Sukur Kingdom is a mountain top World Heritage Site located about 356,000 feet above mean sea level in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State in North Eastern Nigeria and three hour drive from Yola, the capital city.
Every visitor to the Kingdom must marvel at how these people created a foot path of stones from the foot of the mountain to the peak—much like the modern interlocking paving stones.
The first gate has a visibly big and small entrance. The big gate is for everybody’s use while the small gate is for the King’s sole use. The Sukur people have a belief that the King is not supposed to share the same passage or any other thing with the ordinary People, therefore the King has his own passage in most of the gates. A sacrifice is performed at each of the gate, for instance at the first gate a goat is slaughtered with the bones buried in the middle of the road and the skin tied from end to end by a special method. Gradually, the extended goat-hide disappears and is believed to be a sign of appreciation and assurance for protection from evil by the Gods.
At the second gate, things became more interesting, a guard named Daikarba and who doubles as the Kingdoms blacksmith is stationed there. His duty alternates between guarding the second gate and the King’s grave yard. The intriguing thing about the Daikarba is that he is not at permitted to see the King face-to-face, and were he does something terrible would befall the King or the people. Once it is late, Daikarba does not allow anyone to pass beyond the gate.
Interestingly at Daikarba house lie a mysterious tree that share a single root but having two different plants growing from it which the Sukur people believe is far from been normal and call it a forbidden tree. The belief is that whoever touches the tree is bound to become a transvestite; having male and female organs.
The King’s compound has a small hut meant for the king to sit and watch all activities taking place in his domain. Few steps away from the King’s hut is a shrine and seats for the king’s men. The shrine known as Medala, has a very deep hole into which their local wine is poured every year sacrificially by only a title holder to ascertain the possibility of good crop yield. Wherein the hole is still filled up a year after been opened signifies a good harvest, but where the hole is empty, it signifies a bad omen and bad harvest.
At the Kings court there is a section were title holders and other people sit and wait to see the King. It’s a rule that matured men are not allowed to stay in the King’s palace.
Though the Sukur Kingdom is made-up of 27 clans, yet only one clan has ruled since the creation of the Kingdom. According to Sukur tradition, only the first wife of the King prepares his food, the rest of his wives serve their duty as ordinary wives to the King.
There were about 27 gates to which guide could not really offer concrete explanations besides loosely tying each to the 27 clans that make-up the Sukur Kingdom. He said nobody in the Sukur Kingdom could say why. Even before contact with the West, the Sukur people were civilized in their own special way. They had their own locally made coin that was used within the community for buying food and other things. This coin is made-up of a substance found on the mountain which they melted and shaped in form of a circle. They also have a multipurpose hall just like the/our National Assembly where decisions and other issues are being discussed. It also serves as court yard where punishment is meted out to offenders. The guilty is tied up by the legs and left in a hole for days until he/she accepts his/her fault. In another form of punishment, the guilty gets thrown in a hole which serves as a prison cell until the King and the King’s men decides to let them out or decide what to do with them. It is only in the multipurpose hall that any citizen has the right to bare their mind to everybody, even to the King.
The physical structure of the kingdom is unexplained, even as it is hard to tell what magic was used by these ingenious people to arrange stones in different shapes, forming a wall that still stands after about five hundred years. It is clearly no child’s play because even the best of civil engineers might have to dig deep to come up with such masterpiece. One cannot help but wonder how much of science the people of Sukur Kingdom must have known even in those days.
According to history, the Kingdom was built by two brothers, Fula and Dovu who came from no particular place anyone could say and left without a trace after they had finished building the palace.
One unique thing feature about Sukur Kingdom is that you don’t leave by the same gate you gained entrance to the palace–there is an exit. At the exit gate there is a forbidden stone and this stone is placed so that it separates the passage for ordinary people and that of the King. This stone is forbidden to be touched by anybody, if anybody go against the rule and touches it small rashes like chickenpox are believed to appear on the person’s body and it has no cure unless a sacrifice is offered to the gods.
More astoundingly, they don’t have a specific deity that they call god but they believe that there is someone up in the sky that is special. The Sukur Kingdom is made up of mostly farmers, hunters and blacksmiths. They grow crops like millet, maize, rice and many others. But the mountain dwellers seem to be living a prehistoric life. They go about half-naked and very far from civilization.
These Sukur people really have a uniqueness that makes their dwelling recognized as a world heritage site.
By Aisha Saleh