Chief John Otairu Omale, the Onuh and Omachi Ata Igala in Lokoja, is a retired civil servant. In this interview with ATABOR JULIUS, the royal representative of Ata Igala in Lokoja bares his mind on the need for Igala race to return to agriculture and to shun all social vices and other issues.
What do Onuh and Omachi Ata Igala in Lokoja stand for?
By my title as Onuh and Omachi Ata Igala in Lokoja, I have become the father of all Igalas living in Lokoja and its environs. I was lucky that there was no crisis on my coronation. When, the former Onuh Igala Lokoja died Atah just called and installed me. By this coronation, I became a member of Lokoja Area Traditional Council and I have been having cordial working relationship with the Maigeri of Lokoja in Council.
How do you describe the Igala people you lead in Lokoja?
Igala people are hard working and peace lovers. They hardly engage in illicit business, the type of business that brings shame to their families. They cherished their family names. They relate freely with their neighbours and they are doing this because of their background. Hardly have you seen them fighting their neighbours even if they are being provoked.
But in this age of technology, few of them cannot be absorbed from crimes, but the number is very insignificant. They are farmers and businessmen but in this era that salaries are hardly being paid many of them have gone back to farming. My people are honest. I don’t have to devote my time to settling cases either involving two or more Igala men or with their neighbours. My people are those that observed what is right and shun those things that are negative. When I assumed this office, there was a little problem at Zariagi popularly known as Obajana junction over the Gago I appointed. Some people felt bad over the choice, but it was amicably resolved.
What is the situation with your people now that they have lost power to the other tribe?
This question has political undertone and I don’t want to comment on politics. However, it is business as usual for my people. They have been carrying out their business unmolested.
Igala people hardy lived in clusters outside their shores like other tribes do, what do you think is responsible for this?
Yes, but all that is changing now, with the policy of the current Ata Igala HRM Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni 11 . H e has appointed Onuh Igala in the 36 states of the federation. These Onus are working for the unification, unity and progress of Igala people in their jurisdictions. He appointed Okai as Onuh Igala Abuja , if you go to Kano , Kaduna , Lagos , in fact all the 36 states , Igala people are now living in the same compound, areas and on the same streets without quarreling.
Four years into his reign, how has the current Atah’ brought unity and progress to the Igala Kingdom?
There have been a lot of changes in terms of security of lives and properties of our people. He has been meeting and having dialogues with the heads of Fulani herdsmen who lived in his territory. A part from isolated cases here and there, there is no high incidence of clashes between my people and the Fulanis. Ata is a man of peace, a gallant man and his reign portend good omen for the Igala kingdom. He is toeing the lines of his father Ameh Oboni although he is not “cursing’ people anyhow, even as his relationship with his chiefs are very cordial except few ones that would want to foment troubles.
How do you rate Governor Yahaya Bello on security?
He has done well. In Lokoja metropolis, there is no much security challenges, except along the major highways of Lokoja- Okene, Lokoja- Ajaokuta and few other places. We don’t have problems in Lokoja Township. People are sleeping with their two eyes closed. However, we have occasional cases of Kidnappings and armed robbers terrorizing the motorists on the highways across the state.
How has the Igala people fared in this dispensation in the national scheme?
They have fared well except the leaders have failed to develop our land. The so called dividends of democracy are not tickling down to the people. Our Senator, House of Representative members, Assembly members and indeed those in the executive arm are self centered. I called them ‘ kill and chop alone’. They are not supporting the people. They don’t even come home to feel the pulse of our people, but we will not stop talking to them to come and develop the kingdom. Some of them have started buying into the clarion call while others are still adamant.
What do you think your people should do now that salary payment has become epileptic?
I urged all our people to embrace agriculture. In the old days we were noted for agriculture. My candid advice to the elites is to embrace commercial agriculture so as to also provide employment for the teeming unemployed youths. I’m a farmer; I have my farm along Ajaokuta road. We have been advising the youths to return home to farm instead of riding keke Napep. Agriculture is the major occupation driving the economy now, it will provide enough food for the people. Everyone cannot be employed by the government; hence they should go back to the land. When I was young, our people know nothing apart from farming. I told them that now that government is finding it difficult to pay salaries, they can feed their families and pay school fees of their children through farming. I’m amazed at our children who have taken into Okada riding rather than returning to agriculture which is the best choice for them. They should go to the grassroots and form farmers’ cooperatives.
What is your message for the people?
My message is simple. The younger generation should avoid cultism, kidnapping, armed robberies and prostitution. These are foreign culture to Igala Kingdom. It is alien to us. We don’t want it at all. They should not engage in it. Our girls should not venture into prostitution. I have been talking to them to stay quietly so that they can get responsible husbands. It is not by hanging on the streets. It is only when they are married that they could be considered responsible, if not they are hooligans.