MATRIARCHY IN ANCIENT NUPE
In the olden days the Nupe army is led into battle by a War General called Nnakun. This Nnakun used to be a woman and a new amazonian woman is appointed after the death of a former one.
The point here is that the Nupe society used to be a strongly matriarchal one dominated by women. In former times the ruler of the Nupe Nation used to be known as the ‘Nyizagi’ or ‘Zagi’ or ‘Sagi’. It is the same title, Sagi, that the Fulanis have retained today as the title of the highest office-holder woman in KinNupe to this very day.
The matriarchal nature of the ancient Nupe society and culture is manifested in all of its sociocultural facets. The family, for instance, in those ancient days used to be matrilineal, that is, genealogy is traced through mothers and not through fathers as is the case today.
So, a child is named after its mother and her family and not after its father and his family as is the case today.
And in those same olden days women married men in KinNupe and not men marrying women as is the case today.
When a woman marries a man into her family the resulting children belong to the woman and her family and not to the man. That is why the mother of the child was called nmá and the maternal uncle of the child was called nmà both of which generically mean ‘parent’.
The biological father of the child was called ndǎ which means ‘master’ because he was officially not considered to be the father of the child but merely the ‘master slave’ of the mother of the child.
What should be delineated here is that in those days Nupe families used to marry slave or indigent men to their daughters in order to beget children and scions for the family. The slave is usually considered as just an ndǎ master and not a legal father to the child. It is the maternal uncle of the child that is legally considered to be the father of the child.
We should remember that this matrilineal geneology was also reported in the story of Tsoede whereby the kingship succession was matrilineal and not patrilineal. Tsoede succeeded his maternal uncle at Nku. And Tsoede was himself succeeded in turn by the son of his sister and not by any of his own biological sons including the famous twins.
“Even the children of Tsoede did not succeed him after his death, it was the son of his sister called Ramatu, who became the new king after the death of Tsoede. Tsoede was said to have a set of twins, Ebako and Ebagi, as his eldest children but none of them succeeded him as the Etsu Nupe after his death. Instead it was the son of Tsoede’s sister who became the new Etsu Nupe after the death of Tsoede.”
It was only in latter times that Nupe became a patriarchal society. But before then it was a matriarchate.
The amazons of the ancient Nupe peoples, best exemplified by the case of the Nnakun War General we started this article with, were very famous in former times. In those days the entire Nupe society was dominated by women and matriarchy. The Nupe rulers were known as the Nyizagi and they used to be mostly amazon women. That was where, for instance, the story of the so-called Queen Amina of Zaria originated.
Queen Amina of Zaria was a Nupe woman through and through. She was born, bred, flourished and died here in KinNupe as a full-blooded Nupe woman. Even the Kano Chronicle confessed that Queen Amina died at AtaGara right here in Central KinNupe in the very place where we have the city of Bida today.
In any case the rulers of ancient Nupe used to be women called Nyizagi or Sagi and Queen Amina was just one of those ancient Nyizagi or Sagi amazon rulers of former KinNupe. Of course her name couldn’t have been Amina since Amina is an Islamic name and she was supposed to have reigned before the establishment of Islam in KinNupe.
In those ancient days the rulers of KinNupe used to be women and the war generals of KinNupe also used to be women.
These war generals were a stock of fearless amazon women titled the ‘Nnakun’ which, in Old Nupe, literally meant ‘The Death One’ or ‘The Inflicter of Death’.
It is these Nnakun that the Yorubas referred to as Olokun.
Below is a picture of the Nnakun or Oloukun head which the Yoruba people are now claiming to be their own even though the head was actually made by an ancient Nupe people. In the second photograph we can see HRH the Oni of Ife and other Yoruba royal and state dignitaries posing beside a giant sculpture of the Olokun head made by the Osun State Government all in the Yoruba bid at claiming that the Nupe statue of Olokun belongs to the Yoruba people.