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This research work examines the inter-group relations between the Igala and Asaba communities up to 1900 it also considers the traditions of origin and migration of both groups and the establishment of an historical links between the Igala and Asaba communities.

However, the inter-group relations is analysed under some broad headlines which are socio-political economic and cultural relation. Nevertheless, since impact cannot be one sided, the impact of Igala on Asaba and also Asaba on Igala will be examined.


History is at best with the records of human activities as human beings remain the actors of history; the activities of people in their environment are what their relations with their neighbours make of them, of which the Igala and Asaba people of no exception.

History holds that the emergence of the Igala Kingdom can be dated back to the 16th or probably before. It is also a fact that before the emergence of the Igala kingdom, the Igala people were under the Jukun and they related with other groups as far as to the Igbo land, the relation of the Igala as far as to the Igbo land is one of the reasons why the Igala’s title of Achadu is attributed to the Igala Igbo relations before the 16th century, of which the Igbo nation include the Asaba community.1

Igala can be found in Kogi State, Igala is the language spoken by the people located within the triangle formed by the confluence of the rivers Niger and Benue in Kogi state. The Igala people are found east of the confluence of these rivers. The land is bounded on the west by the River Niger, on the east by Enugu state, the south by Anambra, Asaba and other Igbo speaking, and to the North Benue/Nassarawa states.

However, from antiquity, to the period of emergence of Igala to prominence, the Igala and Asaba can be said to have related but not effectively until after the 16th century.2 The river Niger served as a link between the Igala and Asaba, it aided the relationship between Igala and Asaba which is evident economically, politically, socially, culturally and otherwise.3


A research into the inter-group relation between two groups that is not under the same ethnic grouping is very challenging, there have been different claims on the issue of identity of the Igala and Asaba, different traditions of origin have been made, we have witnessed cases of origin linkage especially to Igala, the Benin kingdom and also the Oyo Empires

However, since the relationship between the Igala and Asaba is evident from the pre-colonial times, the research problem in question form is therefore: what traditions does history holds on the origin and migration of the Igala and Asaba? How did the Igala and Asaba relate politically, economically, and even culturally? What were the impact of the relations on both sides? It is the aim of the researcher to address the above mentioned questions in the course of the research work.


The aims and objective of this study is to look into the inter-group relations between the Igala and Asaba people up to 1900, it is also the aim of this project to establish an historical link between the Igala and Asaba in terms of traditions of origin and migrations, this research work will also examine the socio-cultural, political and economic relationship between Igala and Asaba, and also analyse the impact of the relationship on both sides and also show how cordial their relationship has been over the years.


This research essay on Igala and Asaba relations up to 1900 will help to unveil the relationship between the Igala and Asaba and also unveil the impact of their relationship both culturally, politically, economically and otherwise.

This research essay will provide useful information to scholars, students, journalists, etc who are interested in writing or studying about these areas, hence, it will serve as a background for further research about the Igala and Asaba relation and also will serve as a reference point to prospective writers and researchers. This research work however, is not self sufficient, it is hoped that the successful completion of this work will spur further research into the area of study.


Obaro Ikime in his work “History, the historian and the nation ’’ stated that no nation of the world as we know it today come into existence in one fell swoop, that is to say that all nations in existence today are a product of history, which history often involve period of imperial subjection of some group, by other group, also involves movement and interaction which would lead to relationship between groups, hence in history, relationship is inevitable because man is mobile and cannot live in isolation, hence man need to relate with fellow man.4

Talking on the subject matter, inter-group relations has spurred up many scholars into writing book, journal, articles etc. one of such is: obaro lkime work on “Niger-Delta rivalry: Itsekiri-Urhobo relations and the European presence 1884-1936’’ his work exposed the genesis of the conflict between the Itsekiri and Urhobo which had characterized their affairs in modern times. This he traced to the advert of the British into the territories of both group and the subsequent colonial administrative system that was impose on the two groups.

Before the advent of the British the ltsekiri and Urhobo related peacefully among themselves, they related economically and socially which was visible in the Itsekiri exchange of salt and fish for the Urhobo yam, maize, plantain etc, their relationship was also visible in the inter-marriage between both groups, he also examined the political relation which existed among the Nigerian people in the pre-colonial area and stated that the relationship between two groups could be found within the socio-political organizations of which is applicable to the relationship between Igala and Asaba people.5

Obayemi talked about the Igala kingdom in the work “groundwork of Nigerian history” he looked into the relationship of the Igala with the Yoruba speaking people, and noted on convenient platform for the discussion of the relationship of the Igala with the Yoruba speaking peoples is provided by the statement inspired chiefly by linguistic comparison that.

The most definite statement that can be made about Igala is that they had a common origin with the Yoruba and that the separation took place long enough ago to allow for the fairly considerable linguistic difference.

He also reminded us that traditions referring to the foundation of Asaba, Onitsha and Agbor makes reference to Igala and that the Osomari Igbo attribute the origin of their town to the Igala in the 18th century.6

By the 17th and 18th century, Igala influence would appear to have become the dominant factor in contact and interaction. Igala by the 17th century had become a great influence to reckon with in the Igbo area, the Igala-Igbo relations witnessed cultural exchange like the Nri cultural which embraced portions of Igala land up to ldah. It also includes cultural borrowings by the Igbo in vocabulary, titles, festivals, etc.7

J.S Boston’s article titled “Notes on the contact between the Igala and the Igbo” talks about the relations between the Igbo and Igala, he said one principal neighbour of the Igbo are the Igala. The Igala geographical location brought them into contact with the Igbo, and the Igala appears to originate to antiquity, as neighbouring communities, link their tradition of origin, wars and skirmishes as well as trade and other practices such political practices to the Igala. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, Igala appears to have controlled the lower Niger up to the Onitsha Asaba sand bank.8

A. J. Shelton’s in “the Igbo-Igala border land: Religious and social control in indigenous African colonialism”, talked about how the Igala conquered the indigenous Igbos, the Igala gained and held positions. Professor Shelton describes extensively border conditions and the nature of Igbo life in the Nsukka area. He dwells particularly on the Igbo religious frameworks which include well disposed, beneficent spirits and more capricious and potentially more hostile outside spirits called Alusi. Igala installed their own man as priest or “Atama” to the dangerous “Alusi” thereby becoming the sole mediator between the spirits and the Igbo.9

Chiaidikabia in his book on “Asaba people and tradition has shown that Asaba people have their own traditions of origin from three lines of ancestry, which are Eze-Ugboma, Eze-Anyawu and Nnebisi which is the main and influential tradition of origin of the Asaba community. This traditions of origin could be traced to the Igala community.10

Elizabeth Islechei has this to say when she wrote

That the myth which is the basic charter of the Asaba people tells of founding hero called Nnebisi who may well be a historical figure living in the 16th or 17th century. Most Asaba can trace their descent back to this paternal line.

This paternal line as discussed by Isiechei could be linked to Igala because Nnebisi is the son of an Igala prince (Onojobo)11

A. E. Afigbo examined various forms or patterns of inter-group relations that existed among the Benin and Igbo. He examined wars and diplomacy, economic, political and cultural factors as instruments of relationship. However, in the Igala-Asaba relations, economic, political and cultural factors have been a bone of interaction among the two groups.12

However, Inter-group relation has received scholarly attentions and interests in Nigeria, but it is obvious that none has taken Igala-Asaba relations as a central focus of study. Therefore, it is this lacunae this project essay aim to fill.


This essay is a study of inter-group relation between Igala and Asaba up to 1900, the scope covers the pre-colonial and colonial aspect of both parties. The platform of their relationship will be considered in cultural affinity economic etc. Also, the impact of the relationship will be considered.


The project essay however revolves around primary sources such as oral fact obtained from oral interviews during field works. And also made use of secondary sources such as published books, unpublished books, articles, textbooks, journals, etc obtained from libraries, internet. The project essay will adopt the narrative, descriptive and analytical approach.


In the course of writing this essay, some challenges were encountered, due to the fact that scarce and scanty works exists on the topic, gathering of facts from different sources was challenging in the aspect of interpretation and analysis. However, these limitations were overcome through studying and analyzing of oral evidence which were supported by available materials.

End Notes

  1. Oral interview: Ogbueshi Chiedu, Asaba, 21st Nov., 2015

  1. , 1991), P. 323.

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E. J. Alagoa, A History of the Niger Delta, (Ibadan: Heinemann Press. 1972), Pp. 67-83.


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