By Obed Nuhu Nana

Have you ever found yourself in a situation so bad you wanted to speak out and you could not? Presumably as a result of fear you might not be heard or taken seriously? I have been in that situation for as long as I can remember. It’s almost a dejavu for me when I reflect on the age-long challenge an average Gbagyi person will eagerly regurgitate over and over and over again without a single comprehension as to why.

I have been on that path for too long and having tried to make my voice heard over the matter, I even came to a cul-de-sac, until my brother advised me to pour my angst and the whole matter on the pages of African Heritage Magazine; a Gbagyi magazine that has contributed immensely in an attempt to catapult the massive socio-economic and cultural value of the Gbagyis. Not knowing where to start the matter, I had decided against giving a historical background on the Gbagyis; reason being that the history has been over flogged and begging for rest.

I therefore resorted to go back to where I mentioned something on the socio-economic and cultural values of the Gbagyis. Leaving out the political index was deliberate because therein lies the crux of the matter. Forgive me but being brutally frank on the matter will be the best way to start.

A chequered list of Gbagyi administrators and politicians will only leave a sour taste in your mouth as If you swallowed lead.

Beginning from the 70’s and 80’s, some Gbagyi leaders and elders where in government or political positions. Most of them could not summon the courage to be of significant help to the younger generation. Till date, this matter is always on the lips of young men and women of Gbagyi extract, especially when at a social gathering.

Funny enough in those times, when as a young Gbagyi graduate, an NCE holder or an ND holder, you summoned the courage to carry your application to their thresholds, you are rebuffed with a response that goes, “ go and study more” or there are no vacancies for now”. And that is the end of it. Woe betides such responses! Eventually we rode into the 90’s timeline and behold the story never changed as i pre-emptied it. Rather, we began to see a more resolute Gbagyi leader who was busy making it his business to discredit a fellow Gbagyi brother, in their thought, “let him not steal my spotlight”. How totally absurd!

Meanwhile some of us folks tough that those in the 70’s and 80’s timeline where older and old fashioned, but we were wrong. Instead of seeing a drift away from a self centered, god-like assuming posture of self and apparent distaste for his fellow Gbagyi brother, the Gbagyi elite who is only opportune with a political position was seen surfing the seas of hatred and singing the tunes of discordant against his fellow Gbagyi brother. That is the matter! That is the political quagmire the Gbagyi man finds himself. How sad that the Gbagyi neighbors have come to know that to disunite the Gbagyi man, use a fellow Gbagyi man and you get results. I stand to be corrected but i make this bold as i write empirically. The Gbagyi’s having realized lately, the power of politics, seem to be so self absolved in the pursuit of the power and therefore forgetting quickly the political and administrative timeline of the 70’s and 80’s.

The average Gbagyi man is not left out of this madness. His own part being that of a snitch. You know what i mean? The recent primaries to the buildup of the general elections particularly in the PDP prints a typical picture of how the Gbagyi’s are so disunited even against themselves. The only glory for some victorious contestants was the “Buhari Whirlwind”. If you cast your mind back to 2007 when we had about five (5) Gbagyi gubernatorial candidates contesting in the primaries under the PDP in Niger State, it will only sadden you, but the truth is that it could have been managed for a sole Gbagyi candidate to emerge as flag bearer. That is the political matter i talk about. There are so many instances across the five states in Nigeria where the Gbagyis are indigenes.

Arising from the realities of the Gbagyi nation and an optimistic spirit, we have seen young Gbagyi men and women in different capacities and fora in the timeline of 2000 who have given their time and resources to educate, enlighten and bring to fore the matter confronting the development of the Gbagyi nation. Yet, they have been rebuffed by the same Gbagyi political elite.

The one group that quickly comes to mind is the Gbagyi carnival 2014 held in Abuja. I was privilege to be on the central working committee board and despite our efforts to stage the carnival, there were attempts to ensure it did not see the light; right from within the board and to our administrative and political elites.

The case of the Gbagyi traditional rulers was more of a child’s play. The movement took us to Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa and the F.C.T, Abuja to pay homage to the Gbagyi 1st, 2nd and 3rd class chiefs for their blessings and their presence at the carnival. It may amaze you that though we were warmly received with joy, but just a couple of them really justified their support to the carnival. We only realized that there is the matter of who is most prestigious than the other among the Gbagyi traditional rulers. We went over and over to see them only to actually be educated by a higher authority that there is a war of supremacy among them. That matter was never resolved. Thankfully the carnival was still held.

Accept my apologies for the little digression into one of the many issues the Gbagyi’s are being confronted with, only for more emphasis. However, it was from the Gbagyi carnival 2014 unveiling ceremony that a clearer picture of the political advantage that the Gbagyis have was clearly painted. Professor Mailafiya Aruwa Filaba in a paper presented at the Gbagyi carnival unveiling ceremony, titled; Gbagyi People, Culture and Antecedents, captured the whole essence of the Gbagyi race.

According to Professor Filaba; in 1904 the Sudan interior mission reported that it was working among the Gbari of about 180,000 the then largest ethnic group in the middle belt in Nigeria. By about 1919 when the first colonial census were conducted (but not completely), the population of the Gbagyi was 125,273 (with 65730) in Nasarawa Province, 22,994 in Niger province, and 80,316 in Zaria, Kotonkarfe, Nupe and Kotangora provinces) and was again termed the largest ethnic group in the middle belt. Using the proviso given by the Nigerian population commission that the Gbagyi has high birthrate growth of 3% per annum, Professor Filaba projected that from the 1985 estimated Gbagyi population of 4 million and near accuracy claim, that indeed the Gbagyi’s are more than 12,000,000 today. Having listened to professor Filaba go on and on about the population estimate of the Gbagyi people in his presentation I came to the realization that the Gbagyis are really more highly populated than the Nupes, the Koros, the Tivs, the Idomas, the Igalas, and the rest of the other ethnic groups within the so called middle belt.

What with a number like 12,000,000 will the Gbagyis not achieve politically? I ask myself. To put it softly without assuming any posture, it must be noted that the Gbagyi’s have been widely taken for granted not for any reason but for their docile and uncombative nature, even by their elites.

When you sit and ponder on the Gbagyi matter, you wonder back in to time as to whether the Gbagyi man is under some spell emanating from a primordial curse or simply structured by God to be complacent.

In whatever case, they say a man’s destiny is in his own hands. Only time and chance will tell what behoves of the destiny of the Gbagyi nation. The challenge for the younger generation like ours is that of posterity.

Nana, one time secretary of Tafa Local Government Area of Niger State, writes from Suleja

TAURARUWA