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History of Nupe (The Fulani Conquest)>>Origin of Bida Emirate>>Royal Lineage>>Nupe Culture>>The 13th Fulani Etsu Nupe (Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar)>>How an Etsu is selected>>Bida Emirate Council>>Bida Emirate Districts>>Sights of the Emirate

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Bida Emirate
History of Nupe
Origin of Bida Emirate
Royal Lineage
Nupe Culture
The 13th Fulani Etsu Nupe
How an Etsu is selected
The Emirate Council
Emirate Districts
Sights of the Emirate
Bida Local Government
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locally fabricated coach for the Etsu Nupe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

local beating of brass by artisans

 

 

History of Nupe Kingdom (The Fulani Conquest)

The Nupe tribes live in the heart of Nigeria in the low basin that is formed by the valleys of the two rivers: Niger and Kaduna, between 9o30’ and 8o30’  N.L.  A line drawn from Legba on the Niger, eastward to Kataeregi marks the northern boundary.  The Niger, flowing almost straight north-south between Legba and Jebba, divides Nupe Kingdom from Yoruba in the west, the slowly rising kingdom east of Lapai and Gidi, slopping upward towards the hills of Gbara Kingdom, forms the eastern boundary of Nupe.

The earliest history of Nupe centered around the figure of Tsoede or Edagi, the culture hero and mythical founder of Nupe Kingdom.  The genealogies of Nupe kings which are preserved in many places in Nupe country, and which have also found their way into the earliest written records of Nupe history which were compiled by Mohammedan Scholars and court historians, place his birth in the middle of the fifteenth century.  At that time, the Nupe people were tributary to the Alfas (King) of the Gara at Eda (Idah) for down the Niger. he tribute was paid in slaves and every family head had annually to contribute one male member of his house.  These slaves, as tradition has it, were always sister’s sons.  It so happened that the son of Alfa Gara came hunting to Nku in Nupe country. Here he met the daughter of the chief of Nku a young widow, fell in love with her and lived with her for sometime.  When the death of his father recalled him to his country to succeed to the throne of the Gara, this woman was pregnant.  He left her a charm and a ring to give to their child when it was born.  This child was Tsoede.  Then the old chief of Nku died, his son became chief, and when Tsoede was 30 years of age the new chief sent him as his sister’s son, as slave to Eda.  The Alfa Gara recognized his son in the new slave by the charm and ring which he was wearing and kept him near his person, treating him almost like his legitimate sons.  Tsoede stayed for thirty years at his father’s court. Once the king fell victim of a mysterious illness which nobody could cure. The court diviner prophesied that only a fruit from a very high oil palm outside the town, plucked by one man, would cure the king.  All his legitimate sons tried in vain to obtain the precious fruit.  Finally Tsoede made the attempt and succeeded. But in this attempt he cut his lip so badly that he looked almost like a man born with a split lip.  From this time – and this still holds true today – all hare-lipped boys born in Nupe are named Edegi.

 

Tsoede’s achievement, which made him still more beloved by his father and honoured by the court, evoked the jealousy of his half brothers.  Thus when Alfa felt his death coming he advised his son to flee, and to return to his own country, the rule of which he bestowed on him as a parting gift.  He assisted him in his flight, he gave him riches of all kinds and bestowed on him various insignia of kingship: a bronze canoe ‘as only kings have’, manned with twelve Nupe slaves; the bronze kakati (the long trumpets) which are still the insignia of kings in the whole of Northern Nigeria; state drums hung with brass belts; and the heavy iron chains and felters which, endowed with strong magic; have become the emblems of the king'’ judicial power, and are known today as Egba Tsoede (chain of Tsoede).

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Now comes the story of Tsoede’s adventurous flight from Eda, travelling up-river, hotly pursued by his half-brothers and their men.  On the way he was helped by two men, whom he later rewarded by making them chief and second-in-command of the Kyedye tribe.  When he reached the Kaduna river, he turned into a Creek called Ega, and lies there in hiding till his pursuers, tired of the fruitless search, returned to Eda.  Tsoede and his men left the canoe and sank it in the river; the people of Ega still perform an annual sacrifice on the spot.

Tsoede then went to Nupeko, a village nearby, killed the chief and made himself chief of the place.  He conquered Nku, the town of his maternal uncle, made himself the ruler of all Beni, and assumed the title Etsu, King.  He made the twelve men who accompanied him from Eda the chiefs of the twelve towns of Beni and bestowed on them the sacred insignia of chieftainship, brass bangles and magic chains.  The present chiefs of Beni, claim descent from these twelve men and still treasure bangles or chains as insignia of chieftainship.  Tsoede carried out big and victorious wars against many tribes and kingdoms from south and north.  He resided first in Nupeko, which name means Great Nupe for eight years and when Nupeko grew, he built the new capital at Gbara on the Kaduna which was to remain the ezi-‘tsu, (the king’s town), till the Fulani conquest.  At that time his residence is said to have counted 5,555 horses, so many in fact that there was no room for them in Gbara, and one of Tsoede’s sons, Abdu who was in charge of the horses, crossed the Kaduna and founded on the opposite bank a place which is still known by the name Dokomba, (horse place).

For sixty years he reigned in Gbara.  He died, 120 years old, on one of his military expeditions to the north near Gbagede.  Some of his belongings: two stirrups and his sword, are still kept as almost sacred treasure by the people of Gbagede (who are Kamberi, not Nupe).  At the time of Tsoede’s death the Kingdom of Nupe was expanding towards the north and his four sons who succeeded him as kings of Nupe, one after the other, are said to have founded Mokwa, in the north-west corner of Nupe, as their temporary capital.

The fifteenth king after Tsoede, Jibiri, who reigned according to Nupe genealogies about 1770, was the first Nupe king to become Mohammedan.  He was deposed by his son and died in exile in Kutigi, where his grave can still be seen.  Under Etsu Ma’azu, the nineteenth king of Nupe, Nupe kingdom reached its greatest power.  During his reign, about 1810, Mallam Dendo also called Manko, “Great Mallam”, a Fulani from Kebbi, who was destined to change the whole fate of the Nupe kingdom is said to have first appeared in Nupe country as an itinerant preacher, diviner, and seller of charms.  The death of Etsu Ma’azu is recorded by one of the first European Visitors to Nupe as having occurred in 1818.

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THE FULANI CONQUEST

We enter now a period of Nupe history which is illuminated by the light of real history.  It is described with many details in the written records of Nupe court historians, the earliest of whom was a certain abduramani, a Mohammedan scholar who seems to have lived in Raba in the early days of Fulani rule.  It was during this period that European travellers first penetrated Nupe.

From that time Nupe history is linked indissolubly with the fate of the Fulani conquerors of Nigeria who had made themselves rulers of 9the main Hausa states in the beginning of the nineteenth century.  The Fulani established their sovereignty over Northern Nigeria in a loosely organized decentralized dual empire, the western part under the supremacy of the Sarkin Musulmi of Sokoto and the eastern under the Emir or Gwandu.

 Nupe kingdom fell to Gwandu’s share.  The Fulani conquest was achieved in two phases and by two methods: a gradual infiltration of the foreign country by Mohammedan Fulani, and then ultimately a military conquest.  The same policy was adopted in Nupe.  Mallam Dendo was one of those Mohammedan preachers and emissaries to “heathen countries” who was to collect an every-increasing group of followers as the nucleus of future conquest.  His followers seem to have included men of all stations; cattle Fulani to whom in their semi-nomadic life Nupe had become a second home, Fulani and Hausa mercenary soldiers who took service in Nupe armies; merchants from all northern towns; and Mohammedan priest and missionaries; their number was estimated at that time of conquest at about 1,000 to 1,500.  When Mallam Dendo became strong enough to venture the decisive blow, he applied to the Emir of Gwandu, his overlord for military help and for a tuta (flag) which signified his official recognition as a leader and accepted feudal chief of the Fulani empire.

 The opportunity for the Fulani to make themselves masters of the country soon came.  Almost immediately after Etsu Ma’azu’s death, internal trouble broke out.  The claim of Ma’azu’s son Jimada, the legitimate heir to the throne was disputed by his father’s brother’s son, Majiya II.  According to some accounts, Jimada was Majiya’s father’s sister’s son who had been appointed regent for the boy-king, Majiya.  Later when Majiya grew up and demanded his kingdom, Jimada refused. Majiya claimed the throne by the right of general Nupe succession, being the elder brother’s eldest son.  Jimadas however was regarded as the legitimate heir according to the ancient Nupe rules of royal inheritance which decreed that the son born in the purple should become king.  This led to a temporary division of Nupe kingdom into a western and eastern half.  Jimada reigned in Gbara, the ancient capital of Nupe and Majiya built himself a capital in Raba on the Niger.  Majiya gained the friendship of Mallam Dendo and the Fulani group in Nupe and with them on his side he became by far more powerful and soon snatched the other half of Nupe kingdom from his rival.  He defeated Jimada in the war, killed him at Ragada, near Jengi and thus made himself the undisputed king of Nupe, about 1820.  Idirisu, Jimada’s son, fled with the rest of his followers to Labozi, and later across the river to Egga where he stayed on exile and fugitive, powerless against Majiya’s army.

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Majiya, as the king of Nupe, had learned of the fame of Manko as a preacher and Mohammedan scholar and diviner. He invited him to his court and installed him there in the influential position of his private counsellor and diviner.  He rewarded him magnificently, gave him money, slaves, horses.  He took Mallam Dendo’s youngest son Masaba into his house as his foster son, as the Nupe do with sons of friends.  More and more of Mallam Dendo’s kin and fellow countrymen came to Raba to take service under him or under the king, till at last Manko’s power and influence were more than equal to that of the king himself.  Majiya now thought it high time to rid himself of the dangerous rival.  He drove Mallam Dendo and all his followers from Raba, and chased them from his territory across the Niger, into Ilorin country.

Here, another Fulani emissary, Mallam Alimi, had already been established for some time as being over the Yoruba of Ilorin.  He now gave protection to the Fulani refugees from Nupe.  But Etsu Majiya, desirous of uprooting for ever the power of his dangerous vassals, decided to attack Ilorin and to conquer this southern stronghold of the Fulani invaders.  He attacked Ilorin with 4,000 horsemen and 10,000 foot soldiers. He marched 9for two days from Raba to Ilorin, and halted his army at the gates of the town.  The victory seemed his.  This war of Majiya against the Fulani of Ilorin, as it is told in Nupe, is a magnificent epic.  There were five Fulani emissaries in Ilorin at that time.  Mallam Baba who had fled with Dendo from Raba and later became the first Emir of Agaie; Mallam Dendo himself; Mallam Musa, another fugitive from Raba; Mallam Maliki who had resided in another Nupe town Lafiagi and had been driven from there by Majiya; and Mallam Alimi, the Emir of Ilorin.  Dendo was the youngest of the five, but his keen intelligence made him at once their leader.  He first sent word to Idrisu, Jimada’s exiled son, asking for his support in this fight against Majiya, the murderer of his father.  Then Dendo prepared his most powerful asiri (‘secret’, that is supernatural power/charm).  Two brave men were sent out at night to steal into the enemy’s camp and to bring back some earth.  Dendo dug a large pit, and covered its mouth with grass.  On Friday morning he entered the pit, taking with him fourteen dates.  He stayed there till the hour of evening prayer, but what he did in the pit, what secret magic he performed, no one knows.  When he reappeared, he called again the two men who had brought the earth the previous night, and ordered them to scatter it by night all round the town walls.  Next morning Majiya attacked.  A thick mist had fallen over the country.  Majiya’s troops were enable to move in the mist.  Then a sand-storm sprang up, blinding men and horses.  The horses bolted, and Majiya’s Calvary, placed (in accordance with Nupe military principles) behind the infantry, trampled down their own men.  When the small army of Ilorin sallied forth from the gates of the town, it met an enemy already half defeated.  Majiya was beaten, he fled across the Niger, back to the protected Raba with only 1,000 horses and 1,070 men left of his huge army.  This was not the end.  Idirisu and his followers joined forces with Mallam Dendo.  Together they pursued Majiya’s troops, marching their men up the Niger as far as Gbajibo, fifty miles north of Raba, where they were able to cross the river unmolested.  Here, Mallam Dendo is said to have used a clever ruse. For a week he collected horse-dung, and then threw it into the water, drifting down the river.  It reached Raba and the Nupe who had hardly recovered from their defeat at Ilorin thought that an enormous army of horsemen was approaching Raba and had already crossed the river.  Majiya fled into the interior to Zuguma, leaving Raba unprotected, an easy prey to the Fulani army.

Mallam Dendo repaid Idirisu’s help badly.  He let him remain a puppet king of Nupe exiled to Egga while he installed himself in the capital Raba as the real ruler.  Dendo and his people collected taxes and tribute; they had the command of the larger part of the army; they began to dispense justice and generally to direct the affairs of the Kingdom.  A revolt of Idirisu ended in his being killed by Mallam Dendo’s troops, where upon Dendo ‘true Fulani’, turned back to Majiya, previously his enemy, offering him friendship and recognition as king of Nupe  - another puppet king, in far away little Zuguma.  Two years after this unification of Nupe in 1833, the year when Oldfield and Lander visited Raba, Mallam Dendo died.  He left four sons (two having died before their father) and two daughters, its sons being Abdu Gboya, Usman Zaki, Mamudu Gwogi and Masaba (Mamasaba).  The daughters Gogo Sabaci and Gogo Wadiko.

During Mallam Dendo’s lifetime, Mallam Baba one of his comparisons on the flight to Ilorin set out to conquer a kingdom for himself. Following Dendo’s advice, he took twelve men, crossed three rivers, travelling by night and hiding by day from the Nupe troops who might intercept his party.  The small troop raided the country and growing as it marched, finally reached Agaie, which Mallam Baba made the capital of another (much smaller) Fulani Emirate in Nupe country.  Revolts of the Nupe of that part and attacks of Majiya, whose sovereignty had extended over Agaie, were in the end defeated and soon Mallam Baba could enlarge his small kingdom by new victories.  Over part of the Bataci tribe on the river; over Kacha, which subsequently fell to Bida and over the Gbari of Payi which became later the independent emirate (again under Fulani) of Lapai.

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Mallam Dendo is said to have advised his sons not to seek after his death, official secular power but to remain what he had been.  The uncrowned king, nominally only an emissary of Islam and the spiritual head of the Country. But the division into real and nominal, spiritual and secular rulership did not work.  Two years after Majiya’s death (1835), Tsado, his son, like him puppet king of Nupe in Zuguma, revolted again against the hated Fulani. He was defeated and killed by one of the Fulani generals near Egbako.  His son Dzurugi (The Red One), returned to Zuguma.  But now Usman Zaki, the second son of Dendo himself adopted the title Etsu Nupe, demanding the ancient regalia from the exiled shadow king in Zuguma and making Raba again the official capital of the kingdom. From this time the legitimate dynasty of Nupe abandoned all legal claim to the rulership over the country and the new Fulani dynasty assumed full powers.  Of the other descendants of Mallam Dendo, Abdu Gboya, Usman Zaki’s elder brother, whose learnings were more scholarly than warlike, became Alkali (Judge) of the kingdom and Mamudu Gwogi, Usman’s younger brother, Shaba (heir presumptive).

From this time the history of Nupe kingdom is the history of constant intrigues, fights, wars and rebellions. Fight between the sons of Mallam Dendo, wars against other tribes and against factions in Nupe and rebellions of the descendants of the old Nupe dynasty who did not give up hope of recovering the throne from the Fulani or rebellions of powerful generals of mercenary troops who claimed the rulership for themselves and often rebellious of both one using the other as a pawn in this game for the throne of Nupe.

Masaba, the ambitious and most popular youngest son of Mallam Dendo, born of a Nupe mother and educated at the court of the Nupe Etsu Majiya, claimed the throne on the grounds that he was a real Nupe not, like Usman Zaki, a Fulani by descent.  He won the support of Tsado in Zuguma and Idirisu in Egga, the two shadow kings of Nupe, and finally even the support of the Emir of Gwandu, the spiritual head of the Eastern Fulani empire.  Masaba led two revolts against Usman Zaki, the first from Rabi, shortly after the latter had assumed power, and the second, from exile in Lade, south of the Niger in 1841.  It was successful and forced Usman Zaki to leave Nupe kingdom together with Umaru, the son of his eldest brother Majiya and to return to the home of his ancestors, Gwandu.  Masaba became king of Nupe.

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History of Nupe (The Fulani Conquest)>>Origin of Bida Emirate>>Royal Lineage>>Nupe Culture>>The 13th Fulani Etsu Nupe (Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar)>>How an Etsu is selected>>Bida Emirate Council>>Bida Emirate Districts>>Sights of the Emirate

 

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