HOW NIGER STATE ORIGINATED FROM NUPE
The geopolitical entity we refer to as Niger State is today divided into three zones, namely, Zone A, Zone B and Zone C. According to the modern ethno-political permutations of the Nigerian and Niger State authorities only Zone A, out of these three zones, is dominated by the Nupe people. Zone B and Zone C are presumed to be non-Nupe zones. In fcat it is officially said that Zone A is for the Nupe, Zone B is for the Gbagyi and Hausa and Zone C is for a miscellany of various other tribes including the Kambari, Kamuku, Dakarkari, and so on and on.
That is picture-perfect picture the politicians and administrators pain to us whenever the issue of the ethnic makeup of Niger State is brought to the table.
The truth of the matter, however, is that Niger State is not so neatly divided three zones clearly dominated by classes of ethnicities as is being painted above.
The first fallacy besetting the wrong picture above is that the population and habitation of the Nupe people clearly spill over from Zone A in all direction into both Zone B and C and even right across the borders of Niger State into the neighbouring states of Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and the FCT.
In fact all these places – Zone B and C and the neighbouring states – used to be overwhelmingly populated by the Nupe people and these places used to be considered as part and parcel of the Nupe Nation in former times.
The entire place we call Zone B today, for instance, used to be designated under the colonial administrative term of the Niger Province – but the Niger Province was originally classified, by the colonial authorities themselves, as part and parcel of the Nupe Province. In other words today’s Niger State Zone B used to be under Niger Province which used to be a Nupe Province.
Even until recent post independence times the Nigerian authorities were still classifying the Gwari-Kamuku Province, headquartered at Kuta, under the overall sovereignty of the Nupe kingdom and the District Head of Kuta, overseeing a vast section of this Zone, used to be more or less a Hakimi representative of the Etsu Nupe at Bida. Today’s Niger State Zone B used to be administered by the Etsu Nupes right under the colonial approval of the White administrators themselves.
So, and as we shall discuss in greater details later, Niger State Zone B used to be a Nupe enclave administrative, socioculturally and even ethnographically.
And this was also the case with the Zone C of Niger State; the place we call Zone C of Niger State today used to be completely a Nupe entity through and through until recent historical factors changed its name and foolhardily designated it as non-Nupe.
The White people knew what they were doing when they classified today’s Niger State Zone B under the Nupe Province. Just before the arrival of the White man the whole of Niger State’s Zone B was administered directly from KinNupe from various Nupe headquarters including today’s Paikoro or Paiko, Minna and others.
Zone C was similarly a Nupe-dominated general area until recent times. In historical times almost the whole of Zone C was part and parcel of Nupeland and was actually administered by the Tsudi and later on on Dendo dynasts from here Central KinNupe.
Wushishi is completely Nupe and shouldn’t have been included in Zone C in the first place.
The entire area occupied by the Kontagora Emirate today is only half of what used to be known in former times as Kotonkoro which was itself a Nupe territory in ancient times. In fact it was Etsu Masaba the Great who, in the late 1860s, gave half of the Kontokoro general area away as a gift to his cousin brother Umaru Nagwamtse the Nupe prince from Sokoto. Before Masaba’s parting gift to Umaru Nagwamatse the whole of the area occupied by the Kontagora Emirate today was part and parcel of KinNupe and was directly administered by the Etsu Nupes from Bida.
Almost all other parts of the Zone C of Niger State were also Nupe in former times. The Lander brothers reported that as late as the 1830s Borguland was dominated by the Nupe people with towns like Wawa and others claiming direct descent from Nupe settlers from KinNupe. Even the king of Busa told Captain Hugh Clapperton in the late 1820s that Busa, Niki and Kaima were originally founded by Bini Nupe people from Central KinNupe.
The Kambari people of Zone C of Niger State were a Nupe people through and through in prehistoric times. The Kambari are members of the Ambara or Ibara ancient Nupe stock referred to in Nupe traditions as the Igbara or Gbara or Gwagba.
All these ancient people of Zone C Niger State, including the Kambari, the Borgu, the Kamuku, and many others migrated out of the ancient Nupe capital of Old Gbara which was located on the banks of the River Niger in the Yauri-Borgu-Zugurma axis in former times. It was from that Old Gbara that today’s Gbara, Mokwa and many other Nupe settlements and Nupe people – including the Gbidigi, the Eba, the Kusopa, Cekpa and many others – originated.