Are There Bille People in Both Rivers and Adamawa States?

Are There Bille People in Both Rivers and Adamawa States?

By Farooq Kperogi

My friend Professor Moses Ochonu called my attention to a status update shared by the sensationally impressive polyglot known as Adedeji Odulesi in which he talked about an ethnolinguistic group called Bille, which he said is found in the “Demsa and Mayobelwa” local government areas of Adamawa State and in the “Degema Local Government Area” of Rivers State.

He said the dialects of the Bille language in Adamawa and Rivers states are still mutually intelligible, i.e., they understand each other in spite of the wide geographic, historical, and cultural separation between them.

“Both claim to be brothers and do visit one another,” he wrote. “The Bille from Adamawa are said to have visited their kith and kin in Rivers in 2001, 2012 and during the installation of their new king.”

If this is true, it’s truly intriguing and thought-provoking because it defies our conventional understanding of language and people. It would serve as another evidence of the labyrinthine complexity of ethnic identities in Nigeria.

After reading of this, I decided to search up “Bille language” and “Bille people.” The results I got were jarring. All the articles I read about the “Bille people” talk of only Rivers State. There is no mention of them in Adamawa State.

On the other hand, articles about the “Bille language” talk about the language in Adamawa State. There is no indication I can find anywhere that the language can also be found in Rivers State.

Yet Odulesi isn’t a flippant person. But is there a Bille person in either Rivers State or Adamawa State who can confirm what Odulesi said about them? I would really appreciate it.

Should this turn out to be true, it would be a chapter in my forthcoming book on collective identity construction in Nigeria. Please share with people who are from these places.

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