Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Zuma - a Community Where Night Sweeping Is Forbidden

The people of Zuma, a village in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) hold their tradition dearly.

Despite the coming of the two major religions in Nigeria, Islam and Christianity, Zuma residents see nothing wrong in holding tenaciously to what their fore-fathers had observed hundreds of years ago.

Occupied by predominantly Gbagyi people, Zuma is a village known for its farming activities as well as being one of the major Gbagyi villages in the FCT.

Majorly, the tradition of the community forbids any household to sweep or pound inside a house during the night in any part of the community.

The traditional head of the community, Chief Peter Kudayi, said even though his subjects are mostly Christians, they hold their tradition and culture with all seriousness.

He said their tradition forbids them from doing many things, one of which is that he as the village head cannot eat when one of his subjects dies, until when the corpse is buried.

"We regard our tradition with respect. There are many things that our tradition forbids, and we must not do them. As the village head, the tradition forbids me from eating once one of my subjects is dead. I can only eat after the corpse is buried or taken to the morgue, if not, as long at the dead body remains in the village, I cannot eat anything.

"In fact, there was a time when an uncle of mine passed on early morning. I didn't eat for the whole day. I fell sick for about four months thereafter," he said.

The chief, who has been leading the village since 1997, also stated that their tradition forbids them from sweeping and pounding inside the house at night, adding that the tradition also forbids them from setting fire on certain trees.

"We can't sweep and pound inside the house at night. Once it is dark, our tradition forbids doing that. There are also certain types of trees that our tradition forbids us from setting fire on. I'm a Christian, but as the village head, it is my responsibility to ensure that our tradition is well protected.

"Before you're made the village head, you must assure the people that you'll protect their tradition, if not, you won't be allowed to become the leader. So, that is what I've been doing ever since I was made the village head," he said.

When Aso Chronicle asked what would happen should the tradition be broken, the village head said, "That will spell doom for the whole village. The leader won't last long, and the people will know no progress. They'll be faced with many problems as a result of that."

The village head said before now, a ride to the village used to be a nightmare for motorists and visitors alike due to the sorry state of the road, but said the road has been asphalted from Barangoni Junction up to a few meters to Zuma village.

He said the road construction has brought respite to him and his subjects as their sufferings, especially during the rainy season, have been wiped out.

The leader was full of praises to the FCT Administration for making their dream come true with the help of the Bwari Area Council authority.

"Before now, it used to be a nightmare for us to use the road. We sometime felt reluctant to go to Bwari during rainy season due to the condition of the road. I can remember there was a time that I fell from a motorcycle when I was returning from Bwari. But we thank God that the road is now almost completed. We really appreciate the government for that," he said.

Chief Kudayi also expressed appreciation to government for providing them with electricity, borehole among others. "We now have electricity in this community. They also dug a borehole for us. Our river used to be very bad that we suffered a lot in the area of having access to potable water. It used to be a hand-pump borehole, but a corps member helped us by converting it to an electricity operated one," he said.

He however lamented lack of other facilities such as health centre and a school in the community. According to him, their children attend primary school at a nearby village of Gaba and go to Bwari to attend secondary school. He decried the situation, saying that has put their children in an untold hardship.

In the area of farming, Chief Kudayi informed that they used to have access to fertilizer, but during the last farming season, most of his subjects did not get the commodity. He blamed the new system being introduced by government where farmers must register, using their phone numbers before they could be contacted for fertilizer.

He added that even the tractors promised by government were nowhere to be found as they only heard about them verbally, adding that last farming season was a difficult one for the locals.

On the efforts residents are making in developing the village, he said there is a plan on ground to open a local market in the village, where various farm produce will be sold in order to ease the suffering of farmers, who have to take their produce to Bwari to sell them.

"We want to start a market here to help our farmers. We have already cleared a place for that purpose. We believe that when open, the market will carter for our people and other visitors who come around from time to time. The market will be held after every four days, although we are not certain of when we will commence it," said Chief Kudayi.

According to the youth leader in the village, Danlami Shekogaza, Zuma village now experiences expansion as a result of some development in the area, a situation which he said would bring about influx of people to the community as a result of which criminal activities would be on the rise.

"Our village is also expanding with people coming in to settle here. This situation is likely going to result in the rise of criminality in the community. We therefore call on the government to help bring a police station here for security purpose. We have local vigilante group that will help the police in carrying out their activities," he appealed.

A youth in the village, Prince Peter John, expressed satisfaction with the leadership style of the village head.

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