Dagbon’s path to its present disposition towards peace has traversed decades of conflict in which the celebration of the two eid festivals had been flash points of violence or threats thereof. The approach of these festivals, rather than herald joy, filled the air with trepidation and became indicators of the levels of mutual hostility between the Abudu and Andani gates in Yendi.
The latter being the epicenter of the conflict, the fear resonated throughout Dagbon. While the festivals were sometimes the triggers of violence, they were sometimes used as pretext to prosecute pre- planned acts of violence.
It was regrettable that we Muslims had not been able to draw a strict line between the worship of God and worship of kings because Islam had always been intertwined with Dagbon kinship to the mutual benefit of either phenomenon.
But in some instances it appeared we had swayed more towards kingship than divinity and sacrificed our objectivity, impartiality and commitment to truth and thereby lost our role as peacemakers. It had not always been like that.
The chieftaincy conflict commenced its intractable trajectory in the 1950s but the Muslim congregation did not disintegrate until 1969 on wards. Prior to this landmark year there had been one Ya Limam in Yendi and all Muslims in the town prayed jummah in the old central mosque. They prayed the two eids behind one Imam at one location.
In the imbroglio surrounding the enskinments of Na Andani and Na Mahamadu, tensions and acrimony became palpable within the Muslim congregation. Friday prayers became fearful and tense events as congregants went to the mosque with daggers concealed beneath their gowns. Prayers ended with the hurling of vitriolic invectives and curses.
In the end one faction pulled out of the central mosque to create its own jummah venue under its own imam. Thereafter the Eid prayers that followed were also conducted along Abudu- Andani lines. This dual congregation continued for decades until 2001 when it became a source of conflict.
This time the choice of separate date and venue by the other faction was perceived to be or was a de facto manifestation of a parallel traditional authority should be crushed by force of arms. Although violence was averted, subsequent developments ballooned into the tragic 2002 mayhem.
The dual congregational practice continued thereafter and even became more entrenched than before. The 2019 resolution of the Dagbon conflict paved the way for the relaxation of the strict segregation as Abudus and Andanis began to pray in the same congregations in some mosques.
This signaled the beginning of a process by which congregations would be defined by Islamic belief orientation and not membership of Abudu or Andani gates.
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This just ended eid is a test of this expectation. When I arrived in Yendi on Saturday it was common knowledge that the eid had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday but that the Ya Na had been prevailed upon to back the celebration of the eid on Wednesday instead.
On Tuesday throngs of worshipers from Abudu and Andani gates went forth to pray the eid at multiple locations where they stood shoulder to shoulder.
On Wednesday Abudus and Andanis who did not pray on Tuesday went forth to pray in a similar manner without anybody calling another person chulum or alugti as used to be the case in the recent past.
Dagbon is surely healing. No chronic disease is ever cured instantly. Time, persistence, patience, sincerity, tolerance and above all the supreme love for Dagbon are required to fully accomplish the healing we yearn for.
Written By: Ambassador Ibrahim Abass