The death of Kpanti of Zing, Alhaji Abbas Ibrahim Sambo, in Taraba State in Holy Land during the Hajj stampede is generating tension between Christians and Muslims over who succeeds him, writes SAM TYAV, in Jalingo


The death of Kpanti of Zing, Alhaji Abbas Ibrahim Sambo, who died with other Muslim faithfuls during the Hajj operation in Mecca, has produced mixed reactions from the people of the Emirate and the state. For different reasons, while some expressed sadness, others chose the other way round. It also created tension. What has however dominated the vacuum created by his death is the battle for who will succeed him.
Ordinarily, issues that concern tradition are handled at that level in accordance with laid down rules and regulations guiding the conduct of the people’s affairs. In some African societies, there are royal families and non royal families. In this case, appointment of a traditional ruler is made in line with their culture. But in some cultures, appointment of a traditional ruler is open to the parts of the chiefdom that is yet to benefit.
But the trouble that started in Zing over a traditional stool has religious connotations. While some of the indigenes of the chiefdom wanted a Muslim to occupy the seat, others insisted on a Christian. This generated tension in the area as contending parties are divided along religious lines. The crisis as learnt by Nigerian Pilot could have taken a dangerous dimension but for the timely intervention of the security operatives.
An eyewitness told our correspondent that most of the contestants were claiming state government sponsorship. According to the informant, each of the contestants was bent on outsmarting the other. Another source from Zing disclosed that there was great confusion in the palace of the late emir. According to the source who pleaded anonymity, a masquerade that ordains a Kpanti after the kingmakers might have done their job the selection took over the palace of the late emir.
He wondered whether the occupation of the palace of the late traditional ruler by dodo was in line with the provisions of the tradition of Zing people.
Unconfirmed source has it that one of the contestants has been arrested in connection with the trouble in the area. Though Nigerian Pilot checks could not ascertain the true position of things as regards arrest, it was clear that the crisis that had religious connotations had people behind contestants who were making the loudest noise.
But the tension the struggle created necessitated the intervention of the state government. A government house source told Nigerian Pilot that the state government had to intervene in time to avoid the repetition of what took place in Takum, Takum Local Government area of the state where for several years there has been no occupant of a similar seat. “Several ethnic nationalities have continued to claim ownership of Takum. The serious crisis in the area caused the destruction of people’s structures even as lots of people did not only get wounded but even died or lost loved ones”.
It was the fear that the crisis would degenerate that an interim measure was adopted. Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, appointed Sir Linus D. Ibrahim, Wazirin Zing as acting Kpanti Zing otherwise, Emir of Zing to calm the tension that was building up in the area following the death of Alhaji Abbas Ibrahim Sambo.
A statement issued in Jalingo to that effect and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs Alhaji Bello Yero, the governor informed that the move was in line with the traditions guiding the traditional stool of Zing Chiefdom.
All the interested parties, according the statement were expected to remain calm as the necessary machinery for the election of the new Kpanti Zing were being put in place. The statement also warned people not to take laws into hands.
The statement reads in part; “While the state government is putting in place machinery for the election of the new Kpanti Zing, all parties vested with the processes that will lead to the election of the new Kpanti are by this directive advised to be calm and ensure that the chiefdom remains peaceful”.
Unarguably, the tension that was brewing in the area between the contending parties was getting out of hand, part of the reasons why the statement assured that “security agencies have been fully briefed to ensure that law and order are maintained throughout the mourning period for the late Kpanti Zing who died while on hajj in Saudi Arabia recently and preparations for the election of his successor.”
The spokesman of the Taraba State Police Command, Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO Joseph Kwaji who confirmed that there was tension in the area assured that adequate security measures are already put in place to forestall any breakdown of law and order. The command’s spokesman warned trouble makers against fomenting trouble maintaining that the police would not spare anyone caught in the process.
The permanent secretary of the bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Bello Yero, who also confirmed that some miscreants planned to take advantage of the death of the Emir to cause confusion in the chiefdom expressed satisfaction that the situation was fully contained with the governor in full control of the situation. He believed that there would be no more cause for trouble in the area as government would not spare any one no matter how highly placed.
With the timely intervention of the security operatives and the state government, it is believed that there would be no more tension in Zing Emirate over election of new Emir. There are high expectations that due process would definitely be followed in order to forestall break down of law and order. The statement also added that the selection of a new Kpanti has to be done traditionally with hope that there would be no more division in the area along religious lines as the kingmakers would follow due process traditionally with the strict supervision of the state government through the bureau that supervises it.