Remembering Igunnuko as the Nupe target cultural revival

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Francis Falola

When the sons and daughters of the Nupe kingdom gather on Saturday to celebrate the second National Nupe Day, one of the major issues that may feature prominently is the need to find a middle course between the practice of religions and the sustenance of the rich culture and traditions of the people.

No doubt, the practice of Islam, which is the most predominant religion among Nupe people, has largely eroded the rich cultural heritage of the Nupe, which today remains one of the prominent ethnic groups in the northern Nigeria.

The Nupe are known for their very rich culture and tradition. At an important occasion such as wedding, the costume and the typical dressing of a Nupe man or woman is unique. This is a very unique dressing sense and the unique tradition and culture as exemplified in their marriages has, however, been taken over by the adoption of Islam and Christianity as the religions of the people.

The mystery surrounding the ”Igunu”, a local masquerade common only to the Nupe and the Yoruba, is still not known till today and this great culture has almost died an unnatural death as the people care less of the sustenance of this cultural practice. It is the same with the famous Bida brass and Masaga works with its legendary history.

History has it that once any of the materials and factory equipment is taken from their present factory site in Bida, it instantly loses its potency as such material stop functioning elsewhere. The list of cultural items among these people who are predominantly farmers is endless.

Whatever the people might have lost to time, however, recent events indicate that they are eager to embrace cultural renaissance. For instance, as a prelude to the Nupe Day, a fund raiser launch to raise funds for the construction of a Nupe Cultural Centre was held in Abuja where overN200 million was realised.

When completed, it was gathered, it would serve as a museum for all Nupe artefacts and at the same time an international resort centre where information about the ethnic nationality would always be available.

According to the Chairman of the local organising committee, Alhaji Yabagi Sani, the cultural centre, which would be equipped with modern communication and IT gadgets, will be located at Bida.

The main event of the Nupe Day will be preceded by a cultural and award night on Friday while the traditional and famous Nupe durbar would be on display to entertain the guests.

Sanni said the event would be a landmark one and a watershed in the history of the Nupe people at home and abroad.

Speaking on the significance of the Nupe Day to the state government, the Director General Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Bala Abdulkhadir, said Nupe constituted a very significant population in Niger State and among the three major tribes in the state.

He described the day as an occasion for all well meaning people of the state and the country to identify with the people, whom, he said, in terms of population and significance, ranked among the top tribes in the country.

This year‘s Nupe Day is also unique as some notable Nigerians are to be honoured by the Etsu Nupe as the high point of the event. This entails the turbaning of some prominent Nigerians male and female by the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, for their contributions to the development of the kingdom and Nigeria as a whole.

Prominent among those to be honoured are the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu; and his wife, Jumai, who would be turbaned as the Sodangi Nupe (caring leader) and Garkuwanomi Matan Nupe (Nupe woman leader). The Governor of Kano State Ibrahim Shekarau and his wife will be turbaned Waziri Raya Nupe and Soniyan Nupe respectively while the Niger State Commissioner for Works, Dr. Ibrahim Sule, will be honoured with the traditional title of Lafiyan Nupe.

The Nupe can be found in virtually all parts of the country but they are more predominant in Niger, Kwara and Kogi states in the North Central geopolitical zone of the country while some of them also domicile in the South-Western part of the country.

Incidentally, Nupe spreads across three states principally. But despite the geographical division, the people remain united. Nupe is the most predominant tribe in Niger State and out of the 25 local government areas in the state; eight are Nupe speaking people with some towns in the Zone C senatorial District of the state inhabited by people who speak the language.

The Nupe kingdom which was founded by Tsoede in 1465 also has historical links with the Hausas of Katsina and Kano as well as the people of Borno. The Kingdom also comprise other related groups like the Beni, Benu Kusopa Dibo Ganagana, Kakanda, Basa Cekpan Kede and Kupe.


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