DUTSE: DUSTING OFF A POOR PAST
There are now highrise buildings in Dutse, Jigawa State capital. They rose in bits, brick by brick until they began touching and nudging the navel of low lying clouds. Before Dutse dropped its garb as a local government headquarters on May 29, 1991, it was only a dot on the map of another state, Kano. It was one of those little, lonely places one zoomed past on his way to somewhere else more real. In those days, Dutse was that dusty hamlet where a horde of raggedly kids clutching begging bowls ran after your car and you accelerated mischievously, left and forgot them in a blaze of dust.
But out of that dust, a big city is gradually rising. To mould the city, villages of mud houses and straw roofs, shanties and lean-tos had to be knocked down. They had to give way for asphalt roads, modern, befitting housing projects, re-mapped streets and sewage. As expected, a Babel of protest rose. Some of those directly affected alleged it was the policy of the party in power to drive non- card members out of town.
After almost two decades, different administrations and more projects, fresh wounds and angry outbursts still persist. A taxi driver, Aminu Sarkin, told Sunday Sun that the new modern motor park recently commissioned by the governor of the state, Sule Lamido, falls on his family farmland. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the vast land and beyond belongs to his family. 'The park is good. It serves everyone but it has robbed us of our land. We used to farm here. It is not possible again,' he lamented.
Aminu's colleague in the park, Mallam Bako, quickly jumped in defence of the government. 'Farmland is not too much a prize to pay for the development of one's town. I want Dutse to be like Abuja and Lagos. If the governor wants more land for development, I'm ready to give him my own for more development', he said through an interpreter.
For the transformation of this once forlorn place, indigenes had to give up their hold on their land for modern central market, dual lane roads and walkways. A staffer of the agency saddled with the responsibility of turning around the virgin city, DCDA (Dutse Capital Development Authority), who declined to disclose his name said the task is a tough one: 'Imagine going into an area where a road or housing estate is being located and the people living in the villages come to beg you not to demolish their houses. Though you don't want to hurt their feelings, you have work to do.
So, we are at times at pains but the development is for the common good of the state.' And just like that, structures had to give way for the dualization of the longest stretch of asphalt road in the city, Sani Abacha Way. The route has now attracted leading banks in the country to open their state head offices there. Imposing structures of other business concerns and big departmental stores like Sahad have also sprang up along the highway. At the intersection between the road and Olayinka Sule Boulevard, a giant calabash of Fura da Nunu beckons on passersby and visitors. The man whom the tree-lined boulevard is named after, Sunday Sun learnt is a retired Brigadier and was once a military administrator of the state.
Dutse is about two years shy of turning 20 and maturity. Jigawa State has had military and civilian administrators. And all along, Dutse has remained the state's seat of power. But no administration has ever bothered about the city more than the incumbent. Since Alhaji Sule Lamido was sworn in 2007, Sunday Sun gathered that the governor made the development and facelift of the city the cardinal point of his administration.
Some of the projects which have endeared the administration to the people of the state include: New state secretariat, Dutse International Market, Mallam Aminu Kano Square, theme and Leisure park (Sabuwar Duniya), Mallam Inuwa Dutse Housing Estate and roads linking the state and its neighbours.
The rejigging of Dutse has elicited extreme response. Petty traders and artisans are known to have relocated to adjoining towns. The demolition and gentrification by the DCDA left them bare. 'Some of them who left can't afford the rent in the new houses being built around. So, they had to go where they can afford to pay', James Odia, a provision store owner on Hakimi street, Dutse, said.
On the other hand, the massive construction work in the city has attracted a lot of labourers. The provision of estates for different category of income earners, water and light have also encouraged civil servants who were hitherto living in places like Hadejia, Kano, and Sokoto, to relocate to the city.
To attract both local and foreign investors to Dutse and other parts, the state is parceling out land free of charge to investors. 'Just bring your proposal and feasibility of the type of business you want to do and we will promptly answer you. No delays, our team of experts will study it and decide on the size of land to give you. You won't pay any kobo on the land. It's free. That's the incentive we give to people who want do business with us. 'There's water, light and good network of roads. These ones are bonuses for people who come here to invest', the state commissioner for Information, Sports Youth and Culture, Alhaji Aminu Muhammed said with gusto.
In a bid to reposition itself as a leader in the South West, plans are underway for the state to host its maiden trade fair. The Ministry of Commence, Industry, Mines and Agriculture is fine-tuning the details with the Chamber of Commerce. But beyond joining the league of states hosting annual trade fairs, Jigawa State can still make itself relevant by revamping some of its ailing industries. They include: Jigawa State Sugar Company, Gumel Flour Mills Company, Birni Kudu Dairy Processing Company, Kazaure Tomatoes and Citrus Processing Factory and Atafi Rice Processing Mills, Hadejia.
In Dutse, Frantz Fanon, the author of the book The Wretched of the Earth, will be shocked to see the down-trodden of the society being its toast. Last October, the state held what it dubbed Talakawas Summit and followed it up with a bill which empowers every physically – challenged person in the state to earn N7,000 monthly upkeep. Governor Lamido, the self-confessed democratic humanist and ardent follower of the founder of the ideology, Mallam Aminu Kano, firmly believes that the society has been unkind to the Talakawas, as the down-trodden are called in Hausa.
He blames the affliction of the physically challenged on the failure of the system in the past. In a recent interview, he stoutly defended the programme thus: 'The issue of physically challenged persons in terms of the quantum of money I spend means nothing because, in the first place, they are part of our own burden. You are the cause of their affliction in the first place – for failing to address the cause of that affliction. If from the very beginning, you have been doing well, in terms of health programmes, immunization, dropping polio vaccine in their mouth, there would not have been a lot of cripples. There wouldn't have been all these lepers if you had done much on personal hygiene.'
To Governor Lamido, the physically challenged are the products of society's neglect and we, therefore , owe them an upkeep. Hear him: 'So, these are things you failed to do some 30 years back. These are your own failures, which are now maturing into manifestations that are now embarrassing you. Anybody you see being crippled or going blind or leprous is an advertorial of our failures in the last 30 years.' The gesture has attracted large number of destitute people who jostle for the governor's largesse. At some point last year, the seemingly overwhelmed governor told a newspaper that the destitutes flocking around the state were 'visitors'. He later amplifies this by saying: 'Agreed we have destitutes around but I assure you that most of them are not indigenes of Jigawa State. They are outsiders infiltrating from other states of the federation into our territory'.
Still on the Talakawa palaver, last year the state Commissioner for Information stirred the hornet's nest when he claimed the state spent N150 million monthly on about N560,000 destitutes in the state. The ratio, according to him, was 250 destitutes from each of the 27 local governments in the state. The figure pitted him against the state's secretary general of Amalgamated Association of the Disabled, Mallam Mohammed Usman. The secretary general, we leanrt said the figure was misleading and unfounded. For an on-going programme, the amount spent and the number of recipients of the stipend may have even doubled. Though not officially acknowledged as a menace, Almajeris, as begging bands of mostly boys are known in Dutse, roam the streets all day. They bunch together in front of restaurants and harass patrons of the places with their doleful, hungry stare. Unwashed and in dirty clothes, youngsters of school age loiter around the streets all day long. Asked for an explanation. Mallam Isa Magaji, a tea vendor said the young beggars are actually pupils of Koranic nursery schools. 'They have masters. They only come out to look for food when their masters go out', he said through an interpreter.
Mohammed, a boy of 11 told Sunday Sun through an interpreter that his father brought him to Dutse from Maigatari. 'I will stay and learn to recite the Koran for three rainy seasons. My father brought me here, he gave some money and food to my teacher. But the food is not enough. After learning a little, we come out and look for food,' he said. A bit upset by the probing questions of our reporter, a taxi driver, Ismail Garba, in pidgin English said: 'No problem with the children. The teacher teach them Koran so, when we see dem, we give alms. Na so Allah and Islam want. If you like, give dem dash. If you no like leave dem alone. No problem.'
Best and Brightest
Realizing that the future is bleak for most of Almajeri kids, the state opened skill acquisition centres in the three senatorial districts. To qualify for the centre, Sunday Sun learnt the applicant must possess primary school certificate. The skills taught range from shoe-making to photography. The State Commissioner for Information says the centres will soon introduce the repair of mobile phones and computer in their curriculum.
About a year ago, the Jigawa State Ministry of Education sent out 56 graduates of its Institute of Information and Technology, Kazaure, to Singnpore for a degree programme in Computer Education. The State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai who saw them off at Mallam Aminu Kano International airport revealed that bright students from the institute would be sent abroad in batches for further training in computer and IT related courses. The Commissioner is a role model in the North-west Zone of the country. She is the first female professor of the place. She and her husband, Dr. Ahmed Rufai, a permanent secretary in the state civil service obtained their PH.D in Education in the U.s, and returned home to help their state and the country at large.
In Dutse, issues on religion burn bright, and at times bloody. Islam is the dominant religion there. Adherents of other religion tread softly by respecting the sensibilities and icons of the Islamic religion. An Igbo trader, Donatus Ogbu says that Muslems in this state capital with the praise name of 'A New world' are touchy. 'They can play and eat with you. But the moment there's crisis in the area and when it has to do with religion, the fact that you are a Christian makes you an easy, soft target,' he said.
Another trader who wants anonymity recalled an ugly outburst in September, 2006, which culminated in the razing down of 11 churches, several shops and looting of goods worth millions of naira. According to the press-shy Edo Stateborn trader, 'the riot happened when Jumai, a young lady from Kaduna state had a disagreement with another woman. I think, the matter had to with a piece of cloth the other woman, a Moslem gave Jumai to sew for her. Jumai had a bit of history. She once was promised marriage by a Moslem man but it didn't work out. She returned to her old religion. In the course of the quarrel, they said she blasphemed prophet Muhammad and began attacking Christians, burning and looting property'.
Just last February 21, violence erupted at Kazaure, a town close to Dutse. A truck driver, allegedly drunk , had a raw deal in the hands of a police officer and later gave up the ghost. And just because the police officer was said to be a Christian, a mob took its anger to the streets and torched several churches in its misplaced rage.
Sunday Sun learnt that matters would have come to a head if the emir of the town and CAN leaders did not promptly calm the frayed nerves.
Dutse as an emirate has come a long away. As showcased in a museum close to the emir's palace at Garu, Dutse, the city's first chief, Makuzi held sway from 1705 to 1730. He wasn't called an emir. A museum record simply labeled him and a few others after him as Habe Chiefs because they were pagans.
Well, that's history for you. Some relics in the museum which was commissioned on Sunday, May 29, 2005, by the former governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, reveal the chiefs were warriors. They were the men who held the fort and resisted colonial invasion and intrusion for a long time. The iron shirt, swords, spears and riding gear on display attest to this. One can imagine them on horseback- all kitted up on iron shirt, sallying in battle formation, kicking up dust and giving the colonial army a hard time.
The current emir of the city, Alhaji Nuhu Mohammed Sanusi, stands out. Born on December 27, 1944, he attended primary school in Dutse, Birinu Gadu Middle School (1959-1961) and later went to Advance Teachers College, Ahmadu Bello University in 1967. Young Nuhu, as years rolled by, left for the United States, where he obtained B.Sc in Business Education at Ohio University. He reluctantly returned to be turbaned an emir when his father, the city's former emir passed on.
At the moment, he doesn't live in his official residence, Sarkin Dutse palace, Garu, but he receives his visitors and holds court there daily. Rumour making the round in the city claims the emir is scared of staying in the large palace. Another version states that the man will die if he moves in there. But the secretary of the emirate, Belo Dati scoffs at such spurious statements and told Sunday Sun that the palace was undergoing a renovation. 'As soon as the work is done, the emir will move in there. He likes the place. Even now, he at times sleeps there. So, don't mind those people,' he said.
The emir's imposing palace is flanked by the city's first primary school, library, museum and prison. The prison was built in 1930. Its design capacity was 50. But it seems now to be bursting at the seams with 77 inmates. An inside source says that when the figure gets too high, the inmates would be dispatched to other prisons in the state.
Red light zones
Dutse's reputation notwithstanding, the city has a fledgling flesh market. Just close to police inspectors mess and leaning close to The Redeemed Church of Christ, is a crumbling structure called an hotel .Even in day time, scantily dressed girls hustle around in the bar for patrons. Night is the peak period there. Men who are obviously sex-starved gather there to 'Do the girls,' or simply drink in the bar, furtively try to make eye contact and ogle the girls. In a place where prostitution and the sale of alcoholic beverage is a hush-hush business, the few joints of such type make a killing.
If you can put up with the city's stifling heat and menacing flies, you will be compensated with cheap grilled delicious suya and chicken. A full, big grilled chicken with all its 'Particulars' – gizzard, wings, legs and head goes for N300 only. A long stick of suya sells for N50. Compared to other cities in the country, one can thumb up for Dutse, as the grill capital of the country. It's not just that chicken and beef are cheap there, the stuff is readily available. Every street is lined up with grill spots attracting buyers with varied sizzling aroma.
If a visitor doesn't remember the lingering aroma of the grill, he can take photo shots of the city's landscape: high-rise structures, big rocky outcrops, Jigawa State Hotels, Turaki Tower-home of the state's IT dream. These images are enduring mementoes.