The Historic Battlefields of Gombe

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The Historic Battlefields of Gombe
Tula. Credit: Tulacommunity.org.

In 1908, a contingent of British troops fought the chiefdom of Tula, leading to the adventurous community’s subjugation and eventual incorporation into the Kaltungo Chiefdom. The site of the battle, a wide expanse of land on the plateau, is 101 kilometres from Gombe town, the capital of Gombe State.

According to colonial accounts, the British took to battle upon complaints from Tula’s neighbours. Tula, for generations, had earned a saying: “Tula maza ba tsoro”—Tula people are fearless fighters. Notably, the kingdom had in 1877 defeated the Emir of Misau, and, with stories of the victory spreading, kept his head as a warning to any future invaders.

Another site of historic warfare is the Mbormi Battle Site, where on July 27, 1903, the British attacked the entourage of Sultan Attahiru I. The Sultan had truncated his predecessor’s agreement with the British and began migrating eastwards, to get to Medina in Saudi Arabia, when he was stopped and 20,000 people were massacred. It is now an abandoned settlement, containing only the graves of Sultan Attahiru I and the Chief Imam. It also has the grave of the British commander they went to battle against, Major Prince Charles Marsh, who was a member of the Royal Family.

For a time, Marsh’s children and grandchildren visited his grave annually. Daily Trust reports that in 1998, the Sultan’s grandchildren and Marsh’s grandchildren met at the location but did not greet due to the weight of history.

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The Historic Battlefields of Gombe
Front side of mbari to Ala by the artist, Ezem, in Inyeogugu, Nigeria, 1960. Photo Credit: Herbert M. Cole.

The Mbormi Battle Site was one of the five Nigerian sites submitted to the World Islamic Heritage Committee for recognition.

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