BY DASIN USMAN
There is always a very grave danger when politics, political undertones or politicians come into an otherwise jolly good relationship. It turns brothers against brothers and people who were sharing a handshake a few minutes ago become sworn enemies. That was exactly what came into play in the case of the relationship between the Enugu people, their government and the Hausa traders of New Artisan Market in Enugu, the state capital.
In the last few days, so many curious narratives have been spurn about a relationship between Hausa traders, many of whom had lived in Enugu for more than half a century, and who know no place other than Enugu as their place of origin, and a government which they were part and parcel of its coming into office. When you look at the narratives that are being dished out right, left and centre, especially ones deliberately planted in the media with the aim of tar-brushing the earned peaceful image of the governor, you cannot but agree with those who believe that some agent provocateurs are in action, trying to turn brothers against brothers, all with the aim of achieving their political aim of destroying the age-long peace that had existed between Igbo and Hausa people in Enugu and Enugu State in general.
The way to begin the narrative of our relationship is to go down memory lane to the story of Mallam Umaru Altine. If you read the seminal work of Richard Sklar, with the title: Nigerian Political Parties, an authority on the history of politics and political parties in the formative years of the Nigerian nation, you would read the details of Altine’s life and how Enugu allowed and assisted the northerner to reach the zenith of his aspiration. Mallam Altine was a Hausa man who was born in the old Sokoto Province. He then migrated to the Coal City to pursue his commercial career of tendering cattle. However, being a political animal like every human being, he delved into the politics of his environment and rose politically, thereby becoming President of the Enugu Branch of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). He was soon elected the first Mayor of Enugu in 1956 and served meritoriously in that regard. Since then, it had become incumbent on any government or even individuals in Enugu State to reckon, not only with the political strides of Mallam Altine but to accord his progenies and offspring the regard of his meritorious service to the people of the state
Indeed, that relationship had become cast in iron. Governments after governments in Enugu reserve a place of pride for the Hausa people, many of whom speak perfect Igbo, relate with the people in peace and contribute to the political equation in the state. It will interest anyone to know that during elections, Hausa community constitutes a sizeable portion of the electorate and they must be factored into the political equation of what is unarguably the most cosmopolitan state in the South East.
In the current insecurity foisted on many parts of the east, the government of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has been meeting with sections of the Hausa community, with the aim of ensuring that criminal elements do not shatter the long-standing peace that had been enjoyed by both Enugu indigenes and every resident of the state. For instance, in August 2019, on the heels of the murder of Rev Paul Offu, Parish Priest of St James the Greater Parish of Ugbawka in Nkanu East Local Government of the state. Ugwuanyi immediately began to meet with strategic groups and individuals living in the state. One of those he met was the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and both of them concluded that it was in the peace of Enugu State that commerce and mutual existence could take place. Also in September, 2020, following the killings of some IPOB members in August of that year at Emene, Ugwuanyi held strategic meetings with 27 prominent persons and groups towards nipping such dastardly act in the bud. One of the people he met with was Sambo Abubakar, the Sarkin Hausa of the state. The governor has also gone into the nooks and crannies of the Hausa community to hold meetings with leaders of this very important community to assure them of their safety and urge the people to help ensure the peaceful coexistence of Enugu people and their brother Hausas living in the state.
In fact, at the latter meeting, the Sarkin Hausa, as widely reported in the media, had said: “Your Excellency, we are more than happy to see you in our midst. This is not your first time; you were here last year and it is a demonstration of love to the citizens of Enugu State and we are part of that citizenship. We are more than grateful. When your SA on Security came here, we were more than a thousand that received him here and we gave him our speech. We said Ramadan is a month of prayer, prayer for constituted authority, for the nation, for our state, the local government leaders and traditional leaders. We used that forum also to extend our profound gratitude to you.” To most members of the Hausa community the Sarkin eloquently spoke their mind
Why then a governor who has demonstrated this level of friendship, accessibility and love for the Hausa brothers and sisters carrying on their legitimate businesses in his state, would be ill portrayed by some politically-minded elements, all in the name of politics, as the enemy of his friends, beggars questions. These political elements have seized on the recent disagreement at the New Artisan Market between the Hausa traders therein and a private concern called Citi Gas Company, to cause disaffection between the two entities. The bile-soaked narratives fail to do justice to the roles that Governor Ugwuanyi has played in foisting peace in his state and ensuring that Hausa people in the state feel themselves to be part and parcel of the administration of the state.
Unbeknownst to a wide section of the public, the issue that happened at the New Artisan Market was majorly judicial. A court of competent jurisdiction sitting in Enugu, in the contentious matter of land ownership of the said New Artisan Market land where our traders operated, had given judgment in favour of Citi Gas Company. What Governor Ugwuanyi merely did, sensing the implications for peace and order, and also as a friend of the Hausa community, a relationship that had spanned years, was to immediately seek to find a soft landing for the Hausa traders community and to avoid any crisis in a state he superintends over its security as the Chief Security Officer.
With the execution of the court judgment imminent, the governor, last Wednesday, invited the leaders of the market to a meeting attended by the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, CP Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu, State Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), Brigade Commander at the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army and State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and officially informed them of the judgment which they themselves had become aware of. He thus promised that the state government would immediately come to their rescue by ameliorating whatever burdens that the traders could face over the court judgment. It was then agreed by all parties for the traders to be relocated to a temporary site. Immediately after the meeting, the governor ordered that all hands must be on deck to ensure the smooth transition of the traders to their newfound land. It must have thus been a thing of rude shock to the governor and the state government to hear that some miscreants had stormed the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway site of the New Artisan Market to cause trouble.
Those who know the governor say that he is a believer in the dictum of “do unto others what you expect them to do to you.” The governor is known to always harp on the fact that thousands of Enugu sons and daughters are all over the country, from the west to the north, doing their legitimate businesses and since he didn’t want anyone to hound them off their legitimate businesses, he would not want to hound anyone doing legitimate business from the soil of Enugu State.
s. For they would always remember the governor’s surprise Eid-el-Fitr visit to a mosque in the state capital in June 2017, the governor of the state to ever extend such gesture of goodwill to them. Also in May 2020, Ugwuanyi intervened swiftly to calm restive nerves in the Hausa community when he directed the immediate rebuilding of mosques damaged by ethnic irredentists in the university town of Nsukka following a misunderstanding involving an Hausa resident and a native Keke operator.
Not only did the state government repeatedly wash its hands off such breach of law and order that happened at the New Artisan Market last Thursday, there was no logical reason for a governor or government which had reached a compromise with the traders to now go behind them to forcefully unleash a state of terror and violence on the law-abiding traders. It is in this that discerning minds within the Hausa community hanker a guess that some fifth columnists must have infiltrated an otherwise peaceful relationship with the aim of portraying Enugu as being in bloody disagreement with its Hausa brethren.
In fact, the statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer speaks volume of the true occurrence at the New Artisan Market that Thursday. According to the police, it was “a case of unlawful resistance by unscrupulous elements (against) the execution of a Court Order issued by High Court of Enugu State authorizing the demolition of structures and possession of the land area covering the market by Nwajanja family of Akpugo in Nkanu West Local Government Area of the State.” The statement further said that the Commissioner of Police in the State, CP Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu, had ordered the immediate launch of “a thorough investigation to fish out and bring to book miscreants whose acts of violence led to the sustaining of injuries by innocent citizens, vandalism and burning of vehicles in the market.”
It is no doubt a puerile attempt by some political elements to bring the government or governor of Enugu State into the controversy. Top leaders of the Hausa community resident in Enugu State know that the man who has made their community a place he visits at the drop of a hat, with the aim of befriending the people cannot be the same man causing chaos. If there is anything that the people of Enugu State, both residents and indigenes, know of Governor Ugwuanyi, is that he is peaceful and peace-loving like a dove. It will thus be satanic and unimaginable for the lover of the Hausa community to be portrayed as their enemy.
Usman writes from Owerri Road, Enugu.