Abuja: Slum of a capital city
This land now called Nigeria, even before it came into being, has always had its capital city established purely on convenience rather than on sensitive and rationale factors that usually characterise the siting of capital cities around the world.
Many would not remember that the first headquarters of this nation was Lokoja in the present day Kogi State where Lord Lugard officially settled and made his first proclamation on 1st January 1900. It was at the bank of River Niger, which provided the access through which captured slaves and other looted materials of economic value were ferried abroad. From the 16th Century when the Spanish settled in Calabar to 1912 in Lagos and finally to Abuja in 1991, all the moves were motivated basically by personal benefit and convenience of the colonial masters and some zones.
Abuja which prides itself as one of the fastest growing capital cities in Africa has gulped trillions of dollars for its development, a centrally concentrated city that is not even close to the size of my community, Nsukka said to be the largest local council area in Nigeria. Since Gen. Murtala Muhammed proclaimed Abuja a ‘no man’s land’ on August 9, 1975 and set up a panel to examine the feasibility of relocating the country’s capital city from Lagos to Abuja, the Kpaduma low-income community of nine ethnic groups with over one million people have never been the same. These peace-loving natives of Abuja who have lived here for over 40,000 years maintain that the ‘heart of a new Nigeria’ is tilted as the tenureship of the land has not been properly ratified.
Owing to the bare-faced betrayal of trust concerning the original agreement entered into with the Federal Government and with no one speaking for them, human right groups and other NGOs should be able to rise up to the occasion by defending them and not waiting for international grants for the work they wouldn’t do. This act of abysmal neglect has pushed the aborigines who now prefer to sell their lands to visitors rather than lose it uncompensated to an uncaring government. So, there is this new attitude of callously selling land with arbitrariness and at give-away prices to forestall government’s insincere take-over without due compensation.
These natives are often preyed upon by the business men and women who develop those sites and either sell them at very exorbitant prices or leave them unrented. At least, if the government cannot provide affordable houses for its people, there should be a price tag that every landlord or town developer must not exceed and a property tax law should be in place and be fully implemented to check the excesses of these insensitive capitalists and their agents.
Abuja is the seat of power in Nigeria where political power is supposed to be equitably distributed, where revenues accruing from all over the country are shared. If the kpadumas’ could selflessly vacate their lands for us all; if the black gold from the Niger Delta located thousands of kilometres away from Abuja, which is deceptively referred to as our common natural resources, could sustain the whole nation, then I don’t see anything bad in having a non northerner as the Minister of FCT.
How many chairmanship candidates from the other zones of the country were fielded by the two major political parties in the just concluded municipal council election in the FCT? There is no plan for a conscious consideration and understanding for equitable distribution of political power that would engender cohesion and unity, typical of a mutually-beneficial capital territory that offers a true sense of belonging to all. Indeed, this is not good for the polity and our nation as a whole!
Security is another challenge in the FCT. Vandals are on the rampage in Abuja with majority of the installed CCTV already stolen. And why not when something more precious; as sacred as life could be sniffed away recklessly without anyone being apprehended! Since the brutal murder of Deaconess Eunice Elisha around pipeline area of Kubwa, a suburb of FCT Abuja while seeking the salvation of her people, no genuine step has been taken to bring those serial killers to face the full wrath of the law. Tell me that nation’s capital city in the world where you can find this manner of senselessness.
In 2008, the then minister, Modibbo banned smoking in public places, but the essence of that novel law has been defeated. Even with the bursting of the network of one of the oldest professions in the FCT, those practitioners who have not secured jobs in beer parlours have now resorted to hawking coloured liquid in the name of herbal medicine just to get access to their old-time customers.
Abuja is, indeed, now a shame on our collective nobility!
• Eze, a biochemist and social crusader, wrote from Dutse-Alhaji in Abuja.