The Igala are an ethnic group of Nigeria. The people are majorly found in Kogi State and have its capital in Idah. The Igalas are also found in Anambra, Bayelsa (Nembe), Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Nasarawa, Niger and River states. The total population is 1,483,373 according to the 2006 census. The Igala ethnic group is related with other ethnic groups such as Yoruba, Idoma, Igbo, Ebira and Esan.
The Igala Kingdom was founded by Abutu-Eje in the 7th century. The kingdom was ruled by nine high officials called the ‘’Igala Mela’’ who were the custodians of the sacred earth shrine. The kingdom survived well into the 19th century and became a British protectorate in 1901. The name Igala is said to have been coined from a Yoruba name for antelope (Igala) by some scholars. These scholars believe that there were many antelopes during the early migration of the Igalas into the land; hence the name.
The Igala dialects include; Ebu, Idah, Ankpa, Dekina, Ogugu and Ibaji. The language of the Igalas belongs to the Yoruboid branch of the Defoid languages.
The people are majorly farmers and those in the riverine Idah areas are fishermen. The farmers cultivate crops such as yam, cassava, maize, melon, groundnut, guinea corn, beans, millet, and benniseed.
The people believe in the existence of the great God which they refer to as ‘’Ojo ogbekwugbekwu’’. Other gods worshipped are Ibekwu (ancestors), Ikpakachi (river god). These deities are celebrated during special festivals. Modern day Igalas are Christians and Muslims.
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
The people are led by a figure called the ‘’Attah’’ (means father). Female rulership is recognized and the first Attah was Ebule-Jonu, a woman, she was succeeded by her brother, Agana-Poje. The current Attah of Igala Kingdom is Idakwo Michael Ameh. He is the twenty-second Attah.
The igalas have tribal marks which is a three-deep-horizontal cut on each side of the face, slightly above the corners of their mouths. This is popular in some parts of the kingdom like Ankpa.
The Igala traditional attire has black and yellow color. The woven fabric can be sewn in different styles for different occasions. The male attire includes a cap with the black-and-yellow touch. These clothes are also styled with embroideries. The females use accessories such as corals and jewelries to match their outfits.
According to oral tradition, Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered his most beloved daughter, Inikpi to be buried alive on order to ensure that the Igalas win a war of liberation from the Jukun’s dominance. Inikpi’s statue now stands gracefully in Idah and the people are quick to point to her as their heroine.