The Ata Igala, His Royal Majesty, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II’s great walk from Ugwolawo to Idah and the burning of the Ata’s thatch hut on March 6, 2013 at Ugwolawo symbolised the Ata Igala’s connection to his people and his last possession on earth. Hence, he no longer has earthly possessions from that day as his body and soul belongs to the Igala people henceforth.
He had to trek from Ugwolawo, the present headquarters of Ofu Local Government Council through Igalamela/Odoru Local Government Council headquarters, Ajaka and made a glorious entry into Idah town, just like the biblical triumphant entry of Jesus Christ and some famous warriors into Jerusalem.
According to Sule Isa Akagwu Kpaleko, Ugwolawo was once called Omata District. The district was created in 1905 and was one of the oldest districts in Northern Nigeria. Ugwolawo, he said, is an apprentice town in preparatory for Atta Stool as the heir to the Atta stool is made Onu Ugwolawo to enable him study the nitty-gritty and rudiments of administration as Atta Igala. When the Atta stool becomes vacant, the heir’s house in Ugwolawo would be the first coronation altar where the hut would be burnt down as a sign that designates that the Atta, from that moment, has no home of his own. His home and first family now becomes the Igala.
Some persons have argued that all the previous Attas were once Onu Ugwolawo, according to tradition except for Aliyu Obaje and Idakwo Ameh Oboni. Aliyu Obaje, a tutor from School of Basic Studies, Zaria, was made Atta without previously been an Onu Ugwolawo. Opaluwa Oguche was a sitting Onu Ugwolawo in 1956. In the same vein, His Royal Majesty, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II moved from his Lokoja residence to a thatched house in Ugwolawo to spend three days when a sitting Onu/Eje of Ugwolawo, Adebo Opaluwa was on seat. Sule Akagwu said the colonial masters and the then Achadu Peter Achema altered the rotation circle which has persisted.
To some members of the four Atta ruling houses, injustice has become a clog in the wheel of Igala progress.
This argument has prompted this writer to go into the history of successive Onus/District heads of Ugwolawo. After going through the record of Ugwolawo chiefs, one should be able to conclude whether all Atta heirs must previously be Onu Ugwolawo.
As mentioned earlier, Ugwolawo District was established in 1905, whereas Igala had several Attas before 1905. The first notable Onu Ugwolawo was Atabo Ijomi, the son of Amaga. He was Onu Ugwolawo between 1916 and 1919, before he eventually became Ata Igala. He was of Akogwu Dynasty. He was Onu Ugwolawo when Oguche Akpa was the Ata Igala.
He was succeeded by Obaje Ocheje who became Onu Ugwolawo from Akwu Dynasty between1920 and 1926. Obaje Ocheje became Onu Ugwolawo as Ataboh Ijomi was installed as Ata Igala. When Obaje Ocheje became Atta Igala, his brother, Abalaka Ocheje from the same Akwu Dynasty became Onu Ugwolawo. Let it be noted that two brothers cannot succeed themselves as Atta in Igala history. Therefore Abalaka Ocheje could not have been an Atta heir apparent. Abalaka Ocheje reigned between 1927 and 1935. Ameh Oboni of Ocholi Dynasty succeeded Abalaka Ocheje when he eventually died during his brother’s reign as Atta. Ameh Oboni was Onu Ugwolawo between 1936 and 1941 after which he was given a higher post by the colonial leaders. He was Onu Ugwolawo under Obaje Ocheje also.
Opaluwa Ogwuche Akpa of Ameh Acho Dynasty succeeded Ameh Oboni as Onu Ugwolawo still in the era of Obaje Ocheje between 1941 and 1944. His brother, Ichapi Oguche Akpa succeeded him as Onu Ugwolawo between 1944 and 1945 when Ameh Oboni eventually became Atta Igala.
Ichapi spent only one year and died after which he was succeeded by Okutepa Obaje of Ocholi Dynasty between 1945 and 1946, still under Ameh Oboni as Atta Igala. After the death of Okutepa, who reigned less than one year, another person from Ocholi Dynasty, Umoru Anekwu, became Onu Ugwolawo between 1946 and 1947. He also died within a year in power.
Amodu Acho Oboni of Ocholi Dynasty succeeded him and reigned for 21 years, between 1947 and 1968. He was Onu Ugwolawo when his kinsman, Ameh Oboni was Atta Igala. Atodo Atabo Ijomi of Akogwu Dynasty succeeded him as Onu Ugwolawo between 1969 and 1980 as Ali Obaje became Atta Igala.
When he died, another person from Akogwu Dynasty, Shaibu Omaga became Onu Ugwolawo. Shaibu Omaga reigned for 10 years, between 1981 and 1991. He was succeeded by Peter Adeboh Opaluwa of Ameh Acho Dynasty who was Onu Ugwolawo for 14 years, from 1993 and 2007. He was succeeded by James Abalaka of Akwu Dynasty in the year 2007 when Peter Adeboh was elevated to the Ejeh Ofu stool which was created in all local government headquarters during the reign of Alhaji Ali Obaje, the Atta Igala. With the death of Peter Adeboh Opaluwa recently, James Abalaka is expected to assume the Ejeh Ofu stool while a new Onu Ugwolawo has to be installed.
From the forgoing, the Ocholi Dynasty has been Onu Ugwolawo for four times, Akwu Dynasty three times, Ameh Acho Dynasty, three times and Akogwu Dynasty, three times.
The basis of this story is to find out whether all Atta Igala must have been Onu Ugwolawo. From the foregoing, only few Ata were Onu Ugwolawo before becoming Ata Igala. Not all Onu Ugwolawo became Atta Igala and not all Onu Ugwolawo were expected to be Atta Igala as some Attas picked their brothers who they knew could not succeed them to be Onu Ugwolawo. The Onu Ugwolawo stool started from the era of Ataboh Ijomi Amaga in 1916; all Atta before Ataboh Ijomi Amaga were never Onu Ugwolawo. It would therefore be a misnomer to claim that Onu Ugwolawo is Atts Igala’s heir apparent.