By: Abu Nmodu
As the controversy over whether the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates took place in Zungeru in Niger State or Lokoja in Kogi State continues, a centenarian, Alhaji Gomna Salihu, who claimed to have witnessed the event, has given an insight into how it was conducted by the British colonialists in Zungeru in 1914.
In an interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Zungeru, Salihu whose speech has been impaired by old age, recalled that the ceremony was heralded by a parade by the colonial army.
Salihu, who was assisted by two of his sons - Yusuf Salihu and Mohammed Salihu – during the interview, asserted that Zungeru was occupied during the era by mostly railway workers and those serving the colonial masters while he was a distributor of coal to the colonial masters and some royalty who depended on coal for energy.
He stated that, after the amalgamation, it dawned on them that Zungeru represented a bigger Nigeria than they thought because of the different tribes which moved to the area.
Pa Salihu also recalled areas used by the colonial masters and Lord Lugard as administrative office, quarters and mess before moving to Kaduna, adding that, “We all came out with mostly railway workers to watch the parade marking the amalgamation.”
According to him, the first train that came to Zungeru stopped at a nearby village called Gwarijiko where some of the materials used by the colonial masters were discharged.
The centenarian stated that, apart from administrative activities, Zungeru was a hub of economic activities because of the presence of the colonial administrators “whom we used to go to their houses to admire their ways of life.”
While being categorical that the amalgamation took place in Zungeru, the centenarian admitted that he could not give more details of the ceremony due to his failing memory.
Yusuf and Mohammed, who now take care of him, agreed with the narration of their father whom they said had been telling them about the ceremony of the amalgamation.
Mohammed stated that he used to tell them about the first bridge in Kango-Jebba built by the colonial masters primarily to serve people coming from the southern part after the amalgamation.
LEADERSHIP Weekend further gathered from the family that Alhaji Salihu had four wives, but only one, Hajiya Zainab popularly called Abbu, was still alive.
The chairman of Zungeru Community Development Association, Mr Salmanu Yusuf, reiterated that Zungeru remained the town that the amalgamation took place and wished that the historical relics in the community were upgraded by building a city in the town to mark Nigeria’s centenary.