Gbagyi or Gbari (plural – Agbagyi) is the name and the language of the Gbagyi/Gbari ethnic group who are predominantly found in Central Nigeria with a population of about 15 million people. Members of the ethnic group speak two dialects.
While speakers of the dialects were loosely called Gwari or Gwagi (an adulterated form of Gbagyi) by both the Hausa/Fulani and Europeans during pre-colonial Nigeria, they prefer to be known with their original name of Gbagyi.
They live in Niger, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Gbagyi is the most populated ethnic and indigenous group in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, Abuja and their major occupation is farming.
Historically, the Gbagyi practice a patrilineal kinship system. The lowest tier of authority is found in the extended family compound led by the oldest male. The compound consists of small huts and rectangular buildings.
The Osu (king) is the highest tier of authority in a Gbagyi settlement and he is assisted by a group of kingmakers and elders.
The Gbagyi people are predominantly farmers but they are also hunters while some are involved in making traditional arts and craft products such as pottery and woodwork like mortar and pestle.
Gbagyi are good at mixing clay to produce decorative household products such as pots.
Significant Gbagyi towns include Minna, Kwakuti, Kwali, Wushapa (Ushafa), Bwaya (Bwari), Karu, Suleja, Abuja and Paiko.
There are some theories that posits the reasons for the scattered settlements and migration of the Gbagyi people. Some historians believe that the Gbagyi were displaced from their original settlements during the Fulani jihad, while some local historians link migration with the need for farmland by the Gbagyi.
Gbagyi settlements can be both large and small. In locations where farming is the dominant occupation, the settlements tend to be small so that enough land is available for farming.
The Gbagyi were the largest (and still remain the same) among the ethnic groups that inhabited the land proposed for development when Abuja was chosen as Nigeria’s new federal capital. The dislocation led to the removal of people from their ancestral homes and spiritual symbols such as Zuma Rock.
Seeing their ancestral lands being referred to as “no man’s land” have continued to hurt the people leading to presentations to the federal government to correct the notion and other anomalies in the public domain of Nigerians.
The Gbagyi people are known to be peace-loving, transparent and accommodating people.
Dominant tribes and other northerners are fond of saying in Hausa language “muyi shi Gwari Gwari” meaning “let’s do it like the Gbagyi” or “in the Gbagyi way”.
According to Theotanko Chigudu, the Gbagyi people have emerged as a unique breed among Nigerians: their culture shows how much they have come to terms with the universe. Daily, they aspire to give life a meaning no matter the situation they find themselves.
The Gbagyi language is part of the Kwa Sub-division of the Niger-Congo language family, however, some researchers such as Kay Williamson put the language in the Benue-Congo family.
The Gbagyi people are adherents of Islam, Christianity and traditional African religion. In their traditional religion some Gbagyi believe in a God called Shekwoi (one who was there before their ancestors) but they also devote themselves to appeasing deities of the god such as Maigiro.
Many Agbagyi believe in reincarnation.
Islam became more prominent among the people after the Fulani jihad while Christianity was introduced to the people by the Sudan Interior Mission (also known locally as Evangelical Church of West Africa, ECWA).
(With supporting text from Wikipedia)
~Sumner Shagari Sambo
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