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1.1      Background of the Study

Alago ethnic group are a people with common linguistic and cultural identities. The people are of Benue-Congo speaking group found around the defunct Lafia Native Authority in the present day Nasarawa State with their settlements at Keana, Doma, Obi, Assakio and Agwatashi among others. The population of the people according to the National Population Census of 2006 estimated figure was that the Alago population is above seven hundred thousand (700,000) people.

Today, Alago people are found predominantly in the following Local Government Areas of what is now Nasarawa State Doma, Keana, Obi, Lafia-East, Azara, Giza and Nasarawa. They can be found in the settlement areas of Doma, Keana, Obi, Ribi (Ibi), Agaza, Alagye, Aloshi (Ole’shi), Agwatashi (Olosoho), Assakio (Owusakyo), Kadaerkop, Owena, ankani, Ajkpanaja, Okpata, Ediya among other small settlements including Amaku (Olonya) in Nasarawa Local Government Area.

By all standards the Alago group is one of the largest if not the leading group of the whole of present day Nasarawa State with their population of about 712712. This is the status the people enjoyed even before the split of the former Plateau State which gave birth to the new Nasarawa State on the 1st October, 1996. Indeed, there can be no denying the fact that the choice of this subject for study for both remotely and directly an attempt to satisfy an interest that is not only personal but also collective and ethnic in nature.

From another perspective Benedelto Crole opined that all history is contemporary since no matter how remote in time the events being reconstructed appear to be the history in reality refers to present needs and situations where those events vibrate. Certainly 3, these needs are represented by the desire to have a more beneficial exposition of the past of the people whose generations after generations have continually been bombarded with conflicting records and reports on the actions of their progenitor. This is because Alago people in the post colonial period (1960-2001), keep migrating from one place to another in search of socio-economic opportunities and facilities rather than religious reasons.

1.2       Aim and Objectives

In spite of the increasing wide range of knowledge, works and attentions by scholars on the Alago, their traditions still remain speculative, uncoordinated as well as superficial in nature. However, the objectives of this research work becomes imperative and it includes among other things:

To understand the nature, origin and character of the movement and settlement patterns of the Alago people of Nasarawa State, and examine the causes of their migration to their present settlement.

To examine the socio-political and economic contribution of the ethnic group to the making of Nasarawa State.

To put in proper perspective the exact position and place the various Alago people (settlements) in history, within Nasarawa society, as well as to understand the socio-economic relations of the people with their neigbours as a roadmap for national development.

Moreover, the work is aimed at providing reference material in the history of the people, giving the discordant nature of their growth and development. This is so because the present generation of Alago scholars as well as elites need an up-to-date and a thorough (comprehensive) analysis of the history of their past.

1.3    Statement of the Problem/Justification of the Study

History is repleted with movement of people and this movement can either be individually or in mass. Migration being part of human behaviour (Alago inclusive) often occasion by some natural or manmade forces. The need to move from one location to the other became imperative because of craving need to interest, search for food (farmland and trading) and a conducive environment in which to live.

The post colonial migration among the Alago people from 1960 has impringed or contributed to the development of the people under study. Few earlier settlements were forced to move or relocate to new settlements of  the same Alago people in Nasarawa State and these resulted to the development and or development of the people but in this case, development is mush counted, hence educational, social, economic and political developments were achieved among the Alago people in Nasarawa State from 1960-2001.

1.4      Scope and Limitation    

This study however is confined to an examination of the Alago post colonial migration and settlements from when the colonialists terminate their rule in Nigeria by 1960. This is to say that the study is only on Alago people and as well as some of their settlements in Nasarawa State.

The limitation was however faced with some circumstances beyond the ability of the researcher. Thus, the scope in area of settlements could not be adequately satisfied. Hence the researcher decided to limit his search due to lack of relevant data to some selected Alago settlemts such as Ibi, Alagye, Keana, Doma, Obi, Assakio and Agwatashi since they all have identical traditions, customs and reasons for the post colonial migration.

As mentioned earlier, one among the limitations was the issue of terrain of the settlements that were to be visited. The roads were bad and were not motorable and this brought delayance for the researcher to carry out his research work at the appropriate period of. There was also non-availability of many written sources on Alago ethnic group as a result of making the reference materials very little. Non-access to archival materials was also experienced by the researcher during the course of study of the people under consideration.

1.5       Research Methodology 

In search for knowledge of the past, the historian relies on various sources. Historians, most especially those of the advanced societies used written documents such as records of government activities that were left behind by actual participants or observers of early events. These were tenable only in areas where the art of writing and documentation were available and in use. However, for most of African societies, the search for knowledge of the past was based mainly on oral accounts referred to as oral traditions.

For the purpose of this research, giving that oral tradition arising from preserved memories has remained one of the major sources in African historiography. One is often irked by the seeming continuous disappearance of past records of most societies. It is on this note that a Ugandan professor of history, Kiwanuka has often been quoted as saying:

                            ……. The minds of our fore-fathers are libraries

                            Waiting to be tapped and the death of an old man

                            In Africa is the death of a whole library…

Certainly, there can be nothing more correct in the relevance on, and significance of oral tradition as a historical source in African historiography. Hence the memories of our fore-fathers over time shall be relied upon mostly. However, in historical documentation, irrespective of the form and nature of these sources as may be available to the historian, they in themselves do not constitute history. Hence the historian has to engaged in a careful selection process to bring out the historical facts from the lost of materials available to him. (E.H. Carr).

For the purpose of this work therefore, a number of these sources have particularly been used for the attainment of the desired goal. Earlier works by scholars in the form of project or thesis have been consulted and made use of. Indeed, I embarked on the collection and harnessing of source materials through personal interviews, readings and comparative analysis of the available materials.

It must however be stressed that in the course of doing this, the paucity of in-depth and reconcilable materials on the issue under consideration without doubt posed serious problems. This is why more often than not, most African method of reconstructing the past through the use of oral traditions formed the dominant and central source which that was depended heavily for this study. Here too, the problem of distortions has created drawbacks in the attempt to achieve a near perfect reconstruction of the past of the Alago people in Nasarawa State.

In handling these problems therefore, a careful, comparative analysis was carried out on the scores of materials available and selection was based on a more concrete evidence of the past of the people as contained in their traditions. Nevertheless, for the source, materials upon materials were gathered, collated and served or analyzed in line with the thinking of H.P.L Fisher who said:

To write or even to read it is to be

Endlessly engaged in a process of selection.

Many facts are called but few are chosen, on

Implicit and rational criteria of factual significance6.

The study dependent on two broad source types: primary and secondary sources. For primary sources, oral accounts of eye-witnesses and participants as passed from generations to generations have been collected and collated to provide significant base. This was done through personal interviews and direct visits. In the case of the secondary source, the numerous works of earlier researchers and historians were also consulted to provide some historical insight into the past of the people in question. By and large, the writings of scholars have served as reference points and guides on the general approach to the study, in essence, maximum use of available materials has been applied to supplement and also complement the primary sources.

It must be asserted that, in carrying out a research work of this nature, a broad methodological approach must be used. By so doing oral interview and personal visits or contacts were carried out. These were resulted to the problems of Bias narration or hidden of information by the local people, problem of language interpretation either by the interpreters or the researcher himself.

1.6       Theoretical/Conceptual Framework

Migration is a change of residence from one particular place to another whether on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. Migration is an intrinsic aspect of human behavoiur. Throughout human evolution, the urge to move has been part of the characteristics of man’s existence. The need to move from one location to the other became imperative because of craving need to interact, search for food and a conducive environment in which to live. Migration simply put is the act of moving from one locality region and or country to another.7 

Richard Schafer sees migration as a relatively permanent movement of people with the purpose of changing their place of residence. He described movement over a sizable distance, rather than from one side of a city to another. 8

Migration has been an age old human phenomenon. Right from the ancient world. History is replete with movement of people either individually or mass often occasioned by some natural or man-made forces. As a complex social phenomenon, migration has assumed several dimensions. The factors which tends to ginger human population movement varies, while some were motivated by the prevailing economic opportunities of the time, others were gingered by some other factors like religious bigotry, war, political dominance and some other social forces, thus causing a forceful human migration from one area to the other.

Migration generally speaking, means the movement of people, more specifically, it means movement of people or a population across a specific boundary for the purpose of residing. The United Nations multi-lingual demographic dictionary defines migration as “a form of spatial mobility between one geographic unit and another involving a permanent change of residence.” 14 This definition excludes wandering of nomads, seasonal migration and the movement of persons with more than one residence. In other words, the movement of nomads is not migration; movement of persons with more than one residence is also no migration.

There are two types of migrations, internal migration and external migration, internal migration is defined as the movement of persons within the political boundaries of the nation being considered as a country. Any movement between different towns or cities within Nigeria is internal migration. Therefore, movements between Doma and Obi, Keana and Agwatashi, Assakio and Obi as well as Lafia are all internal migrations. External migration (though not part of the study) is the movement of persons across ethnic, national and state boundaries of one country to another. Every migration process involves two places, that is the origin and the place of destination. There are four varieties of internal migration (i) Rural-rural (ii) Urban-Rural (iii) Urban and (iv) Rural-Urban migration. Urban-rural is movement from urban to rural areas. Urban-urban involves movement from one urban area to another while rural-urban migration is movement from rural to urban area 9.

Sociological approach to the study of human migrations sees the term migration as a concept embedded in the plurality of people such that the action of one group determines the action of the other. Marx Weber drew a criterion specifying that there should be at least a minimum of mutual orientation of the action of each to that of the other. He viewed conflict, hostility, sexual attraction, friendship, loyalty or economic opportunities, which propelled a free escape factor principle of human migration.

The promotion of schools in the rural areas have also stimulated migration of rural youths who have received primary/secondary education. Some migrate to improve their skills while others become dissatisfied with the prospect of like particularly in terms of social amenities in the rural areas. They now move to acquire higher education and to also avoid themselves of the facilities in their new area of destinations.

Though, scholars have attempted to propound theories that explain migration which according to them account for migration, particularly internal migration. Notable among scholars are: Ravenstein (Law of migration), Lee (theory of migration), Sjaastad (Human investment Theory), and Todaro (Model of Rural-Urban migration). According to Ravenstein, (1880s), migration move from areas of low opportunity to areas of high opportunity. The choice of destination is regulated by distance with migrants from the rural areas often moving towards nearly town before moving towards larger cities 11. Lee identified the forces that influence a potential migrant to either migrate or not. He divides these forces into pluses and minuses. The positive or plus forces pull individual towards them, and the negative or minus forces tend to drive individual away 12.

Apart from the plus and minus forces, there are also zero forces to which the individual is indifferent. In other words, the zero forces neither pull the migrant nor drive him away13. These forces are associated with the area of origin and the area of destination. They are governed by personal factors which may either facilitate or retard migration.

Tadaro’s Model of Rural-urban migration suggests that the potential migrant’s decision to migrate involves a perception of the expected stream of income that will accrue to him/her. This expected stream of income is a function of both the prevailing wage structure in the urban area and a subjective probability of obtaining employment in the urban area. This according to Todaro four main features was postulated:

  1. Migration is stimulated primarily by rational economic considerations of relative costs and benefits which are mostly financial but are also psychological.
  2. The decision to migrate depends on the expected differentials between urban and rural areas and not the actual differentials. The decision to migrate also depends on the probability of successfully obtaining employment in the urban areas.
  3. The probability of obtaining an urban job is inversely related to the urban unemployment rate. This is to say the higher the chances obtaining an urban job, the lower the urban unemployment rate.
  4. Migration rates in excess of urban job opportunities growth rates are not only possible but also rational and probable in the face of continued positive urban-rural expected income differentials. High rate of urban unemployment are therefore inevitable outcomes of the serious imbalances of economic opportunities between urban and rural areas 14. This means that the rate of migration usually exceeds the rate at which urban job opportunities grow, this is because of the expected differences in wages between urban and rural areas, and the expected difference is usually in favour of the urban areas.

These are some of the theories that explain migration particularly rural-urban migration.

These are theories upon which researchers have based their explanations of migration. They also laid the foundation for migration studies. For the purpose of this study therefore, there is the need to identify and defined some key concepts and words in the work for example:

  1. Alago: An ethnic nationality (group) which has settled for centuries around what used to be Lafia Native Authority, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.
  2. Origin: Starting point of a place or movement at which something begins to exist and or the country, race, or social situation that someone comes from.
  3. Migration: The act of moving from one locality, region and or country to another. Or a relatively permanent movement of people either individually or massively with the purpose of changing their place of residence.
  4. Settlement: A place where people have come to make their homes or a place where people have come to live permanently.
  5. Native Authority (N.A): A particular area or a country with the power to make decisions and make people do something or obey laws, or an organization or institution that control a public service 15.

1.7       Literature Review

Generally, since Nigeria became an object of interest to the Western world, a wide range of scholarly works have been done on some aspects of the economic, social and political history of the people. As attention became more and more focused on the history of different parts of Nigeria, a mixture of literary works have been rolled out by different scholars both from within and outside the shores of the land. However, the case of the Alago people cannot be said to have enjoyed the same interest and attention of scholars. While quite a few studies have been done, the treatment of the entire Alago is still very peripheral and superficial. Most of the early works on Nigerian history, concentrated mainly on the large kingdoms and empires that existed prominently before the advent of colonialism. Consequently, Alago were treated as mere appendices of these kingdoms. This explains their limited scope of coverage in virtually all existing literature.

The available published and unpublished works by Alago student and other scholars display a considerable degree of ignorance on the exact origin, migration routes and settlements patterns of the people. This is so because the expository attempts by early anthropologists of colonial extraction and local writers all appear replete with common errors. This is evidently manifest in their frequent treatment of the Alago as an adjunctment of the Jukun Empire.

It is interesting that almost all of the published literature on the Alago people uncritically accept the account of colonial investigation attributing their ancestry from the east. For instance, writing on political and administrative system in Plateau State, Sen. Luka Gwom alludes to the tradition that Alago people legendarily migrated from the east together with the Jukun, the Igala, the Goemai and others to form the famous Kwararafa empire. 16   where precisely is meant by “cast” is not clear. This is very evident in his work, Plateau State political and Administrative Systems: A Historical Analysis, in which he maintained that, “The disintegration of the Kwararafa Empire saw the movement of the Alago people to Wukari and thereafter to Idah through Ogoja. Relying largely on early colonial sources, Gwom agrees that it is from Idah that Alago people formed a recognizable part of the Igala kingdom until their migration northwards in search of new settlements17.

Ade Adefuye writing on “The Alago kingdoms: a Political History”, states that Alago traditions point to somewhere in the east as their ancestral home, which they were said to have been compelled to leave following their insistence on keeping to their traditional religious practices as against the new religion then, Islam. 18 Certainly, oral accounts of the people also subscribe to this historical view on the origin of the people in focus. There is however very thin or no evidence at all to support such a spurious claim.

C.K. Meek and Charles Temple are among some of the foreign writers who also traced the origin of Alago to the Jukun Empire north of the Middle Benue plain. While in his, A Sudanese Kingdom, meek sees the Alago as sharing the same culture and tradition with the Jukun, Temple in his Notes on Tribes, Provinces, Emirates and State of Northern Nigeria,   believes that though the Alago origin in uncertain, the cultural similarity of the Alago and Jukun arose only as a result of inter marriages between the two groups. To him, the Alago are probably more of Igala breed that left Atagara near Idah in the first half of the 13th century (1232AD).19

Ade Obayemi is averse to the argument that the Alago migrated from Idah as a result of Chieftaincy disagreements. In his work, “States and people of the Niger-Benue confluence” in the Groundwork of Nigeria History, Obayemi dismissed any trace of imagined relation between the Alago and Igala (Idah) royal class or any evidence of a new language learnt there from. Rather, as an archeologist using linguistic and other cultural studies, Obayemi stressed that the Idoma, Yoruba, Igala, Tiv, Nupe and Jukun as well as Goemai all fall under the Kwa language family who moved into the Niger-Benue confluence to do constant warfares. 21 As an archeologist, Obayemi could be excused for erroneously making reference to Keana as large Kingdom (but not the older kingdom of Doma) as being more directly related to the Jukun.

Another scholar, T.N. Tamuno writing on, “people of the Niger-Benue confluence,” specifically discussed the Jukun, Tiv, Idoma, Igala and Nupes as the people that clustered along the Niger and benue rivers. Here as in many other works, the Alago groups are conspicuously missing. In the work published in A thousand years of west African history, edited by Ade Ajayi and Espie Ian, Tamuno, however, concedes to earlier submission to the Jukun, whose traditions of origin suggest that they migrated to their present habitats from the ‘East’-probably Yemen, East of Mecca, interestingly, however, after linking the Idoma strongly with the Jukun tradition, Tamuno placed Doma and Keana (both Alago kingdoms) as two of the three most important clans of the Idoma. To him, the Idoma speaking peoples originally occupied an area extended from Idah in the South-west to Wukari in the east: but who have been forced to shrink to a smaller area owing to pressure from several neighbours. He tries to locate the missing link in this historical relationship to the fact as he puts it, that though the Idoma were united linguistically, they were not united into a single political state. 24 This argument sound only plausible to the extent that the Idomas and Alagos are to a large extent, linguistically closely related. The seeming contradiction here therefore is, if the Alago were not part of the original clusters like he suggested, then the ethnic affinity and strong cultural link between the Alago and the Idoma on one hand, and between the Jukun and the two on the other still requires further study or investigation.

Is should be noted that contemporary migration and settlements of Alago people  in Nasarawa State since 1960, according to the people oral tradition suggest that it was based purely on socio-economic factors which forced the people to migrate even up  to the time of our discourse. Farming being the major activities of people makes them to move in search of fertile land to farm, as well, people engaged in trading and also in search of knowledge and other social amenities like schools, hospitals, etc.

1.8       Conclusion

This chapter attempts to define the term migration which is a permanent movement of persons either in mass or on individual basis. Though, there is no acceptable definition of migration but scholars have tried to define migration as a relatively permanent movement of people with the purpose changing their place of residence. Many reasons were stated which always compelled man to migrate; for instance, people are motivated by the prevailing economic opportunities of the time as well as religious bigotry and social and political dominance. But for the case of Alago, their tendency to migrate during the period under the study can be understood within the context of conflict, hostility, friendship, loyalty and economic opportunities. There are two types of migrations and four process involved in migration respectively that is internal and international migration as well as Rural-rural, urban-rural, urban and rural-urban migration.

The study is however confined to an examination and analysis of the significance of migration and settlement of Alago people Nasarawa State, with emphasis on Doma, Keana, Obi, Agwatashi, Assakio, Lafia and other smaller settlements of Odobu, Aloshi, Ibi, Agaza, Alagye and many others. 

The work has been divided into five chapters. The work starts from chapter one with a consideration of the general introduction. It follows with the aims and objectives of the study, the scope and limitation of the study is also examined and an attempt at the definition of concept and methodology was also made. To note also is the review of related literature. The second chapter will give attention to the environment of Nasarawa, major ethnic groups, socio-political organizations and the economic activities of the people of Nasarawa State. this is closely followed by a chronological study of the origin of migrations and settlement of Alago people in Nasarawa State, with emphasis on Doma, Keana, Obi and other places. The fourth chapter titled “Focuses on the social relations that exist between Alago and their immediate neighbours in Nasarawa State:, such as Jukun, Idoma, Tiv, Agatu, Kanuri, Eggon and others. The work is concluded by a summary and contribution to knowledge for the benefit of history and succeeding generations of Alago people and other Nigerians generally.

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