One man holds the key to lasting peace in the tense Middle Belt state of Nasarawa: Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, the only providential state chief executive produced by opposition Congress for Progressive Change in 2011 election. Should he this moment summon the uncommon courage and the inspired vision inherent in true statesmanship, it’s a sure bet that the long-drawn hostilities and shared hatred causing tremendous anxiety in his domain will end in no time.
Coming from the tent of the opposition, a group sworn to redressing the ills of an unsettling negative past, it is not illogical to expect this governor to have taken a decisive action to weed out the many legacies of pain left by the preceding governing party. But unfortunately, he seems not yet ready to confront the monster. This behaviour clearly typifies more than cowardice. Al-Makura’s failure to put the lid back on the box of evil opened in 1999 by the first 4th republic governor of the state, Abdullahi Adamu, reflexively advertises him as a man romancing with a sinister agenda.
Going by unfolding events, it will be hard to persuade dispassionate followers of affairs in the mineral-rich state that the governor is not comparing notes with the ex-governor and other collaborators on the best way to not just clip the influence of the Eggon ethnic group, but also to completely wipe it off through a well-perfected strategy of ethnic cleansing. And should some subtle devious means fail to achieve this, the use of violence seems unquestionably an attractive option.
As for former governor Adamu, now a senator, he is not hiding the fact that he is a confirmed nemesis of the Eggons. In the aftermath of the disastrous Lakyo adventure, he dramatically turned up at the House of Assembly in Lafia and castigated the ethnic group. He firmly placed the blame for the crisis in the state at the doorstep of the Eggon nation and called on other ethnic groups in the state to band together to check what he perceived as the excesses of the Eggons by any means possible. Then shortly afterwards, he took out a full-page advert in a national newspaper to repeat the call he made at the House of Assembly and declare that he knew the instigators of the crisis. However, in his familiar exhibition of utter spinelessness, he would not mention names.
Yet any discerning observer of Nasarawa state politics knows that if Adamu has any group of persons in mind as sponsors of the violence, top among them would be Solomon Ewuga, a leading, highly popular Eggon politician who is also now a senator from the same party as the incumbent governor.
For reasons only he can explain (invariably not devoid of paranoia anyway), Adamu sees Ewuga as a classic bete noir. But on the contrary, here is a refined gentleman, well-liked by his people and known to be investing so much for peace to reign in his troubled state. The extent to which Ewuga is pursuing the restoration of peace in the entire state regularly comes to the fore whenever he engages the media.
Meanwhile, there’s a sneaky feeling that there is a round-the-clock revision of an evil plot targeted at the Eggons with Adamu and Al-Makura as the masterminds. For if the governor genuinely desires peace as some of his supporters argue, he should have simply begun the process by courageously dusting up the supreme court judgment of almost a year ago and reinstating the remainder of the 34 Eggon staff of Lafia local government council who went to court to challenge their unjust sack by Adamu.
To quickly recap an injudicious act that was no doubt propelled by malice, the Adamu administration, which had then just been installed at the dawn of democracy, ordered all Eggons working in Lafia local council and others to relocate and resume at Nasarawa Eggon local council because Nasarawa Eggon is their designated ancestral home, and that is where they should permanently belong. In the prejudiced and misplaced view of Adamu’s government, Eggons should live and work in Nasarawa Eggon, not anywhere else in the state. Then, it was an abomination for an Eggon man or woman to trace his or her roots to Lafia, or to any other town other than Nasarawa Eggon.
And so even in the face of convincing proofs that these Eggon workers originated from Lafia, that government still went ahead to effect their forced evacuation. But thankfully, the supreme court saw the iniquity of the action and was therefore clear and unambiguous in its decision – the court declared the act unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental human rights of the workers and ordered Nasarawa government to immediately call them back to office and pay all their entitlements.
But up till now, these workers have not been recalled and there are reports that some of them are already dead, after languishing for years under what is clearly a state-sponsored tyranny. A situation like this should worry a focused leader at any level. Instead of beating about the bush looking for what is not lost, Al-Makura should justify his democratic credentials by swiftly respecting the law with the reinstatement of the affected staff who are still alive. Besides helping to reduce tension, this will enable the existing beneficiaries enjoy the fruits of their judgment before the fate that befell their colleagues catches up with them.
Even then, the example of Lafia local government is just one of the terrible persecutions of the Eggons to which the governor must address his mind if he truly wants peace. For instance, there is an ongoing random arrest of Eggons by the security agents in the state, especially the police. Some four weeks ago, six Eggons whose names are Maigona Attah from Fadama village, John Allu from Angwan Mayo, Tozali Peter from Pambarau village, Innocent Sunday, Asabe Bako and Sunday Kuje, all from Garaku, were arrested for no concrete reasons other than being Eggons. They were all picked up in their houses at night and are still being held at state police command. No charges were preferred against them.
These indiscriminate arrests began long before the Lakyo incident. Shortly before then, 11 persons were arrested and moved to the facilities of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja and detained. Even after securing a court order for their release and compensation for their illegal arrest and detention, the police are still holding them and reports filtering in say one of the detainees, whose father is also among the detained, took ill and died. The cause of death is unknown. What is known is that some Eggon leaders sent a doctor to treat the young man, but the police denied the doctor access to him. As soon as he died, the police transferred the others back to Lafia where they have continued their detention. The father, it is reported, is down with appendicitis.
The animosity reserved for the Eggons is expanding by the day. In police stations across the state, there are reported cases of Eggons being ignored and turned away when they go to lay complaints. Eggons serving in the Nasarawa police command are not immune to the repression. In a June 19 letter with Ref. No CH:5250/ZN.4/VOL.4/194, titled POSTING/TRANSFER: GENERAL, signed by Auwalu Umar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Admin) Zone 4 headquarters, Makurdi, and sent to the Commissioners of Police at state headquarters in Makurdi, Lafia and Jos, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in that Zone suddenly ordered “with immediate effect” the transfer of 32 policemen, all of them Eggons serving in Nasarawa state. All were transferred to Benue and Plateau states.
They include 6 inspectors – Alkali Ewuga, David I. Namo, Musa Kigbu, Patrick Umbugutsa, Michael Abimiku and Michael Agah; 17 Corporals – Namo Madaki, Attah Amos, Taimako Yakubu, Alanana Shagari, Samuel Kunza, Embuga James, David Egana, Habila Alu, Ali Yakubu, Idris Mohammed, Moses Anthony, Allu Ibrahim, Dauda Achuku, Namo Monday, Dauda Iliya, Daniel Bitrus and Alaku; and 9 Police Constables – Alkali Solomon, Danjuma Jafaru, Abimiku Magaji, Umbugadu Usman, Yahaya Ahmadu, Yusuf Shuaibu, Obadiah Obile, Maji Musa and Ayalo Dominic.
The truce between the Eggon people and the Fulanis are routinely endangered as some armed Alago youths dressed in black T-shirts and disguising as Eggons launch sporadic attacks on Fulani villages, destroying their farmlands. Recently, some of them were caught by the Eggons and turned over to the Fulanis who identified them as the assailants. These attacks are actually carried out to present a misleading impression of the naturally peaceful Eggons as aggressors and tormentors of other ethnic groups. But the Fulanis, who revealed that they were deceived by the state government into taking on the Eggons in battle, are not only regretting their action, but are also ready for permanent peace.
Furthermore, the clouds of persecution also cover the state civil service where there is a supposed embargo on employment for no other reason than to block the entrance of the better educated and more qualified Eggons into the service. And for those who are already in service, getting promotion to the next level is an uphill task. In the meantime, employment of other ethnic groups goes on underground just as it is far easier for non-Eggons to gain promotion regardless of the level of their competence.
All of this should be of concern to the governor. If he is eager for peace, he has to instantly reverse these injustices and some others not stated here but of which he is very well aware. He should not be deceived into believing that he can attain peace by simply gathering traditional rulers in the state and getting them to agree to send a delegation to the paramount ruler of the Eggon nation, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Bala Angbazo, for the sole purpose of persuading him to ban the Ombatse cultural group, a property of his ancestors.
It’s difficult to see how the governor thinks that this would work. Because he would also not listen to anyone who suggests to him to send a message to the King of Gwandara, the governor’s home town, to banish Omelle traditional worship, in which his people so much cherish.
For the umpteenth time, the governor needs to be told that the Ombatse group is not the problem in the state. The problem is the seed of injustice sown fourteen years ago, and which has now grown into a massive iroko tree with the active nurturing of some past and present leaders. Unless the governor reaches to the very depths of his human psyche and muster the will to cut down this tree full of ripe fruits of injustice, it will be difficult to talk of peace in their beloved Nasarawa state.
Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist; can be reached on [email protected]