By Sale Bayari
Something memorable happened on the 1st of November 2007 when the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon Gabriel Suswam, sent a letter to His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, urging him to establish a Joint Peace/Conflict Resolution Committee to handle the cases of constant and incessant bloody clashes between Tiv crop farmers and Fulani pastoralists. Without hesitation, The Sultan established the Committee that included prominent Tiv traditional rulers, Fulani and Tiv prominent sons who cut across all fields of human endeavour. To head that Committee, The Sultan nominated and appointed the Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Shehu Usman Abubakar, (CON) and the Tor Tiv, HRM, Orchivirigh, Dr. Alfred Akawe Tokula as deputy.
As a member and Secretary of the Committee, I became very closed to the late Emir of Gombe as he drilled me like a slave boy due to his life experience within the states and federal civil service to the point that I felt I could not cope with the drudgery, task and the royal directives. I nearly quit or broke down during the two years’ assignment, but the Emir of Gombe was not a man to let you quit or surrender as his wisdom, acumen, tenacity were enough to keep you spell-bound and irresistably attached to him. His charismatic magnet was matchless, distinctive and hypnotising. He had me as well as the other committee members under his tutelage and wisdom as a teacher, leader, and above all, a great father whose words and actions were uncontestable.
In everything he did or told us to do we found out later that it was the best that he had attended at a level of human consummation, peak, summit and excellence. The years, influence, knowledge, discipline, royalty and dedication to a cause that he believed in had molded him into some kind of man that did not fall within the group of men that believed in human failure. No wonder, the love, affinity and respect that existed between him and The Sultan was totally indescribable, cultish, spotless, utmost and fatherly. To this day, I have not found a traditional ruler that The Sultan so much loved, cherished and respected like Shehu Usman Abubakar. There was this joke which people believed; including myself, that the Emir was always very reluctant in calling the Sultan on phone because he thought The Sultan would think he was lying down while speaking to him. He said he preferred to stoop physically before the Sultan while speaking to him.
During this Sultanate and gubernatorial assignment of finding a lasting solution to the perennial Fulani herdsmen/Tiv farmers’ conflict, the late Emir of Gombe despite his bulky frame and age strove beyond human limits to meet up with the stressful demands of that work. It is now with hindsight that I could read and understand the reasons for such articulation and persistence to be excellent, the monarch knew that he had little left of his life and he wanted to give everything to humanity before departing this world. Allahu Akbar! Innalilahi Wa’innah Illaihi Raji’un. What a great way to say goodbye to us. The last time I met him was two months ago when the daughters of the Acting Governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Garba Umar wedded in his palace. After the wedding, he had asked me if I was coming back to see him and I replied I was, but unfortunately I could not make it. I hope he had forgiven me.
As I recall those short memorable moments I have had with the late Emir, I vividly remember the series of meetings we had in his Palace in Gombe, our inauguration at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and subsequent meetings at Agura Hotel, Abuja. Amongst other members of the Committee who will greatly miss Alhaji Shehu Usman Abubakar, I believe will be Ambassador Umar Farouq Ka’oje, Senator Umaru Dahiru, The Tor Tiv, Senator Walid Jibrin, Prof. Paul Akase Sorkaa, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, Prof. Ter-Ruman Avav. Others are Chief Shaaka Adagba, Hon. Col. B.I. Aboho (rtd), Dr. Muhammad J. Kuna and Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, among others. Without saying it, the Chief Mourner, of course, is His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto whose great great grand father, Shehu Usman Danfodio gave the Emirate to the great great grand father of Shehu Usman Abubakar in the person of Abubakar Buba Yero dan Usman Subande in 1804, who died in1841. May their souls rest in perfect peace in Aljannah Firdausi (Ameen).
How I wished the late Emir had seen the full implantation of the report of The Sultan’s Tiv Farmers/Fulani Cattle Rearers’ Relationship Committee before he passed on, more especially as the crises between the two cousins have escalated into a war situation. Reading this report gives me hope that one day, even though in his grave, Alhaji Shehu Usman Abubakar would be remembered and rewarded for the peace that his report had brought, not only to the Tiv and the Fulani, but to the entire people of Nigeria. I hope, The Sultan, the Governor and the Tor Tiv, would see the wisdom and in respect of the memory of the late Emir give this report another chance to see the light of the day for the sake of today and posterity. That report is a compendium of the struggles, foresight, wisdom of a group of people who truly love their people and this nation under a great departed leader, the Emir of Gombe.
Sale Bayari, Secretary of The Sultan Tiv Farmers/ Fulani Cattle Rearer’s Relationship Committee, sent in this tribute from Jos.