You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2016 08 28Article 465604

Opinions of Sunday, 28 August 2016

Columnist: Hardi, Ibrahim

Kanbon Napkem Ziblim was the hero on that day; the Germans won the battle but not the war!

History taught us that in the year 1886, rumors had been in Dagbon in the early days of the coming of the white man into the Dagbonland. News filtered from the Atlantic coast about them into Dagbon area of northern part of Ghana and various description of what they look like had been narrated. Some said the white men were like monkeys because they had long nose like those of the monkeys; others said they are like monkeys but with long hair; others said they looked like human but came from the sea. And our forefathers believe that,what else could be coming from the sea other than fish?. In the northern party of Ghana,some people don't know what sea is due to the geographical location. It is recounted that the people of Sunso?, north of Yendi in the northern region of Ghana,laugh at how easy it will be for them to catch these human fish; since these white men were coming from the sea they could be captured with the help of fishing net!. They went round looked for fishing nets and waited for the arrival of the white men.

There is a popular date in the history of Dagbon that every Great Son should know,it is recalled by Dagbon drum historians as Adibo Dali (The Day of Adibo). This was the day over a century ago in September 1896 after a decade my people were contemplating what a white man was. During the last quarter of the year of 1896, rumors intensified about the imminent arrival of the white men. On 27th November 1896 they had reach Kpandai and by 30th November they overrun Bimbilla and were now at Pusuga few miles south of Yendi. The Bimbilla Naa sent a messenger to inform the Yaa-Naa of the fall of Bimbilla to the white men, whose advance had been too swift and without notice. The long awaited clash with the white men had come but the Dagbon army had not been assembled to Stop the Germans.

When news of the capture and burning down Bimbilla reached Yendi, it was ordered that the big war drum of Dagbon be beaten to signify that the Yaa-Naa had declared Dagbon at war and that an attack on Yendi was almost at hand. The sectional elders of Gagbini, Balogu and Zo?i rushed to the palace, hotfoot and dispatched messengers to all corners of the kingdom to tell chiefs, whom they represented in court at the palace, that all the armed might of Dagbon should rally to Yendi to repel an invader the white man. But as this move too late, the Germans advance was too swift and only a handful of chiefs were able to rally. The important and powerful chief of Kumbungu, Savelugu, Tolon, Tampio? etc, all in the western part of Dagbon and also great armies of the Paramount chiefs of Karaga, Gushiegu and Yelizoli (Zabzugu) had not got the news in time and were not in Yendi nor did they even have the time to prepare to come to the defense of Yendi.

The Yaa-Na was very old at that time, so after consulting his oracle advised his lieutenants to negotiate but KANBON-NAKPEM ZIBLIM will have none of this; the White man from Germany colonizers would not enter Yendi while he remained alive. This happened when Yaa Naa Andani ll, popularly called Andani Naanigoo. Kanbon Napkem Ziblim said,his kingdom Dagbon, would not be taken over by the white men and that he would protect it at all cost. But his kingdom was threaten by the European from all directions from the south by the Germans, from the west the British and the from the north by the french. In all Dagbon resisted colonialism for seven long years.

Yaa-Naa Andani Naanigoo's reign was long and in his youth he led and personally commanded the Dagbon army to score many victories. He had warded off the invading Zambarramas who had come conquering from afar; he also subdued the notorious slave raider Babatu and permitted him to settle in Yendi where he die and his grave is now a tourist destination. He had also undertaken the unpleasant duty of disciplining recalcitrant sub chiefs who had become bullies in their areas or had become treacherous. Unfortunately all these exploits were in his youth and when the treat from the white men became a reality, Naa Andani was very old and nearly blind. Nevertheless a hurriedly assembly army fought a heroic battle under the leadership of army divisional chief from Sa?, Mio?, Sunso?, Dimo? and Gbungbaliga.

At this battle at Adibo,one man whose name comes out for his bravery on the battle days 3rd and 4th December 1896 was the warrior chief of GBUNGBALIGA, KANBON-NAKPEM ZIBLIM. He had promise the Yaa-Na that he would apprehend any white man who would step foot in Dagbon. This chief warrior was indeed a remarkable soldier and fighter. Well built, brave and an inspiration to his troops. He was affectionately called KANBON NAKPEM WOHU and rode a white stallion horse, carried two guns and a sword to match his status, Kanbon Nakpem means chief warrior, and wa?u means snake. He was likened to a snake because he said that to kill him, the combined effort of many people wielding truncheons was need, as is done with Snake. He was also known as the-one-who-sweeps-all that stands his way, he fortified himself wearing his powers, a Gba’ano a local bullet proof vest (the Gba’ano, a simple smock decorated with talisman and soaked with concoctions, is still abound today. It is the Gba’ano that is worn by southern kings and chiefs as "BATAKARIKESE", something which is obviously bequeathed to them from Dagbon, when Ashantehene Osei Tutu invited Yaa Naa Gariba for peace talks in 1715, and believed that no metal in the form of a bullet or knife could penetrate his body.

In Bimbilla the Germans proved an attack when they started burning the town but the Dagombas had met them for an open combat well outside Yendi. Therefore at Adibo the Germans had to take an initiative so Von Massow started to provoke a counter attack from the Dagomba. At high noon Massow commanded a VOLLEY-FIRE from each of the three platoons. Kambon Nakpem Wa?u responded by ordering his men to surge forward and so they did encircling the Germans expeditions. This was just what the Germans had wanted, to get the Dagombas closer to within the range of their modern rifles. But for the Dagombas something was amiss, at the distance they stood they did not expect to be hit by bullets. They knew only the traditional rifles, the so called muzzle loaders after shooting once it took nearly two minutes until one could shoot again and even then the effective distance has to be at few meter. But the Germans bullets were coming too far and too fast, the Dagombas warriors had never seen a breach loader gun before and therefore many of them were shot or wounded before reaching an effective distances for their own weapons. It was after some amount of fighting that the Kanbon Nakpem realized that the Germans side could shoot repeatedly with their guns without having to reload. What sort of guns are these Germans using, they wondered? Realizing how fast his men were being depleted, Kanbon Nakpem wa?u then gave another order, The Dagombas warriors at once changed their method of attack. They attacked in small groups and came close to 30 meters, but still Dagombas could not come close enough to start a direct fight man to man. The horse men could have covered the distance faster but by Dagombas traditional warfare they were situated behind the warriors. For the first time the Dagomba army broke and retreated ,confused at the new type of weapons and warfare they were encountering. The losses of the Dagomba were terrible; 430 dead on the battle field including war chiefs (sapashinnema) who, on the hill had tied themselves on chairs with cords to demonstrate to their warriors that they would not run away,some died along with their horses.

Tragically, Kanbon Nakpem Ziblim was shot with a pistol at point blank range when he tried to apprehend a white man with his bare hands. Also killed were the Chirifo and chiefs of Dimo?, Kunko? and many other elder warriors "The Sapashinnema"
Many too on the German side were killed, including Sargent HEITMANN and a quarter of the mercenary force army were wounded. The Germans had won the battle but not the war, bulk of the Dagombas warriors escaped and Dr. Gunner’s men could not take any prisoner. In the afternoon of the same day 4th December 1896 the remainder of the expedition continued towards Yendi. When the Dagombas effort to stop the white man collapsed word quickly spread on the road from Adibo through Choo, Gbungbaliga to Zugu and to Yendi that the engagement with the white man at Adibo was disastrous. People then started to abandon their villages and to take cover in the bush, the Germans burnt every village they pass by and when they got to Yendi at sun down the market had been abandoned; and they met a ghost town.

The Yaa Na was informed that Kanbon Nakpem wa?u had fallen in the battle and that he was to be taken out of his palace to safety but he refused to leave. It was very difficult persuading the Yaa-Na to go to safety until one of his son the chief of sang arrived and persuaded him that if he had to die then he should be killed where his father Na Yakubu’s grave was. In present day, this grave is just in front of the newly built Gbewaa palace. In those days,marked by a big baobab about 400 meters behind the palace towards Kuga and so the Yaa-Na was taken to his father's grave where he remained till the next day.

Lieutenant Von Massow and his men then destroyed and burnt Yendi down. They also looted, taking with them some valuables from the Gbewaa Palace, but they were still afraid of counter attacks given the number of Dagombas warriors who escaped from Adibo. Also short of ammunition and could not stay too long in Yendi so they continue the same evening along the road and camped for the night at Sakpeigu. The following morning they hurried away towards Sunso? on their way to Sansane-Mongu (a town in present day Togo).

The Achiri kpema of Yendi killed himself. He went to the Yaa-Na palace the day after and was questioned why he survived when the Kanbon -Nakpem wa?u and many of his colleagues died back in the battle,what do we live for?, Did he like food more than fame?, when he got back to his house he was further attacked by his wife as a good for nothing warrior ,that he could have done better at the battle, the Achiri kpema gone in his room ,loaded his gun and shot himself through the mouth. The day of Adibo fell on Friday a Yendi market day.

"The Day of Adibo" is remembered in Dagbon as a solemn occasion, the Ya-Na stays indoors and must not appear in public on any market day that falls on a Friday. It is remembered in so many other way- in drum history and on special occasions like the fire festival(Bugum Chugu) or Damba festival. Dagban warriors "Kanbonsi" also have a special brisk-dance in remembrance of those who fell in that battle. Kanbon Nakpem Ziblim has a special dirge composed by Dagbon praise singers in his honor.

For the next three years the white men was still trying to occupy Dagbon but faced the combined forces of Mole-Dagombas and Kokombas. In all the Germans colonialist(known in Dagbani as German do ziegu) were engaged in about 45 battles and skirmishes before they gain control of eastern Dagbon and only after the death of Na Andani Naanigoo, the white men then exploited local animosities which led to another important date in Dagbon history 'The Day of Sang'-(Sa? Dal'la)after which they raided Yendi again and burnt the palace for the second time.


Ibrahim Hardi;contact 0208235615,email; bigkolaaya@yahoo.com