BURA FIELD PROJECT
Stephen L. Hena
Origin of Wandali Village
Informant: Galadima Soroma Mshelia
(see p. 17, typed p. 7 )
The present village of Wandali was founded not earlier than 1920. It
first started when two households left their home area in search for a better
farming ground, having been pressed in their area of origin by the aggressive
European/Babur regime who imposed on them rules and obligations which were be-
fore then unfamiliar.
The founding fathers of what is now known as Wandali came from Hga, which
is today the district headquarters of what is referred to as West Bura. They
were Hgedima Yanjili and Gurgurtima Mbaya. They were subjected to the harsh
treatments of the Pabir people who based their station at Birni (about 10 miles
southeast of Wandali). They found that they were not enjoying the fruits of
their labor in the hands of the Pabir so they sought assylum westwards out of
the reach of the Pabir. They moved from the black, muddy soil of the east and
settled in this sandy area.
When they arrived in this area they found that there had been a settlement
in this area. What they met was the crumbling thick mud wall surrounding sites
of what were once compounds of people who long abandoned this area in which up
to now it was not possible to trace who the original founders were.
There was a large muddy stream (now filled up and dry) which was infested
with tsetse fly and it was believed that it contributed to the disappearance of
the first settlement. Today, this stream hardly has any flowing water for-one
or two months of the year. It is now well cultivated with mango and guava trees.
Ten years ago there used to be sugarcane and banana farms but it is now too dry
for these crops. The Church of the Brethren Mission (C.B.M.) had a small but
go6d orchard along the valley in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The settlers
therefore had no problem of water supply while fish was also available in the
stream in those days. There were also plenty of wild animals such as varieties
of antelope, rabbits and the like for hunting. Farms were never up to half
a mile away from the settlement.
Unlike other parts of Buraland, when these people arrived they found that
they were in a land owned by a certain chief with his headquarters at Minta
(also walled) and therefore had to obtain his permission in which they were
willingly allowed to settle. This chief did not acquire the land through con-
quest but through traditional agreement between him and the other neighboring
chiefs. They do so by setting fire to the dry bush (during the dry season)
and wherever the bushfire kindles will be that man's boundary. This boundary
was normally a stream in which the burning fire could not cross. Thus, having
obtained permission to settle in the area it was the duty of the chief to
install the new head of the settlement or village. Normally, the person who
first settled in the place had the right to the headship of the new village
but since they came together there was no clearcut leadership. They however
agreed that Gurgurtima, being the eldest,,,should assume the leadership. It
was customary to provide a goat for the opening ceremony of the new village
and it was later found that it was Yangili Dibal who provided the sacrificial
animal and not his elder friend, Gurgurtima. Thus, the chief decided to appoint
Yangili Dibal as the head (Bilama) of Wandali. When Gurgurtima died he left no
son but daughters and relatives who traditionally cannot compete for the post.
Traditionally, the successor is usually the eldest, responsible son of the out-
going or dead Bilama who could inherit the post. Yangili had many sons and
daughters so that when he died there was no strong opposition to the leadership
and thus his son, Ali, succeeded him as the second and present head of the village.
Apart from Minta, there were other villages around even before Wandali was
re-founded. To the north are Lapiya (also walled), to the northeast are Gasi,
Gundu and Duzunkir, in the east were Nggaku, Lesga and Wuyakshafa, while to the
south and west are Minta, Kuggawa, Magaba, Bumanda, Gongdi, Salahu and Guwal.,
Most of these villages were founded earlier than Wandali but most of these villages
have today migrated to Wandali or Kwaya being on the main road and already grow-
ing to be large villages with school, church, mosque, market and dispensary.
Apart from the founding Dur, many others moved to Wandali for various
reasons. Earlier settlers were attracted by the sandy soil which was easily
farmed and that there was plenty of water from the nearby stream even during
the dry season. As the land fell to colonial rule a road was constructed join-
ing Biu and Kwaya Tera. That road passed through Magaba, Birni and on to Kwaya
Bura and then to Biu. Wandali was then about 8 miles north of the motor road.
When the new road was opened joining Biu and Gombe it passed through Wandali
(around 1940s). This road made Wandali accessible to both the Pabir and the
colonial administrators. With the coming of the missionaries in 1946 to establish
a station, Wandali began to grow faster and attract more migrants to this area.
The new religion (Christianity) together with medical center and school brought
by the missionaries also helped to attract people from the surrounding villages.
Thus in Wandali today we have Dibal, Mbaya, Mshelia, Hena, Mshelbwala, Chara,
Dlakwa, Ngganijiwa as the main Dur living here. There are also Fulanis (Home
or Town Fulani) who had for long been living in their separate Zara, herding
their cattle and cultivating small plots around their compounds. (see p. 17,
typed p. 7 ).
Original Size and Layout of the Village
As mentioned earlier, Wandali was "re-founded" being located in what was
once a walled village but was deserted due to past war of which no one could
tell who were the enemies. When the village was opened it consisted of two
households or compounds of Yanjili Dibal and Gurgurtima Mbaya. Yanjili had
about eight sons and two daughters. Some of the sons died long ago. Later,
some of his relatives moved to Wandali. Gurgurtima's relatives also came all
of which formed the core of the early stage of the village.
In the pre-colonial era compounds were normally well spaced, being 50 100
yards apart. This spacing was necessary because the people were in the habit of
planting various types of crops around their compounds. Among the many crops
which are planted around the compounds tiksha (a species of sergum which is
cultivated and harvested within four to five months) occupies the most space.
Maize takes the second position in terms of plot allocation while pumpkins,
cucumber, guard, and various sther vegetables are also to be found on the same
plot around the compounds. Groundnuts are planted further away from the com-
pounds, but not too far as to be within the reach of monkeys, baboons and the
like. Newly married young men may establish their compounds close to that of
theri father so that it is not unusual to see some compounds close together or
even joined. They may however move away from such places so as to give more
room to the expanding household.
As the village grew and with the addition of more and more clans to the
village (up to 20 compounds) the organization of the village became more diffi-
cult and cooperation began to dwindle. Thus a certain Dur, Amaza, decided to
move out of the walled village, moved half a mile away and founded Ta-sha.
This was under the leadership of one Madi Kwana and his brother Kuthi Samba,
both of the Amaza clan. Madi Kwana became the Bilama of this new settlement
and was independent of the leadership of Wandali. When Madi Kwana died he was
succeeded by Kuthi Samba and when he also died around 1957 he was succeeded by
his son, Bulama Abdullahi, who is still the present Bulama of that Zara and
still independent of the Bulama of Wandali, despite the fact that the two and
other Zaras are today joined.
With the coming of the missionaries some of the early converts singled
themselves out to establish another zara which they named 'Katsina'. They
mainly of young men who accepted and adopted the new religion and their doctrine
of one wife. This was around 1950. These people had their compounds closer
together than the 'traditional' people although they cultivated the same type
It should be pointed out that the plots surrounding the compounds are not
owned collectively by all the members of the household. Since all able-bodied
male and female are farmers the field surrounding the compounds is shared fairly
equally among the wives while the head of the household may have a larger share
and usually the area in front of the gate, while the servants or elder sons
will have smaller portions.
This practice continued until 1963 when it was seen that the village was
expanding fast and needed to have a modern outlook. Thus local authority
decided to design the village and re-arrange it with streets.
Diagram of Pre-Colonial Wandali
Within the pre-colonial setup of the village there were no well-defined
Zara but when one needs to make reference to a particular section of the village
he may refer to it according to the area where there is higher concentration
of a particular clan e.g. Dibal, Amaza, etc.
Note also that the above diagram is not that of the people who built the
wall but of the people who re-occupied the abandoned settlement.
With the re-arrangement of the village in 1963, compounds or households
now live close together separated by wide streets which were not to be planted
except in the more remote end of the village. The cultivation of tiksha, maize,
etc., which were once close to the compounds are today planted far away from the
For their water supply the village and its constituent zara obtained their
water from the nearby stream which used to have plenty of water throughout the
year. During the rainy season the stream flows so that there was no problem
but during the dry season it was often necessary to have some shallow wells
around for their water supply. For washing, swimming and fishing there is a
larger river about one and a half miles north of the village. Water is fetched
from the stream by women and children.
The Village Headship and Its History
As discussed earlier (see pp. 6-7, typed pp. 2-3) ,the known history of
Wandali can not be traced beyond 1920s. It is true that this is an old place
and in fact there are many other abandoned villages around here to be evidenced
by graveyards, building foundations, broken pots and buried treasures, but no
one can tell who the settlers were. Thus, as for Wandali, the present "dyasty"
have no long history. The founding father and the first village head was Bulama
Yanjili Dibal who came here with his friend, Gurgurtima Mbaya. Since Yanjili
was the first Bulama of the village it became traditionally legal to pass on
the leadership of the village to his senior son or any other responsible elder
member of the Dibal family. Thus there has not been much opposition for
Being in the land of the chief of Minta, Bulama Yanjili was installed
Hyedima. This title was recognized to be higher than that of Bulama. It was
thus a sort of promotion.
When he died in 1963 he was succeeded by his son, Ali, who is up to this
day the ruling Bulama of Wandali. Thus there has not yet been any change of
leadership from one lineage to another.
Informant: M. Bulama Dibal I
ORIGIN of Wandali Village
Wandali is 18 miles west of Biu town, along Biu-Gombe road, just on the
border of the Biu plateau. There is a fertile valley around while farms were
Long ago this area was believed to be inhabited by two tribes Ngwi and
Bachama. These people moved westwards into Adamawa Province due to famine and
never came back. They are today in Numan Division of Adamawa Province. When
they left their Bura neighbors in Minta village (about 2 miles west of Wandali)
remained and established a small 'kingdom' which covers the area which is today
ruled by the present Lawan of Wandali. 'They had their-chief advisers, and
several Bulama under this chief. They had a wall around their village (the
ruins of which could still be seen today) and has powerful chiefs. Minta was
then a sort of headquarters of several villages such as Gundu, Gasi, Wandali,
Guwal, Bumanda, Magaba, Kugwawa, Bantam and a host of others.
When the Bachama and Ngwi left the area the ruins of their village was
never re-occupied until the present founders came and re-named it 'Wandali'.
In those days Minta being a powerful village had control over the whole area
and thus anybody who wanted to settle in the area had to obtain permission to
settle in the area first, and that the village head of such and other settle-
ments are automatically subjects to the chief. They must always report to the
chief of any death occurring in their village so that the chief will send his
representative to decide where to locate the grave. All social activities, public
gatherings such as marriage ceremonies must be reported to the chief for his
It was in such a condition that the founders of Wandli village came. They
were Gurgurtima Mbaya and his friend, Yangili Dibal. They came from Sakwa in
West Bura (about 8 miles south of Biu). They had problem with the Pabir people
to the north which led them to poor harvest and thus inconveniences. They thus
decided to move down westwards frre from the Pabirs. Their intention was to go
as far as to Wuy' (another ancient village about 4 miles northwest of Wandali).
This Wuyo is different from Wuyo of Teraland. On their way to Wuyo they passed
through this area to find the fertile plain ground here with plenty of water,
wild animals to hunt, a nearby stream for fishing, etc., which attracted them.
In addition, they came across the abandoned town with broken-down buildings
which could easily be repaired. They therefore decided to settle down here
rather than to move on to Wuyo.
They went to the chief of Minta and told him of their intention and ob-
tained permission to settle. Gurgurtima Nbaya was older and he was given the
leadership of the village. He provided for the sacrificial he-goat for the
opening ceremony of the village and the chief of Minta gave him the Shafar di
(staff of office) and thus he became the first village head of Wandali.
In those days this area was heavily forested and occupied by varieties of
wild and tame animals which included hyenas, leopards, elephants, buffalo-type
of animals, pythons, cobra, several varieties of antelope and over four species
of the monkey family. There were also other dangerous snakes, birds of several
kinds and plenty of wild fruits. Children could not venture to travel 300 yards
away from their compounds.
A few years after their settlement some people came to live with them.
They were, among the early-comers, Kuthli Dala, Karbati, Yarima Dili and several
others around the 1940s and early 1950s. Gurgurtima's children, Alasa and
Ibrahim Jalo, also established their own compounds later. Same also with
Yangili's children Musa Yoksa, Baidu Aji and later on the younger ones,
Ali, Mwagjim Kaku, Samba.
As they opened up the place another group of people, Madi Kwana and Kuthi
Samba Amaza came to the area and founded their own village about 400 yards
away from the wall. They named it Tasha and have their own Bulama and were
recognized as an independent village, not subject to Wandali but to Minta
directly. Other villages such as Lesiga were founded by people who were formerly
living in the stony village of Gundu, Gasi and Nggabu as well as Duzuntir, all
of which are deserted today, the people having moved to Wandali and other
more open places along the main road.
Original Size and Layout of the Village (see p. 9, typed p. 3)
The village originally consisted of the compounds of the founders, two
in all. Later on their sons got married and established their own compounds.
Other people also arrived to share the fertile land with them until eventually
the village grew to fill the old walled surrounding.N As more and more people
arrived the surrounded area could not contain them; also the wall started to
lose its function (which was mainly defensive). Thus other newcomers started
to build houses outside the wall.
Compounds were scattered far apart, at least a hundred yards apart, so
as to allow room for the cultivation of vegetables, tiksha and other short-
period crops. Spacing of the compounds were also necessary so as to avoid
burning of one house after the other when there is outbreak of fire. Once
the compounds are far apart only the first affected compound will perish.
There were no distinct zara in the pre colonial setup of the village as
such. People established their compounds within respectable distances. Any
other settlements will have their own independent Bulama and thus there were
Villages were scattered all over and although some are never up to half
a mile away they are still recognized as independent villages and not zaras.
The planting of tiksha and other fast-growing crops around the compounds
was necessary so that in case of shortage of food, such crops would supplement
before the other varieties of guinea corn could ripen, which is usually two
months after the harvest of tiksha. Maize also serve the same purpose although
its harvest is never as much as that of tiksha. The modern setup of the village,
with its compounds so close together does not permit the cultivation of tiksha
and the rest around the compounds. Wide streets are left uncultivated except
for short-season type groundnuts in the more remote streets.
It is a common practice for a village in this part of Buraland to share a
waterhole. In the case of Wandali, the nearby stream provided for all the water
supply for drinking, washing, and other purposes. At times towards the end of
the dry season, shallow wells are often necessary and dug in the valley of the
stream. These wells are never up to ten feet deep.
In addition there is a bigger stream, called River Ndivana, about two miles
north of the village. There used to be plenty of fish and other water animals
and are hunted for annually during the dry season. Fishing and hunting are not
fulltime occupations. Almost everybody could fish when desire arises.
The Village Headship and Its History
In this area the first person to begin a settlement automatically becomes
the village head and is supposed to be succeeded by his eldest son. The history
of the village headship of Wandali therefore dates back as far as the beginning
of the village. It was said earlier that the first people to open this village
were two friends, namely, Gurgurtima Mbaya and Yangili Dibal. Although they
both came at the same time and could claim equal rights to the headship of the
village, Gurgurtima was older than Yangili and was therefore installed by the
chief of Minta to become the first village head of Wandali. He continued as
,~jj% /4 /bL
the village head until his death (not sure how long).
The village headship was supposed to be inherited by one of his senior
sons, Alasa, but due to the promise made to Yangili by Gurgurtima before his
death, he promised Yangili that since they both came together and that they
have been good and successful friends, they were to alternate the village
headship. Thus it was arranged that Yangili was to succeed him after his
death while his son was to succeed Yangili and so on. Yangili therefore
succeeded Gurgurtima and ruled the village for over thirty years. He ruled
the village well and attracted a large number of people so that the village
grew rapidly that a call was made to plan the village into a modern setting.
He died in 1963 when the village was being planned with streets.
He kept his promise and Gurgurtima's son was to succeed him as agreed.
At this time of his death, Alasa, the eldest son of Gurgurtima was blind and
therefore unsuitable for the post. The older son was too young for the post
and in addition he was sickly. The rest of his children were females and
traditionally unacceptable. The village elders (Kwakuma) were therefore left
with no other alternative but to install one of Yangili's sons. He was there-
fore turbanned by the chief of Minta to succeed his father as the new village
head (Bulama) and still rules the village up to this day.
Thus we have seen that the village headship changed from the Mbaya family
to Dibal family
Titles and Offices
As mentioned earlier, this part of Buraland has chieftaincy and the area
can be described as a kingdom; in fact it is referred to as Tsidi Ladi, meaning
land of Ladi people, with their headquarters at Minta village. The ruling Dur
or clan is Dlakwa. They have been ruling a number of villages in their dominion
until the coming of the Europeans to colonize or pacify the area. When the
Europeans came the resistance made by the chief of Minta made him unpopular
within the colonial eye. His power was thus reduced and a Lawan was appointed
(from the Dur of Chara) to rule the area instead.
Before the coming of the Europeans however the chief had exclusive powers
over several village in this area in which Wandali was one of them. The chief
promotes certain Bulamas to the rank of Hyedima or Thlerma, which was just a
high-ranking Bulama or head of a prosperous village. This title may be bought
from the chief by certain Bulamas who were not patient enough to wait for the
Within the villages the Bulama was the head of the village and had powers
to punish members of the village as decided by the council of elders. He
also has a sort of council, consisting of old or elder members of the village
in which he summons them at times when matters which needed to be discussed
arise. These people are generally referred to as Kwakuna.
He also selects within this group certain people with specific duties.
First, there is Wakil, who acts as a messenger to notify the elders when there
is a meeting, helps the chief to communicate to the people any decisions which
have been agreed upon, and also helps the chief to announce any other announce-
ments such as dates for certain ceremonies such as festivals, and communal works
which needed joint effort.
Kadala. Sometimes on often mysterious cases such as sudden death of a
middle-aged person may occur due to a short illness, this must be probed
immediately because it was believed that once a child passes successfully in
the series of diseases of childhood, it would be certain that he would not
die until old age. Thus, it was the duty of the Kadala, with the help of the
witch doctors to find out what or who caused the death. Cases of theft, mis-
fortune and other criminal or unlawful cases were also similarly probed. He
was also to organize programs for any rituals, burials and any other similar
ceremonies. When a person was suspected of bewitching a person or believed
to have caused the death, he was to be proved guilty or not guilty by drinking
a calabashful of hira (a certain syrup or sap from a poisonous cactus). His
death or survival would determine whether he was innocent or not.
Other titles are found where there is Kuthli (chief). There is Batari,
who was or were the chief advisors of the chief. He was to see that nothing
bothers the chief and helps him solve problems which were at hand. Holds
private conference with the chief to advise him when necessary.
Also Kaigama, whose duty is forgotten.
Capwala. The duty of the Chapwala was to act as the 'commander of the army'.
This was normally a tough warrior who fears nothing and leads the people of
the village or the people in the chief's dominion to war against invading
neighbors which were usually Fulanis from Mbormi and Gulani area. No case
of fighting or war between the neighboring Tera people to the northwest and
west of this area.
All the above-mentioned titles(were by appointment on merit and could
not be inherited. Once holder of that title dies, another will be chosen from
among many other alternatives. Often, no ceremony was attached to such
Kuthir Dakwi (chief of young men) was also appointed in each village.
His duty was to see that girls and boys were able to attend any dance in a
neighboring village in which they were invited. He was also to be contacted
first or as early as possible when a young man from other village wanted to
marry a girl from their village.
Women and girls sing when there is a dance. The leader of the singing
group, usually one who sings the best all the time, never shy, and always
ready to compose a new song, was also chosen from among the girls and was
called Zabiya. This title does not stay long since some of them, once married,
may not 'he-allowed by their husbands to attend dances.
As regards occupation, there wasn't much leadership or title in the pre-
colonial period. All men were expected to be able to hunt, using bow and arrow,
rarely spears and traps. Those who distinguished themselves in hunting were
referred to as experts and respected. Such people were often associated with
the knowledge wide ranges of medicinal herbs, both for doing good and harm.
They were therefore feared and respected. Hunters were distinguished by the
number of large animals killed per annum.,
Other titles such as Migawa (for any blacksmith), Kida (for any musician,
especially drummer) were automatically given to any person of such a profession.
Relation to Other Places
As mentioned earlier, this village was among many others which were ruled
or controlled by Minta chiefdom. As such the village was subordinated to Minta.
Even as early as the 1960s, once there occurs death of anybody in this village
the Bulama will first be informed and he likewise would send somebody to report
the matter to the chief of -Mta who would then send his representative to this
village. This person would be authorized by the chief to decide upon the grave-
site. Once the site has been located the people will then continue to dig the
grave and then bury the person. Apart from this, there were also social acti-
vities in which they do invite not only the people of Minta but also the other
village. Such invitations were mainly annual festivals such as Mbal Sadaka
where each household of the village was expected to prepare enough beer for
distribution to friends and visitors free of charge. This festival was usually
associated with dance in which the invitees would come with their girls and
young men of their village to share the joy of the festival with them.
Among the villages in which Wandali used to communicate or share social
activities were the now-extinct villages of Duzinkir, Gasi, Gundu, Nggabu,
Dikira and the still-existing villages of Minta, Gurval, Salahu, Bumanda, Gongli,
and Magaba. For these villages they do pay return dances and be represented
at each other's festivals. As for Biu, Mandaragrau and other Pabir village,
there was no relationship whatsoever during the pre-colonial days. It was only
after the coming of the Europeans did the Pabir come to this area exercising
power over the Bura people of this area. Compulsory 'gifts' were to be taken
to Biu in form of guinea corn, chickens or goats; these were not gifts in that
sense but were compulsory annual dues, taken to the chief of Biu. This was
It was also known that slaves have been captured during war or bought
during famine. It was therefore possible that there must have been contact
with the Kanuri, Fulani, Pabir and the Tera occasionally during the pre-colonial
Like many other villages around here, including Minta, this town had a
wall round it. However, not a single person can tell who actually built the
wall or who lived around here before the coming of the present founding
lineage. When they came the wall was already collapsed and only a heap of
earth indicated the original layout of the wall. It was seen to have had two
doors. To add to the height of the wall a deep trench was dug around the wall.
It was believed to have been up to ten feet deep and more than ten feet wide.
This trench was to prevent any horsemen from coming close enough to the wall.
Near the gate there was provided a wide plank or timber enough for people
to go in and out during the day while the gate was to be shut for everybody
immediately the sun set. The gatekeepers insure that rangers were identified
before being allowed in. Since there were no stones close by the wall was
built with mud and no attempt was made to use stones, not even for the founda-
tion. In other places where there are stones, as in the case with one village
called Madliba, about 4 miles east of Wandali, the stone wall still stands
high today with the gates remaining the only entry to the village. In all
cases the gates would not be opened to anyone going in or out after the sun
set. There were gatekeepers who see that no invaders come near the gate. If
invaders dare come near the gate the villagers would be alarmed and everyone
would take position near the wall and shoot out arrows at them. Women and
small children who were helpless were usually hidden safe somewhere within
the wall or a nearby valley.
The mud wall used to be worn out by the heavy rains of this area. This
meant that it had to be repaired by the villagers. It was built through
communal effort, usually with the help of other villagers and sometimes slaves
if any. For its repairs similar efforts were used.
These walls were believed to be built for defensive purposes against
Fulani. There have been constant attack by Fulani cavalry from the north and north-
west of this area. Also, Kanuri people used to come to this area, raiding for
slaves. It was also believed that the Pabir people have been threatening this
There has been no record of any serious fighting between the people of
this area. It was only minor vengeances. The most serious warfare which has
been a threat to this area was that from Mbormi area. Mbormi had been a large
town and had a strong cavalry whose main aim was slave-raiding and looting of
public property. This town had a wall round it built of mud and covers an
area of over 10 square miles. The people of Mbormi had been causing a lot of
damage to the people of this area until her power was weakened by the raiding
forces of one Rabi. Rabi defeated the people of Mbormi and came to this area.
They attacked the Babur people first but could not resist them. They therefore
sought alliance with the Bura people. When Rabi died his daughter took over
the leadership and continued with the battles. The defeated people of Mbormi
then rallied under the leadership of Mallam Zai and attacked Gulani, passed
through Kwaya Tera area invading and looting as they went on expanding their
empire. They went as far as to Walama, about 20 miles south of Kwaya and
stopped there by the joint effort of the Bumn and invited Kanakuru armies.
These invasions had great impact upon the people of this area because many
people fled their villages and went as far as to Shani area,(Kanukuru land)
and they never came back again but decided to settle there.
Informant: Kuthi Kadala
Those Present: His son, Madu Isa.
Time: 4 hrs.
Origin of Wandali
The origin of Wandali is related to the chiefdom of Minta. Minta is
now a small village about one and a half miles away south of Wandali. The
village of Minta has a chief under which were many villages and covers almost
eight square miles. Most of these villages were (and are still) under the leader-
ship of Bulama i.e. the original founders or founding lineage of the village.
It is customary in this land that any founder of a village resumes the headship
and retains this post unless there is no successor to the outgoing Bulama.
Normally, it was either the son of the closest responsible relative in absence
of the son.
Among the big villages under Minta chiefdom were Madliba, Nggabu, Gasi,
Duzirkir,Grim, Wandali, Bumanda, Kugawa, Gongdi, Kankir and Wuyakshafa. Al-
though these villages are never more than eight miles apart and the chiefdom.
as a whole is not more than eight square miles, it was nevertheless big enough
to be under the control of one person, the chief. In those days there villages
were separated by dense savana forests with lots of wild animals around which
included among the dangerous ones- hyenas of various species, zebras, tigers,
lions and many other smaller animals which hindered the establishment of large
empires which the available weapons and means of communication. (?)
It was within such a setup that Wandali came to existence. There was
once a strong chief at Minta called Kuthi Malum. (Kuthi = chief or king.) and
as he was growing older he chose among his sons (with the traditional advice
of his elders or councils the Kwakunas) the one who was to succeed him. This
man was called Kadala. As a chosen one by the chief he was popular and well
honored throughout the villages under his father, the chief. The people of
his father's chiefdom thought that it was good to honor him in one way since he
was to become their future chief. Thus they decided that he shouh establish
his own village so that they would build him a wall round his new village. As
there were no stones close by it was easier or cheaper to build the all (garu))
with mud just as that around Minta, his father's headquarters.
The building of these walls was solely voluntary (although some people
may be unwillingly to contribute their effort) and that slaves also did
participate in the building of these walls.
When the wall was completed the chief's son (Kadalla) moved into the new
village with a number of followers which altogether numbered up to 50 house-
holds, with the Kadala's compound in the middle of the settlement. The wall
had four gates which were well guarded with men armed with bows and arrows.
It so happened that this Kadala died before his father due to a sudden
illness so that he did not live to succeed his father to the throne. Since
the villagers went there purposefully due to the son's chief(chief's son?)
most of the villagers in Wandali went back to Minta to stay with their chief
for fear of invasion by the Fulani and Kanuri who used to visit the area on
occasional invitations. There were however about three people who remained
in the village until their death. With that the village became uninhabited
for quite a long time until one man who claimed to be one of the sons of a Biu
chief (no name was mentioned or remembered) came to the deserted village of
Wandali to settle. Since he did not obtain prior permission of the chief of
Minta he was warned to vacate immediately, which he did.
When that person left, again the village remained uninhabited for long
before some people came from the east, being driven by famine to look for
food supply and farmland. They were the families of Gurgurtima Mbaya and Yangili
Dibal. Yangili, according to the chief of Minta, came from Tanga (other in-
formants, as mentioned earlier, said that Yangili came from Aga or Sakwa)
while Gurgurtima came from Njukuku, about four miles from Biu.
In any case, these people, according to many sources, were tight friends and
had good relations with the Pabir and even helped the Pabir in their movements
in Buraland until the famine broke in to strain the relation. They thus moved
down westwards to this area to found in the middle of a thick forest a walled
abandoned village with some round huts still standing but the village wall
was already on the ground. They therefore found it easier to settle here and
abandoned the idea of traveling to Wuyo as they had planned before.
On understanding that this land belonged to the chief of Minta, they went
to Minta and lodged there and explained their intention and obtained a per-
mission from the chief of Minta to settle in the village of Wandali. They
were allowed and with Gurgurtima as the eldest among the two, resumed the
headship of the village until his death.
Not only these people but even some people from Minta came to Wandali to
settle in the re-founded village of Minta. This included the brother of the
then chief of Minta. This man was called Kuthi Dala. He could have been
appointed the head of the village but Gurgurtima was allowed due to his old age
and the respect he used to give the chief. As such even when Kuthi Dala came to
Wandali he was not recognized as the head of the village but as a representative
of the chief of Minta. After staying for some time in Wandala Kuthi Dala went
back to Minta and died there.
Original Size and Layout of the Village
The village of Wandali, as mentioned earlier, was designed in honor of
the prince of Minta, and the walls round it were built to suit his desire and
the labor needed was supplied solely by the surrounding villages who worked in
The wall was oblong in shape to avoid certain eroded area and all the village
lived within the enclossure of the wall with no one outside the wall for fear of
invaders. The whole settlement numbered up to 50 compounds with an average of
6-8 people per compound, while the village head may have over thirty people in
his compound, some as servants, dead relatives' wives and children and so on.
The compounds were scattered all over so as to have enough room to cul-
tivate some crops especially some pumpkins, cucumber, maize, millet and
varieties of sergum(sorghum?) tiksha and the like. Also some vegetables and
The head of the village was the chief's son, and his house was located in
the center with all others spread evenly throughout within the wall. As such
there were no distinct zaras with different leaderships.
Compounds were located at respectable distances of up to hundred yards
apart in some cases, not only to allow room for cultivatable land but also
against any cases of fire outbreak which often burns down their thatched roofs
and compounds. All compounds were also enclosed by cornstalk or grass matting
so as to keep out others from seeing what was going on within their compounds.
The spacing of the compounds was also necessary due to some common contagious
diseases such as whooping cough, measles, chickenpox and the like which were
very much feared.
To- Z ---
The diagram above shows the original or pre-colonial layout of the village, showing
the four gates, the position of and location of the head of village's compound
and the spacing of other compounds.
There were no wells or sources of water within the wall;as such all
water supply was obtained from outside the wall. Most farms were also outside
Today, as many people moved into the village or as they increased in num-
ber they became more and more compact so that the only spaces left are streets
between the compounds.
All the people fetch their water from the same place. During the rainy
season water was usually plentiful from the nearby stream, also called Wandali.
It flows until around January, that(then?) it starts to dry up leaving isolated
pools. It was only then that waterholes were necessary. Usually one waterhole
was enough but sometimes it may be necessary to have more than one. Washing
and bathing were done in the stream or the isolated pools of the dry season
while others would venture to go to the larger river, Ndivana, about one and
a half miles north of the village. This river was rich in fish and used to
supply the people with fresh fish throughout the year without difficulty. They
used fishing nets and traps. Hooks were later introduced with the coming of
There were no professional fishermen so that most fishing was done during
the dry season when there was practically no work on the farms. Those who were
interested do participate in fishing
Titles and Offices Which Were Held. By Kuthi Isa of Minta
Apart from the head of the village (Bulama) and the chief (Kuthi) there
used to be many other titles held with specific purposes. The informant being
the present chief of Minta himself was able to give the following titles as
used during the pre-colonial period.
The chief, as mentioned earlier, exercises supreme power over the whole area
under his jurisdiction, his powers being checked only by his Kadala and Kwakunas.
He administers justice and sentences criminals and offenders for various offenses*
He collects fines and re-distributes it to the general public in the form of
gifts, feasts and the purchase of arrows to his people during the time of war.
He had authority over everybody and property,as well as some saying in rituals
and other ceremonies to a certain extent.
This title was normally given to the chief's close relatives, occasionally
to some distinguished Bulamas and chief's friends in some cases. This post
was very important, next only to the chief. It is the equivalent of the
district head (Ajiya) in modern day administration. He had the power to order
all the Bulamas in the chief's kingdom to important meeting and chairman the
meeting in which his decision was well respected. He was also the spokesman
of the chief. The chief speaks to the Bulamas through the Hyedima but never
speaks out directly to people. The (chief) never shouts out anything, thus
the Hyedima was the one who was to speak out loudly what the chief wanted to
tell the Bulamas. TheiHyedime was (and even now) succeeded by his eldest son.
It is a hereditary post.
The installation ceremony of the Hyedima was performed in a similar way
to that of the chief. When turbanned, the new Hyedima would be given the
official drum (dlimbwar) to beat three times, each of which would be received
with loud cheers by a crowd of people, after which he would be escorted on
horseback and followed by a large crowd to his house. In his house he would
offer a large feast, slaughtering oxen, sheep and goats while beer (locally
brewed) would be in excess of demand.
The person who held this post acted as the chief's attendant. He was to
usher in all those who wanted to see the chief. Without him no one was able
to come into the chief's presence or be allowed to talk to the chief. This
included the Hyedima, Bulamas and all other officials as well as the general
This title was given to a respectable person who acts as the chief's
guardian so that the chief respects him well and that whatsoever he says the
chief may likely agree with. The chief does not normally dispute the Kadala
while the Kadala may always disagree with the chief. He advises him on matters
affecting his leadership and the administration of his land.
Maina or Yerma
Refers to any possible successor of the chief or Hyedima. This specifi-
cally refers to the eldest son but may equally be right with the other sons
of the chief since their possibility of inheriting the post cannot be ruled
out. Being the possible successor of the chief, the eldest son used to be well
respected by almost everybody and he in turn was expected to be very kind, gener-
ous and hard working so as to gain popularity from the people of the villages.
This post was given to anybody who has been appointed to look after the general
social welfare of the chief's village. He was to see that water supply was
adequate; if not, orders for new bore holes to be dug immediately. He was to
see that the dancing ground (in front of the chief's palace) was swept clean for
ceremonies. When there was outbreak of diseases such as whooping cough and
measles, he was to be informed immediately so as to find the witch doctor to
decide what steps to take.
It should be understood that he doesn't take decisions on his own but con-
tacts the chief and his elders on matters which affect everybody. Thus, for
example, in the case of any outbreak of contagious diseases, the elders virtually
decide what was to be done, such as segregating the affected person from non-
affected people. Affected people were taken outside the village and treated
there until they were cured or until they die.
This post was not unique to villages such as Wandali but places like
Minta where there is chief. This post was created during war period and may
persist for long. His duty was to keep or account for war booty and other
wealths received as fines. At times herds of cattle, goats or sheep may be
captured and other properties looted. Such properties were taken care of by
the Batari. He distributes these properties to the Bulamas as decided by the
chief. The Bulamas in turn will distribute it out to the people of their vill-
ages. It may not be only war booty. It may happen that the chief called for
the people of other villages to come and work for him on his farm (in which
they come willingly) and that he wanted to give them a gift. He may give out
five cows, a dozen goats or so. It was therefore the duty of Batari to
share out these gifts according to the population of the villages.
This was normally a physically tough fellow who handles criminals. He
acts as a police or guardman of the chief. He stands at the service of the
chief and forcefully arrests people when ordered to do so.
Acted as chief messenger entrusted to deliver the chief's message to all
the surrounding villages. He makes announcements of decisions made and informs
people of what they were supposed to know. For example, when the chief wants
to hold council with his Kwakunas (elders) the Wakil will be responsible for
for informing them. Also announces dates decided upon for various ceremonies.
Keeps the weapons which were owned collectively; they included rare weapons
which were captured from other people such as foreign swords and spears, captured
especially from the Fulanis and Kanuris during war. Also during intensive
battles the chief may order his blacksmith to make more arrows, knives and
spears. Bos were also to be made so that the Kaigama will distribute them to
the various villages under the chief.
The post of Ngurkuma was created only when there is Fulani (Pilasar)
settlement within the area. Where there are Fulani settlements the Ngurkuma
will be the sole coordinator between them and the chief. All matters pertaining
to the selling or purchasing of cows would be through him. Any lost cow or dead
cow will be reported to him so that he would have a share in the beef.
Leader of hunting expeditions. Announce when and where the next hunting
expedition would take place.
Stories of Actual Battles Fought in This Area
This part of Buraland has been in close contact with the Tera people to
the west but no cases of real battles could be remembered. On the whole, there
had been a better relationship between the Bura and Tera than between the Bura
and Pabir. The informant however could not recall any battle fought either
between the Bura and Tera or the Bura and Pabir.
Among the well-known individuals who resisted Pabir dominance were Kadala
Yoksa of Dlamdi, a village of about fifteen miles west of Biu. This Kadala
Yoksa took war against the Pabir in order to revenge the death of his famous
father, Bila Kidafa, who was also a well-known warrior. Bila was captured by
some Pabir people inbne battle but because of his resistance to order he was
tortured and latter killed. This annoyed his son, Kadala Yoksa, and he took
revenge. He gathered his forces and invaded Biu, took them by surprise and
captured many slaves and killed many others. When Biu people realized the
power of Kadala Yoksa they sought to solve the conflict through peaceful means.
The Pabir therefore sent a large number of cows and goats plus some Bura slaves
as a ransom for their captured people. This was agreed and there was no other
conflict between the Bura and Pabir again until the coming of the Europeans.
Other well-known warriors who had been a constant threat to the Pabir
were Sankir Dili of Nggwa (southeast of Biu) and one Ndajara of Birni. Their
true stories could not be recalled well in this area. As for Wandali, there
had not been any contact with the Pabir of Biu or Mandaragrau.
Of all the informants contacted they said that there used to be no war
among the Bura people themselves but only minor cases of vengeances. Such
vengeances were personal rather than collective affairs. Cases of vengeances
were common when a person interferes with another's wife. If caught, he may
be beaten to death and if his people could not forgive, then this leads to
vengeance and thus continuous bloodshed.
To avoid bloodshed when one person commits adultery with another's wife
they would brew some beer and take it to the village head and explain the
matter to him so that the head of the village would send for the offended
husband and appeal for him to forgive theperson. If he agrees they would be
served some beer in the same calabash. Some beer will be given to the offended
husband first and after taking some, would hand it to the offender who would
likewise take it. This would be repeated with the offender first. They will
then swear by (Haptu) not to offend each other or revenge again. That's the
way to avoid alcontinuous vengeance.
Informant: Ibrahim Shiwan Dibal
Those Present: Soloman Hyelduku Mshelia, Avi Hena, Daniel Fifi Hena/
Origin of Wandali
The informant said that he could not recall who were the first people to
start Wandali because those who actually lived in the area were no longer there
when the present generation came. They came and met an abandoned walled village
which was already crumbling down. He also said that apart from the walled area
there had been an older settlement about three hundred yards outside. He in-
dicated the place to correspond with the present primary school site and re-
called that some of the trees still stand today were within someone's compound.
However, not even ruins of buildings could be seen and only some graves. I
agreed with him because when I was a pupil in that area we once dug out a pot
enclosed in a bigger pot and covered tight, inside of which we found some
strange metal ornaments which must have been stored and forgotten by those who
He also pointed out that Wandali is comparatively recent when compared
with the now-abandoned villages of Gundu, Gasi, Bila Nggabu and Duzunkir, while
Minta which up to this day still has up to four households was much older.
Also, just a mile away is another village called Lesga and is also older
than Wandali. This village, Lesga, was opened by those who were formerly living
in the hilly areas to the east of Wandali but decided to move down to the sandy
flat land of this area.
Among those who came to Lesga first were Chakda Shimwa Dibal who came from
Bdli, Watuta Yakda and his brother Audi from Bwala (village), Barde Helang
and Yashapu Hena from Gundu. Later the following people also arrived. They
were Kwarki Babiya, Korianga Malum, Doko Helavi and Birma Amarha. Apart from
these people and later their sons, the village started reducing in number. The
only settlements added were the sons of Yashapu Hena who were Kuthi Bata Hena
and Charkida Bulama Hena, and their relative, Adamu Ngelwadi. Today there is
only one man living there. He is called Kuthi Mari and even his sons are living
in Wandali with their compounds rather than with him. Most of the above-mentioned
people died there while others migrated to Wanda and Tasha.
Having touched briefly the history of the older villages he went on with
the story of the origin of Wandali as follows:
FThe people who built the wall could not be traced. The story then began
with two friends, Gurgurtima Mbaya and Yangili Dibal who were once on good
terms with the Pabir people. They obtained favor from the Pabir people during
the coming 6f the Europeans. Yangili was believed to be from Tanga while Gur-
gurtima was from Njukuku. They were among the people who led the Pabir to this
area so that they were still on good relations when a West Bura District was
established with headquarters at Birni, the first district head being one no-
torious Pabir man by name Therma Bata. This man used to harass the Bura people
collecting whatsoever he wanted from the surrounding Bura people.
Here the informant shook his head and remained silent for some time as
he recalled the type of torture and confiscation he witnessed ring that time
by the Pabir people.
When the headquarters were transferred from Birni to Aga (near Marama) these
people (Gurgurtima and Yangili) did not enjoy as before and were even involved
in one offense (he was not sure) which caused them to fee away from the Pabir.
This coincided with a time of famine and it was often believed that it was
famine which drove them to this area. When they came they lodged in Wuyakshafa,
a village of about two miles east of Wandali. They surveyed the area and found the
abandoned Wandali area in which they obtained permission from the chief of Minta
who was the owner of this land. They were allowed to stay.
As for leadership of this village, Gurgurtima resumed the leadership, being
the eldest. At his death he had no responsible son or relative who would succeed
him, plus the fact that since they had equal rights to the headship of this village
they were to alternate from Gurgurtima's family to Yangili's family and back.
Village Headship of Wandali
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The village grew steadily with some people from other villages shifting
into Wandali because there was a large area suitable for farming. Their only
problem was the stagnant marshy stream called Wandali where the village got
its name. There used to be many whild animals in this area which were a
constant threat to them. They therefore decided to join effort to drain the
area of which they did. The draining of the area led to the drying up of large
bodies of water which were then very deep. It also cut short the supply of nearby
KWAYA TERA Introduction
Origin of Kwaya
The interview took place in Kwaya with permission of the district head. I
made an appointment through one of his Kwakuna's by name Shehu Yamta. I was
told to call early in the morning of which I did. I waited for almost two hours
in his office (adjoined to his palace). At 8 o'clock I was introduced to his
secretary (an old man) who was to introduce me to the district head. He led
me to his reception hall where I met several elders already sitting with him.
We greeted him and he answered and asked of our health. We answered that we
were fine by his blessing. I was then introduced and the purpose of my visit
was also narrated. He said he was aware of it and that several other students
of A.B.U. did come to him the previous years (students of governemtn and
history). He said one of them by name M. Bala yY. Bwala, is now a district
officer while the other, Jack Walari. Mbaya is now a principal of a secondary
school in Azare. He said my research is welcomed and ordered his Wakil to
bring the traditional chief and his elders so as to give me all the information
The chief, a middle-aged man, came but with only one trusted elder. He
said that the others may give false information. Thus I had in the office the
following to interview:
Kuthi Malum(Chief); Yabubwa(elder); M. Chamalwa(scribe). The interview
took three hours.
Origin of Kwaya Tera Village (by Kuthi Malum)
The village of Kwaya was once on a site near a hill about three miles
away from the present-day site of Kwaya. It is located in the land of the
Chara Dur. Their land stretches from about one mile west of Wandali (Wandali
is in the land belonging to Dlakwa people with their chief and headquarters
at Minta). The land of the Chara people extended as far west as Kurbagai,
about four miles west of Kwaja. All in all, their land covers about 15 square
miles. This included important villages like Gongdi, Magaba, Guwal Gashina,
Maiba, Kwaya and other smaller villages. Their first chief was at Gongdi, a
village of about three miles south of Wandali, situated on top of a defensive
hill. It was there that the origin of Kwaya began.
There was once a man who lived in Gondi called Kadala Dawi. Kadala Dawi
was a tough warrior and established this area around Gongdi for himself. He
had two sons. One of the sons (name wasn't remembered) became the chief of
Gongdi. The other son also wanted to become a chief and there developed a con-
flict between the two sons. The other, by name Mari, who wasn't a chief, de-
cided to leave the area and establish himself somewhere. He came to Kwaya
area and established his own village near a hill about three miles away from
the present site of Kwaya. He named the village Kwaya and of course made him-
self chief of the village and its surroundings.
Diagram showing the location of
old and new Kwaya.
The old and the new village of Kwaya both had walls.
The village of Gongdi had a stone wall round it with two gates. So when
Mari founded Kwaya he also ordered his people to build a wall round it. They
built the wall with two gates and a deep trench round it.
The ditch which was dug round the wall was over fifteen feet deep and ten feet
wide all round the wall. At the entrance planks obtained from a palm tree were
laid across the ditch for people to pass into and out of the village.
After living there for decades Kuthi Mari decided to come to a more open
site of present Kwaya. By then his village had grown large, consisting mainly
of his relatives. When he established himself in the present site of Kwaya he
again ordered the building of a wall round his village. By this time other Dur
known as Mbarma. As they stayed on he gave them the title of Hyedima (Galadima -
Hausa) and up to this day the Mbarma people still hold this title. With the
coming of the Europeans and the establishment of Kwaya as the District Head-
quaters some Pabir, Fulani, Hausa, Tera and Hinna are now found in the village
of Kwaya, with no distinct zaras but streets.
Original Size and Layout of the Village (by Kuthi Malum)
The old village site was as in the diagram above. It was located near a
hill where it could be climbed and spot enemies at far distances and also used
as a hiding place if the enemies happened to break into the wall. According
to the informant, there had not been any case of attack on the village which
demanded the use of the hill for defensive purposes.
Houses were built close together so as to accommodate everybody within
the village wall. In some cases they were never more than ten yards apart. The
small places left were cultivated with maize and vegetables such as cucumber,
All the people in the village were related; as such there were no distinct
zaras. There were Kwakunas and messengers to assist the chief in.his under-
Original Size and Layout of New Kwaya in the Pre-Colonial Period
The desire for a more open land due to the increased population of his
village caused Kuthi Mari to shift his village to the more open area of the
present site. When he moved to the present site there were still suspects and
threats of attack by Fulanis, Kanuris and one notorious Patralla, to be ex-
plained later. He therefore built a wall again round his village. It was
estimated that by then there were over fifty compounds (households)and there-
fore the wall was much bigger than the old one. This time the gate was built
with four gates leading to east, west, north and south. Again there was a deep
trench near the base of the wall and another trench about ten yards apart also
surrounding the wall. This means there were double trenches. This was more
defensive than the old one because enemies could not come near the wall.
Diagram of Kwaya Village in the Pre-Colonial Setting.
/ / /1/
K* 7, -^j / _____
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Diagram of present-day Kwaya showing the position of the old wall, the chief's
house, and the District Head's Palace.
There used to be a waterhold near the school just near the wall which
supplied them with water but sometimes, especiAlly during the dry season, they
had to go to a nearby stream (about half a mile away)for their water supply.
In both cases they all fetch their water from the same place.
The Village Headship and Its History (by Kuthi Malum)
The village of Kwaya was since in the beginning headed by a chief and this
lineage of chieftaincy was maintained and up to this day they are still the
head of the village. There never had been any Bulama or ward head since there
were no wards.
When Kuthi Mari died he was succeeded by his son, Kuthi Ali. This Kuthi
was also succeeded by Kuthi Njidda in which he could not tell exactly whether
he was son of Kuhi Ali or his brother. It was during the time of Kuthi Njidda
that the Europeans came to this land. By the time Njidda died the land was
almost colonized by the Europeans and he was succeeded by Kuthi Malum. There
was nothing much remembered about these chiefs but the informant could only
remember their names.
Another Kuthi Mari succeeded Kuthi Malum. During this period the chief of
Biu appeared in this area. He was called Kuthi Ali Garga. It was only then
that Kwaya came into contact with the Pabir people. They were not aware that
they were no longer independent but under the chief of Biu. Kuthi Mari was
succeeded by the present chief, Kuthi Malum, the informant.
Kwaya had been the name of the village but it was later understood that
there is another Kwaya near Biu. So to distinguish the tw9 people used to call
this Kwaya as Kwaya Kusar, or Kwaya Kuthi Mari and referred to the other Kwaya
near Lake Tila as Kwaya Bura. Today, Kwaya Kusar is more commonly known as
Kwaya Tera. Tera is a neighboring tribe and people believed that Kwaya consists
of Tera people.
Another headship, Hyedima, acts as the head of the village in absence of
the chief or village head. They are the Mbarma people and their lineage was
was narrated as follows:
Hyedima Usman (now)
The chief also explained that since they are related with the people of
Gongdi and Guwal any member of his family can be chosen to become chief in
either Gongdi or Guwal. He however did not specify who once tried that but
said that it was possible in absence of responsible successor.
Titles and Offices (by Yabubwa)
The chief was supreme and the Hyedima acts in his absence. The Hyedima is
not a member of the chief's family and can never inherit the 'throne'. His
family was considered as a commoner, a talaka(Hausa) and therefore can only
advise the chief on crucial decisions. The Hyedima's family was responsible
for the haptu of the village and therefore, all religious rituals are performed
either by the Hyedima or a trusted member of his family who was devoted to the
practice of haptu.
The Kwakunas were designated with the following titles:
Kadala, usually a relative of the chief and can warn him,(not only advise)
the chief, as well as the other Kwakunas.
The name, Ngurkuna, was given to the eldest son of the chief and can act
in absence of the chief. There were also Yokdima, and Chiroma in which he could
not remember their specific duties since these titles are no longer in use.
Dzarma was a sort of Kwakuna of the Hyedima and advises the Hyedima on what
All blacksmiths were referred to as Migawa or Dyeha Bdla but their leader
was called Pukuna. The appointment of such a leader was by the chief after
being elected by his colleague. He was then to be offered with sword three times
each of which he draws out the sword from its sheath and return it. He would then
be declared capable of holding the post.
The chief messenger of the chief was referred to as Birma. He was
responsible for informing the Kwakunas when the chief wanted to see them.
When asked whether there had been any relations between the chiefs of
Kwaya and that of Biu or Mandaragrau he said that there have never been any.
They only heard of one Kuthi Garga who came to the area and not long after they
began to hear of white men. It was then that they realized they were under Biu.
The only place where they had close contact was Gongdi. They used to
take their stubborn slaves there, including those who used to escape and other
Walls (by Chamalwa)
The diagrams on pages 88 and 89, typed pages 34 and 35, show the location
of the wall round Kwaya village. There had been a wall since in the beginning
It was meant for defensive purposes. Both walls of the old and new site of
Kwaya were built of mud since stones could not be found near the site.
The first wall had two gates while the second had four gates, all of
which were well guarded by armed men at night. To make the wall more defensive
a double trench was dug round the wall. It was about 20 feet wide and that
deep. This prevents enemies' horses or men themselves from coming near the
wall so as to attempt climbing over. The trenches were crossed over using
planks from palm trees. These planks were to be removed dudng the time of
war so that enemies may not use it for entering the village.
As soon as the sun sets all the doors will be closed to everybody. Those
who are in will not be allowed out even if they became bold enough as to desire
to be out for fear of slave raiders(Fulani). Those who happened to be out,
be they strangers or members of the village must be identified first and then
surrender whatever weapon (bows, arrows, knives or spears) they were carrying.
They may then claim the weapons in the morning or in presence of the person
they were going to.
When the wall wears out it would be shared out to various groups of
compounds so that they may thicken the wall or rebuild the broken areas.
This is done annually by the people of the village.
The doors were closed by thick wooden planks enforced(reinforced?) by
metal strips. The wall itself was perforated with small holes whereby people
of the village could shoot their arrows through to approaching enemies.
Types of weapons used: Bows and arrows have been the main weapons used
for battles and hunting. There were also jangum (sword).
---Small knife (ndla kusar)
Mai(?) ding (sling made of rope for throwing stones)
Mwasu wooden handle metal blade
Dzangir (another type of Mwasu)
Katsakar and yambal were also used. They were one form of long knife
but were not made by the Bura people. They were either bought from the
Fulanis and Kanuris or captured from them in a battle.
Battles were fought with villagers remaining in the walled village, taking
cover behind the walls, and with arrows pointing ready at anybody who happened
to pass by. Sometimes enemies may use certain shields which could not be pene-
trated by the arrows. They found out that hot arrows could penetrate such
shields. Thus, at times it might be necessary to make the arrows red hot if
the enemies were using such shields.
Once invaders were spotted and reported to the village the men took their
positions near the holes made through the walls ready to shoot out arrows while
women and children would hide in their houses. The gates of the wall would be
Cases of Actual Battles
Mbormi People. This man came through Gulana and defeated the area and
moved on until he dame to Kwaya. They tried to resist but surrendered and he
moved on to Maiba and burned the whole village down, killing all those he could
see and looted their food stores, sheep, goats and chickens.
He also attacked Pabir people in Gur and Mirnga and defeated them. He was
interested mainly in slaves as well as to expand his empire. They were Fulanis.
Saleh Gardama Ngaran Bornu. This man was believed to come from Bornu and
was on a slave-raiding mission. He was heard of attacking the people of Gur.
The report of his wickedness, killing both men and women as well as children,
and the large number of captured slaves, made the people of this area to get
ready for his coming but he never turned up. He did not go beyong Gur and was
therefore only heard of in his area. He was a Kanuri man.
Patralla Battle. Another notorious invader was Patralla, son of Rabi, who
came from Masar (Eg ypt). Rabi had been attacking this area but usually loses.
His daughter also did come to this area and captured lots of slaves but they were
never as wicked as this Patralla. When he came to this area the people of
Kwaya heard of his wicked deeds and surrendered to him before his arrival with
his forces. They sent him gifts of cows, horses and food. Kwaya was therefore
not attacked. Those who resisted were the people of Maiiba and Yimirdlalang.
The village of Maiiba was completely burned down while Yimirdlalang was
not only burned down but the occupants were surrounded and slaughtered all
with the exception of the chief who escaped. They took with them many slaves.
'-This was close to the time of the coming of the Curopeans so they-, never came
again after this battle.
Apart from external forces the Bura people were peaceful with each other
and never fight.
1. Kidla; 2. Chalau; 3. Daltahur
In those days every young man was taught how to use the bows and arrows.
This was necessary for defense both against human and animal invaders. Hunting
was therefore done by almost every grown up man on a small scale.
During the dry season most people hunt for animals and birds which were
close by. But there were others who took hunting as their main occupation and
were called mwazumaku. These people, due to their daily contact with animals
in the bush, could shoot and aim better than others and count the number of
animals shot per annum in terms of hundreds. They also know a lot about medicine
so that the spirits of the animals would not cause sabal for them. This sabal
was/is a sort of sickness which weakens, deforms or kills those who hunt the
animals constantly. They were therefore protected against such illnesses.
Kidla (run after) was an organization for hunting pruposes. When people
plan for kidla it would be broadcasted far and wide to even distant villages of
about ten miles away. The name of the place where the kidla will take place
will be announced in markets and the date stated. For example, most of the
bushes or milderness were named so that when one says 'we will be going to
Kidlar Wanzaha', everyone knows the place and those who do not know would ask
the professional hunters who know all the places around. Choices were made
bearing in mind that the place is full of animals to be hunted.
During Kidla the whole area in mind will be combed, all the animals
hunted for and killed. None could escape because there were dogs around to
run after any animal that escaped arrows. Here even birds and big rats were
It was often necessary that people of the same village or people of the
same nyarmbwa move together in groups. This was necessary because once someone
kills an animal a stronger person may take it away from him and run away with
it. But when they are in the same group this may not happen because they would
beat the person and chase him away. Some people unskin the animals they kill
up on the trees. This prevents any intruder from cutting some piece of the
meat. This was allowed as part of the show of strength and toughness.
Chalau is another simple hunting expedition. It consisted of as few as
four friends, or may be a large number of people, up to twenty, who decided
to go out in the bush to obtain meat. They inform each other of the date and
place. When they reach the place in mind they would stretch out in one row
side by side and move in one direction, with their dogs in front. All animals
thus killed will be shared even with those who killed nothing.