By Israel Bulus, Kaduna
A Professor of History at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Professor Enoch Ayodele has admonished Nigerians to stop chasing shadows and accept the fact that Kaduna, former capital of Northern Nigeria belongs to the Gbagyi Ethnic group of the middle belt.
Speaking at Kaduna History Conference tagged, “Historical Development of the Central Nigeria Area and Its Implications for Gbagyi People,” held at Gamji Gate Multi-Purpose Hall, Kaduna, Prof Ayodele, the pioneer researcher on Gbagyi history, said the Gbagyis who are owners of Kaduna have been seriously neglected and disempowered.
“Let it be clearly stated that the owners of Kaduna are the Gbagyis who are part of the Southern Kaduna region and by implication, the middle belt,” Ayodele said.
He said it was just fallacy for people like Yusuf Dan-Tsoho to described Kaduna as the City of the Hausas adding that superior historians that did researches on Hausaland never included the Gbagyi territories in their map.
“Unfortunately, the original grouping of provinces, on which the present Regions are based, appears to have been governed largely by historical accident and administrative expediency rather than by cultural or geographical unity. Today, not one of the regions can be regarded as a coherent geographic unit. Each shows a distinct cultural and economic duality. A core area with a marked degree of ethnic homogeneity and a high level of economic development, and a peripheral area, thinly inhabited by a variety of Minority peoples and often at a lower level of economic development. This duality is clearly illustrated in the Northern Region, where there is a growing appreciation of the delicate problems posed by the contrasts in ethnic composition, political development and economic resources between the so-called “Middle Belt Province” (Ilorin, Niger- Kabba, Benue, Plateau and Adamawa) and the “Sudan Provinces” (Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Zaria, Bauchi and Borno.”
Prof Ayodele, who made his presentation while using different geographical maps, said the categorization of the Northern Provinces failed to address the duality of Zaria Province but cited ecology as one of the major reasons that made the middle belt attractive for contesting migrants.
“For many years, the problem of the administration of Kaduna had occupied the mind of the British government of Nigeria. Kaduna is purely an artificial town. In 1913 the great plains which now embrace our capital were virtually empty. There were a few very scattered Gwari villages but until the railway went through them on its way to Kano from the coast, there was no common link between them. Here, the emir of Zaria had raided for slaves in the old days,” Prof Ayodele explained.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr Richard Umaru, a former Permanent Secretary in Kaduna State who is also the Dan- Masanin Gbagyi, said the meeting was not aimed at chastising anybody, minorities or majorities but to interrogate themselves and provide options for policy makers and others concerned in order to move the state forward for a peaceful society.
He said the Kaduna History Conference is, in actual fact, focusing on Nigeria’s central area and the Gbagyi nationalities in Kaduna, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory.
He said so many lies have been bandied against Gbagyis, for instance that “the Gbagyi people who said they want to remain in Kaduna city, especially those in Kakuri, are not part of Gbagyi chiefdom but the Zazzau Emirate.”
“One thing people cannot take away is Gbagyis are indigenous to Central Nigeria and not Saudi Arabia, nor Borno. Gbagyis have been physically present in the present middle belt. The Gbagyi have contributed so much in terms of unity and development, but have been returned with little,” Umaru said.
He said issues begging for answers commenced during the colonial era. Umaru said colonial centres paved way for the migrants, adding that the Sabon Garis, and the Tudun Wadas were never in existence before the colonialists came.
Umaru said until the people tagged “minorities” rise to the challenge, places like Kafanchan and other communities in no distance time will be claimed by migrants.
“We want other minorities that are not Gbagyi to ensure their rights are respected so that there will be justice and equity amongst us.
On his part, Abassador Ayuba Nbako, who came from Abuja said the only way the middle belt will rise is when they unite.
“Before Gbagyi will take their place, they must change their attitude. Gbagyis must live in unity.”
Nbako added that if the Gbagyi people decide on unity, they will take their place.
Prof Mailafiya Aruwa Filaba of Nasarawa State University, connected the history of the Gbagyis to that of the Nok Civilization.
He said Nok civilization had existed for more than 10 thousand years, adding that the Gbgyi language has been spoken for more than 8 thousand years.
Professor Filaba said the Gbagyis did not come from Mecca, and not from Zaria, but part and parcel of the descendants of the people that formed the ancient Nok civilization.
He said there have been attempts to limit the Gbagyi history to Islamic history, adding that they are not docile. He said they can give their Daughter to any tribe unlike others who will refuse doing so.
He urged the Gbagyi people that are of the middle belt people to diversify from farming and venture into tailoring, volcanizing welding and other things that help in human existence.
“It was a deliberate policy of the colonialist to suppress, discriminate the Gbagyi people. This we must rise against,” Filaba added.
Other speakers at the conference include: Prof Andrew Zamani, Emir of Birnin Gwari, represented by Yusuf Yahaya Abubakar, Sarkin Kudun Birnin Gwari, Mr Isaac Dayilo, Dadayiko of Nasarawa State, Prof Musa Galadima, among other distinguished guests.