Jukun (Njikum) are an ethno-linguistic group or ethnic nation in West Africa. The Jukun are traditionally located in Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, and Gombe States in Nigeria and parts of northwestern Cameroon.
They are descendants of the people of Kwararafa (Kororofa, one of the most powerful Sudanic kingdoms during the late European Middle Ages.). The ruins of a great settlement to the northeast of the Jukun’s present location are thought to be those of the capital of that kingdom, but the claim has not been thoroughly investigated by archaeologists.
Most of the tribes in the north central of Nigeria trace their origin to the Jukun people and are related in one way or the other to the Jukuns.
The Jukun traditionally possessed a complex system of offices, which had both a political and a religious aspect; the priesthood practiced an involved form of religion marked by diurnal and annual rounds of ritual and sacrifice. The king, called Aka Uku, was—until he became a member of northern Nigeria’s house of chiefs in 1947—a typical example of a semidivine priest-king.
Until the coming of both Christianity and Islam, the Jukun people were followers of their own traditional religions. Most of the tribes, Alago, Agatu, Rendere, Goemai in Shendam, and others left Kwararafa when it disintegrated as a result of a power tussle. The Jukuns are divided into two major groups; the Jukun Wanu and Jukun Wapa.
The Jukun Wanu are fishermen residing along the banks of the river Benue and Niger where they run through Taraba State, Benue State and Nasarawa State. The Wukari Federation, headed by the Aku Uka of Wukari, is now the main centre of the Jukun people.
The Jukuns are divided into two sub-groups, the Jukun Wanu and Jukun Wapa. The main centre/capital of the people is Wukari and it is headed by the Aku Uka of Wakari.
The locals converse in a language that belongs to the Niger-Congo family’s Benue-Congo branch. The population is made up of numerous smaller groupings that are each structured differently, while polygynous extended families appear to be the predominant social structure.
The language can be divided into six separate dialects: Wukari, Donga, Kona, Gwana and Pindiga, Jibu, and finally Wase Tofa.
The Jukun are predominantly farmers. The Jukuns have a way of contributing to the economic growth of their community. Crops produced in the Jukun kingdom include yam, maize, rice, groundnut, guinea corn, cassava, and vegetables. The people of Jukun also produce fruits such as mango and orange among others. In the area of livestock, forestry and water resources, the Jukun also rear large numbers of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry.
There arfe also fishermen among the people, especially the Jukun Wanu who reside along the banks of River Benua and Niger.
Until the coming of Christianity and Islam, the Jukun people were followers of their traditional Religions. Nowadays, the majority of people are Muslims with few Christians.
The people Jukun have a rich culture and tradition. This is well reflected in their traditional marriage. The bride price here is one of the least in Nigeria, so there are many marriages in the land. For a marriage to occur, the woman must be up to 18 years old and have the consent of her parents or guardian.
Before the marriage ceremony (during courtship), the woman is entitled to Abegya (betrothal money), Abeben (bride price), and Andu (handbag). All these are according to the man’s pocket. The man is also expected to till the land for both his father and mother-in-law (little amount can be paid for this). Shortly after this is the solemnization. The Jukun traditional attire is made of different colours, patterns and weaves. The types of attire worn by the people include Kadzwe, Ayin-po, Adire, and Baku. Kadzwe is used by the Jukun rulers for royalty. The main colour of their traditional attires is black and blue.
The Jukun traditionally possessed a complex system of offices, which had both a political and a religious aspect; the priesthood practised an involved form of religion marked by diurnal and annual rounds of ritual and sacrifice. The king, called Aka Uku, was—until he became a member of northern Nigeria’s house of chiefs in 1947—a typical example of a semidivine priest-king.
The king of the Jukun, known as the Aku Uku, lives in the town of Wukari from wher he rules his 30.000 people. Statues are found predominantly among the Jukun people in the North West and represent ancestors, as well as wives and slaves. They are displayed during funerals, agricultural cermonies and in times of danger.
The Jukun traditiuonal attire is made of different colors, patterns and weaves. The types of attire worn by teh people include Kadzwe, Ayin-Po, Adire and Baku.
Kadzwe are used by the Jukun rulers for royalty. The main color for the traditional attires is black and blue.
“The area lying to the north of the Niger and Benue Rivers includes a range of mountains covered by a Savannah. Archaeological excavations have revealed traces of human activity on the Jos plateau and tin the Benue River valley dating from the Stone Age – 39,000 years ago.
Over time, the indigenous Beue-kongo and Adamawa-speaking people of this area were infiltrated by Chad-speaking tribes who migrated from the east and north. this created a mosaic of people with different social and religious traditions. Nevertheless, common artistic conventions can be found among the majority of the people who live in this area. For example, shoulder masks are worn by the Mumuye, the Jukun and Waja people and red seeds are often applied on the surface of headdresses and masks.
Tribes such as the Mumuye, the Chamba, the Jukun, the Wurkun, the Geomai and the Montol live along the Benue River in eastern Nigeria, while the Waja, the Mama, the Hausa, the Koro and the Dakakari people settled in the northern part of the country.
The king of the Jukun, known as the Aka Uku, lives in the town of Wukari from where he rules his 30,000 people. he leads the cult of the ancestors who are in turn responsible for the welfare of the tribe.
Statues are found predominantly among the Jukun people in the north west and represent ancestors, as well as wives and slaves. They are displayed during funerals, agricultural ceremonies and in times of danger. During these rites, the figures serve as an intermediary between the priest and the ancestor’s world. In the south-western part of the Jukun territory, the role of intermediary is held by male dancers who wear shoulder masks that have a round head, a flattened face and a smooth coiffure.”
(Jean-Baptiste. The Tribal Arts of Africa. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1998. Print.)
The Jukun-speaking peoples trace their ancestry to the rulers of the kingdom of Kwararafa, a state which existed in Western Africa from the 14th through to the 18th centuries. Traditionally, Jukun society was governed by a monarch.
The monarchs of the kingdom of Kwararafa, a state that flourished in Western Africa from the 14th to the 18th century, are the ancestors of the Jukun-speaking peoples. Thus, the Jukun society had historically been ruled by a monarchy.
Furthermore, like other Jukunoid groups, the Jukun Kona can trace their ancestry to the Middle East, particularly Yemen. When they and other Jukunoid groups first arrived in the region of Nigeria, they made their initial home in the Gongola and Benue valley.
From there, they moved to establish their first distinct settlement, known as the Kuro or kingdom, in the current Lau local government area, under the leadership of the Kuru (chief), who had authority over life and death.
However, history has it that the Jukun people originated in Yemen. They scattered to different locations and moved into Egypt. The Jukun Kona’s culture shares several traits with pre-dynastic Egypt. After that, they entered the Lake Chad Basin. Thus, the Jukun’s country of origin is Sudan. The Kuteb, who dwell close by the Jukun and speak a kindred language, have a legend that they left Egypt around a thousand years ago.
As a result of the Fulani conquests at the start of the 19th century, led to the political division of the Jukun-speaking peoples into numerous regional factions. Therefore, by the 1920s, the majority of the Jukun people—the Wapâ—lived in and around Wukari and were ruled there by the local king and his government.
Furthermore, the Jukun wanu of Abinsi, Awei District, Donga, and Takum, as well as other Jukun-speaking populations residing in the Benue basin, maintained their political independence from the Wukari government, and the Jukun speakers in Adamawa Province recognized the Fulani Emir of Muri’s authority as governor.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has seen violence in the post-colonial era as a result of several ethnic disputes between the various communities that call the nation home. Thus, the Jukun and the nearby Tiv tribe, who originated in Congo, are at odds.
As a result of the Fulani conquests at the beginning of the 19th century, the Jukun-speaking peoples became politically divided into various regional factions. By the 1920s, the main body of the Jukun population, known as the Wapâ, resided in and around Wukari, where they were governed by the local king and his administration. Other Jukun-speaking peoples living in the Benue basin, such as Jukun wanu of Abinsi, Awei District, Donga and Takum, remained politically separate from the Wukari government, and the Jukun-speakers in Adamawa Province recognised the governorship of the Fulani Emir of Muri.
In the post-colonial period, Nigeria has suffered violence, the result of multiple ethnic tensions among the different communities living in the country. Tensions exist between the Jukun and the neighbouring Tiv people, who migrated from Congo.