By WABUNDANI Edward
It is rare to have two or more people with the same idea of what capitalism is all about. But the truth is that it is not a system of force enforced by others. Rather, it is the lack of such a system. Broadly speaking, capitalism is what when people are free from the force of others. And to have people free from the force of natural conditions, ordinarily, something must be done to make those conditions people-friendly. The inventors of machines and wheels, the production of energy and everything that followed are the product of people. Without these, mankind may have been unprotected against nature.
The Höba people in Hong Local Government Area of Adamawa State, provide a similar example of the intimate connections between church development and political change. Even before Nigeria’s independence, the people irrespective of their religious leanings, had demonstrated how development in their religions and more explicitly political organizations, might be two different organizational and ideological expressions of the same process.
For instance, the then Danish Sudan United Mission opened a station in Pella Village in 1922, from where Christianity spread to other parts in the entire community. In fact, Mission activities were organized then along the same line as among the Bachama in Numan and later Lamurde Local Government Areas, although in the period before 1945, they did not have similar scope and success as among the Bachama people. To be precise, in 1940, barely 18 years after the opening of the station in Pella, reports have it that only 21 Höba people had been baptized; prominent among them was the first baptized Höba Christian, Rev. Shall Holma of blessed memory.
In fact, a point of reference for the political history of Christianity in Höba land was that, the British administration then, gave permission to open a station in Pella in 1922, in spite of its own general principle of not permitting Missions to work in predominant Muslim areas. Here, it should be noted that, Höba land was among the areas in the then Adamawa Division dominated by the Muslim Yola Emirate. And when the British nevertheless authorized the Danes to work there, they did so, hoping that the Missionaries might succeed in what the British had failed to do; thus, to bring Höba under control. But that did not work out after all.
It could be recalled that, even after the colonial period, the Höba people had persistently left no one in doubt, that they wanted to separate themselves from the defunct Adamawa province and even up till today. The struggle did not just begin today as erroneously held in some quarters by certain politicians and their co-hort. Their (Höba) struggle against suppression and oppression, started by using the Mission, first by joining the Mission schools and acquiring Western Education.
After World War II, the dominant political issue in Höba land, was the relationship between them and the Yola Division. As in other parts of Northern Nigeria then with substantial non-Muslim populations, the system of Fulani sub-imperialism began to disappear. The leadership of the Emirate in Yola and the British Administrators gradually realized that the system was already in jeopardy. This was glaringly clear in the annual report from the Adamawa province headquarters in 1953, put together by the British Resident, C. K. Wreford, where he was quoted as saying “the new Lamido and members of the Council realized that there are many stresses within the Emirate, and a sharp increase in political consciousness”. Equally “there is a growing awareness of identity, particularly in the tribal areas, leading to an awareness of rights”. The aforestated quotation, captures the colonial administration’s view of political changes after the Second World War in Adamawa, especially among the young people who acquired Western Education (Christians and Muslims inclusive).
Typical of a political conscious society, the Höba community under the leadership of Yerima Balla of blessed memory, formerly known as Yerima Amos Balla,, formed and supervised an ethnic Association ‘Kilba State Union’ (KSU). The indefatigable Yerima Balla, father of Ambassador Fati Y. Balla, developed himself for political struggles of his people, when as a child attended he the Danish Sudan United Mission in Pella. He later proceeded to a church Missionary Society School in Zaria. During the Second World War, he enlisted in the Army. After a successful military training, Yerima Balla served both in Burma and India throughout the war period. His stay in Delhi was of decisive importance for his religious and political development. He later converted to Islamic faith in Bombay in 1942.
Meeting the Indian nationalists became a turning point in the political life of Alh. Yerima Balla. His political horizon was broadened and suddenly presented himself as someone who champions the worldwide movement for the struggle against the colonial subjects for political independence. He started his career in Nigerian politics which was to last till the middle of the 1980s. Apart from championing other of common interest to the Höba community as a whole, the first major political event which the KSU handled was the election for the House of Representatives in 1954, where Balla vied for election but lost. As a democrat, he petitioned the British administration, where he complained over the outcome of the election. Ahead of the said election, Yerima Balla earlier complained to the resident in Yola, that the then Höba District Heads were favouring the Fulani, alleging that his brainchild, the KSU organized public meetings prior to the election. He (Balla) criticized them for showing a higher loyalty to the Fulani than to a laid down democractic election principles.
It is based on this recorded antecedents among similar Höba history, that the then Governor-General of the Northern protectorate, Fredrick Lugard in 1906, directed the British Resident Administration in Yola to confer staff of office on a number of chiefs, prominent among who were the Höba and Bachama. Unfortunately, barely 114 years after, nothing came out of that, at least for the Höba people and many other tribes up till now that you’re reading this article.
The usual idiosyncrasies to manipulate others seem to be the choice of the people at the helm of affairs across board. As a result of high profile intrigues adopted by the Adamawa Emirate Council and the then Resident British Administrator, the staff of office approved for the Höba and their counterparts in other local government areas of the State have continued to elude them. Yours sincerely can neither claim to know if there are moves to rectify this age long history or otherwise.
That aside,no matter what anybody would say on this matter, the late elder statesman, Alh. Yerima Balla has left a legacy on the sands of time in terms of self actualization of a people. I just hope that the upcoming generation would not describe people that came before them as “cowards or traitors” to borrow the phrase used by Mr Amasa Shall Holma, at GSS Hong, a forum where he reviewed a book titled (KILBA AND THEIR LITERATURE) authored by late JIVAL PANAMA in the 90s. Mr Shall Holma used the occasion to briefly dwell on some of Höba forgotten cultures and values which dovetailed into this issue in reference..But as for late Yerima Balla, posterity will surely forgive him, because he had proved he was a patriot committed to the cause of his people.
After those tortuous struggles, it is only logical that some concerned citizens of Höba extraction ought to bury their differences, and unite under what I call ‘collectivism in development’ and take up the challenge to the next level. They should forge ahead and push the issue of restoring the Höba chieftaincy which has eluded us barely 114 years as told by our ancestors, and documented by Historians.
Similar incident had occurred to several communities in the past, but they were thereafter amicably resolved either through negotiation and or through Judicial due process.The Ife-Modakeke Chieftaincy tussle, handled by the Supreme Court and ruled in favour of the Modakeke people less than a decade ago is a reference point. This was a struggle by the Modakeke People in Osun State which spanned nearly two hundred years now, yet justice prevailed at last. So the Höba Chieftaincy issue could just be a question of time.
In the meantime, the Adamawa State Governor, Ahmad Umar Fintiri, and the Honourable Members of Adamawa State House of Assembly, and in fact President Muhammadu Buhari should note that, the perpetrators of this injustice as painted above, are not done yet with their evil machinations on their fellow citizens in this country. More gross injustice is still the lot of many communities, as far as chieftaincy issues are concerned. This issue of injustice may only be simmering for now, but it is really a time tomb, if left unchecked it may do no one any good.
I rest my case.
WABUNDANI Edward, put this piece together and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org