By Ahmed Otteh
Bida, the headquarters of Nupe people in Niger state would be at standstill today Wednesday, 26th June as the Ninibo Nupe Foundation celebrates yet another annual cultural day. Already the activities marking this year’s Nupe Cultural Day which is the 11th in the series since the event commenced in 2009, have commenced with prayers in mosques and churches across Nupe land last Friday and Sunday respectively.
This year’s event according to the Etsu Nupe, who is also the chairman, Niger state Council of Traditional rulers, would focus on prayers as part of contribution to tackling the raging insecurity across the country.
The idea for the annual celebration itself was muted by the Nupe elders and elders through the tribe’s foundation to revive its declining rich cultural heritage and prevent its language from total extinction. The event therefore lined up yearly programmes which include lecture series on topical issues concerning Nupe’s history, culture and development; merit awards; agric exhibition with the intent of promoting agriculture potentials in Nupeland. Others are durbar, sporting competition, turbanning of deserving individuals who were conferred with traditional titles of the land, boat regatta, cultural shows and fishing competition amongst others.
The choice of June 26th is of immense historical significance. It was the day in 1869 which saw the defeat of invading British Army in the hands of Nupe Calvary at Ogidi in the present day Kogi state during the reign of Etsu Bubakar (Abubakar). The gallantry displayed by the Nupe army halted the British’s army’s advance and to take the Sokoto Caliphate and eventual overrun of what is today Northern Nigeria.
Eleven years down the line, the Nupe foundation is marching slowly but steadily towards its destination. First, through the annual event, Nupe land is gradually witnessing a cultural rebirth and even renaissance of some sort. Each year since 2009, the annual event do witness what historians referred to as the reenactment of Ndakogboya and Igunu masquerade’s with their various dance steps.
Although the mystery surrounding Igunu commonly known to the Nupe and Yoruba is still unknown but a school of thought believed that they are giant masquerades that are initially part of a cult form to fight witchcrafts. Alapini was said to be the head of the hierarchy of Igunu priest which include Elefi, Olohan, Oloba, Aladafa and Oloje, which together led a colonization expedition to Yoruba land, where the masquerades were also believed to be introduced.
It was said that with the near complete Islamisation of most of the Nupe areas following the incursion of 1830s, the performances of traditional ceremonies and culture declined and with it, the extinction of the revered masquerades.
Today, the Ndakogbaya and Igunu returned through a revival effort to dazzle the guests at each event.
Secondly, Nupe people could be said to be more united now than they were before with the annual event serving as the unifying platform. Each year during the event, dignitaries from various tribes with which Nupe shared historical link, flood Bida from Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Borno, Yoruba and Igala land among others. The Kingdom’s many cousins from Beni, Benu, Kusopa, Dibo, Ganagana, Kakanda, Basa, Cekpan, Kede and Kupe were also always on ground to identify with their own.
Beyond the cultural renaissance and unity, there seems to be conscious efforts and interests by the youths in learning the Nupe language through the efforts of the foundation. In fact the Etsu himself has been at the forefront in advocating for the reintroduction of indigenous languages in the nation’s education curriculum by concerned authorities.
In his address during the inauguration of the organising committtee for the 10th Nupe Day celebration, the Etsu said such gesture would be an antidote to the near extinction of indigenous languages.
Chief among the issues on the list of the Foundation’s demands with the Federal Government is the call for the dredging and utilisation of Baro Port which has been completed and exploration of petroleum products among others.
In spite of all that the Foundation has done and is still doing, Nupe foundation still hopes to continue its push towards attainment of a State for KinNupe.
Through its ambitious ICT drive, the Foundation In 2016 launched the ground breaking ceremony for KinNupe ICT Centres across all the LGAs in Nupeland. The intention is to provide ICT infrastructure for educational as well as research purposes of Nupe communities.
The Foundation hopes to create an educational fund from where it can be able to sponsor sons and daughters of KinNupe in science, technology and humanities courses in the near future amongst other efforts.