Culture Trip | The Gbayis
Somewhere in Northern Nigeria is a tribe where it is forbidden for women to carry anything on their heads even while hawking. Buckets, wares and more have to be carried on the shoulders. It is believed that the head shouldn’t be burdened and carrying anything on the head affects the brain.
This tribe also believed back in the day that a suitor seeking a girl’s hand in marriage would have to devote seven 7 years of his engagement or the time of his notice on her father’s farm. He also had to supply grains to the bride’s house in order to get her ‘healthy’ and ready for their wedding day.
Even though body art was a regular practice especially for identification, some women did it to attract men.
Another thing to note on this tribe is that they believe their ancestors are not completely dead; they are “living dead,” and are involved in the welfare of their offspring. If their ancestors’ funeral rites are not done properly, they might become dissatisfied, angry, and
harmful. This instills fear in amongst the people.
All evil physical and moral manifestations are said to be by the spirits and have to be cast off through various rituals and traditional religion. Another religion apart from Islam and Christianity that is practiced by them is known as ‘Knunu’ which entails going to a special tree to worship and offer sacrifices.
Popular festivals are the Agbamaya festival and the Zhibaje. The Agbamaya festival welcomes the rain, while Zhibaje is a traditional Christmas celebration.
To make a living, they indulge in arable agriculture, wood fetching, pottery, and ‘blacksmithing’. Unfortunately farming as mentioned earlier, farming is almost impossible now due to the Abuja’s new capital status.
They also dabble in pottery, sculpting and indigenous designing.
These people from from Central Nigeria are said to be going extinct and they are known as the Gbayi people.
They are various theories on how the Gbayi people came to be.
One account says there was a lot of squabbling between the Gbayis and the Kanuris while they were in Borno State so they decided to leave for Abuja.
Other reports say they came from Kaduna. The people were descendats of Saunin Minna and were the original settlers of Gwagwalada in Abuja. Tradition says that the first settler was a hunter (as usual) who went on expedition to Paikokun land, a thick forest in Abuja . Paikokun mountain was where the first settler inhabited.
Whatever the story, it is obvious that the Gbayi people (sometimes called Gwari) are the original indigenes/settlers of Abuja and also the most populated ethnic group there. One could argue that technically they own the place but alas, this isn’t the case today. With the urbanisation going on in the Capital city, their farmlands and settlements were encroached on and they feel they were shortchanged. Most of the displaced families were given housing but some lived in settlements camps for a long while. They are also found in Kaduna and Niger State.
The language commonly spoken by this tribe is known as Gbayi which is a part of the nupoid languages (nupoid is spoken by the people of Central Nigeria).
They are known to be a tribe that are accommodating, lovers of peace, noble and transparent. A notable Nigerian from this tribe is Gen Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babginda aka IBB. There’s a famous Hausa saying ‘muyi shi Gwari Gwari‘ translated to ‘let’s do it like the Gbayis‘.
It’s a shame to see a tribe being uprooted from where they call their home as this also affects culture and the stories that can be told about them. Rumor has it that quite a number of gbayis don’t know about their history (although this can be said for a lot of tribes and the new generation).
The difference however is that while some people have a village to go to if they’re serious about knowing home, the Gbayis will soon have nowhere to show their children thereby wiping information for generations to come and we sincerely hope someone somewhere doesn’t let that happen.