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Governor Kefas, It Is Time To Give Wukari Town A Lift ... Iliyasu Gadu

It is the second largest town in Taraba state after the capital Jalingo. The seat of two universities, it is also a prominent centre of education. As the ancient capital of the Kwararafa kingdom of antiquity and situated on long established trade and commerce routes, it is also a centre of culture and tradition as well as commerce. 

Yet despite all these, Wukari has one prominent sore point that has blighted the town and thus diminishes its famed and illustrious status. A visit to the town will always leave one with an acute sense of disappointment and bewilderment at how this city of history, culture, industry and learning has been allowed to atrophy. 

Today Wukari bears the scars of its ugly recent past. The whole of Bakin Kasuwa and Sabon Gari, considered the once bustling and commercial heart of town lies desolate. Whole compounds and houses as well as great commercial buildings have been torn down leaving only the hulks standing. In many cases parts of the have been overgrown with weed, tall grasses and shrubs obliterating the traces of settlements that had once stood there. Most of these houses and compounds were built long time ago stretching back to the 1930s down. If you had lived in these places or visited them before the destruction and had reason to travel and live elsewhere for one reason, upon coming back you will hardly recognise where you once lived. You might even nearly have a fit like I did when I visited Wukari after a long lay-off.

Although of Donga Chamba ancestry I was born in Wukari as was my late father and my umbilical cord lies buried here. My late mum though is thoroughly Wukari Wappan and was the daughter of Tswenji Tonku Dubagari, the well-known Health Inspector. My grandfather Maaji Abubakar Gadu was the first indigenous Council Treasurer of the town and the first Executive Chairman of the former Wukari Federation which now comprises the five local governments of Southern Taraba. He was earlier on in his life, one of the earliest converts to Christianity in southern Taraba christened Bulus, and worked to establish the religion in the area before moving on with the missionaries of Sudan United Mission, SUM, to establish similar evangelical missions in Keana, Lafia and Shendam. 

Yet for all that, his sprawling compound first built in Bakin Kasuwa right in the centre of Wukari town in 1934 and where he lies buried is now overgrown with grass and weeds after its destruction. The victims of the destruction are not limited to one group of people alone. As reflecting the commercial nature of the area before the carnage the pattern of settlement in Bakin Kasuwa and Sabon Gari were intermixed with Jukuns, Chamba, Kutebs, Igbos, Hausa, Kanuri ethnicities and others. There was also a liberal mixture of Christians living side by side with Muslims in blissful harmony. You could find churches next door to mosques and no misgivings whatsoever.

So when the carnage erupted, it affected all those aforementioned people and left a trail of destruction, disruption and desolation which has deeply affected the psyche of a once bustling people and the area they lived. As it is the most prominent part of town, the visible scars of carnage had turned Wukari, a once well planned town into a pathetically ugly image of its glorious past. It is not just the physical images of destruction that has etched itself on the mind. There are the psychological wounds which has buried itself deep in the minds of the people of the town. Siblings turned against each other such that settlements in town are now divided on ethnic and religious lines a factor never before existed. People who attempted to go and rebuild their ancestral homes because their deep psychological attachments to those houses have been either prevented from doing so or have the structures pulled down by unknown persons as if to say that such persons are content that they prefer to see the ugly recent past of Wukari should not be buried but continued. 

At the last Easter celebrations, Wukari played host the venerable Evangelist William Kumuyi which ministered to the multitude of people who attended from all parts of Taraba to listen to his sermon on the need for forgiveness just as Christ who suffered the most horrendous of punishments, forgave his traducers. Reverend Kumuyi must have been moved by ugly sight by the monument of destruction he saw in Wukari. He also must have been told about the stories of the callous tragedy of destructions that engulfed Wukari in the recent past and how a town with such a remarkable history of peaceful co-existence and prosperity had been turned into such a tragic spectacle to behold.

It was a good thing that our Governor Dr Agbu Kefas along with his Royal Highness the Aku Uka Manu Ishaku Addah Ali Matakitswen were in attendance along with many dignitaries to hear the man of God minister with such authority and power on the theme of forgiveness. It was I believe a coded message to the Governor and stakeholders of Wukari and indeed Taraba state to consider instituting the spirit of forgiveness among the people of Wukari. The Governor especially being a son of Wukari should take this admonition on board. He has a distinguished service record as a senior army officer and had played a great role in bringing peace and reconciliation to similar troubled communities in the Niger Delta where he had served with distinction. As a university town Wukari is bound to attract scholars from far and wide within Nigeria and outside for reasons connected to the tertiary institutions in the town. As Governor and distinguished military officer, Governor Agbu Kefas would also host visitors in Wukari his hometown. Would he want them to go with a lasting impression of the sort of physical ugliness that now prevails in the town? Would he want to spend the next three and possibly eight years as Governor with this as the signature image of his hometown Wukari? Will he not be mindful that after possible eight year tenure without resolving this issue, people will say to his face and to his eternal regret too that he could not do anything to give his hometown Wukari a lift when he had the power to do so? Will he not prefer that as a son of the soil, it is a God-given opportunity now for him to bring final peace and reconciliation to his kinfolk and gradually close this ugly chapter in the history of Wukari?

For the sake of the people of Wukari, southern Taraba, Taraba and most especially Governor Kefas himself it is time Wukari got a lift in terms of peace and reconciliation among the people of the town and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the destroyed parts of the town that now lie desolate giving this glorious town of ours an ugly image that does not reflect its majestic history and regard. All Wukari's peers; Makurdi, Gboko, Otukpo, and even its juniors like Lafia and Numan have something positive to behold today. Wukari has been struggling to shake off the unfortunate and unbefitting image of ugliness that hangs like an albatross on its neck. 

I know that Governor Kefas is likely to face resistance if he chooses to toe the path of peace, reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation in Wukari from people who for reasons best known to them would want the present situation of the town to continue to prevail. But as a former military intelligence officer facing uncertainty and danger have been part of his career path. It behoves on him to take a helicopter view of the issues at stake and decide on a course of action that ensures the greater good for the present and for posterity. His election as Governor is a God-given opportunity to bring succour to his hometown Wukari and he should use it diligently as a leader. Nobody else can be in a better and opportune position to do it now or in the foreseeable future.   

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