The true ethnicity of the people of Bida is virtually undecipherable. The present people of Bida are not Fulani, Nupe, Yoruba, Igala, Hausa, Igbira, Kanuri, Arab, etc, etc – they are all these various people combined in one.
Bida is a melting pot, to borrow an American epithet, of all these people from all parts of ancient Nigeria and beyond. In the beginning the population of Bida was hundred percent Bini. But that was in those days when Bida was a small, walled, Bini village much the same as the neighbouring villages of Doko, Gaba, Zhima, Kuchi, etc.
That was in the days before the Dendo dynasts came and transformed Bida into the capital city of their emirate. Bida used to be the throne-town of the kings of the Binis whose royal title was ‘Binida’ or, simply, ‘Bida’. It was said that the village used to have its proper name which is now lost to history because it came to be identified as the ‘Town of the King’ or ‘Binida’ or ‘Bida’.
This is much the same way that the name ‘Medina’, ‘The City of the Prophet’, came to overshadow the original name ‘Yathrib’. In any case the population of Bida was entirely made up of Bini in those pre-Dendo dynastic days.
But Umar Bahaushe, the Usurper General of Etsu Masaba the Great, while pursuing Umaru Majigi on a bloodthirsty battle, came and changed Bida into a massive war camp which Usman Zaki later on transformed into the capital city of the newly formed Dendo Emirate – the same that we call the Bida Emirate today. Umaru Bahaushe, contrary to the implication of his cognomen, was a Kanuri man and not a Hausa man.
Umaru Bahaushe’s gargantuan army of Jihad mercenaries was a heterogeneous melting pot of every tribe and ethnicity from all parts of ancient Nigeria particularly the North and Middle Belt. There were Nupe, Hausa, Yoruba, Kanuri, Igala, Arab, Taureg, Kambari, Gbagyi, even Ibo, etc, etc, Jihad mercenaries in Umaru Bahaushe’s battalion. Umaru Bahaushe’s army of Jihadists was neither entirely Nupe nor was it entirely Fulani; it was a collection of all tribes and ethnicities.
Similarly Umaru Majigi’s army of Jihadists was also a heterogeneous collation of all these various types of Nigerian peoples as Jihad mercenaries. The two armies – both Umaru Bahaushe’s and Umaru Majigi’s armies – were therefore made up of different tribes and ethnicities.
None of the two armies could be called a Nupe army or a Fulani army or even an Hausa army. And it was these two armies that invaded the small walled Bini village of Bida one after the other. First it was Umaru Majigi’s army that was besieged by Umaru Bahaushe’s army as the former was stranded into the small walled Bini city.
After the defeat and death of Umaru Bahaushe the same heterogeneous army of the Dendo dynasts camped for a while at Bida thereby consolidating the small Bini village of Bida into a permanent massive war camp. When Usman Zaki was appointed as the new Emir of the new Dendo Emirate he refused to go back to Raba, where court treachery abound, and decided to change Bida from a massive war camp into the capital of the new emirate.
As the new capital city the original Bini population of the village of Bida was instantaneously overwhelmed by the invading cosmopolitan population of the ethnically heterogeneous population of Jihad mercenaries.
The original Bini population literally disappeared into the invading population of Nupe, Hausa, Gbagyi, Kanuri, Arab, Yoruba, Igala, Ibo, Igbira, Kambari, Kamuku, Dibo, Kakanda, etc, etc.
This heterogeneous population became the foundation population of the new Bida. So, Bida was transformed from a village with hundred percent Bini population into a large melting pot city made up of a population of mercenaries, long-distance traders, immigrants and migrant workers from all parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
The only thing that all these different peoples had in common was the speaking of Nupe as a Lingua Franca. Ever since then the population of Bida has never been fully Bini; and neither was it ever fully Fulani, Nupe, Hausa, Kanuri, or any other tribe.
It has always been an heterogeneous collection of various tribes and ethnicities who have melted into a single population that speaks Nupe and identifies itself as more or less Nupe.
In the same vein it should be noted that the royal or ruling aristocracy of the Bida Emirate is not fully Fulani as the mischievous Colonial administrators and their cabal of historians have come to make us believe. It is true that Mallam Dendo was more or less a Fulani man; but he was not a full-blooded Fulani man as the case is with Shehu Usmanu dan Fodiyo for instance.
Mallam Dendo was, after all, a so- called ‘Hausa-Fulani’ – whatever that fiction of a term means I don’t know – from Katsina. Even if we assume that Mallam Dendo was a full-blooded Fulani man – something he never claimed in life – we are still left with the fact that almost all of his wives were not Fulani but Nupe.
Etsu Masaba’s mother was a Nupe woman as we all know. In those days it was highly fashionable for the Jihadists to marry Nupe women. Umaru Nagwamatse and even majority of the princes from the Shehu Usmanu dan Fodiyo family had Nupe mothers.
Whatever Fulani blood Mallam Dendo might have had the Dendo family was immediately diluted into a Nupe one and just a generation into the family later Etsu Maliki was said to be the last of the Etsu Nupes who could speak any semblance of the Fulani language.
The point here is that Mallam Dendo’s army of Jihad mercenaries was never a Fulani one. It was always a heterogenous collection of warriors from many tribes and ethnicities who opted to join the Jihad venture in KinNupe.
It was an army of different tribes and ethnicities from the time of Mallam Dendo through Usman Zaki and Etsu Masaba to Etsu Bubakar and Etsu Makun. The army of Bida, the people of Bida and the entire population of Bida was thus a miscellany of different peoples from different tribes and ethnicities from all parts of ancient Nigeria and beyond.
That is why the population of Bida was popularly referred to as ‘Tagun tagun’ meaning ‘miscellanea’. This Tagun tagun miscellany population of Bida was further accentuated in the 1860s and ‘70s through Etsu Masaba the Great’s clientele plantation system whereby peoples of other tribes and ethnicities from various parts of Nigeria are brought to work as freed slaves on the concentration farms and plantations that went into the formation of the various villages and farming estates around the Bida general area.
That was how came about the settlements of the Lemu or Ebwagi, that is Freetown, villages of the Bida emirate. This Tagun tagun or heterogeneous miscellany of population of Bida was further destabilised out of all identification when the British army attacked Bida in the 1897 Battle of Bida. When Frederick Lugard, the Anti-Nupe, and his colonial army invaded Bida in 1897 the reigning Etsu Bubakar and almost the entire ruling aristocracy of Bida fled the city.
Majority of these ruling aristocrats went and settled in their estates which formed the villages around Bida today. In effect this means that the ruling class of Bida at the end of the 19th century sank into the villages in the general Bida area today. From all these chaotic scenarios we can readily see that the population of Bida is thoroughly cosmopolitan and cannot be tied down to or identified with a particular tribe or ethnicity.
The people we see in Bida today are the descendants of all the various tribes and ethnicities from different parts of Nigeria who came to settle down in Bida through the Jihad enterprise or as long-distance traders, migrant workers, traders, etc, etc, in pre-colonial days. But they’ve all melted into a single Nupe speaking population today because of Bida’s central position in the rulership of KinNupe.
Lastly I need to also point out the fact that there was never really a ‘Fulani Jihad’ in KinNupe in the real sense of the word. There was a Jihad revolution in which some Fulani elements took part in KinNupe but it was never a Fulani Jihad. Just like the Fulanis, all other ancient Nigerian tribes and ethnicities took part and participated in the Jihad enterprise in KinNupe.
Some three to four hundred years before the birth of Shehu Usmanu dan Fodiyo and before the advent of the Fulani Jihad – if there ever was one indeed – Nupe Islamic missionaries had initiated the Jihad revolution in KinNupe and it was only later on that other non-Nupe Jihadists, including the Fulanis, came to join the Jihad in KinNupe.
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