In the age of illumination, the headline of this write-up could pass for the introduction to an illuminating poem, an enlightening poem that opens the mind to eternity, the soul to the fear of God and the heart to the love of man. But unfortunately, this two-worded name of an enclave elicits nothing but an eerie feeling in one.
Dura, Du. Like the sound of death warning its lunch that “I will do you”.
Dura is a settlement at Du District of Jos South local government area of Plateau State. It was a mining site during the colonial administration. Several large man-made holes and valleys were made in the course of the mining of tin.
The earth, stripped of its treasure, was left alone. Nature abhors vacuum. And so, the man-made holes and valleys of Dura got filled up by rain water. Several ponds were born. Dura of Du became a land dotted with many ponds, deep and wide.
For any civilised people living in a community that loves development and values humanity, that area would have been turned into a food basket of repute. Dry and rainy season farming would have been their vocation. Fish and livestock production would have been boosted.
All over the world, Dura would have come to be known as an exporter of food, even the exotic, considering the temperate weather of the plateau. But not this Dura of Du. Its inhabitant conspired to thread the path of ignominy, the path of cold blooded murder and even cannibalism.
Major General Idris Mohammed Alkali, who just retired from the Nigerian Army as Chief of Administration, got missing on September 3, 2018, around that axis on his way to Bauchi from Abuja. At first, a lot of people thought he had been kidnapped. That assumption could be forgiven considering that kidnapping has become a thriving, lucrative venture in Nigeria.
Three weeks after, no contact was made by his “kidnappers”. All efforts to trace him were unsuccessful. But the army has its ways that only soldiers know. It set up a Search and Rescue Operation. We are talking of a general here who is not only well regarded and respected but also very senior in its administrative hierarchy. Trained in various methods of map reading, tracing, hunting, surveillance and locating hidden targets, the army’s radar zeroed in on Dura and a particular pond.
The army went there in a way that showed it meant business. Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Mohammed, Garrison Commander, 3 Division Garrison, Nigeria Army, Rukuba, Jos, who commanded the operation, said that after a thorough search and investigation, the army stumbled on some intelligence that made it necessary to search the water body.
He explained, “In carrying out a directive from the Army headquarters, a thorough search was conducted, hospitals were visited, we searched everywhere.
“Based on credible intelligence, we had to come to this place and we have been here for the last one week.
“We are trying to find three things – an officer, Maj. Gen. Alkali (retd), who is still missing; his vehicle, a black Toyota Corolla, and also to ascertain whether Alkali is alive or not.
“We have credible information that some vehicles were pushed into this river and we have been here for the last three days trying to see if we can salvage something from the river.
“The river is a mining site and, therefore, very deep. We have used all options but, as a last resort, we will evacuate the water from the pond to see what is in it.”
But the operation search and rescue initially met some challenges as some 500 women clad in black protested the evacuation of the water.
According to Mrs. Mary Yakubu, leader of the protesters, the water had been part of the community over time, and was “a huge cultural significance.”
“If the water is evacuated, it could lead to the death of our sons and husbands,” she claimed.
Undeterred and unperturbed, the army, joined by men of the Nigeria Police force, Nigeria Fire Service, Civil Defence as well as local divers, found the General’s vehicle and some personal effects. Encouraged to go deeper and unravel the secrets of the pond, the search and rescue joint task force has so far recovered at least four vehicles, including an 18-seater commercial bus belonging to Gombe Line, a white Toyota Hiace bus with registration number PLATEAU RYM 307 XA. Incidentally, this vehicle and its driver were reported missing on June 24, 2018.
Among other discoveries was a red Rover car with registration number BAUCHI AG 645 TRR which was allegedly reported to have been buried along with the occupants on January 31, 2013. There were also six motorcycles/Keke NAPEP and 19 bodies. The implication is that the passengers of the vehicles had been killed and possibly cannibalised.
This is the pond they claim “has deep association with their tradition and culture.” Are these the secrets Mrs. Mary Yakubu and her minders fear would be exposed?
For a long time, there have been allegations that unsuspecting passers-by are blocked, killed and, if not eaten, dumped into the pond now turned mini mass grave, never to be found or heard again.
How many car or bike owners have thought the men they trusted with their assets had absconded with what was entrusted to their care? How many husbands had been misled into thinking their wives had followed another man to the end of the world, or wives and children thought their husbands and fathers had run away, abandoning them to their fate? Oh, the wickedness of Dura, Du!
A search in the houses of some arrested suspects yielded guns and ammunition of various kinds, knives and swords of various sizes, assorted phones, car keys and foreign currencies. A particular interest is the Korean currency. What is a Korean currency doing in the back water that Dura is, if not taken off a murdered traveler?
Were Nigeria normal and not divided by hatred along tribal and religious lines imposed by tribal jingoists and clerics of both the two major faiths, whose sole aim is political power and wealth, all people would rise up to condemn the nefarious activities of the people of Dura.
None of the major religions encourages the killings of innocent people, and only tribes still living in barbarism practice cannibalism.
These acts have affected the state of Plateau threatening to topple it from grace. It was once the peaceful Nigerian “European” town nicknamed “The Home of Peace and Tourism,” now it is descending to the abyss of infamy.
But this act is not new. It is not with General Alkali that these dastardly acts started. General Alkali’s case is just the wind that blew and exposed the vent (anus) of the hen. Countless innocent travelers had been murdered and their skeletons dot the landscape of Dura and other areas of the Plateau as a result of being profiled as the “enemy”.
Had it not been that General Alkali is the proverbial “owner” in the saying that “every day is for the thief and one day for the owner”, the restless souls of those killed in the Du axis would continue welcoming other hapless souls.
All men of conscience, of whatever creed or tribe, must rise up and condemn the barbaric actions of these harbingers of death. Hatred (which should not find room in our hearts, in the first place) of a people based on stereotyping should not govern our actions or becloud our sense of humanity and justice.
The government should dig deeper into such national embarrassments and find just solutions, but most importantly, it is high time we got programmes aimed at inculcating in us all the love for one another, empathy, respect for the sacredness of life and the sense of fairness and justice. Enough of senseless killings, or even any kind of killing for that matter.
Read also 2019 Campaigns: Time to Shelve Dangerous Rhetoric, by Hassan Gimba