Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Saturday Sun visited Ibi community, where Wadume was born and bred, where he bloomed and reigned. Interviews with people who knew him offered fresh insights about his background and the ramifications of his influence on the people.
According to Saturday Sun findings, the man known as Bala Hamisu, a.k.a. Wadume was born in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State to the family of Hamisu who is Jukun Wurbo by tribe while the mother is from Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State.
Another source revealed that Hamisu’s grandparents were Hausa who migrated from Katsina State to settle in Ibi several years ago. The bottom line: he was born and brought up in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State.
Hamisu went to Government Secondary School in Ibi where he graduated “a very dull student” in 2004, according to a source.
Former chairman of the local government area, Mr Adashus Jonathan, set the record straight. According to him, Wadume grew up in Ibi like every other child in the area and nothing was striking about him to have raised any form of suspicion until recently when he suddenly came into stupendous wealth.
He said: “Hamisu is a young man who grew up in Ibi, a son of the soil. His father is Wurbo Jukun while the mother is from Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State. He grew up a fisherman because that has been the trade of the family and the community generally, who are fishermen and farmers. At some point, he went into the business of crossing people on canoe across the Ibi stretch of River Benue.”
Jonathan continued: “He has also been a politician all along and has served various politicians in various capacities in the area. So, he is just a very normal person in the area until quite recently.”
In the run-up to the 2019 polls, “Wadume aspired to become a member of the Taraba State House of Assembly, representing Ibi Constituency, on the platform of the Young Democratic Party (YDP), but could not make it,” he said.
The former local government chairman shed light on how Bala Hamisu came to acquire his popular name of Wadume. “We call him Wadume because he will always challenge you in English that “what do you mean” but he makes it sound as if he was saying ‘Wadume.’ That became his name.”
As far as he was concerned, Wadume became rich overnight. “He was not even a successful fisherman and his exploits in fish trading were not remarkable either.
He was, one day, a peasant fisherman and the next day, boom, a very rich man who was buying motorcycles and even cars for his friends. Before long, his house became like that of a governor where people would gather from morning till night for him to solve their problems.
“Apart from that, any time he was in town and was moving around in his jeep, you will see several of his boys on motorcycles following him and chanting his praises as if he was a messiah––for most of them, he probably was. He lifted most of them out of abject poverty and want.”
Stories about his benevolence reverberate in the community. In the last two years, he reportedly built houses for his friends and donated hundreds of motorcycles and cars to young men and women in the area.
“He could go to tea sellers and settle the bills of tea drinkers and share money to them as if it’s nothing. He is very generous and the people will miss him,” Jonathan revealed. On why the community was not wary of his questionable wealth, Zanau Hassan, a state House of Assembly aspirant in the last general elections in Taraba State, offered a theory: Poverty plays a key role in the kind of loyalty the likes of Wadume inspired from people.
He said: “You know, there is poverty in the villages. In fact, because of the herders’ crisis that affected farming communities in the state, some families cannot even afford one good meal a day. So, when someone comes up with money and is generous enough to feed the people and empower their children, conscience is thrown to the dogs. I think that is how he was able to win such fearsome loyalty.”
He cited an instance: “There was a village that had this problem of water and I went there during my campaign to drill a borehole for them. That was the first time I heard about Hamisu. He drilled a borehole for the same community. And he has done projects like that across the place. So, how do you expect such people to turn against him? He did what the government has not been able to do and so to them, it doesn’t matter how he came about his wealth.”
Adashus Jonathan spoke further about the effect of Wadume’s generosity on the community.
“He has touched so many lives in the area. If you go to his house, you will see a lot of women and youths who go there every day to eat and get money. I don’t know anyone who met with him and left empty-handed.
“Again, the people didn’t know he was into this kidnapping until when he was arrested and the revelations started tripping in. So, people didn’t have a moral burden benefiting from his generosity. Even as we speak, there are still people who believe he is framed and they remain fiercely loyal to him. You dare not say anything bad about him. People will openly attack you.”
Betrayal despite loyalty
Despite the profound loyalty from his followers, there was yet among them a Judas. Eventually, Wadume was betrayed by one of his own.
A source familiar with the investigation leading to his arrest told Saturday Sun security operatives picked his scent when one of his accomplices, known as Kwarba, was apprehended by the police in Jalingo over his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a permanent secretary.
During interrogation, Kwarba, reportedly revealed that Wadume was their leader and was subsequently used by the police for months to establish their case against Wadume before he led them to arrest him.
The source narrated: “After the police established that Kwarba was indeed a protégé of Bala (Wadume), he was allowed to keep in touch with him on the phone for over three days, as though he was not in detention. Based on their communication, the police were able to gather useful information. During one of their conversations on the phone, Bala disclosed that he was coming to Ibi for Eid-el-Kabir celebration. On arrival in Ibi, Bala phoned Kwarba to inform him.
“That was when operatives of the Intelligence Response Team embarked on the journey.
They got to the police headquarters in Jalingo, before proceeding to Ibi, in a white Toyota Hummer Bus marked, LAGOS: MUS-564EU. They were in mufti and carried Kwarba along so that he could identify Bala. They met Bala at a coffee joint, at the junction to Government Lodge. Kwarba identified him. The policemen in disguise went out and told him they brought a bus for sale and suggested that they should step aside for bargaining.
“It was when he (Bala) got into the bus that the policemen told him they were there to arrest him, after handcuffing and chaining his legs.
After arresting the suspect, the operatives drove into Ibi town briefly and began to drive carefully out of the town.
“But while passing the coffee joint, (where Bala was picked) the suspected kidnapper forced his head out of the vehicle and shouted: ‘I have been kidnapped by these people,’” the source recounted.