Yaro Danladi is the Sarkin Hausawa Abia. He is also the chairman, Northern Traditional Council, South South and South East and chairman, Northern Community, Abia State. We first met many years ago in Umuahia while doing a similar story.
Eket road is one of the main hubs of the Hausa community in Umuahia, where Sarkin Hausawa’s office is located.
Mahdi Adamu provides a definition of the position of Sarkin Hausawa in his The Hausa Factor in West African History. According to him, if at the end of the journey they settle down in a ‘foreign community,’ they would choose a political leader among them with the title of Sarkin Hausawa to be the liaison officer between them and the community where they settle.
On the beginning of the Hausa community in Abia, Sarki Danladi said, “Our forefathers came down here from all parts of the North to trade in fish, cattle and all kinds of farm produce, such as yams and onions.
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“From the story I heard from my late father, the Hausa began to come to Umuahia in 1936 from Kano. I was born here. My father was born here too. My wife is from Abia State. She converted to Islam after we got married in 2001.’
On the challenges facing the Hausa community in Abia, Danladi said, “The sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is affecting us; not only our people but everybody. We are good citizens, so we do whatever they say we should do. We have lost so many things, including lives, but we believe the state government would do something about it.”
On migrant labourers, he also said, “If somebody is leaving his state he should have a contact in the place he is going to. If he is arrested he can say where he is going and who he is going to meet.”
‘We won’t go anywhere’
He is committed to Abia, the state where he was born, and does not anticipate relocating to the North.
His also said, “We are not ready to go anywhere. This is our fatherland. Kano is just a name. I don’t spend more than five days there. All my life I have been here. My wife is from here and everybody is here. I only spent a week in Kano when I lost my mother.
“We are good people; we are not for violence. We want to live in peace with our host community. We want everybody to know that we are peaceful people.”
Sanusi Gwarzo, the youth leader in the Hausa community, Umuahia also said, “We cannot go anywhere. I was born in Umuahia. I speak Igbo and Abia is my state. I hail from Kano too. One of my brothers married an Igbo girl from Imo State.”
Cattle market at Lokpanta
There is a cattle market at Umuchieze, popularly known as Lokpanta, which is actually the name of a nearby location. The area is made up of an undulating land. Its Jumat mosque sits on the highest point of the area and the rest of the community lies below this point. Here is a slope with shops of all sorts and dwellings on both sides of it. The main Enugu-Umuahia expressway can be seen, as cars and other vehicles speed by, either heading towards Umuahia or going to Enugu.
‘Many of us were born here’
A section of Umuchieze also extends across the expressway. Auwal Hamma is the secretary-general of the cattle market while its chairman is Alhaji Saleh Algare.
Hamma said, “Many of us were born here in Abia; our parents too were born here. Some of us have Igbo mothers. We are Nigerians and have no other country to go to. We cannot leave here, except somebody forces us out. We developed this place, have intermarried, and were born and brought up here. From time to time we visit the North and return. Anybody who wishes to go to the North is free to do so.”
Trekking from the North
The cattle market has a long history. In the past they trekked from the North to convey cattle to the East. The backbone of the cattle market include Kanuri, Fulani, Hausa and Shuwa Arabs. He said there was a time members of the community resided in Abakaliki, Enugu, Okigwe and finally settled at Umuchieze.
No govt project
Hamma further said, “We have been here since 2005, yet we are lacking many things. There is no government project. We cater for ourselves and have developed this place. This is the second biggest cattle market east of the Niger. In December we can offload not less than 150 trailers containing cattle. Majority of our cattle traders come all the way from Sokoto, Kano, Katsina. We are predominantly from the North East.”
Impact of sit-at-home
Hamma said the sit-at-home order had affected the cattle market, explaining that Monday is the biggest market day, so losing it is a big blow.
“Igbo merchants, cattle dealers and butchers are also complaining. As the beginning of the week, if you lose Monday you have lost everything. Even our host community has lost a lot. Their merchants usually came here on Mondays to buy cows, but now, they no longer come and it is affecting our business,” he lamented.
On the challenges of insecurity, he lamented over some herdsmen who lost their lives and cattle killed by unknown gunmen.
No water, no school
Alhaji Mohammed Bulama, the vice chairman of the Umuchieze cattle market said, “Since the inception of the cattle market 17 years ago, there has been no pipe borne water, no hospital, no school. And we have not less than 300 children of school age.
“There is no bank here, so we go to Okigwe everyday to deposit money. If our wives have to deliver, we take them to Okigwe in Imo State, which is 25 kilometres away.”
He added that their cattle usually go to the bush to drink water, even as they are not allowed to pasture at Umuchieze, their host community. He called on the state government to look into the situation.
Hamma recalled that 200 hectares of land within Umichieze were given to the cattle market when it first opened in 2005, adding, “It was a virgin land, so we set up the cattle market and created space for accommodation and shops.”