Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya. Photo/TWITTER/ GOVERNORINUWA

After a drawn succession battle and days of protests from interest groups, Gombe State Governor, Muhammad Yahaya, recently announced the appointment of Malam Danladi Maiyamba, as the new Mai Tangale of Tangale people in Gombe.

Thereafter, the Commissioner, Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ibrahim Jalo, presented an appointment letter to the new Mai Tangle in Poshiya, in Billiri. According to Jalo, Malam Maiyamba’s appointment followed the recommendation of the Kingmakers of the Tangale Chiefdom coupled with his personal qualities and suitability for the office.

The people of Billiri Local Government Area had early kicked against the governor’s choice of Danladi, who had been defeated by another candidate, Musa Maiyamba. The development led to series of protests, resulting in the destruction of properties and loss of lives. This was as a team of lawyers in Tangale said the decision of the governor would be challenged in court.

Earlier on January 11, 2021, Tangale residents and their chiefdom in Billiri local government area of Gombe State woke up to the shocking news of the demise of their monarch the previous day.

The state government later confirmed the demise of the 15th Mai Tangale, Dr. Abdu Buba Maisheru ll, aged 72, after a brief illness at the Federal Teaching Hospital (FTH), Gombe. It described his death as a monumental loss to the Tangale chiefdom, the State and the nation.

Though a new Mai Tangale has emerged, stakeholders in Tangale say the events that characterised the process brought to fore the lacuna in the procedure for appointing a new Mai Tangale. “The situation simply unearthed the powerlessness of the kingmakers, on whose shoulder the responsibility to select another monarch primarily rests,” they contended.

Soon after the late king’s demise, the kingmakers customarily called for nominations from the ruling houses. And there came an unprecedented concentration on the Maiyamba royal lineage, which three top contestants emerged, namely Ahmadu Muhammadu Maiyamba, Musa Idris Maiyamba and Danladi Sanusi Maiyamba.

According to section 8(2) of the current legal apparatus, titled, ‘The creation of emirates, districts, villages, wards and appointment and deposition of Emirs and Chiefs (Amendment) law,’ “upon the death, resignation or deposition of an Emir or Chief, the traditional kingmakers shall, in addition to other powers enforced on them by custom and tradition, recommend three persons for appointment of one as an Emir or Chief by the governor.”

Tangale chiefdom is heterogeneous, comprising Muslims, Christians and animists, bounded by common language and traditions. And a religious sentiment being played up in the current selection process is countered by the existing fact that there have been Muslim and Christian Mais in the kingdom. It would be recalled that the last Mai, the late Abdu Buba Maisheru II, was a Christian and ruled after successive Muslim Mais.

The Guardian gathered that when the last Mai was appointed, it broke a tradition of successive Muslim Mais, without violence/protest in Tangale. The aggrieved parties merely went to court to challenge the process.

The state Chieftaincy Law 2020, like many others across the country, mandates the kingmakers to forward three recommendations to the governor, among whom the new Mai would be chosen. And all the three names forwarded to the governor by kingmakers are bonafide Tangale princes eminently qualified to take the reins.

Sadly, however, the Southern and Middlebelt Leaders’ Forum, according to the state government, allegedly mounted a campaign sensitising restive youths and women on the need to ignore the existing laws that empower the governor to appoint any of the three shortlisted candidates. To the forum, the kingmakers have the final say on who is to be appointed, and not the governor.

But the Muslim community expressed reservation about the process, describing it as an attempt to render the Mai position an exclusive Christian preserve. “This is patently absurd and deeply insulting to other equally qualified non-Christian Tangale princes,” a stakeholder (names withheld) said.

In a statement, the Muslim community bemoaned their loss in the protests and violence that ensued over the new choice of Mai Tangale. “In the violence that ensued, Muslim Tangale people, their businesses, property and places of worship were targeted. This is a clear indication that the perpetrators are not after Tangale cultural determination but a carefully crafted campaign of sectarian blackmail and intimidation,” it alleged.

“Tangale tribal affinity, and not religion, should be the basis of Tangale unity. The attempt by some extremists to impose an exclusively Christian Tangale identity is a recipe for genocide and must be roundly condemned by all men and women of peace and goodwill,” the group further warned.

The Muslim community urged the government to wade into the crises before it degenerates into communal clashes and religious war. “Government should live up to its responsibility of protecting all our people irrespective of their tribe or religion. On our part, we all have individual responsibilities to preach peace and maintain good relations with other individuals, groups or entities. Tangale chiefdom, and by extension Gombe State, should not be allowed to descend into sectarian chaos.

“We have enjoyed decades of stability despite the prevailing situation in the Northeast. We must guard this peace jealously and not allow our collective security to be sacrificed on the altar of royal or religious politics,” the Muslims said.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), also called for calm over the appointment of 16th Mai Tangle. CAN chairman in Billiri, Rev. John Joseph, appealed for calm amongst residents.

According to him, the people of Tangale were not known to be violent. Joseph said: “I urge all not to take laws into their hands as we would do all within our powers and the ambit of the law to ensure that the people’s choice is given to them.”

To douse the tension, the leadership of CAN in Billiri pleaded for forgiveness from their Muslim brothers over the violence. Rev. Joseph, who also sought the forgiveness of Governor Yahaya, said members of the Christian community were sorry for the carnage that affected many Muslims in Billiri.

Speaking at the stakeholders meeting of Tangale people, attended by the governor and security chiefs, the CAN chairman sought the permission of the governor to allow him lead other Christian clergies to go round all affected areas to seek their forgiveness over the “unplanned attack on the Muslims.”

He said the delegation would visit the Chief Imam of Billiri, Alhaji Abubakar Abdullahi, to condole with, sympathise as well as seek the forgiveness of their Muslim brothers.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Local Government, Hon. Margaret Bitrus, who broke down in tears during an emotion-laden speech, said the people of Billiri were now regretting their action, which brought untold hardship to the people.

She said the mayhem wouldn’t have happened if the people had remained patient and awaits the Governor’s proclamation of a new Mai Tangale.

Governor Yahaya, who described the crises as uncalled for, said the people of Tangale had allowed the devil to infiltrate and divide them along religious lines even when the Mai stool has no religious consideration. He said the crises had broken the peaceful coexistence that had existed within the Tangale nation for years despite their religious differences.

He commended the religious leaders for coming together after realising that the attacks were not for the progress of the people and the land and that it is only in a peaceful atmosphere that any meaningful development can take place.

There are many ruling houses in Tangale land, but the recommendation, as enshrined in the law, and from the exercise of the powers of the kingmakers, had concentrated the shortlist of three within the Maiyamba lineage, namely Ahmadu Muhammadu Maiyamba who scored two votes, Musa Idris Maiyamba (four votes) and Danladi Sanusi Maiyamba (two votes).

But government, according to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), decided to abandon the choice of the kingmakers, and settled for Malam Danladi Maiyamba as the new Mai Tangale. According to the SSG, the journey to the throne of Mai Tangale began when about 23 persons expressed interest in the position. Through screening and some other important considerations in the selection process, the number was trimmed to 18 and eventually three candidates.

He stressed that the three candidates secured votes from the kingmakers to emerge and became equals in the eyes of the law irrespective of the number of votes they scored.

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