Aug 1, 2008

The Ngas-Kanuri Link

Sometimes in May this year some Ngas people in Bauchi hosted the Pus-Ngas cultural festival. Like most cultural festivals in Nigeria, Pus-Ngas is meant to educate younger generations of Ngas people and non-ngas alike about the culture and traditions of the Ngas ethnic nationality. Wherever the population of the Ngas people reaches a critical number, the people consider it necessary to celebrate the festival once a year, be it in Lagos, Kano, Abuja or Port-Harcourt. In Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi and Taraba states however, there are Ngas who are indigenous these states contrary to the widely held belief that Ngas people are only indigenous to Plateau State.

The Ngas people trace their origin to the Kanuri people of Borno State. Wars and other instabilities compelled the people to start a kind of diaspora towards lands in the southwest of that original home. In the course of the journey, they sojourned at several locations and moved on after realizing that the location was not suitable for them. On arrival at Bauchi during the reign of the famous Yakubu, the reception was cozy leading to a decision by some of the migrating population to adopt Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa as home. The rest continued their journey, eventually arriving at Gyangyang in the present day Kanke. The need for proper vigilance against enemy fighters pushed some further to the hilly Pankshin. The rocky nature of their Plateau home made agricultural yield a mere handful. Others among them who wished to continue with agriculture migrated to Taraba and Kaduna States. A lot of them left home to take up careers in what later became the Nigerian military, dominating it especially from colonial times to the seventies. The glorious day of the Ngas people in the Nigerian Military was recorded in 1966 when an Ngas man, General Yakubu Gowon became the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and reigned for nine years.

Ngas people however concur in their opinion that their ultimate home is Plateau State. This explains why the most prominent Ngas people at the Bauchi ceremony were from Plateau State. They included the Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly (PSHA), Honourable Emmanuel Go’ar, Senator Sati Gogwim, the Ngolog-ngas, HRH, Joshua Dimlong, former Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Nde John Gobak, Amos Gombi, Member of the PSHA representing Kanke, and the Advisory Committee Chairman of Kanke Local Government, Emmanuel Jatau. There were also District Heads from Pankshin and Ampang. These personalities gave the festival a strong effervescence.

Other tribes that share the same origin with the Ngas are the Jarawas, also found in Bauchi and Kaduna States, Gomai, Jukun in Taraba State, Mwaghavul, and Gbogom in Nassarawa State. These other tribes are not only invited to any Ngas cultural festivals but any installation of the Ngolong-ngas. The question arises thus: If the Ngas descended from the Kanuris now in Borno State, some elements of the Kanuri culture ought to have been preserved in the present-day culture and traditions of the Ngas people. The Ngas people say that one such element has managed to endure till today. It is the spectacular tribal marks on either sides of the face which run from the base of the temple, across the checks down to the base of the lower jaw. The Kanuris have multiples of such marks on either sides of the cheeks

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