RE: Billiri Chieftaincy Crisis: Buhari Calls for Maximum Restraints to Avoid Escalation [Open Letter]

The Tangale Community Overseas would like to express gratitude to his excellency, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alh Muhammadu Buhari, for his fatherly call for restraint in the Tangale chieftaincy debacle. Sir, it is always comforting and reassuring when leaders step in to deescalate tension and ensure peace within their areas of influence. We appreciate your thoughtful words and call for peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims in Tangale and all of Nigeria.

Sir, we first want to assure you that the crisis, as you well noted, is not about religion at all. We, the Tangale people will make sure that those who would like to make it a religious crisis fail in their evil attempt to divide our people on religious grounds. Those who know any history of the Tangale people understand that we are tolerant and hospitable. Although Christian missionaries brought modern civilization and settled among our people in the Tangale hills more than a hundred years ago, we have never treated other religions with disdain. On the contrary, there are many mosques in Billiri, and we have never had religious fights among us. We also would like to note that when the late Iliyasu Mai Yamba embraced Islam, the majority Christian subjects did not oppose his personal choice. His late son, Mohammed Tafida Maiyamba was also a Muslim and his subjects did not see his religious beliefs as a hindrance to his abilities to function as their chief (Mai). It would be a misdiagnosis of the Tangale crisis for us to focus on religion. We have clearly shown that Islam and Christianity are practiced in most extended families in Tangale land. The burning of a mosque in Billiri over the weekend was an outlier and the Tangale people will do everything in their power to make sure it is never repeated and those responsible be brought to justice.

This brings us to the current situation of the election of the new Mai Tangle. Sir, as mentioned above, our ancestors lived on the Tangale hills for ages, and had customs and traditions regarding the choice of a Mai. Although a monarchy, the traditional kingmakers elected the Mai from heirs in a democratic fashion. The person with the highest votes is declared the next Mai and coronated accordingly. We have maintained this practice to date. With the advancement of modern government and the diminishing role of traditional rulers in governing their subjects, the state government now has assigned to itself powers to create and nullify districts and emirates. This recent development comes at a high price for society. Nigeria is made up of 250 tribal nations, each with its own customs and traditions that predate colonialism. Hence, when the state intrudes into those customs and traditions, and gives itself the powers to dictate a people’s way of life, there will always be a conflict of interests. The customs and traditions of a people are their identity. We are Tangale and the unifying factor in our identity is the Mai Tangle. Sir, we have tried to dialogue with the governor of Gombe state, Alh Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya, through our political representatives. Our goal is to clarify two things. The Chieftaincy laws of Gombe state and how it aligns with the customs and traditions of the Tangale people regarding the choice of a Mai. We will continue to seek audience with him so there is understanding between us. The Tangale people have elected their new chief, and we expect the governor to play his constitutional role to approve the choice of the people.

Your excellency, your call to peaceful coexistence among citizens could not have come at a more critical time. If leaders abuse their powers, this problem will continue to show up in different communities every time there is a traditional rulership vacancy. Sir, perhaps it is time for the Federal Government of Nigeria to intervene and clearly define the boundaries between the state and traditions. Nigeria is a nation built upon preexisting tribal nations. This situation is not unique to Nigeria, but it is in Nigeria that we experience a power toggle between customs of a people and the state. We appeal to you for a redress of the situation for the sake of harmony and peace in our beloved country.

Sir, we also extend your call for restraint to our young people in Tangale land. Their violent actions that led to the burning of a sacred place of worship and loss of lives is hereby condemned as unacceptable, unpatriotic, and un-Tangale-like behavior. The properties that were lost belong to Tangale people, the religious mosque is a sacred place of worship, the lives lost were Tangale people. The behavior is inapprehensible and callous. We also extend your call for restraint to our dear governor of Gombe state. Leaders are tested by their ability to know their people and meet their needs. Your inability to apply the law and give assent to the choice of the Tangale people has left a dent in your leadership. It has been a week since the election of Mai Tangle. We implore you to think of the lives and property we have lost, and the religious tensions created by your inaction. Please listen to the voice of the president of Nigeria and do not further escalate tensions.

Your excellency, we again reemphasize that the Tangale people are hospitable and peace loving. We assure every resident of Billiri that the Tangale traditional council, the Tangale Community Development Association, the Christian Association of Nigeria Billiri Local Government Area, the traditional title holders of Tangale land, and all Tangale people are involved in making sure no violence or any unlawful acts takes place in Billiri because of the Mai Tangale crisis. We look forward to the announcement of Dr. Musa Idris Mai Yamba as the new Mai Tangle.

Long live Tangale, Long live Gombe state, Long live Nigeria


Sincerely signed,

Lamela Umaru Lakorok

General Secretary

Tangale Community Overseas


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