Concerning Indigeneship: A response to Aliyu Tilde, By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu

Chidi Odinkalu
Chidi Odinkalu

My friend and brother, Dr. Aliyu Tilde, regularly performs unrivalled feats of public service and enlightenment through his blog for which he should receive more credit in a country that values ideas. On reflection, he may consider that his latest posting “Is the South Finally Set to Colonize the North”, is a long way off his usually exceptional standards. In this article, Dr. Tilde examines the issue of indigeneship in Nigeria’s political economy and concludes, rather magisterially “We are okay with the status quo.”

I should clarify that, like Dr. Tilde, I  received the message “Senate Committee on constitutional Review is collating people’s vote via text on replacing state of origin with state of residence. Text ‘Yes’ or ‘No to 20052″. The obvious difficulties in our current constitutional text and practice concerning citizenship and indigeneship do not yield easily to such over-simplifications. Residency is a much more fleeting concept than “domicile” and it would have been useful to reflect also the relevance of domicile as a measure of belonging and metric of integration.

This said, Dr. Tilde’s article is severely troubling for several reasons. I limit myself here to four: It is based on verifiable historical inaccuracy; it is conceptually inarticulate; it is impermissibly deterministic; and it asserts a magisterial air that no citizen of a Republic should claim on behalf of any other besides himself of herself. These four points are inter-related.

I’ll begin with the first. Dr. Tilde claims that “The whole indigene problem has been brought into sharp focus recently by the ethno-religious crises in Plateau” and that it “started in the former Western Region when it wanted to exclude the Igbo from its civil service and politics. Later, Sardauna would apply it in the defunct northern region as a shield from southerner domination.” This is verifiably false. In northern Nigeria, at least, the entire colonial project was built on the locational, tribal and racial segregation. On page 66 of his 2010 book, Clash of Identities: State, Society and Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Northern Nigeria, Dr. Hussaini Abdu points out that “All together, six different urban residential settlements emerged, consisting of: (a) European Reservation Areas (ERA or GRA); (b) Bariki, Lebanese/Syrian areas (found in Kano and Zaria); (c) Walled City, housing the indigenous population; (d) Tudun Wada, established by the British for northerners who were not indigenous to the town; (e) Sabon Gari, for those the colonial administrators called ‘native foreigners’ who were largely Christians from southern Nigeria; and (f) satellite village settlements.” Outside northern Nigeria, the age-long conflicts in places like Ife-Modakeke (south-west); Aguleri-Umuleri or Ezza-Ezeillo (south-east) or Ikot-Offiong/Odukpani and Urhobo-Itshekiri (south-south), are all textured on competing indigene-settler claims and memories.

Related to this basic historical inaccuracy, Dr. Tilde confuses citizenship/indigeneship with unitarism with the claim that “the Igbo have been the foremost proponents of a unitary Nigeria.” I confess that I found it quite difficult after many readings of his article to find the evidence for this or understand how it fitted in the logic of his narrative. More significantly, it is difficult to understand what unitarism has to do with indigeneship and citizenship. A coherent civic identity cannot in any way pre-determine constitutional architecture or geometries of power. The ANC negotiated a unitary South African Constitution built on radical recognition of both robust citizenship and robust diversity. The United States is a robust, sometimes even dysfunctional, federalism with very strong civic protections. Fundamentally, unitarism is a matter of architecture; citizenship and any of its corollaries and antinomies are matters of entitlement and identity.

The third problem with Dr. Tilde’s ideas flows from this conceptual confusion. The audacity of his determinism is only excelled by its breath-taking persecution complex. As an illustration, in Dr. Tilde’s version of Nigeria’s history, the creation of States by General’s Gowon, Murtala, Babangida, and Abacha, is the product of the conspiracy of a nebulous “South….in collaboration with northern minority groups that have been in opposition to the ruling Northern Peoples’ Congress…” This does not even struggle to be taken seriously!

Cross-ethnic settlement patterns have some antiquity among Nigeria’s communities. Again in his book, Dr. Abdu reports that “by July 1914, the emir of Zazzau (Zaria) had removed the Yoruba traders who had lived in Zaria since the 18th Century to the newly created Sabon Gari.” Coincidentally, Sheikh Othman Dan Fodiyo also established the Emirate structures that Lord Lugard would later fall in love with a century later about the same time that Yoruba communities were emerging in Zaria. But Dr. Tilde wouldn’t think much of such histories.

Somehow, the Nigeria of Dr. Tilde’s article is the product of a time warp. Time, however, has moved on, and, as much as it may appear otherwise, so has the country. At Independence, the party that led government at the Centre did not bother to field any candidates outside its region. Today, no one who dares seriously to rule Nigeria can do so without winning significant votes outside their comfort or identity zones. This is progress. Nigeria is not the product genotype or filial propinquity nor is it a village association. Dr. Tilde’s prescription would reduce the country to an ill-disguised collection of Bantustans in the name the non-existent regional purity. The idea, for instance, that David Mark’s Ohimini Village supposedly in the north, somehow has closer affinity with Maiduguri more than 900km away (and also in Dr. Tilde’s north), than it does with Obollo-Afor, less than 30km away (but in the South) is worse than convenient invention.

But let us assume it is not, that would lead to the fourth problem I’d address in Dr. Tilde’s article. It arises from his sentence: “Let me – the North – be left alone.” I’ll be direct here: my brother, you are not the north. You are just one highly educated citizen who traces his ancestry to a community in a state in northern Nigeria. You may claim to be from Tilde Village in Bauchi State and I from Umuhu-Okabia Village in Imo State but the fact is you and I have much more in common than you with the Almajiri from Borno or I with the MASSOB activist from Ebonyi. We have both gone to good schools, acquired rarefied graduate degrees, have acquired voice as well, and, ultimately, will always – because of these – get a better deal out of Nigeria than these people you and I claim to speak for. Why would you or I appropriate their voices? Are you afraid that if we enable these people to have access to the kinds of awareness you and I have, they could make choices different from the ones you wish to impose on them?

In ending, Dr. Tilde asks the question: “What pride is there in a child that would not answer his father’s name?” I will respond: so what does pride in answering your father’s name have to do with where you are? In any case, paternity is an opinion and many children answer the names of men who are not in fact their biological fathers. This is the problem with making a fetish of locational determinism: quite often its foundations are non-existent and its logic is a faith system. Those are no bases for building a country.

ODINKALU, a lawyer, writes in his personal capacity from Abuja.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ikeazor A

    Articulate & factual, Chidi’s response puts things in proper perspective.

  • Nandi

    ….OMG! Now this is what proper debate should be – no name calling. Just dealing with the issues. This is very clear and compelling. I also thought Aliyu Tilde didn’t make sense. Now I know why and how. Thank you, Mr. Odinkalu.

  • Ahmed

    As Northerner and Muslim, I found Dr Tildes’s article quite shallow.

  • Ahmed

    As Northerner and Muslim, I found Dr Tildes’s article quite shallow.

    • Garba Badan

      Yes, me too – for the first time in my almost 30 years of knowing him at ABU, listening to him engage Brothers and reading most of his articles. I think he must be feeling threatened by the mass exodus of Plateau state indigenes to his state Bauchi who may very soon lay claim to Bauch state.

  • Chime

    Gbam! This man don finish this Tilde be dat oh. I just dey laff :-)

  • kwaja

    I always thought and still think that Tilde is a dangerous, narrow-minded extremist masquerading as a thoughtful intellectual. His article is disgraceful. How did he become Dr?

    • Jack

      He became a Dr the way GEJ became a One. Nigerian Doctorate Commedians

  • ‘bibu

    Best intellectual write up I’ve read n a long time. I’d shake ur hand and sit in ur class anyday!

  • Hassan

    While I agree mostly with what you have written here and applaud you for writing it, there is one fundamental fear Tilde mentions that you have not addressed. How do you prevent a situation where presently less educated and poorer Northerners will be dominated in what is historically their own lands by better educated Southerners due to the mass emigration that is bound to take place if the constitution is reviewed as proposed?
    It doesn’t matter whose fault it is that northerners are the way they are, pointing at the source of a problem without providing a solution in my opinion is unhelpful.
    Do they not have rights over those lands? Do they not have rights to determine the direction of their collective economy?
    How do you tackle the clash of cultures that is bound to result? Core Northerners tend to be generally conservative and expect people living in their communities to be conservative as well. This conservatism is one of the reasons why the number of Northerners living outside the North is relatively low.
    The Plateau crisis is quite real, but I don’t see how the proposed amendment is the solution.

  • Lanre

    Hi Anselm, thank you for elevating the discourse. I read Tilde’s article. I had promised myself never to respond to any of his articles after he had attacked a Nigerian Army General (General Ayoola) after the latter had made moves to enforce order in some parts of Plateau State. In a display of bigotry, he went on to heap praises on the NSA Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), reminding him of his Caliphate Lineage (whatever that means). Ofcourse again I read his article on Gen.Azazi where he postulated that he (Azazi) hated the North and was out to destroy it. I was seriously bemused when he made innuendoes linking him to Boko Haram.

    So when he came out with his last article, I put on my “Intelligence Lenses” (lol), scanned through everything and came to the conclusion this is an agent provocateur with ideas spewing bigotry. I won’t waste my time or yours continuing to express an opinion on Tilde. Suffice it to say, I have realized two things about Nigeria:

    1). When I was told American Democracy was 200 years old and that Nigeria has a long way to go, I used to argue. I would say “The American is not better than me. We have the same blood running through our veins.” etc. Now I know better.

    2). Nigeria as presently constituted can never have an Obama. A country where an Igbo Man marries a Yoruba woman and aspires to rule Nigeria. You can thank Tilde, Achebe and the other intellectual champions of irredentism.

    Finally, Anselm do not be fooled by the so-called intellect of people. Wisdom has nothing to do with intellect or acquired knowledge. Please. Was Goebbels not an intellectual? What about Menkele? Some of these so-called intellectuals were the ones that advised individuals like Babangida and Abacha to carry out some of the most heinous crimes against humanity.

    Once again, thank you for the erudition.

    • Lanre

      Menkele should have read Mengele.

  • Hauwa Y.

    For long I know that Tilde is not intelligent, but very blind intellectually. His main problem is pursuing for cheap popularity and material gain. He had served in the administration of Ahmad Mu’azu as a Special Adviser advocating for PDP, evil party. How behaving as anti-govt while not. His recent articles always try to please and syphatize with boko haram terrorists, just trying to please them and avoid their attacks. The same Tilde called them ignorant people’s and linked them up with Izalah sect when they were peaceful. After they become dangerous he started defending them,.. I think it is a waste of time to rresponse to Tilde

  • http://www.facebook.com/semiu.akanmu Semiu Akanmu

    Dr. Tilde needs to be more conscious of dishing out watery argument at this present situation. He needs to know that the audience that reads via online ( in respect to his blogs, facebook page) are in multiplication compared to those days as a columnist in paper-based print media. His recent conspiracy theory that Obasanjo installed Yaradua as a calculation of bringing GEJ to the seat of power is another fictional creative writing.

  • Matawai Asulowambe

    Dr. Tilde says states were created by a tandem of the south and northern minorities. He obviously doesn’t think highly of northern minorities. But it is alright for him to speak on behalf of all in the north, including the northern minorities whom he doesn’t like very much. Who does he think he is – Allah?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tdanmuazu Tukur Danmuazu

    If Nigerai is one why is it some people have more claim to the oil? Why don’t we share it proceed equally? Why should some Nigerian get extra share in the name derivation formular than others? The truth is we are not one, but we can cooeprate economically which is not even necessary where there is no mutual respect and protection of each other interest as indicated by most biased southern dominated government policies, as shown by daily diatribe against northerners by southern tribes. As indicated by increasing domination of all formal sectors without to other right to participate, as pointed by systematic exclusion of northerners from the military and other highly sensitive establishment. Man, we are talking reality not empty, selfish and wicked abstract yearns. Let us bring on the static so we should stop being dumbs.

    If we are brothers and as you people often said why are you not ready to treat the north the way european union members treated Greeks? Why don’t you do what south Africa did to black to make them participate equaly with white in a economy dominated by the white? We don’t even want that. If we are federation let operate federally other wise if you can understand what a federal system means let’s call it a day. I don’t understand why the south suddenly want our land! Man stop spewing nonsense and talk reality. You guys through violence and intimidation have excluded us form national life and now you want to take over our land and used the trillions you ransacked from government to buy us out of our lands in the name of residency.

    Stop oil derivation formular, then we know you guys are sincere. Change the composition of representation in the area of finance, security, policy making, and budgetary allocation. Equalise all these and more and we will believe you are not selfishly and fooling hatching wicked design of total eclipse of northerners.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tdanmuazu Tukur Danmuazu

    How often right in my hometown have I met southerners who will disdaifully tell me ‘ I no dey hair dis yo Hausa Jo!’ And this hords uncharibale fools who think pidgin is better than a native language wish to have same privileges as those they openly show hatred. What I describe is a daily event especially now that northerners are blacmailed with Boko Haran phantom. The southerners show open hostility should they be met with equal response they wil cry wolf,’ Boko Haram wan atak pesin’ and their military boys occupying the north will launch into mob action. Is this residency. The southerners only show respect when they need something from the northerner. Otherwise, a piece of dung looks better than a northerner they unreasonably hate. Is this the alien resident evil you want to permanently occupy us. Moreover, why are you insisting on permanent and full residency in the north?

    I sense evil. These new comers to civilisation are on the one hand destroying the image of the north as violent, intollerant and evil in order to chase away international investors and to make the investors invest only in their area, and on other hand they, the southerners, are trooping in and asking for full right and privileges. Why don’t you go away from the violence if it is not your own making like the forriegn investors you are chasing away? Grand conspiracy for total dominace- resident evil, indeed!

  • Nandi

    This is a suggestion for Premium Times publishers and editors. The reactions here indicate this is an important issue for Nigerians. Many more poeople could join in this and you can lead an important national conversation here. You should consider organising a public debate with Tilde, Odinkalu, Plateau State, Kaduna State, and as many other people as possible. We need to find a way to involve as many more Nigerians as possible in this debate. This is could gett very interesting indeed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tdanmuazu Tukur Danmuazu

    Tilde, you are doing a great hell of a good job. Do not expect the prospective beneficiary of the unjust policy to welcome the truth. And what do you expect the enemy to do on hearing the truth? To say ‘am sorry, forgive me? Ashe mutum zai bushe if he expects that. For long a full blown cold war is going on in Nigera with only one side doing the attack from all angles. Yet we have been keeping silent thinking that there will be a limit. Barbarians knows no limit. You either wake up and depend yourself or you go under. We have made too many concessions without getting anything since the begining of Nigeria. Some say politics is a matter of give and take. We gave without taking, yet the taker is becoming more demanding. I remember, when Obasanjo was busy transfering the resources of Nigeria to Yoruba land through communual theft and illigal government policy, the same Yoruba came to our face and complained that they were being marginalized. Look at this impudence! Now I have read on official terrorist from Niger Delta ranting they need to be appeased before Janny contest. Double barrel insult on our sensibility! He is aking jonny to contest against agreement that it was northern tenure and he is complaining too that they are suffering from injustice despite the transfer of over eighty percent of Nigeria’s money to them. This is the mentally of southerners and they see nothing wrong with it, you are wrong and evil if you complain of their open injustice. I this it time for us to ask what is our, to reverse the inequality come what may. Nigeria should not be built on our corpse, neither is it worth being it citizen as a second class citizen whose security and interest is no government concern.
    Dr. Thank for the courage to stand up to injustice and the pluck to speak the bitter truth. Ginger us we will echo the cry for equity. Their herd style tribal voting pattern and their sheepish primitive cllectivisation in support of opinion is enough to tell you that truth means nothing to them much less justice. Makaho baya gani sai an taba shi ko yayi ma barna!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tdanmuazu Tukur Danmuazu

    Tukur Danmuazu • 8 minutes ago −
    Tilde, you are doing a great hell of a good job. Do not expect the prospective beneficiary of the unjust policy to welcome the truth. And what do you expect the enemy to do on hearing the truth? To say ‘am sorry, forgive me? Ashe mutum zai bushe if he expects that. For long a full blown cold war is going on in Nigera with only one side doing the attack from all angles. Yet we have been keeping silent thinking that there will be a limit. Barbarians knows no limit. You either wake up and depend yourself or you go under. We have made too many concessions without getting anything since the begining of Nigeria. Some say politics is a matter of give and take. We gave without taking, yet the taker is becoming more demanding. I remember, when Obasanjo was busy transfering the resources of Nigeria to Yoruba land through communual theft and illigal government policies, the same Yoruba came to our face and complained that they were being marginalized. Look at this impudence! Now I have read on official terrorist from Niger Delta is ranting that they need to be appeased before Jonny contests. Double barrel insult on our sensibility! He is aking jonny to contest against agreement that it was northern tenure and he is complaining too that they are suffering from injustice despite the transfer of over eighty percent of Nigeria’s money to them. This is the mentally of southerners and they see nothing wrong with it, you are wrong and evil if you complain of their open injustice. It is time for us to ask for what is ours, to reverse the inequality come what may. Nigeria should not be built on our corpse, neither is it worth being its citizen as a second class citizen whose security and interest is no government concern.
    Dr. Thank for the courage to stand up to injustice and the pluck to speak the bitter truth. Ginger us we will echo the cry for equity. Their herd style tribal voting pattern and their sheepish primitive cllectivisation in support of opinion is enough to tell you that truth means nothing to them much less justice. Makaho baya gani sai an

  • Philemon Adjekuko

    Dr Tilde’s article was entertaining, sickening and rdiculous at the same time. He largely reconfirmed my conviction that Nigeria is bed ridden and will remain so for a very long time to come. We are all benighted souls.

  • Sadiq Tafida Sadtaf

    Honestly speaking I don’t understand what Dr Tilde said neither do I understand what Mr Chidi has said also, but I will stay with Tilde untill I understood everything that is if the law makers can come out and clearify things to us and I urge all Nigerians to stop the voting untill we know what its all about.

  • legalhermit

    It is quite disheartening to see an individual of a legal background still wallowing in the mentality of that of Dr.Tilde.
    However this reply, is historically correct as well as logical, because, first of, nigeria and nigerians shouldn’t be divided along regional and ethnic lines as we still seem to find ourselves, I mean, you should be a Nigerian first before any other thing. And as a young Nigerian, I do not see myself less of a Nigerian, than I see myself less of a Lagosian, because to me there is no difference between the two.
    Instead of Dr. Tilde’s assault of our intellectual intelligence why can’t he just use his intellectual prowess to help the 80% northerners who are unfortunate to have corrupt leaders who have refused to create an avenue for them to be educated, and therefore make informed decisions.
    What other way does the country have to allow a better integrstion of its people than through the removal of this indigeneship from the constitution.
    Might I add, this is a free society , if the hausa man can’t. Compete because he is less educated, should the whole country suffer for his negligence? Or should he not strive to educate himself.?

  • Matawai

    Dis Tukur Danmuazu get fire with brimstone join put for him chest oh, no be small. Haba! All this drama and grammar for to take talk wetin? Say Tilde na cretin and Danmuazu no like “Southerners”. No wahala. Nigerians don’t have to like Nigerians but we all remain Nigerians. Chikena!

  • simonibekwe

    Sir, i really find your response to Dr Tilde very engaging and your deft analysis which goes a long way in closing some serious and very disturbing gaps hanging in Dr Tildes earlier article. But i would have been happier if you had taken the next step to touch another serious area Dr Tilde article had primarily focused to address which is the statement that was credited to the erudite law lecturer Prof.
    Itse Sagay opinion on derivation which i feel very unformed and has no moral bases if we say we are one united country. How can one state be taking an allocation more than five states combine in the north, Where is equity in that glaring injustice?

  • Virginia

    What about women who are born in one place and married in another – where are and their children indigene of? Look at the case of this woman judge in the Court of Appeal that gthey tried to disgrace recently by saying that she is not an indigene in a place where she has been married for over 30 years. I feel this Tilde does not have the interest of the common man but only speaks for himself and oppressors like him. May be he has not left his village before or doesn’t want to. But why should be stop other people from doing so if they want to.

  • Truthteller

    Mr. Odinkalu, thank you very much for exposing the irredentist Aliyu Tilde for what he is. However, you failed to address his duplicitous plan to carefully confer benefits to Hausa/Fulani in Jos without even extending such benefit to other tribes in Jos much less those in feudal north or what I would call Buharistan.

    Why is okay for Tilde to desire indigeneship for Hausa Fulani in Jos but not for others? Methinks because he understands that impact the settler/indigene dichotomy has on Hausa Fulani in Jos. Nevertheless, this impact is no more disparate on Hausa/Fulani than on the Igbo or Yoruba who live in Jos for as long as the Hausa Fulani have neither is it more so than on southerners who live segregated lives in Buharistan as strangers in their own country.

    Tilde can’t have it both ways. If an Ijaw man cannot get any benefits in Kano or Buharistan, why then would the North expect oil resources from Nembe to be channelled to her? If every child must answer his father’s name as propounded by Tilde, it must be universal. Thus, for the North to be left alone, the South must control her destiny too because what is good for the goose is good for the gander.