The Igala have linked their origin with a divine rulership of the Jukun. However, there were three sources to the evolution of the Igala. The first explained the transfer of sovereignty from an original population named the Okpoto to a foreigner named Abutu Eje. Another account associated the transfer with a prince from Ado (Benin) or Apa (Wukari Jukun) or Yorubaland. There is also the myth of one Agenapoje who came from heaven. Similarities as well as differences in the institution of divine kingship, royal regalia, language and method of succession among the Igala, Yoruba, Jukun and Benin have led to a controversy about the origin of Igala kingship. However, Agenepoje was succeeded by Ayagba.
Socio-Political Organisation of the Igala
The Igala were headed by the Attah. He was assisted by a council of nine ministers called the Igala Mella who functioned as advisers to the Attah. Besides, they were the kingmakers. They did this with the input of a lord chamberlain known as the Ashadu. Neighbouring states under the influence of the Igala such as the Igbirra, Idoma, etc. also had their local chiefs confirmed.
The Origin of the Jukun
The Jukun are located southern part of Borno in the Gongola and Benue
River basins. They have existed in this area from about the 14th century to the 18″century. Like other Nigerian ethnic groups, accounts of their early history are obscure. It is claimed by one tradition that the Jukun were of the same stock as the Kanuri and had migrated from Yemen, arrived at Borno, and continued their journey southwards settling in the Gongola and Benue Basin. A second account based on the Kano Chronicle claimed that the Jukun were children of one of Biram’s seven illegitimate sons. They were victims of Kano and Zaria expansionist conquest in the 14th and 15th centuries respectively. In response to these attacks, the Jukun began to strengthen their military base so that by the 16thcentury, she had become a threat to Borno and Hausa states. By the 17th and 18th centuries, Jukun’s influence spread across Borno, Hausaland, the Niger-Benue confluence zone, areas in the Jos Plateau and some parts of the Cross River Basins. Consequently, many communities in the central parts of Niger area from the Upper Benue to the middle Niger adopted Jukun institutions.
The Jukun founded many states; some of these were small but the notable ones were Kwararafa, Wukari, Kona and Pindiga. These were large, powerful and highly centralised.
Factors that led to the rise of the Jukun State
- Favourable geographical location: The Jukun were located in a geographically favourable region which was blessed were with fertile agricultural land suitable for the production of root, grain and industrial crops. In addition, there was adequate water supply and pasture which encouraged the production of livestock.
- Presence of various precious minerals: There was also the presence of a variety of precious minerals like salt, iron ore, antimony and wild animals like elephants. These products attracted traders from all parts of Nigeria. The Jukun were known to have engaged in both internal and external trade from which they derived a lot of wealth from it.
- Recognition of superior position of Kwararafa: Although the Jukun established several states, all of them recognised the superior position of the Kwararafa. Kwararafa is claimed to have come into existence in the 13th century. In the 14th century, the Kwararafa had come into the limelight as one of the territories attacked by Yaji Serki. It suffered similar attacks from the Zazzau in the early 15th century. By the 16th century, the tables seemed to have turned as the Pindiga traditions recorded that Kwararafa attacked Kano for refusing to pay tributes. This indicated that about this time, the state of Kwararafa had become very powerful. The military expeditions of Kwararafa were not meant to bring such territories under permanent control; rather, the aim was to gain access to the prosperous cities of Hausaland and Borno.
- Strong Kwararafa’s military power: Kwararafa’s military power was not matched by policies and administrative structures. It concentrated the administrative machinery in the capital, Beipi, and only important districts where salt and antimony were mined were brought under permanent control. Provincial and district administrations were hardly developed by the Kwararafas. Indeed, it was essentially a military state. The Kingdom was under the control of four principal officers of state whose direction of administration extended to the North, South, East and West.
- Jukun’s elaborate system of taxation: The Jukun developed an elaborate system of taxation. The aim was to pull as much as possible, surpluses of the peasants in the form of food stuffs and materials. Similarly, the judicial system was also organised in such a way as to take away as much as possible from the peasants; sanctions on offenders were mainly heavy fines.
Place of religion in Jukun Society
Religion was central in the Jukun society. The political system was anchored on the institution of Divine Kingship. Indeed, the Jukun government was a theocratic one based on the Traditional Religion. The Aku (Divine King) represented the gods and acted as an intermediary between them and his subjects. In theory, the Aku was supreme, but in practice, religion provided checks and balances against royal tyranny in the form of constitutional taboos. Besides, the Aku had councillors led by the Abo who was the prime minister. He too, had religious sanctions he could place on the Aku by boycotting the Aku’s religious ceremonies. The Aku also had a group of priests who actedas the guardians of the relics of former Akus. These could hold a tyrannical Aku to ransom by threatening to expose these sacred objects.
Jukun’s relations with its neighbours
The Jukun’s location in the Gongola and Benue river basins made the Borno and Hausa city-states her neighbours. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Jukun were exposed to Hausa raids. They were victims of Kano and Zaria’s expansionist conquest. By the 16th century, the Jukun had built a strong military base and had established trade and diplomatic relations with Kano and Katsina. They also had trade relations with Benin and Oyo. Small groups of the Benue Basin by the 16th century began to voluntarily submit themselves under the imperial powers of the Jukun.
- Sovereignty: This means supreme authority over a state or kingdom.
- Theocracy: This refers to a system of government where priest and priestess rule in the name of a god or gods.
- Taboo: This refers to a place or something that is forbidden due to religious, social and cultural reasons
- Gongola: This is the current states of Adamawa and Taraba. It was formerly known as ‘Gongola’. There was a time when the two states functioned as a single entity.