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The issue of the largest ethnic group or groups in Nigeria appear to have been settled for three namely, HAUSA, IBO, and YORUBA the so-called BIG THREE . With haywire conspiracy politics of population compromise through creation of regions and/states housing mainly the supposed Big Three leaving the traditional capital of the most populous people in Nigeria on a marginal or fringe minority group in the country's federation. With this, and as it is currently, the first indeed has become last. However, at least for the sake posterity, it is incumbent on us to assert this hidden truth through feasibility research study and historical background of the country itself. This among other things is the ultimate objective this write-up is set out to achieve. It is important to note that the widespread notion that HAUSA, IBO and YORUBA are the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria is solely a British colonial agenda targeting at certain group. The strategy the British colonialists deployed was in order to strengthen their grip on the Nigeria project. This is nothing less than what can be call ethnic propagation, a conspiracy deliberately hatched and executed a scam, to make the first group of people last, and to relegate the largest ethnic nationality to be amongst the smallest for the overall external benefits of British colonialists but with co-optation and cooperation of internal forces. Briefly, ethnic propagation is a situation whereby a particular ethnic group is reconstruct to make it to look bigger than its original size with the intention of making it predatory to a supposedly smaller or bigger Ethnic group. Thus, worthy of note is that Africans within the area later known as Nigeria did not share the idea that the so-called Big Three ethnic nationalities in the country today were indeed, the largest ethnic groups in the region before the coming of the British colonizers.


A typical example of this ethnic propagation is that of the HAUSA/FULANI. A situation whereby the HAUSA chronology, culture, history and dialect shares nothing in common with that of the FULANI in any way, yet the British colonial masters deemed it necessary to merge them into one single HAUSA-FULANI ethnic group, reinforces the conspiracy politics against other ethnic nationalities in the Nigerian federation today. Critics might argue that such merger is understandable given that the FULANI jihadists' revolution in 1804 swept the entire HAUSA lands making both FULANIS and HAUSAS to become of same ethnic stock. The logical response is that, in any academic distinction, the HAUSA and FULANI ethnic groups are in every sense of differential separate entities, their religious confluence notwithstanding. To all intents and purposes, both are very distinct from the other and binary in terms of history, culture and language.

However, many smaller ethnic groups within and around the HAUSA lands which by themselves constitute more than half of what is called HAUSA today were usurped into the HAUSA-FULANI ethnic configuration giving false impression of largest ethnic nationality within the Nigerian fold. The colonial British lords almost successfully re-wrote the history of these other ethnic group identities through the obnoxious colonial Northern Nigerian administration where ethnic groups such as Kagoro, Bashama, Mashama, Bajju, Kataf, Kamuku, Gwari, Gobirawa, Baburr, Abirawa, Margi, Bolawa, Kadara etc. were denied identity recognition to wear the toga of Hausa-Fulani. It is also a fact that FULANI is a minority group compared to the HAUSA in Northern Nigeria. Nonetheless, the British colonialists particularly favored the FULANI aristocrats who governed the HAUSA lands for two main reasons. First, the FULANIS had established a caliphate over Hausaland based on a Sharia jurisprudence, a legal system of governance from the Quran, which the British understood very well since the days of the crusades in the holy lands of Christendom and Islam. Secondly, the capitulation of Sokoto and Kano walls by the British colonial regiment in 1903 made the FULANI aristocratic leadership became extremely loyal and submissive to the British taxation policy.

Therefore, in summary, the British (Europeans) colonialists understood the Quran and Sharia law very deeply long before their colonization expedition in Africa. This made it easier for them to interface with the traditional government of the so-called HAUSA-FULANI ethnic group through indirect rule. As a pat on the back of the FULANI Emirs of HAUSA lands for their unflinching loyalty to their British colonial masters, Christian proselytization was prevented from penetrating the entire emirates of Northern Nigeria, as they were aware of the destruction it will create to the culture and traditional government of their now friendly ally. Hence, the establishment of British Broadcasting Corporation, Hausa language (BBC HAUSA), to air programmes in Hausa language, was established on March 13, 1957 to among others, promote the image of HAUSA people and their language in a beam that gave it political advantage over all other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Such novel scheming was to give local and international recognition and acceptance to HAUSA-FULANI as the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. This cemented the move to make HAUSA language the official language in Northern Nigeria. This move put the HAUSA language on the international radio frequency when no other ethnic group in colonial Nigeria had proper knowledge of the political implications of radio at that time. With this accomplishment, that era marked the continued dramatic decline of so many ethnic groups within the controlled administrative enclave of Northern Nigerian as other local tribes are either perceived to be non-existent or seen as not to be in vogue anymore. To achieve the full Hausalization of Northern Nigeria, administrators were required to speak HAUSA language irrespective of which ethnic group they belong to within Northern Nigeria. This policy continues to date. Although, many ethnic groups within Northern Nigeria are making frantic efforts to reclaim their culture, language and identity in the name of Ethnic restructuring against the British ethnic propagation policy in Nigeria.


The British colonial authorities also propagates the IBOS of Eastern Nigeria, what is refer to as Southeastern Nigeria. The IBO (or IGBO) ethnic group today is made up of a huge chunk of the native IGALA population in what is known as Eastern Nigeria, as the British where properly aware that the IGALAS and IBOS are landlocked neighbors and both shared the same culture and traditions having lived in harmony along side each other for ages. For example, they both share the practice of "kola nut ritual divination for ceremonies, masquerade, deities, foods, language and above all "OFOR" being the nexus of the IGALA and IBO cultural philosophy". OFOR means fairness and justice in both IGALA and IBO lexicon.
The British colonial missionaries having faced stiff resistance from the IGALA Kingdom in their quest to spread Christianity in the 19th century, labeled the IGALA KINGDOM "the Citadel of Satan" due to it being more or less the progenitor of animist faith based African Traditional religion (OGWUCHEKWO). As such, the British sought to divide the IGALAS and IBOS culturally to curb the IGALA hegemony over the IBOS by infusing Christianity into the South East in order to divide, conquer and rule. This was the real cutting edge of the move by the colonial masters to divide the IGALAS and the IBOS using Christianity. In this regards, it is interesting to note that the entire IBO culture and beliefs in ancestral worship originated from IDAH, the cultural Headquarters of all IGALAS. This is evident in many aspects but as identified in three key areas below:
(1.) When the IBOS say that "OLU NA IGBO BU OFU". This means that the IGALA people who are referred to as OLU (ONU) and the IBOS are one and the same people.
(2.) When the IBOS say "EJEGO M, OLU, JEE IGBO". This means in IBO language, "I have traveled to OLU (IGALA land) and have traveled all of IBO land". This statement is usually referring to well travelled person among the IBO elites.
(3.) When IBOS say "MMANWU ANAA IDAH", it means that the masquerade has gone back to where it came from or originated, which is the Shrine (IDAH the capital of the IGALA KINGDOM). What this means is that the IBO Masquerades, which symbolizes or represents the memories and practices of their ancestors came from IDAH.

The IBO Ethnic group got a quantum leap in their Ethnic propagation by the British colonial masters through the establishment of the "ONITSHA" mega market, as it was very convenient for the British to extract raw materials for exports due to its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Note that the ONITSHA mega Market was responsible for regularizing the standard modern IBO language due to its commercial and economic centralization of the IBO Ethnic group in the South Eastern region of Nigeria. However, the three major inland sea ports the British traded with on the River Niger were AGBO, ONITSHA and IDAH.

Appreciating the above about the cultural inseparability between the IGALAS and the IBOS, it is worthy of note that about 60% of what is now IBO population in the past spoke IGALA language or a form of quasi-IGALA/IBO sub-dialect before the institutionalization of "divide and rule" policy of the colonialists in Nigeria. This quasi -IGALA/IBO dialects still exist up till date in many communities in ENUGU especially the entire Nsukka up to Ogurugu axis, some parts of ANAMBRA like Ezzam, Aguleri and DELTA states among others.
However, the British particularly favored the IBOS after the HAUSA/FULANIS because they embraced Christianity more than any other ethnic group in Nigeria, or at least more than their IGALA Brothers, which was cardinal to their colonial mission in Nigeria (Africa). Therefore, the IBOS were seen in the eye of the colonial masters as custodians of Christianity within the Nigerian colony. For this, the British colonialists pronounced them as the second largest ethnic group in Nigeria after the HAUSA-FULANI.
The great paradox in this Ethnic Propagation scheme by the British colonizers was that, while it was suitable for the BRITISH to merge HAUSA AND FULANI ethnic groups that seemingly had nothing in common into one, it was not suitable for them to call the IGALA/IBO as one ethnic group despite cultural, geographical and lingual affinities on a large scale. This colonial prejudice has up till date bestowed a negative political undertone for both IGALAS AND IBOS, as it is evident in their lackluster political rhythm at the National level of politicking in Nigeria.


In Nigeria, the belief is that the YORUBAS are the third largest ethnic group in the sequence of the so-called BIG THREE. Yoruba is indeed large however; the British also propagated this race to suit their colonial interest in Nigeria. In 1851, the British took advantage of the division within the local politics in Lagos after they deposed Oba Kosoko and installed the formally deposed Oba Akintoye who sought British help in restoring him to the throne. Moreover, the subsequent annexation of Lagos in 1861 as a Colony of Britain made the southwestern region a major interest zone.

It is also important to note that the first black African bishop and arguably the first Christian and first western educated African native was called Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowder, a YORUBA native, a repatriated freed African slave who later became a "Christian Missionary Society" (CMS) pioneer in west Africa, after his education in England. He was also responsible for the first translation of the Christian Bible to his native YORUBA language, which put the YORUBA ethnic group in novel spotlight to the colonial masters and the subsequent missionary exploration in YORUBA land. Although, a historical conspiracy version has it the Ajayi Crowther was originally of Nupe extraction, but that will not be discussed here as that is not the object of this paper. However, the above is not as significant as the fact that Lagos became a very busy cosmopolitan port after the abolition of slave trade and the subsequent annexation of Lagos Island as the first British colony in the later Nigeria to be formed, as it was crucial to the British colonial trade and commerce in Africa.

The colonial masters were quick to realize the obvious that the dominant ethnic group around their major economic interests particularly, the Lagos seaport, in the region were the YORUBAS. Coupled with their susceptible nature towards western education and protestant Christianity due to the fame and glory of "Samuel Ajayi Crowder" being the first known educated YORUBA man and also first native African Anglican bishop, made the YORUBA ethnic nationality a major source of interest to the colonialists.
It is imperative to note that within the YORUBA speaking region many other smaller ethno-cultural groups like Okun, Ilaje, Ijesha, Ijebu, Aworis etc. exist. Nonetheless, within the alluring economic prospects on Lagos Island and it's pull of urban migration, a generally accepted YORUBA language was developed.
Whichever way we want to see things, the unfailing truth is that the "tripod" of a nation for all ages has always been "GOVERNMENT, ECONOMICS and RELIGION". The colonial masters beacon their validation of HAUSA, IBO and YORUBA as being the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria solely because they were the custodians of western principalities in Nigeria. For instance, the colonial masters in order for them to keep the British political/economic construct as "Unity of Nigeria" vis-à-vis the "AMALGAMATION" in place propagated the HAUSA-FULANI. Hence, they (British colonialists) bestowed on the HAUSA the title of largest ethnic group in what later became modern day Nigeria. Had the Emirate system in Hausa land continued in their resistance to colonial policy, they would have lost the title or majority in the country today.

On the part of the IBOs, their configuration as one of the Big Threes at the expense of their larger fraternal neighbors – the IGALAS – was due mainly to the rejection of Christian proselytization by the IGALA people in the early days of colonial administration. However, the missionary expedition in the southeastern IBO region scored nearly 90% in the Christianization of entire IBO land. Nowhere in Nigeria does Christendom have a strong footing like the IBO speaking areas. The colonial missionary core purpose was to Christianize the colonies. That mission was a huge success within the IBO enclave of Nigeria. Had the IBOS not embraced Christianity the way they did, they wouldn't have been relevant for British consideration in the politico demographic design and construction of Nigeria.

For the YORUBAS, being in the region of the "first Colony of Britain in Nigeria (Lagos Island) along with their proximity to the British prime economic infrastructure in the protectorate of Nigeria (Lagos Seaport), along with their insatiable appetite for western goods and services, saw their lot increase in favor of their population. Their geographical location and submissiveness to the colonialists including their ostentatious taste for European goods played to their advantage. It therefore goes to say that, had the YORUBAS been found located elsewhere other than southwestern region or if there was absence of the influential personality of Bishop Ajayi Crowder, it would have been almost impossible for them to be awarded the title of being amongst the so-called three major ethnic majorities in Nigeria.
Thus, this ethnic propagation is a tip of the colonial and post-colonial iceberg of conspiracy that continue to undermine the true largest ethnic group in Nigeria, which made the supposed first Nigeria People to become the last, a scenario where the largest ethnic nationality has become one of the minor minorities in the Nigeria federation.


Even though colonial and post-colonial conspiracy through ethnic propagation drastically reduced to one of the minutest minorities in Nigeria, the IGALAS are nonetheless the largest ethnic group and one of the oldest groups in Nigeria. Expectedly, based on "Goebbels theory" of making lies become truth when told continuously overtime with precision, many may wont to disagree with this and even debate it ferociously. The truth however is not farther from this historical fact. For instance, many people were bewildered recently when His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II), Ooni of Ife, recently told the whole world an all-time bound truth that Igala is one of three oldest ethnic groups in Nigeria. For those who benefit from the current structure albeit unfair, partial and biased, will spare nothing to ensure that status quo of the present National policy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on population categorization is maintained.
The amazing exclusion of the IGALA Country from the official history of Nigeria is a crime against the IGALA Ethnic group and Nigerians at large. Against this backdrop, it is reasonable to say that the official history of Nigeria is rigged abi nitio, as it is evident in our educational curriculum that there was no mention of the IGALA country as the progenitor of the Nigeria state. This singular cover up sowed the seed of the endemic and systemic corruption that has plagued the Nigerian state since its inception. It is imperative to draw our attention to this hiostorical fact to support our claims that in "May 1841, three ships, the 'Albert', the 'Wilberforce', and the 'Soudan' sailed from Great Britain to Fernando Po and from there, up the Niger to its confluence with the Tchadda (Benue). Using the powers invested in them by the Queen of Great Britain as Commissioners, Trotter, W. Allen and B. Allen formed a treaty at IDAH with AGABAIDU Attah Ocheje, the ATTAH OF IGALA COUNTRY. This treaty marks the first treaty on the abolition of slave trade and the establishment of bilateral relations with Briton in what later became Nigeria. It is worthy of note that no other treaty was signed in Nigeria before this treaty was formed at IDAH between the IGALA Country and Great Britain. This treaty marks the conception of the idea of Nigeria; as a matter of fact, this treaty it is the "HOLY GRAIL " of Nigerian history. Therefore, the bottom line is that the IGALA people were large enough to have established a Kingdom and a country so large and powerful enough almost simultaneously to be quickly recognized and respected by the Great Britain. The IGALA country was the first country that the British signed such a historic bilateral treaty that eventually served as catalyst that wielded Nigeria to Britain at the infamous Berlin conference of 1884/1885 where European powers partitioned Africa for their economic interest rather than those of Africa and Africans.

For the purpose of this paper, we shall leave out the political indebtedness of Nigeria to the IGALA KINGDOM (or Country) and limit our discussion to the demographic strength of the IGALA population in Nigeria. That said; using the analytical compass of visibility lens, one will be quick to realize that of the thirty-six states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, IGALA constitute the largest non-indigenous dwellers of those states. Aside from State where the IGALAS are indisputably the largest Ethnic group. Some of these notable states with Igala strong demographic presence include Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Osun, Ekiti, Niger, Kano, Kastina, Lagos, Oyo, Pleatue, Rivers, Imo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Ogun, Bauchi and Abuja FCT to mention these few. For instance, the population of FCT alone is estimated to be 6 million, of which IGALA alone accounts for more than 2 million. Note that IGALA population in KADUNA, KANO and LAGOS surpasses that of the FCT (ABUJA). Whereas the National Population Commission during the 2006 census puts the IGALA population at a paltry 2 million. In reality looking at things from a detached objective viewpoint, IGALA population in Nigeria, if put together, would be between 28 – 35 million people thereby, making them the single largest ethnic group in Nigeria. This narrative is reinforced by the fact that the IGALAS, according to oral tradition, had established themselves as a sovereign political and cultural state since the 15th century when they won their independence from the KWARARFA Empire and the war of mutual independence with the BENIN Kingdom in 1515 –1516.

Having ruled the River Niger some six centuries earlier, Igalas have the most fertile lands in Nigeria owing to the tributaries of the river Niger and Benue with lush tropical forests and temperate climate. History has it that these people have never lost any war or have they suffer any plague that threaten their collective existence as a people. Above all, though Igala people accord high respect to women, they instituted polygamy as a state function for centuries. Hardly is there any Igala person from the last generation that is not from a polygamous background.


AYEGBA OMA IDOKO ANE'GALA, a pan-Igala socio-cultural organization is using this medium to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to inaugurate a National Sovereign Ethnic Conference (NASECON) to debate and address the root cause of our seeming disunity and lack of patriotism to the Nigerian state. Such forum will afford every ethnic nationalities in this country to come forward with its historical facts to discuss our identities and explore stark revelations therefrom as bases to Rebuild and Restructure Nigeria where peace, unity and progress shall prevail. We owe this a duty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to posterity. For it is only with proper knowledge of our past that we can be sure of a purposeful future.

Signed :
Prince Ocholi Ameh

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