Gbagyi People – True Owners of Kaduna Metropolis
His name may not ring a bell in your ears. His stature and looks are not extra-ordinary either. But he is all the same intimidating; that is, where moral authority and principled stand on issues of public interest happen to be the yardstick for measuring one’s importance. Pa. Liko Maidoro is a Gbagyi elder, leader, clergyman, ex-serviceman, ex-member of Kaduna Agricultural Promotion Board, former member, Caretaker Committee of Kaduna North Local Government in the Second Republic, member Peace Committee of Kaduna State, member Forum of Elders formed by Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi and leader of Gbagyi Elders Forum, Kaduna State. This 78-year-old titan is a Wakili to the District Head of Kawo and an authority on Gbagyi ethnic nationality of Nigeria. He spoke recently with Our VISION on several issues as captured by ADAMU S. KWADA. Excerpts…
How long have you been staying in Kaduna metropolis?
I have been in Kaduna for the past 63 years because I was born in Kujama before we migrated to Kaduna in 1939. At that period we used to trek on foot to Kaduna on market days because there were no public transports.
Where were you before you migrated to Kaduna, and why?
I was at Kujama, and in those days Kaduna was regarded as a neighbouring Gbagyi kingdom; that was why we migrated.
Being the original owners of Kaduna, why have the Gbagyis lost grip of forming traditional institutions in Kaduna township, i.e., at wards and district levels of, say, Sabon Tasha, Ungwan Television, Narayi, Romi, Rigasa, Nasarawa, Kakuri, Makera, Tudun-Wada, Ungwan Rimi, Kawo, Rafin Guza, etc?
It is not that we have not established traditional institutions in all the districts and wards you have mentioned in yester-years; we had traditional rulers such as the district head of Mashi (now Kurmin Mashi) and Kakuri (that is Kurmin Gwari) who are still on the throne; we had such traditional title holders in and around Kaduna. The only thing is that they were not well established and recognized as those in the other districts due to selfish interests.
But in the outskirts of Kaduna, we have district and ward heads as follows, as I have indicated earlier, we have the district head of Mashi, who is well recognized, likewise that of Kakuri. But in places like Rafin Guza, the Gbagyis don’t hold any traditional title. However, in Kawo New Extension, the district head that established that area was called Jatau Malam Isa. He left Ungwan Gwari to establish what is today known as Kawo New Extension.
There is a town in Kaduna State called Birnin Gwari; do the Gbagyis really own of that area?
Yes, it was the Gbagyis that founded, owned and established Birnin Gwari and they dwell there up till date. The chief of Birnin Gwari today is a Gbagyi man, only that he is a Moslem by faith.
What role is the chief of Birnin Gwari playing to unite the Gbagyis in Kaduna State?
In fact, we have not approached him over such issues, but all I know for sure is that he has embraced his subjects wholeheartedly.
It was not long that a Sa Gbagyi was appointed; can you tell me how long he has been on the throne and his areas of jurisdiction?
Sa Gbagyi hails from Chukun and for a long time now we have been agitating for the rulership of Kaduna metropolis. In fact, this effort started a very long time ago, and had wishes been horses or donkeys, we would have loved to see the Sa Gbagyi’s office relocated to the headquarters of Kaduna North Local Government (popularly known as Magajin Gari), but that wasn’t possible, but we accepted what was given us, being our land.
The time Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi approved the establishment of the Sa Gbagyi traditional title two years ago, his jurisdiction stopped at Gwanin-Gora village in the outskirt of Kaduna; we appreciate that effort, but we did not hesitate to remind him that the remaining area of Kaduna up to Kao where I dwell and indeed, Jaji, should not be administered by any ethnic nationality.
We shall not allow anybody to rule over these areas because they are our fathers’ land and we shall not relent in our efforts to reclaim our domain. Villages like Kujama, Gwanin-Gora, Kakau, Gwagwada, Chukun, Buruku, Katarma and so on, are all under the jurisdiction of a Gbagyi.
Some times last year, a local government council was about to be created out of Narayi, but I learnt the Gbagyis objected to that proposal. May I know why?
That is not correct, it is not so; it is unfortunate for people to claim that Gbagyi people were not in support of the creation of a new local government out of Narayi district. The truth is that luck was not on their side, because Narayi is like an armpit of the Sa Gbagyi, why can we now say we do not support the creation of a local government out of it?
In the same vein, a new Kaduna State was being proposed by people from Southern Kaduna, but the Gbagyis said they should be counted out. Can we know the reason?
No, the Gbagyis did not draw conclusions over that issue. You know, this Kaduna you are hearing of has given birth to many other areas. Kaduna gave birth to about 19 states in northern Nigeria. It gave birth to Sokoto State, Bauchi State, Borno State, Adamawa State, Kwara State, Benue State, etc. It gave birth to so many areas to the extent that now she has grand-children. How could people say that we don’t like Kaduna to give birth to a new state? We are in full support of the creation of a new Kaduna State.
How feasible do you think a new Gbagyi State would be, taking into consideration your tribesmen’s geographical spread in the FCT, Plateau State, Nasarawa State, Niger State, etc.?
As you are fully aware, the Gbagyi people in Kaduna State alone are large enough in population to contemplate for a new state. My tribe and kinsmen are found in 9 local government areas of Kaduna State. But if that is not possible, we have Gbagyi people in Niger province, which is today known as Niger State.
There was what used to be Nasarawa province, Southern Zaria province, Zaria province, just as Lord Lugard demarcated from Jaji and named it Southern Zaria province and Zaria province; therefore, the numerous provinces made up states and for long the Gbagyis have been dwelling in Niger province, Nasarawa province and Zaria province. The fact is that Gbagyi tribe doesn’t like to be balkanized into Southern Kaduna province; that was why some of my tribesmen objected to the idea of creating a new Southern Kaduna State. Here I mean, we don’t like to be further sub-divided, say from River Kaduna.
For example, I presently dwell at Ungwan Gwari in Kawo district. Should the new state be demarcated from River Kaduna, I will belong to the Zaria axis of Northern Kaduna State. That was what we, the Gbagyis, kicked against. We don’t like to be further fragmented into smaller bits; we will like to remain together.
Don’t you think the Gbagyi had better settle their differences with people from Southern Kaduna over the creation of a new Kaduna State?
We are ever ready. We will like to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours, irrespective of creed, tribe, culture or tradition and religious background. We dislike wickedness and hate to incite any uprising or show any differences; all we are after is peaceful co-existence.
How do the Gbagyi relate with their Adara (Kadara) counterparts in Kaduna State?
The people of Adara (Kadara) are our friends for ages; we don’t incite them and they do not provoke us; we have ever been living together. During communal activities, Adara people support the Gbagyi with able helping hands and vice-versa. We have never and have no cause to clash with them. Even land disputes have never occurred between us. They are our good friends.
What were the original names of all the districts and wards in Kaduna metropolis before the coming of Lord Lugard, the Hausa/Fulanis and other tribal nationalities?
In the first place, the present Kaduna Airforce Base was formerly known as Karitna wan Rafin Kari, Kabala used to be Kabala, Kurmin Mashi was Mashi. If you go there you will see our forefathers’ fence or wall and their graves. The district known as Kakuri today was formally called by the Gbagyis as Kagugi, Kukai. A village located north-east of Kaduna metropolis across River Kaduna founded what is today known as Ungwan Rimi.
All the “rimi” trees you find in Ungwan Rimi today were planted by our fathers and forefathers. Anywhere Gbagyi people ever dwelt you will see such specie of the tree called “rimi.” We use it to make fire. Even the Kaduna Government House, popularly known as Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, used to be the farmland of an old man called Chedia. He planted all the rimi trees you find there. He was relocated to give way for the construction of what is today known as Government House Kaduna.
At Kaduna Polytechnic, all the rimi trees you see there today belong to Gbagyi people. The former Kingsway, in the heart of Kaduna, which today house a branch of Chartered Bank and other offices, used to be barns where Gbagyi people stored their grains at post harvest. The grains stored in these barns those days were used to prepare food for labourers (mostly Gbagyi people and other minority ethnic nationalities), who were then building the Kaduna Government House and Kingsway.
At that time, I was pretty young, but my seniors were being brought from our villages and forced to render slave labour, and after a month, they were replaced with a new set of energetic unwilling young labourers. Then, we used to contribute assorted foodstuff such as guinea-corn, rice and yam, which were cooked for the labourers. That was when the Hausa man coined our rice, Gwari rice (shinkafan Gwari), Gwari corn, because it was in the hands of Gbagyi people that such foodstuffs were found.
We laboured a lot to make Kaduna what it was and is today when we served the white men under strict supervision of the Hausa/Fulani hegemonists, who played lords over us. During the period, any male child who was of age was forced to pay a sort of community levy or tax. Any boy who was of age was forced to produce five measures of grains monthly.
If you happen to have 10 of such boys who were of age, each of them had to contribute five measures of grains for the labourers who served under slave labour to build the Lord Lugard House. At that time we used to call Lord Lugard the white man with steel trousers (bature mai wandon karfe), we don’t call him by any other name except “the white man with steel trousers.”
(Cuts in) Why did you call him so?
At that time he (Lord Lugard) used to wear a very strong trousers, which we have never seen before (probably of jeans material), and periodically our imposter-lords – the Hausa/Fulani hegemonists – commanded the Gbagyi people to relocate to another area, as they would usually say, “the white man with steel trousers will like to make use of your land to build that office or that factory.”
That was how we were pushed out of Kaduna metropolis and today the Gbagyi have formed what can be regarded as a ring surrounding Kaduna town. This is why today if you travel five kilometers north, south, east and west out of Kaduna you will find no other tribe than the Gbagyi. That is why I did mention that my people surrounded Kaduna like an Island. It was Lord Lugard with the support of our Hausa/Fulani masters that scattered the Gbagyi out of Kaduna.
People from neighbouring Niger republic, popularly known today as “Buzaye” or “Buzu,” were in those days known as water hawkers (ga ruwa), we don’t know the name (Buzu) before. The present day Tudun Wada used to be known as Ungwan Ciyawa (grass ward), gbegbe is grass in Gbagyi language. “All the districts and wards in Kaduna were named in Gbagyi language before they were later renamed by the Hausa/Fulani hegemonists, and any person who disputes these facts should come and meet me.”
The Gbagyi are found in almost seven states of the Middle-belt region, but is only in Minna where they measure up the Nupes and Hausa/Fulanis, and probably Kaduna that their presence was felt, taking into account that they are proportionally many in Abuja. Why is the situation like that?
Yes, Gbagyi people are large in population. We have Gbagyi in Niger State, we have them in Zazzau that is Kaduna, we also have them in Plateau, that is Nasarawa, and in Kogi and Kwara States. Therefore let me tell you, the Gbagyis are many in Nigeria. We did not migrate from anywhere. People migrated and met us where we were. This Abuja you made mention of used to be under Niger State.
As an indigene of Kaduna, can you proffer solution to the periodic sporadic crises that use to occur in the state, especially Kaduna metropolis?
I have so many pieces of advice to offer. Had it been our district and ward heads are sons of the soil, that is, of Gbagyi origin, they could have not allowed visitors or non-indigenes to be molested at all. In my own view, district and ward heads in and around Kaduna should be apportioned part of the blame, because in their position as fathers and overseers of their domains, they were supposed not to allow hoodlums to tamper with lives and property in their areas of jurisdiction.
Most of the ward and district heads we have in Kaduna are non-indigenes who are here to pursue their selfish interests of making quick money, only to lord it over on others. You always see them wear turbans and big flowing gowns and pose like reasonable people. That is why we have always been advising government to install indigenes of impeccable characters that should be able to interrogate any immigrant, from where are you? What are you doing for a living? Where are you heading to? Are you not a troublemaker?
A situation whereby immigrants troop into Kaduna on daily basis unchecked calls for serious concern and should be arrested immediately. For example now, I Liko Maidoro, any person living at Ungwan Gwari, Kawo Kaduna, be you a Kaje, Hausa or Fulani by tribe or any other ethnic nationality who resides in my domain, I will not allow anything to harm him/her.
All the past crises that engulfed Kaduna about four times now, you have never heard that a single soul was lost, property looted or places of worship and houses burnt down in Angwan Gwari. I usually go round personally and inform inhabitants of the area that any person who killed or burn people’s property invites my wrath, and so far none has occurred. This is why we always advice government to recommend indigenes as traditional office title holders in Kaduna and its environs.
Are your people (Gbagyi) in support of the carving out of a Middle-belt region with a view to minimize some geo-political and socio-economic problems the region and, indeed the nation, is presently saddled with?
Very well, very well; once there will be peaceful co-existence, we are fully in support. What the Gbagyi man hates in its totality is trouble, marginalization and religious intolerance. We hate to see people using all manners of weapons to unleash terror to fellow human beings. We detest such attitudes, but we love anybody who decides to live in peace and harmony with us.
Now that elections are at hand, what advice do you have for the Gbagyi?
My advice to Gbagyi people is this, what belongs to Caesar, give it to Caesar, and what belongs to God, let’s give it to the Almighty. What I mean here is, what belongs to an indigene, give it to him as long as he/she is well mannered and has the interest of his people upheld. If they discover a settler who loves indigenes and humbles him or herself to the upliftment of all, let him/her be given such opportunity. All the Gbagyi people are after is peaceful co-existence, progress and the fear of God.
How would you assess the relationship between the Gbagyi and people from Southern Kaduna and other ethnic nationalities residing in Kaduna metropolis?
The relationship between Gbagyi and people from Southern Kaduna and any other tribe residing in Kaduna is cordial. As I have earlier mentioned, we like settlers of unquestionable character who will carry us along in anything developmental, which will better the lots of all and sundry. We don’t like hooligans and thieves.
Do you have anything you would like Governor Makarfi to do for the Gbagyi in Kaduna State, or is there anything he has done to your people, which you will like to appreciate?
Yes, I do. In the first, place Gbagyi people demanded for traditional office titles in Kaduna but our demand was met halfway; I have to emphasis this halfway, and we thank Governor Makarfi for his effort. We have received what was given us with joy and conceal it in a safe because we can’t throw it away simply because it is half, but what was left, we shall continue to press forward our demands. What he has given us we thank him. Had the previous administrations met our demands in bits or halves, by now we could have gotten them all. Makarfi tried for the Gbagyis; he gave us a traditional title of the status of Sa Gbagyi; he has met our demands halfway, we thank him and may God reward him.
However, whatever is left, if it is ours, we shall not relent in our struggle, because this soil and dust you tread on and see in Kaduna are the decomposed flesh and bones of our fore-fathers, therefore, we shall continue to press on our demands until they are all met. We are not moving away from Kaduna because some mischievous settles came here only to unleash all manners of terrorism on innocent citizens, killing and maiming them, setting ablaze their business premises and costly buildings. Our hearts bleed over such destructive attitudes.
A typical Gbagyi man does not own any mansion or live in costly buildings; we live in huts and mud buildings. We thank the governor for his efforts and appeal to him to go beyond what he has done. May God save this country from insensible destructions and sponsored rioting by keeping Nigeria one indivisible nation.
Culled from Our VISSION, Vol.4: N0.2, 2003