African Cultures

Brief History of The Chamba (Sama) People

The Gazette Staff
Written by The Gazette Staff

The Chamba (Sama) people of Ganye Chiefdom make up one of the largest single ethnic groups in the North eastern Nigeria and are no doubt the most populous single ethnic group in Adamawa south if not the entire Adamawa state.

Today the Chamba people are spread across five local government areas of Adamawa State, namely: Jada, Ganye, Toungo, Mayo-Belwa, Yola and Fufure Local Government Areas respectively and Gashaka, Sarti Bali, and Takum in Taraba State also into the Cameroon republic. They predominantly occupy Jada, Ganye and Toungo Local Government areas in Adamawa State. Being Agrarians by culture, they live in a very fertile agro-zone that spreads to the Cameroon borders.

Chambaland is a mixture of heath savannah and semi rain forest with undulating hills and prestigiously extended landscapes that host till today great wildlife that is depicting the beauty of the flora and fauna. The chambaland enjoys the highest amount of rainfall in the whole of Adamawa state. The land is the home of major food productions in the country.

This area was never part of Nigeria legally until the February 1961 plebiscite where it was decided by vote the position of the people of the then northern Cameroon which was entrusted to the colonial Britain as a Trust Territory by the United Nations following the defeat of Germany in the Second World War. This was ratified in the trusteeship agreement entered into by the United Kingdom for the territory of the Cameroon, previously administered by it under the League of Nations after the defeat of Germany in 1916 (WWI). The Anglo-French agreement of March 4, 1916 divided Cameroon into two to be control by two separate powers. Later in 1922 by an instrument signed in London on July 22nd, France was given a mandate under the League of Nations to be in charge of the administration of the territory of the Cameroon but the western potion was mandated to the British. This is the same mandate regime that lasted till the coming into force of trusteeship agreement which was ratified by the General Assembly of United Nations on 13th December, 1946. That is to say that the area that is called Ganye chiefdom today was not colonised by the British.

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The area was a German colony. But when Germany went to war in 1914- 1918 and was defeated, the League of Nations took over the area from Germany and subsequently when Germany suffered defeat again in the World War II (1939 -1945) The United Nations mandated the region belonging to Germany to Britain and France.

This article may not be so involved with the historical details of what transpired over time but it will not be out of place for the writer to carry the readers along by bearing light on some important details. The principle lay down by the charter of United Nations for the administration of the Trustee territories give formal dedication to respect for the personality of the territories.

Article 76 of the charter spells it out as such: “to promote the progressive development of the inhabitants of the trust territories towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its people and the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement.”
Nothing was said about this until 1959 when Nigeria which was yet a colonial property of the British though on the verge of Independence; the issue was raised as to where the chambaland (Chamba Native Authority) and the entire trustee territory of the northern Cameroon (from the Mambila Hills in Taraba to Bama in Borno) will belong. That led to a referendum that Nigeria and her cohorts rejected the result. In the result all the places concern voted for being in the Cameron.

In the November 7th 1959 plebiscite the electorates rejected being in Nigeria by 70,401 “Noes” against 42,797 “Yes” for the proposed integration with Nigeria. In about a year later that verdict was said have been reversed by the same people. This was what called for concern. This was supposed to be the true reflection of the interest of the majority and it was supposed to be respected by both the international community and Nigeria, but it was cancelled.
Nothing was said again until a yearlong after independence. Those areas where unwillingly pulled along into the affairs of an independent Nigeria; though UN general Assembly clearly recommended “that the necessary steps be taken without delay to secure a wider decentralisation of administrative powers and an effective democratization of the local administrative system in the northern portion of the trust territory” it was also recommended “that the administering authority shall take immediate steps for the administrative separation of North Cameroon and Nigeria, such separation to take effect from 1st October, 1960.”

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The Premier of the Northern Nigeria Sir Ahmadu Bello Sadauna of Sokoto led a vigorous campaign to ensure that the Trust Territory was pulled into the Nigerian territories legally. He navigated into the thick forests of Chambaland and under the then Northern government, he provided incentives such as a Hospital to Ganye (the Headquarters of Chamba Native Authority) a tool for campaigning for their vote in favour of Nigeria (The Land will remain grateful for that development.) So much was promised to the Chamba people including their being recognised and treated with dignity.

When the plebiscite of February 1961 was counted it purported that the vote was in favour of Nigeria. But one thing was outstanding: All other Natives authorities and districts voted in favour of Nigeria except Chamba Native Authority. Although that made no difference at all since they were never let to go to the Cameroon.
The matter went to court and some Chamba elites where persecuted for that; they were incarcerated in prison for a period of time treating them like rebels just to get them keep quiet about what they believed was a clear injustice to them. There was no unambiguous end to the litigation on the matter of whether the chambaland was Nigeria or Cameroon or an Independent State.
Now these people (Chamba people) have been pulled along, what is the benefit of being in Nigeria? Would they have been better off if they were in the Cameroon? Only God knows that. But one thing is clear; the chambaland is not in a good shape. The land and the people have suffered neglect and have been undermined by some socio-political apparatus set in place by some people who ordinarily would have no business doing that if the chambaland was not part of Nigeria.

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Peace loving and accommodating people, Chamba people have kept good relationship with their close neighbours like the Mumuye. The Fulani who also have enjoyed this humane relationship of the Chamba, moved into the area long time ago and they have interrelated for many decades. In fact the presence of Islamic religion in Chambaland can be attributed to the coming of the Fulani among them since there was no Jihad in the land. Today in most the of the towns and villages of chambaland there are the Igbos, Hausa People, Tivs and other distant tribes apart from the Mumuye and the Fulani. The chamba people do not have a history of bigotry, intolerance or segregation. They have accommodated the strangers in their midst with love and have even inter-married with many.
With the wake of the recent physical and psychological attacks on the Chamba, it clearly shows that the Chamba is getting hit below the belt. This of course calls for concern, on the one hand for the Chamba people to be more united among themselves irrespective religion or class difference so that they will be able to face their fate as a people and on the other hand it calls for proactive intellectual engagement for emancipation and protection of the land and people from both intellectual bondage and captivity of mentality.

One of the worst things that have happen to Chamba land in history is the recent attack on Ganye which left over a dozen innocent people dead which also resulted to lost property worth hundreds of millions and some other previous experiences like the robbery attack at the Ganye international Cattle Market where millions were taken away. Today it is clear that the trauma of these episodes is lingering in the minds of people in the entire Chamba land.

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The chambaland has one of the worst roads in Nigeria. From Yola to Ganye which is supposed to be less than two hours now takes over four hours due to bad road. The government of Nigeria that dragged the Chambaland into it has not said anything for years.
With all these things happening one is left to ask if being in Nigeria was a curse. No one will explain what the Chamba land have done to these gun men that came except for the fact that it is a common thing in north eastern Nigeria.

The government should rise up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property of the people, the Chamba land is a border territory there is need for a stationed either mobile police barracks or military barracks for prompt response in case of any kind of attack. Since the land had become part of Nigeria with such peculiar antecedence, there is need for the people to see the importance of being in Nigeria.

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The copious natural resources in this area if properly harnessed can yield great benefit to Nigeria. Since Nigeria has taken over the area for 52 years there is hardly any special attention to the region. It agreed that in whole Adamawa Chamba is most agro-supportive region why wont the government through it numerous agricultural projects site one important project there to touch the lives of these people. Those Chamba that migrated into the Cameron that time because of the result of the referendum are faring well. Let Nigeria not be curse.

Source: My Culture Base


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