Nigeria’s middle-belt has been defined using various approaches. These include ethnic, geographical, ideological, religious and political.
While some of these definitions are given below, AMNIC as a body most closely aligns to the ethnic definition of the middle-belt given below:
The Middle-belt region of Nigeria encompasses all indigenous nationalities of the Geographical North (the colonial Northern Region) of the Country who are not Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri or Yoruba.
This thus includes the traditional North Central indigenes, but also other entities who are excluded by geographical restrictions but find commonalities in the social, cultural, historical, economic, and political spheres, but who self-identify as middle-belters.
Indigenous communities identifying as middle beltans can be found in the following states of Nigeria: Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Nassarwa, Kwara, Adamawa, the Federal Capital Territory, Southern Kaduna, Southern Bauchi, Southern Kebbi, Southern Gombe, Southern Yobe and Southern Borno.
The Middle Belt is a term used in human geography to designate a belt region stretching across central Nigeria longitudinally and forming a transition zone between Northern and Southern Nigeria. It is characterized by its lack of a clear majority ethnic group and is the location of Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory. The eminence of manifold minority groups, to some degree, constitutes an ethno-linguistic barrier in the country and draws a separation between the principally Muslim North and the mainly Christian south. (Johannes Harnischfeger quoted by Wikipedia).
Our geography lends itself to peculiar realities that serves as a nexus for shared understanding of our challenges, a common vision for the future and therefore amalgamation of action. The region shares a boundary with all the other major tribal groupings in the country. These relationships are centuries old.
Hence, the ability to strike and maintain a critical balance through high levels of tolerance and engagement in trade and other activities for mutual benefit, has been the hallmark of our corporate existence.
The highest expression of Nigerian Nationhood is expressed by this collective. This is because the middle-belt of Nigeria has been considered the glue between the other parts, and which has given so much to keep the country together.
The following are a list of some of the middle-belt tribes:
Adara, Afizere, Alago, Amo, Anaguta Atyap, Baatonum, Bachama, Bajju, Berom, Bogghom, Buji, Challa, Chamba, Chip, Fier, Ebira, Eggon, Gbagyi, Goemai, Ham, Hun-Saare, Huba, Idoma, Igala, Igede, Irigwe, Jarawa, Jukun, Kamberi, Kofyar, Mada, Mambila, Marghi, Mwaghavul, Montol, Mumuye, Mushere, Mupun, Ngas, Nupe, Pan, Piapung, Pyem, Ron-Kulere, Tangale, Tarok, Tiv, and Zaar amongst many others.
The history of the middle-belt is connected to the history of two great civilizations that existed in the areas in ancient times, the Nok Civilization and the Kwararafa confederation.
Apart from these great civilizations, there were all types of migrations into the middle-belt by other ethnic groups, some of which historically identify to neither the Nok or Kwararafa civilizations.
The most common groupings in the middle belt were small-localized villages and their outlying hamlets and households; they were autonomous in precolonial times but were absorbed into wider administrative units under British rule. Most often, they were patrilineal, with in-marrying wives, sons, unmarried daughters, and possibly parents or parents' siblings living together. Crops separated this residence grouping from similar ones spread out over a small area. They cultivated local fields and prayed to local spirits and the ghosts of departed lineage elders. Descendants of founders were often village heads or priests of the village shrine, whereas leading members of the other lineages formed an eldership that governed the place and a few outlying areas, consisting of those who were moving toward open lands as the population increased. Since the advent of colonialism, many indigenes of the middle-belt have embraced Christianity and Islam, though a significant number of traditional worshippers still exist.
These groups vary from the Nupe and Tiv, comprising more than half a million each, to a few hundred speakers of a distinct language in small highland valleys in the Jos Plateau. On the east, languages were of the Chadic group, out of which Hausa differentiated, and the Niger-Congo family, indicating links to eastern and central African languages. In the west, the language groupings indicated historical relations to Mende-speaking peoples farther west. Cultural and historical evidence supports the conclusion that these western groups were marginal remnants of an earlier substratum of cultures that occupied the entire north before the emergence of large centralized Islamic emirates.
The Nok culture is an early Iron Age population whose material remains are named after the Ham village of Nok in Kaduna State of Nigeria, where their terracotta sculptures were first discovered in 1928. The Nok Culture appeared in northern Nigeria around 1500 BC and vanished under unknown circumstances around 500 AD, having lasted approximately 2,000 years (Fagg, Bernard. 1969).
Kororofa (Kwararafa) was a multiethnic state and/or confederacy centered along the Benue River valley in what is today central Nigeria. It was southwest of the Bornu Empire and south of the Hausa States (Fisher, 1975).