Eban: The City walls of bida


By Ndagi Abdullahi (0803 477 0801) Bida was originally a walled Bini town founded by the AtaGara or Dunguru ancient Nupe people in the era of the rise of the AtaGara State over the Bini Confederacy.

Bida remained a small Bini walled town till the late 1850s when Umaru Bahaushe the Usurper engaged the Dendo dynasts in a series of battles around the environs of Bida.

The battle was initially between Umaru Bahaushe and Umaru Majigi, a grandson of Mallam Dendo or Manko. When Umaru Majigi was overwhelmed by the superior army of Umaru Bahaushe the former eventually got barricaded inside the walls of the small Bini town of Bida. That was in 1857.

At length the children of Mallam Dendo, including Masaba from Ilorin, Usman Zaki from Gwandu, Gogo Habiba from Baddegi, all rushed back home to KinNupe, joined forces and concertedly defeated Umaru Bahaushe who got drowned in the Gbako River while fleeing the joint Dendo forces.

After the defeat of Umaru Bahaushe the children and grandchildren of Manko or Mallam Dendo came together and transformed Bida into a temporary war camp while waiting for the rainy season to be over before they go back to Raba. But in the process of the long wait the Dendo dynasts eventually decided to stay permanently in Bida and to transform Bida into the new capital of the Nupe Nation. Usman Zaki became the new Emir of Nupe and began his second term as the Emir of Nupe at Bida in that same year 1857.

During the reign of Usman Zaki Bida became a large settlement far beyond the initial walls of the small Bini town that it used to be before the advent of the Dendo dynasts. As a matter of fact the original Bini walls of the small town gradually broke down and began to disappear.

When Usman Zaki died and was succeeded by his brother Masaba in 1859, the new Emir Masaba decided to build Bida into the largest city in West Africa. He laid down a town-planning masterplan for Bida that saw him constructing gargantuan city walls which, according to Professor S.F. Nadel, “was estimated to measure twelve miles in circumference.” The Wall was also fitted with imposing City Gates befitting Bida as the largest capital city in West Africa. There was the Ban-Gbara City Gate manning the road to Gbara; there was the Ban-Yagi City Gate for the road to Eyagi or the general area of the River Niger; there was Ban-Wuya City Gate for the road to Wuya; and others.

This new 12 miles-wide city wall constructed by Etsu Masaba circa 1860 was completely different from the old Bini city wall of the Old Banin Bida that was less than a mile wide and that used to comprised of just four small Tunga neighbourhoods.

The crumbled ruins of the city walls that can occasionally be seen in some parts of today modern city of Bida are actually the remains of that 12 miles wide gargantuan city wall constructed by Etsu Masaba.

The 12 miles wide city walls constructed by Etsu Masaba in 1860 remained intact for close to four decades until it was breached by the invading British forces of the cantankerous Royal Niger Company during the Battle of Bida in 1897.

After the British conquest the Bida city walls were left to disrepair by the British imperialists and the subsequent Colonial Government. As a matter of fact, and at the height of the Colonial Government rule in the early decades of the 20th century, a British Resident Officer of Bida once ordered the remaining Bida walls to be pulled down in its entirety.

By the time of Independence in 1960 more than two-thirds of the Bida city-wall have disappeared as the city of Bida was rapidly overwhelmed by modernization and disregard for traditional artefacts. Today, in the early decades of the 21st century, the ancient Bida wall have for all practical purposes completely disappeared back into history.

Today there are only some one or two small pieces left intact beside Government College in the Gbangbara area and some other areas.

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