Informant: Musa Turmda Age: 74
Date: 15th June 1974
Place: Shaffa Village
Time: 9:45 11:30 A.M.
Origins of the Village
The village of Shaffa is said to have been founded by
the Mshelia clan who were formerly in Sasuwa, a village only
two kilometers south of Shaffa. The informant dates the founda-
tions well back before white men appeared on the scene.
The founder of the village was one Pukma Shola with his
wife Marwi. These two were believed to have some supernatural
powers. This became manifest when they gave birth to 12 children
who were all males. It is said that Pukma Shola died shortly
after he gave birth to his 12th son, leaving the children under
the sole care of their mother. Thus, they became very susceptible
to attack from their enemies. The first of these attacks came
from the Msheliza clan of Bilgwi some 7 miles to the southwest.
However, Bilgwi failed to defeat them because of the powers that
Marwi still possessed. It was said that she spread some thread
along the battle frontier which immediately turned into hills.
The 12 children grew up and took their wives before their mother
The second group of people to come to shaffa were the Malgwi
clan from Pelathabu. Pelathabu is also a nearby village about 5
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kilometers north of Shaffa. After the Malgwis came other groups
of settlers. The Mshelias (Miziwi) from Fuma came next. This
group of Mshelias were the sons of the village head of Fuma. They
had to leave their village because they had committed murder and
were on the flee. (In Bura this is called "nta sukur." This is
a case where the murderer will have to be killed in order to
replace the murdered). Therefore, the Mshelia from Fuma became
the second group of Mshelia to settle in Shaffa. They are called
by the Mshelias who came from Sasuwa as "mjir Kisa Kubashu."
When translated literally, these people from Fuma are next to the
founding Mshelias and they automatically become their assistants.
Many other groups have since come and settled in Shaffa.
There are now the Wakawa who came from a nearby Tiraku, the Balami
from Pelambirni, the Gwari from Giraba and Hyera Bura. These
last settlers did not form composite groups in Shaffa. They are
found spread all over the village and none of these clans can be
found all together in one place. This can be explained by the
fact that new transport means and availability of more sophisti-
cated amenities can be readily got in Shaffa than elsewhere away
from the road (my inference). A section of the Mshelias has now
broken up and has formed a new village northwards across the Shaffa
stream. This village is now called Dikir.
Original Lay-out and Size
Before the colonial days Shaffa was only what one may term
a hamlet. The village only constituted the households of the
original founders. There were only between twenty to thirty
households. These households did not constitute many "zaras."
They were very compact and found only around the house of Pukma
Shola. The informant related to me that the reason for this
composite settlement was for fear of battle. They were only a
few in number and because of this they can easily be attacked
and defeated if they spread out their households. It was said
that the length of the village was less than 400 yards.
The villagers planted their "tiksha" very close to their
households. This was true again because going to plant your tiksha
away from the village would involve certain risks. Sometimes
enemies would ravage and plunder your crops during the night. At
times there is fear of bush fire as the grasses grow tall and
become completely dry during the harmattan months.
However, now "tiksha" is planted far away from the village.
Now the villagers can grow their crops up to 3 miles away from the
village. New houses are now being built where crops were usually
grown. This has made the villagers to seek new fields away from
Shaff, since its founding days, has had plenty of water.
Perhaps the rapid growth of Shaffa of recent can to a very large
extent be attributed to the availability of water more than any
other places around. The whole village used to get their water
from one source. This source is a stream which passes north of
Shaffa. It had been said that the "kunar" trees along the Shaffa
section of the stream are responsible for the availability of
plenty of water. A "kunar" tree is a tropical specie of tree
found in numerous numbers wherever there is a stream all over
Biu. The tree bears an edible fruit which turns from red to black
when it is ripe for eating.
The Village Headship and Its History
From Pukma Shola the leadership of Shaffa had always been
dominated by the Mshelia. The continuance of the headship had
always been through succession. Where there are many sons the
eldest son would succeed his father. However, when there is a
dispute between the sons as to who should succeed the father the
next brother to their father (their eldest uncle) would usurp the
+6 Of the many leaders of Shaffa one of them proved most memor-
able. This man was called Yi-kadi, the grandson of Pukma Shola.
In his case he would elope with people's wives nd go unchallenged.
He proved his prowess on one occasion when his son eloped with
a man's wife from Tiraku. When Tiraku waged war on Shaffa,
Yikadi proved his irresistible power. He shot the brother of the
husband of the wife dead and made the people flee before him. It
was said that Yi.kadi dictated terms to his wives and all his
subordinates. He was said to have eloped with wives from 12
different villages but no village dared to put up courage to fight
him. During his exploits he treated the Mshelias of Fuma with
the utmost respect. He did not try his hand on Fuma nor did he
molest the Fuma Mshelias who had settled in Shaffa. Thus these
rather alien Mshelias participated fully in Yakadi's endeavors.
The people of Shaffa did not have any special name as the
title for their head. They only referred to him as "wala."
Literally this means "big." The head is their "bigman." How-
ever, "Bulama" is the title that is used now. The informant,
however, related to me that the word "bulama" came to be used
when the Pabir rulers came to the scene to begin to collect taxes.
The people of Shaffa used to reward their wala with "kuntu" -
a wrap of knitted strips of cotton thread which is used for
sewing clothes. When estimated, 12 kuntus would equal a bul
(this makes a complete garment). When one elopes with a wife
fie is supposed to pay 10 bul as the bridewealth. Normal (bride-
wealth) cost of marriage was between 6 and 8 bul.
Even now that Shaffa has grown so large the Mshelias still
stay together in a composite form. Their title for their "wala"
has now turned into "Maiangwa" which is a Hausa word. The
Maiangwa in this case has hegemony only over the Mshelias.
Things have changed and the head is now a Lawan. The present
Lawan is now Lawan Abori Wakawa. He now rules (has responsibility)
over Shaffa, Bwala, Tiraku, Sasuwa, Subong and Gwalam. The change
of the head of Shaffa from a Mshelia to a Wakawa can be explained
thus: The Lawan is ruling not only Shaffa but all the surrounding
villages. The Lawan is one of the later settlers at Shaffa and
had come to Shaffa due to the growth of the village. He was
formerly a resident of Tiraku. Thus the lineage of the Lawans
in Shaffa is Wakawa who had come from Tiraku. The informant told
me that the elder Mshelias are now furious about this hegemony
of the Lawan, recalling the bitter encounters that had developed
between them before now. The informant told me he had the days
of Yikadi in mind.
Even though the Malgwi clan of Pelathabu were the second group
to arrive in Shaffa they are no more of any significance in the
present-day Shaffa. Some of them had returned to their village
while others went somewhere else. Yet some are now dispersed all
The second oldest ward to the founders is the Mshelia (Miziwi)
from Fuma. This group of Mshelia were seven in number when they
came to Shaffa. As related before they were all the sons of one
person who fled because their lives were ransomed for revenge.
They went to Shaffa to take refuge during the wet season (about
July). It was said that they had to work for the Mshelias who
were in Shaffa before they could give them houses to stay in.
These seven Mshelias from Fuma brought along their wives to Shaffa
in the dry season. It was alleged that they stayed in a separate
group next to the founders. They also grew their tiksha next to
them. They became the assistants of the founders ("mjir Kisa
Kubashu.") Just as the original Mshelia had their "wala," these
people also called their leader "wala." However, he is a sub-
ordinate to the "wala" of the founders.
There was no discrimination between the two Mshelias. They
easily intermarried between themselves. They did not consider
this as incest. This is because they could easily trace their
lineage to Pukma Shola and Mshelia (Miziwi).
The headship of this ward had seen severe fluctuations. The
headship diverted to many lineages still within the Miziwi clan.
This was because since the founders of this ward were all the sons
of one man they desired that everyone of them should have a taste
of its headship. The informant was unable to remember who de-
finitely was of any significance in this ward. He however told
me that he can remember one man, Badawi, who used to own many
wives. He also had many children and could boast of more than 10
horses at a time.
Titles and Offices
Besides the village and ward leadership there are other
recognized titles in the village. Usually these titles are given
to those who are experienced in the field in which they hold the
title. There are both men and women titles.
There is a village shrine in Shaffa and only certain groups
of people are qualified to go into it. Usually those who possess
some supernatural powers and can speak to the dead go into it.
The shrine is a group of trees found at the center or the out-
skirts of the village. In the case of Shaffa, their shrine is
located on the outskirts and is found on the northern section.
The shrine is made of a group of "washima" trees (black ebony).
The head of this shrine is called "millim.' This shrine is
headed by one Yati Nggilim. (I have had time to speak to him
after I was finished with this informant.) I was shown the site
of the shrine but I was told not to go into it. Inside the shrine
the mallim (as Yati Nggilim is known) performs the "haptu." He
is believed to speak to the dead there and often finds remedies
to the sickness of the people.
There is also the title of "Deha." This occupational title
resembles that of Yati Nggilim but in his case he does not deal
with shrines. He only performs his rites with herbs. Usually
people go to him and hear him speak to them about their fates and
future prospects. He is believed to cure people by using herbs.
The present "deha" for Shaffa is one Shajaw Mshelia, a brother
to my informant.
Even among the youths there are some recognized titles.
Among them there is the "kuhyi dakwi." This is a gentleman who
coordinates the social activities of the youth. These activities
include dances, going out for hunting, behavior at weddings, and
all other social activities. However, the title "kuhyi dakwi" has
come to be used as "Shugaba" in Shaffa. "Shugaba" is a Hausa word
which means leader. The present "Shugaba" for Shaffa is one B.
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Among the women the same title of "kuhyi Dakwi" is "magira."
The magira is an elderly woman who coordinates the activities of
women in all social fields. The magira is supposed to have an
expert idea of dancing. She is the woman who is supposed to
salute the Emir of Biu, Ajiya (district head) and the Lawan when
they visit Shaffa for a "rangadi" (tour). In Shaffa the magira
is Yamwajim. She is being assisted by one Yashuwa Kuladiffu.
Succession to these titles is not all homogeneous. Sons of
the "deha" and the "mallim" succeed their fathers when they die.
Usually in the course of their lives they learn the jobs of
their fathers. The "mallim" would introduce his choice son to
the shrine and explain to him the procedures of the "haptu". When
his father dies he will have learned enough to succeed him. This
is the reason why it is never wise to elect new people to this
post. In the case of a mallim who has no son, his brother or
anyone in the lineage would take over his occupation. Also in
his lifetime, the "deha" would show his choice son or subordinate
the herbs that are used for curing sickness. He would also teach
them how to manipulate the language of telling fortune and how
to speak to invisible beings.
Posts of "kuhyi dakwi" and "magira" are not followed through
succession. This is because the qualities of these posts may not
be inherited by their offspring. They may differ in physique and
build. In the case of the "deha" and the "mallim" they hold their
posts until they die. The kuhyi dakwi and the magira can retire
at will. This is true when they are suffering from bad health or
are growing old. Usually a new magira or kuhyi dakwi are chosen
at dances. He or she, as the case may be, is turbanned (in a
local sense) at the scene of the dance. It used to be a cere-
These people don't get salaries for these titles. The deha
and the mallim get their rewards from people who come to them to
seek to know their fates.
Relations to Other Places
Of the many villages that surround Shaffa my informant
related to me that Tiraku was and is still the most disliked
village by the people of Shaffa. The hostility that developed
between Shaffa aAd Tiraku developed because of the ways the people
of Shaffa elope away with Tiraku wives. Another reason for this
hostility is the establishment of a lawan (originally from Tiraku)
in Shaffa. Though this hostility does not become apparent among
the youths, elders still detest Tiraku people.
Dikir, which is a segment of Shaffa, has intimate relation-
ship with the people of Shaffa. For example, they used to help
the people of Shaffa during battles and attacks. They help in
rebuilding the stone wall (mitciba) of Shaffa.
This also applies to Sasuwa and Bwala. Yimana, 4 kilometers
away, also has intimate relationship with Shaffa.
Shaffa people also participated most vigorously in the burial
and installations of the chiefs of Mandaragirau and Biu. When-
ever there is an installation of an emir in Biu or Mandaragirau
the people would travel there in thousands. At installation
ceremonies people go to have a gaze at their new ruler, especially
when the previous ruler had proved a tyrant. Shaffa to Mandaragirau
is a bit far; therefore, people had to be away for several days
on such occasions. My informant emphasized to me that they were
never at any time forced to attend such occasions.
Whenever death occurs in a neighboring village Shaffa people
would go there for what they call "tua" (weeping). A death in
Shaffa will also see these people come for tua. As these go on
they form a sort of reciprocity between them.
Gifts between Shaffa and other villages are very rare. In
fact, only important people that is, village leaders get
gifts from other villages. These gifts are usually not in the
form of money. It could be anything ranging from guinea corn to
a horse. Among the villages that make exchanges with Shaffa are
Dikir, Hadlang, and Liba.
The market in Shaffa was formerly located in Bwala about 6
kilometers off the road. It was later transferred to Shaffa. The
market had always been a "Dlimawa", Friday. The people refer to
the market as "Dlima" meaning Friday's market.
The market, according to my informant, was 'used for several
purposes. Strangers who arrive in Shaffa after dusk and can't
find the houses they are looking for could sleep in the market
until the next morning. Young boys also search for young ladies
whom they want to marry while they watch them in the market.
Relatives and friends meet to greet each other in the market. My
informant said he could recall cowrie shells used as money. He
then said that red shillings and white pennies were used later.
White shillings later replaced the red ones and now the Kobo
pieces have come into use. "Kuntu" was then worth 3d; bul was
about 1/6 d. A goat could be bought at 2/- while a cow could
sell at 20/-. Thus, market provided the Shaffa people chances
to come into contact with people from other villages. The market
had since remained in Shaffa because of the road that passes
there. In fact, my informant argued, the market was removed
from Bwala because of her remoteness.
Shaffa like many other Bura villages used to have walls
around it. The walls were made out of stones. It was much easier
to use stones because there are so many stones in Shaffa. In
fact, there are so many stones in Shaffa that they render some
places useless for cultivation and housing.
The main reason for building this wall in Shaffa is for
defensive purposes. There are always raids from other villages
and groups. Often times the Pabir people would invade villages
and plunder them for booty. Thus the wall served as a means of
preventing easy access for invaders. Other reasons given for the
construction of the wall is for the prevention of entry into
the village of dangerous animals such as tiger and hyena.
There were two gates on the wall. These gates had no doors
that are used to close them. However at times the gates could be
closed with "kitsa." Kitsa(kitsha?) is a shrub that has strong
stems and has bulky branches which are hard to bread(braid,break?).
There are no rules for entry and exit out of the gates. However
when there are rumors of wars and raids people would keep indoors
The wall was a long strip built along flat fields. At its
peak the wall was about 1/2 mile long. It had a height of about
4 1/2ft. (The informant related to me that it reached to the
shoulders of an average man.)
Whenever these walls are destroyed by either animals or
rain the whole village goes out to rebuild and reconstruct it.
Sometimes friendly villages would come and help them. Thus they
reciprocate and expect Shaffa to help them in crisis situations.
No new walls were constructed in Shaffa. In fact, when they got
tired repairing the old one they gave up the idea altogether.
No ditches were dug outside the walls. The Shaffastream
served as the ditch that was supposed to have been dug. The
stream is only 300 yards from the stretch of wall. When enemies
approach the stream they are easily sighted. Before they could
cross the stream the villagers would prepare for the defensive.
Again, when raiders see the stone walls they would think they are
- 14 -
a group of men because the topmost stones were arranged to
resemble human beings.
In pre-colonial times Shaffa had only one major war. That
was between her and Tiraku. En mity had long developed between
Shaffa and Tiraku. This war which occurred between them came
about when Yikadi's son eloped with the wife of a man from Tiraku.
Shaffa people had on several occasions run away with Tiraku wives.
However Tiraku could no longer put up with this one. They there-
fore decided to wage war on Shaffa. The news of Tiraku's prepara-
tion for war came to Shaffa three days before the battle day.
Shaffa, therefore, got prepared to meet the challenge from Tiraku.
They got their arrows poisoned, their spears sharpened and the
medicine men went into the "haptu."
Neighboring villages also got the news. However, they did
not take sides with either Shaffa or Tiraku. A day to the
battle Tiraku was said to have assembled about 2 kilometers below
Shaffa. (Shaffa is sited at a higher elevation than Tiraku;
therefore they were able to camp at the foothills of the Shaffa
hills.) Hadlang, Saswa, Liba and Bwala came for they were to
help see that neither side suffered great losses. They were said
to be responsible to "mbul belma" i.e. minimize losses.
In the morning of the battle Yikadi' assembled the whole
village of Shaffa under a "mbula" tree. He gave each male some
medicine \sing his left hand. Each male took this medicine and
they were thus filled with courage to face Tiraku. He thus called
the Mshelia from Fuma and asked them if they would support him
against Tiraku. They assured him that his war is also their war.
Immediately these procedures were completed they heard Tiraku
people shout below the present site of the market. They thus got
ready for the defensive. When they came Shaffa people were
hiding and waiting for them. Women and children had already
left the village to hide in the bush. The captured wife was
transferred and hidden in Teba (a village about 5 kilometers away.
When Tiraku saw that Shaffa had been deserted they only
resorted to destroying and burning houses. They also destroyed
water pots. After doing this they turned away towards Tiraku.
It was then that Shaffa people came out of their hiding and took
the people of Tiraku by surprise. They chased them and drove
them out of the village. The brother to the husband of the cap-
tured wife, who was a Tiraku man, was shot. Nobody died in this
battle. However, Tiraku did not succeed in recapturing their
wife. This type of battle is locally called "dlira." This is
when other villages wage war on others for a grief they had for
long borne and could no longer bear. It could also be referred
to as "nta sukur." It is true because the Tiraku people could
capture a wife in place of their lost one if they could get one.
This is why women had to hide during the time of such battles.
Several weapons are used in this type of battle. Among the
chief ones are the bow and arrows. The metal head of the arrow
is covered with poison such that it kills instantly. It is known
as "afa dzibdziba". Bows are made out of bamboo trees with
strings tied to it. This string is usually made out of animal
skins. It is called "dzir." The arrows are usually kept in a
quiver (kwaja). One kwaja can hold between 20 to 30 arrows.
Knives, spears and "jangum" are also used. Knives and jangum
are used when the opposing parties are too close for arrow
ranges. They thus use these weapons to injure and kill on the
spot. Houses are also burned during battles. Women and children
do not participate in battles. When battle words reach them on
time they rush and find some hiding place in the bush. When a
battle meets them by surprise they only shout and cry at home.
Normally some rites are performed before any battle begins.
Both the offensive and the defensive parties go to their "haptu"
before they go for battles. The "deha" would go to a haptu in
the morning of the battle and request it several things. Amongst
them are that their side should emerge victorious. Even if their
side does not win, injuries should become very minimum. Poisonous
arrows should not pierce them very deep when shot. When these
are performed they rest assured that the haptu would help them.
There was another battle which Shaffa participated in but
this time indirectly. They helped Kwadami in a battle between
her and Tiraku. In this battle a Kwadami man was killed. Another
young man of Kwadami was slaughtered by Tiraku. Even though
Shaffa combined with Kwadami they were unable to defeat Tiraku
this time. This was because Kwadami people were known not to run
away from battle. Here, Shaffa was not allowed to fight Tiraku
directly. The battle between Tiraku and Kwadami was one for
The informant plus many others reiterated to me that
"angiramta" was unknown in Shaffa. This informant only told me
that "angiramta" is a spirit (mambila) and is found at Wuyaku.
These spirits are believed to be supernatural and they only pass
from father to grandson and not from father to son.
In Shaffa two kinds of hunting organizations have been known.
They are the annual hunting and the "daltuwur."
The annual hunting takes place in March and April. A week
before a hunting expedition is to take place, someone carrying a
"Shaffa" in his hand would announce it in all markets from say
Sunday to Saturday. A day before the hunting arrows are sharpened
and bows are tightened. Dogs are called and given special foods
and some medicine. In the morning of the day of hunting a horn is
sounded. This horn is supposed to wake the animals from their
sleep. People from different villages would then come out and
follow towards the direction of the horn, when everyone converges
into the given bush and the hunting is begun. Animals are pursued
with vigor when sighted. When one shouts that he sees an animal
he becomes the rightful owner of the animal. Anyone who shouts
the same animal after him gets a share of it. This continues
until it reaches a fourth person. If one catches a fowl and you
come next to him, you are said to "get it for him" and so he
gives you the limb. At the end of the day the hunting party
returns to their various villages.
There are many annual hunting in Shaffa. Amongst them are
Wudiri near Yaragi. In this definite hunting people from Zali,
Shaff, Teba, Ton, Yimirshika, Dzaku, Kida, Bolikatau, Pelakwapar
and numerous other villages all participate. There is also the
Gilamgilam. My informant emphasized to me that this Gilamgilam
is a famous one. This is due to its diverse games content. In
it could be found even hyenas. Baboons, antelopes, rabbits and
various other animals are also found. He says that it is very
far away from Shaffa and those who go leave very early in the
morning and would come back after dusk. Everyone that goes to
Gilamgilam is expected to come back with "something."
There is also the Shallangwa. This is found along the River
Shallangwa north of Shaff. The Shallangwa is famous for its fowl
content. Others are Durkwa, Garubulam (money's mountain), Pela-
ufwa and Duramudiki. So people find great pleasure in annual
hunting. It is the time when meat abounds in "plenty."
Another type of hunting known to Shaffa is the "daltuwur."
The daltuwur differs from the annual hunting in several ways. No
dogs are permitted to go for the daltuwur. In the daltuwur only
large animals are hunted. Also many more villages participate in
the daltuwur than in the annual hunting. The daltuwur need not
necessarily be annual. It could take place once in several years.
Just like the annual hunting, daltuwur is announced in all
markets. Food is to be eaten in the bush during(daltuwur and so
corn flour is prepared before the daltuwur day. No dog are taken
for daltuwur because dogs are not able to affect the large animals )
to be hunted. Hunters leave without dogs at about 10 A.M. They
would reach the bush about 2 P.M. Others would also approach the
bush and ought to be there about 2 P.M. They don't go in single
file but they are spread out. They usually must stop at a point
where they see a "shaffa" thrown to the ground. This shaffa is
being thrown by a chosen man who throws shaffa in a circle until
all approaching villages see it and stop. The shaffa is thrown
in a circle and so when people see it and stop they would be in
a circular form. When the man throwing the shaffa feels that people
must have stopped near all the shaffas he had thrown, he would
shout "Ga babau" meaning are you ready? If people reply by
saying the same thing, then he feels they are ready and so gives
the green light for a "begin." As the people converge they tend
to chase animals into the circle the shaffa had formed. This
circle is called "dlima" (a place, house rather, where goats,
sheep and fowl are kept at home). As animals converge they are
being killed and are not allowed to escape outside the circle.
When all animals in the circle have been killed the daltuwur is
over. Animals that are killed include buffalo, bush pigs and "jukom"
(I don't know the English nane for this animal). If large animals
are caught the hunting party does not return the same day. They
would wait for the next morning after they will have cut the meat
in bundles. It is then that they make use of the flour they had
taken along with them to the bush. My informant says he partici-
pated in one daltuwur but never saw anyone thereafter.
Informant: Mallam Shajaw Age: 55
Time: 9 11 A.M.
Date: June 20, 1974
Origins of Shaffa
This informant is a direct descendant of Pukma Shola who
was said to have founded Shaffa.
He says that the land of Shaffa was originally owned by the
Malgwi clan of Pelathabu. This clan had settled in the present
site of Shaffa and they called it Malgwi Pelathabu. This clan
also owned Sasuwa, Humasu and Subong.
The Mshelia clan who are now the present owners of Shaffa
were said to have come from the Chad area around Fort Lany. They
later moved down to Medagali south of Gwaza. A section of them
went to Gaya Kilba and later to Mandaragirau. It was in Mandara-
girau that Pukma Shola was born. He came in contact with Shaffa
because he had made friends with the "wala" of Malgwi Pelathabu
on his journeys to sell salt in the Malgwi Pelathabu market.
The "wala" gave Pukma his daughter in marriage and later invited
him to come and settle near him. Pukma Shola therefore came and
settled in Sasuwa only 2 kilometers to the south. It was much
later that Pukma Shola moved from Sasuwa to the present site of
Shaffa. (It is from here that my former informant, Musa Turmda
started his story.) However, by the time Pukma Shola came to
Shaffa the Malgwi clan of Pelathabu had moved away to their former
Pukma Shola named his village Shaffa because he settled under
a large "shaffa" shrub which still stands today. He also planted
a tamarind (mbula) tree near the shaffa. This "mbul" is still
standing to this date.
It was said that Pukma Shola gave birth to one Yawatifa.
Yawatifa gave birth to Yanabi and Yanabi gave birth to Yabwala
Tapci who was the father of the famous Yakadi. Yakadi was the
father of Bila Dzau who was the father of my informant, M. Shajaw.
Shajaw now has a son called Adamu. Adamu was with me when I was
conducting my interview with his father.
The Mshelia (Miziwi) from Fuma came to Shaffa in the days
of Yikadi. Bila Dzau, the son of Yikadi, was friends with the
sons of the "wala" of Fuma. However, these sons were, mischievous
and committed blunders as they liked. They were termed as "bori"
people. Therefore, when they killed a man from Bilgwi they had
to flee. Bila Dzau, therefore, went to Fuma and collected them.
They were 7 in number. They came in the wet season and all 7 of
them were given one room in Yikadi's house. It was only during
the dry season that they brought their wives to Shaffa. It was
then that they built their own houses. Their father was one Cakda.
- 22 -
My informant told me that Shaffa was at its peak during
Yikadi's time. At that time even the Malgwi from Pelathabu were
back to Shaffa again. He says that up to 30 people came to Shaffa
from Bwala. Others came from Liba, Hadlang, Hyera, Giraba, Subong,
Dzamtikar, Kwagu, Dim and Tsahuyam.
The Lawan clan from Tiraku were the last to come to Shaffa.
Earlier Yikadi had been given the title of "lawan" but he refused
to accept it. He gave it up and it was given to a Wakawa who
was residing in Bamjikil about 3 kilometers east of Shaffa. How-
ever, Bamjikil was remote and could not serve the purpose of the
Pabir administrators. The emir therefore recommended that the
lawanshould go to Shaffa. It was then that the Wakawa clan moved
with their lawan to Shaffa.
Others have since come to Shaffa but none came in groups.
There are some who had come because a road has been built. Others
came because a primary school has been built and they had come to
either teach or learn there.
Original Layout and Size
This informant tells me that Shaffa was a large place at the
time of Yanabi and Yikadi. He says that the village had several
"zaras." He says that different clans had come and settled under
their respective leaders. The Mbaya clan who came from Moram had
rheir own zara.: The Wudiri clan had also come and they too re-
sided in their own zara. Their leader was Kwatikar Nzika. He
says that the Wudiri clan were up to 30 in number. Some people
- 23 -
from Tiraku had also settled in Shaffa. They were under one
leader called Yadanji. Even the Shalangwa clan from Garkida had
their zara in Shaffa. The leader of the Shalangwa there was one
Yaworu. It was alleged that there were up to 5 different zaras.
M. Shajaw told me that the zaras were formed according to
how the different clans went to Shaffa. Each clan formed a
However, Shaffa could not stay as large as it used to be.
The different clans deserted Shaffa and most of them returned to
their original villages. My informant told me that some left the
place because Kwajaffa had come to be established as a district
headquarters. Some moved to Kwajaffa. Some ran away because the
people of Biu would pass there and devastate whatever they have
on their way to Kwajaffa. Some went away because they could not
cope with the ways of Shaffa. Some clans were fond of stealing
Shaffa detests this. Some were fond of going to bed with people's
wives. Still Shaffa was not in agreement with this. As a result
all who could not cooperate with the ways of Shaffa were advised
to leave for good. Thus Shaffa was deserted and left only a few
"Tiksha" was planted very close to the households. Fields
were divided into two parts. One is used for "pino" (maize) and
the other was used for "tksha" (red corn). From the fence of the
household to about 10 yards away maize is planted. This is be-
cause this section is fertile and maize needs good soil. Away
from the maize section red corn is planted. Amongst the corn
"hela" (cucumber), okra, beans and pumpkin are interplanted.
Among the maize "badugjala" (native cotton they say) are inter-
planted. When the tiksha and pino are harvested those crops
inter-planted are allowed to continue to grow. It is only about
the middle of November that everything will have been completely
harvested in the farm. All these crops are planted near the
Away from the village about one or two miles away a different
type of corn is planted. This type is called "whihi." This is
a white corn and is harvested much later than the tiksha.
Nowadays, tiksha is planted away from the village. Most of
the crops grown at home are only maize, and some other vegetables.
Even tiksha is planted on the outskirts of the village. This is
because spaces that used to grow tiksha are now used for houses.
Spaces that are left are not good for either agriculture or
All the zaras in Shaffa got their water from the same source.
The source is from a "kunar." Water flows in the Kunar throughout
the year. In the Kunar water is got all along the Shaffa section
of the stream. No wells were dug along the stream.
Mallam Shajaw says that the headship of Shaffa from Pukma
Shola to Bila Dzau had always run from father to son. From Pukma
Shola the next head was Yawatifa. After him Yanabi was the head.
Yabwala Tapci was the head after Yanabi. Yabwala was the father
of Yikadi, the direct grandfather of Mallam Shajaw. Bila Dzau,
M. Shajaw's father, was the son of Yikadi and he became leader
Succession had always been from father to son. However, it
changed from the lineage of Bila Dzau to another lineage,that of
Helma Burashika. This change from one lineage to another came
When Bila Dzau died, his son who was to succeed him was too
young to rule. He had earlier before his father's death run to
Damboa in Bornu Division. He was, however, advised to return to
Shaffa before his father's death.
At the time of his father's death (he was the only son of
his father) he was told to rule. He was only 17 years of age
then. He decided not to rule too young and so he gave the
leadership to one Katchahu whom he told me was of the same Mshelia
clan. When Katchahu died 15 years later he thought he was too
young still. He again gave the title to one Buba Biram who is
still the head of the Shaffa village.
Mallam Shajaw stressed to me that this change from his lineage
to another is not a permanent one. He emphasized that he would
let his son, Adamu, take over at any time he feels like. He says
/that everyone of their clan goes to him for advice and gives him
the same respect that is due to a leader.
Just like many other, M. Shajaw is also of the opinion that
Yikadi proved a great leader. He, however, added Pukma Shola
as having been great.
Yikadi was all out to see that everyone in Shaffa who
out to have a wife must get one. If he however fails to get
married Yikadi makes sure a wife is caught for him.
Shajaw says he recalls Yikadi most vividly when he fought
Tiraku at the time they waged war on Shaffa. It was said that
he came out fully armored and together with several others drove
Tiraku people all the way to the outskirts of their village. It
was said that he was the man who shot the Tiraku man who almost
died in that battle.
Shajaw says that they refer to their head as "wala" also.
However, titles like Dzarma could be used for a head. He says
he recalls that Dzarma was used for one Kadafir Butu.
Titles and Offices
According to M. Shajaw, some other titles apart from that
of the village head were recognized in Shaffa. He says there is
one who is the"walar haptu.'' The walar haptu uses "maili" (small
seeds) and asks the haptu for peace and tranquility in Shaffa.
The walar haptu does not stay in the haptu always. He goes to
the haptu only on special occasions. He goes there when there is
drought, famine, pestilence and war. Nowadays the children of the
walar haptu do not like to succeed him because they think that
"haptu" is fAt out of fashion with the onset of Christianity and
Islam in Shaffa.
Shajaw also emphasized to me that the post of "kuhyi dakwi"
had never existed for long in Shaffa. He says that the responsi-
bilities of the kuhyi dakwi used to be that of the village head.
He however said that the Emir of Biu was the one who had established
the kuhyi dakwi in Shaffa recently when he undertook a "rangadi"
(tour) to Shaffa.
M. Shajaw tells me that the "deha" is a recognized title
in Shaffa. The responsibility of the deha is diverse. The deha,
he says, does the "tsa di." This is the process whereby people
go to the deha and he tells them the diseases that affect them
and predicts their consequences. He also gives medicines that
would allow for pregnancy, for children to grow away from the
influence of the devil. He does heal wounds that are caused by
arrows that have "gwar" (poison). He would also prescribe remedies
for the prevention of hyena and some dangerous snakes from enter-
ing into a house.
M. Shalaw told me that the title of magira was never known
in Shaffa. He seems to be contradicting Musa Turmda here who says
that Yamwajim and Yasuwa Kuladiffu are the two women responsible
for this post. I, however, discovered the truth when I asked the
drummer at Shaffa. He told that that the post of "magira" does
exist. However, it is not recognized. It is only on special
occasions that a magira is appointed and she acts for only that
I was told that succession to these posts does not follow
directly from father to son. A son may succeed his father only
when he has learned the role very well. M. Shajaw says that
in his case he hopes that his son, Adamu, may succeed him since
he had already showed and taught him the ways of the deha. How-
ever, he says that the post of walar haptu may come to be vacant
because it seems to be unpopular now. Moreover, the trees that
form the nucleus of the Shaffa "millim" seem to be drying up.
One does not know how the kuhyi dakwi will be succeeded since
the Emir of Biu did not make it very clear what criteria he had
used to base his choice.
It was emphasized that in many cases the village head can
hold(all these posts. M. Shajaw says that when he becomes the
next wala he may also be the deha, the kuhyi dakwi, and the walar
haptu of Shaffa.
Relations with Other Places
M. Shajaw reiterated to me that cordial relationship had
always existed between Shaffa and all other villages around it.
He says that these villages reciprocate. They greet each other.
Some even use the Shaffa "Kunar" as their source of water. Such
villages are Dikir and Harang.
M. Shajaw also recalled that Shaffa and Tiraku were never Lo
always cordial. He again said that the bad relations developed
due to the practice of eloping with the wives of Tiraku people
by the people of Shaffa. According to him, they are never cordial
even in hunting expeditions, burials, even in the rivers and
markets. I have also asked many others about this tension between
Shaffa and Tiraku. Almost everyone I called told me that it is
true that there existed tense relations between Tiraku and Shaffa.
Among those who told me are Musa Turmda, Mallam Yerkawa and Helma
People from Shaffa were all aware of the installations and
burials of the emirs of Biu at Mandaragirau and Biu. However,
only very important people go to these occasions. At times the
wala would select some people from Shaffa to represent him. These
people along with some others from other parts of Kwajaffa district
would go to Mandaragirau or Biu to represent the Ajiya of Kwajaffa
there. M. Shajaw says that no ordinary people would volunteer to
go. He again said that no one was forced to go to Kwajaffa in
order to go and represent the Ajiya in Bui and Mandaragirau.
Kuhyi (Emir) Ali Dogo and Kuhyi Ali Gurgur died when M.
Shajaw was young. He said that he did not see people going for
their burials in their thousands as Musa Turmda emphasized.
,M. Shajaw says that he knew both Kuhyi Madu and Kuhyi Aliyu
Mustafa (the present emir of Biu).very well,but he says that had
not gone for their installation ceremonies. He even said that he
is a close friend of Alhaji Aliyu Mustafa. He told me that he
goes to Biu occasionally to salute the emir. He says that the
people of Shaffa go to say the "rankadadi" (long live the emir)
to the emirs of Biu.
There were rare gifts to and from Shaffa. Even if there are,
the gifts are small and meager. Women are fond of exchanging
things with their counterparts in other villages. They would
exchange gifts of flour( thlawa ka mpwa). If a woman takes mpwa
to another woman from a different village she does don't ) expect
mpwa in return. The receiver would either repay her by bringing
to her groundnuts or even beans. On many occasions the receiver
may even go to the giver and help her on her farm for a whole
day. Women are "gwarku" (friends) with their counterparts from
Among men, beer is being exchanged. Wives of Shaffa people
may take beer to their husbands' friends in some other villages.
As a result, the spirit of exchange is generated again.
Among the many places that have annual exchange of gifts with
Shaffa are Sasuwa, Subong, Gula, Tawasu, Liba, Hyera, Gwalam,
Bwala, Gwadzahar, Pelathabu, Hadlang, Hizhi, Huvir, Mandagang,
Walama and even Tiraku.
The market in Shaffa had been in Shaffa since times long ago.
It was in Shaffa that Pukma Shola n6w the wala of Malgwi Pelathabu
when he was in Mandaragirau. Pukma was said to have been coming
!to sell salt in Shaffa market when he met the daughter of the wala
of Pelathabu Malgwi. The market of Shaffa is called "dlima" from
the word "dlimowa" meaning Friday in English. The market day is
Friday just as it used to be in the distant past. The dlima was
formerly in Shaffa. It was for sometime transferred to Hyera to
the south. From Hyera it went to Walama (sometimes called Bwala).
It was transferred from Walama back to Shaffa where it still stays
today. The dlima was formerly called "dlimar wa kinga si ri?"
When translated it means that the people refer to the market as
"who requested you to come?" This refers to the fact that the
dlima has travelled to many villages and finally returned to
When I asked M. Shajaw why the market had journeyed through
so many villages he told me the following: He says that other
villages were jealous of villages that have markets and they would
do all they can to get this market to go to their villages. In
this way they would devise all supernatural power and so "carry
away" the market by the use of "medicine." So the people of
Hyera carried away the market from Shaffa and Walama "carried"
it away from Hyera. The people of Shaffa carried away "their
thing" from Walama.
I again asked him why no others have carried it away from
Shaffa again. He said that the power of the medicine Shaffa
people used has surpasssed all of those people who need the market.
Therefore, Shaffa has succeeded in retaining their dlima up till
now. When asked who owns the market now he retorted to me "who
do you think owns it?" He answered "the Mshelias of Shaffa of
Among the many things Musa Turmda told me are sold in the
market, M. Shajaw added the following: pino (maize), wadali
(local thread), jangul whada mda (a type of g. nuts that has been
cooked mixed together with beans). According to him, there was
/111M 32 -
the absence of money in the dlima,)before yera arrived it away.
He says that animals were sold in terms of kuntu. A goat would
cost between 1 to 3 kuntus. A he-goat goes up as high as 10
kuntus. A cow may cost up to 50 or 60 kuntus.
Just like many others I interviewed, M. Shajaw is also of
the memory that Shaffa never had any serious incidences of war-
fare. He said the only significant battle Shaffa ever fought was
the one between Shaffa and Tiraku. This is why he gave his own
account of the incidence.
He said that the tension developed between Tiraku and Shaffa
really because Bila Dzau, his father, ran away with a wife be-
longing to Tiraku people. He said the battle took place in
Shaffa because it was the Tiraku people who had come to raid
and recapture their wife from Shaffa. He said that it was Bila
Dzau who helped to drive the Tiraku people away.
He says he recalls four others who helped most vigorously
to drive Tiraku away. Amongst these people were Burashika Tagwi,
Bamanza Hefir, Yankwar Mari and Chadi Dawi. He says that was all
I asked him to tell whether there occurred any other warfare
apart from that of recapturing a wife. He said "yes, there are
some more." He says that there are surprise attacks. This, he
says, is carried out by individuals who may be called "dikal"
(robber). He says that this was never decent because they created
an atmosphere of fear for people who wish to travel from one
village to another. He told me that he could recall one Badawi
from Shaffa who was attacked by a "dikal" on his way from Shaffa
to Pelakwapar. He fought most gallantly but the dikal overpowered
him and went away. He says that was the only surprise attack he
had ever heard of near Shaffa.
Still, he says there were incidences of slave-raiding. He
however emphasized that this never happened in Shaffa. He only
said that slave-raiding occurred in Sura, a village about 10
miles northeast of Shaffa. He said that the village of Sura
was set ablaze in the night by people from Pelakwapar. When
people tried to run away they were caught one by one and were taken
as slaves. M. Shajaw says that in living memory he had never
heard of people who go out and fight specifically to acquire slaves.
They only carry people as slaves when that town has been de-
feated in a war or battle. This type of attack is known as "dlira."
Several weapons are used even in limited or full-scale battles.
Amongst them is "champilam." This is a very thin "axe-like"
weapon that is used for cutting. It has a sharp edge and has a
narrow and long tail which passes through the handle.
"Mosu" (spear) is also used. The spear is usually made
with cut edges that pulls flesh when it is pulled from the body.
The head is usually made with poison so that it may kill instantly.
The bow and arrow are the most popular weapons used in
warfare. The arrow is just like the spear but only that the
spear is a large type of arrow. Heads of arrows look like the
spear and have poison depicted (deposited?) on its metal head.
The handle of the arrow is called "chara" and is made out of
strong reeds that are rare in Buraland. When things get hot
people resort to throwing stones as a last resort. Also houses
may be burned during attacks on villages at night. Houses may
also be set ablaze by a group after defeating an enemy. Some
people may break women's water pots at night. This would force
the women to go and get water from the "Kunar" and so raiders
can easily stop them and launch attacks on them most easily. M.
Shajaw boasted to me that no enemy had ever succeeded in setting
the houses of Shaffa ablaze. When I asked him the reason behind
this he said it was because Pukma Shola has "tied the village"
(mbwa di) very well. Thus the prowess of Pukma Shola had saved
Shaffa from enemy fire. I told him that anyone can safely set
the whole of Shaffa ablaze these days. He promptly agreed but
reminded me that "men are now asleep."
Usually raiders go to a village in the night after some
spies might have studied the situation very well. When people go
for a revenge they tend to put up maximum effort just to avenge
their sorrow or hurt. I was told that those whom vengeance is
to be launched upon just play away with time. It was said that
they dared not kill some more people lest they provoke the fury
of the enemy. However, Shajaw boasted again, no one had ever
killed a Shaffa native even if an enemy had come for the motive of
- 35 -
vengeance or raid.
The fighting parties go both to their haptu and millim just
before confrontation battle begins. The walar haptu may spend
hours without end requesting "the god" to grant victory for their
side. He may be throwing maili seeds amongst the haptu and utters
/ strange languages at the same time. He would ask that arrows
should not pierce deep when they are shot at people on their
side. Men should bring victory to the whole village. It is
believed that the enemy goes into their haptu also. They are
believed to request the haptu similar things their enemy had
requested. It is true that both parties use the same techniques
of strategy for defense and provocation.
poisonous head with its p .
cutting edges poisonous
sharp cutting a spear
& edge a string (elastic)
/ andle a handle
j angun (champilam)
- 36 -
I was told that there were no specific organizations as such
in pre-colonial days. My informant also told me that there was
no hierarchy of membership in the society. Apart from the wala
and his close subordinates everyone in society is treated as
However, he emphasized to me that the medicinal sector of
the society has an elaborate organization. In this sector the
leader of the dehas is one man who has stayed in the profession
the longest. No only that, he must be most capable in seeing
and speaking to spirits.
Anyone who wishes to enlist as a member must of course be
deha himself. However, to become deha one does not just start
off at will. He would first of all go and see this most estab-
lished deha and beg him. As the man put it ..."Lie down in
front of him." He would then be given a chance to practice the
profession and he thus becomes an automatic member.
This sector of society acts at the command of their leader.
The leader gives them the right to see and speak to spirits (for
such, this is how they believe it). The motive behind this
organization is to keep the village in peace and tranquility.
They are committed to driving away all evil spirits from Shaffa
and to invite good spirits to come into Shaffa.
This group is also closely related to those who look after
the haptu. Both groups are committed to controlling the movement
of spirits in Shaffa. However, members are never recruited into
the haptu sector. Only choice people are given the ability to
deal with the haptu.
M. Shajaw narrated to me almost the same thing Musa Turmda
said about hunting organizations in Shaffa. The annual hunting and
the daltuwur are the same as Musa Turmda. However, M. Shajaw
emphasized that the "annual" hunting can take place twice a year.
The second time of hunting may be conducted because some
animals may attack and ravage crops that have just been planted.
This indicates that the hunting occurs in early May. This hunting
is on a very local scale. Villagers may not all go. Only a few
enthusiasts may volunteer. This type of hunting is called "pur
viya." When translated literally, this means "putting the wet
season right." Still another may take place in "thiya nfwar"
(August) when beans, guinea corn and even maize begin to yield.
Most of the animals caught include tsivir (g. fowl), nggwalahu
(a small crocodile-like creature that is seen only in the wet
season) and other smaller animals that also destroy crops.
As .earlier said, there were no elaborate organizations in
Shaffa in colonial days. As there existed no definite hierarchy
in the society people tend to form only simple organizations. He
said that men may form a band in this sense a band of men who
- 38 -
would become the drummers for the village.
The leader of such a band is also the owner of the band. He
is the chief drummer. Others in the same band are all his sub-
ordinates. Some may be beating the "kwala," a much smaller drum
than the big one. Some others may beat the "tsindza." Still he
may have some others who would blow the alikta (trumpet). There
may be some others who would sing and dance. Thus the membership
of the band is based on specialization. Everyone is specialized
in a specific field. The trumpeter may not know how to play the
kwala, nor the kwala man the trumpet and so on. Thus, people
are recruited into the band according to the idea they had in
that specific field. The chief motive of such a band is to derive
some money. They may also have other motives such as publicizing
the name of Shaffa.
There is such an elaborate band in Shaffa even to this day.
In fact, this group was invited by the Bura community in Kaduna
and Zaria in May. The leader of the band is Bukar Bishi. The
trumpeter is Sakdiya and the man who plays the tsindza is Usman
Bwaja. The man who plays the kwala is called Hassan Kwala.
Among Bukar Bishi's dancers are Salihu Yamta and Ajajar Mata.
Thus the band may sonsist of between 10-20 members.
Even though M. Shajaw is the chief medicine man and deha
for Shaffa he told me that "angiramta" never existed in or near
Shaffa. He also said they could only be found in Wuyaku.
- 39 -
Informant: Helma Pindar Age: 62
Place: Azare (5 kilometers from Shaffa
Time: 5 7 P.M.
Helma Pindar is the son of one of the Mshelia (Miziwi) who
went to Shaffa in the wet season. He narrated to me that they
were formerly residing with others (Mbaya, Malgwi and Izah) in
PelaKirma. The name of the father of these seven sons who fled
to Shaffa was Salmamza Badu.
Helma Pindar agreed that they are "bori" (mischievous) people
and would not let anyone who provoked them go unchallenged. I
asked him why they were called Mshelia (from Fuma) while they
were actually from Pela Kirma. He answered that they were the
'darsha" (relatives) of the Mshelias in Fuma and thus they were
referred to very closely to these people.
These groups of Mshelia while still in Pela Kirma had a
severe battle with the Msheliza of Whada and the Msehlias (the
sons of Salmamza Badu) killed one man from the Msheliza clan
of Whada. Whada people therefore demanded that one of Salmamza's
sons must be killed instead.
Salmamza, therefore, advised all his sons to leave Pela
Kirma. He did not know where to take these sons. Salmamza had
been popular. In fact he had worked for Kuhyi Mari and Kuhyi
Garga. Both were emirs of Biu. He also had the famous Yikadi of
Shaffa as a friend. He therefore sought that his sons should go
and stay with Yidaki in Shaffa since he was known to have possessed
powers that make his enemies fly before him.
Bila Dzau (the son of Yikadi) therefore went to Pela Kirma
to collect the sons of Salmamza Badu. (This coincides with M.
Shajaw's narration because he had said that Bila Dzau collected
these sons to his father Yikadi.) Helma Pindar enumerated to me
the names of the sons of Salmamza who fled to Shaffa. They were
Kwaryanga, Charkida who is the father of Helma Pindar, Salki Bata,
Mdaata Kirwa, Bura Shika Pokta, Kadamadar Thlama and Kwatikar
Salmamza specifically told his sons that their going to
Shaffa was only for a time. They were to go to Shaffa to hoe
tiksha only and when matters cooled between Pela Kirma and Whada
they would return back. However, Salmamza was known to have died
3 months after his sons left him.
The sons only returned in the dry season and collected their
wives and children to Shaffa and left Pela Kirma altogether.
Helma Pindar emphasized that they had never made it specific
that they had gone to settle in Shaffa most permanently. They
still had it in mind that they were in Shaffa only to hoe tiksha
and would return to Pela Kirma one day.
Kwaryamga was the head of the Miziwi ward when they went to
Shaffa. However, he died only 5 years after they had settled in
Shaffa. The title was therefore given to Charkida (his half-
brother). Charkida retained the title until his death. When
Charkida died, he gave the (spear) (a sign given to the
wala of Miziwi) to Helma Pindar. However, Helma Pindar had no
aim of staying in Shaffa. He therefore left and settled in
Azare about 5 kilometers on the Shaffa-Biu road.
I asked him why he moved away from Shaffa when it seemed that
the Miziwi had established themselves very well in Shaffa. He
said that he already had bought a plough and oxen. Staying in
Shaffa may never prove profitable because there are no good
fields for the use of the plough. He is now a happy old man with
a charming wife much younger than himself atAzare.
I also asked him whether some of their lineage could still
be found in Shaffa today. He said there are still some there but
they have now become mixed with the Mshelias of Shaffa.
I asked Helma Pindar what relations his people had with
Shaffa people when they first arrived there. He said that since
Bila Dzau was friends with them they remained intimate even when
they reached Shaffa.
The Miziwi used to get their water from the famous Kunar.
However, Helma told me that the Miziwi used to get their water
some distance upstream from the main source. For a time Shaffa
people discovered that the section of the Miziwi had clear water.
They requested the Miziwi to let them have a share there. They
Informant: Mallam Yerkawa Wakawa Age: 73
Time: 10 12:30 P.M. 20/6/74
Mallam Yerkawa is one of the Wakawa people who have come to settle
in Shaffa. He said that he had come to Shaffa in 1948. I asked
him why he left Tiraku for Shaffa. He told me that he went to
Shaffa because he was an evangelist.
M. Yerkawa said he had earlier passed through Shaffa on
his way to Marama. He said then there were only about 5 house-
holds. However, when he came in 1948 the households had increased
to over 25. He however contradicted Helma Pindar who said there
were zaras in Shaffa. I asked M. Yerkawa whether he knew Helma
Pindar. He told me that he knew him very well and could recall
their stay together in Shaffa most vividly.
M. Yerkawa also related to me that the headship of Shaffa
had always been with the Mshelia. However, he also said that the
son succeeds his father when he dies. He went further to say
that a son does not just succeed his father like that. The
walar haptu would first of all go and consult the haptu so that
it would decide who among the dead man's sons would prove capable
of being the wala. Sometimes the haptu may not necessarily fall
on the choice son of the dead man.
As a member of the Wakawa ward, M. Yerkawa has the following
to say. He said that a section of the Tiraku Wakawa had settled
in Bamjikil. Their leader in Bamjikil was one Yerima Bata. How-
ever, Bamjikil was too remote for the administrative purpose of
the Pabir administrators. They thus desired that the Lawan of
Bamjikil be brought to Shaffa. This order came directly from the
Emir of Biu. It was this motive that brought Yerima Bata and
many others of his people from both Tiraku and Bamjikil to Shaffa.
Yerima Bata was said to have 9 wives and over 25 children.
He was a "Katsala" (warrior). He also had many cattle and sheep.
M. Yerkawa told me that a man's sheep, animals, wives and children
represent his wealth. Even the Pabirs feared this man and it
took them time before they brought him to Shaffa.
I was told the nyarmbwa lineage of the Lawan had never changed.
After Yerima Bata, Bulama Anda ruled as the Lawan of Shaffa.
Lawan Anda was followed by one Kadapu;then Yangam who died
only a few years ago. Lawan Abwari Wakawa is now the Lawan of
I asked M. Yerkawa whether he came in the Lawan's entourage.
He said that he came much later to find his kinsmen there. He
recalled that a white missionary named Briggle came 2 years after
he had settled in Shaffa. It could be recalled that Mr. Briggle
was in Shaffa in 1950.
I also asked him who were the original owners of the land
of Shaffa. He said even though he had not originated in Shaffa
V ,\ he was told much about the past of Shaffa. He said that the
IMalgwis of Pelathabu seemed to be the rightful owner. This is
S because they have a share in the haptu in Shaffa.
He also recalled the Mshelia (Miziwi) were formerly from
Pelakirma. He reiterated that they were "bori" (very mischievous)
people and fought a great deal until they killed a man from Whada.
- 44 -
He said it was Bila Dzau who rescued them.
Mshelia Miziwi had Nderalang as their ward when they were
in Shaffa. They were known to be famous in farming red corn. "
This is exactly what one of their members (Helma Pindar) told me.
M. Yerkawa recognizes 2 titles and offices in Shaffa, that
of the "walar haptu" and the "kuhyi dakwi."
He told me the post of kuhyi dakwi was non-existent when he
came to Shaffa. I asked him to tell me what motives have prompted
the creation of such a post. M. Yerkawa said the chief motive
of the creation of this post was the introduction of N.P.C.
During those political days dances were almost constant. Poli-
ticians have wide followers. A post of kuhyi dakwi was thus
created so that he could coordinate the activities of the young
people of Shaffa in dances and even at political rallies. He
said the present kuhyi dakwi for Shaffa is one Katsala Gara. He
said Katsala Gara was chosen as kuhyi dakwi by the emir of Biu.
He also says there is a post for "walar haptu." According
to him the walar haptu looks after the village shrine (millim).
The walar haptu is Musa Turmda. I am, however, very surprised
that Musa Turmda refused to disclose to me that he is the walar
haptu. Many other people have told me that Musa Turmda is the
walar haptu. Amonst these people is his son.
S "Haptu" does not follow a son, he says. This means that a
son does not necessarily succeed his father after his death as
walar haptu. A "shetan" (spirit) opens the eyes of a rightful
successor. This means that you can be the walar haptu without
- 45 -
necessarily being the son of the walar haptu. However, re-
sponsibility over the haptu does not fall on anyone outside the
He however emphasized that the haptu is getting very un-
popular these days. Even those upon whom the responsibility
falls don't serve in earnest. The "millim" he says is made out
of "washima." He too says that the big tree in the middle of
the millim has dried up. I asked him whether people could go and
cut it for firewood. He said no one dares to there. This is
because they believe "shetan" would haunt him and even make him
Relations with Other Places
Of the many villages around Shaffa all have inter-married
with Shaffa. M. Yerkawa said "Mda ana kildzir mwala amma tsu
dawakur adi." This translated would mean: "One would go into
inter-marriage with another but still some enmity may exist
between them." Even though M. Yerkawa was from Tiraku he em-
phasized the fact that Tiraku was never a friend of Shaffa. He
attributed this hatred to the fact that Shaffa "doesn't leave
Tiraku wives alone." M. Yerkawa said he did not know the much-
talked about battle between Shaffa and Tiraku. He said he was
attending school in Garkida then as the missionaries had just
M. Yerkawa says that Shaffa people rarely go to Mandiragirau
- 46 -
and Biu for burials and installation of Biu chiefs. He says
Shaffa people plus many people from other villages were not
friends with the Pabirs and as a result don't go for thier burials
and installations. Thus both ceremonies pass unnoticed in Shaffa.
He, however, said that people go for these occasions when
Shaffa came under Biu N.A. Even when the native authority took
over Shaffa not many people go for these occasions. It is only the
wala and some of his subordinates who go. Even in their case they
don't go on their own. They first of all go to Kwajaffa, the
headquarters of their district. From there they join the en-
tourage of the district head and then go together to Biu or
However Shaffa people go for the burials and funerals of
people in all the villages that surround them. It does not
matter whether they are friendly with the village or not. M.
Yerkawa thinks that this is obligatory. They participate in the
"twa"(weeping for the dead) if the person is important or not.
This is because they don't know when they will die. When they
die they desire that many people would attend their burials and
He says that there had been constant flow of gifts between
individuals in Shaffa and almost all the surrounding villages. A
woman in Shaffa would send corn flour to her friend (gwarku) in
Bwala. Another individual in say Tiraku may also send a friend
beans and groundnuts in Shaffa. In fact, most of the gifts
exchanged between Shaffa and other villages are between indi-
SA gift to the whole village is very rare If there is any
meant for the whole village at all it would only be given to the
wala. The wala is given such gifts when he goes on a tour with
the district head. The district head when sharing some lot be-
tween his village heads would say "this is meant for Shaffa,"
this for Tiraku," etc. Such gifts would include rams, bundles
of g. corn, etc.
M. Yerkawa told me that they take gifts to the Kwajaffa Pabirs
during "Asham" (Ramadan, the month of fasting.) He emphasized
that these were not really gifts because it is being forced out
of them. These items would include corn flour, corn and even
rams. They refer to this as "sakar dika gwanggwam." "This is
a time for dues." These items are thus transferred from Kwajaffa
to Biu. Sometimes these things don't go to Kwajaffa but they are
taken directly to Biu under the guide of the Pabir in Kwajaffa.
This is because Shaffa is only 1/3 the distance from Kwajaffa and
Biu. Shaffa is situated at mile 7 on the Kwajaffa-Biu road.
M. Yerkawa told me that he knew the "dlima" of Shaffa since
his childhood days at Tiraku. He recalled that market day had
always been Fridays. He agreed with M. Shajaw that the market
had fluctuated between Shaffa and several other villages. He
recalls that the market was once in Walama (now known as Bwala).
- 48 -
He was in Garkida at that time.
As a man who knew how to read in his youth M. Yerkawa says
he remembers having writing in one of his exercise books that
the market "travelled Walama to Shaffa in 1942." It was still a
"dlima" on Friday.
At that time only a few items were sold in the market.
However, the major commodities in the market were kuntu, bul,
dankali (sweet potatoes), goats and even cattle. He says he
still recalls buying a cow at L1:2/- in the Shaffa market in
M. Yerkawa says that a market is not just established like
that. He says that the village deha had to do a "thiwi" (rites)
on the ground where the market is to be sited./ The spirits of a
[boy and a girl are known to have been slaughtered on the spot.
If these spirits are good ones it would be hard to transfer the
market to some other place. When this happens the market is said
to have a good "mbwa" (tying on a peg).
The owners of the market are said to collect tolls in the
market to cover their reward for establishing the market. They
accept anything given to them by the sellers. The collection is
done on every market day.
The Shaffa Walls
M. Yerkawa says that when he came to Shaffa in 1948 the
walls there were no more. He only saw the ruins. However he
' . -. ..
~ 6 &~ ~
.~Y ~ 6V'~K A'
said he had seen the wall when he visited Shaffa at a time he
was still in Tiraku.
The "mitchiba" (wall) was built of stones. He said large
stones were used as foundations and in some cases large trees
like baobabwere used as part of the wall. The wall was up to
4 ft. high and stretched up to a mile long. It was built
across a straight stretch. I was shown the stretch where the
wall once existed.
There were 2 gates to the wall. However, no guards were put
to guard them. There were no rules for entry and exit. But
during threats of wars and times of crisis people were advised
not to stay outside after dusk.
He said the walls were not built to prevent enemies from
entering alone. It was also for the prevention of thieves and
dangerous animals like hyena and leopard. No ditches were built
outside the wall. The famous "Runar" which was not far away
served as a natural ditch.
He had no idea of who originated the wall but he says he
surely knew it was in existence during the time of Yikadi.
Informant: Mallam Gwargwar Dibal Age: 33
There is no "angiramta" in or around Shaffa. Musa Turmda
had earlier told me that "angiramta" is found only in Wuyaku -
that is, in the extreme south of Biu division in the district of
M. Gwargwar comes from a village called Bila in Shani
district where angiramta is being practised.
Angiramta is a kind of festival sometimes annually and it
takes place in the month of September. September is a time of
wet season in this part of the country so angiramta is related to
"viya" (wet season).
A day for the angiramta is set. A day to the angiramta
day, beer is made in all households of the nyarmbwas (lineages)
that are going to participate. Usually not all nyarmbwas would
participate. Those nyarmbwas that would participate do so most
vigorously. On this day graves of all ancestors in the lineage
are weeded and hoed very clean. At dusk of the same day some of
the beer provided would be poured over the stones of the graves
of these ancestors.
When all these have been done the occasion has really started
to begin. At 7 P.M. a group of people are chosen to represent
each nyarmbwa. Membership of these groups consist of those who
had participated in the angiramta at least once and others who
had never had an occasion to participate. The individual lineage
groups would journey to a sacred mountain.
They take along with them to the market food and meat only.
No vegetables are allowed there. A cave is being dug in the side
of the mountain. This cave is .in the form of a house. The cooked
food and meat would be taken into the cave so that they stay there
for a time. It is afterwards eaten. When they had eaten they
shout until about 9 P.M. It is at such a time that the new hands
learn the shouts of angiramta. The shouts of angiramta Are very
significant because it is supposed to represent that of the an-
cestors over whom the beer had been poured over their graves.
When these new people are able to imitate the ancestors' voices
correctly the parties are then ready to make their Journey home-
When they reach home they greet their elders, calling them
by name. They then go and sit at the gates of all the households
in their lineage. There at each gate they would dance and shout
the names of their ancestors. Every host provides ample beer for
the party. When they have greeted all those in their lineage they
would shout that all those who are not members of the party should
disappear to their various houses promptly
When everyone has disappeared the old hands of angiramta
would imitate the voices of the ancestors and go about each
household. People would then be in their houses. The voice would
keep on greeting households individually. As it greets them they
are supposed to respond. The voice (the women and children
definitely think that it is the voice of one ancestor or another
who is really dead) asks of living relations. This adds greater
fear to those who are still living in the household. It is said
that the voice is so inhuman that no one dared disbelieve and
take it otherwise.
Women until today have no idea that the voices they hear
are not imitations. I asked my informant how this is very
possible. He said that this has been kept as a sacred secret in
some nyarmbwas. Revealing it would be very suicidal to the very
existence of their lineage.
At the time the voice representing the angiramta shouts it
would reveal all false practices done by the women in their
lineage. It would rebuke them and tell them to better reform or
else they would face serious consequences. She would promptly
fear because she has no idea that these were only imitations by
All secrets of women are disclosed to the angiramta (this
time the persons that are responsible for imitating voices) some
days before the angiramta day. Women's sins are exposed indis-
criminately. If a woman commits adultery the voice would threaten
her with barreness. If she steals she would be exposed.
By doing this the angiramta would journey to as many house-
holds as they can in their nyarmbwa. All these procedures are
supposed to come to an end just before dawn. It would be then
that women are relieved.
Rules Regarding "Angiramta"
Before you are chosen to represent your nyarmbwa at angiramta
you are supposed to take a vow to keep all the secrets of the
occasion. It is believed that if you break any of these rules
you would be deformed permanently. For this reason the secrets
- 53 -
of angiramta are nearly intact.
During the night of the occasion no one (including those who
are not participating) is allowed to put on caps. No one is also
allowed to carry any light of any sort. Carrying any light would
show those who are participating.
Women are supposed to keep indoors lest they see the move-
ment of the angiramta. If anyone dares to look on them he may
instantly go blind also. For these reasons those who are not
participating keep indoors throughout the occasion.
A grand dance takes place in the morning. The dance would
last for several days. During these festive days beer, meat
and all the entertainments aboud in plenty. It is said to be a
time of merry-making. Everyone in the village is free to take
part in all these festive dances. Sometimes people from surround-
ing villages come and participate.
Among the many villages where angiramta is practised are Gusi,
Walama-Shani, Shani, Bila, Whada near Gusi, and Chata. All these
villages are in Shani district of Biu Division.
Angiramta is still practised to date. "It is still practised
even today and tomorrow," says my informant. My informant says
that he himself had participated very vigorously.
I asked the informant why he disclosed this very sacred
secret to me. He says that he has done so because he "is educated
and knows the benefit of releasing it for such a noble research as
this. He reminded me that no one would ever disclose this to me
no matter how seriously I ask them. I told him that I am most
grateful for this generous offer and assured him that his narra-
tion would get priorities from the professor.
M. Gwargwar said that the hardest thing about this angiramta
is the voice imitation. He had participated on the occasion but
he finds it hard still to imitate any of the voices.
During the occasion people's ghosts are known to fight
(mpar mutu). Weaker ghosts are subdued. Any subdued ghost is
known to never come out during the period of the angiramta gain.
My informant says he has the following observations about
angiramta. He thinks it should be improved so that it would be
more grand. In the future it may be forgotten so as a result
younger people should be encouraged to participate vigorously.
He suggests that it should be like an agricultural show where
many people participate every year. He even went further to say
that it should be introduced to other parts of Biu which have
never known angiramta. Even in Shani, people feel reluctant
about it now.
Informant: M. Yerkawa Wakawa
Date and Time: 11 12 noon. 21/6/74
Mallam Yerkawa says that there is no angiramta in this part
of Biu. He, however, referred me to Shani district which I have
just narrated. He had only heard his grandfather talk about it.
His grandfather had on one occasion been to Gusi at a time the
angiramta festival was taking place. His grandfather described
it as "a most mysterious and wonderful" festival. M. Yerkawa
says apart from his grandfather's narration he had never heard
it from anyone else.
However, he had an elaborate knowledge of the uning-)
organizations in and around Shaffa. Just like Musa Turmda and
M. Shajaw he has participated in both the daltuwur and the annual
The annual hunting is announced not only in the market. It
could be announced to individual households. A man would carry
a "shaffa" and "hasila" in his hands. Anyone who sees this knows
that there would be a hunting organization. He would then ask
the announcer what hunting (kidla) this would be. The announcer
would tell them the name of that definite hunting and the day
it would take place.
Usually every "kidla" is assigned to a definite day over all
the years. For example, "Kidlir" Kigir (kigir hunting expedition)
takes place only on Saturdays; Duramudiki on Fridays' Ziya on
Sunday' Gilamgilam on Thursdays. It is very possible for two
"Kidlas" to coincide on the same day. When this happens the
stronger one would derive the greater number of people. Thus the
stronger one is said to be supreme over the other.
During a Kidla the owner of it (that is, the person who took
the trouble of going to markets to announce it) takes a portion
of any game that is shot. Usually a "pathahu" (limb) is his
reward. In the case of fowl, one of the legs is given to the
An annual hunting could take place twice annually. The
second time comes up in the wet season. It is during the time
of groundnuts planting. Sometimes the rains may fail and seeds
that are planted don't germinate on time. They are only attacked
and ravaged by "takulashu" (fowl). At such a time like this some
people (a small group) organize themselves into a hunting party
and then go to the bush. They only arm themselves with very
simple weapons. These weapons include bow and arrow, "zwol"
(sticks) and sometimes traps. They don't usually go far into the
M. Yerkawa comes close to Musa Turmda in his description of
the daltuwur. He had participated once in a daltuwur. He says this
is still a type of hunting organization but dogs are not allowed
to go. I asked him how possible it was to eliminate dogs when
they always follow their:masters whenever they come out with
their hunting outfit. He says this is very possible because the
hunters would not put their hunting outfits on at home. They
usually enter into these outfits when they reach the daltuwur bush.
I asked M. Yerkawa whether he had ever seen Musa Turmda at a
daltuwur. He said "no." He also emphasized the circular forma-
tion during a daltuwur. Sometimes,he said, the distance between
you and anyone next to you rarely exceeds 2 ft. Any animal that
escapes out of this circle is not pursued again. If it is pursued
this would mean breaking the circle. When the circle is broken
all the other animals in the circle would also escape through
this break. This would render that daltuwur a very futile effort
indeed. Some people however stay outside the main circle and go
after any animal that escapes out of the dlima (circle). Animals
that are hunted in daltuwur include buffalo, "arba" and "mwi."
"Mbal Sadaka" (Free Beer)
"Mbal Sadaka" had always been a feature of Shaffa. This is
an occasion in June when beer is brewed in all households. It
is done so that the rains would increase the pace at which they
come. People from other villages are invited to come and drink
and make merry.
"Mbal Sadaka" is an annual event and all those who love beer
are always in anticipation of the occasion. It is strongly be-
lieved that after any "mbal sadaka" the rains would increase.
I asked my informant why they suffered a great luck for rain when
"Mbal Sadaka" seemed very likely to help them. He said that people
have become very careless and don't care about these things again.
Miraculous Fire Disasters at Shaffa
Shaffa Incidence Fire disaster occurred at Shaffa on 17th
Dec. 1973. The cause was so widely believed that there was old
man of the village by name and with the rank
of collected some of the outstanding elders
of the town in his compound and told them that when he died the
- 58 -
gargajiya ceremonies should be performed for him and people
should dance for him. At hearing this request the people out-
rightly rejected his requests in his presence and the man told
them that if they failed to perform such ceremonies they would
reap the consequences of which would be disastrous to them.
About 12 people openly rejected the request in his presence.
After a fortnight the old man died but people did not do
any traditional ceremonies and dance for him. They said there
was no need to be strict to the traditional requests. The person
who entered the compound of the deceased collected all the tradi-
tional war equipment of the deceased, tied them and hung them on
the roof for safekeeping but left the chickens right inside the
house, the former place they used to stay.
It so happened one day when he came to open the door to let
the chickens out he saw a large python (cirvar pwapu) being
rolled in three circles with his long body and placed the head
right on the door. He fell backward and shouted loudly for help.
People rushed to the spot. People watched the python for a long
time and not reacted to him because they thought it was a "min-
gila" spirit or "jeng". People continued to watch the snake and
eventually pulled out toward the compound. When half of the
length was still inside the room and the other half was inside the
compound the snake vaished' This was witnessed by many.
Right inside the compound there lived an old woman. She
brewed beer. When returning from fetching water inside her room
she saw a man hanging with both legs spread apart. She fell and
fainted. After a few minutes she struggled her way out and
attracted the attention of the crowd and told them what she saw.
The vision of the person hanging vanished and the people dis-
persed to their respective places. Unfortunately the old woman
died after four days.
The incidence of fire happened after two days of the old
woman's death. First, the house in which the vision of the de-
ceased old man was found caught on fire and consequently the
houses of all those who rejected outrightly to perform the
traditional ceremonies caught on fire. In all, 18 houses were
burned at random. All the fire started on the room of all the
houses (?). This was generally believed then that the cause of
the fire was because of the disappointed spirit of the deceased.
This is to indicate to the prof. that our people by this genera-
tion still believed in deceased spirit.
The compounds did not burn at the same time but two a day
or three or one at a time each day. Three people were drinking
beer inside one house and the top of this roof caught on fire
without the people inside noticing this incident. The people
inside the house were only rescued by the outsiders. The burning
of these compounds were selective in that only the compounds of
the relatives of the deceased and not only that but especially the
compounds of the relatives who rejected the requests of the de-
ceased about performing the traditional ceremonies for the deceased's
death. The relatives of the deceased were the founders of Shaffa
town and these are Mshelias.
Biu N.A. council sat and decided to send delegates to go to
Shaffa to condole the victims of the fire. The senior councillor,
M. Aliyu Betara, Alhaji Yamta Thlefir, councillor of works,
M. Mohamed Shani, councillor of health, and Maidalla Madu, the
nominated councillor, and Maidalla Mshia accompanied the Emir
of Biu to Shaffa to condole the victims.
The Emir gave financial assistance to the fire victims at
Shaffa plus the moral support his highness gave them.