Late Mr. Pius Bitonunpa Dan' Asabe Danba: Former Taraba Chief of Staff Dies at 70



Birth

It was during the colonial rule of Nigeria that his life began. His Mother, a beautiful black woman was known as Kwewunja. His Father,  Danba (Lamba) Shawusi hails from the Dobmang family of Bu’Yali, Bitako, Mazara, a small serene village that was under the administration of Adamawa Province in former Northern Nigeria which was indirectly ruled by colonial masters from Britain. He was born in Bitako-Mazara about 70 years ago in 1950 at a time when there was no birth registry at his birth place and it was an acceptable practice to approximate age or time of birth. It was also a time when infant mortality rate was very high as there were no accessible hospitals or primary health care centre and his fate was tied to the strength of his mother and the local midwife who attended to her to deliver him safely into this world. He defied all plagues and all diseases to survive his infancy. His father called him Bitonunpa, which loosely means ‘life is beautiful’.

Early life and Education 

Mr. Pius Bitonunpa Dan' Asabe Danba, began his early life as a son of a great farmer that his father was. He was raised in a purely agrarian Bitako-Mazara where the major preoccupation was farming crops, rearing animals and hunting commonly known in Mumuye as “Bele”. He learned the skills of farming and developed love for it from his father at a time when there were no schools around and leaving home to trek through bushes and forest to attend school in very distant locations was considered strange and almost a taboo. He developed the inspiration to go to school after an encounter with a white missionary who came to Bitako-Mazara speaking in foreign language.

He attended Muri Local Education Authority Primary School Monkin-Zing  between 1962-1968. While attending primary school, he will trek from Bitako-Mazara to Monkin Primary School a very long distance, through the thick and thin of the forest. He became a class monitor in his class and later Head Boy of the Primary School. He was the only one and the first time that passed the Common Entrance Examination to Post Primary School, in Monkin-Zing. The practice then was that upon completion of Primary School, a pupil can be admitted to either the highly coveted Teachers College (TC) or proceed to secondary school. Due to his excellent performance and brilliant academic records, Late Mr. Danba was given an admission to Teachers’ College Gombe in 1969. As a student of TC Gombe, Mr. Danba was entitled to study allowance and was issued with items like soap, pair of uniforms, text books and box. He was so prudent with spending and use of his allowance and items that he always return to a cheerful welcome back home at Bitako at the end of every term with a lot of these items to do charity to his people. He graduated from Gombe Teachers College in 1973 with flying colors. No one had achieved such a great feat then in his community.

Life as A Teacher

He was then offered appointment as a Teacher with Muri Native Autnority (NA) and posted to Didango, Karim-Lamido Local Government Area. He went there with the wife of his youth, Victoria, and served as a Teacher. His brilliance and dedication to duty immediately earned him a promotion to Assistant Head Master, under one, Mr. Samaila Agbaru who was the Head Master then. Again, he kept rising and shinning like the sun when in 1975 he was promoted to the position of Head Master and posted to Dankun, Yorro Local Government Area. The position of Head Master was highly prestigious then and he was so revered with his bicycle which he cycled in town like a prince riding on a white horse. He was then with his wife, Victoria, his first daughter Elizabeth. Mr. Danba’s love for education made him to leave his then juicy position of Head Master for further studies which was an unthinkable idea for some at that time.

Further Studies

He was the first from his community to gain admission to the North-East School of Basic Studies, Maiduguri (Later University of Maiduguri) in 1976 in preparation for a degree. He had wonderful performance and was admitted to Full Degree Studies of Political Economy and Social Studies in University of Maiduguri in 1977. Interestingly, in this period he went to the University with his wife, Victoria and had his second daughter Rebecca in 1977. He later changed his course to Education to align with his life and career as a Teacher. He was also offered another admission at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria for his degree course but decided to stay at Maiduguri to continue with his degree programme which he completed in 1980.


National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)

After graduation in 1981, Late Mr Danba was posted to Cross- River State which is now (Cross River and Akwa Ibom States) for the compulsory NYSC youth service introduced by the Yakubu Gowon Administration. During this time, he was offered short service combatant to go to England to serve as Commission Officer, Nigerian Army but he declined. He also declined the offer to Nigerian Police College Jos as Commission Officer, all in 1981. 

While at the NYSC Camp  in the former Cross-River State (Now Cross-River and Akwa Ibom), Late Mr. Danba served as the leader of the Corp Members. He was then posted to Asiga Okadung Comprehensive Secondary School where he served as  Vice Principal of the School immediately. He served in that capacity till the end of his NYSC in 1982. Late Mr. Pius Bitonunpa Dan'Asaba Shawusi Danba decided to return back home as first degree holder to serve his people in the then Gongola State despite many offers from foreign lands.

Working Experience

Late Mr. Danba started teaching right from his graduation from Teachers College as earlier seen. After a break due to educational pursuit and politics, he returned to the class room as a Teacher in 1985 when he was posted to Teachers College Jalingo. The Principal of the College then was one, Kelvin Kamai. He was later promoted to the position of Vice Principal in 1988 and posted to Government Science Secondary School, Jalingo where he trained many students. He was later made Divisional Inspector, Ministry of  Education in Charge of Numan Zone. In 1989, Mr. Danba was appointed Sole Administrator, Former Yorro L.G.A( Now Lau & Yorro LG Areas) by the then Military Government of General Ibrahim Babangida.

Late Mr. Danba has been actively involved in teaching and impacting of lives until he voluntarily retired from service with benefits (Pensioner).



Politics and Political Adventure

Late Mr. Danba  had very colourful adventure in politics. Some major highlights will suffice. Late Mr. Danba was a caucus member for Ambrose Satorebi and his council election on non-party in 1976. He later served as secretary and caucus member, William Jafulani and Council election on non-party  in 1987. He  later became  State Secretary, National Republican Convention (NRC) -1991. Late Mr Pius Danba also served as State Secretary Taraba United Movement (TUM) in 1995. He also served as State Secretary Democratic Party of Nigeria which later metamorphosed to PDP in 1996. He was also a member National Working Committee of  party in 1996.

Late Mr Danba was a founding Member of PDP and later became the first Caretaker Committee Secretary, of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Taraba State in 1998 when he convinced his people to join the Party that is now ruling Taraba State since then. He further served as member State Working Committee of PDP in 1999. His Party won election in Taraba State and he was appointed to served as Secretary to Governor Jolly Nyame Transition Committee in 1999.

In 1983 during Nigeria’s second Republic, Mr. Danba contested the House of Assembly seat for Zing Constituency in Gongola State under the platform of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and won as a Member Representing Zing Constituency alongside his Governor, Alh. Bamanga Tukur (who later became PDP National Chairman). His tenure as Member State House of Assembly was cut short when Major Muhammadu Buhari seized power and truncated the life of the then Democratic Government of Alh. Shehu Shagari. The Military then went on frenzy arresting all political office holders and Mr. Danba was also arrested an was later released unconditionally upon personal orders of Muhammadu Buhari (Now President of Nigeria)when he interviewed him and discovered Late Mr. Danba is not corrupt and never stole government money. His adventure in politics led him to become a founding member of Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) during General Sani Abacha’s Transition Program to Democracy. He was elected Chairman Zing Local Government and served between  1997-1998. Indeed he made history as the first Chairman with a University Degree in Zing Local Government. Late Mr Pius Danba executed many projects during his term including road construction, installation of street lights, drilling of boreholes and water wells in all the ten wards of Zing. He is remembered to have left millions of Naira in the Local Government Account at the end of his tenure due to his financial probity.

Late Hon. Danba was actively involved in the struggle for the creation of Taraba State from the then Gongola State. He was part of the people who fought and advocated for the siting of Taraba State Capital in Jalingo. He worked so hard and aggressively for the emergence of Rev. Jolly T. Nyame as elected Governor of Taraba State in 1999. His immense contribution and support led to him being appointed as Chief of Staff Government House in December 25th 2000- 2003 with no schedule of duties to perform which led to his exit in 2003.

Mr. Danba who was a founding member of PDP was later marginalized and kept away from the politics of the PDP. He also grew disillusioned with a lot of injustice meted in the Party and decided to withdraw from PDP and politics for a while going underground to plot his political graph. In 2005 he returned to the political scene when actively engineered the formation of Action Congress of Democrats (ACD) a party that later became Action Congress (AC) and he served  as Deputy State Chairman, Action Congress.

AC was later transformed to Action Congress of Nigeria led by Bola Tinubu being the founder. Mr. Danba immediately became the State Chairman, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) where he received the former Governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame to contest for Senator Representing Taraba North after being forced out of PDP. ACN later metamorphosed to become APC which is the current ruling party in Nigeria. Mr. Danba till his death was a member of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) which is most powerful political group in Northern Nigeria.

End of his life

Before his death Mr. Danba had a car accident in 2010 along Jalingo-Zing Road at the heat of preparations for 2011 elections while being the State Chairman of his party. His car was badly damaged beyond repairs and had to be sold as scrap. This became the genesis of his health challenges and complications. From that moment, Late Mr. Danba completely left the political scene battling with his health. In his last days, Mr. Danba despite his predicaments served as Chairman of Mumuye Cultural Development Association (MCDA) Zing. He fought vigorously on the side of the Mumuye people to ensure the peaceful emergence of the Kpanti Zing, Alh. Suleiman Ibrahim Sambo, Yuranko Mumuye.

Late Mr. Danba was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and heart disease and was admitted in the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Jalingo where he was receiving palliative treatment.

Mr. Pius Bitonunpa Dan' Asabe Danba died on the 17th day of September 2020 around 3:44pm at Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo, where he was receiving treatment. He is survived by 13 children and many grandchildren.

He was blessed with last sacrament by Rev. Fr. Geoffrey Gashi as a baptized catholic shortly before his dead.

May his Soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!


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