How race for Mai Tangale stool turned violent | Dailytrust

How race for Mai Tangale stool turned violent

A house destroyed during the crisis
A house destroyed during the crisis

Tangale people are said to have lived in the present Gombe State for at least 100 years, having migrated alongside the Bolewa and other tribes from the Kanem-Bornu Empire.

Each settlement or clan has a head or chief, but the Mai Tangale, who is based in Billiri, serves as the paramount ruler and decides cases among the seven clans that make up the community, on major issues, including border disputes and deaths. He doubles as the custodian of Tangale culture and tradition.

The seven clans are Tangaltong, Tal, Kalmai, Todi, Banganje, Nathe and Billiri, which is seen as the most important.

When the British colonialists entered Tangale land in 1906, the people were adherents of traditional religion, with each clan living in a group of hills.

After a long resistance and fierce battle with the British forces, the people of Tangale were brought under colonial rule in 1907 during the time of Mai Wanah, the 11th Mai Tangale.

Mai Wanah ruled for seven years (1907 to 1914). He was succeeded by Mai Yamba in 1914, who ruled for 37 years and died in 1952. He was succeeded by his son, Mai Iliyasu Maiyamba (1952-1986).

From records, from Mai Giu (1818-1834), who was the first paramount ruler of Tangale chiefdom, all the 12 Mai Tangale were adherents of the traditional religion until the 13th Mai Tangale, Mai Iliyasu Maiyamba, who converted to Islam; hence becoming the first Muslim to become the traditional ruler of the kingdom.

He was succeeded after spending 35 years on the throne by another Muslim, his younger brother, Mai Tafida (1986-1997), who died after 11 years on the throne.

After the demise of Mai Tafida in 1997, there was crisis over the appointment of a new Mai Tangale. The tussle led to litigations as it lingered for years. The people were without a leader for over four years.

The tussle was eventually settled in court and the nine kingmakers of the chiefdom, comprising the district heads of Banganje, Kalmai, Tanglang, Tal, Todi, Tudu Kwaya, Bare and Billiri, as well as the Wazirin Tangale, selected three princes and forwarded to the then governor.

After a tight contest, a Christian, the late Abdu Buba Maisharu II defeated a Muslim, Idris Maiyamba to emerge as the 15th Mai Tangale.

Maisharu became the first Christian to emerge as Mai Tangale since their migration to Gombe.

Having been conquered by colonialists, Tangale people are, therefore, known to have been practising both Islam and Christianity, but are bound by the same culture and language. It is very common in Billiri Local Government Area and other parts of southern Gombe to find siblings from the same parents, or a husband and wife, practising different religions.


Selection of new Mai Tangale

Prior to the coming of colonialists, in the event of vacancy for the seat of Mai Tangale, a new one emerged through a vote by the nine kingmakers. But following the Dasuki local Government Reforms of 1976, the final selection of a new emir or chief was vested on the governor of the old Bauchi State. Three names were to be forwarded to the government to select one as the new traditional ruler.

The late Mai Tafida emerged through that process in 1986 when Billiri was under the old Bauchi State, likewise the late Mai Sharu in 2001 during the administration of the late Governor Abubakar Habu Hashidu.

Daily Trust on Sunday leant that following the death of the 15th Mai Tangale on January 10, 2021, the battle for the throne started almost immediately, with both Muslim and Christian princes in the royal house working tirelessly to clinch the coveted stool.

However, it took over a month after the burial of the monarch before the state government gave the kingmakers the go-ahead to select the three eligible candidates for the throne.

At first, 23 persons from the chiefdom indicated interest, but the number was reduced to 18, among whom the kingmakers selected three, namely, Dr Musa Idris Maiyamba, Alhaji Danladi Magaji Maiyamba and Alhaji Ahmadu Muhammad Maiyamba. Their names were subsequently forwarded to the governor to select one as the new Mai Tangale.

But before the governor could exercise that constitutional responsibility, a group of women and children in Billiri town barricaded the Gombe-Yola highway, protesting what they described as a ‘delay tactic’ by the governor.

They demanded that Dr Musa Maiyamba, who, according to them, scored the highest number of votes during the kingmakers’ selection process, should be pronounced as the new Mai Tangale.

After three days, the protest turned violent and the protesters destroyed places of worship, looted and burnt shops, as well as vandalised houses of prominent people in the community.

Before the state government declared a 24-hour curfew, four people were killed and dozens of shops and several worship centres burnt.

Gombe chieftaincy law

On January 21, Governor Inuwa Yahaya assented to the Gombe State Chieftaincy Law, 2020.

Part of the new law states, “The Council of Traditional Kingmakers of an emirate or chiefdom shall nominate to the governor, three candidates for the vacant stool among eligible members of the royal family.

“The governor, after due deliberation, will then choose one of the candidates for appointment as an emir or chief. Appointment of an emir or chief is therefore the prerogative of the governor.’’

 Governor Yahaya suspends selection of new traditional ruler

In a state broadcast after a visit to Billiri to ascertain the extent of damage caused by the violence, Governor Yahaya announced the suspension of all the proceedings leading to the selection of a new traditional ruler of Tangale chiefdom until peace is fully restored to the area.

The governor said he would not be blackmailed or arm-twisted into doing what is outside the law.

“Let it be clear that it is within my powers as governor to appoint any of the three recommended candidates to become the new Mai Tangle. Let it also be clear that no official pronouncement was made about any candidate before, during and after the eruption of violence in Billiri Local Government Area,” he said.

He said the violence was orchestrated by some unpatriotic individuals who thought they could blackmail the government into announcing their preferred candidate.

He added that all the three recommended candidates were eminently qualified Tangale princes by virtue of their royal ancestry to the Mai Tangale stool and only one of them would be announce as the new paramount ruler.

The governor emphasized that by history, and in accordance with the constitution of Nigeria, “religion is not a criteria in selecting the new Mai Tangale or any public officer.”

Muslim community calls for investigation

Meanwhile, the Tangale Muslim Council in Billiri has condemned the attack and destruction of property by ‘miscreants’ in the name of peaceful protest.

The chairman of the council, Malam Isah Ibrahim, therefore, called for an immediate investigation and arrest of the perpetrators of the violence in Billiri town.

He also called for dialogue among Muslims, Christians and adherents of traditional religion.

Malam Isah further appealed to the state government to compensate owners of shops and businesses, as well as other properties affected by the violence.

Christian community seeks forgiveness

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Billiri Local Government Area, The Reverend John Joseph, apologised to the people of the area and the state in general over the destruction of property, including places of worship during the protest.

“On behalf of the Christian community in Billiri, I seek the forgiveness of the governor, Muslim community and the entire people of Gombe State over this unfortunate incident,” he said.

He also pledged to lead a team of Christian leaders in Billiri to meet with the Muslim community in order to avoid future occurrence.

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