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Will the Azdan Ever be Called Again in Tafawa Balewa Town?

By Salisu Shehu PhD

The Azhan is the Muslim call to congregational prayer usually raised at the entry of the stipulated time for each of the five daily prayers.  It is therefore, primarily used to invite Muslims to assemble at the mosque to observe prayer in congregation. In a hadith reported by Abu-Dawud,   Abdullahi ibn Zaid, a companion (sahabi) of the Prophet (s.a.w), describes how the Azhan came about in Madina after the completion of the construction of the Prophet’s Mosque. He said that, as was usually the Prophet’s tradition to consult with his companions (the sahaba) on important religious, state and security matters upon which he did not receive revelation, he (the Prophet - s.a.w) sat down with them one day discussing about the medium, a’la instrument to use for proclaiming/announcing the times of prayer. A number of options were suggested and the decision was finally reached to the effect that the horn (to be blown at each time of prayer) was to be used for that purpose.   In the night of the same day however, he Abdullahi ibn Zaid dreamt that he saw somebody (whom he did not know in person) telling him that there was something better than the horn. He was taught the Azhan as is recited all over the world today. In the following morning he narrated the story to the Prophet (s.a.w) who approved it and since then, it became the Muslim call to congregational prayer.

The significance of the Azhan however, goes beyond the mere call to prayer. First of all it is a Symbol (shi’aar, pl. Sha’a’ir) of Allah and His religion – Islam that must be adored, glorified and respected by Muslims (Qur’an, 22:32). Secondly, and very importantly too, it is a symbol of socio-political and community identity. What this means is that wherever the Azhan is called, it signifies existence of a Muslim settlement or community. In a hadith reported by Imams Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmizhi, on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, whenever he (the Prophet – s.a.w) went out on a military expedition, he used to avoid or rather restrain from attacking a settlement from which he heard the Azhan being called and he taught his companions to observe the same rule whenever they were out on the same mission. That was the reason the Prophet (s.a.w) used to enjoin Muslims to ensure that they institute the Azhan in any sort of their settlements big or small, permanent or transient. In a hadith reported by Imam Ahmad on the authority of Abu al-Dardai, the Prophet (s.a.w) was reported to have warned that any settlement  in which the Azhan is not being raised, even if it were of only three persons would be held sway by satan.

The Azhan has a great deal of virtue. While being a great shield against the devil (satan) and his host as indicated in the hadith above, those who raise it (call it) will have as their witnesses before Allah on the Day of Resurrection all creatures that hear them. Hence in a hadith, reported by Imams Ahmad and Bukhari, Abdullah ibn Abdir-Rahman ibn Abi-Sa’asa’ah narrated that Abu- Sa’id al- Khudri, a companion (sahabi) of the Prophet (s.a.w) instructed him to make the Azhan whenever he was rearing his cattle in the bush even if he were alone, for the Prophet (s.a.w) said, “no jinn, human being or any other creature (animals, plants, mountains, rocks, etc) would hear the voice of the Mua’azh-zhin (Caller to prayer) except that it will bear witness for him on the Day of Resurrection”.

In keeping with the teachings of the Prophet (s.a.w) as presented above, in Tafawa Balewa Town, as a typical Muslim community founded and named by the Fulani at a time predating the Jihad of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, the Azhan had been called for well over two centuries.  Tafawa Balewa, the birth place and home of the First Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is undoubtedly a name of international fame. In the 19th and up to early decades of the 20th Century, the small village as it could then be described, located at about 80km south of Bauchi town could not have been known beyond the borders of the former Bauchi Province except by the west-east merchants (traversing between Borno to the kurmi through the Plateau) who not only used to pass through it but also took it as their stop-over station (Zango).  There is therefore, little wonder that the Kanuris happened to be perhaps, the second or third earliest settlers in the town after the Fulani. It can be asserted without any fear of contradiction that before 1969 there was no single indigenous Christian (of either Sayawa, Jarawa (Afizere) or Angas extraction) owning a house and living in the core area of the town, except those that might perhaps be working as teachers in the only primary school then (now central primary school). Even if there were such category of people they might not be up to three in number at a time and they did not own a house of their own in the said area of the town.

It is appealing and also instructive to note that, of all the district headquarters within Bauchi Emirate except Bauchi township, there was hardly any village (as at that time) that would rank equal to Tafawa Balewa in terms of the flourishing of Islamic knowledge and culture. It would not be spurious to claim that the Islamic scholarly and moral dispositions exhibited by the First Prime Minister of Nigeria was first and foremost among several other factors, a personification of that rich Islamic cultural orientation. What may confirm this assertion was the proliferation of makarantun allo/tsangayu and zaurukan Ilimi in the then small village since in the first half of the 20th century..  From the late 1950s up to the late 1980s, the sole, spectacular and remarkable scholastic influence of the then Chief Imam of Tafawa Balewa Liman Mallam Bello (Bijimin Kudu da Bauchi as he was nicknamed by his scholar colleagues in the then Bauchi Province) and some of his closest disciples like his very son Mallam Ahmad Muhammad Bello,  Mallam Abdu Bingel, Mallam Shehu Abubakar, Mallam Muhammadu Maidawa Bula, Mallam Dahiru Unguwar Rogo (now the Chief Imam of Dass town) and the most prominent of them all - Sheikh Ado Musa Tafawa Balewa, are certainly the factor that explains the blossoming of Islamic education in the area. Perhaps as a result of the bilateral influence of both Bauchi and Jos cities on the people of the town, Tafawa Balewa is certainly one of the earliest villages to have had an Islamiyya school in the former Bauchi province with the exception of Bauchi town, (manned by the duo of Alhaji Ahmad Barau and his youngest brother Mallam Abdulkareem – still alive in his 70s 

If anyone doubts the above assertions, he can if he cares, further observe its manifestation in the recent years by simply monitoring the Ramadan Tafsir sessions in the broadcast media in Bauchi State during the month of Ramadan. In the year 2009 for example, Tafawa Balewa was ahead of almost all the major towns, except Bauchi metropolis, as it presented about half a dozen of Islamic scholars whose Tafsir sessions were being transmitted. In this regard one calls to mind the popular sessions of Sheikh Ado Musa Tafawa Balewa and his disciple Sheikh Balarabe Isa Tafawa Balewa. There was also his younger brother Sheikh Dan’azumi Musa Tafawa Balewa, Ustaz Abubakar Dan’azumi Tafawa Balewa, Ustaz Mustapha Tafawa Balewa and the writer of this piece who was conducting the Tafsir in English. Before the 1991 crisis when its Islamiyya schools and its makarantun allo were intact and flourishing, Tafawa Balewa town used to have excellent outings in the State Qur’anic recitation competitions. Since the inception of the Musabaqa, there was hardly any year that would come to pass without one or two or more participants from Tafawa Balewa representing Bauchi State at the national level of the competition.

The presentation made in the last two paragraphs was not made for bragging sake or immodest expression of pride and self conceit. It was only made for the purpose of demonstrating how regrettable, sorrowful and heartrending it was that for more than a year now, in an essentially Muslim town like Tafawa Balewa, with such a rich culture of Islamic education the Azhan has not been raised because there have been no Muslims living in the town any longer since then. The Muslims were displaced after the January 27, 2011 crisis. As at the time of writing this piece (Wednesday 13th March, 2012) no Muslim has returned to his home in Tafawa Balewa. Although the Bauchi State Government started a very remarkable effort at resettling the Muslims by initiating and actually commencing the project of rebuilding their houses and mosques, this was disrupted and eventually jettisoned, perhaps completely after the newly raised structures were destroyed by the Sayawa Christian hoodlums in the town in early February, 2012.

On their own part, the Muslims of Tafawa Balewa town have reached a point of despair, misery and despondency because this is not the first time they went through this anguish.  Having been terribly impoverished by incessant aggressions and displacements, and also terrified and numerically weakened by intermittent genocide, devastated by several incidents of displacement, with manifest lack of governmental will to resume the reconstruction project, they have started giving up. They have indeed started considering the option of finding, a’la establishing a new Tafawa Balewa. But the critical and indeed poignant questions that must be answered are that: (i) has the town then been roundly and squarely conquered forever by the Sayawa Christians? (ii) has it then completely been forsaken by not only the Tafawa Balewa Muslim community but the entire Muslims in Nigeria? (iii) Will the Azhan no more be raised in the town and in that regard no more khamsus salawat therein? (iv) Will the Jumu’ah prayer and the Eid congregation  no more be observed (v) what are the far reaching implications of that to the survival of neighbouring Muslim villages and towns and the overall survival of Muslims in Nigeria? (vi) is this the beginning of the invasion of the frontiers of the Sokoto Caliphate? (vii) is it crazy or wild or even alarmist to liken this situation to Andalusia (the Muslim Spain) or that history ever repeats itself? (viii) if all the foregoing questions are not imaginary what peaceful ways are there to be followed in reinstating Islam and resettling Muslims in the town?

Coming this far, the reader of this piece who may not be well acquainted with the history of the recent ethno-religious disturbances in Tafawa Balewa town may begin to wonder why the situation degenerated to this point. In this regard, it may be pertinent to present a brief overview of the unfortunate incidents of conflicts and carnage that have bedevilled Tafawa Balewa town in the last two decades.

The truth of the matter is that the Muslim community in Tafawa Balewa town has been witnessing incessant and intermittent attacks from its southern neighbours – the Sayawa tribe who are predominantly Christians, since 1958 under the pre-text of fighting for self-determination from Bauchi Emirate. After the creation of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, they added a new dimension to their agitation. That is the claim of being the native/indigenous owners of the town. Let us therefore critically examine this claim of theirs on the basis of historical and demographic facts available to us.

On the Ownership of Tafawa Balewa Town

With regards to their purported claim as being the original founders of Tafawa Balewa and not the Fulani, and their tagging of the Hausa/Fulani as “settlers”, we would want to first of all submit that the history of a place can never be changed or distorted by falsehood or brute force. We would also wish to pose the following critical questions:-

a). Why had the town been named in Fulfude and not in Sayanci?  And why is it that the Sayawa naming of the town began to be heard only in the late 1980s? Is there any book of history written and published before 1990 that reported the Sayawa naming of the town as Puji?

b). Was there any history of war or even conflict between Fulani herdsmen and the Sayawa over 200 years ago (when Tafawa Balewa town was said to be founded) which led to the expulsion of the latter by the former and the subsequent renaming of the town by the former? If yes, when did it happen? And which history book reported it?

c). Between an “original founder” of a place and a “later settler” who is it that occupies the central part of the settlement and who is it that occupies the periphery? Between the Hausa/Fulani and Sayawa who are the occupants of the centre of Tafawa Balewa town? The Hausa/Fulani certainly are.

d) Between the founder of a place and the later settler who is the primary owner of plots and farmlands? Who is it that sells land to the other? Why do the Sayawa always have to be the buyers of plots and houses from the Hausa/Fulani and not vice versa? Why are the Sayawas always the ones that seasonally rent or borrow farmlands from the Hausa/Fulani?

e) Who are those that donated the land upon which the Tafawa Balewa Central Primary School was built around 1918. Again who are those that donated the land upon which the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Secretariat was built in 1976?  When was the first church built in Tafawa Balewa and when was the first mosque built? Which family sold the land upon which the COCIN and ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHES (the earliest in the town) were built? On whose land were the Police Station, the GRA and the LOW COST houses, the two markets, Railway station and the General Hospital all built?

f) Was there a Sayawa man in Tafawa Balewa town (not Maryam Daji and not Dunga Sabo-neighbouring settlements) at the time of Nigerian Independence in 1960? Was Mr. Ishaya Baushe who is still alive not the first Sayawa man to buy a house from Mallam Yunusa (a Hausa man) in 1971? Is Ishaya Baushe the grand ancestor referred by the writers? Have not even Igbos and Yorubas preceded the Sayawas in settling in Tafawa Balewa town, e.g. Messrs. Francis, Jonathan, David Maigana, Maikalangu Bayarbe etc)?

g) Why has there never been a Sayawa man that held the position of “Sarki” of Tafawa Balewa? Isn’t the history of Tafawa Balewa not hinged to the sarauta of Sarkin Tafawa Balewa or the Village Head of Wai who superintends over him?

h). Is the fact of Fulani being the original founders of Tafawa Balewa not further confirmed and reinforced by the fact that all the villages surrounding Tafawa Balewa from all directions are Fulani villages namely, Unguwar Rogo, Durum, Gandu, Tenam and Kocciyel Bululi (to the East), Jakol, Yalwan Galadima, Jaja, Yamgan, Gumel, Shafali, Wuro Gara, Unguwan Baraya (now Arewa) and Taka (to the North) Karli, Lindi, Unguwar Ruga and Rafin Gimba (to the West) and Belma, Barangel, Pancipam and Nafada (to the South)? Are these by accident or default? Don’t all these predate all the Sayawa settlements surrounding Tafawa Balewa town including the earliest two (Dunga Sabo and Maryam Daji - migrants from Lusa and Maryam Giji in Bogoro) talkless of the later ones that only sprang up in the 1970s and 1980s like Pekman, Unguwan Arewa and Kutaru.

i). How many “Sarkis” of Tafawa Balewa, Dunga Sabo and Maryam Daji have we had so far in history? While there have been more than ten (10) Sarkis for Tafawa Balewa town, both Maryam Daji and Dunga Sabo have not recorded more than two (2) sarakuna so far, including the incumbent ones. For Tafawa Balewa they include Ari (Aliyu), Muhammadu, Wazirin Ghizm, Umaru Balwai, Bukar, Zailani, Baba and Musa of the Kanuri dynasty as well as Boyi, Aliyu mai Jirgi and Maigida Abdullahi (the incumbent one) of the Ngas (Chikawa) dynasty. We challenge the “Sayawa Council of Elders” to produce their own rulers of Tafawa Balewa, Dunga Sabo and Maryam Daji if indeed these towns are their ancestral home.

Perhaps no authority better confirms that Bogoro is the original ancestral home of the Sayawas than Trevor Clark, the author of A Right Honourable Gentleman, The Life and Times of Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. In the opening chapter of the book, at page 5 Clark has this to say of the Sayawa and their origin from Bogoro:

Tafawa Balewa takes its name from two corrupted Fulfulde (Fulani) words, tafari (tafare) meaning ‘rock’ and baleri, spoken with an imploded ‘B’, ‘black’. At some time during the eighteenth century a group of Fulani herdsmen had made a permanent settlement beside an impressive ‘Black Rock’ which rose seventy-four kilometers south-west of Bauchi town. This dome of granite, perhaps two hundred metres across, lies in an elbow of the Lere river. Looking further south-west over the river, the villages (now mostly Muslim Gerawa) can see, thirty kilometres away, the mountain of ‘pagan’ plateau crowned by Pankshin …… But shortly before reaching Tafawa Balewa, a southern feedway of this water course passed a territory of another animist tribe, the Seyawa, a branch of the plain Jarawa settled around Bogoro.

This passage clearly confirmed that Bogoro, and not Tafawa Balewa, is the ancestral home of the Sayawa.

A second authoritative history of the tribal settlements of the area now known as Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Local Government Areas can be found in the 1924 Memorandum to the Secretary, Northern Province by W. Morgan, the Provincial Officer of Bauchi Province who had compiled the history of all tribal groups in the Province, marked as SNP/9/2485/1924 available in the National Archives, Kaduna. Nowhere in this document can be found any reference to Tafawa Balewa as being the ancestral home of the Sayawa. On the contrary Morgan categorically said Bogoro is their original home. As a matter of fact, no mention was made by Morgan of Tafawa Balewa as being under Bogoro. The town has been historically and geographically under Wai. 

Catalogue of the Savagery and Intermittent Aggressions of the Sayawa Christians against Muslims in Tafawa Balewa

Although all historical and demographic facts are never on their side, they became inebriated by this false and unfounded claim. Over time they continued to become more belligerent and increasingly recalcitrant committing one crime at a certain time and another crime at another time, just as they keep growing in terms of magnitude, viciousness, devastation and destructive effect, such that each subsequent one diminishing and or rather overshadowing the one preceding it. The failure of successive regimes in appropriately punishing the perpetrators of those crimes keeps emboldening them. The Muslims all along, perhaps out of naivety, kept on thinking that government would do the right thing. Contrary to that naive expectation, each regime would only scratch the surface of the problem and would only try to broker the peace of the graveyard and thus would it only manage to finish its tenure without being troubled anymore by the Tafawa Balewa ‘headache’.

The sufferings, massacre, plight and ceaseless anguish that the combined effects of these incessant and internecine aggressions of the Sayawa Christians on one hand and government’s inaction on the other hand, imposed on the helpless Muslims of Tafawa Balewa over the last two decades can only be imagined. However, a more dreadful and horrendous consequence of this dangerous trend was the engendering of the culture of impunity that has come to be the lot of the Sayawa Christians in the area.

In the beginning it was the brutal murder of the Octogenarian District Head of Lere, Mallam Abubakar Bawa

The first most heinous crime committed by the Sayawa Christians was their killing of the District Head of Lere, Mallam Abubakar Bawa in 1977.  They stealthily sneaked into his house (the Lere District Head’s palace in Tafawa Balewa) in the mid hours of the night and slaughtered him like a ram. As if that was not enough, they used axe to squash and mutilate his head.  This wicked act was carried out without any sort of provocation but due to sheer hate and savagery. The masterminds and ring leaders were arrested tried, convicted and hanged to death. They were two serving sayawa military officers. But their notorious guide to the crime spot – the bedroom of the District Head was – Mr Kyauta, alias kyankyaso was released in the late 1980s only to come and champion yet another more monumental crime, genocide of some sorts, the 1991 premeditated aggression against the innocent Muslim people of Tafawa Balewa.

 The Unilateral and Belligerent Change of the Tafawa Balewa Market Day from Sunday to Friday in 1984

On 22 April, 1991, the Muslim Ummah in Tafawa Balewa rose up to a well prepared, unprecedented and very vicious attack by the Sayawa Christians who flooded the town from their neighbouring villages on its southern part in their hundreds.

Catalogue to be continued up to 2011.