The town hall meeting was titled: THE FUTURE OF NIGERA: RESTRUCTURING AND SOUTHERN KADUNA. Distinguished Southern Kaduna sons and daughters were listed amongst the discussants. They included: Prof W.B Quirix, former Vice Chancellor, Kaduna state University, Hon. Engr Usman Baba, Dr. Mrs Lydia Umar, Dr John P. Kajit, founder of Movement for Cognitive Justice and a proponent of Plurinational State and Hon Dr Dogara Mato. These, were to articulate the issues that make for [a] compelling argument for Restructuring from their respective perspectives. But before these eminent personalities offered their positions, we had the honor of listening to one of the finest Southern Kaduna sons who gave the keynote address. He is none other than Hon Timothy Gandu, a onetime PPS to the late Governor Patrick Yakowa and Commissioner for budget and planning. Hon Gandu was brilliant, articulate, persuasive and most importantly fearless in his presentation. The keynote speaker painted a graphic picture of the situation in/of Southern and gave raw data of the systematized injustice that has been our lot for ages that calls for restructuring. In my opinion, the keynote address encapsulated the very reason that makes the call for restructuring all the more compelling. And I said to myself, with this brilliant presentation, we can actually disperse and hope that this gets to the government.
My bishop was also listed to deliver a goodwill message. Since he was not around and was just returning from a trip abroad, I sent him a text to say he is billed to speak at the town hall meeting and if it was okay I spoke on his behalf. Within minutes, I got a response in the affirmative. Being my Bishop, I was already clear on the issues he is passionate about so I didn’t need plenty time to quickly put some notes together. And I share some of these here:
1. The clamor for restructuring is a wild fire that has engulfed the entire Nation. Southern Kaduna is also trapped in this conflagration. We cannot but be part of the discourse for a better Nigeria. Those whom the status quo benefit, are kicking against this call but those of us (Southern Kaduna inclusive) whom the status quo does not benefit, the clamor is getting all the more louder. The west is asking for [a] return to true federalism. The East is shouting, Restructure. Southern Kaduna that mostly suffers the brunt of marginalization is also clamoring for it. Thus, vthe need for the town hall meeting organized by the Southern Kaduna peoples Union (SOKAPU). Our position has carefully been articulated and we hope government at the state and local levels take heed and act.
2. The issues that unite us in Southern Kaduna are weightier than those that divide us. Those that divide us may include, Tribe, Religion and Party affiliations. While the issues that unite us include: Poverty, Insecurity, Injustice, Poor Infrastructure, Oppression and Marginalization, bad roads etc. As you can see, the very issues that unite us as a people are much more than the few that divide us.
3. Delineation of Polling units: The keynote speaker dealt with this extensively with details, state by state, and in Kaduna State, Local government by local government. It was easy to see how the system has already been skewed and structured in such a way that even before the ballot is cast, Southern Kaduna has already been rigged from the source (This is why Governor Nasir El Rufai can say arrogantly that he can win election without votes from Southern Kaduna). To address this imbalance, it is important and necessary that polling units must be delineated.
4. Rejection of Grazing Reserves in Southern Kaduna and government’s involvement in the issues that bother on the business of a certain socio-cultural group. It is our belief that open grazing is antiquated and an outdated way Pastoralists/Herders employ to cater for their cattle and that government has no business pumping money by way of interventions to boast the business of the herders. The most modern best global method employed everywhere in the world is RANCHING. We welcome any herder who wants to Ranch to acquire land from any part of Southern Kaduna to ranch his cows. We believe this will end farmers/herders incessant clashes that result to wanton loss of lives and property.
5. The Southern Kaduna person is a lover of peace. We reject violence. We preach peace and live in peace with one another. Besides Taraba State, there is hardly any other state that has more tribes than Southern Kaduna. Yet, we do not have a history of ethnic clashes. In states like Taraba and Nassarawa, we often hear of conflicts between Tivs and Jukuns, Jukuns and Fulanis, Mumuyes and Kutebs, Eggon and Alagos, Eggon and Fulanis etc. But with the many ethnic nationalities we have in Southern Kaduna, we do not any such history of violent conflicts between ethnic groups. What does this say to the world? We are A PEACEFUL PEOPLE AND WE LOVE PEACE. All the violent conflicts that we have witnessed in Southern Kaduna were as a result of external aggression. Pre-meditated and unprovoked.
6. Gurara State: Hon Timothy Gandu has given some of the benefits for the creation of Gurara State. Population wise, there are about 3,945,000 people in the 14 LG’s that make up Southern Kaduna. This is far more than states like: Imo, Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Sokoto, Ondo, Zamfara, Enugu, Kebbi Edo, Plateau, Adamawa, Cross River, Abia, Ekiti, Gombe, Bayelsa, Nassarawa, FCT. None of the states listed above has a population more than Southern Kaduna. So imagine that Gurara state is created, it would have an Executive Arm, State Assembly, Judiciary, National Assembly Representatives, Representatives in Federal Executive Councils and Parastatals. These functional structures will be attending to the aspirations and desires of 3.9 Million people of Southern Kaduna. I will allow Economists to do the Maths to see by way of revenue, what amount of money would accrue to Southern Kaduna if Gurara state was created. Comparative to these states with smaller population as Hon Gandu opines, the proposed Southern Kaduna state has been short changed of:
• Identity e.g Bayelsa for the Ijaw Nation
• Stake in the project called Nigeria i.e Monthly allocation of resources
• Voice (demand for infrastructure and fair play by a governor amidst his colleagues)
• Self determination (Second fiddle and still under internal colonial bondage with a huge generational gap.
• Development (No Projects from external bodies like the World bank, United Nations etc)
• Lack of infrastructural development i.e Roads, education, health etc.
So the clamor and call for Gurara State must be sustained until this is realized. .
THE DEPUTY GOVERNOR’S GAFFES AT THE TOWN HALL MEETING
In Southern Kaduna as it stands, the most senior Political figure we have currently is Arch. Bala Bantex, the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State. We have elder statesmen and notable Southern Kaduna Sons and daughters who have made their mark in the waters of politics. But currently, he is the most senior. What that translates into, is that, he is the symbol of Southern Kaduna in government and occupies a towering position in the scheme of things. Regrettably, he has been at the centre of virtually every controversy that involves the very place that made him. If he is not fighting and insulting SOKAPU like his boss would always do, he is insulting the sensibilities of everyone that comes from that geographical location. This has become his stock in trade. Like the statesman that he is, we expect him to be fatherly, gracious, and magnanimous rather than this bellicose posturing he exhibits each time he gets a chance to interface with his kith and kin. Amongst many other things he said:
1. He doesn’t believe in anything called middle belt. Like seriously? The most highly placed political figure from Southern Kaduna speaking in this manner? What then does he believe? Only North and South? That’s a shame! I guess he was responding to the statistics and the geography presented by Hon Timothy carefully showing the states as they stand and where they should be. I am sure, our elders from the middle belt will respond accordingly to this. What is most troubling and worrisome is that the most senior political figure of Southern Kaduna extraction would deny the existence of the Middle Belt region. He is tacitly, aligning us to the ‘North’ and wishes that we continue to suffer domination and subjugation in the hands of the feudal Lords. So per adventure, the Middle Belt dream becomes a reality, (as sure it must), Southern Kaduna, by the utterances of Arch Bala Bantex has himself ostracized us from the original place we belong and whose culture and way of life is akin to ours.
2. That SOKAPU is usurping the role of our elected representatives and alienating Southern Kaduna people from mainstream politics. Again, I say like seriously? In what way(s)? What laws has SOPAPU enacted? Where is SOKAPU’s parliament? I must place on record that I am not the mouth piece of SOKAPU neither am I an official of SOKAPU. My views are strictly apolitical and personal. But I take exception to this serious charge. As a Cleric, I have a stake in the peace and progress of my people. And if SOKAPU as a socio-cultural body helps to enhance this, why not? How do the activities of SOKAPU alienate the southern Kaduna person from mainstream politics? I don’t get it! One other spurious charge the deputy governor laid was that SOKAPU only makes noise rather than limiting itself to an ethnic organization. Sir, SOKAPU is not an ethnic organization. It’s a collection of ethnic tribes from Southern Kaduna that make up this union. I do not need to educate the deputy governor on the Raison d’etre for which this body was set up. In fact, as an architect of repute, the deputy governor helped to design the logo that SOKAPU now uses. So what was in his mind when he designed the logo and formed part of the founding fathers of this body?
3. The False Narrative of US versus THEM: This is the dummy and narrative the Governor, Nasir El Rufai has been selling to the world about the reason for which the crises have persisted in Southern Kaduna. This same dummy unfortunately, one of our own has bought and makes frantic effort to sell and champion. There is nothing like us versus them. Nothing like politics of exclusion. Any one that deserves to be elected gets it by merit in Southern Kaduna. Most of what Southern Kaduna has become is as a result of sheer hard work and determination. No federal projects. Nothing to show for all the hard work the Southern Kaduna people have put into making this nation what it is today. So for the deputy governor to say we are where we are because of this, is the most unfortunate statement that will come out of the lips of one that we trusted with power and elevated to that status.
4. And wait for this: That he has never voted! Like seriously? By implication, he is saying that he does not believe in the democratic process yet reaps bountifully from it. This is the dumbest statement I have heard in recent time. In other climes, remarks such as these would have immediately earned him impeachment. You cannot reap what you have not sown. You cannot profit from a process that made you what you are while not participating in it. Simple! I hope the deputy governor gets a chance some day to explain what he meant by that.
What I have done is to offer a stultification of the deputy governor’s position and a recap of the need to Restructure. Restructuring for the simple folks on the streets means bread and butter issues. Issues of justice, equity and fairness. Issues of balance of power that translates to carrying everybody along. This is what makes restructuring thick and an imperative. So the lie that the unity of this country is non negotiable must be countered. So if this country must remain together, then the issues raised requiring urgent attention must be attended to. And the president doesn’t need to look far to get the solution to the myriads of challenges bedeviling this country. Let him just dust off the CONFAB REPORT OF 2014 and implement it.
Fr Williams Abba writes from Kafanchan. He can be reached at email@example.com