The overlord of the Dagbon Traditional Kingdom is the Ya-Na, whose court and administrative capital is at Yendi. The Dagbon Kingdom has traditional administrative responsibilities hitherto a cephalous group like the Konkomba, Bimoba, Chekosi, Basaari, Chamba, Wala, Gurusi and Zantasi.
The seat of the Ya-Na (literally translated as King of Absolute Power), is a collection of cow skins. Thus the Dagbon or its political system is often called the Yendi Skin (not throne or crown or stool).
The origins of Dagbon can be traced to TOHADZIE, the red hunter.
Tohadzie hailed from Zamfara (somewhere in present-day Northern Nigeria) and traveled to the Mali Empire. Tohadzie was a very brave hunter who mastered archery (the art of hunting with the bow and arrow).
On arrival in the Mali Empire, he settled in a village in the middle of a drought.
The villagers’ only source of water was a river taken over by a wild bush cow. The bush cow, believed to be an evil spirit, killed anyone who ventured to the river to draw water. Tohadzie led the villagers to kill the wild beast making the river accessible.
He then organized the people and made war on rival villages, who had constantly raided his newfound home, thus establishing himself as a successful warrior and leader. For his bravery and assistance to the people, Tohadzie was rewarded with a Malian princess, PAGAWUBGA, for a wife.
The Malian princess gave birth to a son, KPOGNAMBO, who grew up and exhibited bravery and warrior acuity similar to his father’s. After the death of his parents, Kpognambo traveled westwards from the Mali Empire to Biun, in Fadan Grumah, where after defeating the TENDANA became chief of Biun. Kpognambo ruled the kingdom of Biun until his death. He established the chieftainship of Biun.
Kpognambo married two women; Sihisabiga (daughter of the Fetish Priest of Biun) and Suhuyini (daughter of the King of Fadan Grumah). Suhuyini gave birth to Gbewaah while Sihisabiga gave birth to Malgimsim, Nyelgili, and Namzisheli.
After the death of Kpognambo there was constant war between his sons for the chieftainship of Biun. This, in the thirteenth century, led to the migration of Gbewaah with a large following to Pusiga. Pusiga is in the Upper East region of present-day Ghana. Naa Gbewaah established the Kingdom of Greater (Ancient) Dagbon, which he ruled until his death. Other sons of Kpognambo; Nyeligili founded the chieftainship of Nangodi and Namzisheli founded the chieftainship of Tongo.
In Pusiga the chieftainship of the Kingdom of Greater Dagbon became known as NAM which was the preserve of the male children of Naa Gbewaah. After the death of Naa Gbewaah, there was once again a power struggle among his sons for the nam. In the heat of the struggle, Zirli murdered his brother Kufogu and became chief of Biun, much to the displeasure of his siblings. This led to war between the brothers and finally the break-up of the Greater Dagbon Kingdom.
Sitobu, Tohagu, and Mantambo all children of Naa Gbewaah moved southwards from Pusiga with their followers. Tohagu founded the Mamprusi Kingdom, Mantambo the Nanun Kingdom and Sitobu the modern Dagbon Kingdom. This is the reason why the peoples of Nanun, Mamprugu, and Dagbon consider each other as brothers. They share the same ancestry in Naa Gbewaah. A daughter of Naa Gbewaah, Yentuagri, married a Grumah and they established the Kingdom of the Moshi.