By James A. KANYIP
The call to write on this topic was impromptu. My response to it will therefore be in like manner and brief. The attempt here is not to be exhaustive or deep, but to bring out some salient points for discussions here and, probably, later. If this short paper helped to provoke thoughts and discourse at the end of the day, it would have achieved its purpose and scored a major goal.
A gathering of this sort is heart-warming and encouraging because it affords us the opportunity to bridge gap, discuss soberly and dispassionately and chart a course for the progress and prosperity of not only Southern Kaduna, but the State and Federation as a whole. It is on this premise that it gladdens my heart to be the one chosen to speak on this topic before this wonderful people of good will. It is my hope that this gathering will be sustained.
The political landscape in Southern Kaduna has more slides than smoothness, and more curves than straights. Delving into its chequered history will not be necessary today as it is a topic for another day. But, it suffices to say that Southern Kaduna has a more indefinite political history than definite as a result of many factors, some which will be considered here shortly.
The result of this is that, over the years, Southern Kaduna has failed to bring out a coherent and generally acceptable political agenda for its people and region. And, this is why a forum like this with a more telling theme: “Bridging Dichotomies”, becomes handy and useful, especially at this time and tide that the people of Southern Kaduna have nobody to investiture as a political leader or figure head which places them in the vulnerable position of the proverbial sheep that had no shepherd.
This paper will look at the need for participation of people in politics and governance; the reasons for political dichotomies in Southern Kaduna; and the way forward. The paper will not delve into comparative analysis of the experiences in Southern Kaduna and elsewhere. Instead, it will focus more on introspection and self-examination of the peculiarities of the people of Southern Kaduna.
The Inseparability of Politics and Governance
Politics is the process by which a group of people in a community, region, nation or country make a collective or majority decision through election/voting, or other democratic means to choose those to govern or represent them. Governance, on the other hand, is the act of governing attained through constitutional and political means. Therefore, governance is an offshoot of politics or political activities.
Whether we like it a not, politics and governance have become the strongest and veritable tools to acquire political power to rule and lead a people. A community or region without political power will have to be at the mercy of God and those in power. The disadvantages of being left out of political relevance are unfortunately many.
Crucial and critical decisions that have the tendency and capacity of changing our individual and collective lives for better or worse as a people may be taken through the instrumentalities of politics and governance. This is why political participation has found global and national anchorage as a fundamental and basic human right. The adverse effect of non-participation in political activities by those that are enlightened and entitled to participate is that people will be governed by mediocres and shenanigans.
Southern Kaduna people, over the years, have been actively participating in politics and governance at the community, State and Federal levels. As I said earlier, the politic landscape has more slides than smoothness, and more curves than straights. Many reasons abound.
Why do we have Political Dichotomies in Southern Kaduna?
The word “Dichotomy” recurrently used here should be understood first. The Webster Dictionary gives the word its literal, plain and natural meaning as: “division or separation into two”; “a division involving apparently incompatible or opposite principles”; “the division of a class of people into two disjoint subclasses”, etc. The context in which the word is used in this paper is not any different from these definitions.
In this paper, the word is merely used to express the presence of political division and absence of political unity and oneness; the inability to bring up a generally acceptable political agenda; and the absence of a common political voice in Southern Kaduna. Hence, the choice of this topic is to discuss the ways of closing these gaps and bridging these divisions among us with a view to attaining a common political goal for the entire Southern Kaduna people irrespective of their Local Government Areas, tribe, religious beliefs and political affiliations.
Many reasons, influenced by political, socio-cultural and tribal sentiments, account for these dichotomies. We shall look at some of them without being exhaustive.
The first problem bedeviling us as a people is the absence of unity as a people. All other problems are trajectories and vectors of this problem. Agreed that Southern Kaduna people have minor ethnic, tribal and dialectical diversity, this should have been our source of unity and strength which, with proper management, would uplift us to the status of an ethnic nationality. It worked in the earlier and recent past, although the instances were few. For instance, it was the Southern Kaduna political unity that ensured the victory of Late Alhaji Dabo Lere (under the NRC) as the elected Executive Governor of Kaduna State in the 1991 general elections by defeating the stronger SDP candidate, Prof. Ango Abdullahi. The election of the Late Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa in the recent past also clearly exhibited the political unity of Southern Kaduna people.
The creation of additional chiefdoms in 2000 which was intended to create traditional and cultural autonomy and integration at the same time, has now been misused and desecrated by politicians. They have been polarized and thereby become institutions for ethnic and tribal divisiveness. Chiefdoms, not merit, are now used to determine what goes where or which elective office or political appointment goes where. Some positions are exclusively reserved for the big Chiefdoms, while the small Chiefdoms are left at the mercy of God. The divide-and rule tactic is employed in the Chiefdoms to garner political support and capital. This is because political sentiments and preference differ from Chiefdoms to Chiefdoms. Desperate politicians that have no credible electoral package to sell to the electorates always cash in on this to whip up sentiments to so as to win elections.
The ethnic communities or tribes that form or belong to the entity called Southern Kaduna have their own share of the blame. A lot of premium is being placed on the community one comes from or the tribe one belongs to in determining the political office that one will be elected into. Just like the Chiefdoms, some juicy and elective positions are the exclusive preserves and rights of some communities and tribes. The same thing applies in the distribution of dividends of democracy and governance.
The majority-minority dichotomy is now being employed to segregate communities and tribes for political interests. For instance, a Bajju or Atyap man who is an indigene of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area but resident in Jaba Local Government Area cannot successfully contest and win election there even though both Zangon Kataf and Jaba LGAs are politically married together as a single Federal Constituency in Southern Kaduna. The same thing applies to Jema’a/Sanga and Kachia/Kagarko LGAs. In fact, even endorsing indigeneship certificates to those born in a particular LGA whose parents belong to another LGA is a serious problem.
The predominance of Christianity as the religion with majority and widespread acceptability in Southern Kaduna and which is supposed to be the instrument for spiritual unification of the people has also been polarized and politicized. Political interests are now being determined along religious denominational lines. Ecumenism has no religious relevance now. Politics is defined on the basis of denominations. Recently, and sadly, we have the Southern Kaduna Muslim Development Association (SOKAMDA). The dichotomy is no longer intra-religious, it has now become inter-religious. No thanks to politics!
The blind followership to political parties has contributed in great measure to further divide us. The members of the two major political parties in Nigeria, the APC and PDP, are guiltier of this posture and are therefore the culprits. The right to belong to, and associate with any political party of one’s choice is constitutional, inalienable and therefore must be respected. We must not all belong to a single political party. That will be political dangerous and suicidal. But, irrespective of the political parties we belong to, we must not lose focus of two things: first, where we come from; and second, the benefits that we must bring to our communities and, by extension, Southern Kaduna through our political parties or political participation or governance.
Our elected and appointed officers from these two political parties are not helping matters. They prefer to deal with, associate and take care of the members of their political parties. They see their Constituencies not as a wholesome unit, but as a political unit comprising of only members of their political parties. This explains why there is no forum of all the elected and appointed offices of Southern Kaduna extraction where they meet to discuss issues of common and collective interest of Southern Kaduna.
Non-chalance towards participation in politics, governance; and the general apathy in the democratic and electoral processes are also reasons for political dichotomies in Southern Kaduna. A typical Southern Kaduna man is not really concerned about his voting rights and privileges. He is reluctant to register as a voter; and where he did, he would be reluctant to go and vote. At the end, his vote would not count and he would be governed by people that he may not like.
The absence of mentorship from the elders to the younger ones has contributed in no small measure in creating a wide gulf and disparity between the brackets of the older politicians and the younger ones in Southern Kaduna. The older ones still compete for political space with the younger ones even in situations where they can give the younger ones the chance to grow.
The Southern Kaduna People Union (SOKAPU), the umbrella body of about 65 ethnic groups of the people of Southern Kaduna has had a rough path from its formative stage to the recent past. Internal squabbles and lingering court cases had negatively affected its core mandate of unifying the people. The last of the court cases was just recently withdrawn. Aside that, funding SOKAPU to enable it carry out and discharge its duties is a major drawback. With the establishment of the Southern Kaduna Muslim Development Association (SOKAMDA), SOKAPU has been further decimated and divided not only on the basis of religion, but also on the basis of ethnicity and tribe because most members of the SOKAMDA are the indigenous the Hausa-Fulani people.
Intertwined in all these is the failure to answer the all-begging question: the “Southern Kaduna political struggle”. What does it stand for?
The SOKAPU, SOKAMDA, the various Development Associations and the emergence and formation of other pockets of political and socio-cultural groups and forums here and there in the quest for “Southern Kaduna struggle” have not been effectively and efficaciously helpful to answer this political question of the Southern Kaduna people. This is because till date the phrase “Southern Kaduna political struggle” has not been defined within the prism and circumspection of consensus ad idem, collectivity and general acceptability. The phrase is interpreted within the circumvention of subjectivity and based on the myopism of the various groups and forums to fit into the pigeon hole of their self-serving political and socio-cultural struggles. The end result is that the phrase is more often than not given a relative, restrictive and individualistic interpretation.
Intricately tied to the above is the issue of a political agenda for Southern Kaduna. What does it entail? Who sets the agenda? These questions have never been answered in unequivocation. It is only being murmured in political meetings and gatherings without any concrete and practical answer to it. Till date, this agenda remains elusive.
What is the Way Forward?
So far, we have tried, though not exhaustively, to bring out some of the reasons why Southern Kaduna is presently experiencing political dichotomies. As can be seen, most of these problems are traceable to politics and the quest for political relevance. We shall therefore attempt to proffer some solutions here, although, too, not exhaustively.
First, there should be sustained awareness campaign that the membership of SOKAPU is open to all people indigenous to Southern Kaduna irrespective of religious beliefs and other affiliations and sentiments. Also, such membership should include the right to vote and be voted for into the elective offices. Happily, the last SOKAPU Congress Meeting held at New Choice Hotel, Kafanchan, both the Christian and Muslim members of SOKAPU were in attendance. Such meetings will bridge gaps and dichotomies.
Second, political associations and affiliations must be respected by both the politicians and the people. Belonging to different political parties should not be seen as a sign of disunity among us, or an avenue to label some of us as “sell-outs” or “traitors”. I think the way and manner we view and practice politics have a telling effect in the way and manner we treat each other. If political officers treat all and sundry in their constituents as equal and the same without favouritism and discrimination on the basis of political membership, that will go a long way in fending fences and building bridges of unity among the people.
Third, too much sentimental attachment and affiliation to political parties tend to make us lose focus of the bigger picture in Southern Kaduna. At the end, we miss the golden opportunity to elect credible candidates and, instead, end up with mediocres and incompetents as our leaders. The emphasis should be more on the credibility of the candidate than on his political parties.
Fourth, this is the time for Southern Kaduna to carve a political identity, philosophy and ideology for itself outside party politics. The days where emphasis was stereotypically placed on belonging to the “ruling party” are over. If being in the “opposition party” will serve our collective interest as a people, then that is good to go.
Fifth, aside from the above, we must also have a political agenda and master plan on ground that will be the subject of our collective struggle.
Sixth, we must devise ways to engage our youths through sustainable campaigns geared towards creating awareness in them to be active in political activities and governance by also ensuring the exercise their civil rights to vote and be voted for. They should also be encouraged, financially and materially, to contest for elective positions.
Just like the political problems of Southern Kaduna, the way forward or solutions thereof are not exhaustive. But, as we said earlier, if this short paper had helped to provoke thoughts and discourse at the end of the day, it would have achieved its purpose and scored a major goal.
James A. KANYIP
** DIL (ABU); LL.B (ABU); LL.M (ABU); BL (Lagos); Legal Practitioner and Ph.D Student of Human Rights Law, ABU, Zaria.