By Barr Anthony Akika
The passing of His Highness the Aren Eggon, Bala Abaine Angbazo, (1981- 2022), after 41 years on the throne, is indeed the end of an era. This is not just a figure of speech, but the reality of his accession to the throne and the historical and cultural milieu which he represented. His two previous predecessors, Alumbugu Otshawye, (1927 – 1941), 3rd Class of Office, and Abdullahi Idde (1953 – 1981), 2nd Class of Office, were legendary figures. It must be pointed out that preceding these two historical figures were the strong chiefs of the various clans, who combined theocratic, judicial, and political powers, 22 in number, who now formed the Electoral College of the Aren Eggon.
The centralising force of British intervention has continued to be a positive influence of Eggon unity as represented by the Aren Eggon institution, even if there were other drawbacks of colonial rule.
Continuing on the trajectory of his worthy predecessors, His Highness the late Aren Eggon, Bala Abaine Angbazo, became a symbol of unity, a journey he started quite early and was therefore elected as President of the Eggon Cultural and Development Association ( ECDA ) in 1978.
A man of many parts, His Highness Bala Abaine Angbazo, was an Entrepreneur, a Businessman, an Educationalist, and a Politician of high standing.
The Abaine Bookshop, Keffi, and his construction firm, BAACO Ltd , were two examples of his business acumen and foresight .A lover of education, who had a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, he established the Angbazo Memorial Secondary School, Awayi, his home village, to provide secondary education to the teeming population of Eggon children who were thirsty for secondary education. He also infused in his children his love for education, etiquette, and personal discipline. The rise to the heights of the alumni of his school, and his children in their various calling , attests to the success of his educational enterprise .
Beyond the confines of the Eggon nation, however, the apogee of his fame was between 1979 – 1983, when he became State Treasurer of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), the ruling political party then in Plateau State. In this role he was one of the political titans , who stood shoulder to shoulder, with the great State Governor , Solomon Daushep Lar, the mining mogul DB Zang, and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria , and NPP Presidential flag bearer. He had a cherished friendship with the late Emir of Keffi, Chindo Yamusa, as with his contemporary chiefs in the then Akwanga Local Administration, the Oriye Rindre and the Chun Mada , and all chiefs.
From 1981 – 2022, when he ruled as a First-Class Chief, His Highness Bala Abaine Angbazo, in his traditional role, brought to bear, the depth of his cultural upbringing and his knowledge of the history and language of his own people. He was a bastion of stability and continuity of the Eggon nation.
The Eggon in Transition
With the passing of the Aren Eggon, HRH Bala Abaine Angbazo, the Eggon are in transition. They are still in state of mourning but are looking forward to a new era after the 41-year reign of the late chief. It is expected that after the burial rites have been concluded the 22-member college of electors will sit to consider eligible candidates who have shown interest in the onerous responsibility of the chieftaincy stool. Unlike in other chieftaincies where a reigning monarch selects a college of electors after assuming office, in Eggon land the electors are the 22 clan heads or chiefs, whether they are acting in a temporary or permanent capacity . A quorum of 14 electors is needed to elect an Aren Eggon. All Eggon males are eligible candidates. The Eggon believe they have a blood relationship and a common ancestry thus slavery and slaveholding was not permitted in Eggon society and thus all Eggon are equal. Plateau State Gazette of 8th May 1981, PS Legal Notice No 6 of 1981, The Chiefs (Appointment and Deposition) Law (Cap 20) Appointment of Arena Eggon Order, 1981 merely codified existing customs which has become the law. There are high expectations that the transition process to be overseen by one of the leading jurists of the country and former Chief Judge of Nasarawa State, the Hon. Justice Ahmed Ubangari rtd, and Senator Patrick Agah, a highly respected statesman, who hold high palace titles, assisted by reigning graded chiefs will be smooth. It is expected that prominent Eggon sons such as former Ministers, Mr Solomon Ewuga, and Mr Labaran Maku, and the retired army senior officers who are part of the royal institution: Colonel Emmanuel Kigbu (former Commander, 9th Mechanised Brigade), generals A T Umar and N Angbazo, and others, will play key roles as the transition process unfolds. The various cultural associations, particularly ECDA, and the Elders Council, will lead wide consultations to plan the new era. The Aren Eggon, although has wide traditional powers, including administration of traditional justice, his powers, like those of other chiefs, have been circumscribed by the local government administrative reforms of 1976. His powers rests on the prestige of office, his personal popularity and unblemished character. The Aren Eggon sits mainly on appeal, from subordinate Eggon chiefs, and his main duty has become the promotion of peace and the traditional cultural norms of his people.
The new era will no doubt look forward to the unity of the Eggon, peaceful coexistence with other ethnic groups, economic prosperity, and political and governmental interface.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
With the inception of colonial rule in 1907 in Eggon land, the Eggon could be said to be in transition. Their fierce resistance to colonial rule has been well documented. The highlight, the British Military campaign of 1917 under Captain N. L . Norton – Trail. Major Napier, and Lt. Le Grand, commanding various formations and arms, succeeded in subjugating the Eggon resistance to alien rule only temporarily. Skirmishes and passive resistance continued until the “Police Patrols” of 1925, before “the Eggon were subdued and finally brought under effective administrative control (Shaw 1935). They were the last place to be brought under British rule in the Plateau Province and Nigeria. C. L. Temple had described the Eggon as “a race of warriors”, previously unconquered by any group.
The British cut the Eggon population into two halves, one half belonged to the Akwanga Division in Plateau province, and other half belonged to Lafia Division in the Benue Province.
The Eggon lived both in the lowlands and the highlands. The lowlands being the Arikya Salient up to the watershed of the Mada river, lying now basically in Lafia East and North.
The British ruled Eggon land as an “independent unit” Native Authority, under various arrangements.
The unified Eggon chieftaincy was later enforced in 1927. These changes were in contradistinction to the hitherto existing political and social system – Centralization in place of decentralization. Those in the hills were later forced from the hills to the lowlands and under a unified capital “Nasarawa Eggon,” under the Eggon resettlement scheme, for purposes of effective administrative control and taxation in the 1940s and 1950s.
In a short period of 35 years, 1925-1960, the Eggon tried to adjust to the new system of British rule with various degrees of success. The first substantive unified chief of the Eggon, “Aren Eggon”, the powerful Alumbugu Otsawhye (1927-1942) co-operated, and then defied the British, who promptly deposed him to Lafia. The era of a decentralized system thereafter followed for ten years, (1943-1953) with the recognition of three powerful chiefs, Angibi Iku Abla, Allu Agbi, and Angbolo Alahubu, to head the Anzo, Eholo, and Eggon Ero, groups respectively, before a reversion of the centralized “Aren Eggon” system.
Independence And Thereafter
By independence in 1960, the Eggon had made remarkable progress making the highly influential Aren Eggon, Alhaji Abdullahi Idde, (1953-1981) as a member of the Northern House of Chiefs, Northern House of Assembly, and Federal Parliament in Lagos, before he was succeeded by Marafa Idde as a member of parliament (1959-1966). The Aren Eggon Abdullahi Idde was also President of the Akwanga Local Administration.
In the last 41 years under the reign of HRH Bala Abaine Angbazo, the Eggon have been incorporated into a New Nigerian Federal system and have attained positions such as Ministers (Solomon Ewuga, Labaran Maku, Patricia Akwashiki), Senators, (Patrick Agah, Nuhu Aboki, Solomon Ewuga, Patricia Akwashiki, Godiya Akwashiki), Members House of Representatives (Patricia Akwashiki, David Umbugadu, Shasulu, Dr. Joseph Kigbu) and attained positions of Federal Permanent Secretary (Dauda S. Kigbu) and Executive Secretary, National Judicial Council (Danladi Hailu Envulanza), Army Generals (A T Umar (rtd), Nuhu Angbazo (rtd), Police AIGs (Ibi late), Philip Maku (Rtd) etc.
In all professions in the last 41 years – from Engineering to Law, the Sciences and Arts, and vocational activities – the Eggon continue to make steady progress. The price however has been the loss of independence customs and traditions, religion, and language, to a new system which is highly competitive and “modern”.
The new Aren Eggon will no doubt harness the old traditions, and the agrarian culture, with the force of modernity and change.
- Akika, Anthony, A Contribution to A Reconstruction of A Modern History of the Eggon People.
- C.L. Temple Notes On Nasarawa Province Nigeria: Waterloo and Sous Limited, London, (1920)
- J. W. Shaw, Wana District, Southern Division, Plateau Province Intelligence Report! 1935)
- Ayih S. O. Nasarawa State Past and Present, 2003)
- Akika, Anthony, The Eggon People, (2016)