Rukuba - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Each village is divided into patrilineal clans, which have complementary duties at the village level. One clan provides the chief, and another is responsible for both the control of witchcraft and for calling big communal or intertribal hunts. Yet another clan is in charge of the well-being of all the uterine nephews and nieces of the village. Lesser offices such as rainmaker, rain appeaser, or master of the village drum can be the prerogatives of other clan chiefs or are simply vested in houses of clans that already have a more important office. Each clan chief hears intraclan civil disputes; if not successful, the case may be brought to the village chief. Interclan civil disputes are dealt with by the clan chiefs, assisted by the village chief. Criminal cases are investigated by the clan chief or, more often, the village chief.

Political Organization. The Rukuba constitute a federation of villages, each village being a chiefdom. Several villages form a section comprised of villages that ultimately claim to have originated from the section head village. There are five such sections. The section head village has important ritual duties; its chief reckons the dates of all important panethnic rituals. Politically speaking, this chief can arbitrate conflicts between villages of his section if the involved parties ask him to do so. Two head villages have a more prominent ritual role in organizing, in turn, the kugo initiation ritual. Interethnic relations were rather particularistic, some villages or even clans being either "brothers" or enemies of other neighboring ethnic groups.

The Rukuba never acted as a coordinated unit against foreign enemies. After numerous administrative experiments carried out by the British, the Rukuba were finally united in a single district in 1936, and in the early 1950s they elected a single administrative chief, assisted by the village chiefs in council, section chiefs being the more prominent among them.

Social Control. During initiation, rules of proper behavior are taught regarding marriage prohibitions and injunctions, as well as the respect of chiefs. Witchcraft is controlled through meetings attended by clan representatives. Difficult cases were submitted to a panethnic ordeal, which has now lapsed. Civil cases are still settled by clans or village chiefs, but, since 1936, they may as well be brought to the Rukuba Central Court. Petty criminal cases are tried in this court; major ones are sent to the Divisional Court in Jos.

Conflict. Most intraethnic conflicts erupted during communal hunts, over the sharing of game. They were followed by retaliatory raids, but such outbreaks were usually quieted quickly. Interethnic conflicts flared up on the same occasions; there were mechanisms to make a truce, and relations rarely remained strained for long. The Rukuba victoriously repelled attacks from the Zaria Emirate's armies until the colonial era.

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