Frustrating Southern Kaduna’s Indigenous Traditional Structures: A move to complement the Jihad in the Middle Belt
By Steven Kefas
In Nigeria the traditional institution predates both the Uthman Danfodio Jihad and the colonial administrations. This is evident in the fact that before the arrival of Uthman Danfodio into Nigeria the indigenous people of the North and South had their various traditional leadership system which was serving them pretty well.
These traditional leadership system had leaders who were people oriented in the discharge of their leadership roles and they did not only provide traditional leadership but also religious and political leadership with a focus at defending their rich beliefs and territories against external aggressors.
Southern Kaduna has always suffered attempts at complete extermination of her rich cultural practice, particularly her traditional leadership structure like the history books reveals. We continue to struggle for self rule as visible in the history of the struggle for chiefdoms in southern Kaduna since precolonial era till the year 2000. After the ethno-religious crisis that rocked Kaduna in the early 2000s the then Kaduna state governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi in his own wisdom embarked on the creation of Chiefdoms for ethnic nationalities in Kaduna state. This act brought about some sense of fulfillment and belonging for the over 60 ethnic nationalities in the state. It also brought leadership closer to the people which made it possible for peace and order to be maintained across the state.
This achievement by the Makarfi administration brought a turn around and marked the begining of good things as massive development became the order of the day in the state. The process of peace building, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect for each other among the diverse cultures, religions e.t.c was reached. This brought the issue of communal clashes in Kaduna State to a dead end as Kaduna State was ushered to the path of progress and sustainable development.
After the emergence of Nasiru Elrufai as governor, traditional institutions especially in the southern part of Kaduna state began to witness some mysterious occurrences. Some traditional rulers of repute were assassinated while their killers are yet to be identified in some cases. Some were identified but yet to be prosecuted. For instance the Etum Numana, Gambo Makama alongside his wife were assassinated by unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani militias on the 1st of January 2018. His killers are still ‘at large’.
Three days later the Agom Ikullu, Mr Yohanna Sidi Kukah was abducted by gunmen. Kukah was fortunate to be freed by his abductors after ransom was paid.
Few months after the Agom Ikullu was released by his captors who themselves are Fulani militias, The Agwom Adara, Dr Raphael Maiwada Galadima, was abducted by Fulani militias on the 19th of October 2018 alongside his wife. His wife was eventually released while the paramount ruler was murdered by his abductors after ransom was paid and his body dumped along the dreaded Abuja-Kaduna express way. It is on record that the abduction and subsequent murder of the Agom Adara opened the chapter of endless massacre of the Adara indigenous people by Fulani militias.
While the Etum Numana was eventually replaced by the state government, the Agwom Adara wasn’t. And while his throne remains empty till date, the Adara Chiefdom was balkanized, and an Emirate established in Kajuru, a Local government with over 95% Christian population. Note there was no conquest to warrant establishing an Emirate.
The story is the same in Godogodo Chiefdom where the late Chief who died in August 2020 is yet to be replaced. Instead a so called caretaker that has no legitimacy in our culture is now in charge.
With the swiftness at appointing an Emir for Zazzau, one is compelled to ask, if a caretaker team is legitimate in our traditional system. Why was a caretaker not appointed over Zazzau Emirate? Why was a new Emir appointed just 18 days after the demise of the former emir?.
The Fantswam Chiefdom has a very peculiar problem. The Chiefdom was without a chief for a long time after the demise of its former Chief, Musa Didam in November 2018. When Governor Nasir El-rufai finally decided to install a new Chief in November 2020, the nomenclature was controversially changed from Agwam Fantswam (Fantswam Chief) to Agwam Zikpak (Zikpak Chief). While Zikpak is the name of a small village in Fantswam land, Fantswam is the name of the entire ethnic group. Many people ignorantly celebrated the gesture of the Governor without scrutinizing the motive behind such a change in nomenclature. What such s change in nomenclature invariably means is that a Fulani man born and bred in Zikpak can ascend to the throne some day by virtue of being from Zikpak and not necessarily being a Fantswam man.
Same happened with the Gbagyi Chiefdom when El-rufai renamed the Chief from Sa Gbagyi (Gbagyi Chief) to Etsu Chikun (Chikun Chief). This also opens up the throne for non Gbagyi people to ascend.
A similar thing played out in Gombe, another Middle Belt state when the Tangale people were short-changed after the demised of their former Chief, Dr. Abdu Buba Maisharu II, the Mai Tangale in January 2021. The people of Tangale tribe are predominantly Christians and cut across at least four (4) local government areas of Gombe state.
The selection of a new Chief led to a breakdown of peace in the area after the decision of the kingmakers was overturned by the Governor. It was reported that the man approved by the Kingmakers having won most of the votes was rejected by the Governor because he is a Christian. A Muslim who came behind in the election was installed as chief thereby throwing the area in chaos.
Rumors in Gombe have it that it was the Kaduna state Governor, Nasiru El-rufai who advised his Gombe state counterpart Muhammad Inuwa to install a Muslim Chief against the wishes of both the Kingmakers and the people.
Whose Responsibility to Appoint Chiefs?
Many have tried to absolve the Kaduna state governor of being responsible for not replacing these slain and demised monarchs. Some said it is the kingmakers duty to select and recommend to the governor.
Findings have shown that the governor needs to give the nod before such exercise can commence, this invariably means that if the governor doesn’t consent to the process, even when the kingmakers make decisions it shall be null and void. In the case of Adara, their Chiefdom ceased to exist the day a malicious gazette from the state government balkanizing the Chiefdom was signed.
Today the Adara nation, one of the largest ethnic nationalities in Southern Kaduna, is without a traditional ruler.
The Adara ethnic nationality is a warrior tribe. History recorded how they fought and resisted the Danfodio Jihadists led by Usman Yabo when they invaded their land in the early 1800s. Usman Yabo and his army fled to Fantswam land for safety and eventually named the place Jama’a Dororo meaning the people of Dororo.
Ironically, the Adara nation could not be conquered by the then Danfodio Jihadists but has been ‘conquered’ by Governor El-Rufai who has established an Emirate over their land in place of their Indigenous traditional Chief signifying conquest.
When Usman Yabo settled in Fantswam, even though no war or conquest was achieved he founded an emirate amidst the people who gave him and his people the portion of land where they stayed, south of Fantswam territory. Yabo’s descendant, the Hausa-Fulani ruler, Muhammadu, moved his capital to the heart of the Fantswam land in 1933, this was done with the support of the British colonialists.
In Kagarko where I come from, the Indigenous Chief of Koro land, the Ere Koro has today been reduced to a nobody following the establishment of an Emirate in Kagarko. This was also done unilaterally by Governor Elrufai to further advance his agenda. Jere, another Community originally owned by the Gbagyis also has an Emirate even though the late Emir Dr Sa’ad Usman who passed on in April 2020 is yet to be replaced. Note that Jere and Kagarko are few kilometers apart and some believed that not replacing the Jere Emir is deliberate since Kagarko now has an Emirate and an Emir.
The story is the same in Kauru where a new Emirate was also established in June 2018, the Kaduna state government in its effort to justify the creation of the Emirate said that it was the Kauru traditional council that demanded for a change of name and opted for an Emirate in place of Chiefdom.
One thing worthy of note in all of these is the fact that the assassination of our chiefs; Adara and Numana), the demise of the Fantswam Chief, the abduction of the Agom Ikullu and the controversial establishment of Emirates across Southern Kaduna all took place in 2018. This could be mere coincidence, though I don’t believe so.
While I continue to call on the Kaduna state government to please give the nod for all vacant Chiefdoms to be replaced immediately, I also want to reemphasize that the killers of both the Agom Adara and the Etum Numana must be brought to book and prosecuted quickly.
Controversial Executive Bill before the Kaduna Assembly:
A bill seeking to further alter the existing traditional structures has been sent by Governor El-rufai to the Kaduna State House of Assembly. According to Luka Binniyat, the Spokesman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), “Part of the bill is to demote all Southern traditional chiefs, except two, to a grade lower than their present one. Again, in the bill, there is no more any traditional leader in Southern Kaduna like ‘Agwam Bajju.’It will be replaced with ‘Sarkin Zonkwa.’
Also, certain Islamic clerics have been given permanent membership in some traditional Council in Chiefdoms they had very little presence in and were never king makers there.” Binniyat said.
The said bill is reported to have passed second reading in the Kaduna Assembly. The contents of the bill are not new because certain cases mentioned earlier on this article are in tandem with the contents of the yet to be passed bill, an indication that El-rufai seeks to further legitimise illegality using the rubber-stamped state House of Assembly.