REVEALED!!! THE UNTOLD TRUTH ABOUT AMEH OBONI THE GREAT
BY OKPANACHI JOSEPH ADEJOH
For someone to be great, succinctly put, the person must be of remarkable ability or character. So how does this connect with Ameh Oboni, one of the greatest Kings in the annals of Igala history?
Once upon a time, Igala had an Ata called Ameh Oboni. He was of the genealogy of Ocholi Ruling House. He
ruled between 1946 and 1956, for about ten (10) years. To some, this man was just too great, to others, he was just on the average side and whereas to his critics, he was just evil. We are all entitled to our opinion. But facts are always facts. Whether you are for or against, the truth is that, you will still have to evaluate your stance on this persona, Ameh Oboni, Ata the Great. Was he of any remarkable ability? Was he of any remarkable character? You be the judge.
For the 10 years Ameh Oboni ruled, we were still under the colonial era. It was an era where most traditional rulers were either economical with the truth or refrained from hearing out their minds. It takes rare courage to stand for what you believe in at all times. From all available records and testimonies of elders who knew Ameh Oboni on a personal level, he spoke his mind at all times, no matter who was involved. It was un-African for a man to bow before a woman and a taboo for a paramount monarch to bow before a woman. Oboni’s refusal, in 1956, to bow before Queen Elizabeth II, a queen revered by presidents and prime ministers, was not a display of arrogance but was in conformity with the dominant African traditions. This rare display of courage even made Her Majesty to send a special Royal Seat to the Ata. The ability of Ata to speak boldly and fearlessly made Igala kingdom then to earn its respect among other kingdoms and ethnic nationalities. His courage gave the entire Igala race, a strong voice; voice that made demands, voice that addressed his subjects at all times, voice that refused to keep quiet in the face of oppression, subjugation, and blatant arrogance of the colonial master.
ON IGALA BURDEN
Ata Ameh Oboni had passion for education. Although he was not lettered, his enthusiasm for education was unequalled. Though he antagonized the colonialists for their brazen contempt for Igala traditions, but he never antagonized anything that would enhance access to education by the Igala people. He encouraged children and parents to embrace education; he gave land to the missionaries and the colonialists to build schools. Many Igala, who are icons today are direct beneficiaries of his initiatives.
If not until about 11 years ago, that Prof. Francis S. Idachaba started Igala Education Foundation, there is no other person that has made tangible efforts towards promoting education in Igalaland. Of course, Prof. Idachaba is not doing it alone, but there is a need for all Igala sons and daughters to show more commitment to education in the land.
Successive governments in the state have not done much beyond building of classrooms for schools. That is not the real problem. The real problem is the fact that Igala child in the rural area jumps from primary 1-6 without being able to read or write. Igalaland would not be able to build solid edifice for education unless the primary and secondary education are given urgent attention that they deserve. The burgeoning ‘magic centres’ for senior secondary examinations will continue to bring shame to the land if nothing is done about the primary and secondary education in the land.
Did you know that Ata Ameh Oboni rejected an offer for a high powered plant for the palace simply because the plant would not serve the entire community? How many of so-called leaders will reject such an offer today? Is this not a man with a remarkable character?
ON A REMARKABLE PROJECT
As far back as 1950s, many other communities and their subjects were yet to know that there were planes that could fly. However, Ata Ameh Oboni, before 1954, had finished an aerodrome in Idah where planes could land. This was a man who did not have a degree; he was not a Native Authority Administrator; he did not receive constituency project allowance. Unfortunately, pathetically and pitiably, this is fifty-eight (58) thereafter; there is still no single airport in any part of Igalaland and nobody is bothered! And those who mentioned it, only paid mere lips service. All Igala can boast of, are hotels, filling stations and some private buildings.
If there is one word that can be replaced with good leadership, it should be “Sacrifice”. There is no true or accomplished leader who did not make sacrifices. It could be of time, resources, gains, etc. The Ata Ameh Oboni made a lot of sacrifices for the land; First, he refused to receive a high-powered plant simply because it would not be able to serve the entire community.
The second had to do with the sacrifice he made with his own life. Many people believed he did that because he was at the verge of being deposed. No, that was not really so. He was given an ample opportunity to enjoy his life, live in opulence and comfort at a place prepared for him in Ochaja. He was told to go there and would still be accorded royal status, recognition and all the other privileges attached. He had the opportunity to ‘cooperate’ with the colonial masters in order to enjoy in opulence while injustice, evil, contempt for Igala culture and unrepentant moral debasement by the colonialists would continue. In fact, the sacrifice was in two folds. First, he did not want to alter the status of genealogy of Ata – no Ata had ever been alive to witness another person being installed. Ameh Oboni had proposed that it would not happen, not even in his time. The second had to do with his sons. As an Ata, he had fulfilled a condition precedent for his sons to become Ata in the future. His own father, Oboni, the son of Akwodiba, all of the Ocholi Ruling House fulfilled the same. If he, Ameh, should be deposed, the children would not be able to ascend the throne because their father did not die as the Ata. For all these, Ata Ameh Oboni took his own life. It was a hard sacrifice! A damn hard sacrifice!
ON HIS BETRAYAL
Despite all his pro-Igala efforts, some Igala persons felt he should no longer rule. Their principal allegation was that Ata Ameh Oboni used human beings for sacrifices. The anti-Oboni group strongly believed it was so. The pro-Oboni group however believed that it was blatant lies orchestrated to discredit His Royal Majesty. The two groups would maintain that position till tomorrow. Only God can judge what the colonialists could not ascertain.
“Would the Igala race ever be united?” This was another statement that the Ata Ameh Oboni let out in his night of grief. There are so many examples to illustrate that Igala can hardly speak in one voice. The Okura State controversy is one. Igala had her best opportunity ever at the Mbanefo – led Committee on state creation and boundary adjustment. This was simply because Sir Arthur Mbanefo had part of his post-primary education in Igala land. He saw this as an opportunity to do the Igalaland a favour. He did not pretend about this. With this very golden opportunity, we were more excited with dissipating our energy on where the State Capital would be rather than having the Igala State itself. The capital issue tore us apart with sharp divide. It is either Anyigba or nothing. It is either Idah or no deal. Igala lost out and till today, Igala, the 9th largest ethnic group in Nigeria, does not have a state of its own.
ON HIS TEMPERAMENT
Generally speaking, some can be calm while dealing with issue whereas most will blow hot. But the bottom line here is that there is always a reaction. Ata Ameh Oboni was never economical with the truth. When things are right, you would appreciate the beauty of his calm demeanour and disposition. To some people, he was autocratic and to others he was an upright Royal Father whose stance on issue is greatly influenced by his inner conviction of whether it would push Igalaland many miles behind or push it forward. Ata Ameh Oboni was plain and very blunt; he never lacked words to situations that got him angry; he addressed them instantly, bluntly and frontally. The only persons who never had issues with Ata Ameh Oboni were those who were prepared to do the right thing at most times (if not all times) and most importantly, always tell the truth.
ON THE WAY FORWARD
Ata Ameh Oboni did not convene Italo to construct an aerodrome. He did not blink a second before giving out land and manpower for any developmental purpose. He yearned to have Igala sons and daughters in schools so that they can read and write. He was a die-hard lover of progress, an astute believer of good things and avowed promoter of education. Go and look at the Fourth (4th) edition of Who’s who in Igalaland by Hilary Amodu, you would hardly believe that Igala is blessed with large number of stars in various fields
The simple way forward is for Igala sons and daughters to direct efforts towards the development of the land. That was all Ata Ameh Oboni did. He saw the need of an aerodrome; he used efforts and not talks to solve it. If Isah Edime had used talks, we would not have had Radio Kogi Ochaja. He made a pro-Igala efforts and took an official high risk in putting the radio transformer in Ochaja before the TIVS could say Jack Robinson. Prince Abubakar Audu damned all the meaningless talks and laid the foundation for Kogi State University, Anyigba.
If having a remarkable character and ability is what makes a great man, then indeed, Ata Ameh Oboni was a great man. To some, he was “Ugbokolo”, to others; he was “Ogbaikolo ki ma bun kia ro tulaka tulaka”. Like every human being, he was neither a saint, nor a man devoid of shortcomings, but on the whole, he was a great man; even his adversaries would agree that he was of a remarkable character.
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