History of Nupe - by Ndagi Abdullahi - Loadedgists
Mon. Jan 18th, 2021


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History of Nupe – by Ndagi Abdullahi

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(A Synoptic Prehistory and History of KinNupe from the Beginning to 2019)
By Dr. Ndagi Abdullahi (0803 477 0801)

The Nupe people have been around here in KinNupe since time immemorial. And Central KinNupe has always been this general area straddling the River Niger on both banks from the Bend of the Niger to the Niger-Benue Confluence.

The history of the Nupe Nation did not start with Tsoede or Tsudi at the beginning of the 13th century. The Nupe Nation came into existence millennia before the time of Tsudi.

The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, writing some 60 years BC, wrote that Osiris the founder of almost all the civilizations of the world came from the same place that is known today as Central Nigeria, KinNupe.

Osiris, otherwise known as Dionysus, was the founder of the ancient Egyptian, Arabian, Indian, Chinese and other world civilizations at the very beginning of prehistory itself. And this Osiris or Dionysus came from here KinNupe.

Plato, the well-known Classical Greek philosopher, writing some 300 years before Diodorus Siculus, also wrote of his uncle Solon, one of the Seven Wise Men of Ancient Greece, visiting the philosopher-priests of the kingdom of Sais which was located in the same general area that we call KinNupe today.

And a hundred years or so before Plato we also saw Hanno the Carthaginian navigator sailing from Carthage in North Africa right across the Guinea Coast to the Niger Delta on his way to locate the Hesperides in paradisiacal KinNupe.

Even the Arabians and the ancient Egyptians were aware of a powerful Nupe Nation in prehistoric times.
El Bakri, the Andalusian Arabian historian of the 11th century, wrote of an Egyptian Pharaoh who visited KinNupe in 1700 BC, that is close to four thousand years ago, in search of the legendary Black Stone.

And, interestingly enough, the Egyptian hieroglyphic records narrated that Egyptian Pharaohs used to engage the service of philosopher-priests known as the ‘dancing pygmies’ from this same area known as KinNupe today.

We see, therefore, that the ancients were well aware of the existence of a powerful Nupe Nation right from the beginning of mankind.

So, the history of KinNupe or the Nupe Nation did not start with Tsudi or Tsoede in the 13th century.

Tsudi was simply the last of the several Nupe Founders the first of whose era goes back to those barely perceivable days of Osiris the Nupe Founder of world civilization.

Professor Leo Frobenius wrote that long before Tsudi there was a greater Nupe Founder called Etsu Nupeta. This Emperor Etsu Nupeta ruled over an almighty or superpower Nupe Empire at the beginning of the 7th century.

So great was Etsu Nupeta that, according to Professor Leo Frobenius, he became the founder of almost all the ancient kingdoms, states and peoples of ancient Nigeria. Together with his War General popularly known as Kisra but known to Nupe historians as Etsu Yisa or Etsu Tsara, Emperor Etsu Nupeta became the founder of the Hausa Bakwai, the Yoruba race, and many other ancient Nigerian states and peoples.

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This Nupe Emperor known as Etsu Yisa to Nupe historians is the same that is known to the Hausa city-chroniclers as Bayajida and that was wrongly identified by the Hausa-Fulani historians as Queen Amina of Zaria.

After the demise of both Etsu Nupeta and Etsu Yisa the Nupe Empire became divided between the Gwagba or Bagi dynasts descendants of Etsu Nupeta and the Yisazhi or Nyizagi dynasts descendants of Etsu Yisa or Kisra.

The Nyizagi dynasts ruled over the Kitsa or Zagi Kingdom to the North while the Bagi dynasts ruled over the Gbara Kingdom to the South.

The Kitsa or Zagi Nupe kingdom was also variously known as Zagizagi, Zakzak, Zazzau or, as we call it today, Zaria – it was a Nupe kingdom through and through and Queen Amina of Zaria was a Nupe woman.

While the Gbara Nupe kingdom was also variously known as Borno, Borgu, Gobir or, as we call it today, Bini.

Various Nupe Founders came who tried to unite Nyizagi and Bagi back into a United Kingdom and the results were various Nupe united kingdoms the most popular of which was the AtaGara Nupe United Kingdom.

The Kano Chronicle wrote that AtaGara was a Nupe kingdom located not far away from the same place where Bida is located today here in Central KinNupe.

AtaGara was an almighty Nupe Kingdom and was also variously known as Apa, Wapan, Kagara, Katagara (Kontagora), Old Gbara, Old Mokwa, and so on and on.

AtaGara was better known to Nupe historians as Tako, KinTako or Old Gbara and it was located in the Borgu-Yauri-Zugurma axis in those days when the Borgu, Yauri and Kontagora people were all Igbara Nupe people through and through.

AtaGara the superpower Nupe kingdom dominated Nupe history for well over a century before it began to decline.

In its days of decline one of the Nupe kings of the Nupe kingdom of AtaGara became the father of Tsoede or Tsudi.

The rise of Tsudi to supreme power over KinNupe led to the final fall of AtaGara and the emergence of the famous Nupe kingdom of Kororofa or Kwararafa which is actually known to Nupe historians as Nupekoro or Nupeko.

The Nupe traditions are categorical in narrating that Tsoede or Tsudi was the founder of Nupeko or Kororofa.

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And just like his great grandfather Etsu Nupeta did with the Nupe Empire in the 7th century, Tsudi used his Nupeko or Kororofa Nupe Empire to found and establish several of the ancient Nigerian peoples we now found in the Nigerian Middle Belt including the Igala, the Idoma, the Ebira, the Itsekiri, the Ijaw and many others.

Tsudi’s regional capital to the South was at Old Ife or Original Ile Ife which was a Nupe capital city located around the same area where Budan used to be located close to Muye in Kakanda land here in KinNupe. As a matter of fact the Southern Nupe people of the Kakanda, the Kupa, the Dibo-Ganagana, Cekpa, and others were all part and parcel of Tsudi’s Kororofa Nupe Empire.

After Tsudi the Nupe Empire remained united for a long time with rulership alternating between the Gwagba descendants of Etsu Nupeta and the Yisa descendants of Etsu Yisa or Kisra. This unity, however, came to a sudden end in 1796 upon the death of Etsu Mamman.

Trouble actually began back in 1785 when Etsu Jimada of the Yisa or Kisra dynasty refused to name Majiya, of the Nupeta dynasty, as his Shaba or heir apparent. Etsu Jimada instead named his own son Idirisa as his Shaba thereby bringing the age-old alternating rulership between the two dynasties to an abrupt end. Majiya rebelled and declared himself the new Etsu Nupe.

The result was the civil war in 1796 that shattered the Nupe Empire into two rival Nupe kingdoms; a Western Nupe Kingdom ruled by the descendants of Etsu Nupeta headed by Etsu Zubairu Majiya at Zugurma and an Eastern Nupe Kingdom ruled by the descendants of Etsu Yisa or Etsu Kisra headed by Etsu Jimada at Gbara and Zhima.

This Nupe Civil War was exacerbated by the contemporaneous emergence of the Nupe saint called Shehu Abdurrahman Gbaji who seized on the opportunity of the fighting between the two Nupe dynasties to establish his own Nupe Caliphate at Mokwa – the first Islamic Caliphate in the history of pre-Colonial Nigeria.

Shehu Abdurrahman Gbaji’s Jihad activities ushered in the Nupe Islamic Revolution that resulted in the rise of Mallam Dendo or Manko as the head of the Nupe-Fulani Jihadists who eventually seized the initiative of the Islamic Jihad from Shehu Abdurrahman Gbaji.

Manko, together with his sons and other Fulani Mallams including Man Musa Kodogi of Bida, Mallam Babba of Agaie, Mallam Ibrahim and his brother Manzuma of Lafiagi, Mallam Alimi of Ilorin, immediately grew into the most formidable religio-political force in KinNupe.

In the end, and after the Battle of Ilorin or the Mugba Mugba War in 1825, Mallam Dendo became the supreme power in KinNupe and immediately established his Raba Emirate at Raba as the new capital city of KinNupe.

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Mallam Babba also went and establish his own Agaie Emirate, Mallam Ibrahim and his brother Manzuma went and establish the Lafiagi Emirate and the Mallam Alimi went ahead to establish the Ilorin Emirate.
After the death of Mallam Dendo in 1832 his son Usman Zaki became the first of Emir of Nupe at Raba. But his junior brother Masaba rebelled against Usman Zaki. In 1842 Masaba, allied with Etsu Tsado, razed Raba to ashes with Usman Zaki fleeing into exile.

Masaba became the Etsu Nupe with his capital city at Lade but his own War General Umaru Bahaushe rebelled against him and overthrew him from power five years later in 1847. Umaru Bahaushe declared himself the new Etsu Nupe.

For nine solid years Umaru Bahaushe ruled KinNupe but in 1857 Mallam Dendo’s children all came back from exile and concertedly fought Umaru Bahaushe in a series of battles mostly around the old Nupe Bini town of Bida that end with the drowning of Umaru Bahaushe at the Gbako River outside Bida.

After the death of Umaru Bahaushe the children of Mallam Dendo remained at Bida which they transformed into the new capital of Nupe. Usman Zaki ruled for a second term as Etsu Nupe from 1857 to 1859 when he died.

Etsu Masaba ruled again for his own second term from 1859 to 1873. Etsu Masaba was succeeded by Etsu Umaru Majigi who ruled from 1873 to 1884. He was succeeded by Etsu Maliki who ruled from 1884 to 1895.

Etsu Abubakar became Etsu Nupe in 1895. It was during his reign in 1897 that the cantankerous British imperialists callously invaded and conquered Bida.

The British deposed Etsu Abubakar and installed Etsu Muhammadu Makun as the new Etsu Nupe.

Etsu Muhammadu Makun ruled from 1897 to 1916. He was succeeded by Etsu Musa Bello who ruled from 1916 to 1926. He was succeeded by Etsu Saidu Muhammadu who ruled from 1926 to 1935. He was succeeded by Etsu Muhammadu Ndayako popularly known as Etsu Bakudu.

Etsu Bakudu ruled from 1935 to 1962. He was succeeded by Etsu Usman Sarki who ruled from 1962 to 1969 when he was deposed. He was succeeded by Etsu Musa Bello who ruled from 1969 to 1975.

Etsu Umaru Sanda succeeded Etsu Musa Bello in 1975 as the new Etsu Nupe. Etsu Umaru Sanda ruled from 1975 to 2003 when he died.

On the 12th of September 2003 Etsu Yahaya Abubakar became the new Etsu Nupe. Among many other progressive reforms and developments initiated by Etsu Yahaya Abubakar is the Nupe Day we are celebrating today.

1 thought on “History of Nupe – by Ndagi Abdullahi

  1. Hmmh? Sir, apropos of what you said regarding Kupa, Kakanda and Dibo, according to MC Meek, the Kupas were known as ‘Ekupachizhi’ and they migrated from a place called ‘Kupong’ in Bida between the 1700-1800s, and they were Katsinawa because they came from there.
    Sir, do you agree with this historian? Can you say something about this Nupe dialect, Kupa?

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