The Oegworok People of Southern Kaduna: The Touch Bearers
The Oegworok are the inhabitants of Kagoroland in the southern part of Kaduna State, Nigeria. They boast of a population as large as 300, 000 and occupy an area of about 110 sq miles on the northern and western faces of a ridge of mountains known as Kagoro Hills which is an extension of the Jos plateau. They speak the Gworok dialect and principally make up the Kagoro Chiefdom which is being headed by a First Class Chief, a chieftaincy title known as “Oegwam Oegworok”. The Oegworok constitute six out of the ten wards in Kaura Local Government Area (LGA) and the Kagoro Chiefdom consists of eleven districts and many villages.
Although they are mainly concentrated in Kaura LGA, we still have Oegworok villages such as Gidan Waya, Tafan (which constitute one of the main districts), Pasakori, and they are also found in large numbers in other villages such as Atuku, Unguwa Mailafia, Jagindi, Godogodo etc all in Jema’a LGA. “Kagoro” is said to be a short form of the phrase “kawo goro” coined by the Hausas who couldn’t pronounce “Oegworok” properly.
Folklore and oral tradition has it that the Oegworok’s ancestral home is in the east, in the modern day Sudan. They are said to have wandered southwest via Chad into Borno due to communal clashes and quest for better livelihood; there is a tribe known as Kagoro in French West Africa whose link may just be coincidental since Kagoro is just an adulterated name for the Oegworok people. The Oegworok continued their expedition southwestward until they arrived and settled at Fobur, south of Bauchi (now in Plateau state).
Their occupation at Fobur lasted for some time after which they proceeded to Assop (Plateau State) and down to Numbio (Nimbia) which they found as a virgin forest infested with wild animals (1600-1700AD). Even though they hunted the games for food, their occupation there was short-lived because their livestock were being preyed upon by the wild beasts.
They relocated to Tsok-Bussa atop the Kagoro hills before they later discovered a good plain land at the western foot of the hill while the eastern and the northern parts were occupied by the Kachechere. The Oegworok came down, fought and drove them northwards and settled on the plains. However, some Oegworok are said to have further migrated and settled in other locations and Kamantan is said to be one of those while the Angan people also believe themselves to be Oegworok immigrants. Others who later migrated individually or in small groups infused and became powerful clans among other tribes.
The Oegworok are known to have a remote tradition of plants domestication. In its formative stage, most of the town was built at the foot of the hills, where the land is very fertile and large crops of corn, principally maiwa, which is almost exclusively used for their local beer, and beans were cultivated. The beans were the property of women and were grown on trellises, like vines, and form the principal food of the food of the people. Manure from fowls, goat-dung and ashes were used.
Being a hunter-gatherer egalitarian society before finally settling down in the caves, the Oegworok are known to be renowned warlords from time immemorial. It is said that their men start practicing the art of war as toddlers, throwing stones, taking cover, wrestling, scouting, etc. During warfare, boulders are rolled down the hills, slings and stones, knives, wooden clubs, bows and arrows were all used. This explains why the Oegworok were never subdued by alien tribes unlike the other Southern Kaduna tribes like Jaba, Kataf, Bajju etc who were invaded and subjugated by the Hausa crusaders. Some scholars however dispute this claim.
Hear what Cecily, a British citizen who had a short spell in Kagoro said about Kagoro, “…the first thing that came to me this morning, exactly one year after arriving Nigeria – was how lucky I am.. In fact as I would go as far as to say ‘blessed’! My VSOs placement (Fantsuam) is pretty much as good as it gets in Nigeria (if not across the world); … Kagoro is (agreed by most VSOs who’ve visited) the best place to live in; I’ve never (yet) been sick or involved in a traffic accident or any crime (a big touch wood on those) in addition to which I’ve been privileged to meet some wonderful people and visit some beautiful places.”
Talk about the serene Kagoro Hill (rich with diverse precious stones and antiques), the Katagwan grave, footprint and refrigerator, the long bridge close to the Kagoro Water Board, the Kagoro Afan National Festival and of course the legendary Gwamna Awan the late paramount ruler of Kagoro (Oegwam Oegworok), to mention but a few.
Kagoro is truly the tourist destination of Southern Kaduna.
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