Many Kings Fell During Usman Danfodio Struggle But Attah Igala Sat Firmly on his Throne
By Ayegba Abdullahi
Usman Dan Fodio, a Fulani man was said to have assembled Fualni Army to lead in Jihad against the Hausa Kingdoms of the northern Nigeria.
The four years (1804-1808) Jihad (“a war or struggle against unbelievers”, Concise Oxford Dictionary) removed almost all Hausa kings and had them replaced by Fulanis as Emirs. North central was north left out since it has north appendage as Ilorin, Niger, Nasarawa, etc were also affected. Careful look today will show you that religion in Nigeria is like southern religion and northern religion.
Sooner, it became the turn of Idah for an Emir, and Fulani man to replace Attah Igala and become the King of Igala Kingdom. Just like this present day Nigeria in which there are multiple checkpoints on our roads, that was how Igala territory was secured in those days by Igala soldiers. All the entries through Abuja, Nasarawa, Benue, southeast, rivers Niger/Benue, in fact even through air, including the invisible mercenaries were guarded against.
Igala land began from Abaji (presently in Abuja but formerly under Koton Karfe) thru Koton Karfe – Lokoja –Ajokuta –Itobe – Ajegu – Idah where the Attah Igala is.
When the soldiers of Danfodio entered Igala land, the soldiers at Abaji Igala solders allowed them in, so that in case they are running back when the war is tough, they Abaji soldiers will handle them.
Moving a little from Abaji is a tall hill where Igala tower men (“far lookers”) were staying. The location is called Akpogu, meaning a place where the one who shouts is staying. The task of those on the hill is to alert other solders in a shouting form that strangers were coming. It was from that shout that they named the area, Akpogu.
On seeing the Danfodio soldiers, the tower men alerted (ama wayi! (they are coming) other solders in Koto (originally called Igu) and they positioned for the battle.
Unfortunately, the Usman Danfodio men were all brought down by Igala soldiers, reliable sources revealed. That was how the war ended even far away in Koto not nearing Idah let alone reaching the palace of Attah Igala. It was after this fight that the Koto people were named by Hausa people as Koto Karfe, meaning Akpoto with power or powerful Akpoto. It was just Koto without Karfe.
Also, the original name of the place was Igu shortened from Ugbo ki gu, meaning “ the location where he sat”, as that was the location where their forefather, Ohiemi, and Igala man from Idah was said to have sat or rested briefly during their journey.
But on a visit by some white people to the area, the people seeing the white probably for the first time started saying “Akpo to, Akpo to”, meaning “we have entered or we have entered trouble, …”. On hearing this coupled with language barriers, the white people recorded them as Akpoto people and that was used to describe almost all Igala people and their sister tribes during thoat period including some other whites who came after them.
Among all the paramount and/or powerful rulers in the northern part of Nigeria then, it was only Attah Igala that was not removed from his throne or replaced by Fulani Emir. That was probably the 4th war fought by Igala though some were neutralized or aborted before reaching Idah. But that is another formula, isn’t it? This is because no specific or defined standard methods to fight or win a war, only the one that is best for you.
These wars were Igala Jukun war (their soldiers drank water of Inachalo stream, the last stream before Idah from Nsukka side and many died, so the remaining few ran back), Igala-Benin war (the first was won by Igala and the second was spiritually ended), Queen Amina of Zauzau (she was killed with her solders by Igala soliders and her body taken to Idah, and she was buried at Okpachala Ogbagba, a stone’s throw from Idah on the instruction of the Attah Igala palace), and probably the last was the downing of Usman Dan Fodio People.
During the Nigeria civil war, the first bomb that was dropped to destroy the people in the market deflected gently and landed in the river Niger. All these, I think are in accordance with the popular adage in Igala, Idah ya da. Literarily, it means, it is in Idah that it will end.
Peace, be still! God bless Igala Kingdom
Amb Ayegba A. A.
Teacher, Researcher and Igala Culture, Unity and Identity Advocate.