Kogi State is a multi ethnic state. There are at least 12 indigenous ethnic groups in the state and amongst them is the Igala ethnic group, which is infact the largest ethnic group in Kogi State. The Igala ethnic group is based on the eastern side of the Niger-Benue confluence. 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 actual Igala word for King is Onu ). Idah is the ancestral home of the Igalas and that is where the Attah rules from.
On Sunday, 15th of January, team Myafurika paid a visit to the ancestral hike of the Igalas — Idah —in a single trip to see two really important figures in the Igala Kingdom: The Attah of Igala and the burial site of the legendary Princess Inikpi, where her statue stands as a monument paying tribute to the bravery of the Princess. Now, before I go on, I would ask a question. Do you know Princess Inikpi? You don’t? You didn’t read her in one of your English texts back in Primary or Secondary schools? Well, that’s a shame. However, don’t stress much, for I’ll tell you about the legend of Princess Inikpi.
Put yourself in this plot:
It’s the 19th century and you are the king of the Igala Kingdom. Your Kingdom is at the brink of War and no, it’s not the type of War you can win. As a matter of fact, you don’t stand a chance. Infact, for your own good, you shouldn’t go to war. But sometimes, war is the only way out of Slavery, so war. You are torn between continuing paying tributes to a bigger Kingdom and living as their subjects, or revolting against them, which means war. You found yourself in the latter, because your Kingdom and everyone you rule over have decided that it’s your duty, as king, to lead them out of this bondage. So, war, or in the mildest situation, a revolt. But now war is upon you, and the enemy is the Bini Kingdom. Yes, the almighty Bini empire. They are upon you, coming down on you like a storm threatening to sweep off everything it sees before it. You are under siege, and you stand no chance.
The markets are empty and the rivers are poisoned. Everyone stays at home, waiting for a fate that now seemed inevitable. You, the Attah, have no one else to turn to except of course, the Oracle. Your last resort. What would you do if the Oracle informs you that the only chance you have is to sacrifice your most beloved daughter to be BURIED ALIVE at the banks of the river Niger? Tight right? No, suffocating infact.
This is no folk tale. This is not something that happened during the stone ages. This is no fiction. This, was the situation Ayegba Oma Idoko, the then Attah of Igala, found himself. His most beloved daughter, BURIED ALIVE. He had just seven days. For days, he went through the kind of emotional and psychological meltdown anyone in his position would go through. His daughter, the Princess Inikpi, noticed, and pressed him to tell her what ate him that much. He didn’t. He couldn’t. Until on the seventh day, when he had to. Now let’s put you into another plot:
You are a princess whose Kingdom is at the edge of a fatal war and the only remedy to the total annihilation of your kin is that you are buried alive at the bank of the Niger. You had seven days but you only found out on the seventh day, so you had no time left.
That was where she, Inikpi, found herself.
After her father narrates his dilemma to her, she says nothing. She shows no emotions. She leaves, without crying, or whining, or whatever emotion she has to show. She leaves, with her maidens and her friends, and floats to the bank of the Niger, and like a willing sacrifice that she was, and with the help of her friends, digs her own grave in the Sands of the river bank, and she would immerse herself into it and be covered with the soil. There, at the bank of the Niger, the Princess gives herself away for the liberation of her people— voluntarily. Without even the consent of her father, who could not make the decision himself.
The war would not happen, because as the Bini warriors advanced, they saw, across the Niger, an Igala Kingdom already engulfed in flames. It was not so, though, as the consequence of Inikpi’s sacrifice had created that illusion. So the Bini warriors returned, for there was no use conquering a Kingdom that was already self destructed. So it was, that from then and forever, the Igala people were liberated from the Bini people.
Team Myafurika visited Idah, the ancestral home of the Igalas where the Palace of the Attah of Igala is located. The visit to Idah was originally meant strictly to visit the Statue of Princess Inikpi, however, we decided to pay a courtesy visit to the current Attah himself, HRM Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni II in his palace. However, he was absent. A palace guard took us around the historic palace, the same one occupied by the Attah Ayegba, and the Princess Inikpi nearly two hundred years ago.
We left the palace and headed for the Idah market, where the statue of Princess Inikpi is located.
It was a market day, therefore there were a lot of activities — buying, selling and roaming of course. We asked a bike man where we could find the statue and he attempted to describe it for us. Sensing that we may not have gotten his description, he offered to lead us there. After a very short walk with some shoves and turns, we got to the heart of the Idah market which is just at the bank of the river Niger. There, standing before us, was the statue of Princess Inikpi, right on the spot where she is believed to have made the ultimate sacrifice many years ago.
The team left Idah that day with an indescribable feeling of deep, deep sense of solemnity. We practically felt her. Standing in front of that statute, it felt like the same air that cruised against us had stood witness to what happened right on that spot some 200 years ago.