Aliyu Ibrahim Kankara
Between Tuesday 26th to Thursday 28th September, 2023, Dr. Aliyu Ibrahim Kankara, a lecturer with the Department of Geology, Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State, and the famous writer and commentator of Shata biography, who was invited by a traditional title holder at Gembu, Taraba State  attended and witnessed their annual cultural show/festival. In this interview with our Correspondent, Dr. Kankara lamented on the journey’s experience which he described as exciting, ill-fated and melancholic. 
Question: You were in Gembu, Mambillah, Taraba State in the previous week. What led to that journey?
Answer: As it is said in English idiom, you make hay when the Sun shines; I was invited by Wazirin Gembu to attend their (Gembu’s) annual festival.
Q: Why were you invited, why you? Are you a journalist?
A: They knew me already because I wrote three (3) separate books/biographies on Alhaji (Dr.) Mamman Shata Katsina, the Hausa sensational music icon. Additionally, they heard me all over the social media, radios, commenting on the late Hausa music song-bird. That was what prompted him (Waziri) to invite me to go to Gembu for a visit, but was asked to delay till the festival’s period.  They perform annual or World Tourism Day each year to celebrate their (Sardauna Local Government) cultures. We waited for the time. Then, a friend Musa Abdullahi of Financial Policy Department, Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja Head Office, who was also going there for his annual leave backed the journey by single-handedly catering for the trip which covered transport, feeding and accommodation all throughout. Then, Mr. Joel David Yaji, a lecturer with the College of Education Zing, Taraba State drove us from Jalingo, climed the unusual, aggressive  Hills to Gembu, and back to Jalingo again. From Gembu to Cameroun-Nigeria border is as close as 53 km., and so the cultures, other ways of living, norms, attitudes, languages are almost the same. 
It is recalled that before 1971 Umaru Danduna, a famous Kano-based driver who was sung by Shata had been agitating him to go to Gembu, Mambilla to see wonders of God. It was then in 1971 that he tried going but stopped at Maisamari village, never went further to reach Gembu. Then, there were no road accessibility leading to those Mambilla communities. It was in December, 1980 that the poet tried reaching Gembu, where he spent two weeks there. It was his first and last visit to the area. From then, Gembu citizens never saw him again. 
They then felt my visit to them was like Shata’s visit. 
Q So, in the absence of Shata, they see you as another Shata, had he sang any of their indigenes, if so, have you met them? 
A: Yes, it is like Shata has re-incarnated if I am interviewed in radio or TV. In Gembu, I was able to be introduced to Galadiman Aska (the chief traditional barber) who was the son of Mamman Bello, mai aska Chiroman askin Jalingo and whom Shata sang for in around 1983. Bello mai aska is now late, that he relocated to Gembu and even died in 2021 before this event. But Galadima was interviewed by me, being his eldest son. Again, when Shata visited the community in 1980 he sang for the then Gembu District Head, Alhaji Mansir Muhammad, who is also late now. I was introduced to some traditional title holders who felt vet amusing and happy with my visit. I therefore consider the visit as an elongation of Shata tenure as a poet, as a singer. My invitation and subsequent visit was like an extension of his (Shata’s) legacies and legends. 
Q: What wonders did you observe at Gembu?
A: As a geographer/geologist I did understood that the weather and the climate in Mambilla Highland areas completely differs from those of the biospheric zones, because it is fascinating, beautiful and unique, with scenic views. It has rich ecosystems, rich ecology with vast agricultural land. Even the chemistry and the geochemistry of the zone totally differ. At such higher altitudes, there are greater pressures of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen gases which make the place more colder than in the biosphere. By 5pm it is relatively dark, and you can vividly see clouds and fogs emanating from nearby Hills, crossing over your vehicle.  The rivers are meandering all over. There are quite a number of accessible and non-accessible beautiful water falls within. Those that are not accessible are found within the remote and very aggressive hilly-inselbergs. The water fall in area around Tunga-Luggere is very much unique, wich is 40 minutes’ drive by bike from Ngoroje.  
The chains of mountains and hilly terrains spur across down to Obudu Cattle ranch. Even in Mambillah, you notice a village named Ngoroje, the highest altitude in Nigeria, with 2,419 meters above sea level (ASL) In Mambilla, you do not need a refrigerator because the temperature stood at the lowest, nearing to very cold conditions. The temperature in the month of September is nearing to 670 Farelheight at Gembu and environ.  
There is huge gully erosion at Lekki-Taba, on Gembu-Ngoroje road. The terranes are terribly rugged and too aggressive. The journey too It was terribly ill-fated and melancholic, but with rich experiences. 
Q: Can you comment about the culture of the people there?
A: Mambilah has rich culture. The Sardauna LGA has majorly five (5) different ethnic groups with a lot of dialects. Let me list them by tribes: Number one (1) - Mambila tribe (with one single letter ‘l’, referring to the tribe (the former, Mambilla with double lettered ‘l’ referring to the land) They have 53 % Muslims population, 42% Christians, 3% traditional practitioners and 2% room for error. Number two (2) – Kaka tribe (living across the Plateau) with 93% Christians, 5% Muslims, 1% traditional practitioners and 1% room for error. Number three (3) – Fulani tribe, with 97 % Muslims, 2% Christians and 1% room for error. Number four (4) – Panso tribe, with 68% Christians,, 30% Muslims, 1% traditional practitioners and 1% room for error.  Number five (5) – Kambu tribe, with 96.5 % Christians, 2% Muslims, 0.5 % traditional practitioners and 1% room for error. 
Other tribes that constitute the minorities are Igbos, Yorubas and Husasa respectively, that their numbers in Sardauna LGA is so small. There are also communities of Fulani Christians around Maisamari environs, in which, some of them go into hiding for reasons best known to them. In these communities, in every 100 persons, 2 are Christians, and all of them bear Arabic names. 
Q: Why have you described the journey or experience as ill-fated and melancholic? 
A: It is melancholic because the entire landed area of Taraba State is a rich agricultural land but the roads in Northeast are completely worn out, in disgustic and deplorable, poor and terrible conditions.  This implies that the governors and legislatives in the Northwest (Katsina, Zamfara Sokoto, Kebbi) are trying because, there; there are good road networks that will connect you with States’ capitals. But in the Northeast (Taraba, Adamawa), the states are poorer, the roads are badly maintained. From Ngorore to Jalingo (off Gombe-Yola road) it is about 140 km,  passing through Mayo Balwa and Zing which will take one only one and a half (1 ½) hour but you must spend five (5) hours due to the nature of the road. In some places the tars are even missing, you have to drive through bush before you can find the actual road. This is devastating and gloomy. Similarly, from Kaltungo to Numan, the roads are in poor conditions too. The last time I passed through Gombe-Yola road was in March 2012. This time, I met the road in same condition, unrepaired. I do not know what the Federal and state’s governments are doing to facilitate easy transportations and communications in the areas. I felt very embarrassed and ashamed.  The past governors (civilians and military administrators) of Taraba and Adamawa states must be summoned to explain why they have not developed the states. Since at creation in 1991 by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida there is almost nothing to show in Taraba as a mark of development, especially road networks.  I really felt embarrassed. 
Although the entire northern Nigerian states are poorly developed but Taraba has a unique underdevelopment. From Jalingo to Bali to Baruwa up to the foot of Mambilla Plateaux, you notice local huts made up of muds by the road sides, where more than 40 percent of Taraba citizens are living, which you can hardly see or observe in Katsina State in this 21 Century.
Musa Abdullahi, Aliyu Kankara and Joel David               Kankara at Kakara Tea Plantation (Mambila Highland Tea)           

 World Tourism Day, Gembu, 2023               
Shata’s visit to Gembu, 1980
Q: Then, why the journey was ill-fated to you?

A: Yes, it was ill-fated because it is so sad that the vast Mambila land is left virgin by Taraba State government wasting, untapped. 
For data accuracy, we can vividly say 51% of population in Sardauna LGA are living below poverty line, those residing in the interior or remote areas, despite the rich agricultural and potential land.  Although in border communities there are a lot of trans-border economic activities/businesses with which people meet up with the present harsh and unidirectional economy. The remaining 49% are living averagely. 
For the three (3) nights we spent in Gembu, which coincided with the festival period, all the hotels within the town were completely occupied by visitors and or tourists. This shows that special activities can be organized by the Taraba State government in the area to generate income. There can be Taraba Tourist Week (TTW) if wish be by the government, and golf resorts or Camps/Tents can be created for the visitors for revenue generation.
Revenue can be generated from tourism in Taraba State if Mambila lad is utilized. You also notice Eucalyptus tree everywhere which is a source of timber, food and firewood. The economic tree is exceptionally good because it regenerates. 
And, by noticing a lot of herds owned by individuals, which technically shows that an average cluster can contain at least 50 cows which is one heard, yet the Taraba or Federal governments can enhance, facilitate the range farming in the area. A range is a demarcated area which could be properly improved by the government. This is called mixed farming which is now absent in northwest due to bandit’s invasion and other forms of insecurity. By so doing and improving, cheese and milk can be provided in abundance through these ranges and diary farming.  
Additionally, a visit to Kakara Highland Tea, Mambilla was also very exciting, were we were briefed by the staff of Mambilla Beverages Nigeria Limited. The life span of Highland Tea is 100 years, but can be proned after some years. The area set for the plantation cut across Kakara and Kusuku were the tea farms are. 

Dr. Kankara is with the Dept. of Geology, Federal University Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State. 

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