Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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It is a name that should not be toyed with in the political evolution of Nigeria – Kaduna. When the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, won the first ever elections that were to usher in a democratic Nigeria, it was expected that the leader of the party, the President General of the NPC, Sir Ahmadu Bello would go down to Lagos and lead the first Federal Government of an independent Nigeria.
Amazingly the man declined. He preferred his deputy, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to have that singular honor. To Lagos Sir Abubakar went. He became the Nation’s first indigenous chief executive.
Many reasons have been advanced to explain why the Sardauna preferred to be the Premier of the Northern Region in Kaduna and declined to be the Prime Minister of Nigeria in Lagos. It was alleged that he hated Lagos because of the indignities he was subjected to there by the heckling crowd after the ill-fated Enahoro motion on independence at the House of Representatives sitting in Lagos in 1953. But it is more widely believed that Sir Ahmadu Bello considered Kaduna more strategically important than Lagos.
Throughout the first republic, Kaduna remained the power house of Nigeria because Sir Ahmadu Bello was the most powerful man in Nigeria even as a mere Premier of one of the federating regions. The situation remained the same even after the collapse of the first republic.
Even before independence, in the year 1904 Kaduna was named the headquarters of the Northern Protectorate as well as the headquarters of the West African frontier force. These new changes brought to Kaduna a fresh influx of skilled immigrants and numerous military and paramilitary establishments, educational institutions, industries, trading and commercial activities. The Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, NNPC Refinery Kaduna, Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna, 1st Mechanised Division Nigerian Army headquarters Kaduna, DICON headquarters Kaduna, Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Kaduna and many others.
Kaduna has also moved on with the administrative changes experienced in Nigeria sense independence. It was the headquarters of the Northern Region which covered 20,131 km2 (7,773 sq ml, more than half the landmass of Nigeria. It became the headquarters of North Central State in 1967 when new states were created and capital of Kaduna state in 1976 with yet another states creation exercise of that year. Kaduna has continued to grow from strength to strength as the center of unity of the whole nation. Serving and retired civil servants, both federal and states, retired and serving military, paramilitary, retired and serving politicians all have investments in Kaduna. Kaduna is thus not a confluence only to the northern states but a gateway from the southern parts of the country to the north.
Because of these and other reasons, whatever touches Kaduna often experiences ripple effects all over Nigeria. The indigenous population made up of mainly the Hausa Fulani – who are mainly Muslims – and a multitude of minority ethnic groups who are either Christians – or believers in traditional African traditional religions. Relations between the two groups are often tense and in a country where relations between the two major religions are a source of national tension, Kaduna is a definitely a national crack-line. Not only are there tensions between Muslims and Christians, there are tensions between a majority and minority ethnic groups.
During the military government of President Ibrahim Babangida, Kaduna exploded two times, each time threatening the security and corporate existence of the nation. The first explosion was at the College of Education Kafanchan in 1987. The violence soon spread to Kaduna town itself, spilling over to Zaria, Funtua, Katsina and other major towns of the old Kaduna state. The destruction of life and property was so serious that the president described it as the civilian equivalent of a coup.
These violent outbursts however have their roots deeper and can be traced to pre-colonial developments in the area and at different times during colonial era particularly the 1946-66 period. In those days riots were staged by the Kataf and other related peoples in southern Zaria province over certain oppressive features of the emirate system, particularly the headship of Fulani ruling families over the predominantly non-Fulani districts. The significance of these new crises was that they now gave religious differences between communities in Kaduna State a national character, with telling and added implications for the safety of southerners living in the North, and for the relationships between Christians and Muslims throughout the federation.
These ethno religious factors have ever since then become a permanent feature of Kaduna state and were behind the two riots in Zangon Kataf which claimed thousands of lives. Further ethno-religious crisis in the state continued with trial of General Zamani Lekwot and others over the Zangon Kataf crisis continued until violent disputes in Kaduna North LGA spread to Kafanchan and other towns resulted in an unspecified number of victims on the eve of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.
It is significant to note that throughout the era of military governance, efforts to resolve the crisis in Kaduna were either half- hearted or wrong footed. For instance after the 1987 riots, the Kaduna state government set up a committee under Justice Hansine Donli to investigate the crisis and recommend solutions to government. The report of that committee has never been published.
The Federal Government, for its part, established a five-member tribunal, under Justice A.G. Karibi-Whyte, to try, in ”summary fashion”, all those arrested for participating in the rioting. The report of this tribunal which tried people in summary fashion has not been made known till date.
Again the Kaduna State Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the Zangon Katab disturbances headed by Justice Rahila H. Cudjoe. The committee submitted its report since 1992 to the Kaduna state government. It is only recently that Nasiru el-rufai, the Governor of Kaduna state appointed a committee to draft a white paper on the report of the Cudjoe Commission submitted since 1992.
Certainly both the federal and state governments need to demonstrate more political will in handling the Kaduna carnage.