The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

One of Nigeria’s many fascinating ethnic groups is the Alago people.

Nigeria unfurls as a complex tapestry of over 250 distinct ethnic groups and languages—a heterogeneous society par excellence. Prominent among its multifaceted population are the Hausa-Fulani in the northern regions, the Yoruba in the west, and the industrious Igbo in the east. However, the narrative often overlooks other, equally remarkable, ethnic communities. Enter the Alago—a major ethnic group that has long been part of the fabric of modern-day Nasarawa State.

Currently, the Alago people inhabit three local government areas within Nasarawa State: Obi, Keana, and Doma, as well as Assakio, a community within Lafia’s jurisdiction. Prior to Nasarawa’s establishment by Ibrahim Babangida
in 1996, these people fell under the administrative umbrella of Plateau State, situated in northcentral Nigeria.

But to truly comprehend the Alago, one must journey back through the annals of history. The Alago originally migrated from the erstwhile Jukun Kingdom—now part of contemporary Taraba State—around 800 AD. They settled in their present localities, guided by a figure of ancestral magnitude: Akyana Adi, whose leadership remains an enduring touchstone in their collective memory.

The geographical tapestry of Keana, Doma, Obi, and Assakio—the ancestral homes of the Alago—is defined by a diverse blend of flat and craggy terrains. Nature has bestowed upon them vivid landscapes and perennial rivers, notably the Akyana Bgobgo, Akyana Poole, and One. The Alago domain extends over an estimated 1,452 square miles and, according to the 2006 census, has a populace of approximately 219,607—each one a native speaker of the Alago language.

In terms of spiritual beliefs, the community is predominantly Muslim and Christian, with only a minuscule representation of traditional faiths. The socio-economic dynamics of the land are marked by a division of labor—farming is largely a male preserve, while the extraction and refining of salt stand as the women’s principal commercial activity.

Culturally, the Alago place a high premium on inter-tribal marriage, fostering centuries-long peaceful coexistence with neighboring tribes like the Gwandara, Eggon, Koro, and Tiv. The culinary offerings of the Alago are unique, the crown jewel being Madidi (also known as Agidi)—a porridge crafted from corn powder that pairs exquisitely with Moi-moi, beans, or vegetable soup.

Though perhaps less familiar to the broader Nigerian consciousness, the Alago community has nonetheless produced notable public figures. Among them are Mike Omeri, former Senator Suleiman Adokwe, Alhaji Abdulahi Osana Hayattudeen, and Hamza Elayo, all of whom have served, or continue to serve, the nation in various capacities.

By delving into the heritage, geography, and societal norms of the Alago, we enrich our understanding of Nigeria’s intricate diversity—a nuanced landscape that goes far beyond the three major ethnic groups often cited. The Alago people not only form an essential piece of this complex puzzle but also offer valuable insights into the nation’s broader tapestry of cultural wealth and resilience.

Ibrahim Mohammed Funsho holds a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from Prince Abubakar Audu University. He is a burgeoning journalist who got his start as an intern with African Independent Television (AIT) in 2014. His areas of interest include Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Gender Equality and Community Development.