Page 1

Life Among the


of Nigeria

By Gerald A. Neher with Lois R. Neher

Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria

Life Among the


of Nigeria

By Gerald A. Neher with Lois R. Neher

Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria Gerald A. Neher with Lois R. Neher Published by Gerald Neher Publishing 1111 Darlow Court McPherson, KS 67460 Copyright Š 2011 by Gerald A. Neher and Lois R. Neher Cover design: Jan Gilbert Hurst, JanDesign Graphics Interior design, illustration, and production: JanDesign Graphics, McPherson, Kansas 67460 Printing: Mennonite Press, Inc., PO Box 867, Newton, Kansas 67114 All photographs by Gerald A. Neher. Three of the photos and the Nigeria map were previously published in the book Lardin Gabas, A Land, A People, A Church (Copyright Š 1973, by the Brethren Press, Elgin, Illinois). All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author. For information on getting permission for reprints and excerpts, contact the author at, or 1111 Darlow Court, McPherson, Kansas 67460. ISBN: 9780983157304 Library of Congress Control Number: 2010918796 First Edition 2011 Printed and bound in the United States of America



1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.



Dedicated to the Chibok People


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Acknowledgements for a book such as this could never be complete as many people have contributed to this effort. Yet, I must acknowledge some who have contributed. This has really been a dual effort with my wife, Lois. We worked together hand in hand in our years in Nigeria. She has been a constant and loving companion for fiftyeight years. While I had the opportunity to spend many hours in the village of Chibok, she spent much of her time at home with our four children and doing many other activities, including teaching. She is responsible for much of the work on this manuscript. This manuscript would have never come to fruition without the help and encouragement of Dr. Keith Otterbein. He was my teacher and friend at the University of Kansas and encouraged me to continue studies in anthropology. My thanks to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., who gave me a grant to study the agricultural pursuits of the Chibok. The grant gave us an opportunity to resign from the Church of the Brethren Mission and pursue a detailed study of the Chibok for six months. I also want to acknowledge the use of the book entitled Outline of Cultural Materials, published by the Human Relations Area Files, Inc., at Yale University, which provided a detailed outline for gathering information. I gratefully acknowledge the mission program of the Church of the Brethren, under whose auspices we served from 1954 to 1968. They permitted us to use the guest house at Chibok while we gathered notes in 1968. Our fellow colleagues working in Nigeria deserve much praise. Ira and Mary Petre and Grayce Brumbaugh spent much time in Chibok and were excellent students of the Chibok people. Early in life, both Lois’ parents, Harlan and Fidelia Yoder, and my parents, Roy and Wava Neher, encouraged us to broaden our horizons and look beyond our own little worlds. Both of us studied under Dr. Desmond Bittinger, who had served with his wife, Irene, in Nigeria. We were impressed by their many stories and their love for the people of Nigeria. The greatest acknowledgement goes to the many people of Chibok who welcomed us into their hearts and shared their lives with us. Bata Nkyena deserves special recognition. He was, for many years, our devoted cook and an excellent student of Chibok culture. When we moved to Chibok to gather notes, he was most faithful in finding competent informants and helping in every way. Other faithful Chibok who deserve recognition are Yaga, Ba Kapi, Adam, and Fafa. A special thanks goes to Pearl Miller who spent many hours with the manuscript, editing and making numerous corrections. Our son, Rodney, and son-in-law, Bill Weesner, spent considerable time keeping our computer operating during the months of writing this document. Last, but not least, are our four children—Rodney, Karen, Bryce and Connie. The last three were born in Nigeria. Their lives have been greatly enriched by living in another culture. Children, by their innocence and openness, have a unique way of dissolving cultural barriers.

viii Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria

PREFACE While we were both students at McPherson College in Kansas (1947–1952), we were active in the Brethren Student Christian Movement. At that time the Church of the Brethren was recruiting teachers for a teacher training center at Waka, Nigeria. After completing some schooling, we set sail for Nigeria on a British freighter in November of 1954. Our oldest son, Rodney, was eight months old. Though we had been recruited to teach at the Waka Teacher Training Center, upon our arrival in Garkida we were asked if we would be willing to go to Chibok, instead of Waka. Both were completely foreign to us, so we readily agreed. Later, we learned that everyone on the mission field had been canvassed, and no one wanted to go to Chibok. It was the most remote mission station. Ira and Mary Petre were living at Chibok and were to orientate us before they went home on furlough. Soon after our arrival, Ira became ill; and they had to return to America. Chibok was isolated during the rainy season, which lasted for several months. During the rains, we sent mail and received mail once a month by a foot messenger. Contact with other white people was practically non-existent during the rainy season, except for a nurse who ran the dispensary in Chibok. This isolation was a blessing in disguise as we were forced to learn a foreign language rather quickly. More importantly, we learned to know another culture as few others have had the opportunity. The Chibok readily accepted us into their midst. I have referred to the people who are the subject of the book as “Chibok” which is the most common spelling today. “Chibuk” was the common spelling in 1968, although the spelling has been a subject of discussion for many years. Other spellings are Cibak, Chibbak, Chibbuk, Kibbaku, and Kyi-baku. The terminology “Kibukoo” is also used but in a slightly different text. If one asks an older person, “Are you a Chibok?” the answer will often be “I am a Kibukoo.” The term “Chibok” is used here to denote both the singular and the plural. Chibok is the name of the ethnic group which is the subject of this book and is also the name of the largest village in the area. You will soon discover that almost all activities in which the Chibok participate center around the yellow endosperm guinea corn called jerima (a grain sorghum). It is their staple food, and their lives depend upon it for their existence. The Chibok are the only ethnic group in the area that plant jerima in any quantity. Throughout this manuscript, the masculine pronouns (he, his, him) have been used predominately, even though they may be referring to either the male or female gender. Non-English words are italicized. I must apologize to the Chibok people for using so many Bura words in the script. The Chibok and Bura languages are very similar; and while I was taking notes, I wrote down what the informants told me. It was not until I started working on these notes, forty years later, that I discovered this phenomenon. From time to time one will find Kanuri, Hausa, and Fulani words in the text, as well. The Chibok language has never been reduced to writing. The Chibok words used in this manuscript are a phonetic spelling of words as I heard them. Nearly all Chibok men, and most women, are fluent in several languages. Also, I apologize for the many non-English words that I found necessary to use. There are so many expressions, names of things, activities, and ceremonies that just cannot be translated into English. I have tried to explain these in the text and glossary; as a result, many times the exact meaning is lost.

ix The word “medicine” has been used frequently in the text. The meaning of the word in Chibok is different from the English definition of “medicine” as the science of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease. The Chibok use of “medicine” may refer to the science of medicine, but more often it is used to indicate supernatural powers to protect, to cure, or to curse. Today, Nigeria is a modern country and very much a part of the western world. In the present day (2011) one would not be able to find many of the customs described in this book. The goal of this book is for the Chibok to have a record of Chibok life as it existed in the past. Today, most of the youth of Chibok are educated; many of them look upon traditional customs as something without merit and which should be forgotten. A few may even be offended by bringing to their attention some things that they would like to forget. Hopefully, this book will bring a new understanding and respect for the customs and traditions of the Chibok people who lived in the past. If there are those who harbor thoughts that life among African cultures is simple, they will surely change their minds after reading about the activities and traditions that surround birth, marriage, death, and farming. Life among the Chibok is complex and beautiful. There are many places in the text where things are not as clear as one would hope. It is my intention to portray, as accurately as possible, what was told to me by informants, as well as what I observed. There are places where what is written conflicts with what is written elsewhere in the text. Two explanations are possible. One is that approximately the same material was given by two different informants, and each saw things from a different perspective. Another possible explanation is that the informants whom I used were older people. Their memories may have faded some over the years. The use of plurals in translation has been somewhat of a challenge. On occasion I have just added an “s” to a Chibok word to indicate a plural. This would be understood by a non-Chibok but would be confusing to a Chibok. I have used the names of people and have referred to the location of people’s compounds many times. Compounds are moved and many people to whom I refer are no longer living today. I knew of no other way to tell their story. People in most African cultures are divided into two groups—the royalty (chieftainship) and the commoners. This book is written generally from the standpoint of the commoners as there are many more of them, and they have been less tainted by their overlords and other outside influences. The commoners reflect more accurately the culture of the Chibok people. For the most part, the material supplied is exactly as it was received from the informants. Where I have offered an opinion, it will be enclosed with a set of brackets [ ]. There are three appendices to the manuscript. One is a map showing many of the villages and hamlets in the Chibok area. A second map shows the location and approximate size of all compounds around the Chibok rocks. The third appendix is a chart, in color, indicating the kinship categories of the Chibok. The information for this book was collected in several ways. 1. Through experience—I lived with my family in Chibok on three different occasions: for three years (1954–1957), for one year (1959–1960), and again for six months in l968. 2. I traveled extensively among the Chibok villages and learned their language. 3. I attended numerous ceremonies and celebrations. 4. Many days were spent with my typewriter in the shade of a shea nut tree near


Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria our house listening to informants tell the history of their people. 5. I listened to people talk in their compounds, in the markets, and in their farms as they went about their daily lives. As I started arranging my notes to form a manuscript I soon encountered a problem and that was, “Who would be my audience?” There were really three possibilities: 1) I could write for a Western world audience, but it would have little appeal to a large audience. 2) It could be written as an ethnography for those in the field of anthropology. 3) It could be written for the Chibok people to have a record of their past history. The choice was easy. This would be a history of the Chibok people because their past is fast being lost to the modern world. In this manuscript there is one item that is obviously missing and that is the dates of the many happenings. They are unknown. It is estimated that much of the activity around the Chibok rocks occurred in the time period from 1900 A.D. to 1905 A.D. and finally culminated with the British army making its final surge in 1907. Dates of events occurring after the Chibok left the rocks can be approximated by following the order of those in the chieftainship position. There is no accurate record of events prior to 1900 A.D. but there is adequate evidence of considerable activity prior to that date. Note: When I use the present tense, the “now” is in 1968, and not in 2011 when this is being written.




The Chibok:



are an ethnic group that lives in northeastern Nigeria, West Africa. The Mandara Mountains are to the east dividing Nigeria from the Cameroons. The Sahara Desert is approximately 200 miles to the north, and the tropical rain forest begins a few hundred miles to the south. The land of Chibok is in the tropical savannah. Surrounding the Chibok are relatively small ethnic groups and, like the Chibok, they farm for a living. Population counts are not reliable. The Chibok ethnic group is one of the smaller groups. In 1968 the population was estimated to be between ten and twenty thousand. It would be considerably larger today. The following history will not be easy to read unless one is familiar with the Chibok area of Northern Nigeria, as there are so many villages and towns mentioned. Also, all of it will not follow in a logical sequence. There will be some duplication and contradiction. The purpose is to leave a permanent historical record for the Chibok people. The English may sound a little stilted, but it must be realized that a translation is involved, and an effort has been made to make it accurate at the expense, perhaps, of having it difficult to read. This chapter on history contains five sections. The first section, entitled Traditional Chibok History, was given by Ba Kapi. He was an old man when he related the information in 1968. The author was told that he was the best and most reliable source of Chibok history. His sib is Wantaku Pirkyu. The section entitled The Coming of Rabeh was related by Bilawanta at Bwalajung. He is an important person in his lineage, and some of the information may be biased. The third section is entitled Order of the People Arriving at the Chibok Rock. Ba Ndabarma Gajeli from Yimirmugza gives his opinion concerning the order in which people arrived at the Chibok rock. The fourth section is entitled The Settling of Wantaku, and it relates to the settlement there. Present day Chibok has two groups. The Wantaku live at the west end of the rocks, and the Kwanda live at the east end of the rocks. The fifth section entitled Depressions in the Chibok Rocks tells the Chibok story of the depressions that are in those rocks. [Additional information regarding opinions of when different groups arrived in Chibok will be found in Chapter Two, entitled “Sibs of the Chibok”.]

Traditional Chibok History: The first person to come to Chibok was Bila Batari. The place of his

origin is unknown. He came to the area with his wife. He was a hunter and he killed an elephant. One day his wife was pounding guinea corn in a mortar and a stranger came. He had heard the sound of the pounding and had gone to see what was causing the noise. His name was Bila Mayer, and he came from the area in the direction of Biu. Bila Mayer asked Bila Batari what names they gave to their children, and he answered that Yama and Yahi were the names for boys, and Yankya and Adlawa were the names for their girls. [Each sib has certain names for their children. These names can be found in the history of each sib in Chapter Two.] Bila Mayer also had a wife and children, and their children married Bila Batari’s children. These are the people that now are called Wantaku. Pulai was another early man to this area. Ba Kapi calls his people Warga Pulai. They came from the direction of Gidi, which is in the direction of Bama, where the sun 1


Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria comes up. They settled on the east side of the mountain where the rocks are white. They were not good people. Pulai was a hunter. Pulai and another group called Mazwai, who were the ancestors of Muta Lugwa, came at about the same time. They married each other’s daughters, but in the early days they did not marry the daughters of the Wantaku. The Mazwai were hunters as well. The Warga Pulai took the chieftainship and gave it to the Mazwai, and then the Mazwai took it and gave it to the Njir Vwa. These were the first four families that came. Bila Mayer and Bila Batari settled in Wantaku, and the families of Warga Pulai and Mazwai settled on the east side of the rocks. In the past the following people have had the sticks of the chieftainship that were given to them by the Pilesar (Fulani) of Uba: Bila Batari (Wantaku sib), Bila Mayer (Wantaku sib), “name unknown” (Ngiwar sib), Bila Fali Kofa (Gima sib), Bila Pagu (Kwapil sib), Bila Nkyamadara (Authya sib), and Bila Katsala (Kwanda sib). They each let a little tuft of hair grow long on their heads. The most important among the seven was Bila Batari. Each of the seven bilamas had his own area that he ruled over in the rock hills, and each took taxes to Barnau (Nggadarma). When Bila Mayer came, he went towards Biu, gathered many of his people, and brought them to Chibok. His people then outnumbered those of Bila Batari. That is the reason he got a chief’s stick from the Fulani, as he had so many more of his people. Bila Batari kept his stick as well. Bila Mayer was a Pabir from Biu. In the past, if a chief at Biu died, the new chief was brought to Chibok before he was installed in his new position. They would put the new chief on a rock in Wantaku and make an exhortation about him before he was taken back to Biu, and the drum was pounded (installation ceremony) for him there. With the arrival of the Europeans, the people of Biu no longer come to Chibok when they install a new chief. Now the people of Biu follow their customs at Biu, and the Chibok follow their customs at Chibok. At that time, before the new chief could get the chieftainship, he would come to Chibok with many cloths to give to the women and important men. They would choose the new chief at Biu, but then they would tell him to go to Chibok and get the exhortation on the rock. In the past, a Chibok girl would help the prospective chief get up on the rock. She would attempt to put the prospective chief up on the rock twice, and then the third time she would put him up on the rock. The name of the rock is called “Muzar Patha.” Muzar Patha is the shrine of the ancestors of Biu. At Biu there is not a shrine of strength, only this one at Chibok. Both Bila Batari and Bila Mayer were from the chieftainship line, but the status they had in Chibok was given by the Fulani in Uba, not the Pabir in Biu. When Rabeh came to the Chibok rocks, he had three younger siblings, and his mother was pregnant again. He was old enough that he no longer had to herd goats. When the white man came, Rabeh was a young man old enough to hoe in the fields, but not yet married. When the Fulani first came to Chibok, they did not come to fight, but rather to collect taxes. At this time the Fulani from Yola were the overlords of the Chibok, and the Chibok paid taxes to them. Taxes were in the form of rope from the baobab tree and native cloth. When they came, the people were having a crying. (A crying is a ceremony honoring the death of a person). The Fulani asked for taxes, but a Chibok man said he would not pay taxes since his son had just died. The Fulani man kept bothering him. The Chibok man ran into his house, got a spear, and threw it at the Fulani. It hit him and he ran back toward Adamawa Province. Whether he died or not, no one knows; but he did not die near the Chibok rocks. After this incident it was a long time before anyone bothered the Chibok. The next person to come was Shehu Bukar. He came from Kukawa, which is a

Chapter 1 HISTORY


village north of Maiduguri. The first time he came he did not come to collect taxes, but to fight. When he came, he saw the village people were good to him; so he just decided to establish a chieftainship in Chibok, that is, to put one of his men in as chief. At this time Bilama Mayer was bilama of Wantaku, and Bila Pagu was bilama among the Kwanda. (Bilama is the title given to the head person of a section of a village or the head of a hamlet). Before Shehu Bukar came, if anyone killed meat (game), he was to give a shoulder to Bila Pagu, the most important man in the village. Shehu Bukar came and gave the chieftainship of hunting to Mai Wandiga. This required those who killed meat to take a shoulder and a rib to Mai Wandiga. Then Mai Wandiga was to take some of the meat to Bila Pagu. Shehu Bukar said his people were to collect taxes. Mai Wandiga was to collect the taxes and take the taxes to Shehu Bukar at Kukawa. The Wantaku people did not agree to pay taxes, nor did the Kwanda. At this time the Chibok did not pay taxes to anyone, not the Fulani nor the Kanuri. There was a Kanuri man named Malam Macca whom the Chibok nicknamed “Malam Gudugudu,” because he would retreat and run. Shehu Bukar sent him to fight the Chibok because they refused to pay taxes. Malam Macca fought the Chibok one day and then ran back. He had horses, bows and arrows, and spears. The Fulani who came earlier also came with horses, bows and arrows, and spears. Then Malam Macca came again with many people. He had a hundred horses following him. At this time the Chibok people were around the base of the rocks and had not retreated into the rocks. Malam Macca’s troops did not enter the village, but rather they fought on a line from Malam Abwaku’s compound to the market place. The Chibok killed many of them, but not one Chibok was killed. Malam Macca’s troops retreated to Wavi. After Malam Macca’s retreat, Rabeh’s people came in the eighth month. Rabeh did not come because he was in Maiduguri. Rabeh’s people had three leaders who were Patrilla, Nyabi, and Awa Rabeh. Awa was a woman. They came from Kilba country and settled in the market area where they built a compound. When they first came, they did not act like they wanted to fight; but the Chibok were suspicious and took their belongings up into the rocks. Then Rabeh’s people helped themselves to grass mats, house roofs and anything else they wanted. Soon they began to take the guinea corn out of the granaries and take it to the place where they were encamped. The Chibok decided that if they were going to take their guinea corn, that was reason enough to fight them. On Thursday the Chibok began to fight because Rabeh’s people were stealing their guinea corn. The fighting continued on Friday. On Saturday they came with guns and started to ascend the rocks. The fighting started about nine in the morning and continued until about four in the evening. They had a horn similar to a bugle that they used during the fighting. They fought again on Sunday and Monday. In the evenings the Chibok women would come down from the hills and cook food. Then on Tuesday there was no longer any fighting. Instead they had market. Every Tuesday they raised a cloth (flag) up in the sky, and there would no longer be fighting; but rather they would have market. Previous to this, there was no market in Chibok. The soldiers told the Chibok that if they had anything to sell, such as chickens, eggs, or honey, to bring them and they would buy them. A chicken or a pot of honey sold for one gursu. The Chibok brought honey for the soldiers to buy. The soldiers bought it with coins like the Shuwa wear around their necks. They called the money gursu, and it was larger than the Maria Theresa dollar. This was the first time that the Chibok had seen this kind of money, as they were accustomed to using cowrie shells and native cloth. Some of the cowrie shells were sewn together, while others were just loose. Only the men went down to the


Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria market. The women did not go. When the men went, they did not go to the market with their bows and arrows, but rather with a stick or corn stalk in their hands. In the market there were slaves of Kanuri origin who could understand what the Chibok were saying. From discussions in the market it was determined that Rabeh was not a Kanuri, but rather a Shuwa. On the days that they did not fight, the Chibok would go to their farms and bring in guinea corn. The Chibok killed many more of Rabeh’s people than they killed Chibok. The soldiers killed two women among the Wantaku. They killed a man named Matangai among the Tsitsihil. There were some killed among the Kwanda and Kwapil. They fought in three different groups. The group led by Awa fought in one place. The group led by Patrailla fought in another place. The group led by Nyebi fought in a third place. The group led by Patrailla was the group that fought the Wantaku. The soldiers’ guns were long, muzzle-loading guns, not short like those of the white man. If a white man’s gun goes boom—daici (that’s it). They fought for about two months, and then at the end of the third month the soldiers went off to Kukawa by way of Wavi. After about three years there was a nasara (white man) who came. He was not really white, but red. He came with his wife, and she was just the same color as he was. He came with many carriers and about one hundred soldiers on horses. They also camped where the market place is today. These red people were difficult and killed many more Chibok than any group before. Their guns had cartridges. (Today the Chibok put these cartridges on the end of an arrow to kill birds.) The Chibok killed some of the soldiers, but they were difficult. They began fighting in the morning and fought until evening. The Giwa were in the area west of where Fafa’s compound used to be—where the survey markers are in the rocks. There were no caves or holes in the rocks in this area. The Chibok assumed they were going to fight like Rabeh’s men. Instead, the invaders entered the rocks at that spot and killed many of the Chibok. The Chibok who remained ran to Likama. They did not fight this group in the fields, but in the rocks. The soldiers came in the eighth month when the guinea corn was ripe, and they returned to Kukawa in the tenth month. Kukawa was synonymous with Bornu in those days. The soldiers came with some food, but since the guinea corn was ripe when they came, they harvested it and ate it. Then there was hunger among the Chibok, but they did have some guinea corn in their granaries up in the rocks. This group of people did not have a market day. When Rabeh’s people retreated, the Chibok came down out of the hills, built compounds and lived where they had lived previously. The name of this white man was “Baturi”. (Even today a white man is referred to as nasara or baturi). The people came to fight the Chibok in the first place because the Chibok were robbing people who were traveling through the area. The Chibok would catch people coming through and sell them into slavery in Kilba country. The money that was received from selling the slaves was brought back to Chibok, where they used it to marry women. This is what brought the people of Rabeh, Malam Macca, and Baturi as well. They thought that this fighting might convince the Chibok to leave their road robbery, but it did not. After Baturi left, there was a European who left Maiduguri traveling to Yola. He came with his wife on camels, and they had lots of cloth. He was at Yemi near Kwapci on what was a major travel route at the time. When the Chibok heard of this caravan, they robbed it, killed the white woman, and took all of their possessions. The Chibok men who robbed the caravan were Katsala Bukar, Katsala Maunta, and Aviyama. They were the three leaders, but each had many followers. The European man returned to Maiduguri and reported what had happened.

Chapter 1 HISTORY


The Chibok assumed that the fighting was over. It was several years after they killed the white woman, and four or five years after Baturi, that the next man came. His name was Georgikwari (short George). In his party there were several white men, but Georgikwari was their leader. When Georgikwari and his people came, they spent a week at Wavi resting. All the people in the surrounding area (including those from Kauji, Kaurngillim, Dumboa, and other places) brought flour, chickens, and other things to give to them. The people of Chibok village did not take anything to them. This was the eighth month when the guinea corn was ripe for harvest. They came on a Saturday and camped in the market place. As they had already rested in Wavi, they began to fight immediately the next day. They took all of the grain out of the granaries and took it to their encampment. All of the Chibok retreated to the rocks. The guinea corn that they had stored in the hills was soon gone. The Chibok started going down from the rocks at night to their farms to get guinea corn for the women to pound and grind. When Rabeh’s people came, and Baturi came, the Chibok had time to get their guinea corn and take it to the rocks. But this time, the enemy came fast and fought all of the time. As it was just the beginning of harvest, all of the old guinea corn was nearly gone. The soldiers surrounded the rocks, and all of the Chibok went into caves in the rocks. When the Chibok were in the caves they would shoot out of the caves, but they would not venture out. If the enemy saw a leg or anything, they would shoot it. Even if one held up his bow, they would shoot it to pieces. At this point the Chibok decided if they kept up the fighting, not one of them would survive. At night the soldiers would go back to the market place to sleep. When Georgikwari saw that the Chibok were going to be hard to get out of the rocks, he sent someone to Garoua to get people to come and help him. The Chibok nicknamed the man who came, “Mai Doki”. There was one white man among them. He had many soldiers and each one of them had two horses. Also, there were carriers with heavy loads of boxes on their heads. They came and conferred with Georgikwari. Mai Doki fought the Giwa from the south side of the rocks and Georgikwari fought from the north side. When Mai Doki came to Chibok, there still were some Chibok in the rocks. He would put red pepper in his muzzle loading gun and shoot into the holes in the rocks. The Chibok would cough, and then they could be located. In the fighting, Abadai, the father of Munggila (the barber), was hit with a shell; but he was not killed. Abadai’s father, named Mai Mwada, came out from the rocks with his hands up. The soldiers let him go to see Georgikwari and ask for medicine. He told them the only reason he was fighting was for his son, as he would not fight for himself. Now since they injured his son there was nothing more to do. They tried to save his son, but he died. (This is when Mungilla was in his mother’s womb. The reason he has the name Mungilla is that he never saw his own father.) They told him they would help his son if he would help them. The soldiers were seeking medicine for the arrow wounds that they had. Mai Mwada agreed to help them and went to the bush and dug up some shrubs for them. Because he helped them a great deal, they called him likita (doctor). They asked Mai Mwada the secrets of the Chibok—how they could continue to fight— but he would not tell.

Betrayal of the Chibok: There was another Chibok man called Mai Jatau who was out of food. He came

out of the hills at night and attempted to steal some guinea corn, but the soldiers caught him. They told him that if he did not tell them the secrets of the Chibok, they would kill him. He told them of four places where the Chibok were getting water. He also told them where they had hidden their grain in the hills. With this information, soldiers


Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria were put by the water holes both day and night. After this, the Chibok could not last for more than a couple of weeks as they could not stand the hunger and thirst. They ran from the rocks at night. They did not all go at one time, but rather people from a few compounds would go each night. They ran into the bush and stayed with their relatives at the time they traditionally pounded their guinea corn, which would have been February or March. The Chibok then tried to find a way to repent. They gathered together one hundred quivers and one hundred bows and took them to the Europeans and said they would not fight anymore. They were received by the Europeans. The Europeans then tried to come up with a way that they could put a chief over the Chibok. There was Mai Mwada, but he would not tell the secrets of the Chibok. There was a man in Wantaku named Mai Bukar who was the largest bilama among the Chibok, so the Europeans hunted him out. They wanted to give him the chieftainship, but Mai Jatau told the Europeans that Mai Bukar was one of the biggest chiefs in Chibok. When they were on their way to Bura country they took Mai Bukar, drove nails through his wrists, took him to the bush and killed him. Georgikwari left some men at Chibok but took some of his soldiers to Bura country to fight people there. He returned from Bura country by way of Chibok with cattle, goats, and other livestock. They then went back to Maiduguri (Yerwa). They took Mai Jatau with them and gave him the robe of chieftaincy there. Mai Jatau returned to Chibok and became the first Chief of Chibok. Mai Mwada was his waikili (second in command). The Chibok were unhappy with what Mai Jatau had done, but they were afraid to do anything to him, as he had the power of the Europeans behind him. The Chibok felt that what Mai Jatau did to Mai Bukar was worse than disclosing the location of their water holes. Mai Jatau was in the chieftainship for a long period of time. Abdu, one of Mai Jatau’s sons, got in a fight with one of the sons of Madu Kaku, who was the district head at Dumboa. Abdu was known to be a very careless person. The name of Madu Kaku’s son was Mastafa. They went to court in Maiduguri. Madu Kaku said that he helped Mai Jatau become chief, and it was not right for one of Mai Jatau’s sons to fight one of his sons. When they took Mai Jatau to Maiduguri for the trial, they put Mai Mwada in the chieftainship in Mai Jatau’s place. Mai Mwada was chief for more than a year. Following Mai Mwada, Lowan Yahi was named chief. He remained chief for five or six years. After that, they let Mai Jatau back into the chieftainship position for several more years. Following this, the chiefs were: Mai Kura (Lowan Bulama), Lowan Jebba, and Lowan Maigana. [When these notes were taken in 1968, Lowan Jebba was still living and Lowan Maigana was chief]. Mai Jatau was a Tsitsihil, Mai Mwada was Kwanda, and Lowan Yahi was Kwanda. The Fulani who first came to Chibok to collect taxes had their compounds at Nggadarma. (Barnau is the Fulani name for Nggadarma). This group of Fulani was connected with the Fulani of Uba. The Chibok had been paying tribute to the Fulani for a great many years. The Fulani were the overlords south of Chibok, and the Kanuri were the overlords to the north. The dividing line was at Njida, which is near Wavi. When the Fulani left Nggadarma, they went to Uba. During this time Rabeh was killed on the road to Gujiba. During the time of the fighting, the compounds were surrounded with kerana (cactus). There were many paths up into the rock hills. If the path was not good, they would repair it with rocks. Traditionally, the Chibok did not live up in the rock hills as there were too many large rocks, and there was not a good place to build a compound. Some of the old people would build a small compound up in the rock hills, but all of the young people built at the base of the rocks. Before the soldiers started to

Chapter 1 HISTORY


chase the Chibok from the rock hills, the following villages had people in them: Bwalajung, Shikarkur, Kaurnggilam, Ntsiha, Takalaishi, Mbowa, Wavi, Kwamdi, Kuberivu, Kubermbula, Kirdi, Piyami, Bila Zaman, Gatamwariwa, Tabang, Alayaho, and Mbulakudiga. When the Chibok were chased from the rock hills, they fled to these villages. The people who killed the European woman were of the Kwanda Muta Pagu. The other Chibok wanted to kill the Kwanda Muta Pagu, because they said they were the ones who brought all of this trouble to the Chibok. So the Kwanda Muta Pagu ran for their lives to a place called Yimir Ali, which was in Pilesar (Fulani) country. Those who ran were Katsala Bukar and his brothers—Lowan Abwavwa and Kilakwa. The three were important people; but if they had not run away, they would have been killed. In this day and age, the Chibok marry them. (Each sib in Chibok has other sibs from which they marry their daughters, but not their wives. Marrying the wife of a fellow sib member would cause fighting and chaos within the sib. All good men are needed to fight the outside enemy. This means that they have congenial relations with certain sibs. There are other sibs where there is enmity and they would not marry their daughters. From these sibs they steal wives.) The Chibok had seven bilamas up until the time when the Europeans came. In the old days when one of the bilamas died and they were installing a new one, there was no dawakur (enmity). They all ate together, drank beer together, and even if one slept with another’s wife that day, there was no trouble. Kuhyikur kenan (It is just the thing of the chieftainship). In the past, there were different kinds of chiefs. There were the political chiefs (bilamas) and the hunting chiefs (dlancikur). The hunting chief came from Maiduguri, but this was before the white man came. The Kwanda brought this chieftainship with them when they came from Kanuri country. The bilama chieftainship (or lowankur) is known as kuhyikur zuwa (stick chieftainship). This royalty position has always been the most important. Mai Mwada was an Njir Tuksa of the Kwanda sib. Lowan Yahi was Njir Tuksa as well. In the past, Nkyadingaling was waikili to both Mai Mwada and Lowan Yahi. Lowan Yahi was taken out of the chieftainship because someone went to Yerwa (Maiduguri) and reported to the officials that Lowan Yahi had killed a man, and he had not reported it to Dumboa. (It was not true, but rather it was part of a fight over a woman.) When Lowan Yahi was taken out of the chieftainship, Nkyadingaling refused to take the chieftainship because he was the only son of his mother. If he took the position, they would quickly kill him. He said he would find someone to take the position, so he got Mai Bilama. In the past, the people of Mai Bilama did not have the stick of the chieftainship, but they did have the hat of the hunter. When Mai Bilama became chief, the Njir Tuksa (who had the stick of the chieftainship) took the hat of the hunters.

The Coming of Rabeh:

[The following information was told to the author by Bilawanta at Bwalajung. He is an important man in his lineage. Some of the information may be biased]. The first people to come to fight the Chibok came from Pileasar country (Adamawa). They came to Chibok, then to Njida (west of Yimirshika), then to Wiyarmdiga (about three miles from Dumboa), then on to Vu Kithla (Biu). The name of the person who came was Haman Manga. Haman Manga came so that the world could be civilized. The places outlined are actual places that the Fulani conquered from the south. The place where the Fulani settled was Dangaji (between Mbalala and Askira). They proceeded to Bornu (Maiduguri) then to Jamari (the end of the world). The names of the ten people who came to chase the Chibok out of the rocks are as follows: Haman Munga, Juldi, Bubwa (these are Fulani), Shehu Bukar, Lamidu, Malam Gudugudu,


Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria Gamsuru, Arabi (He was the most important of them all), Akali, and Rabeh. Musa Gadari came, but the Kwanda came down on his head and chased him away. He was a Kanuri. When Bilawanta was asked which one was the worst (or gave the Chibok the hardest time), he replied “Rabeh.” He sometimes called him Georgi. He said the reason that the people wanted to fight the Chibok was that they were robbing people on the road. Ali Ngodiya, a Kanuri, went and told the people (maybe Rabeh?) that it was impossible for them to go out any longer because the road robbers were too prevalent. They were raiding people for their loads or maybe for slaves. Evidently Ali Ngodiya was a Kanuri trader who wanted to trade in Fulani country. The group led by Rabeh came down by Koji and came to the Chibok rocks by way of Gima (where Lowan Maigana’s farm is now, near Shiki). When the Gima saw them, they shot them with arrows. Then they believed what they had been told and came to the zoaka tree in the market and stayed there. When they first came to Chibok, they saw women coming in from the bush with firewood; but they did not do anything to them. When the men came out and shot arrows at them, they killed five Chibok. Those killed were Montagnais, Kaska Ntakai, Yankya Wambal, Pwagu Yankya Tabci, Kwanta Ngwalgudu and her child. Kwanta Ngwalgudu and the child were killed by fire (perhaps a house fire) and not by guns. Now he says this was the first fight that the Chibok had, and this was with the Pilesar. These people stayed for only three weeks, and then they left. After this fight it was three years before more people came. Most of this first group just had quivers full of arrows, but a few of them had guns. Most of them had formed something out of a kapok tree like a shield. At the time of fighting the shields were put in water first. When the arrows hit, the arrows would not penetrate very far. When the Kanuri (that is Rabeh) came, they all had guns. When Rabeh came, many Chibok of the Authla and Kwanda were killed, but they killed only four among the Wantaku: Dawai Yankyana, Zaman Madu, Pagu Yankya, and Yankya Wambal. The soldiers of Rabeh came to the compound of Pagu Kuma. Dawai Yankyana was up on the rocks and said to himself, “Will a man look at another man in trouble like this and not do anything?” He said that he would go down, but others encouraged him not to go. He went down and began shooting soldiers in Pagu Kuma’s compound with bow and arrows. Among those fighting in Pagu Kuma’s compound was a soldier who had a black horse. He tied it to a tree near Pagu Kuma’s compound. When he started to shoot Rabeh’s men with arrows, Rabeh’s men shouted, “There is someone here! There is someone here!” When Dawai Yankyana heard this, he ran and jumped over the fence. The soldier who had the horse tied outside was there and shot him with a gun, and he died. Those who began to pull the corpse away were his father’s brothers named Pudza Yaga, Muta Zabu, Kyana Kaska, Mpur Kaska, and Kyana Ngwalgudu. They could not carry the corpse, but rather just dragged it. If the soldiers started shooting with guns, they would fall down on the corpse. They would drag the corpse some more, but when the shooting started again, they would again fall down on the corpse. The corpse was brought beside Kirkwada, the place in Wantaku where there are a great number of wells around Dakwali Rangi’s compound. Dawai Yankyana was buried beside a rock close to the compound of Yama Sakwa. They could not go to the bush to cut wood to bury him, so they used wood that had been used to shut the goat houses. Rabeh came in the seventh month, but it was nearing the eighth month—when the guinea corn was just starting to turn red. People had begun to dig their peanuts. The eighth month passed. It was the ninth month, and the Chibok began to cut guinea corn. The fighting kept them from harvesting the guinea corn. The soldiers of Rabeh were cutting guinea corn for their horses—even before it got ripe until the time it was ripe.

Chapter 1 HISTORY


They kept cutting the guinea corn and even made a shade out of it. When the people of Rabeh were in Wantaku, they lived at a place where Mpur Duwa’s compound is now. They were located close to a peanut field. They took some sticks and began to dig the peanuts. While they were digging, they played a drum with the tune that is used to dig peanuts. Rabeh’s people stayed for two or two and a half months. They left by way of Wavi. [The above story which Bilawanta has been relating is when Rabeh came the second time. The first time he came, he did not kill anyone, or very few, and he did not stay long.] They left by way of Warwarima and killed Mwada Wakuma. Then they traveled to Ntsiha where they killed Pagu Dzikummya. When they left Ntisha they went to Pabir country. After Pabir country they went to Kilba country where they stayed for five years. In the fifth year they returned to Chibok. They fought the Chibok and then left. Alkawali came next. He may have been a Kanuri. After five years in Kanuri country, Rabeh came again to Chibok in either the eighth or ninth month. Some had cut their guinea corn but were not finished yet. When the fighting began, the Chibok quit harvesting their guinea corn and went up into the rocks. At night they would come down from the rocks and get a little guinea corn and take it back to the rocks so they could have food. Rabeh’s people stayed until the rains came. By that time all of the Chibok had left the rocks as they could not get food or water. At that time, Bilanta’s mother took Bilanta and they went to Kwomdi, which is close to Wavi. [There are some things here which we do not know about. It is known that the Fulani came first. After this, it is not known whether Alkawali or Rabeh came next. Maybe Rabeh came for a short time, then went to Ntsiha, Pabir country, Kilba country and then back to Chibok. There is a disagreement on how long he stayed. At first Bilawanta said they stayed two or two and a half months, then he said five months. Five months is probably correct if he stayed until the rains came.] Bata adds another name into this story. He says there was another man by the name of Patrilla. He may have been a Fulani, as he and his men came from the South. They were soon chased away, but then combined forces with someone from Cameroun. They came, but were defeated. Bata also says Rabeh did not come himself as he had been killed first, but his people came.

Order of People Arriving at the Chibok Rocks: Ba Ndabarma Gajeli at Yimirmugza gave this

information about the order in which people came to the Chibok rock: 1) The Warga Pulai came first. They were Warga, but Pulai was the first to come. 2) Mazwai 3) Njir Dama 4) Authla 5) Dayaga 6) Njir Vwa 7) Njir Naku 8) Tsitsihil 9) Njir Dawa 10) Yama Yahi 11) Kagiyau 12) Midiraku 13) Gaskil 14) Kwanggwala 15) Wantaku Pirkyu 16) Ngiwar 17) Awhiya 18) Kwapil.

The Settling of Wantaku:

The Yama Yahi were the first to settle Wantaku. The Njir Dawa came second. It may be that the Wantaku Pirkyu gave birth to more sons and got a larger group earlier and, therefore, they got the name. Others came in and settled close to them and learned their language, which is a little different from the other Chibok. Those who came later and settled near the Wantaku Pirkyu are as follows: Midiraku, Gaskil, Kwanggwalla, Tsawa Ghya, Ngiwar, Kagiyau, and Njir Durwa. The whole group is classified as bwar Wantaku. It might be fair to call them this as they liked ketakur (a bad attitude toward other people) more than others. If you are a rude and disrespectful person, you might be asked if you are a Wantaku. They say, bwar di cici are the Wantaku and bwar sibar cici are the Kwanda. The pattern for the Kwanda is the same. It is probably the fact that the Mazwai came first, and then the others came in and settled around them. There were three groups in the past: the Wantaku, Kwanda, and Kwapil. Some say


Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria Gima was another group, as well. The Kwapil and Gima settled to the south of the rocks; the Kwanda were to the east; and the Wantaku were to the west. The Munggai are Chibok, but they have a different language than others. They have been close to the Mwada Kughya. Perhaps the Munggai are not really Chibok, but are a group by themselves. They are closer to Chibok than to the Marghi Pela or West Marghi. There is some friction between the Njir Dawa and the Njir Mai, because the Njir Dawa were the original royalty. They got the staff of chieftainship from the Fulani. The Njir Mai came and got the chieftainship from the Kanuri. In the past the chieftainship of Chibok was not a lowan, but rather a district headship called ajiya. The Njir Dawa of the Wantaku sib were the lowans. When the chieftainship got reduced to a lowan, the Njir Dawa became bilamas. It was the grandfather of Yahi Ufwa who was really a big chief. He was the one responsible for caring for the European District Officers who came. He was called Mai Jungo. The term jungo means barki (the place where Europeans stay). This was the work that Bila Yana had when he was alive. The name of Yahi Ufwa’s father, who held the post before Bila Yana, was Bila Yama.

Depressions in the Rocks: When people first came to the Chibok area, the land was forest. Hunters

came here because there was water and the water attracted animals. To the knowledge of the Chibok people today, there were no people in this area prior to their coming. However, in the rocks in this area there are numerous large depressions which are obviously places that were used for grinding. The Chibok say that people of long ago used to cut up their meat there, and that these depressions were made by the knives cutting meat. They do not say these depressions were made by Chibok or other people. They just say they were made by njir na waci (people of long ago). The Chibok have a story about the depressions in the rocks. They say that in the past there was an old woman who had a grandchild with her who was sleeping. There was a rule at that time that if a person cooked meat, it should be eaten immediately. Everyone should take just what meat they could eat. The old woman thought this tradition was a joke, or a lie. She left what she had cooked for her grandchild, but she did not want to wake him. Her intent was that she would wait until her grandchild awakened that night, and then she would give him the meat. Sleep overcame the old woman, and when she awoke, morning had come and it was light. Both she and her grandchild got up. She intended to give the grandchild the meat. When she went to get the meat, it had turned to rock. That evening everyone went to cut off meat that had been placed on the rock, just as they had Young Chibok boys play on the rocks near ancient depressions that were probably places used done before. When they went, the meat had turned to rock; and for grinding. they did not have a chance to get any more meat. The round depressions you see in the rocks today are where the people attempted to cut meat that had turned to rock.When the hunters who settled Chibok came, they did not see these people. Today these depressions are used only to grind tobacco or to grind the ingredients to make medicine. Some of these depressions are in huge rocks weighing tons. Some have tilted to almost vertical positions, which would indicate they have been there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

To read more of   Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria,   order from:    Gerald Neher  620.504.6078  1111 Darlow Court  McPherson, KS 67460 

Life Among the CHIBOK of Nigeria... What a story! The constant struggles to raise sufficient food, to keep evil spirits at bay, to follow the customs of their ancestors, and to interact with others make life complex for this agrarian people. Readers will enjoy a detailed, inside view of how the Chibok have survived in a harsh land. It is a story of a proud people who lived in and near the Chibok rocks. Warding off intruders, they were the last group in Nigeria to submit to British rule. Without the Chibok language reduced to writing, their oral history was in danger of being lost to changes brought by westernization. This compelled the author to write the story of the Chibok to preserve their history and customs, their struggles and their joys. Uniquely qualified to tell this story, the author and his family lived among the Chibok and learned their language and customs for four and a half years. Gerald Neher is a trained agriculturalist with a B.S. degree from McPherson College and an M.S. degree from Cornell University. He also studied anthropology at Cornell University, Kansas University, and at Southern Illinois University. Lois Neher graduated from McPherson College with a B.A. in education and has taught in both the United States and Nigeria.

Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria By Gerald A. Neher with Lois R. Neher  

What a story! The constant struggles to raise sufficient food, to keep evil spirits at bay, to follow the customs of their ancestors, and to...

Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria By Gerald A. Neher with Lois R. Neher  

What a story! The constant struggles to raise sufficient food, to keep evil spirits at bay, to follow the customs of their ancestors, and to...