Bauchi–Katagum: A Divide We Need To Heal

By Saadu Umar

“Malam Yaƙubu and Malam Zaki were best buddies – their descendants distrust one another”

Few days ago, I called Kabiru to my home in Bauchi to bring the new kaftan he’s sewn for me. We usually talk about politics whenever he comes around. So, after checking my kaftan I turned to him and asked about his thoughts on the many aspirants seeking the gubernatorial ticket of APC. I was struck by his answer, that’s why I decide to write this piece. To be sure, I’m not advocating for any part, but instinctively my sympathy is always for the ‘underdog’.

Kabiru’s answer was “Oga you know I support APC but I have to be honest with you. Initially, we were seduced by the allure of a breath of fresh air. But then, people say he is from Katagum. And because of this Bauchi – Katagum thing, people are saying they will not vote for a Katagum folk.”

“And why is that?” I further queried. Kabiru had two reasons (1) the people of Katagum love themselves a lot. But who doesn’t? Mad man? And (2) They discriminate against outsiders. Ok. To buttress his argument he cited an anecdote. There was time he was at a former deputy governor’s house, they shared rice but denied him on the ground of his Zone. Kabiru is from Bauchi. Mind you it was not the deputy governor that denied Kabiru rice. No evidence that the deniers were from Katagum or acted on the deputy governor’s instructions.

I have heard accusations, similar to Kabiru’s, levelled against the Minister of Education by some politicians. They accuse him of bias against ‘Bauchi people’. That the minister tends to favour his kith and kin when sharing “dividends of democracy”. Fair or not. At least, on a lighter note, that is what our preachers drill into our heads: if you arrive, help yourself, your family, your relatives, your neighbours etc.? To that extent, the Minister is blameless assuming the accusation is true. Blame it on the Malams not Malam.
For me, Malam is the best. Love him or loathe him, no minister has done what he has done and what he is doing for the State. Fact. Just check the records.
For the APC in Bauchi, Malam Adamu is the biggest donor, its financial backbone since 2019 when we lost the Government House. He led fundraisers that yielded hundreds of millions of Naira for the Party. Thank you Malam.
Pardon the digression.
Again, Kabiru’s sentiment is shared by many in the Bauchi zone, including big names in politics and within the State civil service. I was amazed when one of those politicians (APC member) said he would rather reelect the incumbent governor, a member of the PDP, against any APC candidate from Katagum. Anti Party! However, this could be just a gimmick calculated at blackmailing people to see the unviability of other aspirants he wasn’t supporting.

Regardless, the point is, this divide is undeniable. And, one wonders why does it exist. Why do some people think we are different despite being one and the same – apart from geographical accident? Don’t we know our history?

The founders of the two emirates – Malam Yaƙubu of Bauchi and Malam Zaki of Katagum never saw each other as different. The two lived as brothers, comrades and disciples of Ɗan Fodio. They both sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears in the pursuit of their mutual security and prosperity. Remember the “Battle at Fake” between the Borno Empire against the joint forces of Bauchi – Katagum Emirates.

The background to that battle was: Malam Zaki who founded the Katagum Emirate in 1809, conquered the Borno Empire and destroyed its then capital Ngazargamu in 1812 earning the title of Sarkin Borno in the process.

Following the fall of Ngazargamu, the soldiers of the defeated Borno Empire regrouped, recaptured Ngazargamu and ransacked Katagum the headquarters of Katagum Emirate.

In order to recapture Katagum from the invading Kanuris, the two emirates of Bauchi and Katagum joined forces, defeated the Kanuris and recaptured Katagum after defeating Kanuris at the Battle at Fake.

So, right from their foundations, Bauchi and Katagum were brethren and believers. And We are. “Truly the believers are brothers….” Is it not what the Quran says? Brothers are not competitors but cooperators. United. Undivided. We are just two parts of a whole.

Therefore, I assume, a true son of Malam Yaƙubu’s needs not fear, distrust or discriminate against a son of Malam Zaki’s and vice versa, because we are the same: the same race, the same face, the same Deity, the same values, and the same problems.

We are the same yet only a naïve simpleton will wish away the divisive rhetoric being fuelled by these political merchants. We have to recognise it, understand it and deconstruct it so as to heal the divide and be more united for good. United we stand divided we fall, right?

Now, at the heart of Kabiru’s grievance is fear and faulty perception. Fear of injustice and marginalization especially with regard to the sharing of the ‘State Cake’, if you will, and faulty perception that everyone from Katagum is like those people that refused to share the rice with him. Admittedly, the human tendency to fear or misperceive is natural.

But we had Tatari Ali, the great governor of the old Bauchi: fair, just, generous and humble. Zero discrimination and he was from Katagum. Fearsome? No. He never frightened Baba Ajiya or anyone from Bauchi or elsewhere.

But why does Kabiru and others fear their Katagum brethren? Why the faulty perception, given our history, culture and everything. Why? It’s the self-interested elites. They create the fear to divide us. It’s in their self-interest to divide us.

If you deconstruct this divide you will find it a ruse exploited by the self-interested elite for the control of power and wealth. It’s usually magnified when they are competing for the seat of the governor or other top political appointment. Sadly, this leads to the sacrifice of merit on the altar of chauvinism.

Further, when it comes to the gubernatorial election the divide is arbitrary, meaningless and hypocritical. Take for instance the meaning of Bauchi zone. If one says he prefers a Bauchi zone candidate – what does he mean? Does it include a candidate from a minority faith, say a Christian from Bogoro or Toro? Does it include Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara – the most successful politician from Bauchi since Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa? Yakubu Dogara, a former Speaker – №4 Citizen in the entire nation, a charismatic leader, serial winner, humble and widely respected. It doesn’t. Perhaps, because elections favour the majority.

Besides, it’s prejudicial, because the divide disdainfully, haughtily derogates and dismisses the right of qualified persons from the Central Zone of Ningi, Misau etc. Plus, Where do we even situate Ganjuwa or Darazo? What counts? Geography or politics? You will be fair to their distinguished sons like Senator Halliru Jika – young, vibrant with capacity and swagger.

It also stereotypically presupposes that everyone from Katagum is bad and everyone from Bauchi is good and vice versa. Faulty generalisation. Certainly, we know there are good and bad people on each part. Without a doubt, the bad ones on both parts are a tiny minority. Regrettably, we tend to define each other, unjustifiably, by the standard set by the bad amongst us.
Therefore, brethren we must not fall for this ruse. We should be best buddies. Heal the divide.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies … The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every [Fake ] battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” (Abraham Lincoln)
You should know that the lives and legacies of Malam Yaƙubu and Malam Zaki like Ajiyan Bauchi Adamu and Gov Tatari Ali have shown to us our common root, brotherhood and destiny, and what we can achieve working together.
We must not listen to egocentric elites, who divide us in their quest for control of power and wealth and are instilling irrational fear in our psyche, and reinforcing a faulty perception that our brethren on the other part don’t like us, will dominate and marginalise us. They don’t, they won’t.
For Kabiru, I’ll advise: a candidate may come from Bauchi, Katagum or Central; they should not be judged by the place they come from ‘but by the content of their character’ and policies.
Saadu Umar is a lawyer, Secretary, APC Media and Publicity Committee Bauchi and former Director-General BASEPA