The Sun News

FCT on edge over chieftaincy squabbles

Gbagyi demand upgrade of Esu Bwari, Hausa seek Sarkin Kwali

‘Attack on Esu Kwali caused by misunderstanding between palace guards, youths’

By Magnus Eze

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, recently approved the appointment of Alhaji Awwal Musa Ijakoro as the new Sarkin Bwari in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.

The appointment has, however, triggered off some muffled chieftaincy issues since the Ministerial Committee on Chieftaincy Matters, headed by Senator Philip Aduda finished its assignment in 2014, though the report is yet to see the light of the day.

Aside the Bwari case where there had been high presence of security personnel since August, palpable tension pervaded Kwali at the weekend, because of non-appointment of Sarkin Kwali.

The Esu Kwali, Shaban Nizazo 111 was allegedly attacked penultimate Friday at the Central Mosque of Kwali town by youths believed to be Hausa who were identified as mostly butchers in the area.

Their grouse was that the Esu Kwali reportedly blocked the appointment of another Sarkin Kwali after the demise of Alhaji Abudulahi Sulaiman Katsina.

The irate youths allegedly smashed the windscreen of the Esu’s vehicle and blocked his entrance into the mosque for the Juma’at prayer.

Meanwhile, the statement by Media Adviser to the minister, Abubakar Sani, dated October 24, said the appointment of the new Sarkin Bwari was in line with the powers conferred on the minister under the relevant sections of the FCT Chiefs (Appointment & Deposition) Act, 1997 and in accordance with established customs and traditions of the Bwari Chiefdom.

The new Sarkin Bwari succeeded his father, Alhaji Muhammad Musa Ijakoro, who died in August. His nomination was earlier endorsed by the Bwari kingmakers on August 30.

However, observers were surprised that the FCTA flouted its earlier circular suspending everything about appointment, promotion and coronation of traditional heads within the territory.

The circular signed by the then Acting Secretary, Area Councils Secretariat, Hajia Amina Abubakar, dated May 22 suspending appointment and coronation traditional chiefs was reportedly ignored as they announced the appointment of a new Sarkin Bwari.

Contrary to the call by the minister on all stakeholders, particularly the people of Bwari Chiefdom to live in peace with one another; the area has been tensed since the selection and eventual recognition of the new Sarkin.

Daily Sun gathered that Bwari was seemingly in mourning mood when news of the appointment filtered into the area, especially in Gbagyi settlements. In fact, the area had been on the edge since the death the former Sarkin Bwari, Alhaji Mohammed Musa Ijakoro, a gazetted second class chief in the FCT.

The Gbagyi people in Bwari chiefdom, who have the Esu Bwari are aggrieved  that the position of Sarkin Bwari, occupied by “an indigene of Niger state” is higher in ranking than the Esu, hence their agitation for the upgrade of the latter to the status of a second class chief.

With the death of the senior Ijakoro, they pushed for the government not to appoint a replacement. They agitated that the Esu Bwari be upgraded immediately. Even if another Sarkin was eventually appointed, they argued that the area could still to have two second class chiefs.

The Gbagyi in the town, are however, divided on the issue. Those familiar with the late traditional ruler’s struggle for the standardization of the traditional institution questioned the rationale behind such divisive steps.

Ijakoro, before his last breath, lived and preached peace, love and unity and had no borders in championing causes that promoted the wellbeing of his people.

In his course of building bridges of peace, the late Ijakoro financed religious activities across the FCT and beyond, especially the Islamic religion with a major focus on the youths, through teaching and organising of yearly competitions.

Daily Sun gathered that he spearheaded the grading of 11 chiefdoms within Abuja on July 15, 1997 which was backed by Decree 8, on appointment and distribution of the second class chiefdoms.

Down memory lane

Prior to the elevation of Ijakoro to the position of district head by then North Western state, because there was no FCT, there were three districts- Bwari, Kwali and Kuje.

These districts were under Abuja emirate (now split and known as Suleja Emirate Council.) He became a chief following the death of Abubakar Musa, who was then district head of Bwari.

The governor of the defunct North Western state, Usman Farouk, a Commissioner of Police directed that the seat be filled by the people of the area.

According to the Madakin Bwari, Alhaji Muhammad Danbaba, ten villages namely, Bwari, Ijah, Dikko, Ijah-Koro, Dogon-Kurumi, Tuchi, Abuchi, Shere, Kawu and Dutse-Alhaji, constituted the kingmakers.

In fielding candidates for the contest, the late Ijakoro was presented as the sole candidate by Koro people from the seven villages, while Gbagyi came out with three contestants from Bwari, Dikko and Ijah, making them split the votes. Ijakoro emerged winner.

Explaining the history and politics of Bwari Chiefdom, Danbaba said with the creation of FCT in 1976, by then head of state, General  Murtala Mohammed, greater part was carved out from Abaji, while Karu in present Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) was severed from the then  Benue/Plateau.

He pointed out that two demographic surveys in 1978 and 1979 showed that Abuja was a vast land with scanty population.

Commenting on the issue, the Angon Bwari, who spoke through the Ado Bwari, a retired teacher, said the Gbagyi were compensated and moved out of their place, after the demographic surveys.

He stated that the decree (constitution) backing the creation of the FCT stipulated that the area belongs to all and not for any particular ethnic group.

The Angon Bwari said: “This is the Federal Capital Territory which by the constitutional provision is for all, and not for a particular ethnic group to be claiming it to the disadvantage of others.

“After all, following the creation, some people were compensated and opted to leave FCT for Niger State; presently the Esu Bwari’s elder brother, Audu Simon is the district head of New Bwari in Niger State.”

According to him, the late Ijakoro refused to receive compensation. He promoted the struggle leading to the upgrading of chieftaincy titles in Abuja and succeeded in becoming a gazetted second class chief.

The reality

Gbagyi Bwari youths staged a peaceful protest once Awwal Ijakoro was announced the new Sarkin Bwari; they also protested at the late Sarkin’s palace same day the kingmakers settled and recommended Awwal Ijakoro to minister.

He stated that the 1997 upgrade of FCT chiefs by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, was not done in line with the culture and tradition of the people, maintaining that the action had distorted the history of the people.

The Matawalin Bwari, Joseph Dantani Baba, believed that the area as a chiefdom should have only one chief and not two as being experienced.

He, just like his kith and kin of Gbagyi extraction, saw the death of Ijakoro as an opportunity for the FCTA to address the complexity by righting the wrong.

According to Baba, the upgrade done while Jeremiah Useni was the FCT Minister was based on wrong information provided to government then. He therefore, appealed to the present FCT administration to correct the mistake and restore the dignity and pride of the Gbagyi people.

While the issue lingers, frantic campaign raged on at the weekend to justify allegation that the new Sarkin Bwari hails from Niger State. Campaign posters which Ijakoro allegedly used to run for the Tafa State Constituency in the Niger State House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 general election were released.

Government’s position

But the Special Adviser to the FCT Minister on Media, Abubakar Sani denied that the memo on suspension of appointment of traditional leaders was jettisoned.

He explained that there was need to control the politicisation of the process by the Area Council Chairmen.

“The traditional chiefs complained that they were embarrassed how chairmen dabbled into their domains without carrying them along. So, it was intended to bring sanity be stopping indiscriminate appointment of district heads and all that,” he stated.

On the attack on the Esu Kwali, Sani said it was a little misunderstanding between palace guards and some youths; which had long been resolved.

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