By Edwin Ochoga
The traditional hunting expedition (the transition beyond) of Kings of Kwararafa ancestral origin is a memorable event. This is because the traditional institution of Otse-Agila (the King of the Agila kingdom) predated colonialism in Nigeria. This implies that the Agila kingdom was in existence for centuries before the British colonial authorities made the territory that was hitherto controlled by the Otse-Agila kingship as among the districts in Idoma land, of Benue State. In other words, the institution of the Otse -Agila now called District Head of Agila has been in existence before the emergence of the Colonial Administration in Nigeria in 1900. By implication, the office of the Otse-Agila is as old as the Agila people themselves. The kingship traditional arrangement in Agila, Igumale, Ulaji, Ijigbam and Ekile has to a great extent made the customs and traditions of these communities in the Southern part of the Idoma speaking area of Benue State different from the other Idoma tribes. In as much as the Idoma groups have similar culture and values system, but as far as chieftaincy matters are concerned, the kingdoms in the present day Ado Local Government Area have peculiar and unique chieftaincy institutions similar to that of the Igala, the Jukun and the Ibira.
The Otse-Agila who is the King of Agila kingdom is traditionally regarded as the spiritual father of Agila land and an embodiment of peace and unity of the whole land. Otse-Agila’s authority is unchallengeable because his status is equated as the representative of their ancestors in Agila. So many tale are told of Otse-Agila notably that he can stay in his palace and monitor any information from anywhere in the universe. That he knows when he is going to join his ancestors and so on. Otse- Agila comes out of his palace only as demanded by customs and traditions. One should consider himself as extremely lucky to see Otse-Agila in the public in those days. It is a custom that whenever Otse-Agila appears in the public he is either going to a journey or to his Court and his ‘Okanga’ and ‘Okpatsina’ (Royal Band and flutes) normally accompany him.
To be eligible for selection and appointment as Otse-Agila, first and foremost, such person must be a family member from the two ruling clans of Osiroko and Effuofo. The candidate must be a male adult of the culturally approved and recognize e two ruling clans in Agila Kingdom. Secondly, he must be able to give at least four names of his ancestral fathers as proof of being full blooded Agila indigene. Thirdly, he must possess pleasant personality and proven integrity. Finally, he must be married. The Otse-Agila is the chief custodian of Agila customs, culture and traditions. By implication, he is under oath to at all times to uphold, defend, preserve and protect the Agila customs, culture and traditions. Otse-Agila plays executive, legislative and judicial roles within his domain and over his subjects. As the chairman of Agila Traditional Council, Otse -Agila is an automatic member of Ado Traditional Council at the Local Government level, as well as a member of Idoma Traditional Council. The Otse -Agila decides who gets what, when and how within the purview of his traditional, customary and cultural jurisdiction.
This exhorted stool first bestow on the Ochoga’s family in 1902 when Chief Ochoga Ochonu became the Otse Agila, the XII. See the table below for the chronicle of Otse-Agila since inception.
Chronicle of Otse Agila Since Inception
S/No Name Designation Clan Duration
1 Osilagama Ots’ Agila I The Progenitor 1625-1690
2 Adiregba Ots’ Agila II Osiroko 1690-1720
3 Otsirebe Ots’ Agila III Osiroko 1720-1745
4 Akogwu Ots’ Agila IV Effuofu 1745-1770
5 Okoriko Ots’ Agila V Osiroko 1770-1787
6 Unwaba Ots’ Agila VI Osiroko 1790-1809
7 Otse Akogwu Ots’ Agila VII Efofu 1812-1821
8 Otse Akilozi Ots’ Agila VIII Osiroko 1824-1840
9 Otse Otsikor Ots’ Agila IX Efofu 1843-1865
10 Otse Unazi Ots’ Agila X Osiroko 1868-1880
11 Eza Ogaba Ots’ Agila XI Osiroko 1883-1902
12 Otsoga Otsonu Ots’ Agila XII Osiroko 1902-1905
13 Otse En’Attah I Ots’ Agila XIII Osiroko 1906-1909
14 Omerigwe Omoha I Ots’ Agila IV Efofu 1912-1934
15 Ebonyi Ots’ EnattahOts’ Agila XV Osiroko 1936-1952
16 Attah Otsoga IIOts’ Agila XVI Osiroko 1955-1957
17 Agbaji Omerigwe II Ots’ AgilaXVII Efofu 1960-1964
18 Onmonya Ogori Ots’ Agila XVIII Osiroko 1966-1969
19 Omerigwe Attah III Ots’ Agila XIX Efofu 1972-1985
20 Agbese Onazi Ots’ Agila XX Osiroko 1985-date
Source: Some are extracted from the 1936 and 1957 Reports of the Colonial Administrator of Benue Province, while the names and dates after 1957 were compiled by the author’s field work.
Despite of his short reign, Chief Ochoga -the 1st ’s contribution to the development of Agila in all ramification is indelible. The preeminence accorded to his descendants, the Ochoga’s family (the Ai- Ochoga family of Ai-Eza) is an attestation to this unflinching fact in the community. His reign was not only culturally unique but also impactful. Agila history will continue to be kind on him and this descendants, the Ai- Ochoga family (the Ochoga’s family).
The last blessing of Chief Ochoga – the 1st on his children before he went into the forest for hunting expedition to join his ancestors came to passed in 1955. As his last child, Chief Michael Attah Ochoga (Chief Ochoga the 2nd ) became the sixteenth Otse-Agila at a very youthful age. Chief Ochoga the 2nd was the youngest Otse-Agila and the first King of the kingdom with western education, national and international exposure and so on. His ascendency as Otse-Agila brought modernization traits into the kingdom in terms of dressing pattern, socio-cultural relations, inter-groups relations and inter-community relations etc. He constantly emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of western education to the Agila.
Against all odds, Chief Ochoga -the 2nd voluntarily resigned from this highly exhorted stool of Otse-Agila in 1957. This unexpected decision suppressed the Ai-Eza family and the entirely Agila community. Upon his voluntarily resignation as the Otse-Agila, he undergone an academic programme in legal studies, of which he was immediately appointed as the Chief Judge of Idoma Judicial Division. As a Chief Judge, he was fair and impartial to all and sundry. His brilliant legal disposition accounted for why the Ochoga family has produced 15 lawyers as at today.
Chief Ochoga -the 2nd would be remembered for his struggled which led to the creation of Ado Local Government. As a politician and the First Executive Chairman of the Ado Local Government Council, he laid a foundation for people-centered- local government administration. The construction of the Council’s secretariat which is the biggest in Benue State was superintended by him.
Also, Chief Ochoga -the 2nd would be remembered for the numerous role he played for the resettlement of Agila people after the Civil War. These role ranged from the provision of transportation from Otukpo, Untokon, Igumale etc to Agila town; building and the general reconstruction of the community; provision of health care services; provision of food and cloths, provision of sanitary services for the community and so on. Infact, the successful resettlement of Agila is rooted in the selfless effort of Chief Ochoga -the 2nd. . Time and space is limited in this platform to encapsulate his contribution to the development of Nigeria generally and his immediate constituency of Idoma nation, the Ado community and Agila Kingdom in particular. However, his over ten decades of life on earth was fulfilling, impactful and blessingful. Also, until he grasciously went into the forest for hunting expedition, he was an un-blamed man, king, politician and community leader. The name, Chief Attah Ochoga is synonymous with ‘ honesty, just and trustworthy man’ in Agila community.
I would have love His Royal Highness, Chief Michael Attah Ochoga(Chief Ochoga -the 2nd) to continue to live on , because he was the last born of my grandfather, Chief Ochoga -the 1st, the Progenitor of the name ‘Ochoga’ in Agila kingdom; but I am consoled with the fact that he uplifted the legacy of his father (Chief Ochoga -the 1st) beyond the Agila kingdom. He also inculcated the culture of placing high value on education on us, the Ai-Ochoga family. With these of his antecedents, my great father, you would not have lived a fulfilled and satisfied life than this. So continue to have a peaceful hunting expedition in the forest of your ancestors.
It is on this premise that I am courageous enough to join the Apa-Agila Traditional Council and the Ai-Ochoga in Ai-Eza family to invite you to the final traditional ceremonies of His Royal Highness, Chief Michael Attah Ochoga (Otse-Agila XVI), Saturday 20th April,2019 from 10AM at Apa-Agila (New Jerusalem-Site) Ado LGA, Benue State.