BY SUZAN EDEH
TWELVE months from now, the eight years administration of Governor Isa Yuguda will be over and another administration will be ushered in. The governor is not oblivious of this fact as seems bent on making the remaining few months count.
Thus, it is not surprising that Yuguda is mending fences with his political associates and aggrieved minority tribes in the state.
It is no longer news that the Sawaya communities, made up of predominantly minority tribes of Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa local councils have been relegated to the background in the affairs of the state.
Apart from the fact the Sayawa have contending issues with the state government such as relocation of Tafawa Balewa Headquarters to Bununu, they are also plagued with insecurity problems by alleged Fulani herdsmen who are bent on dispossessing them of their land.
Located in the southern part of Bauchi State, Tafawa Balewa local council is about 83 kilometres away from Bauchi metropolis and the major inhabitants are Jarawa, Fulani, Hausa, Sayawa, Kanuri, Tapshinawa (Angas) and other tribes. The town has been a hot-bed of communal crises that have lingered for over 50 years. The area witnessed violent crises in 1948, 1959, 1977, 1991, 1995, 2001, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012 with hundreds of lives lost and property worth millions of Naira destroyed.
Govt insensitivity: A host of Sayawa elders have accused the state government of insensitivity towards their plight, saying that the crises in Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa local councils had worsened over the years.
Yuguda’s reconciliation move
Listening to the complaints of the people, the governor has begun moves to mend the broken fences with the Sayawa people by resolving all the grievances they have against his government.
Recently, Yuguda invited Sayawa leaders to the Government House for dialogue.
The Sayawa Chairman of Council of Chiefs, Gung Zaar, who was represented by Air Commodore Ishaku Komo, led a delegation to the Government House to discuss some pending issues affecting Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro communities.
The governor’s invitation came as a surprise not only the Sayawa but also many observers in the state because such a development had never occurred before.
Political undertones: However, some political pundits in the state claim that Yuguda’s gesture has political undertones. They are of the view that the governor is eyeing Bauchi South Senatorial seat come 2015 and he needs the support of the Sawaya people to realise his senatorial ambition.
Yuguda is from Alkaleri local council, which along with Tafawa Balewa, Bogoro, Toro and Dass makeup Bauchi South Senatorial District.
Mixed fortunes: Following Yuguda’s efforts to mend the broken relationship with them, the Sawaya people have rolled out their drums for celebration, believing that the long-awaited staff of office would be presented to their chief, Gung Zaar at the Government House, but their hope was dashed when Yuguda said: “We can’t be talking about chief now because your people have taken the matter to court. Therefore, talking about it now will amount to violation of the constitution. But I will see to the end of the matter.
“For so many years, there was no water in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro until I came and if it is the will of God that your chief will be given his staff of office during my tenure, then so be it. But if it is not, then there is nothing we can do about it. My prayer is that those who sued the state government for the creation of the Sayawa chiefdom which was signed and gazetted, God should touch their devilish hearts and let them withdraw the suit,” Yuguda said
Responding to the Governor, Gung Zaar said: If I am not mistaken, this is the third time we are meeting face to face with you, but we know the difficulties you are going through as a governor. We had wanted to roll out drums in celebration for what you have done for us long before now but situation would not permit us until now. We are ready to support you 100 per cent in any way, for you to succeed in the task ahead of you.”
Other sons and daughters of the Sayawa chiefdom endorsed the senatorial ambition of Governor Yuguda saying they would give him all the necessary support.
Origins of soured relations
It could be recalled that the Yuguda had declared the Gung Zaar –elect, Komo wanted for impersonating and parading himself as the Gung Zaar. Sayawa elders went to court to challenge the action of the government and won.
Following the creation of Sayawa Chiefdom by the Yuguda Administration, which the Sayawa had been struggling to have for several decades, there was need for them to elect their paramount traditional ruler and the Council of Chiefs elected Komo as their Gung Zaar awaiting the presentation of staff of office.
However, the presentation of the staff of office suffered a serious set-back because Yuguda, after fulfilling his campaign promises to the Sayawa by creating the chiefdom, another conflict ensued between him and the people over the choice of the headquarters of the chiefdom. This also denied the Gung Zaar the staff of office. Before then, the Sawaya and Yuguda enjoyed good working relationship and they voted for him because he promised them their long desired Sayawa chiefdom which he gave them but the relationship turned sour with the election of the Gung Zaar.
Relocation of council headquarters
Apart the Gung Zaar, another misunderstanding Yuguda wanted to resolve with the Sayawa is the headquarters of the local council. He sent an Executive Bill to the Bauchi State House of Assembly seeking the amendment of the law establishing Local Government to enable him relocate the headquarters of Tafawa Balewa council to Bununu town which is a Fulani dominated axis as a result of the persistence clashes.
Why I relocated council headquarters –Yuguda
Responding to the relocation of Tafawa Balewa Headquarters to Bununu, Governor Yuguda said that the relocation was to avert further bloodbath and to restore peace in the area. “The relocation has halted the spate of destruction of lives and properties, which was almost spreading to neighbouring states. Since the relocation of the headquarters to Bununu, peace has returned to the area as people now go about their normal businesses and development is gradually coming back to the area due to the peaceful atmosphere in the area,” he said.
Federal lawmakers kick
On the purported relocation of the Tafawa Balewa council headquarters to Bununu town, a member representing Bogoro-Dass-Tafawa Balewa Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Barrister Yakubu Dogara said that the State Assembly lacks the power to relocate the headquarters of a local government area it did not create because the law creating Tafawa Balewa council with headquarters in Tafawa Balewa is a Federal Law which is protected by Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.
He continued: “In addition to the above, every action of a State Assembly, from relocation to creation, boundary adjustment etc of a Local Government Area is subject to Section 8 (5) of the 1999 constitution as amended. It is subject to an Act of the National Assembly as provided for in Section 8 (5) above referred to. The action of the State Assembly is clearly in violation of the constitution and to that extent void and of no effect whatsoever. “Consequently, the purported foundation laying ceremony of the new Local Government Area Secretariat on 6th June 2013 in a location not recognised by the constitution is an exercise in futility and a joke carried too far by the State Governor. This unconstitutional action of the State Assembly and Governor has no basis in law, logic and morality. It must be seen in its true light, as very provocative, divisive and a dangerous precedent for our nascent democracy.”
The lawmaker noted that the Bill went through 1st, 2nd and 3rd reading the same day in breach of the provisions of the Constitution and realising the folly of their action the State Assembly jettisoned the Bill and ridiculously adopted a motion on 8th February 2012 purporting to relocate the headquarters of the LGA to Bununu.
However, as a critical stakeholder in Sayawa land, the member representing Bogoro in the House, Ms. Rifkatu Samson Dannah opposed the motion accusing the House of taking a prior decision on the matter without consent because of the way and manner the House accorded the bill and motion speedy passage.
What bothered the lawmaker was the fact that the sponsor and co-sponsor of the motion are not from Tafawa Balewa. More so, they are Fulanis with whom her Sayawa people have been bickering for long over the ownership of the council and that prompted her decision to oppose the motion viewing it as an attempt to rob them of their heritage.
Dannah’s opposition to the move earned her an indefinite suspension from the House of Assembly. The House in a letter titled: “House Resolution” 7th June, 2012 signed by the Clerk of the House, Bala Abdullahi said following the presentation of Hon. Dannah’s apology on the floor of the House on the 7th June, 2012, I am directed to write and inform that the Honourable House at its sitting No. 13 of 7th June 2012, after going through your letter did not satisfy the recommendation of the Ethics and Privileges Committee.”
In 2011, a major crisis erupted in Tafawa Balewa that made some residents flee to neighbouring Plateau State for refuge. Some of the victims of the crisis have chosen to remain in Plateau State till date. In the wake of the crisis, Governor Yuguda threatened to destroy the town if the violence recurred.
About a week after the governor’s threat, the area witnessed another round of crisis on January 22, 2012 at about 2am when two pick up vans loaded with bombs, assorted assault rifles and ammunitions were driven into the town. The fighters in their hundreds came on motor bikes, vans and foot and unleashed mayhem on the area, killing the DPO, some residents and a family of six whose house was blown up by one of the bombs the attackers detonated in the town.