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Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, Nigeria

Igala are an ethnic group of Nigeria. Igala practice a number of different religions, including ATR, Christianity, and Islam. The home of the Igala people is situated east of the river Niger and Benue confluence and astride the Niger in Lokoja, Kogi state of Nigeria with its headquarters in Idah[seat of the Attah]. The area is approximately between latitude 6°30 and 8°40 north and longitude 6°30 and 7°40 east and covers an area of about 13,665 square kilometers (Oguagha P.A 1981) The Igala population is estimated at ten million, they can also be found in Delta, Anambra, Enugu and Edo States of Nigeria. The Igala language is closely related to the Yoruba and Itsekiri languages.

In Igala tradition, infants from some parts of the kingdom, like Ankpa receive three deep horizontal cuts on each side of the face, slightly above the corners of their mouths, as a way of identifying each other. However, this practice is becoming less common.

The Igalas are ruled by a figure called the “Attah”. The word Attah means ‘Father’ and the full title of the ruler is ‘Attah Igala’, meaning, the Father of Igalas (the Igala word for King is Onu). Although “Attah” means “father”‘, female rulership is recognized and Igala has had female rulers in the past (Boston 1968).

Among the most revered Attahs of the Igala kingdom are Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko and Atta Ameh Oboni. According to oral tradition, Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered his most beloved daughter, Inikpi to ensure that the Igalas win a war of liberation from the Jukuns’ dominance.

Attah Ameh Oboni is known to be very brave and resolute. He is revered for his stiff resistance of the British and his struggles to uphold some ancient traditions of the Igalas. When he got wind of a plan by the British to depose and exile him, he committed suicide by hanging himself to forestall the plan. He is regarded by most Igalas as the last real Attah Igala.

There is an Igala association in the United States, called Igala Association USA. The new Attah of Igala is HRM Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II.


The traditional Igala society is largely agrarian, although fishing is also a mainstay of the people especially the Igalas of the riverine Idah area.

Boston (1968) believes that the central geographical location of the Igala people has exposed them to a wide variety of linguistic as well as cultural influences from other ethnic groups in the country. Notable among these are the Igbira, the Bini, the Igbo, the Hausa, the Idoma and the Yoruba ethnic groups.

Igala and Yoruba have important historical and cultural relationships. The languages of the two ethnic groups bear such a close resemblance that researchers such as Forde (1951) and Westermann and Bryan (1952) regarded Igala as a dialect of Yoruba.

Akinkugbe (1976,1978) is of the opinion that based on evidence, Igala is neither a dialect of Yoruba nor a language resulting from the fusion of Yoruba and Idoma people as claimed by Silverstein, but rather Igala shares a “common ancestor” with Yoruba. In her words, “… this common ancestor was neither Yoruba nor Igala but what we have labeled here as Proto-Yoruba-Itsekiri–Igala (PYIG). The evidence suggest further that presumably, Igala separated from the group before the split of Yoruba into the present day Yoruba dialects considering the extent of linguistic divergence found between Igala on one hand, and the rest of Yoruba on the other” (1978: 32) Akinkugbe cites lexicostatistic evidence as well as evidence of sound shifts and lexical innovations as support or corroboration of this claim.

Other comparative works aimed at investigating the language status of Igala (directly and indirectly) are Omamor (1967) and Williamson (1973). In fact, Williamson is the originator of the label ‘Yoruboid’ for the group of languages comprising Yoruba, Itsekiri and Igala for the purpose of distinguishing “between Yoruba as a language on the one hand, and Yoruba, Itsekiri and Igala as a genetic group on the other”. (Akinkugbe 1976:1) Akinkugbe refers to the proto- language of the group as Proto-Yoruboid in 1976 and Proto-Yoruba-Itsekiri-Igala (PYIG) in 1978

Contemporary historians believe that the Igala most likely shared a proto-Kwa ancestry with the modern Igbo and Yoruba people as well as most ethnic groups of Nigeria today. Thus, the ethnic family would include not only the prior two, but groups like the Idoma, and the Nupe to the north.


The new Attah Igala is HRM Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II.[1] He ascended the throne of his fore fathers in February, 2013, after the demise of Attah Aliyu Ocheje Obaje.[2]

Among the Igala ethnic group of Nigeria, They are ruled by a figure called the “Attah”. The word Attah means ‘Father’ and the full title of the ruler is ‘Attah Igala’, meaning, the Father of Igalas (the Igala word for King is Onu).

References; Wikipedia

Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, Nigeria

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