Friday, February 20, 2015




There is a popular date in the history of Dagbon that every son of Great Gbewaa is recalled by Dagbon drum historians as Adibo Dalle(The Day of Adibo) this was the day over a century ago in September 1896 when Dagbon fought a battle with Germans colonizers at Adibo,a village 10 kilometres south of the time the king who reigned was Yaa Naa Andani II(popularly called Andan Naanigoo) and he said that his kingdom Dagbon,would not be taken over by the white man 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 all Dagbon resisted colonialism for seven long years

 Andan 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 salve raider Babatu and permitted him to settle in Yendi were 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 Sang,Miong,Sunsong,Dimong and Gbungbaliga.

Rumors had been rife in Dagbon of the coming of the white filtered from the Atlantic coast about them into Dagbon and various description of what they look like had been narrated .some said the white man were like monkeys because they had long nose like those of the monkeys;others said they looked like human but came from the sea.And what else could be coming form the sea other than fish?It is recounted that the people of Sunsong,north of Yendi ,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!

During the last quarter of the year of 1896,rumors intensified about the about the imminent arrival of the white man.on 27th November they had reach Kpandai and by 30th November they overrun Bimbilla  and were now at Pusuga 30 miles south of Yendi.The Bimbilla Naa sent a messenger to inform the Yaa Naa of the fall Bimbilla to the white man,whose advance had been too swift and without notice.The long awaited  clash with the white man had come but the Dagbon army had not been assembled.
stop the Germans:When news of the capture and burning down

Bimbilla reached Yendi,it was ordered that the big war drum be beaten to signifies that the Yaa Naa had declared Dagbon at war and that an attack on Yendi was almost at hand. the section elders of Gagbini,Balogu and Zohi 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,Tampiong,etc,all in the western Dagbon and also great armies of the Paramount chiefs of Karaga,Gushegu and Yelizoli(Zabzugu) had not got the news and were not in Yendi nor did they even have the time to prepare to come to the defence of Yendi.the Ya Na who was very old,after consulting his  oracle advised his lieutenants to negotiate  but KANBON-NAPKEM ZIBLIM will have none of this;the White man would not
enter Yendi while he remained  alive.

From dagbon's points of view,one man whose name comes out for his bravery on the battle days 3rd and 4th December 1896 was the chief of GBUNGBALIGA,KANBON-NAPKEM ZIBLIM.He had promise the Ya 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 NAPKEM WOHU and rode a white stallion horse,carried two guns and a sword to match his status,Kanbon Nakpem means chief warrior,and wohu 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 gbagno a local bullet proof vest(the GBAGNO,a simple smock decorated with talisman and soaked with concoctions,is still abound is the GBAGNO that is worn by southern kings and chiefs as "BATAKARIKESE",something which is obviously bequeathed to them from Dagbon) and believed that no metal in the form of a bullet or knife could penetrate his body.Several dagbani poems and accolades are dedicated to the memory of this great son Dagbon

The kanbonsi(warriors of Dagbon) dress like Southerners preferring to wear cloths (however cumbersome) instead of the smock that is identified with northerners,they jokingly refer to any king or chief of Dagbon as Mmaanbia;and referring to Ya Na as Mmaambii Naanigoo,They asked him to wait patiently;that they will capture and bring the white men to him the time the  five divisional chiefs reached Yendi on Wednesday 2nd December the Germans were already at Laginja,only fifteen miles from Yendi and in the afternoon  Kanbon Nakpem Wohu  marched his troops
southwards  in a bid to halt them.Thursday 3rd December 1896 the Dagbon army was encamped on a hill at Adibo they waited and watch and by afternoon horsemen were sent to search and scan through the thickly wooded bushes below them .it was harvest time and the guinea corn crop used for brewing pito,a local beer,had grown tall,nothing was observed all day.historians have relayed that accounts from persons who were actually present in this battle agree in accessing the numbers of the Dagbon army at about 2500 gunmen ,130 horse men and about 2000 archers.the Germans expedition was led by DR.GRUNER and  consisted of 136 soldiers armed with rifles and commanded by CAPTAIN VON MASSOW.

Next morning Friday 4th December.they took up positions again and Kambon Nakpem Wohu  drew up his war formation;he would be at the center at the the head of the yendi force of gunmen .on his right wing he put the chirifo and and backed  him with the chief of Miong  and sang who were also leading a group of gunmen .to his left he placed the Damankung who had behind him the chiefs of Dimong ,Kunkon and Sunsong with their Powers.between the three divisions and to the front were mounted  spear men and an elite  group of Kokonbas archers who accompanied the Dimong Naa..this is how the battle lines were drawn on that Friday morning  which also happened to be a special Yendi market day.Alizumma-koofe-dali
The battle of Adibo was the time of the Europeans scramble Africa for Africa and so the Germans were in a competition with the English  in this part of west Africa ;only by the establishing of a permanent station in an area  could one power demonstrate Germans was in a hurry to establish as many stations as possible and Yendi was a prize they had their eyes on this will prove not to be an easy task.

The Germans had earlier spied on Dagbon to prepare for what they called the Togo hinterland expedition and had warned the German government  of the powerful  Dagomba kingdom in the north .in may 1896.Dr gruner had tried to enter Yendi under the pretext of
passing through to Sansane-Mongu ;but the Na or king of Yendi refused to let him pass through Dagomba country .so this time round GOVERNOR  KOHLER attached lieutenant  VALENTIN VON MASSOW to join Dr.gruner in the expedition which include 4 Germans (lieutenant massow as supreme commander,Dr. gruner,lieutenant Thierry and sergeant Heitmann),91 trained mercenaries,46 carriers(armed with modern rifles)and 231 other carriers,this group was considered  "the most powerful expedition in the region"

To make their move to occupy Dagbon, the Germans waited for the beginning of the harmattan and the dry season ,because- traditionally the grass will be burnt,"the soldiers badly needed  the open space and they were afraid of being attacked in the bush

About 15 kilometers south of Yendi at Adibo the Dagomba army blocked the road the village of Adibo is place on a little hill ,sloping towards NAPKACHIE to the south,"the dagomba army took a favourable military position on the hill .for the Germans ,it was difficult to develop their combat order on the battle field because first on the ground they had to pass a small passage man by man in a single file .in this very important moment  the expedition was defenseless but the dagombas  war chief missed this chance to give the signal to attack the expedition  because for moral and strategic reasons he prefer being attacked by the Germans first

Without been disturbed down at the beginning of the slope,lieutenant Massow arranged his band of mercenaries in three platoons and behind them followed those who carried supplies .Dr Gruner followed in the rear with a forth platoon of the other carriers  armed with rifle ready to fight to the right and to the left .in this military formation the expedition move forward towards the Dagbamba "Approximately 300 meters in front of the the dagomba army the Germans expedition stopped..the dagomba army remained in their position on top of the hill in a line of nearly one kilometers long
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

Kanbon Napkem Wohu 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 expert  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 20 to 30 maters .but the Germans bullets were coming  too far and too fast ,the dagombas  warriors had not 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 Kapkema realised that the Germans side could shoot repeatedly with their guns without having to reload.what sort of guns are these Germans  using ,they wondered ? realising  how fast his men were being depleted ,kambon napkem wohu then gave another order and...the dagombas warriors at once changed their method of attack.they attacked in small groups and came close to 30 meters ,but still according to Dr,Sebald, the "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.the horse men had the role only to pursue the enemy when they are beaten and are fleeing that is their understanding of winning a war- you have to overthrow the enemy and see them fleeing 

Not able to decipher the fire power they were facing the command went round in Dagbani "LIMSI MI YA, LIMSI MI YA" meaning that the warriors  should take cover because  the guns facing them were not loaded like theirs. this time  for the first time the Dagomba army broke and retreated ,confused at the new type of weapons and warfare  they were encountering .[the situations was similar to the other colonial wars with the Asante kingdom .Although the Asante performed well,superior weapons  allowed the British to carry the day,1826 the British used Congreve rocket to frightened Asante warriors on the Accra plains ,the Asante believing that the enemy was using thunder and lighting  against them.they panicked and fled to Kumasi.]

 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  long with their horses.tragically,kambon 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 Dimong,Kunkong and many other elder warriors the Sapashinnema"

Many too on the German side were killed ,including Sergent HEITMANN and a quarter of the mercenary force aRmy were wounded.the Germans had won this battle but no the war .the bulk of the Dagombas warriors escaped and Dr Grunner's men could not take any the afternoon of the same day  4th December 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,Gbunbgaliga 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 Ya Na as informed the the kanbon napkema wohu 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 Ya Na to go to safety until one of his son the chief of sang arrived ans persuaded him that if he had to die then he should be killed where his father Na Yakuba's grave was .in present day Yendi this grave is marked by a big baobab about 400 meters behind the palace  towards Kuga and so the Ya 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 they were
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 Sunsong  on their way to Sansane-Mongu(a town in present day Togo)

An incident occurred in Yendi the day after the battle in which the Achiri kpema of Yendi is said to have killed himself.he went to the Ya Na palace  the day after and was questioned why he survived when the kanbon -nakpem wohu and many of his colleagues died back in the battle what be live for?did he like food more then 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 batter at the battle,the achiri kpema is said to have gone in his room ,loaded his gun and shot himself through the mouth.

 The day of Adibo fell on Friday a Yendi market day ;and market days that fall om Fridays are special and attended in a grand style  even up to this day these market days are called  alizumma -koofe in the local parlance,because in the olden days young women  decorated them selves beautifully eith 'koofe'(a kind of beads) around their waist to show to the young men at the market.

'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.(alizumma-koofe).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 kanbonsi  also have a special brisk-dance in remembrance of those who fell in that battle the song for the dance goes like this.

"tinim zhin zo,tinim zhin zo ka Adibo dal'la? nagla din ko?
the song simply says "we ve never run away from battle,never,..then someone will teased saying  "what about The Battle of Adibo" and they will respond back saying "oh we run only on that day".
they also chant during the dance "Adibo dal'la Mba n daa nye doo yiee" meaning "on the day of Adibo my fathers was the bravest" kanbon nakpem ziblim has a special dirge composed by Dagbon praise singers in his honour.

For the next three years the white man was still trying to occupy Dagbon but faced the combined forces of Mole-Dagombas and Kokonbas .in all the Germans colonialist(known in dagbani as German do dziegu) 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 man then exploited local animosities which led to another  important date in dagbon history 'The Day of Sang'-(Sang Dal'la)after which they raided Yendi again and burnt the palace for the second time..

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