By Simon Baba
It was a rare assembly of political, traditional, academic and retired military bigwigs. They came from all parts of the country and beyond. The masses of the people from every community in Jukun land were also there. As usual, yours sincerely, a typical reporter of the old breed genre, was there on duty with his ears and eyes wide open to report the events faithfully as they happened. I’m talking about the three major events of the previous week which happened in Wukari and Takum in Taraba State and in which Taraba State Governor, Arc Darius Dickson Ishaku played the important role as chief host and keynote speaker.
What eventually turned out to be one of Ishaku’s recent most tasking schedules started Wednesday March 15, with an unexpected trip to Abuja for the meeting of state governors with President Muhammadu Buhari the next day. He returned to Jalingo Thursday evening in company of General T.Y Danjuma (Rtd), one of Nigeria’s most respected statesmen who is better known and adored back home as “Father of Taraba.” Both men accompanied by their wives – Barr. Anna Ishaku and Senator Daisi Danjuma headed for Wukari as early as 7.30 am Friday, March 17, for the events.
Wukari was a two-in-one event that lasted for two days. The first was the 40th anniversary of the Aku Uka, Dr Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi, on the prestigious traditional stool of his fore-fathers while the second was the maiden convocation ceremony of Kwararafa University. Wukari, I was told, had never seen a crowd of that magnitude in its entire history. All hotels in town and in neighbouring towns such as Ibi and Donga were fully booked and open fields and classrooms in the numerous schools in the town became temporary homes for those who couldn’t find accommodation. The oozing sound of music and dancing from the city announcing the commencement of celebration could be heard five kilometres from the town while the ceremony lasted that day.
The newly constructed convocation arena of the Kwararafa University was the venue for the two events. The Aku Uka’s anniversary was a unique outing and display of the complete paraphernalia of Jukun culture and tradition. As early as 6 am, men and women half clad in Jukun native attires hit the roads on foot for the long but slow procession from the city centre to the Convocation Square. They were accompanied by masquerades, and I counted no less than 50 of them, amidst singing drumming and dancing. Several state governors, deputy governors, ministers, members of the National and state assemblies and a powerful delegation of traditional rulers led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, who was also chairman of the occasion, graced the event.
A loud ovation announced the arrival of Governor Ishaku at the arena at about 10.30am and that also signalled the beginning of the day’s proceedings. From thence, it was music, dancing and speeches. President Muhammmadu Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Sports, Mr Solomon Lalong, praised the Aku Uka for living up the expectations of his people, most especially during the peak of the serial communal crises inTaraba State in 2013 when he mobilised the people in support of government’s peace initiative.
Governor Ishaku, in his speech, eulogised the Aku Uka as a man of impeccable character and epitome of creativity and good leadership. He said under the traditional leadership of the traditional ruler Wukari had grown rapidly to become the centre of education and learning with two universities and a campus of the National Open University. The need to strengthen peace that has been achieved by his administration featured elaborately in his address. He urged all Tarabans to see the promotion and sustenance of peace as a responsibility they owe themselves and the state. “Let us promote those things that unite us and give no room to those that divide us. We must continue to foster and strengthen our friendship with our neighbours”, he said.
The convocation was yet another historic event attended by many of those high profile personalities who graced the event of the previous day. Kwararafa University is a private institution established in 2006 to help facilitate access to higher education for children of the area. Ishaku, a foremost Nigerian architect, drew the master plan for the institution. More than 2000 students were conferred with degrees and diplomas in the various departments. Eminent Nigerians such as Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, Daisi Danjuma, Prof … Okojie and Alhaji Ahmadu Aliyu Oga Onawo who is the Chancellor of the university were conferred with honorary doctorate degrees.
In his speech at the event, Governor Ishaku advised the graduating students to see their graduation as the beginning and not the end of a journey. “For those of you graduating today, the journey begins today. You will be tested and you must be prepared to apply all that you have learnt”, he said. He urged the students to aim at the highest and the top always and “you will learn more as you continue to practise what you have learnt from school.” General Danjuma who had earlier been requested to take over the institution and assume its ownership demanded in his speech for a formal letter of offer and the conditions that must be met to enable him take a decision on the request.
From the convocation ground in Wukari, Governor Ishaku’s convoy moved to Takum to await the grand finale of the 2017 Beth-El Conference of the Christian Reformed Church – Nigeria scheduled for the next day. It is an annual evangelical event which draws participants from all parts of Taraba and its neighbouring states. The entry of Governor Ishaku and Anna, his wife, into the large arena that Sunday morning of March 19, was an act of great happiness and exhilaration for the over 20,000 participants. They rose from their seats, waved and cheered as Taraba’s First Family alighted from their car and took their seats.
The event was an opportunity for the church leaders to express their gratitude to Ishaku for all his achievements in road construction, the provision of water and the remarkable improvement in electricity. But they were most impressed – and every speaker of day did not forget to mention it – about peace that is being enjoyed now in the state and without which their gathering for the event would have been impossible this year. Ishaku told them that he was committed to changing the very ugly situation of things he met on assumption of office. “We are doing a lot for you. We have done 100 boreholes in various communities across the state. This year, we are doing 150 more. We have built several roads despite the poor financial situation.” He said Chanchagi – Takum road has been rehabilitated to make driving on it smoother. The road is to be awarded for reconstruction soon.
He told them that the Taraba State he inherited on assumption of office was a state in pieces, rendered so by the crisis of that time and that he was happy that the state is now in peace. That portion of his speech saw the entire congregation rising again on their feet in appreciation of this achievements. He told them that he was not unaware of the fact that he was not liked by some people in the state because he was not prepared to put the state’s money on the table to be shared. “Let me assure you. I will never share government’s money to individuals.”
He called for patience even in the face of extreme provocation by the Fulani herdsmen. “Retaliation will lead to bloodshed. We don’t want that. Give government the chance to resolve such problems. That is the only way we can guarantee the sustenance of peace that we have won for the state.”
A Rare Gathering of Bigwigs
By Simon Baba