How the traditional rulers lost their power

Here is another story by Mafulul Lek in which he deals with the Ron traditional religion (Nyorong). Nyorong is the name of a grass mask worn by a person who thus represents the traditional religious authority. In former times, this authority was highly feared. The following story tells another case of a person who challenged that authority.

At the end of the story, Mafulul Lek provides a list of all the traditional rulers and modern district heads of Daffo until 1990. Check whether you know any of their names!


Dawel Afaya

Ti matik la ti naf ma Nyorong ma Ɗafo taa shitam a Pangcin a hai ta ɓur mma Nyorong ti cu puri ma Maren Ajuju, Saf ma Ɗafo ma Masara ma bya’, Faya Ashigal, ta motis. Si nii, ndee a tik la taa shitam cala kwa. Taa tei, si no’is mar mmis Dawel saramati. Naf sin ka’ a ndus ti ɓur ti naf ma Nyorong ka Maren Ajuju ti a kwash.

Taa tei wa’ Nyorong nai ti a akon tima si faris Dawel rami ti kir  wur. Si findel a fo ma disang ma mgbang a Hurum. Si nii, wa’ naf si yu shak kwa.

Taa tei wur ti tik a hwash, si tik a findel a fo ma disang.  Nyorong ti nii, shak Maɗafo Maanggai ta tof a Kundung. Si nii, ɗes, naf si tik a wan shak kwa.

Ti kir wur ti yuhun a Kundung, ti nii, naaf mma a tik a akat ka  mawan, sai a kat mmis! A nani ti, Saf ma Ɗafo ma Masara, Dawel Afaya, ta nii, yis ma wan a Kundungi kwa, ɓa ta shitai ɗaman mma ma wis a aɓul hai! Ta niyis shak ref mmis, si ja ma’, si har yish, si yu a lan! Wa’ refi si niyis „Kabok“, ta niyis, a kwis. Taa tei, ta lang puri, ta tong a fo, refi ti fayi, mawis a han a Ɓoi-a-Ro’.

Nyorong nai ti lul, ti nii, Saf ma al? Si niyet, a wis a lan.  Nyorong nai ti nii, ye, si hon sis – ndiya ti fwan a shitam a hai ta puri ma Maren Ajuju; ti kat ti ɗam ma matik a masai ti ɗeng kwa! Wa’ Maɗayi ɗiin ma sum Makwan Akos Mambushu (a nadon tima wa’ Saf Dawel ndee a tekis nafu) ta nii, ɗam mma ma wan a aɓul, ta ɓul kek ! Ta niyet Nyorong ti Ɗayi, ti yu, ti kiisai Ɗafo Saf Daweli ta ti a lan.

Munja ti Ɗayi nai ti wop a wan, ti ɗusis Saf Dawel si ref mmis a  han ti a lan. Munja ti ho a fo, ref ma Daweli si nin wutirish a tutok. Ta niyis, koong vaat, ka si tok, si yu a kima kwa! Nai si soris shen, ɓa si shitai ɗam mma ma wan a aɓuli, fat a laki. Ti mayes ti Munja, si nii, ti shitis Dawel fo, ti niyis: „A shitai gaat!“ Ta nggyet kwa. Ti tik yis a anii: „A shitai gaat!“ a ful. Ti tek gaat, ɓa ti tik a zut sis a ma yuhun. Ta shu re, ɓa ta fang gaati la. Wa’ Munjahi nai ti shitai fat ma wan a hek set ti la gbum; ti lang ɓwyak, ti fur a ndik, ti katet ti. Ta pimba, ta niyis refi: „Nyorongi ti motet ti marurwak ma ti dash sen!“ Ta niyis refi, si har shita’, si tikis la a wur.

Si mun a mandok a wur, ti shit la han, ti shitai, a fwis, ti lifit,  yit kyahap a Hurum ti tutok. Wa’ ti ndok a fo ma disang ma mgbang, ti tiket a afur a ndik, fat ti mot. Ɗamani a fur shak ta ren ti, Nyorong yit ka’ a hai ta zuti ti a Kundung. Nai, si nii, wa’ naafa ɗiin, Mahurum ma sum Kpam Mawang mai, a yu, a ɗusai Munjahi mu nya ti a fo ma disang, fat ti motet. A tik la a Kundung, a lakis Ɗafo, a niyis, wa’ Saf Dawel a hekan Nyorong tima ca rut, ti yu, ti kai sis taa lani la! Nai ti yes, ti walai yish ti a fo ma disang ma mgbang a Hurum! Ra nai ti mat fo, si nii: „Can ti findel ma Saf Daweli a kil mma ndiya Maren Ajuju a yu ti Nyorongi kek !“

Sin nai wur a Run ta Saf ma Masara, Jongcin Ajul. Si niyis Saf  Jongcin, wa’ Saf Dawel a hekan Nyorong ti la kek kwa, wa’ ka maɗafal mma a har Nyorongi a yish, a hek la shak a fwyayi gbum. Wa’ ɗes, a gofis ref Nyorongi. Saf Jongcin nai ta wop a rut sis ti findeli a nan ta Masara ma shinggil ti Pangcin a Pangcin. Si yu, si tikis ti findeli tikil shak. Masara ta lal Saf Daweli, ɓa ta halai findeli – Dawel ma al? Si nii, ndee a tokis, ta wis a shinggil ti Rem, kil mma hwen damis Saf Faya Ashigal ndee a shu kwat ti. Masara nai ta rut, ta yes ta ti a Rem. Si tot ɓur tima wa’ a hek Nyorong shak ka maɗafal mma a har Nyorongi a yishi. Dawel a nii, andai ti kwa, shak nzis si nii, wa’ andai ti.

Taa tei Masara ta tu’ai Dawel saramati. Ɗes, Dawel ta tal kwat  myelok, si faris Saf Jongcin yet Nyorong ti Run. Ta yes a Ɗafo, ta tal kwat myelok yet Nyorong ti Ɗafo. Taa tei, si nii, ta kul liges ma aa ma mgbang. Ta kul, si yu ti a lan, kil mma ndee Nyorong ti ɗusis yit a hani ti. Si lef aahi ti a gongi, si nii, si haran Nyorong tima ndee a dashi la ta ti a lan ndai – findel a mawal!

Saramash ma Ɗafo taa damis ma Dawel, Afaya Ashigal, mayes a kwai  (1990) sin mi: 1) Faya Ashigal, 2) Dawel Faya Ashigal, 3) Atigai Adakon, 4) Maɓwe Maren, 5) Malau Malo, 6) Abubakar Arandong Maɓwe Maren, 7) Magit Akucyak, 8) Abubakar Arandong Maɓwe Maren, 9) Bitrus Andong Mabung Maren.

Safash ma Nyorong taa Faya Ashigal mayes a kwai (1990), ɗes, sin  mi: 1) Malo Nggai, 2) Gbong Avyu, 3) Maɓur Azyeng, 4) Bwang Makinggat, 5) Macen Anjap, 6) Balang Anjap, 7) Magit Agai, 8) Malan Anjap, 9) Mafwyai Makinggat.

Safash ma Nyorong taa Faya Ashigal mayes a kwai (1990), ɗes, sin mi: 1) Malo Nggai, 2) Gbong Aviu, 3) Maɓur Azeng, 4) Bwang Makinggat, 5) Macen Anjap, 6) Balang Anjap, 7) Magit Agai, 8) Malan Anjap, 9) Mafwyai Makinggat.

Si nii, ɓur tima Dawel a dash Nyorongi ti fur a wil ma 1945. Dawel a mot fat a wil ma 1968. Ɗanggaat taa tu ti ref ma Dawel mma ndee si shitai Nyorongi, Unjorak Matur, ti mot a 1990.

Taa fa ɓuɓwar kyani mi, si nii, naf ndee si furai fuk Saf ma shinggil ma Masara, si kwis ti mmis Saf ma Nyorongi. Masara nai ta shitai andai, ta tekai Saf ma Nyorong tot ɓuri, ta faris Saf ma Masara (mma yit a no’). Kil mma ɓur ndee ti lang taa disang ma Saf ma Nyorong, ti tik la a disang ma Saf ma Ɗafo mma Masara a no’ mani. Ɗamani hani ti, ɗes, a ramam mma mi ti Saf ma Nyorong masut ti Ɗafo a shinggil ti Najeriya shak.

Masara ndee a wis, saramat ti Najeriya ti tiket a jing ta saramash ma Asara, mma naf mi fuki, ti kwet ti ma Nyorong mma naf si kwis tihi. Ɗes, ti tekai Saf ma Nyorong gaat, ti faris ma kwai mma naf si no’ ɗamisi.

Amwash shak saramash si tik a tot ɓur kwa hai ti shinggil shak. Kwai shak ɓur mu ra ta naf ma disang ma tot ɓur mma saramat ti shinggil ti no’. Mma ɓuri ti kul shiɗet, shak naf ma Nyorongi, hai ti shinggili, si faaris bakam ti, si shiɗet ti. Mma ti kul talal ti, ahun mawan a shitam, nai si tal ahun si yu a shitami, ngga’ mma ɓur ti lyaafis naf shak. Mma ti kul heki ti, nai si hek.

Lul taa tu ti findel sani, yit mai:

  • Mimai a kir, Saf ma Nyorong ma Ɗafo a kwai, yit mai, a ti’ Saf ma Ɗafo kwa?
  • Mu hani a Ɗafo ti kek, ahun hai ti shinggil ti Najeriya shak?
  • Mimai a kir, shinggil ti Najeriya ti shaai saramash shak tot ɓur?

Dawel Afaya

When the religious leaders of Daffo returned from prison in Pankshin where they had been jailed because of the Maren Ajuju case, the first modern District Head of Daffo, Mr. Faya Ashigal, died. Allegedly, he returned from prison sick. His son Dawel was then installed as the new District Head. People were still angry about the case between Maren Ajuju and the religious authority.

Just then, the elders called for an urgent meeting. They met to discuss an issue at the religious headquarters at Hurum. Allegedly, not all the Daffo people attended the meeting.

Another urgent meeting was called for, to discuss some matter in the headquarters. The elders called everyone to come to the public square at Kundung. Again, not all the Daffo people came.

The elders called for another meeting, this time warning everyone who failed to come of the consequences. Then the District Head Dawel Afaya said he would not attend that meeting at Kundung, even if hell would break loose! He ordered his wives to prepare food and get ready to go to their bush farm. His wives pleaded (that he should obey the authority) but he refused. He mounted his horse and went to farm at Boi-a-Ro’, together with his wives.

The elders asked where the chief was. They were told that he had gone to farm. They said that he should be left alone; since they had returned from prison, they had no power to do anything to anybody again. But a man from Dayi, one Makwan Akos Mambushu (allegedly in retaliation to Dawel’s once having an affair with his wife) said that this had to be punished in any case. He ordered the religious police of Dayi to go and arrest Dawel for them.

The Munja masquerader immediately went and found Dawel and his wives farming on their bush-farm. When the Munja arrived sounding an alarm, Dawel’s wives scattered. He ordered them to stay with him. So they stood by him, to see what would happen. On arrival the Munja hit Dawel with its stick. He didn’t react. Munja hit him a second time. It raised up its stick to hit him a third time. He raised his hands to wave off the stick. Allegedly the man wearing the Munja mask was afraid that Dawel would kill him, so he fell down to the ground and remained there. Dawel felt (Munja‘s pulse) and told his wives that it had died because of its hitting him. He ordered them to collect their hoes and return home.

Seeing that he was gone, the Munja quickly rose and ran back to Hurum. On reaching at the religious headquarters, it fell down again, as if it was dead. All this happened during the day, while the meeting was still going on at Kundung. Allegedly, a Hurum man called Kpam Mawang found the Munja lying in front of the headquarters, as if it was dead. He went back to Kundung and reported to the elders that Dawel had killed the Munja which had been sent to arrest him. That it had managed to come to Hurum, but finally died there, There was an outcry that the case should now be taken to court, just like formerly the case of Maren Ajuju against themselves.

They immediately took the case to the District Head of Bokkos, Saf Jongcin Ajul. They told him that Dawel had not only killed the Munja, but in fact had killed the man who carried it. That he had also showed his wives the identity of Nyorong. Jongcin immediately sent them to the Colonial D.O. of Pankshin Division at Pankshin. They went to see him and told them the charges. The D.O. asked Dawel to come and hear the charges, but he had disappeared. He was said to have gone to exile in Birom land, where his late father had kept his dwarf cows. The D.O. summoned him to come. The charges of Dawel having killed the Nyorong mask together with the man who had carried were judged on. Dawel denied the charges, but his opponents insisted that he was guilty.

The D.O. sacked Dawel from the Chief’s office. Dawel was fined seven dwarf-cows to be paid to Saf Jongcin for the religious authority of Bokkos. Back in Daffo, he had to pay another seven dwarf-cows for the religious authority of Daffo. He also had to pay a big he-goat. They took it to the farm where Nyorong had met him. The goat was slaughtered there at the farm where Nyorong had been beaten, whereby it was restored again.

The names of the Districts Head of Daffo from the time of Dawel’s father Faya Mashigal till today are: 1) Faya Ashigal, 2) Dawel Faya Ashigal, 3) Atigai Adakon, 4) Mabwe Maren, 5) Malau Malo, 6) Abubakar Arandong Mabwe Maren, 7) Magit Akucyak, 8) Abubakar Arandong Mabwe Maren, 9) Bitrus Andong Mabung Maren.

The names of the Chief Priests of Daffo from the time of Faya Mashigal till today are: 1) Malo Nggai, 2) Gbong Aviu, 3) Mabur Azeng, 4) Bwang Makingat, 5) Macen Anjap, 6) Balang Anjap, 7) Magit Agai, 8) Malan Anjap, 9) Mafwyai Makingat.

The whole incident is said to have happened in 1945. Dawel died around the year 1968. One of Dawel’s women who saw the Nyorong mask died in 1990.

It was from cases like this that people began to like the modern District Heads and dislike their traditional leaders. In view of this, the colonial authority took the authority to judge cases from the traditional rulers and gave it to the modern District Heads. This is how in Daffo the court of the traditional rulers was abolished and the one of the modern District Head instituted. This is true for Nigeria as a whole, where there were religious authorities of the same type.

When Nigeria later became independent, the government recognized the modern District Heads installed by the Europeans and disbanded the traditional ones. The new government also seized the staff of office from the traditional rulers and gave it to the new District Heads whom people had elected themselves.

Nowadays the chiefs no longer judge court cases. Nowadays, all the judges are installed by the government. If an oath needs to be pronounced, the followers of traditional religion swear by the sword. If it comes to fines, they pay; if it comes to imprisonment, they are convicted according to their offences. If it comes to capital punishment, they face it. The traditional way of settling a dispute by taking poison or giving it to chicken is no longer practiced.

Questions from this story:

  • Why is the modern District Head of Daffo not also the Chief Priest of the traditional religion?
  • Is this so only in Daffo or in the entire country of Nigeria?
  • Why has the Nigerian government abolished the traditional courts?

2 responses to “How the traditional rulers lost their power

  1. I jakak fuet ti mbii worong ma lis a dafo hii, Bweh ta bum can. Is there dictionary of the Ron tribe? I want it.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s