19 August 2010

Nigeria: Sultan And Wukari Crisis

The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, made history recently by becoming the second sultan to visit Taraba State (after the historic visit of former Sultan Dasuki in late 1991) when he came and concluded a three-day working visit from Sunday, 1st to Tuesday, 3rd August, 2010.

In what appears to be a divine arrangement, the visit coincided with the sectarian violence that occurred few days earlier between Muslim and Christian faithfuls in Wukari city over the construction of a mosque at the premises of the Wukari Police Divisional Office.

The Sultan's visit to the state was on the cards for long and was originally meant to primarily enable him commission the ultra-modern and multi-million naira Taraba State Muslims' Council Secretariat in the state capital, Jalingo, that was newly constructed by the council with funds from the state government.

But the occurrence of the sectarian violence necessitated the inclusion of Wukari as the Sultan's first place of call among the list of his schedules of visit in order to calm frayed nerves, admonish the followers of both religions, call for lasting peace and generally give hope to the victims.

To this end, the Sultan delivered what can be termed as a soul-searching and comforting address at the Palace of the Aku-Uka of Wukari, which, in many folds, captured the history of the Kwararrafa Kingdom and later, the Wukari Federation, the basis of the existence of the divergent ethnic and religions groups in the ancient Wukari city. He emphasized the strong bonds between them that must not be allowed to crumble on primordial and clandestine motives since it is the will of Allah for them to co-exist and work harmoniously for the betterment of the city and the local government area at large.

In his speech as host, the Aku-Uka, Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi (through a spokesman), praised the Sultan for visiting his domain at such a critical and defining moment, and assured him that the situation is an isolated case that was immediately brought under control. Said to be a traditionalist by faith, the Aku-Uka stated that Wukari is a city for all where people of different faiths have co-existed in tranquillity for over a century, and stressed the invaluable contributions made by both Islamic and Christian civilizations to the development and transformation of Wukari into a modern city today.

In view of how the Sultan was well-received on entering Wukari and the huge crowd of Muslims and Christians that converged at the Aku-Uka's Palace to listen to his address, the mission of his visit to the then troubled city can be regarded as highly successful in consolidating the gains achieved by the restoration of peace. For a long time to come, residents of Wukari will continue to make reference to the visit as an event that proved quite instrumental in strengthening the feeling of goodwill and unity among them. Definitely, the Sultan exhibited first class sensitivity and responsibility in personally coming to commiserate with the people in their hour of grief as a spiritual and royal father.

Previous cases of violence in Wukari and its environs have always centred on ethnic, not religious, basis, such as the notorious Jukun, Tiv, Kuteb and Fulani circle of violence of 2001 to 2002: hence the surprise of many when the recent violence turned out to be of religious origin. Ascertaining the reasons that led to it too is proving difficult.

Perhaps, the people are now tired of being "ethnic warriors" and prefer to be "religious warriors", for reasons best known to them. This is, however, sad and must be discouraged by all means possible. At least, the people of Wukari should look up to the exalted royal-family of the Aku-Uka to see a perfect example of beauty in diversity and learn from it; the royal family is made up of Muslims and Christians and they live and regal happily as a single unit without any kind of friction on religious grounds.

Sultan Sa'ad Abubakar achieved another land-mark on the second day of the visit when he commissioned the ultra-modern Muslim Council's

Secretariat in Jalingo in the proud presence of thousands of Muslims, representatives of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the state governor, the Emir of Muri, the Aku-Uka of Wukari, among others. Remarkably, the brand new Muslims' secretariat edifice, which is obviously one of the best in Northern Nigeria, is located in Jalingo, the headquarters of Muri Emirate, one of the 14 emirates of the then theocratic Sokoto Caliphate, and the only emirate in present-day Taraba State. The age-long relationship between the Sultanate and the Emirate came alive at the Palace of Emir of Muri through the extended exchange of pleasantries between the Sultan and the Emir, Alhaji Abbas Njidda Tafida, as well as between their respective senior title holders.

The Sultan's visit to Taraba was well-appreciated by all Tarabans, especially the approximately two million Muslims of the state against the backdrop of the recent Wukari crisis and the historic commissioning of the Muslims' Council Secretariat.

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