The Gbagyi people are known to be peace-loving, transparent and accommodating people. Northerners are fond of saying in Hausa language muyi shi Gwari Gwari, “let’s do it like the Gbagyi” or “in the Gbagyi way”.

Although, the word Gwari is a name of a popular yam grown by the Gwari people of Abuja. As a matter of fact, they are the real owners of Abuja, the Federal capital of Nigeria.

They are resourceful and motivational. Daily, they aspire to give life a meaning no matter the situation they find themselves.

They are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, present in four states, namely Niger, Kogi, Nassarawa, kaduna and spread over 31 local government areas in Nigeria.

According to the National Population Census in 2006, their population was put at 5.8 million.

The Gwari people are the largest ethnic group in Abuja, Nigeria hence they hold a very prominent place in the development and growth of the capital city. It would be very difficult to talk about Abuja without mentioning the Gwari people.

One of the customs of Gwari women is the placing of goods however heavy on their shoulder.

Gbari women believe the head represent the king of the entire body; hence it should not be disturbed. It is quite interesting to find out that this custom is still in practice among the Gwari people up till today.

They call the part of their body they place their goods as Bwapa. Gwari women believe the load feel lighter on their shoulders than on their heads. Another reason why this tradition has been upheld till now is that younger ones observe the older ones, hence they take it as a norm.

The Gwari men however are not expected by tradition to carry loads. They believe it was ordained by their ancient God not to carry loads.


Marriage among the people of Gwari is soaked in deep tradition. When a man announces his interest in a woman, he would have to serve 7 years in the bride’s father’s farm, labouring and supplying grains and other produce to the bride’s house in order for her to be well fed. These days, the people of Gwari seem to be aware of the power of money; the groom simply pay the bride’s price instead of serving 7 years in the bride’s father’s house.


It has been claimed that the Gwari people migrated from Borno into the Abuja region (Thurley, 1931) due to conflict with the Kanuri. Additionally, Gwari familiarity with the lapis lazuli stone has been taken in some quarters as indication of Egyptian origin.

Also, the Gwari people are said to have descended from Saunin Minna. They were regarded as the original settlers of Gwagwalada in Abuja.

The first settler according to oral tradition was a hunter who went to hunt in Paikokun land, a thick forest in Abuja. Paikokun was the name of the mountain where the first settler inhabited.

The Gwari people initially used to live on mountain tops because they believed they were safer on the mountain than at the plain. However when western civilization began to spread among the Gwari people, most of them relocated to the plain, with the exception of the older ones who saw the mountain as a source of spiritual power and security. They felt they could protect themselves easily from attackers at the mountain tops by hauling stones at them.


In their traditional religion, some Gbayi believe in a God called Shekwoi (one who was there before their ancestors) but they also devote themselves to appeasing deities of the god such as Maigiro. Many Agbagyi believe in reincarnation.

Indigenously, their main religion is Knunu, which they believe protects them from the evil that exist in the community. They worship the Knunu by offering fowl and beer as a sacrifice to a special tree found deep in the forest (kurmi).

Islam became more prominent among the people after the Fulani jihad while Christianity was introduced to the people by the Sudan Interior Mission (also known locally as Evangelical Church of Africa.)

The Gwari people found it easy to embrace Islam more than Christianity because some practices of Islam such as devotion, using of amulets and polygamy were also practiced in their indigenous religion.


The Gwari people enjoy eating a meal known as Wyizhe. It is made from Guinean corn and it is also used to make a special drink known as Zhepwo. The Gwari people also enjoy drinking a soup known as Knadolo made from locust beans.


They have special clothing known as Ajeside made from local cotton and traditional woven. This clothing is then dyed by special dressmakers.


The two main festival among the Gwari people are Agbamaya festival and the Zhibaje. The Agbamaya is a festival celebrated to welcome the coming of the rain during the rainy season while the Zhibaje festival is usually celebrated during Christmas.


Gwari people are majorly farmers although they are also good in wood fetching, pottery, and blacksmith. Most of the land of the Gwari people were taken up by the Federal Government in creation of the new federal capital in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Gwari people were also well known for their visual art most especially pottery. Other arts practiced by the Gwari people are sculpture, iron smelting, domestic craft and smelting.

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Author: Taofeek Ayeyemi