Governor Murtala Nyako
The lingering Adamawa -Hamma Bachama’s stool crisis is taking a new dimension as the community turns the heat on Governor Murtala Nyako over non-appointment of a paramount ruler for the community, Matthew Onah writes
A face-off between the administration of Governor Murtala Nyako, and the Bachama communities of Numan and Lamourde local government councils, over the non-appointment of the paramount ruler of the area and other sundry security issues as well as the recent flood disaster, is fast forcing the activities of the communities to slip into limbo.
Although, over 40 communities spread across the two council areas of Numan and Lamourde, mostly of Bachama ethnic stoic had been totally submerged by the ravaging flood that swept the River Benue channel in the last two months, with all the attendant damages to both properties and lives.
The flood, hard hitting as it is on the socio-economic activity of the people of the two local government council, which consist the Bachama traditional council, it is the non-appointment of their first ruler , that has continued to dominate the political discourse of the area, especially with the clear body language of the State Governor not to appoint a replacement for the Hama -Bachama throne, following the demise of the late Asaph Zadok in June 2012.
Although the Adamawa state Government, speaking through the secretary to the State Government, Chief Kobis Ari-Thimnu, said the Government was still studying the situation, before making a pronouncement, the unusual silence over the issue is a pointer to the extremely coldrelation between the government and the communities.
The Bachama kingdom has been fractured by decades of chieftaincy disputes, communal violence, occasioned by intrigues, subterfuges, and back-stabbing. Host to the expansive Savanah sugar plantation, the Bachamas has not known peace in the last one decade or more.
With the occurrence of the flood in August, tension rose in the twin towns of Numan and Lamourde, as youths and the elderly embarked on protest over the
non-appointment of a new paramount Chief, the Hama- Bachama, by the Adamawa state Government, after the demise of the late chief Asaph Zadok.
The non-appointment of the new first class chief for the Bachama kingdom, by the Government, almost five months after the traditional Kingmakers, have concluded their selection processes triggered a protest by the youths in the area over what they called deliberate and open show of hatred for the people of the area by some top functionaries in the Adamawa State government.
The youths, numbering about 3000 and led by some elderly men and women occupied the Numan local government council secretariat to protest the non-appointment of the new chief for the area.
The recent flood disaster in the area was believed to have triggered the anger of the youths of the area, as they believed some of the problems arising from the flood, was worsened by the absence of a paramount Ruler.
Sources at the Numan traditional council, disclosed to THISDAY, that the processes for the selection of a new HAMA BACHAMA, for the area was at the behest of the State government , through Numan local government council authorities, and the state ministry ofchieftaincy affairs.
According to the source, the kingmakers and the Bachama traditional council have concluded the processes of selecting a new ruler, and forwarded their nominee to the State Government for ratification through the State’s Head of service, as stipulated by the law, but five months after , nothing is heard from the Government.
Confirming that all is not well in the area over the vacuum in the chieftaincy stool, one of the kingmakers, chief Piton George Ali, said, the elders have been restraining the youths over the issue of the non-appointment of a new chief, to frustrate mischief makers from seizing opportunity to cause discord between the communities and the State government.
Ali, appealed to the State government, to ratify the appointment of the new Hama-Bachama, quickly as the tradition of the area abhors vacuum, more especially as the area was still in the process of restoring normalcy and peace after the recent communal violence between some Fulani herdsmen and people of the area.
He said the protest by the youths and the elderly people was just a reflection of the frustration of the people in the two local government councils, adding that the non-appointment of the new
Ruler was not in the best interest of the area, considering the crisis prone nature of the area.
Ali asserted that the last paramount Ruler averted a lot of crisis during his reign, as he was constantly engaged in counseling the youths on the need for peaceful co-existence. The last Hama Bachama, Homun Asaph Zadok, died last june 2012, after about 8 years on the throne. His immediate predecessor chief Freedy Soditi Bongo was dethroned in 2004 by the Adamawa State government, following his complicity in a communal riot, in which over 6000 lives, mostly Hausa – Fulani, were lost.
Prince Tony Hezron, a Bachama leader who spoke to THISDAY attributed the current logjam between the government and the people to the non appointment of the paramount ruler to two main reasons. According to him there is underhand politics in government refusal to appoint a tradional ruler for the area because it lost in the last governorship elections in the community. He told THISDAY, that the people lost faith in the administration of Nyako, because, he failed to fulfill his promises to the people.
“They had voted massively for him in 2007 because he promised to dethrone the late Asaph. He never did until Asaph died.”
He stated that a lot of the people detested the dethronement of the deposed Hama Freddy Soditi Bongo by the Boni Haruna Administration due to the ethno –religious crisis of 2004, and the consequent appointment of Late Homun Asaph. Adding that they had thought the Nyako Administration would re-dress the injustice.
“Also, the people perceived him as playing negative roles in the political affairs of the area. He was always playing one group against the other to our detriment. He was using stooges amongst us to denigrate our traditional institution, “ he said.
Hezron also accused the government of acts of complicity in the violence between a section of the community and some Fulani headsmen that claimed several lives in the past. He also accused the Government of attempting to frame, and unjustly incriminating the deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Laori Kwomoti, an emerging notable Bachama leader, just to score political point.
But the spokesman of the government, Maijaama Adamu, waved away the accusation of government complicity, calling the accusations uncharitable. He said Governor Nyako, considering his pedigree, was just too matured and experienced to be accused of such.
He said the Governor enjoys very good and warm relationship with some Bachama people. “Prominent persons like Moses Ngbale, Gen. Zidon , Phanuel Mosu and others enjoy robust relationship with the Governor,” he stressed.
But a Bachama elder, Mr Gabriel Pwadeno, told Thisday that the immediate past Hama Asaph had invested heavily in restoration of peace and reconciliation in the community before his demise.
“Knowing the circumstances of his appointment, the late Asaph took extra care to reunite with everybody, he restored most of our traditional festivals like the kwete wrestling festival, which had serve as an avenue of youth leadership training.” Pwadeno said peace and stability had been restored to the Bachama land before Asaph’s home call and condemned the long lull in the vacant throne. It is against our culture and tradition.
He said apparently the Government is not enamored with the nomination of the King Makers and therefore is hesitating with its approval. Pwadeno, however cautioned against undue politicization of the traditional institution. He attributed the short span of reign of the immediate past Hama and even the current quagmire in the non-appointment of a new one, to undue interference of Government in the past. “We have a chance to do the right thing now, so my honest appeal to Government is to allow our kingmakers do the proper thing.”
In Numan, where the palace of the Hama Bachama is situated, and Lamourde, the traditional home of the Bachamas, none of the kingmakers were willing to talk on the issue of who is nominated.
One of the kingmakers who pleaded anonymity told THISDAY, that it is against the tradition for the people to discuss their nominations. “Go and ask the Government, we have done our duty according to our tradition and customs. It is left for them to do theirs. You see, my son, most of our predecessors [kingmakers] that choose our late king are no more, because they were arm-twisted by the then Government. Now we vowed to do the proper thing. I don’t want to die a premature death.”
He said that the Bachama has six ruling clans. Waduku, kowo, Nokodomum, Mgbalarum, Impang and Nomupon. According to him, these clans rotate ascension to the throne. He added that the immediate past king, late Asaph hailed from Kowo. Also our much revered late king Ngbale, on the throne about 45 years ago hailed, from the Kowo clan. You therefore must agree that we must give preference to other clans.
The deposed king, Soditi Bongo is from impang, he was deposed not quite ten years ago. While the one before him, Rev. Wilberforce Myewahegi came from Waduku. “We owe an obligation to posterity and to our future generations to do justice to all our children.”
The elderly kingmaker who estimated his age as being between 75 and 80, told THISDAY that although, he has witnessed the coronation of three HAMA’s, from Myewahegi , Soditi Bongo and Asaph Zadok, this was his first participation, as his uncle, now late had been the
kingmaker then. He also spoke of the key cardinal aspect of the tradition which forecloses any prince born in the palace during the reign of his father, from ascending the throne. “This is to check against undue ambitions of princes.”
A source close to the government disclosed that the Governor had been pissed off by the clumsy manner the Bachama traditional council handled the rites of passage of the late Homum Asaph Zadok.
“Although he was a first class ruler, the palace never officially notified the government until the conclusion of the rites of passage. You would have notice minimal government participation in the whole thing. He was our appointee; he was being maintained with government funds.”
But Sources at the Numan traditional council disclosed to THISDAY that all the procedures were followed to the letter. Copies of correspondences (in THISDAY possession) between the palace and the cabinet, notifying government of the demise of the paramount ruler in Cairo, Egypt were also provided.
The documents also show that the processes for the selection of a new HAMA BACHAMA, for the area was at the behest of the state government through Numan local government council authorities, and the state ministry of chieftaincy affairs.
According to the source, the kingmakers and the Bachama traditional council, have concluded the processes of selecting a new ruler, and forwarded their nominee for ratification, to the state Government, through the state Head of service, as stipulated by the law , but five months after , nothing is heard from the Government. The government source also alluded to a security report advising government to tarry a while on the issue of appointing a new chief.
But Hezron said, “when they want to cause mischief, they would begin to quote fictitious security report, ‘’the real security report would come when they tried imposing one of their failed politician stooges on us. We know what they are trying to do, we are waiting for them; the people would resist any attempt to foster any perceived government candidate on them.”
However Pwadeno, attributed the face-off to the selfishness and greed of the elites of the area. They are the ones selling themselves down the drain. “We are disunited and fragmented; we are pulling each other at cross purposes. Even with the multi-billion naira industry like Savanah sugar complex, Numan remains where it was thirty years ago. We have not been able to overcome our individual greed for development for the corporate good of the community.
“There is no new investment, no new school, our hospital is desolate, no pipe-borne water; our children have gone out of school. Today, people can just decide to attack our land because of our disunity. Look at the massive flood that has just ravaged the area, the people don’t know who to run to and calm them down. This kind of situation breeds tension which can easily snowball into violence,” Pwadeno warned.
He commended the late king for trying to build a consensus out of the disparate and discordant voices in the land before his demise. He, however, said it was even in government interest to appoint a paramount ruler for the area, in view of the crisis prone nature of the area. “That way they would know whom to hold responsible.”
But whether the government would heed the appeals of the elder is still pregnant with time.