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Kaduna: Diminishing status, looming atrophy

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It is disheartening to observe that the once flourishing and bustling environment of Kaduna is today a poor shadow of itself, no thanks to the internecine crises of its outlying parts and to a previously insidious or unobtrusive but now brazen official siding with a particular party to the conflicts. Home to the mythical Kaduna Mafia and herself the symbolic headquarters of the romantic idea of Northern Nigeria as “a land flowing with milk and honey,” Kaduna has fallen into pre-mature antiquity. So long as she has continued to ignore some very uncomfortable truths about herself e.g. plurality, diversity, respective distinctive identity, hegemony and the absence of homogeneity, so long will she be haunted by the ogre of the requirement to retrace her steps back to her “glorious”antiquity. Her propinquity to the university traditions of intellectual freedom, of toleration, and of youth energy powered by the pivotal Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, some 82 kilometers from Kaduna city centre, has over time widened into philistinism, tended toward crass materialism and has fashioned a brusque disregard of the subtlety of the arts, literature and music. Irritable with incisive critique or rational analyses of her geo-social, political and economic circumstance, Kaduna has robbed herself of the benefits of a ferment of progressive ideas and movements.

A city which had roundly benefitted from the robust contribution of a university system has pitifully regressed into a curious pre-occupation with a reversed attitude to growth and development. The city has cultivated a body of ultra conservative mores and now revels in primitive celebration of the orgy of deaths and the cult of untold barbarism. Behaviours that are incompatible with rationalised beliefs are today the directive principles of policy. Earlier resounding achievements can only be viewed in historical perspective. Kaduna today is a long way away from the days of communal peace, of unity in diversity and of official deliberateness in pursuit of the common good.

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The unresolved Southern Kaduna question has further compounded the woes of Kaduna. The abject lack of official will to confront the bugbear of a settler/indigene matrix is a factor that is festering the unequal inter-communal relations paradigm regarding the apparently un-ending internecine imbroglio. There is also the problem of poor inter-faith relations. In Southern Kaduna, Islam and Christianity confront each other fiercely, and for good measure. Whereas Christian missions had established their presence in “pagan” communities of Kagoro, Jaba and Moroa which had been able to retain their cultural integrity and autonomy as independent chiefdoms since the colonial era, some forms of clientage had contrastingly developed between the dominant Hausa-Fulani bloc and certain“pagan” populations of what was known as southern Zaria. Many of the indigenous people embraced Christianity as a counterpoise to the condign consequences of a delayed acceptance of the faith of their “tormentors.”

Historically, the leadership of the minority “pagan” population has been dominated by mission-educated elite many of who have been employed in occupations related to the church, mainly as pastors, teachers and other church-related vocations. Today, these ethnic minority elite occupy a strategic position in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which has ideologically and rationally opposed the hegemony of Muslim Hausa-Fulani elite in the North and in the whole of Nigeria. Resentment of Hausa-Fulani domination of the cultural, political and economic life of Southern Kaduna finds manifest expression in the indigenous people’s combative opposition to their incorporation within the Zaria emirate, of alleged appropriation of their land by Hausa farmers, the derogatory reference to them as “Arna” or “pagans” by the Hausa population as well as other forms of un-equal socio-cultural relations between the two communities. These grievances are real and have polarised the two communities. Ignored or condescendingly treated as infidels by the emirate population and often arbitrarily and oppressively subjected to the Muslim judicial and legal process, these “pagan” populations have found Christianity more endearing. They have become receptive to Christian conversion, education and culture.

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Within the southern Kaduna area itself, socio-economic opportunities are few and far between. Infrastructure improvements have tended to be concentrated in areas or enclaves inhabited by Hausa settlers. Some studies have interpreted the underdevelopment of Southern Kaduna indigenous communities as the result of deliberate and persistent neglect by the emirate officials who until 1976 local government reforms dominated the system of local and native administration. Mainly as a result of official apathy or indifference, disagreement between majority and minority communities in Southern Kaduna over traditional political control, culture, religion and resource allocation have unavoidably escalated into violent agitations and confrontations. The protests are understandably geared towards the realisation of specific Southern Kaduna demands. These demands include increased autonomy and control over local matters, the indigenisation of all district head appointments in Southern Kaduna, the establishment of independent chiefdoms for all the Southern-Kaduna tribes, an end to the proliferation of village heads as a devious strategy of divide and rule by emirate officials, an end to deliberate acts of discrimination and maladministration by the Native Authority administration against the Southern-Kaduna population, the establishment of a Customary Court of Appeal for non-Muslim groups to complement the existing Sharia Court of Appeal and, more recently, the creation of a new Kaduna State out of the present formation in order to lessen the severity or eliminate the minority status of the Southern-Kaduna population. Official responses to these demands and protests have varied from outright repudiation and denunciation of the claims of the Southern-Kaduna communities to tepid efforts to appease these communities. Token redressive policies or actions have been taken in certain instances leaving the issues largely unresolved and the situation worsening or degenerating by the day.

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The absence of vitality or sensibility in governance is responsible for the grinding or slow pace of attempts to resolve the Kaduna communal gridlock. One begins to wonder whether the imaginative appeal which endeared certain persons to the electorate at pre-election campaigns or road-shows immediately evaporates on their assumption of office. The Kaduna crises being an age-long embarrassing spectacle, it was expected that candidates for election into the exalted office for their resolution will be actuated to work faithfully, assiduously, time-consciously and without bias. Since the short-lived regime of ideologue Balarabe Musa, there has been a dearth of nobility in governance, of the maintenance of Spartan discipline in the role, and of the presence of uplifting qualities particularly as they ought to relate to an even-handed resolution of the Kaduna question. Shifting or untenable compromises have, in the alternative, become a virtue.

The confusion which now imposes chaos and suffering all over the place may in part be explained by the presence of a suffocating grip of myths and religion on the people, by irredentism and by hegemony. Myths and religion were the prevailing ethics or directive principles of state policy in pre-colonial African states. Today, however, many African states claim to be secular. While religion may have officially weakened, ideology has not acquired its desired status; its mobilising potency for positive action has not been taken advantage of. The resultant effect is a gaping vacuum and anarchy.

What we have experienced over the years is a deliberate non-cultivation of nobility and sensibility, a dis-avowal of moral earnestness and, above all, a rebuff of the values of dedication to the ideals of progressive development. There is a requirement to replace the charade involving a school-boy display of vocal agility, cynicism and flippancy with virtuosity, nobility of mind and spirit, and a stoic and reasoned discipline for the wholesome resolution of the Southern-Kaduna question.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, lived his childhood years in Kafancha.

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