Recently, history was made in Igala land when a center that unifies the Igala speaking people was commissioned. It is an edifice that brings not just glitters but revenue. It is not just an aesthetic building but a castle standing on cultural foundation. Guess its location? The heart of Igala civilisation, Anyigba, in Dekina local government area – the same place you have the state university.
Like Izom House, like Arewa House, like Oduduwa House, there is now the Igala House. A new vista of Igala unity where cohesion shall be attained. If you are not proud to have a center in honour of your root, I am sorry, the consciousness in you is flawed.
One man started the voyage for Igala unity. He toured and toiled for this to happen. In the cause of this, he denied himself political opportunities. He wanted a tribe that stands in rival with other major tribes in Nigeria. He was on a sustained journey for the Igala renaissance. But very close to reaching his target, death came calling and Dr Steven Acheme breathed his last and today, he lies in heroic state in the embrace of nature. He died with an unfulfilled dream!
Years without him, the Igala project took a declining posture as individualism became the order of the day. In rudderless pursuits, the Igala agenda suffered unmitigated ruins. Tragically, no time favoured the Igalas politically than the last 20 years that produced Igala scions on the political throne of Kogi State. It is a study in ironic confusion to try to explain what led to the tragic dissonance of the Igala project at a time we had our sons running things!
Under these intriguing times, we lost the trace of our rich cultural identity, our festivals proscribed, our culture demonised and our identity subdued. The Igala race was on standstill, because a Steven Achema was no more. Late Abubakar Audu was holistic, adorning the whole state with enviable giant strides. He brought Igala Land to national reckoning even with his ephemeral stints. No more but his traces live in reawakening testimonies.
From an unusual and unexpected quarter, emerged another Achema – this time, not from Idah but Ogugu in Olamaboro, and they call him Edward Onoja. Pulsating with the blood of Achema and Audu, he reignited the Igala Project. First was his assemblage of Igala young population into critical governance structure. For the first time, the children of nobody in Igala Land became some persons. A paradigm was created and the anachronistic order of cronyism gave way to inclusiveness and cohesion that cut across boundaries was created. Whatever the outcome of the voyages of these youngsters in government, posterity shall stand in witness to Edward Onoja either negatively or in positive measures.
The Edward era birthed a new Igala consciousness that gripped every Igala born. A feeling of pride spread everywhere in proud symphonies. It started with the yellow, green, black and white colours ‘achi,’ that became the global identity of every Igala born. With people like Saidat Lami, late Tina Enechile who so popularised the attire, the Igala achi became a fascinating cultural pride and identity. On the intellectual side, are the traces of those gifted with the Midas touch of creativity. Starting with the publisher of ‘Arise Igala’ magazine, Onoja James Okpanachi, who brought the real Igala agenda to the home of every Igala person in the world as he records in superlative contents and quality, the beautiful traces of the Igala aspirations. Jameni King, Tijay Bala belongs to the new proponent of the Igala agenda as together with the likes of Danlami Ayofa, Tenimu Foreign, Eke, Rabi Alijenu, Agi Mora rejuvenated the Igala renaissance through music. Salihu Ibrahim Kindo is reputed for always adorning the Igala achi whenever he anchors events as MC- even at non Igala events. That was a subliminal cultural marketing you would say.
Like Achema, Edward trudged on navigating rough blockades, defying dosages of onslaught to sustain the real Igala Agenda – far away from the political one mouthed left right and center defined more by those motivated by personal aspirations. I will support any agenda that will build schools, roads, provide water, situate cottage industries, foster peace building efforts in any part of Igala Land. Any agenda that exists only during elections is nothing but a vain attempt of seeking personal political advantage. What has your agenda fetched the people in your immediate community?
Something happened recently in Anyigba, at the commissioning of the epicentre of Igala renaissance; almost all the Igala political heavyweights stayed away from the event. Too flimsy a coincidence to say they stayed away because of other engagements. Were I these persons, I would have joined the governor to honour the spirits of those who sacrificed for the Igala sustenance but are not here today. The Steven Achemas, the John Uras, the Dan Kadiris, the Benedict Ekeles, the Idachabas, the Abubakar Audus etc. Late Abubakar Audu shocked bookmakers in 2014 when he joined then governor, Captain Idris Wada, to commission the Kogi House in Abuja. So legendary was his gesture that he stole the show and became the cynosure of all eyes at the event. That was leadership in maturity. Shying away from state functions is not a hallmark of leadership – it connotes pettiness and political naivety.
Unity is an essential necessity for peace building, development and inclusive growth to take place in any society. Hopefully, the Igala Unity House, as the name connotes, will engender unity across the entire Igala Land regardless of political and religious allegiances and in going forward, will equally trigger a replication of such unifying projects among other tribes that form the arteries and veins if the Confluence State.
Achema, Audu and Edward’s approach to politics may not be the same, but the gusto and commitment the latter brought in bringing the dream of an Igala House into fruition shows that both have certain character in common. In Edward Onoja the Omamanya Igala, Achema Àlapà Igala and Audu Adoja, Igala lives on with the real Igala agenda.