BORGU: PEACEFUL AMIDST STRANGE NARRATIVES OF INSECURITY

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By Frank Meke.

In the past few weeks, the Borgu nation has been in the news for some very strange reasons. This ancient Kingdom, notably home to one of Nigeria’ s biggest National Parks, Kainji Lake National Park, is also a strategic border post with the Benin Republic.

Indeed, historically, the Borgu nation before its partition by the British and French colonial oppressors ran through the entire West Coast of Africa, with her people found in the Ivory Coast , Dahomey now Benin Republic with ancestral links to Iran.

Borgu nation is possibly the only land in the then Shahel region that did not fall to the rampaging Fulani Army of Othman Dan Fodio.

The Borgu gallant soldiers sent the fulani expedition forces running and scampering out in defeat.Her Nupe neighbours and the Yoruba forces from the Old Oyo empire could not withstand the military powers of the war tested Generals of the Borgu nation.

The British colonialists, after the initial divide and rule antics in the land, got a taste of Borgu military prowess, led by its most powerful decorated General till date, Sabuke who led the Borgu nation and some of her neighbours to rebel against British imperialism and injustice .

The land of Borgu is rich in history and natural resources and has played active roles in stabilising socio-economic and political development in Northern Nigeria, particularly in Niger State.

Its intimidating historical legacy and economic importance in the emerging Nigerian mineral resources landscape could indeed trouble fifth columnists who may be desperate to flag up narratives to create fear and panic.

To political historians, modern Borgu nation was brought into national political prominence by its Prophet King, the late Mai Borgu, Kitoro the 3rd, late Senator ( Dr) Haliru Dantoro, a national political icon and friend to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whose Borgu traditional title, JAGABAN BORGU, revealed the love and support of Borgu nation to his political ascendancy across Northern Nigeria nay entire country.

Are there political under tones to the feverish editorials and security commentaries targeting the Borgu nation and its vast agricultural and mineral resources estates?

BORGU LAND TODAY:
From, Mokwa to Wawa, new Bussa Babanna, Luma, Malale to its borders with Kiama in Kwara State, peace pervades the entire stretch of the community, a littoral town, flanked by famous River Nigeria with the famous Kainji Dam providing electricity and irrigation to the rich land space. There are no internally Displaced Persons Camp( s) here, market days are not disrupted, and farmers are unchallenged or kidnapped. The city bustles unending, and the restaurants and shopping malls filled with customers.

At Wawa, and twice at noon, I had a hot steaming amala delicacy under a giant iroko tree, taking count and watching out for signs of strange faces or trouble makers. Friday, which is actually a religious day for moslems here, turned out to put a lie to narratives that the people of Borgu land and its communities have deserted the place. The crowds of worshippers were unprecedented and showed no signs of anxieties.

After prayers, many people emptied into the many restaurants and eateries to host friends and relations. I quickly mingled and was politely attended to and am sure, a Borgu vigilance eyes was watching me as I was also looking out for trouble markers.

TRIP MALALE FISH MARKET:
The greater part of my visit was spent here. I dressed like a local fish merchant. My interpreter was well briefed. I had to visit a POS shop, many doing brisk business, oblivion to the strange narratives that Borgu has been overrun by insurgents who now rule the affairs of the communities. I deliberately gave myself away as a rich fish merchant, loudly telling whoever is an insurgent or their agent that I was carrying plenty of cash. It is a very dangerous decoy, but I have got a job to do and am aware of the consequences.

I went to the shore lines of riverside with my interpreter, and as the wooden boats berthed and its cargoes were offloaded, I went into haggling and outsmarted entrenched third party agents, many who couldn’t stand my overbearing presence. To beat suspicions, I quickly made friends with them, bought them over to my side, and carefully interrogated them about the strange stories, making rounds about the presence of insurgents and their foot soldiers. I pretended to be afraid, the type of fear and anxieties associated with the rich of our country.

Hajia Aisha Ejiro, who buys and sells fish, dry and fresh fishes at the shoreline market, told me she usually comes to market from Warri and has been doing business here for over a decade without fear. Though she claimed that her children in the cities were worried about reports about insecurity in Borgu land, she can not confirm such fears

” People just dey worry sha! We know say them bad people try come attack the military people for their barracks for Wawa two years ago but after the military people kill them , no so them Islamic jihadists come run away. Since then, we no see them, na so so rumours we dey hear but you can see the market dey boom” she informed me as we exchanged greetings after the fish deal.

The rain was heavy too on this day and I got soaked. Who cares anyway as I was dragged to one end of the market to the other to buy out both fresh and dry fishes, and that was a perfect cover to mingle with the indigenes and traders far and near.

I looked around for a senior market leader in Malale. It was not easy to get anyone as the rains pounded the community, with some unprepared traders temporarily closing shops. I was desperate and swore to spend more time here despite the inclement weather. I was hungry, but the fear of cholera kept my rumbling belly in check.

Then mother luck appeared from the blues. My trained eyes spotted him. He was part of them, yet you can tell poles away he is an authority. He took measured steps around, and everyone greeted him with some reverence. I quickly cornered him into a corner for a chat.

“I am the Sarkin Dagi,” he told me without fear. He pointed towards the border with Benin Republic, saying that is where the problems lie. He explained further even before I could ask more questions ” we need help here though like every other community in Nigeria troubled by these criminals. They are across the border, and our military, Park Rangers, and other security agencies are on alert, but people don’t know that our military can not go inside another country to weed out these strange people. Borgu is safe, but we are not sleeping. ” His name is Abdulmuni Gado.

LUMA, THE SMUGGLERS ROUTE:
Luma is about two hours from Wawa, with a green biosphere ecosystem, patrolled by red alert and well armed Park Rangers. Woe betide cattle herders who graze their cows around here as the Rangers will impound and arrest both herders and their beasts without sympathy. Despite the cordone and arrest strategy of the Park Rangers, the daring fulani cattle herders still breach security, knowing fully well that they would come out of the courts after a bail option. So only a shoot at sight order as done in East and Southern African protected wild places can keep them off the biosphere landscape of Kainji Lake National Park. Indeed, the fear of a possible attack in the future against Borgu land and Niger state in particular from this border post , could be a reality as the fulani cattle herders moves across the border, giving out information about Nigerian military presence to the insurgents at the Benin end.

At a military checkpoint in Luma, we were advised to turn back since we could be under watch from across the border. The Nigerian Customs Service, even though part of the border security architecture, simply mind their smuggled cars impoundment business. They seem not concerned about any perceived insurgent attacks. They are just after Smugglers, nothing more!

KIAMA, KWARA STATE:
Historically and culturally, Kiama is Borgu, but in Kwara State geographical, just like Yashikira and others. It was also quite in this area, but erosion is the enemy here. There is a military checkpoint at the border between Kiama and Wawa, Kainji. However, the communities dane gun bearing vigilantees, and mostly hunters move around the communities. The insurgents once turned this route into a bloody lane, but were chased away by the combined forces of the Nigerian army and the Park Rangers in Wawa Camp of the Kainji Lake National Park.

Abdullahi Mohammed Nasir, Vice Chairman, Borgu Local Government, and the Sarkin Samarin of Borgu land ( youth leader) told me that Borgu is safe.

” Borgu is about eleven thousand square kilometres, and all the security agencies here work as a family. I am in the office, not in Abuja or elsewhere, talking with you. I think some people whose mission in Borgu is not yet clear are the ones flying the kite of insecurity for whatever reasons, but we are here in our farms, on our waters fishing and our various businesses keeping faith with our land” . He explained.

The Youth leaders, Abdullahi Yahaya Sadauki , President, Borgu Youth Development Association and the Secretary, Ibrahim Mohammed Hiworu concurred and revealed that the Borgu nation has never been defeated by external forces, noting that the youths of Borgu are on red alert to protect their people and heritage.

” We have heard about those unending rumours of insurgent attacks and their take over of our communities. It’s a figment of the imagination of the curators of such narratives. We know that Nigeria is going through security challenges, and since we are part of the country, we can only be on alert here. It is very easy for us to hound down strangers with evil intentions. Once we suspect you, we hand such persons over to security agencies, and we do everything to work together with them to protect our inheritance and our land, ” the youth leaders stated.

OLI CAMP:
The camp was bombed two years ago by the insurgents and completely laced with landmines to stop the military, who chased the rouges to the borders with Benin Republic. It is the parks visitors kingdom with huge tourist luxury infrastructure presence , an air strip , apartments, swimming pool, table tennis and volleyball courts, and meeting halls. It’s also the gateway into the belly of park, with many iconic flora and fauna resources and green biosphere ecosystems, a hippo filled pool( river) and a tribute of river Niger, providing guided fishing experience and marine tourism education for tourists. The huge iconic flora resources, some dating hundreds of years, serve as watershed for the many rivers flourishing the oli camp and the rich birds community.

Oli camp is a kingdom for fauna and flora resources and could pass as the best model green biosphere sustainable city in Nigeria. It had remained shut down, and its memories still hunt tourists, particularly foreigners who could not understand why the insurgents and other criminal elements choose to invade the homes of silent beings without any repercussions. Indeed, the story Oli camp could be served a la carte to request the federal government to order the park Rangers to shoot at sight any strange movements within protected areas in the country.

The Rangers, though trained by the military to bear arms, unfortunately have no military hardware like mine sweepers, rocket launchers, grenades, and armoured vehicles to confront the rampaging insurgents whose strength lies in their numbers and gorilla warfare tactics. Unfortunately, they lack the knowledge of the topography of most protected areas in the country, and it’s here that the park Rangers should beat them to the game but are largely hampered by lack of military armour to take out the invaders. Despite the obvious difficulties, the national security architecture does not empower the Rangers to go to war with insurgents, particularly those operating from our border neighbours.

But for this constitutional restraints and the highly disciplined command structure, the Park Rangers in Kainji Lake National Park would have deployed their topographic and tactical fauna management protection experience to incapacitate troublers of the animals kingdom. Indeed, a world troubled by climate change, particularly its impact on agriculture, pharmacology, hydrology, and a rampaging desertification, won’t pretend about the presence of insurgents in protected areas ecosystem such as Kainji Lake National Park.

Maybe, just maybe, an educated guess that a concerned world battling with nature invading oxygenators, both human and elemental forces could instigate the fear factor of communities developmental dislocation in the ancient Kingdom of Borgu land. Certainly protected areas such as Kainji Lake National Park being natural resources laboratories should not and can not be toyed with by any nation serious about its carbon market economy and the future of its scientific research projects to better the lives of her people.

BRIEF VISIT TO THE EMIR OF BORGU:
It was the icing of the cake, a visit to the traditional and spiritual authority in Borgu whose words are final in all ramifications. His Royal Highness, the Mai Borgu, Alhaji ( Dr) Mohammed Sani Dantoro welcomed my enquiries with a smile, noting that Borgu is in safe hands. ” I am here. My Chiefs and District Heads are here, and nobody is missing. We held a beautiful sallah celebration recently to appreciate God for his mercies. We thank our dear governor for what he is doing, and we pray for the president, who is the “Jagaban Borgu” and his government.

The general insecurity issues are part of developmental challenges, and I believe it would be over soon, if not already over. Here in Borgu land, security is every one’s business, and we, the traditional rulers, are working together with the security agencies to keep peace here, ” he added.

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