October 4, 2022

The Kanuris fly their flag again (3)

The Kanuris fly their flag again (3)

By Eric Teniola

After concluding the enumeration of prominent sons and daughters who flew the Kanuri flag over the years, the piece, today, continues  the narrative by tracing the places  Kanuris are found and their history and special characteristics as a people 

THE Kanuris are mostly found in Chad, Cameroun, Niger Republic and in Yobe and Borno states. After the Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos and Fulanis, the Kanuris, in terms of population, are in the same bracket with the Ibibios, Tivs, Ijaws and Igalas. The greatest gift God gave to the Kanuris is Lake Chad.

Their wish and prayers over the years is that oil be found in Lake Chad. Unfortunately, Lake Chad once a source of livelihood for over 30 million has shrunk by 90 per cent since the 1960s. Lake Chad is shrinking while the population is exploding, hence part of the emergence of Boko Haram today.

The Kanuris are extremely proud of their heritage like the Binis. Some of them are tall with tribal marks. They are warriors. They constituted the El Kanemi Empire and that empire was comparable with the Bini Kingdom, the Oyo Empire, the Ashanti Empire, Mali Empire, Songhai Empire and the Sokoto kingdom.

In the past the El Kanemi Empire produced outstanding leaders like Gwoni Muktar, Muhammed el Amin el Kanemi, Mai Dunma, Mai Ibrahim, Abul Bukar and Shehu Umar. The El Kanemi Empire fell because of internal rivalry in 1893. In that year, Rabeh with a well-trained and disciplined force invaded Bornu. Ealier, as the Mahdist state expanded along the Nile, he had marched west and defeated the state of Wadai— Bornu’s great rival—for the control of the Lake Chad region. 

Then in 1893, Bornu was an easy prey to Rabeh as the Bornu army fled before his rifle-armed troops. The Bornu capital Kukawa was ravaged and burnt down. Rabeh established a new capital at Dikwa and took over the government of the kingdom. He left local rulers in charge of their various districts but they were made subordinate to his own officers. He carried out some reform of the public treasury, erected good buildings and stocked large quantities of food for future campaigns. 

Rabeh’s rule was, however, short-lived. His reign fell within the period when the European scramble for and partition of Africa was at its climax. Rabeh’s main preoccupation therefore was to organise united resistance against European penetration. But his appeal for a joint jihad against European advance received no response either from the Sokoto caliphate which he had alienated by co-operating with a pretender to the Sokoto Sultanate or from Wadai which he had antagonised by his seizure of Baghirmi. 

Thus, in 1900, Rabeh was defeated and killed by the French who were scrambling with the British and the Germans for  parts of Africa. The ancient Bornu Kingdom was eventually partitioned between Britain, France and Germany, and today parts of it are found in the modern states of Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Nigeria but the Bornu kingdom survived to be part of Northern Nigeria. On May 27, 1967, General Yakubu Gowon (87) created North Eastern state along with Kano, Mid West, Lagos, Kaduna, Kwara, South Eastern, Rivers, Benue/Plateau, East Central, Kaduna, Western and North Western states. 

The creation of North Eastern State by General Yakubu Gowon in 1967 was the greatest human gift given to the Kanuris. With that action, the Kanuris were able to cut off complete reliance on Kaduna. The Kanuris had an advantage here. The federal Permanent Secretary who headed the committee on creation of states by General Gowon was a Kanuri—Ibrahim Maina Damcida (May 15, 1933- June 12, 2012).

Alhaji Damcida was born on the May 15, 1933, in Biu, Borno State. He had his education at the Westminster College, London, UK, 1954-1956; North-Western Polytechnic, London, UK, 1956-1958; Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, Washington DC, USA,1965; trainee Manager, John Holt, 1951-1953; accountant, Ministry of Trade and Industries, former Northern Region, 1959-1961; deputy Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industries, 1962-1965; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Trade, 1966-1971; Ministry of Defence, 1971-1975. General Gowon appointed Brigadier Musa Usman(1940-1991), son of a Kanuri soldier, Usman Karagiwa, who fought in the Burma war and whose mother was Igala as governor of the new state.

Brigadier Usman who served as Governor between 1967 and 1975 later handed over to Colonel Muhammadu Buhari in 1975.  When General Gowon created the North Eastern State, he did not name Maiduguri as the capital of the state; he gave that assignment to Brigadier Musa Usman. 

At that time, the state comprised of four provisional headquarters, namely: Bauchi, Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola. Upon his arrival to the state, Brigadier Usman then set up a committee to find a suitable capital for the new state.  At a subsequent meeting of the indigenes of the State the position was fully explained. It was then decided that there was no alternative but that one of the existing provincial headquarters must be selected as the state’s permanent capital.

Having regard to the basic necessities that are required in any capital of a state the committee unanimously agreed on the following criteria for selecting one of the four provincial headquarters to be the state capital:- Maximum availability of housing facilities; maximum availability of communication, i.e., roads, rail, airport and telecommunication; and maximum availability of water and electricity supply. 

The committee then advised the Military Governor to appoint a body of experts to carry on with the exercise of selecting a state capital using the above criteria as their terms of reference. The Military Governor accepted the above advice and, in order to achieve maximum fairness and neutrality, appointed the following experts all of whom are non-indigenes of the state:  Mr F. Fraser of the United Africa Company (Chairman); Mallam M. T. Usman, Chief Civil Engineer, Ministry of Works, Kaduna (Member); (iii) Dr M. Shamsuddin of the World Health Organisation (Member).  The committee was served by Mallam Yahaya Abubakar of the Ministry of Education, Kaduna as Secretary. Mallam Yahaya Abubakar later became Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Lagos. 

 In addition to the criteria as terms of reference the experts felt that it was necessary, for the purpose of completeness, to include issues of health and commercial and industrial considerations in the exercise. In the course of carrying out their assignment the experts studied documents for facts and figures and visited all the four provincial headquarters, namely: Bauchi, Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola. After carefully considering the facts and figures the experts came to the conclusion that Maiduguri was the best suited for state capital and recommended accordingly. 

At an early stage of the exercise one of these ad hoc committees recommended that a central and virgin place, like Dadin Kowa or Buni, should be the site for the state capital. This was because for sectional reasons the committee failed to agree on any of the provincial headquarters. The Military Governor considered this recommendation and, after discussion with the authorities concerned, including those of the Federal Military Government, found that it was impossible to implement. 

To be concluded