It was a day of ecstasy, glamour, mysticisms and extravagant display of cultural glitz. It was a cultural festival of dancing, a parade of traditional masquerades at the festival of the people, for the people and by the people of Gade.
For those basking in the illusion that the advent of Christianity may have eclipsed most of the obviously harmful Africa cultural practices like the sacrifice of twins, human beings to the oracles and even mystical knife slicing dance, there still exist today, among the Gade ethnic nationalities.
There was a replica display of such shocking cultural practices recently at the Kuje Area Council when the natives under the auspices of Gade Development and Cultural Association, entertained friends and non-natives, from far and near, at her one-day annual cultural fiesta.
Gade natives in politics, commerce and industry, public service and other areas of human endeavour had assembled at the Kuje Township stadium to celebrate their own and reawaken their cultural consciousness in a highly entertaining but terrifying traditional display.
Historically, the build-up to the festival climaxed on the eve of the cultural activities with a compulsory dust to dawn curfew imposed on the resident of Kuje which compels every to retire home before 10pm, to enable the natives perform rituals to avert any mishap during the cultural festival.
Gade natives had travelled far and wide from states like Nasarawa, Niger and other part of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to celebrate themselves and their tradition as part of the annual deliberate measures to keep their culture alive.
Then on the D-day, human and vehicular movement was grounded to a standstill in almost every part of Kuje. Residents and visitors spent hours on end on the road as the activities of masquerades with canes and horsewhips terrorising motorists and passers-by overwhelmed the traffic officers.
This had lasted for the hours the masquerades moved around every settlement in Kuje before they finally converged at the Kuje Township stadium where thousands gathered to identify and celebrate with the Gade people in a ceremony that lasted for several hours.
The evolution of Gade natives
Gades, according to ancient folk, are found majorly in the North Central region of Nigeria. The ancient Gade people are hills and forest dwellers usually rounded with city walls by well-fortified gates with only one entrance to check external aggression.
Located in rather undulating, hilly agrarian communities in states like Niger, Nasarawa and the FCT, the Gades are majorly farmers while their women are good weavers of clothes and makers of baskets.
Archeologically, Gade people belong to the language family of the Congo-Niger Basin.
Their first settlement after their ancestor, Adakpu, led their migration from the basin through Western Sudan to Kano in 1068 was around Gadawur, the present day Jigawa state.
The leader of the Gade people, comprising Gazargawa, Zadawa, Sheme, Gadawa and Tokarawa tribes was Gakingakuma, whose death led to the mass exodus of Gade from their earlier settlement.
The name Gade was a corruption of the word Ngade meaning; ‘I said’. The Hausa people, who wanted to distinguish between Gade and Maguzawa, adopted the name Gade. The Gade people call themselves Babye while their dialect is Libye/Ribye.
During the course of their migration, the Gades had joined other Kwararafa lineage such as the Jukuns, Alagos, Igalas, Koros, Afos, Yeskwas and Egburas. As a result, there was a scramble for sustainable Doma area in Nasarawa state.
In the FCT, the Gade settlements include Yanga, Kurudu, Anguwa Gade Gwagwalada, Anguwan Gade Dobi, Anguwan Gade Tungan Maje, and Anguwan Gade Dabi and Sabo.
Paraded masquerades on the D-day
Right from the entrance of the stadium, there were signals from hundreds of persons outside surging to gain entrance into the stadium while thousands of motorcycles were neatly arranged at the entrance.
Inside the stadium, those already seated at the VIP reserved areas and on the popular stands were intimidating. Masquerades, vigilante groups and paramilitary personnel deployed to control the surging crowd were overwhelmed, resulting in the masquerades brutalising persons that crossed the redline marked for them.
It was an assemblage of dignitaries from the traditional rulers, businessmen and women to the politicians of repute of Gade extraction. They compete favourably for attention with the masquerades and other traditionally dressed indigenes. For the difficulties in the control of the crowd, it was really a day of glamour, fanfare and mysticism.
The crowd were held spellbound especially by all manner of terrifying masquerades, shooting of deafening frightening Dane guns by the native men and women and the traditional dance displays, symbolising the cultural identity of each Gade communities and villages.
In the order of protocols for the masquerades procession, Adakpu, the first ancestral masquerade of the Gade people, was the curtain raiser. Adakpu is symbolic to the Gades because it is reputed to have led them from the Congo-Niger basin to their first ancestral home and settlement in Kano.
Then, came the Egede war dancers, fabled for announcing to the villagers to be ready for war. According to the Gades, the Egede dance is a victory dance used to mark any victorious war outing or to signal to the village that all is set for war. The dancers are usually dressed in special war costumes, beating combat drums and intermittently releasing guns.
This was followed by the Zurukpukpu masquerade, identified as the most senior masquerade for the Gade people. “Once Zurukpukpu is on parade, no other masquerade comes out until it retires. Zurukpukpu must be respected by the others,” a Gade native told Daily Sun.
The Kakamauwu was the next masquerade to entertain the crowd. To the Gades, Kakamauwu is the masquerade for the women. It only comes out at night, in those days, to announce the death of an important person in the village. Kakamauwu is one of the most attractive masquerades on display, understandably because it is associated with women.
Zurunuba, the most prominent masquerade among the Gade people, displaced Kakamauwu during the procession. Zurunuba, which outnumbered others in terms of numerical strength, was reputed for its energetic acrobatic display. They hold no weapon but terrify the crowd with their aggressive dance display.
There were many other masquerades that joined the procession which lasted for several minutes but the two mystic displays by the Gade villagers that held the dignitaries and visitors spellbound were the pounding of millet with a mortar placed on the abdomen of an old man and the young men slicing every part of the bodies with sharp knives.
The old man, perhaps fortified with juju, had laid down face up, his group placed the big mortar with half-filled millet on his tommy, he adjusted and readjusted it before two young women began applying the pestles to pound the millet.
As one tires out, another continued without the old man, at the receiving end, showing any sign of discomfort.
In an operation that lasted for over 30 minutes, the old man still lay unhurt until the good news by the villagers announced the readiness of the millet. He stood up without feeling any sign of uneasiness, trauma or injury.
If the crowd were shocked with the mystery displayed by the old man, the actions of the young men piercing knives all over their bodies was even more perplexing.
Painted black all over their bodies with perhaps charcoal or local knife antidote, the young men numbering over 15 had stormed the VIP stand, applying the knives they were wielding on their bodies, tongues, necks and other parts without piercing or hurting their skins.
Their actions climaxed with the demonstration to slaughter a young man with about five persons applying their knives on him- neck, tommy, shoulder, hands and legs- to the discomfort of the crowd, demanding his freedom.
As the festival climaxed, many including the dignitaries and commoners, fearing the worst happening like possible stampede, started leaving the stadium in hurry, as the crowd overwhelmed the security agents, masquerade and the vigilante.