AS IGALA NATION MOURNS ATTAH AMEH OBONI 11
By Alhaji Sani Idoko Abdullahi
Under a strict Igala traditional belief, it would be difficult for people to write or discuss openly about the demise of an Attah Igala, the way modernity has made it to appear these days. His Royal Majesty, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni 11 was the second Attah that we saw in person in our own lifetime; but every well brought up Igala person must have been told of the story of Attah, Igala Kingdom and the reverence with which the Attah stool has been held overtime.
It was that spirit that must have restrained most Igala sons and daughters from going to the social media to announce with glee the rumoured death of the 27th Attah of Igala when the news started filtering in 27th August that he had given up the ghost. Am aware of the rebukes which those uncultured individuals who took it upon themselves to announce the demise of the man that Igala nation sees as its Paramount father were subjected to, even when the right sources were yet to confirm the incident. But in these days of the social media hype with everyone struggling to be the one that breaks the news, such people could be forgiven for their ignorance of the cultural practices of the people.
As painful, surprising and saddening the news of the demise of the Attah Igala is, the reality is that, having been formally confirmed by the kogi state government through the formal announcement by the Commissioner For Information with condolence message already sent by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari , GCFR, who has paid a glowing tribute to the late monarch, the news of his death can no longer be discussed in bussed voices. Like every mortal, the 27th Attah of Igala, Idakwo Ameh Oboni 11 has gone to meet his Creator, where his ancestors had since gone. So what remains is life after him.
As human beings, we are still not used to death, no matter how long we have lived everyday with it. That’s why whenever reports of death are made, the first reaction of people would be to ask what caused the death, answers which people give in various ways depending on the social, cultural and religious beliefs of the individuals answering the question. But as Muslims, we have always been made to believe that every soul must have a taste of death. Thus, whenever death occurs, what Muslims always say is, “Inna lillahi, wa Inna Illahi Rajiu,” which can be translated to mean, “From God we came, and to Him is our return.” The rest after that would be prayers for the repose of the soul of the dead.
When our revered Prophet, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) died in Medina after fulfilling his mission of delivering the message of Islam to humanity, not many people in the city of Medina, including some of his close companions could believe that Muhammad has died. Their disbelief in the report of his death arose out of their attribution of immortality to him, even though the Prophet never in any of his messages, utterances and actions attributed such position to himself. Rather, he was always reiterating his position as a mere massager of Allah who will live and die like everyone else.
Such doubting Thomases only retraced their steps when Abubakar, one of his closest companions and father- Inlaw came out openly to say, “Those who believe in Muhammad, Muhammad is dead; but those who believe in Allah, Allah is alive and and will live forever.”
It’s that simplistic attitudes that Muslims develop towards any death till today, no matter who is involved. And that’s why Muslims don’t enter into too much ceremony in burying the dead ones.
As for the Attah Igala, his position among the Igalas is so revered, that Islam and Christianity has not been able to completely change people’s reverence, respect and honour for whoever that occupies that position at any given, no matter the religion he openly professes as HRM Aliyu Obaje did as Muslim and Oboni 11 did as a Christian while others before them propagated traditional religion. Attah’s stool remains the most unifying force among the Igalas of varying religious beliefs, classes and politics, and his stand on any issue can hardly be contested against by any free born Igala anywhere in the world.
That’s why Igalas are not bothered by the religious beliefs of the occupant of Attah’s position at anytime, as he represents their social and cultural existence and the link between them and their peculiar humanity- Whatever religion that Attah openly professes does not reduce his respect and honour by the entirety of his people anywhere in the world, and that’s a peculiarity that must have distinguished Igalas as religion doesn’t fundamentally change them in relating with one another.
There had been several other Attah Igalas that had ruled the Igala kingdom, whose periods were not recorded in written history, except in oral history. But since when the recorded history of Attah’s period commenced in 1834 with Ekele Aga, Ameh Oboni 11 was the 27th, and he succeeded Aliyu Obaje in 2012.
As we mourn the demise of the second Attah in our lifetime, let all Igala sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora remain strong and united in the belief that every soul must have a taste of death, and that no life will be spared on this earth, no matter how long the Almighty God preserves it. The death of an Attah can no doubt be heartbreaking, saddening and demoralising to every Igala son and daughter, being their Paramount father, but it also provides us opportunity to reflect over the temporal nature of this life and the need for us to hold unto truth, goodness and justice among all peoples we may come across in our lifetime.
The death of an Attah must not also be seen as a personal loss to only the Igala race but all sons and daughters of Kogi state and Nigeria at large, considering the historical role that Igala nation has played and continues to play in building the Nigerian nation. Death is also a path which everyone must pass through at his or own time. It’s therefore, not anything to be sorrowful or lament about but something to reflect and change the way we see and react to incidents in life. For before now, many other Attahs had passed, but Igala nation remains and will continue to be with the people till the world comes to an end.
My heartfelt condolences, therefore, goes to all Igala sons and daughters at home and anywhere in the world as we mourn the death of the 27th Attah of Igala, who occupied the position that unifies the entire Igala nation. May Allah strengthen us and prepare us for the challenges of life after this painful incident.
Megwa Attah…. Gaaba’idu!!