History Of Mboi

     The Sociolinguistic Survey of Mboi Language Community in Adamawa of Nigeria



Sociolinguistics according to Britannica, is the study of sociological aspects of language. The discipline concerns itself with the part language plays in maintaining the social roles in a community. It attempts to isolate those linguistic features that are used in particular situations and that marks the various social relationships among the participants and the significant elements of the situation (www.britannica.com). Also, sociolinguistics is defined on the other hand as “a discipline that is capable of combining linguistics and societal concerns in varying degrees” (Fasold 2004:np).

Survey in comparison to the sociolinguistics is a way of research on the language and its relationship to the users.

Therefore, this book looks into the perspective of the lifestyle of Mboi people as of the typical nativity. The beliefs, norms, values which is to say the culture in view.  This survey includes identification of Mboi as a language group, and identifying the appropriate linguistic need for the development.

This book covers the historical, the geographical, and the demographical description that Mboi inhabitants cover in majority. It also looks at record of monarchy, some of the societal and cultural factors, such as economical, external relationship and political factors as well as Linguistics and Sociolinguistics, of where the topics may extend to the educational literacy and literature, and then religious aspects in a general view of the analysis about the world of Mboi in perspective. To do this within a language, both dialects discovered should be developed (one after the other) in order to meet the needs of the language. But for the purpose of this survey, there is a dialectical comparison of Mboi as a language group which has two major dialects, Mboi itself and Handa in other to give clarity over the variations found. 


Mboi Language group are about 37,000 speakers (Joshua project 2001-2005) are located in the central part of Adamawa, in the North-East of Nigeria. Their settlement is at neighbouring with Hona and Lala from the North, then Yungur from West, Southern Part of the Local Government, and Ɓata from East.

Mboi with iso code ‘moi’ are reported to belong to Niger Congo of Adamawa language phylum of Ɓəna-Mboi sub-group. It is believed that Niger-Congo family is one of the largest family of the world’s language families rating as the third language family in terms of speakers and Africa’s largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers and the number of distinct languages (Ethnologue 18th ed. 2015).


Oral tradition has it that “Mboi Language got the name from the onset at the Tower of Babel (The Biblical historical place which nursed a belief that it was the first place of Language variations creation)” (Rev. Ezekiel Gummiya). The name was from the two words mei meaning “I say that” and ɓoi sometimes addressed as aɓoi meaning “brother or fellow” (as of male). These were the keywords that gave signals to the first group of people to identify themselves as “people of the same language”. These terminologies were used between them until the time that other languages identified them with the regular use of ɓoi, mei…  “Brother, I say that” Although linguistically, the word “mboi” is seldom used among Mboi people to refer to as an interrogative sentence (what is the reason?). Therefore, by the frequent use of the terms ɓoi, aɓoi, mei and mboi. The words became a day-to-day term in the hearing of most of the people around them and were continued to be addressed as “The People of Mboi” and they themselves proudly agreed with the name given unto them since it was an acceptable and remarkable word being used among them.

A myth continued to hold within the people’s group about their patriate that Mboi people left Babel, and found their way to Niamey the Capital city of Niger, then after settling for some years, some left for Tanzania and others to Zimbabwe. Majority of the two groups later relocated to Mandara at the boarders of Cameroun, then others to Yarma part Northern Nigeria, presently Borno State. The live in Yarma was not that comfortable for them where they left and trooped in Mukan and settled in the northern part of the Nigeria-Cameroon border from the Benue River (South) to Mora, Cameroon (North). That was a place of abode for them, since they stayed there for a long time; say a century, yet majority of them parted to Kance and Cimboi, Zoyõ, Shitto and Piyaʒi mountains. Apart of Handa people as a dialect, the Mboi dialect were scattered on the Mboi plateau of different locations namely Batan, Bərazefta, Bukci, Damlam, Biba, Dana, Bufano and Murvici. These ancient residential locations have good fertile green pasture and vegetation that are watered by spring and marshy steep slopes. As of present days, most of those areas are occupied by Fulani herdsmen and some of the Mboi farmers that climbed up there for the farming purpose. Almost all the inhabitants left the flat-top mountain areas around 1912 and went down to their present communities.

Presently, Mboi as a group of people are predominately located in Song Local Government and few are found in Gombi, Girei, Shelleng and Fufore Local Government Areas of Adamawa State in Nigeria in the West African.


The Dialects in Mboi

It is linguistically proven that Mboi language has two major dialects (Mboi and Handa) base on their morphology and syntax, even their lexicons are distinct despite having closely related phonological symmetry as researched by the same author. Although Blench (2019) and Glottolog says that the language has three dialects (Mboi, Handa and Banga). According to him, Handa seemed to be another language. However, the researcher’s findings has refute this account based on the aforementioned findings and having been part of the community for over twenty years.  The language has only two dialects. Neverthless, each of the two major dialects has some little sub-variations, for example, Wambəta of Mboi and Banga of Handa are those category of sub dialectal differences that could not stand to be an independent dialect. Thus, Mboi stands to be a name of the language as well as a name of one of the major dialects.


The people as a language group and a community as well has a large place occupied by them as monolingual, although, mixed with a few groups of other languages as Yungur, Gudu, and Ɓata with their own small communities.

In Mboi District where almost all the people in the covered area are Mboi by tribe. The tarred Federal road passes through the settlement thereby dividing the district into two. The right-hand settlements are only 30% and are living by the road side but the left-hand side communities extended into plateau areas of Mboi which is rich with mineral resources. Almost 70% of those by the left are far away from the road and the LGA Headquarter. The roads and paths to those areas are not that good for easy transport by cars, although some commercial cars and the private ones that are concerned for one reason or the other do manage to use the roads. Those communities of Mboi are distributed the contours of the plateaus around their valleys and mountain foot. The good thing about settlement is that all the communities have local roads that connected them to ease the transport. But all easy transport has to be done in a dry season, 90% of the roads in the district are very sticky when wet by rain. No vehicle can drive or ride successfully for a distance of 1Km without stopping to remove mud from tires or mudguard. Even those who trek must remove their shoes before walking.     


The percentage of Mboi among others in Song Local Government cannot be easily comprehended, but this book tried to give an approximate estimation as it is shown to give light to the reader.

Below is a table showing the approximate percentage of Mboi people in Song LGA (their base):                             

Language Groups

Percentage within the LGA











Other minorities




The estimate of the Mboi percentage in Song Local Government Area of Adamawa State population is 30%, of which the other Language groups formed the rest of the 70%; Ɓəna-Yungur has 50%, then Ɓata has 15% and Fulani with 3%, Hausa occupying 1%, then the remaining 1% is covered by the other minority groups, say, Kamwe, Kilba, Lala, Gudu, Gompa, Honna, Bura, Ga’anda, Igbos, Yorubas among others.

    1. The extend of the people living in other places apart from Song Local Government

Fufore LGA: The population of Mboi people within the territory of Fufore LGA of the same state is approximated to be only 5%, although scattered in different small geographical locations, but looking at the people as a group, they make a good and encouraging number with a good unity identity.

Gombi LGA: The people have a small portion and number of at least 2% occupied by them as a group occupying some villages, most especially for farming and business purposes.

Girei LGA: This is also another place of abode for Mboi people that contains about 5% of Mboi as a language group, among Ɓata, Mbula, Bacama, Yungur, Fulani, Honna, etc.

Shelleng LGA: The Mboi people living in Shelleng may approximately reach 5% also just as that one of Fufore LGA of Adamawa State. Majority of which are Kanakur who called themselves Dera, then followed by Lala, then Yungur among others.

Looking at the percentage of the group of the people in all, we will realize that in their hundred percent, almost 65% of them live in rural areas and the rest of the 35% live in towns and cities. This is as a result of farming, most of them are commercial and a few are subsistence farmers which consist rearing of domestic animals.   

The Mboi people living in the mentioned villages as you have seen in their map, they have only a few people from other language groups living among them some of the people living in Mboi are Ɓəna-Yungur, Gudu, Lala, Honna and Fulanis. With all these, even if the whole of these groups is amalgamated together, their population will not reach 25% of the Mboi people living in the communities, but they may be 20%  


In occupation and income of the Mei-Mboi people farming, rearing of domestic animals are the strongest and richest factors that contributes a lot in the growth and development of their day-to-day’s activities. This is followed by trading, civil service and hunting. See the table below on how is illustrated.


Sources of income in rural areas



Rural areas (Villages)







Civil servants





On the other hand, in comparison to those living in the urban areas, most of the urban dwellers are business men and women then followed by the civil servants and a few farmers although almost all of the urban dwellers practice farming too as for subsistence purpose, but not as extensively as that of the rural dwellers. The main purpose for urban dwellers farming is for their personal consumption, relying on salaries and business interest for their income.

Sources of Income in urban areas



Urban dwellers



Business men/women


Civil servants







 The food crops cultivated in both the rural and urban areas are based on what has been the priority as provided by the interest of the culture; things like sorghum bicolor, bitter lemon, beni-seed, maize, rice, beans, groundnut, okra and guinea-corn. The inhabitants of Mboi do go to big markets of mainly Song which serve as their hometown and center of transaction, then Gombi, Girei, Zangra, Dumne, Fotta and Golantaɓal market. With all these centers of marketing, they base their commercial activities in Song main market.

Not only has this, observing the crops they are producing in line with their neighboring communities I realize that their products undergo some exchange with some services, most especially in the market of Song, Gombi, Golantaɓal, Loko, Zangra, Dumne, Barikin Sajo Murke and Fufore. The services so far serving as exchange commodity are listed below based on the environmental riches.

Markets Places


Dumne, Zangra, Golantaɓal, Loko

Guinea-corn, sweet melon, banana, mango, guava, cashew, beni-seed, water-melon, tomato, onion and other vegetables. 

Barikin-Sajo- Murke,

Gombi, Song and Fufore


Consist of the whole above food stuffs plus the complex services. e.g. Cattle, Bikes wheel-arrows, fueling stations, and timber shops.



Guinea-corn, sweet melon, banana, mango, guava, cashew, beni-seed, water-melon, tomato, onion and other vegetables. 


The Traditional compensations made for marriage


Compensation can be made in diverse ways among Mei-Mboi people. There are some that are seen as olden days’ ways of life (although the memory is still alive) and those that still exist. For example, courtship for marriage, the young man that sought the hand of a lady in proposing for marriage is responsible to be going to work on his parents-in-laws’ farm three times a year for good three years before the issue of bride price comes in as a fixed amount of what to be paid as a rite. The three times work on farm a year was not that the young man should work alone, rather, he would organize a friendly communal work which consisted of his cordial friends to be doing the works. As Abi has earlier said, this was severally practiced from the medieval days to 20th century, although it seldom happens among this 21st century generation but only a few, most especially in villages.

Compensation made for services in the culture


To pay for something, the valued means was by working for the provider in the decision of the needy. For example, if someone is in need of food and he is sure that one person has it. The person in need go to the provider’s farm early in the morning and work until the owner comes to the farm and beholds him. On seeing the man working on the farm, this may inform the provider that this fellow is in need. He would therefore ask to know the need and later in the day be given to him. Unlike nowadays that most youths go to request the consent of the provider and negotiate for the work and the amount to be paid. This is almost always done mostly on monetary material.

On the other hand, with the issue of owing and not able to pay back, one can negotiate with the person he owes and work either on his farm or any business centers or any domestic activities that the Mboi culture warrant a guarantee as a compensation for any services. For example, when Mr. A borrowed money or foodstuffs from Mr. B to be paid back later, and was not able to pay them back, it is culturally allowed for Mr. A to willingly negotiate with Mr. B to work on any labour center that may compensate or pay back the amount collected (borrowed) so far.


Traditionally, on the belief of working as a group in the culture of Mboi, it is strongly believed that male of the same age work together, most especially of youth (Ɓuhã) likewise female. Also, at the older ages goes the same. Note that this is not applicable to every activity. Some works that needs only youth to work on but under the leadership of the old men. For example, when a newly married woman was to be welcome among the family, it is the work of youth to tilt the farm for her, of which needed the grading down of stunts and digging.



The majority of the Mboi people are commercial farmers, and they have an interest and passion for the development of their language in having an international identity; providing literacy materials, religious written materials for the progress of gospel. The people mostly show their concern by reflecting a full support to any project that brings development. Also, the civil servants and the politicians do organize themselves from time to time in an agreement with the stakeholders to sponsor every activity that could bring development and good identity to their language. There is a strong establishment of relationship between politicians, civil servants, farmers, business men and women for the success of the language development with the given committee to make arrangement for literacy development and Bible Translation in to their language. Another reason of motivation towards their language is that they have themselves urged to do something that is tangible and beneficial as a result of the researches ongoing in respect of the language. Their resources and unity would always determine the whether or not the research should continue. The zeal of Mboi language speakers was what triggered the proposal of the trial edition orthography and the other printed materials which are in view under their authorities. 

On the other hand, there is an agreement that after the review of the work, Abi is allowed to post or release it online and was done so. The purpose for doing this is that for the world and their children to retrieve from all corners of the globe as a reference material and also to make them be proud of their identity, i.e., being popularly and globally recognized. By this they believed that it will give their language integrity and bring unity among the dialects.

  • Contributions from the stakeholders and other languages from near them
  • Donors from Mboi language group that live outside from the land and in other countries through bank accounts.
  • Donation of land for Mboi Language Development Secretariat



In every given society, it is a culture that defines it and make it identified among others. “Culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and to generate behaviour. This cultural knowledge is like a set of tools for getting along in life” (James and David 2). To James and David, all of us make use of what we know to make sense out of what happens (to interpret experience) and to act appropriately (to generate behaviour)-we make continual use of our culture for these purposes. Therefore, the term culture is what defines live entirely in its own totality.

 As in what the Mboi people have to take into account as they make decisions was mostly as a result of observation by the language speakers and report it to the Amfundas (Village Heads). The power to decide on the success of Mboi is laid in the hands of the Amfundas.

In this case the language group has a good relationship with their leadership policy on seeing that this research project that concerns the language development has a strongly established relationship as recorded below:

  • Relationship between the dialects on agreeing to use the same orthography
  • Decision of the both dialects to agree with the same understanding to support the project financially.
  • The long-time endurance of the people concerning the expense of the project
  • They have leaders that can be fair and faithful and the representatives that can be plain and ready to resist the insults and slanders.
  • They have the leaders that have passion and the interest of the language at their hearts.
  • In taxation levels of income of the individuals should be considered.
  • Mobilization and orientation be given to people clear awareness before taxation.


The roles of music and dance in a culture

There are several music and dances among Mboi people which signify different facets of events in the culture. Without these festivals, Mboi is rendered cultureless. The various music is attached with festivals that are made for them. One cannot explain any type of music without making the reference with the festive. The music is regarded as an entertainment, expressing excitement, mourning, organizing, and thanksgiving as well. These are blato, zugo, tawo, isho, co-wotta and etc. Below is the breakdown of the festivities and music types in Mboi tradition.

    1. Blato: this is music and at the same time refers to a festival that has special music and dance. One cannot make mention of the music as separate and ignore the issue of the festival. This is observed two times in diverse stages. It is a time of a maturity of female lads that are betrothed and are seen as spinsters, the organized festival has to do with tattooing them as body marks that qualify them to be given into marriage. The Blato is taking place around the month of May, it is observed after two-two years called Gafata. After Gafata year then the following year would be the year of both male female Zugo and Blato to be observed. In this year Mboi people refer it as Wandikra. Every lady has to undergo two stages of Blato otherwise she would not be married.
    2. Zugo: this music on the other hand is another type of which it is attached to festival of the male (Bachelors) that are ready for marriage. This is a time of circumcision to mark the readiness for marriage which gears to wedding. Males around 18-20 years above are taken to a very high mountain far away from a community. They would be beaten with canes by the elderly people in charge of the discipline of making them worth of marriage; all of them would be left there for a month or forty days. The time for the stay is refers to as Abaɓe around the month of March. The males are said to be immune well enough for sustaining every pain attached to the beating so that none of them would cry and lead to a disgrace. After this installation, the males would be regarded as Ɓuhã. Sometimes in the process, death may occur on some of the youth. None of the people from the community would be told about it, not even the parent of the deceased, it is only those who are there that get the knowledge of what is happening with each other. The Daɓure sometimes addressed as Adaɓure (the elder responsible of the youth’s initiation and discipline) is the one that would be coming down holding Sããra (a designed calabash) that the Daɓure wears on his head and break it before Amboni (a woman that is responsible of welcoming the boy). From there, the woman would cry out aloud and everybody knowing the boy that belongs to her would also understand what happened while the dead body is already buried in the wilderness where the Zugo takes place. For the dead boys cry and weeping and for the living, ululation and dance followed by food prepared in their respect.

Noteː the Sããra is designed half if one of the or both of the boy’s parents are alive but if he is an orphan, it should not be designed, be left as natural as it is. Any moment from there, the elders would be addressing the installed male youths as Ngə fun, nge etgune meaning “you have eaten, so you are a matured man”.  This is a sign of warning to him that; care should to be taken in every decision-making.

    1. Blandəkaː This is another stage of festival that follows after blato, for the girls that have successfully undergone blato and were proposed by some lads, would be dressed in a newly married woman attires to be accompanied to her husband’s house. This is done for those that are lucky and ready to get married.   
    2. Wandikra/Wandakra:  there is a year that comprises of both male female (Zugo and Blato) festivals to be observed together to show up the male ones and the females that undergo their respective festivals in the same year to be mates. This is done so for the both genders to know their level of maturity. In this year Mboi people refer it as Wandikra/Wandakra. It is always an immediate year after Gafata.
    3. Tawo: It is a type of music festivals that has a quiet different music and dance from other festivals. It is played and practiced normally immediately a month after the festive of Zugo. Tawo is a type of music entertainment that serves as a closing remark of Zugo festive so as to give chance for Blato. Once Tawo is arranged in the year, every native of Mboi has in mind that ‘no more Zugo music and festive in the whole land and everywhere occupied by the Language Group until in the next two years.
    4.  Ishoza: It is normally played and observed around the month of September to October. The main purpose of this music and festive is to celebrate the harvest season. Before this event, to the paramount Rulers and palace chiefs including everyone involving in deciding the velavelto (Chieftaincy decision-makers) are not allowed to feed on sorghums until two days before the festive and the days after.

In some context like Handa, Ishoza is observed around July when Zəgago (sorghum bicolar̠) grew up to waist height then the festival resumes.

    1. Co-wotta: It is observed around March to April. The reason for this festive and music in respect of the dead old men and women who have reached the age of 70 to above years before they died. The typical Mboi speaker believed that the souls of the deceased are always hanging and roaming around a restricted and temporary resting place. The dead is to be remaining there and be given food in his house where the livings are (the dead person’s people would be keeping food for him/her in his living house he/she would be coming to eat from time-to-time until Co-wora (singular) is observed. After the event in his/her respect then he/she would be transmitted to the Ancestral final destiny for a permanent enjoyment and no more food would be served to him/her.  This consists of music and dances that lasts for two days.


There is a hierarchy of velavelto from the highest to the lower order. This is based on the roles within a community or land. There are various titles and posts that signify the uniqueness of every individual as a title with the official duty assigned to that office, although some offices work hand in hand with others. But this will be discussed in this part of the research, and it will look into the rulers and their families from the medieval record to this time.

There are four (4) ruling families in Mboi Village Headship. These are Walamo, Gai, Gato and Soguno. The concurrence to the throne is on rotational basis. This happens whenever the throne becomes vacant by whatever means. There are king makers who decide the family that would be enthroned as a ruler. These are Anfunda Ɗa-Lukda (Anfunda Wa-Lukda) and Anfunda Ɗa-Longiya (Wa-Longiya) being responsible for the selection of a new Village Head or king whenever the throne becomes vacant. Various Vela had occupied the throne (Mboi) from time immemorial, some of Vela whose tenure is still fresh in memory is included with their names and their family names as well, as described in the below genealogy:

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