Yes sir, yes ma’am, were the only answers expected from persons being colonized and subsequently slaves. Refusal to comply with instructions warranted immediate and often severe punishment. But, as fate will have it, one man tested the waters to a tragic ending, but nonetheless, by such immense courage as to elevate his name to martyrdom.
While it is the norm for Kings to reign as superior to all and subject to none, the colonial era made subjugated African royals subservient to the colonial authority. Attah Ameh Oboni thought otherwise and instead of bowing to the demands of Queen Elizabeth II, he opted for suicide.
Here is how it happened
In 1911, Attah Ameh Oboni was born in a Kogi state hamlet close to Ugwolawo in Nigeria. At just three months old his father, Attah Oboni Akwu Odiba passed away, leaving him to grow up with his mother’s family at Adumu Village in the Itobe District.
When he came of age, Atta Ameh Oboni took to working under the British waterworks and dwelt in the land far away from his home where he was a crown prince. He spoke his native language Hausa fluently, and is still remembered to this day as an inquisitive, open-minded, lover of knowledge in the province of Ugwunoba and Okene. His stay in Okene came to an end when Onu Acho passed away in 1938 and Mr. Goble, the district officer of Idah, sent for Prince Ameh Oboni. The Prince at the time, being 27 became the heir apparent to the Ata throne as a result of this terrible tragedy.
The Igala Kingdom was impacted by the post-second world war economic boom when he ascended the throne. He continued his predecessor’s work by organizing the leaders of his district and villages for road development. Attah Ameh enlarged the Igala Native Authority schools despite having no formal education hiumself. He urged his people to build elementary schools throughout the Kingdom.
Legend also has it that Attah Ameh was spiritually fortified and could conjure things from thin air. Among his distinct rituals were the refusal to set eyes on both corpses and babies under three months of age, shaking hands with women and taking off his cap in public. Attah Ameh Oboni would subsequently experience some issues as a result of some of these rules.
He was forced to take off his cap in order to greet the Queen of England at a special conference of all of Nigeria’s traditional rulers in Kaduna. Apparently, he was instructed to shake the Queen, which was also frowned upon per custom.
These, among widely held claims of “atrocities” he had committed against his people, owing to his fascination with supernatural powers isolated him among the ruling elite, and caused several traditional authorities to collude with the British colonialists to topple him.
Prior to this, his adversaries at home (among the Igala people), especially those with ties to the northern region were working to collect whatever evidence, factual or fictitious, that could be used to overthrow him. In the end, his detractors would use the blood of animals offered as a sacrifice against him.
Two natives of Igala petitioned the Queen and other Northern leaders, alleging that Attah Ameh was engaged in killing people as sacrifice to deities during the Ocho feasts (a festival celebration of the Igala people). Even though the investigation was still ongoing, the decision was swiftly made that he must be deposed.
The blood sample from the Ocho venue was transported to the University of Ibadan for processing, and the results showed that the blood was that of an animal and not a human being. Unfortunately, the beloved King Attah Ameh had already taken his life before the outcome was announced.
Instead of frolicking with his colleague chieftain in the Northern region who moved at the whims and caprices of the British colonialists, Attah Ameh chose death before dishonor.