Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Solution For A United Nigeria- Should We Rotate The FCT?

FCT Jonathan
Any time there is an inter-ethnic misunderstanding in Nigeria, it serves as a god-sent opportunity for bigots and tribalists to offload the bile in them. The recent crisis over the “deportation” of some people from Lagos to Onitsha, Anambra State was such an opportunity.

The social media has made it easy for Nigerians to express their views promptly and freely. There are no fears of such views being edited or moderated by any person. Such opinions sometimes get overboard especially when commentators have the opportunity to comment under false identity.

For those Igbo who always seek every opportunity to rekindle the Igbo-Yoruba “cold war”:
It was an opportunity to take swipes at Gov. Babatunde Fashola and the Yoruba as “tribalists” and “Igbo-haters”, reminding them that if not for the Igbo, the Yoruba would have all died of hunger and poverty. 
And for those Yoruba that can barely tolerate the sight of the Igbo “on their soil”, it was an opportunity to warn them that time has come to chase them out of Yorubaland to the jungles and caves of Igboland where they would die in squalour.

But if these people can be pardoned because they are ordinary people that hold no high offices and have no resonating names, what can one say when prominent figures get involved in such low-road comments? One of such persons is Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation. In the heat of that crisis, Fani-Kayode decided that it was time to teach Nigerians the history of Lagos and the truth about the Igbo.

In two articles filled with hate and bigotry, entitled, “Lagos, the Igbo and the Servants of Truth,” and “The Bitter Truth about the Igbo”, Fani-Kayode made serious efforts to demonise the Igbo and project the Yoruba as the race after God’s heart. It was disappointing that a graduate of Cambridge University and former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would not be able to draw a line between defending his viewpoint and denigrating an ethnic group that is part of the country that offered him the highest position he has held in his life.

One would have expected that if Fani-Kayode disagreed with the view of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, whom he mentioned in one of the articles, or any Igbo for that matter, he should have addressed the person and punctured his view, rather than using that as an opportunity to tar all Igbo with the same brush in a most malicious way to draw the hate of other Nigerians upon them. Meanwhile, the point that Fani-Kayode was labouring to prove was that Lagos was developed to its present state solely by the Yoruba.

Only a person who loves self-deceit and half-truths would say that Lagos is what it is because of the sole efforts of the Yoruba. That Ibadan — the capital of Western Nigeria for decades – or any of the Yoruba cities such as Akure, Abeokuta, Ife, Osogbo and Ado-Ekiti are not comparable to Lagos is a testimony that the claims of Fani-Kayode were a simple case of the ethnic supremacy and chauvinism that he is known for. Lagos is what it is because it was a former Federal Capital Territory. That made the Federal Government of Nigeria to build Lagos with the resources of Nigeria, much of which was sourced from the oil derived from the Niger Delta. Right from the colonial days, the leadership situated the head of its railways, seaport and airport in Lagos, which made it the preferred destination for many Nigerians and visitors to Nigeria. Consequently, Nigerians from all over the country, including Yoruba people who were not Lagosians, settled in Lagos and invested massively in it.

Having attained an enviable height as the capital of Nigeria, it was not affected when the federal capital status was officially transferred to Abuja on December 12, 1991. The companies and buildings established in Lagos could not be uprooted to Abuja. Since Abuja assumed the status of the FCT, the same thing that happened in Lagos has started happening there. Abuja was transformed from a rural setting to a modern city mainly from resources from petroleum. Today, a plot of land in some parts of Abuja and Lagos is more expensive than in some parts of the United States or the United Kingdom.

A fallout from the conceited comments of people like Fani-Kayode is that other parts of Nigeria need to be transformed by the Federal Government like it has done to Lagos and Abuja. It has become clear that given the pseudo-unitary system Nigeria is practising, it is only the Federal Government that has the capacity to transform a city into an international status. Since Lagos lost its FCT status, the dream of having the Fourth Mainland Bridge has remained a campaign gimmick repeated every four years. If the Federal Government had not constructed the Third Mainland Bridge in the early 1990s, Lagos would have been in a deeper traffic rot today, as the Carter Bridge and Eko Bridge would have been grossly inadequate to take care of the traffic between the Mainland and the Island.

I therefore propose that the FCT should be rotated from one zone to the other for a minimum period of 20 years. This will help to develop the zones faster. The South-East and the South-South, especially, should be made to host the FCT as soon as possible.

But if rotating the FCT will cause some confusion, there is another option. South Africa, for example, has three capital cities: Pretoria (executive) Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative). We can replicate that here. Nigeria enjoys running monopolistic and monolithic systems. There is no reason for all the Federal Government ministries and agencies to be domicilled in Abuja. The congestion bug that hit Lagos decades ago has hit Abuja. If the judiciary, the legislature and some of the ministries and agencies were located in other zones outside Abuja, there would be less congestion in Abuja and more development in other parts of Nigeria. There is no reason for making Abuja the headquarters of ministries such as trade and investment, science and technology, sports and youth development, works and housing, agriculture, culture and tourism, and agencies like the NAFDAC, SON, NAPTIP, NBC, etc.

This decentralisation would also make some Nigerians to have a reason to live in other parts of Nigeria outside their ethnic zones. The situation now is that there are so many Nigerians that cannot live or invest in any other part of Nigeria outside Lagos and Abuja because of their former and present status as the FCT. To them, every other part of Nigeria outside Lagos and Abuja is not “national” and safe enough. But if some other cities are designated as the Federal Capital Territory in other zones, such mindset will change. If these zones develop, they will attract investment. Nigerians will stop travelling in droves to Lagos and Abuja.

But whether the FCT is rotated or decentralised, the bigots who usually talk about Lagos or any other part of Nigeria as their exclusive land should be told to desist from such. Nigeria belongs to Nigerians no matter their state of origin. That is what differentiates a Nigerian from a Nigerien. As long as Nigeria is one nation, statements like “go back to your state” must not be allowed to be uttered either in jest or in seriousness. In 1967, the former Eastern Region broke away from Nigeria to protest the pogrom visited upon it. Over a million people died via bullets and hunger in the effort to get them back into Nigeria.

Therefore, nobody should tell any Nigerian to go back to his state. Nigerians are in a marriage. And that marriage may be tumultuous but not broken. Even if in future Nigeria ceases to be one nation, as West Africans, citizens of the individual countries will still travel freely within the new countries. If Nigerians can live in the US, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa and own property there, I don’t see why compatriots cannot live together in peace and own property in any part of the country without harassment.

By Azuka Onwuka

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