Every year, members of the Tijjaniya Muslim sect look to the day Sheik Dahiru Bauchi would deliver his Ramadan Tafsir (sermon) at the expansive Murtala Muhammed Square, in the heart of Kaduna city.
This forms part of their profound experience in their spiritual revival few days to the end of the Muslim fasting season.
So it did happen last Wednesday.
At the end of the sermon, a huge crowd surged out of the square heading to different directions, on foot, bicycles, motorcycles and all kinds of vehicles filled with inspiration and looking ahead to happy Sallah celebrations.
The Sheik was being escorted home by a motorcade that may be over a kilometer long. The security around his car was heavy, because a bomb, ostensibly aimed for him, had detonated close to his home at Eskolayi, a densely populated Muslim part of Kaduna. Two persons were hurt.
That informed the tight security he was given that afternoon. But, as the convoy approached a critical intersection on Isa Kaita Road, off Ali Akilu Road, a standoff ensued between his body guards and a man carrying a some strange luggage, according to an eye witness.
One Isa Saidu, 23, gave his own account thus: “I was at the Murtala Muhammed Square where Sheik Dahiru preached to us. I was also in the convoy carrying him back home. It was a long convoy. I was at the rear. I saw a man on a motorcycle carrying a sack or bag. He was driving very roughly and defied our vigilante who wanted him to slow down. Then he came close to the car conveying the Sheikh. But his security guards did not allow him too near. As he insisted, they pushed him off and he fell into a ditch. The man or the bag he was carrying exploded. Sheik Dahiru Bauchi body was covered in blood, but it was the blood of those who were protecting him. I can swear by Alah that I personally counted 41 bodies. It is the most terrible thing of my life”.
“It was like a part of the mountains of heaven came crashing down”, Labaran Awalu, 25, from Trikania Kaduna, told Sunday Vanguard at the gate of Lugard Hall close to where the violence happened.
“I cannot hear you, please, louder”, he said. The explosion may have affected his hearing. “ I am searching for my two brothers”.
He looked dazed and confused like about 100 others who were close to the scene of the violence.
It was gathered that Sheikh Bauchi was unhurt. The police said 25 people were killed, and 14 injured, sharply in contrast to eye witness accounts which put the casualty at about 40 deaths.
The bombing of the sheik, who had always attacked the brand of violent Islam pursued by Boko Haram, set Kaduna town on edge, shutting out part of the shutters that allowed in a common sunshine over a town where Muslims and Christians have managed to keep a steady balance of terror when the conditions are rife.
Residents were working their phones asking about the location of friends and relatives, pleading that they returned home. Christians could take on Muslims and vice versa if any dared attack the other first.
In that state of tension, calls came in that a more serious blast targetted Gen. Muhammdu Buhari (rtd) – a towering opposition figure in camp of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Buhari’s convoy was said to have been pursued by a suicide bomber in a car. His security aide managed to shield him from a direct hit. The bomber detonated his ware of death close a busy intersection by the Kawo overhead bridge. As Buhari later confirmed in a press statement, his three security aides were hurt and their cars mangled. Buhari’s Prado jep was also hit, but he came out unscathed.
Even in the “Praise to Allah” that his friends and foes alike said with a sigh of relief, the sun set for scores of innocent people. The police said 14 persons were killed, four injured. 22 cars were either burnt or damaged.
Moments after, Muslim youths around the scene of the blast that targetted Buhari stones and sticks and were spoiling for action. At the Christian dominated southern part of the town, youths became alert on hearing the brewing skirmishes north of river Kaduna. Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero slammed a 24 hour curfew over Kaduna town around 3pm.
Within hours, the busy streets were deserted, as the police and military deployed to the streets to enforce the order.
Thus Kaduna was forced to sleep at noon on Wednesday.
The streets were empty. After a security meeting on Thursday, government announced the lifting of the curfew to return life to the troubled city.