The Origin of the Gbagyi People of Kaduna State
The historical evidence indicating the date and where Gbagyi people migrated from into Kaduna area is still shrouded in mystery. Although most chronicles of early historiographers on Gbagyi origins corroborated that Gbagyi migrated from the Chadian region into Borno about 1400 AD; … later migrate0d southwards from Borno into Kano… moved further south into Zaria by 1700 AD (Bmyanyiko, 1979; Paden 1986), others noted that Gbagyi were found in Kaduna area earlier than 13th century. One of such records is the work of Lock and Partners (1967). Thus, while providing the background of the modern Kaduna city, they submitted that, “Finally as a field administrative and military centre, Kaduna set in pagan Gwari (Gbagyi) country in the heart of Zaria province, was isolated from existing towns and would therefore be free from local political manipulation… Until the coming of the British, the local population around and to the south of the town was widely scattered, sparse and self-sufficient with virtually no outside communication – descendants of those (Gbagyi) who were there even before the Hausa came in between 13th and 14th century.”
By implication, the Gbagyi might have lived in Kaduna area before the migration of their brethren from the Chadian region into Borno around 1400 AD. This underscores the mystery of their origin as well conforms to the submission of Filaba and Gojeh (2008:48), who in their record of the historical origins of Gbagyi in general wrote that, “While it may be true that some Gbagyi were from Borno area, they were not the only Gbagyi. It seemed Gbagyi country started from Barno to Niger-Benue confluence, or that some few migrants from Chad and Borno found their way into Gbagyi country. All the given dates for the migration were merely guessed as there were no such dates in oral tradition, and the chronicles could not narrate events going so far.”
Archaeological findings agree that the Gbagyi and their crafts are some of the direct continuation of the people and culture of the NOK, which flourished in Central Nigerian area some as from the 6th century B.C. to the first century A.D. some 2,600 years ago (Walu, 2005:77-87; Jemkur, 1985:26).
In congruent with the above, Jackel (1997:40) posits, “In the centre of the Middle Belt, in Nigeria and Kaduna State, live the Gwaris (Gbagyi) indigenes of Kaduna… They are non-Muslim… The Gwari (Gbagyi) potter produces particularly handsome roulette patterns.”
These two accounts in the first place, unveil the worth of Gbagyi from the perspective of vocational acumen or endowment and secondly, suggest further that, Gbagyi from Kaduna might have lived in the area over 2,600 years ago. Moreover the proximity of their country with the home of the acclaimed NOK people provides a strong basis for corroborating this submission.
Ubah (2008) also shrouded in the anonymity of dating the origins of Kaduna posits, “We do not know how long man lived in the Kaduna area in the pre-British period and very little has survived of the history and culture of the indigenes…. The Gbagyi are said to be the original inhabitants of the Kaduna area. Very little is now known about them, but they were certainly overshadowed by the enormous movement of people into their area precipitated by the stationing of the troops in 1913 and the subsequent foundation of the city for roughly 100 years.”
Whether or not we know how long Gbagyi people lived in Kaduna area prior to it’s founding by the British Government as Capital city for the Northern Protectorate, one fact stands undisputable; that Gbagyi are the most indigenous and uncontestable earliest inhabitants of the lands, river, valleys and plains of what today may be considered geographically to constitute the present Kaduna.
Ancient wars and livelihood in Kaduna area
Prior to the eve of colonial conquest, it was undisputable that Gbagyi in Kaduna area had never engaged in war or been subjected to any kingdom as they were peaceful. Gbagyi people do not believe in rebellion against constituted authority or violence and hence have not been a problem to the larger communities in which they live (Paden, 1986). Thus Lock and Partners (1967) analyzing the impact of the early Islamic wars on different communities in Nigeria noted that, “In the early 19th century, the Fulanis of Hamito-Semitic extraction under Dan Fodio of Sokoto, swept across the high plains and conquered all of what is now Northern Nigeria except Borno. These invaders came from the West Sudan – from Tekrur now part of Mali. The seven Hausa kingdoms were taken over as Fulani Emirates as also were Nupe and Yoruba territories further south. But all this had little effect on the people around Kaduna except for occasional slave raiding upon them and the slow settlement of Hausa farmers in the area to the north of the town.”
In the present Kaduna State, apart from Birnin-Gwari a large Gbagyi settlement which right from the 19th century had a strong tie with Zazzau Emirate, only Kajuru and Kaura (some pagan settlements with few Gbagyi) had Habe origins as rulers. There is also on record that Kuriga a small settlement after Udawa in Kaduna state was attacked, but there is no sufficient evidence on what became of them in terms of subjugation to the Habe ruler-ship during the period as it is the case of the Gbagyi at Lapai and Kusheriki (now in Niger State) who apparently were ruled by the Habe vassal chiefs of Zazzau (Smith, 1960:137).
It is perceptible that all the towns which were brought under the suzerainty of Zazzau were Islamized. Hence Gbagyi pagans from the areas mentioned are predominantly Muslims today, while those in Kaduna area who were never brought under the Habe chiefs remain predominantly Christians.
Summarily, Abubakar (1984:466) wrote in his account that, “The region to the south of the metropolis had never been organized on a district basis, and the people were, strictly speaking, not under the Emir of Zaria. In the past, some paid tribute depending on Zaria’s ability to make them do so; others paid it to escape periodic raids. But in 1905 the area was placed under the Magaji of Kachia as a district head.”
That was the genesis of manipulation in Kaduna, initiated by the colonial administrators and transferred to the Hausa from Zazzau. It is also on this note that Adeleye (1971) argued that, “Although Gbagyi settlements in Kaduna and environs date back to the 14th century; the historical origin on Kaduna is shrouded in dispute.” Claims and counter claims have come to characterize its history. In corroboration with the submission of Abubakar above, Filaba (2000:5) argues, “Morally, legally and historically, Zaria Emirate could not justify her claim to Kaduna because none of her princes ruled the town since its inception.”
All of these undoubtedly justify the originality of Gbagyi peoples’ uncontestable position as indigenes of Kaduna area as well describe the scenario that precipitated the contemporary struggle among the Gbagyi to regain what they had lost first to colonialists and subsequently to some military administrators in Kaduna State that skewed towards local politics.
The appointment of their paramount traditional Chief, Hon. Danjuma Shekwonugaza Barde as Sa-Gbagyi I by His Excellency the former Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi did not only create a window in the dark-sky but brought with it a ray of hope to be actualized through research and sacrifices. Every Gbagyi son and daughter from Kaduna must be willing to sacrifice his/her today for a better tomorrow.
Abubakar Sa’ad (1984), The Northern Provinces Under Colonial Rule: 1900 – 1959. (Protest Movements and Political Awakening), Groundwork of Nigerian History, Heinenann Educational Books (Nig) Ltd.
Adeleye, R. A. (1971) Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria, 1804 – 1906: The Sokoto Caliphate and its Enemies. (London – Longman).
Bmyanyiko, N. F. (1979), Topics on Gbagyi History, Jos Museum, Plateau State Nigeria.
Filaba, M.A. (2000), Legend of Hausa-Fulani Hegemony, New Nigerian, No.116 Saturday 27th May.
Filaba, M. A. and Gojeh L. A. (2008), Koro and Gbagyi Subgroup Relations In Central Nigeria, Gabdel Integrated Services Limited, Ethiopia.
Jackel, F. (1997) Peoples, Languages, Demography, Culture and Artifact. The History of the Nigerian Railway, Vol. 1 Polygraphic Ventures Ltd, Challenge, Ibadan.
Lock, M. and Partners (1967), A Survey and Plan of the Capital Territory of the Northern Nigeria: KADUNA 1917, 1967, 2017, London, England.
Paden, J. N. (1986) Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto: Values and Leadership of Nigeria. Hudahuda Publishing Company, Zaria, Kaduna State.
Smith, M.G. (1960), A Chronicle of Fulani Zaria 1804 – 1900, Government in Zazzau 1800 – 1950, Oxford University Press, Amen House London.
Ubah, C. N. (2008), The Military Factor in the Evolution and Growth of Kaduna. A Paper presented at the Centenary Conference on Kaduna as Capital City: A Celebration of the mother of Capitals.
Walu, D. L. (2005), The Gbagyi and the Nok Culture, Gbagyi Journal, Gbagyi Vision Publications, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Vol.2 No. 2
Madami Sarkinnoma Joshua