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Musawa: A town once famous for its crocodiles

Musawa is an ancient town in Katsina State with rich cultural traditions and historical background. The town, which is  believed to have been in existence…

Musawa is an ancient town in Katsina State with rich cultural traditions and historical background. The town, which is  believed to have been in existence for over 100 years, was also  known for  its numerous crocodiles  which  locals said had in the past co-existed and interacted with the people of the town.
Musawa  has so many ponds and marshy sands which till date are spread across the town, and  had served as the breeding ground and habitat for the crocodiles. In  the town, most of these ponds are visible, but without the crocodiles which were said to have been poached by hunters.
Unique as the town is, these ponds are in different sizes with different names. But among the famous are the Tafkin Kada (crocodile pond) Tafkin Gambo, amongst others. Another distinguishing feature of these crocodiles in the past, were that each had its name   with which it was called and addressed.
A popular myth in the town has it that there existed two famous crocodiles, namely a male called ‘Dattijo’ which is said to be  calm and most popular with the locals and a female ‘Arkilla’ which is fierce and wild.
This sacred Dattijo was then believed to be 200 years old and had a ring hanging on its nostrils. Offerings were said to be taken to it by the locals, and when it accepted them the people’s wishes would be fulfilled.
Even though there are conflicting accounts on the cause of the death of Dattijo, with many believing it was poisoned by some unknown persons while it was being fed, others  have it that the increasing demand for crocodile  skin, especially during the colonial period made poachers and hunters hunt  the crocodiles,which led to their extinction.
 After the death of Dattijo, the people were said to have sought for another crocodile to replace him, and they settled for another which they named DanDattijo. This new crocodile  was also killed in a similar  manner .
However,  76-year-old Malam Halliru Muhammad who in the past  played with some of the crocodiles, recalled that crocodiles were very friendly to the residents of Musawa.
“If it heard a movement of some residents it usually popped out of the pond and we all touched and played with it when we were children”, he said.
At the ponds you these inner holes, where they normally slept  when not in the water. They bred  there and  we used to find their  eggs therein, he added.
Muhammad said  that whenever it rained, the ponds over-flooded their  boundaries and are to the  Tantanau area  of the town and the crocodiles, followed the waters to get fed by the locals. He added  that “we never had cause to fear   any danger”.
The traditional ruler and Magajin Garin, Musawa Abdullahi Idde, said although not too old to witness the era of the living crocodiles, many of the townspeople were told by their parents and grandparents of the exalted place the crocodiles hold  in the imagination of the people of the town.
He said, “we grew up to learn and understand that our history is incomplete without the story  of the crocodiles, which till date can be found on some logos, stamps, signposts of some of our structures and schools.
“Our forefathers told us that the Tantanau area of this town had been a home to these  loved reptiles. They fed there and didn’t harm anyone”.
One important tradition and mark of the Musawa residents was the traditional croc   mark every newly born child used to bear  on the right part of its chest. It was an order of the day that every baby has to bear that mark, and this was the case for  any one born 40 years ago and earlier. The tradition ceased in the early 1980’s, he added .
According to Dr. Aliyu Ibrahim Kankara, a Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, Federal University Dutsinma, Katsina State and author of the book titled: Shata: Mahadi Mai Dogon Zamani, Shata’s role in rediscovering the lost crocodiles cannot be ignored. He said  during Shata’s visit in  1976, he was confronted with agitations on the  sudden disappearance of the crocodiles. The legendary singer mobilised some youths of the area to comb neighbouring parts of the community  in search for them.
“The residents complained to him that the crocodiles were spotted moving from Datsin Gabas and Datsin Yamma, and were found settling at Kogin Chofa,that  is  Chofa lake which was situated outside Musawa, and  there were fears that if this movement continued they will migrate completely from the town.
“There and  then  Shata ordered that energetic   youths be gathered. He paid them, and instructed them to go to Chofa and drive the reptiles to their former places. They used long sticks and sacks. After settling them at the former places within Musawa town, then he began singing the ‘Mun yi murnar zuwan Shata Bana ya mayar da Kada Musawa’, (roughly menaing: We are happy with Shata for repatriating Musawa’s crocodiles) a version of the song  he started in 1950”, he said.
 While conducting our correspondent round the new breeding pond used by Shata when he returned the crocodiles to the town, his first cousin Alhaji Balan Guzum, said over 40 years ago the pond had provided relief to the town, given  the disappearance of the crocodiles in the main ponds at Tantanau area of  Musawa. He said these efforts had greatly rekindled  hope, where over 30 different sizes of reptiles were reared once again to the admiration of the residents.
However, even these new reptiles began to vanish and some were moved to Duten Reme, Dikke, and Mairuwa in Funtua Local Government, where they were reared. But still poachers and scavengers did not let them be, as they continued to hunt them over  the years.
Shedding more light  on Musawa’s residents fondness  for crocodiles, Guzum said the residents and the reptiles had come a long way, and there was no way you could detach or separate  them. “We love each other,” he added.

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