Nigeria, the promising giant African baby that the British birthed by fusing the arid Muslim north, the independent pagan tribes of the Middle Belt and the largely animist and Christian South in 1904 has had uneven growth. Abused and mismanaged, 61 years after independence it is in a critical condition. Watered by the great Niger and Benue rivers and richly endowed with human and material resources, Nigeria has become a huge disappointment and worry not only to itself and Africa, but to the entire world. If a remedy is not quickly sought and applied, Nigeria may implode and perish along with all the promise it holds for itself and for humanity. In Southern Kaduna, we do not want Nigeria to die. We are joined by other areas of the country in insisting that Nigeria needs political surgery and not the severing of any of its ailing parts. We remain resolute that a radical restructuring of the most populous Black nation remains the best prescription to ensure that it is healed and all its federating organs function well for the overall wellbeing of Nigeria, its neighbours, and the world at large.
The area of Southern Kaduna
Southern Kaduna, the geographical centre of Nigeria, is located in the southern part of Kaduna State. It has an area of 26,000km sq (nearly twice the land area of Kuwait and about half the size of Switzerland). A dry and a rainy season of equal length ensures that Southern Kaduna is the so-called parkland of the Savannah served with perennial streams and rivers. With lush plains and green valleys beneath scattered hills, Southern Kaduna is an ideal farming and grazing enclave. The mineral deposits beneath its soil are huge and diverse but totally untapped. Encompassing 67 ethnic nationalities that are 90 percent Christian, Southern Kaduna’s researched history dates back to 500 BC to the Nok civilization famed for its terracotta sculptures.
Two nations in one state
Kaduna State is fairly evenly divided into two parts – the north with an area of 20,000km sq dominated by Hausa and Fulani Muslims – and the southern part, which has land area of 26,000km sq and is Christian dominated. According to the 2006 National Population Commission (NPC) census figures, Southern Kaduna has a marginal majority, 51.2 percent, of the 6.3 million population of the state. Today, the projected population of Kaduna State is 8.4 million; Southern Kaduna has 4.28 million residents.
Unnatural master/servant relationship
After the British defeated the great Hausa/Fulani and Kanuri-Borno Muslim kingdoms of northern Nigeria in 1902, the smaller ethnic groups of central Nigeria and the plateau highlands remained acephalous societies that were still battling invading bands of Fulani/Hausa jihadists and slave raiders. Southern Kaduna, which was never conquered by jihadists, was brought under the indirect rule system of governance designed by the colonialists. Southern Kaduna was handed over to the Zazzau Emirate, which treated the area like its vassal state. This created further resentment among the populace with the memory of wars among them still fresh.
Embracing Christianity to spite Islam
Despite centuries of interaction with Muslims traders and later jihadists, Islam made virtually no progress among the pagan tribes of Southern Kaduna. But as if to spite Zazzau and its religion, Southern Kaduna accepted western education and Christianity with astonishing speed. By 1965, less than 40 years after Christian missionaries set foot in Southern Kaduna, the area had converted to Christianity, though pagan practices still thrived in some places. Today, Southern Kaduna is a formidable Christian area, with pockets of Muslims where Hausa and Fulani settled.
Why Southern Kaduna backs the restructuring of Nigeria
Southern Kaduna sees the current 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as a major stumbling block to the growth, stability and progress of Nigeria. For Nigeria to work, the current constitution must be fundamentally reworked to accommodate new features and remove sections that have been the bane of our advancement. The following aspects should be considered in any restructuring of Nigeria.
(1) The state’s creation
The 2000 Kaduna Sharia violence was caused by the planned implementation of Sharia law in Kaduna State. It cost the lives of hundreds of innocent Christians and Muslims and resulted in major destruction of property. It was just one of several acts of violence where religion and ethnicity pitted adherents of the two major faiths against each other. The 2014 National Conference acknowledged that Kaduna State was an ugly union of two different faiths, culture, history and values. It thus proposed creating a new state in Southern Kaduna, to be known as Gurara. Southern Kaduna still supports the creation of Gurara State in a restructured Nigeria.
(2) Devolution of power
The current power architecture of Nigeria is unitary with the federating states conceding many rights to the central government. There is therefore too much power and clout vested in the federal government. We propose that:
i) Every state should establish its own police force, complete with local government area (LGA) police and vigilante corps.
ii) There should be true fiscal federalism where each state controls its own resources and contributes to the central government according to an agreed formula.
iii) The power vested in the federal government with the ownership of all lands in Nigeria, including offshore, under the Land Use Act of 1978, has been subject to abuse, resulting in the exploitation and suppression of indigenous land owners. The Land Use Act of 1978 should be abolished and lands returned to the traditional land tenure system.
iv) From (iii) all resources beneath and above the land shall therefore be community-owned, subject to best global practices.
v) States should be free to create local government areas as long as these are able to be self-funding.
vi) Every state should control its own waterways, forestry, wildlife and biodiversity in a sustainable manner for the protection of the eco-system and tourism.
i) We recommend that the proposed constitution should make it unambiguous that the federal government will not fund or sponsor any religious body or functions, such as pilgrimages or religious courts. Therefore section 275 of the 1999 constitution that allows for the creation of Sharia courts in the country should be removed. The Muslim and Christian Pilgrimage Boards should also go.
ii) However, the federal government should put in place strong regulations to guide states that want to implement religious bodies. This is to protect minority rights and prevent our democracy from drifting towards theocracy.
(4) Indigineship/Settlers’ status
i) There should be a clear definition of the terms ‘resident’, ‘indigene’ (native) and ‘citizen’ and each person should be aware of his rights, privileges and obligations to the state.
(5) Constituency delineation
i) Wards, state and federal constituencies and senatorial zones should be based on a threshold of agreed population, land mass and economic activity.
ii) The bicameral legislature should be abolished and replaced with a single parliament.
(6) A central standing military, police and paramilitary
i) There should continue to be one Nigerian Army, Air Force, Navy and sundry military wings under the president who shall continue to be the commander-in-chief.
ii) There should also continue to be a federal police service
iii) The Nigerian immigration and customs service, drugs control services etc. should also continue to come under the federal government.
iv) The federal government should continue to have oversight of the aviation and maritime authorities as well as the federal highways.
These are the main areas that Southern Kaduna proposes should be addressed in a restructuring of Nigeria.
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), the umbrella body of the 67 ethnic groups, is ready to carry out an awareness raising campaign among its members.
Luka Binniyat is a Journalist and National spokesman of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU)