A demand was issued by political leaders in South Kaduna for the restructuring of Nigeria to address the political, economic marginalisation and religious discrimination faced by Christians in the region.
The call was issued by the Southern Kaduna People’s Union’s (SOKAPU), in a meeting with representatives from tribal associations, political parties, religious leaders and professionals held at New Choice Hall Kafanchan, Kaduna State, on Friday, 3 July.
Samuel Tabara, a keynote speaker said the people of southern Kaduna, supported restructuring as the only way to amend the errors created by the colonial masters.
“We want the colonial arrangement to be redesigned. We identify with the Middle belt because that is where we belong,” Samuel said.
Hundreds of people in southern Kaduna, a predominantly Christian region and a centre with major Christian seminaries, have been killed by Islamic Fulani herdsmen. Many villages have been destroyed by ‘herdsmen’ who have forcefully taken over the communities.
Timothy Gandu, a former Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in the state, said: “The unity of Nigeria is negotiable because there is no justice and equity. We, from southern Kaduna, are not northerners, we are Middle Belters. And on restructuring we stand.”
Gandu said, “The Hausa and Fulani in southern Kaduna are our brothers, but if we quarrel and fight, they should not run to Niger Repubpic, Mali or Chad to import Fulani to attack us. If we are brothers, we must stay together and resolve our differences rather than to run away to bring strangers to attack us.”
He therefore insisted: “We must restructure because there is no industry, educational institutions, road networks in southern Kaduna. Our people are not financially buoyant because we lack people in government to empower us.”
Gandu declared:“Some ethnic groups do not have the population and land mass that we have before states was created for them. The proposed Southern Kaduna state can boast of 12 local government areas and over 3 million population. So, Nigeria must be restructured because of the political and economic imbalance across the country is alarming.”
The Kaduna State Deputy Governor, Bala Bantex, however advised the SOKAPU not to demand a complete cessation with the predominantly Islamic northern Kaduna, “I will not subscribe to the idea of ‘we versus them’. We are better off if we adopt the politics of inclusion. Let us learn to relate and depend more on our elected leaders and representatives. Don’t push your elected representatives behind, let them do their work. Kaduna state is for us all, we are not operating dictatorship,” he said.
The agitation for regional autonomy at this meting echoes the meeting held in Abuja, the federal capital territory, in July, where leaders from the South and Middle Belt regions of the country, demanded restructuring and implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference which called for the deregulation of powers and greater autonomy for states and local authorities.
The meeting resolved that:“For the federation to function properly in the interest of the constituent parts there should be fundamental devolution of powers and functions to the federating units.”
Dr Yinka Odumakin, an activist and spokeman for the meeting of regional leaders said, “This is the central essence of a good federation, not the current over-centralisation of powers and functions in the central government.’’
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos