Nok, Jos to the Tafawa Belewa’s Tomb (VI) By Patrick Naagbanton

Culled from SaharaReporters
Continued from Nok, Jos To The Tafawa Belewa’s Tomb V.

“I am sorry, sir, for that,” said the keke driver, while turning
his face in my direction. The man felt that I was in a hurry
and the young veiled Muslim woman who crossed the road
caused some delay to my journey.
I told him not to say sorry, and that neither the poor woman or
he has committed any offense. I told him that I came to Bauchi
just to travel around and see places. He didn’t understand
what I meant. He thought I was just a holidaymaker moving around to see
things, not knowing that I am a travel writer. We got to the
Larema International Hotel and Suites located Behind Old Dass
Park, near the Federal Radio Station, at a foot of a big hill in
the New Government Reservation Area (GRA), Bauchi LGA.
The man waited patiently and I paid seven thousand Naira for
a small room for the night. The room was not as big as the
room I paid a similar amount for in Jos. Also, though the
workers at the hotel were polite, friendly, and effective they
were not like those in the Jos hotel I spent a night in.
Originally, five ethnic groups made up the Bauchi LGA. They
are the Bankalawa, Gerawa, Burmawa, Hausawa and Fulani.
But with the crises which had erupted in several parts of the
state, other groups like the Hausa, Jarawa, Warjawa, Sayawa
and others from other LGAs in the state had moved to the
Bauchi State used to be part of the Northeastern state with
its headquarters in Maiduguri, the present capital of Bornu
State. The General Murtala Muhammad military regime
created Plateau State from the Benue-Plateau State, split
the Northeastern State into Bauchi, Borno, and Gongola
States. And later, General Sani Abacha’s regime created
Nasarawa State from Plateau; at the same time the old Bauchi
state was split again into Gombe and Bauchi State, like
Plateau State.
Bauchi State has about 55 over ethnic groups which are
distributed amongst the 20 LGAs in the state. The north
(comprising north-west, north-central, and north-east geo-
political regions) has different ethnic groups, cultures, and
traditions than the south (south-east, south-west and south-
south geo-political regions). This fact, surprisingly, is not
generally known in the Southern part of the country. Like the
myth that the North is generally a well-developed place
because it has produced more of the rulers of the Nigerian
state, most Southern Nigerians believe that the North is mono-
ethnic (same ethnic group).
Three days (Sunday, 26 July 2009) before Mohammed Yusuf
was killed, members of his sect attacked a police station in
Bauchi metropolis.
Members of the Yusuf movement armed with grenades and
AK47 assault rifles invaded a police station. The police station
is located at the Jango area, located south of the Bauchi
metropolis. Members of the movement looted its armoury and
killed policemen on duty and civilians.
The first time I met the keke driver at their park near the
filling station, I guessed he may either come from the Bogolo or
Tafawa Balewa LGA. The place (Tafawa Balewa LGA) is
located south and about 83 kilometres from the Bauchi capital.
My initial impression of the man was that of a courageous, open
and accommodating person. To some extent, my psychological
summation or instinct didn’t disappoint me. The man told me he
was of the Sayawa tribe in the Tafawa Balewa LGA.
Since the late 1940s, before the creation of the LGA with its
headquarters in Tafawa Balewa town, hometown of Abubakar
Tafawa Balewa, first prime minister of independent Nigeria,
there have been bloody crises.
The ethnic groups in the area are the Sayawa, Hausa, Fulani,
Kanuri, and Tapshinwa (Angas). The Ibos and others are also in
the area. Mainly the crises have been between the Sayawa
tribe and the Hausa/Fulani group fighting over land ownership
and chieftaincy issues.
I checked into my hotel room, bathed and wandered out for
few hours into the town with my new Sayawa friend. The first
place he took me to was a neighbourhood in the Yelwa Tudu
area, close to Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University along Dass
Road in the central area of the city.
We stopped there and we walked into an area where they were
preparing Burukutu. Some were drinking it from a calabash.
Burukutu is mined from fermented guinea corn. The guinea
corn is soaked in water for three days, after which is dried in
the sun, and later mashed or grinded. The grinded paste is
cooked in a pot and allowed to cool when is properly cooked. The
end product is a brownish liquid which the locals call burukutu
which is poured in a calabash for consumption.
Burukutu is alcoholic, but not like kaikai also called ‘Ogogoro’ or
‘Sapele Water’ which is distilled from fermented palm wine.
I had drunk burukutu before somewhere in the Northern
Nigeria. The experience was not a good one. The keke driver
swallowed a small quantity and clasped his teeth like one who
has eaten a soured grape. I had warned him not to take much,
while I sat watching as one after the other enjoyed their
Burukutu is a valued drink of the Sayawa tribe and others in
Bauchi State and other parts of deep northern Nigeria. But in
places like Plateau State and other parts of the Middle belt
region, Burukutu is extracted from millet, rather than guinea
corn, through the processes of production are same.
After spending three hours with him, travelling around, I
returned to the hotel, and rested for one and half hour.
Around 2.00 p.m., one of my good friends from one of the
north central states (middle belt region) came to my hotel.
He had spent over 20 years in Bauchi metropolis but came to
take me out on another voyage to some historical sites in the
town. The first place we visited was the tomb of Alhaji (Sir)
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, born by a Fulani mother on 1
October 1912. Some said his father was of the Sayawa group
and that the Tafawa Balewa LGA which was created about 10
years after his death, was after named after him.
Balewa was among top Nigerian politicians who were killed by
rebel soldiers led by Majors Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and
Arinze Ifeajuna Emmanuel during the first coup (which later
failed) in Nigeria on 15 January 1966 in Lagos, then capital of
We travelled through the northern parts of the Bauchi town
near Bauchi prison. On 7 September 2010, (about fourteen
months) after the Federal Low Cost Housing police station was
attacked, Bauchi Prison was also attacked. Boko Haram assailants invaded the prison, freed over 700
prisoners; and some of their men held there were freed. We
passed along the huge palace of the current emir of Bauchi,
Alhaji Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu, who took over as emir four
years ago after the death of his father.
I didn’t see the usual flag with the colours-yellow, white and
blue with stars and moon in the middle. That was the flag
Shehu Usman Dan Fodio handed over to his Hausa, Fulani, and
other supporters after an area was conquered during the
jihadist movement of the early 19th century. The absence of
the flag on the emir’s rooftop was a sign that the emir was
not in his palace.
Dan Fodio of the Fula or Fulani tribe started his Islamic Jihad
which some called ‘Fulani Wars’ early 19th century. His
fighters swept through north-western states and northern
parts of Kaduna – Zaria and established emirates – an
administrative unit where emirs preside over.
Five years after the Dan Fodio war started around Sokoto, he
headed north-east and invaded Bauchi, a territory of
numerous self-governing ethnic groups and waged his religious,
political, and economic wars against them.
Before the arrival of Fodio’s Jihadists, some parts of Bauchi
were practising Islam. The Kanuri of the Kanem – Bornu Empire
had spread Islam mildly in the area. The Kanem – Bornu Empire
in same North-East got converted to Islam around 9th or 10th
Islam was said to have been introduced there by North African
traders, Arabs, and Berbers who had trading connections with
the empire. The 19th century was full of activities, while Dan
Fodio and his group of jihadists were rampaging the northern
axis, the Christians were doing same from the southern parts
The Christian movement started from the Yoruba coastal and
border town of Badagry (in present – day Badagary LGA,
located west of the Lagos metropolis in the Lagos State) in
southwestern Nigeria.
Christianity from Badagry spread to others parts of South-
West, South-East, South-South and some parts of North
Central states, but not by open military conquests like the ones
of Fodio. However, there were pockets of wars which were
waged by European traders for the missionaries when the
natives resisted their aggressive attempts to convert them to
the new religion, Christianity.
Chinua Achebe (16 November 1930-21 March 2013), the
celebrated Nigerian writer and cultural activist in his famed
novel, Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, addressed the
theme of the aggressive conversion attempts and the
Like the Kanem-Bornu Empire which had Islamic influence in
Bauchi before Fodio’s arrival, the Portuguese attempted to
introduce Christianity first in Nigeria, but never recorded any
serious success about 15th century.
As for South-West (Yorubaland), Christianity and Islam spread
simultaneously. In the old Ilorin town in present – day Kwara
State, which General Afonja was presiding over, he had invited
the Fulani jihadists to help him in his revolt against the Oyo
Empire which was already weak due to internal struggle for
power primarily.
They arrived in the kingdom, helped Afonja to break away
from the Oyo Empire before they took over the leadership of
the breakaway part of the empire from him. They established
an emirate and from there Islam spread into some parts of
Yorubaland that had not come in contact with Muslims and
their religion.
There was another ambitious attempt to introduce Islamic to
the southernmost parts of Nigeria through the old Benin
Empire now in present-day Edo State in the South-South
geo-political zone, by traders who actually attempted to
introduce Islam before the jihadists.
In the 19th century, some Muslims in the Afemai tribe, who
had some trade arrangements with an Islamic ruler in the old
Nupe kingdom found in present – day Niger State (North-
Central) tried to spread Islam in the area.
The Afemai people occupy Auchi town and places in Etsako West
LGA and Esako East LGA, on the northern borderline of Edo
State. Traditional warriors of the Benin Empire, who disliked
the spread of Islam to their territory, advanced northwards
and defeated them. That stopped them from pushing
westwards towards the heart of the empire and beyond.
Remnants of the Islamic fighters returned to the Afemai area
and remained there. This is one of the reasons that explains
why one finds lot of Muslims in that area.
Under the hot Bauchi sun we arrived at the compound which
houses the tomb of Balewa.
The compound is not fenced. The place is closer to the emir’s
palace on the right, while on the left is the Bauchi central
market. The compound has two buildings – an office on the left
side of the compound and on the right is the tomb.
Seven men all dressed in the flowing Muslim garments sat on
two mats placed under a tree.
I came out of our vehicle with my friend and he spoke Hausa
with them. One man, a tall, slender man walked out from them
and welcomed us cordially. The man, Adamu Sambo, a 45-year-
old father of four children from two wives is an attendant at
the place.
We told him that we want to visit the tomb of Balewa and he
said we should follow him.
We entered a building which curved, like a tunnel without a
The place was dark and the more one went the deeper it
We eventually walked to a base where before us was the tomb
of Belewa. On wall there were multi-coloured tiles.
The tomb was built in a rectangular shape with pieces of
granite rocks spread on the surface; beneath it were the
remains of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
The tomb attendant started his commentary after I finished
taking pictures. The man explained that the dark tunnel which
we entered through represents the toils of the independence
struggle, early statehood, death and sacrifice of the great
leader, and the base where light glimpsed at us implied hope
for the Nigerian nation. The various colours of tiles on the wall
denote the ethnic mixture of the country.
He concluded by saying that there is hope for our country in
spite of the current difficulties. He said further that the
architecture of the tunnel building and tomb was taken from
the old Mali Empire’s (now Republic of Mali in Western Africa),
tomb of Mansa Musa, the Emperor of the Malian empire said to
be “the richest man ever to have lived”. The man said
construction of the facility started in mid-1975 and two years
after was completed.
When we were walking out of the tunnel, the man said “Truly,
we are from Allah and to him we shall return.”
As we were walking out, Muslims in the nearby mosque were
reciting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great”), a sign that it was
Muslim prayer time. The charming songs of the birds and that
of the praying Muslims provided some rhyme for me.
The attendant took us to the second building in the compound
where on the doorpost was written “Exhibition on the life and
times of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa–National Commission
for Museum and Monuments” (NCMM).
He explained that the entire place was managed by the Bauchi
State Government, but the NCMM in Abuja is managing the
exhibition centre, while the tomb and its open building was
managed by the state tourism board.
We left there to the St. John’s Cathedral in the Wunti area,
east of the town that was attacked by suspect Boko Haram
fighters few years back, and later to Bayan-Gari, a massive
suburb some few metres from the church. A large population of
southern Nigerians stay here.
14 days before my visit there, two lethal bombs planted near a
bustling brothel there exploded around 9.00 p.m., killing several
persons. As the bombs exploded, causing panic, gunmen hanging
around opened fire on the stampeded victims. That worsened
the casualty figure. We visited the affected brothel, which has
since been deserted.
In early 1991, Sayawa people and the Hausa/Fulani fought in
the Tafawa Balewa LGA. Retaliatory killings spilled over to the
suburbs of that same Bayan–Gari, Bakinkura, and the railway.
Bauchi has been ahothouse of ethnic and religious violence like
Plateau State and other parts of the country.
The Bauchi metropolis is a place with some diversity. There were
churches and mosques located along the road.
Some of the roads, though not wide enough, were well-tarred
and had some modern houses built of cement blocks and roofed
with corrugated iron sheets by their sides, with juvenile
beggars who wore torn and filthy clothes with plastic plates in
their hands, moving from one side of the road to another
seeking alms. There were also rickety and poor buildings in the
The Bauchi journey ended late in the evening, and I returned
to my hotel to rest. Early the following day, Monday, the
Sayawa keke driver came to the hotel as arranged to take me
to a small motor park opposite theirs.
From there, I travelled back to Abuja and later to my home in
Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State in the eastern Niger
Delta region of Nigeria, to plan for another journey to yet-to-
be determined destinations.


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