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Published On: Tue, May 6th, 2014

Insurgency and the plight of El Kanemi Kingdom

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Alhaji Abubarkar Ibn Umar Garbai El-KanemiBy Eric Teniola

The Kanuris, under the platform of Borno, Yobe Peoples Forum, recently addressed the media and lamented the situation in the Kingdom of El-Kanemi and what they are experiencing under the current climate of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East geopolitical zone. They alleged that the Nigerian Presidency – the imperial Presidency- the czar, is not addressing, enough, the suffering and misery of the Kanuris.The spokesman of that platform was Air Marshall (rtd.) Al Amin Daggash. Present at the conference were Alhaji Shettima Mustapha and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingigbe. Also present was Alhaji Adamu Ciroma who is from the Bolewa tribe.

If you love your roots and you grow up in a friendly neighbourhood, nothing could be more painful and sad than to hear or read about how your people are being displaced by a senseless war, which is not of their own making. Martin Luther wrote that “War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it” while Pope John Paul II pleaded that” War should belong to the tragic past, in history. It should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future”.

Although these gentlemen are largely based in Abuja, I am sure they have a way of knowing what is happening presently to their brothers and sisters in the El-Kanemi kingdom. Never have the Kanuris experienced the kind of agony they are going through now. We can’t dismiss the claim of these gentlemen as frivolous. They should know where the shoe pinches. For all their years in public service, they are not known for frivolity, flippancy or volatility.

Definitely something frightful and horrific is taking place in the El-Kanemi Kingdom right now.These men are not ordinary Nigerians. Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe spent his entire life in the public service and crowned it with his appointment as Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Alhaji Mustapha Shettima was a former Minister of Defence. Mallam Adamu Ciroma has spent more than 50 years serving Nigeria, from the editorship of New Nigeria, Governor of the Central Bank, First secretary of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Finance.

As for the Daggash family, their service to the El-Kanemi Kingdom and the nation has been striking and remarkable. The patriarch of the family, Alhaji Musa Daggash, a former Forester had his education at Oxford University in England between 1950-1951, University of Manchester, England, 1960-1961. He joined the Department of Forestry, 1958-1959 and was permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Mines and Power, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Defence. He retired in 1969, and was later Chairman, Defence Industries Corporation, General Manager, Chad Basin Development Authority, member, Constituent Assembly, 1977-1978, commissioner, Local Government Service Board, Borno State, 1978.

For his distinguished service to his country, he was conferred with the national honour, Officer of the Federal Republic. Throughout his career in the public service he was a detribalised Nigerian and untill he died, his best friend was Chief Matthew Amusan Tiamiyu, theApena of Iperu in Ogun state. His late wife, Hajia Aishatu Laraba Daggash (1934-2010), was matron of school of Nursing in Kaduna. During the era of Chief Earnest Shonekan, she was the Minister of State in the ministry of health. Her son, Senator Muhammed Sanusi Daggash, was Minister of state for Housing and also served as Minister of National Planning. As for Air Marshal Daggash, the eldest of the Daggash family now, he joined the Air force at an early age for service and throughout his career in the Air Force, he was acknowledged as a brilliant officer.

Air Marshal Al-Amin Daggash retired as Chief of Defence staff in 1999. In the Government gazette 179 volume 85 of December 1998, he was given a GCON along with Lt. Gen. Bamaiyi, Vice- Admiral J.O. Ayinla, the chief Naval Staff, Air Marshal N.E. Eduok, Chief of Air Staff, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Gidado Idris, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, former Vice-President, Rear-Admiral A.A. Madueke, Mr. Allison Ayida, Chief OluFalae, late Dr. NwaforOrizu, amongst others.

As far as I’m concerned, those who spoke to the media on behalf of the Kanuri’s are highly responsible. The Kanuris are never short of great leaders. These include Sir Kashim Ibrahim (1910-1990) the first Nigerian Governor of Northern region, Engr. Bunu Sheriff, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, former Governor of Borno state, late Alhaji Kam Salem, former inspector general of police, Zanna Bukar Suloma Dipcharima, former minister of transport in the first Republic, Waziri Ibrahim, Shettima Alli Munguno, Major General (rtd.) Abba Kyari , Alhaji Abba Habeeb, Alhaji Muhaamed Goni, late Brig. Zakariya Maimalari, late Col. Kur Mohammed, late Lt. Col. Abogo Largema, Hajiya Ammuna Ali, Alhaji Goni Aji, present Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Baba-kura Kaigama, Dr. BukaShaib, Prof. Nuhu Alkali, Ibrahim Iman and the former Military Ruler, General Sanni Abacha, among others. Even in Niger Republic, the former Prime Minister of that country Mamane Oumarou and the former President of Niger, Tandja Mamadou are both Kanuris.

The Kanuri people are an African ethnic group living largely in the lands of the former El- Kanemi and Bornu empires – Borno and Yobe states in northeast Nigeria, southeast Niger Republic, western Chad and northern Cameroon. Some of them also live in Libya and Sudan and they are predominantly Sunni Muslims.

The Kanuris became Muslims in the 11th century. The El-Kanemi Empire became a centre of Muslim learning and the Kanuri soon controlled all the area surrounding Lake Chad and the powerful empire reached its height in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when they ruled much of Middle Africa. The Bolewatribe, where the Ciromas come from in Yobe state are part of the old El-Kanemi Empire so also is the Shuwa tribe where late Major General Mohammed Shuwa came from.

During the scramble for Africa in the 19th century, the Kanuris were divided under the rule of the British, French and German African empires.

The Shehu of Borno still maintains a ceremonial rule of the Kanuri people, based in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria, but acknowledged by the five million Kanuris in neighbouring countries. The Shehu (“Sheikh”) of Borno draws his authority from a state founded before 1000 CE, the Kanem-Borno Empire. The current ruling line, the Al-Kanemi dynasty, dates back to the accession of Muhammed Al-Amin Al-Kanemi in the early 19th century, displacing the Sayfawa dynasty which had ruled around 1300CE. The 19thShehu of Borno, Mustapha Umar El-Kanemi, died in February 2009 and was succeeded by the present Shehu, Alhaji Kyari Garbai.

Today the Kanuris are in bad shape and the El-Kanemi Kingdom is almost in ruins, ravaged by the Boko Haram war. Even Lake Chad, which the Kanuris regard as their best gift from God is drying up fast. The best among the Kanuris are now taking refuge elsewhere, some holed up in their homes in Abuja, sneaking out in the night with body guards, very much unsure of what will happen to them and living in perpetual fear.

Worse still, the economy of the El-kanemi Kingdom is in ruins. The economy has been rewinded by over 50years.

For those who have once lived in Maiduguri and Damaturu and for those of us who have visited those two cities, we feel today the pain of the Kanuris. Imagine places like Bunguda, Yusufari, Kurawa,Tarmua, Gujba, Jere, Mafa, Kaga, Biu, Damboa, Bama, Dikwa and other towns are no longer safe either for visit or work.

Today there are more tears than joy in the El-kanemi Kingdom. It’s sad, very sad indeed. But in spite of the gloomy situation, I believe the Kanuris and the El-Kanemi Kingdom will rise again. The Kanuris are brave warriors, very proud people. They have never been conquered before. Even the conquering Fulanis never subdued the Kanuris. The Boko Haram war can never last forever. No war has ever lasted forever. Never. Something tells me the Kanuris will regain their lost glory very soon.

Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, wrote in from Lagos.


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