RESTRUCTURING NIGERIA: THE FATE OF SOUTHERN KADUNA PEOPLE IS HANGING
By the day the agitations for the restructuring of the Nigerian nation-state is gaining grounds; with high profile personalities like the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar using different platforms to advocate for it. This has brought to the fore again the question of the basis on which the 1914 amalgamation of Southern and Northern protectorate took place. This again raises the question, is Nigeria just a mere geographical expression?

From our historical antecedence since 1914; it has become clear that the amalgamation of the protectorates was only carried out by Lord Frederick Luggard for administrative and exploitative convenience. This was done without due consultation with input of and seeking consensus among the various ethnic nationalities. No wonder the prediction of the dismemberment of Nigeria after one hundred years (2015) was highly anticipated, but thank God it never came to pass.

The ethnic nationalities have been at each other’s throat ever since the amalgamation with threats of secession starting with the first republic. It started with the “a’raba” aborted plan of the Northern hegemony after they carried out second coup d’état in retaliation for the first Igbo dominated coup. This was followed by the 30 months “Biafra war” championed by the then Eastern region, down to the present day agitations by a new generation of Igbo secessionist.

Furthermore, the intermittent interregnums by the military junta have consistently halted, up until the past seventeen years, the democratization culture characterized by true federalism from taking root. The discovery of crude oil in the Niger-Delta, which was accompanied by environmental degradation and over-dependence on the proceeds from oil, has also intensified the fight for resource control and calls for a new sharing formula.

Different groups at different points in time have called on the government to restructure the present arrangement, which seems to be failing and skewed in favor of a particular section of the country. The calls are inspired by the desire for resource control and allocation, fiscal federalism, state police, change from presidential to parliamentary system, loose confederation, strengthening of institutions as against personalities, rotational leadership at all levels, secession by disillusioned regions among many others. For instance, since the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections by the General Ibrahim Babangida government, various groups especially from the South-West region have been advocating for the convening of the National Sovereign Conference.

One fact for sure is that there is no consensus among all the agitators on what kind of restructuring model should be adopted. All the conferences held since the reign of former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, down to that last one held during the last administration led by the Former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, have all failed to get the desired consensus.

As popular as the cry for restructuring has become over the past few month; a number of dissenting voices have kicked against it; the most audible being those at the corridors of power and the Northern hegemony led by Arewa Consultative Forum. Their argument is hinged on the fact that whatever restructuring that is needed must pass through constitutional institutions such as the National and State Assemblies.

While the debate for or against restructuring Nigeria rages on; the key issues are the cry for equitable distribution of power, resources and the dividends of democracy on one side and the negotiation on basis for the continuous unity of Nigeria on the other hand. Another unfortunate part of this scenario is the fate of numerically disadvantaged ethnic nationalities (so-called minorities) in the Nigerian equation. The country continuously remains insensitive and unresponsive to their plight in various states of the federation.

They have persistently suffered silently only to be used and dumped for political reasons and economic exploitation. The numerically disadvantaged ethnic nationalities especially those within the middle-belt and northern Nigeria geo-political zones, since pre-independence era have been surviving under the shackles of internal imperialism. They have been exposed unfairly to exploitation, discrimination, marginalization and systemic annihilation.

A case in view is the numerically disadvantaged ethnic nationalities in the Southern part of Kaduna state. The structure of the state is so skewed in favor of their northern neighbors that we have become second class citizens and only takes a miracle for us to produce the governor of the state. We have consistently produced only one senator out of the three seats in the state since the turn of the present democratic dispensation in 1999. To cement this pattern, the crude systems of indirect rule and divide and rule have been institutionalized to perpetuate our political subjugation.

We are all witnesses as to how the Late Sir Patrick Yakowa emerged as governor and was only re-elected due to the incumbency factor, his political sagacity and unbiased developmental strides. The spread of constituencies and polling units in the state has already skewed us out of contention for the number one seat in the state outside the power of incumbency. The Southern Kaduna area remains the most underdeveloped and has limited government presences in terms of infrastructure, institutions and other state assets. This is notwithstanding the fertile lands, tourist sites, rich human and natural resources that abound in the area.

In the area of appointments to sensitive positions, we have been either out-rightly left out or only offered less strategic positions, even at that, the appointees are using micro-managed to be ineffective in the positions. For instance, the precedence is that if the Governor comes from the Northern part, the Ministerial seat is reserved for the Southern part of the state. But today all that has changed, as both positions are occupied by individuals from the northern part of the state.

When it comes to employment and admission into public institutions, we are victims of nepotism and favoritism, even when we are more qualified. Furthermore, over the past few years, we have been marked for systemic annihilation with consistent and coordinated attacks on communities, with the government only reciting the same press statement without checkmating it. Indeed, justice, equity and fairness have lost their meanings both in spirit and practice in Kaduna state.

While this systematic killings and destruction of properties continues unabated; without widespread consultations and seeking the buy-in of the ethnic nationalities, the state government by fiat is threatening to confiscate lands for so-called grazing reserves. This official arrogance is only a result of a false superiority complex, which believes that rearing cows have more value than the ethnic nationalities in Southern Kaduna, including their farming activities. One wonders why a government that claims to be positioning agriculture to replace oil revenue as it major income earner and job creator, will send thousands out of their farms. If one may ask between farming ginger (the best in the world) and cows, which has the highest potential to rake in huge revenue for the state and country?
Those in government must understand that its actions speak louder than their empty words. They tell us that everyone is an indigene with equal rights in the state regardless of where one comes from, but the show of preference for their own kinsmen is obvious even to the blind. While we agree that all Nigerians should have the right to stay in any part of the country and enjoy full citizen’s right; we must remind those in government that the good people of Southern Kaduna suffered more than any in building the Kaduna that others are laying claims to. If those in Sir Kashim Ibrahim House insist on marginalizing Southern Kaduna with the notion that everyone is a citizen of Kaduna state, then they must lead by example. Why not start by sacking their party loyalist holding public offices and replacing them with the opposition in the name of everyone is a citizen of the state.

It is this atmosphere of political, economic and social subjugation that has been fueling and justifying the agitations and persistent calls by the good people of Southern Kaduna for the creation of Gurara state out of the present Kaduna state. It is also the same prevailing atmosphere of injustice that makes the restructuring of Nigeria inevitable, not just at the national but also the state level. If we are truly desirous of achieving unity, durable peace and stability, the consideration/implementation of the recommendations of the National Sovereign Conference must be a means to address the imbalance that threatens our nationhood.

BY NASIRU JAGABA
jagabanasiru@gmail.com

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