Significance of Ogani Angwa festival among the Igala people


This article is centred on the description of one of the most popular festivals (the Ogani Angwa festival) among the Igala people. The festival is to commemorate the victories of the Igala people; first, it is staged in memory of the victory of the Igala forces during the Igala-Jukun war in the fifteenth century; and, second, in honour of the victory over a dreaded skin disease (measles) that claimed several lives in the Ankpa area of Igala land. The article also analyses some significance of the festival and how it has over time, been able to educate and has continued to educate the audience through music. The article, therefore, concludes that the value of music in festivals should be sustained and reinforced in the Ogani Angwa Festival to campaign against the social evils in the society.

INTRODUCTION: A BRIEF MEANING OF FESTIVAL

To have an understanding of the topic of discussion, it is pertinent to know a brief meaning of the word festival. According to the Encarta English Dictionary (2009), a festival is the time of celebration, often religious significance. It is also merry making day(s) set aside by a community or kinship group for the observance of a sacred celebration, religious solemnisation and traditional performance of special significance. Biobaku (1973) sees the festival as a climactic event in the life of any community. It is a climatic event in the life of any community. It is bounded by a definite beginning and that the festivals bring about a suspension or ordinary transformation or behaviour.

Traditional African festival is the oldest and the most indigenous form of performance, while several communities engaged in these events that play a significant role in the lives of their people, especially in socio-political and economic aspects. The Igala people of Kogi State are part of these communities that celebrates annually or as the case may be, certain festivals, which have To have significant impacts in the lives of its people. Such festivals include the OchoandOganyi ganyi Festival (both usually celebrated by the Idah people), the Egbe Festival (The significance by the Egume people), the Otutubatu festival (usually celebrated by the Ife people) and the Ogani Angwa festival (usually celebrated by the Ankpa people). The Ogani Angwa Festival, therefore, our point of discussion. In the course of our study, the article attempted a brief meaning and Origin of the word Igala and its people, the Historical Preview and Meaning of the Ogani Festival: a Descriptive Account, and the role of Music in Ogani Festival: its Significance in the life of the people.

ORIGIN AND MEANING OF IGALA

The word “Igala” refers not only to the people but also to the language of the people and the land (when prefixed with “Ane” as in “Ane Igala”). On the origin of the people, it is still a topic of serious debate but the most popular is that the Igalas are from Egypt like many African nations and though there is still no concrete evidence to indicate Igala’s migration to their present location just as most nations found in present-day Nigerian but what is indisputable is the fact that the Igala nation is 100% black (Negro) found in North central Nigeria not outside it and like Yusuf Etu (1999) advocated, the Igala’s should “…look down their boots for their origin not outside it…” According to Abdullahi (2006) quoting Miles Clifford, a one-time district head of Idah district a breakaway group of the Jukun moved eastward from Wukari staying just south of the Benue… They settled in Amaggedde in the North-East of Igala before finally moving from there across the country to Idah. Many early researchers claim the Igala origin to be from Egypt and recently Jacob Abdullahi buttressed his claim quoting professor Gabriel Oyibo thus “…our forefathers were the inhabitants of Egypt”. According to Abdullahi (2006) quoting Miles Clifford, a one-time district head of Idah district a breakaway group of the Jukun moved eastward from Wukari staying just south of the Benue… They settled in Amaggedde in the north-east of Igala before finally moving from there across the country to Idah. Many early researchers claim the Igala origin to be from Egypt and recently Jacob Abdullahi buttressed his claim quoting professor Gabriel Oyibo thus “…our forefathers were the inhabitants of Egypt”.

Abdullahi claimed that the Arabian invasion of Egypt in 36-841AD drove the Igalas from Egypt, the scattering took others to Ethiopia making 75% of Igala’s in Ethiopia, some moved to Congo and the Indigenous language of Congo is Lingala, another settled in Ghana and they speak Gaa a variation of the Igala language, a traditional ruler in Ghana is also called Atta. Angola means the “Land of Gala’s”. Abdullahi further stated that in the process of migration some settled in Sudan, Madagascar, Turkey and Yemen. Still Quoting Miles Clifford, Abdullahi wrote further that “the Igala country was variously called Igala, Igara, Gara, gala…Atangara or Akpoto”. According to Oguagha, Igalaland is inhabited “…by an indigenous population called “Akpoto” this population substratum is thought by some authorities to be of Idoma stock and to have been absorbed by the Igala through Acculturation”.

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HISTORICAL PREVIEW AND MEANING OF OGANI FESTIVAL

Ogani festival is an annual festival is an annual celebration that has so far survived six centuries. In Idebu (2011) it was stated that:

“Ogani Festival is celebrated in Igala land to commemorate victories”. According to him, it is staged “in memory of the victory of the Igala forces during the Igala-Jukun war in the fifteenth century”.

The Igala people were a vassal state to the Juukun kingdom (in Taraba State, Central Nigeria) till the said war after the victory, the Igala Kingdom became independent of the Jukun dynasty. “To prosecute this war, oral history has it that some Hausa Islamic scholars from Bebeji, near Kano, were invited to play spiritual roles in the war”.

At Ankpa area of the Igala Land, Ogani Festival is celebrated in Honour of the victory of the Ankpa people over a dreaded disease (measles) that claimed several lives until an invited Islamic scholar from Idah (one of those “imported” from Bebeji) was said to have prayed off the affliction. Idegu added that till date, “it is only descendants of these Mallams residents at Angwa that perform this festival in Igala Land”. It is one of the ways of identifying this Hausa person who were offered a place for settlement after their roles at the Igala-Jukun war at Idah or the measles attack at Ankpa respectively. With the Ogani festival, the Angwa settlers are engaged in what Tseelon (2011:11) as cited in Idegu observes as a means of self-definition.

The Ogani Angwa festival uses symbols in the form of “Akpata” (caricature corps) which they use as an instrument of criticising and making a mockery of self-centred and corrupt individuals in the community. The Ogani musicians sing satirical act in Ogani festival; leaders and followers are challenged into re-organising their leadership and followership styles respectively.

THE ROLE OF MUSIC IN OGANI ANGWA FESTIVAL: ITS SIGNIFICANCE

Music is a natural phenomenon that touches human life generally. Like every other music, Ogani festival music has its peculiarity in language and oral rendition with the aim of:

Firstly, Enlightening the younger generation, entertaining the people and to inform them of things they are ignorant

Secondly, the music in Ogani Angwa festival is a traditional music which is directly associated with traditional, religious and political systems and serves as a cord which binds each ethnic society (like the Igalas), giving each individual the sense of belonging.

Thirdly, the messages of Ogani are encompassing such that it cautions, warns and educate apart from entertaining even as it re-enacts history and with its influences, social changes in the society as well create moral consciousness in the people.

From the above points, therefore, we can deduce that traditional music is indigenous to the people of the community where the music is coming from; this is because the music involves the language, customs, traditions and values of the society.

Idebu further added that Music as a rotation of experience is non-verbal language functioning as both developers and compliment to the festival. What is important in the traditional context is that this drama rationalises their existence and the function to expunge evil and ensure peace and continuity for the community.

This is the case with the Ogani festival in relation to music, song and dance.

CONCLUSION

During the Ogani festival, the musicians play various functions; relief the society from boredom, presents the history and culture of the people through their songs, and they inform, educate and inculcate the values, norms and morals of the society into the people. Music is indispensable from the society, therefore, the music of Ogani festival should be recorded/documented and sustained o re-orient the potential leaders of tomorrow and help develop the right values, attitude and discipline among the Igala people of Kogi State and Nigeria at large.

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REFERENCES

IDEGU, E.U. (2011): Appraising Selected Drama Elements in Indigenous Festival Performance: The Ogani Festival Celebration in Igala Land.

ONWUEKWE, A.I. (2009) “The Socio-Cultural Implication of African Music and Dance in Creative Artists, Vol. 3.

BIOBAKU, S.A. (1973) Source of Yoruba History. London; Oxford University Press.

AUTHOR

OMAYE MOSES MICHAEL

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