ESAN, KATCHA, VATSA, BASSA, AND ESHETI: THE KISRA REVOLUTION IN KINNUPE
KinNupe was not always isolated from the outside in prehistoric times as we are wont to wrongly assume or deduce today. There was always continuous movement and exchange of people between KinNupe and the outside world in very ancient times. And as a matter of fact it was not KinNupe alone but the whole of the West African subregion and the Central Sudan that were also always in continuous touch and demographic exchange with the outside world.
In former times the link of West Africa with the outside world was across the Sahara to North Africa and thence to the rest of the world. It was when the White people initiated their contact with West Africa from across the Atlantic that the trans-Sahara route became less significant. Otherwise, and before the popularity of the trans-Atlantic route, it was across the Sahara that people coming from outside the world come into West Africa.
The Sahara was not really a barrier between West Africa and the rest of the world as it became in latter times. In the beginning people were crossing the Sahara in large numbers from the outside world into West Africa and vice versa.
Well, the point here is that human beings have always crossed the Sahara in large numbers from North Africa and the rest of the outside world into West Africa. West Africa was not as isolated from the rest of the world as we are wrongly assuming today. In those ancient days West Africa was in full touch with the rest of the outside world and continuous exchange of population between West Africa and the rest of the world was a common and familiar thing.
In fact the ancient Egyptians and the Classical Greeks both told the story of a Black African Negro world emperor who was a West African and who left West Africa to spread West African civilization and culture to all parts of the world before coming back to die in West Africa. They call him Osiris; the same that was known to the Hellenes as Dionysus.
The story of Osiris is an enduring testament to the fact that West Africa was in intimate touch with the rest of the world in very ancient times. Remember the story narrated that Osiris was a Black African Negro West African but that he travelled and globetrotted to all parts of the world as a world emperor who planted and established the civilization of Sara in ancient Egypt, Arabia, India, China and all other parts of the world.
In the days of Osiris there was actually not a Sahara Desert and there was therefore no any geophysical, or even physical for that matter, barrier between West Africa and the North Africa or the rest of the world for that matter. In those days people move freely from West Africa to North Africa without any barrier in the like of the Sahara Desert whatsoever.
But even after the appearance of the Sahara Desert people were still moving from West to North Africa and vice versa without the Sahara Desert constituting any real or tangible barrier whatever between West Africa and North Africa and other parts of the world. Though when the White men came and open the trans-Atlantic route consequent upon their European Age of Exploration the use of the Sahara route became less significant.
But before the Sahara route became less significant the Sahara route was the major international route through which the outside world exchanged populations with West Africa. There were always large population exchange and exoduses from the outside world into West Africa and vice versa in case of any sociological crisis or tumult.
The Fall of Sara
And so was it that on the eve of this Christian Era, during the era of Antiquity or on the eve of this very era of History, an great sociological event took place in the form of the shattering of the ancient world religion of Sara into the daughter religions that we see today as the modern world religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Mithraism, Christianity, Islam and some more.
Sara used to be a one world, global religion that was practiced in all parts of the world. This was the same Sara religion that the ancient Egyptian and Greek traditions narrated to us was the West African religion that the Black African Negro world emperor Osiris spread from West Africa to all other parts of the world in very ancient times.
Well, and in any case, the Sara world religion which used to be a one world religion practiced in all parts of the world suddenly experienced a catastrophe that brought it to an end as a world religion right on the eve of the historical era, that is, at the end of the era of prehistory. Sara disintegrated as a world religion and in its stead we saw the rise of a variety of new, daughter, religions most of which acknowledge direct or indirect relationship or connection with the former world religion of Sara.
The shattering of Sara was a world catastrophe and it generated a lot of sociological problems on a world scale not the least of which was population displacements and movements of people in all directions.
While new, daughter religions were emerging in different places to replace the age-old one world religion of Sara there were also many adherents of this ancient religion of Sara who refused to be converted to or joined the new religions; they insisted on practicing their old and ancient one world religion of Sara.
Those people who insisted on retaining their old Sara faith were subjected to all manners of religious persecutions in places where the new religions gradually become established. Many of them have to migrate from their homes to new places. This, of course, means that there were a lot of exoduses and population displacements due to the Sara crises.
That period in time actually witnessed a lot of migrations and exoduses by various and different peoples in support of or opposed to the ancient one world religion of Sara.
The Kisra Revolution
And so was it that we saw a series of such exoduses from the outside world into the interior of Africa starting from somewhere around the middle of the first millennium into the Christian Era, that is, circa 500 AD or even centuries before then.
A series of migrations, known to colonial historians as the Kisra migrations, begun from the Mediterranean, Arabia and Asia Minor across North Africa right unto West Africa. These people were known as the Kisra people simply because they actually referred to themselves as the Kisra.
The name Kisra is, of course, a corruption of Kisara or Ki-Sara in confirmation of the fact that these people saw themselves as practitioners of the ancient one world religion of Sara.
The Kisra migration is not a single event, it was a continuous series of migratory exoduses of different types and kinds of Kisra peoples who kept on streaming into the heart of West Africa from the outside world from places as diverse as Southern Europe, the Aegean, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia Minor.
Back to KinNupe
The interesting thing here, however, is the common ground to all these different Kisra peoples who all maintained that they were coming back to West Africa, to the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe, because, and according to them, the ancient one world religion of Sara that at a time was practiced in all parts of the world, originated from KinNupe.
All the various Kisra peoples said they were coming back to ancient Nigeria in general and to KinNupe in particular because their Sara one world religion originated from KinNupe and they were coming back to the homeland of pristine Sara because Sara has collapsed on the world stage as a one world religion and is being replaced by new, daughter religions they will not practice.
Imagine people of all races from all parts of the world trooping back to West Africa in general and KinNupe in particular to eventually be acculturated and assimilated into the melting pot that KinNupe became in those days. These people included all extremes from the blond, blue-eyed European of Northern European extraction through the hooked-nosed Arabian to the slit-eyed Asian and back to the then Black African Negroid Ethiopian all trooping back in large exoduses into KinNupe.
The curious thing here, as people like Sir C.R. Niven observed, is that all these series of Kisra exoduses invariably ended up heading directly to Central KinNupe and settling down permanently on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.
Sir C.R. Niven observed that these Kisra people will roam around the ‘rolling plains’ of Hausaland, for instance, but they will hardly settle down permanently anywhere until they got to the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.
In KinNupe these people settled down in various settlements all across the length and breadth of KinNupe. Their settlements were generally identified as Nasara, Kisra or Isa settlements.
Well, the point was that the Kisra people coming from the outside world were always in possession of ancient traditions and mythologies handed down to them by their ancestors to the effect that the ancient one world religion of Sara originated from KinNupe and was actually spread over the entire world by a Nupe world emperor now known to history as Osiris.
The Kisra people said they were not refugees or asylum seekers. They insisted that they are remnants of an ancient Nupe people who left KinNupe several millennia before then to and plant the Sara one world religion in all parts of the world under the emperorship of the Nupe world emperor called Osiris. Now they said they are simply coming back to their original homeland, KinNupe, which their ancestors left millennia before. And all this is quite interesting, that is, considering the fact that these Kisra people were mostly people of different races from different parts of the world. They included the Europeans, the Mediterreneans, Arabians, the Persians, the Indians, the Chinese and so on and on.
Well, the bottom line is that these continuous influx of international races from the outside world kept on trooping and trickling in from the outside world right unto the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe wherein they established several of their Nasara, Kisra or Yisa kingdoms, towns and villages. They gradually got assimilated into the indigenous Black Negro Nupe population of the Koro, Akanda or Kakanda, Ife, Bini and otherwise autochthonous Nupe population that have been on the banks of the River Niger since time immemorial.
This Kisra Revolution, as is apt to call this gargantuan event in the annals of the Central Sudan, lasted for several centuries on end – starting from somewhere around the middle of the first millennium BC there were still reports of Kisra-like immigrations into ancient Nigeria and KinNupe as late as towards the end the second half of second millennium AD.
Sara Ancient Christianity
The Kisra people came back to KinNupe with an ancient form of Christianity which they called the Sara one world religion. That is why the Kisra people were also known as the Nasara people. Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther documented the fact that these ancient Nupe people were known as the an-Nasara people and that there were several Nasara settlements throughout KinNUpe in those days. The term Nasara was used to referred to these ancient people who came from the outside world several millennia before the first White man came via the Atlantic Ocean in latter times.
The Sara ancient one world religion these Ki-Sara or Na-Sara people brought with them was the mother religion from which modern Christianity – and other modern religions – originated. That is was why that ancient Sara religion had so much in common with modern Christianity. For instance that ancient Sara religion also uses the Cross as its ultimate symbol of divinity. And, furthermore, that ancient Sara religion also referred to God Almighty with a triune name of Isa or Yesu or Jesus.
These Nasara or Kisara or Kisra people referred to their kings and to God almighty with the tiunity name of Isa or Yisa and soon they were themselves known as the Isa or Yisa people. Professor Alan Ryder said they were known as the Yisazhi or the Yisa people and that they constituted the second major section of the Nupe Nation, rivaled to the other section of the Gwagbazhi on the arrival of the eve of the arrival of the Fulani Jihadists in KinNupe at the end of the 18th century. It is no wonder, then, that the name Yisa have survived among the Nupe people as a very common name to this very day.
The arrival of these Kisra, Nasara or Yisa people in KinNupe led to the proliferation of the various Yisa settlements throughout the length and breadth of ancient KinNupe. Their various settlements were variously surnamed Esheti, Essan, Bishetiaowgi, Esa, Vatsa, Bassa, Katsa, and so on and on.
One of these Kisra, Nasara or Yisa settlements grew from being a kingdom into an almighty empire which came to be known as the Yisa empire simply because the dynasts of that empire where known as the Yisa. These people referred to their gods, their kings and their nation all with the same name of Yisa.
The king of the Yisa empire was also known as the Ki-Sara or the ‘Sara One’. This Ki-Sara is also pronounced, in its mirror-image form, as the ‘Sara-ki’ which was what the Hausa tongue corrupted into the modern Hausa word for king as ‘Sarki’.
Sara-ki or Sarki was also pronounced as Sara-gi or Sargi or, simply, as Sagi. It is in this form of Sagi that the word has survived among the modern Nupe people as the title of for a Queen – Sagi was originally, of course, the title for a king.
The Yisa Nupe empire of the Kisra people, with its headquarters on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe, grew into one of the greatest empire ever witnessed by West Africa in prehistoric times. The Arab historian El-Bakri mentioned it as the greatest empire ever in West Africa. And professor Leo Frobenius described it as an almighty empire with a paradisaical capital city located on the banks of the River Niger wherein sat the Yisa Nupe emperor who was almost divine in his absolute sovereign powers over the whole of the Central Sudan.
With the rise of the Yisa empire unto regional dominance the Kisra, Nasara or Yisa Nupe people became the dominant Nupe people and thereby pushing the erstwhile ancient Nupe peoples – including the Koro or Gara, the Akanda or Kyadya, the Apa or Ife, the Bini, etc, etc – to the background. The Nupe Nation and the Nupe people generally became known with the national name ‘Yisa’.
Yisa Was Original Hausa
This ancient national name of the Nupe Nation, Yisa, was also pronounced as Esa or Asa and it was this Asa that was corrupted into ‘Ausa’ which the White colonial scribe came and transcribed as ‘Hausa’. The first people to bear the national name Ausa or Hausa were the Nupe people; the first Hausa people were a Nupe people and it was from here in Central KinNupe, right on the banks of the River Niger, that these aboriginal Nupe Hausa people eventually migrated out of Central KinNupe to all parts of ancient Nigeria including the place we call Hausaland today.
The irony here is that we are not aware today that KinNupe was original Hausaland and that KinNupe and the Nupe people were the first to be known with the national name Yisa, Asa, Ausa or Hausa in former times.
The Fall of Yisa
The problem is that these things happened such a very long time ago that they have become literally buried in the sands of time. We are talking here of what happened over one thousand to one thousand five hundred years ago.
What happened a millennium and half ago in the prehistory of KinNupe will definitely be difficult to recollect in a significant manner at this distance in time. That is why we are generally not aware of the full story of the Kisra Revolution in KinNupe today.
But the story of the Kisra people and the Kisra Revolution has survived in the traditions and mythologies of almost all ancient Nigerian peoples.
The story is that after reigning for a long time, probably for over a century, as the supreme power in the Central Sudan, the Yisa Nupe Empire eventually declined in power and fall back into history.
It was said that it was the rise of the erstwhile Koro Nupe people back to territorial sovereignty that ultimately led to the fall of the Yisa empire. The Koro Nupe people were also known as the Gara or Bara and it is this Bara people who were referred to as the Barani or, as we pronounce it today, the Bornu or Borno.
The Koro Nupe people were the original Bornu people and they were a Nupe people with their Bornu, Original Bornu, kingdom located right here in Central KinNupe. It was the rise of this Koro that led to the fall of the Yisa Empire of the Kisra Nupe people.
The Yisa empire actually shattered into daughter kingdoms and settlements prominent among which were Esan, Esa, Katsa (Katcha), Bassa, Vatsa, Esheti, Bisheti (awogi), etc, etc.
Some of these have survived into history. Esan, in particular, warrants special attention here since it has survived into modern times as a direct continuation of these very ancient Kisra Yisa Nupe people. The fact that Essan is also Christian and was unconquered by both the Tsoede and Dendo dynasts bespoke of far-reaching historical and sociocultural implications that can only be fully appreciated by future historians working on a post-Nigerian KinNupe in the far future.
Esan was originally a single settlement, a very large city and a regional capital of the Nupe Nation. In fact so great was Esan as a regional capital city of Nupe that Esan was actually listed among the twelve Nupe city states that went into the formation of the Bini Confederacy of the ancient Nupe Nation.
The Bini people were composed of two major racial stocks that fused into one in very remote times, these two being the Yisa and the Gwagba Nupe peoples. The original Esan on the banks of the River Kaduna used to be one of the regional capital cities of these Yisa Nupe peoples.
That original Esan was located on the very banks of the River Kaduna some twelve miles from today’s Bida. That original Esan used to be known as Esan Gudu Kpankoro since Gudu Kpankoro is ancient Nupe epithet for any great river in those days.
But in the nineteenth century it was challenged by the rise of the various Nupe-Fulnai Islamic Emirates that sprang up in the various parts of KinNupe including the Raba-Bida Emirate, the Agaie Emirate, the Lapai Emirate, the Lafiagi Emirate and others that are now extinct.
The challenge and attack of these Islamic Emirates on Esan in the 19th century led to the eventual disintegration of Esan into a cluster of mini-villages three of which have survived into modern times in the form of Esan Kucita, Esan Patigi, and Esan Patisan.
These surviving three daughter villages of Esan have slightly shifted away from the banks of the Rive Kaduna and are located further hinterland very close to the present city of Bida. As a matter of fact so close are these three Esan villages of modern times that it is just a matter of time before they – together with other neighbouring villages like Gbadafu, Kanko, and others – will end up in the greater Bida metropolitan area.
In any case there is a story that even in the first half of the twentieth century the Fulani Islamic rulers at Bida noticed how close were these Esan daughter villages to Bida that they attempted to eliminate the Esan villages which they abhor for being pagan and then Christian. But a number of Bida war generals and even Etsu Nupes who led repeated expeditions against the very nearby Esan villages ended up being repelled by miraculous interventions variously said to be pestilences or so.
To this very day the Etsu Nupe at Bida and the Etsu Esan at Esan are said, by traditions, not to see face to face otherwise one or both will die.
Another very significant remnant of the ancient Yisa Kisra Nupe people is Katsa, wrongly transcribed by the colonial scribes as Katcha which is the way we write it today. Katsa or Katcha used to be a powerful Kingdom in KinNupe in former times.
Katcha used to be known as one of main remnants of the ancient Yisa empire of old and the Katcha people were a Kisra or Nasara or Yisa Nupe people of the purest bloodlines.
It was the conquest and subjugation of the Katcha kingdom by the Fulani Jihadists in the 19th century that led to the decline of Katcha as a great and powerful kingdom of the past.
The Vatsa people are also a Kisra or Yisa Nupe people. Vatsa is actually the same as Batsa or Basa which was a very popular national or ethnic name with which the ancient Yisa Nupe people were identified with in former times.
But Vatsa became part of the Bini Confederacy which was a merger of the Yisa Nupe people with the Gwagba Nupe people.
The Gwagba Nupe people were also known as the Gulu and the Yisa Nupe people were also known as the Vatsa such that the merger of the Gulu (Gwagba) and the Vatsa (Yisa) Nupe peoples resulted in the formation of the Gulu-Vatsa United Kingdom.
Whatever the truth might have been there was an original Gulu Nation of the Dibo Nupe people which at a time broke down into four daughter merger kingdoms including Gulu-Vatsa, Gulu-Kandi, Gulu-Vulegbo and Gulu-Ewugi.
The traditions are that these four villages were formed by four brothers who were the children of the founder of the original Gulu kingdom which was a very powerful kingdom in the past of the Nupe Nation.
We see these same Vatsa or Basa people as the Bassa people in Kogi and some other parts of modern Nigeria.
The Bassa people, including today’s Bassa Komo, were originally a Nupe Yisa Kisra people. In former times they were located further North in Central KinNupe in the very days when the Zakzak or Zozo or Zaria and Katsina, actually Kasina or Kasana, kingdoms were also located in Central KinNupe as remnants of the ancient Kangoma or Gunguma or Guangara Nation of KinNupe.
At a time the ancient Bassa Nupe peoples founded and settled at Gumna or Gunna which remained a regional capital city of these ancient Nupe people for sometime before they eventually spread out from Gumna to all parts of ancient Central Nigeria and Middle Belt Nigeria in the places where we see them today including throughout Kogi State as the Bassa Komo, in Lokoja, in Zamfara, in Zaria, in Tegina, in Allawa, throughout Niger State, in Nasarawa State, etc, etc.
It was this Basa or Bassa national or ethnic name of the ancient Yisa Nupe people that the Hausa tongue pronounced in a corrupt manner as Banza, and hence the Hausa Bakwai-Banza Bakwai tradition.