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Brief History of the Gade People

Gade is actually a corruption of the word Ngade meaning, “I said.” A name adopted because the Hausa people wanted to distinguish between Gade and Maguzawa. Within themselves, they are known as Babye. The group can further be split into the Gazargawa, Zadawa, Sheme, Gadawa and Tokarawa tribes.

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The Gade tribe and settlements are predominantly found in parts of the FCT, Nassarawa and Niger states. 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. Empirical evidence & historical records reveal that “Babye” better known as “Gade” are of “Maguzawa” origin who had migrated from Western Sudan to Kano and settled at a place called “Gadawar” in the present Jigawa state in 1068 A.D. The migration was in search of farmland. In the course of their migration, they joined other Kwararafa lineages such as the Jukun, the Igala, Alago, Afo, Korn and Egburra. As a result, there was a scramble for suitable farmland.

Like aforementioned, the name Gade was a corruption of the Gade word “Ngade” meaning “I said”. The Hausa people who wanted to distinguish between Gade & Maguzawa in Kano adopted the name Gade. There are several written source pertaining to the origin of Gade people & their migration. Tradition has it that the Gade people were part & parcel of the Kwararafa lineage. The Gade had migrated from Kano and travelled South-eastwards to join the Jukun people who also migrated southwards. The evidence of the presence and settlement of Gade people in Kano is their salt industry called “GISHIRIN GADE”. The Gade under their powerful leader called “GAKUNGAKIMA”.

The Migration and Historical Movements

The Gade first settled at the present day Doma in Doma L.G.A, Nasarrawa state and later moved to westwards probably due to leadership tussle with the Alago to settle at their present places of abode in 1750. While moving out of Doma, a section of Gade decided to break away and moved eastwards across the River Benue to settle in the present Idoma land and now bear the name “IGEDE“. The Gade began to establish themselves over a vast empty land around the present Keffi area.

The Gade had ancient city walls (Ganuwa) which fortified them against external attack. It is on record that no Gade settlement was conquered by the invaders, rather a treaty was made by individual independent Gade Chiefs. Such treaties were made to protect the chief against external aggression. The Gade under their Gomo paid tributes to Zaria.

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Another historical account puts it that the Gade people are from the ancestral lineage of Adakpu. The Adakpu migrated from the Congo-Niger Basin through Sudan to Kano area in search of farmland in the year 1068 AD. They settled in the Gadawur area, present Jigawa State, with their leader Gakingakuma during the reign of Tsamiya, the then Emir of Kano, till 1075 AD when Tsamiya was succeeded by Bagaudu. In the course of their migration, they joined other Kwararafa lineages such as Jukuns, Igala, Alago, Afo, Korn and Egburra. When the Gade leader, Gakingakuma, died, it led to the mass exodus of the people from Kano to the Doma area in the present-day Nasarawa State.

Culture and Beliefs

This ethnic group are predominantly Islamic but also have mystic and traditional beliefs. During their festivals, memorial ceremonies and occasions such as the Annual Gade Cultural Festival, there are masquerades that come out to display such as Adakpu masquerade, Zurukpukpu masquerade, the masquerade for women Kakamauwu and the Zurunuba masquerade. At their festivals, some of their mystic displays include pounding of millet with a mortar placed on the abdomen of an old man and young men slicing every part of the bodies with sharp knives without hurting it.

Language and Economy

Gade is of the Niger-Congo family and Volta-Niger classification. A Nupoid language of Nigeria, the dialect of the Gade is Libye/Ribye. The Gade people engage in many activities for economic purposes, but mainly, farming and hunting are their main occupation. Their women are good weavers of clothes and makers of baskets.


Pulse NG

Auta Abdul, Ashama. History of Gade Language in Nigeria , Encyclopedia, 2018, v1, Available online:

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This article was first published on 12th April 2020 and updated on April 13th, 2020 at 6:00 pm


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “Ethnic Groups In Nigeria: The Gade People”

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