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There exist various traditions on the origin of the Ígáláà, a mainly agrarian people who speak a language of that name and occupy the arc created in the south of the Niger-Benue confluence in the middle-belt region of Nigeria. Dr. G.T. Mott, a British Colonial Officer, claims that the Ígáláà came from Júkùn (or Kwàráràfá) background; while Jacob Egharevba, a Benin historian, believes that the Ígáláà came from the Benin kingdom; he claimed that a Bini Prince was sent there by an Oba in ancient times. Chief Ámánà Èdímẹ̀ states that Igalaa trace their roots to Benin; that a Bini prince and hunter had set up camp at Ójúwó Àtógwū (near Ígálọgbá, Ídá) and was giving gifts of games to the host population, healing them with his immense, miraculous powers; then the people asked him to be their king. K.C. Murray, a historian and fine artist, also opined that the Igalaa descended from Benin, anchoring his judgment on the Bini origin of the 16th Century pectoral mask, ‘Éjúbejúáìlò,worn by the Àtá.

Reverend (later Bishop) Samuel Ajayi Crowther, after his second voyage on the Victorian Expedition to Ida in 1854, published a book, A Comparative Word-List of Yoruba, Igala and English Languages. He traced the roots of the Igalaa to a Yoruba sovereign who had lost his territory to Fulani invaders and ran to the Sultan of Nupe kingdom for assistance to enable him to have a new habitat. The Sultan had journeyed down the River Niger       imagesq=tbnANd9GcR_RtCXTjLFZQX8gsAvpePAAJj04UuAmC7qr5xoM2UoTFBIrhD3

from his capital, Rabbah, and finally “… arrived at Idah, which the Akpoto (Àkpọ̀tọ̀) had inhabited then.” According to him, the Àkpọ̀tọ̀ were driven away and the Sultan bought the land and later installed the Yoruba man as king, with the title of “Attah.” Crowther further claimed that “the Igala country originally belonged to the Akpoto tribesmen… and their king then was named Igala (Ogala).” Apart from Rev. Crowther, other writers have variously linked the Igalaa to the Yoruba, because of their similar languages. The two languages, alongside Itshekiri spoken in Delta State, are classified in the Yoruboid group of the Kwà family. Prof. Gabriel Audu Oyibo, a world-renowned mathematician and son of the Igala soil, quotes an Igala oral tradition stating that the Igalaa and their Yoruba brethren descended from Khem (Ancient Egypt) and entered the present-day Nigeria together. Historians state that they separated about 2000 years ago at Ìfẹ̀ area, locacted north of Igalaland.  Miles Clifford, in A Nigerian Chiefdom, claims that the king (Ọ́jọ́gbáà) of Ìfẹ̀ District and the Yoruba’s Ọọ̀ní of Ifẹ̀ were originally half-brothers born of a common Yoruba mother.

Native Manufacturers at Idah.jpgThere is, however, a contrary view that the Ígáláà did not ever immigrate from anywhere else into their present location in Kogi East. Miles Clifford, referring to the Kanem Bornu Empire of the 14th Century, observed that it comprised of two classes: the Ahel Dirk – (warriors and noblemen with Berber features) and the Ahel Gara, who were the “aborigines” or “natives.” He concludes that “there is no doubt … that Igala is the same name as ‘Gara,’ ‘Gala’ or N’gala.”

An Igala historian, Philip E. Òkwòlì, in his book, A Short History of Igala, states that the Igalaa were a product of their present environment, which they have occupied since prehistoric times. He states further that “Idah, the traditional Igala capital, had the economic, social and geographical factors, which enabled the earliest inhabitants to evolve their peculiar kingship system,” adding that the early Atas resided at Ọ̀pù-Àtá, a section of Ídá.

Professor Catherine Acholonu, founder and Director, Catherine Acholonu International Research Centre, Abuja, recently published a book, which was based on the Centre’s 21-year research into the African origins phenomenaAcholonu.jpg, reveals that “Iduu Eri is the putative ancestor of all the Kwa peoples of West Africa,” that he had “five sons, including Agulu Eri, Atta Eri, Edo Eri and others,” emphasizing that  Atta Eri is the ancestor and father of the Igalas and the founder of the still-surviving ancient lineage of Atta Kings of the Igala nation.” Citing Nigerian oral traditions, the book states that Iduu Eri’s seat of power, “is located at the junction of two rivers located east of Benin. … The only junction of two rivers located east of Benin is the Omambala-Niger confluence, which is located in Aguleri town, Anambra State, Igboland, Nigeria.”

It adds that “the Sumerian kings of the lineage of the ancient city of Agade, founded by Sargon, bore the title of ‘Atta.’  Believing that ancient Nigerians were the Sumerians, the book identifies a catalogue of unique cultural practices which Nigerians share with the ancient Sumerians, including:

  • the “Sacred Science of Ifa divination,”
  • mud-huts thatched with reeds,
  • worship of deities in shrines,
  • “scoffing food with bare hands,”
  • arranged marriages,
  • tapping and drinking of palm-wine and many others.

The book states that the 21-year research findings provided “consistent and conclusive evidence” to prove that the Ancient Sumer was, in actual fact, “an ancient Nigerian civilisation,” pointing, as evidence, to “the anthropomorphic features inscribed on carved stones found on the Monoliths of Ikom in Cross River State.”  It was found that “the carved stones are those, not of humans, but of Apes and Ape-men… the very Apes of Darwin’s Evolution, the primeval ancestor of humankind.”

The word, ‘ídúù,’ is derived from Igala language, meaning ‘wealth’ ; while ‘érí’ is another word for ‘elephant,’ hence, we have ‘ényí-eri‘ (elephant teeth/tusk) in the Igala vocabulary. Note that Iduu Eri’s seat of power, Àgùlérì, is located on the southern tip of the Igala external contemporary border with Anambra State, a stone-throw from Ida, the Igala capital.  This geographical contiguity presupposes that both Ida and Aguleri might have shared common socio-cultural experiences, details of which might have been buried in the ashes of history, which only further research can excavate.

Businessman evolution silhouettes

The research findings further established that “Ídúù Erí is the same person whom the  Egyptians called ‘Khem,’ the founder of Ancient Egypt. From Sumerian records, we learn that “by 3100 B.C., a “Nubian” from Sub-Saharan Africa went north and conquered Egypt and annexed the Egyptians to his own kingdom in the south.” According to Prof. Acholonu, “That Menes was definitely a Nigerian, as Ancient Nigeria was the mainstay of Sumer.”

A synthesis of generally accepted origin traditions and pieces of new information obtained from Acholonu Research Centre’s findings has, no doubt, provided a better understanding of the past, while, “helping the people to reclaim their ancient heritage in the global, historical context.” For instance, an earlier opinion had it the initial Igala Dynasty was founded by Àtá Àtógwū. However, a fresh research finding has established that Ata Eri, rather than Ata Àtógwū, was the founder of the indigenous dynasty.  Àtógwū happened to be the penultimate Ata who was succeeded by Ata Ọ́gáláà Erí, in whose reign the First Dynasty of indigenous Atas was terminated in 1507.

  • the ‘Akpoto’ king whom Rev. Crowther referred to as “Igala (Ogala)” and R. A. Sargents called “Eggarah Eri” is the same person as Ọ́gáláà Erí.
  • the conquest of the Igala Kingdom by Prince Aji Attah, son of Oba Ọ̀zọ́lua of Benin in 1507, forced Àtá Ọ́gáláà Erí to proceed on self-exile to the “southern part of the Benue Valley.” He later relocated to Nri in present-day Anambra State.
  • neither the Ígáláà nor the Ìdomà can provide a meaningful interpretation of the word, Àkpọ̀tọ̀, in their respective languages; nor do they know who the Àkpọ̀tọ̀ are and where they live today.

The Bini Atas were concerned with only the economic and political interests of the “paramount imperial authority in Benin.” Upon settling down as kings of the “vassal peripheral royal enclave” at Ida, they designed and produced a new royal head-dress into which part of a manatee’s tail (Aro totem) had been sewn. It was in appreciation of the help they had rendered the Aji Attah’s army at the west bank of the Niger (crossing them in Aro canoes to Ida), seeing that the army was stranded, having been constrained by that logistic problem.

The Bini Atas also wore a pectoral mask currently known as ‘Éjúbejúáìlò‘ (Eyes that frighten other eyes). Originally, it was to showcase the beauty of their own Benin art in a

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vassal state, the “Idah royalist provincial enclave,” which had been subjugated to the “paramount royalist enclave” of Benin. According to R. A. Sargents (1984), the Aji Attah (Bini) Dynasty lasted 180 years (1507 – 1687).  The king-list of the Bini-speaking Atas is as follows:

  • Aji Ata (founded the dynasty in 1507)
  • Olema I
  • Anogena
  • Agbo
  • Agoshi
  • Olema II (1687)

In our next historical post, we shall discuss the immense political, military and economic powers of the Benin empire and how it was able to subjugate several parts of Nigeria under its paramount authority as a “conquest state” and the factors that led to the rise and fall of the Aji Attah (Bini) Dynasty in Igalaland.


  1. Politics, Economics and Social Change in Benue Basiṇ: C. 1300 – 1700 by Robert Arthur Sargent (1984)

   2.  Sumer on the Niger: Origins of Arians of Eri-land, Hebrews, Moors and Vedic Indians            by Prof. Catherine Acholonu (2012).

 3.  An Igala-English Lexicon: A Bilingual  Dictionary with Notes on Igala Language,                    History, Culture and Priest-Kings by John Idakwoji (2015).




                                        THE NATIVE LANGUAGE OF THE ÍGÁLÁÀ

Facts about Ígáláà:

  • Ígáláà is one of the oldest languages in Nigeria.
  • It is classified in the Yoruboid group of the Kwá language family.
  • Its kindred languages classified with it in the same group are Yorùbá, Ìtshẹ̀kírí and Àkókó.  


Facts about the Ígáláà:

  • The speakers of Ígálá are also referred to as the Ígáláà.
  • They occupy the eastern half of Kogi State in the middle belt region of Nigeria;.
  • They belong to a kingdom that has witnessed three (3) dynastic rules and are proud of a legacy of rich history and heritage;
  • The Ígáláà:have a paramount ruler called ‘Àtá-Igáláà‘ (Father of the Igáláà), whose seat of power is at Ídá, the traditional capital of his kingdom. .


The Igala alphabet is made up of thirty-one (31) letters: some vowels, others consonants.

igala alphabet


Facts About Igala Vowel

  • The Igala alphabet was adopted from the English alphabet. The latter has five (5) vowels: “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” “u.”
  • While the tones of English vowels are constant and unchanging, the sounds of Igala vowels are not. Usually, they maintain a cycle of rising, falling, remaining neutral or rising extra-high at various points of articulating a speech.
  • Vowels come together with consonants to produce meaningful words, including exclamations.
  • The Ígálá language has seven (7) vowels: “a,” “e,” “ẹ,” “i,” “o,” “ọ,” “u” (encompassing both all the 5 English vowels and two indigenous ones, ‘ẹ’ and  ‘ọ’).
  • The tones that represent this “rise, fall or neutral” movement of the voice are differently represented by tone marks (or accent marks) discussed below.
  • Five tones have been identified as characterizing the Igala speech, namely:.

            (i).    The High Tone, represented with a short stroke tilting upwards to the right ( ́ ).

             (ii)   The  Mid Tone, indicated by a blank space on top of a vowel in a word.

             (iii)  The Mid-High Tone, which is an infrequent tone, occurs between the High                                and the Mid tone and  is recognized through a hyphen ( ̄ ), a horizontal stroke.

             (iv)  The Low tone, as its name indicates,  is a low or grave, subdued tone and is                                    recognized by a short stroke tilting downwards to the left ( ̀ ).

(v)  The fifth tone, which is usually found in negative statements, is called                                          the Extra-High Tone and is indicated by a dot on letter ‘.’


In the Table below, the seven (7) Igala vowels –  “a,” “e,” “ẹ,” “i,” “o,” “ọ,” “u,” their changing forms and their pronunciation are shown in Columns 1 and 2. Then, the name by which the tone is known and examples of the words in which they are found are shown  in Columns 3 and 4. The Arabic numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 stand for each of the seven vowels in the order of their occurrence; while the Roman numerals, (i), (ii), (iii) & (iv), indicate the tone changes or variations that occur in each vowel.

S/N Vowel Phonetic Transcription Tone Examples
 1. (i) /á/  High gá   – to sew;                 to stitch

gwá  –  to greet

rá   –   to                          escape;                to run                  away

ábíá   –   dog

ákpá  – sky

ájá    – market

álá   – sheep

1. (ii)  


 /a/  Mid fa  –  to                           sharpen;           or to blow        (a musical         instrument)

gba    –  to read

ka   –  (of food)           to become            sour

ta   –  (of an                  insect)                to sting.       –   (of a gun)            to  shoot)

agba  –  Casual            greeting        (Also ‘awa‘          or simply                       ‘aa‘).

1. (iii)         ā /ā/


ákpálā –                       droppings            of palm-               fruits

Ọ́má  –                        (personal             name)

ábán̄ā  (one                      with a                      high                  brow)

   1. (iv)    à /à/ Low

gbà  –  to                       receive                   (from)

   –   to say;             to speak

 –  to know


    2. (i)    /é/ High

bé   –  (of a                   horse)                to neigh

 –  to stop;                to  halt.

égbé  –  grass


    2. (ii)    e /e/ Mid che  – to do; to              make, to               invent.

memele – to                 be tiny               and                       rounded

hieele (adj.) –              all;                      entirely

     2. (iii)    /ē/  Mid-High

égélē  –  a tiny                    bird

ágwókē –  a                 supporting         drummer

Òchùmágédē –     imaginary      opponent in          an indoor               game             .

     2. (iv)    è /è/ Low dè    –   to                         protect;                to  guard

yè  –  to find              (an item)          by chance

ènè – question;           or palm-            nut oil

ìgèdè -padlock

       3.  (i)   ẹ́  /ɛ́/  High chẹ́   –  to fold

jẹ́  –   to agree;           to consent

kpẹ́  –    to                    divide; to                 share


     3.  (ii)   /ɛ/   Mid bẹ  –   (of a                  tuber)                   to cut into       small pieces

wẹ   –   you                (possessive)      pronoun)

mẹ  –    you                   (plural)

     3.  (iii)   ẹ̄ /ɛ̄/  Mid-High  Á í dẹ̄?: How is                 it?

ánẹ́  lẹ̄ that                 land; or,          that night

Í dábálẹ̄ – If it            is like that;           in that                case                

    3.  (iv)  




     Low gwẹ̀   – to wash

ẹ̀kpẹ̀  – palm-                  tree

ọ̀gẹ̀dẹ̀ –  banana

4. (i)



 / í /

High tíkítíkí  (adj.)          to  be very            small in               quantity.

fí  (vi.) –     (short              form of             “fítéjú” (to            baffle; to            puzzle.

fíílí  (adj.)  – to            be thin;               to be lean

4. (ii) i  / í / Mid iii   –     (Yes;             affirmative)

fiii  – (of a                     scenery)              to be                 expansive

bibi – to be                 bad or evil

4, (iii)   / ī / Mid-High àbà-ī – like                      this

ọ́dọ́-ī  – this                      year

Áb’ẹ́ lī? – What             is your                  view?

4. (iv)   / ì / Low bì –  to open.           E. g. M’ọ́nà           bì. (Open           the door).

hì   – to cook.           E.g. Ẹ́ñwú ẹ̀        hì? (What              did you                 cook?)        jì  – to tie; to           fasten.

wì  – (of a bird)           to fly                    (Also                     ‘wù’)

   5. (i)           ó   / ó / High óbó      soup

ógbó  – old age

óyó  –  fatness;        plumpness

5. (ii)   o / o / Mid   dolo –  to hold            firmly in                  anger.             E.g. Ẹ̀ fù mí          dolo. (You            held me)

gboo (adv.)  –           loudly.                 E.g.  Kwà              gboo. or                 Kwà                      gbogbo                (Cry                      loudly).

gbo – place.            E.g.  Ùgbo          wẹ. (Your            place)

 ō ./ ō /  Mid-High Íyódō –                        Personal             name.

ábúkōdo – one        with a big             navel

Àámẹ́lōkōò –                Peŕonal                 name.

5.iv  o  ò Low òkòkòlò (adj.)        – to be                    round or               circular

òkpò – fright;                 fear.

òdòdó – flower




/ ɔ́ / High

dọ́  – to call; to          summon.             E.g. Bàbà, ẹ̀           dọ́ mii?                  (Dad, did                you call                    me?)

gbọ́  – to hear.            E.g. Ù che            égbọ́. (I hear        you).

kọ́  – to build;       to construct.      E.g. Ẹ̀ f’unyí       kọ́. (You                  built a                  house).


6. i. 


/ ɔ /

Mid mọmọ – A little            child’s               way of                   calling                ‘drink.’

kọ  – to write.        E.g.  Ígálá      nà   ákọ-í. (I          am  writing                Igáláa). 

mọ – to drink.           E.g. Gbà            k’ẹ mọ. (Take          (it) and                  drink).


6.iii   ọ̄ / ɔ̄ /  Mid-High ọ́gọ́lọ̄ – gutter;           channel for          carrying                flowing                    water

Aji Imábọ́lọ̄ –               Anambra             River

Ìchágwọ́lọ̄ –                       Personal                name

àkàmágbọ̄ –            heedlessness;       not listening     to advice or              warning.


6. iv

ọ̀  /ɔ̀/ Low  bọ̀  – to remain.      E.g. Ọ́kọ́ mi          bọ̀ tá. (My            money still             remains).

kọ̀  – to refuse.            E.g. Ẹ̀ kọ̀.         (You refused).

yọ̀  – to be glad.      E.g. Nà áyọ̀. (I       am happy).

7. i /ú/ High  dúú                     (determiner)            every; each.       E.g. 1 Ẹ́nẹ             dúú.                     (Everybody).          2.  Àbó dúú          kù mà wá.            (Ēveryone           that came).

kwú  – (to die)         Also      ‘lèkwú’.E.g.     Ónẹ̀ kwú-ì. (It      is a person            that has                   died. 

dúdù  – to be              black

7. ii

u / u / 


bu – (of a plant)       to flower.

du  – to take; to      carry. E.g.            M’ú du.                 (Take it).

lu  –  (of a light           or fire) to               go out.                 E.g. Únáa lu          mẹ́.(The                fire has                  gone out)

tu  – (of a boil).       to burst open.     E.g. Íkétè-ọ̀kọ̀    mi mú tu. (My   boil has burst).

7. iii / ū /  Mid-High ọ́kọ́-údū – tax.           E.g. Ù f’ọkọ́-     údū mi ra mẹ́.   (I have paid my tax).

Ẹ́nẹmákwū –          Personal                     name

àgàdágbūlūù  –            Pigeon-pea.       E.g. Mà áñọ́         d’ọ́‘ágwúgwú.’         (It is also                 called                   ‘ágwúgwú‘)

 7. iv / ù /  Low   (noun)    –            I. E.g. Ù lìyá.       (I  came). 2.          Ù f’ẹ̀gwà              jẹ. (I  ate                 some                     beans).

ùdufù  –                     outing; day-       out.  E.g. Nà       áló t’údufù.        (I am going          out).

ùgwùgwú –               seat; chair;           stool. E.g.             Ùgwùgwú            dẹ̄ẹ̀.(Here               is  a seat).



In Igala speech, some vowel sounds, when they are either duplicated or their tones are varied,  convey different emotions. Examples are as follows:

a1 (To express shock, disappointment and subtle complaint).

́́.png  A cry responding to  pain in a part of the body or exerted externally.

à How are you?) (Short form for Ábú ẹ̀ lè?

okOh, how incredible!  How hyperbolic! How beyond                                                                 expression..

Eh.pngUsed to express incredulity; to react to a faulty proposition or a sudden                              change in an earlier arrangement. E.g. Ẹ̀héè! Ẹ̀ẹ́ híka ló mẹ̣̄ ẹẹẹ?   (Hey! Are                              you leaving us so soon?)

(ii)     How so big a favour. E.g.  Èhéè! Òmi í katē ee.  What! (suggesting This                                             big item). For only me?

foo (adv.) hitch-free; effortlessly; painlessly.  E.g. Fòólō-folò, Ọ́jọ́ mú                                             mi yọ. (Without a hitch, God saved me).


IGALA WRITING: Linguistic Anthropology (II)

Igala Homographs (2)

      In our previous post, we established that, in a tonal language, one word (depending on the tones with which it is pronounced), could have two, three or even four different meanings. Such a word is referred to as a homograph.

      In this current post, we are going to see more homographs –  two syllable words, concrete nouns some of which are treated below alongside a variety of derived words and their independent meanings, phonetic transcriptions, tone combinations and stress patterns:

1. The word spelt, agba, depending on the tones used to pronounce it, may have four different meanings, namely:

           (i)      agba  (casual greeting); pronounced with static, sustained Mid or Neutral                                          tone   – /  ̩a   ̩gba/ – and a relaxed, secondary-secondary stress marks                                        duplicated. 

         (ii)     àgbá  (hand-cuffs); pronounced with Low-High tone combination /   ̩à  ‘gbá /                                       and a secondary-primary stress pattern).



       (iii)    àgbà (chin); pronounced with Low tone replicated – /  ̩à   ̩gbà / – and a                                              secondary-secondary stress pattern.

      (iv)     ágbá (Balsam tree); pronounced with the High tone duplicated – / á gbá / – and                              a primary-primary stress pattern.

2.   The bi-syllabic noun spelt, iga can generate three other words pronounced differently each having its distinct meaning as follows:

(i)    ìga (Weaver bird); pronounced with Low-Mid tones – /  ̩ ì ‘ga / – and a                                           secondary-primary stress pattern.


        (ii)  ìgà  (net); pronounced with the Low tone duplicated – / ̩ ì   ̩ gà / –  and a                                          secondary-secondary stress pattern.


        (iii)  ìgá (estate);  pronounced with the Low-High tone combination – / ̩ ì  ‘gá / –  and                          a secondary-primary stress pattern.

3.    The unmarked word, ọgba, depending on the combination of tones used to                            vocalize it, could generate the following words and their respective meanings:

   (i)    ọ́gbá (front); pronounced with Low-High tones – / ̩ɔ̀ ‘gbá / – and                                                           a secondary/primary stress pattern.

  (ii)    ọ̀gbà (queue); articulated with Low tone duplicated: / ̩ɔ̀  ̩gbà / and a secondary-                             secondary stress pattern.


                                      Ójí ọ̀gbà a jọ-í.                We are on a queue.

       (iii) ọ̀gbá (an all-night, competitive funeral dance performed by a group of                                            masquerades); pronounced with Low-High tone combination – /   ̩ɔ̀ ‘gbá / –                              and a secondary-primary stress pattern.

       (iv)   ọ́gba (a line of printed matter). E.g. Ọ́gba èkéjì (The second line); pronounced                                  with a combination of High-Mid tones – / ‘ɔ́  ̩gba / – and a primary-                                            secondary stress pattern.

 4.     The unmarked word, ebi, could have the following semantic fields if pronounced with different tone combinations as follows:

       (i)  ébi (hunger); pronounced with High-Mid tones – / ‘é   ̩bi / –  with a primary-                                   secondary stress pattern).

       (ii)   èbì (the little gap between the two closest canines in human dentition);                                      pronounced with Low tone duplicated –  /   ̩è ̩bì / – and a secondary-secondary                      stress pattern).

      (iii)   èbi (prayer; supplication);  pronounced with Low-Mid tone combination                                     – /  ̩è  ‘bi / – and a secondary-primary stress pattern.


                                                      Èbi nà ábì Ẹ́-ì, Ó Ọ̄jọ̄ Òdobà.                                                                                                        I am praying to You, Oh God Almighty.

5.       The word spelt, ẹbọ, may have the following meanings, depending on the tones used to pronounce it as follows:

          (i)     ẹ́bọ (deity); pronounced with High-Mid tone combination – / ‘έ  ̩bɔ / – and                                       a primary-secondary stress pattern).

          (ii)   ẹ̀bọ̀ (leftover); pronounced Low tone duplicated – /  ̩ὲ   ̩bɔ̀ / – and a                                                    secondary-secondary stress pattern).

        (iii)    ẹ̀bọ́  (to be in molded form); pronounced with Low-High tone combination                                    – /  ̩ὲ ‘bɔ́ / – a secondary-primary stress pattern).

6.       The word, ubi, may be marked with the following tone combinations to produce a number of meanings, namely:

         (i)   ùbì  (back; behind); pronounced with Low tone replicated – /  ̩ù   ̩bì / – and                                     a secondary-secondary stress pattern.

        (ii)   ùbí  (Black-necked cobra); pronounced with Low-High tone combination                                      –  /  ̩ù ‘bí / – and a secondary-primary stress pattern.



(iii)    úbi (placenta); pronounced with High-Mid tone combination – / ‘ù   ̩bí / – and a                             primary-secondary stress pattern.

7.      The word, ọfa, could mean three different things, depending on the tones used to vocalize it.

       (i)   ọ́fá (arrow); pronounced with the High tone replicated – / ‘ɔ́ ‘fá / –  and a                                        primary-primary stress pattern.

archer-2025609__340.png                                                   Ọ́fá nà áta-í                                                                                                                                  I am shooting an arrow

       (ii)   ọ̀fa (neck); pronounced with Low-Mid tones – / ̩ɔ̀ ‘fa / – and a secondary-primary                        stress pattern.

       (iv)   ọ̀fà (short form for ọ̀fànúñwa, puff adder, a type of snake); pronounced with                              the Low tone duplicated – /  ̩ɔ̀   ̩fa / –  and a secondary-secondary stress                                    pattern).

8.      More often than not, Igala homographs occur in conceptual pairs, each with its distinct meaning, as shown below.

         (a)    The unmarked, mid-toned word, ada, could be re-written and marked to read:


                                                       Ádọdẹ ádẹ èyí àdà ṅ                                                                                                                     No hunter like the wooden trap.

                   (i)  àdà (wooden trap) when it is pronounced with a duplicated Low tone                                          –  / ̩à   ̩dà / –  and a secondary-secondary stress pattern.

                 (ii)   áda (Archaic form, meaning ‘father’); pronounced with High-Mid tone                                           combination – / ‘á ̩da / –  and a primary-secondary stress pattern.

(b)   The homograph, ode, when pronounced differently, produces two words                   meaning two different things.

                (i) òdè  (archaic form for ‘seat.’ E.g. Áda, gb’òdè k’ẹ́ tané: Father, take a seat                                    and sit on it. Pronounced with a duplicated Low tone; transcribed                                            / ̩ò   ̩dè / and a secondary-secondary stress pattern. 

               (ii)  òde (a tree); pronounced with a  Low – Mid tone combination; transcribed                                / ̩ò   ̩dè / and a secondary-secondary stress pattern.

(c)   Others examples of homographs occurring in pairs are as follows:

(i)     ‘ódú’ (name) and ‘òdu‘ (night) 

(ii)    ‘úwó’ (hill)  and ‘uwò’ (Dragon fly)

(iii)  óyó (fatness) and  ‘òyò’ (shooting star)

(iv)  òwe  (vent)  and ‘ówé’ (kwashiokor)

(v)  ‘ítọ́’ (spittle) and  ‘ìtọ̀’  (urine)


IGALA WRITING: Linguistic Anthropology



Hello, my Kigala-online folks.

The year is still young, so let me wish you a Happy New Year.  

 We are starting the year with a new topic – ‘Ùgbẹ̀-ùkọ̀là or, simply, Ùgbẹ̀-ọ̀là   in our Igala Language Studies Series. 

Igala men and women who grew up on the farm are used to the term, ùgbẹ̀-uchu (yam tendril), but the same cannot be said of ùgbẹ̀-ọ̀là. We use this term to describe the tiny phonemic syllables, thousands of which we come across in Igala speech. The full implication of the term is Ùgbẹ̀-ùkọ̀là k’i ábí àmọma-ùkọ̀là. Literally paraphrased, it means: The Seed of a word that gives birth to other words. In other words, it is a root word that generates derivatives

What is a H O M O G R A P H? 

In English language, homographs are words spelt the same way but have different meanings. For example, the word,may, when investigated further, has different meanings, as illustrated below:

First meaning 

The month of ‘May,’  the fifth month of the Gregorian calendar.

may 2019 pix

Second Meaning

Affectionate alternative for the feminine name, MARY 

may & brexit

                                             E.g.  Theresa May, British Prime Minister

Third Meaning

The auxiliary verb, ‘may,’ expressing possibility.

̄possibility image

             E.g. “The good news is that I may decide soon to become a student again.”

Fourth Meaning

 Auxiliary verb expressing polite conduct

̣̄permission seeking

                                                            E.g. “May I sit down now?”



Igala homographs are words that produce a variety of meanings, depending on the tones a speaker uses to articulate them.  In Igala language – which is a tonal language – a single word could have a number of meanings. The word that is so differently pronounced is called a homographOther Nigerian tonal languages, which number hundreds, include Ìtshẹ̀kírí, Yàlà,  Èbìrà, Égede, Gbagyi, Ìdọmà, Ìgbo, and so on. 

speech articulation

In order to write out each of the derived words to reflect their peculiar tones, we use of a tool kit containing a variety of tone marks. In Igala speech, five tones have been identified so far, namely: High, Mid, Low, Mid-High & Extra-High tones.

  • The  High (or rising) tone is marked with this symbol, ( ́), a short, upward slanting slash.
  • The  Mid (or neutral) tone does not use any tone-mark; rather, the top of the vowel in which it occurs is left bare (  ).
  • The Low (or grave) tone is marked with a short, downward slash, like this ( ̀).speaking and listening
  • The Mid-High tone is represented with a hyphen on top of the vowel in which it is present in a word.
  • The Extra-High tone is present in very high-pitched pronouns or the negative-indicating phoneme, ‘n,’ represented by a dot on the letter ( ).

          Recognizing these tone marks in written texts is of paramount importance.


A large number of Igala Homographs manifest themselves in form of concrete nouns. However, at times, they appear as verbs (action words) or adjectives (words that describe other things). Examples include:

    1.     The unmarked noun, ọkọ, depending on the different tones used to                   pronounce it,   could have three different meanings.                                                                                                                                                                                                   (i)   ọ́kọ́  pronounced / ‘ɔ́ ‘kɔ́  /   (money) 

bank-note-941246__180        rj


                              (ii)  ọ́kọ  pronounced / ‘ɔ́  ̩ kɔ /   (husband)


(iii) ọ̀kọ̀  pronounced / ̩ ɔ̀  ̩ kɔ̀ /  (millipede).


  1.  The unmarked word, awo, could also have three different meanings, depending    on the combinations of tones used to vocalize it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              (i)    àwo – pronounced / ̩à ‘wo /  (comb)

comb 2

(ii)    àwò  pronounced   / ̩à  ̩wò /  (star)   star (awo)

(iii)    áwó – pronounced / ‘wo /  (guinea-fowl)

guinea fowl

3.  The unmarked word, akpa, when explored further, could have three or more                       meanings, namely:

(i)     ákpá – pronounced  / ‘á ‘kpá /  (sky)

image of night sky

(ii)   Àkpà – pronounced / ̩à  ̩kpà /  (Muslim)

owo-eche (muslim praying)

(iii)   àkpá – pronounced / ̩à  ‘kpá /  (beetle)


You will observe that in the examples above, we have seen some homographs derived from concrete nouns. In our next post, we will highlight treat homographs gotten from verbs and adjectives.





P   R   O   N    O    U    N    S

NÀ   ÒMÌ, U; ÙWẸ̀,  Ẹ̀;  ÀWÀà,  À;  ÀMÀ, MÀ;   I, ÒÑWÙ; ÑWU




A noun is any word that names a person, place, thing or idea.


you choose not to mention nouns.

Instead, you use other words in their places.

Those ‘other words’ are called pronouns.

pronouns replacing nouns.jpg



pronoun omi - I, U

 Nà, Òmì. (Low-toned)

 U (Mid-toned)

(High-toned) = I; myself;


.’pronoun (we - awa).jpg

Àwà; À à. (Low-toned);

A’ or ‘a’ (Mid-toned);

  Á (High-toned) We


Pronouns (me ; you)

ÙWẸ̀; Ẹ̀ (Low-toned)

WẸ (Mid-toned)

WẸ̀; WẸ́  (High-toned) You

                                          ÒMI ONOBÙLẸ̀  ***  ÙWẸ  ỌNẸKẸ̀LẸ


pronoun (u kọ́ ma ).jpg

Àmẹ̀, mẹ̀ (Low-toned) You.

Mẹ (Mid-toned) you.

Mẹ́ (High-toned) You.



 ‘Ì’ (low-toned).

‘I’ (Mid-toned).

‘Í’ (High-toned)

Òñwù: He/She/it.


pronoun (man and woman)

 Àmà, mà (Low-toned).

Ma (Mid-toned).

Má (High-toned). they.


                                                             USE OF PRONOUNS

Pronouns work mainly with verbsFor example:

Òmì jẹ : I ate it. Mà lìá: They came.

ujenwu (It)


1.  Some pronouns take an auxiliary verb, ‘á’ (will or shall)

to indicate present continuous tense, suggesting an on-going action.


Nà ájẹñwu: I am eating.

someone eating.jpg

                       Sometimes, pronouns they indicate the simple future tense,

                                                suggesting action going to take place.


À ányí ár’ibọ́lù: We are going to play soccer.

pronoun we played football.jpg

2.    When the pronouns, ‘Ẹ̀’ or ‘ẹ̀’ and ‘Mẹ̀’ are used in the simple future or present continuous tenses, the auxiliary verb, ‘á,’ changes to ‘ẹ́,’ having been assimilated (swallowed) by the preceding, low-toned vowel, ‘ẹ̀.’


someone crying.jpg

Ẹ̀ ẹ́ rakwú lẹẹ?: Are you crying? 

3.  When a pronoun is used in the interrogative tense (or question form), the terminal  vowel in the verb is duplicated or, sometimes, even tripled.  Example:

pronoun (he or she - onwu).jpg

Ẹ̀ ẹ́ k’ọ̀tákádaaa? : Are you writing? 

Iii, ọ̀tákáda nà ákọ-i: Yes, I am writing.



Read these sentences and get used to the different personal pronouns used in Igala speech. 

  1. Mà álà; mà átà: They buy; they sell.
  2. Má tà ṅ:  They are not selling it.
  3. Mẹ gbà: (Plural) You take; take.
  4. Mẹ́ kọ̀ ṅ: Do not refuse (it).
  5. A dàbì: Let us go back.

Questions and Answers

  1. Ẹ̀ ẹ́ rakwúuu?: Are you crying?
  2. Iii, nà árakwú gbóóó: Yes, I have a reason to cry.
  3. Ẹ́nẹ́ kọ̀lài?: Who spoke just now?
  4. Òmì kọ̀là: I spoke.
  5. Ẹ̀ ẹ́ jẹẹẹ?: Are you eating?
  6. Èhéee. Ú jẹ nóò: No, I am not eating.
  7. Ẹ̀ ẹ́ dufuuu?: Are you going out?
  8. Ọ́dáà, ú dufù ṅ: No, I am not going out
  9. Nà á wá: I am coming. I will be coming.
  10. Àmà kó wá: They brought them.

pronoun Ẹ́ che gbẹ̀

                                                                      Ẹ́ CHE  GBẸ̀







There was a Nelson Mandela in South Africa and an unsung Daniel Ọ̀gbadú and his ilk in Nigeria.

Born at Élíká in Bìraidù District of Dekina LGA in October, 1919, Hon. Daniel Áchẹnẹjẹ Ọ̀gbadú (of blessed memory), a scion of the Ákogwu Royal House at Ídá, Kògí State of Nigeria, arrived this world in an auspicious circumstance  – when his paternal cousin, Prince Àtábọ Ìjọ̀mì, the hero of Màhíónú War (1914-1917), was crowned the Àtá-Igáláà, the king of the Ígálá ethnic group. He attended the then elite Dèkína Middle School and was later, in 1946, employed as a Court Scribe and posted to Ẹ́njẹma District in present-day Ánkpa LGA. In 1949, he was deployed to the Dekina District Court and, in August of the same year, he was elevated and posted to the Àtá-Igálá’s Court “B,” an apex court in the land, which handled appeals from courts in the 19 districts of the Igala Kingdom.

 Hon. Ọ̀gbadú’s foray into party politics began in 1948 in an era when the cry for liberation from colonial rule was most strident. Freedom fighters like Jomo  (Mzee) Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah were, at this time, championing the struggle for the independence of their countries, Kenya and Ghana, respectively, wining self-rule for them  on 12th December, 1963 (for Kenya) and 6th March, 1957 (for Ghana). In Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe – popularly known as Zik of Africa, then Editor, West African Pilot –  championed the struggle for Nigeria’s Independence.

As the Leader of a prominent political party – the National Congress for Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) – Zik went round the country in 1948 to sensitize Nigeria stakeholders to the imperative of liberation from colonial rule. One of the paramount rulers he visited was His Royal Majesty. Ágábáìdù, Àtá Ameh (pronounced Àámẹ́ẹ̀) Òbòní, the king of the Igáláà ethnic group – the 9th largest in Nigeria – at Ídá, then in Kabba Province. Dr. Azikiwe had, among other things, stressed the importance of political mobilization as an effective weapon for achieving self-determination; and he encouraged the Igala elite to form organisations that would assist in propagating the ideals of self rule and, possibly, metamorphose into political parties thereafter.

Dr. Azikiwe’s visit had a profound impact on His Royal Majesty who envisioned, in his mind’s eyes, a day in his reign – as the Àtá-Igáláà and the Head, Igala Native Authority (NA) – when the Igala elite would venture into, and excel in politics. Later, he discussed his vision with his Court Scribe, Mr. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú, who was equally stimulated by Zik’s vision and political sagacity. He then directed the latter to consult with Zik and obtain a recipe for floating a pan-Igala political party. An organisation named Igala Divisional Union (IDU) resulted from the consultation; and it later became the first grassroots party in Igalaland. Mr. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú became the party’s first General President; while Mr. Daniel O. Ẹnẹ̀fọ́là (pictured below) became its maiden Secretary-General.


The distribution of principal positions in the party was as follows:

  • Alhaji Hashim Adaji and Alhaji Abdulkadir, represented the Igala East Constituency;
  • Mr. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú and Mr. Peter Tòkwúláà, represented the Igala North-East; and
  • Peter Àchímúgwúù; Alhaji Ádúkwù Ìdoko; Mr. D.A. Ẹnẹ̀fọ́là; B. A. Ọ̀bàje and Mr. Andrew A. Àbógede, represented the Igala South.

The IDU, to gain national acceptability, entered into a coalition with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and fielded its President (Mr. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú) to run on NPC’s platform in the 1954 Parliamentary Elections; and he won a seat in the country’s very First House of Representatives sitting in Lagos, Nigeria‘s capital at the time. His mature contributions to the Proceedings of the House marked him out as an exceptionally intelligent member and was appointed the Chairman, Business Committee of the House.

Meanwhile, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, then of the Northern House of Assembly, had been following the rising profile and constructive contributions of Hon. . D. A. Ọ̀gbadú in the House and was highly impressed. Any wonder then that, in 1956, the Honourable Law-maker resigned his membership of the House of Representatives and joined the Sardauna in the Northern House of Assembly based in Kàduna, Northern Nigeria, as Parliamentary Secretary.

On the heels of that appointment came a course in Legal Studies, which he undertook at the Institute of Administration, Zaria, following which he was appointed the Legal Adviser in-charge of all the 19 Courts of Law in the then Igala Division. The IDU/NPC Coalition gave . Hon. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú the leverage to serve, between 1957 and 1961, as the NPC’s President in Igala Division, as it was called then. Later, he became the party’s President in the whole of Kabba Province, while, at the same time, doubling as Member, Executive Council of the NPC.

On 9th September, 1957, Hon. . D. A. Ọ̀gbadú was appointed a Minister of State and variously served in four Ministries, namely: Health, Trade and Industry, Economic Planning and Agriculture and Animal Health. The first picture above is that of Honourable Daniel Ọ̀gbadú and Mr. John Taylor, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Planning.

After the 1961 elections, the rival parties, the Igala Divisional Union (IDU) and the Igala Union (IU), were harmonized and integrated into the NPC party architecture. Under that arrangement, Hon. Ogbadu was appointed Director, Niger Pools Company Limited based in Lagos, whose business he promoted and even, on one occasion, represented at a conference in London.


Thus, Hon. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú returned home to a hero’s welcome, as people thronged into his home to pay tribute to the man who had done so much for his country, the land of his birth and the humanity that he came across in the course of his career. In the course of his public service, he mentored tens of Igala sons and daughters to positions of prominence.

While he was in Service, he had read a course on Local Government in Africa at the Cambridge University, England and that knowledge came handy at this period of his life, as, upon his return home in 1961, he was appointed as the Councillor for Local Governments, then, later elevated to the position of Senior Councillor. In addition, he also became the Vice Chairman of the Igala Native Authority, being, as it were, the Second-in-Command to His Royal Majesty, Ágábáìdù, Àtá Àlíyù Ọ̀bàje, who succeeded the Late Ameh Oboni in 1957 and who, under the Indirect Rule System of Government adopted by the Colonial Administration in the Northern Region, was the Chairman/Chief Executive of the Native Authority (NA). 

Following the creation of three LGAs – Ida, Dekina and Ankpa LGAs – in Igaland and Kabba Province, Hon. Ogbadu moved to Dekina as the Administrative Secretary for Dekina LGA in acting capacity, a responsibility he combined effectively with the position of the LGA’s Secretary for Health and Social Services, a position he held 1971 to 1975. 

In Kwara State, he was appointed a member of a Committee on Prerogatives of Mercy (in 1967?) and was on that committee up to 3rd February, 1976, when Benue State was created; and, in Benue State, he was a Member, Board of Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo.

 His contributions to nation-building and human capacity development are innumerable but may be summed up as follows:

(i) As the Chair of the Business Committee of the House of Representatives, he: 

  • in 1955, participated in a historic meeting held at the University of Ibadan, at which the 1958 Economic Blueprint for a post-Independence Nigeria was put together;
  • participated in the preparation of a Blueprint for the establishment of the Northern Nigerian Development Corporation (NNDC), at the time, one of the largest conglomerates in Africa south of the Sahara; 
  • took part in the sensitization of northern regional families to send their children to school with a view to ultimately bridging the yawing education gap between the north and south; they were also encouraged to send their children and wards to join the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police and the Civil Service.
  • influenced the exploration of mineral resources in Igalaland, resulting in the discovery of petroleum at Àlàde, on the outskirts of Ídá, the Igala capital;
  • was at the fore-front of the struggle to site the Iron and Steel Company Limited at Ídá, even though due to high-wired politics, the decision was altered in favour of  Ajaokuta across the River Niger to the west of the kingdom;
  • was privy to the decision to site an international standard river-port at Ídá, which would, among other things, service the steel complex mentioned above;
  • moved the motion for the asphalt-surfacing of the Anyigba-Ida and Anyigba-Ankpa Roads;
  • was solely responsible for the construction of the Dekina-Olowa-Abocho Road;
  • participated in the decision to construct the Egabada-Odolu-Nsukka Road and for the mobilisation of ferry services across the Anambra River at Ẹ̀gàbàdà, east of the capital;
  • assisted Igala sons and daughters to secure soft loans from the Northern Nigerian Marketing Board to enable them to go into cotton production and palm kernel trade, when he was a Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry;
  • participated in the drawing up of the Blueprint for the construction of an aerodrome at Ọ́gọ-ẹfà on the outskirts of Ídá, where Her Royal Majest, Queen Elizabeth II, visited Ídá in 1956;
  • influenced the setting up of Oil-Palm Mills at Ọ́ganaji, Ànyìgbá, Àchàrú and Àlàde, near Ídá;
  • was party to the setting up of one of the earliest Saw-mill in Nigeria at Òkùrà-Ọ̀làáfíáà;
  • was part of the decision to install portable drinking water (Water-Pump) in major towns in Igalaland; and
  • supported the candidacy of Prince Àlí Òtúlúkpé Ọ̀bàje for coronation as the 25th Àtá-Igáláà in 1957, following the passing on of Ata Ameh Oboni in 1956;


The feeling in the oligarchy in which Hon. D. A. Ọ̀gbadú was a worthy asset was that the Igala man was a third-class bush man who did not deserve to aspire to the top echelons of the civil or public services. Unfortunately for the detractors, Igala’s worthy representative used his position, as Honourable Minister, to nip the fruition of that evil plot of ethnic deprivation in the bud, thus ensuring that the constitutional rights of his ethnic group were not trampled upon.  Through his ministerial influence, he made sure that:

  • Igala sons and daughters benefited from scholarship schemes to study in higher institutions at home and abroad, leading to the emergence of Igala doctors, lawyers, chemists, military officers and seasoned administrators, etc.
  • Civil Servants were elevated to higher ranks and Igalas in Service started rising to posts of Director, Permanent Secretary and so on.
  • Dekina Middle School, his alma mater, was upgraded to the status of a Government Secondary School.
  • The throne of His Royal Majesty, the Àtá-Igáláà, which had been rated Second Class, was elevated to First Class status.
  • Approval of the Regional Government was sought and obtained for Missionaries to institute primary, secondary schools, teachers colleges, hospitals and clinics in Igalaland.
  • Approval was also obtained for the asphalt-surfacing (tarring) the Ánkpa to Ànyìgbá and Ànyìgbá to Shìntákù Roads
  • He had single-handedly mobilised the Army Engineers Corps to construct a bridge across the Ítẹ́mìẹ̀ River, a flowing body of water that had, for generations, split Dekina town into two, marooning families on either side of the divide.

The whole Igalaland pray for Hon. Daniel Áchẹnẹjẹ Ọ̀gbadú who, even in death, still stands like a Collosus, mocking at the reversed political values held sacred in his time.       As we pray for our heroes, we breath peace to their souls. 


Can you, Third Republic politician, between you and your God,  aspire to occupy the moral high ground upon which stood Hon. Daniel Ọ̀gbadú to discharge his onerous responsibilities to his people, the silent majority that he represented? They did not buy votes in their time, nor run away from the people, masking their identity with tinted car window-glasses. 

Can you resist the allure of silver and gold and enable your name, like his, to be etched in gold when you make your final exit from Planet Earth?

Would you work conscientiously for history and posterity to judge you kindly or otherwise when you fall out of public service? 



It our primary school days, we were taught to identify the different parts of speech – noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction and exclamation – and use them in sentences of our own. It is important that we are able to recognize their Igala equivalents and use them in written communication. Just as one could use these English words, ‘I,’ ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘it,’ they, them, we, our, etc., to replace nouns, indigenous words like ‘U’ (I), ‘mi’ (me) ‘wa,’ (we) ‘ma’ (they), etc. are used in the places of Igala nouns as pronouns. 

Ígáláa pronouns are grouped into three (3) different categories and sub-categories as follows:

(a) First Person Singular pronouns: U, ú, ù, nà, mi, mí, òmi

First Person Plural pronouns: a, á, à, àwa, àwà


(b) Second Person Singular pronouns: ẹ, ẹ́, ẹ̀, wẹ, ùwẹ

Second Person Plural pronouns: mẹ, mẹ́, mẹ̀, àmẹ, àmẹ̀


(c) Third Person Singular pronouns: i, í, ì, ó, ọ́

Third Peŕon Plural pronouns:  ma, mà, má.

In this post, we will limit ourselves to only the first person singular and plural pronouns, starting with the former: U, na, mi, mi, omi, etc.’ However, in their  unmarked form, these words may not provide accurate meanings; hence, they are pronounced with different tones so as to bring out their meanings and functions. Tone (or accent) marks are, therefore, an important tool in establishing the varying levels of tone in a written vernacular text.

Tone marks  show where the tone rises ( ́ ) or where it falls ( ̀ ) or where the it remains neutral (  ). Note that there are three  basic tones in Igala speech, namely: High, MidLow.  However, there is also an Extra High tone, as appears in the negative marker, ‘n, when making negative statements. The tone marker suggested in this case is a dot on letter ‘n,’ like this: ‘ṅ.’

Let us look at the Igala pronoun, U (which, in this unmarked form, pronounced with a Mid tone), is used in interrogative statements. When pronounced with the High tone, it suggests a negative statement; while the Low-toned ‘Ù’ indicates affirmative statement or past tense, as illustrated in the example sentences below:

  (i)   Ú – I  (High tone) is used in negative statements. E.g.

                           Ú mà ṅ : I do (did) not know;

                            kà ṅ: I will not (or did not) say it.

                           Ú jẹñwu ṅ : I will (did) not eat.     

  (ii)  U  =  I   (Mid-tone, usually unmarked)  is used in interrogative statements. Note                                 that this Mid-toned pronoun repeats itself in the following sentences and                               other suggestive pronouns you will come across.

                             U kọọ?                       –   Should I write?


                            U d’ibe ñw’úuu?       –   Should I advise him/her?

                           U gba ọ̀tákída mi?     –  Should I read my book?


(iii)  Ù  =  I    (Low-tone)  is used in affirmative statements and in  statements indicating                            past tense. E. g. 

              Ù f’akpọ nọ̀       –    I ground pepper.


enwu-enoo (grinding)


       Ù  né né ányà-ebíjè – I even rode a bicycle

          Ù náa rúlé bẹẹ             – I was riding with speed.


(iv)    Nà  – I  (Low-toned) Used in statements indicating affirmation,  simple present,                                 future and past tenses. Examples:

Nà ách’òlùka        –    I am in a conversation.


                               Nà ágwọla ìkò lẹ́            –        I was taking my bath at the time.

                                 Nà áló t’únyí                   –       I am going home. Or I will go home.

                            Ọ́kọ́ọ̀-ojáalè nà ágwà         –        I am a pilot.


(v)   (a) mi  –  me (Mid-toned) (Unmarked)  Used in a simple command or advice.                                         Examples:

                        Kàá mi tá           –   Tell me yet.

                        Dọwọ́tọ́ mi           –   Lend me a hand; help me.

                         Nétí ru mi           –  Listen to me

(b)   mi  –  my  (Mid-toned)  indicating ownership or possessiveness. Example:

Ónúkwu mi     –  My friend 


    Àtá mi – My father.

ule (walking)

Ọ̀kpágbélé mi dẹ́ẹ̀.       – This is my car.

Ọ̀kpágbélé mi ch’ẹrẹ̀ mi. – My car is my leg.




(c)  mí –  me  (High-toned) Used in statements indicating ownership. Examples:

Mà ádu mí ch’adú  – They will enslave me.


                                 Mà fu mí kpany’éjú jẹ  – They under-estimated me.

Ọ́ma-í ache mí ányī         – This boy is making me laugh 

anyi (smile)


(vi)  (a)  Òmi  –  I (formal) I (Low-Mid tone). Used is simple self-introduction.  Example:

      Òmi ch’ibọ́lù nà árọ  –  I play soccer.



                                                    Òmi ch’ànyà nà áné  – I am a cyclist.



(b)  Òmì – I (Low-Low) Used for introduction, emphasis, admittance and,                                                 sometimes, even arrogance. Examples:

          Òmì n’ímótò lẹ́  –  I was the one who drove that car.


Òmì t’úbì égwú-Átā lẹ̀   –  I am/was the one behind the Àtá’s (our King’s) royal masquerade.


Egwu Ata




The Beauty and Splendour of Ígáláà

No other language in the whole world gives you a freer rein over your self-expression in a fuller, more cultural and much more confident manner than your First Language (L1), the mother tongue. Ígáláà, a language spoken in Kogi State, Nigeria and kindred to both Yorùbá and Ì̀tshẹ̀kírí, is as ancient as the sun. It is so full of images, metaphors and


other figures of speech; while its musicality is alluringly legendary. Consider the imageries laden in the concepts of sleep, hunger, fear and shame, in which the concepts are personalised, as shown in the following sentences (see Column 2) below:

English Statement Igala Equivalent Literal Translation
I feel sleepy. Ólu ágò mí. Sleep is looking at me.
I slept off. Ólu m’úmi du. Or Ù m’ólu du. Sleep carried me Or

I carried sleep.

I am hungry. Ébi ákpa mí. Hunger is beating/killing me.
I am thirsty. Òlùgbẹ ákpa mí. Thirst is beating/killing me.
I was frightened. Òkpò fù mí mú. Fear arrested/caught me.
I was ashamed. Ányọ́ fu mí mú. Shame arrested/caught me.



Young, corporate Igala men and women have, of late, become more enthusiastic in speaking and writing of their mother tongue and are taking steps towards promoting the culture of their people, using the Facebook, Whatsapp and other online outlets. This is a welcome development, signifying a plus for the progress for the language spoken by an estimated two million Igalas worldwide. To take this progress to another level – curbing the endangerment of the language – we need an astronomical rise in the number of native speakers speaking and, most importantly, reading and writing the language with appreciable competency. That is the insurance needed to remove the specter of extinction currently hanging over the language like the Sword of Damocles. Therefore, let us all step up the passion and craze for Igala speaking, reading and writing, trusting that Divine Providence will make available to us the needed tools,  instructional materials, required to keep the trend alive and active forever.



In learning to perfect your Igala reading and writing skills, there are vital tools required by learners. These include:

1.    CUSTOMIZED ÍGÁLÁ  KEYBOARD for effective writing of  the language.


                  Currently, the vowel and consonant sounds, ‘ẹ,’ ‘ọ’ and ‘ñ,’ which are                                     dominant in Igala speech and writing, are unavailable on most keyboards. 


2.       NON-COMPREHENSION by the writer of the DIFFERENT PARTS OF                                      SPEECH.

                  Words in a sentence are classified under eight (8) compartments,                                      technically called:

             noun                   verb                 adjective                 pronoun,                                                       preposition      adverb            conjunction          Interjection. 

(i)       UNDERSTAND THESE CATEGORIES VERY WELL;                                                           (ii)     Thereafter, RECOGNIZE them and, accordingly, distribute                                                    your words in line with established sentence structure in                                                    Igala writing; and

 (iii)    SEPARATE the WORDS in your sentence DO NOT JUMBLE                                                    THEM.

3.              NEGLECT OF TONE and TONE-MARKING in Igala writing.                                                        This has adversely affected the development of the Igala language.

The Yorùbá have the Ìwé Ìròyìn local newspaper, in which tone is freely                             used to support readers to read without breaking.

Conversely, the Ígáláà had the defunct ‘Oko Anẹ Igala,’ whose prints were                          devoid of tonecausing the reader to stumble tediously through the text. 

 4.            NON-STANDARDISATION of Igala writing, which has disallowed the                                      emergence of a recommended model to be adopted in formal writing.                       



I am happy to inform the Kigala-Online readership that a customised Igala Keyboard has come to be. Designed by Chris Harvey, a Canadian linguist, three versions of the keyboard are already being reviewed and would soon be made available to the Igala-writing public. The final option promises to be user-friendly, time-saving and covers all the peculiar sounds of Igala language.

In addition, the keyboard in question also enables the Igala writer to MARK TONE LEVELS on every syllable in the words that he writes in a given text.


Experience has shown that keyboards fitted into computer systems do not have core Igala vowels. However, the same cannot be said of smart phones, which have universally accepted linguistic patterns for writing indigenous languages all linked to the UNICODE.

mobile phone

smart phone

These can be adapted to the writing of Igala language.

As a Christmas Present, I wish to share this secret with you.

STEP  1: On your hand-held smart phone:

SELECT the key bearing the vowel/consonant letter you want to use. (In this case, we select the vowel letter, ‘Ee,’ as an example).

In English language, (e) is pronounced /i:/ as in bee, meet & seize.

In Ígáláà, (e) sounds like /ay/ as in  eight, face, pay & way. 

STEP 2: On your hand-held smart phone:

HOLD DOWN the selected key (e) for a few seconds.

Then, you will see the different variations of the particular vowel you have chosen. Each option bearing its  tone or accent mark, comprising: High ( ́), Mid (   ) & Low ( ̀)

The different variations of Letter ‘e’ produced on an Android phone, are as follows:

(pronounced with the High tone), as in ‘égbé,’

e (pronounced with the Mid-tone), as ‘le,’ in ‘éle’ (gift)

(pronounced with the Low tone), as in ‘ ìlè‘ (gain, profit)

(pronounced with the Mid tone), as in ‘mẹ’ (you, plural).

ẹ́ (pronounced with the High tone), as in ‘fẹ́’ (to be clean)

ẹ̀ (pronounced with the Low-tone), as in ‘gbẹ̀’ (to plant).

If you want to write the Igala word for  ‘question,’ (ènè), select the low-toned option, ‘è,’ followed by letter ‘n’ and another ‘è,’  which gives you ènè.

If it is ‘grass’ (égbé) that you want to write, select the high-toned ‘é,’ followed by ‘g,’ ’b’ and another ‘è.’ Then, you have ‘égbé.

If you are trying to write the English ‘gift’ or ‘present’ in Ígáláà, you select the ‘high’ ‘é,’ followed by ‘l’ and another ‘é.’ This gives you ‘éle.’


When you select the vowel, ‘o,’ on your keyboard, you will find a total of eight (8) variations, including the native vowel, ‘ọ,’ as shown below:

 ó (pronounced with the High tone), as in ógbó (old age).

(pronounced with the Mid tone), as in mọ (to drink)

ọ́ (pronounced with the High tone), as in gbọ́ (to hear)

(pronounced with the Mid-High tone), as in Àbóchō (place name)

ọ̀ (pronounced with the Low tone), as in ùnyọ̀ (beauty)

(pronounced with the Low tone), as in òkpò (fear)

ọ̄ (pronounced with the High tone), as in ọ̀wọ́wọ̄ (multiple)

o (pronounced with the Mid-tone) as in ílo (bell)

When you want to write ‘ọ́wọ́.’ (hand), first, select the second (high-toned) option, ‘ọ́,’ followed by letter ‘w’ and another ‘ọ́’ and you have ‘ọ́wọ́.’

The Consonant Letter, Ññ,

To produce the letter, ñ,’ on your phone, depress letter ‘n’ for 1-2 seconds; then, you will see the following five (5) alternatives: ‘ñ,’ ‘ń,’ ‘ṅ,’ ‘ǹ’ & ‘n’ from which you can select ‘ñ.’


      1.   First, MAKE EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND THE THREE BASIC TONES (High, Mid                  and Low tones) of the Igala speech.


          As the tuning fork regulates the exactitude of a musical notation, so also the                  standard code:

          ÓÓ …… ẸẸ  ….. ÙÙ  

          HIGH … MID …. LOW

                                               MATCH any of the above options in the code, (ÓÓ-ẸẸ-ÙÙ)                                    with the PARTICULAR TONE that you want to represent in writing.


       Therefore, in trying to represent the Mid Tone in any syllable that contains any of the seven vowels (a, e, ẹ, u, o, ọ, u), leave them (the syllables) blank or unmarked.








             When the Nigerian Nàirà-and-Kọ́bọ̀ currency was introduced in January, 1973, the country was in its thirteenth year of self-rule. It was at that point that the colonial currencies (pounds and shillings), which was the Nigerian colony’s medium of exchange.  Similarly, other African countries, upon their attainment of Independence status at different times, adopted various indigenous nomenclatures to name their instruments of exchange, which, today, are recognized in international trade and exchange systems.


Trade by Barter

             In the centuries gone by, long before the British pound and shillings were used in the Nigeria as a colony of Britain, when the country existed as coteries of kingdoms, empires and emirates headed by well-to-do monarchs, there were no legal tenders in monetary forms circulating as they do today. The earliest form of exchange was the barter system, which involved the exchange of an item one had for the one he needed. For instance, a man  could exchange beans for palm-oil, yam for fish or meat, as item of



clothing or any other foodstuff or item of clothing. Economic anthropologists state that the barter system dates back to 600 B.C., when it was introduced by the tribes of Mesopotamia. In those days, items of exchange included iron for smithing, animals, farm products, textiles, beads. etc.

Cowry Shells (Cypraea Moneta) as Ancient Money

When the volume of trade increased beyond what the barter system could cope with, Europe, Asia and Africa resorted to the use of cowry shells (Cypraea Moneta) called Ẹ́yọ́-ọkọ́ in Igalaa, were used as legal tender Cowry shells were mostly obtained from the  

cowry shells

Indian Ocean or the Maldives (Island) and imported by European traders to service worldwide economies. A Narrative of the Richard Lander-led, first British Expedition to the River Niger in Central Africa reveals that shell money was used for the purchase of various commodities, including cloths, bridles, saddles, elephant tusks and slaves, among others. An Igala-English Lexicon (2015), in its Postscript section (under the heading, Early Trade, Legal Tenders, (p. 633), reveals that “An young, female would fetch from sixty to twenty thousand cowries” and that “a strong, well-grown man is worth from thirty to fifty thousand cowries” and that “a boy, pony an ox, donkey or common working slave, from ten to thirty thousand.”

Red Berry Seeds           

Red Berry seeds (seeds with red and black colours) were also used side by side with cowries, as a medium of exchange in place of shell money by the Ígáláà of ancient times. Google Search reveals that “The Igala people used them in decorating their wooden helmet mask called oju-egu (ójí-egwú) used in the royal ancestral cult.

Ojiegwu Igalaa

Ójí-egwú Igáláà                    

Egwu Ata

            Égwú Átā                         



          The next instrument of exchange was Manilla, a curved brass, iron or copper bracelet, which also doubled as a jewelry or an ornamental item; hence, it is also referred to as African brass bracelet. Manufactured in Birmingham, United Kingdom, the manilla was exported to West Africa as a medium of international trade and was used in Nigeria up to the 1940s.

manilla currency

British Colonial (Nigerian) Currency: Pounds & Shillings

            I can vividly recall my early childhood days in the 1950s, when I was attending a village kindergarten school. My parents would give me one penny (1d), a copper coin with a hole in its centre, as my daily pocket money. On the way to school, I would buy two pieces of àkàlà (fried bean or Bambaranut-cake) or wait till break time or after school, when I would buy groundnuts. At the time, one shilling could buy you manynigerian penniy things; while a one-pound note was big money, enough to pay a whole term’s school fees. As I reminisce that period with nostalgia, it reminds me of the Arithmetic of colonial money we were compelled to commit to memory: 4 farthings make one penny; 12 shillings make one pound and so on.

One pound

“COUNTING IN ÍGÁLÁÀ IS A MUST FOR  ALL.”  Àtá-Igáláà,  Ágábáìdù, Àlí Ọ̀bàje

             It is, indeed, disconcerting to find that, in modern times, many Igala children – particularly those born and raised outside the Igala homeland – find it difficult to speak their mother-tongue with appreciable level of fluency; while many too are unable to count any items up to 100 or even 50 (!) in vernacular. More baffling is the prevailing situation in which their parents, uncles, aunties and grand-parents are more at home with counting in English and can hardly exceed ‘ọ̀gwọ́kọ́ (200) in their mother-tongue. This is not an enviable situation at all; rather, it is a sad irony that we must take urgent steps to redress. 

           Towards setting it right, we are going to use this current blog post to examine the Igala counting model, as handed down to us by our worthy ancestor, the immediate past Igala King, His Royal Majesty, Ágábáìdù, Àtá-Igáláà, Dr. Ali Ọ̀bàje (CBE, MON, MFR), May God rest his soul. He formally presented the counting model in a paper he presented at the annual Igala Assembly ‘Ùjọ Igáláà,‘ (called ‘Ìtàlo,’ is Hausa word (tarun) at Ànyìgbá in December, 1988. It was the Ata’s wish that all bona fide sons and daughters of the Igala Kingdom possessed excellent command of the Igala language, including counting up to nine digit (billion) figures (or even beyond). He also enjoined his subjects to drop the

Ali Obaje

Àlí Ọ̀bàje

loathsome habit of bringing in loan words into Igala speech, including its counting forms. Examples include the Hausa words, ìjẹ̀ka (£100,00) and ‘òdubu (dubu) (£1000) or English ídọ́jìnì (dozen). These can be easily replaced with ógwúmẹ́lū,’ ‘àdò or ẹ̀gwéjì.

One naira      One naira note

Àtá Àlí Ọ̀bàje himself had learned to use the counting form in the early 1920s when, as a little boy, he hawked ‘àkàlà’ (fried bean-cake) for his mother; that was before his father, Ọ̀bàje Òchéje, was enthroned as an Ata-Igalaa in 1926 and she became a king’s wife. Àlí Ọ̀bàje had turned out to be a beneficiary of sound western education and a great administrator whose reign (1956-2012) witnessed the transition from the British Pound 

imagesto the Nigerian Naira on 1st January, 1973.  According to him, “There is so much to count in our daily lives, either as farmers, as traders and as students.” I am, therefore, happy to share the king’s counting model with you in part. However, it is fully reproduced in my bilingual dictionary, titled, An Igala-English Lexicon (2015) (pp. 634-638).  

One thousand naira note

      Ẹ́ÑWU ÉGBÁLUKÀ ALU ÍGÁlÁÀ              

     COUNTING IN IGALA LANGUAGE                                                                                                                                                                 CARDINAL

                                                    (Denoting Quantity)

One 1 Òókáà/Ényẹ́
Two 2 Èjì
Three 3 Ẹ̀ta
Four 4 Ẹ̀lẹ̀
Five 5 Ẹ̀lú
Six 6 Ẹ̀fà
Seven 7 Èbie
Eight 8 Ẹ̀jọ
Nine 9 Ẹ̀lá
Ten 10 Ẹ̀gwá
Eleven 11 Ẹ̀gwákáà
Twelve 12 Ẹ̀gwéjì
Thirteen 13 Ẹ̀gwẹ́ta
Fourteen 14 Ẹ̀gwẹ́lẹ̀
Fifteen 15 Ẹ̀gwẹ́lū
Sixteen 16 Ẹ̀gwẹ́fà
Seventeen 17 Ẹ̀gwébie
Eighteen 18 Ẹ̀gwẹ́jọ
Nineteen 19 ẹ̀gwẹ́lā
Twenty 20 Ógwu


                                               (Denoting position, order, sequence)

First 1st  Éjódùdu
Second 2nd Ẹ̀kéjì
Third 3rd  Ẹ̀kẹ́ta
Fourth 4th Ẹ̀kẹ́lẹ̀
Fifth 5th Ẹ̀kẹ́lū
Sixth 6th Ẹ̀kẹ́fà
Seventh 7th Ẹ̀kébie
Eighth 8th Ẹ̀kéjọ
Ninth 9th Ẹ̀kẹ́lā 
Tenth 10th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwā
Eleventh 11th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwākāà
Twelfth 12th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwējì
Thirteenth 13th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwẹ̄ta
Fourteenth 14th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwẹ̄lẹ̀
Fifteenth 15th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwẹ̄lu
Sixteenth 16th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwẹ̄fà
Seventeenth 17th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwēbie
Eighteenth 18th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwẹ̄jọ
Nineteenth 19th Ẹ̀kẹ́gwẹ̄la
Twentieth 20th Ẹ̀kóogwu


Igala Numbers in words English Form in Figures English Form in Words
Ógwú  ny’ẹ́yọ́ kāà





Ógwú ny’ẹ́yọ́ méjì                  22  



 Ógwú ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́ta





 Ógwú ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lẹ̀






Ógwú ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lū


                25  Twenty-five

 Ógwú  ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́fà





Ógwú  ny’ẹ́yọ́ mébie





 Ógwú  ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́jọ                   28  



 Ógwú- ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā












Ógwẹ́gwā ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà








 Ógwẹ́gwā ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lū                35  




Ógwẹ́gwā ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā














Ọ̀gbọ̀méji ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà               41  




Ọ̀gbọ̀méji ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā












Óóje ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà









Óóje ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā














 Ọ̀gbọ̀mẹ́ta ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà  




Ọ̀gbọ̀mẹ́ta ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā












Ẹ̀tẹẹ̀gwá ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà






Ẹ̀tẹẹ̀gwá ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā





 Ọ̀gbọ̀mẹ́lẹ̀            80  



 Ọ̀gbọ̀mẹ́lẹ̀ ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà            81  




Ọ̀gbọ̀mẹ́lẹ̀ ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā












Ẹ̀lẹ̀ẹ̀gwā ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā















One hundred



Ógwúmẹ́lū ny’ẹ́yọ́ káà





 One hundred and one

Ógwúmẹ́lū ny’ẹ́yọ́ mẹ́lā





One hundred and nine

Ógwúmẹ́lū ny’ẹ́yọ́ ogwú


           120  One hundred and twenty



 Two hundred




Three hundred



Úlú ọkọ́


           400 Four hundred

Ólí mẹ́gwā


           500 Five hundred

Ólí mẹ́gwējì


           600 Six hundred

Ólí mẹ́gwẹ̄lẹ̀


            700  Seven hundred



            800  Eight hundred



            900  Nine hundred


Íchámú ny’ọ́gwọ̄kọ̄



One thousand


Àdò olímẹ́gwā            500,000  

 Five hundred thousand





         1,000,000  One million
 Òdulugwu méjì           2,000,000  

Two million


 Òdulugwu méjì ny’ólímẹ́gwā           2,500,000  

Two million, five hundred thousand


Òdulugwu ugbo òdulugwu        1,000,000,000  


          One billion

               etc. etc.






Concrete nouns are names of tangible things that you can SEE, TOUCH and TASTE. These include trees, houses, cars, rivers, birds and other animals you see at home that live in the forest. The foods – rice, beans and ‘ọjẹ̀’ – that you eat, the ẹ̀kàmù (pap) or tea that you drink morning and evening and any other VISIBLE THINGS; they are all  CONCRETE NOUNS

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns, on the other hand, are the exact opposite of Concrete nouns. They are the nouns that signify concept, quality or other abstract idea that you can see ONLY IN YOUR MIND’S EYE.  They are not physical or tangible objects that one can see, touch, feel and taste. Words like ùyọ̀ (joy); ùfẹ̀dọ̀ (love);  ùmà (knowledge) are examples of abstract nouns.


Abstract nouns are derived from verbs (action words) or adjectives (words that describe nouns). 

To form an abstract noun, simply place a vowel letter before the  first (consonant) letter of the verb – the action word.  

In the table below,  the column on the left contains VERBS, each beginning with a consonant letter. The second column contains the ABSTRACT NOUNS formed from the verbs on the left by simply prefixing vowel letters to them. 

̄̄            VERBS                                                          ABSTRACT NOUNS


to boast. E.g. Ì ábá olóló: He/She is too boastful.


boasting. E.g. Ùbá dẹ̄-i kè. (His boastfulness is legendary).


   1.  to beg (for). E.g. Ọ́kọ́ ì ábi-í : (He/She is begging for money).



2. to pray;  to plead with. E.g.  Ọ́jọ́ nà ábi. (I pray to God).









1.  begging (for alms or charity).     E.g.  Èbi àbó méjì-í ābi. (These two persons live on begging)

2.    prayer; plea; entreaty; supplication. E.g. Èbi nà abi Ọ́jọ́. (I offer prayeŕ to God).


ebi (prayer)


dọ́ :

to call; to summon. E.g. Ẹ́nẹfu ádọ́ mi. (A white man calling called me).


Pop art business man screaming. Pop art retro vector, realistic hand drawn illustration. Promo people ùdọ́  :

 calling (someone). E.g. Údọ́ ẹnẹfu lẹ́ nà áténè éjẹ́-ì. (I am trying to answer that white man’s call).

 black businessman happy expression
jà :

to fight. E.g. Àtí kà w’uwa k’aa ja. (Àtí asked us to fight).




jọ :  

to sit together; to assemble; to congregate.



uja (wrestling)


FB_20160505_13_49_21_Saved_Picture - Copy


ùjà :

fight; bout; prize fight. E.g. Ùjà Mohammed Ali à  ágòó-ì. (We are watching Mohammed Ali’s fights. 


ùjọ : 

gathering;  assembly. E.g. Ùjọ ìlò ùnyọ̀gbá  à wá-i. (We have come for a  meeting to discuss progress).

okpo-ero (boxing)









to scream; to yell. E.g.  Ẹ́ñwú chi k’ì ákwà? (Why is he/she screaming?

Vector color illustration of a screaming man.Isolated image on white background ùkwà : 

scream; cry; yell. E.g. Ùkwà wẹ jí úmi olu-í. (It was your scream that woke me up).

 mí :

 to rest; to relax. E.g. Ù gwùgwú ọ́mọ̄ ámí. (I sat there seated and resting).


 umi4  úmí :  

rest; respite; break; relaxation. E.g.  Ìkò ùmí líyā, ẹ mí. (When the time for rest comes, rest).


1. nyọ̀ (adj.) 

to be good; to have a good conscience; to be virtuous, upright & God-fearing. E.g. Ì cheé nyọ́ọ̀. (It is good).







2. nyọ̀:

(adj.) to be handsome or beautiful. E.g.  Ọ́ma-i nyọ́ gbẹ̀ẹ̀. (This boy/girl is very handsome/ beautiful).






1.  (a) ẹ̀nyọ̀ :  goodness; virtuousness. E.g. Ẹ́nẹ ẹ̀nyọ̀ ẹ̀ che. (You are a good person).

       (b)  good things; blessings; luck. E.g.  Ẹ̀nyọ̀ ágbẹrẹ̀ ẹ̀nyọ̀. (Good attracts good).





2.  ùnyọ̀:

 beauty; handsomeness.  E.g.Ódú Àdígò èkéjì ch’Ùnyọ̀. (Àdígò’s second name is Ùnyọ̀, Beauty). 








ñwọ́ : 

to react to alcohol.  E.g. Ọ́tẹ́ ì áñwọ́-ì. (He/She is under the influence of alcohol).



ùñwọ́ :

being under the influence of something. E.g. Ùñwọ́ ọkọ́ átā ñwu ì áñwọ́ lẹ̀. (He/She is influenced by his father’s wealth to misbehave like this).


 wọ̀ :

to pain; to ache; to throb. E.g. Ójí áwọ̀ mi. (I have a headache).

 ìwọ̀ :

pain; ache; discomfort. E.g. Ìwọ̀ ọma-ébíi gbẹ̀. (The pain of child-birth is excruciating).


to blossom; to flourish. E.g. Úchẹ́ mi rà t’óko.  (My crops are blooming  on the farm).


 fern_2853374 ùrà

wealth; treasure; riches. E.g.  Ùrà ùjẹñwu dẹ́ wa. (We have abundant food).



 under the tree


 yọ́ :

to melt; to thaw; to liquify. E.g. Òkwúta-ọmọjọ́chà hàí mú yọ́ mẹ̀. (That hail-stone has melted).


ẹ̀yọ́ :

the melted form of something. E.g. Ẹ̀yọ́ ekpo-ọ̀jẹ̀ k’ì bọ̀ dẹ́ẹ̀. (This is the melted fremains of the palm-oil).



to be happy; to be in high spirits. E.g. Álu k’ù fù ú lí, ù chánẹ́ éyọ́ọ̀. When I saw him/her, I became glad,


uyo (happiness)


joy;  gladness; bliss. E.g. Ùyọ̀ ọkọ ñ’ọya k’í d’úgbo mẹ méjì. (Let marital bliss be with both of you.



A phrasal verb is the verb that has another word (a noun) joined to it as an adjunct. In writing a phrasal verb, the last vowel in the verb is usually elided (left out) and is replaced by an apostrophe, as shown below. For example, the verb, lo + úchẹ́ = l(o)uchẹ́ (to farm), whose terminal vowel, ‘o’, is omitted and an apostrophe replaces it, showing that a vowel is missing. So our word will now read, l’uchẹ́. In the phrasal verbs treated below, you will see how apostrophes are used to send the message of elision. At times, an apostrophe may be considered optional, as in the words, ‘tido,’ ( to dance) ‘jẹñwu’ (to eat), ‘rúlé’ (to run), ‘gbúlù’ (to smell something.)

   PHRASAL VERBS                                                                                      ABSTRACT NOUNS

owo-eche (muslim praying)

ch(e)ọ̀wọ̀ or ch’ọ̀wọ̀ (of a Muslim) (to pray)                           ọ̀wọ̀-éche (formal praying)

̀anya ene (cycling)n(é)ányà or n’ánya (to ride a bicycle)                                              ànyà-éné (cycling)                                                                                                        anyi2

    ny(í)ányī or  ny’ányī  (to laugh)                                   ànyí-ényi  (laughter; laughing)   

 oma-ebo-chiya                                                                                                                                                                                b’ọ́ma ch’iyà (to play with a child)               ọ́ma-ébọ-ch’iyà(playing with a child)

Ifada (Uko-eko) Preaching

                    k(à)ọ̀là-Ọjó or k’ọ̀là-Ọjọ́ (to preach)                   ọ̀là-Ọjọ́-ékáà (preaching)

otakada eko4

kọchẹ̄-ọ̀tákída (to study)                                                ọ̀tákída-ékọ́chẹ̄(studies; studying)


t(a)idó) or t’idó/tido (to dance)                                     ídó-éta (dancing)

ajogwu (ogwu-ejaa)

t(a)olí or t’olí (to shoot a gun)                                         ólí-éta (shooting)



Igala history is a priceless legacy that Igalas of the present generation are compelled to preserve for effective transfer to the next generation in undiluted form. A people’s history fraught with controversies and distortions cannot stand the test of time. It is to avoid such a calamity that this blog post is being placed in the public domain. There is no doubt the effectiveness of the social media as an outlet for write-ups on the language, history and culture of the Igalas. However, it has been painfully observed that the version of Igala kingship history that is being churned out on the social media is, sometimes, misleading, as some of the narratives are supported only by oral tradition, which could lend itself to distortions, misrepresentations or even outright fallacies. Some of the distortions recently observed on Facebook and Whatsapp are examined below. The true versions of such distortions, which are based on research findings, are provided in each case.


The first distortion is that Àbùtù Ẹ̀jẹ̀ was the first Ata-Igalaa in history

This statement that Àbùtù Ẹ̀jẹ̀ was the first Ata-Igalaa ever is misleading, as Àbùtù Ẹ̀jẹ̀ (or his daughter, Ébúlẹẹ́jonú), belong to the Third Dynasty; that is, the ruling Jukun (or Apa) Dynasty, which, according to R. A. Sargent, commenced in 1687 AD, the same year the reign of the Bini Dynasty came to an end.  The influx of the Jukuns, who had broken away from the Kwararafa Confederacy, occurred between 1597 AD and 1627 AD. At this time, the Aji Ata (or Bini) Dynasty, under which a total of six Bini-speaking Atas ruled, had forced itself on the Igala Kingdom in 1507 AD, forcing Ata Ọgáláà Eri to proceed on a sudden self-exile.  It should also be noted that the Bini Dynasty was itself preceded by an earlier dynasty, the Ata Eri (or Igala) Dynasty. The findings of a 21-year research undertaken by the Catherine Acholonu International Research Centre, Abuja revealed that “Ata Eri was the ancestor and father of the Igalas and the founder of the still-surviving, ancient lineage of Atta Kings of the Igala nation.” Ata Ọgáláà Eri had succeeded Àtá Àtá-Ógwū, after whom the Àtá-Ógwū Hill (Ójúwó Átōgwu) on the outskirts of Ida town was named.

           (ii)    THE AJI-ATTAH (ATA) (OR BINI) DYNASTY

In the year, 1507,  Ọba Ọ̀kpámẹ̀ Ọ̀zọ́luà of Benin ordered his son, Aji-Attah (Ata), to lead a segment of the Bini army against Ata Ọgáláà Erí at Ida, which prompted a sudden journey of the incumbent into self-exile, first, to the southern part of the Benue Basin, then later, to Nri in the present-day Anambra State. The Aji-Attah (or Benin) Dynasty, after one hundred and eighty years at Ida, was finally brought to an end by the influence of the Kwararafa traders-cum-warriors who were pouring into what, today, is referred to as the Igala Kingdom, which, according to Sargent and Miles Clifford, had been occupied by the “Okpoto tribesmen.”


That Àtá Ayẹ̀gbà Ọma Ìdoko sacrificed his beloved daughter, Princess Íníkpi, as demanded by the spirits of the land, in the wake of the Igala-Benin War; while  her sister, Ọ́modòkó, was sacrificed in respect of the Igala – Jukun War.

Íníkpi was buried alive at Ọ́gbẹ́gà as the Igala-Jukun War was looming. The war was eventually fought about the year, 1690 AD, at the twilight of 17th Century. By this time, the Igala-Benin War had been fought and lost about 174 years earlier, when Idoko, Ayegba’s father had not even been born.  After the Apa War ended in Ayegba’s favour, he celebrated his victory by sacrificing three more of his daughters, namely: Ọ́modòkó (who was buried on the western bank of River Ínáchaló) as well as Ónojò Alíkáà and Ónojò Alẹ́gbẹ̄ who were both buried at two separate spots in Ídá town.

Distortion No. 3

That a Muslim occultist from Bebeji on the outskirts of Kano was the Mallam hired by Ayegba to perform some rites on the western bank of River Inachalo at Ida while the Jukun (Apa) invaders were camping at the opposite bank of the river. 

Miles Clifford, a colonial officer who had carried out a research into the Apa War, states that a Nupe Mallam called Edegi was employed to perform the rite mentioned above and was responsible for Ayegba’s victory in the war. Overjoyed by that historic victory, Ata Ayegba betrothed one of his daughters named Ódó, to Mallam Edegi in addition to the huge financial reward the king had gratefully given him earlier. Mallam Edegi had thanked the king most profoundly and, together with his own followers, he rowed upstream of the Niger towards Rabba (in Nupeland). He finally settled down at a place he named Àbó-Idá (Ídá people), which, over time, changed to ‘Bídā,’ as it is still called to date.

Distortion No. 4

That the Igala Kingdom has never been defeated in any war in all of its history.

This statement is not true, as there are three or so recorded wars in which the Igalaa army was roundly defeated and had to beat a hasty retreat in each case. These are as follows:

  • The Benin Empires conquest and occupation of Igalaland in 1507 AD when the Igala army was no match for the more numerous soldiers of the Benin army
  • The Igala-Benin War of 1515-1516 AD; and
  • The Bassa Komo Rebellion in 1856 AD.

The first was the war led by a Benin Prince, Aji Attah (Ata) against Ata Ọgálá Eri in 1507. Robert Arthur Sargent, in his 1984 PhD Thesis, titled, Politics and Economics in the Benue Basin, reports that the Benin army had attacked, conquered and occupied the Igalaland to establish a Bini (or Aji Ata) Dynasty.

The second war in which the Igala troops were defeated was the Aji-Attah-Oba Esigie face-off – a war of two brothers having the same father –  which early historians erroneously referred to-as the “gala-Benin War” of 1515-1516. Eight years after Aji Ata had conquered and seized the Ata’s throne and land, he mobilized the Kingdom’s army to fight and remove his brother, Oba Esigie who was installed in 1509 and take over the throne; but the Igala army was roundly defeated. While some settled at the present-day Ebu, near Asaba, others settled at Ibaji and Ilushi (Òjìgónó) area of Edo State.

Prince Okoliko, who later became the Ata-Igalaa between  1870 and 1876, had teamed up with a man named Ódomà Abáláká of the Òhiémi Ọ̀bọgọ Lineage to rustle the Bassa Komo camp at the present-day Ògwùmà on the bank of the River Benue when they were pouring into Igalaland in large numbers, fleeing from slave raiders, and were given refuge by Ata Aame Ocheje (1835 – 1856). Okoliko and Odoma had formed the habit of sneaking into the Bassa camp, stealing them and selling them into slavery. The victims sent word across to their kith and kin who mobilized a formidable force against their transgressors. In the war that ensued, the Igala army was driven into a mire and were killed in large numbers. Odoma and Okoliko narrowly escaped death, as their troops were mowed down by the aggrieved Bassa warriors.

A comprehensive account of the the Bassa Komo Rebellion, see the Postscript section of my book, titled, An Igala-English Lexicon, under the heading Odoma Abalaka (p. 619-620).

Distortion No. 4

That Ákwùmábì was the first son of Àtá Ayẹ̀gbà Ọma Ìdoko; while Ákogwu was  his  second son.

According to the Igala native law of primogeniture, it is the first-born son that succeeds his father upon the latter’s demise. However, in the case of Ákwùmábì and his brother, Ákogwu, that law did not apply. In fact,  Àtá Onákpa Akwùmábì was NOT the first son of Ayẹ̀gbà but the second; while Akogwu was his eldest son. When Ayegba passed on, Akogwu was preoccupied with their father’s burial arrangements; and his younger brother, Ákwùmábì (or ‘Akwu’ for short) … was busy lobbying the king-makers to install him as their father’s successor. He had killed the sentry at the rear gate of the palace to let himself into the palace, from where he sent for the king-makers to come and perform coronation rites on him. When all that was happening, Akogwu’s sympathisers had blocked the front gate to prevent Akwu from entering. The name, Akwumabi, is the short form of the name he took upon his investiture: “Ákpa adàkwù m’ákwù bì”  (The killer of the sentry at the gate (ádàkwù) opened the gate) for himself. Details of the story of Akwu’s usurpation of the throne are contained in the Postscript section of An Igala-English Lexicon by John Idakwoji, p. 576-577.

Distortion No. 6

 That Àtá Àámẹ́ẹ̀ Òchéje, following the assassination of his immediate predecessor, Àtá Ẹkẹ̀lẹ̀-Àgà in 1834, replaced all the Kingmakers with Royal Councillors.

When Àtá Ẹkẹ̀lẹ̀-Àgà was murdered in his sleep in 1834, Àtá Àámẹ́ẹ̀ Òchéje, his successor dissolved the entire membership of the Ígálámẹla Council of King-makers, which was later reconstituted to include two members from the Ata’s family, the Ánanyà-Àtá and the Áchanyà-Àtá to be the eyes and ears of the king on the Council. The Royal Councillors, as Officers of State, played advisory roles as the closest persons to the king. Originally, they were sons of Ayegba who first appointed them into office.










How to Form Verbs

Our earliest posts on this blog centred on verbs (called to do words). We  also learned how to form short, simple Igala verbs:

  • Place a vowel in front of a consonant. 
  • Thereafter, use different tones (high, mid and low tones)  to pronounce the word so formed, over and over until you identify a meaning conveyed by the tone used. Recall that Ígáláà is a tonal language. Only the tone used to pronounce a word introduces the meaning of that word.
  • If you already  understand and/or speak Ígáláà, then you will find it easy to identify shades of meanings of the words you randomly pronounce.

List of Several, Simple Igala Verbs

(to boast)       bì  (to open)        (to give birth)       bù (to cut)

chà  (to flow)      dà (to draw)         dè (to guard)               dẹ́ (to be)

dẹ̀ (to shine)          du (to take)         d(to win)                gbà (to receive)

gwà  (to drive)      gwá (to salute)   gwẹ̀ (to wash)            gwú (to pound)

gwù (to climb)      jẹ (to eat)              jì (to tie/fasten)       jó (to burn)

kà (to say)              kpẹ́ (to divide)     kwà  (to cry)            kwú (to die

là (to buy)              lí (to see)              lu (to extinguish)    lù (to smell)

mà (to know)        mì (to swallow)  nọ (to stiffen)          nọ̀ (to grind)

ñá (to catch)          ñwá (to fall)        nyá (to price)           ré (to close)

ro (to fruit)            tà   (to sell)           wi/wu (to fly)           yá (to melt)

These simple Igala verbs above are intended to do five (5) things:

(i)    To familiarize you with the 31 letters of the Igala alphabet that we discussed in                   ur very first post;

(ii)   To remind you that some of the consonant letters are in pairs but function as                   single units of letters. Examples are ch, gb, gw, kp, kw, etc.

(iii)  To assist you to get used to the three basic Igala tones (High, Mid and low tones).

(iv)   To assist you to get used to the tone marks representing each of the three tones.                Note that recognizing the three tones and their corresponding tone marks are                      the key to your future Igala reading and writing experience.

(v)   To assist you to build a vocabulary of Igala verbs, as you will be using the words                 to make sentences in practical situations in the nearest future.




A noun is a word used to name a person, place, animal or thing.  

There are different classes of a noun, chief among which are :   (i)     Concrete Nouns and  (ii)   Abstract nouns.

concrete 2Concrete nouns are words for solid, physical or tangible things you can see and touch, like books, cars, houses, highways, oceans, etc. Most concrete nouns are also countable nouns. Each of the images below represents a noun.

afe3                                     abimoto

afe4                                                  abimoto

EJU                                        enyi

eye3                                                           teeth

ear 3                         EJA                    eree (leg)

     ear3                                 fish2                              foot1

Hand drawn eagle vector  3609312-football   OMA-IGBELE

            ewe4            ibolu2     igbele

        imoto (child)               ododo3   head

child2             flower2                   oji3

OLI2                  okolobia3                   OLU (SUN)

        oli6                    okolo              olu2

   oba   obala duduokoo-ikede.jpg

            rainbow4                      cat3         canoe3

         owo2.jpg   ukeli 2únọba

                      hand1                  Umolo 3  coconut




Abstract nouns are nouns that name non-material or intangible things, such as concepts, ideas, quality, feelings, characteristics, attributes that you cannot see or touch. Examples include  ùyọ̀ (joy); ùmà (knowledge); íbe (mind).


Some Igala abstract nouns are derived from simple verbs, as shown below:

                      VERBS                                                     ABSTRACT NOUNS                      

                        dàchí (to lie down)                              ùdàchi (lying down)

                        dágo (to stand)                                     ùdágō  (position; opinion)

                        gbényọ́ọ̀ (to forget)                               ùgbényọ́ọ̀ (forgetfulness)

                       gwùgwú (to sit)                                     ùgwùgwú (seat; sitting down)

                       mà (to know)                                        ùma (knowledge)

                       mí (to rest)                                            ùmí (rest; leave; holiday)

                      yọ̀ (to jubilate)                                      ùyọ̀ (joy; joyfulness)

                      kwú (to die)                                          úkwú (death)

                     nyọ́gbá (to move forward)                 ùnyọ́gbá (progress)


Igala phrasal verbs are made up of two or more  words, with one of them acting as the root. From the phrasal verbs are formed abstract nouns that indicate performance of an activity or engagement in a hobby. For instance, the phrasal verb, gwà-urà (gw’urà/gwur), to dig a hole,  transforms to úrá-égwáà‘ (hole-digging).  Other examples of Igala gerunds are pictorially illustrated below. In each case, the verbal form is up; while the abstract noun derived from it is placed underneath. E.g. né-ànyà (n’ányà) to ride a bicycle), is the phrasal verb; while ànyà-éné (cycling), is the abstract noun formed from it.

̀anya ene (cycling)                       anyi (smile)

cycling 3                     anyi-enyi

playing soccer                   uja (wrestling)

footballing           fighting

I                               enwu-enoo (grinding)

idoeta        grinding



otakada-eko2                               sleeping

WRITING                                   SLEEPING

ule (running)                                           ule (walking)

RUNNING                                             WALKING.png