By Yusuf Mairiga Shekarau
From the moment he took his first oath of office as governor of Plateau State on the 29th of May, 2015, Barr. Simon Bako Lalong has never minced words in telling the world that he is a peacemaker who has come to enthrone peace in the troubled state, through justice, equity and fairness. At one occasion late last year, Governor Lalong had this to say: “Under my watch, nobody will be treated as a second-class citizen or superior to another. We are created equal by God and must learn to live together in peace and unity”. This was at the presentation of 2nd and 3rd Class Staff of Office to the Adagwom Izere Jos, Mr. Emmanuel Ajik and the Gwom Ibaas, Da Luka Pagyang Pam respectively on the 16th of December, 2019.
Notwithstanding his assurances, however, a cross section of Muslim communities in Plateau State have for extremely long periods been without monarchs. These communities are spread from the central to the southern parts of Plateau, and they share the same worry.
To start, painfully, with my own community, the historic town of Yelwa in Shendam LGA, it is currently headless. The people of Yelwa would always recall with nostalgia their encounter with a village head decades ago since the longest serving village head died on the 26 November, 1992.
Nearly 30 years after, we are struggling to survive without a leader. Like a herd without a shepherd, the community always struggles to fittingly address certain controversies at ease because there is no voice to speak to the people from the throne. Their dilemma is often compounded by how their youth regard discussions about chieftaincy of the town as an empty story.
Much more unfortunate is that the community has remained unaware of the reasons why the local and state authorities shied away from installing a village head for them. As a community, Yelwa can hardly understand why its people are being treated as second-class citizens, contrary to the recent assurances of His Excellency, Governor Simon Lalong. For the people, nothing would have been much exciting as installing one of its sons as village head. Yelwa, I am sure, is more than poised to rejoice once the long-term dream of its people comes alive
Also surviving the lifelong emptiness of her monarchical stool is the headquarters of Jos South Local Government Area: Bukuru.
Bukuru has been in existence for over a century since the first Village Head, Alhaji Muhammad Shanono moved from Tsohuwar Bukuru located at the outskirts of the present Bukuru along Sabon Gidan Kanar. Shanono was confirmed to have been moved by the then Native Authority administration to assume the Village Headship of present Bukuru.
He was the Village Head of Bukuru for 51 years (1909-1960), and was a staff of the Native Authority on permanent and pensionable appointment. Bukuru was previously considered a separate city from Jos but it has now grown into the capital city through urbanisation to form what is now called the Jos-Bukuru Metropolis.
Bukuru is one of the many Muslim communities that have since been thrown into thirst and yawning for chieftaincy in Plateau State. For a very long time, specifically after the September, 2001 crisis, specifically on the 3rd of October, 2001, Alhaji Sulaiman Muhammad, the Sarkin Bukuru died. It was the very final time the community would recall an encounter with a head.
It is interesting to note however that the continuing delay in appointing the district head of Bukuru community is neither for any pending litigation nor disagreement within the ruling family. Shortly after the death of Muhammad, for instance, other surrounding Muslim communities also faced some heat. Crises have erupted and continued unabatedly, resulting in the removal of heads of some of the communities. Among the villages that suffered such an were Tin Tin, Dogo Na Hauwa, Mai Idon Taro, Dilimi, Sabon Gidan Kanar, Kuru Babba, Kuru Karami, Maitunbi, Barikin Accha, Nafan Dredge, Kuru Tasha. Situations are worsened in these areas by the fact that thousands of Muslim residents have been forced to flee to safer places in quest for survival, due to the persistent crises that have befallen those communities.
In Jos North LGA, Naraguta community is also living without a head. In Quan Pan LGA, Kurgwi and Kwande communities have equally lived for years without village heads. The pathetic tales of these communities, largely inhabited by Muslims, which do not have village or districts heads in the state, is so much, and tended to confuse inhabitants. They are often tempted to ask: “Are statements like the one by Governor Lalong that ‘nobody will be treated as second-class citizen’ in Plateau State not mere lip services?”
I therefore, wish to again appeal specifically His Excellency, Governor Simon Lalong, who doubles as Chairman of the Northern states Governors’ Forum to as a matter of urgency facilitate the process that ensures immediate instatement of the heads of the identified districts and villages in the state as testament to his assurances that he is an embodiment of peace and justice. This will accentuate efforts to restore Plateau State to its renowned acclaim as “Home of Peace”, thereby also restoring its glory as “Home of Tourism”.
Yusuf Shekarau wrote from Jos, Plateau State, and can be reached at: