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Tribes in Nigeria: The Kilba People

Predominantly found in Hong local government area of Adamawa State (formerly called Gongola State,) Nigeria, the Kilba people (also known as and subsequently, to be referred to as ‘Hoba’ in this article) are historically a mountain dwelling tribe. These mountain habitations for the communities were Pella, Gwaja, Hong, Kulinyi, Garaha, Bangshika, Miljili, Gaya-jaba, Gaya-maki, Gaya-skalmi, Gaya-gou, Gaya Fa’a, Gaya Jabba, Ndlang, Hyama, Kinking, Motaku, Kwapor, Za and Zivi, all in the present Hong Local Government.

The Hoba tribe are found around the following local government areas; Gombi, Hong, Song, Mubi and Michika Local Government Areas, Adamawa state, Nigeria.

Settlements and Socio-Political Structure

It is stated that in ancient times, the Höba tribe was “a well-organized pagan kingdom second to none in Western Sudan”. Their structure resembled that of ancient Egypt or modern European kingdom. The structure took a shape of divisions and sub-divisions into units, with each unit being governed by a member of the ruling families. These administrators-referred to as the Yirmas and the Shalls – who govern or serve as central ministers to these units, give a monthly report to the King (the Töl), who in turn gives the final word, further directives or take decisions and actions. By implication then the socio-political structure of the Hoba is bi-dimensional, with the Töl serving as the central or overall ruler, and the Yirma and the Shall, serving as the territorial administrators.

The “Töl köra ma” – King of the mountain community

The Höba clan-based mountain communities were each ruled by a “Töl köra ma” – meaning ‘King of the mountain community’.

“Köra ma” means “mountain top”. Töl is pronounced as “ttle”, which means King.

A particular Töl therefore, was known by his clan name. Each of the mountain communities was made up of several villages. These villages had their method of communication. They had specific ways of doing things, and life was enjoyable. The Töl köra ma was a secular-cum-religious ruler. He had a cabinet made up of members with specialized designated functions, drawn out from the different communities. Each had their designated cabinets. The cabinets of all the Töls still have the same character. Höba tribe therefore was a tribe with a formidable unity; a formidable army. They were articulate and had distinct ways of doing things and of getting things done.

The central administration is the responsibility of the Töls cabinet members; a cabinet made up of the following:

Sabiya – Sabiya is the Prime Minister and Chief Adviser to the Töl.

Bira’ol – Bira’ol is the Assistant Prime Minister

Midala – Midala is the Defence Minister and War Commander

Kadala – Kadala is the Inspector General of Police. He arrests and orders the arrest of criminals.

Dzarma – Dzarma is the Minister in Charge of the Royal Stable

Batari – Batari is the Head of Royal Ward

Kadagimi – Kadagimi is the Courtier and an official of the King’s Palace

Yaduma – Yaduma is the speaker of the Council of Representatives of advisers

Kilba (Hoba) Marriage: Rites, Ceremony and Celebration

The Hoba people traditionally have 5 popular and acceptable aspects to courtship and marriage:

  • The Courtship with/by Suitor’s choice: here the boy finds a girl he loves, and begins the courting process. This also involves him rendering services and undertaking menial jobs and tasks like working on the farm of the girl’s parents all through the period of their courtship.
  • The Courtship with/by Suitor’s Parents: here, the parents of the boy indicate interest in anygirl they consider ‘wife-material’ for their son, usually without his consent. This could also be by ‘Zha Mala’, where the parents indicate interest in a girl-child at the point of her birth, on behalf of their son.
  • Malamumba: here, the boy is initiated into manhood once he reaches the ages of between 18-22. The process of initiation is called Mba. He is then given a temporary wife to live with for 7 days but without the permission for carnal knowledge. After the period of Malamumba (Wife of Initiation), a proper wedding is then conducted if both parties and their parents consent.
  • Mala bwatsir: here, the wife is inherited from a deceased relation. This is to enable the relation to take care of the woman and her children as his. It is usually not permissible for the husband of a Mala Bwatsir to be a nuclear blood relation, except in certain peculiar circumstances. The couple are actually permitted to bear their own children
  • Confiscation/Snatching/ ‘Kidnapping’ method: this could be planned or unplanned. In whatever situation, the girl-unmarried or married- is taken by either her intended groom, an admirer or a stronger man forcefully for marriage purpose. Intentions are subsequently revealed and a proper wedding ceremony is eventually conducted. Keeping the lady beyond three days without declaring an intention is regarded as a criminal act of kidnapping.

The Marriage feast proper is referred to as Gha Mala. Of interest also is the fact that divorce is permissible if the woman is too stingy, or she maltreats her husband or his parents.



Joshua Project



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Jeremiah Aluwong

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    michael kevin barka kala'a

    8th July 2019 at 3:12 pm

    is a blessing to have a person like you in hoba land

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