By John Danjuma
The Igala nation was electrified recently when it celebrated the Ujeju Ogwu (Italo) with pump and pageantry on December, 30/31st, 2022 after 11 years of non activity.
In the wisdom of the organizers of the event, politicians were not given the leverage to make speeches to avoid the political violence that put the Italo (Ujeju Ogwu) in abeyance for 11 years.
The worst thing that could ever happen to any race is for its people to be unable to come together with one voice, which became the lot of the Igala nation for over 11 years after the Ujeju Ogwu Igala (Italo) was suspended.
For the Igala nation, its horizon had been bleak for quite sometime with many tragedies starting with the death of Former Governor Abubakar Audu to that of a former Minister Barrister James Ocholi.
Hence, the Igala race that is aclaimed to be the 9th largest ethnic group in the country was no longer in the scheme of things both at the State and at the national levels.
Not impressed by the people he met that were not looking like his strong-willed and determined sons and daughters when he returned from hunting,
the 49th Ata Igala, His Royal Majesty, Agabaidu, Dr. Mathew Alaji Opaluwa Oguche-Akpa called for immediate restoration of the Ujeju Ogwu Igala (Italo) as the first necessary step to securing his people’s future, through putting heads together.
His call was made for Igala sons and daughters and in diaspora.
Thereafter, the 2022 Ujeju Ogwu Igala(Italo) which took place between December 30 and 31st 2022, as an answer to the yearnings for the festival that once served as an avenue for uniting all and sundry of the Igala nation both home and abroad.
As was witnessed, the event became a rallying point where sociopolitical and economic problems that affected the Igala nation were discussed and solutions found to ameliorate them.
The gathering also became an avenue where all personal grudges among the high profile Igala personalities were settled.
These were against the background that in the last one decade that the festival was outlawed society’s decay worsened, as every aspect of life was affected. The future of the homeland became bleak. There was no societal cohesion, no one to bell the cat until His Royal Majesty, Agabaidu, Dr. Mathew Alaji Opaluwa Oguche-Akpa returned.
At the event proper, which took place at the Prince Abubakar Audu University Stadium Anyigba, unprecedented mammoth crowd graced the event that is also a National day for the race.
All the Onu (chief) Igala in the 36 States and Abuja led by Onu Kaduna, Chief Joseph Idaikwo Olimene Ata who also double as chairman of Onu Igala Forum were in attendance.
Former Minister of health Arch. Gabriel Aduku stormed the venue with youths in T-shirts campaigning for violent free election in 2023
The Prince Abubakar Audu University stadium was filled to capacity by the time the Atta made his entry.
There were cultural groups from Local Government Areas and they took their turns in entertaining guests till the masquerades of Atta were audaciously presented with their dreadful predilection. They are the royal masquerades.
Politicians were tamed as they not allowed to make speeches to avoid the political violence that put the Italo (Ujeju Ogwu) in abeyance for 11 years, the political violence between thugs of PDP and ANPP in 2011 at the same venue.
Dignitaries at the event included Senator Isa Jibrin (Echocho), former National Women Leader of the APC, Hajia Salamatu Baiwa, Hon. Hassan Baiwa, Arch Gabriel Aduku, former minister of State for Labour, Prof Stephen Oceini, Ejeh Dekina Dr Usman Obaje, Eje Ibaji Ajofe John Egwemi, Eje Ofu HRH Obaje, Ojogba Ife, Ohiegba Mozuni Kabir, all Royal coucellors led by chief Emmanue Onucheyo, all beaded women.
A paper, entitled, Towards proper use of the Igala language: ‘Speaking Frankly to Ourselves and our Children was presented by Professor Gideon S. Omachonu of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
The paper examined the current State of the Igala Language studies and proper usage.
His paper spoke to many issues as it admonished the native speakers to do whatever is possible to work towards improving the chances of Igala Language surviving in the midst of the multitudes of languages in Nigeria0
His Royal Majesty in his speech said it was remarkable that after an eleven -year hiatus, “The annual celebration of cultural heritage has resumed, we give all honor, glory, and gratitude to the Lord God Almighty who has made this possible. We welcome you all most warmly.
He prayed for the sustainance of the festival as he mentioned that the Italo remains the only Royal festival of the Attah to be held outside the ancestral and spirtual headuaters.
“Over the years, Italo served as congruent of Igala unity and socio cultural cohesion. We must retum to these ideals. A situation where the Italo is used to disrespect and embarrass, the Attah instituton which is centuries old cannot be tolerated. “I therefore appeal to all Children
who are in politics to exhibit decorum and decency. We must echew thuggery, it is not our culture or character.”
He expressed the hope that the events that led to the suspension of Italo will not be repeated
“Today we are a picture of devastation from massive neglect, self destruction and erosion of social and societal values. The absence of this annual assembly has meant lack of proper focus on the society and the challenges of development.
“We therefore now have a huge burden for competent leadership. The followership must embrace education in all its ramifications. We must imbue personal values, honesty, hard-work, respect for others, orderliness, self-discipline, self-reliance, etc. The interest of the community should be superior to individual rights. “
According to him, an Igala Culture Policy Document is now required to chart and guide our language studies, music, art, and various aspects of life.
“A lot of intellectual work is required if we are to achieve our goals. Do we have active lgala historians, anthropologists, linguistics, etc? The Igala biochemist/nutritionist must go into Igala dietetics, lawyers go into lgala jurisprudence, pharmacists, and doctors into Igala medicines.
“Who would study our peculiar food stuffs like lrere, Ogoma, for the purpose of boosting their production? The lgala engineers, who should study the Igala science and technology, the Igala civilization?
He pointed out that, the Federal Government’s recent pronouncements on the re-introduction of the teaching ¢ history and mother tongue are of great interest to the race.
“Our retired history and mother tongue teachers must come out of retirement, even if it means not getting properly renumerate, half salary.
“The Owners of Schools and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) should respond appropriately. As a matter of urgent importance, all teachers of pure arts and science subjects should also come out of retirement to address our educational gap. We will be available to pursue further discussion on this.
He appealed for renewed strength of character and unity of purpose. “This is the way to face the future, we should not sit back and sulk. Permit me to repeat the words of World War Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill to his people after complete devastation of the war and the urgent need for massive rebuilding of infrastructure.
He said, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing great or small or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force, never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy’. Churchil concluded, this is our “finest hour’.
After the successful event many Igala Stakeholders Commended Ata Igala or restoring ITALO Festival
A former commissioner of the Independent Electoral commission (INEC) , His Royal Highness Dr Emmanuel Onucheyo, commended the Ata for the restoration of Italo and for the massive turn-out of people during the celebration at the Prince Abubakar Audu University stadium, Anyigba.
He called on all Igala to unite for a common goal.
Chief Onucheyo who is a member of Ata – in – council/ Royal Councilors , said their functions specifically entailed the deliberations on issue before passing it to Ata for his final endorsement.
He advised the youths to refuse to be used as thugs by politicians as he admonished them to remained focused to pursue their desired goals.
He encouraged the youths specifically to devote their maximum time to learn the Igala language so that they would be able to impact on their children.
According to him coming together in unity will be the strongest weapon against underdevelopment.
Earlier the chairman of the Ujeju Ogwu Igala in 2022, Dr Paul Amodu called on all Igala Sons and Daughters both home and in diaspora to embrace peace and unity for the growth and development of Igala land.
Dr Amodu who was the former Chief Medical Director, Specialist Hospital Lokoja said the development of Igala land depended on Igala unity.
In the same vein, the chairman of the planning committee , Chief Dr Jonathan Okpanachi commended the Ata for the success recorded within a space of three weeks of planning.
Going by the bitter experience of politicl rivalry which put the event on hold for 11years he said that in re- awakening the event , the committee ensured that no political posters of any kind was brought or placed at the venue.
Dr okpanachi said the revival of the Ujeju Ogwu Igala would ensure the restoration of the lost glory of Igala tradition and Culture.