Kaduna: El-Rufai’s concept of equal citizenship

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Kaduna: El-Rufai’s concept of equal citizenship

Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai appears a marked person. They see him as someone who has come to change the status quo. While the Southern Kaduna people want to hold tenaciously to the fact that they “own the land,” and as such should decide who stay and who get what in the state, especially in the Southern Kaduna area, the governor thinks otherwise. This is even as all other major community leaders in the state are in support of the governor’s action.

Ironically, El-Rufai did not start the campaign to end the indigene/settler dichotomy in the state. The campaign predates his coming. In fact, Press recalls that former vice president, Namadi Sambo, as governor of the state, mouthed the concept and announced publicly that everyone in the state was a citizen. He, however, lacked the political will to implement the policy.

Usually, when crisis broke out in the state, especially in Southern Kaduna, there are usually conflicting reports over who, between the Fulani and their neighbours, drew the first blood. What is, however, not in doubt is the fact that there has always been a deep seated animosity between those who see themselves as original inhabitants, in most parts of Southern Kaduna, and those they regard as settlers, the Hausa/Fulani community.

Often, the issue of who owns the land, and as such who should be the custodian, has always been at the centre of most of the violent clashes in most parts of the state, with religion, being played up, if those involved profess different faith.

Convinced that the contentious indigene/settler dichotomy is at the root of most ethno-religious crises in the North, the Kaduna State governor began a one-man campaign to eradicate the dichotomy.

For instance, in one of his interactions with journalists in Lagos on how to end the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna, the governor while advocating the identification of the perpetrators and the masterminds of the violence, with a view to meting out appropriate punishment to them, also emphasised the need to do away with the indigene/settler dichotomy.

“The whole agenda is that no one who is not originally from there (Southern Kaduna), should be there. Now, what does that mean? We are all migrants; it only depends on how far you go. Many of the tribes in Southern Kaduna came from somewhere. They are not indigenous to the place. So, it depends on how far you go to determine indigeneship. That’s why this indigene/settler issue is absolute nonsense. We should just abolish it. Anyone that lives in a place belongs to that place.”

His efforts paid off when Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) in February 2017 noted that the contentious issue of indigene-settler dichotomy in the region was raising unnecessary tension, thereby promoting ethnic identities and contestations. To stem the tide, the governors decided that the dichotomy should be abolished to give every Nigerian living in the north a sense of belonging.

Given El-Rufai’s knack for implementing any policy he believes will enhance good governance, he became the first governor in the north to give vent to the abrogation of the indigene /settler dichotomy, when in April this year, he said “the indigene/settler dichotomy has been abolished.”

He went further to say that “every person resident in Kaduna State would be accorded all rights as citizens and indigenes of the state. The Kaduna State Residents Registration Agency will create a reliable database of all residents in the state, with a view to providing useful data for planning, security, social welfare, education, employment, financial services, housing, health and other services. Elizabeth Joshua Ndonah will head the Kaduna State Residents Registration Agency.”

Daily Sun recalls that this is not the first time El-Rufai will be pioneering policies and actions he is convinced would add value to good governance.

For instance, as the then Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, from 2003 to 2007, he pioneered and popularised town hall meetings that enabled him not only to get feedbacks from FCT residents, but also inputs on how best to run the nation’s capital. And by the time he left office, despite some of the misgivings Nigerians have against him, especially on the issue of demolition, it appears FCT has never had any minister after him.

Back in Kaduna, he again introduced the town hall meeting. But beyond introducing

the town hall meeting in Kaduna, the Kaduna State governor, since assuming office, has continued to blaze the trail, in several respects.

First, he was the first governor under the current dispensation to announce a 50 percent cut in his salary and that of his deputy, including reducing the overheads of the ministries and MDAs. He was the first to reduce government ministries from about 19 to 13, thus reducing commissioners from 24 to 13. He was the first to announce the abolition of State/LG Joint accounts.

Although, pioneered by Ogun State under Mrs. Kemi Adesoun, as finance commissioner, El-Rufai, was, however, the first governor to popularise the Single Treasury Account (TSA), before it was embraced by the Federal Government. And so far, he remains the first and only governor, who attached portfolios to his commissioner designates, a thing Nigerians from all walks of life have been clamouring for, before sending the list to the state Assembly for screening and confirmation. He was the first to abolish military checkpoints inherited by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration before the Federal Government too followed suit.

Only recently, El-Rufai scored another first, this time around in the North, when he picked a woman and a fellow Muslim as running mate in the build up to the 2019 elections.  Despite the avalanche of opposition against his choice, El-Rufai won his re-election.  Though a Muslim, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, the deputy governor-elect, is from Southern Kaduna, an area that has been producing the deputy governor since 1991.

The May Day declaration

Barely few days after the governor’s declaration, a group from Southern Kaduna rejected the policy and called for protests by indigenes. And the group set aside May 1 for the protest.

In the seven-page document, the group noted that the principles of citizenship and residency “abolish the rights of the indigenes of Kaduna State and pave the way for their being oppressed and excluded from the affairs of their state, right on their homeland.”

The group further said: “On 11 April 2019, the government of El-Rufai promulgated a new policy on the treatment of indigenes and non-indigenes of Kaduna State.

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The policy uses the excuse of seeking to abolish the ‘indigene/settler dichotomy’ but, in fact, seeks to abolish the rights of the indigenes of Kaduna State so that they will be oppressed and excluded, unlike how indigenes in every other state are treated. On the same day, the governor inaugurated a ‘Residents Registration Agency’ to be headed by Elizabeth Joshua Ndonah. Earlier in June 2018, Governor El-Rufai introduced a State Residency Card Programme allegedly to capture data on all residents of Kaduna State for administrative purposes.”

The argument of the group is that unless one is an “indigene”, by their own estimation, such a person should not enjoy full rights in what is called ‘the homeland.’

But pundits say this particular contention runs contrary to the provision of Nigeria’s constitution, which recognises the right of any Nigerian to reside in any part of Nigeria and to also enjoy full rights of citizenship wherever they live.

Although it did not say in clear terms how the government’s policy of recognising citizenship rights of residents of the state injures anyone, the group further alleged that “practically, this policy will reduce the indigenes of Kaduna State to a situation of slavery and brutal oppression, in addition to all the mercenary killings, suffering and pain prevalent across the state to date. At another level, this policy represents a critical step towards possible genocidal trends against Kaduna indigenes.”

But apart from the Southern Kaduna people, no other group in the state has risen against the policy. This perhaps may explain why the protests called by the group appeared to have flopped.

In all the places visited within the metropolis by Daily Sun on May 1, the day set aside for the protests, there was nothing to show any protest was in the offing. However, by later the same day, about two photographs were uploaded on the Facebook, purported to be from the protests in Southern Kaduna.

Yoruba, Igbo leaders, others speak

President, Kaduna State chapter of Igbo Community Welfare Association (ICWA), Mr. Chris Nnoli, see the policy as a welcome development.

 “I am of the view that the citizenship and residency matter in Kaduna will create a better indices of the population in the state to assist in developmental planning in the state on one hand and peaceful coexistence of the populace on the other hand. Again, it will to a large extent, reduce conflicts among various ethnic groups in the state.”

For the chairman, Kaduna State chapter, Ife Development Association, Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State, Mr. Sunday Idakwoji, citizenship and residency policy introduced by Kaduna State government is a welcome development.

He noted that most people referred to as non-indigene in the state have lived all their lives in Kaduna, and as such, Kaduna is more of their homes than the states they originally hail from.

“I think if it is done in good faith, many will not regret being called Kaduna citizen, after all, most people spend years in the state without visiting their ancestral homes.

“I believe if properly implemented, it will encourage peaceful coexistence irrespective of religious, ethnic and cultural differences. So I wish to encourage other states to emulate Kaduna State for national cohesion among the populace.”

President, Yoruba Community in Kaduna and also president, Muslim Council of Nigeria, Kaduna, Alhaji Liadi Adeyinka Olapade, noted that the state was home for all irrespective of religion or ethnicity, “but today, that has changed as people now ask questions before they choose where to live.”

He further said: “It is what we have been expecting and the time has actually come for that and we have to move forward in terms of integrating the society. It is an idea that is long overdue. We really have got not much option than to see that all ethnic groups in Nigeria come together and stop the division. The policy should be taken to the national level.

“We must make our children to see themselves more as Nigerians than ethnic groups. So, I commend Governor El-Rufai and it is important for this to be looked into in all the states of the federation and the FCT. It will help us to build the cohesion within the country. We need to rebuild that old order of people living where they want to.

“Kaduna used to be home for all. But today, we have compartmentalised the whole thing because people now look at who to live with before they can decide where to live. We need to work to remove those barriers. So, it should be in all the state.

“It will reduce the conflicts in the state. All my children are born here but they don’t have this sense of belonging. People should be entitled to indigeneship of where they were born, raised and all that. We must commend Lagos State. Though they have not reached there, they have created that platform to address the issue of indigeneship versus settlers in that part of the country. That is what Kaduna is aiming at.

“The surest way of reducing conflicts is to build confidence in the people. We must discourage politicians from recruiting people for political reasons without making any adequate plans for their future. People should have access to education and health. All these will naturally reduce conflict in the state and elsewhere. So, I believe it can work if it is sincerely implemented; if we can have people work with their leaders towards same goal of national cohesion,” Olapade said.

But the President, Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), Dr. Solomon Musa, wants the governor to have a rethink over the policy.

“On the surface, it appears to be a decision that is welcome. But let me say that the decision to abrogate this dichotomy is a little problematic in the sense that there are issues that need to be considered. While there is an order abrogating indigene/settlers dichotomy in Kaduna State, resident registrations body has been set up. So there is issue of mix up on the words citizenship, residency, indigene and settler.

“Citizenship is provided for in the constitution and there are various ways to acquire that, one of which is by birth. Now, this is not because you have taken any step to become a citizen but because you were given birth to in the place. You are a citizen if you are an indigene of any part of Nigeria. And there is acquired citizenship. All these may be a little different from indigeneship. Being an indigene is not the same as acquiring indigeneship. It is something that is inherent.

“You were born in a particular place; your parents including the grandparents are all from that place, so they are taken to be indigenes of that place. Residency on the other hand is a situation where somebody has been staying in one place or moves to a place like Kaduna for example, buy a house or pay for accommodation, such a person is a resident of Kaduna State. But that does not make him an indigene of Kaduna State. In the cause of time, he and his children may become indigene. What it also means is that a resident can be someone from a different state or nation. The cause of indigeneship is to situate people within a particular place for the purpose of certain privileges. For example, in the process of allocation of resources, there are certain things that are allocated to indigenes of a particular place. You can become emir or chief of your community; you can become a ward head. You may also be entitled to a scholarship if you are a student. Part of the major difficulties that would arise will be, can I for example move to Borno or Rivers state, acquire a house there or accommodation? If I do so, will my children be given indigene form in those states? Will they be giving scholarship grants in those states? Can my child struggle to become Obi of Onitsha or Ooni of Ife? Is it possible for my children to become Shehu of Borno? Now, if these are not possible, they may not be accorded the rights of being indigenes of those states. But the children that will be coming from those states will compete with my own children for the resources available in the scholarship board of Kaduna State. Will that not bring about a lot of confusion? Will that not bring about the bitterness?

“What I’m saying is, before such a step was taken, there is the need to ensure that all other states abolish that dichotomy, in which case people will not be migrating to Kaduna State to get the resources that are there. It has to be something that will be accepted in all the 36 states and FCT. If that is not done, it is definitely a base for confusion that will be vested on the people of Kaduna State,” Musa said.

Last Line

So far, Governor El-Rufai has shown by words and actions that he stands for equal citizenship. Today, his government is populated by political appointees from every region of the country, just as he has rejected identity politics, insisting on equal citizenship. If non-Yoruba speaking Nigerians who live in Lagos advocate equal rights, will it be appropriate for the same set of Nigerians to identify with those insisting on entrenching indigene/settler dichotomy in Kaduna State.

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