A Brief History of the Tangale Kingdom.

The Tangale people have been ranked among the first twenty-one major ethnic groups and languages of Nigeria, as documented in the country’s consulate in New York, United States of America. Tangale (Tangle) is a West Chadic language spoken in the Northern region of Nigeria. The vast majority of the native speakers are found across Akko, Billiri, Kaltungo, and Shongom Local Government Area of Gombe State Nigeria.

Available corpus reveals that the Tangale people of present-day Nigeria initially migrated from somewhere in the Far East. It is believed that they started their migration from Yemen and came through Egypt and finally arrived in Nigeria through Birnin Ngazargamu, capital of the old Kanem Bornu Empire.

A Mountain curled by a big Snake

The exact period of migration of the Tangale people from the Far East is not known. However, it is widely suggested by some scholars that it could have been sometime between the 7th and 11th centuries when there was a mass movement of groups of people from the Mediterranean Region through North Africa and the South Sahara Region. Also, it is widely suggested that the period of the arrival of the Tangale people to their present settlement might have been sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries.

It is generally believed that their migration from around Birnin Ngazargamu was due to some crises that took place in the old Kanem Bornu Empire, which led to the movement of some groups of people during the period.

One of the British Colonial Officers that wrote a brief account of the Gombe Division referred to the Tangale people as being the first to have occupied the area. Similarly, a German writer, Mr. Wiesbaden vividly disclosed that The Tangale people were the earliest known dominant occupants of the old Gombe Emirate.

Furthermore, Mr. A.B. Mathews, one of the British Colonial Officers that served in the area stated that Tangale people had occupied the present Gombe Emirate long before the Fulani jihad in parts of Northern Nigeria broke out.

The Tangale people had since pre-colonial times been one of the independent kingdoms ruled by powerful traditional heads with the assistance of palace courtiers.

The oral account revealed that they had their overall traditional heads known as Mai Yelli (Now Mai Tangle) from the Billiri clan who other lesser Mais in the land owed allegiance to. Before the advent of the Billiri occupation of Tangale land in 1906, it is believed that these natural rulers of the Tangale kingdom had ruled for about five or six centuries.

Due to extreme difficulty in obtaining the accurate number, the past overall rulers of Tangale land spanning the period of about six or seven centuries to date, the people can still boast of having up to fifteen names of such rulers including the present occupant.

The natural rulers of Tangale of Pre-colonial times rule with the advice of some prominent and very influential palace courtiers. These palace advisers were collectively referred to as ANKWAD MAI (meaning the privileged beneficiaries of the king). There were, however, two exceptions of these advisers whose individual roles had been defined as ANKAKNU and LAUWOTEN MAI or KANJERO, Meaning WAZIRI or GALADIMA respectively in modern terms.

The role identification and decentralization of the functions of the erstwhile ANANKWAD MAI, which the current Mai Tangale, His Royal Highness, Dr. Abdu Buba Maisheru II has introduced since the inception of his reign, is in the right direction.

This is because each titleholder under this domain would now strive to make a positive contribution to the development of the Tangale Chieftaincy Institution, in particular, as well as the general development of the chiefdom, the state, and the country at large.

There are seven clans in Tangale: Banganje, Kalmai, Nathe, Tal, Tanglang, Tangaltong, and Todi. Billie is one of the clans in Tangaltong. The area called Tangaltong includes Billiri, Bare, and Kantali. Each clan has kept its own identity and has its chief who reports to Mai Tangalem Kude (The Big Tangale Chief).

According to the report of Joshua “Usman’s committee page 6, eleven Mai Tangalem Kude ruled the Tangale people before the coming of the Europeans in 1904. These Mai came to the throne in the following successive sequence:

  1. Mai Giu
  2. Mai Akwi
  3. Mai Tangar
  4. Mai Dule
  5. Mai Shomboro
  6. Mai Sheru
  7. Mai Asonong
  8. Mai Bilam
    9.Mai Wuni
  9. Mai Wana
  10. Mai Mela
    Other Mai who followed were Mai Yamba and Mai Iliyasu. All of these Mai were from the same royal family.

It is believed that part of the Tal clan migrated to Pankshin in Plateau State. When the people came there, they did not change their names. They are still called Tal today. Their language and customs are similar to the Tangale.

One of the Tangale clans, the Nathe, is not readily identified because its people are scattered throughout the other Tangale clans. Since this clan does not settle in one area or place, it does not have its chief.

Source: Isa Yunusa

United Tangale-Waja Gimbe South.

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