By E.N Oguche and Idibia Ojabo
Igala Kingdom is known for its rich culture and respected for its deep history. Flipping through the pages of Igala history would give you a clue about how strong and formidable the Kingdom is. Though colonialism, with all its
intended and unintended consequences, blurred and distorted a culture that was once pure, undiluted, stainless and untainted, but Igala Kingdom still stands strong and respected. We cannot continue to blame the colonialists for the woe that has befallen the Kingdom. History has presented itself for the Igala to get it right once again and the appointment of Idakwo Ameh Oboni is where such opportunity may lie.
In the archives of Igala history, stories of three personalities stand out – the legendary Inikpi and Omadoko, two Princesses that were sacrificed for the liberation of Igalaland and the story of Ameh Oboni, Ata the Great – the man who challenged the incursion of Igala culture by the colonialists. The stories of these three personalities exemplified the strength and amazing courage of a typical Igala son and daughter.
The Igala Area Traditional Council has forwarded the recommendation of the Igalamela Attahate Kingmakers to the Kogi State Government for onward action. In a letter addressed to the Honourable Commissioner, Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Lokoja and signed by Alhaji Adama Sule, Secretary Igala Area Traditional Council reads in part; “I am directed by His Royal Highness, the Eje Ankpa and Acting Chairman, Igala Area Traditional Council’s recommendation of its meeting held on 20th November, 2012 on the appointment of Prince Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni for appointment Attah Igala, and Chairman, Igala Area Traditional Council, First Class Status.” The letter which was dated 22nd November, 2012 and with a title “Council’s Reconciliation on the Appointment of Prince Idakwo Michael Oboni as Attah Igala and Chairman, Igala Area Traditional Council, First Class Status” also commended the wise decision of the Igalamela Attahate Kingmakers for endorsing “the candidature of Prince Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni for appointment as Attah Igala, First Class Status.”
Against all oppositions, malicious conspiracy, bald-faced propaganda, shameless blackmail and campaign of calumny, Prince Idakwo Michael Ameh Obaje (Oli Ogbaikolo kiaro tulaka tulaka) has emerged as the new Ata. ARISE IGALA had predicted the emergence of Prince Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni in the ISSUE 9 of the magazine based on historical facts and the configuration of the Four Ruling Houses. The cover story titled “The Next Ata Igala: All Sides of the Story”, secreted hot controversies in the public domain. The controversies were expected but the unexpected was the manner some individuals allowed sentiments to becloud their sense of reasoning. Anyway, truth can never be suppressed; the beautiful reality staring at everybody today is a vindication of the position of ARISE IGALA.
The ascension of Ata Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni unto the highly esteemed stool of Ata, would no doubt emit emotion considering the sacrifice made by his father. However, while some observers may say that the sacrifice made by Ata Ameh Oboni was in vain due to the fact that Igala still remains backward and underdeveloped compared to progresses recorded in other Kingdoms of equal or less status. Others however argue that the fact that Idakwo Ameh Oboni, the son of Ata Ameh Oboni, has emerged as the Ata Igala today is an indication that Igala is on its way towards occupying its rightful position in the scheme of things in Nigeria. But who is Idakwo Ameh Oboni? There is certainly more to him than just being the son of Ata Ameh Oboni, Ata The Great.
Prince Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni is the first son of Ata Ameh Oboni though his father had a daughter before him. Prince Idakwo is the only child of his mother; after him, his mother never gave birth again. His father, Ata Ameh Oboni inherited his mother who was married to Ata Obaje Ocheje. She never had any child for Ata Obaje Ocheje but because she was relatively young, Ata Ameh Oboni married her after the death of his brother. She was seemed to be barren as she could not give birth in her first marriage. Even when she got married to Ata Ameh Oboni, she did not immediately start giving birth. Her situation was such that even the little girl that accompanied her to her marriage home grew up got married and had begun giving birth. Ata Ameh Oboni then prophesized to her that she was going to give birth to a son, prophesy that came to pass.
On the 19th February 1948 a son was born to Ata Ameh Oboni and he named him “IDAKWO”. Three others came after him though from different mother. Prince Idakwo was taken out of the palace to stay with his mother’s elder sister. Due to this, Prince Idakwo was not too close to his mother but his Aunty.
At the age of four, his father, Ata Ameh Oboni handed him to the Catholic Mission. He was later enrolled into St. Boniface Primary School, Idah in 1952 where he was under the direct custody of the school headmaster, Mr Ekedegbu, an Igbo man. He was not allowed to visit home too frequently neither was the mother allowed to visit him at the mission house. His father ensured that there was no interference with his upbringing from the palace and paid for his upkeep allowance. Three of his siblings, Abdul and Arome, were equally sent to other mission house and were under the custody of the Qua Iboe mission while their sister was sent to the Convent.
From the age of five, Prince Idakwo began to speak Igbo language fluently. He was never spared from the house chores; he would wake up early every morning to accomplish his chore before leaving the house for school. His best subject was Geography, Arithmetic came second not because he actually liked it but because of the whip that would come upon getting the answer wrong. So under duress, Prince Idakwo picked interest in Arithmetic.
However, in 1956 his father Ata Ameh Oboni died. With the death of his father, his school fees and upkeep allowance and that of his siblings came to a temporary halt. The relationship between Prince Idakwo and Mr. Ekedegbu’s children became unpleasant. Hence, Prince Idakwo later left Mr. Ekedegbu’s house to stay with his Uncle. While in his Uncle’s house, Prince Idakwo had enough food at his disposal but his Uncle’s wife and the regimented life were the major challenges. Prince Idakwo had no time to go to the mission to play football neither was he allowed going for extra-lessons. Yet Prince Idakwo performed excellently well in his academic. The situation in his Uncle was also not too pleasant and Prince Idakwo and his two siblings were later kept in custody of a Senior Cousin, Prince Amodu Acho Oboni, the then Onu Ugwolawo.
Prince Idakwo completed his primary education in 1960. He wrote and passed the common entrance examination to St. Augustine College Kabba in 1961. He recalls his days in Kabba, “Kabba was so beautiful then, surrounded with rocks. I remember in Kabba, the first day we saw women drumming, I and John Akwu now a retired Central Bank Officer, ran from the market because we had never seen such in Idah.”
At the College, Prince Idakwo was in the same College House, Fatima House, together with the present Obaro of Kabba who was far his senior. The Obaro was a good sprinter and at the same time skilful footballer. Prince Idakwo began playing football for his Fatima House in his second year and was also part of the house relay team. His best subjects in College were Geography, Mathematics Literature and English. Prince Idakwo graduated from St. Augustine College after five years in 1967 having written his West Africa School Certificate Examination and passed with good grades. He wanted to proceed for his Advanced Level studies but could not because of financial reasons; Prince Idakwo then put a temporary hold to the ambition.
Prince Idakwo left Idah for Kaduna toward the end of 1967. On getting to Kaduna he made contacts with kinsmen and his relations that he believed would be of assistance in securing a job. He met Flt Lt Michael Adejo at Air Force Base Kaduna and Adejo gave him appointment to meet him in three days time, so that together they will travel to Lagos where he, Flt-Lt Adejo, would be able to assist Prince Idakwo to secure a job. Two days after, Prince Idakwo went to confirm if their journey to Lagos would be possible. Behold, when Prince Idakwo got to the Base, he was told that Flt-Lt Adejo had travelled the previous day to Lagos. After meeting a dead-end, while on his way back, Prince Idakwo met another of his kin’s man, one Sergeant Yusuf from Idah who told him to stay back that there was going to be a recruitment into the Nigerian Air Force. Prince Idakwo stayed back and within one hour the exercise was conducted and he was among the six persons selected out of fifteen young men that turn out for the recruitment.
So Prince Idakwo found himself in the Air Force in 1968. They were trained in Fourth Battalion Kaduna and after the training he was posted to Makurdi and from there posted to Enugu on 16th February, 1969. While in the force, he served in various sections – Ground Defences, Clerical and Account units. Prince Idakwo was posted back to Makurdi before the end of the Civil War; Prince Idakwo was in Makurdi when the war ended. While in the Air force, Prince Idakwo played football; he was the Central-Defender of the Strikers Football Team of Air Force Base, Makurdi which was popularly known as ‘PUMA’. Prince Idakwo had a glorious moment in the Air Force.
But despite all these glorious moments, Prince Idakwo was not fulfilled, “I was not feeling comfortable”, Prince Idakwo said. “My father was so much in love with education; he gathered people from all corners of our Kingdom and enrolled them in school. In some instances, my father would even pay their school fees from his pocket. It is unthinkable that I, his son, would end up my education at the secondary level. Above all, I had some kind of dreams that bothered on mystery. In my dream I heard a voice asking me what I was doing in Air force uniform. I woke up and asked myself same question...” Prince Idakwo said.
Prince Idakwo then made up his mind and decided to enrol for his advanced level papers. He registered for Government, History and Economics and wrote the examination. He got History and Economics and dropped Government. With his A-level papers intact, Prince Idakwo was now sure of gaining admission into any of the higher institution in the country. He then applied to his Commander, Col. Dulmoje for discharge from the force; he was granted the request and discharged from the force on 6th September 1974. While waiting for admission, Prince Idakwo worked briefly in Ministry of Land in the old Kwara State as Land Inspector Officer from 1974 to 1975. He resigned in 1975 when he got admission into Kaduna Polytechnic. Though his initial intention was to study Law at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria but when the admission was not forthcoming he left Zaria for Kaduna where he got admitted into Kaduna Polytechnic in 1976. He studied Estate Management and with his little savings and scholarship allowance, Prince Idakwo was able to manage himself on campus. He graduated in 1980 with HND in Estate Management. He was posted to Bauchi State for his Youth Service Corp year 1980. In Bauchi, he served with Federal Mortgage Bank, he was under the Supervision of one Mr Kenchu from Delta. As a Corper, Prince Idakwo did estate valuation for the Federal Mortgage Bank, travelling around the whole of North-East as Valuation Officer. He completed his service year in 1981.
The thought of marriage did not occur to Prince Idakwo before graduation from the Polytechnic, what was upper-most in his mind as he recalls was, “to own my own car, blow the horn and move around.” Prince Idakwo met his future wife Miss Juliana Ogoýibo Opaluwa who was then in Secondary school sometime in 1977; they courted for almost two years before getting married in 1980. Their traditional wedding was held in July 1980 and their Church wedding in the Catholic Church on 24th December, 1980 at Idah. Their marriage is blessed with four children, three males and a female. Three of the children are graduates, while the last born male is still in secondary.
In 1981, Prince Idakwo took up appointment with Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) as an Estate Officer. He rose to become Chief Inspectorate Officer and then Acting Duty Director, Department of Resettlement and Compensation. While he was still in service, Prince Idakwo enrolled for a degree program and studied Political Science at the University of Abuja. He retired from the civil service in January 2006.
The ascension of Prince Idakwo to the throne of Ata Igala would be the re-incarnation of Ata Ameh Oboni. Prince Idakwo is man with a strong will, considering his antecedent from childhood. Undoubtedly, Ata Ameh Oboni II is a brilliant intellect, brought to prominence by the legacy of his father, Ata Ameh Oboni. He is an indefatigable traditionalist and a decisive administrator, earnestly desiring to liberate his people, particularly their cultural heritage.
Although, according to him, “It never occurred to me even in my dreams that I will, one day, become the Ata Igala. In fact, it will be a real abomination to think of something like that. It is against tradition for one to think that you would become an Ata one day. Ata is something that is very serious. An Ata is not just a political leader; he is a spiritual leader...”
Prince Idakwo is filled with patriotic zeal, strength of character to deliver Igalaland from shackles of disunity that has engulfed the land. His experience with realities of life during his formative years had been a preparation for crisis-time leadership. From his words you would know that his quest to become the Ata of Igala was not out of the desire to pursue personal ego. Hear him: “With the hard way I was brought up at Catholic Mission, I always take life the way it comes... if it tumbles, I’ll take it like that and if it comes smoothly, I’ll also catch it like that. In essence, I am always ready for any eventuality in my life. In fact, when I am going for something, I expect the worst but if it comes a bit easy I would thank my God and if it does not reach me, then it not my luck...”
An intense patriot, a man who believes in the greatness of his people; a devotee of action who thrives on challenge and crisis; a man of inexhaustible energy and total concentration, who have been nursing all his faculties so that when the moment comes he could lavish them in salvaging Igalaland. In this capacity as the Ata of Igala, he promised to unite and harmonise the entire Igala Kingdom.
Prince Idakwo is a fervent patriot; an indomitable fighter and at the same time a generous victor. He said, “Whatever, position one is given to effect a change is something from the Almighty, you should do it with the fear of the Almighty. Because someone has wrong you, you must not say it is my turn to pay back; two wrongs don’t make a right. So, in this world, the easiest thing is to forgive- forget it, we are all human beings...The same man that was bad at a certain time may be influenced by the circumstance of that moment...”
But can Prince Idakwo alone bring the needed transformation? Achieving the needed transformation calls for collective and concerted efforts. Now that Igala has an Ata that is appreciated by all Igala, now is the time for all Igala people to come together as one and speak with one voice. This is not the time to stand only in your own compound to gaze at the moon!! It is expected that Prince Idakwo would spark the transformation but it is the responsibility of all Igala sons and daughters to extend the illumination to every facet of the Kingdom. Igalaland is now positioned to experience transformation that will liberate the land from all forms of underdevelopment and backwardness. Prince Idakwo is the new face of hope. Gaaabaaaaiduu!!!
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