Significance of Wike as FCT Minister
Please, do not wonder why I have to return to my organic beat, Abuja, the nation’s capital this week. What just happened to the capital in quick succession is worth deconstructing for us to deepen our understanding of the status of our 47 –year old capital the late General Murtala Muhammed proclaimed for us on February 3, 1976. It has been revealed that General Yakubu Gowon dreamed of and advertised the capital during his regime, but he procrastinated. General Murtala Muhammed who was privy to the Gowon’s dream, actualised it in 1976. General Olusegun Obasanjo laid the physical foundation after February 13, when the actualiser was killed. President Shehu Shagari threatened to legalise it by relocating to the capital in 1980 before another General Muhammadu Buhari stopped him in December 1983. He (Shagari) too was a procrastinator. But the Orkar coup scare was the tonic General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida needed to legalise it by moving to the capital on Thursday December 12, 1991.
And so the most precious gift the Generals’ rule donated to the(ir) Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army as General Chris Ali succinctly puts it in his classic on Nigeria, Abuja has been there as “their capital” until this month and last week when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took two significant steps to restore confidence in the national capital Hurricane Murtala sold to us 47 years ago as a “symbol of our unity”. And here is the thing, since the inception of the administration of the capital, Nyesom Wike would be the very first Minister of the Capital of the Federation from southern part of the country. Before you shout, what of the late Ajose Adeogun (1976-1979, here is the fact file: the late Adeogun (who died on Saturday July 1, 2023 at 96) was widely reported as the first Minister of FCT. He wasn’t. He was actually designated as Minister of Special Duties with additional responsibility to supervise Abuja to from 15B Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos as there was no structure yet on the 8,000 square kilometre FCT then. He was operating from a Field Base in Suleja in Niger State, a border town to the FCT. All other Ministers appointed since then from the South – from Mark Okoye 1980-1984) through Professor Ikejiani Clark to Jumoke Richard Akinjide have been Ministers of State. What’s worse, President Muhammadu Buhari who didn’t care a hoot about federal character in all his appointments for eight years desecrated the Territory as his last two ministers of FCT hail from the North (Adamawa and Kogi states). In other words, the first organic Minister of FCT was John Jatau Kadiya (1979-1982).
And so there is a sense in which we can report that President Tinubu has broken a 47 years old jinx. Just as he did the other day when he obeyed a 2018 Court of Appeal’s declarative judgment that an indigene,(original inhabitant) of the Federal Capital Territory should be appointed as a member of the Federal Executive Council (a Minister). The Indigene will be sworn in tomorrow. That was how in a twinkling of an eye, President Tinubu restored confidence of Nigerians including the original inhabitants (of Abuja) in the Capital of the Federation. We will no longer call it “Their Capital”. It is now “Our Capital”. In the same vein, the Niger Delta people who have been lamenting absence of their people in the mainstream political leadership and bureaucracy of the Capital despite alleged huge allocations from oil resources from Niger Delta spent so far on the capital project, can now relax their agitation for inclusion in the political leadership and bureaucracy of the FCT. Which reinforces the ancient word that only justice can guarantee peace and stability in any system.
According to a political geography scholar in Iran, Abolfazl Kavandi kateb, ‘Capital or capital city is the municipality exercising primary status in a country usually as its seat of government and the most important center of political organisation and management of space in the country’. The capital is one of the important subjects in political geography. The capital cities are the symbol of the state authority, the factor of creation of unification and national solidarity using their different functions. Besides cultural, geographic, economic, communicational and in particular political roles, the capital city has an important role and it is population attracting.
The population that has grown in Abuja beyond the expectations of the Founding Fathers (of Abuja) has so far not reflected the expected national character. And so the arrival of Wike is supposed to begin a damage control mechanism for peace building.
Let’s study the facts here to show the Place of Suleja where the pioneer developers and bureaucrats lived and worked for Abuja for several years until 2007 when Field Base in Suleja, a federal setting was released to the Niger State Government, thanks to monetisation policy of the federal government. With the Federal Military Government’s promulgation of the Decree No. 6 of 1976, which established the Federal Capital Territory, the Government in its bid to begin the FCT Project searched for an area where the capital city projects could be launched. Abuja, the headquarters of Abuja Local Government Area was automatically chosen, being the only community around the FCT earmarked site that qualified to act as a base from where the nascent capital could be developed. Abuja, the present Suleja was chosen because of its relative level of development compared to the other communities in the Capital Territory, such as Kuje, Kwali, Gwagwalada, Abaji, Zuba, etc. Thus, Abuja played the dual role of the capital of Abuja Local Government Area and the temporary administrative office of the new Federal Capital. In essence, the old Abuja began to play the role of a host to the new Federal Capital administration, which lasted for about five years. The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Field Base Secretariat was thus temporarily located at the outskirt of the then Abuja (Present Suleja) town, in the area now called Kaduna Road, a settlement located on the Abuja/Kaduna express road. The construction of the FCDA Field Base began in 1979 and got completed in 1980. This first administrative office was located in Suleja for a period of five years planning on how to begin work in the site earmarked to be the capital city. Other offices that were established in Suleja were the Ministry of the FCT Administration Secretariat, which was located in an area called Dawaki in Suleja.
Interestingly, the officials of this secretariat resided in Suleja where they planned, awarded contracts for their execution at the capital city. Abuja town also accommodated the team of scientists that worked with Professor Mabogunje for over two (2) years. Other high-ranking officials of the FCDA such as Mr. Bassey, and Alhaji Abubakar Koko, who served as the first and second executive secretaries of the administrative secretariat respectively resided in Abuja town (present Suleja). It was also gathered that the first Minister of the FCT Mr. John Jatau Kadiya also had his residence and office in Suleja.
With the completion of first phase of office and accommodation buildings in the capital city, most of the staff of the FCDA moved out of Suleja. Therefore, the FCDA Field Base was left to be occupied by a unit of the Armed Forces, until the October 30, 2007, when it was officially handed over to the Niger State Government and the Suleja Local Government Council by then FCT Minister, Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo. This is just a brief run-through of how a Special Duties Minister was made to supervise a project that was proclaimed in a national broadcast on February 3, 1976 and ten days after the legal proclamation, the mercurial Murtala who proclaimed the radical change was killed.
And so as President Tinubu has begun restoration of stakeholder confidence in the Capital of the Federation, Wike should be bold enough to study the present convoluted political and administrative structure of the Federal Capital Territory. Most of the structures of governance are neither state nor federal. Some of us have written so much to sanitise, de-ethnicise and neutralise the Capital of the Federation to reflect federal and global character, but there has been too much of ‘anyhowness’ and indeed the core North in it. This northernisation agenda began even while the Chairman of the Panel, who recommended the site to General Murtala, Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda was still alive. The governance absurdity had then led the iconic Aguda to write an Op-Ed article, which the resourceful Editor of “The Guardian” then Mr Emeka Izeze considered a front-page lead, titled, ‘My Regret About Abuja’. Justice Aguda died since September 5, 2001. How would he have felt were he alive up and until May 29, 2015, to May 29 2023 when President Buhari disrespected the letter and spirit of the constitution, which makes Abuja a classic case of how to respect federal character in terms of federal and presidential appointments. Throughout his eight-year tenure, the Minister of the FCT and the Executive Secretary of the FCDA are from the North. The insensitive Buhari never listened to any criticisms about his destructive bigotry, ethno-centricism and parochialism nurtured by provincialism. As of May 28, 2023, the
Minister of the FCT for eight years who hails from Adamawa State was made to appoint four Executive Secretaries of the FCDA from Niger State, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Gombe States. The current Executive Secretary of the FCDA hails from Gombe State. The grave implication of the widespread northernisation policy of the political structure is that as it often happens here, bigotry begets more bigotry: almost 92% of the political heads (mandate secretaries) and heads of agencies of the FCT are of northern extraction. That is one critical challenge that Wike will inherit the morning after tomorrow when he is sworn in. He should hold aloft the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it affects the Federal Capital Territory. Besides, he should study the Mission statement Murtala advertised to the nation 47 years ago. He should study all the extant laws and restructure the FCT to reflect our national character. Abuja isn’t like any other state. The nebulous provision in the Constitution that Abuja should be regarded “as if it were one of the States of the Federation” should not be read politically as politicians and their lawyers are deploying it as a weapon to win presidential election petitions at the moment. Abuja should be run as our ‘symbol of national unity’ as the Founding Fathers clearly declared to the nation 47 year ago. That is the Capital of the Federation that has been destined to lead the black race with pride and dignity.
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