Several accounts of Gonja history have been published, all of them based very largely on the corpus of oral tradition which Jones (1962) has called the 'Jakpa epic'. Jakpa, so the story goes, was a mighty warrior 'from Mande', who fought his way across Gonja from west to east, and then, before he was killed in battle, shared out the lands which were his by right of conquest among his sons. By the end of his death the present Gonja Traditional Area was established fully as a centralized state under his sole leadership in 1675. The earliest recorded version of the Jakpa epic, in substantially its modern form, Is to be found in an Arabic chronicle written in the 18901s (El-Wakkad and WMks, 1962).
This work has been known for some time in an English translation made forty years ago and published later by Goody (1954:). Several manuscripts have been located over the last five years, and a definitive edition is in preparation. It can be shown by reference to this work that the Jakpa epic In its current form is a relatively recent development, summarizing something like a century and a half of early Gonja history. For the sixteenth and seventeenth century the Kitab itself based on oral tradition; but it is earlier than any other recorded version by well over a hundred years, and very much more coherent and convincing.
The arrival in Gonja of the Ngbonyo, the immigrant rulers, is described in a section of the Kitab which has become detached from the main body of the work but survives independently (Wilks, 1966). Naba, who was to be the first king of Gonja, had come south originally on a punitive expedition dispatched by the 'Chief of Mande-Kabba against the trading-town of Begho. He then turned north to attack Buna, and across the Black Volta Into western Gonja. Here he built a fortified camp or stronghold called Yogbum. The Kitab Ghunja gives no dates as such for the early kings, only the lengths of their reigns; dead-reckon Ing would put the beginning of Naba`s reign at 1549-50. Wilks (1966) believes that this date may be too early, by as much as fifty years, pointing out that the reigns ascribed to these early kings are on average much longer than those of the eighteenth century rulers.