Bette Agba And Fulani Invasion In History BY JUSTINE UDIE

In Breaking News, Columnists, Opinion

By CrossRiverWatch Admin

The emergence of attacks by the Fulani Nomads is not strange to me and should not be to the Bette, Igede, and Ukel (Bekwara) people of both Cross River and the Tiv communities in Benue State.

An attempt to trace the origin, exodus and settlement of the Bette Agba kindred as part of the Bantoid immigrants from Central Africa through the Benue through to Ukwel Akpi and Ulanga to present location; has at a point been juxtaposed with a story with which its ethnographic characters has clear resemblance with the nomadic and guerrilla visits of the Fulanis.

However, reasons for early migration of the Bette AGBA people has different factions which academics and historians e.g Dewhurst (1931); Undiandeye (1976); and Udie (2011) have made concerted effort to elucidate.

In my book ‘Ipong Nation 2011’, different views of the reasons for ancient migration are documented and one of the stories has it that Bette people are a fraction of the Bantoid early immigrant from the Central African region. It was at Ukwel Ulanga (Mount Ulanga) that Bette brothers started separating living – Adie Utim Unwaundor; at the heat of an invasion which occurred between 1800 – 1820.

This attack is described as IGENYI INVASION. Dewhurst primarily illuminates the documentary by describing the invasion as a raid by “red men very possibly the Fulanis, riding on horses who were identified as IGENYI and encamped at Obudu hills.”

He further describes their action as “a great disaster” on the ancient Bette people.

Nonetheless, Ulanga Mountain appears to be very far from any Fulani settlement as most people may argue using geographical proximity between the present Northern/North Central Nigerian Fulani (suspected to be Igenyi) and Southern Bette people. But it is being contended that the Fulanis have never been a permanent settler from time immemorial. Whereas the Bette Agba people occupies the northern fringes of Cross River and shares common boundary with Benue Tiv communities; the description of the IGENYI as a “powerful red people” describes light skin people, “riding on horses” and attacking settlements using guerrilla engagement model. This appears to suitably typify Fulani culture and Fulani invasion which the present day “herdsmen” attackers shares a close resemblance.

To buttress the authenticity of this invasion, another historian argues that “it would be reasonable to date the IGENYI invasion to not less than 300 years before the 1800AD”. This is because the migration of Bette people and settlement was not affairs of only a few years.

Oko (2001) reduced the seeming exaggeration by arguing that “an artifact from Obudu regarding the IGENYI invasion was collected and carbon dated to about 200 years of the people’s existence before 1900. Could this mean that Fulani invasion of helpless communities dates back to the era between 1500 and 1700AD?

Whatever is the case, I think history has already presented a clue of Fulani invasion though contemporary media has given it a better nomenclature – Fulani Herdsmen.

I will think they are invaders and for whatever reason, they choose to invade communities, the approach is unfortunate but not new. It is only appearing fresh because the colonial masters managed to keep the people together and after all amalgamated Nigeria and true federalism at medieval era seems to have enshrined unity, peace, and freedom among the people.

Sadly as the case may appear, the people should realise themselves and give government urgent support to intensify effort in protecting their lives and property. I will recommend strongly that local communities in Benue and its surrounding should urgently meet and ask questions – WHAT IF? For communities like Obudu, Obanliku, Bekwara, Ogoja, Ikom, etc; “once your neighbour’s house is on fire, the Holy Spirit will not be a fast enough messenger to tell you that you have a kerosene lantern in your parlor.”

NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Justine Udie, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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