Thursday 23 June 2022

Notes on the Tribes, Provinces, Emirates and States of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria by Temple, O.; Temple, Charles Lindsay (1919) Nupe

In the Gurara District of Nupe (Lapai Emirate), a curious custom exists, which, with minor modifications is practised as far east as Awtun (Ekiti), and from Yagba District to Ilorin. 

A wealthy woman trader would sometimes go through the form of marriage with one or more young women — reputed virgins. These ' wives ' she would send out to various neighbouring villages, ostensibly trading. When, in the expected course of events, these ' wives ' formed illicit attachments, a careful note was made of the resultant progeny.

When the children had reached five or six years, or more, they were claimed by the woman ' husband ' as her children, based on the legal fiction of all legal wives' children being the children of the legal ' father.' 

In almost every case, the real father compounded with the legal ' father,' in the customary value of the child. The profit to the woman capitalist was exceedingly great. This custom is not confined to the Pagan, nor to the female sex.

Many a reputed Mussulman (Bida-Pategi) will allow his wife to go on three and four years' trading expeditions, fully cognisant of the inevitable results. In due time he will apply for the custody of the children, which are legally his until his wife has sued for and obtained a legal divorce, which last is seldom done, owing (in Nupe and Ilorin generally) to the high ' dowry ' money claimed.

If the case is settled out of Court, the husband enjoys substantial profits. On the other hand, if the wife and children return to him , which is seldom nowadays, he can always obtain a respectable ' dower ' from the suitors to the girl children. As to the boys, he finds every use for them on his farm.


The Yagba are situated in the north-west of Kabba Province, where they have a population of some 17,872, and over the border in the Pateji Division of Ilorin Province. It is doubtful whether or not they are of Yoruba extraction, though they speak a dialect of Yoruba. They practise a similar custom to that of the Nupe (Gurara District) and of the Ekiti, which permits a woman to marry young girls, whom she subsequently lets out to some man or men — herself as legal husband retaining the right of possession to any children they may bear. They are a pagan people, and the priests have charms for scattering the rain-clouds. The women weave good cloth, but agriculture is the main occupation. They eat dogs.

1913 Northern Nigeria "women acting" ; Photographer  Arthur John Newman Tremearne - Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge UK LS.125507.TC1

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