As Sallah drew closer in Gombe State, there were fears among Muslim faithfuls regarding the state of security of lives and property during the festivity. In this account, OHONBA VINCENT, however, reports that the celebration was peaceful.


It was Sallah day in Gombe State. In Gombe, the state capital, the Central Eid Prayer Ground behind Gombe Main Market was filled to capacity as usual. Muslim worshippers amid latent concerns and apprehension about insecurity still mustered courage to gather to say the Eid prayers led by the Chief Imam of the state, Alhaji Mohammed Pindiga, all firmly believing that only God saves and delivers.
One Uzodimma, while heading to his business place from Tunfure axis of the state capital observed the Eid prayer ground along that route was not as capacity full as usual. “The space cleared for the comfort of worshippers in the prayer ground was not as vast as it used to be and the crowd was also not as thick”, he observed.
From the way a lot of people hurried off the Central Eid Prayer Ground, it was easy to guess, just as enquiries revealed that a lot in the crowd of worshippers were not quite at ease during the prayers because of the feelings of the unknown.
Muslims and non-Muslims alike rejoiced afterwards, especially because that exercise started and ended successfully without reports of security breakdown as it happened on the eve of Eid-el-Fitr Sallah, July 16 to be precise, when well over 50 people died in Gombe Main Market as a result of the explosion of improvised explosive devices in a couple of places.
Although fear would not let most parents and guardians allow their children and wards to go visiting friends, neighbours and well-wishers as they used to, but there were exchange of meals as signs of love. But some fun-loving kids still found their ways to the playground of the Palace of the Emir of Gombe for moments of leisure anyway.
Gombe state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo was thrilled by the peaceful celebration across the state but was saddened by the death of Nigerians occasioned by the collapsed crane in Makkah and the recent terror unleashed on Borno State by the insurgents. He commiserated with the bereaved families of victims of both sad events, as well as the government and people of Borno State over the Sallah day blast and prayed that the Almighty Allah should grant them peaceful rests.
“We are here celebrating life. But others have lost their lives performing the Hajj in the Holy Land. The figures could have been more or less, but God knows the best. That is why it is said that in everything, we should give Him thanks.
“For those of us that are alive today, we should thank God for sparing us and pray that we see many more of this event of Sallah”, said Governor Dankwambo at this year’s Sallah day reception for government officials and residents in the state on Thursday where he was represented by his deputy, Honourable Charles Iliya.
He said the essence of the celebration was what to eat, what to drink or what to wear; but a great day of joy, urging those who could not afford the mundane things for celebration to be encouraged in the fact that they have life which no one can pay for. Also sharing in the grief of those mourning ther loved ones who died in the course of this year’s hajj in Holy Land is the deputy chairman of the State Council of Emirs and Chiefs, the Mai Kaltungo, Engineer Mohammed Saleh.
Addressing the people of his Chiefdom after the traditional horse ridding festival (Durba) on Friday September 26, 2015, the Mai said in elation that, “We have done this Sallah’s Durba successfully. We thank God that this year’s celebration has come and gone peacefully. In the entire Gombe State, the Sallah has come and gone peacefully, unlike the eid-el-fitr Sallah which we could not celebrate. So, I congratulate everybody for having done this Sallah successfully and peacefully without any incident in the whole of Gombe State.
“I want to use this opportunity to commiserate with our pilgrims who were victims of the crane that fell on the mosque in the holy land of Makkah and the stampede of yesterday (Thursday, September 24, 2015). It has been four years since I last celebrated this Sallah here at home because I’ve been serving as the chairman of the Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board and was busy escorting Gombe Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage”, he said.
Alhaji Mohammed Pindiga, the Chief Imam of Gombe state in his sallah sermon admonished the people of the state on the need to live harmoniously and peacefully with one another as it is expected by Almighty Allah. He also drew the people’s attention to the need to cooperate with the various security agencies in every necessary way as part of the efforts to sustain the peace and tranquillity the state is currently enjoying.
“But first, you have to be very vigilant and be your own security personnel by reporting on strange people and activities in your environment because security is our collective responsibility, not the uniformed personnel only”, he said. The Chief Imam also prayed for sustainable peace and calm in Gombe state and Nigeria in general as well as the leaders of both entities.
By and large, this year’s event passed for the best celebrated Sallah in Gombe state in recent times. Underlining this fact is gathering of worshippers at the Eid ground for prayers. Also, Durba which is the traditional horse ride, paying of tribute/homage to the paramount traditional of the various domains by their prominent traditional titles holders came back alive this year.
Apart from Nafada on the northern border of Gombe and Yobe states, every major Emirate, Chiefdoms and Districts observed the colourful event. This year’s event turned out to be the most organised by the various traditional settings. Heralding the massive Sallah celebration is the usual upsurge in general price level. The situation in Gombe State where prices became unprecedentedly high may not be unconnected to the illusion about double salary payment to the state civil servants.
This may not be unconnected with widespread rumours that Gombe State workers August and September would receive remunerations together, following a first-time slight delay in August payment. This, unknown to traders was not the case. Therefore the prices of food stuff and animals were all time high about three days before sallah due to news of salary payment.
Reacting to the situation, one Abubakar Rabiu said, “Things were terribly expensive during this year’s sallah and became worse in the last three, four days to the celebration.
“Rams that sold for about N15, 000.00 about a week ago shot up to about N30,000.00 while those that attracted about N20,000.00 because N35, 000.00. Last year, such increase did not exceed N25,000.00, N30,000.00. Maybe it is because of the rumour that there would be double salary payment. But nobody received double salary. Workers were paid in three batches, and even the last batch came before September salary”, he added.
Despite the skyrocketed prices, one Usman at Jakadafari said of all the sallah celebrations he had witnessed lately, none of the quantum of animals slaughtered matched this year’s.
He said, “Every street you go, animals are being slaughtered in almost every house in this Jakadafari. In places like Federal Low Cost, you see blood flowing in the gutters. This has never been so”.
Rumour has it that a prominent personality from Kano even came to Gombe and purchased about 500 rams for distribution to the less privileged and well-wishers. But most importantly like Governor Dankwambo said, “Sallah is not necessarily a time to worry about what to eat, what to drink or what to wear, but a time to celebrate the gift of life”.
Therefore, looking-back at the dastardly bombing of Gombe Main Market on the eve of Eid-el-fitr in July, every resident in Gombe had reasons to celebrate being alive and to congratulate one another for being alive.