Thursday, August 14, 2014

THE 2014 NATIONAL CONFERENCE 'DRAFT CONSTITUTION'

THE 2014 NATIONAL CONFERENCE DRAFT CONSTITUTION
By James Pam
Delegates to the 2014 National Conference resumed plenary on Monday 11th August, 2014 for the purpose of adopting their compiled recommendations and resolutions. They had hoped that they would simply read through one neat document, cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s to ensure that the final compendium to be presented to Mr. President accurately captures their decisions. However, what they were confronted with was several documents which have generated such a controversy among them that the entire could be jettisoned after all.
Three documents were presented to delegates upon resumption. The first document is the Conference Report proper, which is in two volumes; Vol. 1 has about 500 pages and Vol. 2 has about 900 pages. The second document is a ‘matrix’, in the words of the Conference Secretary, Mrs. Gloria Azinge. As to be expected in a matrix, it has been prepared in three columns; the first column contains the current Nigerian 1999 Constitution provisions that affected by Conference decisions; the second column contains the constitutional amendments recommended by the Conference delegates, while the third and last column contains a fusion of conference recommendations and the 1999 Constitution.
In the absence of Conference Chairman and his deputy, Justice Idris Kutigi and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, respectively, Mrs. Azinge explained further by saying that in order to make the work of delegates easier, the Secretariat had gone ahead, extracted the third column of the second document, which is the fusion of the existing constitution and the amendments proposed by the delegates, and produced a another document titled, ‘Draft Constitution’. It is this third document and the liberty taken by the Conference Secretariat to produce it that is causing the hullabaloo and drawing flaks from some delegates.
Azinge was not finished yet. She added that the Secretariat had also produced the fourth document, a draft Bill, which Mr. President will use to introduce the amendments and alterations to the National Assembly, which could eventually lead to the Fourth Amendment to the Nigerian Constitution.
The ‘Draft Constitution’ immediately drew the ire of some delegates, especially those from some parts of defunct Northern Region. On the NTA Good Morning program today, 13th August, 2014, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu and Malan Tanko Yakassai told anchor persons, Kingsley Osadolor and Claire Adelabu, and all Nigerians that: (1) The Conference does not have Mr. President’s mandate to produce a Draft Constitution: (2) Such a Draft Constitution has no legal basis because the National Conference is not tantamount to a Constitutional Conference: (3) Delegates would be overstepping their bounds if they prepared a Draft Constitution: (4) The 1999 Constitution provides that a new Constitution can only be introduced to the floor of the National Assembly by the legislators themselves and nobody else.
Newspapers in the last 24 hours have reported that a communiqué was read in Abuja on Tuesday, 12 August, 2014 by the leader of some northern Conference delegates, former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie. A picture embedded in one of the newspaper reports has Coomassie flanked by former member of the House of Representatives, Muhammed Kumalia, former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Gen. Jerry Useni, one-time Senate President, Prof. Iyorchia Ayu, and others. Coomassie said that the Draft Constitution was meant to legitimize President Goodluck Jonathan’s third term agenda and that they objected to it. He said drafting a new Constitution is ultra vires the functions and mandate of the National Conference and that the group they were representing was dissociating itself from the Draft Constitution.
The objections of these core northern delegates and their arguments are untenable. At the inauguration of the National Conference on the 17th May, 2014, Mr. President said, “Let me at this point thank the National Assembly for introducing the provision for a referendum in the proposed amendment of the Constitution. This should be relevant for this Conference if at the end of the deliberations, the need for a referendum arises. I therefore urge the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to speed up the Constitutional amendment process especially with regard to the subject of referendum.” The President was more visionary than some people care to think. From inception, he envisioned the situation before us today and was able to foresee its solution. Our elected legislators in the NASS should play their part in this process honorably by making legal provision for a referendum to take place and all will be well. This is what Mr. President and other Nigerians ask of them.
I was privy to email communications between some delegates in which they made reference to a   new partnership that the National Conference has spurned between the three southern geo-political Zones and the North-Central Zone. For lack of a better name, one of the communications christened it the “Greater South”. The implication of this new alliance is that four geo-political zones identified common progressive grounds during the Conference debates, while two preferred to maintain the status quo. Two-thirds majority of delegates are not just comfortable, but are very happy with the Conference Draft Constitution. Should the one-third conservatives have their way over the progressive and pragmatic majority? I dare say, no.
What was the expectation of the so-called “northern delegates” (minus those from the NC Zone, except for Gen. Jerry Useni and Prof. Iyorchia Ayu, who are both in their geriatric cycle of redundancy) when they were debating and reaching decision on constitution matters for three months? Didn’t they realize that their decisions were meant to be used to amend our Constitution? They should be happy that their work coming into fruition even faster than they had thought and that their labor may not be in vain after all.  
Again, in his inauguration speech on 17th may, 2014, Mr. President said, “In inaugurating this National Conference today, we are not unmindful of the argument of those who say that we do not need such a Conference since we already have an elected Parliament and an elected Government in place. As cogent as that argument may sound, I have chosen to act on the sincere conviction that in the truly democratic nation we are striving to build, we must never ignore the loudly expressed views of the majority of ordinary Nigerians.” The views of majority of Nigerians have been loudly expressed in the Conference ‘Draft Constitution’ through their delegates to the National Conference and must not be ignored.
In the same inauguration speech, which was commented upon by all 492 delegates, the President said, “The phrase in the preamble that says ‘We, the people’, has been variously criticized as being misleading because. According to the critics, the Constitution was not written by the people. There are also those who believe that the Constitution is not our problem but the political will to faithfully implement it for the peace and progress of Nigeria. While opinions on the matter can be as diverse as rain showers, I believe that irrespective of our personal views on the issue, no one can deny the fact that every Constitution is a living document that needs to be revised and improved upon from time to time. The United States, which is the model democracy in the eyes of many, has amended its Constitution 27 times since it was first adopted in 1787.” Mr. President, therefore, expected delegates to present to him a revised Nigerian Constitution at the end of their deliberations, provided they recommended enough amendments to the existing one to warrant the drafting of a new one incorporating their recommendations.
I seize this opportunity to urge all well-meaning delegates to defend their work, which is now embodied in the Conference ‘Draft Constitution’ and oppose their colleagues who might want to kill it. If they don’t, they would be doing the President and all Nigerians a great disservice. I would go as far as describing the production of a Draft Constitution for Nigeria by the  2014 National Conference as its greatest achievement.
James Pam, 13 August, 2014




Wednesday, January 29, 2014

REQUIEM FOR AREWA;S POLITICAL HEGEMONEITY

by Dominic Umosen

With particular emphasis, history acknowledges the overwhelming sense of misgivings by Northern political leaders for their serial indiscretions and misguided political decisions which began in 2011 when regional leaders met in Abuja and resolved to step up hostilities against President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in demonstration of the region’s disaffection from loss of political power in the country. Initially, this uncharitable disposition was attributed to tantrums by an over-pampered child who may be hell-bent on ignoring the basic wisdom that wise folks do not betray the confidence of their traditional political allies; which is the exact political currency Arewa is repaying its traditional political allies in the South-South with.

Profound disappointment in the South-South regarding Arewa’s grand betrayal also triggered reverse outrage, with some hawks like former Niger-Delta militant, Alhaji Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo advocating that Niger-Delta aborigines should unilaterally expropriate crude oil as compensation for collateral damages visited on minority oil-producing nationalities in the region. Enraged by this ingratitude-based arrogance against the South-South on one hand and endless hostile exchanges with neighbouring minority nationalities in the North on the other, it was a matter of time before these hostile exchanges exerted irreversible stress on the fabric of homogeneity between Hausa/Fulanis and their neighbour minority nationalities, destroying it in the process and definitively erasing a famous socio-political attribute of the region.

For the first time since the amalgamation of defunct Northern Nigeria and the Southern Protectorate, individuals from that part of the country began to defend the interests of their distinct nationalities in the region, as opposed to a mythical one and indivisible aggregate Northern political interest which deviates from what used to be regarded as aggregate Arewa identity. However, the collapse of the Northern political identity has been most dramatic in Plateau State because there, inter-ethnic acrimony has made it impossible for the man who fought a civil war to keep Nigeria one – Gen Yakubu Gowon – to visit his  Pankshin home. The former head-of-state’s predicament posts a supreme irony. Indeed, Plateau has become the epicenter of a vicious inter-ethnic war in which the Hausa-Fulani are permanently locked in battle against minority ethnic nationalities in the savannah.

Part of reasons for the dramatic collapse of the mythical political homogeneity of the North is the fact that democracy invariably destroyed much of the unmerited privileges that the Hausa/Fulani-controlled military hitherto lavished on their kith and kin, including fiercely-arrogant itinerant herdsmen who seem blissfully ignorant of the fact that nomadic pastoralism is no longer fashionable the world over. Because it is no longer possible to indulge or lavish excuses for the over-exuberance of armed herdsmen, well-coordinated clashes between them and farming communities have triggered consistently bloody exchanges, with farmers becoming more determined to protect their farmlands from ravages by rampaging livestock which should ideally be sequestered in ranches as done in every civilised society.

The reluctance by government to restrict livestock to designated ranches was developed during military rule.  The institution developed and perfected this reluctance to do what is right because doing so might inconvenience the owner of a consignment of livestock who may have been in some sort of cahoots with the local garrison commander, hence untouchable. The frequency of such practices has been drastically curtailed under this dispensation where the fear of insurgents have imposed a new vigilance on security agencies, inspiring more farmers in traumatized and exasperated communities to resist encroachments on their farmlands by livestock and herdsmen who are often unbelievably well-armed, enough to complicate the scope of their menace as well as ensuing exchanges with these invaded communities.

Indeed, the frequency of such violent exchanges between herdsmen and farmers has triggered countless clashes in several communities across the country. Across Benue, Bauchi, Plateau, Imo, Ogun, Ekiti and many other states, tales of clashes between roaming bands of herdsmen and farmers are routine. Beyond the loss of innocent lives involved and the provocative nonchalance of herdsmen who refuse to distinguish between farmlands and fallow bush, Nigerians are sufficiently exasperated by the reluctance of government to enforce the universal norm which specifies that nomadic pastoralism is outdated and that anyone seeking to engage in large-scale livestock farming should make provision for ranches to eliminate the likelihood of recurring friction between herdsmen and farming communities.

When the articulate Middle Belt Forum, the umbrella group for minority nationalities in the North-Central Zone, issued a threat to reciprocate attacks on their communities by itinerant Fulani herdsmen, the justification for this unprecedented threat of retaliations was provided by frequently-bloody attacks on these communities by Fulani herdsmen who have acquired a greater capacity for menace and are better armed than soldiers. Testimony to this increasing sophistication in the menace posed by Fulani herdsmen is the enabling circumstance surrounding the killing of the former Senate Health Services Committee Chairman, Dr Fulani Dantong by some Fulani herdsmen who invaded a grieving Berom village in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State. According to eye-witnesses, soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force advised the grieving villagers to flee allegedly because the invaders arrived better-armed than themselves.

The greater bulk of ammunition that triggered the collapse of the fabled political homogeneity of the North was provided by animosity triggered by these violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the savannah. The traditional indifference of a typical herdsman to a farmland and a bush provoked former Chief of General Staff, late Maj-Gen. Tunde Idiagbon to threaten to gun down any Fulani herdsman that encroached on his farm in Ilorin.  Indeed, anger by minority nationalities in the North against the predominant Hausa/Fulani invariably became proportionate to the frequency of attacks on their communities and the destruction of the properties by indiscriminating herdsmen and their rampaging flocks.

Other tear-jerking legacies of feudalism like the almajiri phenomenon further intensified the disintegration of the region’s fabled political homogeneity. It is an enduring testimony to the prevailing culture of political mischief that despite the fact that salvation was graciously engineered for these human eye-sores from outside the region, efforts to rehabilitate them by President Jonathan were vigorously resisted by selfish regional leaders like Gov Babangida Aliyu of Niger State who argue that the sorry lifestyle projected by these human dregs is a worthy and befitting cultural heritage. Yet Aliyu sends his wards to the best schools abroad and lavishes his teenagers with toys almajiris can only dream about.

This sensational hypocrisy by self-serving political leaders in the region contributed significantly to undermine and eventually trigger collapse of the region’s fabled political homogeneity. It also explains why it was possible for an unimaginative governor to spend two-terms in Yobe to acquire choice limousines and exquisite palaces for traditional rulers and after climbing on the crest of prevalent ignorance to senatorial relevance, he gyrated on the axle of mischief to blame President Jonathan for endemic poverty in the North-East. It is unfortunate that instead of holding leaders like these to account for the travesty they represent, some misguided people are holding others to ransom in the name of insurgency which further exacerbates erosion of political homogeneity of a milieu that has been torn apart by internal contradictions.

The views expressed above are solely that of the writer and not necessarily that of Omojuwa.com or its associates.



THE POLITICAL QUESTION OF THE MIDDLE BELT

THE POLITICAL QUESTION OF THE MIDDLE BELT:
THE PLACE AND PLIGHT OF THE PRESENT CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM MINORITIES (CMM)
OF THE NORTHERN STATES OF NIGERIA IN NIGERIAN POLITICAL EQUATION


A MEMORANDUM
SUBMITTED BY PROFESSOR YUSUFU TURAKI*
TO THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE NOVEMBER 13, 2013

*Yusufu Turaki is a Professor of Theology and Social Ethics. He obtained his Ph.D. in Social Ethics from Boston University, USA in 1982. He has authored many books and articles, among which are: The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical Analysis of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Nigeria (1993); Tainted Legacy: Islam, Colonialism and Slavery in  Northern Nigeria (2010); “Historical Roots of Ethno-Religious Crises and Conflicts in Northern Nigeria” (2013). 

Mobile: +2348026268546
E-Mail: byturaki@yahoo.com

Address : JETS, P.O. Box 5398, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria


I.                   Purpose of this Memorandum

The primary objective of this Memorandum is to present and state the political question of the Middle Belt and as well as to define the place and plight of the present Christian-Muslim Minorities (CMM) of the Northern States of Nigeria in the Nigerian political question. The National Dialogue/Conference should make this political issue a national priority. It has become the only political issue remaining to be resolved as the only Regional Minority Groups that are yet to be liberated and emancipated from the dominant yoke of the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM. The political, social, economic, cultural and religious problems and issues of the peoples of the Middle Belt have remained unresolved because of the intransigence of the dominant political class and elites of Northern Nigeria. They and their ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM are strongly opposed to any political liberation and emancipation of the peoples of the Middle Belt. This domineering and hegemonic political culture and posture is being held tenaciously and viciously in spite of the good historical examples from the West and East of Nigeria.

The Minorities of the then Western Nigeria were carved out in 1964 as Mid-West Region by the First Republic. The Minorities of the then Eastern Region (Ogoja, Calabar and Rivers [COR]) were carved out in 1967 as Cross Rivers and Rivers States were created by the Military. Later in 1996 the Military merged Mid-West and Cross Rivers and Rivers States to form South-South Zone. The creation of the three Zones in the North, North-West, North-Central and North-East was a continuity of the colonial political mathematics calculated solely to undermine the political aspirations and self-determination of the peoples of the Middle Belt from a complete domination and servitude to the political class and elites of NORTH.

NORTH-ISM is both an ideology and idolatry which the political class and elites of Northern Nigeria worship. This is a doctrine which has been formulated and it seeks to defend, project, promote and protect the imaginary interests of the NORTH. In national politics, it knows no other thing or no one, except its god, NORTH-ISM. The peoples of the Middle Belt, whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise, have heard and had NORTH-ISM drummed into their ears and to many this has numbed their hearts and seared their consciences and dulled their sense of justice, equity, self-determination and freedom. The invoking of NORTH-ISM as both ideology and idolatry upon the peoples of the Middle Belt is a confirmation of their inferior status and socio-political role within the political schemes and stratagems of NORTH-ISM. NORTH-ISM is a ruse for deceiving political enemies and the peoples of the Middle Belt. In political circles, one often hears that “There is nothing called Middle Belt.” But when it comes to the distribution of political rewards, statuses, resources and values, such are the exclusive reserves for the “Superior Northerners.” The NORTH is ONE in all matters pertaining to anything that qualifies as North versus South, but at home, the geo-political entity called NORTH, we Masters and Servants, feudalistic and clientele system. Any human being who sincerely fears God, his/her heart would be ruled by God’s eternal principles of justice, righteousness, love, kindness and humility. But the historical and empirical evidences show that the peoples of the Middle Belt have been subjugated, subordinated and dominated by the Northern political class and elites. We, the peoples of the Middle Belt, all that we see coming from them is the domineering and disdainful spirit that bears the fruits of discrimination, prejudice, preferential treatment, bias, stereo-typing and marginalization. As a whole, this is what NORTH and NORTH-ISM means for the peoples of the Middle Belt. Based upon this superior-inferior and dominance-subordination relationships, who is that person(s) that is(are) so undemocratic and ungodly in their thinking as to deny the peoples of the Middle Belt their quest for full political freedom and rights. All these freedoms and rights are imbedded and rooted in their inalienable ethnic nationality. Empire Builders of Northern Nigeria have over the decades manipulated the ethnic nationality of the peoples of the Middle Belt as to give advantage to one ethnic group over the other. For this reason, this Memorandum calls for the liberation and emancipation of the peoples of the Middle Belt through their inalienable ethnic nationalities. For this National Conference to fulfill the aspirations of all well-meaning Nigerians, the ethnic nationalities should be given the opportunity to tell Nigerians what the Empire Builders who created Nigeria did to them historically, socially, religiously, economically and culturally. The Northern political class and elites who have benefitted from this artificial creation of Nigeria’s geo-political boundaries as done by the Empire Builders would fight tooth and nail to scuttle such a thing as this National Conference. Or, would want the ethnic nationality be stroke out of the National Conference. This political and social variable cannot be set aside by any elitist or hegemonic fear or anxiety. The National Conference would only be a Referendum for the political class and elites, if the question of ethnic nationalities should be kept aside as some of them are agitating and demanding.
  
We also need to state our historical reason for this Memorandum. The British Colonial Maters, the First Republican politicians and the Military Regimes and soldiers unfortunately compromised, undermined and suppressed the political aspirations and self-determination of the peoples of the Middle Belt. Can the present dispensation and the National Conference be bold enough and be willing tools in the hands of God and justice to liberate and emancipate the peoples of the Middle Belt. The justification for this historical aspiration and quest is the glaring fact and act of the continuity of the inherited unjust pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial structures of domination, subordination, subjugation and discrimination against the peoples of the Middle Belt. The real issue is not for anyone to seek to demand evidences of such, as they are very good rationalization if issues and self-defense, but the act of a political will and justice which grants political freedom to ethnic nationalities who demand them, regardless. The political mathematics of ethnography, geography and population in Zonal, State and Local Government creations has been the potent tool which Empire Builders and the political class and elites have used to cage the peoples of the Middle Belt and kept them perpetually in servitude to “Monolithic North.” Under “Monolithic North” the peoples of the Middle Belt are at best second class citizens or dhimmis within a clientele and masters-servants relationships. Today, the peoples of the Middle Belt form the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria. For this reason, their voices, aspirations and self-determination should be heard by all Nigerians and not that of their acclaimed surrogate voices that issue from the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM.

From historical experience and reality, NORTH is not monolithic. The Middle Belt has well over 250 ethnic groups, languages and their dialects. Therefore, NORTH is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. We have the Core North (Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri). Hausaland consists mainly of Hausa and Fulani. This part of Nigeria can form a North-West Zone in the New Nigeria which should consist of only the Hausa and the Fulani. The Kanuri and their related ethnic groups can form the North-East Zone as well in the New Nigeria. Both the North-West and the North-East should not have any ethnic nationality append or attach to them. While the Middle Belt being the largest region with many ethnic nationalities can be divided into Middle Belt-West and Middle Belt-East. As for the ethnic nationalities, the ethnic boundaries of the peoples of the Middle Belt were well defined by the British Colonial Maters and other anthropologists and such ethnographic maps still exist. Each ethnic nationality can describe its own ancestral land. The task for the National Conference is to demarcate justly and make clear distinctions of both the ethnography and geography of the peoples of the Middle Belt from that of North-West and North-East Zones as defined above. Politics of freedom and self-expressions go hand-in-hand with specific defined land and boundaries. As at present, the conglomerates of the ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt do not have specific and defined ethnic political boundaries. Without this being done, they remain politically weak and it is on this grounds that the political class and elites of the Northern Nigeria seek to extend and hold on to the land-mass of Northern Region. There is no political power and control where there is not defined land-mass that creates a geo-political entity. The Northern political class and elites claim the geo-political land-mass of the peoples of the Middle Belt as theirs which is politically wrong. Herein lies the political stronghold of the peoples of the Middle Belt. The Sharia Debates are all about land. So also is the Boko Haram insurgency. In politics what matters most is ethnicity (ethnography) land (geography). The National Conference is the only best forum for the ethnic minorities of the North to discuss the politics of ethnicity and land. Any politics that for the Middle Belt that does include these two primordial social factors is not real and genuine politics for them. The Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri have had their ethnicity and land well defined and they do Nigerian politics based upon their own self-understanding of who they are ethnically, territorially, religiously and culturally. It is this primordial self-understanding that they impose upon peoples of the Middle Belt. It is only a fool who allows other to define who he/she is. The Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri who come to the National Conference, he/she does so with his/her self-understanding well rooted in primordial social factors of ethnicity, territory, religion and culture. They stand upon this primordial social foundations and call the peoples of the Middle Belt that they dare not bring their own ethnicity, territory, religion and culture into national debate. This is blatant political hypocrisy which the peoples of the Middle Belt should never accept. Up to this moment, Nigerian politics has not given the ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt to define themselves ethnically, territorially, religiously and culturally. This is blatant political injustice and discrimination. All Nigerians know who is a Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Bini, Ijaw and all in terms of their ethnicity and ancestral land and territory. But who is a Middle Belter? First his ethnicity is not defined by Nigerian politics. Secondly, his ancestral land and territory are also not defined by Nigerian politics. Similarly, he is never defined by religion or culture, but seen as one who borrows religion and culture.

From the foregoing, we can state that the many analyses of Northern Nigeria, whether of its ethnicity, religion, culture, politics, economics, or geography, have always failed to address the political question of the Middle Belt in Nigerian politics. The Middle Belt of Nigeria today consists mainly of the Christian-Muslim Minorities (CMM). The Empire Builders, the Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Borno and the British Colonial Administration have all failed in creating a viable and conducive political and social environment for the well-being of the CMM who reside in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. These Empire Builders created artificial political, social, religious and economic boundaries that grossly denied the CMM of the present Northern States of Nigeria their political rights and freedoms. When the British gave all Nigerians their political independence in 1960, in Northern Nigeria, the instruments of political power fell on the shoulders and laps of the political class and elites. The CMM of the Northern States of Nigeria have been kept under a perpetual internal colonialism as the subordinate subjects of the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM. The time has come for all Nigerians to rise up and speak with one voice for the liberation and emancipation of the peoples of the Middle Belt of Nigeria. This is one of the major tasks that await this long awaited National Conference.    

The rest of this Memorandum is an explanation of what the Empire Builders have done to the peoples of the Middle Belt. We need to state very briefly how the Empire Builders created the present Middle Belt problem and the plight of the CMM in national politics. We also need to state how the political class and elites, the politicians and the soldiers have treated the political question of the Middle Belt and the plight of Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria. 
  

II.                Historical Preamble and Answer

The answer to the political question of the Middle Belt and the present plight of the Christian-Muslim Minorities (CMM) of the Northern States of Nigeria is historical. We have the responsibility to explain what happened to the peoples of the Middle Belt historically. Something drastic really happened to them as the circumstance of history and providence fell upon them.   

A.    Empire Builders

The Empire Builders that changed the destiny of the peoples of the Middle Belt were:

1.      Islam: Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu;
2.      British Colonialists;
3.      Christianity (Missionaries);
4.      Politicians and Soldiers.

The above Empire Builders institutionalized the inferior status and the socio-political role of the peoples of the Middle Belt by using their primordial social factors.

B.     African Traditional Society

The African Traditional Society of the peoples of the Middle Belt received the following external inputs and influences which changed and transform them into what they are today as the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of  Nigeria:

1.         Islam and its Legacy and Muslim Rulers
2.       British Colonialism and its Legacy and the Colonialists
3.       Christian Missions and their Legacy and the Missionaries
4.       Politics and its Legacy and the Political Class and Elites
5.       Military Regimes and their Legacy and Soldiers

There were four fundamental primordial social factors which the Empire Builders transformed and changed:

a.      Ethnography (ethnicity, history and identity);
b.      Geography (land and territory);
c.       Religion;
d.      Culture.

The historical formation of the political question of the Middle Belt and the present plight of Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern Sates of Nigeria are rooted in the policies, administrative practices and attitudes of the above mentioned Empire Builders which manipulated, transformed and changed their primordial social factors (ethnography, geography, religion and culture) of the peoples of the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

C.    Muslim Rulers and the Jihad

The Jihads of Sokoto Caliphate and Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu extended the influence of Islam and Muslim Rulers to some parts of the Middle Belt. This influence was basically carried out through trade in commodities and the slave raiding and slave trade which was carried out by the Muslim Jihad. There were no permanent boundaries created then as the conquered could rebel at any time and change the political landscape. It was at the arrival of the British Colonialists that colonial boundaries were drawn to the advantage of the Muslim rulers. The Middle Belt areas then were considered in Islam as the “Abode of War.”  Jihad was the most powerful instrument that Muslims rulers used to extend their influence into some parts of the Middle Belt. This historical fact has generated the latent hostility between the peoples of the Caliphate and Sultanate and the peoples of the Middle Belt.

The Hausa and Fulani settled in some parts of the Middle Belt as traders and pastoralists. The Hausa settlements were called zongos. The Hausa and the Fulani did not integrate or assimilate with the aborigines of the Middle Belt, but remained distinct and different. The British colonialists created out of the Hausa zongos  emirates and districts and subordinated the aborigines to Muslims rulers of those enclaves or zongos. This was a mode of internal colonialism under British rule, the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri were allowed to colonize the peoples of the Middle Belt even beyond the Jihadic borders and in consequence imposed their religion, culture and political hegemony and dominance over the peoples of the Middle Belt. This historical fact also has generated the latent hostility between the peoples of the Caliphate and Sultanate and the peoples of the Middle Belt. Hence, the necessity of the National Conference to redress this historical social and political injustice meted by the Colonial System against the peoples of the Middle Belt.  

D.    British Colonialists and Indirect Rule

Within three years, between 1900 and 1903, the British defeated the Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu and imposed British rule over them. But it took the British many more years to pacify the peoples of the Middle Belt. However, the British imposed Indirect Rule over the entire Northern Protectorate of Nigeria and used Muslim rulers as their Junior Partners to help them rule the non-Muslim groups that were brought under their jurisdiction. In consequence, many ethnic nationalities were subordinated to the rule of Muslim Rulers. The British institutionalized their inferior status and socio-political role in the British Colonial North. The British used racial and ethnic theories as means of classifying ethnic, cultural and religious groups. As a result, British colonialism sowed the seeds of latent hostility between the peoples of the Caliphate and the Sultanate, on the one hand and the peoples of the Middle Belt, on the other. The major crises and conflicts in the North are rooted in this unjust colonial arrangement. This historical fact has generated latent hostility between the peoples of the Caliphate and Sultanate and the peoples of the Middle Belt. The only cure of this and many more causes of latent hostility between the peoples of the Middle Belt and the political class and elites of Northern Nigeria is for the National Conference to hear the cries of the ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt.   

The British defeat of both the Caliphate and the Sultanate historically meant that they have become defunct and extinct Empires. On the First of October 1960, the British handed political freedom to all Nigerians. For this reason, no Nigerian should be placed under any yoke of colonialism or internal colonialism. No any ethnic nationality should be subjected to any supposedly historical overlord. But the truth is that the northern political class and elites have surreptitiously and through the manipulations of the political systems, imposed themselves presently over the Christian-Muslim Minorities through the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM. They invoke ONE NORTH and ISLAM as instruments of dominance, subjugation and servitude over the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria.

The British Colonial North was characterized by:

a.      Pattern of superiority-inferiority relationships between the North-West Zone (Hausa and Fulani) and North-East Zone (Kanuri and related others), on the one hand and the peoples of the Middle Belt, on the other;
b.      Pattern of dominance-subordination relationships between the two broad people groups and regions;
c.       Pattern of politics of inequality, domination, discrimination and exclusion between two broad people groups and regions;
d.      Stratified inequality and social hierarchy between the two broad people groups and regions.

These colonial inherited unjust political structures were never corrected by the post-independence political class and elites and the military, but became manipulative and calculative in entrenching their ethnic nationality and religion. The plight of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria is rooted in those structural and stratified inequalities of the Colonial System.

E.     The Political Class and Elites and NORTH-ISM

Under both Civilian and Military Regimes, the politicians and the soldiers took advantage of the colonial geo-political boundaries and used them unjustly to suppress, oppress and subjugate the peoples of the Middle Belt to their overlords, the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri. They did that with impunity under the cloak of ONE NORTH and ISLAM. They intimidate and infuriate the peoples of the Middle Belt with the antics of NORTH-ISM. The whole concept of NORTH is an artificial creation of the Empire Builders. It does not represent the aspirations and self-determination of the peoples of the Middle Belt. The political class and elites use the concept because it gives them a wider land-mass and the population factor for political bargaining power and the position of strength in Nigerian politics. NORTH-ISM stands for One Indivisible North and Dominant Islam and for this reason, this political class would always use political geography to advocate for Northern, religious, State and Local Government representations. All along, they have manipulated the instruments of Governments and the Military to keep North as One Indivisible Entity which already has colonial contrived geo-political boundaries, bogus population and numerous States and Local Governments to their advantage. They are vehemently opposed to ethnic nationalities to be included in the National Conference. But this is the only best way of liberating and emancipating the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria from their political claws and fangs. They cannot deny the peoples of the Middle Belt the necessity of defining their ethnicity, ancestral lands, religions and cultures. NORTH-ISM is both an ideology and idolatry that the Northern political class and elites worship. This ideology and religious factor inflame a very strong sentiment and resentment against any political move that would bring political liberation and emancipation to the peoples of the Middle Belt. This is the political obstacle which the National Conference should address as it is a very big barrier to national unity, transformation and development.

F.     The Military and the Political Question of the Middle Belt

The Military Regimes that were dominated by Northerners liberated some of the remaining Ethnic Minorities in the South, but refused to liberate Christian and Muslim Minorities of the Northern States.  In both State and Local Government creations, they appended or annexed some Christian-Muslim Minorities to the peoples of the North-West and North-East Zones. While in the Middle Belt areas, they ensure that the peoples of the North-West and North-East were empowered to hold political and economic powers even where they are a minority in the Middle Belt. The Empire Builders, the politicians and the soldiers who controlled the instruments of political and economic powers have the advantage of ensuring that the peoples of the Middle Belt are not liberated or emancipated.

From the forgoing, it is therefore incumbent for the National Conference to both know and understand the full meaning of the primordial human values such as ethnicity, land, religion and culture and how the Empire Builders used them to create conflict generating structures and the attitudes of stereotypes, biases and prejudice that exist between the peoples of the North-West and North-East (Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri) and the peoples of the Middle Belt. The peoples of the Middle Belt under NORTH-ISM have to contend, cope and tolerate the attitudes of discrimination, preferential and differential treatment.

The National Conference needs to investigate the historical activities of the Empire Builders as roots of the political question of the Middle Belt and the plight of Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria. This includes using colonial maps and district. There are cases of historical fraud and distortions and the writings of pseudo-histories that generate conflicts, crises and mutual distrust that denied or suppressed the authentic histories of the people of the Middle Belt. Such fabricated histories, ethnographies, ethnic nationality boundaries and claimed ownership of subjects and slaves should be investigated and true political and religious freedom and rights be given to every ethnic group and Nigerian. No Nigerian or an ethnic group should be made subject to any ethnic group or Nigerian. Nigerians cannot use democratic instruments of politics to created despotism and impunity as we have historically witnessed in the Middle Belt.

III.             The Aspirations and Demands of the Peoples of the Middle Belt

The aspirations and demands of the peoples of the Middle Belt in this current dispensation are briefly stated as follows:

A.    The need to restore their political and cultural independence;
B.     No ethnic nationality should be placed under any suzerain based upon flimsy historical claims of masters-servants relationships either by war or association;  
C.    The need for each ethnic nationality to be given the opportunity and freedom to define itself within the Nigerian politics;
D.    The need to free every person or ethnic nationality from the nauseating, irritating and provocative ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM;
E.     The need for Nigerians to listen only to the leaders of the peoples of the Middle Belt and not from their protagonists or distracters;
F.     The need for the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri not to speak on what specifically affects the ethnicity, land, religion and culture of the peoples of the Middle Belt;
G.    The need for full political participation of the ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt and not the continuity of colonial politics of representation.

The British colonized every ethnic nationality in Nigeria, first by conquering and subduing them. This historical fact stands against any person or ethnic nationality that claims suzerainty over another ethnic nationality. The political independence was handed over by the British to all Nigerians, regardless of their historical backgrounds. Nigerian Independence was not a restoration of the Caliphate, Sultanate or any Kingdom, but political freedom for all Nigerians, regardless. It is so strange to see even in our contemporary times a deep seated injustice and ungratefulness for one who was humiliated by defeat in war, but was later granted a political freedom from his colonial masters. But this same fellow, who was defeated, colonized and later set free, would not even consider this moral maxim, but would adamantly and arrogantly turn to his slaves of yester-years by closing his eyes and heart unashamedly against them. Because he still says to the peoples of the Middle Belt, you are still my bond servants and my subjects. This is exactly what had happened in Northern Nigeria. The conquered Caliphate and Sultanate were granted political freedom by the British on First October 1960 along with all Nigerians. The same people today in post-colonial Nigeria are still talking about their conquered subjects and would shut their eyes at British favours on them and without shame are proud to call some ethnic nationalities as their subjects and slaves. Some of them still make such bogus and unfounded claims that those who were conquered before the British colonialism are indeed still their subjects. Such a view is unacceptable in any modern democracy today, especially in modern Nigeria. Such retrogressive and primordial thinking is an outmoded value of the jahiliya period. Nigerians cannot condone or accept the fact that in Nigeria there are some ethnic nationalities that are subjects to other nationalities. Only the National Conference can address this serious socio-political issue within Northern Nigeria.

IV.             The Christian-Muslim Minority (CMM) of the North in National Politics

We need to define the political experience of the Christian-Muslim Minorities in national politics.

A.    The Political Class and Elites of the NORTH and the Christian-Muslim Minorities (CMM)

This very Oppressive and Dominant Group of the NORTH have continued to use the arbitrary and artificial boundaries created by the most oppressive and brutal Empire Builders of Sokoto Caliphate, Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu and the British Colonialists. The term NORTH and all that it contains and means, is used by these oppressive and dominant groups for one singular purpose: to entrench their historical and human advantage in the present political equation of Nigeria. NORTH as both political and religious gives them a wider territory, population and historical advantage that they always use as means of intimidating and instilling fear and anxiety into the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria and the peoples of Southern Nigeria.

This National Conference should explore and use every means to ensure that all ethnic nationalities and groups of the Northern States are given their historical and inalienable ethnic, cultural, religious and political rights and also be given their political freedom from the NORTH oppressors. The Empire Builders took away the ancestral land rights, cultural, economic and social rights of the ethnic minorities of the Middle Belt and in its place, they impose the BURDEN NORTH upon them. This is what this National Conference should remove from the backs of Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria.
This National Conference is NOT about artificial REGIONALISM as created by the Empire Builders but about DISMATLING such oppressive and dominant structures and GIVING political freedom to all those who are still being oppressed in Nigeria. This is the state of Christian-Muslim Minorities in the North. They are currently still under this oppressive yoke and burden of NORTH-ISM.

B.     The Political Class and Elites of Southern Nigeria

Southern politicians have always fallen victims of NORTH-ISM by being intimidated with bogus claims of territory, population and Islam from their political counterparts of the NORTH. The truth is that the politicians of the NORTH never have the interests of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States at heart. Rather, they always ensure their subordination, humiliation and marginalization. The major problem of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria is the nature of national political arrangement and practice. For example, at the political centre, a Yoruba politician goes with only one ethnic political card. He does not present a religious political card. The same thing with an Igbo politician, who also goes to the national political centre with one ethnic political card. Similarly, and now also, the man from the South-South, he goes to the same national political centre with one ethnic political card. But, on the contrary, the man from the NORTH goes two political cards. The first card is NORTH-ISM. This political card is not an ethnic political card as that of the rest of Nigerians, because his religion has taken away his ethnicity and ancestral land. His political card does not carry the ethnic symbol of Hausa, Fulani, or Kanuri, nor that of his ancestral land (Hausaland or Kanuriland), but that of an artificial and contrived NORTH.  He has the NORTH as historically and artificially contrived and created by the Empire Builders of yester-years.

His second political card is religion or ISLAM. Both NORTH and ISLAM give him a wider political space, power and population as a political bargaining-chip and also as an intimidating tool for all Southern politicians at the national political centre.

All Southern politicians have a very powerful political role to play. First they need to know that the political concept NORTH subsumes the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria, who in actual fact are denied a national political platform and forum as other Nigerians. The NORTH does not speak for the Christian-Muslim Minorities, but always as against them, both in word and deed throughout history. NORTH-SIM as a political ideology has also become in a political IDOL which many of the political class and elites of Northern Nigeria worship and revere. 

However, Southern Minorities have been able to have their political aspiration met when Mid-West Region was created during the First Republic and South-South during the Abacha Military Regime. Thus, the political space and freedom of the Minority Ethnic Groups of Mid-West and the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) have been realized, while their counterparts in the Middle Belt have been left to contend with fate and evil. The recently created (1996) Geo-Political Zones of North-West, North East and North-Central and that of the earlier States and Local Governments creation by the Military Regimes are in effect a political geography that further entrenched NORTH-ISM upon the Christian-Muslim Minorities. This political geography is a window dressing of a further and deepened subordination of the Christian-Muslim Minorities to the oppressive and dominant ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM.

The National Conference and politicians in Nigeria need to re-visit the political aspirations and freedom of the Middle Belt Ethnic Minorities which British Colonial Nigeria did not address, nor the politicians or the soldiers of Northern extraction.

Southern politicians who have tasted political freedom and are now enjoying and living democratically should work hard politically and form a mountain pressure group until the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States also gain their political freedom and democracy.

The National Conference should re-visit the colonial artificial and arbitrary and contrived geo-political boundaries and the consequences of British Indirect Rule that have given undue political advantage to some ethnic nationalities in the North over the Christian-Muslim Minorities. The political question of the Middle Belt within the national political equation should be taken up very seriously and addressed comprehensively by the Conference.

C.    The Military Regimes and the Political Question of the Middle Belt

The Military Regimes after General Ironsi were mainly bred and nurtured under the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM. Their policies of states and local governments creation were governed and influenced by geo-political mathematics. The political question and the ethnic, cultural, religious and social rights of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Middle Belt were never entertained or granted. By and large, the exercise of states and local governments creation were based upon master-servant syndrome and classical clientelism of the Empire Builders. A typical example of this intractable case is the quest by the Christian-Muslim Minorities of Kaduna State for the creation of Gurara State. All that the Military did was to further entrenched the hegemony of NORTH-ISM and the full subjugation of the Christian-Muslim Minorities. In most Northern States, the Military ensured that the Masters (Muslim Rulers and majority) have their servants (Christian-Muslim Minorities) appended to them as the hewers and cutters of wood and carriers of water in their States. Perhaps, the Military might have naively assumed that equality of persons or ethnic groups is a given factor in human history, or that it was expedient to mix them up for the good of humanity and national integration. But realities on ground have proven the Military to be both naïve and wrong.

Nigerians are not just scattered as individuals, but people bound by culture, religion, ethnography and geography. The greatest political disservice of the Military to the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States is in this area. This National Conference should consider addressing the political question of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States as its top-most national priority.        

D.    The Nigerian Government and the Legislature

Both the Executive and the Legislature should have been pro-active in ensuring that all historical imbalances, injustices and subordinations of the yester-years of Empire Building are corrected and redressed. They neglected this very need by not ensuring that every ethnic nationality has a taste of Nigerian Independence of 1960. On First October 1960, the British granted political independence to all Nigerians, but the NORTH has refused to do same to some Christian-Muslim Minorities in the Northern States of Nigeria. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Executive and the Legislature to ensure that every person and every ethnic nationality is politically free in Nigeria. It is incumbent on them to set up a national research on the need for all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to have their full political freedom.
E.     Summary
 
From the forgoing, very serious political questions have been raised on what the Empire Builders have done to the peoples of the Middle Belt. The failure to address the political question of the CMM of the Middle Belt is deeply rooted in ethnography, geography, religion and culture. The political question of the Middle Belt has from recent history exhibited great fears and anxieties by those who derive enormous political benefits from NORTH-ISM. The historical strangle hold of the then Sokoto Caliphate and the then Sultanate of Kanem-Borno, the then British Colonial Administration and now the Northern political class and elites and the Military regimes on the CMM of the Middle Belt is deeply rooted in the manipulations of ethnography, geography, religion and culture. The political jinx of the Middle Belt and the place of the CMM in both Northern and National politics are rooted in this fundamental question.

The term Middle Belt in itself generates great anxieties and fears in some people. They hate the term to the core. But we know that their anxiety and fear are deeply rooted in the political manipulation of the ethnography, geography, religion and culture by the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM. Until when these issues are brought to the open, one would not be able to fathom the foundations of such great anxiety and fear that is imbedded in the political question of the Middle Belt. In order to understand and appreciate the deep-seated anxiety and fear of the political question of the Middle Belt, one needs to be well educated beyond the dominant and oppressive ideology and idolatry of ONE NORTH.

V.                The Northern Minorities and the Politics of Geography and Ethnography

The nature and scope of Nigerian politics is deeply rooted in geography and ethnography. The politics of ancestral land, regionalism, federalism, states, local governments, sectionalism and zoning are all rooted in geography. While the politics of tribalism, religion, culture, federal character, population and elections are all rooted in ethnicity. The dominant and powerful motif of ethno-regional politics in Nigeria is the basis of religious and cultural wars, the politics of population, elections, zoning, state and local government creations and federal character. The political bargaining powers are between and among only the South East, South-West, South-South and the Muslim Far-North. The peoples of the Middle Belt are left out of the political equation as we have already pointed out. We need to point out how political geography and political ethnicity benefit the rest of Nigerians as they were fashioned out for them by the Empire Builders, but not the peoples of the Middle Belt.    
 
A.    Political Geography and Political Ethnography

Political geography deals with land and all its natural and mineral resources. Land and its natural and mineral resources dictate how politics is being played among and between all the stake holders. How is political geography being played out in Nigeria?

Political ethnography also deals with ethnicity, tribalism, religion and culture. The ownership of land and its natural and mineral resources dictate how politics is being played. The political holders use ethnicity, religion and culture and political intrigues as means of manipulations and entrenching their dominant position in both regional and national politics.

The National Conference needs to research and answer the question, “How did Empire Builders use geography and ethnography to create a MONOLITHIC NORTH?,” which has become the most sophisticated and powerful instrument of political and religious subjugation, oppression and marginalization of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern Sates of Nigeria in both regional and national politics?

B.     The Historical Background of Political Geography and Political Ethnography

The National Conference needs to have a thorough knowledge and understanding: How political geography and political ethnicity were used by the Empire Builders in institutionalizing the inferior status and socio-political role of the Minorities of the Middle Belt. On this account the political quest of the present Christian-Muslim Minorities is their total and complete liberation based upon the political principles of land ancestry (geography) and ethnography (ethnic nationalities). The political problems of the peoples of the Middle Belt can only be seriously addressed if their ethnic nationalities are considered as a primary political factor in the National Debate.    

Nigerians as citizens define themselves solely in terms of their ethnicity, history, religious affiliation, culture or ancestral land. For example, the colonial masters would ask Nigerians: What is your tribe? What is your Native Authority? What is your region? What is your religion? Where do you come from? Are you an indigene, a native or a settler? In Nigeria today, people from one ethnic group cannot claim rights to land that is ancestral outside of their own geographic area. Residency and Nigerian citizenship do not grant land ancestry. The Nigerian Constitution has yet to erase that colonial understanding, interpretation and application of linking ethnography to ancestral land of origin (geography). For this reason, a Yoruba Nigerian cannot claim rights to ancestral land or chieftaincy in any part of Nigeria outside of his ancestral Yorubaland, whether in Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Enugu, Owerri, Calabar, Port Harcourt or Benin. Similarly, an Igbo Nigerian cannot claim a right to ancestral land or chieftaincy in those areas. In the same vein, a Hausa Nigerian cannot claim rights to ancestral land and chieftaincy in Ibadan, Ife, Enugu, Owerri, Calabar, Port Harcourt or Benin. So also a Middle Belt Nigerian cannot claim ancestral land or chieftaincy in the Far North or the West, the East, or the Far South. For the same reason, no Yoruba, Igbo or Middle Belter can be made a ruler of the Hausa in any part of Hausaland. No Hausa, Bini or Yoruba can be made a traditional ruler of the Igbo in any part of Igboland. Furthermore, no Igbo, Hausa, Bini or Middle Belter can be made a ruler of the Yoruba in any part of Yorubaland. But the Hausa and Fulani, however, who cannot claim such ancestral and geographical rights in Igboland, Yorubaland or Biniland, can do so quite easily in the Middle Belt even though historically they do not have ancestral and geographical rights as it applies to the rest of Nigeria. Conversely, a Christian or traditionalists from the Middle Belt cannot claim ancestral land rights in any part of Hausaland or Kanuriland.

Why is the case of the Middle Belt different from the rest of Nigeria (Far North, West and East)? The British concepts of Nigerian ethnicity, land and citizenship were rooted in their own Kingdom heritage. One may be a British citizen, but he may not be a Scott, or Welsh, or Irish or English. Being a Scott, or Welsh or Irish or English is not granted by British citizenship or residency, but exclusively by ancestry and geography. The British brought the same idea to colonial Nigeria, but carved out the Middle Belt as an exception which may appear to resemble the American (USA) concept of citizenship, but inherently different.

Why is the Middle Belt an exception in both land and citizenship matters? It is unique because its ethnicity, religion, history and ancestral land were manipulated and interpreted differently by the colonial masters from those of the rest of Nigerians who resided in the Far North, the East and the West. Earlier, the Caliphate had claimed some parts of the Middle Belt through the jihads, the wars of expansion and the annexation of lands and territories. Later, at the arrival of the British, they consolidated those Hausa and Fulani enclaves and colonies into districts, divisions, emirates and provinces under the Indirect Rule and indigenous administration (Native Authorities). The British colonial structures, the emirate system, indigenous administration and the philosophy of indirect rule gave a colonial status to the Islamic territories in some parts of the Middle Belt.

Even prior to the Caliphate era, the Hausa traders and the Fulani pastoralists lived in their own separate colonies or the zangos as distinct from the indigenes. Islam consolidated this early settler and non-indigene communities scattered throughout the Middle Belt as Muslim communities within the vast territory of the Middle Belt. The British simply took the Hausa concept of settler-stranger-indigene and created the 440 yards rule and the Sabon Gari System. The concept and practice of non-indigeneship, settlers or strangers was a colonial consolidation of the early Hausa concept of communal separation of un-equal ethnic or religious groups.

In Hausaland, the passport to indigenization is assimilation or integration. If a non-Hausa wanted to be an indigene, he/she must have to integrate or assimilate. The Kanuri have integrated in Kano and became Hausawa and the same in Zaria. Identity change by religion or culture facilitated integration or assimilation. A Yoruba man or Igbo man who refuses to assimilate or integrate in Kano or Katsina would ever remain a settler or a stranger. Without assimilation or integration, it is very difficult for one to claim indigeneship in the Far North, West or East. It would be foolhardy for a Yoruba man or a Birom man, or any other to claim indigeneship in Kano or in any parts of the Far North if such a one refuses to assimilate into Hausa system.

But currently, Nigerians are forcing and advocating for a different case in the Middle Belt. Traditionally, the Hausa and the Fulani or any other has generally refused to assimilate or integrate in the Middle Belt. Particularly, the Hausa, the Fulani and the Kanuri have ever remained distinct, different and even stood aloof. It is with this posture that some of them are laying claims of indigeneship in the Middle Belt areas which could not be done in the Far North. Here we can see social and ethical disparity which is the source of crises and conflicts between the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri, on the one hand, and the other ethnic groups in the Middle Belt, on the other. This social and ethical disparity is sometimes given to religious and political manipulations, but such takes place only in the Middle Belt. When the Middle Belters began to have their own chiefdoms, in some places, the Hausa and the Fulani would refused to be placed under this arrangement and would demand for their own emirates and emirs in the Middle Belt. In colonial times, the Hausa, the Fulani and the Kanuri had always been the rulers and this makes it very difficult for some of them to submit to the rulers from Middle Belt extraction. The issues of assimilation and integration are social factors that are the roots of many crises and conflicts in the Middle Belt. The Jos and Kafanchan crises are deeply rooted in ethnography, geography, religion and culture of mainly the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri, on the one hand, and that of the other ethnic groups, on the other. What the Hausa and the Fulani want done in Jos or Kafanchan cannot be done in any part of Hausaland. Ancestry of both ethnicity and land are the primary causes of conflicts and crises generally in the Middle Belt between the indigenes and the Hausa and Fulani. Any political or religious solution that does address these primordial social factors can be considered to be far from justice and fairness. Imposition of the will of the powerful or the majority would only inflame crises and conflicts. The powerful can have their will or interest enshrined in a contrived State policy or legislation. But doing so only sows the seeds of crisis and conflict. The question of ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt must be taken very seriously if we are searching for peace in the Middle Belt areas.   

British colonialism had defined Nigerians in terms of their ethnicity and land ancestry. Because of this social fact, they have also defined Nigerians in terms of indigeneship or settlership. For example, if one is born a Yoruba, or Ibo, or Hausa, or any other, automatically that one is associated with an ethnic group and with a specific ancestral land. If a Hausa man is born in Port Harcourt, he is defined in terms of being an ethnic Hausa with his home ancestry in Hausaland. This was what British colonialism made of all Nigerians. The argument that a Nigerian if born in a certain place, he is automatically an indigene of that place does not fit any conceptual and British colonial culture in Nigeria. In fact, the only geographical area where people make such bogus claims and practice it is the Middle Belt. No Nigerian can make such a claim in the Far North, West, or East. British colonialism had carved out Nigerian ethnic groupings according their land ancestry and there are ample ethnographic colonial maps that had defined each ethnic or language group according to their ethnography and land ancestry. The smaller ethnic or language groupings may stand the chance of losing even their very little portion of ancestral land to the powerful ones as the case is becoming in contemporary Middle Belt. This could be done by mere use of force of arms, assimilation or enculturation. The other is done by contrived constitutional means and political manipulations. For example, if Nigerian citizenship should be defined by residency, then the Middle Belters would be disadvantaged because of what the British colonialism had done to both their ethnicity and land of ancestry. Every Nigerian who resides in the Far North, West or East knows that he/she is a stranger by ancestry of land and ethnicity in the area. Who would even dare to make such claims? The only claim that is valid for any Nigerian is that of ancestry of both ethnicity and land. The British manipulated the ethnography and geography of the peoples of the Middle Belt to their disadvantage in modern Nigeria. Whatever definition of citizenship or land that Nigerians should adopt today, the peoples of the West, East and Far North would not feel threatened by such, except for the peoples of the Middle Belt. The questions of citizenship and land matters are very sensitive issues for the Middle Belt peoples who stand alone to watch the gradual shrinking of their ancestral land and the erosion of their space and freedom in modern Nigeria. Gradually, the Middle Belt is becoming a war zone filled with so many crises and conflicts. The inflammation of crises and conflicts are rooted hegemonic and religious manipulations of the peoples of the Middle Belt by the dominant and powerful political and religious groups.

Since British colonialism had imperially carved out all the ethnic groups based upon their land of ancestry, Nigeria must on this historical basis protect the smaller ethnic groups from having their ancestral lands being confiscated by the powerful ethnic groups. This can only be achieved if a land and ethnic law is promulgated primarily to protect all ethnic groupings of Nigeria. This socio-historical background is what can be the foundations of modern Nigerian citizenship. Those desiring to apply wholesale the American experience of citizenship to Nigeria would invariably disadvantage only the Middle Belters. Nigeria can modify its primordial values, but must be done in such a way that in the long run no one is disadvantaged or schemed out in the political equation of Nigeria. Nigerian citizenship based upon the American experience or residency concept would in principle be accepted by Nigerians knowing that such a concept can only be applied in the Middle Belt and not in their ancestral areas. The Middle Belt would invariably become a new virgin territory where all Nigerians could converge as Nigerians. The political and social implications for the Middle Belt would be phenomenal. Land and citizenship disputes in Nigeria are only found in the Middle Belt. All disputes pertaining to indigeneship or settlership in the Middle Belt must have to be settled and resolved for the well-being of all ethnic groups in the Middle Belt. They should be guaranteed of both their ancestral ethnography and geography.           

Historically, the non-Muslim groups had a subordinated status in the hierarchical structure of the Northern Colonial System. Even in their own ancestral lands, they were made second-class citizens with a dhimmi or slave status. The Muslim Hausa, Fulani or Kanuri rulers who had no ancestry in the Middle Belt were made their rulers and thus had ancestral land rights of the area. Thus, the political geography of the Middle Belt was redefined to give the Muslim Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri territorial rights for the whole Northern Region. The only group of Nigerians who have been subjected to a different understanding, interpretation and application of colonial ethnography and geography are the peoples of the Middle Belt. Even in their own ancestral lands, the Christian-Muslim Minorities in the Middle Belt are at best, second-class citizens. Hence the necessity of making ethnic nationality an important factor in National Conference.

During the colonial era and since independence, the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt have campaigned for political independence and resented the continuation of the non-indigenous rule and claims to their ancestral lands. The British colonial masters defined the Nigerian ethnic groups, not as individuals, but as people-groups with distinct ethnicity, history, religion, culture and ancestral land. Each ethnic group under the colonial masters was given a geographical territory as its ancestral land. The British were able to monitor and traced individual Nigerians back to their ethnicity and ancestral land. They had the colonial maps which defined the political geography and ethnography of all ethnic groups in Nigeria. Because of rapid population growth, urbanization and migrations, there are some ethnic groups that stand the danger of becoming extinct. The endangered ethnic groups stand in dare need of protection and preservation from the powerful and numerous ethnic groups that could easily swallow them up. There is a great need of developing a policy of preserving such ethnic groups from extinction. 

Under the Caliphate and the Sultanate and British colonialism, Muslim–non-Muslim relationships were based upon a hierarchical classification of human races or civilizations. The legacy of these social hierarchies affects the way in which the Muslim Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri, on the one hand and the non-Muslims of the Middle Belt, on the other relate to each other. Classical Islam and British racism produced a social order that results in inferior status and role for the traditionalists, Christians and peoples of other faiths. In some Northern States, the non-Muslims and Christians still carry the stigma of inferiority of the bye-gone years of slavery or dhimmi status. They still suffer discrimination on grounds of religion or ethnicity and are sometimes denied the opportunity of holding key political positions. These discriminatory practices seek to limit the influence of Christians and other non-Muslims even if they are in the majority or are present in large numbers. Some powerful Muslim groups still believe in the Caliphate, Sultanate and British hierarchical classification of people groups and seek to maintain their status as second-class citizens. This mentality has turned out to be the current ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM. 

From the foregoing, we have stated very clearly the reasons why we have a strong need for the National Conference to be based upon ethnic nationalities as means of curtailing the influence of the political class and elites who have dominated national politics prior to and after Independence. Nigerians and ethnic nationalities should be given the opportunity of determining their fate in the next centennial starting in 2014.


VI.             The Role and Function of the National Conference

We proffer the following suggestions regarding the role and functions of the National Conference.

A.    Sovereignty of the National Conference?

Historically, the desire by some Nigerians to make this National Conference a Sovereignty is what has hindered or delayed any set-up of such a Conference in the past. Sovereignty as a concept threatens some people and casts a shadow of suspicion as some believe that Sovereignty spells the disintegration of Nigeria. The concept has both proponents and opponents. We advise against making this National Conference Sovereignty.
B.     Government Support and Backing

Without any full Government support and backing, this exercise is doomed to failure. The only question we want to ask here is, “Does the Government have the political will to implement all the decisions of the National Conference?” It is this assurance of will power to implement decisions that we need as a nation.

C.    Presentations at the National Conference

1.      National Conference Should Not Be Based Upon Regions or the Elite Political Class

When we hear some people talk about East, West or North as power brokers and stake holders who would come to this National Conference to represent their Regions, or the elite political class, and if accepted, it would only send Nigeria back into the feudal jahiliya period. This Conference is not about Regional or elite representation. What we call regions, were the contrived artificial and arbitrary creation of the Empire Builders who imposed their wills upon the unwilling subjects. We cannot today, use the democratic instruments of national integration and nation building to bring in at the back-door feudalism and political backwardness of the ideology and idolatry of regionalism, elitism and especially NORTH-ISM. Regional politics and structures are the Trojan Horse of the political class and elites. We strongly oppose the use of instruments of oppression, subjugation, discrimination and marginalization under the guise of regions, for example NORTH-ISM. The political class and elites of the NORTH have never served the political, cultural and religious interests of the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria. They have always worked against them by ensuring and establishing their political dominance and influence, and political distribution of resources, rewards and statuses. No one or group should be allowed to speak for and on behalf of any others.    

2.      National Conference Be Based Upon Ethnic Nationalities   

In order to correct the contrived, artificial and arbitrary creation of regions, states and local governments, the National Conference needs to define Nigerians mainly in terms of their ethnicity (ethnography) and ancestral land (geography). In the Middle Belt, all the people groups are a mixture of Christians, Muslims and a few Traditionalists. They form what we call Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria. Even though some of them have become Muslims, the ideology and idolatry of NORTH-ISM still discriminates and marginalizes them. Even though they are Muslims, Islam Hausanizes and incorporates them peripherally into a Hausa ethnic group. Still, their tribal/ethnic roots stigmatize them as kabila and tubabbu. Becoming a Muslim does not erase their nascent ethnic and ancestral origin and place. It only depends who is Hausa or Muslim enough. The place and plight of a Muslim Minority is rooted in his ethnography and geography. Even if he assimilates into Hausa he has primordial social factors which cannot be erased as the Hausa community is highly hierarchical based upon human classification of races. We are all equal but some are more equal than others. Many, who wanted to escape their inferior status and socio-political role in NORTH-ISM and ISLAM, have discovered to their regret that after all they are not better than their kith and kin who did not convert to Islam. In fact, their kith and kin may be better treated than they. Thus, being a northerner is much deeper than a mere political expression of NORTH-ISM or ISLAM. To many who are designated as the Northern Minorities (Christian-Muslim), the concept NORTH is an ideology and idolatry that has denied them their freedom, equality and basic human rights. 

The Christian-Muslim Minorities need to go to the National Conference as an ethnic nationality with a distinct ancestral land. We still have colonial and post-colonial maps of ethnic and linguistic groupings in Nigeria, especially the Middle Belt which has more ethnic nationalities than any region of Nigeria. Representation in the National Conference by ethnic nationality will redress many injustices and manipulations of ethnicity, land, religion and culture of people groups in the Middle Belt that have been overrun and dominated by NORTH-ISM and ISLAM. They need to be free and be given an opportunity to chart their political course without being tele-guided by their so-called surrogate lords and masters.

Under no circumstance(s) should any ethnic nationality in the Middle Belt be subsumed under NORTH-ISM, because the National Conference is not about regions or religion but people who are all Nigerians and are all equal before the National Conference. We are also going there not on political majority or minority basis, but as equal ethnic nationalities and Nigerians. Elitism of the political class has nothing to hold on to except a geo-political boundary or a religious universalism. National Conference is not a place where Labour Congress or Regions, or Religious Groups would be allowed in or to impose their hegemony of servitude upon ethnic nationalities. 

The Christian-Muslim Minorities of  the Northern States are in dare need of their political freedom and expression, for this reason, they should not be placed under any form of NORTH-ISM. What the British Colonial Administration did to them in the mid and late 1950s, the Hudson Commission (1956) and the Minority Commission (1958) should not be repeated by this National Conference. All other Minority Groups in Nigeria have obtained their political rights and land rights, except the Christian-Muslim Minorities of the Northern States of Nigeria. In fact, the National Conference should be made to finish the task of carving out politically and geographically all the Christian-Muslim Minorities who are not Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri and be given their two political Zones: Middle Belt West Zone and Midddle-Belt East Zone. The Hausa and Fulani North-West Zone and the Kanuri and their similar others North-East Zone.

D.    Suggested Working Guidelines for the National Conference 

We propose the following working guidelines for the National Conference in working with each identified ethnic nationality or groups of ethnic nationality:

1.      The National Conference shall set up a machinery or means of Identification and Classification of all Ethnic Nationalities or Groups of Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria based upon the following primordial social factors: (1) ethnography (ethnicity, identity and history); (2) geography (land and territory); (3) religion; and (4) culture.
2.      Each Ethnic Nationality shall be asked to list, debate and resolve by itself all pending issues of joining with others in the Nigerian Project, for example:
a.      What political arrangements and structures are conducive for national unity and would make her want to be part of making the new Nigeria?
b.      What primordial social factors and values that other ethnic nationalities or the political class and elites have that have generated crises and conflicts in their experience of being part of Nigeria? Should such conflict generating social factors and values be allowed or disallowed in the New Nigeria?
c.       How would she want to be treated by all other ethnic nationalities and Nigerians if she is to be part of the making of New Nigeria?
d.      In its experience of Nigeria, what type of a New Nigeria does she want to have?
e.       What specific areas of development does this ethnic nationality or group of ethnic nationalities want see Government to do in her ethnic territory?  
f.       What form of Government is best suited for this ethnic group that shares one geo-political entity with others?

3.      Each Ethnic Nationality or Group of Ethnic Nationalities shall have an Elders’ Forum to discuss debate and resolve the above issues and findings. These are to be sent to the National Conference for further presentation, debate and resolutions.
4.      The National Conference shall present, debate and resolve all the submissions from all the Ethnic Nationalities or Group of Ethnic Nationalities. Two broad classifications are to be made in collating the Debates and Resolutions of the National Conference:
a.      Collation of all common ground social factors and values that form the basis of national unity and harmony;
b.      Collation of all conflicting social factors and values that is divisive and conflictual. These are to be debated intensely and if they could not be resolved, they cannot also be brought into the making of a New Nigeria. They are to be labeled sub-national values with very limited sphere. They cannot be made national in whatever form.

5.      The National Conference shall prepare a Constitution that embraces and reflects the common ground of all Nigerians and advise on how to handle sub-national and limited values. 
6.      The National Conference shall propose a National Instrument for the processes of adoption of the New Constitution by the Executive and the Legislature.