- The Gbagyi people are the largest ethnic group in Abuja (FCT).
- Gbagyis claim to be the original dwellers of Abuja before it became Nigeria’s capital.
- Notable names in Abuja have Gbagyi origin
There is an age-long argument over the true owners of Abuja. Some residents have even claimed that it is a “no man’s land”. But no typical Gbagyi person will agree to that — for obvious historical reasons.
Perhaps, we can rest on the assurances of the Nigerian constitution and the Land Use Act that all lands are controlled by the government and held in trust for the people. Hence, the culture of the people in Abuja and their history should be celebrated. The city is popular – all thanks to the magnificent Aso Rock which stands 792 meters tall, approximately 2,598 feet and serves as a meeting point for other parts of the country.
Story of the Gbagyi People
The Gbagyi people make up the largest ethnic group in Abuja and they have lived in the city for many years. Many historical places and names of landmarks and major cities in the FCT prove that the Gbagyi people have a unique place in the history of Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It will be futile to try to separate both.
The name, “Aso Rock” does not always refer to the presidential villa that houses the president of Nigeria. It is actually a rock named Aso. The people that lived beneath it were said to have remained unconquered throughout their history. In Gbayi language, “Aso” means success or victory and its meaning originated from the people that lived beneath it. This shows a strong connection between the Gbayi people and Nigeria’s current seat of power. So, when you say Aso Rock, you are saying something in Gbagyi which means the rock of success.
Perhaps you caught sight of the first word “Gwari” which is commonly used by Hausas to refer to people from the Gbagyi-speaking tribe. However, the Gbagyi’s consider Gwari to be derogatory to them. Although it has a Hausa origin, it is traceable to the Gbagyis. Generally, Gwari refers to non-Hausas — especially those in the Northcentral States.
The Gbagyi people that lived in Zuba were believed to have sought protection at the Zuma Rock which now prides itself as one of the city’s edifices. Zuma rock was originally known as “Zumwa”. In Gbagyi, it refers to the place for catching Guinea fowls. It is very large and was considered a god by the people that lived around it. The rock is revered by both the Gbagyi and the Koro people. The rock’s close ties to the Gbagyi people and their history may lend some credence to their claim that they are the original dwellers of Abuja, the federal capital territory of Nigeria.
Written by John Sani, from Abuja.