IGALA & BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia

IGALA/BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia Igala/Bini relation was significantly noticed in the 1200 up IGALA & BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia till the time of the dreadlock Oba of Bini through the improved seedlings of palm tree plantation to all the communities along the river banks to Ogbaru, Onitsha, Asaba and Idah. But in turn the palm oil was agreed to be sold to the Binis who supplied the seedlings ab-nitio for onward sales to the Portuguese. That relationship was cordial until Oba Esigie II came on throne with a new order that the Igalas should also pay homage and attributes to him. Then hostilities broke out which led to full blown war. In1515/1516 the legendary Onoja Oboni led the war against the Binis under the watchful eye of Ata Ayegba, while the mother of the Oba of Bini (Idia) led Binis to war against the Igalas. At the end agreement was reached to grant Independence to both kingdoms and guaranteed immunity to Conquest at the village of UZARUE.
one other thing alien to the Igala then which was among items carried from Oba’s palace was cocoa nut was not known to Igalas. They describe it as resembling palm kernel belonging to Oba of Benin.

IGALA & BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia The second war between the Igala and Benin was the war Inikpi- the daughter of Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered herself to be buried alive in order that all Igalas should live as free borns. After the defeat in the first war, which they (Binis) suffered in the hands of the Igalas, no stone was left unturnrd in the second war. Firstly, they let loosed their beautiful girlsn to go N@kk€d into the camp of the Igala soldiers in an attempt to defile them. Secondly they hired the service of the Portuguese mercenaries who fought on the side of the Binis. The Igala soldiers who went to invade Bini retreated but could not come back home. They were afraid of returning because they did not abide by the instruction given them by their king. Then, they settled by the river banks near Idah (Iba-aji). from Portuguese missionary records, we know that the Igala fought fiercely and gallantly in war that made the Oba of Benin to request the aid of the Portugal mercenaries to support the war with ammunition to describe the strength and skill of Galla people in war.


1. The Igalas should hang the Pectoral Mask (Ejubejuailo) on Ata which is the head symbol of the mother of Oba Esigie II (Idia).
2. Bini should take the symbol of the mysterious knife of Onoja Oboni and be held by someone before the Oba and that the boy’s name should be (Omada) i.e Father’s son and the knife should be called Ada i.e Father (in Igala language).

These two insignia exchanged should be a reminder of Independence and guaranteed Immunity to conquest.
In exchange too, the Bini gave Igalas Seven Blacksmiths, Epe royal masquerade and his son that got drawn in the River Niger while crossing.
The descendants of the blacksmiths gotten from Bini could still be found around OFIJI area of Idah. The custodians of Epe royal masquerade are the OKETE-OGBE.
The mother of Oba Esigie (Idia) was mastery in witchery and so engage her prowells or Wands to check-mate the legendary and mysterious Onoja Oboni in fierce war that led to independence of the two kingdoms.
Onoja Oboni is a descendant of Obajadaka, the first Ata royal masquerade that led the first Ata Igala (Abutu Ejeh) to Idah via Omagedo-Ife in Abejukolo-Ife.
Onoja Oboni was the custodian of the masquerade during the war of Igala/Bini. Though the Obajadaka masquerade was in charge of the Ocho and Egwu festivals performed annually at Ere-ane and Ere-ebo at Igala-ogba Idah but was banned after the 1955 events due to the allegations of human cruelty which culminated to the suicide of the then Atah Igala Ame Oboni. Then Ekwe royal masquerade which was originally in the second in hierarchy became prominent and the first otherwise Ekwe was the wife of Obajagadaka as the Ata is considered a wife to the Achadu customarily. History has it that The Igala mega state attained the height of its fame during the mid-17th century. The rise of the Igala mega state disrupted and contributed to the shift of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade from the Bight of Benin to the Bight of Igbo and the decline of the Benin Empire between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Idah-Benin war (1515-1516) was a war of mutual independence. The Igala state reached its political and commercial supremacy afterwards, when it became a leading exporter of choral beads, horses, medicine, skills and of course, slaves to the coastal region. Its growing power, nevertheless, changed the dynamics of the earlier complex relationships with several northern Igbo communities. Joseph Hawkins in 1797 already captured the relentless raiding of the extreme northern Igboland by the Igalas. In his “A History of a Voyage to the Coast of Africa” he noted the growing conflicts between the ‘Ebo Country’ and ‘Galla’. By the late 17th century, the Igalas also conquered and held socio-economic, political and religious control of the indigenous northern Igbo mini-states. From Opi, Nsukka, Nsugbe, several Igbo communities on the Anambra river, the lower Niger, through Okpanam to Asaba the Igala held sway. Trading out post with Onitsha and the Ijo middlemen were fully established. The mythical Omeppa, Inenyi Ogugu set up garrison at Opi and several Igala warlords played their part in the build up of the Igala colonial take over of these northern Igbo states. But no other individual played a greater role in shaping Igala-Igbo colonisation during the 18th century than Onoja Oboni, the legendary Igala warrior and slave trader. Onoja Oboni’s personality and heritage has been shrouded in mythical imagery over time. The key areas of consensus are; he was a master strategist, slave raider and trader, conqueror, coloniser and imperialist. Added to these were his diplomacy, expansionist traits and the acculturation of conquered territories.

IGALA & BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia He built himself a walled city in Ogurugu and recent archaeological findings of the remnant of the ruins of his fort on the grounds of the University of Nsukka confirm this. The Igala soldiers built forts and fortifications that stretched from Ete down to Opi and then to Anambra. Oboni’s rise to power affected the history of the North-western Nsukka and the Igbo communities on the Anambra River and the Lower Niger during the Igala commercial and socio-cultural ascendancy and domination. This was the reinforcing of the golden age of Igala imperial expansion. In this way, Igala mega state took control and allegiance were paid. Until the decline of Igala power, the Ezes of Enugu Ezike, Akpugo, Nkpologu, Ibagwa Ani and Opi continued to receive their titles from Idah; investiture, installation and confirmation of their office was only by the royal blessing of Attah Igala in Idah.

IGALA & BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia The Eze were only validated when they returned home with Igala choral beads ‘aka’, staff of office believed to be imbued with protective charms to ensure longevity and security of the Eze as well as prestige animal (horse) to bolster up their ego. There were also periodic royal visits to the Attah Igala to pay tributes and as well intended to strengthen diplomatic ties and inter-group relations, renew allegiance, and assured insurance from slave raids. In terms of indigenous technologies, the Igala soldiers built factories (forges) for manufacturing Dane-guns, ironworks, carving, introduced arrowheads with tip-poison from sting ray; cloth knitting, terracing of Nsukka hillsides and brought in a well developed political and social hierarchies. At this time Igala empire had become a cultural exchange hub for other emerging states; the influence was felt as far north as the Nok civilisation and down east to Igbo-Ukwu civilisation. Till date many of the Igala-Nsukka borderland remain bilingual. On the religious level, the Igala installed their own priests- the Attama- as the custodian of the dangerous ‘alusi’ shrine, took control as mediators between the spirit and the Igbo communities, presided over divinations and fashioned ‘Ikenga’, ‘Okwute’ (ritual staffs) that combined both Igala and Igbo religious elements. The Attama thus became the major agents of Igala socio-cultural control. Several efforts to keep the Attama lineage Igala failed, eventually the priestly office has been greatly igbonized, even though the nominal Igala identification is still predominant. Many of the northern Igbo state settlements have lineages with Igala names, cultural practices with marked Igala modification and adaptations.

IGALA & BENIN KINGDOM The Significance of the Two Insignia  The use of Igala circular basket in contrast to the Igbo rectangular types persists till this day. By the turn of the 19th century, the Igala empire was too large for any reliable and robust central control. Internal decay and implosion set in. The Fulani jihadists started contracting the Igala imperial power, conquered territories in the north switched tributes, forced or/and seceded from the Igala empire. The Bassa war added more pressure to the war-weary empire. The abolition of slave trade brought in untold economic recession. In 1914 the British burnt down Ibagwa and Obukpa as a punitive measure. By the 1920s, Igala empire was a spent force and a limping shadow, the British easily took over control of both Nsukka and the Igala territories.

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  1. Very lopsided, false narratve,im thankful though that you acknowledged that the Portuguese fought side by side with the Oba of Benin… The Benin’s treat their women as sacred, they would never send their women to do what in Igala camps.. Very laughable.. The Portuguese have the written down history of this war… The igalas were decisively beaten, pushed back out of Benin all the way to their own land.. Esigie eventually made the Atta of Igala to pay tributes to benin and this yearly tribute was accompanied yearly by fresh Igala Eunuchs, castrated to serve in the harem of the Oba… People need to stop lying.. Truth always comes out.

  2. Two empires fought a bitter war and it led to the independence of the two empires. Does it make sense. Idah was routed and the Attah was captured to Benin by Queen Idia. The Ekassa dancers were captured and taken to Benin city. They are still there till today at ogbelaka in Benin city. The mask worn by the Attah is indicative of the supremacy of the Oba of Benin. The eunuchs from idah are very much around in Benin city. Go for further study on the outcome of the Benin ldah war. Idah is called in Benin lghodaro. Also find out the ldah account of the Oduduwa of ife and find out if it’s the same with that of Benin. Thanks. The Lord keep you.

  3. I think history is gradually going extinction if nobody could give a comprehensive account of these legendary Wars between the Bini and Igala repectively. The significance of the long standing relationship is what both are suppose to be celebrating yearly and nationally as a major boost of our tourism and development, but sucessive short sighted governments have paid deaf ears to this sector. Can’t we borrow a leg from China and America to speedily revive this dying cultural heritage?

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