Salmah Muhammad:



Babur/Bura people traced their origin to the mass movement of people from Yemen in the Middle East to the Nile valley by A.D 600. They had dispersed and reached the Sudan and Sahara. The Babur/Bura people together with order tribes like Lucida are believed to have migrated from Yemen via Sudan through the charity basin (Kanem of Borno region) to the present Babur/Bura land in Borno and Adamawa state. In Borno state the Babur/Bura people are found in the following local government area’s  Biu, Hawul, Kwaya-kusar, Shani and Bayo while in Adamawa state they reside mainly in Garkida in Gombi local government areas.

Yamtarawala the first kuthli (king) of Babur/Bura people was a personage of mythic proportions. His legendary beginnings, super-human qualities and dare-devil acts add up to place him on the pantheon of mythical heroes such as Oduduwa of Yoruba and Bayajidda of the Hausa people of Daura.

According to Oral tradition, Yamtarawala’s mother (named Asga) was a slave put up for sale in a slave market. The son of the king of Yemen saw her, liked her and bought her. He took her to his father and announced,”My Lord here is the girl I wish to marry.” But his father also admired the slave girl and wanted her to be his wife.  “No my son the king said, I am the one who would marry her not you”. The king being more powerful than his son eventually married her. 

When her husband was attacked by the king of Egypt, She took the opportunity to escape from the palace and sought refuge in the bush where she lost her way and wandered into the captive hands of slave hunters of the king of Ngazargamu in the former Borno Empire.

The king of Ngazargamu remembered what his marabou had told him one day people would bring a girl to him to marry and that she would bear a child for him. Struck by her beauty and mindful of what the marabou had said, the ruler of Ngazargamu proposed marriage to her,  she accepted and became his wife. When she announced that she was pregnant, he was very delighted. However, one of her bodyguards secretly noted that her pregnancy was too pronounced to have occurred at the Palace. She must have taken in before her arrival at the Palace, he reasoned. He shared his observation with other courtiers but they all agreed to respect the king by keeping the matter secret. She gave birth to a baby boy whom the king named Abdullahi. Soon afterwards she gave birth to another male child whom was named Umar.

After the King’s death, the secret became public knowledge. The king maker’s devised a test to enable them know for sure who the king’s true son was. They gave each son a cow to slaughter according to Islamic rites. The elder son, who was strong and brawny, pulled the cow down and quickly slaughtered it. The younger son couldn’t not undertake task alone. With the assistance of others, he laid the cow on the ground with its head facing the East, then prayed and slaughtered it. That way, the younger son proved to the kingmakers that he is the true son of his father because they reckoned that only the King’s true son would have bonded close enough to him to understand how to perform important duties. Thus Umar, the younger son, was chosen as the new ruler.

Abdullahi moved out of Ngazargamu with seventy two followers. He carted away several weapons from his father’s armory and lead his party in search of a new settlement.

On leaving the Palace of Ngazargamu, Abdullahi defiantly told his detractors, Youman teram wallahi ana sultan in sha Allah which by interpretation means “One day you shall see that I am a chief, God willing.” He was said to have also told them, Yau ma Tara wal_(“One day we will meet again”). Abdullahi was said to have derived his name of Yamtarawala or Yam-ta-wala (Yamta the Great) through remarks as these, remarks which he made or which others made concerning him.


“BIU” is the popular and official spelling but scholars say that “VIU” is the traditional way to spell and pronounce the name. Biu is the last capital of the Babur/Bura people. Biu Emirate is in Southern Borno State, and is made up of four local government areas: Bayo, Biu,Hawul,and Kwaya-kusar. It covers an area of about 7101 km. The latitude of Biu is 10.6111° while the longitude is 12.1950°. Biu is about 765 meters elevation above sea level. This altitude is heightened by the fact that no other city around it is so loftily positioned. This visibility enriches Biu’s dual role as the headquarters of Biu local government area and the traditional capital of the famed Biu Emirate. From the pinnacle of the city and the Emirate, one could cast a long shadowy look into the historic Kingdoms of the plains. To the north of the horizon is the Sheikdom of Borno Emirate; to the east and the west, the Emirates of Adamawa in Adamawa state and Gombe in Gombe state. Biu kingdom has had and continues to have close interactions with these kingdoms. Biu may be the loftiest city in the Emirate but the pride of place reserved for the highest point in the area is claimed by Tilla Hill.


The Babur/Bura people believe every sickness had a spiritual side, the nature of the sickness notwithstanding. Medicine men and women believe that before anything could happen to a man physically, something had gone wrong in the spirit realm. Some potent medical raw materials of the Babur/Bura  people are sourced from plant and animals. These include: Fumwa(shea tree), Mallinga (snake oil), kogu, Dalan(ash), kivi taula(lizard sheet) among others. 

Traditional bone-setters, who specialized in curing fractured or broken bones are mostly hereditary and the skill is a closely-guarded secret.


In the olden days, tribal marks, especially the facial marks were fashionable. They were, perhaps, necessary in those days of slave raids when facial marks enabled captives to identify and socialize with their tribesmen and women wherever they found themselves. Apart from slavery, tribal wars prevalent in those days were major reasons for facial scarification. There were various tribal marks cut into the faces of members of various Biu groups to distinguish members of one clan or sub-clan from another clan lineage. The Babur/Bura bear makings of Biu, Bularaba, Dokshi or Rampta and these distinct marks were made on infants at each side of the mouth or nose or middle of the forehead, on the back, neck or shoulder.


The Babur/Bura people relied heavily on traditional birth delivery and post-natal care. A woman in labour would be attended to by three women. There will also be four men in the room. The husband would lean against the wall and hold his spouse to his chest. The others would equally assist as she was gently pressed. When the baby comes out and happened to be a girl, kongula (a piece of corn stalk) was split and used to cut the umbilical cord, if it was a boy,chara (weed for making arrow shaft) was used instead


In religious terms, the lifestyle of Babur/Bura is simple. Much of the traits were embedded in the traditional setting which encouraged peaceful co-existence and respect for the other person’s belief system. The influence of Islam and Christianity on the people has further shaped the way Babur/Bura interacts among themselves as well as with other people. The mixture of Christian and Muslim in one family is common. There is a preponderance of Christian in some areas due largely to their early contact with the foreign missionaries. Some parts of the Emirate are predominantly Muslim due largely to their exposure to Islamic influences.


To the tourist who may want to relish a taste of the local dish, there is a lot to choose from. Traditional food is mainly made out of grain yolom and trisha, particularly the red variety and corn flour. Soup in Biu land is made out of local legumes, vegetables, and beans (fresh or dried). Soup made of the same ingredients takes different name depending on whether it is prepared when fresh or dried. In dry season when fresh vegetables are scarce, soup is made mainly of dried stuff; it is nonetheless cherished as another delicacy for its sheer variety and taste. Common traditional soups include buraku,shaptan, mboha,sugwi,tabwa etc.



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