13 August 2011

Nigeria: Bwari - One Kingdom With Two Kings


Even in the past when monarchies thrived, a king is all a kingdom would have. But today, in the FCT, an area popular for other things, gets some limelight on account of it having not one, but two, kings. Weekly Trust brings you the doubly compelling tale.

Bwari is about the largest area council in the Federal Capital Territory spreading from Kubwa, Mpape, Shere, Ija, Kau, Ushafa, Jika, Kuchiko, Dawaki, Izom to Kabusu and beyond. Its history dates as far back as the seventeenth century when a Zaria-based hunter came to the area in the company of his family to hunt. Legend has it that at the time there existed a place known as Bwayape, (Bwari Hill) which means 'pound here'. He had given his wife some millet. She asked him where she could pound it and he said, 'pound here'; thus the origin of the name. Bwaya later metamorphosed into the name Bwari. The four children of the hunter went swimming and were given the task of retrieving a precious object from the depth of the river. It turned out that it was the last of the four who succeeded at the task. But because of his place in the family he could not ascend the throne and his elder brother Tayebebe was crowned instead followed by Dadadogunyi. That object is still a symbol in the turbanning process of the Bwari people.

In recent times there have been controversies over two kings existing in the kingdom. Weekly Trust visited the community where she met with the Sarkin Bwari and the Esu Bwari as well as their subjects who aired their views on the matter.

Ibrahim Yaro (JP), the seventeenth Esu of Bwari who was turbaned on January 29th, 2010 spoke to our reporter. H e said: "Due to the fact that there are two ruling houses, Tayebebe and Dadadogunyi between whom leadership is rotated, kingmakers are responsible for choosing who ascends the thrones from each of the houses. Following the death of my predecessor, HRH Dumas Isuwa Zamayi in 2009 of the Tayebebe House, two names were presented before the kingmakers; mine and that of a brother who gave me the go ahead to be nominated. It was only after the kingmakers had taken their decision, and the FCDA approved the nomination after investigation that I was turbaned."

Although there are two major tribes in Bwari, Yaro says that is not the reason there are two kings. According to him, "The Gbagyis are the real indigenes of the land, except for Ija Koro which is actually the name of a village in Niger State. It is not a tribe but the name of the village from where the Sarkin Bwari comes. We all used to be under Suleja emirate council which was responsible for sending district heads to the districts under its jurisdiction. Before the emergence of the Federal capital, the district heads governed the people. When government was going to upgrade district heads in the 1990s, it made the mistake of upgrading the Sarkin Bwari to a second class chief instead of the then village head (Chief) of Bwari. This resulted in a mild protest from our people (the Gbagyis). We fought for this through dialogue. Realising the mistake, they gave us our own king.

With regards to coordinating their rulership and who each one is answerable to, the Esu said, "We both report to the FCDA. I am having about fourteen district heads under me and all my subjects are answerable to me directly. The Gbagyis have insisted on following the tradition of acknowledging their king."

The Bwari council starting off with district heads, has been in existence since 1936 when they were answerable to the North Western State, which was the then Abuja Emirate Council. Dr. Musa Mohammed is the first Sarkin Bwari initially appointed as a district head of Bwari in 1975 following the headship of his grandfather, Musa Galadinma. With a need to upgrade district heads, Dr. Musa was upgraded by the then FCT minister, Gen. Jeremiah Useni in 1997.

Residing in the premises built by the colonial master in the 1930s which once housed a leprosy quarters and an administrative office, with a wall built around the compound by the Isa Dara-led administration of the Bwari Area Council, Dr. Musa Mohammed Ijakoro said, "I started off as the district head of Bwari under Niger State and under Abuja Local Government Area. With the creation of the FCT I chose to remain here."

Regarding the Kingdom having two kings, the onetime Agric instructor said, "I see it as a religious problem. The present Esu was my village head while I was a district head. My upgrading brought about a lot of controversies with the Gbayis insisting for an upgrade which brought about their being given a third class chief level by the Abacha regime.

On the issue of balancing both 'kingdoms' and ruling, he stated that, "I used to be responsible for the affairs of ten districts whose heads answered to me. We do not rule in tribes but according to the subjects under our jurisdiction be they Koro, Gbagyi, Hausa or Fulani, and we do so without any discrimination."

Ruling for about thirty-six years, the former adult education supervisor said, "There is no part of this land that I do not know about or the people, their way of life in the extreme, moderation and minimal."

Press Secretary to the Area Council Chairman, Mr. Daudu Dasha gave his personal views, stating that they (the Gwaris) fought to have their own king.

Although one may say that the Sarkin Bwari is being marginalized considering the state of his palace, as against that of the Esu's, Dasha informed that, "Upgraded chiefs had houses built for them in 1997 by the government but those of the Bwari chiefs were not built because of the controversy on ground. When it was resolved the Area Council decided on their own to erect buildings for them.

"They were both presented with the options of a three bedroom bungalow built for each of them. The Esu agreed to it but the Sarki opted to have a fence built around his compound. The issue is still in court. These people came here as tax collectors, as district heads during the Suleja Emirate. He established himself here since the 70s. So when this issue came and a committee was set up for the upgrading he was mistakenly upgraded. So we protested and that is how we were given the third class. The government could not reverse their decision since he was already upgraded."

When asked the reason for their protest, the Council's Press Secretary said, "He is not an indigene of this place and he doesn't know our tradition. He is a Koro man and we are Gbagyi people. This is where the discrepancy came from."

As to whether there was anything wrong with the way they were ruled prior to being given a third class status, Dasha stressed, "He was not ruling us. We had someone who ruled us. So he is not ruling any Gbagyi man. Before the Abacha era, we did not have any problem because as just a district head under Suleja Emirate, we had an Esu under whose kingship we were.

It is interesting to note that both kings each have the same tittles and roles for their council members. Sarkin Bwari has a Galadima Bwari the same way the Esu has one. The Esu has a Sarkin Fulani the same way the Sarki has one.

Speaking to subjects on either divide, it was obvious that some were quite passionate about the fact of having their own chief while others were indifferent and reasoned it neutrally.

Samaila Sabo from the Ushafa District said, "I personally don't see the difference in rulership from what it was when we had only village heads and district head. His installation as Sarkin Bwari is not an unusual situation as if one takes a look at the Northern Oligarchy, Emirs are not necessarily from the communities where they rule. As long as you are from the royal family, you can be sent anywhere to be the Emir there. If you go to Sokoto, Katsina and even Zaria, most of the district heads are not from those places they head. I am Gbagyi and I honestly cannot say that now we have our own king, our lives are any better."

Hussain Gambo who adamantly refused to tell if he was Koro or Gbagyi spoke neutrally. "We should ask ourselves if these controversies are as a result of the fact that it is a game of title holding or bearing, or even an ego massaging trip. Now that we have them both, they both should be available to us regardless whether we are Gbagyi or Koro or even Fulani. They should first and foremost see themselves as leaders whom people are looking up to. I will go to either of them depending on what help I am seeking.

"If the government found it worthy of elevating the district head to the status of Emir so be it. Can anyone of us say there is a discrepancy because we had a problem with the style of kingship that we were exposed to before all these? I think in Nigeria we should go beyond the pettiness of tribalism and religion. Evaluate people based on their quality and capacity and let these be the deciding factors for those we choose to become our leaders."

Earlier interaction with indigenes revealed that during the Alhaji Shehu Shagari rule, the Abuja chiefs, district heads and those serving in the Area were given the option to return to the places of origins or remain in Abuja as civil servants or traditional rulers. Most of the people who fell in this category chose to return to their places of origins and were given monies from the government. Some of them established new towns commonly identified by the prefix sabon (new). Dr. Musa Mohammed is said to be one of those who stayed back.

Alhaji Umar Sanda the Director of Chiefdom affairs at the FCDA who showed a document implemented in 1997 containing the distribution of rulers as well as the installation and deposition processes as provided by the law. In order for peace to reign, Sanda said the Esu was made the third class chief while the Sarkin is the second class chief.

He informed that both rulers are recognised by the government FCT who alone has the power to approve their installation after their selection from the kingmakers/council, and deposition. Against the speculation that once the tenure of the Sarki ends no successor will be allowed to ascend the throne, Sanda added that individuals do not have a right to say who succeeds who or whether they will be succeeded at all.

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