Nigeria Cultural Re-birth : Igala Ocho Festival Back 62 Years After…Lexicographer

Attah Igala

By Jibo John Idakwoji :

All roads lead to  ÍDÁ, the cradle and capital of the Ígálá people, on Saturday, the 19th of May, 2018 for the historic celebration of the Ócho Festival.

Igalas at home and in the diaspora will be joined by a teeming population of their friends and well-wishers to witness the historic rebirth of this significant festival, which has been kept in limbo for sixty-two odd years, having been proscribed in 1956.

Like other colourful, cultural Igala festivals, Ócho is programmed to open a new season in the agrarian life of the Igala people. While the Ìbégwú Festival flags off the eating of new yam during the rainy season, Ócho, ideally, kicks off the ‘ọ́dẹ,’ or hunting season, when the bush is burned in the dry season of every year.

The Igalaa shares the word, ‘ọ́dẹ,’ with their Yorùbá and Ìtshẹ̀kírí  kindred. Àtás down the ages are known for their obsession for hunting and warring as artful sports and past-times.

That explains the genesis of the Ócho Festival in the reign of Àtá Ìdoko Agánápojè (1657-1687). The king was on a hunt one day and he lost his way in the forest. He had even been given up for dead; but he was found around nightfall.

To mark his happy return to his people, the king threw a party for his people in the hunts-field there and  ordered that the same be done back home to commemorate the incident every year and also to flag off the hunting season in the entire kingdom.

‘Ócho che én’iyà,’ so say our elders, meaning that Ócho Festival entails so much to look forward to, in terms of composite rites performed behind the scene and the mind-blowing, carnival-like procession from the ‘Áneẹ́-Ocho,’ (Ócho grounds) through the ‘Ẹ́rẹ-anẹ̀’ (Earth Shrine) to the Ata’s palace. It was in consideration of these rites, procedures and fanfare that the female name, ‘Òchóníya,’ was coined.

The timing of the celebration of Ócho for this year may be belated and, no doubt, breaches the ancient norm. However,  that is not only understandable; it is also pardonablen considering the fact that the festival is just waking up from a long, deep sedation imposed by the sledge-hammer of the colonial authorities that banned it in 1956, based on a trumped up allegation of human sacrifice levelled against Àtá Àámẹ́ẹ Òbòní.

The allegation was eventually voided by a definitive forensic evidence even though, by then, it had already taken its tragic toll, costing Àtá Àámẹ́ẹ Òbòní his life.  May his soul rest in peace. Àchẹẹ.

This year’s Ócho Festival is symbolic in many respects. Like the Ìtàlo that used to take place at Ànyìgbá every year, it has reappeared to bring  the Igalaa together as a group once again.

It also kick-starts a new dawn of an era, the era that marks the beginning of Igala cultural revival in an age and time that the craving for foreign culture is becoming increasingly over-powering.

Finally, it is also aimed at strengthening the bond that unites all Igalas, male and female, wherever they are, either at home or in the diaspora.

Long live the Igala Kingdom!

Long live Kogi State!

Long Live, the Federal Republic of Nigeria!


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Posted by on 17/05/2018. Filed under Culture, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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