Home Opinion Kaduna:CROSSING OVER THE RIVER OF SNAILS,By Christian O.Emmanuel


NEWSDAILYNIGERIA -Hausa historians employ the instruments of falsehood to distort the details of the history of their neighbours. This has always been a stock-in-trade of the people. They also employ the media to further strengthen the spread of these distorted stories.

Today everybody goes away with the wrong notion that even Kaduna came from a Hausa plural for “Kada”. But historical facts, now being downplayed by those in the majority prove differently. A close attention to the facts is all that is needed to prove this.

Even Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, and Premier of the Northern Nigeria, in his autobiography, MY LIFE, wrote: “In the 1913, the great plains which now embrace our Capital were virtually empty. There were a very few scattered Gwari (Gwagyi) villages, but until the railway went through them on its way to Kano from the coast, there was no common link between them.”

At this time, the colonial masters have created Kaduna as the capital of the north, rather than Zaria or Kano. But that choice is another story.

It sometimes beats me how, the Fulani followed by the Hausa late-comers to these plains changed the narrative. The main river has divided the vast forest into north and south, and for ease of differentiation and identification of the two forests on each sides, the areas (plains, in the words of the Sardauna) had been called after the men who first settled there.

The forest in the north was named after one Mashi who founded the first settlement in that “kurmi” (forest), hence Kurmi Mashi. And this was initially “Mashi Kuchi” in Gwagyi. Kuchi is the Gwagyi word for forest.

One the other side of the river was a settlement, founded by one Kakugyi known as Kurmi Gwari. It happened to be the oldest settlement in that vast plain.

The Hausa has difficulty with pronouncing the word “gyi’. Most Gwagyi words with “gyi” have suffered alterations as a result. This explains how Gbagyi became Gwari.

Thus, since this general area on the south of the river is called “Kakugyi Kuchi” to differentiate it from Mashi Kuchi on the north, it ended up being distorted. The “gyi” soon disappeared. What remained is KAKURI.

The name Kaduna actually came from the experience of the Gwagyi from having to cross the river to do business on the other side. This was long before the arrival of the railway and after it, the bridge.

The question on their mind was always how to cross over the river, said to be full of snails. Those who are familiar with Agenebode in Edo state may relate to the fact that a people’s casual experience in a place may eventually chrystalise into a name for the same.

John Paden had recounted in a biography dedicated to Ahmadu Bello that “From a ‘traditional African’s perspective, Kaduna had never been ‘unhihabited’ but had been a major Gbagyi (Gwari) area reflecting their segmental village structure. ”

He continues, “The name ‘kaduna’ comes not from the Hausa Kada but from the Gbagyi word KADUDNA’ (emphasis mine), which means ‘crossing the river of snails'”. He concludes: “Kaduna is a ‘Gwari’ town, but these original people were pushed to the outskirts and their land taken from them.”

This position has been contested by later Hausa writers. Yet facts on ground continue to remain irrepressible. Today distortion of facts has continued to be employed as state policy. They tell the story in official circles and state events to fit their own fictional narrative. The Kaduna centenary celebration was a case in point. The Gbagyi was not given a page.

…Revd Fr Christian O. Emmanuel is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna and public Affairs Anaylst.


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