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.
The Mbormi Battle Site was one of the five Nigerian sites submitted to the World Islamic Heritage Committee for recognition.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, editor, journalist, and curator. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture, art, photography, business, activism, and health. He has vast experience working in literature. He has sat on the judging panels of The Gerald Kraak Prize and of The Morland Writing Scholarship. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria's first queer art collective, and Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. For three years, Nov. 2016 to Apr. 2020, he led the transformation of the literary blog Brittle Paper into a continental powerhouse, ideating and administering The Brittle Paper Awards, the first by an African publication. His work in queer advocacy has been profiled in Literary Hub. In 2019, he won The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians." He completed a collection of short stories in 2016 and his novel in 2020. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.