By Ralph Madugu
The Nigeria Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) has called on the Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, to adhere to the principles of democracy and announce the appointment of Dr. Musa Maiyamba as the new Mai Tangale according to the recommendations of the Tangale kingdom kingmakers in the interest of peace, justice and fairness.
In a statement signed by the Secretary of the Forum, Bosun Emmanuel, the forum said itnoted with concern “the flagrant attempt to subvert the tradition and will of the people of Tangale ethnic nationality in Billiri Local Government of Gombe State by the Gombe State Government” which, according to NCEF, was another clear indication that democracy, in every form, is under threat in Nigeria.
While making reference to the tradition and customs of the Tangale kingdom, the kingmakers are mandated to elect the new Mai Tangale through a voting process, adding that in the present exercise, three candidates who vied for the traditional stool received votes from the 9 kingmakers as follows: Dr. Musa Idris Maiyamba – 5 votes, Alh. Ahmed Magaji – 2 votes, Alh. Danladi Sanusi – 2 votes
NCEF said, “Section 19(1) of Gombe State Chieftaincy Law states as follows: “Upon the death, resignation, removal or deposition of an Emir or a Chief the Governor SHALL approve the appointment of an Emir or a Chief on the recommendation of the Council of Traditional Kingmakers of the Emirate or the Chiefdom.
“It is therefore surprising that the State Government has so far, failed to announce Dr. Musa Idris Maiyamba as the new Mai Tangale. The people of Tangale have embarked on protests which unfortunately led to the death of people on the ground that Government wants to announce its candidate that did not win the election process.”
It reminded the state government that Nigeria is a democracy and not Sharia theocratic state hence the will of the people must remain sacrosanct.
Similarly, the Arewa Christians Association said that it has observed with dismay and nostalgia the unfortunate but avoidable circumstance that led to demonstrations, destructions, killings and imposition of curfew in Billiri by the state governor.
The organisation, in a 7-page statement released in the wake of the violence that followed the election of a new Mai Tangale and signed by its Chairman, Rev. Luke Shehu, said “against all odds and advice from major stakeholders and prominent Nigerians, the governor chose the cheap side of religious bigotry and ethnic sentiment in despising and denying the Tangle people the right choice to their ancestral throne.”
Recalling the scenario that led to what started as peaceful demonstration in Billiri before the break down of law and order, ACIPA said, “On Monday 15th February 2021, the nine (9) out of ten (10) kingmakers of the Tangle Royal stool voted. Dr. Musa Idris Mai Yamba was voted with five votes to become the new Mai Tangle elect. The other two contestants, Alhaji Danladi Maishanu Maidoki got two votes and Mallam Ahmed Magaji got two votes. Rather than doing the needful in accordance to the Gombe state chieftaincy law 2021-part VI number twenty (20) sub sections one (1), the governor travelled to Abuja and directed that Alhaji Danladi Maishanu Maidoki with two (2) votes out of the nine (9) be declared as the new Mai Tangle.
“The above was the scenario that led to an earlier peaceful demonstration in Billiri before the breakdown of law and order.
“However, on Wednesday 17th February 2021, the Tangle Intelligentsia movement promptly wrote the governor of Gombe state. Also, the Tangle community overseas wrote an open letter to the governor appealing that the wishes and desire of the Tangle ethnic people be upheld in accordance to their tradition, norms, rights and history. Unfortunately, the governor reneged.”
According to ACIPA, despite the fact that the provocation leading to the crises in Billiri was precipitated by the governor, he had the audacity to reel out his dictator’s riot act through a broadcast on Saturday 20th February 2021.
“It is unfortunate that the Governor a Fulani Muslim chose to arrogate to himself the right to impose a paramount traditional ruler to an ethnic people who are over 90% Christians. Item five (5) of the governors broadcast reads thus; “Let it be clear that it is within my power as governor to appoint any of three recommended candidates to become the new Mai Tangle” This is unfortunately the types of people we have as democrats in Nigeria!”
While applauding the state government for reviewing the curfew earlier imposed, the group said: “However, we put him on notice that should any harm befall the Mai Tangle elect, Dr. Musa Idris Mai Yamba, or further infringement on the right of the people to choose their paramount ruler, the governor will be held responsible in view of the information with regards the threat to the person of the Mai Tangle elect. The Federal Government and the international community should take note.”
ACIPA demanded that the procedures of selection and appointment of monarchs and traditional rulers in accordance to their cultures, traditions and history should be legislated into the Constitution of Nigeria to avoid impunity and flagrant abuse by governors such as Mohammadu Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State.
Meanwhile, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, said it is aware of the plan to impose the new Mai Tangale which it said was in line with “a deliberately crafted plot by Hausa-Fulani oligarchy to impose a candidate that is unpopular with the people in order to disturb the peaceful co-existence of the people along the religious divide.”
In a press statement signed by Yinka Odumakin, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Senator Bassey Henshaw and Dr Isuwa Dogo – for the South West, South East, South South and the Middle Belt – the group said its attention had been drawn to the violence and destruction of lives and property that rocked Biliri, one of the chiefdoms in the Tangale Waja nation in Gombe State, over attempts by Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya to impose an unpopular candidate as the new Mai Tangale, adding that it was also aware that the planned imposition of the new Mai Tangale was in line with a deliberately crafted plot by Hausa-Fulani oligarchy to impose a candidate that is unpopular with the people in order to disturb the peaceful co-existence of the people along the religious divide.
SMBLF expressed shock that Governor Yahaya, who had vowed to stick to the choice of the Tangale kingmakers, was now reneging on his promise stating that going by the level of destruction unleashed on Biliri by thugs and hired arsonists opposed to the popular choice of a new paramount ruler for Biliri, it was clear that the Gombe State Government was driving the town down “the valley of worsening insecurity.”
It said: “Without any form of doubt, the SMBLF has been convinced beyond all reasonable doubts that Governor Yahaya is behind the orgy of violence and deployment of soldiers responsible for the unprovoked murder of no fewer than four peaceful protesters at the weekend. The active participation of thugs, popularly called ‘Kalare’, an equivalent of Boko Haram, who were in the Governor Yahaya ’s convoy were sighted destroying a church as the convoy departed Biliri town on Saturday.
“From all accounts available to our Forum, we are sad that Governor Yahaya who should be the champion of peace has turned out to be the mastermind of the crisis. We are at a loss why the governor is not interested in announcing Dr. Musa Idris Maiyamba as the new Mai Tangale, having polled five votes from a total of nine votes, leaving the two candidates for the exalted position with two votes each.
“It is reported that Governor Yahaya has vowed to choose a Muslim as the next Mai Tangale of Biliri. If that happens, such an action is capable of not only worsening the security conditions, but also could serve as a prologue to havoc on the peaceful co-existence among the people. From the religious population of the town, it is most unlikely that the Biliri people who are 95 percent Christians would succumb to the choice of accepting the successor to 14th Mai Tangale Abdu Buba Maisheru who was Chairman of the Northern Christians Traditional Rulers’ Forum.
“For the record, Christians constitute 95 percent in Biliri that is one of the six chiefdoms in Tangale land. There is no doubt that out of the six chiefdoms in Tangale ethnic nationality, three are ruled by Muslims who constitute less than 10 percent, with Kaltungo having been turned into an emirate in order to bar Christians from aspiring to the Mai stool. The other two chiefdoms with Muslim monarchs are Waja and Tula. In total, Muslims constitute less than 15 percent in the entire six chiefdoms.”
The forum further stated that it is clear from the foregoing that the current attempt at imposing a Muslim on Biliri is aimed at entrenching a plot that is outside the Tangale ethnic nationality alleging that Governor Yahaya has shown to be a hater of Christianity and is deploying religious discrimination for political objectives.
“He is engaged in fanning embers of religious discord with the sole aim of throwing not only Gombe State into firestorm of religious acrimony but the North and the entire country.”
While recalling that, only recently, Governor Yahaya refused to appoint the state’s most senior judge, Justice Beatrice Iliya, as the State Chief Judge on account of her faith, SMBLF added that the governor had also refused to appoint a legal luminary, Barr. Mela Nunghe (SAN), as Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General for the simple reason that he did not share the same faith with the governor.
To suppress the people and bring them under Islamic dominance, SMBLF accused Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya of appointing a district head of Muslim faith to rule over Tudu Kwaya, an area comprising 75 percent Christians.
While advising Governor Yahaya to desist from pursuing what the group tagged “efforts aimed at enthroning an unpopular candidate for the people,” the Forum condemned “the premeditated attempts by the Gombe State Governor at facilitating the deployment of soldiers to murder peace-loving people of Biliri whose only offence is demanding through peaceful protest the confirmation of the most popular candidate for the vacant stole of Mai Tangale.
It also called on President Muhammadu Buhari and relevant security agencies to ensure that peace is not threatened by the actions of Governor Yahaya who is now determined to go against the popular will of the people as expressed by the votes of the kingmakers.
SMBLF cautioned that, should there be any breakdown of law and order in Biliri and the entire state over the crisis rocking the Tangale Nation, Governor Yahaya should be held responsible for such because he has “the power to stop the ominous clouds of frightening spectre threatening to rain on the Tangale Nation by simply announcing the popular choice of the people.”