‘It is said that 115 policemen, including operatives from the Department of State Security Service, SSS, were involved in the Alakyo operation, out of which, 75 policemen and 10 SSS officials were massacred’
For quite some time, the particular ethnic group in Nasarawa State, north-central of Nigeria – the Eggon – which lays claim to be the majority tribe in the state, has been clamouring for political leadership of the state. Perhaps, to actualize its desire, the leadership now came up with a novel idea of initiating any person that comes from the ethnic stalk to come together to make sure that come 2015 elections, no Eggon person would vote any candidate from any other ethnic group besides theirs. It was this that led to the birth of the group which goes by the name Ombatse, meaning “the time has come” or “it is time”.
Although the mission of the Ombatse group is to recruit the Eggon, who are from the Nasarawa Eggon Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, the search for farmlands has made most of them to spread to other local government areas of the state. The group is headed by a traditionalist called Baba Alakyo, a stark illiterate, who is known to have been selling traditional medicine in Lafia and its environs in the past. Ombatse, a socio-cultural organization, assumed notoriety after the 2011 general elections, which brought in Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) who is from the Gwandara ethnic group, as the governor of the state.
Alakyo is said to concentrate on recruiting mainly youths into the fold. He gives them native charms and/or amulets “that would ward off bullets” under the guise that it is the culture of the people. Initially, the government did not bother about this particular tradition, but majority of the people of the state cried out, appealing to government to stop the activities of this group, which they felt was becoming a threat to the security of the state. Now under intense pressure, the governor met several times with the leadership of this ethnic group such as Senator Solomon Ewuga and Hon. Haruna Dauda Kigbu, a member of the House of Representatives, among other stakeholders. This group, at any point in time, claims that its activities are to bring unity of purpose to the ethnic group.
Things took a dramatic turn, recently, precisely between March 31, 2013 and April 7, 2013, when the group started going to churches and mosques, disrupting their services and forcing worshippers to drink herbs and take an oath to the effect that come 2015 election, they will only vote for an Eggon ethnic group candidate that contests on any party platform. This drew the attention of the state government which ordered the security agencies to nip the activities of the Ombatse who had gradually started bearing sophisticated weapons in the bud.
This rather came pretty too late as it turned out to be a bloody outing for the security agents. It is said that 115 policemen, including operatives from the Department of State Security Service, SSS, were involved in the Alakyo operation, out of which, 75 policemen and 10 SSS officials were massacred. Two were seriously wounded and are currently receiving treatment in Lafia while 30 returned unharmed or with minor injuries. In addition, out of 12 vehicles used in the operation, eight were burnt while only four managed to return to base.
The latest killings in Alakyo have some precedence. In 2007, there was a clash between the Alagos and Eggons in Assakio. Not long after this, the same group also attacked Agyaragu town inhabited by the Koro (Migili) ethnic group, killing so many people and burning down all structures belonging to the elites of this ethnic group, including the palace of their paramount ruler, a second class chief. This same group also engaged the Fulanis, killing most of them and their cattle – the reprisal attacks from the Fulanis are now history.
They also attacked Kwandare, the hometown of the governor, killing and razing houses. Other places affected by the activities of Ombatse group are Rutu, Burum-burum in Doma Local Government, where the village head lost his life in the process, and Kokona Local Government. From April 30, 2012 to May 1, 2012, this group invaded Assakio, a town established by the Alago ethnic group which is part of Lafia Local Government. During that invasion, more than 40 people were reported to have lost their lives, while properties, both residential and business interests, worth millions of naira, went up in flames.
However, the recent wholesale massacre of security agents sent to restore peace in the troubled area hit the nation like a thunderbolt, because of the high number of casualties involved. It is widely believed that the security agents must have committed some operational errors to warrant such a heavy death toll. Insiders or moles within the police who passed all the information from planning to execution to this group might have caused the failure of the operation. These insiders may belong to this Eggon ethnic group or its sympathisers. Two of them, Enugu Audu, a corporal, and Joseph Haruna, an inspector, have been fingered and are among those currently helping the security agents in their investigation of the dastardly act.
In Nasarawa State, there are 25 different groups. The major ones are Migili (Koro), Alago, Gwandara, Kanuri, Hausa Fulani, Mada, Gwari, Rindre, Afo, Eggon and Ebira. The Eggons are largely farmers with a lot of educated people cutting across all educational disciplines. They migrated to Nasarawa State in 1951 while the Alagos, Mada, Gwandara, Koro and others migrated from Kwararafa and settled where they are now in 1232 AD. They practice Islam and Christianity. Only a very negligible and inconsequential proportion practice the traditional religion.
The Afo, where Abdullahi Adamu, the first civilian governor of the state hails from, ruled the state from 1999-2007. The Alago took over with Aliyu Akwe Doma as governor from 2007 to 2011. Al-Makura, the incumbent, who is from Gwandara ethnic group, took over from Doma in 2007. The governor might have tolerated the Ombatse group for such a long time purely on political grounds because they played an important role in the 2011 election. But since their activities had become a threat to the security of the state, he had no other option than to move against them.
Since 1999, Ewuga has been the arrowhead of the clamour for the leadership of the state. However, he could not succeed despite the fact that he moved from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP in 2003. Although prominent leaders of the community may not readily agree with this, the Eggon people listen to and obey all directives by Ewuga. In 2007, he singlehandedly made Patricia Akwushiki a senator representing Nasarawa North Senatorial District, where he hails from. And when he contested against Akwushiki in 2011, on the ticket of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, after their relationship turned sour, he defeated her hands down with a very wide margin.
It is noteworthy to know that Ewuga, Maku, Alhaji Halilu Envulanza, the Secretary of the National Judicial Council, NJC – all Eggons – are in the forefront of those contesting the Governorship election in the state in 2015. So also is Dauda Haruna Kigbu, a member of the House of Representatives, who will also want to retain his seat in the House in 2015.
The latest killings may boomerang on the fate, future and fortune of the Eggon ethnic group in the coming 2015 general elections as all the other tribes in the state may shun any party that fielded an Eggon ethnic group as its candidate. If this happens, it will be a direct fall-out of the desperation exhibited by the Eggons through forceful initiation and oath-taking by the Ombatse group which has now culminated in the large scale massacre of security agents and other people. With this, Ombatse or no Ombatse, the politics in Nasarawa State may go along the old, past pattern without the Eggon taking the leadership of the state for a very long time to come. And the relative peace hitherto enjoyed by the state may have now been truncated.