Biu local government area is situated at the northeast of Nigeria, the town is blanketed by rocks and mountains with a Celsius nearly similar with Mambila in Taraba and Jos, Plateau, Nigeria’s coldest locations.
Scientists have found several solid minerals and precious stones in commercial quantities but the people were never swayed by these discoveries. The Babur Bura people that inhabit the area are agrarian in nature and are very receptive to Islamization and Christianization that both struggled for space in the vast fertile lands of the area.
The Babur Bura speaking people cuts across several local governments now that were all carved out of Biu, they are also found in small numbers in Adamawa and Yobe states .The ones that are found in Biu are predominantly Muslims and are refered to as Babur because they are seen as a blend of inter-marriages between several invading ethnic nationalities with the Bura aborigines.
This led to the emergence of Biu/Babur as the dorminant ruling class of the entire Bura land.Today the only distinction between the Babur and Bura is the slang which the Babur in today’s Biu local government area are identified with.
From the account of historians, the bura people worshiped ancestral religions before the coming of Islam in the area that was firmly rootedwhich laid the seed for Biu /Babur that ruled a large portion of Bura land.
Therefore, when the missionaries came, they were asked to settle in isolated areas of Waka in Biu, Marama in Hawul,Garkida in Adamawa state etc by the ruling class.
The blend of these two religions; Christianity and Islam became the spring board for the ingenuities and educational feats of the Babur/Bura in Nigeria and in the diaspora.
Interestingly , a reasonable number of the people here, presumably in thousands still stick to their ancestral traditional beliefs but many o f these adherents, recoiled under the banner of Christianity and Islam to avoid the stigma of the society.
The trip to Garkida,tawul, one of the many places in Babur/Bura where ancestral shrines still exist, comfirms that the heavy winds of civilization and religiousity left some traces of firmly rooted ancestral heritage which our forefathers ones held as sacred while our generation only see these sights as aesthetic scences to muse around which you have scarcety yet began to comprehend.
The story of Jikwa Thlar, a crystal clear stream, upwelling unseizingly, which has a breadth of 2 meters and a width of about 3 kilometers with abundant fish and reptiles in it, but can neither be killed nor eaten, first came as a fairy tale to this correspondent but the unyielding words of the story teller spurred Sunday Trust to under take a reporting trip to Garkida Tawul, a village enclave at the foothills of a vast mountain in Mandaragrau district, Biu local government area of Borno state.
The people of Garkida tawul are leaving in borrowed time, with no motor able road, electricity, no hospital or a house built with concrete, and their only contact with modernity is a block of classroom built in 1975 when a primary school was established. Today the village head Bulama Saleh said, Garkida tawul primary school boost of about 10 university graduates and other educated persons in the state.
However according to Bulama Saleh, education is not the pride of his village, what is a pride that has distinguished Garkida tawul from any other village is Jikwa Thlar, that provides spring water to nearly 10,000 inhabitants of the village and other hurts that formed clusters around the parent village. Jikwa Thlar also support the vast vegetation of sugarcane, bananas and potatoes around it.
What is however interesting about Jikwa Thlar is, the uncountable and un jittery fishes in its waters, as one gets closer, one can see how the fishes blended perfectly in the water, they seem nearly invisible unless you look closer. Every surface was slippery and smelled like fish, and when this correspondent was encouraged to stand on large pieces of rocks in the stream for a closer look at the fish, possibly have a touch at the smaller ones that have no claws, he refused, out of fear that, if he slips into the stream and eventually killed one of the fish “I bet you, some thing will happen to you unless you make a sacrifice to appease the gods” said Pukuma, who is in his late 60’s that guided this correspondent during the tour of the stream.
Bulama Saleh and Pukuma, both claimed that, in the past centenary in which they and their immediate parents existed, their was no attempt either to kill or eat any of the water creatures or reptiles within and around the stream that survived “even officials during the later months of the Colonial Authority that spread chemicals inside the stream, though, with an intent to only kill the crocodiles that they thought may threatened their lives then, all died and the only man that claimed he did not kill, but only wanted to eat the fish as food died mysteriously by swelling like a balloon, “before my eyes”, said Pukuma.
“When we were growing up we see a lot of crocodiles but they are never harmful to humans or our livestock till date, they only eat dogs and the fish in the stream”, said Pukuma. But today, nearly all the predators except for two or three that survived the chemical are seen once in a while, Sunday Trust gathered. “It seems only the males survived the attack”,said one villager, adding that, the only animals that have reproduced in thousands within and around the stream are the fish, tortoise, snakes, birds and monitor lizards etc.
Sunday Trust authoritatively came across small and large tortoise, over twenty snakes, two monitor lizards, and one can only tip toed inside the stream in order not to step on a fish, which is to say, the fish and birds are as many as the vast trees and plants that formed a dense forest around the stream yet one can only admire such delicacy but not taste it.
When Pukuma excused this correspondent to the order part of the stream, attempting to drive a large snake towards my direction for a good shot, suddenly, there was a quick movement from behind, I turned instinctively, but all became still in the stream, except for the steady swishing of powerful tails and the gurgling of the tails of fishes. Obviously, the stream has a mystifying quality and when I looked around, Pukuma was not on sight, and I was griped by fear, the larger roots of the trees that criss-cross the stream seemingly started to move like anaconda. At that point, I urinated in my pants and regretted my knack for explorative journalism.
“Yawwa ga maciji, ka dauka hoto” Pukuma alerted me but his loud voice aggravated my fear and I began to professed the Muslim prayer whenever a faithful finds him self in a point of near dead. Obviously, this correspondent disappointed Pukuma that went extra mile to pursue the snake to an open space but my trembling hands could not be relaxed for a shot of the black snake. I decided to leave the stream and retire under a large tree close by for a chat with Pukuma and other villagers in order to overcome the uneasiness that has overwhelmed me.
According to Pukuma and other curious villagers that joined us at the side of the stream said, for many years they have cultivated large heaps of sugarcane, bananas and potatoes around the stream but none of them have ever bought a motor cycle or any thing useful with the proceeds there from, “we only eat from the garden and when we sale, We only use the money to support life but nobody has ever counted huge profits from the gardens. In fact it has come to our knowledge from experience that if you don’t make sacrifice to the gods you don’t make any good here and we are now Muslims” said one of the villagers.
There is no way you will farm here without creating a path for the water to criss cross through your farm in order to water the plants and this case whether you like it or not, it will result to some fishes dashing out of the water to the shores and when they cannot retreat, they die and something must happen to you and your family, this has been a way of life here, I swear!”, said Adamu Saidu, and the rest of the Villagers there nodded affirmatively.
From under the shade where the tales about the stream was being narrated to this correspondent, a great tortoise came out from the stream, it looked at this writer for several seconds with its reptilian eyes then disappeared under grown. Few minutes later, another one, less in size came out peering at us. How would we know if the gods like to be reported to the outside world or not? I asked the villagers to be sure that the tortoises were not sent by the gods to look at me and report back before an action will be taken on me.
“If the gods doesn’t want the story told it will never come out,” said Pukuma but as you read this story it is obvious that the gods also want publicity like the politicians (laughs). “So I don’t think you have offended the gods in anyway”, Pukuma assured this writer.
Sunday Trust saw how Women and children flock the stream to fetch water to drink or cook, wash their laundry or bath, all in the same stream. This action makes the pure spring water to be infested with dirt, which may expose the users to all kinds of water born diseases but the villagers are oblivious of all these eventualities, they have grown up to live with such routines.
Walking back through the trodden track to Garkida tawul or Garide, as the village is called, which is about 300 meters from the famous stream, the poverty of the people of the Village can be seen glaringly from the thatched houses, and the dirty and malnourished children of the village. Obviously the Village is blessed with Fish and other protein source and a garden that produce vegetables that can contain the nutritional requirements of a state, but no one dares near the Fish and none of the farmers showed any sign of wealth from the industry which the Jikwa Thlar supported.
When this correspondent boosted to catch one of the large fish to the city, either for laboratory purpose or to feast with his family, Pukuma nearly wept, while he pleaded, “you know you are related to my wife, so you are like my son, because of this, I wouldn’t let you, but if you insist then, we will prepare to pick your dead body before the highway,( which is about 20 kilometers)” said Pukuma . The villagers here have no doubts that inflicting injury or eating the inhabitants of Jikwa Thlar will bring calamity to the person or defaulter.
“The gods (jinn) are all around us” said one of the villagers who stared at the ancient tropical forest around the stream, which explains why at a corner of the forest lies where the villagers refer to as the quarters of the Jinns. There, one can see dried and fresh blood of animals that were spilled on calabash that were said to have been kept there for centuries by their ancestors “people from all tribes and locations come here for rituals”, said Pukuma.
How people from far and near come and who gives them the knowledge of Jikwa thlar remains inexplicable, “I think the Jinns communicates to herbalist across the country to send people to this stream to resolve certain mysterious diseases and problems” said Bulama Saleh, adding that their was a man that brought his wife in a jeep all the way from Abuja to treat her of her illness, he cannot speak our language neither has he come to Borno before , but a herbalist told him to come here for help” said Pukuma .
“The water of Jikwa Thlar is fetched in gallons and Jerry cans by spiritualists who from many parts of the Country who all claim they use it to prepare certain concoctions to either treat illness or find favors or wealth from life”, said one gentleman in Biu. Indeed, Garkida Tawul has been a secrete destination for traditional pilgrimage, which was never exposed to the open.
Sunday Trust was asked to visit Garba, the native doctor of the village and guardian connoisseur of the fountain turned forest. A visit to Garba is against the bent of this writer’s inclination, and for Garba to come down from his house on top of the mountain without this writer first paying homage to him was tantamount to wishing for the impossibility, these uncompromising positions precluded the detail knowledge of the ritual rites at Jikwa Thlar, which Garba was adjudge by the villagers to have masters in its course.
The villagers, all subsistent farmers, are seemingly contented in their world they are oblivious of any thing called government. When they realized that the studentship in their primary school was sky rocketing they mobilized themselves and built two mud blocks of class rooms, “it was at that point that a politician gave them 50 thousand to roof it” said Bulama Saleh. Apart from that we “are not important to anyone or government”.
When their wives have pregnancy related complications which was the dominant complain in the village, they have to travel as far as Biu which is over 4o kilometers to get help “the gods don’t seem to care about maternal issues and this have resulted to the death of many women. This correspondent suggested to the villagers to tell the gods to influence government to establish a hospital for them “that is a good idea”, said one of the villagers.
Whether this request through the gods to come to their aid will be accepted remains to be seen. For now, their best bet is to pray for no or little complications that can be manage in Mandaragarau maternity centre which is nearly half way to Biu.
As this correspondents prepared to leave Garkida Tawul, he made another stop at the stream to wash his face and legs in the very warm waters of Jikwa Thlar, which supports both the occupations of the water and the inhabitants of the area during the rigors of this winter season. It was so beautiful taking another look at Jikwa Thlar alone, the small tropical forest is fragile and extremely complex and inexplicable particularly now when Sunday Trust has brought this sight to public glare “we hope people will not come and invade our heritage that will cost us dearly” said Bulama Saleh who recounted this sentiment back in the village.
The trees, the plants the fishes, tortoises, snakes, monitor lizards, crocodiles, birds, insects microorganisms etc at Jikwa Thlar recycles all the living materials it contain, the ecosystem there has never been exposed to the preying hands of modernity, if it does, it will be destroyed and it may be difficult or impossible for such a wonder to recuperate again, “so read but don’t come” said the information officer of Biu local government council, Prince Madu Zakku.