Welcome to the part 5 of our survey of the history of the Northern part of Nigeria. We've reviewed the Hausa/Fulani, Kanem-Bornu, Nupe, and Igala extensively and we looked at their influence and the roles they played in the history of Nigeria. Here, we will look at yet another ethnic group that played a very vital role in the history of Nigeria; the Jukun ethnic group. Y'all will find out why Jukuns were very strategic in the pre-colonial era in Nigeria.
Jukun Ethnic Group
Remember we discussed the Igala ethnic group in our last post - people were excited by the fact that Igala supports women as their administrative head and king (Attah). I'm sure you will be more excited to know that, in the pre-colonial era, Jukun raised women warlords that led the ethnic group to victory. Okay, just to let you know; Jukuns are very remarkable and known warriors and warlords - no wonder they were forces to be reckoned with in the pre-colonial era.
Jukun ethnic group is also called "Kwararafa or Wapan" by the locals and they are presently found around the North-central and North-western region of Nigeria. Some of the territories occupied by the Jukuns were gotten through combat and they were known to be very brutal at war. At a point in history, they staged a war against a much larger Hausa ethnic group. Even till this present time, the combat spirit is still very alive in them. A few weeks back, a news made a major headline in Nigeria about the clash between the Jukuns and another ethnic group called "Tiv" [ref]. Even with their combat spirits, Jukuns are relatively accommodating and peaceful, but undefeated in battle - you wouldn't want to mess around with them. The population of Jukun in Nigeria is just a little above 1 million (according to the 2006 Nigerian Population Census), though there are native Jukun speakers spread across Africa and diaspora.
It may interest you to know that Jukun was the only ethnic around the Kano region (North-western region of Nigeria) in the pre-colonial era that never submitted to the supremacy of Yaji (one of the leaders of the defunct Kano emirate) - the reason is that, they never conquered Jukun. Even though Jukuns are still strong, they are not as strong as they used to be because of dissention and conflict of interest that rose up within them, and a major disintegration crept in. This was what led to the historic fall of the ancient Kwararafa (Wapan, Jukun or Wukari) empire. Humorously, Kwararafa was not conquered by forces from outside but by forces within.
Origin of Jukun
Just to make terms clear; I have used "Jukun, Kwararafa, and Wapan" interchangeably. However, there was a difference in the pre-colonial era, though the difference is not taken into much consideration now. Here's the difference: Kwararafa was a legendary, powerful and mythical empire that was believed to be the ancestors of the present day Jukuns. This empire covered parts of North-east, North-central, North-west and even parts of the middle-belt. However, at the fall of Kwararafa, another empire rose to succeed Kwararafa and it was called Wukari. Presently, Wukari is the center and administrative capital of the Jukuns - this is the reason the three terms are used interchangeably.
Just like the other Northern ethnic groups we have reviewed, Jukun has many versions of their oral tradition which includes myths and legends. We will look at the ones generally accepted by Jukun people.
The Version of Kano Chronicles
This version talks about the later Jukun empire after the fall of the former one (Kwararafa). It is believed that after the fall of Kwararafa, the Jukuns that were left raided the North-western part of Nigeria (Kano, to be precise), the result of this raid led to the establishment of a territory around Kano and some other Northern states like Bornu. By inference, if the Jukuns raided the old Kano region which was among the earliest established Hausa states, then Kwararafa must have existed long before some Hausa states.
The origin of the first Kwararafa has not been understood but some history scholars have said that they may have come from the middle east; the region around Yemen. This statement has neither been approved nor rejected because of lack of records, but some cultural practices have provided some pointers to the similarity in tradition of both the Jukuns and the Arabias - particularly the dressing pattern. If you have been to the North-western part of Nigeria and some other South Saharan regions, you will agree with me that their dressing looks "Arabic".
Jukun Administration and Socio-political Organization
Just like we talked about earlier, during the pre-colonial era, Jukun was large and powerful and was referred by many as confederation. The administration of Jukun is majorly based on theocratic system where the spiritual head known as "Aku Uka" is selected and functions as the political head too. Aku Uka has both spiritual and administrative oversight over the land of Jukun. Aku Ukas are normally the commander in chief of the Jukun armed forces, though he appoints warlords to lead each battalion.
During the pre-colonia era, even though Aku Uka wielded tremendous power, his administration was supervised by councillors which were made up of elites and titled nobilities. These included Abo-Acho (King's advisor on civil duties), Abon Ziken (Assists the Abo-Acho and functions in full capacity as Abo-acho in his absence), Abo Nta (in charge of Jukun warriors) etc. Just to let you know, the current Abo Nta of Wukari is the renowned General T.Y Danjuma - this should let you know how combat-ready the Jukuns are.
The political structure of Jukun has remained very complex. Jukun is one of the very few ethnic groups in nigeria where the king is ordained as a priest and seen as a semi-divine being. Even till this present time, the ordination of the king (Aku Uka) is seen as very sacred because they believe that the Aku Uka is the messenger of the almighty which is sent to represent the gods here on the earth.
Authored by @samminator
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