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A History Of Biu: Testament Of Cultural Diversity

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Posted: Apr 3, 2016 at 2:45 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Title:                   A History of Biu

Author:              Bukar Usman

Reviewer:          George Chijioke Amadi

Publisher:          Klamidas Communications Limited

No of Pages:      693

Price:                  Not stated


A History of Biu is the third book of the Biu Emirate Studies Series (BESS 003). The other two are: Girl-Child Education in Biu Emirate: The Early Years (BESS 001) and Language Disappearance and Cultural Diversity in Biu Emirate (BESS 002).

When the author, imbued with candour went to work, in earnest, more than ten years ago, he was guided by due diligence, with the sole objective of unearthing the customs, beliefs, traditions, occupations, arts, and crafts of a people who have lived together, and still, do live together, in the same place for over four hundred years. His hard work, passion, and tangential, inspiring revelations, no end, are some of the pleasant surprises that I discovered in my heart-warming task of drilling through Dr. Bukar Usman’s 693-pages book, A History of Biu, page by page, with excitement, in one hundred and twenty hours.

The book’s four sections, A to D, Geographical Overview; Pre-Colonial History of Biu; Biu Under Colonial Rule; Biu After Independence respectively, constitute one coherent, mighty whole that is as resplendent as the strength of a people leading a Spartan life whose never-say-die determination to be productive, and yet remain law-abiding, stands them in good stead, through thick and thin, in their struggle for survival.

Bound in a thick, black, hard cover clothed in a silky wrap-around decorated in quiet colours, for a smooth-touch effect, the invaluable document is enriched, on its front cover, with the picture of Tilla Hill, one of the notable features in Biu Borno State, North-Eastern Nigeria. At the back, is excerpt from the Foreword written by Sa’ad Abubakar FHSN, OFR, Professor of History at the University of Abuja. The front and back inside folds contain a write-up with the heading: About the Author.

Masterfully crafted, the publication’s consummate story-teller spared no effort towards enriching his captivating narration with requisite annotations; sharp pictures, black-and-white and coloured; and illustrated diagrams, making it a must-read for anybody enamoured of imbibing historical facts presented with objectivity, and in full, leaving the reader ample evidence with which to draw his, or her, own conclusions.

Folktales, widely used in Biu, in days of yore, as instrument of education and platform for entertainment, long before the arrival of the British colonisers, had, in no small way, inculcated morals in Biu children.

Unscathed by colonial rule which presence in Nigeria, finally got felt in Biu, circa 1900, Chief Yamtarawala, the Emirate’s founding father (1535-1560), strategist, soldier, educationist, administrator, with dogged determination, anchored on valour, exhibited discretion in every socio-political decision he took, and many there were, and, at no time, it must be noted, did he take Biu citizens for granted, the book explains.

The year 1908 was a landmark date for Biu. It was the year that the Biu Division, as a formal administration, was given its own Emirates. It was the year that Western Education began in Biu. It was the year that the Chief of Biu was promoted from 3rd Class to 2nd Class grade, thereby beginning the suzerainty over petty chiefs in the Division.

The 20th of January, in 1920, was the first time the Governor-General, Sir Hugh Clifford, and his deputy, H. W. Goldsmith, visited Biu, and that day, also, marked the first time that a motor-car was driven into Biu. It was not until the second half of 1955 that an aeroplane landed in Biu.

But it is sad to note that twenty-two years, after Nigeria’s Independence which took place on the 1st of October, in 1960, when the Borno State Governor Mohammed Goni administration designed a dam towards providing potable water to Biu, and 35 other towns, and villages (an estimated population of 300, 000), within a radius of three miles, or four kilometres, the construction of the dam is yet to go beyond its first phase, thirty years (in 2014) after work had started on it in 1982. The project has, according to the author, ran into turbulent political waters suffice it to say.

Provision of good roads, electricity, hospitals, schools, and markets, just to mention a few of much-needed social amenities, till date, suffers a similar setback that continues to dog the abandoned dam project.

As for the tangential revelations that for me pleasant surprises threw up scouring through this hard-to-put-down, historic, reference treasure, an interesting discovery awaits any curious mind looking out to find if historical and cultural parallels exist among the various tribes that make up this magnificent country that Nigerians call home.

A History of Biu has but one flaw: Because it is such an inspiring story that was researched with acumen, illustrated with aplomb, and written with dedication, perseverance, not forgetting accuracy, one cannot but, like Oliver Twist, ask for more of such stories, from the author, to be written about other parts of the country, in no distant future.