By Felix Solomon Omachokon
The Emergence of Ejeh in Ankpa and the entire Igala land as it is today was as a result of the long squabble and acrimony between the descendants of prince Atiele who happen to be the first Son of Attah Idoko and his younger brother Attah Ayegba Oma- Idoko.
The name Ejeh literally means Leopard which represents power in Igala land. Among the Igala people, leopard or Tiger carries names such as Ikpali, Ejeh, Eko, Omataina, Agagu etc, the Animal is known to be fearless, wild and courageous. This informed the choice of the title Ejeh . On other account, the choice of the title Eje was informed by the fact that it was the name of the founding Ancestor of the Igala ruling dynasty, HRM Abutu Ejeh. Whichever way one views it, what appeared important in the choice of the title was perhaps the need to drive in some measure of legitimacy or supremacy with that of Gaibaidu (Lion ) his younger brother Attah Ayegba subsequently as a way to justify their link to HRM Abutu Ejeh the founding Ancestor of the entire Igala ruling dynasty.
According to both Oral and written tradition, the entre present Ankpa local down to some part of the present Olamaboro are descendants of Prince Atiele the elder brother of Attah Ayeagba both sons of HRM Attah Idoko the grand Son of Abutu Ejeh. It should be noted that, both Olamaboro and Omala local government were formally under Ankpa local government making it one of the most largest and influential local government in the entire then North central until 1991 before Omala and Olamaboro local government were created out of the old Ankpa local government.
According to Oral tradition as handed down from ages has it that; Attah’s eldest Sons are not allowed by tradition to live in the same palace with Attah for the fear that they could collaborate with king makers to either kill or dethrone Attah hence Atiele was not living in the Palace with his Father Attah Idoko. During this period, Prince Atiyele as the eldest son was in charge of the whole affairs of Igala kingdom under the watch of his father. These and many of his (Atiele) exploits and gifted managerial talents fetched him enemies from members of the royal household, including his step mothers and step brothers.
On this fateful day, he went for his usual hunting, his sick father (Ata Idoko) died. Note, in those days, a hunter could spend days and months hunting. During this period, it was said that Igala nation was at war with the Jukun over kingdom supremacy as it were then. Due to the war, it was said that the kingmakers were of the opinion that Attah should be replaced immediately with Ayegba (one of the available sons) before the news of his death spread to the enemy’s Camp. While other accounts has it that it was like a palace coup by the then kingmakers who were afraid of the growing and fierce influence of Atiele, who due to his wisdom and rich knowledge of the Igala institution, was almost like another Attah. Hence plotted and ensured he didn’t succeed ascending the throne of his father. Before he arrived from the hunt, the whole process was rushed to ensure Ayegba is crowned Attah in the place of Atiele.
According to history, tradition demands that a message was supposed to be sent to invite the eldest Son Atiele back home and by implication made to succeed his Father. But in Atiele’s own case, such was not adhered to because no invitation was sent to him. This provided an enabling environment to his younger brother Ayegba to take or step in to their Father’s position as the Attah. This Action viewed by Prince Atiele as a betrayal and sellout on the part of the king makers. Thus, it was asserted that this is non conformity with the principles of succession was instrumental to the later bitterness, rancor and lack of respect for the stool and position of the Attah by the descendants of Atiele ( Ankpa ) until recently.
Prince Atiele who later protested from Idah to Ankpa area now Imane Imane in Olamaboro but then under Ankpa local government in the early 15th century, established a new Kingdom independent of Idah as it were then. Prince Atiele later died and was buried in same Imane in a royal burial ground along Imane- Agaliga Road where successor Odaojiji are buried till date .
History has it that Atiele didn’t migrate to Imane (Ankpa) Area alone, he came along with his eldest Son Idoko Ejeh, but later got married again in Ankpa to another wife called Anogba from Ojja people he met in the area who later gave birth to his second Son
Oguche-kwo. Onogba was a relative of the then local Chief Called Agbaji. Oguchekwo got so strong eventually that Agbaji gave up his title and later Oguchekwo went to Idah and was beaded by Attah as the First Onu Ankpa then as an extension of the Odaojiji Kingdom as headed by his Father Atiele who was later succeeded by his eldest Son Idoko Ejeh. While Ochapa the third son after Oguchekwo later founded Ojoku. Idoko Ejeh later got married in Imane and had the following children in order of seniority:
Ohimu, Idede, Okolikotu, Aloga, Oyunka, All of the first three children: Idede, Okolikotu and Aloga, are of the same parent ( father and mother). While Ohiemu and Oyunka on the other hand have the same parents (mother and father ). However, the five (5) children of Idoko Ejeh are now spread as follows: Ohiemu; Imane-Agaliga; Idede: Imane- Ojuwo down to Ogenago, Okorikotu: the Okolikotu are the largest among the descendants of Atiele. Under Okolikotu we have Adori :Imane Oforo, Idede : Imane Ofudu, Akor :Imane Oja Oda-ochai, Ojobi: Imane- Efekpe, Oda Itodo: from same Efekpe, Aloga: Imane- Ebuloko and lastly Onyuka: Imane Abo.
Oral tradition has it that Atiele is the progenitor of the present 5 ruling houses of the Oda Ojiji chiefdom as presently constituted. In summery, his projeny currently rules Imane, Ankpa, Igah Okpo, part of Ade, part of Ette, Ojoku, Enjema, Ofugu etc .
The existence and operations of Ankpa as an autonomous territory with a sovereign power came to limelight during the reign of Adaji Itodo Akpa a descendant of Oguchekwo in 1916-1925. Adaji itodo was said to have wielded an enormous power that covered the present Ankpa, Olamoboro and some parts of the present Omala Local Government Area. His reign was described as great and assumed a dimension similar to that of the Attah. He was said to have answered the royal greeting “Agabaidu” just like the Attah in place of “Doga” as it should be and equally enjoyed all the royal privileges as accorded the Attah such as blowing of the trumpet (Okakachi), flutes (Okpacina) and beating of the royal drums and praises.
The action of the Onuh Ankpa, Adaji Itodo Akpa generated a deep sense of disloyalty and disrespect for the throne of the Attah believed to be the father of all. In response to this show of insubordination, the Attah Atabor Ijomi questioned the justification for the action of the Onuh Ankpa. According to him, there cannot be two fathers in the kingdom. This generated serious conflict between the two rulers and their followers to a point that the colonial authority became restless. In order to settle the two rival chiefs the colonial authority summoned a meeting of the two traditional rulers at Atanegoma (Ochaja) perceived to be a neutral ground and perhaps central to the whole of Igalaland. In the Atanegoma meeting the need for one single central authority as a for effective Native Administration system was discussed. In pursuance of this, it was contemplated that the seat of the Attah and the headquarters of Igalaland be moved to the area Atanegoma Ochaja for its centrality and as a way of pacifying the aggrieved Ankpa people. But as earlier stated, the reaction and plea of the people made the colonial authority to rescind such decision. This action was not in the best interest of Ankpa delegates to the meeting and the Onuh Ankpa, Adaji Itodo Akpa described the action of the colonial authority as a betrayal and vowed to continue with the Struggle.Despite the agitations, Ankpa people were forced against their will to joined the Igala Native Authority and be loyal and submissive to the authority of the Attah of Igala. This action became necessary because having studied the traditions of the people, the British colonial authority came to terms with the fact that within the Ankpa area were other royal chiefs who were the direct descendants of either Ayegba or children of Ayegba. Such groups who were branded as Amomata (children of the royal house) takes their titles from Idah and remained unequivocally loyal to the Attah, as was the case of Emekutu, Enjema, Emanyi,Inyelle and Ade.These junior branches of the royal clan whereever they are located in Igalaland not only regarded themselves as independent of the subsidiary provincial clans, but also compete with them politically; this was also obtainable in Ankpa. The lack of support from these very groups and the need to maintain peace and orderliness, coupled with the commitment for a successful Native Administration System led the British Colonial Authority to take the step and action they took by ensuring a single Central Native Administration for the people as a panacea.
Felix Solomon Omachokon is a Public Affairs Analyst.