Brief History of THE BASSA NGE PEOPLE
A comprehensive treatise on the Bassa Nge people has been provided in Yakubu (Yaakh) Habi’s groundbreaking book entitled, “The People Called Bassa Nge” (Reference: Habi, Y.H. (2006). The People Called Bassa Nge. Tamaza Publishing Company United: Wusasa Zaria: Nigeria.)). The book asserts that the people called the Bassa Nge are Nupe. They originally inhabited Gbara, the ancient capital of Nupe Kingdom and they later migrated from their motherland following a dynastic feud, about 1820. The Bassa Nge were the largest of the Nupe groups (about 15,000 people) that scattered all over Nigeria; the other Nupe groups are Ebe, Zitako (or Dibo), Kupa and Cekpa. The Nupe language belongs to the group of Sudanese languages of the Kwa group of West African Languages.
Nupe Kingdom reached its zenith during the reign of Etsu Mu’azu (1778 – 1795). Immediately following Etsu Mu’azu’s death, internal trouble broke out. The claim of Mu’azu’s son, Jimada, the legitimate heir to the throne, was disputed by his father’s brother’s son (cousin), Majiya II. This led to a division of Nupe Kingdom into a Western and Eastern half: Jimada reigned in the Eastern Nupe Kingdom and built his palaces at Gbara, the ancient capital of Nupe Kingdom; Majiya II reigned in the Western Nupe Kingdom built himself a capital in Raba along the coast of the River Niger. Later on, Majiya II solicited the assistance of the Fulani jihadists and gained the friendship of Mallam Dendo and the Fulani group in Nupe, and with them on his side, he became by far the more powerful and soon snatched the other half of Nupe Kingdom from Jimada, his rival.
Majiya II defeated Jimada in the war, killed him at Ragada, near Jengi, and thus made himself the undisputed King of Nupe, about 1820. Consequently, Idrisu, Jimada’s son, fled with the rest of his followers to Labozi and later across the River Niger, to Egga where he stayed an exile and fugitive, powerless against Majiya II’s army. Given the physical impact and the political consequences of the war, the followers of Jimada then decided to move out of the Nupe Kingdom. They started to move southwards and reached Bunuland where they dispersed in family units among the Bunu people. The dispersed followers of Etsu Jimada were, therefore, originally Nupe, who are today called Bassa Nge. That the Bassa Nge people are Nupe is evident in many facets of their identity. Linguistically, the Bassa Nge and Nupe people understand each other despite some variations. The Bassa Nge people are essentially bilingual as they understand and speak Nupe from childhood almost without being taught. The Holy Bible was translated into Nupe language and it is used by both the Nupe and the Bassa Nge people. In addition to speaking a common language, the Bassa Nge and Nupe people also have the same culture, including, but not limited to, their kingship system and traditional music.
The Bassa Nge people’s path of movement was through Koro, Yagba, Bunu and Lokoja. The initial social interaction between the migrants and the Bunu (in the former Kabba Division of Nigeria) was very cordial as evidenced from their inter-tribal marriages between the two communities. However, this cordial relationship was short-lived due to some inconsistencies on the part of the host community. This was when the migrants, who were predominantly farmers, were subjected to starvation as a result of denial of adequate accessibility to farmland, coupled with unjust socio-economic and political marginalization. The strained relationship between the indigenes and the migrants resulted into a natural urge for independence by the latter (Bassa Nge people). This then pushed the migrants to move until they finally settled at a virgin land at Eti Patti Lukongi (translated “On the Mountain of Doves”), the present-day city of Lokoja.
Historical records indicate that the further movement of the Bassa Nge people was brought about as a result of the persistent Massaba raids, popularly referred to as “Eku Anupe” (literally, “Nupe Wars”) of the early 1840s, which was occasioned by the inability of the fleeing migrants to pay tributes to Bida, the current capital of the ancient Nupe Kingdom. Massaba, Emir of Bida, marched down with an invading army and encamped on the site of the present-day city of Lokoja from where the Nupe migrants (Bassa Nge people) abandoned the territory for another settlement on the eastern bank of the River Niger, their present abode of Bassa Nge land.
The present abode of the now called Bassa Nge District was said to have been discovered by a famous hunter called Eshida. While the Nupe migrants (Bassa Nge people) were living at Mount Patti in present-day Lokoja, this hunter, Eshida, used to cross the River Niger to hunt for game in the forests on the river banks. Through this, he discovered the land and decided to settle there, by the rocks called Takun-Kporo (Eriwota Rock) – the weathered sculptured phenomenon that has left three rocks delicately balanced on top of each other a spot still marked by Eshida’s grave and decorated with his hunting trophies.
Having created a living home around the Eriwota Rock, Eshida then persuaded all the people (kpata zazi) to cross-over and join him in his new-found land, which he named Kpata, meaning “all the people” should come to the new town. The people indeed heeded Eshida’s call and agreed to cross over to settle in one city, Kpata. Eshida’s aim was to implore “all the people” (kpata zazi) to come and settle at a place he considered to be “a nice place” (baboge/baage or babossa).
By a historical coincidence, the Bassa Komu migrants and Nupe migrants (namely, Bassa Nge) had almost simultaneously migrated and settled in the same geographical area called Bassa Province. The Bassa Komu crossed at the confluence of the Rivers Niger and Benue in the 1840s, whereas the Bassa Nge crossed the River Niger in the 1850s. These emigrational movements brought the people now called Bassa Nge and Bassa Komu close together in the same geographical area; otherwise, the two groups of people have nothing in common in their origin, culture or history. While the Bassa Nge are a Nupe-speaking tribe from Gbara in Nupe Kingdom, the Bassa Komu are a Bassa tribe from Gumna in Zozo Kingdoms of Fulani Bororo. Linguistically, Bassa Komu belong to the Benue-Congo branch which Bassa Nge, being Nupe-speaking, belong to the Kwa branch of Nigeria-Congo languages.
Unfortunately, with the coincidence of these two distinct ethnic groups inhabiting the same geographical Bassa Province, the name, Bassa, invariably became erroneously applicable to both of them. This somehow accounts for the white colonial officials’ lumping together of otherwise separate communities with a common name, Bassa. The colonialists had indeed taken the community (Bassa Nge) to be the same with the Bassa Komu and they were so commonly referred to as Bassa – a case of mistaken identity! However, even with the imposition of a common identity with the generic term, Bassa, the colonialists were conscious of the differences between the two tribes; therefore, they designated each of them with a linguistic suffix, “Nge” and “Komu,” to denote “Bassa-Nge” and “Bassa-Komu,” respectively.
The Bassa Nge people now occupy the eastern side of the confluence of the Rivers Niger and Benue although some of them still live on the side of the River Niger at Lokoja, present-day headquarters of Kogi State, Nigeria. The population of the Bassa Nge according to the 2006 census was about 140,000. Bassa-Nge kingdom in located in Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi State in Nigeria, and has three (3) districts, namely, Gboloko, Kpata and Eforo, The Bassa Nge kingdom has its headquarters in Gboloko; it covers some 100 square kilometers, which is bound to the north by the River Benue and Mozum district; to the east by Bassa Komu, Dekina and Biraidu districts; and to the west by the River Niger. The kingdom inhabits the low lands of the River Niger and its entire length faces Lokoja with a most important port at Shintaku, where people cross the River Niger by ferry and outboard boats to and from Lokoja.
History was made on May 28, 2016, when the BNC donated Over-the-Counter (OTC) medicines to the clinic in Gboloko, headquarters of the Bassa Nge Kingdom at a special event that was well publicized in advance. Over 200 Bassa Nges attended and directly benefited from this event. This event was made possible through the generous donations of members of BNC, who believed strongly that they should give back to the land of their birth. Prior to this momentous event, the BNC members of the Medicines Donation Task Force (Mr. Ezekiel Tsado, Mr. Gambo Afubu and Mrs. Roseline Ekuta) had obtained the permission and blessings of the Etsu Bassa Nge, His Royal Highness, Alh. (Brig. General) Abu Ali Mopah III (Rtd.) "Bagadozhi". Other eminent leaders who were contacted prior to this event included the Imam of Gboloko and the Pastor-in-Charge of the Anglican Communion in Gboloko, both of whom helped to disseminate relevant information regarding the donation to their members. Mrs. Victoria Ajoka, Head Nurse at the clinic in Gboloko, received the donated medicines on behalf of all the patients who needed them. On the date of this event, each patient received a physical examination prior to any medicine being dispensed. This donation would be the first of many more charitable activities to follow. Some pictures from this event are provided here.
On May 26-28, 2017, BNC held the 2017 Annual Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, to discuss the Community’s progress to date and strategic vision for the future. About 54 members and guests attended this convention.
The group of Nupe migrants came to be know and called Bassa Nge only when they crossed to the eastern bank of the River Niger. The name Bassa Nge was acquired from the white colonial officials who referred to all the tribes living within the then Bassa Province as Bassa people. In the advent of the white colonial rule, the entire area covering the present-day Bassa Komu, Bassa Nge and Mozum districts and far into the northern bank of River Niger, was called Bassa Province. The Bassa Komu were descended from the Fulani Bororo, South of Zaria, known as Kwongoma. Their headquarters were at Gumna, from where the migration of the Bassa Komu started. Some went north to the Zamfara towns of Bungudu, Gedda and Kotorkoshi where they became merged with the native population, whereas others sojourned at Bugu in Nasarawa Province, then at Tawari near Lokoja as a result of the continued Fulani raids. They were later driven westwards and settled along the banks of the Gurara and in the plain to the southwest of Abuja, present-day Capital of Nigeria.