The Nupe are located at the extreme west of Niger-Benue confluence area of Nigeria. The Nupe kingdom comprised eleven or twelve related groups. These were Benu, Beni Ebe, Gbedeje (Gbedegi), Kusopa, Dibo or Zitako (Gana-Gana by the Hausa), Kyedye (Kede) Ebagi, Batsoi, Kupa, Cekpan and Gwagba.
The evolution of the Nupe Kingdom and political system is believed to revolve round Tsoede who, with the assistance of twelve Beni Chiefs, conquered Nku and proclaimed himself Etsu. He was renowned for his magical powers and used these and the Royal Insignia he received from his father which were: a bronze cannon, long bronze trumpets, state drums with brass bells and an unnaturally heavy iron chair. He used these to build a divine monarchy. He is also noted to have introduced to Nupe, the art of canoe building and iron smithing as well as human sacrifice.
Idah Tsoede after was the the death son of of an his Idah father. prince He was with aided an Nku by the mother Kyedye who in fled his flightfrom along the Niger-Benue confluence. The Kyedye were a trading and fishing group who had established trading ports along the Benue; these ports subsequently became colonies. His association with the Beni confederacy is shrouded; but it is clear that he incorporated this group with the Kyedye (Kede). The Beni confederacy included twelve towns. These were Bida, Tafie, Esa, Doko, Towagi, Egbe, Gaba, Nupeko, Eda, Panjura, Ewu and Yesa. These units acknowledged the supremacy of the Chief of Nku (Nupeko) by the middle of the 15th century. It was the Kyedye and Beni confederacy that assisted Tsoede in the establishment of the Nupe Kingdom.
Tsoede was a warrior king who engaged in the territorial expansion of the Nupe Kingdom. He first set his capital at Nupeko or Great Nupe and later at Gbaro where he laid the foundation of Nupe Kingdom. From Gbaro, he attempted to establish political supremacy over all the Nupe groups. He conquered the Yagba, Bunu, Kananda to the south, the Ebe, Kimber and Kamukin to the north. He died in 1590 at the age of 120.
Etsu Mamma 1795-1796, one of Tsoede successors is credited to have founded another capital at Raba. Mamma’s reign was short and after his death, the Nupe Kingdom witnessed succession disputes which resulted in its division under two rivals, Etsus, Jimada 1796-1801 with headquarters at Jiimi (Gbar) and Majiyas II (1796-1810) with his capital at Raba.
The economy of the Nupe
The economy of the Nupe depended largely on agriculture, fishing, industry and trade. Their location on the Niger bend provided a wellwatered territory in which they planted tubers and grains. They also engaged in fishing and boat making. The Nupe were famous as craftsmen. They were known as experts in glass, iron, wood and stone crafts.
Trading was also important; they acted as middlemen merchants between peoples of either banks of the Benue. They were known to have traded with the Yoruba, and Edo to the south and the Hausa to the north. Nupe markets were important distribution markets for kolanuts.
The socio-political organisation of the Nupe Kingdom
The Nupe Kingdom was headed by the Etsu Nupe who was a semi divine monarchy. He was assisted by a Council of nine (9) ministers.
The metropolis of Bida, which was the main city, had two sections: the inner city, that is, the Great Bida and the outer city or stranger quarters which was directly under the control of the Etsu.
In the surrounding territories, a local government system was developed. The Etsu appointed able lieutenants as heads of districts and local government administrations. Vassal states were given a great measure of local autonomy, that is, freedom in the running of the administration of their territories. They were only mandated to pay annual tributes to the king as a sign of loyalty.
Taxes formed a major aspect of government revenue, as the people paid taxes and levies which boosted the economy.
Confluence: This is the meeting point of two or more streams or point where two or more streams flow together.
Insignia: This refers to a “badge of authority”.
Autonomy: This refers to political independence and self-government.