The Gbiri-Niragu of Southern Kaduna: The Real Men

Located west of Lere Town in isolated clusters of settlements around a hill are a comparatively slim-built, smooth and light-skinned people known as the Agbiri. The Agbiri, commonly referred to as the Gure, with an estimated 50,000 native speakers, exhibit traits which tend to give credence to the claim that they share ancestors with the Fulani.

To start with, the word ‘Gure’ is a Fulani word which translates to human settlement (Zango or Ruga in Hausa). The Gure People call themselves ‘Agbiri’, which means “The men”.

Folklore and oral tradition traces that the Agbiri people are of the Fulani extraction originally from the Middle East, Baghdad to be more precise. This claim is also supported by the Fulani themselves and other neigbouring tribes. After their exodus from the Middle East, necessitated by the quest of protective enclaves and greener pasture, the Agbiri are believed to have settled in a town called Gure or Guri in present day Niger Republic.

The Agbiri are believed to have entered present day Nigeria via Borno State where they settled at Kukawa. They are also believed to have had brief stints in villages around Sokoto and Katsina States before settling in Gumau around the Jos Plateau. There are still Gure (Gurawa) people in Gumau in Bauchi State though they do not understand the language of Gure people of Lere Local Government Area.

The first settlement of the Agbiri in Kaduna State is believed to be in Lazuru, about five kilometers east of Saminaka. The well on top of the hills where they settled still contains water and is still referred to as the Gure Well by the present day inhabitants of Lazuru.

The Agbiri migrated westward from Lazuru to the eastern fringes of Kauru hills where they finally settled among the hills, long before the Fulani Jihad campaign. The hills formed a ring around them which provided the much needed natural fortification against adversaries. The Agbiri people built a stonewall known as Kaghan  linking the hills together to form the city wall with an entrance and an exit gate.

The exodus of the Agbiri from the hills to the plains was necessitated by the increased needs to cultivate the plains in other to pay the taxes imposed on them by the colonial masters as well as the arrival of Christian missionaries, particularly the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.). Christian converts refused to be involved in traditional religious rituals. This made them to be nicknamed nono-na-sara (Boys of the white man). These converts were finally banished because of their continued disregard of the traditional customs. The expelled converts then moved downhill. Miss H.C. Griffin, a white missionary, in 1950 led a group of converts to settle at Upah, the present day settlement.
Within a very short period of time all the Agbiri people moved from the hills to the plain land, whether converts to the new religion or those who practiced traditional religion.

The Agbiri lived in two major settlements: the Aanzani (hill people) living on the north-western side of the hills and the Angani (lowland people) occupying the southern region.
They were de-isolated and brought to the limelight by the coming of the Christian Missionaries who settled there in the early 1930s and built the oldest primary school in Lere and Kauru Local Government Areas in 1942 and a Bible school in 1948. Consequently, Gure became an education centre where a large number of the educational elites in the Lere and Kauru area received their early religious and secular education.

The Agbiri share many things in common with the Niragu (Kahugu) people that they are sometimes referred to as the Gbiri-Niragu tribe.

The vast majority of the Gbiri-Niragu identify themselves as Christians.

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