THE GBAGYI PEOPLE OF NIGERIA

Nigeria, a multi-ethnic country is a home to the Gbagyi ethnic group with a population of about 5 million people. They are mostly found in various locations in Middle Belt (Central) Nigeria. They also inhabit the western part of Abuja (FCT), southern Niger State, Chikun Local Government Area with its headquarters at Kujama in Kaduna state and Nassarawa states. Significant Gbagyi towns include Minna, Karu, Kuta, Kwakuti, Kwali, Gawu, (Gusolo) Gussoro, (Gbada) Gwada, Guni, Fuka, Galkogo, Maikunle, Manta, Wushapa (Ushafa), Bisi, Bwaya (Bwari), Suleja, Shiroro (Shilolo), Beji, Diko, Alawa, Erena, Paiko and Zumba.
Some theories posit a reason for the scattered settlements and migration of the Gbagyi people.

Historians believe the Gbagyi were displaced from their original settlements during the Fulani Jihad, while some local historians link migration with the need for farmland by the Gbagyis. Members of the ethnic group speak two dialects. While speakers of the dialects were loosely called Gwari by both the Hausa Fulani and Europeans during pre-colonial Nigeria, they prefer to be known as Gbagyi/Gbari. The Gbagyi language is part of the Kwa sub-division of the Niger-Congo language family, however, some researchers such as Kay Williamson put the language in the Benue-Congo family. The people speak two dialects that are sometimes called Gbari (Gwari yamma) and Gbagyi dialects.

Historically, the Gbagyi/Gbari, practice a patriarchal kinship system. The lowest tier of authority found in the extended family compound is usually led by the oldest male. As common amongst ethnic groups in Central Nigeria, the compound typically consists of small huts and rectangular buildings. Settlements can be large and small in locations where farming is the dominant occupation; the settlements tend to be small so that enough land is available for farming. Being a patriarchal community, the Esu/Osu (king) is the highest tier of authority in a Gbagyi/Gbari settlement and he is assisted by a group of elders who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring peace in the land.

Predominantly farmers who farm yams, maize, millet and groundnuts, the Gbagyi people are also hunters but deeply skilled in producing traditional arts and craft products such as pottery, mortar and pestle as well as farming equipment like cutlass, hoes amongst others. As skilled craftsmen, they are good at mixing clay to produce decorative household products such as pots.

The Gbagyi’s hold strongly that the head is sacred and should not be used for load carrying, hence, they use their shoulders to carry loads. Gbagyi were the largest among the ethnic groups that inhabited the land proposed for development when Abuja (Federal Capital Territory) was chosen as Nigeria’s federal capital. The result of the relocation was the removal of people from their ancestral homes and spiritual symbols such as Zuma rock. However, many displaced families were given housing, but some lives in transit and settlements camp up till this day.

The Gbagyi people are known to be peace-loving, transparent and accommodating people. Northerners are fond of saying in Hausa language muyi shi Gwari Gwari, “let’s do it like the Gbagyi” or “in the Gbagyi way”. According to Tanko Chigudu, the Gbagyi people have emerged as a unique breed in Nigeria: their culture shows how much they have come to terms with the universe. The Gbagyi people practices Islam, Christianity and their own traditional religion. Traditionally, some Gbagyi believe in a god called Shekwoi (one who was there before their ancestors), they also devote themselves to appeasing deities of the god such as Maigiro., an average Gbagyi believes in reincarnation.


ThankGod E. Airiohuodion


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