As far back as 1996, I vehemently opposed any change of name of our Association from Higgi Development Association to Kamue or Michika having the belief that Higgi is our heritage.
I have maintained this position until my recent re-evaluation of facts and fiction surrounding it.
I have had cause to discuss this issue of Higgi or Kamue and when I made certain suggestions I was called names.
While I respect whatever view our brothers may hold on this, I decided to re-evaluate the whole matter with an unbiased mind with the main purpose of assisting the two divides to appreciate the reality and maybe forge a unity of purpose in advancing the cause of our people particularly in view of the forthcoming census.
At this stage we must avoid any thing that will further reduce our population as witnessed in the 2006 census.
In putting up this piece, I tried finding answers to the following questions.
What is in a name? Why change the name? Are there examples of tribes that successfully changed their names? What are the process involves
Names remain the best source of identification.
From the time of creation, names were given in line with events, wishes, and exploits. Names can be given after an ancestor that did exploits and wonderful during his/her time. It can also be given to maintain a lineage into perpetuity.
Certain names reflect the future of an individual or group. Some names are naturally given according to culture and tradition. Our people, HIGGI/KAMUE people are endowed with natural names that are in line with births from a woman. : Tizhe/Kuve, Zira/Masi, Tumba/Kwarmba, Vandi/Kwanye, Kwaji/Kwaji, Tari/Kwata, Sini/Kwasini, Kwada/Kwada, etc.
We have difference in pronunciation according to dialects. For example while Nka Kafa calls Masi, ka dui/VI/Boka call Masa and Bazza say Masu.
All the names have distinct meanings attached to each. In most cases the meanings attached shapes the destiny and attitude of child as he grows.
It is no wonder then that some names are eventually dropped for either Jewish or Arab names representing the two major religions. This change of names can also be traced to God himself when he changed the name of Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel etc.
Now, what is the identified name of our people from inception? While I am not a student of History and did not carry out extensive research on this, I made effort to recollect my memory and in addition, asked a few elders that are & 70 years and above.
The summary of their responses confirmed what others have said, that Higgi was given to us by Margi and this was only applicable to people down the plains. Most of the people in Yamue for example do not agree that they are Higgi, but Kamue even though they are not on the hills.
On the other hand with the advent of civilization and through the two religions, Islam and Christianity and Native Authorities, the name Higgi was adopted by them to refer to the entire ethnic group.
When I recollected my primary school days, I never knew that we are called Higgi until when our primary school leaving certificate was issued and I saw the tribe as Higgi.
Well, I have been using it since and proud of it. Again in the late sixties, when we took some saleable items to Michika town, the buyers used to say “ malei Kamue, kunei chui, zugwi Kamue kunei kwatukwa” literally meaning, Kamue woman, how much is your pack of woods and Kamue Boy how much is your chicken.
What is clear from this is our original name was Kamue and not Higgi. But History has it that this was changed at one point or the other to Higgi and no one raised an eyebrow.
It is interesting to note that our FALI brothers were also called HIGGI-FALI. It was one of their distinguished sons, Senator Paul Wampana along with others that went for a change to FALI, dropping the Higgi. This was around 1979 or so.
They did not want to be subsumed in the larger Higgi and wanted their separate identity. They documented it by way referendum and was registered and gazetted and has remained so to date.
Apart from Fali, there are other tribes in Nigeria that did similar change of name due to derogatory nature of their inherited names. The GWARI people changed to GBAGI and today they are officially known as Gbagi.
The KAJE people of Zagon Kataf Southern Kaduna changed to BAJU and you hardly hear of Kaje now. Even Southern Kaduna changed from Southern Zaria.
Reasons for the change of names differ from place to place and from person to person. Most often derogatory names are changed to a better one. Religious beliefs can be a reason too. Misfortune associated with a name can result in a change.
When God Called Abram to prepare him to be a father of nations, He ( GOD) changed his name to Abraham meaning father of Nations. It follows that if his name remained Abram, he could not have been made the father of all Nations.
Coming back home, why do we need to change from Higgi? Many believe that higgi was derogatory identification by Margi and adopted by pioneer civilizations.
Do Margi or any other persons mock at us today?
Answers may be varied too. Is there any misfortune attached to the name Higgi? This too will depend on our perception. While some believe that there is misfortune inherent in Higgi as a name and hence most tribes tend to gang up against us, others believe that it is our attitude that counts against us. This too is debatable.
But can this be erased with a change of name? It is mixed. However, Tumba that is assumed to be dull in the ancient days and truly lived so has changed in modern times to be the brightest, wisest and so tradition has been broken.
Having said thus far, it is clear that:
We have every right to change our names at any point in time with or without reasons.
We can change to a brand new name altogether like the GBAGI and BAJU.
We can modernize and or retain our initial names like the Falis.
What is important is the majority of our people must be in support of that.
Change of names does not and will never affect existing documents just like changes in the name of Modibbo Adama University Yola does not invalidate those with certificates bearing the Federal University of Technology Yola. Documents bearing the North Eastern States, Gongola State remain valid just as those that have Adamawa State.
However all name changes must follow protocol and have legitimacy. Legal protocol must be adhered too. The changes must be supported by majority and recognised by the government of the day.
For me I am indifferent, but cannot continue to defend Higgi. If majority of our people prefer Kamue, so be it but I suggest we do the following:
- Committee of few people be set up
- They will embark on sensitisation particularly at the grass root.
- Enlarged house consisting of Bullamas, Village Heads, District Heads , senior Citizens and youth representatives to buy into it and sell it down to their subjects.
- Referendum be conducted called to pass the vote in support with Government officials, population officials etc in attendance.
- Such resolutions are passed to the Government and State House of Assembly.
- It is accepted and gazetted and it becomes our official name
We must avoid the pitfall of attacking each other over this as everyone will be entitled to his/her opinion. We must use superior augment to woo others to our different positions. We must not approach the census with two different names as in 2006. Where it becomes impossible to agree on one, Higgi should be allowed and the issue be revisited after the census. Where we can agree and achieve the above steps, we should forge ahead to change. Those that are championing this are advised to look inward and concentration on the KPIs ie Key performance indicators.
Thanks for your understanding
Written by Zira Maigadi