Perhaps, the march to true federalism in Nigeria may have begun inadvertently, taking into account the recent agitation by some elements of Hausa Fulani extraction in the North for the registration and relocation of southerners in the region.
The 1D card crisis, which started rather innocuously, in the form of a petition to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Mohammadu Sanusi 11, last week, has transformed into an avoidable headache as the campaigners, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, and their allies, seemed to have captured the passion of their people and provoked, by means of their threats, a huge fright among southerners resident in the region.
The petitioners, who said they consisted of several cells, among them students, professional and interests groups in the North, had arrived the Emir’s palace in buses and their personal cars on Wednesday last week. Some of them were students, who were hurriedly dragged out of school by the organisers of the protest while some others were just of school age, but may not be students. They also consisted of a handful of girls, aged between 25 and 30 years.
The group had audience with the emir at about 11.00 am, where they reeled out a number of allegations against the Federal Government and the people of Southern Nigeria.
National President of Arewa Youth Development Foundation (AYDF), Barrister Aliyu M Usman, who spoke for the group, lamented the North’s alleged misfortunes under the current dispensation, attributing their woes to the deliberate policies of the government.
The emir, who listened to them with rapt attention, offered a few consoling pieces ofadvice, including urging them to live in peace with other Nigerians in their state and region.
That, however, did not assuage the youth group. Soon after their petition to the monarch, members of the group converged outside the palace for the second phase of the script, which was a rally. It was not certain if they had the approval of the emir for the staging of the rally in his premises.
The youth, about 100 them, soon broke into smaller units of tens, representing different sets in the North, each unit carrying placards and banners that spoke a lot. While a few of these placards conveyed messages about the plights of northerners resident in the South, a majority of them simply poured hot, unprintable insults on the people of southern Nigeria and their leaders. The rally at the palace turned out as avenue to castigate southerners, their leaders and their sensibilities.
Some of the placards read: “Southerners: Children of baby factory” “Southerners: You are kidnappers, militants, armed robbers.”
Barrister Aliyu .M Mohammed, who read the position of the Arewa Youth Development Foundation (AYDF) amid applause of his peers, explained that since the inception of the present administration, there is a systematic policy of direct subjugation of northerners by the Federal Government and its agencies, in collaboration with various state governments of Southern Nigeria and their religious and ethnic leadership.
He alleged that there is a war of extermination in most northern cities, particularly in the Northeast, where he said that in the last five years, more than 20,000 northerners, most of whom are youths have been killed, maimed, orphaned, widowed, kidnapped or permanently displaced.
He alleged that there is an agenda to displace the economic base of northerners, citing the recapitalization of commercial banks, done years ago and the recent increase in the minimum paid up capital requirement for operators of Bureau de Change from N10 million to N35 million.
He added that worse, governments of South East, South-South and South West have lately been intimidating northern travellers and settlers in their states, citing the case of 486 northerners “travelling” along Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway who were arrested by soldiers attached to the 144 battalion of the Nigeria Army, Abia State.
He added: “Worse, even a delegation detailed by the Kano State Government to intervene was downrightly denied access to the detainees, making the whole act glaringly suspicious as it is provocative”.
He disclosed that earlier calls by the Jamaatu Nasiril Islam, led by the Sultan of Sokoto for the suspects’ immediate release were also rejected while accusing the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of complicity in the action given its reaction to JNI intervention on the matter.
He called on all levels of northern governments to come up with deliberate policies that would require all non-northerners residing in the North to seek and obtain settlers’ permit immediately.
He also said that in the event these demands were not met, “we call on all northerners to rise and support the peaceful dissolution of this union called Nigeria for every region to go its own way.”
He declared: “But before this is done, we urge all artisans, students, public and private sector servants, traders, and major business holders currently operating, residing or intending to do so in any part of Southern Nigeria to relocate back home within the next two weeks.”
He further charged non-northerners residing in any part of northern Nigeria to relocate to their various regions of origin within two weeks to make room for accommodating our northern brothers who will be returning home.
CONCERNED AREWA CITIZENS
Barely 24 hours after the disturbing rally at the Emir’s palace and the threats of relocation was slammed on southerners in a manner that was remarked with fear, another group known as, “Concerned Arewa Citizens” suddenly emerged in another part of the state, singing the same tune.
Their objective was to come up with a legislative backing to dislodge southerners in the region and undermine them in every aspect of their existence in the North.
By July 17, 2014, these concerned Arewa citizens, with a number of lawyers at their base assisting them, had forwarded a private bill to the Kano State House of Assembly for the immediate commencement of the registration of southerners in the North.
Their President General, Audu Bulama Bukarti, told Saturday Sun when they met in the Kabuga area of the state that they have forwarded the said bill to the Kano State House of Assembly and were just returning from Kaduna State where they had gone to forward a similar bill for consideration of the House, saying that in Kaduna, they were received by the speaker himself.
In their covering letter to the Kano State House of Assembly, which was signed by the President and the Secretary of Concerned Arewa Citizens, they described themselves as a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit making platform committed to the protection, promotion and advancement of the rights and dignity of northerners and the peace, progress and prosperity of the North and its people.
Concerned Arewa Citizens also declared in their covering letter that their bill was intended to protect the North against drug and human trafficking, kidnappings, baby factories, armed robbery, importation of firearms, pipeline vandalization and other terrorist’s activities which have become prevalent in the southern part of Nigeria.
Their covering letter added: “Our dear state has suffered and is still suffering from most of the aforementioned criminal activities whose proliferations is partly due to the right of haphazard entry and exit accorded the southerners who are the masters of these evils.”
Their letter to the house concluded: “Finally, we are aware of the Kano State Residents’ Registration Agency Law 2014 into which this bill might be subsumed.”
Saturday Sun was told that the worrisome bill, when enacted, will be cited as “Kano State Registration of Southerners and Allied Matters Law 2014”.
The bill defined Southerners to mean indigenes of any of the 17 states of Southern Nigeria, namely Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Rivers states.
A copy of the bill, which is currently before the Kano State House of Assembly and obtained by Saturday Sun, seeks to ensure that any southerner seeking to enter Kano State shall be permitted to do so only if he is registered with the appropriate authority, within three weeks of the commencement of the law in case of persons who are already resident in the state or within three days upon their arrival in the state.
The bill also seeks that “every southerner desirous of entering the state for the purpose of residence shall give security in such amount as the appropriate authority may prescribe and shall supply such information as the authority may reasonably require.”
It added: “No southerner shall, on his account or in partnership with any other person, practise a profession or establish or take over any trade or business whatsoever or register or take over a company for any such purpose without the consent of the appropriate authorities in the state within 21 days of the commencement of this law.”
The bill also seeks to ensure that “No southerner shall accept employment (not being employment with the Federal Government) without the consent in writing of the appropriate authority ……. and such consent shall be for a period not exceeding one year, renewable only once”
The bill also seeks to prohibit any southerner from accepting admission in any educational institution in the state without the consent in writing of the appropriate authority, adding that such a person must obtain consent within 21 days of the commencement of the law.
It further seeks that every southerner registered in accordance with the foregoing provisions shall be issued with an Identity Card, which shall contain all information about his status, adding that such a person shall display same whenever he leaves his dwelling for any purpose.
One interesting accept of the bill is that it states: “All rights and interests in landed properties belonging to southerners are hereby revoked forthwith subject only to the payment of appropriate compensation as may be assessed by the appropriate authority.”
Saturday Sun investigation indicates that the proposal of the bill was widely held in the state and would most likely enjoy a lot of sympathies in the state House of Assembly when and if it ever comes up for deliberation.
AREWA CONSULTATIVE FORUM (ACF)
The fact that the campaigners for the sacking of southerners in the North were not alone soon became evident given the echo of a similar position by the Arewa Consultative Forum, the umbrella body that speaks the mind of the core North on issues of national significance.
The forum, through its Secretary General, Engineer Abubakar Umar, in Kaduna, warned the Igbo not to provoke the North pointing out that available statistics of Igbo investments in Kano, Kaduna and Jos alone stood at N45 trillion.
Speaking to members of the South South, who paid him a courtesy call, Engineer Abubakar Umar, charged that with such huge volume of investment in three states of the North, the Easterners have no reason to maltreat northerners doing business in the East. “If table turns round, it could be disastrous as these investments may suffer a lot, but we are praying for understanding among the entire Nigerians, to accept themselves wherever they live to earn legitimate means of livelihood,” he stated.
Alhaji Maitama Sule reacts, says North is ready for any eventuality:
The North is ready for any eventuality, elder statesman and one-time Nigeria Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Alhaji Maitama Sule, declared after he received members of AYDF, who took their protests to him in his home in Kano.
The First Republic Minister had declared: “We need this Nigeria to remain one, but of course, we are prepared for any eventuality at any time.”
He stressed that as a person, he had written his own petition on some of these issues raised by the youth to the leadership of the Northern Governors’ Forum as well as to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He enunciated: “What you have just narrated is something that we, as elders, have been narrating, maybe in quite a different way, for quite some time. You are all aware that we have formed the Northern Elders Forum. This group of elders has been formed with the intention of having dialogue with the government. We have no and we still have no intention of having confrontation with the government.
“It is true that we have been suffering a lot in the Northern part of the country, humiliation and so on, discrimination and so forth, but we believe that the answer to it is not confrontation. The answer is dialogue. And we would continue to pursue that.
He added: “We believe that the best way out of this dilemma in which we have found ourselves is to have a dialogue. Contact removes conflict and we believe that what the tongue can undo, the sword should not be used.
“And that is why we have been trying to have a dialogue … we believe that we can bring to an end the ugly things that are happening in this country if all of us can come together and tell one another the truth and appeal to one another to be patient.
“The world can never be governed by force, never by fear and even, never by power. In the end, what governs is the mind, what conquers is the spirit. And we believe that the weapons of governing the mind and the spirit are justice and fair play. For behind any crisis, anywhere in the world, is injustice and the solution to crisis is justice,” he declared.
He told the youth “What you have done is right. You are the youth, you are the leaders of tomorrow. You are the future leaders. You are, therefore, the panacea of our ills. You are the solution to our problems. You are the answer. You are the vehicles of change. You are the vanguard of the revolution.
“The future is yours. You can mar it or make it. If you decide to mar it by refusing to take the proper actions, you will be paving the way for inheriting an inglorious future. If you take the right steps and become responsible citizens, and become committed and dedicated to the cause of Nigeria, you will inherit a glorious Nigeria.”
He charged them to be good critics and not destructive critics, saying that their organisations had never been known to cause trouble, rather they are reputed to be very hard critics of unjust systems.
He charged Christians, Muslims and all persons of goodwill to pray for peace and stability in Nigeria, adding that love remains one particular fundamental teaching of every religion and peace is second teaching of all religions.
PANIC GRIPS SOUTHERNERS RESIDENT IN KANO
Arising from the threats by the members of AYDF and their associates, a huge panic soon enveloped southerners resident in Kano State
Two factors set the stage for this unusual panic. The first was the popularity of the crusade against southerners among the people of the state and some elements in the region. Only a few persons found the action of the youth distasteful. Many indigenes of the host community saw them as heroes. There was also the speculation that they were backed by some state actors who took care of their bills and motivations.
The second reason for the fright by southerners was the fact that the provocative crusade of the youth, which began as mere rhetoric and manipulation of data, was becoming very inciting and could be hijacked by mischief makers and hoodlums as basis for yet another riot in the state, if not immediately and decisively checked by relevant authorities.
Like a wildfire in the harmattan, the news of the two weeks’ ultimatum for southerners spread, provoking an unsettling response from different groups, town unions and fora of southerners in the state, with each striving to establish the veracity of the quit notice.
It was against this background that an emergency meeting of all the traditional and community leaders of southern extraction in the state was convened under the aegis of Ethnic Traditional Leaders Forum along Emir Road in Kano.
The traditional and community leaders in the state, after their deliberations, resolved to seek the quick intervention of the Federal Government, not exactly abiding or investing their faith in the local authorities in the light of the unfolding developments.
Their press release, signed by His Highness Alhaji Abdullahi Salihu, Oba Yoruba, Deaconess Fred Aikhigbe, Enogie of Edo and Igwe Boniface Ibekwe (Eze Ndigbo), was very loud about their deep concern over the threats to their survival by the Arewa youth groups.
The traditional rulers affirmed that there was no truth in the accusations of harassment of northerners in the South as contained in the petition of the Arewa Youth Development Foundation to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhamadu Sanusi 11, which flagged off the series of events that they had noticed.
The chiefs, therefore, implored the Federal Government and all the relevant security agencies to treat seriously the threats made by the foundation.
They stated further: “That we, as leaders, distance ourselves from the tumultuous intolerance being exhibited by AYDF as non-indigenes whose main task as true Nigerians is to preach unity and peaceful co-existence for the good of all.”
They advised southerners in Northern Nigeria to stay put and continue to do their lawful businesses while imploring the governors of the South “not to join the mischief makers and sectarian sectionalists, who want insidious insurrection against the socio-economically negotiated sustenance of a united Nigeria”.
The traditional rulers held: “We shall not be a party to the agenda of failed leadership, whose allegiance is to their cabals of origin under the guise of masquerading as ‘Owners of Nigeria’ instead of building a more united, stronger and progressive nation ditto for amicable fresh solution to Nigeria’s disunity.”
By Saturday last week, as the tension continued to mount unabated in the state, a cross-section of southern community leaders, namely Dr. Jimpat Ayalangbe, Engineer Daniel Egbe, Hon Peter Elele and Chief Michael Eni, among others, fastened their belts and decided to seek the direct intervention of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Zone 1), Alhaji Tambari Yabo on the matter.
These leaders led no fewer than 50 other southerners to present their fear to the Assistant Inspector General of Police in his home. The AIG, who was down with malaria, immediately rose from his bed, given the unsettling dimension of their complaint and led them on Sunday morning to report the matter to the Emir of Kano.
The Emir, who was meeting the cross-section of southern leaders for the first time as the monarch of Kano, assured them that the emirate council would use all that was within its reach to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians in the state.
He equally advised them to caution the political elites in their states to apply decorum in the nature of policies they come up with to avoid heating up the polity or leading to a backlash in other areas.
Following the firm directive of the Federal Government on the illegality of the registration exercise in any of the states of the federation, the identity card crisis seemed to have subsided in the region as the campaigners for the sacking of southerners in the North were satisfied their actions had forced the Federal Government to act in the manner of their expectations.
In a brief chat with Saturday Sun, after a meeting with the AIG, the President General of the Concerned Arewa Citizens, on Friday, Audu Bulama Bukarti, the President General of Concerned Arewa Citizens said they have decided to stay action on the bill, promising to withdraw the bills sent to the Kano and Kaduna State Houses of Assembly, respectively.
“We thought we were being treated as second class citizens in this country and then we expected the Federal Government to act decisively and swiftly but the Federal Government was silent on the issue,” he stated.
“And we felt we have no option but to do something that will draw the attention of the authorities and also provoke reactions from other quarters to condemn what was happening in other states,” he added.
He argued that the private bill, sponsored by them for the registration of all southerners resident in North, was a child of necessity which was informed by the alleged humiliation and intimidation of Northerners resident in the Ssouth, adding that since the Federal Government has acted, there was no further need to continue to pursue the bill.
However, many Southerners who do not wish to comment on print, are of the opinion that the crisis was enough lessons “for those who have ears to hear and those who have eyes to see,”
The southerners added that, like in the past, these sort of assurances had led many into believing that all was well at a time when things were falling apart in Nigeria. In unison, they said that with the scary sounds of hate and war everywhere, going to sleep over the situation or pretending the plot to sack southerners in the North was a child’s play was not wisdom.