Billiri crisis: I’ll stake my life to protect my people —Yahaya

The lingering crisis in Billiri, over the appointment of a new Mai Tangale, after the demise of the late Dr. Abdu Buba Maisheru 11, the 16 Mai Tangale, has dovetailed into a violence that claimed the lives of four persons, leaving two policemen injured. In this interview with Sola Shittu in Gombe, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya said he was ready to stake his life to protect his people. Excerpts.


YOU came back from Abuja to meet the crisis in Billiri already escalated into violence that claimed lives, how do you feel about this?

You are all aware of what happened at Billiri, the Secretary to the State Government, Abubakar Njodi, has given you the background of it and how we ended up in this situation. The Billiri chieftaincy matter is a matter between one family for that matter. All of them are cousins, all the three nominated and among them, going back to history, there were 16 Mais; this one coming is going to be the 17th. What happened to the rest is a question that me and you should answer. They came, they saw, they conquered and they had to go, so they left, because they had no option. God has called them and they had to answer the call of God. Whatever be it we are all mortals; we shall all die one day. Going by the tenets of all the religions, we know there is death and we know there is life after death. We also believe that God will judge all our seeds on this Earth. As a result, whether you are a king or chief, president, governor or whatever, this life is temporary. Life is transient and we all must die. It is as a result of this that a vacancy arises in that kingdom and instead of people to conduct themselves in a civilised way, despite their education, despite their knowledge and relationship with the outer world; they decided to do otherwise.

It appears there is a stalemate here; what is the next line of action?

As at this moment, this is about the third day or fourth that Billiri township is under lock and key in 24 hours curfew; whether that one has taken us to progress or retrogression, I don’t know but I believe that is avoidable. It is avoidable because there are procedures and practices and if we are to live by the tenets of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we must live in the dictates of the Constitution and the law. Whoever you are, once you accept to be a Nigerian, you must work under that law; you must operate under that law. As a governor, I have no right whatsoever to infringe on anybody’s liberty or right. The same also applies to you and that is why you have to get all the comfort that you need, the security and other conditions so that you can live happily. So, whoever tries to infringe on the liberty or right of any of us, then he is an enemy of peace. That was what happened in Billiri. None of our religions, Christianity, Islam or traditional, allows us to go out, maim, kill, commit arson and do whatever. If that happens, it means we have opted for anarchy, jungle justice and survival of the fittest in this 21st century. That is not possible. I think the moment any community, religion or tribe accepts to be a Nigerian, then they will surrender whatever and that is finished. You are a Nigerian first before any other thing.

People are saying that Billiri is a community with over 90 percent Christians but government is trying to impose a Muslim as Mai Tangale; is that correct?

According to history, some of the past Mai Tangales were animists or traditionalists and there were also two Mai Tangales that were Muslims. After those two Muslims then the third one, who was the immediate past Mai Tangale, was a Christian. But now, in the process, some people have turned that one into religion. That is why they went to burn mosques, residential buildings of very notable Muslims; they maimed and killed Muslims and others who might be ignorant of what was happening but just fell victim of it. They burnt shops and destroyed businesses. So, if anybody comes and disturbs the peace of the people of this state, naturally I will not be happy at him because he has come to disturb the peace of my brothers and sisters. I made wide consultations with the people, the Muslim clerics, the pastors, and I asked them this question whether the Bible tells us that if we find another person that has a different opinion with us then we should kill him? I ask whether the Bible says we should go and burn people’s properties just because we want something. I ask whether the Bible says we should go and burn churches or mosques and there was no answer. All is in the negative. Nobody will own up to this because it is a heinous crime. So as a governor, I will not take this. That was why I called all the faith and community leaders to tell them that this is not what this government stands for.

Now that 24 hours curfew has been imposed and further action on the selection of a new Mai Tangale suspended, what is the next line of action?

As a governor, I have to operate within the ambit of the law. That means that I have no right whatsoever to appoint anybody into a position outside the terms and conditions I swore to keep. In this matter, due process was followed but maybe because some people are just not knowledgeable enough or maybe they just want to destroy Inuwa anyhow or this government or Nigeria. The whole country is under threat by people who are arsonists, criminals and vandals. They are bandits in whatever sense and we will not take that. Now, there is the fear of reprisal attack with what happened in Billiri; if not for the efforts of the security men and the understanding of our Muslim clerics, Christians and our Emirs and Chiefs, there would have been a reprisal. That would have mean that the whole of Gombe State will be straight on fire. No one can imagine the number of lives that would have been lost and it would have extended to other states and the whole of Nigeria could have been engulfed by fire and trouble. That’s not what we pray for but it is we, as people that can make this thing ourselves.

We understand a number of arrests have been made on this matter, how many are they?

Sixteen suspects have been arrested and today 15 of them were arraigned before a court in Gombe. We shall not leave any stone on-turned until we get to the root of this matter and justice is done. Justice must prevail.

It is not all of us that are bad. I have given instructions to the security chiefs to ensure that there is safety of lives and properties. And I am telling you in all honesty that I will not surrender my privilege, right or power. No, no way.

As the governor, I have the sole authority to install, appoint or depose any Chief or Emir in Gombe State for now. It’s not my own making, it’s God that makes it possible for me and with the support of the people. So whoever becomes governor can do whatever but at least during his own time, if he says he has no conscience and he can allow anything to happen, fine and good, but for me, no way.

I will stake my life; I will do whatever it takes to give my people a cover, I will do whatever to give you protection. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that the spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is implemented to the letter.


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