It has become common in all academic and scholarly circles to assume that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people. This is because, it is now presumed, that the father of Tsoede was an Igala man. It is often remonstrated that Tsoede is the founder of Nupe and since his father was Igala then Tsoede was an Igala man and therefore the entire Nupe Nation Tsoede founded can be said to have originated from Igala.
This claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people has gained so much currency in recent times that to challenge it will draw serious criticism not only from non Nupe people but also from Nupe scholars and Nupe academicians alike.
But the truth of the matter is that it is not true that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people. The claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people is completely false and baseless.
First and foremost is the fact that there is not a single Nupe tradition, to this very day, that claim that the Nupe people originated from Igala. Yes, there is not a single Nupe tradition to that effect.
And, interestingly enough, there is also not a single Igala tradition that claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
Academicians, research workers and scholars alike all used to overlook the fact that there is neither a Nupe tradition nor an Igala tradition that claims that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
Instead all these people – academicians, scholars and research workers – who claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people used trace their source and reference directly or indirectly to two authorities, namely, Professor Leo Frobenius and Professor S.F. Nadel.
These people fail to notice the curious fact that even though both Nupe and Igala traditions never claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igalas, the only authority for this claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igalas traces back to two European sources, namely, professors Frobenius and Nadel.
It is interesting to note the fact that before the times of these two European professors – Frobenius and Nadel – nobody in Nupeland or Igalaland has ever claimed that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
It was Professor Leo Frobenius who first came to commit this academic blunder of ascribing the origin of the Nupe people to the Igala people. Then, of course, Professor S.F. Nadel came two decades later and, in reading Professor Frobenius ‘Voice of Africa’, gave further academic credence to the wrong claim that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
In any case, and as we shall proceed to demonstrate in the following paragraphs, the Nupe people did not originate from the Igala people. Instead it is the Igala people who actually originated from the Nupe people. We shall start with a discussion on the ancient Gara Nupe people.
The Gara Nupe People
Leo Africanus wrote, in the 13th century, that the whole of Northern Nigeria was dominated by the Gara Nupe people. He wrote that the Gara Nupe language was the Lingua Franca spoken in the whole of Northern Nigeria in those days.
What Leo Africanus was actually saying is that the entire place we call Hausaland or Northern Nigeria today was actually populated by an ancient Nupe people called the Gara. This, of course, means that there were no Hausa people in today’s Hausaland in those days. Instead there were only Nupe people throughout the entire place call Hausaland today.
Of course, and has linguistic scholars have consummately demonstrated long ago, Hausa as language only came into existence less than five hundred years ago. So, Leo Africanus was right when he recorded the fact that only the Nupe people exist in today’s Hausaland in the 13th century, that is, over five hundred years ago.
These Nupe people who inhabited and populated Hausaland before the emergence of today’s Hausa people were known as the Gara.
These Gara people were a Nupe people and they were the same that are known as the Koro. Both Gara and Koro refer to the River Niger. To this very day the River Niger is still known as the Koro, Kworo, or Kwara.
The Koro or Gara kingdom originated from the banks of the River Niger but it eventually grew into a mighty empire that comprised the whole of Northern, Middle and parts of Southern Nigeria.
The name ‘Gara’ is pronounced as ‘Agwara’, ‘Gwara’, or ‘Gwari’ by the ancient Hausas and it is in that form that Sultan Bello wrote that the Gara or Gwari Nupe people were a dominant and sovereign race that ruled over a major part of the Central Sudan including Northern Nigeria, Middle Belt Nigeria and a greater part of Southern Nigeria. So, and apart from Leo Frobenius, we have Sultan Bello also confirming that it was the Gara or Gwari Nupe people that populated the whole of today’s Hausaland in former times.
But in the days of the Gara there were also an ancient Nupe people known as the Akanda or, simply, Nda people. These Nda people were also known as the Nta or Ata since in phonetics the phonemes ‘d’ and ‘t’ are synonymous.
These Akanda were also a very ancient Nupe people. They used to have a superpower kingdom or empire in very ancient times here in KinNupe. But their Akanda kingdom fall at a time and it is from that fallen Akanda that so many ancient Nupe people, some of whom have survived into modern times, including that Kakanda, the Kyadya, the Kebbi people, etc, etc, originated.
In any case the Akanda or Ata and the Gara Nupe peoples became rival Nupe powers here in Central KinNupe. After several clashes and internecine warfares the two, Ata and Gara, eventually merged into the United Kingdom of Ata-Gara or AtaGara.
This AtaGara kingdom grew over time into an empire with territorial sovereignty spreading over the whole of the Central Sudan.
The Nupe emperor of this ancient AtaGara Nupe empire was titled the ‘Atagara’. But AtaGara is also pronounced, as a dialectal variant, as AtaKoro. And it is on this note that the entire AtaGara or AtaKoro empire was known as Kintagara or Kintakoro. To this very day we can see that the southern half of KinNupe is known, on the authority of Professor Roger Blench, as Kintakoro or Kintako.
Numerous authorities, including Sir C.R. Niven, Sir H.R. Palmer, Professor A.F.C. Ryder, Sultan Bello, and many other have documented the fact that the Atagara empire was a Nupe empire through and through.
But with time another power arose in Central Nigeria. This was known as the Ife, Ifa, Afa, Apa or Wapa empire. This name, Ife or Ifa, is also variously pronounced as Nyife or Nufa or Nufe or Nupe. The Ife people are a prototypic Nupe people.
In any case the Ife or Apa kingdom also became an empire and consequently became a rival power to the erstwhile Atagara Nupe empire.
But both AtaGara and Ife or Apa were Nupe empires because both of them were initially located on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe. It was from the banks of the River Niger, here in the heart of KinNupe, that both AtaGara and Ife or Apa grew from kingdoms into empires that exercised sovereignty over greater parts of the Central Sudan.
The people of the AtaGara kingdom were also known and referred to as the AtaGara or, simply, Gara people.
But then these ancient AtaGara or Gara Nupe Nupe people were also known as the Igara or Igala. Of course the national names Gara, Igara and Igala are dialectal variants one of another. These were the names of the Nupe people in very ancient times.
And the Ife or Ifa empire was also known as Nyife, Nufe or Nupe.
As we have said before the Gara, Igara or Igala Nupe empire was rivalled by the Ife, Nyife, Nufe or Nupe empire; both of them headquartered on the banks of the River Niger here in Central KinNupe in those ancient times.
The fight between these Nupe empires continued until a half-caste prince was born whose father was the king of AtaGara empire or the Gara, Igara or Igala Nupe people and his mother was the Queen of the Ife or Nupe empire. This half-caste prince became known as Tsudi or Tsoede. He was the founder of the Nupekoro or Nupeko or, as we simply pronounce it today, Nupe, empire of latter times.
This half-caste Tsudi or Tsoede became a warrior king who conquered both his father’s Gara or Koro empire and his mother Ifa or Nupe empire. He merged the Gara or Koro empire with the Nupe or Ifa empire to form the United Kingdom of Nupe-Koro or Ifa-Koro.
Nupekoro became shortened into Nupeko or simply Nupe.
And Apa-Koro or Ifa-Koro became Fakoro or Korofa and is the same that the Hausa and Jukun people pronounce as Kororofa.
Frobenius and Nadel’s Blunder
It was this story above that the Nupe traditions narrate as the Mythical Charter of Origin of Nupe popularly referred to as the Story of Tsoede. When this story was narrated to both Professor Leo Frobenius and Professor S.F. Nadel they both prematurely reached the wrong conclusion that the ancient Gara, Igara or Igala Nupe people mentioned in the story are the same as the present day Igala people and they immediately and precipitously declared that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
But that was totally and completely wrong.
Both Professor Leo Frobenius and Professor S.F. Nadel were wrong because the AtaGara, Gara or Igara or Igala referred to in the story was the ancient Atagara, Gwari, Gara, Igara or Igala Nupe empire that was located on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe in the days of Tsoede and not the present-day Igala people who are located to the east of the River Niger in today’s Kogi State.
Professor Michael Mason, who investigated this issue in details, pointed out that the modern Igala people of Kogi State have been wrongly mistaken for the ancient Igala, or Igara or Gara or Atagara Nupe people of former times.
So, the truth of the matter is that the Nupe people partially originated from the ancient Atagara, Gwari, Gara, Igara or Igala empire that is now extinct; the Nupe people did not originate from the modern Igala people of the Kogi and Benue-Edo general areas.
Modern Igala People Originated from Nupe
In fact it is the modern Igalas who originated from Nupe and not the reverse as was wrongly inferred by the two European professors Leo Frobenius and S.F. Nadel above.
Major G. Merrick categorically wrote and demonstrated the fact that the modern Igala people of Kogi State originated from Nupe.
It is in the same context that Professor A.E. Afigbo provided incontrovertible evidences to the effect that the modern Igala people originated from Nupe.
Other renowned authorities, including Professor R.G. Amstrong, Captain Miles Clifford, Sir H.R. Palmer, and many others, wrote that the Igala people originated from Nupe.
Dr. E.O. Erim also wrote that the Igala people originated from Apa or Ifa Nupe. As a matter of fact Igala traditions themselves categorically related that the Igala people originated from Apa Nupe. The Igala traditions narrated that Abute Eje, the founder of Igala, was a Nupe prince from Apa Nupe.
And history shows that the Igala never ruled over the Nupe people. Instead it was the Nupe people who ruled over the Igalas right unto very historical times on the eve of the advent of the European colonialists.
Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther documented the fact that as recent as his days the Igala were still a subject people paying tribute to their Nupe overlords.
And Professor Michael Mason also documented the fact that the Igala people were the vassal subjects of the Nupe people until the White colonialists came and balkanised the Nupe Nation.
The truth of the matter is that the modern Igala people originated from Nupe when they migrated out of KinNupe in the days that the ancient Atagara or Gara Nupe empire was shattered into smithereens by the endless expansionist Wars of Tsudi or Tsoede.
And it was not the Igala people alone that originated from that primordial Nupe empire of Atagara or Gara. Queen Amina and her Zaria kingdom, Shango and his Oyo kingdom, the Kebbi people, the Idoma people, and many others are all remnants of that ancient Atagara or Gara Nupe empire – they all migrated out of KinNupe after the collapse and shattering of that ancient Atagara or Gara Nupe empire of former times.
Reasons for Frobenius and Nadel’s Mistake
The story of Tsoede which we have discussed in great details above is usually narrated by local griots and palace praise-singers in a brief and summarised form that lack details. This lack of details usually reduce the story to that of an Igala, that is Gara, prince having an affair with a Nupe princess to produce a child called Tsoede who eventually became the founder of the Nupe Nation. This brief version of the Tsoede story, of course, is far from the truth; it is literal case of being economical with the truth.
A reason for the presentation of the Tsoede story in this brief form or version is also due to the fact that the period in which Tsoede lived is so far away from modern times that the true details of his story have been lost to history. Professor Michael Mason pointed out long ago that the period in which Tsoede lived and reigned is far away, into the past, than the 15th or so century that Professor S.F. Nadel and modern Western scholarship wrongly assigned to Tsoede. The truth of the matter is that Tsoede may have lived a couple of centuries before the 15th century.
Then there is also the fact that the advent of Islam in KinNupe and the Central Sudan in general led to a systematic extermination of many of the folklores and traditional stories of the ancient tribes and ethnicities of ancient Nigeria. This, of course, included the true story of Tsoede among the ancient Nupe peoples. What remained after that was an adulterated story that was subsequently corrupted with so many interpolations that almost distorted the true story out of its original form. By the time that the explorers, missionaries and academicians from the West started arriving in KinNupe what was left of the story of Tsoede was a far cry away from the true and original version.
To make matters worse, and as pointed out by Professor Michael Mason, by the time that Professor S.F. Nadel arrived KinNupe and asked the Bida palace historians to tell him the story of Tsoede he was told a story that was practically invented in the 18th century by modern Nupe dynasts. The story of Tsoede as told Professor Nadel at the Bida palaces was a total distortion of the original Tsoede story which, unfortunately, is almost lost to modern history.
Furthermore the palace story-tellers and griots at Bida emphasised that the father of Tsoede was a Gara man. But this national name Gara can be applied to a wide variety of ancient Nigerian people. It can refer to the ancient AtaGara Nupe people whose AtaGara kingdom was located right here on the banks of the River Niger here in Central KinNupe; or the national name Gara can also be applied to the modern Igala people clustered on the Idah capital city in Kogi State; and so on and on.
But then in the 1930s when Professor Nadel arrive KinNupe the Nupe people have lost memory of the ancient Nupe kingdom of AtaGara. Few, if any, local historian in KinNupe was aware that there once flourished the AtaGara kingdom in Central KinNupe very ancient times. So, when the Nupe palace story-tellers and griots narrated that the father of Tsoede was a Gara man, everybody thought the Gara mentioned in the modern version of the Tsoede story were the modern Igala people in Kogi State and not the ancient AtaGara Nupe people of KinNupe.
Accordingly, when this story was narrated to both Professor Leo Frobenius and Professor S.F. Nadel in this scanty format they both prematurely reached the wrong conclusion that the Gara, Igara or Igala Nupe people mentioned in the story are the same as the present day Igala people and they immediately and precipitous declared that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
Professor S.F. Nadel may not be completely to blame for the fact that he was merely echoing what Professor Leo Frobenius and others have assumed in the past before him. Some two decades before the time of Professor Nadel in KinNupe, Professor Leo Frobenius have reached the wrong conclusion that the Gara people mentioned in the Tsoede story are the same as the Igala people of today’s Kogi State. Some other European workers also reached similar conclusion even before the time of Professor Nadel and it is therefore not surprising that by the time Professor Nadel got to KinNupe, and after reading through the works of other Europeans on the issue, he reached the same conclusion to the effect that the Gara people mentioned in the Tsoede story are the modern Igala people of Idah in Kogi State.
The momentous implication of assuming that the Gara people of the Tsoede story are the modern Igala people of Kogi State is the logical conclusion it directly leads to, namely, that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people. This is because the Tsoede story categorically stated that the father of Tsoede was a Gara man, he was the AtaGara or the king of the AtaGara kingdom.
And based on the publications of Professor Leo Frobenius, Professor S.F. Nadel and many other Western researchers and workers it has become commonly accepted today that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people. Furthermore, the widespread distribution of Professor Nadel’s A Black Byzantium has popularised this wrong notion that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
But that was totally and completely wrong.
Why Frobenius and Nadel were Wrong
What most people are not aware of today is the fact that before the publication and widespread distribution of Professor Nadel’s A Black Byzantium there were no Nupe traditions claiming or alleging that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people. As a matter of fact there are no Nupe traditions, to this very day, claiming that the Nupe people originated from the Igala people. The Nupe people have never said that they originated from the Igala people until the book of Professor S.F. Nadel became popular in the 1940s onward.
Before the publication and widespread distribution of Professor Nadel’s A Black Byzantium the Nupe people never claimed that originated from the Igala people. There were no Nupe traditions of origin linking the Nupe people with the Igala people in those days. The Nupe people in those days used to say that Tsoede was the founder of Nupe and that the father of Tsoede was a Gara man but they never stated that the Gara of the days of Tsoede were the same as they modern Igala people of Idah in Kogi State. It was Professor Nadel’s A Black Byzantium that came and popularise the wrong notion that the Gara people of the days of Tsoede are the same as the modern Igala people and that, accordingly, the Nupe people originated from the Igala people.
Both Professor Leo Frobenius and Professor S.F. Nadel were wrong because the Gara or Igara or Igala referred to in the story was the ancient Atagara, Gwari, Gara, Igara or Igala Nupe empire that was located on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe in the days of Tsudi and not the present-day Igala people who are located to the east of the River Niger in today’s Kogi State.
The Nupe tongue refers to both the ancient Gara Nupe people and the modern Igala people simply as Gara and this, to a great extent, explains the reason why Professor Nadel and others mistook the modern Igala people for the ancient Gara Nupe people.
But, and as we have also mentioned before, the modern Nupe griots have actually forgotten about the existence of, once upon a time, the great kingdom of AtaGara right here Central KinNupe.
Paradoxically enough the existence of the great AtaGara kingdom right here in Central KinNupe in very ancient times is independently documented in non-Nupe historical records including, most prominently, the Kano Chronicle which stated in no unmistakable terms that Queen Amina died at AtaGara which is located in the same place that we have the city of Bida located today.
The Hausa traditions also indicated that the Old Oyo kingdom was originally known as Katunga or Katagara which is just the same as Ka-AtaGara, the name for the land of the AtaGara empire. Note that this same name, Katagara, is the same that the Jihadist mercenaries under Umaru Nagwamatse pronounced, through their Hausa lingua franca, as Kontagora. And we should also note the fact that it is this same ancient national name of the Nupe Nation, Katagara, that was shortened into Kagara. All these, of course, go to independently confirm the existence of the great AtaGara kingdom in Central KinNupe in ancient times.
In any case the Gara people mentioned in the Tsoede story cannot be the same as the modern Igala people for the simple fact that in the days of Tsoede there were not the modern Igala people. Even by Western scholarship chronological standards we see clearly that the era of Tsoede predated the foundations of the kingdom of the modern Igala people by at least a century, that is a hundred years. Modern Western scholarship assumes that Tsoede lived in the 15th century and the same Western scholarship maintains that the Igala kingdom was founded in the 16th century. If Tsoede lived in the 15th century and the Igala kingdom was established in the 16th century how could the Nupe people have originated from the Igala people?
More tellingly is how could a Nupe kingdom that became very powerful in the 15th century have been subject to and originated from an Igala kingdom that was only founded and established a century later in the 16th century?
And if we are to take into consideration the computation of other scholars and researchers who variously place Tsoede in the 13th or 14th century we will see that Tsoede might have even flourished and died some two to three or so hundred years before the foundations of the modern Igala kingdom were laid. In any case, and whether Tsoede lived in the 13th, 14th or the 15th century, the fact still remains that Tsoede lived long before the Igala kingdom was established and that, accordingly, the Nupe kingdom Tsoede established could not have originated from the Igala kingdom that was founded a couple of centuries or more after the death of Tsoede.
The ironic fact we are discovering here is that it is actually the Nupe kingdom that predated the Igala kingdom and that, if anything at all, it is the Igala kingdom that could have originated from the Nupe kingdom and not the other way round as Western scholarship is wrongly claiming today. As a matter of fact there are documentary, and otherwise, evidences and proofs to the effect that the Igala people originated from Nupe.
Origin of the Igala People
The Igala traditions categorically maintain that the Igala people originated from the Apa Nupe empire of old. Captain F. Byng-Hall, who was among the first to study the Igala people and their traditions in meticulous details, also wrote that the Igala people originated from Apa, the ancient Nupe empire.
In fact both C.L. Temple and Captain Byng-Hall wrote that the Igala people were originally known as the Apa or Ife people. But, and as we have discussed in previous sections of this present work, ‘Apa’ and ‘Ife’ are nothing but dialectal variants of ‘Nupe’ which is the national name of the Nupe people to this very day. This, of course, categorically confirms the fact that the Igala people were originally a Nupe people through and through.
In fact Ife progressively becomes Yife, Nyife, Nife, Nufe, and ultimately, Nupe. So, Ife and Nupe are one and the same national name of the Nupe people pronounced differently due to dialectal differences.
And, of course, Nupe or Ife or Ifa are also one and the same with Afa or Apa.
As we have discussed in some details in a previous section of this present work, the Apa kingdom or empire was a Nupe kingdom through and through and it was located on the very banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe in the same days when AtaGara was also a Nupe kingdom located on the same banks of the River Niger here in Central KInNupe.
As we discussed in a previous section of this present work the AtaGara and the Apa kingdoms eventually merged into the United Kingdom of Gara-Apa or Koro-Apa which became known as Korofa or Kororofa which is the same known as Nupekoro or Nupeko to the Nupe historians.
Whatever the case might have been the emergent Nupeko or Kororofa overshadowed its parental kingdoms of AtaGara and Apa and actually pursued or chased them out of Central KinNupe. And the Igala traditions confirm this when they narrated that the Igala people left their homeland Apaland here in Central KinNupe somewhere, according to Captain F. Byng-Hall, in 1490 AD when they were pursued by the Jukuns, that is the Kororofa or Nupeko people, down the Benue River towards their present location at Idah.
So, we see from the Igala traditions themselves that the Igala people were originally a Nupe people called the Ife or Apa, variants of the national name Nupe, who were members of the ancient Nupe kingdom of Apa. That they left KinNupe when the United Kingdom of AtaGara emerged and chased Apa out of Central KinNupe. And that was how the Igala people, who were originally a Nupe people resident here on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe, ended up on the banks of the Benue.
The Igala people were basically scattered on the banks of the Benue and at the Niger-Benue Confluence still inside the confines of the greater KinNupe of former times until the Masaba civil wars and slave raidings eventually drove them further south unto the banks of the River Niger right unto the land of the Okpotos in the latter half of the 19th century.
The Igala people were a subject people paying tribute to their Nupe overlords right unto the siècle de fin of the 19th century when the British colonialists conquered the Nupe empire, balkanized it and liberated all the various people vassal to the Nupe overlords.