(NEWS INVESTIGATORS) During the Sallah celebration, the Sharo festival which has not been held in many years, was organized in Zamfara.
It was an avenue to bring repentant bandits, other Fulani and farmers in the state together.
Traditional wrestling, popularly known as Kokowa was a major part of the event, which Daily Trust on Sunday gathered was part of the conflict resolution techniques of Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle.
For a long time, I did not visit Gusau, not even the local government headquarters. This is because we were confined to the forest. We were carrying guns and attacking communities in retaliation of attacks on us by Yan Sakai.
“But when I heard that the Sharo festival was being organized by the government in Gusau, I decided to attend and even participate. It is indicative of one thing; that the bad days are over. I saw a lot of my brothers who were holding rifles in the bush at the event also,” a repentant bandit identified as Ali Baderu, said.
Wielding sticks and dressed in different colourful attires, the Fulani, especially the repentant bandits trooped to the venue of the festival in their hundreds. The Fulani, accompanied by their local musicians were in a joyful mood.
They all danced to the tunes of the musical bands. It was a celebration galore as Fulani women carrying calabashes also gyrated to the beautiful melodies emanating from different angles.
“I came along with my husband. He is partaking in the Sharo activities. We came here from Birnin Magaji Local Government Area. Though my husband was never a bandit, he is in support of anything that would bring the much needed peace to our communities,” a housewife called Malema Dan Sani, said.
Another guest identified as Hadejo Dan Mallam said he never thought that things would normalize. He said at the peak of the crisis, he thought he would end his life in the forest, adding that herders could not attend local markets just as farmers found it difficult to work on farms.
“The situation dealt a deadly blow to the relationship between two friends; farmers and herders. It really affected our pysche as human beings but with the efforts of this administration, things are gradually returning to normal. Wounds are healing and broken fences are being mended.
“One thing that excited me was when I saw a resident of Gidan Kaso in Birnin Magaji Local Government Area. He was one of my greatest enemies; we went after each other and even wanted to kill one another. But when we met here, we exchanged greetings,” he added.
He said moving out of the bush to attend any event before the peace accord was unthinkable for the Fulani, adding that several of them could not travel due to the acrimonious relationship between herders and farmers.
A leader of the Fulani clan told Daily Trust on Sunday that he came along with his people, adding that the ceremony had become a turning point in the farmers/herders relationship.
“When we were called upon and given an olive branch we accepted it in the spirit of forgiveness. All sides, farmers and herders have suffered. We asked ourselves, can we continue like this? As human beings, what were we created for, killing or helping humanity? So, we decided to accept the peace offer and here we are,” he said.
Our correspondent who spoke to several farmers, largely of Hausa extraction, was told that despite the ‘‘brutal attacks’’ on their communities by bandits, they were trying hard to put everything behind them.
“More than 30 people, including my two younger brothers and a son were killed in my community of Dangurgu in Dansadau district in Maru Local Government Area. I saw some of the armed men who were terrorizing our district, but what do I do other than to submit to the will of Almighty Allah,” one of them said.
Apart from Sharo, other traditional activities such as traditional wrestling and boxing also took place with a lot of participants showcasing their talents.
The Director, Press Affairs, Zamfara Government House, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, told our correspondent that the event was organised to wipe out hatred and bring people together in the spirit of forgiveness, adding that the festival has come to stay.
Governor Matawalle, his deputy, Barrister Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ibrahim Mallaha, and other top government officials arrived the venue of the event clad in typical Fulani attire with the accompanying sticks.
Matawalle flagged off the Sharo, by hitting a participant with a stick. Earlier, the governor noted that the on-going peace accord has assured Fulani in the state that the present administration is sincere in its resolve to uphold its part of the bargain.
“The Sharo festival is to ensure that all aggrieved persons forgive one another for a clean slate in Zamfara State, and I have confidence that our initiative is paying off as our rural dwellers can testify to what I’m saying,” he added.
Matawalle said the celebration was to show the world that peace has come to stay and it would be sustained for the purpose of having a united Zamfara State, where everyone can move around freely without fear of attack or molestation.
He added that the peace initiative of his administration would continue, to ensure the protection of people’s lives and property in the state and by extension, the country at large.
Governor Matawalle also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting the peace initiative in Zamfara State, describing him as a compassionate leader.
He assured of his administration’s continued efforts to build confidence in citizens of the state through the establishment of economically viable programmes that would have direct bearing on people of the state.
The governor also hailed security agencies in the state for their support.
It would be recalled that the governor had promised to organise the long forgotten traditional Fulani Sharo during the Sallah festivities if the peace process initiated by his administration succeeded, in order to show the world that peace has returned to Zamfara State and to boost the confidence of investors. CULLED DAILY TRUST.