Food Basket of the Nation, located at Wurukum Round About, Makurdi.
By Avese George
A little over seven years ago, between 2009 and 2010, there was a spirited campaign by the Hausa groups in Katsina-Ala and Makurdi to claim ownership of the two Tiv towns, sitting very spurious historical facts that were too convoluted to be substantiated.

Through documentaries aired with sustained frequency on the network of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, the group conversed to the world, that they were the first settlers of these places from the creation of the world, and for that reason must be considered the owners of this land. For over a month, the breakfast show on the NTA, telecast the expansionist agenda program in damning episodes to a bewildered Tiv people.

Makurdi, the Nigerian viewers were informed, was founded by a trader named maikudi. The argument was that man, who used a boat to travel with merchandise selling them to coaster towns along the river Benue, founded and established the Makurdi market and eventually settled here. He was said to have earlier settled in Lokoja from where he traded up the Benue river. This is laughable as it is provoking.

Discerning minds are however to note that, the said maikudi, a trader, was selling in markets already existing along the river Benue. And that if they were no people already here, did the man establish the market for fishes of the river? Or was he, a trader, selling for money (which was the reason for his moving from places to places seeking patronage from humans) in a sharp turn of events, decided to display his wares alone in the wilderness for the fishes to buy?

Nigerians are to further note that, between 1920 to 1932 when the colonialist were constructing the rail line from the East to the North-east and North, the railway station which is situated about three kilometers away from the masalaci (mosque on Kaduna street), cited as maikudi’s house, was behind a sprawling town called Lobi. The fallacy of those marketing this evil lies can be seen from another favorite practice of the Islamic religion, at least from what we have come to know of it so far.

The Mosque is never situated away from habitation unlike the Christian churches which are situated a good distance from habitations. You only need to go through muslim towns and cities the jihad war conquered to verify that. In recent times, Gboko, Naka, Aliade, Ikpa-yongo, Katsina-Ala towns are good examples of mosques locations. It follows therefore that, the location of both Makurdi market and the mosque were within the precinct of town or at least existing Village Mallam Maikudi met.

Furthermore, Christian organizations establish churches for communities to attend. Accordingly, the Catholic, CMS, Anglican and Methodist churches that came to Makurdi in that order, were situated within a community that was existing before their arrival. The present Anguhar, Adem, Adaka/Uchen communities on the south-west, Ugondo communities to the south-east populated the area known now as Ter Makurdi cemetery near NKST central with villages at the Community Secondary School, the dispensary area, Mama Dikpo Kume or Madikpo (before the name, it used to be known as Ime Msor or drinking joint), the biggest of the villages was close to the river in which the Makurdi market was located right where the Mosque on Kaduna street now stands.

Lobi, already a town subsequently attracted the local government headquarter, a police divisional headquarter, and the court. The colonial administrators and business men were more comfortable residing where there was semblance of civilization and security, town. This practice is common in all former provinces and native authorities.
The story surrounding the renaming of Lobi town to Makurdi has nothing to do with an obscure small time trader called maikudi. It has to do with the topography of the city. 

The tripartite uplands in Makurdi namely, Walata, GRA, High-Level are surrounded by a large span of swampy area that kept water for most part of the year. Reptiles like the crocodile and python left the deep waters of the river Benue to the creeks for preys.

The villagers bringing soybeans, groundnut and beniseed for sale in LOBI not maikudi, were either attacked by the reptiles or robbers who hung around the creeks. People were then advised by those who survived these attacks against coming to Lobi. 

The retort to such advises was “ ma ku di ngu doono?”, meaning which ever form of death that is good. Those insisting to come and damn the consequence would answer any who asked where they were going, “Makudi” in reckless abandon. It became a name which means ‘any kind of death’ and it effectively substituted the town’s known name, Lobi.

I am not however surprise with the desperation to acquire Makurdi and Katsina-Ala in addition to other notable middle belt towns. The war of conquest that failed to colonize our ancestors in the eighteenth century by force of arms, took subtle form by the mid nineteenth century. Our people were lured with money and other gifts to surrender their most prized possession, lives, to a culture foreign to them. Those with “longer throat and insatiable desires” fell prey. The larger populace who would not accept the nonsense has been made to suffer a kind of inhumanity or the other.
To be continued.

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