Inside Zango-Kataf chiefdom, 24 years after killings in natives’ battle with Hausa-Fulani settlers
News By: Okogba Sunday, November 27, 2016
*New monarch: I am ascending throne at a time of many challenges
By Luka Binniyat
For the second time in seven months, Zangon Kataf, the headquarters of the Atyap people, in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, LGA, of Kaduna State, was besieged by a crowd of natives and visitors.
But, unlike in May, when thousands gathered in a solemn ceremony for the burial of theformer traditional ruler of Atyap land, Agwatyap II, Dr. Harison Bungwon, last week’s crowd gathered amidst fanfare, songs, laugher and dance.
The occasion was to mark the installation ceremony and presentation of staff of office to the new Agwatyap –Mr. Dominic Gambo Yahaya.
At the massive palace of the Agwatyap, traditional dancers, flutters, trumpeters, drummers, praise singers, masquerades, among others, tried to outdo one another to the admiration ofthe audience.
The Atyap people, who, despite their small population, have managed to produce high profile Nigerians in virtually every areas of human endeavours.
Atayp chiefdom is in southern part of Kaduna State, in the wide open GuineaSavannah of lush meadows, parklands and forests where its perennial streams and riversare refilled every rainy season. The Atyap people are originally acephalous, with no clear central authority. This may have formed their fierce resistance to Islamisation in the 19thcentury, though colonialism was to later force them under the indirect rule of Zaria Muslimfeudal system.
Even as the celebration went on that afternoon, the Atyap people could have as well recallthat their autonomy, from the grip of Zaria Emirate, was loosen at a great cost, as history has it.Justa few hundred metres from the centre of merriment, behind the walls of the Agwatyap palace, was the Zangon Kataf new market – a fenced open space of straw canopies where village folks go about their weekly transaction, with the young oblivious of the grim history behind its creation.
It was over that market that the Hausa-Muslim settlers of Zangon Katafand the natives took on one anotherin killings that later spilled to Zaria, Kaduna and Katsina 24 years ago, specifically, in May 1992.The Hausa opposed the relocation of the market to the new spacious area, preferring it remained in the cramped town of Zango Kataf.
Gen. Zamani Lekwot (retd), a former Military Governor of old Rivers Stateand five other Atyap leaders were arrested and put in a controversial trial that not only divided the state along ethno-religious line, but also the entire country. Two yearsafter, Lekwot and 16others were sentenced to death under the Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida administration, the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha granted them state pardon in 1995.
In the gathering penultimate Saturday, Letwot was seen looking cheerful and enjoying banters with the VIPs that had gathered to witness Yahaya become the third Gwatyap of Atyapland.
A retired Permanent Secretary from the Kaduna State Civil Service, the new monarch was born in Magamiya village, about four kilometres from Zangon Kataf in 1950.
He was Interim Chairman, Zangon Kataf LGA in 2011, before settling into business and farming. Married with four children, the new Gwatyap is a devout Catholic, a Knight of Saint Mulumba.
In a ceremony that wasbrief, Governor Nasir El-Rufai handed Yahaya his staff of office around 1pm. The governor congratulated the new traditional ruler and told him to build on the peace foundation that his predecessor had set, saying he was confident that the education and exposure of the new Agwatyap wouldcome to bear positively on the Atyap chiefdom.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, the Agwatyap said he would do his best to improve on the welfare of his subjects.
He said: “I want to use this opportunity to thank God for availing me the privilege and opportunity to lead Atyapland. The love and support I have seen is unbelievable and I cannot thank everyone who made my installation a success.
“I am coming at a time of many challenges, but I know that God would help.
“I am very concerned about poverty in our land, decline in discipline and productivity among our youths, revival of the Tyap language and security of our land.
“I will encourage the formation of cooperatives and guide our rural people on how to access economic empowerment programmes
“The problems of some of ouryouths give me a lot of concern, but what is happening to them is not only in Atyap land but it cuts across other chiefdoms. I shall start a campaign against drug addiction. This is affecting productivity and the health of our youths and it drives them intocrime.
“If the ones that are organised and hardworking farm, the lazy unproductive ones would go and take from them. That is also discouraging the law-abiding ones from farming.
“In our days, you don’t see young people going to drink traditional brew especially in the morning. It was made for elderly people who could not farm and were looking for ways to relax. Besides they already have young men taking their places on the farms. This has to stop.
“God willing, I will work on the preservation of the Tyap language. We must make our children speak our language, understand our tradition and history.
“Well I welcome and appreciate the civilisation that was brought to us, especially Christianity, I don’t think that everything in our traditional beliefs and practices were evil. There were traditions that led to the preservation of law and order in our society. So, we shall revive the positive side of these traditional practices and throw away the fetish.
“On security, I think we in the Atyap chiefdom have so far not had any problem. I sympathise with other chiefdoms which have come under attacks of herdsmen and we the Atyap people are together with them in solidarity and prayers. We have good communication with the Fulani in our lands and we hope that it would sustain the peace”.