This anecdote mirrors the nostalgic narrative of the ancient city of Minna in reminiscing the old experience and behaviour of the town. The story revolves around the history and innocence of the town by recasting the memories and character of Minna; her Hills, Paida, Bosso, Hawan Sallah a gidan sarki, Filin kaci uwarka, Kasuwan dare and Makera in recreating a mental picture for posterity.
Minna as the name implies is a Gbagyi coinage referring to the festival of burn fire celebrated annually to mark the traditional ritual of seasonal farm harvest conducted after consultation with ZHIBA (Home Shrine) to thank and appease the Gods of their ancestors for another circle of life. The festival is accompanied by a wide range of Gyefu activities like drumming, singing, clapping, dancing to the rhythm of onomatopoeic rendition and the spray of the burn fire to the glory of their ancestors, embellished by the moon light. In Gbagyi language register, the pronunciation of ‘MI’ refers to spray and ‘NA’ means fire, therefore the combined effect of the two morphemes gave the full meaning of the word ‘MINA’ referring to the spray of fire in full context. Due to the effect of colonialism and the influx of migrants into the city, additional ‘N’ to the word MINA was inevitable and was called MINNA to suit the tonal pronunciation of the colonialists and settlers.
Minna hills are the genealogical origin in which the present Minna was born. Archeological and Anthropological evidence showed that the native Gbagyis lived on the hills for over 700 years dating back to the 16th century. Evident on the hills are the concrete marks of the Gbagyis like the Giginya (date palm tree), Kwai (baobab tree), Kurna, Taknu (stone-grind-machine), Takpala (food processing room), Vyigo (tombstones bearing the marks of the ancestors), Gwuchi and Ebye (Pistol and mortar), Tsna yaknu (hut), Kabako (central hut), Dagba (local silos for preserving grains), Ebwo (calabash), Shyaknu (clay pot), Etaa (Bow and arrow), and Ebye (knife or sword). The hills had stone walls in circumference as a means of protection from external attacks as experienced during the attacks on towns and villages during the time of Nagwamatse of Kontagora in the 18th century to 1901 when he was conquered by the British colonial government.
Historically, Minna was a village unit under Bosso during the reign of Godenyinze Ali (Sarkin Bosso), and like a placenta, Bosso nourishes Minna like a baby in her mother’s womb. Therefore, Minna was born out of the maternal womb of Bosso for her linguistic, traditional and political connection to each other. Bosso is laced to Minna from the beginning of time but suffered division through political machination and fear of the Natives’ influence by the ruling elites. But still bear each other through the natural bond of the symbolic placenta by living in each other’s arm. Bosso is the gate way to Minna, having Bosso town (to the north), Maitumbi (to the east), Chanchaga (to the south), Gadan Bosso, along Bida road (to the west) encapsulating Minna, the state capital. As pregnant woman nurses and watches her fetus grows in her womb, through the intake of nutrients and medical care, so is Bosso to Minna. Bosso is also like the covenant ring that binds union of couples together, it guards and guides connubial as Bosso symbolically circles the famous town like an ivy and tree they are intertwined. Godenyinze Ali ruled Bosso after his predecessors from the 17th century to 1918 and he was succeeded by his son Abubakar Zarumai (Lawu) who ruled Bosso and Minna from 1918 to 1950. Bosso hill remains one of the only historical hubs in Minna for tourism and research, housing ancient relics like the first storey building in Minna, a prison yard used for reprimanding offenders (few meters away from sarkin Bosso’s hilltop residence) and the grave side of the legendary chiefs with that of late Dr. Yahaya Bawa Bosso (Dan’galadiman Minna). In recent past, the town bears memories of places like Bosso dam, Randan ruwa, kasuwan Lambu, White House, St. mallachy College that connected flow of people from and around Minna for portable drinking water, trade, scholarship and relaxation.
Hawan Sallah a gidan sarki had its origin from 1918 to 1950 when sarkin Bosso (Abubakar zarumai lawu) ruled Bosso and Minna. His palace house stood at the heart of Minna where the central mosque is located today and of course the defunct Filin kaci uwarka in recent memory. In the time of Abubakar Zarumai (lawu) during Hawan Sallah a gidan sarki a fracas broke out between Musa Kwaatu (of village chief of shako) and shababi about a royal flute blown a gidan sarki as a test of loyalty on sarkin Bosso and Minna (Abubakar Zarumai Lawu) on one hand and disavowed on sarkin Hausawa (Abubakar Muazu II), typical of Filin wasan sallah behaviour. This marked a watershed in history vis-a-vis the beginning of Hawan sallah a gidan sarki and the gradual birth of Filin kaci uwarka in recent past during the reign of Ahmadu Bahago Kuta and Alhaji (Dr.) Umar Farouk Bahago (The present emir of Minna). In the time of Ahmadu Bahago Kuta, like a swarming bee, children in their numbers accompanied sarkin Minna after the Eid prayer and his long-chain of royal horse riders to merry a gidan sarki by enjoying activities like Hayan keke, Lilo, Hawan boris, while traders, hawkers take advantage of the celebration for economic prosperity. Children items like kankaran garin kuka, kalallaba, bulalan mallam, Alewa, Pate, Tasbin mallam, Dakuwa, Kulikuli, Goriba, Dinya, Kadanya, Hanjin ligidi, Gullisuwa, Kwakumetti, were sold, and it was a moment for suitors to woo beautiful maidens. Filin kaci uwarka is reminiscent to the recreational activities and the attraction of cream de la cream in the children world at that time; the gangs squabble, quarrels, eerie noise and the high-pitched warbling sound of swingers jetting high into the sky on Lilo, charged atmosphere of merrymaking, circling, attraction of the jamboree to passersby made Hawan sallah a gidan sarkin and Filin kaci uwarka famous in old Minna.
Kasuwan dare just like Filin kaci uwarka, has carved a niche for herself in magnetizing patronage from the community usually at the dark hours. Kasuwan dare’s hands were wide open to the gushing stream of people when the day ushered in the night thereby shielding the market from the shining eyes of the envious sun. The soul of the market was blown to life as traders and hawkers light their commodities with Fitila or Aci bal bal, giving the market a lighted heart and a smiley face. Behind the mask of the market, was the pool of human traffic like the traders, hawkers, night walkers and a hide out for miscreants and yan cin rani. The market was rhythmic with the sound of chattering movements of people, noise, and exchange of banters adding to the eerie sound of the night wind as Kasuwan dare gradually undresses, doses off and retires as she exchanged hands with the first light. Kasuwan dare has now worn a new regalia through metamorphosis into David mark square and presently Obasanjo complex.
Makera, a popular social corner that bred and built her own character was known for her style of attracting people from different background for the common interest of indulging in the habit of cha cha, socializing with karuwai or Gidan kilakai and mata masu daduro (concubine). It was a community exclusively reserved for deviance and it was a culture for that community. Makera was a community that lured men to her realm and waters their apatite with addiction; it consumes her followers in every event of the day and breeds their thirst like Oliver twist, always asking for more, thereby making Makera a Mecca of sort. The old Minna cannot be remembered without calling the name of Makera as a notorious joint that connected people of like minds and built a society laden with debauchery. Makera which still bears and wears her old looks today, had shanty mud houses shaded by the bushy trees, the galloping corridors exiting to Jolly bread, spilling over like a cold wind to other night outs in the neighbourhood like central hotel, Ogun guest inn among others, was indeed Makera that had written her name on the social sands of time in old Minna.
Recollecting the memories of old Minna and her reconnection to the present times have exposed to light some salient history and behaviour of the old Minna in melting a pot of communal harmony. The recreation of these histories renewed the moments of the people’s understanding about the past events that had disappeared in the society to the contemporary hands of time.
HASHIM MUSA ABUBAKAR