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Kwatarkwashi’s Rocks of Hope and Deception

But the people are angry over alleged non-implementation of the promises made to them by various administrations, including the present one in the state, that…

But the people are angry over alleged non-implementation of the promises made to them by various administrations, including the present one in the state, that the Kwatarkwashi hills will not only be developed into a tourist centre, but that hotels for visiting tourists, a water bottling company and a major market, would be established in the area.

The ever smilling and friendly Emir of Kwatarkwashi, Alhaji Ahmad Umar, refused to receive these correspondents, saying he was tired of telling newsmen the story of the rocks and that government officials have been deceiving  him and his people. The emir, who was visibly angry, said state government officials since the old Sokoto State had been promising his people that government would develop the area and make it a tourist centre, but nothing has so far happened.

The Emir, therefore, told these reporters through his palace aides that he would not tell them anything as he would not like to depend on the fake and unfulfilled promises made to him on the project by state officials to him. But after persistent plea by the reporters to the Emir through a prince and the Secretary of the emirate council, Alhaji Mohammed Abdullahi, the Emir granted permission to the Secretary of the council to conduct the reporters round and also brief them on the history of the rock and the people.

However, the emir changed his mind later and spoke to our reporters. He said: “The whole thing is very annoying. Politics is not madness! When they want us to mobilise people for them, they will come here and tell us oh, we have made arrangements to do this and that for you at the rock side. After sometimes you will not see any of them again. Not just the commissioners, even those who hold highter positions in government do so. We are not kids. You don’t need to deceive us. If they are not concerned, we are concerned over our integrity. We must not be heard telling lies to our subjects. Let our yes be yes, always.

“They have been coming here to tell us that they want to develop the rock into a tourist attraction centre. They will build a hotel, they will establish a water bottling company. They came and acquired a very large expanse of land and deprived our farmers from farming there for some years, saying the federal government wanted to build either a hotel or something like that. No compensation has been paid to the people and they have been prevented my people from farming on the land. When my people started crying over the land, I had to tell them to go back and commence farming on the land on condition that anytime government says it wants to start developing the place, they will vacate the area for them.

“I have now resolved that I will never again go and tell my people what government says they want to do for us. If the governor wants to tell the people, its officials should come and tell them. I must not be seen or heard to be telling lies to the people. These people in government are too deceitful. The other time, a Senator brought computers here and assembled everybody, saying that he was donating them to the community. We did a very big ceremony and those things were put in a building. Two days after the ceremony, he came and removed everything and took them away. Why should he deceive us? After all, we did not ask him to give us computers,” the Emir lamented.

When Sunday Trust went round Kwatarkwashi to sample  opinion, nobody seem to be interested in talking about the alleged state government’s plan to develop the rock into a tourist centre. They, however, expressed hope that one day, government may come and develop the rock for them.

The Secretary of the Emirate Council, Alhaji Mohammed Abdullahi, acting on the approval of the Emir, told these reporters that the people of Kwatarkwashi migrated from Katsina in the present day Katsina State. He said while in Katsina, their great grandparents were holding the position of ‘Kauran Katsina,’ meaning Katsina warriors. Alhaji Mohammed who could not say when exactly the people left Katsina and why they had to leave, however, said they first settled at Kofi in the present day Zamfara State. He said after settling in Kofi for over 500 years, they moved towards Gusau and settled at Unguwa which is under Kwatarkwashi Emirate.

“From Unguwa, they migrated to Dungai and remained there again for over 500 years. It was from Dungai that our people migrated to the present day Kwatarkwashi over 500 years ago. I was born in 1965. Yes, like most other tribes and communities in the north, our people were previously pagans and were worshiping idols. Our people were warriors, hunters and farmers. Our choice of the present settlement (Kwatarkwashi) was because of the rock. There are some caves in this rock you are seeing that several people can hide inside.

“The biggest cave can contain one thousand people conveniently. In those days, when a war becomes too serious, we ran into the caves and hide. We also had our seasonal rituals that we carried out in those caves. That is why you see the palace at the foot of the rock. But all these things stopped with the coming of Islam. The entire Kwatarkwashi are now Muslims and you know Islam does not accept the practice of all such things,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed said though people were allowed to climb the rocks for sightseeing, hunting, researches, picnics and to fetch or drink from the spring water coming out of the rocks, nobody is allowed to enter the caves as wild animals and reptiles may be hiding in them. He said even young children and women go to the rocks but do not enter the caves because they are too deep and dark.        

He denied a speculation that: the “late Shehu Usman Danfodio fought them in the old times. “No, he did not attack us at all. But after his death, his disciples commenced the war of ‘Gawa Kuke’, meaning, where do you belong? That was when they were combing the area to know who were Muslims and those who refused to accept Islam. When Bello came to us, he realised that the majority of our people were Muslims and the traditional ruler was also a Muslim. He saw no reasons to attack us and so he left without fighting us. When we left Katsina, some of us were Muslims while some were pagans. But as at today, we have no pagan in this community.

“I knew very well that the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, played a very vital role in preaching Islam and converting a lot of our people to Islam. Our parents told us that the Sardauna used to visit Kwatarkwashi and go with our chief then to the pagan settlements where they were consuming ‘burkutu,’ a local alcoholic drink. They said when the people sighted them, they ran and hid. But they kept visiting until they were able to convert them to Islam. In those days when we had a large pagan community, we were performing rituals on the rock.

“It use to be an annual event and we call it ‘bikin daukan maiki’, meaning, the eagle ceremony. It was a ceremony where only healthy and strong youths took part. They would be beating drums for them and they would be dancing. They would climb to the peak of the rock and go straight to the biggest cave where several eagles lived then. Those eagles that lived in the cave were very big and fearful. When the crowd gets there, the strong youths using jazz would enter the cave and catch one of the eagles and tie it up. The eagles are too big. When you open wide the two feathers, it towers you. They will then gather and carry it down the rock to the palace where they will dance round with it before killing it,” he said.

The emirate council secretary who said he didn’t know if the youths were eating the eagles, however, said they were using the eyes of the eagles as medicine for people suffering from infections in the eyes. He said they also used some other parts of the eagle for other medicinal purposes. He said eagles were believed to have the capaicty to see far beyond what human beings can see. Alhaji Mohammed said there were incidents recorded during such ceremonies in the past. He cited  one of the incidents he witnessed when one of the youths who entered the cave carried the eagle on his head and was coming out of the cave when his leg slipped and he fell back into the cave and died instantly.

“Again, in those days when we had a large number of the pagans in our midst, some of them who were farmers were of the habit of doing some rituals that enabled them to grow, and harvest crops bountifully. Their young girls could not go and commit sexual immorality and go undetected. You cannot go to their houses or farms and steal and go without being arrested. But when they became Muslims, they stopped all those things. Our people had masquerades, they called ‘Kyauka.’ Kyauka can change its height and tower trees or be walking on ridges,’ as if it is floating on water. All these things are no more.

“At the other side of the rock, there is a village called Kura. And the spring water coming from the rock is called ‘Ruwan Kura,’ meaning, Kura water and Kura in Hausa means hyena. But from what I heard, this Kura village got its name from Kura of Kano state because the people of our Kura are said to have migrated from the Kura of Kano state. That spring water you saw at Kura doesn’t dry up. It runs throughout the year, day and night. You know, in those days, this Kwatarkwashi was called Kofar, meaning, gate. Kwatarkwashi got its name from a prominent ruler called Kwatashi,” he said.

When these reporters visited the rock, youths were seen in groups on top washing their clothes while others were relaxing. Some hunters were also seen hunting for animals, while women and children were chopping firewood. But all the people found on the rock who spoke with Sunday Trust said they did not enter any of the caves on the rocks because they suspected that some will animals may be hiding in there. They said because the caves were very dark, it was difficult to see inside and even determine the depth.

Twenty six-year-old Jamilu Samaila, a Building Technology graduate of Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, Talata Mafara, who was found relaxing on the rock said he had been visiting the scene, since he was young. He said he enjoyed drinking the spring water because it was always very cold. He said he noticed that the water had never dried up and was always very clean. He led the reporters to the spring water coming out through a cave.

“I have been drinking this water for over 10 years. We do not treat it. There is no need to treat the water. It is very clean and has no odour. It also doesn’t have any taste. I have not heard anyone say he suffered from any form of ailment as a result of taking this water. The water is hidden under the rocks. You cannot see where it is coming out from.  The environment is very cool and so also is the water. When you come here with snacks, you eat and drink from the spring water, you find a shade to relax,” he said.

But Hanafi Yusuf, a 14-year-old student of Day Junior Secondary School, Kwatarkwashi said the spring water was better than the one they fetched from wells in Kura where he lives.

A hunter, Abdullahi Habibu, said he had been hunting on the rock for over six years. He said the major and commonest animals he usually kills were grass cutters, antelopes and rabbits. Abdullahi who lives in Kogon Danye village near Kwatarkwashi, said he and other hunters stepped down their hunting activities in the area when government indicated interest in developing the area into a tourist attraction center. He said when government failed to keep to its words after several years of promise, he and other hunters resumed their hunting activities.               

But the state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, said though the state had plans to develop Kwatarkwashi into a tourist attraction center, they had not formally informed the people of such plans. “The state government has plans to bring out the tourist potential of the mountains to generate revenue to complement our federal allocations. We intend to do both. We want to construct a road from the main road to the hill, build hotels, gymnasium and all other facilities required for a tourist centre that would attract people from far and near,” he said.

Alhaji Gusau said his ministry was ready to commence work at the rock site but it was being delayed by the state Ministry of Lands which is still processing the land acquisition of the area. He added that, “as soon as the Ministry of Lands and Survey completed their land acquisition in the area, we shall commence work. I visit the place regularly because it is part of the area under my ministry and I usually cross the place up to Mada area, at least, two or three times a week. We informed them (Kwatarkwashi community) verbally and we have been going there, telling them that something of that nature is coming from the state government, but officially, we didn’t tell them that this is the government’s plan. It is only that hill that we called tourist potential. The surrounding people and may be how they live, how they build their houses, the water that is coming out from under the rocks and other things we intend to invent.

“The rock has water coming out of it. We intend to make it like spring water. Some investors have tried to come and do something there but may be in their own plan, they are waiting for the Federal government to do something. Since we didn’t complete the strategic master plan, we don’t need to call any investor yet. It is when we finish the master plan, that we can sell it out to investors. In tourism, it is not the state government that will do everything. It will only bring out the master plan, then we sell out to the federal government and the outside world. May be those from the outside world can come and build hotels or do something that they would also benefit from. Government has not yet started doing anything there. Everything is in the pipeline. It is in this year`s budget. It is awaiting government`s approval, but the approval is being delayed by the Ministry of Lands and Survey,” the commissioner said.

When contacted for comments, the state Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Alhaji Bashir Madaro, said the proposed land for the construction of tourists` attraction structures at Kwatarkwashi was not officially acquired by the state government. He said, however, that a letter to that effect was sent by his ministry to the ministry of culture and tourism. He, however, did not disclose the content of the letter.

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