Though it never grew to become an Empire in the historical sense, the Berom Nation had the makings of an Empire in n every sense.
Verbal history reveals that the Beroms who were by nature hunters and gatherers had from the early 13th century followed animal migratory patterns traveled from North Africa.
A renowned Berom historian who also fought for the British Empire during world war ll, Late Da Nyam Kanang says the Berom originally started from Rome and made their way southward into Africa, in search for land and glory and being led by key animals like the chwei (Leopard), Murum (Loin), Gbwin (Elephant), Kwaya (Hedjug), Bogwom (Gorilla), Gwom (Python), Kangyang (Gazelle), Yop (Bushbaby), Tok (Fish) Bot (Frog), Tsok (Toad) Gyang (Moose)…etc.
They had brief stopovers the Kanem Borno territories and then for a longer than brief stay in Sokoto (the reason for their reffering to the Buzus as playmates).
They then moved and found a new home on the plains of the Jos Plateau.
According to history, the Beroms, who walked the lands from as far as Jengre (where they had a shrine) through to Jos (Jishe), Dogon Dutse ( Chwel Nyapp…with another shrine there), Du (later) , Foron, Riyom, Gwol (Barikin Ladi also later…during the Tin mining days), met a solitary neighbour living to the East of Jishe….the Gwong or Anaguta, a small farmer population content on their land.
As the Beroms settled on these lands, a part of them moved further on to occupy the land today known as Kagoma in southern Kaduna.
As they established themselves, the Miango and Rukuba later joined them.
History shows that each of these ethnic nationalities first came to present themselves to the Berom ruler (Da Gwom Rwei), they would show him what spiritual powers they had.
The Gwom Rwei would bless them and enjoined them to use their powers for the protection and blessings of the land.
Because of the hunter/gatherer disposition of the Berom man who spent long periods in the forests going after animals, he became more in touch with nature and by key implication, the spirit world.
Like the Native American Indians, the Beroms integrated with such entities, birthing the KWIT culture (spiritism).
The spirits in turn endowed them with different abilities e.g. ( to call down rain and thunder…Mandieng, abilities to excel in hunting, war and other extraordinary feats …Bi Toh, .etc).
They were more in harmony with nature and thus lived with each other through simple covenant rules.
It is this disposition that caused the Berom Nation to not exert control and seek empire expansion status but rather settled for a simple coexistence with neighbors.
Even before the missionaries, the Berom looked to a father in heaven… DAGWEI…the Father in the Sun.
The Berom will normally not swear by any being but by hie/her grave…
When he/she says ..mi ha sag’o..
(I am telling the truth), it also means I speak by my grave.
Sag …means grave.
Though some will say ….ma
shira da Dagwei....(I swear by the name of God) And those who walked by the power of thunder would say...ma shira de gbwara…(I swear by thunder)
He believes if he/she lies or cheats, they will meet in in their graves or God will punish him or thunder will strike him/her.
Yes…those who crossed their brothers or neighbours did die …tragically and untimely.
For those who still hold to the truth today, God and nature still fight on their behalf today.
As to if the Berom Nation had power to ascend to the status?
The Beroms were heavily fortified in their lands so much so that they have never been conquered in battle by any aggressors.
Traditional history says each time any invading armies approached Beromland for war, the grounds around such armies will open up and swallow the invaders.
Meanwhile back home in the shrine, a drum would begin to sound all by itself to warn the land inhabitants of the danger at the outskirts of the city.
This prepared the fighting men and women for the war…which hardly ever reached the city.
A favorite story told was the of the Usman Dan fodio Jihad which could not enter Beromland.
When Dan Fodio’s armies reached the eastern edge of Jos from Bauchi, their marabouts as usual sent their incantations and enchantments (yasin) to go in and distabilize the spiritual cover if the land…but after some time the yasin returned with the message that the city could not be taken because the power protecting it was much.
It warned that any jihadist…including Dan fodio…that entered the land will not return alive.
Dan fodio upon receiving this warning left Beromland, ( but not before dong certain things which we cannot discourse here) went round to conquer the Nasarawa areas but was eventually defeated in Benue state…he returned to Sokoto…
Of the ethnic Nationalities on the Plateau, the Berom Nation is about the only Nationality that does not have a Masquerade or Dodo.
They strongly believe in a supreme being or creator (Dagwei) and the freedom of the human spirit to contact Him.
This was evident in their initial efforts to reach God… which resulted in spiritism and later with the advent of missionaries, their quick acceptance of Christianity.
As the Berom Nation grew, so did their rich cultural heritage, which is today encapsulated in the annual Nzem Berom cultural festival.
Today, the Berom Nation covers 4 local Government areas of Plateau state:
Jos North, Jos South, Gwol (Barkin Ladi) and Riyom LGAs and is presided over by His Majesty Da Jacob Gyang Buba, the Gbong Gwom Jos and head of the Plateau state traditional council.
Some Berom festivals include:
Festival Span Period of Celebration in the year
Mandiyeng From Pre-colonial times March–April
Nshok From Pre-colonial times March–April
Badu From Pre-colonial times March–April
Worong-chun From Pre-colonial times April–May
Vwana/Bwana From Pre-colonial times August
Mado (Hunting festival) From Pre-colonial times October/November
Behwol (Hunting festival) From Pre-colonial times March–April
Nzem Berom Postcolonial March–April
Wusal Berom (Prayer festival) Postcolonial Monthly
Festivals in Berom culture are primarily related to agriculture and hunting, which have been the main events revolving around Berom livelihood and cosmology.
The influx of Christianity and western Education paved way for many socio-cultural changes in Berom culture. The changes devalued the rich culture of the people bringing serious predicament of a severe social and cultural crisis.
In order to avoid the danger of losing the socio-cultural practice of the ancestor, and the overall pre-colonial activities such as the Mandyeng, Nshok, Worom Chun, Vwana, ceremonies were brought into a single umbrella festival called Nzem Berom.
Nzem Berom is held within the first week of April, to coincide with the period when Mandyeng, Nshok and Badu Festival was held. The Nzem is a period when different cultural displays are exhibited from different parts of Berom land, especially in music, dance, arts and culture.
Mandyeng is a major festival celebrated in Berom land to usher in the rainy season. The festivals normally take place in March/ April. In the past the Berom regard Mandyeng/Nshok (they are very similar) the most vital festivals which ensured a good farming and hunting period and harvest. Not all the Berom communities celebrate Mandyeng and Nshok. Those that perform ‘Mandyeng’ claim their roots from Riyom, they include; Vwang, Kuru, Zawan, Gyel, Rim, Bachit, Bangai, Lwa, Sop, Jol, Wereng Kwi, Gwo, Kakuruk, Kuzeng, Kurak, Kuchin, Rahos and Tahoss. Nshok: Nshok slightly varies from Mandiyeng due to the fact that it also associates hunting with the rainy season farming. It is also held once a year around the months of April and May, to usher in the new season just as the Mandyeng.
In the pre-colonial era the Berom regarded hunting as both an occupation and a sport. Although economically it was not as important as farming, hunting was regarded as a show of skill and bravery. So much so, that most Berom names are derived from game animals, most importantly duiker […due to their perceived beauty.
Names such as Pam, Dung (Racoon), Chuwang, Gyang (Moose), Badung etc. for boys are most common, while girls answer to Kaneng, Yop (Antelope). Chundung, Vou, Kangyang (Deer),. These are names for different species of duiker. Others, such as Bot (frog) Tok (fish), Tsok (toad) etc. are names for other animals that are non-domesticated, but not game. These names clearly typify how important game was in pre-colonial Berom society.
Nshok was not the only hunting festival in Berom land. Festivals such as Mado and Behwol existed but are not as important as Nshok
Some of the musical instruments among the Berom include:
• Yom Nshi: a two-string banjo made with calabash and skin as resonators
• Yom: a straw string instrument
• kwag or Gwashak: a scraper made from dry cactus played with a stick slid across the sawed body of the dry cactus to produce a scraping sound
• Kundung: a xylophone made of cattle horns and cobwebs
The Berom have a paramount ruler called the Gbong Gwom Jos.
The various Berom groups of Du, Gyel, Vwang, Foron, Bachit, Ryom and Fan among others were semi-autonomous and each had their individual Be-Gwom (High Chiefs)…these formed the council of Berom chiefs representing the entire Nation and were presided over by a Da Gwom (High Chief)at Riyom.
However, a traditional stool that would converge the entire Beroms into the British system of government through tool of the Hausa-Fulani rulership was created in 1935 by the British colonial administration of Northern Nigeria.
Northern Nigeria was composed of over 600 completely different linguistic and cultural features between the ethnicities on the Plateau and the other groups.
This ignorance of ethnic differences had initially encouraged the formation of vassal Hausa heads to oversee the created Jos Native Authority, which proved tumultuous with the Berom due to conflicting views and interests, given that during the Fulani Jihad of the 1800s, the Berom Nation were never be penetrated or conquered by the Jihadists.
Through a circular; No. 24p/1916[JOS PROF NAK 473/1916], dated 15 August 1917, the Resident at Bauchi Province was instructed to send potentials from various native authorities including district and village heads to be elevated as chieftains by the His Excellency the Governor General.
In response to the circular, the Resident wrote back to the secretary Northern Province Kaduna via a memo No. 24/1916 [JOSPROF NAK 473/1916] dated 27 October 1917, recommended a paramount ruler to superintend the native areas.
In the pre-colonial period, the Berom were divided into autonomous political groups based on regions, but the colonial authority merged them under the Gbong Gwom in 1952 to help coordinate the activities of the natives
During this period, Da Gwom Dachung Gyang was the then supreme ruler of the Berom at Riyom, reigning from 1935 to 1941. Under Dachung Gyang, the traditional institution was designated as the Berom Tribal Council comprising of local chiefs within the Jos Native Authority.
Its authority then only included mainly the Berom and excluded the chiefs of Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru. However, the government, in a Gazette of 7 February 1918, modified the list to include the Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru.
The emergence of Da Rwang Pam (1947 to his death on 14th July 1969) saw the elevation of the head of the Tribal Council to the stool of the Gbong Gwom Jos.
He, along with a Catholic seminarian Da Patrick Dokotri and a Business-man from Mangu/Panyam Mr. Sylvanus Lot founded the movement for the Middle-belt, which later became the Middle-belt forum.
Da Rwang had 11 Children namely
1) Prince Bitrus Rwang Pam – He became Commissioner for Health Benue-Plateau State and a strong driving force of the Middle-belt forum.
2) Princess Vou Rwang Pam – she became wife to one time COCIN General-Secretary, Mr. Bitrus Pam
3) Princess Chundung Rwang Pam – She married Mr. Dung Ballang a tin miner tycoon from Zawang
4) Princess Hwonghei Rwang Pam – She married Mr. Maurice P Davou ( of NTC Zaria) from Gyel
5) Princess Kangyang Rwang Pam – she married Mr. Choji Zang Tot, a businessman from Gyel.
6) Princess Yop Esther Rwang Pam – She married Mr. Bulus Gyang Botsha, a civil servant from Kwang
7) Princess Kachollom Rwang-Pam – She married Mr. Gwom Tsok Reng, a customs officer from Foron
8) Prince Pam Rwang-Pam – A Broadcast marketer/Businessman
9) Prince Davou Rwang Pam- A career Musician (one time leader of the CACTUS BAND)
10) Princess Phwachom Rwang Pam- she married Mr. Adamu Zi from Heipwang, an SSS officer
11) Prince Chwang Rwang Pam – A Businessman/ Pastor who now resides in the USA
Since 1969, the stool has been held by the following:
• Da Fom Bot, 19th August 1969 to his death on 1 December 2002
• Da Victor Dung Pam, 17 April 2004 to 7 March 2009
. Da Jacob Gyang Buba 1st April 2009 to date.
God help Nigeria.