Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Importance of Gani Cultural Festival

Brief history of Kutigi

Kutigi is the administrative headquarter of Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State. It is a quiet but fast growing town. The people speak Nupe as their major language but non Nupe indigenes settle in the town for business and farming activities.

Though it is under the domain of Etsu Nupe, the town still enjoys the rulership of traditional chiefs who are accountable to the Etsu Nupe. The occupation of the people includes farming, fishing, and trading.

Historically, the people of kutigi originated from Kukawa which is in the present Borno State. As nomadic farmers in search of good pasture for their animals, they left Kukawa under the leadership of Maina Abubakar the Zanna of Kukawa during the reign of Mai Ali Ibn Haj Dunama of Ngazargamu (1750-1791). Maina Abubakar and his group arrived at the present day Kutigi during the reign of Etsu Mu'azu of Jima (1759-1969.

Oral evidence stated that when the migrants arrived at the present day Kutigi, they met a hunter Ndayasa and his wife Nnadakun. Their arrival was reported to the Etsu Mu'azu at Jima who later sent a messenger, Gabi Saidu, to Maina Abubakar to know their mission. He told the messenger that he and his people intended to stay in Kutigi for a while as nomads. He sent some gifts (mats, dates and potash) to Etsu Mu'azu of Jima.

The Etsu in return, granted Maina Abubakar and his people permission to stay at Kutigi in peace. It is worthy to note that some few years before Maina Abubakar's arrival in Kutugi; Estu Jibrilu who ruled between 1746 and 1759 was banished from Jima to Kutigi where he died.

The Kukawa migrants who founded the present Kutigi established their own system of administration under Islamic culture. They are popularly known as Benu by the Nupes because of their notable Kanuri tribal marks. In addition, Zanna the chieftaincy title of the head of the migrants was adopted as Zanuwa by the Nupes.

The Kanuri Dynasty of the Kukawa migrants established in Kutigi was initially independent of Jima and the Fulani Dynasty of Bida. The independence was evidenced by the then practice whereby a new Zanuwa (Zanna) was turbaned at Kukawa in Borno State because it is the source of the title. Adama Kolo who succeeded Maina Abubakar travelled to Kukawa to be turbaned as the next Zanna of Kutigi during the reign of Mohammed Gana.
This was the usual practice until Suleiman who was to be turbaned as Zanna died accidentally on his journey to Kukawa for turbaning ceremony. 
When the message of his death got to Shehu Umaru of Kukawa, he sent a letter to the head of Fulani dynastly at Bida authorizing him to turban successive Zanna of Kutigi. This development solved the problem of the long distance between kutigi and Kukawa in far away Borno State and the hazardous nature of the journey to lives.

Under this new development, Mohammed Ndakpata was the first Zanuwa of Kutigi to be turbaned by Etsu Masaba (1841-1847) in Bida.
Subsequently, other successive Zanuwas were turbaned by the present Etsu of Bida till date.

Historically, it is important to note that the Kutigi people, descendant of Kanuri dynasty, were in existence before the establishment of the Fulani dynasty in Bida. Note that Usman Zaki the first ruler of Fulani dynasty in Bida was enthroned in 1832-1841 while Maina Abubabkar and his people arrived in Kutigi at about 1750 A-D.
Fortunately, the relationship between the Fulani dynasty in Bida and the Kanuri dynasty in Kutigi has been on a mutual respect and understanding not that of a master and a servant relationship.

Festivals are periodic celebrations to mark significant events in the life of a community. They are performed to transmit ideas, aspirations, and philosophy of a community. They serve as factors of interaction, cohesion, and mobilization in a society. During the celebration of such festivals, certain objects and symbols are used for rituals. Most of these cultural materials are the flora and fauna of the community.

Gani Cultural Festival in Kutigi

Gani Cultural Festival is an annual festival which is celebrated by the indigenes of Kutigi and its environs in the Islamic month of Rabiul Awwal to mark the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It attracts people from all parts of the country and even beyond during its celebration. It originated from the Kanuris. This is to say that the festival is as old as Kutigi itself. This year's Gani festival which was celebrated from February 2-4, 2015, marks the six hundred and seventy three (673), Kutigi Annual Gani Cultural Festival. It is usually celebrated within three days. It starts on the eve of Kutigi's market day.

The first day which is the eve of the celebration starts with drummers in small group of youths dancing to the palace of Ezanuwa (village head) to confirm the commencement of the festival. Immediately after the confirmation by the village head, the cultural night (eve) starts with different traditional musicians displaying their talents with joy which fills the atmosphere throughout the period of the festival.

The second day is an eventful day. It starts from 2pm till sunset. On this day, all mature youths take flags made of scarves donated by the girls in Kutigi town and move around the town with drummers, singers, and dancers adding flavor to the event. In fact, this is the most exciting day in Kutigi as far as the youths are concerned. This day's event is a signal to all the guests and people of Kutigi that Gani Festival commences on that day. This musical parade including horse riders ends at a place called Tako Tsowako which is close to Toro River. Here, they install their flags.

After the above event, the horse riders (Babadoko dancers) ride to the Kutigi township stadium, venue of the occasion. Here, all the dignitaries from far and near including the sons and daughters of the soil are hosted and entertained with different cultural dancers and mouth watery dishes. First, the Ndakogboya Emidawu masquerade group step on stage to perform a cleansing rite of purifying the community of all evils. This is followed by the entrance of the Zanna and his royal council into the stadium which marks the beginning of the traditional event. After this, various cultural troupes display one after the other. 

Among these are:
Takar dance group, Lavun cultural Troupe, Zannabi dance group, Ntakogi (forestry) group, Majin Lubasa (onion growers) group, hunters group etc. In addition, all the females ripe for marriage parade themselves in colourful uniform. At this point, most bachelors identify and choose their suitable suitors. The Gugu Eyagi Masquerade group all dressed in female attires also perform to the admiration of all. On this day, the Kutigi people always put on their best. 

The married men wear kaftan with or without Agbada and a piece of two-yard wrapper on their necks to signify the importance of their wives in every area of their lives. This day does not end without a Qur'anic recitation in honour of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who is the central focus of this festival. The second day events are crowned up with prayers of blessings for the land and all present at the occasion by elders of Kutigi.

The third day marks the end of the festival. It is marked with local wrestling on the Gani field. The Zanna sits among his elders and other members of the community. The Ndako Gani (prince of Gani) is always present to watch and enjoy the wrestling entertainment. On the other hand, the Sagi of Gani (Princess of Gani) is always busy on that day with other women preparing food for the guests. The whole event ends at sunset.

This annual festival is very important in the lives of the Kutigi people because it fosters unity among them, it serves as an avenue to settle disputes among aggrieved families, it provides an opportunity for bachelors to identify and choose their suitors, including the fact that it entertains all and sundry.

Mrs. Omua, is the Principal Ethnographer, National Museum, Minna

•culled from

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