking action; full of bile, no power; full of grammar, no substance. All bark and no bite. If we do not fix the division within, we cannot fix the state.

Secondly, despite the population advantage of the Igala in Kogi state added to educational status, fertile and mineral-rich landmass, Igala has been unable to harness these advantages to our benefit. This is because of chronic individualism, failure of strategic leadershipand a lack of collective approach to addressing the challenges and taking advantage of opportunities.

Thirdly, Igala land is bedevilled with an unbelievable upsurge of crimes and criminality. These are consequences of poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment.There is a high rate of kidnapping and thuggery, cultism and fraudulent practices, inter-community squabbles and robberies.  These issues could be addressed through committed Igala leadership.

Lastly, there is a need for Igala socio-cultural renaissance. It will enable us to correct and mitigate the ill-informed stereotype and discriminatory allusion to the place of origin and dialects in Igala. Such divisive and discriminatory qualifications of each other are counterproductive. For instance, as Igala-eju-ọgba, Akpọtọ, Ibaji, Ogugu or Akpanya; this should be addressed and jettisoned. Through domestic promotion and exhibitions of Igala arts and culture at festivals, carnivals, and public occasions, we can foster social-cultural unity and enjoy the shared riches of the Igala nation.

‘Onu n’ Ọjaa, k’ Ọjaa n’Onu’ captures the age-long social contract between Attah Igala and his people. The appointment of the new Attah Igala is a great opportunity to activate this tried and tested collaborative and winning attitude towards addressing the multiple crisis of leadership, economic and socio-cultural development. Attah Igala and his council of chiefs can become a rallying point and a unifying fulcrum on which to reclaim the dwindling fortune of the Igala nation. Until then, Ọjọgw’ Aidoko-anya…. Toodoo!

– Fr. Michael Achile Umameh, PhD

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