THE BATTLE OF BIDA
The Gwagba are autochthonous to KinNupe, that is, they have been in KinNupe right from the beginning. They are the same that are variously known as the Gwari, Gwara, Kwara, Gara, Koro, and so on and on. They have always been a people generally living on the banks of the River Niger in Central KinNupe.
Somewhere around the middle of the first millennium AD, that is around 500 AD, the Yisa people arrived as the Kisra refugees in Central KinNupe. These Kisra or Yisa people came originally from outside the African continent, from the Mediterranean, Arabia and Asia Minor.
The Gwagba and the Yisa at a time merged into the United Kingdom of Zugurma which was also variously known as Zungeru, Zakzak, Zazzau, Zaria, Sagoro, Shango, Songhai, Tsonga, and so on and on.
Zugurma, Songhai or Tsonga, whatever you called it, was later on ousted from suoreme power over KinNupe by the rise of the AtaGara or NdaKolo Empire. The AtaGara was a merger of the Akanda and the Gwagba Nupe peoples.
But then, and in all these, the aboriginal Gwagba and Yisa peoples remained as some of the most influential of the ancient Nupe peoples in KinNupe.
So, when Tsoede came with his Akanda or Kyadya people to establish his Nupeko or Kororofa Empire it was with the Gwagba and Yisa Nupe people that his incoming Kyadya people acculturated and integrated.
The integration of Tsoede’s Akanda or Kyadya into the Gwagba resulted in a an half-caste Nupe people known as the Gwagba. And the integration of Tsoede’s Akanda or Kyadya into the Yisa Nupe people resulted in a half-caste Nupe population known as the Gwasa, Bassa, Agabizhi or the Yisazhi.
There was also a section of Tsoede’s Akanda people who did not mix with either the Gwagba or the Yisa nor with any other of the ancient Nupe peoples including the Bini, the Ife, and so on and on. These unmixed Akanda people who nevertheless settled down in the KinTifin half of the Nupe Nation are the same that are known today as the riverine Kyadya people.
In any case the integration of the emigrant Tsoede Akanda peoples with the Gwagba and Yisa ancient Nupe peoples resulted in a two-housed Tsoede dynasty with a Gwagba sub-dynasty and a Yisa sub-dynasty. These two Tsoede dynasties were always at loggerheads with one another and they were still at loggerheads with one another when the Fulani Jihadists established themselves as the Dendo dynasts in KinNupe.
When the Fulanis arrived KinNupe at the end of the 18th century they met a Nupe Nation divided between the Gwagba Tsoede dynasts headed by Etsu Zubairu Majiya II at Zugurma and the Yisa Tsoede dynasts headed by Etsu Jimada at Gbara and Zhima.
The Dendo dynasts played the two Tsoede dynasts against one another and eventually the Dendo dynasts took over the rulership and sovereignty of the Nupe Nation while both the Gwagba and the Yisa Tsoede dynasts were ousted from power.
The Gwagba tried to revolt against the divide and rule mischief of the Dendo dynasts but they were dwelt with in such a drastically punitive manner that to this very day, a century and half later, they have not recovered from the pangs of that punishment.
The Yisa wisely collaborated with the Dendo Fulani dynasts but they had to face the humiliation of being held captive at Bida under the watchful eyes of the Dendo dynasts. Etsu Mu’azu Yisa and his son Etsu Idirisu Gana, both of the Yisa Tsoede dynasty, were held captives in Bida by the Dendo dynasts in the second half of the 19th century.
In this way the Dendo dynasts unwittingly turned both the Gwagba Tsoede dynasts and the Yisa Tsoede dynasts into their bitter enemies. Though powerless against the Dendo Fulani dynasts, the Gwagba and the Yisa Tsoede dynasts were embittered by the treatment the Dendo dynasts meted out to them and both waited patiently for the day they will be able to exact their revenge on the Dendo dynasts.
The Dendo dynasts at Bida also had serious problems with the riverine Kyadya peoples. A mighty Bida Emirate, that is so expansionism-minded, could not allow the Kyadya people to enjoy the total control they used to have over the River Niger in the pre-Fulani days. The wrestling over the River Niger also transformed the riverine Kyadya into bitter, this time around open, enemies of the Dendo dynasts at Bida. The Kyadyas revolted several times against the Dendo dynasts at Bida.
And the same Bida Emirate became rather tyrannical over its vassal states most notably including, in the context of our present discussions, the northeastern peoples of Yoruba land. These various Yoruba peoples under the rule and sovereignty of the Bida Emirate subsequently became another bloc of bitter enemies of the Dendo dynasts at Bida.
The Bida Emirate, and its Dendo Fulani dynasts, was accordingly surrounded, within and without, with all manners of enemies who were just bidding their times for the right moment to bring about the downfall of the Bida Emirate. The Gwagba, the Yisa, the Kyadya, the northeastern Yorubas, and so on and on.
It is in this scenario of the Bida Emirate surrounded by a plethora of enemies that the White man arrived KinNupe from Europe. The White man came in as a big and formidable player in the socio-political setting of the Central Sudan.
In the beginning the White man allied with the Etsu rulers of the Bida Emirate. This was because at the beginning the White man and the Bida Emirate had commercial and mercantilic interests in common. The Bida Emirate immediately became the biggest business partner of the White man on the entire Guinea Coast.
Etsu Masaba was particularly the Etsu Nupe who was on the best of terms with the White men. Then Umaru Majigi was also on good terms with the White men. In fact the British allied with and supported the Bida army under Etsu Umaru Majigi against the Kyadya people during the 1882 Ganigan Revolt of the Kyadya people against Bida sovereignty. The British supported the Bida army against the Kyadya people in order to protect and safeguard their own, British, commercial and mercantilist interests in the Nupe Nation.
And it was Etsu Maliki who became the wealthiest Etsu Nupe because his reign coincided with the time that the commerce between the White men and the Bida Emirate reached its zenith.
But Europe was changing and the Industrial Revolution that began in the second half of the 18th century had completely transformed Great Britain from an agricultural nation into an industrial nation that doesn’t need human labour in the form of slave labour for agriculture any more. That was when the Abolitionist Movement became famous in Europe and the same Europeans who have gruesomely engaged in the Transatlantic Slave Trade now became the hypocritical campaigners against slave trade.
The mercantilic slave trader then became replaced by the imperialist colonialist White man on the Guinea Coast. Having no interest in commerce and being more interested in colonialism, the new White man saw no reason to be cordial or friendly with the Fulani rulers of the Bida Emirate. That was how the relationship between the White men and the Bida Emirate began to deteriorate.
In 1885 the Royal Niger Company, headed by the George Taubman Goldie declared that it has obtained a treaty in which the new Etsu Maliki of Bida had agreed to place himself and the Bida Emirate under the protection of the R.N.C.
While Etsu Maliki and his ruling council were busy arguing and disproving the dubious claims of the R.N.C. the British Government granted the R.N.C. a royal charter to rule over its colonial possessions in the Nigeria area. With this the mischievous George Taubman Goldie officially declared that the Bida Emirate is a dependency of the British Government.
The R.N.C. then systematically began to encroach on Bida Emirate territories when, in 1888, the R.N.C. declared Lokoja a territory of the R.N.C. and independent of the Bida Emirate.
The animosity between the Bida Emirate and the British colonialists deepened further due to these mischievous and imperialist designs of the R.N.C. led by George Taubman Goldie.
In 1891 George Taubman Goldie visited Etsu Bubakar at Bida. He assured the Etsu Nupe that the R.N.C. will not attack Bida. But he warned that if the Bida forces do not stop their aggression against the British the R.N.C. might be left with no option than to attack Bida.
But the same double-speaking George Taubman Goldie went ahead to instigate the Kabba people, who were a subject people to the Bida Emirate in those days, to rebel against Bida rulership. Through his agent, William Wallace who is the Agent General of the Royal Niger Company, George Taubman Goldie roused the Kabba people against Bida Emirate.
As a matter of fact William Wallace at Lokoja provided the Kabba people with weapons and other things they needed to revolt and rebel against Bida. In 1892 Wallace even got the Kabba people to complain, through Captain Bower in Lagos, to the British Government about his so-called ‘Bida misrule’ over the Kabba people.
Soon the Bida rulers and overlords back at Bida came to know of the R.N.C.’s empowerment of the Kabba and others with weapons to rebel against the Bida army.
To add salt to injury the R.N.C. blatantly declared further stretches of areas around their Lokoja base as independent of Bida sovereignty. Lokoja was part of Bida territory before the R.N.C. began their aggressiveness and now the British came and illegally declared that Lokoja and a great stretch of area throughout the Lokoja general area as protectorate of the Royal Niger Company.
The Bida Emirate felt insulted and affronted by this action of the R.N.C.
Early on, back in 1895 and immediately after ascending the throne as the new Etsu Nupe, Etsu Bubakar had sent a section of the Bida cavalry, the most powerful section of the Bida army, to cross the Niger and camp at the town of Ogidi in Kabbaland in present day Kogi State. This Bida army, under General Mayaki Ndajiya, was sent to ogidi in order to check and forestall any attempt by the Kabba and all other northeastern Yoruba people at rebelling against Nupe rule over them.
But the R.N.C., under the leadership of George Goldie, had become busy instigating the people of Kabba against Bida rule. As a matter of fact the R.N.C. became a major promoter of the Ogidi Alliance of the Kabba people against the Bida army at Ogidi. The Bida army therefore failed to easily defeat the Ogidi Alliance as Bida had initially hoped to. As a matter of fact the battle between the Bida army and the Ogidi then dragged on for years as the Ogidi people were secretly funded and openly supported by the British R.N.C. against Bida sovereignty and against the Bida army at Ogidi.
Then there came about the incidence, on the 26th of June 1896, whereby the Bida army at Ogidi captured two White army officers of the R.N.C. and their forty-five accompanying native African soldiers of the R.N.C.. The R.N.C. White men and the native Africans were members of an R.N.C. constabulary that have illegally wandered off the ‘British Protectorate’ of Lokoja and have brazenly approached the Bida army camped at Ogidi.
A skirmish ensued between the R.N.C. patrol team and the Bida army at Ogidi. The two White officers and many of the native African soldiers of the constabulary were wounded and arrested by the Bida army. They were held captive for a while but eventually released. Their weapons and the Union Jack were, however, confiscated.
George Taubman Goldie then used this incident to launch a successful propaganda warfare against the Bida Emirate. He painted Bida as a recklessly bloodthirsty emirate that vampirishly fed on slave-raiding through which it was depopulating, destroying and demoralising all of the Middle Niger area. He also accused the Emir of Bida as being the one who was instigating the Ilorin, Ibadan, New Bussa and other powers against the British in Nigeria. He reasoned, therefore, that Bida must be conquered and subdue through a war in order to safeguard the British Government’s interests in Nigeria.
The success of this propaganda eventually convinced the British Colonial Office to provide George Goldie with the army he needed to invade and conquer Bida, the seat of the Bida Emirate. The R.N.C. Governing Council had also earlier on, in April 1896, approved at a meeting that the Bida Emirate should be conquered by the R.N.C. through an all-out war.
Unaware that the British R.N.C.had secretly concluded plans to attack and conquer Bida, Etsu Abubakar dispatched a very large section of the Bida army across the River Niger to Udi to reinforce the Bida army already fighting the Ogidi Alliance in Kabba. Etsu Abubakar sent this very large cavalry of the Nupe army across the army to Ogidi and Udi in July 1896, that is, some three or four months after the British R.N.C. have secretly concluded plans to attack Bida. As it turns out, this was a fatal mistake on the part of Etsu Abubakar as Bida was then left virtually defenceless with the remaining small Bida army when the British R.N.C. forces arrived to attack Bida.
The Bida army under Makun Muhammadu camped at Udi and immediately became busy fighting the Kabba rebels of the Ogidi region. Unknown to the Bida army and Etsu Abubakar back at Bida the R.N.C. company leaders have realized the adavantage of seizing this opportunity to go to attack Bida at this critical time when the major section of the Bida army is on the other side of the River Niger fighting the Ogidi Alliance.
The R.N.C. company army left Lokoja on the 6th of January 1897 and headed for Bida for the great battle. It was a large army comprised of 30 European officers and 513 native African soldiers. Major A.J. Arnold was the Commander of the army but George Goldie automatically became the head of the army since he decided to accompany the company army to the attack on Bida.
On the way to Bida, and under the directives of George Goldie, the R.N.C. dispatched a detachment to go and dislodge the Bida forces encamped at Udi. While encamped at the village of Sura Geoge Goldie sent 403 R.N.C. troops to go and fight the Bida army at Udi. But the Bida army, under Muhammadu Makun, after learning of the advancing R.N.C. detachment of 403 troops, deserted their Ogidi camp before the arrival of the British forces.
The British forces were not happy that the Bida army fled the Udi camp of Ogidi. The British had hoped to engage and defeat the Bida army at Ogidi. The R.N.C. forces, led by George Goldie, then totally destroyed the Udi camp which had been deserted by the Bida army.
Next the R.N.C. marched back to Kabba where they were received with wild celebration and jubilation by the Kabba people. George Goldie then addressed the Obaro of Kabba and his Kabba subjects to the effect that the British have liberated the Kabba people from Bida rule.
In any case the R.N.C. forces went ahead to illegally declare the Kabba District independent of Bida rule. While the people of Kabba and northeastern Yorubaland in general celebrated the Bida authorities were deeply displeased for losing one of their most cherished and economically viable territories, namely, the Kabba District.
The jubilant and grateful Kabba people then rendered all helps and assistance they could to the R.N.C. forces which were then headed towards Bida for a full-fledged battle with the Bida army. The Kabba people, thanking the British for securing them independence from Bida, supplied food, porters, guides and even volunteer soldiers free-of-charge to the R.N.C. British forces headed for a battle with the Bida forces.
Meanwhile the British R.N.C., through William Wallace, have secretly gotten in touch with Etsu Idris Gana who was held captive at Bida by the Dendo dynasts. William Wallace asked Idrisu Gana to support the British R.N.C. against the Bida in return for which Wallace promised Idrisu Gana that after the defeat of Bida in the forthcoming war the British will free Idrisu Gana from the Dendo Dynasts and will reinstate Idrisu Gana as the Etsu Nupe of the entire Nupe Nation. Idrisu Gana eagerly pldeged his support for the British R.N.C. and secretly ordered all his supporters not to support or fight along with the Bida forces during the forthcoming Battle of Bida. That was how Bida lost a large population of soldiers and warriors who were supporters of Idrisu Gana from Gbara, Dokomba, Lemu and Bida.
The R.N.C. also employed a two-pronged strategy in its combat with the Bida Emirate. While George Taubman Goldie set out with the R.N.C. forces to attack Bida, William Wallace, the Agent General of the R.N.C., was busy rousing the Kabba people and the Riverine Kyadya people against the Bida Emirate.
Wallace remarkably succeeded in stirring the Kyadya people against the Bida Emirate. The Kyadya people have become very bitter against Bida ever since their defeat by the Bida forces during the Ganigan Revolt of the Kyadya peple against the Bida Emirate sovereignty back in 1882. Now it is the same British who assisted the Bida army in defeating the Kyadya people during the Ganigan Revolt that are now hypocritically supporting the Kyadya against the Bida army and Bida Emirate sovereignty.
William Wallace reached an agreement with Prince Yahaya Marike, the exiled leader of the Kyadyas who lived at Lokoja under the aegis of the British. Prince Marike is the most influential and a most respected Kyadya leader around. And with the promise of being installed as the Kuta of the Kyadya and the granting of full independence to the Kyadya people from the Bida Emirate, Prince Marike mobilised all the Kyadya people against the Bida Emirate on behalf of the British R.N.C. forces.
So was it that the Kyadya canoe men refused to transport the returning Bida forces across the River Niger. The Bida army had to take the long, circuitous and deadly route of Kusogi back to Bida. Along this route the Bida army lost many of its rank and files through death and desertion. Yet the Bida army couldn’t reach Bida to defend Bida before the arrival of the R.N.C. forces.
On the other hand, and on the order of Yahaya Marike, the Kyadya gave their full support and backing to the R.N.C. forces. None of the Bida troops, not even a single individual, was able to cross the River Niger back to Bida as the Kyadya canoemen, under the order of Prince Yahaya Marike, absolutely refused to transport the returning Bida army across the River Niger.
Apart from that William Wallace was also in command of a British flotilla of ten heavily armed British ships on the River Niger as the British R.N.C. army patrolled the River Niger from Jebba to Eggan in order to ensure that the main body of the Bida army under Makun Muhammadu is prevented from crossing the River Niger to prevent them from getting to Bida before the R.N.C. forces.
The Battle of Bida
On the 22nd of January the main body of the R.N.C. forces arrived at Egban, also known as Kpatagban, a Kyadya port-town on the banks of the River Niger. The Kyadya people of Egban eagerly welcomed the R.N.C. forces and offered them all assistance they required.
Yet it was these same Kyadya peoples of Egban who, on the order of Yahaya Marike, have refused to ferry the Bida forces across the River Niger thereby forcing the Bida forces to take the deadly route of Kusogi on their way back to Bida, that eagerly transported the R.N.C. forces across the River Niger at Egban.
The British stern-wheelers, named Empire and Liberty, headed by William Wallace, also came to meet the main body of the R.N.C. at Egban that very day the 22nd.
William Wallace related that his flotilla was continuously pestered by the bulk of the Bida army that was still stranded on the right banks of the River Niger and that was trying to cross the River Niger back to Bida. But the British patrol, together with the help of the Kyadya canoemen, had successfully prevented the Bida army from crossing the River back to Bida.
In any case, the R.N.C. forces at the Egban port-village received reinforcements from Lokoja. Two doctors also came along with the reinforcement from Lokoja. And there were also Captain Sangster, Lieutenant Parker, Second Lieutenant Day and Captain Anderson – who also all came along with the reinforcement from Lokoja.
The next day, that is on the 23rd, a small section of the R.N.C. forces crossed the River Niger and went and camp some two miles away. They camped beside a creek that was strategically used to obstruct any harassment from the Bida forces.
The next day, on the 24th, the bulk of the Royal Niger Company forces crossed the River Niger. When the bulk of the R.N.C. forces arrived the creek where the small detachment have earlier on encamped, the entire force was transported by boats across the creek.
It was on the other side of the creek, that is after crossing the creek, that the R.N.C. forces organised themselves into a combat-ready expedition. All in all the expedition had two mighty Whitworths guns, a number of pounders, including 12,9 and 7-pounders.
In terms of manpower the expedition consisted of 35 Europeans and 240 native Africans.
On the other hand, and by this time, Etsu Abubakar back in Bida have been fully informed of the advancing British R.N.C. company forces coming for a full war with Bida. Bida was also now fully aware of its costly mistake of sending a greater part of its army across the Niger to fighting the Ogidi Alliance in Kabbaland. Now that the major section of the Bida army under Makun Muhammadu was stranded on the other part of the River Niger as the Kyadya canoemen have refused to transport them across the Niger, Bida is left visrtually defenceless with the very small remnants of the Bida army.
Etsu Abubakar immediately sent for assistance and refinforcement from various Emirates of the Sokoto Caliphate including from Ilorin, Kontagora, Agaie, Lapai, Zaria and others. But it was only Agaie and Lapai that were able to send their armies immediately to the assistance of Bida.
Meanwhile, and on the 25th the R.N.C. company force began its determined march towards Bida. The forces have to drag the heavy guns and weaponry across a difficult swamp. It was a terrible and exhausting experience crossing that swamp with all that heavy weaponry being carried along by nothing but sheer human labour.
By the time the advance guard reached the little village of Lokitsa they had to fire at a group of scouting Bida warriors who then scampered away.
When the bulk of the forces reached Lokitsa it was decided to camp there for the day. The exercise of crossing the difficult swamp had exhausted everybody.
While camped at Lokitsa, a reconnoitre group went forward to inspect the way forward. The reconnoitre group heard Nupe warriors beating drums and shouting battle cries in surrounding villages in preparation for the battle with the R.N.C.. There was a little skirmish between the reconnoitre group of the R.N.C. and a group of Nupe warriors they ran into. There were no casualties on both sides but a member of the reconnoitre group was slightly injured.
This was the first direct combat between the R.N.C. forces and the Bida warriors and it then evidently became clear to the R.N.C. that the Bida army was ready for a serious battle with the R.N.C..
First Day of the Battle of Bida (26th January 1897)
On the 26th the R.N.C. group left first thing in the morning sometime around 6 a.m. in the morning. Major Cunningham led the advance guard.
Behind the advance guard was the Derbyshire Regiment made up of the Number 3 and Number 5 companies. Members of the Number 3 Company include Lieutenant Burdon, Lieutenant Tighe and L. North Lancashire Regiment. Members of the Number 5 Company included Captain Sangster, Lieutenant Pereira, Lieutenant Vandeleur who was in charge of the Maxim guns of the Number 3 and Number 5 companies, D.S.O., and the Scots Guards.
George Taubman Goldie and William Wallace also went along with this group that followed behind the advance guard.
Half a mile behind these two groups was the main body. The porters, carriers and the guns were in this main body.
Around 8 a.m. the R.N.C. forces came across groups of Bida cavalry hiding behind palm trees in the distance. The R.N.C. forces occasionally fired at them and they fled in confusion. This manner of confrontation continued for a while as the R.N.C. forces continued with their steady march towards the Nupe capital city of Bida.
Eventually the R.N.C. forces sighted the main body of the Bida army. Bida had mustered a large army of some 30,000 strong warriors. And this is despite the fact that the main body of the Bida army is stranded across the River Niger. The large Bida army was standing along a ridge of a ravine on the outskirt of the great city of Bida.
The Royal Niger forces stationed themselves some two miles from the ridge. From that position the Royal Niger Company forces started firing at the Bida army. The impact of the four Maxim guns drove the bulk of the Bida army away from where they have concentrated at the ridge between them and the Royal Niger Company forces.
By this time the place have been cleared for the in infantry of the R.N.C. the moved forward. Then it was decided that the main body of the R.N.C. should camp once more.
After camping, Major Arnold then reinforced the advanced guard with the Number 4 and Number 7 companies and also with two Maxim guns. Then the advanced guard began to move towards the enemy with two companies in the middle and another two spread out to the sides. It was actually a square formation with a Maxim gun at each of the four corners.
Leaving the main body behind at the camp this strategic square formation continued to move forward until they crossed the ravine and right unto the ridge that was previously occupied by the Bida army. And all this while that this square formation was moving forward there was continued firing of the heavy guns at the Bida army.
Yet Bida warriors kept coming up close to the position of the moving Royal Niger Company force. It, accordingly, turned out to be a difficult and dangerous battle. The problem was that while the advance guard and the two companies in the middle were able to move in relative safety the two companies spread out and guarding the sides came under heavy attack from the marauding Bida warriors who were employing guerrilla tactics to attack and fled.
It was in one such attacks that Lieutenant A.C. Thomson and a group of native R.N.C. soldiers came under serious attack. In the attack Lieutenant Thomson was killed and several of the natives with him wounded. The R.N.C. forces were, however, able to collect the body of Lieutenant Thomson and also the wounded natives.
The body of the dead Lieutenant Thomson and the wounded naive soldiers were all brought and placed at the centre of the moving square formation. Doctor Cargill was placed in charge of the dead and the wounded.
From the first ridge the R.N.C. formation moved on unto flat lands and on again until they eventually sighted the great city of Bida. The Bida army was now concentrated on a second ridge, this one of the Landzun stream which dissects a section of the great city of Bida.
The Bida army numbered some thirty thousand warriors each battalion and troop led by its own chief, titled royalty or war general. It was one of the largest such gathering one could ever see in this part of the Central Sudan – thirty thousand people gathered in one place at the same time!
There were drumming, battle cries, battle songs, and so on and on.
Coming face to face with such a gargantuan army of some 30,000 strong Bida army, the R.N.C. detachment decided to pause and stand still for a while. The R.N.C. detachment was actually taken aback by the sight of such a gargantuan Bida army. The detachment was hardly up to 300 people, the Europeans and the natives combined, and here there faced with a 30,000 strong Bida army.
In the end the detachment began to retreat, back towards the camp. The retreat of the R.N.C. detachment threw the Bida army into wild and jubilant excitement. The Bida army, numbering in the tens of thousands, then descended on the R.N.C. square formation of just some 300 men all in all.
Major A.J. Arnold therefore further consolidated his four companies into a more compact square with a Maxim gun still at each of the four corners. The loads and baggage of the porters and carriers were placed in the centre of the square. Major Arnold then led the attack on the Bida army. Despite this the Bida warriors attacked the R.N.C. formation viciously. There was noise everywhere and there were gun shots and the pounding of the Maxims can be heard every now and then and all around. It was a hell of a battle with both sides determined not to lose out.
The Company to which belong Captain Sangster, Major Cunningham and Lieutenant Festing was the company that really came under the main onslaught of the Bida army as it was the one on the frontline against the attack of the Bida warriors.
Also Lieutenant Pereira and his group of native soldiers almost got decimated by the Bida army when the natives delayed in dismounting the Maxim gun of their company. They narrowly escaped death in the hands of the triumphant Bida warriors though.
But there was heavy casualty on the part of the Bida army. The Maxim guns and the pounders caused a lot of havoc among the body of the Bida army and brought down a lot of the Bida warriors. Almost many of those Bida warriors who dare come close to the square formation got gunned down by the R.N.C. forces.
In all these the R.N.C. square formation made its way slowly but steadily back to the camp where the main body is still waiting. When the square became visible to the main body of the R.N.C. at the camp there was immediately covering fire for the square from the camp. This immediately led to a gradual dispersion of the innumerable Bida warriors who have besieged the square. Covering fire from the camp brought down many more of the Bida warriors and in the end the Bida army was forced to leave the square formation alone.
The members of the square formation were actually happy to see that the Bida army have, unwisely enough, left the main body of the R.N.C. at the camp untouched. If the Bida army had concentrated its attention on attacking the main body of the R.N.C. at the camp it most probably would have succeeded in winning the battle that day. But instead the Bida army wasted its time and energy on the small R.N.C. detachment, the square formation, that went towards Bida and retreated back.
But by this time the Bida army was attacking both the square detachment and the camp itself. The attack on the square formation was so vicious that one of the 7 pounders, that is the gigantic guns, was left behind as the R.N.C. forces carrying it came under life-threatening attack.
In any case the square formation joined the remaining R.N.C. forces at the camp. And instead of laying down to rest the entire camp became a beehive of activities as ammunitions were shared out and heavy guns positioned in preparation for further attacks from the Bida army.
In the meantime, Major Arnold sent two companies, Number 1 and Number 3 companies, to go and assist those with the 7 pounders back to the camp.
The main problem on the mind of the R.N.C. forces at that time was the arrival of the two 12 pounders which were still on the way. Without the 12 pounders it is quite possible that a remobilised Bida army of some 30,000 warriors might be able to eventually crush the entire R.N.C. forces at the camp.
And before long the Bida warriors resumed their attack, this time around on the entire camp itself. And this is despite the fact that the camp was well positioned and well-protected. Bida snipers severely wounded two native soldiers of the R.N.C. who had to be rushed to the centre of the camp formation while all other members of the R.N.C. forces at the camp opened fire on the attacking Bida forces.
Before long the camp was under serious attack from the Bida army that have regrouped and mobilised itself around the R.N.C. camp with the expressed intent to wipe out the camp. Though surrounding the camp from reasonable distances and hiding behind the trees and villages in the surroundings the Bida army seemed to be planning or bidding its time to attack at a most propitious time.
But this time around it all look like the R.N.C. forces cannot make it against this sea of some 30,000 Nupe warriors who also have the advantage of fighting a battle in their homeland.
The Bida army however waited too long, and wrongly so. For, sometime around 4 p.m., the 7 pounders arrived the R.N.C. camp. Immediately, and with great sigh of relief from all members of the R.N.C. camp, the 7 pounders were mounted and put to action.
The first shot from one of the 7 pounders landed in the midst of a battalion of Bida army who were thrown in all direction, including some horses and their riders being flung far into the air, by the explosion and impact of the 7 pounder. The effect of this new weapon was devastating on the Bida warriors. They were so frightened they all fled in all directions.
But then a second, a third, and many more poundings and explosions from the 7 pounders followed immediately one after the other. Before they know it the Bida army was in complete disarray as the casualty rate was geometrically unprecedented and totally unexpected by the Bida army.
A second phase of the battle between the R.N.C. and the Bida army this fateful day was son in full course. Wild battle cries, frenzied gun battles, the thumping sound of the heavy guns, and so on and on, were all over the place again.
The Bida army brought an old and obsolete canon from Bida. They fired the canon at the R.N.C. camp several times but the canon was as good as useless.
Meanwhile the shells from the 7 pounder guns of the R.N.C. forces continued to wreck havoc on the Nupe army. One of the explosions from the 7 pounded landed in the midst of the Agaie battalion that have come to assist the Bida army in its fight against the R.N.C.. That explosion not only decimated many of the Agaie warriors but instantly killed the war general of the Agaie people. This war general was General Buhari who was the Kpotun of Agaie.
The tragic death of Kpotun Buhari who was the head of the Agaie forces led to the immediate withdrawal of the Agaie forces from the battle. The Agaie forces were so destablilized by the unexpected death of their war general and the death of so many of their warriors that they simply packed their things and headed back to Agaie with immediate effect.
The instantaneous death of Kpotun Buhari of Agaie and the withdrawal of the Agaie contingent also demoralised the entire Bida army and before long, and with more explosions from the 7 pounders, the Bida army made a hasty retreat back to Bida thereby leaving the R.N.C. camp completely alone.
When the Bida army left the members of the R.N.C. at the camp settled down to a meal. They were all hungry; they have been fighting all day long. And the night was already fast approaching.
Then the 12 pounder giant guns arrived around 8 p.m. in the night. The entire camp celebrated the arrival of the giant guns. Immediately the gun was pointed in the direction of Bida and a sophisticated compass bearing was used to aim a shell at Bida setting it at some 5400 yards away. The giant gun was fired and, as the R.N.C. forces were to learn later, the gigantic shell landed right in the middle of Bida city killing many people, causing great havoc and confusion among the citizens of Bida, and generating a general and demoralising sense of defeat and a dreadful fear of the White man among the people of Bida.
Pandemonium broke out in Bida as many houses caught fire and major sections of the city became engulfed in fire resulting from the explosions of the 12 Pounder giant gun rocked the city that night.
Meanwhile, and that very night, the R.N.C. forces members buried their own deaths including the Transport Officer Johnson who was a Briton.
Then by 11 p.m. another shell from the giant 12 Pounder gun was fired at the city of Bida again. This, of course, threw Bida into total conundrum and absolute confusion. The psychological effect of defeat on the Bida forces was absolute.
That very night Etsu Bubakar and his courtiers fled Bida. Accoding to the late Emir of Lapai, Etsu Muhammadu Kobo of blessed memory, Etsu Abubakar secretly fled Bida in the midnight of that day the 26th of January, 1897, accompanied by two horsemen.
Second Day of the Battle of Bida (27th January 1897)
Traveling throughout the night Etsu Abubakar arrived Lapai in the morning of the 27th of January 1897. The then Emir of Lapai, Emir Abdulkadir, commiserated with Etsu Abubakar and asked the latter to spend a night at Lapai. But Etsu Abubakar told Emir Abdulkadir of Lapai that staying for another day at Lapai can endanger the life of both of them.
More soldiers from the Bida army arrived to join Etsu Abubakar at Lapai and later in the day Etsu Abubakar in the company of some forty Bida horsemen left Lapai. They were accompanied by the Emir Abdulkadir of Lapai for some distance outside Lapai. Then a guide provide by the Emir Abdulkadir of Lapai led Etsu Abubakar and his retinue of horsemen across the Gurara River to the Gbagyi village of Pai. From Pai Etsu Abubakar then continued his flight to Kontagora.
Meanwhile, and back in Bida, in the morning of that very day the 27th January 1897 the Bida army was back with a renewed vigour. The small number of the R.N.C. forces and the very large number of the Bida forces convinced the Bida army that they can somehow still destroy and wipe out the small R.N.C. forces.
Almost as soon as it was morning scouts and snipers from the Bida army have already taken positions in the villages close to the position of the R.N.C. forces who have now decamped and have already formed their usual square formation that was gradually inching towards the city of Bida.
After crossing a ridge on their way towards the walls of Bida the square formation of the R.N.C. forces came under attack from the Bida forces. Again, and just as they did the day before, the Bida army attack the R.N.C. forces with a large crowd of the Bida cavalry.
But the Bida forces couldn’t decimate the square formation as they had hope and instead only succeeded in occasionally harassing the R.N.C. square from the flanks and the rear of the square formation. The square formation was a perfect formation against the attack of the Bida army. Besides, the square formation was also covered with a large cloud of dust that protected the members of the R.N.C. from the Bida cavalry due to poor visibility on the part of the Bida forces. Accordingly, and despite the large cavalry, the Bida army was able to kill only a few members of the R.N.C. forces in the square formation.
On the other hand the R.N.C. forces were firing volleys of shells from the big guns at the Bida cavalry and inflicting heavy loses on the Bida army.
Some 2500 yards from the walls of Bida the R.N.C. square formation paused for a standstill. From this position the R.N.C. forces used one of the big guns to fire a shell at the walls of Bida. A powerful shell demolished a part of a wall and a village adjacent to the wall thereby setting off a great conflagration of fire to both the wall and the village. This frightened the Bida forces who began to retreat into the city of Bida through the Western gate as Liuetenant Robinson used the big gun under his control to fire more shells at both the retreating Bida forces and more parts of the Bida walls.
With confusion and retreat on the part of the Bida army Major Arnold directed the R.N.C. square formation once more as it began to move towards the walls of Bida until it was just some 500 yards away from the walls of Bida. Here the square halted again and this time around rounds upon rounds shells from the heavy guns were fired continuously into the city of Bida. The shells from the heavy Pounders and the Maxim big guns were deliberately directed at the Etsu Nupe Abubakar’s Palace.
The firing of shells from the big guns into Bida city continued till noon. Although the Bida army tried to fire back with some of their rifles, it was already clear to both sides that Bida had lost the battle as the many rounds of shelling from the big guns of the R.N.C. square formation have already destroyed a significant part of the Bida city and have set so many houses and parts of the city on fire. There was utter confusion and a general sense of dread and defeat inside the city.
Then a detachment from the R.N.C. square formation was sent to enter the city of Bida through a breach in a wall beside which a village adjacent to the wall was in great fire. This detachment consisting of Lieutenants Festing, Gillespie, and Margesson were, under the cover of more shelling from the Maxim big guns, able to enter the city of Bida without much difficulty. Then the R.N.C. forces began to fire incendiary rockets at various houses, quarters and neighbourhoods within the city of Bida. Soon the sky above the city of Bida was replete with a sea of incendiary rockets all coming from the R.N.C. square formation also. The thatched roofings of most of the houses in Bida caught fire and the entire city looked like it was engulfed in a great and unprecedented conflagration of fire.
With this total scenario of demolition and conflagration the Bida army simply retreated to the other, northern, side of the city from which they eventually fled the city as the R.N.C. forces eventually took over the entire city. Many of those who try to escape from the burning city of Bida through the south gates were shot at and killed by the main body of the R.N.C. company forces who were still positioned to the south of the city.
Remnants of the Bida forces eventually dispersed and fled in all directions as they finally conceded defeat. The R.N.C. company forces, on the other hand, simply pitched tents where their square formation had previously halted some 500 yards away from the walls of Bida. The officers and the soldiers settled down to assess the situation while reconnaissance detachments were sent out to fight any remants of the Bida army that may be found in the surrounding villages or the immediate vicinity.
Only seven R.N.C. soldiers have been killed. One British officer, Lieutenant Thomson, was also killed thereby bringing the total casualty of the R.N.C. company to eight. But, and on the other hand, several hundreds of warriors from the Bida army lost their lives in the battle.
After assessing all this carnage and colossal loss of lives four detachments of the R.N.C. company forces triumphantly entered Bida and occupied the city in the afternoon. Some of these troops later on marched out of the city and back to the camp some 500 yards from the city.
And, that was how the Battle of Bida came to an end.
The Days After the Battle of Bida
The next day, the 28th of January 1897, the R.N.C. company forces simply rested at their camp still outside the city. It was on the 29th of January 1897 that the main body of the R.N.C. eventually decamped and moved into the city of Bida.
Inside the city of Bida the invading forces of the British R.N.C. company occupied Etsu Abubakar’s Palace where Geoge Goldie, the head of the R.N.C. forces, made his quarters. Goerge Goldie also planted the British flag over the Emir’s Palace. Other officers and soldiers pitched their tents at the market place, the public square and some of the neighbouring houses to the palace.
The next day, on the 31st of January 1897, George Goldie left with two R.N.C. companies through the northern gate of Bida to a place just outside the gate where large number of merchants, caravans and long distance traders had gathered. These are people from all over Hausaland, from some other parts of the Central Sudan and from North Africa across the Sahara and even from as far as the Mediterranean. George Goldie addressed them, informing them that ‘Nupe Rule’ have ended and that it is now the new dispensation of the R.N.C. company that is the order of the day.
That same day a reconnaissance company of the R.N.C. captured Prince Isa from a nearby village. Prince Isa was the junior brother to Makun Muhammadu who was stranded with the main body of the Bida army at Kusogi on the other side of the River Niger. When Prince Isa was brought and lodged at Bida by the R.N.C. forces his mother, also mother to Makun Muhammadu and a very influential and powerful personage in those days, willingly surrendered herself, with a retinue of over two hundred people, to the R.N.C. at Bida.
The next day, the 1st of February 1897, the R.N.C. camp forces organized a racing competition at an ad hoc racecourse they made outside the gates of the city of Bida. This competition they organize in celebration of their victory over the Bida army.
On the 2nd, that is the following day, the R.N.C. forces began to evacuate Bida. Before and during the evacuation, however, the R.N.C. Company forces, under the directives of George Goldie, deliberately but callously dynamited and destroyed many key and eminent buildings including the Emir’s Palace in Bida. On the 3rd of February the entire R.N.C. company force finally left Bida and headed back to Lokoja.
But George Goldie was still at a loss as to who should be installed as the new Etsu Nupe after the flight of Etsu Abubakar. The Ndeji have refused to be installed as the new Etsu Nupe by George Goldie. And Makun Muhammadu have similarly refused to be made the new Etsu Nupe.
But, and in the end, the mother of Makun Muhammadu was able to prevail on her son to accept to being installed as the new Etsu Nupe. The old mother of Makun Muhammadu was held captive by George Goldie as a bargaining chip against Makun Muhammadu. With his mother’s entreaties, including a letter she wrote to him passionately begging him to agree to George Goldie’s demands Makun Muhammadu was left with no option than to acquiesce to George Goldie’s demands. And so was it that on the 5th February 1897 George Goldie, arriving in his launch boat, met Makun Muhammadu and the remnants of his scattered Bida army at their camp at the village of Kusogi on the other side of the River Niger.
The meeting between George Goldie and Makun Muhammadu was attended by a large number of people. The Kyadya, the Ganagana and other Nupe natives gathered, beating drums, singing and shouting battle cries, on one side of the River Niger behind George Goldie and his R.N.C. company soldiers while the Bida army, in large numbers, gathered behind their leader Makun Muhammadu and Mayaki Ndajiya on the other on another side of the River Niger.
Makun Muhammadu initially refused to come out from among his people and to enter George Goldie’s launchboat to which he was invited. In the end the launchboat was moved close to the bank and Makun Muhammadu, standing on the bank, then communicated with George Goldie. After much discussion between the two, Makun Muhammadu and George Goldie, a treaty was eventually drawn up in English and Arabic wherein the British officially and formally installed Makun Muhammadu as the new Emir of the Bida Emirate.
George Goldie was very happy that Makun Muhammadu had at last been cowered into being installed as the new Emir of the Bida Emirate. George Goldie, the R.N.C. Company’s board of directors, have decided long ago that Indirect Rule, as was obtained in India, was the best system of governance to be adopted by the British in the colonial ruling of the colonies.
After signing the treaty George Goldie then allowed the Kyadya canoemen to transport the stranded Bida army across the River Niger. And at the end of the meeting George Goldie went back to Lokoja where he immediately became very busy preparing for the R.N.C.’s attack on the Ilorin Emirate.
Unknown to George Goldie, however, Makun Muhammadu never really agreed with the R.N.C.’s decision of installing him as the new Emir. Instead Makun Muhammadu still saw Etsu Abubakar as the legitimate and de facto Etsu Nupe. Makun Muhamadu in fact refused to go to Bida to sit on the throne as the new Etsu Nupe. Instead he went directly to Lemu where Etsu Abubakar was by then after returning from Kontagora.
At Lemu, which is very close to Bida, Makun Muhammadu repudiated his installation as the new Emir of Bida and instead pledged his allegiance and loyalty to Etsu Abubakar as the legitimate Emir of Bida. In fact Makun Muhammadu asked Etsu Abubakar to follow him back to Bida so that Etsu abubakar can continue with his rulership as the Emir of the Bida Emirate. But Etsu Abubakar asked Makun Muhammadu to proceed to Bida first and that he, Etsu Abubakar, will remain for a while at Lemu to observe and assess the situation first before coming back to Bida.
So Makun Muhammadu went back to Bida from Lemu and the British R.N.C. authorities then got the wrong impression that Makun Muhammadu was the new Emir at Bida. But while Makun Muhammadu was at Bida as the de jure Emir of Bida, Etsu Abubakar was at Lemu as the de facto Emir of Bida. It was from Lemu that Etsu Abubakar ruled Bida in those days.
The White people at the R.N.C. had underestimated the strength of Nupe royal culture and they have also deluded themselves into believing that there is a rift or in-fighting among the three royal families of the Dendo dynasty at Bida. George Goldie had all along believed that he had succeeded in playing Makun Muhammadu against Etsu Abubakar when he coerced Makun Muhammadu into accepting to be installed as the new Emir of Bida. But he was completely wrong as Makun Muhammadu immediately repudiated the installation and instead left Kusogi for Lemu to pay his homage and allegiance to Etsu Abubakar as the bona fide Emir of the Bida Emirate.
After ruling Bida from Lemu for some six months, from February to August 1897, Etsu abubakar came back to Bida from Lemu as the legitimate Emir of Bida.
When Etsu Abubakar came back to Bida he was welcomed and his return celebrated by everybody. He immediately began to rebuild the buildings destroyed by the R.N.C. forces. As far as the people of Bida were concerned Etsu Abubakar remained the Emir of Bida.
But the return of Etsu Abubakar to Bida surprised and alarmed the British especially when Etsu Abubakar supported the Emir of Lapai in the latter’s battle with the British. In June 1898 the R.N.C. attacked Lapai and burnt down Lapai town even as the Emir of Lapai fled Lapai through Gurara to Pai. Actually a large army of Lapai forces complemented by Bida and other forces fought a fierce battle, the Battle of Lapai, with the R.N.C. force a place close to Gulu. The commanding officer of the R.N.C. at that Battle of Lapai was killed and buried at Gulu.
The R.N.C. authorities were mad at Etsu Abubakar for not only coming back to Bida but for also assisting Lapai with Bida army against the R.N.C. during the Battle of Lapai. The R.N.C., accordingly, decided to come to Bida to remove Etsu Abubakar from power for the second time.
By that time, in late 1899, the charter of the R.N.C. have been revocated by the British Government and the R.N.C. and other British forces in the Central Sudan have been absolved into the newly formed West African Frontier Force, W.A.F.F.
So was it that in 1901 the W.A.F.F., led this time around by Frederick Lugard, marched on Bida again. Etsu Abubakar fled Bida once more and the British once again prevailed on Makun Muhammadu to be installed, or re-installed, as the Emir of the Bida Emirate. In February 1901 the British reinstalled Makun Muhammadu as the Emir of the Bida Emirate again.