In former times the Nupe Empire covered large areas variously ranging from today’s Sokoto State and Kebbi State through Niger State and Kwara State down to Edo State and Anambra State.
Onitsha, in today’s Anambra State, was originally a Nupe town known with the Nupe name Nitsa.¹ Ambassador Solomon Adama Yisa wrote that Onitsha was founded by Kiadia Nupe people from Muregi.²
Dr. N. Tony Nwaezeigwe also wrote that Nupe people formed a significant portion of the indigenous population of Onitsha.³
Ambassador Solomon Adama Yisa also wrote that Onitsha remained a Nupe city until the 18th century when it began to transform into an Igbo city.⁴
But Professor Idris Sha’aba Jimada wrote that by the 19th century Onitsha have been transformed back into a Nupe city by the powerfully expansionist military machinery of Bida under Etsu Masaba.⁵
In 1865 when the Church Missionary Society wanted to open a mission at Onitsha, they had to come up to Bida to beg and get permission from Etsu Masaba because Onitsha was in those day a Nupe town under the Bida Emirate.⁶
So complete was the rule and authority of Bida over Onitsha in the 1860s that Etsu Masaba told William Simpson of the British Colonial Lagos Office that he, Masaba, “held Onitsha as he held the calabash in his hands and he could take it when he chooses.”⁷
Alhaji Baba Mallam said that it was after the Biafran Civil War that the Nupe people left Onitsha en masse and the population of Onitsha became overwhelmingly Igbo.⁸
But, Ambassador Solomon Adama Yisa wrote that vestiges of the Nupe past of Onitsha continues to this day including the Fege neighbourhood of Onitsha.⁹
1 – Yisa, S.A. (2013). Nupe Heritage Dictionary. Minna: Kochita Resources Limited, Minna, p. 498, 522.
2 – Yisa, S.A. (2013). Nupe Heritage Dictionary. Minna: Kochita Resources Limited, Minna, p. 498.
3 – Nwaezeigwe, N. T. (2013) Femi Fani-Kayode: Haunted By A Nupe Ancestry – Fighting A Foggy Yoruba Identity Complex, Nigeria Village Square. Aug 27, 2013 at 6:16 PM.
4 – Yisa, S.A. (2013). Nupe Heritage Dictionary. Minna: Kochita Resources Limited, Minna, p. 498.
5 – Jimada, I.S. (2005) The Nupe and the Origins and Evolution of the Yoruba c. 1275-1897. Zaria: Abdullahi Smith Centre for Historical Research, pp. 130-31.
6 – William, N.M.G. (1965). Nigeria Under British Rule. London, p. 167.
7 – FO/1351, Report of the Niger Mission.
8 – Alhaji Baba Mallam quoted in Ekunobi, D. (2011). Appeals to FG to fix roads in the South east, Odili.net , Wednesday, October 05, 2011
9 – Yisa, S.A. (2013). Nupe Heritage Dictionary. Minna: Kochita Resources Limited, Minna, p. 498.
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