Column Opinion

What The Gbong Gwong Jos Told Me About Sokoto

By Dr. Prince Charles Dickson

If you want to understand me
come, bend over my  African soul,
the black dockworkers’ groans,
the Tshopi’s frenzied dances,
the Shanganas’ rebellion,
the strange melody which flows
from a native song through the night.

And ask me no more
if yoU want to know me…
for I’m nothing more than a shell of flesh
where Africa’s uprising froze,
it’s cry swollen with hope.
Noémia de Sousa in O Brado Africano (‘The African Roar’).

Gyang Buba was born on October 10, 1951 in Madu Village of Du District, Jos South, Plateau State. He is the first son of Buba Dung Bot of the Lo Du, Lo-Wet family and Ngo Kaneng Buba, one among the ruling houses of the kingdom. He began his early education at SUM elementary school Chwelnyap in 1960 to 1963 then went to Baptist Day School Jos to complete his elementary studies. After finishing, He attended from 1966 to 1971, and graduated from the Provincial Secondary School, Kuru now known as Government Secondary School Kuru and afterwards attended the Institute of Administration in Ahmadu Bello University and graduated with a Diploma in Banking in 1975.

He is the Gbong Gwom Jos, paramount ruler of the ancient cosmopolitan city of Jos, he doubles as head of the Plateau State Traditional Council. He is a firm man, an arrogant man, down to earth, cantankerous, he is vast, it all depends on which side you are looking at, and an interviewer’s delight.

I was not with him exactly for an interview, but here we were, Nigeria at the frontburner, and Jos at the heart, and it was interesting that cooking fuel had to be brought from Sokoto.

The paramount ruler told us that in his work experience as a Custom officer, none beats his 6+years in Sokoto. He stated that when he became Custom boss, he had to take the annual Custom Retreat to the seat of the caliphate. He talked about the Sarduana’s hut in Rabah and the modest house he left behind in Sokoto town. He tried to juxtapose it with the streets our leaders build as homes for themselves.

You could see his face light up each time as he spoke of Sokoto, whether it was his experience with Alhaji Alhaji who was a long serving Permanent Secretary and Minister who worked with various Nigerian administrations. HRM grinned explaining how his mum came to visit him in Sokoto, however all that smile gave way to a wry smile as he asked if it’s the same Sokoto where the killings are even underreported, how so much has changed.

At this point he comes back to Jos, “I am 70 next month, as a young child, I witnessed 1966, I was class monitor at his Baptist Day School. I had gone to my teacher’s house, as was routine in the morning, to pick the books for the day’s subjects (that upstairs still stands there today). Unknown to me, killings had started, my teacher explained to me there would be no school today. I stood upstairs and watched as people were being slaughtered. I was in his house, an Igbo man. He kept me till 4:00pm”.

“It was evening, arson, bodies littered everywhere, my teacher had managed to get two Yoruba men who took me home. Till date, I remember my mum had literally cried herself to death wondering if I was alive and where I was, she did not even say thank you to the men who could speak no Hausa neither could she speak English or Yoruba”.

It was years later it dawned on me, that a barely 10 year old me looked Igbo, and would have been killed. So I am alive by sheer love of my Igbo teacher and his Yoruba friends. It is 2021, and I still see the same killings.”

HRM heaved a heavy sigh as he cautioned the need to understand the issues of conflict, the need for community policing, how we are throwing away our customs, values and cultures for all sorts of rights. He spoke to the neglect accorded the traditional institutions.

I reflected on this royal father’s thoughts, wits and wisdom and as I write this third, the last in the treaties for this year on Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria. So, let me state my belief. My testimony is anchored on value for life irrespective of creed, faith, ethnic cleavages, political leanings or ideologies. I believe that nobody has the right of life over the other person. I believe in mutual respect for humanity by all.

Leadership at all levels…from community to the federal government level has failed in its responsibilities. Its responsibility to protect lives and property, its responsibility to provide good governance at all levels. It has failed in nearly all facets of our national lives.

In Plateau, despite all the blame game, the Christian and Muslim stand. A fact that for me remains irrefutable is that the Government has failed in solving the issues because it is part of the problem, not just Lalong’s but administrations before it. The military saddled with the responsibility of providing security has equally failed. Be it in Kuru Karama or Dogo Nahauwa. Rukuba or Bassa, we have failed ourselves. When killings go unattended to it, we breed a circle of revenge, vengeance, retaliation, reprisal, ‘do me I do you’ and all these are premeditated jungle justice.

In Jos today and by extension the whole country we have again reached that precipice of asking what the basis of our mutual co-existence is. Before our forced marriage by Luggard and his bosses was consummated as a business, it did not stop the Oyos and Egbas being at war or the Jihad that ran through parts of the North and all the communal war in the East.

I am privileged to even have an opinion because I am alive. Many have died in these needless crises from Maitasini, Zagon Kataf, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Maidugiri, Boko Haram, Kala kato riots…the Miss World riots and the Danish cartoon saga. In all these both major faiths kill for a ‘god’ we claim is loving and peaceful; we fight for a deity that we believe is powerful.

I am proud of my faith, but I will NEVER kill for it under whatever guise or reason. My own God is strong and wise enough to do Justice His own way. Besides, I have always anchored my faith and belief on two charges, birth and destiny. I could have been born in Delhi as Chalia Khan and be Buddhist. I may as well have been an atheist or even from Bosnia.

And while the slaughter goes on, our leaders carry on…milking the nation and after all we really can do nothing. No one that has a heart will play politics with the death of anyone. In so-called civilised nations people have gone to jail over animal rights but we are a different breed. We even give titles to known murderers. We have continued to lie to ourselves. We hate ourselves, rather than respect each other, we tolerate each other like the proverbial soldier ant on the scrotum.

What kind of people are we. I am not perfect, maybe even naive but I know when something is not right. For us as a nation these are strange times, a new Nigeria may emerge or we may be consumed by recent happenings.

The US said not long ago that 2015 was the terminal date for the project called Nigeria. Many of us said God forbid, and we passed that date, but every of our actions are contradictory and only further pushes us to the brink. For how long will the Almighty continue to save us from ourselves—Only time will tell.

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