Jeff Bezos Has Nothing On Mansa Musa – The Richest Man Who Ever Lived


Jeff Bezos is currently the richest man in the world.

You can see Forbes’ ‘richest people in the world’ rankings here, to fill out the rest of the top spots.

When you check out the net worth of the wealthiest folks, it’s hard to imagine anyone having that much money.

Now picture someone being that rich – no, richer – in the 14th century.

The richest man of all time is Mansa Musa, according to the BBC. He was a West African ruler who was so rich that his generous handouts single-handedly destroyed a country’s entire economy:

Contemporary accounts of Musa’s wealth are so breathless that it’s almost impossible to get a sense of just how wealthy and powerful he truly was,” Rudolph Butch Ware, associate professor of history at the University of California, told the BBC.

Mansa Musa was “richer than anyone could describe”, Jacob Davidson wrote about the African king for in 2015.

He was born in 1280 into a family who ran an empire. His brother, Mansa Abu-Bakr, ruled the empire until 1312 before deciding to go on an expedition to discover new lands.

According to 14th Century Syrian historian Shibab al-Umari, Abu-Bakr was obsessed with the Atlantic Ocean and what lay beyond it. He reportedly embarked on an expedition with a fleet of 2,000 ships and thousands of men, women and slaves. They sailed off, never to return.

Mansa Musa inherited the empire when his brother didn’t return. During his reign, the kingdom of Mali, which stretched all the way to modern-day Niger, taking in parts of what are now Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Ivory Coast, grew significantly.

He annexed 24 cities, including Timbuktu.

During the reign of Mansa Musa, the empire of Mali accounted for almost half of the Old World’s gold, according to the British Museum.

And all of it belonged to the king.

As the ruler, Mansa Musa had almost unlimited access to the most highly valued source of wealth in the medieval world,” Kathleen Bickford Berzock, who specializes in African art at the Block Museum of Art at the Northwestern University, told the BBC.

“Major trading centres that traded in gold and other goods were also in his territory, and he garnered wealth from this trade,” she added.

Mansa Musa’s reign put Mali on the map – literally. The image above shows a Catalan map from 1375 showing Mansa Muli sitting atop Mali with a gold coin in his hand. He also advanced education in his country.

Mansa Musa returned from Mecca with several Islamic scholars, including direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad and an Andalusian poet and architect by the name of Abu Es Haq es Saheli, who is widely credited with designing the famous Djinguereber mosque.

The king reportedly paid the poet 200 kg (440lb) in gold, which in today’s money would be $8.2m (£6.3m).

In addition to encouraging the arts and architecture, he also funded literature and built schools, libraries and mosques. Timbuktu soon became a centre of education and people travelled from around the world to study at what would become the Sankore University.

The reason we don’t hear about him more often is because history is written by the victors.

After Mansa Musa died in 1337, aged 57, the empire was inherited by his sons who could not hold the empire together. The smaller states broke off and the empire crumbled.

Colonialism was the final blow that destroyed the empire. Had colonists arrived during Mansa Musa’s reign, things might have worked out differently.

One thing’s for sure – Bezos has nothing on this guy.


At just 21, Iddris Sandu is the tech genius behind Uber, Instagram and Snapchat

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When Iddris Sandu was in high school, he developed a mobile software that would later gain the attention of former U.S. president Barack Obama and land him at the White House, where he received the honorary presidential scholar award.

He was only 16 years old. Now 21, the Los Angeles-based young man is the unconventional tech guru who has accomplished many incredible feats, including being responsible for algorithms that have made Uber, Instagram and Snapchat what they are today.

The software engineer considers himself a “cultural architect” and said he aims to “level the playing field” between Silicon Valley and young communities of colour.

Iddris Sandu. Pic credit: The New York Times

Born and raised in Harbor City, California with parents from Ghana, Sandu would never forget a harrowing experience he had when he was eight – his father had wanted to take him on a trip to Ghana.

“But on the fourth day of the trip, he abandoned me in this village, took my passport and came back to the States,” Sandu told Oxford University’s Music and Style Magzine, adding that he was abandoned for almost nine months before getting into contact with an NGO which helped him travel back home.

He got back to the U.S. when the first-ever iPhone was unveiled, and this started his journey into the tech world.

“I just got super inspired. I thought – this device is going to change the world. The reason why the iPhone was so important was because it was the first time when regular consumers could develop for other regular consumers. Before, you really had to work at a tech company for multiple years to be able to offer any sort of input or to create an app. But Apple made it so mainstream. I knew it was the future,” he said.

Just 10 years old then, Sandu started learning programming on his own for the next two years at a public library and this was where he got spotted by a designer from Google, who offered him an internship opportunity at the company’s headquarters.

At age 13, he got his first experience with programming and worked on many projects such as the initial Google blogger, Google Plus, among others.

Yet, Sandu was determined to affect change, hence, at the age of 15, he designed an app for his high school that gave students turn by turn directions to navigate their classrooms.

A young Iddris Sandu — TEC Leimert

Being the only school in California that had an app made by a student, Sandu received wide acclaim that would later afford him a meeting with former President Obama.

During that same period, Sandu wrote an algorithm that he would go on to sell to Instagram and by the age of 18, he was already consulting for Snapchat before landing at Uber, where he created a software (Autonomous Collision Detection Interface) for its self-driving cars.

With the passion to bridge the gap between the informed and uninformed, and to inculcate into young people like him the need for invention and creativity, he left major tech companies to bring that change.

“Information is one of the highest forms of class. And that is what keeps people divided. You should be able to think on a higher level, instead of being strictly consumers. And people of colour in particular are more likely to be consumers than creators. It’s really hard to get out of poverty or to change the structure of economic power if you’re always going to be a consumer rather than creating. Shifting that narrative is what I’ve been trying to do. And thus far, it’s worked, it’s successful.”

From encouraging the study of STEM subjects in schools and at higher levels, Sandu, in 2017, met rapper Nipsey Hussle at local Starbucks, and in three weeks, they had transformed an abandoned storefront in Los Angeles into the Marathon Clothing Store.

The smart store offers exclusive music and other content to customers who have downloaded an app, said The New York Times.

The store leveraged Iddris’ tech and design background and Nipsey’s cultural influences, sparking the interests of many journalists as well as hip hop and cultural icons like Russell Westbrook, Vegas Jones of Roc Nation, among others.

In an interview with the CNBC, Sandu said the store has helped him bridge the gap between culture and technology, and would love others to do same.

“We are living in the digital revolution,” he said. Although “we are all constantly exposing ourselves to content in real-time.”

“We need to address the largest issues affecting communities and build infrastructure on that,” Sandu said.

The tech wizard has since partnered with Kanye West and Jaden Smith on some future businesses, clothing lines and disaster relief projects that are set to launch in 2019, according to CNBC.

Iddris Sandu —

Having created his own music, putting together the sonics and instrumentals in just 3 days to form a full album, the creative technologist is working on a book about recent initiators, including Kanye West; Robi Reed, a casting director; and Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue.

With the drive to use all his networks to empower young people in America to make a positive impact in their communities, the unconventional tech genius is already on his way to become a leader for the next generation of influencers and entrepreneurs.

The Igala Kingdom, Their culture, beliefs, marriage, and history

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Situated in the eastern part of the river Niger and Benue confluence, and also extending across the Niger in Lokoja, Kogi state of Nigeria, lies the homeland of the Igala people.

The ruling figure of the Igala ethnic group is known as the ‘Attah.’ The word Attah simply means ‘Father’ and the full title of the ruler is ‘Attah Igala’, meaning, the Father of Igalas (the Igala word for King is Onu).

Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko and Attah Ameh Oboni are two of the most revered Attahs of the Igala kingdom. Legend has it that Attah Ayegba Oma Idoko offered his most beloved daughter, Princess Inikpi by burying her alive to ensure that the Igalas win a war of liberation from the Jukuns’ dominance.

Princess Inikpi statute presently stands with grace at Idah (Igala nation headquarter). She is ever pointed as a heroine.

And, Attah Ameh Oboni is known to be very brave and resolute. His stiff resistance against the British and his struggles to uphold some ancient traditions of the Igalas stands him out. He died by committing suicide in other to forestall the plan of the British who wanted him deposed and exiled.

abaji agba

abaji agba

Also, in Igala tradition, infants from some parts of the kingdom like Ankpa receive three deep horizontal cuts on each side of the face; slightly above the corners of their mouths, as a way of identifying each other. This practice which was prevalent during inter-tribal wars in the 17th and 18th century has now become less common.

What is the belief system of the Igala people?

The Igala people believes in the supremacy of Ojo Ogbekwugbekwu (God Almighty). They also worship the deities of their ancestors with diligence. River gods and goddesses are celebrated among others during special festivals.

In addition, the Igala people also believes in the existence of Ilei (this world) and Oj’ona (the afterworld). The Oj’ona is the world of the ancestors and it is also believed that the Oj’ona is a continuation of ilei.

Igala marriage

The marriage procedures commence after the agreement between the husband and wife to be. Then after, both families run a background check on the family of their in-law to be. This is done because they believe any trait found in his/her family will most likely be part of him/her.

And after a satisfied check, the family of the man selects some well-respected members of the family to go and ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. The lady’s family will be informed about their coming through their daughter.



Following this is the introduction, which is done in three phases namely; the introduction for her paternal family, that of her maternal family and the lady’s introduction. The introduction of the paternal and maternal family is the same, the only difference is just the name.

On the day of the marriage, the two families and their loved ones assemble to witness the matrimonial bonding. In accordance with the marriage rites, a mat is laid and a new wrapper spread on the mat. The bride will then come in the group of her friends.

They will come dancing to the music been played and greet the families. They will go back and she would change cloth and repeat the same greeting and go back again. She would come back again but this time only with two of her best friends and stand on the mat.

They would be asked to sit and her friends will say her waist aches her and so, they can’t sit. The groom’s family will then keep spraying money on them until they feel like sitting.

The groom, on the other hand dresses in the same cloth that the bride is putting on, comes with two of his friends. They will at first refuse sitting waiting for the bride family to spray them with money but of course, that won’t be happening; rather, it is his own families and friends that will do the spraying. They will sit down on their own mat with a wrapper also spread on it.

Thereafter, the groom’s family spokesperson will come with kola nut, bride price, and drinks and present them to the mediators of the bride family asking them to give them their daughter for their son. The bride family would now ask their daughter if they should accept it and she will affirm to it.

They will now accept it telling their daughters they don’t eat kola nut twice and counsels the groom’s family that the feeding, clothing, and health of their daughter will be their responsibility henceforth. They would also warn them not to turn their daughter into a punching bag. They would now formally give their daughter out for marriage. With this, the celebration will now commence in full.

What is the traditional wear of Igala people?

One interesting thing about the Igala traditional wears is that, instead of focusing on the nature or style of the attire, colours are used as a traditional symbol.

According to the elders of Igala tribe, black and yellow colours means a lot to the history of Igala Kingdom. Black colour shows the richness of Igala land. It’s connected with minerals, crude oil, and fertility of the land. Black colour symbolizes prosperity and wealth for Igala people. Yellow colour symbolizes hospitality of the tribe. It also represents gold as a symbol of prosperity and richness.

igala attire

igala attire

Brief history of the Igala people

It is essential to state here that Igala and Igbo have important historical, ancestral and cultural relationships. Eri who is said to have migrated from southern Egypt through the Igala area, settled, and established a community in the middle of Anambra river valley (at Eri-aka) in Aguleri where he married two wives. The first wife, Nneamakụ, bore him five children.

The first was Agulu, the founder of Aguleri (The ancestral head of Eri Kingdom clans) (the Ezeora dynasty that has produced 34 kings till date in Enugwu Aguleri), the second was Menri, the founder of Umunri / Kingdom of Nri, followed by Onugu, the founder of Igbariam and Ogbodulu, the founder of Amanuke.

The fifth one was a daughter called Iguedo, who is said to have borne the founders of Nteje, and Awkuzu, Ogbunike, Umuleri, Nando, and Ogboli in Onitsha. As one of the children of Eri, Menri migrated from Aguleri, which was and still is, the ancestral temple of the entire Umu-Eri (Umu-Eri and Umu-Nri). His second wife Oboli begot Ọnọja, the only son who founded the Igala Kingdom in Kogi State. according to

The Isi agụ, the “Agụ-Odum” misnomer and the Igbo Animal Totem.

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Akwa isi agụ (the Isiagu Attire) is the clothing fabric patterned with motifs of the face of a fierce-looking Lion. Some designs show a less fierce-looking face sandwiched by cow horn.

Since 50 to 60 years ago, Igbos have managed to portray this fabric design as their cultural emblem. In fact, more like a totem. Igbo chiefs and “nze and “ọzọ” title holders use it to make their ceremonial gears.

The Igbo people feel a certain sense of pride when they dress in the Isiagụ attire. Even non-Igbos regard Isiagụ as being to Igbos what the tartan is to Scots or the Yarmulke is to Jews. Such is the impression, that when they are identifying with or participating at an Igbo traditional practice like taking Igbo chieftaincy titles, they dress in the isiagụ gear. Recent examples include President Buhari, Fayose, Jacob Zuma

Isi agụ

The Isi agụ Clothe

But then, it is an imported foreign popular culture. Neither the lion nor the Lion icon has any significance in Igbo cultural foundations. Indeed, using the descriptor ‘isiagụ’ to refer to the Lion’s head motiffed fabric is wrong use of the word “agụ”.

The Misnomer

Agụ is not lion in Igbo. Agụ is leopard. Folks have written about this before, and I’ve discussed in other forums on the subject. It is pitiful that it remains a source of confusion to many adult Igbos.

There is just little understanding of Igbo origins and names of the Feline (cat-like) animals. You hear all manner of names that contradict bio-geography, like, “agụ is lion, and ọdụm is tiger”. Or, “agụ is lion, and leopard is edi abalị.

The Leopard

The Clarification.

Just as Jaguars and Cougars are found only in the Americas, Tigers inhabit only the Eurasia. They do not belong in the fauna of sub-Saharan Africa. Ancient Igbos did not see nor here about the Tiger, hence did not have a name for it

The Cougar

The Jaguar                                                     Edi or Edi abalị is the African Civet. One of the 38 viverridae species, it is slightly smaller to the Leopard. A carnivore, no doubt, but it is timid, less agile and far less specialised in opportunistic hunting. It has a cat-like appearance, but its muzzle is more pointed than that of a typical feline. 

The African Civet

Leopard has distinctive camouflage spots that help it to use forest canopies for cover, enhancing its abilities for surprise hunting, but the African Civet typically has black and white spots.

A nocturnal creature that sleeps for about 20 hours a day, the ancient Igbos knew the Edi abalị very well. Which is why Igbos still use “edi” as metaphor to refer to a person who sleeps a lot.

The Leopard is bold, agile, versatile, and highly admired in Igbo cultural foundations. But the “Edi” is loathed and associated with negativity, because it smells and relies more on con and decoy to lure its preys. That’s also why in Igbo language “edi aghụghọ” is a metaphor that references a deceptive person.

Knowledge of the Igbo language structure reveals that Agụ is not Lion. Many Igbo words were created from metaphorical use of existing words. To form names for creatures or objects, Igbos often devised a two-word metaphor comparing what is sought to be named to an another named object or creature. For example, ụlọ is home and school is “ụlọ-akwụkwọ” (home for books), while hospital is “ụlọ ọgwụ” (home for medication).

Leopard – Agụ– preys on mammals and has spots on its furs. That is why the Wall Gecko, that preys on insects and has spots, is called agụ ụlọ (ie home leopard). And the crocodile, that preys on aquatic creatures and has patches that resemble the leopard’s spots, is called Agụ Iyi (Leopard of the waters).

Similarly, the Palm Genet, a small mammal that resembles the squirrel but unlike the squirrel has spots on its furs, is called “agụ nkwụ” (the Palm tree Leopard). In contrast, the Lion has no spots on its furs. The lion’s fur is generally plane brown.

The Leopard as the Igbo animal Totem

Being about 3 times the size of a Leopard, the Lion is stronger and sometimes even preys on the leopard. The Igbo say “ọdụm na-egbu agụ”. Despite this, the lion has no special recognition in Igbo cultural systems. Ancient Igbos likely did not even have any or much contact with lion as a species.

For whereas Leopards inhabit the rainforests (although they are very adaptable and thrive in other vegetations), Lions inhabit mainly the savannahs or grasslands. Savannah vegetation do not exist (and likely never existed) in Igboland. Igboid areas sit generally on lowland rainforest.

A Lion can occasionally stray into a rainforest or can take refuge there if persecuted in its natural habitat. It must have been in such circumstances that Igbos came to know about the lion. Yet that was not enough to diminish their fascination for the Leopard, a beast with which they had contended for thousands of years.

It should be noted that whilst Leopards operate solitarily, Lions are the most social of the Cat species. Lions operate in close-knit social groups called “pride”. Ethologists (scholars of animal behaviours) have observed that this sociality makes the Lion a better communicator than other big Cats. But it means Lions roar frequently and easily broadcast their presence and emotions. Conversely, a Leopard’s solitary lifestyle makes it less detectable, and more perceptive and reactive to intrusion.

For this reason, its senses of vision and hearing are sharper than those of a lion. Ancient Igbos witnessed this first-hand. They saw how a leopard, hiding stealthily amongst forest canopies, would detect the slightest animal or human movement, and chase and pounced savagely.

In forest environment, a Lion has little chance to fight down the more agile Leopard. A lion’s size and weight render it less agile to climb high. But a leopard can climb to the top an iroko tree in less than 10 seconds. Leopard is probably the only big mammal that can descend a tree head first. It uses its long tail to maintain perfect aerodynamic balance.

With an average speed of about 80 km per hour, lion is faster than leopard. But it can only run for very short bursts and needs to be close to its prey before starting an attack. But the Leopard can run for far longer stretches, at average top speed of about 58 km per hour. A Leopard can make a single leap of over 6m (20 ft) horizontally and can jump up to 3 m (9.8 ft) vertically. And it is a powerful swimmer. Although its vision is sharpest in the dark, it can equally be eagle-eyed in the day.

Incredibly versatile, Leopards hunts on land, on trees and in water. On the trees, it can out-manoeuvre specialised climbers and jumpers, including monkeys and baboons. Leopards have been observed leaping and snatching a monkey with a bite mid-air and regaining grip of tree branches. That is, it successfully launches mid-air strike from a treetop and lands back on the tree. It goes into rivers and streams where it overpowers creatures like alligators, and hauls them off the water, all the way up a tree.

A silent predator, when discretion will give it advantage, it can be elusive. It has pad of tissues in the flat of its claws that act as silencers when it walks. It can literally hide in plain sight.

When it tucks itself in between the fork of tree branches, it just blends with the tree trunk. It can create optical illusion to deceive its prey, including humans. A Leopard will coil its head and tail into its body and crouch flat on the ground appearing like dry wood lying about. Very patient. If its target are animals in a troop, it can hold its cool and then attack the last of the troop from behind.

When persecuted by humans a Leopard is more likely to fight back than the Lion. And it does not target one out of a group. It will attack one person after another. Reason the Igbo say “ofu agụ na-achụ mba” (a single leopard can sack a town).

For thousands of years, the Maasai people of Kenya have practiced the art of emerging from hiding to scare lions away from their kill and take it home for meet. But a Leopard will drag its kill in its mouth and climb a tree. It climbs a tree carrying in its mouth a carcass far heavier than its own size – animals like Buffalo, Giraffe, Hedgehog, etc. In the ancient times, it would attack domestic goat or sheep and drag it in its mouth deep into the forest and up on a tree.

The Lion lack these amazing abilities. In terms of general efficiency and productivity as jungle hunters, the leopard beats the lion, by many miles!

Indeed, scientists have determined that, pound for pound (ie adjusted for differences in size and weight) the leopard is the strongest of all the big cat species.

It was for these reasons that the ancient Igbo revered the Leopard as their totemic animal of strength, agility, boldness, and courage. And that is also why Igbo language is littered with similes, metaphors, adages and proverbs that use agụ to illustrate positive energy and abilities. Like “omekagụ”, “agụ nwa”, etcetera. And it is why many Igbo families and communities proudly took their names and sobriquets after agụ. Like “Umuagụ, Amagụ Dimagụ, Eziagụ, Duruagụ etc.

Today, as urban dwellers we can look down on the leopard. But to the Igbos of those jungle days, a snarling leopard on the loose was literally nature’s force unleashed. Every hamlet had a chant or cry that was used to alarm the community when a leopard was sighted. In my own area the chant was “ ọwụ agụ o!”. ( it is a leopard o!).

Social codes dictated that a person who heard the cry also repeated it, till the entire community was alerted. And until the Leopard was killed or confirmed to have returned to the deep forests, usual daily activities were suspended.

Children and women would not go the streams to fetch water. No one went to the farms nor led their sheep out to graze. Able bodied men were then organised, in groups, to track down the leopard. And think of it. Those men did not have guns. They went with spears, bows and sticks.

Combating the Leopard in these situations was an act of extraordinary bravery and patriotism – risking one’s life for the safety of the community. That explains why the person who eventually killed the leopard instantly became a hero and given the honorific “Ogbu Agụ”.

And eating a leopard meat was a once-in-a-generation-experience. Till today Igbos use the metaphor “ọ bụ anụ agụ?” (is it a leopard meat?) to question the value of a highly priced or scarce commodity.

Of course, the Leopard skin was dried and kept by the Leopard killer. He and his descendant would display it with pride for hundreds of years afterwards. Legend has it that reputable native doctors harvested the Leopard’s bile and used it to prepare the most potent charms or medicines, that warriors drank to boost their bravery and ferocity during inter-tribal wars.

Very perplexing was this elusive and powerful animal to ancient Igbos, that they even considered it a mysterious creature. A reason many Igbo dialects added the suffix “mystery” or “invisible” (“owo”, “owu”, “owuru” or “awolo”) to its name. Many parts of igbo land call it agụowuru – i.e, Leopard of mystery, mysterious Leopard, or Leopard that suddenly appears and disappears. Igbo metaphysics believed that some men acquired powers to transform to leopard.

To assume the nature and characteristics of a leopard, even for a short period, was considered an attainment of a transcendental and superior state of being.

Indeed, ancient Igbo cosmology explained the entire universe as being some mystical Leopard persona.

The weather system and visible changes in the skies were said to be a leopard, the sky leopard.

The thick clouds that formed in the sky before rainfall were its shimmering eyes just waking from sleep. The movement of tick clouds was the movement of the leopard in its marauding character.

The sparks of lightening that came before a thunder were the leopard’s flashing eyes. The thunder was its voice snarling in anger and ready to pounce. The heavy rains were its urine gushing with a force typical of its strength.

And bright day was the sky leopard fully awake, with eyes wide open.

The Lion symbol is not originally Igbo

This portrayal of the lion as symbolic cultural icon of the Igbos is only recent. It is driven by the influence of modern media and foreign popular culture. We watch a lot of animal documentaries these days and read a lot of books that continue to inform us the lion is the king of the beasts. True! But they don’t tell us about the king of our forests.

Today in global popular culture (eg children cartoons, films, etc) we are taught to be like the Lion. Because throughout histories and in many parts of the world the Lion image has been used in stories, artworks, coats of arms, logos and advertisements to depict strength, ferocity, power, confidence and success. The bible and other major religious texts also contain the lion symbolism. And so, the Igbos yielded – completely!

Yet Igbo folklore is filled with stories that reference “agụ” as the king of animals. First generation Igbo intellectuals had no misunderstanding that agụ was leopard. And they were acutely aware of its significance in the Igbo culture and worldview.

These men did not talk about the Lion.

In Onuora Nzekwu’s classic novel Eze Goes to School (published 1963), the ravaging beast which held the people of Ohia hostage, which Eze’s father killed but later died from the wound it inflicted on him, was a leopard, not a lion. Anezi Okoro’s 1966 novel ‘The Village School’ featured an intriguing student. Ismael was popular amongst his mates because his father was a reputed hunter who killed a leopard and took the title “The Leopard Killer”.

In 1950 Cyprian Ekwensi published a novel entitled ‘The Leopard’s Claw’. Chinua Achebe later published a short story with the title “How the Leopard Got Its Claws”. He narrated an Igbo folktale featuring leopard as the king of the animals. Achebe’s other book ‘Anthills of The Savanah’ narrates the incident when the leopard, the king of the forest, was to kill the tortoise and how the tortoise scattered sand and grass. And in of ‘Arrow of God’ he masterfully devised an English translation of a popular Igbo proverb ‘Agụ aghaghị ịmu ihe yiri agụ” as “what the leopard sires cannot be different from the leopard”.

Chukwumeka Ike’s novel “The Bottled Leopard” explores Igbo metaphysics in the context of interpersonal strife during primal times. It tells the story of how men acquired metaphysical powers and transformed to leopards to terrify their neighbours or attack their animals.

Wago the protagonist of ‘The Great Ponds’ (the second novel of Elechi Amadi’s trilogy) was revered in the community because he killed a leopard. He was even hailed by the honorific “The Leopard Killer”. What surprised the members of the community was that the brave Leopard Killer later committed suicide, something they deemed an act of cowardice.

Gabriel Okara, an Ijaw man, was educated at Government Collage Umuahia and worked in Enugu for many years. He wrote the famous poem ‘The Drum and the Piano’. Romanticising primal African life, he used the imagery of a “leopard snarling about to leap and the hunters crouch with spears poised”.

If you’ve read the works of late great poet Christopher Okigbo, you will see repeated references to the leopard. In a manuscript drafting the poem ‘Land of Our Birth’ which he intended to be Biafra’s anthem, Okigbo wrote of Eastern Region’s (mostly Igbos) resolve to found its own republic: “This leopard is now unchained”.

Defunct Biafran Armed Forces published and circulated a periodic newsletter/bulletin to engage the masses. It was not for nothing that the brand name of that bulletin/newsletter was “The Leopard”. Indeed, the coat of arms of that republic, which was the same used by Eastern Region, proudly featured a charging leopard.

The Leopard skin (“akpụkpọ agụ”) was the totemic body-covering material in Igbo cultural foundations. In this modern era, if any fabric should be an emblem of Igbo culture, it is leopard skin fabrics. This lion symbol expresses nothing unique about the Igbo.

Totemic symbols embody and express the spirit, history, character and worldview of a people: what they have been through on their road to civilisation. How they see themselves in the world. The standards and qualities they aspire to, collectively and as individuals.

It is not difficult to see parallels between the leopard’s characteristics and core Igbo character: There is the leopard’s individualism – that Igbo man’s tendency to take his own destiny in his hands. The leopard is vigilant and opportunistic. The Igbo are wired to identify and take advantage of changing dynamics.

Think of the spirit of enterprise and consider the Leopard’s ability to perform feats that are out of proportion to its size. What about the leopard’s versatility? The Igbo excel in any enterprise they truly apply their energy to. And then adaptability.

The Igbo have not only survived different challenging conditions and thrived in different regions and environments. They have tuned adversities to opportunities and made huge successes out of nothing.

No imperial influence has forced the Scots to abandon the tartan. Nor has centuries of persecution swayed Jews to discard the yarmulke. The leopard was also the animal totem of the Zulu. That proud people of South Africa remain proud of it. Why then did the Igbo falter?

Biu: Borno town where Boko Haram saw hell By HENRY AKUBUIRO


From whichever angle you are coming to town, something magical will rivet your attention 10 kilometres away from Biu: a series of impregnable hills rising hundreds of feet above sea level. Biu is a fortress town that sits majestically south of Borno on a plateau replete with precipitous escarpments.

Traditionally pronounced as Viu, Biu is the first city of the Babur/Bura ethnic group and the second most significant urban centre and largest local council in the embattled Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. It is also a provincial hub of commerce and cultural renaissance, and has played a premier role since 1918 when the British colonialists created Biu Division. Currently, it serves as the headquarters of Biu Emirate, comprising of three other local governments: Bayo, Hawul, and Kwaya-Kusar.
The emirate, whose roots can be traced to 1535, is presently made up more than 50 communities across four local governments, with an estimated population of a million people. Majority of its inhabitants are farmers, and among its agricultural produce are guinea corn, maize, millet, rice and groundnut.

Historically, Biu people are peace loving, which explained why the previous capitals of Biu, in the ancient times were relocated, especially because of war and plague. Each time their existence was threatened, the locals would look for a new location on top of a hill. At last, the Biu forefathers chose its present location situated on a plateau, 193 kilometres from the state capital Maiduguri.
According to Bukar Usman, a retired permanent secretary in the Presidency and an indigene of Biu, Whenever it became necessary to relocate the capital to a new site, hunters were usually sent out to scout for the new site. The hunters considered certain factors before recommending a site; those factors include safety, suitability for agricultural production, and ease of access to water.
The safety yardstick was often met by building the new capital on a hill. In the case of Biu town, a plateau was chosen, which was why it was referred to as Viu (something high up). Biu town and the emirate are still where the hunters had chosen on a largely volcanic plateau, dotted with many flat-topped hills.
Just as in the olden days when warring neigbours found it difficult to penetrate Biu, the town has remained impregnable till date, having defied attempts by the Boko Haram insurgents to seize it not too long ago.

One of the major reasons that accounts for this is the towns topography. Biu is a 766-metre elevation above sea level. Its altitude is heightened by the fact that no other city around it is so loftily positioned. This vantage visibility has enhances its security such that, whichever route an intruder is coming from, the security agents will be viewing him from the hilltop and repel attacks in devastating fashion.
On approaching the T-junction leading to Biu Town along Gombe Road, when this reporter, a first-timer to Biu, visited the historic town, an unusual long queue of vehicles waiting to be cleared to enter the town at a record slow pace was seen. After waiting for what seemed like eternity, it was finally the turn of the taxi conveying us to be given a sign to come forward.

Instead of gun welding soldiers at the checkpoint, a group of stern looking youths in mufti waved down the vehicle, peeping through the glasses to see the occupants within. I was to learn they were the Civilian Joint Task Force, a group of volunteers from the town and others on the payroll of the government to complement the efforts of the army protecting the ancient town.
For they could easily recognise indigenes of Biu Town, as well as any strange face coming to town better than the soldiers, they were always the first security men to be encountered. Working in concert with the military, they will alert the soldiers ahead of a possible menace and join in intercepting it. Their vehicles are also permanently stationed at the T-junction where the monitor every movement coming to or going out of town.

Lest you forget, Biu is accessible by road through Gombe (Gombe State), Damaturu (Yobe State), Maiduguri (the state capital), Numan and Yola (Adamawa State). But, because of the poor state of the roads, travellers are likely to spend at least two and half hours on the shortest route. But this is compensated with an arresting landscape on arrival.
Until this year, town after town in Borno fell to Boko Haram in its determined drive to establish an Islamic caliphate. Buoyed by its string of successes, it decided to attack Biu on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. But it was one mistake too many as it ended in an unprecedented massacre for the insurgents.

Umar Midala, a schoolteacher and an indigene of Biu, was still enjoying his early morning sleep on that unfaithful day when he was roused from slumber by his sister as gunshots rent the balmy air, shattering the serenity of the somnolent town.
Recalling the anxious moment, he told Sunday Sun: When I woke up, I heard a cacophony of gunshots and rockets. It was scary. I quickly left our zinced house and ran for shelter at my grandmothers mud house, which would, naturally, offer better protection from bullets. There was confusion everywhere as people ran helter-skelter.
Unknown to Midala, the booms of rockets and gunshots were not few metres away as he had feared. The attack was happening on the outskirts of the city. But the echoes were deafening, sowing terror into the hearts of not just the fainthearted but most of Bius inhabitants who were used to quietude.
To show how daring the insurgents were and as a way of sending Biu residents panicking, Boko Haram decided to attack a military base near an army barrack via a detour from Garkida-Yimirshika-Biu Road. Deploying rockets and operating heavy weapons mounted on vans, the daredevils, numbering over a hundred, took the military base unawares about 6 oclock in the morning, attacking with ferocity. The soldiers fired back.
But the soldiers were not the only ones incensed by Boko Harams surprise attack. In the twinkling of an eye, the locals had mobilised. Numbering over one thousand and armed with any dangerous weapon they could lay their hands on, Biu youths rushed to intercept the intruders.

Early on November 1, 2014, about 42 Boko Haram fighters were killed by the Civilian JTF from Biu who saw about 50 Boko Haram fighters hidden under a truck conveying sheeps and goats. Reports had it a combined team of military officers and members of the Civilian JTF pursued the insurgents to Gur area, around Mandafuma village, where they engaged them in a fierce battle, which lasted for about two hours, overpowering them. The victorious Civilian JTF, it was gathered, displayed the heads of their victims as the returned to Biu amid fanfare to show the people the insurgents were human after all, and nobody should fear them.
Umar Mustapha, a youth from Biu told Sunday Sun why the youths are united in countering Boko Haram: Biu is an educated society. In fact, it was the first place in Borno State that the British established a missionary school, which accounts for why we were the first set of people in the state to attend western education.

Because of the high number of educated elite in Biu, it is difficult for our people to embrace Boko Haram, for we can easily draw the line between what is right and wrong. Members of Boko Haram are often illiterates. We cherish civilised values, and our people were not prepared to surrender these values to what Boko Haram represents.
For three hours in January last year, the gun battle continued unabated, as the Biu plateau quaked. When the guns went silent, about 78 bodies of Boko Haram insurgents lay dead. Two anti-aircraft guns were captured from the terrorists during the operation. The soldiers and the locals were euphoric with victory.
Recounting the swansong on the Biu plateau, Midala told Sunday Sun: The corpses of Boko Haram fighters littered everywhere. The only survivors were some of those who drove the vehicles.
Initially, when Boko Haram uprising started, it began as an opposition to government for abdicating its responsibilities, and you could find a number of Biu indigenes among the fold, who thought they were fighting a righteous cause, he told Sunday Sun.
But on realising that Boko Haram was all about mindless killings and a group without a clear-cut ideology, most of Biu people who joined the insurgency quickly withdrew. The remaining ones, who still identified with Boko Haram, instantly became victims of jungle justice to serve as deterrence to others. Today, you wont find anybody from Biu who is a member of Boko Haram, said Mustapha.
The bitter lesson meted out to Boko Haram in Biu did not go down well with the insurgents, leading to a bizarre aftermath. In the wake of the disastrous rout, Boko Haram decided to hunt down anybody from Biu who they came across, irrespective of whether you were a Muslim or not. Before the military cleared the remnants of the insurgents from Bius environs, each time they blocked the assess roads to Biu, on learning that you were from the town, they would kill you. For Biu and Boko Haram, there is no love lost.
Since its failed attack on Biu last year, Boko Haram has come to dread the town like a leprous patient. The near decimation of its fighters who embarked on that unfaithful mission has sent shill down their spines, and it was an experience it wouldnt like to relive in a hurry.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of Boko Harams failed intrusion to Biu is still being felt. Scared for their lives, majority of Igbos and Yorubas, predominantly the traders in Biu town, who sell motor parts and other goods, have fled Biu. The gaps left are yet to be filled.
Mustapha explained why: Biu people are predominantly farmers. All we know is go to school, come back, and go to farm. The businesses were run by Igbo and Yoruba traders. Though Biu is peaceful, the traders who left have refused to come back. Now, our people are learning how to sell those things they used to sell. But it has never been easy.
For the two days this reporter stayed in Biu, peace and tranquility were evident such that a visitor would begin to wonder he was in another state outside the embattled Borno State. The relative peace in Biu was also enhanced by the fact that everybody is security conscious. Every corner of the town you go to, you will see members of the eagle-eyed Civilian JTF nosing for possible threats.
The inhabitants are not left out. Even without doing it consciously, they assess a visitor from a distance. Unlike other parts of Borno with mixed ethnic groups, the harmony in Biu has been enhanced by the close-knit bond existing among family members.

Alhaji Mohammed Usman, 85, told Sunday Sun why peace has continued to reing in Biu and why it is difficult for Boko Haram to extent its tentacles to the town: It is a single ethnic group, Babur/Bura, and almost everybody in Biu is related. It is like one family, so you dont expect your family members to partake in killing one another.
In the olden days, said the grandpa, when enemies rode on horses to attack Biu, the hunters would run back to alert the emir. Without wasting time, the people would run to the surrounding hills leading to the town and begin hurling stones at them and, most times, they would hurriedly withdraw.
Princess Hajia Aminat is the first daughter of late Mohammed Aliyu, the 24th emir of Biu. She held the view of blood being ticker Usman than water: Biu doesnt have a culture of violence. Everybody knows each other, and most people here are blood relations. Peace will continue to exist in Biu.
Aside the natural bulwark provided by Bius hilly location, the homogeneity of the people and love for peace and education, there is another factor accounting to the non conquest of Biu by the insurgents: spiritual.
According to Midala, who is also a historian, the founding fathers of Biu made a spiritual proclamation that, on no account should Biu be conquered by enemies. His view is in tandem with that of Bukar Usman in his definitive book, A History of Biu, where Biu is presented as an oasis in the midst of Sahara.
Sadly, social and cultural activities have almost grinded to a halt in Biu. To forestall the insurgents from infiltrating Biu in the guise of being participants in cultural activities or detonating bombs in gatherings, the annual durbar have been kept on hold, just like in many places in the state. However, there are indications that, with the restoration of normalcy in many parts of the state, cultural enthusiasts in Biu will soon have their faces creased with smiles.
Just last Saturday, the Biu-Damaturu Road, which had been shut for three years because of the sordid activities of Boko Haram, was reopened, having been cleared of the insurgents. Accompanied by soldiers and the civilian JTF, the first set of commuter buses rode into town, to the cheers of residents, thus opening all the access roads to Biu to commuters.
In life, everybody pays a price. No doubt, peace in Biu has come with a price self-sacrifice and resilience. For Boko Haram, the 78 corpses on the Biu plateau last January were a price to pay for misadventure.



Down in a cradle, it all began, in a place where we identify as home. None on this earth comes from nowhere, even the George in the jungle. We were all born to a family from a group of people that has a way of living. As the South African novelist Peter Abraham puts it, “you can’t walk alone. Many have given the illusion but none have really walked alone. Man is not made that way. Each man is bedded in his people, their history; their culture and their values”.

However, this indigenous culture especially amongst the young generation is fast getting eroded by the western way of life. Our moral-filled traditions are now phasing out. In the nooks and crannies of our mother continent Africa, many countries have made several efforts to preserve how their ancestors lived through inculcating in their future heirs, their cultural heritage.

For this reason majorly did the Marama cultural day celebration evolve as revealed by Moses Hamman one of the pioneers.

The Marama cultural celebration day usually holds every 1st January. It is a bura/babur cultural day initiated by Marama town. The origin can be traced to the year 2011 when the members of the Marama Development Association Executives came up with the idea. It was supported and was sponsored by prominent members of the community who include Justice Ibrahim Auta retired, Hon. Harami Balami, Hon. Inuwa Bwala, and Professor Dili Dogo amongst others.

Being a cultural day, Marama day hosts variety of activities. There is a display of beautiful bura cultural artifacts like local grinding machines, water pots, bows and arrows, bura soups, bura foods, and other local crafts that are locally made. There is also a display of the ancient bansuwe and Waksha-Waksha dances. The event also features activities like presentation of awards, to people who have made positive contributions to the community, selling of books, CDs of previous year celebration, donations, speeches and many other activities.

Past events have been graced by the presence of many prominent leaders outside Borno State. Some of which include, the Gbong Gwom Jos Jacob Buba Gyang, present Governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha, Governor of Gombe state Hassan Dankwambo and many others.

However, due to insecurity, the celebration did not hold in the years 2016 and 2017. With relative peace coming back to the area, the event has resumed and the 2018 edition has experienced tremendous success.

This year’s edition has brought hope of continuity to the people of Marama community. The event was graced by personalities mostly within the state. Some of them are the Governor of Borno State His Excellency Governor Kashim Ibrahim represented by Senator Ali Ndume, the deputy Governor Borno State Usman Durkwa, represented by Daniel Malang the former Chairman Hawul Local Government, Senator Ali Ndume, Senator representing southern Borno, the Grand Patron, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Auta retired, and his wife, Hon. Harami Balami, the Wakilin Shehu Chief B. M. Auta, Borno state APC Chairman, among others.

The day was coloured by beautiful cultural displays, heart-warming speeches and kind donations.

In line with its purpose of commencement, the Marama day since its inception has helped in increasing the interest and knowledge of the younger generation in the Bura culture. This would go a long way in ensuring that they do not forget their root.

It has also generated revenue which has been used for community development. Added to this are the donations of boreholes, hospital, ambulances, change of Marama day secondary school into boarding school, cash donations and many more.

Moreover, the day has impact on the economy of Marama town as the influx of people to the town has increased patronage of locally produced goods like traditional materials, food, provisions and other goods and services.

The celebration has been aspired by many to grow and if continued with a focus on the original purpose would grow from height to height attracting tourist within and outside the country.

Photo Gallery







Apart from the fact that ‘BringBackOurGirls’ campaign has made the name ‘Chibok’ known to almost every being in Nigeria and other countries, there are a lot of interesting facts about the name Chibok that many need to know. Below are some selected geographical information about Chibok.


Chibok is a local government area under the Borno Emirate Council in northern Borno State, north eastern part of Nigeria. Geographycally Located within the Sambisa Forest Game Reserve in southern Borno State, Chibok covers a total land area of approximately 1,350km2 (about 1/43 the size of the state), making it the 22nd largest local government area out of 27 in the state.

Photo 1. Position of Chibok on the map of Borno State


Photo 2. General satellite view of Chibok main town


Photo 3. Chibok town


The one and only tribe of the Chibok people is known as Kibaku, found only in the local government area, and Christianity as their major religion practice. They originated from different ethnic groups (Kanuri, Babur-Bura, Kilba, Marghi, and Gwoza ethnics) within Borno and Adamawa States. With its local affairs (cultural and traditional matters) overseen by the emir or shehu of Borno Emirate Council (currently Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi), political matters within the local government are controlled by the local government chairman (currently Mr Yaga Yarakawa).


Photo 4. A typical Kibaku woman in full cultural dress


Photo 5. Kibaku people at an event


Photo 6. Dress code in display



As of 2006 census, the total population of Chibok was 66,333, and 93,200 in 2016, making it the 3rd smallest in the state, with Kala Balge and Kwaya Kusar local government areas being the 2nd smallest and smallest respectively.


Schools in Chibok include private and government primary and secondary schools, other infrastructures include hospitals, and road network linking the main town with Damboa, and Askira local government areas.


Photo 7. Satellite image of Government Girls Secondary School Chibok


Major agricultural practices in Chibok include domestic rearing of animals (cows, sheep, goats, pigs and ducks), and crop farming (maize, guinea corn, millet, groundnut, red and white beans, and cassava). Major occupations of inhabitants include trading of farm products and services, while teaching, building of mud houses and structures, as well as transporting goods and traders remain minor activities.


Photo 8. Groundnut farming in Chibok


Photo 9. Harvested groundnut


Being part of the Sudan Savannah region of Nigeria, temperature is high during the late dry season of the year (42oC – 43oC in March, April and May), and low during the raining and early dry seasons (5oC – 23oC from July to February). Raining season last for only 4 months, with an average rainfall of about 600mm in the month of August. In terms of natural drainage systems in Chibok, there are only shallow rivers and lakes, which support animal rearing during the dry season.

The Kanuri Empire

The Kanuri ethnic nationality is a renowned ethnic nationality not only in Nigeria but also in Africa as a whole. It is a strong and large ethnic nationality that has remained relevant in Nigeria despite the turmoil it has gone through. It is one of the ethnic nationalities that is fortunate to have its history documented.

At the moment the Kanuri ethnic nationality is the dominant and potent political block in Borno state. Borno as a state is in the full grip and control of the Kanuris. A lot of factors contributed to this but the most important of them was the emergence of a man whose large portrait hangs on the wall of the reception of the Maiduguri International Hotel, Maiduguri: Shehu al Hajj Muhammad al Amin ibn Muhammad el Kanemi (776-1837), an Islamic scholar, teacher, religious and political leader.


In an attempt to discover the origin of the term, Kanuri, an oral tradition places great emphasis on the Arabic word “Nuri” (Light) which is an attempt to link the origin of the people and their language to the Arabs, and in particular the great founder of the ancient dynasty, Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan of Himyar (Alkali 1987).This notion of the Arabian roots of the Kanuris is also supported by the revered historian, O.E Udoji who wrote that, “…the Kanuri are said to have migrated from Yemen in Saudi Arabia and settled about 640 kilometers north of Lake Chad in the original Kanem Empire.”

The Kanuri and Manga were the products of the Kanembu people, the warrior custodians of the Kanem Empire. Available historical records showed that the Kanembu, like the Lakkas were the descendants of the legendary Sao people. There is however a slight variation between Kanuri and Kanembu languages but most Kanembus understand Kanuri even though the reverse is not the case. The Kanembu language is spoken in a very limited area of Borno, mainly in Kukawa district and of course in the region of Kanem in the republic of Chad.

The Kanem Empire once controlled a vast empire that covered countries like Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Nigeria (Mustapha 2009).We still have Kanuris in some of these countries, for example there are Kanuris in Gilendeng [Chad].In fact the Kanuri ethnic nationality had produced two prime ministers; one in Cameroun and the other in Niger.

The Sayfawa Dynasty

The Sayfawa Dynasty was founded by Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan and it ruled and controlled the Kanem Empire for about 800 years. The old Kanem Empire was founded in the 9th Century and its first capital was a town in the north-eastern part of Lake Chad known as Njimi.The Empire became an Islamic state at the end of the 11th Century, precisely in 1090 when Mai Umme converted to Islam. He later on changed his name to Mai Abd al Jalal.

The Sayfawa Dynasty

The Sayfawa Dynasty and their subjects fled to Birnin Gazargamu when the Bulala people attacked them. Birnin Gazargamu remained as capital even after the reclaiming of Njimi in the 16th Century. Another attack by the Fulbe was launched against the Sayfawa people and this attack forced Mai Ahmad to ran away from Birnin Gazargamu in 1808.The rulers of Kanem had no option but to seek the assistance of a prominent Islamic scholar and warrior in Ngala known as Sheikh all Hajj Muhammad al Amin ibn Muhammad al Kanemi to checkmate the attaks of the Sokoto jihadists. The Sokoto jihadists retreated when el Kanemi confronted them .The Sayfawa Dynasty died in 1846 (Alkali 1987).

The el Kanemi Dynasty

At the exact time that America was about to become a republic in 1776, Shehu al Hajj Muhammad al Amin ibn Muhammad el Kanemi was born near Marzuk in Libya.His father was a Kanembu cleric and scholar and his mother the daughter of a wealthy Zuila Arab trader. He was brought up in Marzuk and undertook religious studies which he continued in Tripoli and other North African cities. In the 1790s he joined his father died in Medina, el Kenemi remained in Egypt some years before deciding to return home to Marzuk via Kanem. In the early years of the century he settled down, with his wife and eldest son in Ngala where he earned a reputation as a religious leader, and by the time of the outbreak of the Fulani wars he had taken as a second wife the daughter of the Sultan of Ngala (Brenner 1973).

El Kanemi became a well-respected religious leader who decided to identify from the Syfawa rulers. After he fought back the Sokoto jihadists through the network of his large following of Shuwas and Kanembus, Mai Dunoma rewarded him with a small province to lead as a titular leader. He decided to take the title of “Shehu” (Sheikh) and this act endeared him to the common people. In fact when Mai Dunoma was deposed in 1809 by his uncle, it was el Kanemi that brought him back to power in 1813.

An attempt to kill el Kanemi in 1820 which was believed to be spearheaded by some aides of Mai Dunoma led to open hostilities between the Shenu and Mai Dunoma which eventually led to the death of the latter.

The Shehu had earlier on constructed a power base in the city of Kukawa in 1814 and this town became the defacto capital of Kanem-Borno Empire. The death of el Kanemi in 1836 made the Sayfawa Mai and his supporters to stage a plan to be in charge of affairs. They collaborated with Waddai Empire to realize this dream but Umar, el Kanmei’s son overpowered them and became the sole ruler of Kanem-Borno Empire.The descendants of el Kanemi are still the rulers of Borno at the moment. They hold the prestigious title of “The Shehu of Borno.”


The main units in the administrative structure of Borno were the royal family which was the nucleus of the whole political system; the Council which was the decision making body of the state; the Kogurama, a body of nobility who served as the executives and carried out the immense administrative work of the state, and the military—the composition of which included members from each of the above units. In its broad history outline we can divide the political history of Borno from about 1500-1800 A.D., into three phases.    

Below is a list of some of the titles of Borno

Mai Ruler Royal family
Magira Queen Mother Royal family
Magaram Official Sister Royal family
Ya Grema Magira’s Assistant Royal family
Gumsu Senior wife of the Mai Royal family
Waziri Mai’s Assistant Council
Kaigama Commander-in-Chief Council

The Kanuris are not new to the intricacies of power and they know how and when to negotiate and do dialogue. This was what Shehu al Hajj Muhammad al Amin ibn Muhammad el Kanemi did with the son of Usman Dan Fodio,Sulatan Mohammed Bello to convince and persuade the latter to abandon his war against Borno Empire, a sister Islamic state. Kanem’s expansion peaked during the long and energetic reign of Mai Dunama Dabbalemi (ca. 1221-59). Dabbalemi initiated diplomatic exchanges with sultans in North Africa and apparently arranged for the establishment of a special hostel in Cairo to facilitate pilgrimages to Mecca. During Dabbalemi’s reign, the Fezzan region (in present-day Libya) fell under Kanem’s authority, and the empire’s influence extended westward to Kano, eastward to Wadai, and southward to the Adamawa grasslands (in present-day Cameroon). Portraying these boundaries on maps can be misleading, however, because the degree of control extended in ever-weakening gradations from the core of the empire around Njimi to remote peripheries, from which allegiance and tribute were usually only symbolic. Moreover, cartographic lines are static and misrepresent the mobility inherent in nomadism and migration, which were common. The loyalty of peoples and their leaders was more important in governance than the physical control of territory.

Dabbalemi devised a system to reward military commanders with authority over the people they conquered. This system, however, tempted military officers to pass their positions to their sons, thus transforming the office from one based on achievement and loyalty to the mai into one based on hereditary nobility. Dabbalemi was able to suppress this tendency, but after his death, dissension among his sons weakened the Sayfawa Dynasty. Dynastic feuds degenerated into civil war, and Kanem’s outlying peoples soon ceased paying tribute.


An old Kanuri woman

The Kanuris like the art of politicking and some of them have taken it as a full time job. Politics which according to Max Weber is the striving to share, influence and control power appeals to them. They know how to use and exploit the intricacies associated with political dividends. This is why the Kanuris were so far the only ethnic nationality that has been producing civilian governors in Borno state. They have dominated the political terrain and it appears as if the other ethnic nationalities viz. Babur, Marghi, Chibok, Waha and so on have resigned to their fate.

The Kanuris had produced two presidential candidates in Nigeria: the late Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri  of the defunct GNPP and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe of the SDP who later on became the vice president of MKO Abiola in 1993.Research has shown that 90% of Kanuris belonged to a political party and they normally vote according to tribal and religious inclinations. This is one of the reasons why a Christian had never been successful to be elected governor and from the look of things it may never happen.

Borno state is predominantly an ANPP state and until the emergence of Sen. Ali Sheriff as governor in 2003, the Kukawa axis had always been the producer of the state’s number one citizen.

Politics among the Kanuris is not centered on ideology but on financial clout. Most Kanuris see politics as full time business, an avenue to get motorcycles, cars and money. It is however worthy of mention that the Kanuris rarely engage in political thuggery and violence.


The Kanuri Language

The term Kanuri is applied to the people as well as the language. The earliest groups that occupied the region of the Lake Chad were the Kanembu, the Bulala and the Zaghawa. Of these three groups who competed for political relevance in Kanem, the Kanembu appeared to have taken over the control of the state. There has been a clear distinction between these three major groups in the language which they speak, and it is difficult to assume that they mutually understood their different languages. This was a situation which necessitated the emergence of a lingua franca and there is little doubt that the Kanembu language came to be accepted in Kanem by various other groups as a common language (Alkali 1987).

It is clear that many Kanuri today accept their language as an offshoot of Kanembu and the latter in its original form is accepted as the matrix. In short, Kanuri is often considered as a dialect of Kanembu.For this reason, Kanembu is used as the language of tafsir in Borno today.

According to Abdullahi Smith,Kanuri emerged as a  result of the movement of the Kanembu people from Kanem to the area west of Lake Chad, predominantly inhabited by Chadic speaking peoples, such as, the Kotoko, the Ngizim and the Bade. In the process of this movement, the Kanembu speaking peoples, whom linguists have classified as Nilo-Saharan, mixed with these Chadic speaking peoples,resulting in the emergence of Kanuri. But there is also an indication that the Kanuri people originated from a mixture of various ethnic groups—the Maghumi, the Ngalaga, the Kanga, the Kayi, the Kaguwa, the Tubo and the Nguma (Udofia 1987).The language spoken by these groups evolved gradually to what is known today as the Kanuri language.

The Kanuris are jealous of their language and are always on guard to see that the Hausas do not dominate it. The Kanuri language is ne language in the northern parts of Nigeria whose adherents had refused to agree that it is subordinate to Hausa. The Kanuris believe that their language and culture is higher and superior to that of the followers of Usman Dan Fodio, Hausa-Fulbe. In fact the first news broadcast in Borno (BRTV, NTA) is always in Kanuri before other languages.

Research has shown that 90% of Kanuris understand and speak the language but it is only 67% of them that understand and speak Hausa. The Kanuris are however traditional playmates with the Fulbe, each calling the other a slave in jokes.

The Economic life of the Kanuri

     Historical records showed that the presence of Lake Chad made the Kanem Borno Empire to be a lucrative trade centre. Along its shores is provided considerable pasture grounds during the dry and rainy seasons to support large nomadic populations of Kanembu,Shuwa and Fulani.In addition to the fishing and cattle trade on the shores of the lake, there was also a considerable trade going on in kelbu (natron) and salt which were left as deposits after the level of the lake had subsided. Natron and salt production were carried out in commercial quantities by the sedentary Kanuri and Buduma.

     Until recent times the Kanuris don’t believe in Western education and this had made a lot of them not to be able to secure government employment. They preferred to send their wards to Qur’anic schools to learn the Qur’an and afterwards give them a small capital to start business: hawking perfumes, clothing, and transportation and so on. Research carried out in the course of writing this paper in Monday Market, Maiduguri and other weekly markets in Gajiram,Gajiganna,Jakana,Banki,Baga and Munguno showed that 60% of the traders were Kanuris or they identified themselves as such. They buy and sell all kinds of goods: food stuff, livestock, shoes, clothing, electronics etc. In fact they also sell cars in and around Maiduguri.They are good business men and some of them were sagacious enough to collaborate with banks. This partnership had enabled them to grow and expand their businesses. The late business mogul, Alhaji Mai Deribe is Kanuri.

At the moment the Kanuris are beginning to fully embrace western education. The effort of elder-statesman, Dr. Shetima Ali Munguno and others is very noticeable here. There are so many Kanuri lawyers, doctors, lecturers, engineers and accountants today. In fact the former CMD of the University Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Prof. Kyari Othman, the former vice-chancellors of the University of Maiduguri, Prof. Muhammed Nura Alkali and Prof. Abubakar Mustapha mni and the vocal media commentator, Dr. Khalifa Ali Dikwa are all Kanuris.

Some Kanuris also engage in farming. They produce ground nuts, millet, guinea corn, beans, sesame, water melon, cucumber and maize. They also do irrigational farming in places like Munguno and Marte were they produce tomatoes, pepper, onions and spinach in the dry season.

The buying and selling of Arabic gum is also dominated by the Kanuris.

The fact that Borno is a neighbor to Chad, Cameroun and Niger is facilitating business activities in the state and the Kanuris were wise to be in the lead. It is only in the pharmaceuticals, motor spare parts and building materials that the Igbos outpaced them. It has also been discovered that the Kanuris are few in the crafts: mechanic, carpentry, vulcanizing, painting and so on.

Abubakar Market A Kanuri trader selling fruits at local open market

Religious life of the Kanuri

The Kanuri as a people have, throughout their history, maintained one basic identity—that of Islam which they used both as a religion and philosophy of government, and as a force of integration that cut across ethnic barriers. Islam first came into Nigeria in the 11th Century, precisely in 1090 when Mai Umme, of the Sayfawas converted to Islam. But there is a school of thought that believes that Islam came to Borno as far back as the 7th Century during the raids of Nafi ibn Iqbal .This is why it would be very difficult to separate Borno from Islam.

Research conducted by the writer revealed that the conversion of a Kanuri to another religion especially Christianity is rare and where this occurs, the persecution associated with is monumental because it is ridda according to the teachings of Islam. At the moment there are two known Kanuri Christians: Rev Musa Garba and Pastor Musa Ali.

Most Kanuris subscribe to the Malikkiya code of Islamic law which means that there are a lot of Sunni Muslims among the Kanuris.The Kanuris hardly join the Shi’ite sect. The Kanuris are passionate and zealous about Islam and most of them still believe that the Shehu of Borno ought to be the chief of the Muslim faithful in Nigeria and not the Sultan of Sokoto.

There is a prevalence of Qur’anic schools, madrassatas and Islamiya schools in all Kanuri settlements to cater for their children. Professor Abubakar Mustapha mni wrote that, “History bestowed upon the Kanuri authorities in Borno the responsibility of teaching the arts of writing and reading the Qur’an in the Central Bilad al Sudan since the establishment of the Sayfawa Dynasty. From the 13th Century up to the coming of the European colonialists at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Native Authority of Borno funded and supported this type of education.” But at the moment this is not the case because there are thousands of Qur’anic students roaming about on the streets of Maiduguri and its environs begging for food, soliciting for alms, doing menial jobs and so on.


The foundation of the Borno Kingdom was laid towards the end of the 15th Century under the forceful influence of Mai Ali Gaji (c. 1470-1503).

Borno state has 27 local government areas and the Kanuris dominated 20 of these local government areas. It is only in Bayo, Biu, Hawul, Chibok, Askira-Uba, Gwoza and Damboa that the Kanuris are not having a large society. In the remaining local government areas, the Kanuri language is like a lingua franca because some of them don’t even understand or speak Hausa. This does not apply to Maiduguri.

There is also a Kanuri society in states like Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Nassarawa, Plateau and Jigawa. However they do not control business and politics in these states. In fact it has now been discovered that there is considerable number of Kanuris in Lagos and Imo states. The children of these Kanuri families communicate fluently in the Yoruba and Igbo languages.

Africa, Sahel region, Chad, islands of Lake Chad, Kanuri tribe: men sitting around drinking tea; note islamic prayer beads and transistor radio.


The region into which the Kanuris moved was formerly inhabited by diverse peoples: the Marghi,Kotoko,Musgum,Buduma and Ngizim (James 1987).It was the conflict with the Bulala people that led to the collapse of the Sayfawa authority in Kanem in the 14th Century and their subsequent migration to Borno(Alkali 1987). Borno remains the undisputable bastion of the Kanuris even though there are Kanuris in Chad,Niger,Sudan and Cameroun. The fact that Shehu all Muhammad al Amin ibn Muhammad el Kanemi settled in Birnin Gazargamu and Kukawa, and he also resided in Ngala when he returned from Mecca is enough to make Borno the umbilical cord of the modern day Kanuris.

The present day city of Maiduguri is the power base of the Kanuris. This city is a combination of the old aristocratic town of Yerwa and the British created town, Maiduguri in 1907.Yerwa was derived from the Kanuri word “herewa” meaning “ good land”  (Udofia1987) but there is a school of thought that says the word was derived from an Arabic expression meaning, “quenching the thirst,” which was a direct reference to the waters of Ngadda River.The town of Yerwa was founded on the site of Kalam and was given the name Yerwa by Shehu Garbai.The two towns, Yerwa and Maiduguri were later unified and this gave birth to the present city, Maiduguri. A city that is being dominated, controlled and ruled by the Kanuris who are fond of saying “bula ade kaande.”





Tribal Marks

The Kanuris have a tribal mark that is distinct from the armada of tribal marks we have in Nigeria. The tribal marks of the Kanuri is done by piercing a straight line from the fore head to the nose, then two straight lines on both cheeks and another two straight lines on the rear sides of both cheeks near the ears. This is the kind of tribal marks seen on the face of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha. Many Kanuris don’t want to have tribal marks on their faces nowadays.


The Kanuris, generally have no physical stereotype but in most cases one can say that the Kanuri woman has a stereotype: she covers herself with laffaya, adorns her hair with a special hair do and perfume herself with Khumrah, a traditional incense-perfume that has a distinct smell.

Until the decline of the use of tribal marks, it has always been the stereotype identity of the Kanuris.


As in most African tradition the groom will go and introduce himself to the family of the bride and then later on send his representatives with items like kola nuts, biscuits and sweets to ask for the bride’s hands in marriage. If the two families agreed on the proposal, a date would be fixed for the payment of dowry. The average dowry is twenty thousand naira.

A Kanuri woman


The customary practice of dela (washing of the hair of the bride) and nanle (adorning of the hands and feet of the bride) would later follow. Normally this takes place on a Thursday but the groom and his friends are supposed to come on a Friday to observe the wushe wushe festivity. The female relations of the groom will be the ones to take the bride to her new home but at least two of her relations will stay with her for a week at new home. It is a tradition that the new couple go to pay respects to their in-laws on Sunday (Baari 2011).


Research has shown that there is a strong connection between religion and Islam. This is because under the Islamic religion, a man is permitted to marry up to four wives if he can cater for their needs and do equal justice to them. Since almost all the Kanuris are Muslims, the rate of polygamy among them should be expected to be high. Three out of every five Kanuri men have more than one wife.


The rate of divorce among the Kanuris is alarming. There are instances were marriages don’t last up to a month and these women who end up in these divorces, in some cases are not up to 20 years. One of the prominent religious figures who have done a lot through education and counseling to curb the menace was the late Sheikh Abba Aji al Barnawi. Interestingly the Kanuri man want to have plenty children.

Maternal mortality is high and access to good medical facilities is poor.

Childbirth and Naming

The birth of a child is always a thing of joy in the Kanuri society. Every man wants to have children. Plenty of them.

The Kanuris do normally name their child after the seventh day and tradition dictates that a ram be procured for the naming. Friends, well-wishers and relations would converge at the home of the parent to celebrate the naming. The father is expected to give a good name to his child and in most cases an Islamic  one with a traditional one attached like Babagana, Bakura,Yagana,Fantami,Baanzeye,Kachalla etc.The Kanuris also have their versions of Islamic names, thus you hear them calling Ali as Ari,Mohammed as Modu,Aisha as Ashe and Ibrahim as Yuram.

It is always a special honor to have a child named after you among the Kanuris. At the moment Dr. Shettima Ali Munguno has over 70 children named after him. Of course one is expected to respond generously to the child and his parents in a way a god father does among the Italians. There is always a strong bond between one and the child named after him/her.


The Kanuris don’t waste time with the dead. Once someone dies, he or she would be buried according to Islamic rites. However it has now became a tradition to cook and give out sadakat at the home of the deceased. The three, seven and forty day’s prayer is also generally observed in all Kanuri societies.

If the deceased was a man, his wife can remarry after her idda period.


The Kanuris are known to be good consumers of millet gritz (burabusko) and baobab soup (miyar kuka).The baobab soup is prepared with spices and beans. Another substitute for baobab soup is a vegetable soup known as miyar yakuwa da alaiyaho (spinach) which is usually prepared with grounded groundnuts, spices and fish.

A pap drink made from millet/maize flour,tamarine and sugar is also highly consumed along with bean cakes(kosai).This pap is known as kunun tsamiya. The Kanuris don’t drink alcohol.



The average Kanuri man doesn’t wear the so called westernize dresses like jeans,chinos,shirts etc. He wears a kaftan and in most cases a flowing gown (bunjuma) with a cap. The typical attire is a sky blue and black color bunjuma with a red cap. This was the kind of dressing code President Goodluck Jonathan wore during his presidential campaign in Maiduguri.


The women normally wore simple designed attire made from Ankara and this dress usually goes beyond the buttocks. They would put it on while another yard of Ankara wraps their body from the waist to the toe. After that a big linen or silk material called laffaya would be used to cover their body from head to toe. This kind of dressing is similar to that of Sudanese and Bangladeshi women. Most Kanuri women put bangles on their wrist, rings on their nose and waist beads on their waist.

There is particular dress code for young girls below the age of puberty. The girl who is below the age of puberty has a special hairdo known as kelayasku.It is a hairdo in which only four ropes of hair plaiting appear at the front and back of the head. Both sides of the head are shaven. Same with boys. Only three lock of hair are allowed to grow on their heads. One at the front, another at the middle of the head and last one at the back of the head, towards the nape.


The Kanuris believe in the power of the evil eye and the inherent power of witches and wizards to cause mayhem. There is a prevalent belief on a ghost like spirit or apparition known as Mairam kuru and many people believe that witches normally turn in to cats in the night.

The Kanuris believe in giving out alms and sadakat to avert evil. There is a widespread belief among the Kanuris that the rearing of animals like rams and goats is good because it can be used as a scapegoat; that if an enemy sends an arrow to kill you, the arrow would fall on the animal. The animal would die but you would survive. As a result most Kanuris keep animals.

The Kanuris and the rights of children

Research has shown that a lot of Kanuri children in the rural areas don’t go to school and a large proportion of them subscribe to the tsangaya system of Qur’anic education. These students of the tsangaya system of education are known as almajirai. They are the Qur’anic students who came to Borno which the Hausa called gabas (east) to study the reading, writing and recitation of the Holy Qur’an with its prefect intonation and orthography (Mustapha 2007).

The Child Right Act says, “Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education” (Part 1 Section 15[1] and, “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage” but till date many boys of school age don’t go to school and many young girls as young as 14 years are given to marriage. The effort of people like Hajiya Maryam Bukar Petrol, a former Commissioner of Women affairs, NCWS and GTZ in campaigning against girl-child marriage is slowly yielding results.

Kanuri women and politics

The right of Kanuri women in Borno is gradually appreciating because 40% of Kanuri women had fully embraced education, and at the moment two out of every ten Kanuri women are graduates. Many of them had gone into the nursing, teaching and banking profession. There is however no any Kanuri woman in the army, police or the para military




In 1907, Maiduguri became officially known as the Capital of Borno. Many however do not know that there were at least three other capitals leaders of the state had lived in before Maiduguri.

A tale is told in Borno by local scholars about Shehu Abubakar Garbai’s 365 days prayer as a basis for his decision for relocation to Maiduguri as a new capital in 1907. When the idea to move to Maiduguri was brought to him by the British Government who wanted to effectively install its policy of Indirect Rule, Shehu Garbai was said to have assembled all his ulema and directed them to hold a year-long prayer on the note that, if at all the proposed capital would be deserted by his people any time in the future, may he never move in!

Borno state capital

Borno Capital city

The prayer was said to have lasted a whole year from 1904 to 1905. Garbai’s reason for that was that the empire had had several experiences of unceremonious evictions in their capitals as a result of wars, political instabilities and what have you. This newspaper brings you a list of the capitals as were known to history.


But before this, it is imperative to understand the term Kanem-Borno. Kanem, now part of Chad Republic was until 1386, the base of most of the people of Borno. In 1386, series of crises forced the people of the state to move down to Borno, crossing the Lake Chad and by 1470 at least, Borno became the established base of the people. Hence Kanem and Bono were too bases of the same people. With this, the reader with little foundational knowledge of the history of Kanem-Borno, should for the meantime ignore the specifications and treat them as one for better understanding of the text.




As is commonly known, the first mention of Kanem-Borno was in 891 A.D. by Ahmad Al-Yakubi, an Arab geographer in his work Al-Tarikh. In his reference, Al-Yakubi noted that the rulers of the kingdom lived in Manan as their political capital. For how long it lived before that time is not clear, but it seemed to have lasted for about two centuries after its first mention, before going permanently extinct. Though its exact location is not known yet, it is widely believed to be around the Chad Basin region.


The reason for its collapse is not too clear and considering the distance of time and limited archaeological inquiries, it is difficult to establish any coherent conclusion. To make a sense of the many interpretations by scholars here is also impossible and as such, it is an entirely ignored part of this work especially in view of space and medium of presentation. Suffice it therefore to say that it is the earliest known capital of the state that comes down to us as Borno.




According to recorded history, Njimi is the next capital of the rulers of Borno after Mananfrom at least early 11th century. What had caused the transfer is not very clear, but it also came with change in the ruling dynasty. While in Manan the kingdom was ruled by Zaghawa, a nomadic group believed to be practising traditional belief system; in Njimi, the leadership was taken over by the Saifawa dynasty who claim to have descended from Saif Dhi Yadhan.




The cause for the dynastic change and even how very complex and a report like this is does not give us the luxury to go into details. But again, traditional religion, which was the religion of the Zaghawa rulers in Manan was also replaced by Islam as both the religion of the state and the emergent Saifawa rulers in Njimi.


Njimi survived as their political capital until 1386 when it was deserted by the people. In Njimi, the Saifawa rulers spread their authority all over the Lake Chad region and reached the peak of their power.


Among other things, Njimi hosted some of the most celebrated rulers of the empire. One of them was Mai Hume Jilme, who was the first known Muslim ruler of the empire and under whose reign Islam became a state religion in 1096.


Another remarkable ruler who ruled in Njimi was Mai Dunama Humemi, who, some sources describe as the best of the sons of Mai Hume. It was reported that Egyptian authorities, threatened by the rising power of Mai Dunama and Kanem-Borno, conspired to drown him to death in the Red Sea on his third pilgrimage.


However, the most celebrated mai to have ruled over the state in Njimi was Mai Dunama Dabbalemi, under whose reign the empire expanded from River Niger in the west to Kawar Oasis in the east. He was recorded as having raised an army of over 40,000 horsemen to expand and assert his authority. He annexed Fezzan in southern Libya, built the Madrassa Riwaq al-Barnawi in Cairo both as a hostel and school for Borno students and pilgrims (en route to Mecca) in Egypt in c.1240 to promote education. The empire reached its zenith under his reign.


But succession disputes, rebellion and other socio-economic instabilities, at a time the rulers had already overstretched themselves, led to their necessary exit. Led by Mai Umar B. Idris (1382 – 1387), who, records




Margi community

Margi community


The marghi tribe or dialect is traceable in both Borno and Adamawa states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The contemporary Marghi family setting constitute a unit of the community, where certain traditions, norms and cultures are not taken for granted. As people who believe in hard work the Marghi clans though scattered within the areas of  the above mentioned states still cherish their tradition most admirable. There is better understanding between the different clans even when they inter-marry, especially when the family ties become stronger. The marriage ceremony in Marghi land is not significantly different as regards the various clans.

Cultural display

Cultural is dsiplay


The first record in literature which places the Marghi ethnic group around the lake chad was that of Fra-maura, recorded on his mid-15th century map, on which he placed the Marghi southeast of lake chad (falcheta, 2006; Decorse, 2001: 142,2006) there are two accounts of when Fra maura drafted the map. On the web page of the mandara publishing company, which is based in the United Kingdom, it is indicated that Fra maura drafted the map in 1459 but Falcheta book stated that Fra maura world’s map indicates that the map was sketched around 1450. In any way the point here is Fra maura placed the marghi ethnic group around the Lake Chad prior to the year 1564, when the leader of the Saifawa Dynasty of the Kanuri, Idriss Alauma, started his campaign against the Marghi and the Tourag ethnic groups. Fra maura’s map of 1459 is important because it placed the Marhgi together as a group in one location prior to the diaspora under family patriarchs- primarily to the mountainous enclaves and to the plains due to Idriss Alauma’s expedition. Consequently, the present Marghi towns and villages were established as a result. The map of 1459 by Fra maura showing the Marghi at the south east corner, Fra Maura spelled margi as Mergi at that time.

According to history, the Marghi Udzurngu, Margi babal and Margi tittim (dzakwa) all call their chiefs with “Ptil” and their council of elders with “shilir pathla” while Margi putai  call their chiefs “mai”.

Almost all Margi people address their council of elders with this name, they call or address the chief’s first son (prince) with “yerima or maina” while the chief’s daughter (princess) with “Ngwatam”, chief priest is addressed with “thluffu”, the chiefs assistant is called “Wakil” and the chief’s messenger is called “Achama” while the traditional police to the council is called “Dogar”.

Margi woman

Margi woman


The Margi of Borno have retained their independence under “MAI” Madu Kogo, native of western Margi land during the reign of Mai Idriss Aloma (1571-1603) the mai of Borno empire, there were three independent non-Kanuri sultans viz the sultan of Mulgwi, Sultan of Yamta and the Sultan of Mandara.

In other hand after the invasion of Borno by Rabeh (1893-1900), Rabeh extended his attack on Margi mulgwi with modern hardware and war techniques but surprisingly Margi proved more superior in bravery and prowess than Rabeh’s army, Margi then killed 84 of his soldiers and seized almost 80 guns from them. (Gazetteers of nothern provinces, eastern kingdoms, vol.11 of Borno province page.110) according to oral tradition Rabeh’s son Fadl Allah attacked Izge but almost most of his soldiers were also put to death as Margi pople earlier killed his father’s soldiers, the remaining soldiers shamelessly took to their heels. In the same vein to prove the independence of these tribes, Margi and Kilba had closed the route between Borno and Adamawa. Mr Barday the resident intervened by stationing soldiers in Margi lands to restore orders and normalcy.

Margi Women and children

Margi Women and Children


Furthermore it was close to an area inhabited by the independent tribes such as the Margi people and Babur who needed closer British supervision. (Akinjide Osuntokum-power broker a biography of sir kashim ibrahim- 1987 spectrum No.2 of 3-5) stated that because of the Margi people’s militancy the British administration merged Margi division with shehu of Borno emirate ‘that is why we have never fully get controlled of Borno as whole’ in fact the British administration was hash and unkind to the Margi people of Borno state.

The Pagan districts of Margi in southern Borno and Adamawa such as Mulgwi, Madubu, Izge Damboa and Izge Gwoza, Uba Borno and Adamawa, Bazza, Uba mayo bani, Madagali, Kopa and Moda in Adamawa and Borno states, were not subdued (Bala usman and Nur Alkali, Edited 1983) studies in the history of pre-colonial Borno, page-224 Nothern Nigerian Publishing Company. According to JG Daviesin his book title “Biu book”, page.280 in 1956 before the kanuri people came to Borno area at about 1200-1400, the area was populaled by tribes now represented by the Margi, Bura, Karekare, Ngamo, Ngizzim, Nguyi, Bade, Bolewa, Kerawa etc. The boundary between Adamawa and Borno emirates were undefined throughout the 19th Century, the absences of well define geographical features and homogeneity of the population between the two polities made the fixing of definite frontiers very difficult. This is because neither emirate of Adamawa or Borno has establish a firm control over the Margi inhabitants of the peripheral zone.

Margi girl in full dress

MArgi girl in full dress

Margi people before then live in round and rectangular mud buildings, these are: thatch roofed and fence with corn stalks (kadaka), mud walls stone piles (dziga) as in the case of Margi dzurngu some of them fence their compounds with cacti or Widu more especially Margi dzakwa or Margi south.

Margi cultural display

Margi Cultural display


There are about seventy clans in Margi kingdom, and their major occupation is farming, hunting, Crafting and trading. Margi people consider farming as the most valued, hence every one often strive to become a great farmer. A man in Margi land in those days can marry many wives for the purpose of working on the farm lands with their children. As Margi people consider farming as their top priority among other occupations, before the advent of modern farming techniques and transportation system, Margi people used to carry out their Guinea corn harvesting, threshing and storing 100% manually, the most tedious work is transportation of the farm produce from the farm lands which usually covers eight (8) to fifteen (15) kilometers distance, all the family members used to carry guinea corn on their heads with container call ghururu, trekking on foot to a temporary storing cage near the house. This work usually takes one to two weeks to complete, this process is called “Zabga” and the trekking were usually accompanied with songs to encourage them cover the journeys. The next stage of guinea corn work in Margi is very existing even in this present days, everyone including children is eager to witness the occasion, this is called “Dugu uhi” means guinea corn threshing. This is usually a great occasion, since the farmer invites people like: Son in-laws, friends, relatives and neighbors to participate in the work. The man and his wives usually prepare local drinks (umpadlu and cham cham) to entertain the people coming to do the work, while the men will be threshing the guinea corn singing with drum beating, the women are busy fetching water to brew the local drink. A cow, sheep or goat is usually slaughtered for the occasion if the man is rich, young men aged 15-35 who are usually much engaged in this work often demonstrate their strengths and techniques to attract young ladies who usually stand by the sides of the threshing area cheering them. At the end, elderly women usually spend one to three days winnowing “mpiu” and gathering the guinea corn into the family granary “val tsam”.

Margi cultural display

Margi cultural display


Historians indicate s that there are Margi people (mostly of mulgwe emirate) residing in Gwange, Mafoni, Konduga and Kaga in Borno state. The report further stated that Mafoni was founded by a Margi prince from Izza when he obtained permission from El-kanemi to set up a camp on his way to Dikwa. Infact history has it that about eight (8) successive rulers of Mafoni had been Margi until when they were later dethroned by El-kanemi dynasty. Today there is a large settlement located in the north eastern part of Konduga called Margimari. This settlement was invaded and Islamized by El-kanemi’s forces and left some Islamic scholars behind to provide Islamic knowledge to the inhabitants although the present inhabitants may not see and identify themselves as Margi today, it may also interest the audience to know that Kaga local gov.t is bordering Damboa local government, on this border there is a principal settlement called shatimari (Satumari) which is largely inhabited by Margi people. The orientation and cultural identity of these people is very similar to those Margimari. It also noticed that some Margi people settled in some parts of Bauchi, Gombe and jigawa states, in addition margi Gudar came from Cameroon, baghirmi or wadai both from Chad, it is also in record that in katagum emirate of Bauchi state, three Margi migrants established three small states=Shira, Teshena and Auyo in 900-1200 but some people said it’s in 1200-1350. Shira shared borders with Birnin kudu, Dutse and Gaya. kano chronicles mentioned that Abdullahi Burja (sarkin kano), in 1438-1452 married a daughter of shira king, the Margi immigrants of shira came from yemen while those of Teshena and Auyo came from Baghirmi and wadai. Teshena counted seventy (70) rulers up to the sokoto jihad, shira was independent of Borno, Kano and kwararafa jikun powers. In misau emirate of Bauchi state, Margi established Dukku (Dluku) and kwami local gov.t area of jigawa state, they founded Auyo local gov.t in 900 centures. In camerron Margi have two local government and in the town called Demsa pwa they have rotational administration among Margi, Batta and fulani for over 300 years to date.




According to CL temple and Barth Margi people are generally dark, while some are fair in complexion but good physique, intellect, brave and hard working. A good number of Margi are great warriors. All male children of the age of 10 years and above are taught how to use bows and arrows, Margi warriors used poisoned arrows to shoot games and their enemies, they always carry small knives on their arms and big knives around their waist, short sword in their armpits, two spears bows and quivers full of arrows. The Margi man can fight both on foot and on horseback, also he can ambush and attack whether alone or in groups when attacked, Margi believed in self-confidence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency and being independent