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They are an integrated union of many kin-ethnic dialects like the Bura, Babbir, Marghi, Chibback, Hona, Holma, Higgi, Batta, Mbula, Nzanyi, Fali, Ihhi, Kopre and even Kanuri (from Borno State). All these ethnic groups were melted and assimilated into what was an original linguistic stock known as 'Höba' or 'Kilba', believed to have been the earliest linguistic group that migrated from the North East of Africa into the hilly lands of the present Kilba area in Nigeria. This ethnic group of the twin names came by the present name Kilba, most likely from the error of mispronunciation by their Fulani neighbors and the subsequent codification of this error by the British colonial officials in the district.
The Kilba call themselves Höba (Höba is pronounced Hba, with the "H" being prominently sounded). The Kilba are farmers. In fact, they practice little else apart from farming and minor crafts. There are blacksmiths also among them, but even these engage in farming.
The Kilba are unique for their rich culture and traditional ways of life, which pervade their entire social, political and economic existence with a positive inclination towards independent self-determination. It is probably this element in their ethnic posture that won over the diverse kin-ethnic groups into being assimilated by the 'Nya-Höba' or Kilba language, giving rise to a greater expansion in the ethnic population through the formation of numerous rural settlements in waves over several generations.
Höba were living in large clan-based mountain communities. These mountain communities were Pella, Gwaja, Hong, Kulinyi, Garaha, Bangshika, Miljili, Gaya-jaba, Gaya-maki, Gaya-skalmi, Gaya-gou, Gaya Fa'a, Gaya Jabba, Ndlang, Hyama, Kinking, Motaku, Kwapor, Za and Zivi, all in the present Hong Local Government. The Höba clan-based mountain communities were each ruled by a "Töl köra ma" (King of the mountain community). "Köra ma" means "mountain top". Töl is pronounced as "ttle", which means King. A particular Töl therefore, was known by his clan name. Each of the mountain communities was made up of several villages. These villages had their method of communication. They had specific ways of doing everything, and life was very smooth and enjoyable. The Töl köra ma was a secular-cum-religious ruler. He had a cabinet made up of Yaduma, Midala, Bira'ol, Kadagimi, Kadala, Dzarma and Batari, depending on the community. Each had their designated cabinets. The cabinets of all the Töls still have the same character. Höba was a tribe with a formidable army. They were articulate and had distinct ways of doing things and of getting things done. Höba was a tribe with formidable unity. After the 18th century AD, Dr. Henry Barth (1965) (a German traveler) came across Höba during his voyage. One Furkudol was bringing Höba, in their various clan-based mountain communities under one central government at that time. In Dr. Barth's report of his voyage, he wrote that Höba was "a well organized pagan kingdom second to none in Western Sudan". Dr. Barth continued, that this kingdom
"resembles that of ancient Egypt or modern European kingdom. The kingdom was divided into units to which members of the ruling families were sent out to administer as governors"
Dr. Barth continued,
"Every month, they (the governors and central ministers) sent in reports to the King for further directives or final decisions.
These governors were the Yirmas and the Shalls. There was only one Yirma from Udong. Since there was and is still just himself, he is simply called Yirma. The governors were in a hierarchy, with the Yirma being the highest of them all, Udong is the place we now call Udong. The government of Höba is divided into two, with the Töl as the overall ruler. The territorial administration is the responsibility of the Shalls and the Yirma. The central administration is the responsibility of the Töls cabinet members. The cabinet ismade up of the following:
- 1 Yaduma – Yaduma is the Prime Minister and Chief Adviser to the Töl.
- 2 Bira'ol – Bira'ol is the Assistant Prime Minister
- 3 Midala – Midala is the Defence Minister and War Commander
- 4 Kadala – Kadala is the Inspector General of Police. He arrests and orders the arrest of criminals.
- 5 Dzarma – Dzarma is the Minister in Charge of the Royal Stable
- 6 Batari – Batari is the Head of Royal Ward
- 7 Kadagimi – Kadagimi is the Courtier and an official of the King's Palace
Long after the consolidation of the kingdom we know from general history that the 19th Century was characterized by wars due to Jihad and incessant skirmishes with the Fulanis in which records inform us that Höba was never ever conquered. Very many attempts were made to do so though to no avail. Höba, though very war hungry at that time, were only going out to subdue Fulani settlements and take away their assets. Very similar to the Israelites of the olden days, when they were moving into the Promised Land from Egypt. Höba never consolidated their war victory anywhere. The approach was very spasmodic too. When it became clear that there was never going to be a conquest between the jihadists and Höba, a truce had to be declared on market days at Pella and at Mbilla Kilba. The Fulanis and Höba attended these market days freely.
The Kilba who live in Hong Local Government Area are situated in the area between four local governments: Gombi, Song, Mubi and Michika Local Governments. Miss Nissen gives a good description of the location of Kilba area in her book, An African Church is Born, 1968.