Prior to the reclamation of Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja by Igala Kingdom as pronounced by the Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja 2nd June, 2020, there have been fake write -ups all around which available facts do not agree with.
One of such write-ups is the one promoted by one Omolori Sani from Anebira speaking extraction of Kogi State.
Again we approached our reliable Columnist, Sani Michael Omakoji in less than 24 hours ago to xtray Omolori’s write-up.
In what he titles: “Opinion: Stories Without Substance Emerging As Igala Kingdom Reclaims Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe & Lokoja”. Sani Michael Omakoji has this to offer:
” Since the Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja on 2nd June 2020 declared Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja as part of Igala kingdom, a lot of fake stories without substance have emerged on social media.
As a young man who hate ethnic bigotry with passion, I should have kept mute not to respond to some of these fake myths emerging all in the name of standing by their tribes but posterity will not be kind to some of us if we fail to counter some of these fake stories capable of inciting the general public.
I must be frank that what necessitated this write up among others is one article titled ” Igala Annexation Of Ajaokuta: A Utopian Deal” by, Omolori Sani.
Before I continue, it is crucial I draw our attention to the fact that the issue in contention was how Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja were leased to Colonial Masters ( Queen of England, Late Samuel Ajayi Crowther, William Balfour and others in accompany ) before Nigeria was almagamated in 1914.
Infact, the deed of agreement ( concession ) between Attah of Igala ( Ameh Ocheje ) and Queen of England to release Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe, and Lokoja was signed on 4th September 1841.
Digesting the two paragraphs above, it is therefore laughable for anyone to trace the history of Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja to the time of old kabba province or old Kwara state.
What has the history of old Kabba province or old Kwara State got to do with the leasing agreement between Attah of Igala ( Ameh Ocheje) and the white people ( Queen of England, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, William Balfour Baikies e’tal) dated back to 1841?
When were old Kabba province and old Kwara State created? For the record sake, old Kabba Province and old Kwara State was respectively created in 1926 and 1967.
With these verifiable facts, how can someone who is believed to be having curriculum vitae of an erudite now misinform people with half baked stories of Ajaokuta from 1926 or 1967 when old kabba province and old Kwara State were created?
For proper understanding of the misleading information flying around, let us read some part of one Omolori Sani’s article extracted in eight paragraphs below:
” If anything took the Ebiras by surprise more than anything else, it is the claim of the Igalas that Ajaokuta belongs to them, and the inclusion of the area as part of the Okura State they are currently agitating for”
” History has it that the first settlers saw the bird (Aja) perching (oku) on their newly braided cottages (uta) and therefore coined the word “Aja-oku-uta (Aja perched on cottage) as the name of the land. These are all Ebira words”.
“It was not surprising that Ajaokuta, which is in the eastern part of Okene Local Government in the then Kwara State before attaining the status of a full local government, has been part and parcel of Ebiraland from time immemorial and the two have moved together from the Old Kabba Province to Kwara State and now to Kogi State”
” Ebira and Igala remained separated by River Niger until the establishment of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company and the building of the 3.4 km-long bridge across the river. In the Ajasteel Newspaper of January-April 1991 (page 7), the Attah of Igala, Alh. Aliyu Obaje, expressing his happiness over the establishment of the steel industry said it has brought about developments to the catchments areas – one of such benefits being the long bridge capable of strengthening the unity of Igala and Ebira people. In the same page the late Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alh. Muhammad Sani Omolori, who previously sued the Federal Government in 1988 after a decade of no compensation for part of Ajaokuta land acquired for the steel project, told the team that the support of Ebiras to the success of the project has become imminent because the overall success of the project would signify the success of Ebiras as a people.”
“Commenting on the plight of his subjects as peasant farmers with very limited land area; he pleaded for the consideration of his subjects for appointments. On the 6 page of the same newspaper, the then President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, gave an assurance that the issue of resettling the villagers so displaced by the steel project would then be pursued with vigor. Our people however, remained bitter because after all the efforts and promises, nothing was done.”
“Today, however, all those things serve as recorded evidence aside the separating phenomenon (River Niger) for us to see and show our greedy brothers as well as the world. The pages of these newspapers are available on the website address below”.
“All the while, our neighbor, the Igalas were on the other side of the River Niger in the then Old Benue Stat!e. When Kogi State was created, the Ebiras and the Igalas
were brought under the same umbrella”.
Our brothers on the other side of the River Niger are not blessed with so short memory as to forget history so soon…”
Having extracted Omolori Sani’s write up, let me, ‘ Omakoji Attah’ as I am identified in my locality (Igala kingdom ) respond anticlockwise.
1. That Igalas are not blessed with memories is a sensational or misleading statement: If Igalas are not blessed with memories, Michael Ameh Oboni who presented records of 1841 at the Federal High Court Lokoja which gave Igala kingdom victory is what tribe? As a challenge, can you ( Omolori Sani ) on behalf of Ebiras present the records dated back to 1841 on this contending issue for the world to see?
2. That River Niger and River Benue which forms confluence in Lokoja is a natural phenomenon that separates Igalas from Ebiras is a great fallacy! ‘If I have land and water divides my land into two opposite sides, does that mean that my land is at the risk of being claimed by immigrants who do not know the deed of agreement on the said land? Not at all !’
3. It baffles me when the writer jumped into late Aliyu Attah Obaje’s speech in 1991 when IBB came visiting Ajaokuta Steel Complex in one of those their usual ways of raising people’ hopes without action or implementation. Did late Attah Aliyu Obaje say in his speech that he has relinquished Ajaokuta Community to Anebiras ? Mr Writer, have you not lost track of history cum issues at hand?
Again even though you erroneously claimed that Igalas have no sense of history, let me emphasis here that I am an Igala and I should educate you here that the issue in contention is dated back to 1841 and not 1991.
Consequently, whatever statement you were making claim of from 1991 is inconsequential as it has nothing to do with the matter in court… Yoruba says, “Cho Gbó Dadani?”
4. As part of matter arising from the write-up under review, it is interesting to read that Ebiras now have meaning of Ajaokuta which you say it means “Aka (Bird ) Oku ( Perching ) ata ( cottage )… Ajaokuta Bird perched on cottage”.
If I may ask, what has this new meaning of Ajaokuta according to Omolori Sani got to do with what Ajaokuta represents yesterday, today and tomorrow?
Or do they coin their owm meaning of Ajaokuta from an isolated planet where one normally finds it difficult to get the meanings of words?.
Without wasting my readers time, let me say in the absence of fear or favour that your newly fabricated meaning of ” Ajaokuta ” is unacceptable as it does not reflect the features Ajaokuta portray.
Again, let Sani Michael Omakoji educate you that Ajaokuta drives its meaning from the features ( characteristics ) on ground in Ajaokuta that symbolise its true meaning as it was yesterday, today and tomorrow. What are these features? They are simply “stones of all kinds”. Now how come about the name?
From Igala story books which are still available today, we read that Ajaokuta was/is a place where people gather to exchange cowries (present day money) for stones of all kinds.
Story books further explained that initially, Ajaokuta was called “Okuta” ( stone ) however, as the exchange of stones gained an incredible momentums, the Attah ( Ameh Ocheje ) said, the area should be christened as “Aja” – “Okuta” and his subjects who had no objection said “aché” ( as you pronounced your majesty ).
Having established the activities that warranted the name, “Ajaokuta”, let me now break it down the full meaning of “Ajaokuta”.
“Ajaokuta” as I have mentioned repeatedly is a combination of two Igala’s words; that is, “Aja” (Market ), and “Okuta” ( Stone ).
In a nutshell, “Ajaokuta” means “a market place where stone is traded”.
Less I mean forget, as part of Igala’s crucial event taking place annually, Igala Elders within and outside Ajaokuta gather once in a year to pay special homage to one unique stone in Ajaokuta which is to commemorate the importance attached to such precious stone recognized by their ancestors.
This practice has never been postponed since 1841 as it has become an annual event just like we have Orugugu annual festival, Italo Festival, Iseyi annual festival, new yam festival in Enugu just to mention a few.
In Law, it is a common phenomenon to hear, ” fact speaks for itself ” as no one can give what he or she does not have.
Because of the sensitive nature of the issues under review, there are some facts and figures that are exclusively reserved only to be tendered at the court of competent jurisdiction to avoid ‘judicial rigging’ as we have witnessed lately.
At this point, let me give my brother Omolori Sani an assignment that whenever he visits Ajaokuta again for fact finding, he should endeavour to tell us in his next write-up whether we still have stones in Ajaokuta as rated or not.
Having said all of these, let me say that the noise about who owns Lokoja and Koton Karfe other than Igala is lesser in the air hence, I won’t be in a hurry to tell you stories about the two mentioned areas.
Finally, instead of misleading people with write-ups without substance capable of inciting the general public, it is better to tell the truth and possibly approach the present Attah may be he can still lease those affected parts of his land to those pronounced tribes currently occupying the areas.
As I conclude in my dialect, ” Énédu kifôlamu kichuji Abéki Efibe Kpé Kiféré ñyómi yare Efólakidéyi, Ayégba Óma Idoko, Kpai Ocheje Ôma Ameh, Kpai Inikpi Óma Ufédó Ubaba Kuma Meju bida ofodu Ójó kañyó kifumamu chakaa! Mékaki “Aché”.
Long Live Kogi State
Long Live Ané Igala
Long Live Mr Writer.
Sani Michael Omakoji ( Óma Igala Ôkpa Kpa dé )
City Centre – Abuja Nigeria