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Literature Poetry

An Exposition of Igala-Speaking Communities in Anambra State

Anambra State is considered Igboland's heart because it dwells on Nri, which is considered Igbo Land 's ancestral seat. What many people don't know though is that Anambra isn't Igbo entirely. The state has more than 10 communities that are of the bloodline of Igala. These communities lie at the state periphery that borders the Niger River and extends to the State of Delta and Kogi.

I would like to recap three real-life experiences before discussing these communities and that made me aware that Igal people live in our community.

First was at the defunct Osusu Boys Secondary School in my Secondary School Days, Aba which is now run by Anglican Church. It was around 2006 and I was in 2 G Jss. The school was then a large one with subclasses of fifty (50) students each having each class from JSS 1 to SS3. The classes were called A, to whatever amount the students were stopping. So, I was in 2 G JSS. Class JSS 2 halted at H. JSS 1 was the largest that spread to O then.

In our second term, there was this boy who joined us. Paschal Ojochebe was named after him. When our English Teacher first pronounced his surname, I instantly knew it wasn't Igbo. Mrs. Atata has also not been left out. We were all astonished when Paschal told us that precisely Anambra West Local Government Area was from the Anambra State. This unique incident has stuck to my mind. Paschal headed back to Anambra in our SS1.

The second incident happened at the University of Uyo in my second year in 2015. I stayed at Udi Hostel and it was during the period of Post UTME. One of our roommates had taken in his childhood friend who came to the exam. They were all raised in Onitsha. In the room after which the young man will buy bread and drinks from the kids, we have had this tradition of welcoming new guests. That new guy introduced his name as Ekenedilichukwu Omoja during his introduction. This instantly piqued my curiosity.

Others, also mentioning he was from Anambra, were unbothered. I still have a knack of trying to find out about men, their nations, ethnic groups, and the like. I am very potty about the cultural and ethnic compositions of the world's countries and trust me, I've visited several places with my eyes rather than legs. I'm still coming across someone who can match my cultural and anthropological zest. Ok, I met him later and he said that he was from Ukwala, an island in Anambra surrounded by the River Niger.

The Last was when I was reading about one Esteemed Father Hyacinth Jemigbola, an Onitsha Archdeaconry Catholic Priest in one of the National Dailies years ago. He relocated to Miami then to continue his studies, according to the report. Jemigbola is more Yorubaic but I was surprised to find out he's also from Anambra. It was later during my research that I discovered he was Anambra Igala from Igbedor in the same Anambra West

Anambra State's Igala-Speaking People reportedly make up 2 percent of the state's population. That's more than 100,000 people judging from today 's projected Anambra state population. These include Ode, Igbedor, Odekpe (Not Ogbaru Odekpe), Alla, Onugwa, Odomagwu, and Igbokenyi all known as Olumbanasaa in Anambra West Anambra State Local Government Area. The Olumbanasaa is an island hemmed in by the River Niger on all sides and can only be reached by boat.

In addition to the Olumbanasaa, we have the state's Igala-speaking people also found in Innoma, Owelle, Ukwala, and Nzam all in the state's Anambra West Local Government Area. Even Igbariam is a part of Igala. Inoma, Owelle, and Ukwala are known collectively as Inoma Akator.

Today, only Nzam remains problematic for all those Igala-Speaking communities in Anambra. This is because Nzam is Anambra West's Local Government headquarters. Although I feel that the Igbo aspect is very strong there, I have to admit that most of its villages are named after Igala. Some of the residents there still have tribal signs on the Igala. The names of their villages also replicate in Ibaji, an area of Igala in Kogi State that indicates a southward drift of migrants from the Ibaji region.

Migration was an integral part of human life. Almost all of the world's ethnic groups migrated from one location to another. Oral history has it that the land occupied by Anambra's Igala-Speaking people belongs to the citizens of Aguleri until migrants from Ibaji invaded the land from Kogi in search of farmland.

Elder Chife explained that the Nzam community is the Ijam and Igala speaking part of Anambra State, according to Elder Chife Amekwe of Nzam in an interview with Sunday Sun some years ago. It consists of seven villages, including Etakolo, Odobo, Udda, Urubi, Enekpa, Ndiokpoliba, and Echa. Despite suffering from government neglect, the people are happy people steeped in and happy about various cultural and traditional festivities.

His Words: 'Nzam's natives were descendants of General Ajida, a notable Idah warrior of Kogi State origin. Ajida is Field Marshal Ogbe 's father who was married to Iyida Ogbe and Iyida had five kids — Nzam, Anam, Anaku, Oloshi, and Okpanam. Ogbe and his family lived in Igala Territory, around Ankpa. When the Apa and Jukun warriors invaded the communities of Igala, Field Marshal Ogbe and many others retreated along the course of the Niger River with their families through the present Ibaji jungle. As they traveled their way, various children of Ogbe settled at their present locations for one reason or the other. This Igala Kingdom movement describes the fact that there are Odobo, Enekpa, Igah, Iyano towns in both Kogi State's Ibaji local government area and Nzam town in Anambra West Anambra State's Local Governing Region.'

One problem with the Igala Anambra is that most exist in denial. The mainstream Igala spoken in kogi state differs significantly from what they speak in Anambra, so is their mannerism and culture as well. Due to years of acculturation, Anambra Igala tends to behave and dress like the Igbos whilst those in kogi act and dress like the Hausas. They are culturally Igbo and still retain some of the core igala heritage. Yes they speak Igbo as a subsidiary language and also bear names of Igbo. There is a fair level of bilingualism in that country.

Another thing is that obviously those people are marginalised. The roads are bad and inaccessible. Most communities are islands which can be accessed via water. They are completely flooded during the rainy season which causes problems for their inhabitants. To get to Igbokenyi, for example, one must first stop at Illah in Delta State, then board a boat to the community that is 41 kilometers away from Onitsha. This trip is intensive and takes more than three hours to complete. I believe the current Anambra State Governor is doing something to that effect.

This further underlines the enthroned twin evils of imperialism and the predominance of bigotry by the people of the majority of Nigerian ethnic nationalities. In Kogi state the Igalas constitute the majority. There they lord it over other ethnic nationalities but many of them are unknown, their kiths and kins endure similar fate in Anambra.

Here he said: 'The Anambra Igala are not tenants in the state of Anambra,' according to a social commentator about the condition of Anambra Igala in the state. They are not inferior to the man from Onitsha, nnewi, awka or any other part of Anambra state, or less to Anambrarian. They are bonafide state indigenous and as such have the right to every right and privilege granted to any Anambrarian.'

All I have to say the Igala Anambra is they should be proud of who they are, they should stand up and protect their cultural heritage. The Anambra people are tolerant and peaceful. They see you as their brothers, and will never subject you to any kind of oppression.You don't sit down, however, folding your hands and expecting the government to do it all for you. Stand up, and work yourself out things. Demand your share wherever possible because for everyone Anambra is your home and home. No one can take it away. No one! Even we Igbos ourselves have identity crises. You 're not going to be the final either. Udo, peace!

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Anambra State Igala Kogi O Paschal Ojochebe


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