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Column: TRIBUTE TO AKU UKA SHEKARAU ANGYU MASA-IBI KUVYON 11 (1937-2021)






If there is any one word that can describe the life and times of the late Aku Uka of Wukari Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi Kuvyon 11, it will be durability.

Unlike normal babies who stay for nine months or less in their mother's womb, he was there for a whole year before coming out to the world. Hence the name ''Shekarau'' which in the Hausa language is given to rare babies who stay for up to twelve months in the womb before being born. You might say the baby Shekarau was taking his time preparing for what will be a long journey on earth before coming out and you won't be wrong in that assessment of the late Aku Uka.

In keeping with the theme of his life's existence as a resilient and durable monarch, the late Aku Uka lived a long life of 84 years (four scores and additional four years), 45 of years of which was spent on the exalted throne as ruler of the domain of the Kwararafa peoples which in antiquity was the nexus of the peoples of what is now central Nigeria.

I still remember vividly the day he was announced as the next Aku Uka after the demise of the previous Aku Uka Ada Ali. The latter spent just about a year on the throne after succeeding his brother the very tall, handsome, popular and charismatic Aku Uka Abe Ali who reigned just for four years after he succeeded Aku Uka Adi Byewi. With the passing on of two Aku's in quick succession, dark rumours and vicious innuendoes began to fly about that the Jukuns don't always allow their kings to stay long on the throne preferring to do away with them before they become too strong and authoritative.

On that particular day in 1976 that Aku Uka Shekarau ascended the throne of his ancestors, I happened to be holidaying in Wukari. I was in the fourth form in secondary school. I was making my way on foot from my grandfather's house Gidan Ma'aji which was located at Bakin Kasuwa in the central area of Wukari town to Sabon Gari area which was where my grandmother's house (Ayo Ladi 'Yan Ibi ) was located. In those days the road to Sabon Gari was wide and lined with tall trees providing much needed shade and beauty to the area.

Suddenly from the direction of the Ibi road round about, I saw a procession of vehicles making their way towards the centre of town with young men hanging dangerously and obliviously to the sides of the vehicles. Atop the roof of one of the vehicles was my in law (he was married to my cousin Hauwa) and upon seeing me he shouted in Hausa ''Iliya we have a new Aku and we are heading to the palace to celebrate. Come join us!"

As I waved him off after taking the precaution of veering out of the way I wondered who the new Aku Uka was. The previous Aku Uka Ada Ali was an uncle (from my maternal links to Wapan Nga Ku) and I used to visit his house in the west of mines area in Jos which was not far from Tafawa Balewa Street where we lived. 

When I eventually got my granny's house I found out that the news was everywhere. My grandmother who was doing a little jig along with the women of the compound informed me that in between the ululating din that ''Mallam Shokoro'' is now the new Aku Uka. And so it came to pass.

When I first met Aku Uka Shekarau, I found him to be of sharp wit and deeply knowledgeable about the history of the Kwararafa people. Even at that late age, his memory was sharp; he could recall the important dates in Jukun history, the names of towns and the various peoples that had kinship with the Jukuns and those with whom the Jukuns fought and made peace all in the course of their illustrious history.

He was not only of sound mind; he was of sound eye sight as well. Throughout your session with him you will not for a moment see him use reading glasses. He was a monarch who knew and was familiar with nearly all the scions of the compounds and wards making up Wukari town. If you told him who your father was or which compound or area you came from in Wukari, he will right away tell you your ancestry.

In my own case when he asked me to explain to him my filial relationship to the Wukari royal family, I drew blank. Upon seeing my predicament, he proceeded to tell me that my great grandmother on the paternal side (that is my grandfather's mum was actually a daughter of the royal household).

The late Aku Uka period on the throne can be described as a chequered one. He ascended the throne when Wukari and southern Taraba was part of Benue-Plateau state, then Gongola and now Taraba state. Twice Wukari missed out on becoming the capital city of Gongola and Taraba states respectively. When he ascended the throne Wukari was not as big as in size and population as it presently is. In terms of social amenities Wukari was relatively provided for and better off than the other divisional towns in the old Gongola including the capital Yola. The town certainly had the best layout among its peers on the outset of Gongola and Taraba states.

 

During Aku Shekarau's reign from having just a few secondary schools and a Teacher training school, Wukari now boasts of two universities; a federal one the Federal University of Wukari and a community owned one the Kwararafa Jubilee University both with accredited and recognized courses. There used to be a Polytechnic which was relocated to make way for the federal university.

In recognition of the importance and historical antecedent of the throne of Kwarrarafa which he occupies Aku Shekarau was made the Chairman of the Taraba council of Traditional rulers a position which was still holding until his passing on. He was also four times a Chancellor of various Federal Universities; Akure in Ondo state, Ilorin in Kwara, Dutse in Jigawa and most recently Lafia in Nasarawa state   

It must be stated though that Aku Shekarau's reign also witnessed some very low moments. The perennial Jukun/Tiv sectarian crises which come up from time to time leading to deaths on both sides were recorded severally. Whole villages and communities have been wiped out in the process. The issue mostly pertains to land matters which dovetails to political representation and related issues. Claims and counter claims on both sides about who owns what are always made. In the middle of it all Aku Shekarau always remained calm, stoic and unruffled. As a monarch who knew and had the history of his people at his fingertips he always comes up with detailed anecdotal facts about his position which always provide much needed light to the issues at stake.

But what must rank as the lowest moment that the late Aku had to contend with in his long reign which effects is still felt to this day in Wukari and the entire southern Taraba is the intra sectarian crises between Jukuns of Christian and Muslim persuasions which raged on for a decade. While it lasted, the strong filial bond that used to exist among Jukuns broke down irretrievably. Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, took up arms against each other the result of which Wukari once an ancient city of strong bonds of history, tradition and culture became a desolate town. The beautiful Sabon Gari which I talked of earlier on in this piece is now no more; completely wiped out. The ruins of the once bustling Sabon Gari and Bakin Kasuwa areas are there to behold like an open sore for both visitors and inhabitants to behold. It is a macabre monument to the self-hate and intolerance that gripped Wukari town.

Many prominent sons and daughters of Wukari who were forced to relocate to Jalingo, Mutum Biyu and other places in Taraba and in Lafia and other neighbouring towns in Nasarawa state may have been lost to the town forever.

Every family including even the royal family was afflicted by this malady and the pains from these self-inflicted wounds are yet to heal. The late Aku who was affected deeply by these unfortunate incidents tried his best to navigate through this difficult phase of his reign. And towards the end of his reign he tried to heal the wounds by reaching out and building bridges of reconciliation and hope.

It is hoped that for the sake of all Jukuns and indeed all Tarabans and Nigerians at large the next Aku will continue and vigorously too in the efforts of restoring confidence among Jukuns in Wukari.

As he embarks on his journey to join his ancestors we pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of Aku Uka Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi Kuvyon 11 CON.               

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